Google surprised us with the long, long, long-awaited Hangouts 4.0 release earlier today, but that wasn't the only update worth paying attention to – Android Wear v1.3 turned up in the later hours, as well. At first glance, the only new option appears to be a selector in settings for choosing between watches for hacking or programming purposes, but a teardown reveals some great new features we can expect to see in the next major firmware release to Android Wear.
If you load Wear v1.3 to your phone right now, the only change you're likely to see is a new option in the Settings screen titled Device to Debug, which pops open a selector with a list of your currently paired watches. Read More
To be honest, I'm still not sold on Vessel's business model, which posts original web video content a few days early to paying subscribers before it goes out to more general portals (usually YouTube). But the Android app seems more than serviceable even in its beta form, and the developers are adding features quickly. Case in point: the latest update adds Chromecast compatibility, which no video app should be without.
The feature works exactly as you'd expect it to: start a video and look for the Chromecast icon, then connect to a local Chromecast or Android TV device. You can connect on the main viewer screen as well, if you don't want to scramble to send your video as soon as it starts. Read More
You can't deny that Pushbullet is insanely useful, and it gets more so with each update. However, Pushbullet does see a lot of your data in plain text, and there's been growing demand for better security. As of today, Pushbullet supports end-to-end encryption for SMS, notification mirroring, and universal copy-paste. Read More
Welcome to the roundup of the best new Android applications, games, and live wallpapers that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the previous 2 weeks or so.
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Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.
Email for Exchange Mail Apps +
This week's roundup is brought to you by Email for Exchange Mail Apps + by Mail Wise. It's an email client that focuses on ease of access, and reformats both chains and individual messages into easy-to-read text. Read More
We've seen Hangouts 4.0 for Android before (and also on Android Wear), but that was two months ago. Suffice it to say, then, that Hangouts 4 hype has been building up tremendous pressure since, and now Google is finally delivering. Hangouts 4.0 will be available on the Play Store starting today, and of course, almost certainly will roll out in stages.
We already have a good idea of what's new in Hangouts 4.0, but here are the changes Google is offering up specifically:
- Hangouts is sleeker. Now updated with material design, Hangouts has a new look and feel: items respond to your touch in more intuitive ways and transitions between tasks are more fluid.
- Hangouts is simpler.
Most apps for cable and satellite TV providers suck. They tend to completely ignore user interface standards, throw up artificial limitations, and have poor performance. DirecTV's app seems to be an interesting exception - while customers aren't without complaints, the primary Play Store listing gives it a 4.1-star rating. Today it gets a handful of improvements, making the app better in some notable ways. The update is also being applied to the tablet version of the app, which has admittedly poorer ratings.
According to the change log, version 4.2 adds some considerable new functionality to the DIRECTV app home screen, which doubles as a remote control for a connected receiver. Read More
QKSMS, an SMS replacement app that boasts material design, customizable colors, and Android Wear support, has made all its paid features free. And no, that doesn't mean that the developer has just added some new features and made them pay-only instead. The app is simply 100% free from now on, according to its creator. Among the features that once required an in-app purchase of QKSMS+ are:
- Respond from Android Wear
- 150+ additional color combinations
- Automatic night mode
- Per-contact notification settings
The app's developer, Moez Bhatti, said in a Google+ post that he didn't make the app with the intent to earn money and felt that there wasn't any way to commercialize an SMS app without making for poor user experience. Read More
Oh, Opera. You've been around for a long time (considerably longer than Android or Google, in fact) but aside from a great showing back in the J2ME days, you've never managed to break into those competitive browser markets. The latest financial figures and projections, as reported by Reuters, don't look particularly good for the Norwegian software company. Though Opera Software's revenues grew in the second quarter, they didn't meet analyst expectations, and adjusted earnings missed the target by a factor of $1.6 million. The projection for total 2015 revenue has been cut from $630-650 million down to $600-618 million.
If all those numbers make your head spin, just know that they're not good. Read More
Microsoft's Translator isn't the first service to attempt to confront Google in the translation game, but it may be one of the first to pose a real challenge to Google Translate. Out of the gate, the app has an Android Wear component, a sorely missed feature in its competitor, and even though Translator does seem quite simplistic and limited, it has most of the basic features covered to warrant a more thorough comparison against Translate.
A different approach
While many of Microsoft's recent apps have adopted Material Design in their interface, Translator is more subtle about it. Both the welcome and the translation screens' blurry background and iconography are modern but not exactly Material. Read More