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Some Users Are Seeing 'Related Interests' Categories On The Play Store

Google is certainly no stranger to testing new features slowly. Most recently, it released an update to YouTube's UI that's been in testing for at least four months. And for Google, this is a good thing. Testing new features with limited samples of users helps get data not only on their usefulness, but also on how they augment user experience and engagement.

That brings us to the Play Store, an app where nothing is more important than engagement. Google appears to be testing a new feature called "Related Interests," which lists off various categories with round chips similar to the chips used for artists on Google Play Music's web interface.

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Google Celebrates The Chromecast's Second Birthday With Free Rentals For All Owners (Even Android TV), Plus A Small Discount

Do you have a Chromecast or an Android TV device? Then open up Chrome on your desktop, make sure that you've got the Chromecast extension installed, go to this website, click "redeem all offers," then click the Google Play offer in the upper-left corner. You'll get a free movie rental voucher on your account, which can be applied when you checkout any movie on the Play Store. HD movies are valid as well. Even though the freebie is specifically to promote the Chromecast's second birthday, connecting to an Android TV box will get you the credit too.

shield rental

This offer is valid in the United States and a few other countries (commenters mentioned Germany, Australia, and France) but doesn't appear to be a worldwide promotion.

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Google Adds Play Store Carrier Billing For Carriers In Denmark, Saudi Arabia, And More

Not everyone wants to attach a credit card to their Google Play billing, and that's fine. There are other ways to buy content from your phone, like carrier billing for example. This system is quite convenient if your carrier supports it, but that's often not the case internationally. Google has updated its support pages today with five more supported carriers around the world.

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Google Introduces 360-Degree Video Ads On YouTube

360-degree video for YouTube was introduced earlier this year, giving users the ability to move their phones or mouse cursors to shift their POV in any direction. Within a short time major advertisers such as Coca-Cola and Nike began using the new technology to create videos for their YouTube channels with the hopes of achieving greater customer engagement.

Based on initial feedback from the videos that were posted, viewers are more likely to watch a video in its entirety when they can control the direction the camera is facing. A 360-degree Coca-Cola video celebrating the 100th anniversary of their curvy bottle had a 36% higher view-through rate than the standard, single viewpoint video.

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Google Announces New Drive Plug-in For Microsoft Office, For Now Only Works On Windows And Not With The 2016 Beta

It's one thing to claim you have an open approach and another thing to make it easier to use your competitor's product. Google is putting their money where their mouth is as they release a Google Drive plug-in for Microsoft Office, though there is still some work to do. While on one hand you can see this as a way to help users avoid Docs, Sheets, and Slides, it also provides feature parity with Drive's own competitors OneDrive and Dropbox, both of whom enjoy deep integration with the office suite.

Google_Drive

At this point, the plug-in only works on Windows and users are reporting that it doesn't function on the Office 2016 pre-release versions which will launch very shortly alongside Windows 10.

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[Deal Alert] Nexus 9 LTE Only $340 At Expansys USA, Down From Its Previous Already Low Sale Price Of $380

Last month Expansys USA was willing to sell you a Nexus 9 LTE for $380. That was and remains significantly less than the $600 the Google Store charges for the same device. At the time, it was also less than Amazon, but that company has since dropped its price down to $375.

So, why are we all gathered here around this blog post then? Because Expansys USA is now ready to sell you a Nexus 9, still with LTE, for just $340. That's $25 less than Amazon, and it's nearly half as much as what Google wants. Heck, it's cheaper than the official starting price of the 32GB Wi-Fi model.

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Google+ Photos Will Shut Down August 1st To Complete Transition To New Google Photos

You won't be able to stubbornly cling to the old Google+ Photos much longer (assuming people are doing that). The official Google+ account has confirmed that August 1st is the shutdown date for Google+ Photos. It won't be a huge adjustment for most users—the new Google Photos already has all your stuff stored and organized.

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Get A Free Google Cardboard VR Viewer... From This Porn Site (US Only)

If you haven't been able to grab a free Google Cardboard VR headset from various trade shows, under-supplied OnePlus promotions, Conan O'Brien, or anyone else, there's one more option. FreeVRGoggles.com does what it says on the box, so to speak: if you're a United States resident over the age of 18, just enter an address and an email and they'll send you a free Google Cardboard unit. (You can probably use a fake email address... and you might want to.) Slip your phone inside and you get access to all the compatible apps on the Play Store. Why? That's an interesting question.

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Google Wins Yet Another Dismissal Of Privacy Lawsuit, This Time Is Probably For Good

A long, winding lawsuit brought against Google by a small group of consumers was dismissed by a federal judge in California on Wednesday. Plaintiffs accused Google of breaching its own privacy policy by sharing user data indiscriminately, more recently focusing on the amount of personal data shared with app developers through the Play Store. For instance, Alice Svenson says far too much private data was shared with the developer of YCDroid when she bought the app for $1.77.

That information included her home address and zip code, phone number, and email address. After the lawsuit was filed, Google began limiting the data shared with developers.

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