Once upon a time, I was able to get most of my communication done through Hangouts. Between its support for standard SMS, Google Voice, and normal Hangouts conversations, it was an incredibly useful tool. It could even merge SMS and Hangouts conversations into the same thread, much like iMessage on the iPhone.
Over the past year or so, Google has been separating all this functionality into standalone apps. Google started asking SMS users to switch to Messages, then removed merged conversations, and finally launched a new separate Google Voice app. The company has also been trying to move people off Hangouts itself, with its new Allo and Duo apps. Read More
Samsung's S Voice has been limping along for years in the shadow of Google Now (and more recently Assistant). Today is the day Samsung starts to move beyond that with the official unveiling of Bixby. Samsung says this isn't intended to be a better version of data driven assistants (or agents, as Samsung calls them). Instead, Bixby is geared toward making interactions with your device faster and easier. Read More
Google Voice was a big deal when it launched back in 2009—there was a waiting list to get access, and the entire concept felt magical. However, Google seemed to give up on Voice some years ago, offering users the option to port some features of Voice into Hangouts and Project Fi. Now, Google Voice is back and completely revamped. Read More
Remember Google Voice? Google's first stab at a voice-over-IP system is still up and running, though much of its functionality has been absorbed or augmented by the SMS and calling functions of Hangouts. It's a bit dusty in the Voice closet - the desktop web version of the service looks like a relic, and the Android app has only received a couple of maintenance updates in the last year and a half. But users who still rely on Google Voice as their primary phone number (like me!) have reason to be hopeful that the service hasn't been completely abandoned. Read More
Amazon's Alexa voice control platform continues worming its way into more products today with the Onvocal OV Bluetooth headphones. The OV is like any other Bluetooth device in that it can communicate with the voice assistant built-into your phone, but there will be an app for OV that adds one-touch access to Alexa as well. That ability doesn't come cheap, though. Read More
The Google assistant makes for a pretty awesome companion on the Pixel phones and Google Home, but it's still young and feels constrained by the very limited number of things it can do outside of Google's sandbox of supported services. During the October 4th announcement, Google declared plans to open up the platform in early December for developers to build their own services. Staying true to that schedule, the Actions on Google platform opened the door today, allowing developers to integrate their services. Google is also launching an early access program to begin testing new features and upcoming expansions. Read More
BestBuy has a sweet deal going on today. You can pick up a Phillips Hue A19 starter kit (3 bulbs plus a hub) and an Amazon Echo for $260.40. That's about $120 less than you would pay if you bought each item separately at full price. This a great combo for those of you wanting to add some tech to your home to make it a little smarter.
I own several Phillips Hue bulbs. I love being able to change the color and intensity of the lights to fit my activity and mood. Waking up to gradually increasing lights instead of an alarm has helped me tremendously in handling the dark Seattle winters. Read More
Google recently renamed their Google Apps for Work service as 'G Suite,' which I still think sounds silly. However, the features Google announced today for all G Suite users are anything but.
Possibly the most important new feature is Action Items, which are Docs files assigned to a person or group of people. You can assign documents to others, which then appear on the recipient's main Drive screen with a special badge. Additionally, when you create a comment on the desktop site along the lines of "Phil to enter numbers for this week," Docs can figure out whom you are talking about and assign it to them automatically. Read More
The Text-to-speech app doesn't see many major updates throughout the year, but when it does, there's often something interesting to see. Version 3.10 began rolling out yesterday and it comes bearing a pair of new settings to intelligently alter volume based on existing audio playback and to control the intonation of synthesized voices. As always, we've got a link below to grab the latest apk if you aren't among the first to get it straight from Google. Read More
Voice control is all the rage these days, and Amazon is pushing its Alexa voice engine hard. The Fire TV already had Alexa built-in, but today it's getting some new features. You can control video playback, launch apps, and more. Read More