Google finally unveiled KitKat last week, but you may have noticed something was missing. Yes, there was no news on the so-called Google Experience Launcher. Earlier leaks led us to suspect that Google's homescreen experience was coming to more Android devices, but the big day came and went with no mention. Recent revelations about how the Android 4.4 homescreen works breathe new life into the possibility of a more Googley experience for all.
Google is finally paying attention to the phone app in Android 4.4 by adding smart organization of contacts, enhanced search, and a new card-based UI. However, there might be something more dastardly hiding in the dialer code. Google might be preparing to roll out ads of some sort to the Android dialer.
On Tuesday night, surprisingly ahead of the usual update-all-the-things-Wednesday, Google released a major revision of the Play Books app for Android, updating it from v2 (2.9.21) to v3 (3.0.15). The changelog, which was shockingly present from the get-go (thank you!), confused me a bit but after digging around, I finally figured out what it means. Oh, and I found another fix that wasn't mentioned.
The official changelog is as follows:
- Added the ability to search the text of original-pages books.
Search the Play Store for "tip calculator" and you'll probably find over nine thousand different ways to cut up gratuity. But now you don't need them: Google has added a tip calculator to its ubiquitous search engine on the mobile app and the web. Just search for "what's the tip for forty dollars" (or any amount you'd care to name) and Google will return the default 15% tip.
Want to be a little more generous?
Maybe you've never really noticed the sponsored shopping results that pop up in Google searches, but Google is aiming to change that by making those ads more relevant to your physical location. The search giant is rolling out local shopping results that guide users to nearby brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, you may already have them in your search results.
The shopping results that appear on both mobile and desktop searches may now open a dedicated local storefront when clicked.
A few weeks back we pointed out a neat little trick in the Chrome Beta for Android. By toggling the NTP flag, you could get a spiffy new tab page with a search box and scrollable list of recent sites. The last update to the app seems to have killed it, but now we know why – Chrome 31 will make that UI the default in Android.
It looks like Google isn't done adding goodies to the latest round of updates for the official Search app. The hotword for activating the voice search function is now "Ok Google," and it also works while looking at results, not just from the standard search screen. You'll need Search 2.8.7 (grab the APK here if you don't have it yet) and an updated English (US) language pack to see the new functionality.
Google is 15 years old. Lets think about that for a moment: the company that has grown to have not one but two operating systems, develop self-driving cars, map much of the globe, manage most of our mail, offer an online collaborative office suite, and have a name ubiquitous enough to enter the dictionary, is younger than most of our readers. Google has only recently gone through puberty and is currently studying up for its driving exam.
Somewhere amid the rest of Google's app updates today, Google updated its Search app. While the Play Store still shows an old change log, there are at least a couple of notable changes with the new update.
First among them, as part of Google's ongoing quest for better language processing, is the ability to have language packs automatically update themselves. This is something we uncovered in our last APK Teardown, though some of the more exciting features we saw evidence of (custom hotwords) haven't quite hit prime time yet.