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2 hours ago

Google's Allo is finally getting a desktop client

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Google Assistant is coming to the desktop through Allo.

One of the main drawbacks of Allo has been the lack of a desktop version, but it looks like that's about to change. A tweet from Google's VP of Communications Products Nick Fox shows a screenshot of Allo running on the desktop.

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6 hours ago

A lighter version of Google Play Music is now available for Android

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There's also evidence of an alarm clock feature coming soon.

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Google Play Music version 7.4 boasts a ton of helpful updates that will surely please those of you who utilize the service daily.

The size of the actual Play Music store app has been reduced by ten percent, though at 18MB, it's still a hefty app. Google also added a Recents option to the main menu of the Play Music app, so you can easily jump to your last jam session with a few taps rather than having to dig into the app for your preferred track.

In an APK teardown, Android Police found evidence for potential Clock access. Remember the CD alarm clocks of the early aughts? Play Music integration with the Clock app would be along the same lines. You could program the Clock app to wake you up to a song of your choice. Unfortunately, this feature doesn't appear to be live yet.

The Google Play Music update is rolling out to a device near you — hopefully soon to the smartphone that's in your hand.

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15 hours ago

Best podcast app for Android

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Best overall

Pocket Casts

$3.99

See on Google Play

Pocket Casts does what any good podcast player should do: it loads quickly, has great discovery tools, has effects for cutting down on silences, and it looks great doing it. Shifty Jelly, the company behind Pocket Casts, has put a lot of love into making the app as full-featured as possible without alienating beginners just looking for an easy-to-use podcast app.

With tablet support, Chromecast output, and easy ways to store content on microSD cards, Pocket Casts is our pick for the best podcast app on Android.

Bottom-line: Pocket Casts offers not only an amazing discovery and listening experience, but its synchronization system lets you listen to your favorite shows on iOS, Windows and the web.

One more thing: Themes! Pocket Casts has an amazing dark mode that looks great on AMOLED displays, or when you're browsing at night.

Why Pocket Casts is the best

Easy to use, powerful for pros.

Pocket Casts is one of the first apps I download on a new Android device, and one of my most-used apps. Even as other popular music streaming apps like Google Play Music and Spotify have added podcast support, I go back to Pocket Casts for its useful tools, intuitive features and navigation, and ability to create on-the-fly playlists using the Up Next feature.

Chris Welch of The Verge had this to say about Pocket Casts for Android:

Above just being a vehicle for your podcasts, the standout aspect of Pocket Casts is definitely its design. It's a tremendous showcase for Google's Material Design, with fluid animations and color schemes that shift colors based on a podcast's artwork. Your subscriptions are arranged in a tiled screen with big, beautiful artwork for every show, and Pocket Casts has a seemingly endless array of preferences, playlist filters, and auto-download settings, so you can tailor it fully to your liking.

One of the main virtues of Pocket Casts is its synchronization system: after purchasing the app for $3.99, you can create a free account and have it sync with the iOS, Windows and web versions. Not only is the podcast artwork beautifully shown in high-resolution, but it's easy to subscribe and add certain episodes to playlists once you have subscribed to a particular show.

Small things, like a dedicated In Progress category, details the episodes you've only half-finished, while an amazing discovery network based on category, location, or podcast network makes it super simple to find the best content on the internet.

Finally, Pocket Casts can cut down the length of a show by removing silences or speeding up the playback up to three times, which is incredible useful if, like me, you subscribe to way too many shows and need to get through them as soon as possible every week.

Best for beginners

Google Play Music

Free

See on Google Play

Play Music is relatively new to the podcast scene (weird, right?), but Google's streaming music service integrated podcasts with aplomb — especially since it fits right into the existing user interface you're already accustomed to. Some of Play Music's podcast prowess is derived from the app's simplicity: a great discovery portal, and lots of choice, without overburdening the user with features. Plus, there's great Chromecast and Android Auto support built in because, well, it's Google!

Bottom-line: For the simplest experience to get started with, Google Play Music is the ideal place to listen to your podcasts. And because it's already installed on your phone — there's very little setup required!

One more thing: Play Music syncs your podcast subscriptions across devices and platforms, so if you subscribe to a bunch of great shows on your Android phone, those shows will be there when you log in through the web.

Best for bingers

Stitcher

Free

See on Google Play

It seems that Stitcher has been around forever, and on Android that is just about true. But the app has gone through some major revisions over the years, and has emerged as one of the best places to queue up a bunch of audio content for those long trips or head-down work sessions.

Even as podcasts have grown mainstream, and many apps, like Pocket Casts, have emerged to take on that burgeoning market, Stitcher still fulfils its promise of making it super easy to "stitch" a whole bunch of episodes together. The interface may not be as slick as Pocket Casts or GPM, but there's no better app for discovering new and weird shows and sitting back to listen to them.

Bottom-line: If you're looking to discover new and interesting shows and podcasts, Stitcher is still unrivalled. It has a huge database of content and, after subscribing to a few shows, Stitcher knows what you like, and will recommend some great stuff you've likely never heard.

One more thing: Stitcher isn't just about podcasts: it works with notable brands like NPR, CNN, Fox News, ESPN, and BBC to push breaking news alerts throughout the day, just like a live radio program.

Best overall

Pocket Casts

$3.99

See on Google Play

Pocket Casts for Android is, simply, worth the price. It's got one of the best interfaces for playing and discovering new shows, and Shifty Jelly, the developer, is always adding new and useful features to its new versions. Plus, those change logs are hilarious! While it does cost some money up front, you'll be happy to chose to bring your subscriptions over to Pocket Casts.

Bottom-line: Pocket Casts offers not only an amazing discovery and listening experience, but its synchronization system lets you listen to your favorite shows on iOS, Windows and the web.

One more thing: Shifty Jelly, developers of Pocket Casts, are very receptive to feedback, and are always looking to make the app as good as it can be. That's another reason to purchase Pocket Casts: it promises to receive the best and most relevant features as soon as they come out.

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1 day ago

Instagram's new gallery feature lets you showcase up to ten photos and videos

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Post more than one memory at a time without overloading your followers.

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Ever wanted to post a bunch of pictures in a row on Instagram, but felt too bad about inundating timelines? Instagram's new gallery feature lets you attached up to ten photos or videos to a post to share multiple scenes from a memory with your friends and family.

The new feature is easy to use. Simply tap on the "Select Multiple" option when creating your post and then tap up to ten existing photos or videos from your gallery. When you're finished, Instagram will publish the post to your timeline with a small dotted indicator bar on the bottom of the photo to lets your followers know there's more to see if they swipe left.

The update is available today for Instagram on Android. If you haven't seen the update already, you can grab it directly from the Google Play Store.

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1 day ago

No, Project Fi will not destroy your Google Voice account (update: that was then, this is now)

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Project Fi

Changes in the Google Voice app have some worried that Project Fi will lose features.

This article was updated in February, 2017 with new information about both Project Fi and Google Voice.

In January 2017, Google Voice was given the big update many of us using it had been waiting for. A rich user interface with things like threaded messaging and MMS for everyone, as well as a new web interface all worked to make using Google Voice easier. But for some, namely Project Fi users, it put an end to being able to use the app the way we had been using it. And to add a little salt to the wound, we've all been hearing about how Hangouts — the only option for Fi subscribers to use more than one phone — is moving away to become some strange corporate enterprise thing.

If Hangouts morphs into something else, what happens to Fi users who need Google Voice features?

A Project Fi subscriber can no longer have a traditional Google Voice account. Both systems share the same infrastructure, so tying more than one number to the same account isn't possible. Your Project Fi phone number is your Google Voice number and vice versa. Before the update, users with a Project Fi-issued phone number were able to install the Google Voice app on a different phone or a tablet so sending and receiving SMS was available using the Fi number and calls would come in or could be made using the Fi number.

This update takes that option away, leaving Hangouts as the only method to use one number across different devices. And Hangouts is going away, at least as we know it today.

We reached out to Project Fi and heard the same well-intentioned line everyone eventually received; nothing to announce, Google understands the situation, pair of aces in the wrong places and all that. But there is light at the end of the tunnel when we veer away from the official word and look to the unconfirmed but reliable sources.

Google is said to be adding the functionality Project Fi users currently have via Hangouts into the new Google Voice. That could mean a merging of Fi and Google Voice, additional features in the Project Fi app for devices with a different SIM card and phone number, or a fix for Google accounts associated with a Fi account so that they can access the Google Voice app and its features using a Fi number.

Google's messaging strategy is an unknown and can be confusing. Still, we expect they have some plan in mind for folks paying them to use Project Fi. Google Voice has been a favorite for many since it was Grand Central and is still a great way to have a second number or use the same number everywhere. We hope it stays that way.

The original text of the article follows below.

News that Google was finally pushing Project Fi invites to a handful of people led to a whole lot of users asking those lucky enough to get in on the action what the experience was like. In doing so, a screenshot appeared that suggested using Project Fi meant destroying your Google Voice account. The dialogue box from the screenshot explains you can either bring your Google Voice number over to Project Fi, or you can use a different number with a caveat explaining your current Voice number will be released if you go with a different number.

If all you know about Project Fi and Google Voice comes from that one screenshot, there'd be plenty of reason to be concerned. Fortunately, after a quick chat with the folks at Google, we know things aren't nearly as dire as they seem.

Project Fi uses the same infrastructure as Google Voice, and all of those features follow with you from Google Voice to Project Fi.

The first thing you need to know about Project Fi is how the system is built to function. Fi operates on a special hybrid network that allows users to move seamlessly between Wifi, T-Mobile, and Sprint networks, with unique pricing that lets you pay for what you use and not a penny more. The service also lets you use your Fi number on devices that aren't connected to the Fi network. You can use your Fi number to make calls, send SMS, and access call forwarding and voicemail transcripts on anything running Google Hangouts, including your desktop.

Sound familiar? That's because Project Fi uses the same infrastructure as Google Voice, and all of those features follow with you from Google Voice to Project Fi.

Project Fi

Google Voice isn't being destroyed by this new service, it's growing up and becoming Project Fi. You have the same features that work the same way, with the added bonus of being able to use the Project Fi mobile carrier service if you choose. Remember, Project Fi is month to month, so you can jump on and off the service as you please. More importantly, Google has confirmed users who stop using Fi will be able to continue using the Google Voice features in Hangouts, only now it'll be called Project Fi when setting it up on new devices. If you want access to your old Google Voice information, like call history and old voicemail, there's a button to do exactly that inside the Project Fi web interface.

So relax, Google isn't taking Voice from you. If anything, Google is doing what folks have been begging them to do for well over a year now by bringing Voice into the modern era and tacking new features onto it. If you're only casually interested in Fi and don't want to move your Voice account over, you can use another Gmail account and get a fresh number generated. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy the ride.

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1 day ago

Best science apps for kids

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Science apps for kids

Science is awesome, and with these apps your kids will learn that too!

Children are like little sponges that can soak up the world around them. While that includes the mannerisms of their parents and their environment, this is also when you have a chance to show them the wonder of science and have them get excited about it. While there are plenty of different ways to go about getting your child excited about science, you should definitely remember that there are plenty of apps out there specifically made to introduce children to the wide world of science — from learning about genetics through fun games to finding new science experiments that can be done with household supplies!

Here are the best science apps for kids:

Kid Science Amazing Experiments

Science Experiments for Kids

One of the easiest ways to get your kids intrigued about the wide world of science is by showing them some cool experiments. That's exactly what this app is made for. It has access to a bunch of different experiments that can be done safely within the confines of your home. This interactive app will first show you how to complete experiments, by having you complete them on the screen using step-by-step instructions. As you complete an experiment, the next one will become open to you.

While the app does focus on what is happening on-screen, it uses experiments that can be easily built in the real world as well. This means that your child can complete an experiment in the game, and then you can help them to recreate it in the real world. Many children learn through action, so by being involved in the experiment, they're able to see how everything works. The amazement on their little faces when they see how things happen is worth the mess just about every time.

If Kid Science Amazing Experiments is right up your child's alley, then it's also worth checking out their other educational apps. These include a variety of other science learning apps for kids, like learning body parts or more advanced experiments to try out.

Download: Kid Science Amazing Experiments (free)

Alchemy - Genetics

Alchemy - Genetics

Making learning fun is the easiest way for children to learn something new, because it keeps them interested and engaged. Alchemy-style games follow a basic premise: by combining one or more items, you can create something new. Alchemy - Genetics takes this premise and puts a little spin on it. In this game, your goal is to combine different animals in order to discover new breeds. You start with just 3 animals, with over 500 to discover. Your child will need to figure out which combination of the animals you have already discovered will allow them to find new creatures, and every animal you can unlock within the game is a real animal.

Now there isn't much instruction when you get started. You'll see a chart up at the top of the screen showing which animals you are trying to combine, with a small television screen to the right, which will show the newly discovered animal after a successful combination. At the bottom of the screen, you'll see three beakers — by tapping on them you can get instructions on how to play, as well as hints to help you find new animals. Tapping on the pink beaker to the left will give you instructions and controls for playing the game. The purple beaker in the middle will show you all the animal species that you have unlocked and are able to use in combinations. The blue beaker on the right will give you hints about animals you can unlock using the animal species you already have open to you.

While Alchemy - Genetics can be a little bit difficult to get started with, it's fun and easy to play once you get going. As your child unlocks new animal species, they will learn about animal species, traits used in genetics, and how animals can evolve into something new and strange. For anyone with a budding Biologist or Geneticist on their hands, this is a great option to continue fostering a love of Science. If you aren't a fan of ads, but your child falls in love with the game, you can get rid of them by upgrading to the full version of the game for $0.99.

Download: Alchemy - Genetics (free, premium version $0.99)

Animal Kingdom Science for Kids

Animal Kingdom Science for Kids

Animals are all around us everyday, and they're a walking, breathing example of how amazing science can actually be. If your child is constantly asking questions about animals, then this may be the app to get them more involved. Your child will have to answer questions in order to rescue animals. These questions ask things like where an Alligator moves fastest and what a Fish uses to breathe. While they will need to be able to read and answer multiple choice questions, these are not mind-bending zinger.

After they have finished a quiz, they will have rescued one of the animals available in the menagerie of beasties within the app. That animals will now show up in their Safari screen, where they can see the animals they have managed to get to safety. To unlock each of the 12 animals, they will need to complete a new quiz with new questions. While some of the questions can be a little bit tricky, this is a game that should be easily doable for those in Elementary school or who have already picked up reading without a problem.

There are a good number of ads on this app, but if your child is playing on a tablet instead of a phone, then they are far less distracting and in the way.

Download: Animal Kingdom Science for Kids (free)

Conclusion

Getting your child interested in science doesn't have to be a difficult task. After all, inquisitive little minds are always asking questions, and science can help them find the answers for themselves. Whether they need a visual experiment to see science fundamentals in action, or they're content with learning about animals via quizzes on their screen, there is definitely an app out there to help get them engaged.

Do you already have a favorite science app for your kids? Is there an excellent science app for children that we failed to mention here? Be sure to drop us a comment below and tell us all about it!

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1 day ago

Microsoft rolls out Skype Lite in India with support for biometric authentication

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Skype Lite is designed to work on slow cellular connections in India.

After Facebook Lite and YouTube Lite (which is dubbed YouTube Go), it is now Microsoft's turn to roll out a 2G-friendly version of Skype in India. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella showed off the app at an event in Mumbai earlier today, highlighting the fact that it was built at Microsoft's development facility in Hyderabad and tested extensively in India.

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1 day ago

Digital Offers: Learn to code with Python for only $22.50

Just about everything relies on some type of code nowadays. Cars are computerized; we use computers all day long, and we're glued to our smartphones from sunup to sundown. Python is a major coding language for apps and it's an excellent tool if you're wanting to enter the field of software development, especially if you want to build apps for a living.

Use code LEARN50 for additional savings! Learn More

But you can't just learn to code with Python overnight. You need training, and Python may not be offered at your college of choice. Or, you already have a full-time job and don't have the time to attend classes, day or night. You need online courses and you need to be able to take them at your leisure — even if that means it takes a couple years.

The Python Power Coder Bonus Bundle is a great way for you to get started and to learn to build apps from scratch and learn web programming, as well as other applicable skills that you can use to forge your career as an app developer or programmer. You'll get lifetime access to eight courses, totaling roughly 70 hours of content, and you'll build 17 apps during your studies.

Were you to go anywhere else for these courses, you'd end up paying over $700. But right now through Android Central Digital Offers, you'll only pay $22.50 for the whole bundle when using the code LEARN50. That's eight courses, over 600 lessons, and about 70 hours of content for over 93% off.

Save 93% on this bundle for a limited time! Learn More

It's a great time to get into the world of app development and programming for the web, but you first need the tools to get a foot in the door. Python is one of the biggest coding languages when it comes to apps and learning to use it and use it well is an invaluable asset right now. But don't pay over $700 for courses. Get the Python Power Coder Bonus Bundle for only $22.50 with code LEARN50 through Android Central Digital Offers.

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2 days ago

Best Microsoft apps for Android

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Microsoft apps have come a long way on Android.

Microsoft essentially shunned Android and iOS for several years, but with Satya Nadella taking the helm in 2014 and adopting a mobile-first stance, the company has turned its attention to bringing its apps and services to rival platforms. From heavy-hitters like Office to side projects developed by employees in their free time under the Microsoft Garage label, Microsoft has a lot to offer on Android.

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2 days ago

Telegram adds support for themes in latest update

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You can now design custom themes in Telegram.

Encrypted messaging platform Telegram has added support for themes with the v3.17 update. You can now select from three themes — the default one, a blue theme, and a dark theme — and there's also the option to design your own via a theme editor.

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2 days ago

The real sticker artists behind Allo, Google's underrated messaging app

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Mauro Gatti and Marylou Faure walk us through what the design process is like for art that's used in a messaging app.

Ever wonder who the artists are behind the digital stickers you use in your favorite chat app? I certainly have, especially after I started using Allo. The app's included Google-commissioned sticker packs are not only unique, they were designed by prominent and prolific artists, including Gemma Correll, GIF animator Cecile Dormeau, and BuzzFeed.

I managed to sneak some talk-time with two of Allo's artists, Mauro Gatti and Marylou Faure. Gatti's sticker packs include Funder the Sea, a collaboration with Stefano Meazza, while Faure's include the vibrantly colored 90s Baby and Worst Day Ever sticker packs. I talked to both about how they each became artists, what their respective processes in designing, and what it was like to design for a messaging app.

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3 days ago

WhatsApp continues to be way better than Allo with its latest update

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Happy birthday, WhatsApp! What'd you get me?

A ton of people around the world use WhatsApp, and have for quite a while now. What started as a simple SMS replacement app has grown tremendously over the last eight years, and now does way more than just text. According to WhatsApp, 50 billion messages are sent each day alongside 760 million video and 80 million gifs. The point is, this app is a big deal even if you aren't using it.

To help celebrate eight years of improvement, WhatsApp is improving the Status feature. Here's how it's going to work, according to the WhatsApp blog:

As soon as you open the new Status tab, you'll see updates from friends and family who are WhatsApp users in your address book. You can reply privately to your friends' updates and control who sees what you share. All updates expire after 24 hours. And like other types of messages, you can mute or unmute contacts at any time.

Status messages can be text, video, gif, and it can all be improved with drawing or emoji like any other message. For people that live inside WhatsApp, this is almost like turning the Status page into its own little social network. It's an exciting change, and you can expect to see it rolling out to users all over the world this week.

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3 days ago

Great SAT Prep apps for Android to get you ready for test day

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These apps will help you to succeed on the big test day.

For many high school students, one of the biggest tests they will ever take is the SAT. It can cement their chances of getting into the university of their dreams, or derail those plans. While the SAT can be plenty stressful, by employing a solid studying strategy you can do everything to prepare yourself for the big day. These apps will make sure that you have a solid grasp on what you need to know on the big day.

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3 days ago

Learn to code your own Android app for less than $40

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Google Play is full of great apps, but not all of them always meet your needs perfectly. Ever have an idea for an app that you wish existed, but had no idea how to make it become a reality? Wish that you could make it for yourself, but don't know where to even begin? Don't spend all your time researching the things you need to get started, and instead start right here.

Save an extra 10% with code AC10 Learn More

The Ultimate Android N Development Bundle is a great set of resources that will get you right on your way. With five different courses that start you at the beginning and take you through the steps, you'll be well on your way to coding the app of your dreams, at your own pace.

  • Android 7: Master App Development - Beginner 1 - $79 Value
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Learn to develop for much less! Learn More

Normally, this great bundle would set you back over $400 but right now you can pay a fraction of that. You can grab all five courses for just $39 right now, but if you use the code AC10 you can save an additional 10% from that price. This offer won't last long, so grab it while you can!

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5 days ago

Let's talk about Andromeda

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Andromeda and Fuchsia look to be the mating of Chrome and Android, just not the way anyone thought it would be.

I got to completely geek out when Daniel Matte wrote up the things he found about Andromeda while looking through some Google source code earlier this week. It reinforced a lot of the things I thought when I first looked through all the code in August 2016, caught a lot more things that I overlooked, and examined the new code. I think Matte's assessments are pretty close to the mark here. Not because they confirmed some of my original thoughts, but because it points out things I got wrong. Or at least I think I got them wrong. Everything about Andromeda or Fuchsia is still just educated guessing.

More: 'Fuchsia' operating system project is interesting, lacking details that make it matter

At this point, I think we have a pretty good idea of where Google is going with Andromeda, Fuchsia, Android and Chrome. The future looks like it will be all about consolidating everything without making things the same. I've been digging and chatting and poking things for a couple days and that's my conclusion.

The Pixel C should have shipped with Fuchsia. Maybe the next one will.

Fuchsia is where we need to start. Fuchsia is a way to replace Linux and become an operating system for Chrome and Android to run on. Android is kind of weird. It can be built as an all-in-one OS waiting for some hardware support to be added making it ready to run, or it can also be a runtime(s) and support files for applications. The Nexus 6P is using Android as an operating system, the BlackBerry Classic is using Android as an application platform atop another operating system. If you were to hack Google's apps (Google Play, Play Services, etc) onto the Classic it could do everything the Nexus 6P can do when it comes to Android apps, even though it's not using "Android" as the operating system.

Fuchsia will work with the Android runtime and support everything using compatible APIs. In other words, we won't see any difference but the people developing Android will.

The future where everything is the same but different makes sense when done right.

Fuchsia will also power Andromeda. We have already seen stage one of Andromeda when Google Play came to some Chromebooks. Right now, Chrome OS is basically a user interface and application platform running on a fairly standard Linux kernel and middleware. If that sounds confusing, just think of Chrome OS as something like Ubuntu. That's close enough for what we're talking about here. Android apps run in Chrome natively, but not really natively. There's a layer that talks to Android apps and talks to that middleware through Chrome that makes it seamless to the user. That layer is step one of Andromeda.

Fuchsia will work with the Chrome application platform and framework and support everything with compatible APIs. In other words, we won't see any difference but the people developing Chromium will.

It looks like Andromeda and Fuchsia is a hybrid of Android and Chrome, but not the way people thought it would be. It's the software underneath it all that's being changed to support everything. And that's about as awesome as it gets for people who work with Android and Chrome every day.

More: How Google can use Andromeda to conquer everything

You and I are end users for Android and Chrome. We appreciate the changes (or hate them) to the operating system but are familiar with them both and choose to use them instead of something else. Changing that and offering something that looks and feels different is risky. Keep giving people the things they want to buy.

A universal OS is hard because not all screens are the same size.

Developers benefit from having one operating system that powers both platforms. As things advance, the lines between what a Chrome app is and what an Android app is will blur until there is only one app that runs on both. Developers can target the mobile, touch-friendly version or the full pointer-driven version, or both. This eliminates the biggest drawback to what Ubuntu and Microsoft are doing because a universal interface just won't work on a 4.5-inch screen and a 30-inch monitor.

Or everyone thinking about it all and guessing could be completely wrong. Wouldn't be the first time.

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