Following the big improvements to Maps on Monday night, Google is hitting us again with another update that is sure to make quite a few users happy, at least for those that use the Google Now Launcher (a.k.a. GEL). Support for a rotating launcher screen on phones is back, and if that's not enough, there's also a nifty new rendering feature that resizes app icons so most of them will look more consistent on your home screen. This update appears to have come out of Google's beta channel, but we've got download links at the bottom if you want to jump on it right away.
Instagram has a reputation. It's true. Whether it's the users who constantly snap pictures of their food or the ubiquitous use of filters, something immediately comes to mind when someone mentions the social network. One major aspect of its identity, for better or worse, is about to disappear. Instagram will no longer exclusively support square imagery.
That's right, ladies and gentlemen, Instagram is finally acknowledging that cameras don't take pictures in squares. Yes, cropping is a thing, but good cropping is also part of taking a decent shot in the first place. It can be a pain to have to crop things down again.
Version 2.6 makes BBM ready for Android 5.0, but don't get too excited. There's no big redesign here. The app still looks as Gingerbread as ever, it just now explicitly supports devices running the latest version of Google's mobile operating system.
That's not to say that the update is without visual changes. If you turn your phone sideways, the interface will now rotate to landscape mode in order to accommodate you.
Other features new to BBM users include the ability to share stickers in a group chat, set longer limits on timed messages (up to 60 seconds), share multiple pictures or attachments at the same time, and see when someone has received or viewed your photos.
The first major update to the Beats Music app since Apple bought the company two weeks ago is now rolling out to Android devices. This release, version 1.1, addresses some areas that previously revealed just how young a piece of software this is. For starters, the app now supports landscape mode. Go ahead, turn your phone sideways and see what happens. Better yet, fire Beats up on a tablet.
In addition to that, people listening in offline mode can now save music to an SD card. Other changes affect how users discover new music. The "Find It" section has been renamed "Browse," and the "Just for You" recommendations have been refined so that they're more useful.
The Nest Learning Thermostat gets a major update to its Android app today, mostly to add support for the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector. The Protect now ties into the Android app (assuming you have one, of course) with status checks for both sensors and multiple units in your connected home. You can add new thermostats or smoke detectors right from the app.
Beyond that, the app has been given a full visual makeover. It's undeniably pretty (even if there is a lot of wasted space), and fits in with the general visual theme of the Nest interface itself.
It seems like the Android world is getting a ton of extra tablet love in the past few months. Today, Skype joined the party by finally introducing an optimized UI for those of you with a little more screen to love. While the new look is nice, it bizarrely forces your slate into landscape mode. Even on the Nexus 7, you have no choice but to use the wider layout. This probably isn't a bad thing, since it looks great in this mode, and might seem cramped otherwise. Still, this is the only app outside of games we've seen do this, so it's a little jarring.
In my review of the Galaxy Tab 8.9, I found that performance didn't seem to be quite up to snuff. A commenter noted that that was reportedly because the Tab 8.9 was designed to be used portrait mode, so the system has to rotate what's on the screen by 90°. And surprisingly enough, when I took another look at the tablet I noticed that it seemed to be true - things were smooth as can be when using it in portrait mode - it's simply that, unless an app requires it, I always use tablets in landscape.
So I'm curious: excluding when apps require a certain orientation, which way do you use your tablet the most?