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Google Assistant, four months later: Still fragmented, still unfinished, still the best

Back at Google I/O 2016, we got a first look at Google Assistant. It was designed to be a conversational assistant, as opposed to the search-based Google Now. Then when Allo was released in September, it shipped with a beta version of Assistant. Finally when the Google Pixel phones were released in October, Assistant was a major selling point.

Google has a tendency to rush products out the door without fully finishing them, and Assistant was no exception. So now that about four months have passed since the official introduction of Google Assistant (roughly five months if you count the Allo beta), has anything changed?

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InBrief
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Google adds 9 new (mostly smaller) Android Pay banks

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New Nokia devices may launch at MWC, including a homage to the Nokia 3310

Nokia, much like BlackBerry, no longer manufactures its own devices. After selling its entire mobile division to Microsoft in 2014, it partnered with Foxconn to manufacture the Nokia N1 tablet, but that seemed to be a one-time deal. Now HMD Global, the Finnish manufacturer with the exclusive right to use the Nokia brand for phones, might be launching new Nokia devices at Mobile World Congress.

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Google's Verify Apps now shows apps that it has recently scanned

Google rolled out the Verify Apps framework many years ago to scan apps as they were installed. Then, in 2014 it added the ability to constantly scan apps to watch for malicious behavior. You were sort of taking Google at its word as a user that Verify Apps was indeed rummaging around to keep tabs on things. Now you can see some of what it's doing—the settings menu now shows which apps have recently been scanned.

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[Deal Alert] LEGO Batman: DC Super Heroes, Goat Simulator, and more are free or discounted on the Play Store

We already posted how Google is now allowing developers to temporarily make their paid apps free. The app from that post, Blaze and the Monster Machines, is just one of several paid apps that are discounted or free for a limited time on the Play Store.

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[Update: OnePlus 3T too] LineageOS 14.1 hits new devices, including HTC One M7, Samsung tablets, LG G3, and ZTE Axon 7

LineageOS is still a relative newcomer to the Android world, but since it's descended from the legendary CyanogenMod, builds for various devices are coming thick and fast.

In this round, there are six new devices receiving LineageOS 14.1 (based on Android 7.1 Nougat) builds: two HTCs, two Samsungs, an LG, and a ZTE. The HTC phones are both variants, Verizon and GSM, of the original HTC One, the M7.

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Google Maps list sharing is official, will start rolling out today

Using Google services as a couple or a group is sometimes a little tough. Some services lend themselves well to sharing, like Keep, Drive, Photos, and Calendar, but others are often cause for frustration. What if you have a common group of contacts you want to always keep up-to-date with others? How about an easy way to get emails from common friends and events and subscriptions without opening a common inbox? The worse though is Maps: you don't have an easy option to share your trip plans or starred places or list of attractions or restaurants you want to visit. That has been a big annoyance for me as I check different honeymoon options with my fiancé.

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Prince's early albums are now streaming on Google Play Music (and other services), web app turns purple for the occasion

From July 2015 until today, the most popular of Prince's early music was exclusively available on Tidal. This was due to an arrangement he made with the streaming service before his untimely death in 2016. Now most of his music published under the Warner Bros. label, from 1978-1996, has been made available to most streaming services - including Google Play Music.

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[Deal Alert] Chromecast Ultra now $59 ($10 off) at Google Store, Target, B&H, Best Buy, and possibly more

The Chromecast Ultra was announced at Google's October 4th event last year, as an enhanced Chromecast capable of 4K HDR output (with compatible TVs). However, even with greater functionality and speed than the existing 2nd-gen Chromecast, many considered the $69 starting point a little too pricey. Now the CC Ultra appears to be $59 at many participating stores.

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The Honor 8 receives Nougat/EMUI 5 starting today

True to its word, Honor says that Nougat/EMUI 5 is rolling out to the Honor 8 starting today (February 11). This comes via the official Twitter account and is great news for owners of the mid-range device.

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