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Android apps on Chrome OS: hands-on and initial thoughts

The Play Store is officially on Chrome OS! Sort of. It’s out for one device - the ASUS Chromebook Flip - and only on the developer release channel, which means bugs. But I’ve been playing with it since last night and thought I’d share some of my thoughts and general experience with Android apps on Chrome as they’ve launched.

First, in response to your inevitable question “Does <app here> work?” let me lay out a simple set of preemptive answers.

  • Does it require telephony (SMS/phone)? Then no.
  • Does it require GPS? Then no.
  • Does it require a rear camera? Then no.
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[Update: Fixed in Dev Preview 5] WiFi and Bluetooth notification toggles in dev preview 4 now open the connection list, and no one is happy about it

Android N is making some changes to the notification shade, not least among them the addition of settings toggles at the top of the screen without opening quick settings. In previous preview builds these were toggles as you'd expect, but DP4 changes it up. Now, the WiFi and Bluetooth buttons open the full modal connection list screen. The response from users has not been positive.

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Google changes the Allo and Duo icons in the Play Store

When Google announced its new communication apps Allo and Duo at I/O 2016, it said that they were coming this summer. With June 21 nearly upon us, the countdown until the quarter of the release is starting in most of our heads. And right on queue, Google seems to be getting ready too. Since the app listings are available on the Play Store, but only under pre-order, all we can keep an eye on is the description, screenshots, and app icons.

The latter have changed for both apps from when you first saw them. When Allo was demo'ed at I/O, it had a red icon with white letters (as seen here), but once it made it onto the Play Store, it switched to a light grey background with red letters (see here).

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[Deal Alert] Grab an unlocked Nexus 5X 16GB for $229.95 today on B&H with 2 free screen protectors

You know what's better than a Nexus phone? A cheap new Nexus phone. This is what we're here to talk about today. You should be familiar with the Nexus 5X by now. It's the lower-end of the two Nexus phones that were announced last year, but it's still quite a capable device. At launch, the 16GB version was priced at $379, but it has since fallen to $349 and we frequently see price drops here and there. However, it has very rarely gone as low as $229.

But today it is, at least on B&H. The seller is offering the new, unlocked, US variant of the phone for $229.95 as part of its DealZone deals.

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Chrome Developer channel 53 rolling out to ASUS Chromebook Flip now, Play Store in tow

Have a Chromebook Flip? Get it on the developer channel ASAP - the Play Store update is rolling out now. I've had very little chance to mess with it, but the apps I have used (Hangouts, Maps, Search, the Play Store) all seem to run pretty well. Funnily, the Play Store still allowed to install Google Now Launcher... but you can't change the launcher, since the launcher is the windowed app mode.

I haven't tried any games yet, and a number of apps you might want - like Google+ or Talon for Twitter - are marked incompatible at this time. The developers will likely need to account for the hardware capabilities of the Flip and other Chromebooks (specifically, the things it lacks) and be sure to tailor their apps to devices without certain features down the road.

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Google paid out $550k for Android Security Reward bounties in the last year, is upping bounty amounts

A year ago today Google announced Android Security Rewards, an expansion of its Vulnerability Rewards Program. Find a vulnerability, tell Google about it, help them fix the issue, and take home money. That's the concept, and it's a common one in the tech industry.

Google handed out over half a million bucks to 82 individuals over the past year. This averaged out to $2,200 per reward. Researchers averaged higher payouts, at $6,700. One, @heisecode, received $75,750 for 26 vulnerability reports. 15 researchers received $10,000 or more.

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Dallas becomes the next city that may get Google Fiber

Google Fiber is high-speed internet the likes of which most of us can only dream of. For a handful of states, Google's effort to get people online faster is already a reality. Roughly six metros are set to get the experience at some point in the future. Another dozen are being considered, and today Google has announced Dallas as the latest city to make that list.

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Google Maps starts using crowdsourcing to verify suggested edits

A couple of months ago, while tearing down an updated APK, Cody found hints that Google Maps would be crowdsourcing to curate suggested edits to Places. The feature didn't appear to go live then, but it seems that it's been showing up for some users over the past couple of weeks.

If you're checking a place in Google Maps, you might start seeing notes in yellow below certain information telling you that someone has submitted an edit for said info. Tapping that surfaces a card which is very similar to the ones that Google Maps uses to ask you questions about Places.

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Google Preparing Big Optimizations For Chrome 53, 47% Improvement On Motion Mark By WebKit

One of Chrome's biggest problems is speed. It's gone from being the fastest, best browser upon release to a RAM-hog that seems to be more of a platform than an internet browser nowadays. The internet has long been calling for Chrome to get some improvements, so it fares better against other faster, more modern browsers. It looks like Google has heard our calls, as the browser is about to get a lot faster.

Chrome 53, due for stable release in September, is going to see some big optimization work; there's up to 47% improvement across the board, mostly due to GPU raster, CSS and WebGL optimizations on OS X, resulting in percentages that are multiple times better than Chrome 51, the current stable release.

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Google Is Testing Quick Contact Shortcuts In The Main Search Interface

You may have noticed that if you search for someone you know in the main Google Search app on Android, their name will automatically appear if they're already in your Google Contacts. Those search results might get a bit more useful soon: at least one user spotted some advanced quick shortcuts added to his contacts in the Search bar. As shared on Google+, James Scott Jr. saw links to call, text, or email some of his contacts right there in the search results.

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