Earlier this year Google's VP of Communications, Nick Fox, declared Hangouts would be refocused on the enterprise market where it had found much more adoption. Ironically, the couple of updates since that statement haven't exactly screamed professionalism, or even added much of anything particularly relevant to the workplace. That changes with v14, which cleans up and improves various aspects of group chats. This version also enables app shortcuts (formerly Launcher Shortcuts) for use on Android 7.1 and makes a few other tweaks, as well. Read More
Microsoft has a treat for you power users this Halloween. Their automated actions service, Microsoft Flow, is finally out of beta. Flow is part of Microsoft's new "power trio," combined with the company's PowerApps and Power BI tools. While those are mostly only useful to companies, Flow has definite use for normal people. In fact, after just an hour of playing with it, I'm convinced it's better than the popular IFTTT service.
With Microsoft Flow, you can make Buttons (a user-triggered set of tasks) or Flows (automated set of tasks, much like IFTTT recipes). As far as I can tell, you can only create new Flows and Buttons from scratch on the desktop site - on mobile you have to start from a template. Read More
The first major update to Allo, version 2.0, added a number of much-needed improvements. However, WhatsApp users may note that chat themes are still missing in Allo. 9to5Google has managed to enable some hidden themes included with the update, which can be activated on a per-user basis. Read More
I'm sure many of you, like myself, use Google Chrome as your main browser. Chrome was built from scratch, with the exception of its engine (which was WebKit at the time), to be for the modern web. The internet is no longer a series of text-only pages with images, and Chrome was built with modern web applications and security in mind.
If you don't know, a rendering engine is the part of a web browser that displays content. Chrome and Opera use Blink, Safari uses WebKit, and so on. Firefox's engine, called Gecko, has been around for ages. In fact, it was originally developed for Netscape Navigator all the way back in 1997 to replace their existing rendering engine. Read More
One of the many issues with Google's latest messaging app, Allo, is the total lack of a desktop application. Picking up my phone to respond to a message, when I'm already at my computer with a physical keyboard, seems silly. Allo 2.0, released yesterday, added the ability to quick reply from the notifications. Today's Pushbullet update taps into the quick reply functionality to add Allo support. Read More
There's a new version of Google Maps rolling out to users on the beta channel. This one doesn't seem to be stacked full of big features, but there's at least one new addition to the photo browser. There are also some clues about upcoming features from a teardown. This release is a beta, so you won't get it through the Play Store (right now) if you aren't already signed up to receive early updates. As always, there's a link to download this release from APK Mirror at the bottom. Read More
Widgets. What would we do without them, eh? They show us useful information at a glance, most are resizeable, and some even change the way they look on the fly. In light of this, Google has created a partner for its previously lone calendar agenda widget, with a month widget in Calendar version 5.6.2.
This month widget is 4x5, meaning it is taller than it is wide. Read More
If you're taking care of a little one and updates to the YouTube Kids app are actually opportunities for excitement, you've probably been feeling a little let down by the last few version bumps. It's not that anybody really needs it to keep up with the likes of Google Maps or the core YouTube app, but a few big features are surely welcome. This version isn't actually packed with anything notably new for users today, but it brings promises of some things to come. A teardown shows that kids will be able to enjoy videos in VR and parents will be able to block videos and channels right from within the app. Read More
While Facebook has around 1.7 billion users worldwide, not that many of these are teenagers, with most 13-19 year olds preferring Snapchat or Instagram (for, in my mind, obvious reasons). In an attempt to combat this, Facebook released Lifestage for iOS devices back in August, and now the Android app has just arrived.
Lifestage encourages users to upload pictures and videos based on their likes, dislikes, or feelings. These are then turned into video profiles which others can see. There is no privacy whatsoever on Lifestage - everything is public. Facebook is aiming the app at school communities - once a school has more than 20 users, other profiles are visible. Read More