It's Wednesday, and you know what that means – yes, Google is updating apps. This week we've got a search update to version 3.4 and it has some good stuff going on. We're still checking it out, but it looks like automatic parking detection is a go. Or stop... whatever.
Google is always trying new things, and one of those new things has been left where we can play with it. Yay! The LEGO redesign is an experimental sandbox for mobile search results. The overall look is a little different than the current one, but it's the animations in the results that set it apart. Check out the video below for a demo – left tab is LEGO and right is standard.
Emoji convey a lot using very little, and now Yelp has tapped into this to speed up its searches. No, the results don't come in any faster. Rather, instead of typing out a word as long as "hamburger," just insert a picture of one. Want to hit up a bar? Head to the emoji section of your keyboard and drop in a frosty mug. Yelp will know what to do.
Occasionally, an OS update will bring around features that really change things. Android 3.0 brought the Android experience to tablets. 4.0 completely revamped the UI and added guidelines that made Android look cohesive for the first time. 4.4 added Svelte, which promised to seat Android comfortably on an even broader range of devices. We have reason to believe another one of those changes is right around the corner, and it's known internally as Hera.
It's hard not to be excited about the future of Google Now. It's already an incredibly powerful tool, on its way to being a do-anything personal assistant, and we've heard tell of even more functionality from bill pay reminders to inferred events entries to contact-based reminders.
Today, though, we've heard about something that many have asked for from Google Now for a long time now - actual timer functionality. Search may not be getting its own built-in timer, but it won't be side-stepping your request to set an alarm, either.
Ready for another Google Now rumor? We've already seen evidence of contact-based reminders reliant on your proximity with another person, and "inferred events," whereby Now would pluck mentions of meetings or other appointments from your conversations to automatically create calendar entries. This time, we have something just as useful - a new bill pay card and interface, evidently headed for Google Now.
Google sometimes gives us a hint of what it's working on if you're willing to dig for it. Buried in the new Chrome Beta for Android update is something called contextual search. It's not completely functional right now, but you can take a peek at some aspects of it.
To enable contextual search in Chrome Beta, go to chrome://flags/#contextual-search in the address bar. Tap enable to activate this feature, then restart the browser using the button that pops up.
Much of Android is open to tinkerers, but Google has gradually closed off more and more of the default functionality. The most awesome aspects of the KitKat dialer - its ability to search for businesses and contacts from within the app - were not included in the open source version. So what's a ROM developer to do? Why, create their own alternative. The OmniROM folks have previously shown off their work, and now the CyanogenMod team has packed similar functionality, albeit seemingly more powerful, into the latest nightlies.