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.
If you've perused the Google Play Store on the web in the last few days, you may have noticed something missing: the Action Bar, wherein you usually find the drop-down links to app categories, top charts, the Play Store settings menu, and other important stuff. We've noticed it too, and we've got no explanation. In addition to making it impossible to browse apps by category or popularity on the web, it's blocking access to the links to My Orders, Settings, and the Android Device Manager, at least from the main Play Store page.
A lot of little things got the axe in Google's latest redesign of the Play Store website. Most don't seem to be coming back (oh how we miss you, 30-day download chart!) but one of the most useful ones for browsing has been resurrected. You can now narrow search for apps based on their free or paid status: just click the drop-down menu next to "Android Apps," which is set to "All prices" by default.
Google just updated the web Play Store with a completely new UI that was teased back at I/O 2013, and it immediately caused a whirlwind of mixed reactions. We have a separate post coming up on all the differences as well as the features that didn't make it into the redesign (there are, unfortunately, a lot - even more than went missing in Maps v7), but right now I want to commend Google and address one aspect that immediately stood out to me within the first few seconds - speed.
Most college kids are at home this time of the year, celebrating the end of finals and/or nursing hangovers. But the ROM's scene's number one destination is hosting classes all year round at the the new XDA University site. XDA-Developers has been working on the extension of the main site as a destination for newcomers to the world of root, custom ROMs, and other Android modifications, as well as a place to learn about more serious Android development.
Folks, I can't believe it myself, but this day has finally come - Google seems to have finally sorted out all its backend and frontend issues with Google contact sync. Jelly Bean's 720x720 hi-res contact support was surely a nice addition, but ended up almost completely useless in our earlier tests: Jelly Bean Bumps Contact Photos To Hi-Res 720x720 But Google Sync Continues To Clobber It With Low-Res Mush.
As of today, all the problems I ran into before are resolved.
Getting CyanogenMod builds onto an Android device has always been easy as pie, but who is going to say no to yet another, even simpler method? While redesigning the CyanogenMod Downloads page, the CM team recently added a really subtle ability to send downloads straight from the web right into ROM Manager - all with just one click, a-la Chrome to phone or Amazon's 1-click purchasing.
In fact, the change to the site was so subtle that it went unnoticed by us for a week until Koush posted this video to his YouTube account:
Brilliantly simple, isn't it?
BOLT Browser, which touted tabbed browsing and high speeds in an effort to provide a capable replacement for Android's stock browser, has been discontinued due to economic circumstances, according to the app's website:
The news came earlier today as BOLT's listing in the Android Market vanished, and the app's website closed down, leaving only the above note. While BOLT may not have been the most robust browser solution for Android, it's always a little sad to see an app go like this, especially considering the fact that BOLT debuted only a couple of months ago.