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Google's 'Brillo' Internet of Things platform is now 'Android Things,' developer preview available for download

Google dipped its toe in the waters of the ambiguously defined "Internet of Things" (IoT) at I/O 2015 when it announced the Brillo operating system. Today, Google has announced Android Things, the new name for Brillo, is ready for public testing. Developers can grab the images right now for several hardware platforms.

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Google acquires smartwatch company Cronologics to work on Android Wear

Google pushed back the release of Android Wear 2.0 a few months ago, which is currently expected to debut in early 2017. There's been a great deal of uncertainty about the future of the platform, but Google isn't giving up. In fact, it just acquired a company (founded by former Googlers) that created a smartwatch OS. It's called Cronologics—or rather it was. The company is being absorbed entirely by the Android Wear team.

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Android Pay officially expands to Japan

Google is slowly but surely expanding its Android Pay platform to more territories. Today Japan gets access - if you're in the country you should be able to download the app from the Play Store for the first time on Android 4.4 or later. Google's retail partners in Japan include McDonalds, Dominoes, Lawson, Mini-Stop, Apita, Family Mart, and Coca-Cola vending machines, along with a handful of Japan-exclusive retailers. 

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Gboard expands keyboard GIF support beyond Android 7.1

One of the few substantive changes in Android 7.1 was the addition of GIFs in the keyboard. When typing in a supported app, you can use the GIF button to drop in an image. This was only working on Android 7.1 previously, but the new Gboard keyboard update changes that.

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Project Fi offering $20 'Share the Fi Love' referral credit until January 11

Google's Project Fi has always been about saving money, as long as you don't consume a lot of data. Now Project Fi customers can "Share the Fi Love" with a new referral credit, accessible via the carrier's website. For each new Fi subscriber that uses the referral code, both the new subscriber and the original subscriber get a $20 Fi credit.

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[Something about Droids] Google Allo adds a themed sticker pack for Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will hit theaters in under a week, and fans of the long-running franchise are practically radioactive with anticipation. Since Google is a company that 1) likes money and 2) probably has more than the usual number of employees who list their religion as "Jedi," is going Allo-in with its latest promotion. [Editor's note: Michael, one more crappy pun like that and you're fired.] Starting today, new stickers featuring characters from Rogue One are available in the Allo chat client.

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Google, Samsung, HTC, Oculus, Sony, and Acer form the Global Virtual Reality Association, the first VR special interest group

Perhaps you haven't noticed yet, but virtual reality is kind of a big deal. Samsung has holiday-themed ads running on primetime TV and sports, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are breaking new ground in a stale gaming industry, and even Google is pushing its new Daydream platform hard. The powers that be think there's money to be made, and that means they're willing to work together (at least to some degree) in pursuit of it. Hence the creation of the Global Virtual Reality Association, announced by Samsung on its corporate blog.

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The Google app's dual-tab 'Upcoming' UI is now official, rolling out to all Android users

For months a small subset of Android users have been seeing a new dual-tabbed interface in the official Google search app's UI. The second tab, initially labelled "Dashboard" and then changed to an icon-only "Upcoming," is now official. Google announced the big change on its Keyword search blog, revealing that the feature should roll out to all Android users starting now, with the iOS version of the Search app following suit later.

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Support for AMP links rolling out in the Google+ Android app

If you're not familiar, Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages project aims to make the mobile web faster and less data-heavy. Websites that choose to support it offer AMP versions of their pages, which are then loaded instead of the full site. Google mobile search and the mobile Google+ site already load AMP pages when available, and now the latter's native Android app is joining in.

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Google Duo gets updated to 5.0, brings "major" video quality improvements and some other fixes [APK Download]

Duo hasn't been the hit success that Google expected it to be, but that should only serve as motivation for engineers to make it better. The video-chatting app has just been updated to version 5.0, which not only fixes a few bugs, but also improves on the entire user experience.

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