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Google Maps returns to China after eight-year absence [Update]

Google famously pulled its services out of the Chinese market in 2010 rather than comply with the government's censorship requirements, but it's dipping a toe back in today. Google has re-launched Google Maps for China, but not via the same app we have in the rest of the world. Most people will access it via a web page, but iPhones get an app. Hey, it's a start.

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[Update: More devices may be affected] Google Home Max appears to be killing some WiFi networks

You might recall a few months ago when the Nexus Player started knocking WiFi networks offline following an update. Now, it looks like something similar is happening with the Google Home Max. Owners of the TP-Link Archer C7 report consistent issues with network crashes when a Home Max is online—Google and TP-Link are on the case.

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You can now control your Sonos speakers with Google Home through Yonomi

Sonos products are praised for a lot of good reasons, but integration with other smart home ecosystems isn't one of them. Until recently, you'd have had to use some separate hardware or scripts to control any Sonos speaker, but no longer. Google has added support for Yonomi to the Google Home and Google Assistant, and since Yonomi supports Sonos natively, that means that controlling your Sonos speakers with Google Home no longer requires a workaround.

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International roaming for Project Fi and T-Mobile US had nearly day-long outage

Project Fi users around the world have reported on Reddit that they are being disconnected from roaming networks after 30-60 seconds of activity, starting late Friday, Pacific Standard Time. Perhaps not coincidentally, T-Mobile US subscribers have also reported similar problems when roaming. Given that mobile phones are a vital lifeline for travelers, particularly when navigating language barriers, roaming outages have the potential to be a distinctly harrowing experience.

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Google finally preparing a fix for Nexus Player remote sleep bug from last November

Since late last November, Nexus Player owners have had the frustrating experience of erratic behavior from the remote. After about 5 to 10 minutes, the remote would seemingly go to sleep. Pressing any button causes the remote to blink for a few seconds, then hopefully reconnect. While not precisely broken, the erratic functionality from the remote has been a point of pain for owners of Google's streaming hockey puck. Finally, Google is preparing to roll out a fix.

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[Deal Alert] Buy a new Pixelbook, get a free Pixelbook Pen ($99 off)

Until February 1, U.S. customers can get a free Pixelbook Pen with the purchase of a new Pixelbook at the Google Store, Amazon, or Best Buy.

Integrated stylus functionality has become one of the big selling points for high-end portable devices, but the big players in this space, Apple, Microsoft, and Google, each charge $99 for their device-specific styluses. That's on top of the many, many hundreds of dollars they already charge for the iPad Pro, Surface, or Pixelbook devices themselves. So this is a risk-free opportunity for would-be stylus slingers to see if they would find such an accessory useful.

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CES 2018 wrap-up: Even more things to connect to Assistant

Two of the big trends at CES 2018 were AI and smart home stuff. The former was actually a major buzzword, and it became so overused that I stopped caring (thanks, Huawei/Honor). However, the smart home ecosystem continues to thrive and we saw a ton of new products that are launching with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. This post will focus on Assistant; you can expect the Alexa wrap-up a little bit later.

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30 days later, Chromecasts still aren't available on Amazon

30 days ago, Amazon announced that it was in the process of assorting Apple TVs and Chromecasts to start selling them again. Since then, the Apple TV and Apple TV 4K have been available and sold on the site, but the Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra are still showing as "Currently unavailable" from Amazon, with no third-party sellers at all. Even searching for "Chromecast" on Amazon doesn't bring up the product pages linked above, you'd have to know the URL to see them. We've reached out to Amazon several times over the past weeks to ask about this and to inquire about an exact availability date, but were told there were no details to share.

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Google partially delays policy change for Android Wear apps scheduled for next week

In late August of last year, Google announced some updates to its Android Wear policy which would affect the requirements for an app to obtain an "Enhanced for Android Wear" badge. Whereas previously, apps could qualify simply by implementing enhanced notifications, Google's planned policy change for January 18th, 2018 imposed some stricter restrictions.

The new policy would require apps to work as standalone Wear apps and force Wear APKs to be uploaded to the Play Store as a multi-APK instead of bundling them within phone apps. However, feedback on the multi-APK system has forced Google to delay fully implementing the policy, according to Hoi Lam, an Android Wear Staff Developer Advocate.

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The US smartphone market is devolving into a Samsung and Apple market - and that's bad for Android

If you live in the United States and walk into a Verizon store, you have essentially four options when it comes to choosing a premium smartphone brand: Apple, Samsung, LG, and Google. Yesterday, we learned that continuing to expect LG will be one of these options probably isn't the best bet.

While there may yet be a premium LG phone that launches on Verizon, the Korean conglomerate looks poised to join Motorola as one of Verizon's when-it's-convenient handset partners, and is quite possibly on its way to the Verizon graveyard with the likes of HTC, Sony, and BlackBerry.

The same can generally be said of AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

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