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Exclusives

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Exclusive: Google may finally be giving Android a reboot button on the upcoming Pixel phones

You asked for it. You've asked for years. And while manufacturers like Samsung and LG have long obliged us, Google has refused. With the coming of the Pixel phones, we're starting over - literally. Google may finally, thankfully, mercifully be adding a reboot button to the power menu on its new smartphones, which will run Android 7.1 out of the box. Praise be unto whoever achieved this (Artem will be here shortly to claim it was him which, frankly, it very possibly was - I was there when he pleaded for it at I/O).

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Google will announce Pixel phones, 4K Chromecast, Google Home, Daydream VR viewer on October 4th

According to a reliable source, Google plans to hold a major event focusing on hardware October 4th. It will use the event to announce its new Pixel-branded smartphones Pixel and Pixel XL, a 4K Chromecast, fully detail Google Home, and reveal the company's in-house design for a Daydream VR viewer device (Google previously confirmed this was happening). Here is what we know.

  • The 4K Chromecast will do 4K and be called either the Chromecast Plus or Chromecast Ultra (makes sense - ultra HD). We aren't sure which.
  • The Daydream device may be called Daydream View.

Google was allegedly planning to announce a 4K version of the Chromecast last year, but seems to have scuttled the launch for some reason.

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Exclusive: Google's new phones will be called the Pixel and Pixel XL

Speaking to two independent sources, we now strongly believe that Google's formerly-maybe-Nexus-phones, Marlin and Sailfish, will be marketed as the Pixel and the Pixel XL. We do not have pricing information. At this time, it is unknown to us when Google decided to shift its in-house smartphone brand from Nexus to Pixel or why (though speculation will likely run wild).

The Pixel will be the 5" Sailfish device, while Pixel XL will be the 5.5" Marlin. As to our confidence in this information: given that our two sources are independent, and the fact that one in particular has been exceptionally reliable in the past, we feel comfortable saying you can take this to the bank.

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Google Assistant can answer your voice messages in Allo

We've covered a lot of what Google Allo can do as a messaging application, but we haven't yet scratched the surface of one of its most interesting features: Assistant. It lives as a standalone chat, but also as a bot ready to answer any question inside your other conversations (not the Incognito ones though, as we've said before) by just mentioning @google.

Since Assistant is an evolution of Google Now / OK Google commands, and since Allo can send voice messages, there's a nifty feature you can easily deduce from the combination of the two: Assistant will interpret your voice messages in Allo. It's as cool as you might guess.

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Google Allo doesn't seem to have a backup or cloud sync function (in the preview version)

I don't know what to think of this one. Of all the Allo features we've discussed so far, many are cool, some are interesting, and few are controversial. But the lack of a cloud save or backup/restore function? I am not on board with that, and I doubt anyone can justify it. But here goes.

In the preview test version of Allo that we've been getting our information from, the app seems to be very forgetful with all of your history. Whether you uninstall the app and reinstall it on the same phone, perform a device restore and have to install it again, move your SIM card to a new phone and need to authenticate Allo there, almost nothing sticks or carries around.

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Google Allo's incognito chats have Snapchat-like expiring messages, private notifications, and encryption keys

The nice graphic you see above is the background of all your incognito conversations on Google Allo. It's one of the visual cues the app uses to let you differentiate between a regular chat and an incognito one. But what are these more secure chats and how exactly do they work?

Based on information we've obtained from a test preview version of Allo, here is what you should expect.

First, these chats are end-to-end encrypted (we've known they'll be using the Signal protocol for a while) with unique identity keys for each participant. One of the side effects of encryption is that Google Assistant doesn't work in them.

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[Revolutionary] Google Allo will let you search all of your conversations... inside the app

One thing has always annoyed me about Hangouts: there's no search option. How can you have a messaging service and not allow people to search through their conversations inside the service?! That's beyond comprehension. Of course there's a way to circumvent it by searching through chats in Gmail. But that neither was intuitive nor made sense unless you were familiar with the feature.

According to screenshots we've received from a test preview version of Allo, Google's new messaging app doesn't suffer from that silly limitation. Search is well implemented and it's universal throughout the app. There's a search icon on the top right of the main screen that lets you look for a contact/group's name (in case you have lots of chats and need to quickly find a specific person/group) or any word(s) inside a chat.

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[Update] Media sharing on Allo: GIFs, compression, annotation, and some limitations

When talking to a contact on Google's upcoming Allo messaging application, there are a few different types of attachments you can send. We've already discussed voice messages and stickers, but you can also share your current location, a photo or video taken instantly with your camera, and also media files taken from your camera roll. Unfortunately, sending other types of files like music or documents doesn't seem to be possible - at least not with the test preview version of the app that we're basing this information on.

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Google Allo's voice messaging interface looks awesome, with an eery resemblance to WhatsApp's

Google Allo is clearly one of the most audacious apps to be released by the company in recent times. Not only is it a departure from what Google has long been invested in doing with Hangouts, but it's also trying to catch up in one swift release with competing messaging apps that have been around the block for many years and have had time to perfect their approach.

So it seems logical that the Allo team got some "inspiration" from other messaging services. I can think of a couple of reasons why many of the screenshots we've obtained of Allo eerily resemble WhatsApp — and maybe other messaging apps too (I wouldn't know, I only use WhatsApp so it's the only one I can compare these against).

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