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Google News & Weather 2.8 adds Lite mode, optimizes pages for slow connections

Google News & Weather has an interesting history. After years of being included on Android devices with almost no changes, it moved to the Play Store and received a Material Design facelift in 2014. Now Google has added a 'Lite mode' to the application, designed to save bandwidth for users in India and other regions where data is at a premium.

As indicated in the screenshot, you can set Lite mode to activate automatically, or force it on or off. When Lite mode is on, the application won't load as many images on the main screen. More importantly, opening a link in Lite mode causes an optimized version of the page to load instead of the full content.

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Google Authenticator v4.74 brings a refreshed material look, dark mode, and in-app camera scanner [APK Download]

Setting up and using 2-factor authentication on a Google account used to be a fairly miserable affair. The sign-in process lurched from a native interface into a browser where users were expected to quickly enter codes, various apps weren't compatible and required special 1-time use passwords, and the app for generating codes felt completely unfinished. These days, all of those problems have been solved, and now Google's Authenticator app is even taking steps to further improve its look and usefulness. The latest update brings a great looking refresh to the UI, adds a dark mode, and finally adds its own built-in scanner functionality.

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Hangouts v13 adds many more easter egg phrases, an in-app web browser, and prepares launcher shortcuts for Android 7.1 [APK Download + Teardown]

Hangouts v12 came out last month and we took an opportunity to have a couple laughs at its expense over what appeared to be the only actual new feature: a ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ emote, accessible by typing /shruggie into a message box. With this update, that little guy brought all of his friends. Yes, the rest of the emote list is now accessible in Hangouts v13. There is also a new option to open web links with an in-app browser, though it may not be available to everybody just yet. And finally, the teardown shows Hangouts will have its own launcher shortcuts when Android 7.1 comes out.

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Micromax phones will be the first to come with Google Duo pre-installed

I would argue that Duo is a better product than Allo, at least in this early stage. Duo makes video chatting as simple as possible, and the result is a simple but easy to use application. Micromax, an Indian electronics company, has announced that four phones they are releasing in the near future will have Duo pre-installed.

Micromax didn't reveal too much about the phones, besides that they will be LTE-capable and will be under $100 USD. Google Product Manager Amit Fulay has said, "In the first month alone we have seen over 10 million downloads, with US and India being among the top countries." It seems like Google is betting on the growing 4G network in India to help make Duo a success.

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YouTube Gaming v1.7 rolls out with improvements to chat and Android Nougat support, new easter egg [APK Download]

The YouTube Gaming app received an update yesterday, taking it to v1.7. Google has already posted the changelog and this release appears to be mostly about fixing up the chat experience. There are improvements to both the chat interface and the underlying code that drives it. There are supposed to be changes to better support Android 7.0 Nougat, although it's unclear what they are, and the typical assortment of bug fixes and performance improvements. Of course, with each new version comes a new easter egg.

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Active Theory releases the paper planes demo from Google I/O 2016 on the Play Store

If you can remember, Google displayed a Paper Planes interactive map at the Google I/O keynote before the actual presentation began. Users in the audience could catch and throw paper planes, with the planes themselves flying all across the world. If you need a refresher, this is what it looked like at I/O.

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AutoShare 2.0 integrates text from any application with Tasker

Tasker is one of the most useful power tools on Android, allowing you to automate your device to do practically anything. Tasker plugins, like AutoShare, only seek to make Tasker even more feature-filled. If you have never used AutoShare, it allows you to send data to a Tasker tasks via Android's share menu.

For example, you can create a task called 'Add as wallpaper' that appears as an application in the Share menu, and when you share an image to that application, it inserts all available data into your Tasker task. That alone is extremely useful, but the 2.0 update adds a new feature called Text Processors.

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Firefox 49 brings tab improvements, offline page viewing, and more [APK Download]

Firefox may have been overshadowed by Chrome in terms of worldwide users, but it is still an excellent browser, even on Android. The latest update, version 49, has the usual dose of new features and bug fixes.

The biggest new feature is offline page viewing, which coincidentally enough, was recently added to the Chrome Dev builds. However, Chrome allows you to manually choose what pages you want stored for offline reading, whereas Firefox tries to store recent pages offline automatically. I imagine it wouldn't be too difficult to implement Chrome's offline functionality, now that the framework is in place.

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Instagram 9.4 adds the ability to save posts as drafts for all users [APK Download]

Instagram has been testing the ability to save posts as drafts since at least the end of July. With today's Instagram 9.4.0 update, the feature appears to have gone live for everyone.

To save a draft, simply tap the Back button while editing a photo to bring up the below message. To access your saved draft, tap the Camera button at the center of Instagram's bottom bar, and it will appear in the Gallery section above your pictures. This works exactly as you would expect post drafts to work.

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Instagram has not announced any other features in the 9.4 update, but you can grab the update from the Play Store or the APKMirror link below.

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Google Drive now has enhanced search with Natural Language Processing

Finding that one important file hidden in a sea of unrelated documents is never fun. Thankfully, Google is seeking to help solve that problem - at least for Google Drive users. Starting today, the Google Drive search bar on the web app can use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to help you find documents. For example, searching "show me presentations from last year" brings up all your documents modified in last year with a presentation file type.

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Google claims that this feature will only become more accurate as time goes on, so don't get your hopes up for perfect results quite yet. For example, I have a collection of old operating systems on ISO files, and when I search "iso files," a single JPEG file appears.

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