Google's inexpensive Chromecast is already popular for streaming audio from sources like Play Music and Pandora to your television, but now it looks like the company wants a more specific approach for music. To that end Google has announced "Cast for audio," an audio-only version of the system that streams directly to connected and certified speaker systems, no extra hardware required. The first compatible speakers should reach the market in the spring of this year.
Cast for audio utilizes the same simple interface and remote connection as Chromecast: simply tap the "cast" button on your phone, tablet, or browser tab, and the content will be sent over the local network to the speaker, at which point it pulls down the music directly from the Internet.
The user experience on Android is never standing still, which is no more evident than in the Play Store itself. It seems Google may be trying out a new behavior for search queries that match the names of the Play Store's predefined categories. Instead of presenting a list of apps, searching for a term like 'action' or 'puzzle' can bring up structured lists like those that would appear in the category itself.
A search from the top level of the Play Store still pulls results from each of the major stores, as it should; but tapping into the apps section from those results or starting the search from anywhere in the Android-related portions of the store can redirect to the category-oriented view.
One of the best things about tech companies is that they believe in having a little fun around the holidays, and there's no better time to take a beat to enjoy the festivities than New Year's Eve. Facebook just featured a themed selfie frame in its Messenger app, and Google is matching with a dancing emoji when you type the words "Happy new years" to somebody.
This easter egg has actually been around for a few days, but we thought today was the perfect day to highlight it. One more emoji isn't the most exciting thing, but you can have a little bit of fun surprising your uninitiated friends with a little animated treat.
Google's self-driving car program has been one of the company's most visible and high-profile "moonshots" over the last few years. When Google showed off the primary development stages, the self-driving vehicles were basically production cars (like the Toyota Prius and Lexus SUVs) stuffed with huge amounts of robotics, communications, and processing equipment. Now the first self-driving "Google Car" prototype, built from the ground up to demonstrate the autonomous system, is complete and ready to roll out.
Google has been working on this unique prototype since before May of this year. The company plans to test its curvy new vehicle on an official Google test track, followed by tests on public roads after New Year's.
On the heels of its September launch in India, Google has announced further expansion of the Android One program into three new countries: Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. The choice of locations seems to suggest that Google’s efforts with the One initiative will radiate outward geographically from India. No precise availability date has been set for any of the new markets, but devices will be out “in the coming weeks.”
Game developers integrating with Google Play Games have seen a lot of improvements since the service was launched a year and a half ago at Google I/O 2013. There have been a lot of refinements to the experience for both players and developers, and new tools have made many of the tedious and time consuming chores much easier. Google has just launched a new Play Games Publishing API inspired by a similar interface that was added to the Play Store earlier this year. There is also a new Leaderboard feature that should help to prevent falsified scores. Finally, the Unity Plugin and C++ SDK have been updated to support more devices and add additional features.
If you've noticed a few changes around the Play Store on a desktop browser, you're not alone. Some Chrome users spotted a new layout for app pages on Google Play starting this yesterday evening. It isn't universal, and it seems to be a minority for the moment - only one Android Police staff member saw the updated layout, and even then, only in the latest beta for Chrome (40.0.2214.45).
The change modifies the full-width view that we've grown used to into a more narrow, three-column view. The "Similar" and "More from developer" sections of the Play Store now occupy the right-most column in a vertical layout.
That cool little HDMI stick that Google released more than a year ago got more useful and more awesome when the Cast API became available for developers. And while there are now hundreds of apps with Chromecast support on the Play Store, Google keeps a small curated list of some of them, kind of like a featured selection. Every now and then new entrants are let into this special club, and the latest addition is a trio of interesting apps: musiXmatch, Lyve, and Fitnet.
musiXmatch is the lyrics buddy to every song you listen to on your phone. Whether you're playing the songs through the app itself or through Play Music, Spotify, Rhapsody, rdio, or Deezer, musiXmatch will go grab the corresponding lyrics and float them on top of your screen, then scroll them in time with the music.
In an update to Gmail's web interface, Google has added support for attaching files stored in Drive to your emails like conventional attachments. Before, you had no choice but to share Drive files as links or upload them yourself. This is especially useful when sharing files to people who aren't using Gmail and therefore don't enjoy the smooth integration with Drive that Gmail has. For those worried that Google would abandon Gmail with the recent focus on Inbox, this is encouraging news. Gmail continues to refine its already stellar web functionality.