Building on its recent expansion of supported apps, Chromecast will now interact with Google Play on the web for Music, Movies and TV shows. Similar to what we've seen happen in the new Youtube player, you'll now find a "Cast" button in the web interface for these two Google Play properties, making it simple to send content from your computer to the Chromecast.
In order for this functionality to work, you'll need to have the "Google Cast" Chrome extension installed to your browser, and then look for the Cast button in Play Music or Play Movies & TV. The option showed up for us after a refresh of the Google Play Music page, and worked right away. Note that the Chromecast won't respond to your computer's system volume, but rather the volume slider in the web page, found next to the Cast button.
It's one more step in making both the Chromecast and the Play Store on the web more powerful, and we love having multiple choices when it comes to pushing content from one screen to another.
Currently available for Android 4.1+ in U.S., Canada and Europe
Cover, a lock screen replacement that launched in private beta to much interest back in October, has available today in the Play Store. The app, which is currently available for free, hopes to offer a more feature-rich lock screen on your device that adapts to your habits and uses to offer you information and apps you want to see, when you want to see them. The goal is similar to that of Aviate, but for your lock screen rather than your home screen. As you can see in the launch video above, the idea is quite interesting.
From the private beta to going public, Cover says that many improvements to battery life, car detection and device compatibility have been made. New tutorials, customization options and the ability to share your Cover setup to social media have also been added.
The app is currently available for users running Android 4.1 and above in the U.S., Canada and Europe, with availability expanding down to Android 2.3 and numerous other countries soon. If you've had your eye on Cover and didn't have a chance to get in on the private beta, you can find it now at the Play Store link above.
The Dec. 12 Deal of the Day is the Seidio CONVERT Combo w/ Metal Kickstand for LG Nexus 4. Eliminate the need for two different cases with this CONVERT Combo. Put on the first layer, the SURFACE case (with kickstand), when using your Nexus 4 everyday. When you're in tough conditions put on the rugged skin and skeleton and securely hold your device wherever you go with the Locking Holster.
Customers to be notified proactively of unlocked status, get devices unlocked for free
The CTIA has announced today it has come to an agreement with the FCC regarding cellphone unlocking. The five largest carriers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular — have signed-on with a deal that increases the transparency and improves the process of unlocking phones in the country.
The full list of six steps towards more consumer-friendly unlocking, which is quite extensive and can be found after the break, will be adopted by each of the five largest carriers and begin to be implemented within three months. The basic idea behind the guidelines follows right in line with what the FCC proposed the CTIA consider just one month ago, including clear policies posted on the carrier's unlocking process, responding to unlock requests within two days and unlocking devices without a fee.
The big sticking point between the wireless group and governing body was the proactive notification of customers that their devices are ready to be unlocked at the end of their contracts, which seems to now be included in the guidelines.
When Motorola started updating device to Android 4.4 KitKat, it also slipped in an updated camera app that gave better control over focus and exposure with that little reticle that turns green when you're in focus. (Jerry wrote about it in detail here back in November.) Today, Motorola updated the app in Google Play to keep everything on the same track.
The official changelog reads thusly:
Manual control of focus and exposure
Locked exposure during Panorama capture
Enabled additional language support
So the focus stuff we already knew about — and that's really the main thing you'll notice if you've not already been on the newer camera app. Regardless, Motorola's doing the right thing here, offloading system apps and keeping them updated in Google Play.
Add a little on-demand holiday cheer to any photo you take
The latest update to the Google+ app (and therefore the Photos app) lets you add on-demand animated snowfall to any picture you take. If you've been using Google+ to share photos lately and have "Auto Awesome" effects turned on you may notice many of your holiday-themed pictures adding snowfall and twinkling highlights automatically, but you can now do that under your own direction with the latest update.
Simply grab the new version of Google+, rolling out gradually today, and view one of your pictures in the app (or the Phtoos app, same thing). Give your phone a little shake while viewing the photo full-screen, and you'll see the same falling snow animation that was applied by Auto Awesome. Shake your phone again, and you'll save that new version of the photo and can share it out to your circles.
It's a fun little holiday-themed update to the app, and we're sure more than a few people will take advantage of the new feature.
Direct messages from strangers require extra step before receiving
Following a general rumble of expectation for weeks, Instagram has just launched its own private messaging service. With the latest update to version 5 of the app, you can now send images and videos directly to individuals and groups rather than your entire follower base.
You'll be able to select where your image goes — to "Followers" or "Direct" — after you've taken and edited your picture or video, and if you select Direct you'll have a choice of sending to just one or several people you choose. Once sent, you'll see an indication underneath the picture of who has seen and liked the photo, along with a standard Instagram comment thread underneath. It's the same Instagram experience you know, but with a smaller audience.
You can go straight into the Direct portion of the app with a new inbox button in the top left of the home screen, where you'll see both read and unread messages, along with "Direct Requests" from people that you don't follow. The latest update is already live in the Play Store, so have at it.
Lists are inescapable this time of year, and Google today announced the winners of its "Players' Choice: Top Google Play Apps and Games" poll.
The categories included "most addictive game," "best Google app" and "best franchise game," among others, Some of the winners you likely know. Some might be your introduction to something new and special. Check out the list after the break, and be sure to swing by the collection on Google Play. And while you're at it, there's still time to nominate your favorite hardware and software in our year-end awards, too.
Google today announced that it is (for better or worse) finally going to get rid of that annoying "show images" button in Gmail.
The gist is that embedded images will be routed through Google's severs and then transcoded, ensuring you won't get hit with any malware. If you're worried about bandwidth — or just don't want to fix something that's not broken for you in the first place — you'll be able to keep the status quo in the settings.
The web version of Gmail is up first, and the mobile apps will see this feature early next year.