Late yesterday, Google began rolling out an update to the Android Wear companion app. Despite a sudden growth of over 2 MB in size, the app only seemed to change the text of a warning, and there were no visible changes on our watches. We knew there had to be something great hidden under the covers, and we were right. The companion app certainly has some interesting changes of its own, but it also acts as the delivery mechanism for a Wear-customized version of Google Play services, and there's a bit to talk about in there, too.
Material Design was the driving force behind a Google+ update that began rolling out on Friday. But while there may be a newer look, there's very little to speak of in the department of functional changes. Naturally, I had to poke around to see if there were any surprises buried underneath the fresh coat of paint. As it turns out, there are a few things worth talking about. It's time for a Teardown!
A couple of days ago, Google began rolling out the latest version of its Play services apk to the massive audience of Android users around the world. This is a particularly special release for developers because it finally expands coverage of the Google Fit Preview SDK to those who either don't have a Nexus 5 or 2013 Nexus 7, or simply aren't willing to flash the last L Preview firmware onto them.
Last week, Google pushed out an update for Google Search, bringing the version number up to 3.6.13. While it added support for deep linking into apps and a few more of the bits to make hands-free operation a little more convenient, most people probably felt like they didn't get too much out of this update. As it turns out, we found one more addition that might interest a few more people.
A couple of days ago, Google fulfilled its obligation to prevent me from sleeping by releasing a stack of newly updated apps for me to examine. Some of them were pretty straight forward, like the latest version of Android Device Manager, and others turned out to be pretty mind-boggling. That's how the YouTube update turned out. The apk grew by 2 MB, and Google certainly packed in quite a bit, but many of the additions don't make much sense.
One last app came rolling in at the tail end of update Wednesday. This time, we've got a relatively small update to Android Device Manager, Google's answer for lost or stolen phones. The changelog hasn't been posted on the Play Store, but a quick teardown told us everything we needed to know. There's a new callback feature that makes contacting the owner a one-touch operation.
Yesterday’s update to Google Maps was certainly no slouch for new features; it came packing some great improvements for cyclists, new voice commands during navigation, and a few other interface tweaks. In addition to these public changes, there are also two brand new features buried within the code which are not active yet, but they may point to some exciting stuff on the horizon.
"I Am Here"
Google Maps is pretty good at figuring out where we've gone; between GPS, Wi-Fi, and even things like BLE-based iBeacons, it's possible to pinpoint our locations just about everywhere, even inside of buildings.
Yesterday, Google began rolling out a small update to the Newsstand app, bumping it up from 3.2 to 3.2.1. While the version number suggests this was only a bug fix -and it mostly is- there were still a couple of interesting additions discovered during a teardown.
Google is adding a helpful walkthrough for people who are new to Newsstand. Until now, the app has lacked a proper "onboarding" step for the first time an app is run.
There should be no doubt, Google is getting ready to make a lot of announcements at I/O. If we've learned anything from past experiences, Google starts packing its apps full of surprises in the weeks leading up to the big show. The latest update to Play Services started rolling out yesterday and it has grown by a whopping 4 MB, almost 30% larger than the previous version. There's obviously a lot of stuff to look at, so let's just jump right in.
The latest version of Google Search rolled out yesterday with a couple of pretty great new features. We already know that 3.4 offers a new parking reminder, mall directories, and the start of voice commands for system settings. But there are still a few secrets worth exploring, so let's get to it!
See Your Friend's Photos
The content of Google Now tends to focus heavily on your current or future location, and as a close second, it tries to be helpful with reminders about TV shows and events.