Due to a smaller installer base, the specialized version of the Play Store that comes on Android TV gets a lot less attention that the version on phones and tablets. Even so, we keep an eye on all the various flavors of Android - check the sign over the door - so we're happy to report that the Android TV version has received a notable update. The latest release (5.10.30-leanback) makes some big changes to the user interface, chopping off some of the less necessary corners to focus on the core experience.
Nick Butcher (Developer Advocate at Google) recently published the source code for Plaid, an app meant to showcase material design on Android with playful animations, impeccable typography, and a simple, bold aesthetic. The code will provide useful examples for developers, but the app itself is worth keeping installed too - Plaid pulls stories from Designer News, Dribbble, and Product Hunt to serve up design news and inspiration, catered to your preferences.
Besides more standard material elements, the app has a few unique tricks. Specifically, the toolbar is behind the content rather than lying on top of it, making the scrolling action on the main grid a little more elegant.
Since the launch of YouTube Red, there have already been a couple of minor updates to fix little bugs and make further tweaks to the interface. The most recent upgrade, version 10.43, just started rolling out this morning and it appears to share the same purpose. However, a teardown also reveals YouTube is preparing to introduce a feature many of us have been dying to see: fast forward and rewind.
Google likes to tinker with the UI of the mobile version of Chrome's user interface in the Dev and Beta versions of the app. Not every change we spot in these versions makes it into the standard, stable version of Chrome, but the changes to the New Tab page that we saw back in August seem to have made their way to the front. We're getting tips and reports from dozens of Chrome users that the UI change, which swaps out six website thumbnails for eight site icons instead, is now live.
Compared to the early days of Android and iOS, it's amazing how good virtual keyboards have become... but that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement. Long email and street addresses in particular are a pain to type in, especially outside of the browser where saved user information isn't available. If you're tired of typing out your thirty-character company email address, Texpand can help: it allows you to create customized shortcodes for longer strings of text and use them in any text field.
Even though they're technically "backgrounds," wallpapers are an intricate part of our smartphone and a unique way for us to show our personality. They adorn our homescreens, greet us each time we unlock our phones, and try to stay hidden while still being enjoyable. Some of us like nothing but a black screen full of widgets and apps, others prefer a gradient or pattern to add a touch of color, and some like simple graphics while others use photographs. The least we could say is that wallpaper choice is a very personal one.
Searching for the perfect wallpaper can be a daunting task, especially if you don't know where to start.
There have been fewer and fewer new Google apps as the company expands into every conceivable web and mobile market, but they still manage to surprise us every now and then. The latest Google app is called Who's Down, and it's a strangely specific social tool. Basically it's an all-purpose "available" button. Slide the toggle from on to off, and anyone you've connected with can tell that you're available for... whatever. You can select specific activities you'd like to take part in, see which friends are also "down," and chat with them in an integrated message service.
The Galaxy View is big. Really, really big - the 18.4-inch device seems to be intended as a tabletop computer rather than a conventional portable tablet. Samsung's custom version of Android will make good use of the extra space, but even the tablet apps on the Play Store probably aren't well-formatted for a screen the size of a small PC monitor. To make sure users are getting a good experience on their Galaxy View, CNN has made an app especially for the tablet... probably with a little encouragement (read: payment) from Samsung.
"CNN for Samsung Galaxy View" is, of course, only compatible with the Galaxy View, but it's been published to the Play Store presumably for the sake of easy updates.
While Android TV doesn't enjoy the wide support that Chromecast gets, and its current app catalog can't hold a candle to competitors that have been in the market for much longer like Roku, it's slowly and surely getting better. The latest major network to offer an official Android TV app is PBS, the United States' government-funded Public Broadcasting Service. The free app is available to download on Android TV units now.
PBS Video uses the same Google Play Store listing as the phone and tablet version of the app, it's just been expanded to Android TV with additional API support. The app allows users free access to streaming some, but not all, of the channel's currently-running shows, plus segmented versions of NewsHour and Austin City Limits and at least some shows from local markets.
Amazon has been slowly but steadily improving its official Music app for years. The latest update, which is christened version 5.0, adds quite a few features. Most notable among them is the ability to download music from your personal library and/or Amazon Prime Music directly to your phone or tablet's MicroSD card, assuming you have one. That should be especially useful for users with budget phones, which tend to rely on expandable storage and ignore the fact that many apps don't access it in the first place.