Yesterday Google highlighted several great new features coming to Maps, but the company left one little detail out of its announcement: The compass is back. The classic orienteering widget is back by popular demand, and it's about as reliable as ever.
In a case of déjà vu, a minority of Pixel 5 owners are starting to report issues with all of their phone's various on-device sensors, including the compass, gyroscope, and proximity sensor. Based on the details provided, this sounds like the same issue that some prior Pixel phones were plagued by, which may have been caused by a corrupted "persist" partition. However, Google tells us that a fix for several sensor issues across all Pixel devices was included in the December 2020 patch, and some of those affected claim the update fixes their problem.
Last year, after the Android 10 update first started rolling out for Pixel owners, there were a handful of reports that device sensors — things like the ambient light sensor for screen brightness, orientation sensor for auto-rotation, and Active Edge sensor — stopped working. A workaround was found for those with unlocked bootloaders, and many of those affected were part of the root and ROM crowd, but almost six months later, many phones are still affected, and those with Verizon-branded, locked devices are still simply out of luck.
If you're a developer testing different features in your app, you may want to emulate how it behaves in certain conditions, such as when all sensors are off. And if you're a curious user, you might be curious enough to toggle your device's sensors off or on, maybe if one of them is wonky or if you're just paranoid and don't want your phone to know anything at all, not even if its upside down or not. Well, with the latest Q Beta 3, you'll finally have control over that.
Appfour are one of the most prolific Wear OS (né Android Wear) developers. Their solutions for the smartwatch platform have spanned from the useful (like this WiFi manager) to the why-and-why-not (like this video player, PDF viewer, browser) and so much more. Now, they're bringing six new mostly GPS-based utilities to our smartwatches.
Back during 2016's I/O festivities, Google quietly launched what I consider one of its biggest sleeper hits: Science Journal. I could wax poetic about the app (and I will later), but the name is quite descriptive. Yesterday it saw a significant update, with support for more sensors, UI changes, and a new snapshot feature for capturing data points. An iOS version of the app was even released, so people of all platforms can more easily engage in the pursuit of quantitative inquiry.
Anyone who might be considering a 2017 Audi A3 on the basis of it using Android Auto might want to reexamine their options. Apparently a large number of the cars are having difficulties with the compass in Android Auto being rotated 180 degrees while the phone is connected, which interferes with navigational operations. Navigation does function correctly when a phone is not connected, though.
It looks like the new Google Play Services rolling out today held one more surprise besides hints of Android Device Manager. With the latest update, Android's Photo Sphere viewer can make use of the on-board compass, allowing you to navigate a sphere just by moving your device, much like Streetview's "Compass Mode."
To enter compass mode, users need only press the arrow icon in the lower left corner of the screen. The icon automatically disappears when you aren't touching the screen, allowing you to look at the sphere uninterrupted.
This is a small enhancement, but one that makes Photo Spheres just that much more awesome.
In yet more app news today, Google pushed out updates to Maps and its cousin Streetview.
First, Google Maps received the promised offline mode, wherein you can pan to a certain area and save it for use without an Internet connection. Pretty neat, though it remains impossible to use navigation offline, limiting the practical applications of this feature.
Additionally, Street View saw a minor update that should improve everyone's favorite compass mode - devices with a gyroscope should now be able to use it more smoothly.
The updates are available now on Google Play, so download away!