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[Something about Droids] Google Allo adds a themed sticker pack for Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will hit theaters in under a week, and fans of the long-running franchise are practically radioactive with anticipation. Since Google is a company that 1) likes money and 2) probably has more than the usual number of employees who list their religion as "Jedi," is going Allo-in with its latest promotion. [Editor's note: Michael, one more crappy pun like that and you're fired.] Starting today, new stickers featuring characters from Rogue One are available in the Allo chat client.

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Android Pay v1.12 prepares for launch in Japan with Rakuten Edy and other e-money providers [APK Teardown]

Android Pay made its first Asian appearance in Singapore back in late-June. A couple months later, in August, rumors began circulating that Google was in negotiations with numerous financial companies to prepare for a launch in Japan. Names of the likely partners included: Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, East Japan Railway Company, Rakuten, NTT Docomo, and JCB, to name a few. Since then, details have been sparse; but with evidence discovered in the latest update to Android Pay, it's now clear that a deal has been struck with Rakuten.

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Google Search on the web adds movie and TV ratings from users

The movie-going public owes a great debt to Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. The "thumbs up, thumbs down" system breaks down a complex opinion into a simple yes/no question, "did you like it or not?" Its effects can still be seen on Reddit and even in the comments section of this very article - now all we need is some digital implementation of The Wagging Finger of Shame. Google's on board with the thumb system of movie and TV reviews, and has lately implemented it on its search pages in the Knowledge Graph section.

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Actions on Google opens to the public, developers now free to create custom voice actions for Google assistant

The Google assistant makes for a pretty awesome companion on the Pixel phones and Google Home, but it's still young and feels constrained by the very limited number of things it can do outside of Google's sandbox of supported services. During the October 4th announcement, Google declared plans to open up the platform in early December for developers to build their own services. Staying true to that schedule, the Actions on Google platform opened the door today, allowing developers to integrate their services. Google is also launching an early access program to begin testing new features and upcoming expansions.

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Android Police Readers' Choice Award 2016: Cast your vote for the best smartphone of the year

What's your pick for best smartphone of 2016? For the first time (well, that I can remember), we're asking you to cast your vote for the phone you think stole the show this year. I've assembled a list of 15 devices that I think stood out in one way or another in 2016, so please note that the list does not purport to be exhaustive - this is, gently, curated.

With that in mind, consider your vote carefully. The tallying will continue through December 16th at 11:59PM PST, at which point the poll will close. We will announce the winner in a separate post the following week, declaring that phone the recipient of the Android Police Readers' Choice Award for Best Smartphone of 2016.

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The Huawei Watch departs from the Google Store

With all the uncertainty, I don't imagine Android Wear smartwatches will be a hot item this holiday season. Some people are probably still willing to take a risk, but pickings are getting slim either way. Even though it launched more than a year ago, the Huawei Watch is still considered by many to be the best Android Wear device. It's no longer on sale in the Google Store, though.

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Google launches 6 new Daydream VR games, plus HBO Now and Go VR [Update: Need for Speed is live]

Google has a new round of games for Daydream VR out today, and some of them are pretty good. And some of them... are not that great. Hey, there's also HBO Now VR out today, which is only as good as the stuff you choose to watch. I've had the chance to play around with all of the new titles. Here's how they stack up.

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[Update: Available on Android] Google Drive Backups tab starts showing up, gives you a glimpse into your device and app backups

Android developers have been able to use Google Drive to back up and restore app and game data for their users for a couple of years now. Android devices too have been able to back up some data like installed apps, device settings, call history, and more to Google Drive and restore it to the same device after a hard reset or to a new one when you switch over.

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Google, Samsung, HTC, Oculus, Sony, and Acer form the Global Virtual Reality Association, the first VR special interest group

Perhaps you haven't noticed yet, but virtual reality is kind of a big deal. Samsung has holiday-themed ads running on primetime TV and sports, the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are breaking new ground in a stale gaming industry, and even Google is pushing its new Daydream platform hard. The powers that be think there's money to be made, and that means they're willing to work together (at least to some degree) in pursuit of it. Hence the creation of the Global Virtual Reality Association, announced by Samsung on its corporate blog.

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Chrome 55 adds download manager, offline pages, performance improvements, and more [APK Download]

Chrome 55 was released for the desktop a few days ago, and now the Android version has followed suit. If you've been using Chrome 55 beta, most of this should already be familiar, but there are a few new changes in store as well.

Download Manager

Until now, Chrome has used Android's built-in download manager to list browser downloads. Back in September, Chrome's very own Download Manager appeared in Chrome Dev, and now it has finally made it to the stable channel. You can sort by file type, see how much space is being used by downloads, and view/delete your saved pages.

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