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Google

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The Google Now Launcher's search widget is getting a transparent sub-widget

Google is no stranger to testing changes server-side before releasing them for public consumption; in fact, we reported on them testing multiple Play Store UI tweaks at the same time just a few days ago. For several weeks, we've been getting tips about this new extension for the Google search widget, but it seems to be rolling out more widely now.

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Google Announces the Android 7.1 developer preview will start later this month, final release expected in December

There was a great deal of consternation earlier this month when it was revealed the Pixel phones would ship with Android 7.1, but Nexus phones were going to lag behind. Today, there's a little less reason to be upset with the announcement of the Android 7.1 developer preview. It's coming later this month, but not to all the same devices we saw in the last preview.

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Google Keyboard v5.2 from the Pixel system dump has new Pixel themes and other minor tweaks [APK Download]

The Google Pixel phones aren't coming out for a few weeks yet, but some system dumps are available for closer inspection already. Among the myriad of APKs pulled out of that, there's a new version of Google Keyboard. It's version 5.2, and includes two new Pixel themes, as well as a few little tweaks.

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Project Fi launches group plans, Nexus 5X and 6P will continue to be available on Fi

Last month, an APK teardown revealed that Project Fi, Google's wireless network, was preparing to offer group plans. Now group plans are official, and admittedly, the pricing isn't spectacular.

Project Fi already offers $20 a month for Fi Basics, which is unlimited talk and text. Every GB of data is $10, but Fi credits back any data you don't use. Now you can add up to five additional people to your Fi plan, who each pay $15/month for Fi Basics and the same $10 per GB. So by going with a group plan, you're saving $5 per person.

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Google Assistant can be enabled on non-Pixel devices running Android Nougat

Perhaps the most interesting feature exclusive to Google Pixel, at least officially, is Google Assistant. We have a review of Assistant's current functionality, but in a nutshell, it's essentially a conversation-based version of the former Google Now. XDA user brianelv has posted a short guide on enabling Assistant, and it should work on any Android 7.0 (or higher) device with the Google app 6.5.35.21 or newer.

If you have those prerequisites, the actual guide is fairly short. All you need to do is change your build.prop file, reboot, and clear Google app cache. Either root (to manually edit the build.prop) or a custom recovery (if you want to flash the zip) is required. In our own testing on a Nexus 6P, switching to the Google Now Launcher might be required to trigger the Assistant setup.

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PSA: Pixel and Pixel XL do not work with Google's USB-C to HDMI dongle

Even in a world with Chromecasts and other streaming devices, it's often just easier to plug your phone directly into your TV with an HDMI cable and an adapter. Some people depend on this functionality quite a bit, and for those of you that do, it might not please you to hear that Google's Pixel smartphones will not support the company's own USB Type-C to HDMI adapter.

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Google testing numerous UI changes for Play Store, including renamed Entertainment section

The Play Store, like many other Google apps, is no stranger to server-side UI updates; however, it's pretty rare for Google to be testing multiple changes at once. Currently, Google is not only testing a renamed Entertainment section, but also a different look for the carousel, the removal of the search bar, and a new Google Play Store banner.

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Google Search now has a RGB/Hex color converter

Google has been working to bring more and more functionality directly into search results, without the user having to visit a seperate site. You can now find your IP address, run a speed test, convert units, and more all from Search. Following that trend, now Google has added an RGB to Hex converter.

If you're unfamiliar, RGB and Hex are both color spaces used to identify colors. For example, #000000 in Hex and (0,0,0) in RGB both refer to Black. Searching 'RGB to Hex' brings up a simple color picker that shows results in RGB and Hex. You can search any Hex or RGB value, and it will show the color in both formats.

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Google+ communities will now sort posts algorithmically instead of chronologically

Social networks have started to embrace algorithmic timelines (that is, where posts are sorted based on how the service thinks you will like it), instead of showing each post in chronological order. First Facebook introduced the feature, then Twitter and Instagram, and now Google+ is enabling it for communities.

Google+ already sorts posts in the home feed based on relevance, and now Communities will do the same. Algorithmic timelines actually make sense for Communities, which are often loaded to the brim with spam. Presumably, content that users actually interact with will be pushed to the top, and the spam will be invisible for most users.

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[Update: It's back] Screenshot button gone from Now on Tap/Screen Search

Google Screen Search, formally known as Google Now on Tap, is a feature I don't use often - but it's incredibly helpful when I need it. If you're unfamiliar, it provides information to you based on the text on your screen, and works on any Android 6.0+ device with the Google app. For example, a few days ago I received a text message confirming an appointment, and Screen Search created a calendar event from the message contents.

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