Every week, I examine somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred app updates while looking for changes. The most interesting things turn into APK Teardowns or Download posts. Many of the remaining updates are unremarkable, amounting to a few bug fixes, routine updates to libraries, or even just pixel-level adjustments to layouts and images. However, there are usually a few updates that land somewhere in between. I don't want to spam readers with dozens of short posts, but I hate to ignore things that people might want to know about, so I'm going to wrap up the leftovers for a little weekend reading and call it Update Notes.

Special thanks to נתנאל מ for the great hero image on this post!

Google Voice v2018.30

As is the way with Google, nothing is ever really constant. We're seeing many apps making a shift away from the bright colors (more on that later) and also an adoption of bottom navigation tabs. This update to Google Voice continues the latter trend.

Bottom navigation tabs

Left: v2018.28. Right: v2018.30.

As we've seen with other apps making the switch to bottom navigation, the tradeoff is that you can no longer swipe left or right to switch tabs. On the plus side, tabs are also labeled now, just in case the icon for voicemail makes no sense to people that weren't around when answering machines had little tapes in them... Just ask your parents.

Linking 'Do not disturb' with your calendar schedule [Teardown]

A little automation never hurt anybody, right? It looks like the Google Voice team is going to add an option to enable and disable Do Not Disturb mode based on status settings in your Google Calendar. Based on working hours or scheduled times you'll be out of the office, Google Voice can automatically direct incoming calls to voicemail so your phone won't ring. Of course, you'll be able to manually override these settings if necessary.

strings
<string name="calendar_title">Calendar</string>
<string name="calendar_container_title">Calendar</string>
<string name="calendar_description">Use Calendar settings to handle your calls</string>
<string name="calendar_error_network">Your calendar preferences could not be updated. Establish a network connection and retry.</string>
<string name="calendar_error_unknown">Your calendar preferences could not be updated for an unknown reason.</string>
<string name="calendar_out_of_office_title">Follow out of office</string>
<string name="calendar_out_of_office_description">Send calls to voicemail when Calendar shows you out of office</string>
<string name="calendar_working_hours_title">Follow working hours</string>
<string name="calendar_working_hours_description">Send calls to voicemail outside the working hours you set in Calendar</string>
<string name="calendar_working_hours_description_disabled">Your working hours aren\'t set yet. Go to Settings in Calendar on the web to set them.</string><string name="do_not_disturb_end_now_button_text">End now</string>
<string name="do_not_disturb_header_title">Do not disturb</string>
<string name="do_not_disturb_out_of_office_text">Do not disturb is on. You\'re out of office.</string>
<string name="do_not_disturb_working_hours_text">Do not disturb is on. You\'re outside your working hours.</string>

Google Voice
Google Voice
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

YouTube Kids v3.43.3

Like the other YouTube apps, several changes have been triggered remotely, meaning they aren't directly tied to updates. However, a few things are still coming through with individual versions.

Confirmation dialogs for changing content level

 

Strictly speaking, this is only barely a functional change, but what it says is a bit more interesting. There are now dialogs shown if you switch a child's profile from one age group to the other, and you're given buttons to confirm or cancel the change. Previously, the switch happened without any resistance.

Change content level to Older?

This setting is intended for older kids who may be ready for more grown-up content filtered from the broader universe of videos on YouTube. For example, the app will show music and gaming videos and vlogs that are not eligible to be shown in YouTube Kids with the Younger content setting. These videos may include some explicit language and imagery, violence, and suggestive content. This setting tries to exclude mature content, but no automated system is perfect and your child may come across content with nudity, highly offensive language, and extreme violence.

Change content level to Younger?

This setting is intended to appeal to kids in preschool and elementary school. It offers a safer YouTube experience, using automated systems that try to filter out YouTube content that's not appropriate for kids. Once your child has watched a few videos, the app will start recommending videos based on terms they've searched for and videos they've watched. While our automated filters try to keep out content that is not appropriate for kids, we don't manually review all the videos. It's possible your child may find something you don't want them to watch.

The explanations for each age group is very telling with regards to the controversies YouTube has had to endure in the last year.

Follow-up: Approved content versus manual subscriptions [Teardown]

YouTube Kids has added a curated model that has parents effectively subscribing to collections of channels that are chosen by highly regarded groups. A more recent teardown included text that infers parents will also be able to choose additional trusted channels they can subscribe to for their kids. But two new lines may raise a little doubt about how that will work.

<string name="parent_approved_subscription_unavailable_dialog_title">Subscriptions aren\'t available</string>
<string name="parent_approved_subscription_unavailable_dialog_message">This profile is set to \'Approved Content Only.\' Turn this off to subscribe to channels.</string>

The specific phrasing of the message above can be interpreted in a couple of ways. The first possibility is that curated collections and manual channel subscriptions will be mutually exclusive, meaning parents will have to choose one or the other. And given the way the setting to enable "Approved Content Only" mode with a toggle, this seems likely.

Alternatively, it's possible that the wording can mean there will be effectively three modes: Curated only, curated and subscriptions, and purely recommendation engine (i.e. the old way). However, it makes little sense to have a mode that explicitly prevents channel subscriptions since parents could just as easily choose to never subscribe to anything, so I tend to doubt this interpretation. Naturally, we'll have to wait and see what happens when channel subscriptions launch in YouTube Kids, but I have a feeling parents will have to choose between curated collections and channel subscriptions.

Promotional events [Teardown]

It seems YouTube Kids may begin running promotional events. There's not really much to say about this, but as usual, parents may want to be aware that such a thing could be coming soon.

<string name="a11y_promo_title">Promotional event</string>
<string name="accessibility_promo_page">Promo page</string>

YouTube Kids
YouTube Kids
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

YouTube v13.30

There weren't any significantly discernible changes in this update, but there was a curious new string added that will likely make an appearance in the stats for nerds.

Stats for Nerds: Battery current [Teardown]

The little-known Stats for Nerds overlay has been around on YouTube for ages, and it was added to YouTube on Android a little over three years ago. It looks like a new line is about to be added to display a measure of the electricity consumed by your device, though it's not live for me yet.

<string name="nerd_stats_battery_current">Battery current (mA): </string>

The data in this screen isn't useful for much more than diagnostic purposes, but it's there for those that want to check it out. If you want to see it on your own device, you'll first have to enable the feature in Settings -> General, then open a video and use the overflow menu to turn on Stats for Nerds.

YouTube
YouTube
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

YouTube Music v2.43

Dropping Android 4.1

The first and only immediately relevant change in this update is that it stopped working with a few older devices. To be specific, the minimum supported API was bumped from 16 (Android 4.1) to 17 (Android 4.2). According to the latest platform distribution numbers, that's going to tune out about 1.2% of the pool of potential users. But as a reminder, all this means is that those users will remain on YouTube Music v2.41 from here on out.

Follow-up: Smart Remote [Teardown]

Back in May, Google quietly revealed that it was adding a feature that allows people to use the Google Cast notification on their phones to directly open an ongoing stream (even one initiated by somebody else) in the appropriate app. One of the key features was the ability to launch directly into a custom remote control interface. Right around the same time, YouTube added a few bits and pieces for a feature it was calling SmartRemote.

 

This update to YouTube Music doesn't add much more to the story, it simply includes a graphic for a D-pad and microphone, plus some lines to describe the buttons and connection state. There's not much of substance to this, but it does reveal a bit about the design aesthetic.

<string name="mdx_dpad_down_contentDesc">Down Dpad key button</string>
<string name="mdx_dpad_enter_contentDesc">Enter Dpad key button</string>
<string name="mdx_dpad_left_contentDesc">Left Dpad key button</string>
<string name="mdx_dpad_right_contentDesc">Right Dpad key button</string>
<string name="mdx_dpad_up_contentDesc">Up Dpad key button</string><string name="mdx_smart_remote_back_content_desc">Dpad Button</string>
<string name="mdx_smart_remote_cast_content_desc">Cast Button. Click to disconnect from the TV.</string>
<string name="mdx_smart_remote_collapse_content_desc">Collapse Button. Click to minimize the Smart Remote UI</string>
<string name="mdx_smart_remote_mic_content_desc">Mic Button</string>

Translate v5.22

This looks like a minor update, likely pushing optimizations and fixes, but a couple things of note did turn up in the teardown.

Flashcards [Teardown]

Just hearing the word 'flashcards' will probably take you back to those days of tediously pouring through vocabulary words in school. It's not really clear if this actually going to be the same thing as flash cards, but it certainly looks like it could be.

<string name="label_flashcards">Flashcards</string>
<string name="card_count">%1$d of %2$d</string><activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.translate.inputs.FlashcardActivity" android:label="@string/label_flashcards" android:parentActivityName="com.google.android.apps.translate.inputs.PhrasebookActivity" />

The clue here is in the activity definition, which lists the Phrasebook activity as a parent, which is basically how Android specifies where users go if they navigate "up." I would assume that we will be able to add a list of translations to our phrasebook, then tap a button that switches to a special Flashcards mode that cycles through each individual entry. This is just an educated guess, but it makes sense for the Google Translate app.

Phrasebook limits [Teardown]

And speaking of the Phrasebook, evidently there will be a limit to the number of entries that are allowed. That number isn't actually available, but it will be filled in when you hit the limit and a message is displayed.

<string name="msg_phrasebook_delete_old">Your phrasebook has reached %1$d entries. Tap %2$s to replace your oldest entry, or tap %3$s to remove entries manually. &lt;a href=https://support.google.com/translate/answer/6142480?hl=en&amp;co=GENIE.Platform%%3DAndroid&gt;Learn more&lt;/a&gt;</string>
<string name="msg_phrasebook_full_warning">Your phrasebook has %1$d entries. After %2$d, adding a new entry will prompt you to replace the oldest.</string>
<string name="lbl_phrasebook_delete_old">Replace oldest entry?</string>
<string name="label_replace_uppercase">REPLACE</string>

If you hit the limit, you'll be given the option to remove the oldest entry and replace it with the new one, or you can go through the list to manually remove items as needed. There is a Help article mentioned in the message above, but it too omits the actual limit.

Google Translate
Google Translate
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

Google Contacts v3.0

We already posted about the overall visual change to the Contacts app, which brings an almost entirely white interface like many of Google's other apps have recently seen. This update doesn't appear to have any functional changes, at least not beyond the typical bug fixes and such, but I did want to share just a few more screenshots of some of those cosmetic differences between the old and new UI.

Cosmetic changes

Starting with the contact list, not only has the title bar lost any presence of blue, but the FAB has gone similarly plain, almost to the point that it disappears into the background quite easily.

One interesting tweak is that the avatar images for contacts without photos have changed their style. In the older versions, the circular background was darker than the letters, and those letters were extremely light shades of the background. In the new version, the backgrounds have turned to light pastels and the letters are now taking on the darker shades. While I don't love the choice to go to pastels, I think this may be the one change I actually like. The bold colors of those circles often overpowered the surrounding contact images, making them look more important.

The contact pages have also undergone some adjustments. Changes to the header for contacts without a photo are probably the most prominent. Again, the background of the circle has switched to the same pastel color palette with a darker letter at the center, but this time we can also see that the background is no longer tinted and there's no white outline, or at least it's not visible on this background. The height of this space has also been shorted to allow more data on the screen without scrolling.

The main action icons have switched to an outlined style. I must admit, I'm personally not a fan of this icon style, and this example is no exception. Although, the phone, payment, and web link icons have obviously gone untouched (except for a minor tint shift). Again, the FAB has been drained of color, but this is not as dramatic of a change as it was on the contact list.

Contacts
Contacts
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free

Google Play Store v11.2

Like most Play Store updates, this one doesn't appear to contain any changes upon updating, but there is one interesting addition to the text that will surely turn up at some point in the future.

Device-specific promotions [Teardown]

String names make it clear that this is for device-oriented promotions, which generally reward buyers of a particular phone or tablet with digital perks. It's hardly a new pattern, we've already seen it done with phones from Google, Samsung, and many others, albeit usually with redemption codes or features that are built directly into an app.

strings
<string name="device_promotion_eligible_devices_title">Eligible devices</string>
<string name="device_promotion_help">Help</string>
<string name="device_promotion_terms">Terms &amp; Conditions</string>
<string name="device_promotion_unenroll">Unenroll</string>
<string name="device_promotion_unenroll_confirmation_text">You will no longer be eligible and any progress you\'ve made will be lost.</string>
<string name="device_promotion_unenroll_confirmation_title">Are you sure you want to unenroll from this offer?</string>
<string name="device_promotion_unenroll_success">Successfully unenrolled</string>

One line did catch my attention, although it is probably nothing important. If somebody tries to unenroll from the promotion, they are shown a message that warns, "any progress you've made will be lost." In all likelihood, this is merely a warning shown during an application process. In other words, during a multi-step redemption process, you back out somewhere in the middle, but you have to specifically unenroll a device if you want to redeem the reward with a different Google account.

While that explanation makes sense, the wording is just awkward enough that I'm skeptical about it. Since most promotions are either directly rewarded (e.g. Buy a phone, get 2 free movies) or they're linked to discounts or other conditional perks (e.g. Some online service is available for half price to phone owners), it's odd to see any kind of progress tracking involved in this deal. This has me slightly curious if there may be a loyalty program coming for some devices, or perhaps a promotion that requires multiple products of different types, like buying both a phone and a smartwatch before the reward can be unlocked. Anyway, it's interesting enough to watch for.

Google Play Store
Google Play Store
Developer: Google LLC
Price: Free