Google has been rolling out updates to its flagship app at a record pace, with significant updates landing only a few days apart. The latest may be a sign that the developers are nearly done, as the additions appear to be slowing down. In this update, we can see small visual tweaks, but nothing else too major. As usual, it's in the teardown where the changes are racking up, including signs that users will get to choose their own services for lists and notes taken by Assistant, an ability to trim the silence from podcasts, and a small follow-up regarding Google Doodles.
Google's software Assistant and corresponding Home hardware are there to answer your questions (within certain limits), but it may not always be Google that answers. In some circumstances, including things like service outages, it looks like Google is able to hand off questions it would typically answer to third-party apps or services. With your consent, of course.
One of our pet peeves at Android Police lately (mostly mine and Artem's) has been the lack of a proper Google Assistant directory on the web. Amazon simply has its Alexa skills searchable from its site, like you would for any product or app or book, but to see if Assistant supports a certain product you had to have a phone/tablet with Assistant enabled, browse to the slightly hidden Explore section which is accessible from the blue envelope thing on the top right of the Assistant screen, and just then you could either search or use the trending and new sections.
Outlook's so-called "add-ins" were first introduced to the app this February, but the feature was exclusive to iOS. At least, it was, until Microsoft's blog post today. To put it simply, it allows you to use features from apps like Trello, Evernote, or services like GIPHY from directly inside the app. It's sort of like Android's intents system, allowing you to quickly pass data between services, but built into Outlook.
Yesterday at I/O Google had an interesting talk called Background Check and Other Insights into the Android Operating System Framework. It's a long name, but really it's about improving battery life in Android. It went on at great length as to how, exactly, the team plans on doing that, and it's quite worth a watch. We have the video here, but if you don't have the half-hour to check it out, then you are welcome to read below.
The Google app went through a major version bump to 7.0 and began rolling out to the beta channel a couple of days ago. A bit of digging around turned up a few new settings, but nothing that explains why the version number went up on this release. Along with the new features, a teardown also raises some light on a few things we can look forward to in the future, including some vital improvements for Services accessed through Google Assistant and what may be a new type of device. If you're not part of the beta channel, you can grab the latest version of the Google app – now with fewer crashes – from APK Mirror.
One of the more interesting behind-the-scenes additions in Android 5.1 is a new carrier provisioning API that provides functionality which likely benefits carriers and customers alike. Any time you join a carrier, you get services along with your account, whether it's Play Store billing, visual voicemail, premium subscription services billed to your account, or any number of other things. For as long as Android has existed, the methods used to provision these services on a customer's account have varied widely from carrier to carrier, and there was no standard way of doing it.
While this normally wouldn't be an issue on carrier-branded phones or tablets, what happens when you bring an off-contract AT&T phone over to T-Mobile, or you buy a Nexus phone that doesn't have carrier-specific framework APKs installed?
Sunrise, a thoughtfully-designed calendar app that only recently made the jump from iOS to Android, got a bump up to version 1.1.0 today, bringing with it new integration for a variety of services including Songkick, Tripit, Evernote, Github, and Asana. Basically, this integration provides syncing between the services and Sunrise, where the calendar app can grab reminders from Evernote automatically, your Tripit plans and trips will automatically populate, Songkick concerts will show up like magic, and Github or Asana changes will be synced (in both directions).
Some apps, like Tripit, can already integrate with your Google calendar account, so those who already use that feature may find some redundancy in Sunrise's new functionality.
A few days ago, it was confirmed that Google had started asking manufacturers to brand boot animations with a specific "Powered by Android" lockup as part of Google's Mobile Services license. Samsung's Galaxy S5 and HTC's new One M8 both carry the branding, and today Motorola's Moto X and Moto G have joined the party, but Motorola has something else in store as well - a new boot animation just in time for April Fools Day. The animation features a UFO, bigfoot, and the Loch Ness Monster, all exposed by Motorola's spotlight. Check out the full sequence below.
The updated animation sequence comes in an update to Moto's Boot Services app on the Play Store.
One of the fundamental differences between Android and every other mobile operating system is the practically unrestricted capability to run services. Without this freedom we could not enjoy something as powerful as a homescreen widget or as straight-forward as a Twitter client with background updates. Aside from games and very simple utilities, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find an app that doesn’t run a service, at least for a short span of time. However, a bug has snuck into recent versions of Android and it can cripple background processing in some apps and widgets.
Note: There are some technical details ahead, some of which may only matter to developers.