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Google Play services v9.8 update brings Goals API for Fit, auto-fill support for phone numbers, and more

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Google posts initial factory images, OTAs, and driver binaries for Pixel and Pixel XL

Google has posted the first set of factory images for the Pixel (sailfish) and Pixel XL (marlin) on its developer site, along with driver binaries for the devices. Three image versions are available: NDE63H, NDE63L, and NDE63P. The third one began rolling out to Verizon devices today as an OTA update. The full OTA images are available here, as well.

That NDE63P update supposedly brings Wi-Fi fixes, so if you're on an earlier build and having trouble, this OTA may resolve it (I personally am still having 2.4/5GHz switching issues even on the 63P build).

You can download the factory images and the driver binaries at the links below which, yes, still contain 'Nexus' in the page title.

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Android 7.1 feature spotlight: App shortcuts are supported in the Google Now Launcher

There were some interesting features announced as part of the launch of Google's Pixel phones. While some are exclusives to the new handsets, others are a part of the new Android 7.1 Nougat. One of the headlining features for the new OS version is the App Shortcuts API, a way for apps to offer fast access to select screens and functions. If you've been looking forward to trying it out, the Google Now Launcher in combination with today's developer preview fully supports app shortcuts and there's already plenty of examples to try out.

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Android 7.1 Developer Preview 1 (NPF10C) is now available for the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, and Pixel C

Google promised a developer preview of Android 7.1 before the end of the month, and here it is sooner than you might have expected. Android 7.1 ships on the Pixel, but now you can try it on the Nexus 5X, 6P, and Pixel C. If you want in, head to the Android beta program page.

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Critical vulnerability Pork Explosion revealed by jcase, cripples security on some phones

Security has been a hot topic on Android for many years, particularly as smartphones take on increasingly significant roles both at home and at work. A single device acts as your main form of communication, contains personal photos and confidential documents, and may even have access to your finances. Google and other companies have made significant investments in time and money to ensure these devices are very hard to break into. However, a vulnerability was recently discovered in some phones that compromises important security measures and opens devices up to various types of attacks. The worst part is that it was created intentionally by a manufacturing partner contracted to build the phones, and the OEMs that designed the phone had no idea.

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Google is demoting Hangouts to "optional" in the Google Apps package for Android, to be replaced by Duo

In an email sent to Google Mobile Services partners on October 5th, Google outlined a significant change to the core GMS package (AKA gapps) for telephony-enabled Android devices (basically, smartphones). As of December 1st, Google will no longer require Hangouts to be bundled with new hardware. An excerpt of that email follows.

Today, we are announcing that Google Duo will replace Hangouts within the suite of core GMS apps, and Hangouts will become GMS Optional for telephony products. This change will take effect on December 1, 2016.

This does not mean Hangouts, or Hangouts for Android, is dead. It does mean that manufacturers may opt to stop including it on smartphones released in 2017, so you'd have to download it from the Play Store after initial setup.

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Android 7.1 Nougat's changelog is here, includes both Pixel-exclusive and non-exclusive changes

Android 7.1 Nougat was unveiled earlier today alongside the Pixel and Pixel XL, but there's still a fair bit we don't know about it. Now, thanks to a source from Google, we've got a list of both Pixel-exclusive and non-exclusive changes. (It's unclear which category the Pixel C falls under.)

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Android 7.1 is coming to current Nexus devices and the Pixel C, will land before the end of 2016 as a dev preview

For those of you who were worried about Google's current Android devices not receiving Android 7.1 Nougat, don't be; Google has confirmed that the Pixel phones' current software version will be arriving on Nexus devices and the Pixel C before the end of the year. However, these devices won't be receiving some Pixel-exclusive (Pixelsclusive?) features.

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Google is creating an open developer platform called "Actions on Google" to integrate with assistant and an embedded SDK to add assistant to new hardware

Today's announcements by Google have certainly given us a lot to look at in terms of new hardware and features – and possibly a case of sticker shock. But while the show was mostly dominated by new gadgets and demos of Google assistant, there was a really important addition for developers (and ultimately users) at the tail end of the event. Google intends to turn assistant into a major ecosystem for apps and services by opening up the platform to developers.

The platform is called "Actions on Google" and it will allow developers to deliver custom experiences through Google assistant. Google assistant can already take advantage of many existing capabilities like app indexing, deep linking, and even the Voice Interaction API to provide helpful answers and services.

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Confirmed: the Verizon Pixel's bootloader will not be unlockable

Thought that Verizon was warming up to the idea of less carrier intrusion because there aren't any obnoxious Verizon logos on the device? Well, you thought wrong. Just minutes before the event, @evleaks tweeted that the Verizon Pixels' bootloaders would not be able to be unlocked; that information has now been affirmed by a Google representative at the San Francisco event.

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