Google Hangouts 4.0 is coming. With it come status messages, a more modern chat interface, and a refreshed overall layout that now includes a floating action button. Oh, and there's an Android Wear Hangouts appfinally.
But Hangouts is probably far from the world's most popular messaging platform, even if it is the descendent of the widely-used Google Talk (which is now a term so dated to me that I actually had to make sure that's what it was called). There's Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, LINE, Apple Messages, Skype - and that's just naming a few. Not to mention plain old SMS, which I'm guessing most of us use at least sometimes.
Amazon's HAL 9000-style voice controlled gadget thing, the Echo, (yes, that's the best way to describe it in a single sentence) is gaining more capabilities with each software update. If you can get over the creepy implications of that, it's amazingly cool. The latest update adds the capability to interact with user recipes from the popular IFFT (If This, Then That) web service. At the moment it's mostly requests for music, to-do functions, and connected gadgets.
The practicality of this is dependent upon which recipes you've created or imported. The example from Amazon's promotional email is an Alexa song request that's automatically funneled through IFTTT and shared on Facebook.
We heard at Google I/O about Google's plans to help improve the experience of users on slow connections, especially in parts of the world where even 3G speeds are few and far between. They gave us a peek at how the search interface would change under those circumstances to improve those load times. Now, in select markets, the pages you click on will also be optimized to load much faster.
Google's estimates have you loading the page 4x as fast compared to the unaltered version when on a slow connection, with 80% less data. They claim, appealing to webmasters, that this results in 50% more pageviews due to the better experience and lower wait.
We missed one good new feature - you can now just tap and drag your finger in the result field to adjust how many decimals the answer will be calculated to. That's awesome.
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While the calculator in Android M may not look that much different on first inspection, it's actually almost completely new. According to several responses from Googlers on the Android issue tracker, a host of bugs and problems with the old calculator app should be solved in Android M.
PayPal is among the most well-known ways to send money over the web. Whether buying or selling, spotting the company's button on a site signals to many that they're in for a convenient time seeing a transaction through to the end. PayPal has long offered buyers protection against fraud in the case of tangible goods. Now it will do the same with digital purchases as well in the US.
With Purchase Protection, buyers can file a claim if the product that they receive is significantly different from what was advertised or if they never receive their order at all. This now applies to apps, digital albums, e-books, games, tickets, and services that provide a product you can't physically touch.
You've probably heard of quick charging, turbo charging, adaptive fast charging, rapid charging, and Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 before - or at least one or two of these things. What you may not know is that all of them are actually basically the same thing, based on the same licensed technology from Qualcomm known as Quick Charge.
With that basic premise in mind, what I want to dispel in this article is the notion that you need an OEM-branded charger to get the maximum charging speed out of your smartphone, because this generally isn't true. And understanding that could save you a fair bit of money, especially if your phone doesn't come with a quick charger, or you need a second one for work or travel.
BLU has been making some respectable low-cost unlocked phones over the last few years, and you can get your hands on one for cheap today. The BLU Vivo Air is on sale for just $150 on Amazon (that's $50 off). This deal ends at midnight on the west coast, so you'll want to decide soon.
SoundCloud version 15.06.09 is now rolling out to devices, but its visual changes aren't immediately apparent. Here's where you need to look. When you go to record audio, you're in for a much whiter experience. And no, I'm not talking about anyone's lyrics.
Left: Old, Right: New
Rather than changing everything all at once, SoundCloud has introduced material elements bit by bit. The most pressing ones came at the beginning of this year, but the recording interface went untouched. Now it better fits in with the app's new current look and feel.
The same can be said for SoundCloud's playback widget.
You may remember Google nearly bought the game streaming service Twitch a while back, but then Amazon swooped in and snatched it up when the Google deal fell through. Now Google is announcing a new service that competes directly with Twitch, and it's called (predictably) YouTube Gaming. While it uses the YouTube brand, this will be a standalone service with its own website and app when it launches this summer.
Planes are usually very basic and drab inside, but Virgin America has been trying to make them slightly less so with built-in entertainment systems. The airline is rolling out a new beta version of its Red entertainment platform. Why do we care? It's based on Android, not that you could tell just by looking.