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Opinion: My early thoughts on Google's round icons (and consistency for its own sake)

By the time this post goes up, I'm sure most of our readers will have seen Google's circlified icons in the new Pixel launcher, bound for the new Pixel phones. I've been asked a few times what I think about the new launcher and, for the most part, I don't have a strong opinion. But I do have some thoughts about the circlified icons, some guesses at the rationale, and some thoughts about the downsides of consistency for its own sake. As with any written-from-the-outside post about design, I want to note up front that we aren't privy to any research, data, or other information Google used to make its decisions, so the best we can do is respectfully speculate and ponder.

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Google News & Weather 2.8 adds Lite mode, optimizes pages for slow connections

Google News & Weather has an interesting history. After years of being included on Android devices with almost no changes, it moved to the Play Store and received a Material Design facelift in 2014. Now Google has added a 'Lite mode' to the application, designed to save bandwidth for users in India and other regions where data is at a premium.

As indicated in the screenshot, you can set Lite mode to activate automatically, or force it on or off. When Lite mode is on, the application won't load as many images on the main screen. More importantly, opening a link in Lite mode causes an optimized version of the page to load instead of the full content.

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Images of Chromecast Ultra leak ahead of October 4th unveiling

As we are all acutely aware, Google is having a huge hardware event on October 4th, and in very un-Google fashion, it's aggressively advertising it. We're fairly certain at this point there will be a pair of Pixel phones and a few other goodies, including the 4K Chromecast Ultra. A few images of that device have now leaked courtesy of Evan "evleaks" Blass.

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Google may launch Andromeda OS on rumored 7-inch Huawei 'Nexus' tablet

Google is hyping up its October 4th event for the new Pixel phone unveiling, but there may be a crazy #onemorething happening too. As we reported earlier today, Google is working on a new Android-based OS codenamed Andromeda that integrates some features from Chrome OS, making it more suitable for use on a laptop-like device. This might be previewed at the event. Now, 9to5Google reports that Google's first Andromeda device will be that long-rumored 7-inch Huawei-built "Nexus" tablet.

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[Update: Best Buy too] [Deal Alert] Chromecast Audio only $25 ($10 off) on the Google Store

The Chromecast Audio is a great little device, allowing you to stream supported content to any speaker (or anything else really) with audio input. I myself bought one fairly recently, so I could turn my old iPod dock into a WiFi speaker.

Google today dropped the price of the Chromecast Audio down to $25, a whopping $10 lower than the original price. There is no sign of a Chromecast Audio replacement being announced at Google's upcoming October 4th event, so you don't have to worry about buying a soon-to-be-discontinued device.

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Google Search may soon show live popular business times for locations

There's a Chick-Fil-A location on Powers Boulevard in Colorado Springs. It's there. It sells chicken sandwiches. It's the only one on that side of the city. The store is technically open from 6AM to 10PM every day, but I don't think I've ever been there before nine at night. Because as good as Chick-Fil-A sandwiches are, they're not worth waiting 40 minutes in a drive-through line that wraps around the building twice.

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First Chromecast Preview firmware removes all Chrome branding

Not too long ago, Google began offering users the chance to test unfinished Chromecast firmware. The first preview firmware, version 1.21.72444, began rolling out to users recently. Google's release notes for the update only state, "General bug fixes and stability improvements." Really helpful, Google.

Thankfully, tipster Rafael sent us the screenshots above and below. They indicate that all references to the word 'Chrome' have been removed. The current public firmware shows the Chrome logo when the device starts up, which is now replaced by a Google logo.

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Allo hits #1 in the Top Free Apps chart, but for how long?

Allo was finally released earlier this week, much to my own excitement. Google's latest messaging app seems pretty appealing in some regards and I am always willing to try something new. Thus far, I am enjoying it.

It seems that I am not alone. Allo is listed as number one in the Top Free Apps chart in the Play Store. That means it is beating Facebook/Messenger, Snapchat, and Instagram. It is mirroring its cousin, Duo, which also reached number one in the Top Free chart shortly after its release just over a month ago.

From this vantage, it is pretty easy to draw parallels between the two apps — both were announced together as Google's new messaging solution.

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Micromax phones will be the first to come with Google Duo pre-installed

I would argue that Duo is a better product than Allo, at least in this early stage. Duo makes video chatting as simple as possible, and the result is a simple but easy to use application. Micromax, an Indian electronics company, has announced that four phones they are releasing in the near future will have Duo pre-installed.

Micromax didn't reveal too much about the phones, besides that they will be LTE-capable and will be under $100 USD. Google Product Manager Amit Fulay has said, "In the first month alone we have seen over 10 million downloads, with US and India being among the top countries." It seems like Google is betting on the growing 4G network in India to help make Duo a success.

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Google+ is now a core service on Google for Work (or Google Cloud)

For months, we have seen Hangouts shift from Google's primary messaging service to being focused on business use. The official Google for Work (which is in the process of becoming Google Cloud) blog has announced that Google+ is moving to the same purpose, and is now a core feature for businesses to use.

Starting immediately, Google+ will have "the same technical support and service level commitments as any other core service, like Gmail or Google Drive," according to the blog post. This shows that Google is serious about the future of Google+, perhaps not with a focus on the average user, but no doubt both parties will benefit from continued support from Google.

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