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Google unveils two new education-focused Chromebooks and talks about the future

Google is doubling down on Chromebooks by pushing one use case where they are undeniably dominant: education. At the BETT 2017 education technology conference, Google is partnering with Asus and Acer to announce two new Chromebooks that have been optimized for the classroom. It's also hinting at what's coming next for Chromebooks.

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Another Play Store results layout shows up, this time with expanded cards

So you know how the Play Store has been changing things up a little recently, with new-look results, a different shade of green, a new Top Charts UI, and changes to how My Apps works? Here's another one, this time on the search results side of things, with one expanded card a line, instead of the more normal layouts, such as one big card then lots of little smaller ones.

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Android Instant Apps, announced at Google I/O last year, starts initial testing

One of the more interesting features shown off at Google I/O last year was Instant Apps, a new way to run Android applications without any installation. For example, during the presentation it was shown how tapping a Buzzfeed video link would play the content in the Buzzfeed app, only downloading the parts required for video playback. Keep in mind that this is different from the streaming apps functionality Google introduced in 2015.

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[Update: APK] Google resurrects Voice, gives the app and website a full makeover

Google Voice was a big deal when it launched back in 2009—there was a waiting list to get access, and the entire concept felt magical. However, Google seemed to give up on Voice some years ago, offering users the option to port some features of Voice into Hangouts and Project Fi. Now, Google Voice is back and completely revamped.

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Google says all Chromebooks launched from 2017 and onward will support Android apps

Play Store and Android apps access on Chromebooks were announced in May of 2016 and in the time since, they have rolled as developer then stable builds to the Asus Chromebook Flip and Acer Chromebook R11 as well as the Google Chromebook Pixel 2. We know that the functionality will be coming to more of the existing Chromebooks down the line, but we didn't know how it would translate to future Chromebooks. Now Google has made that clear.

In an update to the corresponding Chrome OS support page, Google states that, "All Chromebooks launching in 2017 and after [...] will work with Android apps in the coming future." I don't think any of us are surprised by that, seeing as how the move makes all kinds of sense for everyone, but it's good to see it in writing.

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Google acknowledges data count bug with OnHub/Google WiFi mesh networks

Modern routers can do some cool things, especially if you're using the new Google WiFi mesh routers. They can cover your home in a healthy glow of electromagnetic waves, intelligently connect to devices, and keep track of your data usage. However, linking Google WiFi with an OnHub can result in some weird data usage stats. Google now says it's aware of the issue and is working on a fix.

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[Update: Started on January 10] Google will start ranking pages with intrusive ads lower on search results

Trying to browse the internet quickly, even on the fastest smartphones, has become much harder in recent years. Advertisements take up valuable screen real estate, and can cause your phone's browser to slow to a crawl. Even worse, some sites *coughWikiacough* have taken to using full-screen advertisements and other popups.

As Jean-Luc Picard once said, "The line must be drawn here! This far, no further!" Google has taken the offensive in the battle against intrusive mobile ads, using their influence as the most popular search engine as leverage.

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Amazon is price-gouging Pixel XL buyers to the tune of over $1,500

The Pixel is a great phone, and as such, a lot of people want it. Although, Google seems to be dropping the ball with regard to making that possible. The Google Store is constantly sold out of the Pixel XL (and sometimes even the regular one), and this has led to price inflation. It's not unusual to see Amazon marketplace sellers listing items for well over MSRP when they're hard to come by, but this is Amazon asking $1,500 for a Pixel XL.

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Google Calendar on the web receives smarter meeting scheduling

The G Suite team has made the first improvement to Google Calendar on the web for the year, which brings some smarter scheduling options for meetings. One of these made a debut in the Android and iOS versions of Calendar last year, but it's good to see the web version getting the same treatment.

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YouTube shows a fun castle animation when loading a video

If you happen to have a slow internet connection, you're used to seeing a spinning circle on Youtube while it loads, and loads, and loads, and finally really loads a video. That's the bane of my existence when I'm on WiFi (3G and LTE are much faster in Lebanon, but also more expensive, so we endure WiFi). But YouTube has recently implemented a castle animation, which is a lot more fun and playful. It doesn't make the wait any shorter, but it sure feels like it is.

The animation has been showing for several weeks, if not more than a month for me, but we've recently started getting more frequent tips about it, so we thought we'd let you know that yes, we have seen it before, and yes this is relatively new, and yes it is indeed cute.

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