Today is P-Day, ground zero for the Android 9 phone invasion, but Google has an extra health-related surprise waiting with Pie's release. The Digital Wellbeing features shown off by Google at I/O didn't make an appearance during the Android P developer previews, but a test for the health-related tools has just launched. Interested Pixel-equipped parties can enroll in the beta starting today.
The original Google Contributor was a novel idea. It allowed users to pay a small amount every month to show fewer ads on their favorite sites (at least Google AdSense ads), while still supporting the sites financially. After launching in August 2015 and never becoming available outside the United States, it was shut down while Google worked on a "new and improved" version.
Google began rolling out v8.3 of the Play services framework a few weeks ago, and it looks like it's in a wide release. While this version didn't present with any direct user-facing features and only a few cryptic hints for a teardown, it did bring some definite improvements to the Play services SDK. There are some changes to streamline the sign-in experience for app developers and users alike, along with some additional enhancements that should make it easier for developers to set up new user accounts. New APIs have also been added to make data delivery more efficient between a phone and an Android Wear watch.
Free-to-play Android games aren't difficult to come by, but this one has a little more going for it than mere affordability and simple play mechanics. CastleStorm made quite the name for itself on consoles this past fall, and now a touch-friendly adaptation is hitting Android as a private beta. The game combines tower defense with destructive physics, crisp graphics, fully voiced characters, and over 100 quests. The game isn't entirely free, as you need to spend money to get your hands on some in-game items, but with any luck, this won't hinder gameplay too much.
To get in on this action, start by signing up at this Google Group.
It's pretty easy to understand why typing isn't exactly an optimal experience on a smartphone. They are designed to fit in palms and come with virtual keys smaller than the fingertips used to press them. Tablets don't suffer from this problem, but they come with one of their own - a user can type speedily using the significantly larger keys, but resting their fingers on the screen for a mere second is all it takes to turn "superpower" to "sauerkraut," and suddenly that status update about whether America should get involved in Syria accumulates a different flood of Facebook comments than was expected.
Google Maps has been performing solid, mostly thankless service for more than eight years now, and last week its most significant update yet was leaked. It's that time of year, so we naturally assumed that we'd be hearing more about it at today's Google I/O keynote, but someone in Mountain View must have been a little quick on the trigger. Droid Life spotted a signup page for the revamped web interface and managed to grab a few screenshots before it was hastily shoved back in the digital closet.
Between this and a string of small maintenance updates to Google Maps for Android (not to mention a name change - the Play Store entry is just "Maps" now) we think there's a pretty good chance that the Google Maps app will also get a major overhaul in the very near future.
Did you hear that HTC just announced its new One phone? It looks pretty cool. Naturally, at least some people will be clamoring to get their hands all over this. Those people can kindly be directed here, where the Taiwanese manufacturer is accepting email sign ups for people who want to trade in their old handsets.
The language is actually mildly antagonistic towards competitors ("Upgrade to HTC", "Everything your phone isn't"...maybe the company is ready to get more aggressive with its marketing?), but the message is clear: if you have an old phone, you get at least $100 towards the purchase of a new One.
Move over SwiftKey. A challenger has appeared and it's aiming to bring even better predictions than we've seen before. This one, named Fleksy, touts predictions that are so accurate, you can type without looking at the screen. In fact, the company says that even if you get every single letter wrong, it can still tell what it is you meant to type. This is pretty impressive. Of course that means the developers need to take it one step further...
In the video above the company shows a blind user walking down the street, typing away on his smartphone (begins around 1:28).
There's no denying that AirDroid is one of the most powerful and useful applications available for Android today, and with version 2 in the works, it's about to get even better. But the thing is, v2 is going to be in private beta testing for the next three months. That's a long time to wait to get in on the action.
Fortunately, the AirDroid dev reached out to us last night and offered up a little goodie for our readers: 20 invites into the beta program. The first round of invites is expected to go out early this week, with only 125 users gaining access into the program.
On day one of Google I/O, the Play Store team announced an upcoming brand new version of the Android Developer Console - a publishing interface developers use to, you guessed it, publish apps to Google Play. The completely redesigned UI contains improvements based on feedback from the past several years and is fantastic. For further details, hit the link above or just watch this video:
As promised, you can now sign up to be first in line to give the private beta a go by following this url. Approval is not immediate, but at least you'll get there before everyone else.