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Google Maps is adding new achievement badges for Local Guides

Those of you who contribute as Local Guides on Google Maps (a club I recently joined) will know that as well as the satisfying feeling of helping other people out; you also gain points for your hard work. Those points help you rise through the ranks, getting a new badge every time you level up and eventually leading to certain perks, such as early access to new features.

To add some extra motivation, Google is about to add some new achievement badges that can be attained by completing different types of tasks. Badge fiends will now have four new ones available to them, which can also be leveled up as you submit information to the service.

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Snapseed passes 50 million downloads on the Play Store

We've covered Google's photo-editing app, Snapseed, plenty of times here. It's one of the best photo manipulation apps available for Android, especially considering it's completely free. If you needed more proof that the app is awesome, maybe the app's 50 million downloads will convince you.

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Verizon stores will have Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL display units tomorrow, October 12th

The Pixel 2 and 2 XL were announced last week, but with most variants not shipping for a few weeks, those of you who pre-ordered one are probably getting a little antsy. But starting tomorrow, October 12th, Verizon stores will have floor units of the Pixel 2s for customers (and eager tech nerds) to play with.

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Google permanently removes top touch functionality on Home Mini

Yesterday, Artem shared his personal experience with the Google Home Mini, and how his unit began recording audio at random intervals. This was due to a hardware flaw, where the Mini believed that the top touch button was being pressed, which then prompted it to start listening for voice commands and sending the audio to Google's servers. Google quickly disabled the top button via a software update while it worked on a possible solution.

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Fused Video Stabilization on the Pixel 2 fixes the original models' 'Terminator effect'

The original Pixel and Pixel XL have fantastic camera capabilities. Not only does HDR+ make most still images look great, but both phones include Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) to reduce shaky video. Despite being done entirely in software, the result is incredibly-smooth video that looks almost unreal.

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[Update: Synchrony Financial] Android Pay adds 14 new institutions in the United States

Android Pay is always striving to add new banks and credit unions, and in the case of the United States there's an awful lot to get through. Just recently, 24 new institutions were added to the service, and now a further 16 have also made the cut. You should be notified by your bank when they add support for Android Pay to your card, but just in case, why not take a look at the list to see if you're one of the lucky ones.

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Some Pixel XL owners are having issues installing the October OTA, Google is looking into it

This October's update isn't just about security patches, it also has some much-needed Bluetooth fixes. Unfortunately, some of us are having trouble actually installing this latest OTA. The difficulty seems to fall into two basic categories: those who haven't yet unenrolled from the beta and can't see the update, and those who can see the update but can't install it. The former is an easy fix (just exit the beta), but for those of us in the latter camp, Google is looking into it. 

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API.AI, Google's tool for making Assistant apps, is now Dialogflow

Back in September 2016, Google purchased Speaktoit, a company specializing in natural language technology. The company's main service at the time was API.AI, an SDK that allowed creating voice interfaces for mobile apps. Google re-purposed the tool to create Google Assistant Apps (formerly known as 'Actions on Google').

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Google uploads its Device Health Services system app to the Play Store

One of Android 8.0 Oreo's new features is the new actionable battery menu, which gives you far more details and options than the previous design. But behind the scenes, the company has been tweaking 'Device Health Services,' the app that calculates your remaining battery percentage based on your usage. Now it looks like Google has uploaded the app to the Play Store.

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Google's predictive search suggestions could be getting a makeover, with new thumbnail images and descriptions

When you search with Google on your device, either with the home screen search box/pill, in the Google feed pane, or directly in the Google app, you'll often see predictive search suggestions as you type your query. These come not only from the web, but from your contacts, songs in your Play Music account, and so on. The web suggestions are usually indicated simply by a magnifying glass icon, but this could be about to change.

According to a tip we received on Google+, it appears that Google is trialing additional information for search predictions. As you can see from the screenshots below, thumbnail images and descriptions of each item are showing for our tipster.

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