If you were unable to access Gmail, Google+, Google Calendar, Google Drive, and other online services from The Big G earlier today, you were not alone. A widespread outage was reported in the late morning/early afternoon US time. Google seems to have cleared up the issue, but just to let everyone know what's up, Google's Vice President of Engineering Ben Treynor took to the company blog for both an explanation and an apology.
If you tried reaching one of Google's popular services, such as Gmail, Google+, or Play Music in the last 30 minutes and failed because they're either unavailable, very slow, or have broken in some other way, don't go blaming your ISP - it's one of those rare occasions when Google itself is having some major hiccups.
The company finally updated the Apps Status Dashboard after a surprisingly long delay of over 20 minutes showing all green and is now looking into the issues:
Google said it would do it, and now it has. The latest update to Android's Gmail app has enabled images automatically, now made safe because Google is serving up the images after hosting them on its own proxy servers. Users will no longer need to tap the "show pictures" message above the email content.
Left: old style. Right: 4.7.2.
We're looking through the application now to see if there are any more changes - this thing is so fresh that Google hasn't even updated the Play Store description.
You probably see that "Display images below" button in Gmail all the time on both mobile and desktop. This is the default behavior because it makes it harder for spammers and advertisers to track you. However, Google says it has prepared a workaround that mitigates the security concern and will allow it to show those images by default.
Last night, Google started a slow rollout of the new Maps with version 7.5. Since the previous version was 7.4, we knew there had to be some key features that prompted the update - it couldn't just be a bug fixer. After thoroughly examining the UI, I was unable to find anything new.
As it turns out, that's because the new feature Google stuffed into the app only shows up upon very specific conditions.
The most obvious new addition to Gmail 4.7 is the Vacation Responder. You can set start and end dates, enter a subject and some text, and check a toggle to only send the vacation response to your contacts.
At this point in my life, a solid 70% of everything I've ever said resides on Google's servers somewhere. If the company were to ever close its doors, those words would be lost to history. But that's about to change. Google's rolling out the ability to easily download a copy of your Gmail and Calendar data, so you can migrate it to another service when the unthinkable - or the inevitable - happens.
When we dug into the updated Gmail app in the APK Teardown a few days ago, there was clear evidence of a system for displaying ads in the Promotions folder much like desktop Gmail. It didn't take Google long to start implementing them either – the first users are seeing ads right now.
Now that the insane week of Google app updates has passed (gotta love those Rollout Wednesdays, right?), I've had some time to dig into the APKs and have found a number of interesting things in some of them.
We'll start with Gmail, which received a fairly significant Card UI update with version 4.6.
Ads are coming to Gmail
The most significant under-the-hood and probably not active yet addition to Gmail 4.6 is ads.