Earlier this week, Google rather unexpectedly announced two brand-new Google Play Experience devices (for the US only, of course) - the LG G Pad 8.3 and the Sony Xperia Z Ultra. The G Pad 8.3 will set you back $350, while the Z Ultra is $650, though both devices rather undeniably fill niches in the Google device ecosystem. The G Pad acts as a mid-size tablet, a la iPad Mini, something a lot of enthusiasts have been asking Google to build for years now.
With Google Play Music All Access coming to more and more countries around the world (though obviously still not all of them), Google is expanding the reach of its all-you-can-eat music platform into regions where services like Spotify reign supreme. Listening to music on your smartphone (or tablet) is probably an activity all of us partake in, too, so I'm curious to know what kind of services our readers actually like enough to pay for.
Hard to believe, but 2013 is drawing to a close. And with the end of the year comes that same arbitrary question we ask in so many consumer product segments: who did it best? This is a hard question to answer in a truly objective sense, so that's why we're leaving the voting to you.
We've tried to whittle down the list of devices to the major, high-end (and high-profile) Android releases in the current calendar year, though undoubtedly some of you won't find the answer you're looking for in that list.
I think we were all a little impressed and surprise last week when Motorola announced in rapid succession that the AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile variants of the Moto X were all getting Android 4.4 immediately. They even beat Google's own GPE devices to an OTA. That's kind of incredible.
The fact that Motorola is now Google-owned probably had just a little bit (OK, a lot) to do with this, but the company's renewed attitude toward Android updates is something enthusiasts have been begging for in an OEM for years now.
Last week, Google released a massive update to the Search app for Android 4.1+ phones and tablets. Inside that refreshed APK, though, is a somewhat sneaky surprise: all the necessary bits for the Nexus 5's "Google Experience" launcher. All you need to get it working is the launcher app pulled from the Nexus 5, and you'll be up and running GEL-style.
If you want a detailed look at the new launcher, be sure to check out the relevant sections of Liam's Getting To Know Android 4.4 post, which goes into crazy detail as to all the changes you'll discover over the old AOSP launcher.
The biggest user-facing change in Android 4.4 KitKat is, without a doubt, the launcher. The new launcher experience provides deeper Google Now integration (it's literally the leftmost homescreen), beautiful transparent navigation buttons and notification bar, always-on Google Now listening, and a much cleaner app drawer. For now, though, this launcher will remain a Nexus 5 exclusive - Google wants to see what the reaction is before expanding this 'Google experience' to other devices or the Play Store-using public.
Assuming you don't live under a rock, you probably know the Nexus 5 launched on the Play Store last Thursday. In the US, Google's newest handset will cost you $350 for the 16GB model, and $400 for the more capacious 32GB variant. The launch went relatively smoothly, though stock of the 16GB Nexus 5 quickly evaporated - for the black version, within minutes - and latent purchasers of the 32GB version are now in for a weeks-long wait before enjoying the sweet embrace of KitKat.
BBM for Android is officially out. We reviewed it. And while it looks like there's a little bit of fishy business going on with ratings and reviews of the app in the Play Store, the number of downloads obviously isn't all fake - there's substantial interest in this app. But from who? BBM as a platform has been the exclusive privilege of BlackBerry owners since its public introduction in 2006, and it has never featured interoperability with any other IM service.
Another poll about colors? Yep. Our own Liam Spradlin mocked up what a white Nexus 5 might look like after some pretty likely bogus images of such a device appeared on the web late last week. Here's a more realistic representation of what each will probably look like.
White phones do tend to get a bit dingy and yellowed / grayed over time, but there's something about the N5 whited-out that really appeals to me.
If you take a look at the mockup below (featured in this article), created by our very own Liam Spradlin, you'll see what we strongly believe the Android 4.4 homescreen is going to look like. New icons, transparent notification bar and nav buttons, and a stronger emphasis on white. Personally, I'm a big fan - Android 4.4 is cleaning up a lot of the messy, heavy-handed Tron-esque styling that hung on in the transition from Honeycomb to Ice Cream Sandwich.