Google is continuing to refine what data you can access without ever leaving its browser-based search interface. A few of the more complex options for searching popular culture have now made their way from the desktop to Android, and they've also been given some impressive layout adjustments. According to Google's own search blog, contextual information for music, movies, and television shows will now appear in a dedicated sub-section of Google Search. Some of this was already available, but some of it's definitely new.
Google keeps giving away freebies to customers who buy its hardware. The latest is a trio of free movies from the Play Store for owners of Chrome OS-powered laptops. It's quite nice, but don't head out to buy a copy of Age of Ultron just yet - you get three movies from a relatively limited selection, and they're only in standard definition. So, nice, but not amazing.
Here's the list, or at least the one that we've seen on our personal accounts in the US. Your results may vary:
Mission Impossible II
Mission Impossible III
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
The Spongebob Squarepants Movie
The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water
The Last Airbender
Charlotte's Web (2006)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
I'm no movie critic, but I'd say that the clear winners among that limited selection are Mission Impossible, Forrest Gump, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Streaming movies from Google Play is rather nice. I sort of scoffed at the feature at first, wondering why I'd want to spend that much money to rent a movie when I could wait and buy a physical copy later. But hey, $3 to $5 really isn't that much compared to watching a film in theaters, and it lets you see a movie much sooner than waiting for the DVD version to drop in price.
The thing is, Play Movies isn't available all over the world.
Don't think I'll find where a show is available online? Just watch me. There's an app or two for that, and now that JustWatch has brought its search engine to Android and iOS, there's another one. And it's capable of searching through Amazon Instant Video, Crackle, HBO Now, Hulu, iTunes, Netflix, Play Movies, PlayStation, Showtime, Vudu, Xbox, and a couple other online streaming services.
JustWatch's grid layout looks like those of the services it interacts with, and it feels like a natural companion, like the modern-day equivalent of a TV guide. You can create a watchlist without having to create an account or provide any credentials.
Android TV and similar set-top boxes are incredibly popular with the cord-cutting crowd. But if you still subscribe to cable, the various networks included with your package are finally getting their respective acts together and creating decent online options for streaming shows and movies. EPIX, a channel that's mostly focused on playing older and second-run movies, has finally made its way to Android TV. The app went live back on June 9th, but for some reason the company is just announcing it now.
You might have heard that Disney is releasing a new Star Wars film at the end of this year. You might also have heard that it has tossed out almost all the non-film pre-acquisition content produced under license from Lucasfilm. That leaves a lot of gaps in Star Wars canon, but the upcoming mobile game Star Wars: Uprising might get things back on track a bit. It's set between Return of the Jedi and the new film.
Most Android apps from large corporations don't really consider the design guidelines worth following - hell, a lot of them are carbon copies of the counterpart iPhone app. (From three years ago.) The app from movie theater chain Regal Cinemas is refreshingly different: even before the latest update it followed Holo guidelines pretty well throughout the interface. The latest update, published in the Play Store yesterday, brings it up to Material Design.
New above, old below. They're both pretty nice, actually.
Most of the core functions are identical: the Regal app will let you find nearby theaters and showtimes, buy tickets remotely, check in with the Crowd Club customer rewards program, and watch trailers for upcoming releases.
For the last couple of months, we've seen a lot of big things happening for Drive, Maps, Search, and even the News & Weather app. It's been fairly quiet for the suite of Google Play content apps – but don't be fooled, big changes are coming. A recent Update Wednesday release of Play Movies didn't present any noteworthy or visibly obvious changes; but a look inside revealed a couple of hints about upcoming changes. Just two days later, a brand new release of the Play Store came along to not only fill in some of the gaps, but to add even more interesting bits.
Disney has made a number of sweeping changes since buying out Lucasfilm to get all that sweet Star Wars IP. There are going to be new movies, but of more immediate concern is your ability to buy the old ones digitally, a first for Star Wars fans.