I'm planning a trip to India and Ireland next month, and since it'll be only the second time I've left North America, I could use a few directions. Google's various services are fine for that as they are, but the latest addition to Search is a handy one for anyone on the road. If you've booked your hotel online and received a receipt or confirmation in your Gmail inbox, Google will make a note of it.
It seems like it's hard to find a non-Nexus device that uses anything close to stock Android. Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony, Asus, Acer - everywhere you look there are customizations to a greater or lesser extent. Even Motorola, formerly Google's own subsidiary, uses a custom launcher. Chinese manufacturer ZTE is looking to break that trend, however. The company is planning to launch new smartphones that use the Google Now Launcher (AKA the Google Experience Launcher) by default.
Commandr expands on Google Now by giving its users the ability to toggle hardware switches and control music with simple voice commands. There isn't a standardized way for third-party developers to do such a thing, but that hasn't stopped this developer from coming up with a product worth watching. The original release was more cool than practical, but version 2.0 goes a long way towards correcting this.
There are some things that you don't need to do every day, yet are still important enough to warrant a reminder. You know, like vacuuming, or checking your stock portfolio, or reminding yourself to tweet about how incredibly important it is to bring Firefly back to television. Google's got your back: at some point they added an "occasionally" option to Google Now's built-in reminders, triggered when you tell Now to "remind me" to do something.
You probably know that you can use the "OK Google" command in Google Now (and just recently, anywhere else in Android) to do some cool things like set an alarm or check a flight number. But up to now, it hasn't been able to do much with the actual hardware on your phone. There's no easy way to expand Google Now functionality with third-party apps, but at least one developer found a work-around: meet Commandr, the new in-between service for flipping hardware switches in Google Now.
Wanna see something cool? Or, depending on your current location, hot? Then pop open the Google Now interface on your Android phone or tablet. The Weather card is a regular on the Now page, but you might see something new in there today if you have the recently updated stacked multi-city view showing, namely high and low temperatures values. Neat.
During the presentation for the L release, Google talked a little bit about the new search experience in Google Now. Firstly, there's a huge focus on animations and fluidity, with animations running at a super fluid 60 FPS (this is LEGO). It looks so good.
Oh, look...a new keyboard.
Further, all installed, relevant apps will be able to launch from Google Now. This has been a feature available to a handful of apps for a while now (like IMDb, for example), but with the L release, the API is becoming available to every developer, so all apps can be incorporated into Now's search results.
If you're in the US and looking for a convenient way to get relevant World Cup video highlights sent right to your favorite device, Google has you covered. Starting today, through a partnership with ESPN, the company will begin offering video via your regular Google Now feed.
Google's own launcher lacks many customization features you'd get with third-party options, but it has that cool Google Now panel that makes it that much easier to see your cards. Because that's part of the closed-source Google Search app, other launchers have thus far been unable to implement it. However, the newest 0613 nightlies of CyanogenMod 11 include this feature in the default Trebuchet launcher. Well, mostly.
Google's really been on a roll lately when it comes to Google Now... or at least our readers have been especially good at spotting features that we hadn't before. As the 2014 World Cup draws ever nearer, Google has added the various competing national soccer (all non-Americans, read: football) teams to the integrated sports updates already seen for most of the major league sports in the US. Now you don't need a separate app for score updates and news, unless you're the picky type who likes things like content or videos.