The day has come. Okay, not quite. But you've waited a long time for Android apps to come to Chrome OS. You've left comments. You've replied to comments. You even left more comments. Now your work is being rewarded. As we've all recently heard, Google plans to bring the Play Store to Chromebooks. At Google I/O today, the company has made things official.
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.
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.
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.
Earlier this month, Google updated the Google Keyboard to version 5.0 with plenty of new gestures, optional borders, one-handed mode, and more features. However, version 5.0 was not compatible with Android N, so those running the Preview couldn't benefit from it.
This is now fixed with Android N's third Preview. The new image includes Google Keyboard 5.1 that not only brings all of the same changes, but also adds two new cool features: themes and all those new emojis we were promised with Android N. Unfortunately, there's no sign of that iOS GBoard action. Oh bugger.
Google Keyboard 5.1 includes a new setting section for themes.
Developers got a nice treat earlier today when Google released a new dashboard app in the Play Store. That one is available to all right away, but there's another new developer-oriented release called Playbook that you'll have to join a beta to get. Playbook is an app that aggregates help articles, tips, and videos that help you create a better app.
Today at I/O 2016, Google announced two new messaging and communication apps: Allo, a messaging app which hooks into your phone number, and Duo, a video calling app. You might assume that means Hangouts would be quietly canned (or as quietly as possible, anyway), right? Not so.
Google has confirmed to Android Police that the company will continue to invest in Hangouts and it will remain a separate product. In a way, this does make sense: as Allo requires a phone number, it might be aimed as a WhatsApp competitor, while Hangouts remains as a Facebook Messenger competitor. On the other hand, would it not be better to have one singular product focused on messaging?
Hangouts is Google's unified messaging app, but there's something completely new on the way. At I/O 2016, Google just announced Allo. It's a messaging client that's connected to your phone number rather than an email (like WhatsApp). Google has included various smart prediction features, Google Assistant, and of course, stickers (yay).
Sometimes content is just best accessed in its native app. But just as often, we have no need for that app beyond a single specific instance. To deal with this inefficiency, Google is introducing Android Instant Apps. For content that is deep-linked into participating apps, the app will seamlessly download and install to let you use it in that very moment.
The key to this working out, said Google's Ellie Powers, is having participating apps be built with modules.
Everyone's favorite online Photo management tool, Google Photos, is pretty popular. At the company's annual developer conference, I/O, Google just announced that Photos has over 200 million monthly active users, with over 2 trillion labels automatically applied to a variety of different photos. CEO Sundar Pichai said a lot of these were labelling selfies, which is mind-boggling when you think just how many selfies must be taken every day.
These usage statistics are pretty cool, especially for a product which only launched at last year's I/O. I personally use Google Photos for all my photo management, and can attest to how well thought out I find the entire product.