Before there was Allo and Duo, before Hangouts was unveiled, there was Google Talk. In some ways, it was better than the Hangouts platform that replaced it. Talk had a real desktop app, and if you didn't like it, you could use any XMPP client to communicate. You could even send messages to users on other XMPP-powered services - a huge difference from today's proprietary messaging services.
Recently, we took a look at Ultra Violet, a new Hangouts app for Chrome that - at the time - was still in testing. It promised floating chats similar to Facebook's Chatheads feature, but for your desktop. Today, that app is finally a reality and available for download.
The premise is simple - as the video below demonstrates, a Hangouts bubble floats on the side of your desktop, opened from Google's Chrome app launcher, and subsequent conversations float above that. Users can click and hold to drag the bubble around and manage/participate in chats just like on the web.
New messages automatically preview in a word bubble next to their respective chat, and users can hover over each chat to see the last correspondence.
As part of its Mobile World Congress presentation, Huawei officially unveiled its own entry into the wearable market with the TalkBand B1. There's no denying the device looks odd, but there's functionality hidden in its slightly weird-looking body. The display portion of the device actually pops out and can be used as a Bluetooth headset, while the band itself can be uncapped to reveal a USB connector for charging.
According to CNet's hands-on, Huawei claims 7 hours talk time and 2 weeks standby battery life for the device. The device's readout is an OLED display at 1.4", and users will need to manage the "smartband" via their phone running Android 2.3 or higher.
Users of Google Voice have long called for the company to pay more attention to the seemingly forgotten service for quite some time. Unfortunately, they may be getting more than they were hoping for. While many people are thrilled to hear Voice will finally support MMS and become a part of Hangouts in early 2014, Google is also planning to close up shop for all 3rd-party apps that relied on the service for free texting and VoIP calling. Sadly, these apps will cease to function on May 15, 2014.
Google plans to shut down the XMPP interface currently used by alternative Voice apps.
Following up on our roundup of May's absolute best games, we're back with the month's greatest apps. As with (almost) every month, May offered plenty in the way of great new apps to try out. If you feel like the supercomputer in your pocket just isn't doing enough, any of these apps are great starting points for added functionality, productivity, or just entertainment.
As with our last roundup, we'll also include a list of honorable mentions – those are the apps that didn't quite make the short list but that you should still take a look at if you find your selection wanting.
There is no arguing that the new Hangouts Android app, which replaces Google Talk and aims to unify several communication methods, has had a rough start. One of the main issues we've run into from the very beginning was wonky tablet support. In fact, most people couldn't install it at all because instead of the Update button, only a lone "Open" button would show up on tablets. Dan Morrill, one of our favorite Android engineers (HOLOYOLO! No really, he yelled that at yesterday's Android Fireside Chat), has explained that this happened due to an unfortunate bug with telephony-related permissions, and that a fix would be rolling out shortly.
Google I/O is coming! We'll know about all of Google's new projects in just 2 short agonizingly long weeks. While we desperately count the days until May 15th, we thought it would be a great idea to take stock all of the things we've caught wind of lately.
Calling this an "I/O Preview," sounds a little too certain. I'm not predicting everything here will come out at I/O, this is just a list of everything we know Google is working on - their "To-Do" list. Just like any to-do list, Google could cross something off and release it, or endlessly procrastinate, or completely cancel something.
Talkray, from the makers of the incredibly popular touch-talk app TiKL, is an ambitious app – it looks to be your one-stop shop for mobile communication on the go, communicating through text, pictures, videos, and voice all for free. Until now, though, the app has had a fatal flaw – its design. While not the worst design we've seen, Talkray had, shall we say, unfortunate looks. Inconsistent styles, gradients mixed with flat elements, and Gingerbread-style tabs abound.
In its latest update (to version 1.17) though, the app underwent a bit of beautification, bringing it closer to a true holo standard. The redesign isn't perfect, but it's undeniably better.
Alright, Google. It's time to stop leaving your VoIP service to languish on the vine. Facebook has released a double-whammy of big news bits. For starters, today the social network is rolling out an update to its Messenger app that will allow users to send each other short, recorded audio clips. It's voicemail for the 21st century, if such a thing can even exist without being horrible. And, really, this sounds like it's not.
Perhaps more interestingly, though, is that Facebook is also testing free VoIP calling in Canada right now. This is a huge deal, as it competes directly with Google Talk.
If you use Google Voice, or simply make the occasional outgoing call via Gmail, Google's got some great news for you. The service is going to continue to be free throughout 2013 for users in the U.S. and Canada! International callers will still have the same rates applied. In short, nothing is really changing, and that's a good thing.
When Google first introduced the ability to make phone calls in Gmail, it said the service would be free through at least the end of 2010. At which point, that promise was extended to the end of 2011. Then 2012. And as of today, free Google Voice calling lives to die another day.