While Google I/O is all the rage on our side of the internetz, another conference is taking place that is probably a lot less exciting for us: INTX, the Internet and Television Expo. But one interesting nugget has escaped INTX and found its place on our radar as Android users and it's about Comcast, of all evil companies and things.
Last month, Comcast had announced the Xfinity TV Partner program, an initiative aimed to make the Xfinity TV app available to smart TVs, and TV-connected and IP-enabled devices (read: other set-top boxes) without the requirement for a Comcast set-top box. Think of this as Comcast wanting to be Netflix'ish, ie available to you through an app and with a subscription, no need to call the company and lease a physical box from it.
Android N still isn't officially released yet, but that hasn't stopped HTC from trying to grab some attention and get its time in the limelight during I/O's news cycle. The company announced through its official Twitter account that Android N will come to three of its existing devices.
Life is about to get a little sweeter. Android N will be coming to the HTC 10, HTC One A9 and the HTC One M9. pic.twitter.com/XzOEwTCVlU
Were you expecting any of these not to get N? No. The One M9 will be around a year and a half old by the time N is revealed, the One A9 will be approximately a year old, and the HTC 10 is newer than new.
The first two N Developer Previews were alpha releases, so naturally a good number of things didn't work correctly. One of the apps that purposely did not work as intended was Android Pay, which produced a screen saying it was disabled until a future release. As Developer Preview 3 is now officially a beta, the Android team has seemingly seen fit to restore Android Pay to working order.
The reason Android Pay now works is because Compatibility Test Suite (CTS) is now approved. This also means other apps that depend on CTS should work too. On Developer Preview 1 and 2, this was not approved, and so Android Pay did not work.
There were plenty of features announced at Google I/O yesterday regarding Android and some of those new things are meant for Android Auto - Google's car dashboard system. The most exciting of them is the fact that you will no longer need an Auto-enabled vehicle to be able to benefit from the simplified car-friendly interface while you're driving. You can also learn more about the features in our video, below.
In the next few months, Android Auto will get several interesting additions. First is Waze compatibility with the app running on your dashboard and keeping you in the loop of hazards ahead and potential delays and problems. Second is OK Google hotwording which will activate voice commands when you say "OK Google" instead of requiring you to press a button to start listening.
One of the promised features of Android N was launcher shortcuts, a way for developers to include additional actions in their app's launcher icon following a certain gesture. There were dynamic shortcuts, pinned shortcuts, and a lot of interesting things for developers to explore that you can read about in Cody's exploration of the feature.
But Launcher Shortcuts are going away. Recode had already reported the rumor that Google was going to delay their introduction, and it turns out that was true. The latest developer documentation explains that Launcher Shortcuts will be deferred to a future version of Android (so not N) and that their APIs will be removed from the Android N API starting with the next developer preview.
You know how you can usually type some combination of Alt or Ctrl or Cmd with the question mark on your computer to surface a list of available keyboard shortcuts in whatever app you're using? Android is about to get the same option, which is great if you plan on using something like the Pixel C for work.
The trigger for the overlay is Alt + / (on Chrome OS, it's Ctrl + Alt + /). Once you tap that on your physical keyboard, it should show a screen with all of the keyboard shortcuts that are available from the system and your currently used app.
Do you like Spotify? Do you want to listen to all of your playlists, stream new albums, and discover interesting artists from your Android TV unit? Until today, you could only use a third-party client (Emma for Spotify) that required a premium account. But today, you can finally use Spotify's own app which doesn't even require a paid account.
"Spotify Music for Android TV" as it is aptly called lets you check your playlists, albums, and tracks, as well as discover new music while also enjoying the album artwork on your TV. Apparently the app says that it requires a gamepad controller, but reviewers on the Play Store are saying it works just fine with a regular Android TV remote or the Android TV remote app.
Google has detailed a new capability you can look forward to in Android N, but it's not entirely new. If you've used a Chromebook for any length of time, you've seen so-called seamless updates before. Now Android too will be able to install OTA updates in the background, and you'll be done the next time you reboot.
You might have noticed that there aren't a lot of Android TV boxes around. Aside from the original Nexus Player, the much-recommended NVIDIA SHIELD, and the generally regrettable Razer Forge TV, only a few somewhat random cable boxes and some Sony televisions are using Google's living room version of its mobile OS. But there's a surprise entry announced at Google I/O 2016: Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi. Its "Mi Box" Android TV device ticks all of the hardware boxes, but what's even more surprising is that it's coming to the United States.
I had a quick sit-down with leads on the Android TV and Google Cast team today, and while it's not exactly a huge deal, one of Android TV's oddly lacking features came up: app star ratings and reviews. They don't exist on Android TV.
Well, unsurprisingly, the Android TV team is very much aware of this. Sascha Prüter, Program Manager of Android TV, confirmed that Google is working on the feature, and that challenges on implementation in the area of user experience have been the hold-up. Admittedly, that does seem like a good reason - how are Android TV users, especially those not in the habit of using their phone as a remote, going to input text in an app review?