After an extensive delay, Google finally dropped the third developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 yesterday. While the hot topic was a newly extended timeline that pushes a final software release to early 2017, there was also a new version of the Android Wear companion app made available.
It's important to note right away that this is a beta release and is currently only intended for watches running developer preview 3. In fact, it's pretty clear the only reason for releasing this update is to add the necessary interface for some of the new features. If you're planning to install DP3, and only if you're installing DP3, you'll want the 2.0 beta of the companion app. Read More
Google Drive has recently added an enhanced search and regular expressions support, but those features have not yet made their way to the mobile apps. Now the Android application exclusively has a new feature, simply called Quick Access. This uses machine learning to predict what documents you are most likely to open, based on your Drive activity and recurring patterns. Google claims this "saves 50 percent off the average time it takes to get to the right file by eliminating the need to search for it." Read More
It's fairly common for Google's app updates to be a little less feature-packed in the days leading up to major announcements. Whatever the reason, the changelogs – if there were any – probably wouldn't mention anything more than "bug fixes and performance improvements." The latest release of the Photos app isn't quite untouched, but it's pretty light on changes. The only clear addition is a settings toggle to enable rotation suggestions. Read More
As some readers might recall, there were a couple of fairly unusual, and very time-consuming teardown posts last week. In the final dash to finish them up, a few app updates were sidelined until they could be checked more thoroughly. Most of them have turned out to be bug fixes or have only small changes that don't really call for attention. The update to Google's micro-community app Spaces isn't very significant either, but it does resolve one of the most common complaints in the app since its release: it's now possible to save images posted to a space. Read More
Google set loose a new beta release of Maps, taking it up to v9.38. This release doesn't seem to have quite as many huge features as some of the last few, but there are still a couple of cool additions. There's a new tab with a list of upcoming events, bookings, and reservations. The dedicated album for food photos from a recent teardown is now also live. There are almost always a few other hidden gems in each release, so keep an eye out for more changes and let us know if you see anything else. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More
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. Read More