"OK Google, what is Microsoft Garage?" Well, Rita, it's an idea incubator for Microsoft employees who like to dabble with things non-Microsofty in their spare time, like Android for example. They have a crush on us, but they still can't completely deny their allegiance to the quad colors of Redmond so they indulge by mixing in some Bing bangy bongiddy features. "Ah, thanks Google. Can you give me an example?" Sure Rita, that Bing Torque app they just released, though if you ask me, they need a copy editor for their Play Store listing: "It is like to have Microsoft’s Cortana running on your smart watch." That was a direct quote and it is like to read a torturous story for me.
Trying to do something Googley this fine evening? No you're not—Google is suddenly experiencing widespread issues with services like Google+, Gmail, and Hangouts. This looks like a larger outage than most, but presumably Google is working to restore service.
Reaching "Inbox zero" is not an easy task. Especially when there are those emails that might require future action, or those that hang in a nebulous state of still being useful despite the conversation having ended. It's also not very easy to parse out exactly what you need to get done after poring over a page of emails. To address both of these issues (and a few others), Google has been working on a project called Bigtop.
Google has promised standalone music playback over Bluetooth as part of Android Wear for some time, and it appears with Wear version 4.4W2 we're finally getting it, at least if you use Play Music (you're also getting new playback controls). If you're using the latest Play Music APK on your Android phone and have the Android 4.4W2 update on your smartwatch, you can now download your pinned music from your smartphone to your watch.
We spotted it in a teardown of the new material Play Music app this morning, but it looks like a new set of media controls in Android Wear are live - and here's exactly what they look like.
The new controls get a red-themed makeover and volume +/- buttons, plus a nifty kind of physical remote key animation. It's nice. For Play Music, these new controls require two things: the material version of Play Music (which contains an updated mini APK for Wear with these controls) and the 4.4W2 update to Wear, which is rolling out to some devices now, like the LG G Watch.
Google has slowly been adding replacement charging docks for the Android Wear devices to the Play Store. That's important in the case of watches like the Gear Live, which uses a special clip to charge the watch. It's less of an issue for the Qi-equipped Moto 360, but the official stand is in stock now anyway.
The listing for the dock appeared recently, but it wasn't available for purchase. That's changed now, and you can order it for $39.99.
Google is rolling out an update to Android Wear that brings the first of two waves of promised features. So far it is arriving on LG watches, but Motorola just chimed in with specifics for the Moto 360. It's mostly the same as what other wearables will get, but with a few key exceptions.
Android 4.4W.2 is slowly rolling out to various Wear devices this week, and my G Watch R review unit just received it earlier this afternoon. A couple of commenters have pointed out a new feature in W2 that we hadn't yet noticed - you can now hide notifications, as opposed to dismissing them, directly from the watchface.
We've already seen about a half-dozen Google apps leaked in a Nexus 6 system dump, but we haven't taken a look at Google Drive yet. The app does have some material design in store though - as with the others - it's still in testing, so anything could change. That said, it's worth taking a look. Google Drive has implemented many of the new material design paradigms that make the app cleaner, leaner, and easier to use.