If you're a regular user of Google's video Hangouts service, you'll be glad to know that the experience on desktop for this service is about to get a little more stable (we hope). Google has officially deprecated the Hangouts plugin for Chrome on the developer and Canary channels of the Chrome browser, meaning Hangouts video functionality is now completely built in with the browser. The new UI for this implementation is shown below.
The new Google keyboard in Android L brings the Material Design aesthetic to text input, but the APK pulled from L doesn't work quite right on other Android builds. It actually breaks the keyboard for most devices. No worries, though. An XDA user has tweaked it to work correctly on (probably) all Android 4.0 and higher devices. There is one method that requires root (it's actually a ZIP file) and one that might not work on all devices that's an APK.
There are big things happening at the world's biggest video site. Which one is biggest will probably depend on exactly what you want out out of Google's streaming behemoth, but the most notable addition from an Android perspective is the new YouTube Creator Studio app. This add-on allows frequent YouTube uploaders to check analytics, likes, comments, and that sort of thing without needing a PC. If you make your living on YouTube, which is statistically unlikely, this will be an invaluable resource.
Lucky developers and Google I/O attendees who received an Android Wear watch and tried to use navigation commands must have noticed that this aspect of the experience wasn't working at all. Commands simply wouldn't carry through to the phone. This will all be fixed with the update to Google Maps version 8.1.1.
The update, which should be pushed to your device or coming shortly, squashes the regular bugs and adds support for Android Wear devices.
Amazon's Android Appstore always has at least one paid app featured for free every day, but for whatever reason, they've decided to make a whopping 31 apps free right now. Taken together they're worth over $100 USD. Most of them are barely notable, but there are some worthy games and apps in there as well. Plex, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, The Room Two, AccuWeather, Root Explorer, Ravensword, Dungeon Village, and Splashtop are all worth it even at the paid price.
I don't think the developer behind the Xposed Google Experience Launcher Settings (XGELS) module will be satisfied until he's made the stock Google Search launcher every bit as flexible as Nova and Apex. The latest update to the popular module adds even more customization options. Premium users can now assign custom icons to a single app or the app drawer icon, with or without a full icon theme applied, like most of the more advanced launchers allow.
Update: If you want to flash this new version of Keep, you'll need the latest GMS (Google Play Services) package, released yesterday, as well - you can get it here.
Just one day after Google's expanded introduction of Android Wear at I/O, one of the apps demonstrated in the keynote is being updated to support it. Most of us can't get our hands on the LG G Watch or the Samsung Gear Live until July, but for those who actually attended I/O, and who have one or the other as some awesome swag, the latest update to Google's Keep notation and reminder app will be a welcome one.
Lyft is a great alternative in between taxis and public transit, but the somewhat egalitarian nature of the service means you don't always know what to expect. Recently Lyft rolled out its Lyft Plus premium service in San Francisco. Lyft Plus still relies on independent drivers, but they've been sold special white Ford Explorers customized by Lyft to meet a higher standard than you'll usually see in normal Lift vehicles.
Lyft Plus Explorers seat up to six passengers in leather seats, making them a pretty good choice if you've got a handful of people that need to go somewhere and you'd rather not cram into someone's Civic.
Not only is Google announcing all sorts of stuff today, but it's also updating a slew of its apps (it is Update Wednesday, after all). Today's Google Search update brings a huge improvement: "OK Google" hotword detection to any screen... even the lockscreen. If you're plugged into a charger, the feature will even work with the display off. This lines up with the earlier rumor that it was coming eventually.
Once enabled (Google Now > Settings > Voice > "Ok Google Detection"), you'll have to enable Audio History and say the words three time in order for Now to register your voice – much like setting up the hotword detection on the Moto X and recent Droid devices.
If you own a Parrot Flower Power smart plant sensor, or you're thinking about buying one, you will be happy to know that the device isn't limited to syncing with an iOS app anymore. The Android app is out in open beta now on the Play Store, letting you monitor all your garden and plant needs from your phone.
Data is retrieved via Bluetooth Low Energy from the plant sensor and sent via the app to the Parrot Cloud for analysis.