At Google IO this past June we saw the launch of many new products from Google, including Android M, Android Pay, and Project Brillo. The tech giant also launched Google Photos as its own service, which was previously tied down to Google+. Today we're going to dive into every corner of Google Photos and my experiences with it over the last few months.
Intro & tests
Over the last eight years I have used iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom, and Photos on Mac to organize my photos. While each worked for a period of time, I never truly felt like my photos were properly organized.
Full disclosure: I own an iPhone 6. It's not my daily driver (I use it for testing and design research), but when Android Wear for iOS was announced, I thought it might be fun to connect my Moto 360 to the iPhone and see what our friends using iOS might experience if they decide to pair up with an Android Wear watch.
First things first: the Android Wear app for iOS. In general the experience will seem familiar to Android users. Pair up your watch using its special name/code, then view a video going over the basics, etc. The iOS onboarding process feels a bit laborious, since - if you follow the app's guidance - you'll have to do things like venture into iOS settings to enable bluetooth, double click the home button, and go back to Wear, but it's not unbearable and in practice you can just swipe up the iOS quick settings from the bottom.
Given how young Android Wear is as a platform, it's not terribly surprising that a new "best" Wear device pops up every six months or so. But the Huawei Watch, announced way back in March at MWC in Spain, has all but stolen the proverbial show since it was first unveiled. Let's get the important parts out in front: pre-orders start today at GetHuawei.com, Google Store, Amazon.com and BestBuy.com, and ship beginning September 17th. The Huawei Watch will start at $349 for the stainless steel body and basic black leather strap and go up to $799 for the rose gold version with matching links.
Today, as we expected it would, Samsung announced two new phones: the Galaxy Note 5, and the Galaxy S6 Edge+ (what a name). We were at the event and spent a few brief moments with each of the devices, got some impressions, and took some photos. So naturally it's time to talk hands-on with the Note 5 and Edge+.
If there's a main takeaway from my time handling these two devices, it's that they were what I expected. That's not a bad thing, though - Samsung has carried over the interesting refreshed design language of the S6 and S6 Edge to the new phones - the Edge+ is curved on the front, and the Note 5 is curved on the back.
A couple of months back, rumors that Google was working on a gamer-focused video streaming service first appeared. And so we waited. Now that the appropriately named YouTube Gaming is finally here, it plans to go head to head with Twitch.tv - easily the most popular such service in the world. Google has a tremendous amount of experience in the video streaming space in the form of YouTube, but it has never offered anything that was geared toward gamers. YouTube Gaming is hailed as the brand-new service that aims to fill that gap.
Currently, YouTube Gaming is only available as a beta program.
As early as last year, we began seeing quite a few references in teardowns pointing to the ability to overlay music onto videos uploaded in the YouTube app for Android, along with other features like video filters. With the wide rollout of the new YouTube UI, these advanced editing options are finally available to more people, so let's take a look at them.
'Featured,' 'Genre & Mood,' and 'On Device' are the categories you can choose when adding music. The featured section seems to be a catered list of the best generic instrumental tracks that Google has to offer.
I've never used a OnePlus One for more than a few minutes, and I've never really had much of a desire to (hey, just being honest). After hearing Artem's many horror stories about the device, seeing the slow OTA timeline of Cyanogen Inc., and being perfectly happy buying a full-on flagship phone since no-interest financing is readily available here in America, the One never really caught my attention as a product. So, I like to think I'm going into the OnePlus 2 with slightly fresher eyes here, though what that really amounts to in any substantive sense I have no clue.
Inputting+ quietly keeps tabs on all the text you write across various apps for safekeeping while bundling an undo and redo function in case you have accidentally made a change that you didn't mean to. And if you want to find and replace something, Inputting+ has your back there too. All of this is easily accessible from a small bubble (which can be turned off, made transparent, and made bigger/smaller) that floats on your screen while typing.
If you have ever had an app crash or accidental button press make you lose something you've written, I won't need to convince you that this new app is worth a shot.
It has been nearly a year since Google announced Android Auto, and it's still available almost nowhere. No car companies have built the technology into their 2015 vehicles (though some may get a software update with support later), and only a handful of aftermarket head units have the software. So what's the deal? Is it worth getting excited for? I've finally gotten my hands on one of Pioneer's Android Auto units (the 8100NEX), and here's how I'm feeling about it after a few days.
At this point, there is no real shortage of "smart" launchers in the Android ecosystem. Of course, we have to put "smart" in quotation marks, because there still is a void in terms of truly good products trying to do that. So when I tell you that Bento is a new entrant in this bustling market of context-aware launchers, you shouldn't ask, "do we need another one?" You should ask, "is this the one that will really do a great job?"
Bento is a venture capital-backed project that is in a semi-private beta at the moment. As I go over the app in its current state, it's important to keep in mind that it is not a finished product at this point and is not the kind of wide-release beta that you might be accustomed to.