News Weekly: Google rebrands Bard, Gemini arrives in Canada, and more

Google Gemini multimodal hero render
(Image credit: Google)

This is Android Central's News Weekly, your go-to source for a concise roundup of the week's most significant tech stories. This is where we delve into the top headlines that provide the latest developments and innovations contributing to the digital landscape. 

This week, we talk about Google rebranding Bard to Gemini, Gemini making its way to Canada, a pilot program to detect financial fraud apps, a feature that showed up surprisingly with the new Android Beta update, and a sneak-peek at an alleged Pixel Fold 2.

Google ditches 'Bard'

Google Gemini screen overlay ui

(Image credit: Google)

Google has decided to milk the Gemini Era concept by letting go of Bard and rebranding its AI chatbot as Gemini this week. When you access Google's chatbot from the web or through the new mobile app, you'll see new Gemini branding with the same UI below it. Google wants its AI features to be all-encompassing under one umbrella  — Gemini.

The new mobile app will allow users to do much of what they can already do with Google Assistant, potentially signaling a shift away from Google Assistant.

"For the past year, Bard has been the best way for people to directly experience and collaborate with our AI models," said Sissie Hsiao, Google's vice president of Gemini Experiences and Assistant. "Gemini represents our most capable family of models. So, to reflect the advanced technology at its core, Bard will now simply be called Gemini."

Along with Gemini, the company is also launching Gemini Advanced, available with Ultra 1.0, starting today as part of a new Google One AI Premium subscription costing $20 a month. 

Google's putting the 'Eh' in AI 

Google Gemini Workspace

(Image credit: Google)

Pun intended! After what felt like a century but was a year, Google is finally expanding its AI chatbot Gemini to Canada. Starting February 8, Gemini will be available in English and Quebecois French, along with 40 other languages worldwide, via the Gemini website. "So we know that Canadians have been waiting for this moment with anticipation, and I can tell you that we've been working really hard as a team to make it happen on a personal level," said Jules Walker, product manager for Gemini Experiences. 

While we are not sure why Google took so long to bring Gemini (formerly Bard) to Canada, several speculations suggest that this could be due to the soured relationship between the company and the Canadian Government as a consequence of the Online News Act (Bill C-18).

Walker said that addressing the issues regarding the C-18 bill has paved the way for Google to launch Gemini in Canada, in addition to consulting experts, policymakers, and regulators across the different sectors.

While folks in the U.S. get to try out the Gemini app, Canadians have to wait a bit more. 

New program to guard Android users from Phishing

Android malware code

(Image credit: Jay Bonggolto / Android Central)

We see a lot of phishing scams doing the rounds lately, be it an email link or an SMS asking you to make a payment to a certain website or apps that sneakily take your data and often exploit the users. 

Earlier this week, Google introduced a pilot program to combat financial fraud by preventing the sideloading of apps to tackle financial fraud issues affecting Android users. The security feature will be gradually introduced to Android users in Singapore in the coming weeks, and if all goes well, we can expect a wider rollout later on.

Google, along with Singapore's Cyber Security Agency, is trying to create an added layer of protection from Android apps that ask for permissions, often exploited in phishing attacks. It will serve as a real-time check on four key permissions, such as reading and receiving SMS messages, accessibility service, and notification listening service. This security upgrade comes as a part of Google Play Protect.

Android 14 QPR3 Beta 1 with a surprise AI trick

Android 14 Easter egg on a Pixel 8 Pro

(Image credit: Android Central)

The new Android 14 QPR3 Beta 1 (build AP21.240119.009) rolled out to eligible devices on Wednesday, February 7. With this update, beta testers can now check out the Circle to Search feature, recently released for Google Pixel 8 users with the new feature update. 

This circle-to-search feature remains exclusive to the Pixel 8 series. However, with the latest QPR release, all eligible devices in the beta program will get to test it out. Users with a Pixel 5a, Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6a, Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, Pixel 7a, Pixel 8, Pixel 8 Pro, Pixel Fold, or Pixel Tablet are in for a surprise. 

This update will roll out in the next few days; however, if you want to test it out right now, you can join the Android Beta Program, and in your Pixel's Settings, head over to System, then tap System update to install it.

Pixel Fold 2 leak spilled the beans on the device's looks

An alleged look at an early Pixel Fold 2 prototype compared against the original Pixel Fold.

(Image credit: Android Authority)

This week also saw what may be the first major Pixel Fold 2 leak. Android Authority has allegedly obtained a photo of the Pixel Fold 2, which shows changes to the phone's rear panel. In the image, we noticed that the device's camera shelf shows a square instead of a horizontal bar. The Fold 2's cameras are stacked in two small pill-shaped rows, with its LED flash nestled at the top right. Allegedly, the island may host four sensors: a primary wide-angle lens, an ultrawide lens, a periscope telephoto lens, and an "unknown" fourth sensor. The speculation is that this fourth sensor could be the temperature sensor the Pixel 8 Pro features.

An unnamed source told Android Authority that the device's "cover screen is narrower" and the internal display's aspect ratio "is closer to a square."

Continuing internally, the source states the Pixel Fold 2's prototype unit features a "display cutout" in the top right corner of its display for the camera. How it may look wasn't detailed.

There have also been speculations about Google giving up the Tensor G3 for the Fold 2 in favor of a newer shipset. However, only time will tell if any of these rumors hold true. 

Those are some of the biggest stories from this week. Meanwhile, here are some other stories from that are worth catching up on:

Nandika Ravi
News Editor

Nandika Ravi is an Editor for Android Central. Based in Toronto, after rocking the news scene as a Multimedia Reporter and Editor at Rogers Sports and Media, she now brings her expertise into the Tech ecosystem. When not breaking tech news, you can catch her sipping coffee at cosy cafes, exploring new trails with her boxer dog or leveling up in the gaming universe.