There should be no doubt, Google is getting ready to make a lot of announcements at I/O. If we've learned anything from past experiences, Google starts packing its apps full of surprises in the weeks leading up to the big show. The latest update to Play Services started rolling out yesterday and it has grown by a whopping 4 MB, almost 30% larger than the previous version. There's obviously a lot of stuff to look at, so let's just jump right in.
Google has begun rolling out an update to the Play Services package we all know and love. Details about version 4.4 have already been posted to the Android Developers blog, and it features updates and new features to the APIs for Maps, Mobile Ads, Activity Recognition, plus a few minor fixes for Games Services and Wallet. Aside from general bug fixes, it looks like this update is mostly about giving new tools to developers.
Remember the HTC EVO LTE? Sprint does, at least to some degree. The carrier is sending out a small software patch for the phone, reportedly removing a vulnerability from the infamous Heartbleed SSL security bug. Unpatched versions of Android 4.1.1 (and only 4.1.1) are vulnerable to Heartbleed, so EVO LTE owners probably want to get on that right away.
Heartbleed's relationship to Android is a little strange: it affects Android 4.1.1, but not earlier versions of Jelly Bean 4.1, and not later versions of any release, either, so the number of active phones and tablets at risk is comparatively small.
Bookmarks - we all use them. Sometimes. Maybe. Maybe not since like 2011 in my case (I really, really don't like bookmarks). But bookmarks have remained a relatively unchanged experience on desktop browsers even since the Netscape days - you CTRL+D, the page goes into a list, maybe that list has folders, and that's that.
This stale experience has helped give rise to read-it-later apps, content aggregators, and even social networks (Pinterest, for example).
People who bought the un-flattened LG G Flex on the un-carrier T-Mobile should be on the lookout for a chocolate dose of new features. The carrier has announced a software update is hitting devices starting today, bumping them up to Android 4.4 and software version D95920d.
No one could accuse the team at Cyanogen of rushing anything to market. Six months after KitKat debuted, the CyanogenMod team is still perfecting its modified release for dozens of devices. The sixth snapshot or "M" build is rolling out on the buildbox right now. Custom ROM fanatics, you know what to do.
"M" builds are generally more stable than nightly builds, but still not good enough to make it to Release Candidate status.
Google continues its monthly ritual of posting platform distribution numbers for Android. After getting a fairly late start, KitKat is keeping up its suddenly explosive pace by adding 3.2% to last month's 5.3%. This is largely due to a continual stream of updates to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3.
The increase in KitKat's presence came at the expense of almost every older version of Android except for Jelly Bean 4.2, which actually rose 0.7%.
The latest version of Google Search rolled out yesterday with a couple of pretty great new features. We already know that 3.4 offers a new parking reminder, mall directories, and the start of voice commands for system settings. But there are still a few secrets worth exploring, so let's get to it!
See Your Friend's Photos
The content of Google Now tends to focus heavily on your current or future location, and as a close second, it tries to be helpful with reminders about TV shows and events.
The Galaxy S5 runs Android 4.4 out of the box, and most of the US and international versions of the Galaxy S4 have been given the KitKat update as well, but millions of owners of the Samsung Galaxy S III from 2012 are still sitting on an outdated version of Android. Sprint seems to be the first US carrier to alleviate that: this support page says the update for the S III is going out starting today.
The Paranoid Android family of custom ROMs has a history of adding interesting custom user interface elements, but since re-starting with KitKat, the developers have been trying out some new ideas. One of the first new features for the revamped PA is called Hover, and it's basically a complete rethinking of the Halo idea. Hover is a short-lived visual overlay that temporarily replaces the notification bar with a richer and more useful version, including expandable alerts and floating windows.