Today, Google has announced the rollout of a whole pile of "new" features for Android and Android Auto — 16 changes, by Google's count. Of course, this is Google, so "new" in many of these cases means they've been spotted in testing for months, and you may have been using many of them already. The tweaks cover a wide range, including accessibility improvements and Android Auto (which we'll cover separately to help streamline things just a little bit), but highlights include a new remote control for Android TV built right into your phone, an Assistant reminders hub, several time-saving Gboard improvements, and the trickle-down of a few Pixel-exclusive features.
At-a-glance weather has to be one of the most popular options for homescreen widgets out there. So it's strange that Google doesn't have a self-branded option, beyond the tiny little nugget in the Google News widget. It looks like that's about to change: code in the Google app indicates that a new Assistant-branded weather widget.
One of the little Google features we probably all take for granted is being able to easily find services near to us via Maps, Assistant, Search, etc. Unfortunately, some Android Auto users have been encountering a bug that meant searching for anything "near me" or "nearby" would return results close to the users' homes, rather than their current location. Thankfully, Google says it's rolled out a fix.
Google Duplex still feels like magic to this date, allowing you to place reservations, order food, and get accurate business opening hours without ever placing a phone call yourself. And it looks like you'll soon also be able to get a spot on a phone-based restaurant waitlist, according to VentureBeat. One of the publication's journalists is part of a random limited A/B that gives him access to a new "Request to join waitlist" button in business listings on Google Maps.
Last year, Google said it was "piloting" a program to allow the Assistant's Duplex feature to handle shopping, and now a public test of that feature has been spotted. It isn't live for us in our own testing, but some folks are seeing a new "fast checkout" Assistant prompt for a specific and convoluted workflow when purchasing content from Hot Topic online, which automatically fills payment and address fields during the checkout process.
In hindsight, it was a curious omission, but when Google debuted the diagonal swipe gesture to trigger the Assistant in Android Q/10, the only way to disable it was to change navigation modes or just straight-up disable the Assistant as your assistance app. Now, as of Android 12 Beta 3, it's something you can separately disable if you'd like to.
It's no secret that we're constantly looking for ways to save our hard-earned cash when we purchase things. While there are plenty of resources to help us hunt for deals, it still requires a bit of work on our end to find the best prices. Thankfully, Google has been working to bring a price tracker to Chrome for Android, and with a future update, it could be even easier to find products at their best prices.
Lenovo's Smart Clock series looks like something that fits right into Google's smart home lineup, and it does, despite being third-party hardware. The second generation of the Smart Clock has been leaked more than once already, but today it gets official. the design looks a lot like the original, with the biggest change being an option for an add-on wireless charger for your phone.
Assistant has been going through a ton of changes lately. From skipping out on activation phrases for specific tasks to a new look for conversations and responses, Google is throwing itself into making its AI service better than ever. Of course, not every change is a groundbreaking improvement — some quality-of-life tweaks go unnoticed until just the right time. Google has given its Assistant lock screen settings an all-new placement to help surface the options for more users.