Google Messages has become the app to watch now that new leadership has been tasked with cleaning up some of sprawl created by projects of the past. A new dogfood build of the app made it into circulation, and it contains signs for some important features people have been looking forward to. For those with a desire to keep their messages private, Messages will soon support end-to-end encryption over RCS. And if you're a Google Fi user, get ready to see some huge improvements to the Messages for Web service that will bring browser-based access to calls and voicemail.
Google is working on making Android as inclusive as possible, only recently updating features like Live Transcribe and Sound Amplifier. Along with announcing the improvements to these accessibility functions, the company has also shared that it's launching a new app called Action Blocks. The app is targeted at people with cognitive disabilities, but it certainly looks like it can be useful for anybody. It lets you create single-tap actions for Google Assistant in the form of widgets instead of having to say them over and over.
Amazon's Fire TV devices run a heavily-modified version of Android, which means you can install some Android applications on it. While the built-in Amazon Appstore does have a wide selection of apps and games, you can still install software not available through the official store (like the Kodi Media Center) if you have the APK file.
A long-time darling of Android aficionados, Astro File Manager hasn't always had a look befitting its excellent functionality. That changed somewhat through the 7.x version updates, with certain parts of the interface getting refreshed here and there — bottom tabs had been introduced by v7.9, for example. Now version 8 is upon us, and the Astro team has delivered an even more dramatic overhaul. The home page has been completely restyled and the much-requested dark mode has also arrived.
Pixel phones, or more specific, the Pixel Launcher, comes with a neat widget that gives you an overview of the weather, the current date, upcoming appointments, and commute estimates. Google even includes a basic version of this widget for everyone else, but it's not as capable as the Pixel Launcher solution — colors don't adjust to the background, and you can't change the size of the text. Another Widget changes that and adds a ton of features on top, and after 2.5 years without updates, the developer has finally pushed version 2 to the Play Store. It includes dearly needed bug fixes and new capabilities.
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WhatsApp has supported group audio and video calls since 2018, but you have always been limited to calling three other people at one time. During times of stay-at-home orders and quarantines, that might not be enough to stay connected with all of your friends and family. An update to the WhatsApp beta channel improves that situation as it raises the limit to up to eight participants (including yourself) for the first few users, but it involves a server-side change, too.
Google's first-generation Pixel Buds didn't quite live up to their initial promise, but we're hoping the second-gen earbuds will represent a significant improvement. Announced at the Pixel 4 hardware event in October 2019, we've had to wait a while for them to eventually become available, but it looks like their release is almost upon us. A new app needed to make the most of them is now available on the Play Store.
Amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, Telegram has reached the milestone of 400 million monthly active users, up from 300 million a year ago. To celebrate the occasion, the company has introduced an update to Telegram version 6.1. It comes with a redesigned attachment menu, an improved quiz mode, and a proper sticker directory. Telegram also wants to create a database of educational quizzes and will distribute €400,000 to people who contribute to that goal.
Total Commander (or Windows Commander back in the 90s) is one of the best-known orthodox file managers out there and made the jump to Android back in 2012 (check out our hands-on for some nostalgia). Version 2 followed soon after in the same year, and apart from a visual update to make it fit better within Holo and Material Design, the basic interface has been the same up until today. Version 3,0, which has been in beta since 2018, doesn't change that, but at least it packs a slew of new features compared to Total Commander 2.91.
The latest camera app from the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro is now available to download from APK Mirror, and it's got a few little changes in preparation for the release of the new phones. The most noticeable difference from the previous version is that the settings are now accessible from a new button in the top right corner instead of via the pull-up section at the bottom where camera modes are located.