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Google is testing a new layout for hints and search shortcuts

There's always a Google A/B test going on in the background to figure out what could get users to better discover options or take them to what they're looking for faster. One of these tests was a series of search shortcuts that had a very distinct circle design in the Google Now (now known as Feed) page right below the search bar. That interface didn't spread to a wider user base, but it appears that Google is still toying with the idea, albeit in a different look.

Below are a couple of screenshots from two different users who are seeing these shortcuts or hints below the search bar.

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Google Home: First impressions and thoughts

Google Home preorders have started arriving and interested consumers can head down to certain brick & mortar stores to pick one up starting today. I've been messing with Home for a little while and I feel like there's already quite a bit to say about it.

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You can use "Hey Google" instead of "OK Google" with Google Home, but it does a bad job letting you know that

All of Google's products have adopted the "OK Google" hotword in recent years, but Google Home presents an interesting challenge. What if you have another device around with OK Google enabled? It can be a mess, so now there's also "Hey Google."

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Chromecast Ultra orders from Google Store now shipping

The Chromecast Ultra was first revealed to the world at Google's October 4th event. With 4K playback, HDR, Dolby Vision, and Wi-Fi connection improvements, the Ultra is priced at $69. The Xiaomi Mi Box shares the Ultra's price tag, but some users might not want to deal with Android TV.

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Google Home is available in stores today for $129

Today is the day you've been waiting for... maybe. Google Home is available for purchase from Google and other retailers. The voice-activated Assistant hub is priced at $129 and works with many of your smart home devices, assuming you have those.

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Google makes RCS support in Messenger official, will be default SMS/RCS app on all Sprint Android devices

The ultimate goal of RCS is to completely replace SMS, but moving the millions of daily SMS users away is no small feat. Yesterday, we posted that RCS support was being rolled out to some Messenger users on Sprint and Project Fi. Now Google has made the feature official, and should be available to all Sprint customers starting today.

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RCS is going live for some Google Messenger users, enabling "enhanced features" for messaging

A little over a week ago, we first detected several less-than-subtle hints of Rich Communication Services, more commonly known as RCS, in Google Messenger 2.0's code. In case you don't know what RCS is, it essentially adds some useful features to SMS that are similar to what you'll find in Apple's iMessage. Now, for a select few, Google has flipped a server-side switch for RCS.

Google's initiative to make RCS more commonplace isn't new, though; last year, the Mountain View-based company purchased Jibe Mobile, a startup with an RCS platform. Allo was expected to receive RCS support, but since that didn't pan out, Messenger is the very first Google app to support it.

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Google Play services v10 can show a notification with player controls anytime a device on the network is Casting [APK Download]

If the people in your home get regular use of a Chromecast, you're probably more than aware of just how inconvenient it is when the Casting device isn't handy. Sure, you can always pick up your phone or tablet and track down the Google Home app (formerly named Google Cast), but that takes a lot of taps – and most people don't have it installed or even realize it has player controls. The latest update to Google Play services takes care of this little issue by adding a long overdue and oft-requested feature: it pops up a notification with player controls anytime a Cast session is active.

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[Update: Nixon now available] Michael Kors Access, Nixon, and Polar smartwatches, Philips Hue Starter Kit, now on the Google Store

Earlier this month, Google removed a number of products from the virtual shelves of the Google Store, most notably the Nexus 5X and 6P. Today the Google Store has begun selling a few new Android Wear wearables and the Philips Hue Color A19 Starter Kit.

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YouTube now allows creators to pin comments, add moderators, blacklist words and phrases, and more

The YouTube comments section - you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Part of the reason comments can be so unbearable at times is the dreadful moderation tools, but YouTube is seeking to fix that. Today on their Creator Blog, they announced a number of changes to how comments can be moderated.

YouTube creators can now blacklist certain words or phrases, with comments violating the list requiring manual approval. In addition, creators can now opt-in to YouTube's almighty algorithm determining which comments are "potentially inappropriate," and holding them for approval.

There are some public-facing changes to YouTube comments as well.

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