At Google IO this past June we saw the launch of many new products from Google, including Android M, Android Pay, and Project Brillo. The tech giant also launched Google Photos as its own service, which was previously tied down to Google+. Today we're going to dive into every corner of Google Photos and my experiences with it over the last few months.
Intro & tests
Over the last eight years I have used iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom, and Photos on Mac to organize my photos. While each worked for a period of time, I never truly felt like my photos were properly organized.
The popular Video LAN Client may finally have a stable release for Android, but that doesn't mean it can't be improved. The 1.2 update adds support for audio playlists, which was apparently missing from the previous releases. Unfortunately due to the limitations of M3U files (the default playlist type for the desktop version of VLC) it's tricky to simply copy your playlists from your computer to your phone. You'll probably need to set them up manually in the app, as below.
Other changes include natural additions like video cover art, sorting videos or songs by modification date, the ability to exclude Android storage folders from VLC's display, a quick button for playing the last video action, and a "double lock" for video files.
Traveling back to the United States after an international business trip? Then be prepared for double the rigmarole as you and every other inbound passenger are herded through customs for declaration and inspection - don't forget a pen for the little bookmark paper they make you fill out. Wouldn't it be nice if you could get all of that done on your smartphone before you landed? Well now you can! Sort of. Maybe. In Atlanta. And nowhere else.
Google has just launched a new email system, but you can only get on in by requesting an invitation or being sent one from a friend. No, it's not 2004, it's Google's new Inbox system, an alternative to Gmail and a new way to look at electronic messaging in general. We've highlighted the new system before its official release, but now you can get it for yourself... if you're lucky enough to get through the invitation system.
Google has been working on Inbox as "Project Bigtop" for years. In the new system, messages are treated like tasks in a to-do list: the system automatically groups messages into "bundles" based on their content and your own filters.
Google's walk/run tracker app, My Tracks, doesn't get updated terribly often, but when it does, there is usually something worth reporting. This most recent update is no exception, as it now offers Android Wear support and some changes to the way sharing works.
Unfortunately, Android Wear support does not mean that you can use the app on the watch alone, independent of the phone. Since Android Wear devices don't yet support GPS, it's basically impossible to have a functioning version of this app on a watch alone. Think of this, instead, as a very useful remote control.
Update: Aaaaaaand it's live. You can download the latest version of Netflix here. It looks like it's on a slow rollout, so don't be surprised if you can't get it right it away.
Enhanced integration with Chromecast, including a new "Post-play" experience to easily continue watching at the end of TV episodes.
Confession: I watched four 90-minute episodes of Sherlock in a single sitting, thanks in no small part to Netflix's auto-advancing "Post-Play" feature on the web. It's that little pop-up interface that automatically goes to the next episode in a TV series if you don't press anything. Netflix added it to the Android app back in June, but if you want to watch the next episode via your Chromecast, you have to grab your super-powerful space age phone and tap it with your meaty fingers.
RoboForm is a popular password manager and form-filling service on the desktop, but its Android edition has felt a little behind the times as of late. That changes with the 4.05 update, which adds the ability to fill in tedious form info on any app on your phone or tablet. It's especially useful since the (paid) RoboForm Everywhere feature will sync all your information with the extension on your computer. No more hastily trying to remember the password for the HBO Go account you "borrowed."
Previously, RoboForm needed its own rather clunky browser to fill in all the relevant information, which is obviously not an ideal solution.
For anyone who likes a nice structured itinerary for their weekend Vegas bender, TripIt is a handy app that combines flight, public transit, hotel, and restaurant info in to a tight little scheduling interface. And to make said interface even more tight, TripIt has revised the UI in the latest build. Well, at least some of the UI - from what we can tell, you'll only see the spiffy new blue-tinted screens if you're using a phone. Tablets default to the older UI, which admittedly seems to make a better use of the larger screen.
If Facebook's 19 billion dollar deal to buy WhatsApp didn't convince you that messaging apps are big business, then... well, this probably won't convince you either, but you'll be even more wrong. Tango Messenger, a solid entry in the crowded text chat market, has been given a huge investment by a group of companies including China's Alibaba.com. Alibaba invested a whopping $215 million, with an extra $65 million coming from previous Tango investors. The total capital raised to date for Tango is $367 million.
Alibaba is sort of the Chinese equivalent of Amazon. The company started as a business-to-business marketplace, but has since expanded into just about every aspect of consumer shopping and online services, including purchasing what was left of the Chinese arm of Yahoo.