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3 months ago

You can now send Android APKs to your friends via Allo

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It's not full-featured SMS support, but the new file sharing features could help tide over Allo users for a little while longer.

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Allo users, I know you're feeling it — any time Google announces a new feature for the nascent chat app, you're jumping around, hoping it's that one feature you've been waiting for a while now.

Unfortunately, today is not that day. There is still no word about the oft-requested SMS integration making its way to Allo, but at least now you can attach documents to your messages. With the latest update, Allo chatters can now send PDFs, Microsoft Word files, compressed files, audio files, and even Android APKs. You can use this feature by tapping the paperclip icon in the menu screen above the message input window. This will launch your device's file explorer.

Google announced in the same blogpost that Brazilian users will also get the Smart Smiley feature in Portuguese, which uses machine learning to pick the most relevant emojis and stickers.

The update will be rolling out to your Android device this week.

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3 months ago

There's so much more to Android O than we know right now

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Android O

You may not be impressed by the first Android O Dev Preview, but don't lose hope.

We've said it time and time again, but it requires reiteration when a new Android Developer Preview is announced: don't judge an entire upcoming Android platform update by its first Developer Preview release. Android O just launched officially in the form of a Developer Preview that can be downloaded and flashed to Pixel or late-model Nexus, and in typical Google fashion what we're seeing here isn't even close to finished yet.

Just like the Android N Developer Preview that kicked off this time last year, the Android O Developer Preview is, in terms of the interface and features you can actually see, basically the same as the Android 7.1.2 Nougat software that Android Beta Program testers just updated to. Even the behind-the-scenes changes in the Developer Preview that really matter to developers are "small," at least by the scale we usually see in Android updates.

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3 months ago

How to use indoor maps in Google Maps

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Easily navigate malls and department stores with indoor maps.

One of the more useful additions to Google Maps is the ability to navigate within malls, museums, libraries, or sports venues. The feature is accessible in 25 countries, and Google maintains a list of prominent locations for which indoor navigation is available.

If you're looking to find the shortest route to a particular store within a mall or navigating a gargantuan museum and are in need of a layout guide, the indoor maps feature comes in handy.

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3 months ago

Google News & Weather now gives you way more headlines, because content

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The app's new motto is "just keep scrolling."

If you're already Googling your news every morning, maybe it's time to consider downloading Google's News & Weather app instead. The app received a feature bump from its maker. You can now peruse through 200 news stories at a time with More Headlines by simply scrolling on and on.

The More Headlines section loads as you scroll, offering a seemingly endless stream of articles. The News & Weather app will prioritize displaying AMP articles since more websites have adopted the format. Google also mentioned that the displayed content in the app will "stay algorithmic," meaning that everything from which articles are shown to the sources chosen will depend on an algorithm churning in the background. The more you use it, the better it gets at finding you news.

The Google News & Weather app is available for both Android and iOS. Quickly, now — this may be your only chance to get an iPhone-loving friend on the Google bandwagon.

The app update will roll out over the next few days.

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3 months ago

Android 7.1.2 beta 2 for Pixel C adds Pixel launcher, brand new multitasking interface

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Android 7.1.2 Beta for Pixel C

A great sign of cohesion for the old Pixel C getting with the times.

Android 7.1.2 beta 2 has started rolling out for Pixels and Nexuses, bringing some older devices up to speed with some new features. Sliding under the radar, at first, was the Pixel C, which actually seems to have received the largest changes. The latest beta release includes the Pixel launcher, as well as a brand new multitasking interface that makes multi-window management a bit more natural and altogether better looking.

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3 months ago

Best Keyboard for Android

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Update, March 2017: We've kept the listings the same — Gboard is still tops — but we've updated the layout and photos.

Best overall

Gboard

Free

See on Google Play

Google originally designed the Gboard for the iPhone, and they took their time making it available for Android. The wait was worth it, as Google Keyboard has been rebranded and updated with great new features including integrated web search, Google Translate and GIF search. Gboard is completely free, supports gesture typing for both individual words and entire sentences, a bounty of languages, and a modest choice of themes.

The Gboard employs Google's own speech-to-text engine for voice dictation, and while it might not be the best at predictive text, it does learn from your typed data across Google's apps and services. If you've been using the Google Keyboard, you should check the Google Play store to update your phone to the Gboard.

Bottom-line: Gboard has pretty much every feature you'd want from a touch keyboard, including the ability to quickly search Google from virtually anywhere in your phone. It's fast, reliable, and minimalist, with theme options to tweak in the settings.

One more thing: Go into the keyboard settings and turn on the G button for quick access to Google search. You won't regret it!

Why Gboard is the best

The Google Keyboard was already our favorite keyboard for Android, but the new features added with the Gboard update simply makes the best even better. They just keep adding all the smart features that Android users have enjoyed from other keyboards and wrap it all in a quick and responsive (and free!) package.

You have the option of tap-typing or swiping around for words, one-handed or two. It features built-in search powered by Google, and also employs Google's speech-to-text technology, which will only get better fine-tuned as it's built out. And it even incorporates GIFs, which can be found alongside the full suite of Android emojis. If your phone doesn't already come with the Google Keyboard pre-installed, do your thumbs a favor and check it out.

Best for predictions

Swiftkey

Free

See on Google Play

For years, SwiftKey soared above Google's included keyboard, and it did — and still does — come pre-installed on many a phone and tablet. SwiftKey's prediction methods, called the "fluency engine," has made it the keyboard that many users and editors alike keep coming back to. SwiftKey has been pre-loaded on millions of devices over the years, including on Samsung's flagship phones.

While SwiftKey used to be a paid app, the keyboard itself went free in 2014, instead having its users pay for themes. SwiftKey has led the keyboard pack for a while, and was our readers' top response when we asked which keyboard they used. And it's still a great option in 2016.

Bottom-line: SwiftKey is a great option for those looking for an alternative to the stock Google keyboard.

One more thing: On the topic of themes, there are over 80 of them to choose from in all sorts of colors and styles to fit your personality.

Best for gesture typing

Swype

$0.99

See on Google Play

Swype is to SwiftKey as GM is to Ford. Both are established, respected, feature-rich keyboards. Swype allows you to swipe out words or whole sentences, and also supports typing in two languages at once, for bilingual users. Swype offers a free trial version, but the full version is only a dollar, and themes are an additional two dollars apiece.

Swype ties into Android's Accessibility features for TalkBack and Explore By Touch, which make Swype a keyboard vision-impaired users can learn more easily on their own. Copy/Cut/Paste functions are embedded as gestures in Swype's keyboard, too. Swype all the things!

Bottom-line: Swype originally introduced the world to fluid, swipe-based typing, and is still a quality keyboard for Android.

One more thing: Swype is great for sports fans, offering offers themes, including Major League Soccer themes.

Conclusion

There are a lot of great keyboards on Android, and that's part of the platform's charm. But there are only three that you need to keep in the back of your mind, and can reliably switch between and feel satisfied. Gboard improves with every update, and SwiftKey is in active development, superseding our wildest prediction... predictions.

Best overall

Gboard

Free

See on Google Play

Google originally designed the Gboard for the iPhone, and they took their time making it available for Android. The wait was worth it, as Google Keyboard has been rebranded and updated with great new features including integrated web search, Google Translate and GIF search. Gboard is completely free, supports gesture typing for both individual words and entire sentences, a bounty of languages, and a modest choice of themes.

The Gboard employs Google's own speech-to-text engine for voice dictation, and while it might not be the best at predictive text, it does learn from your typed data across Google's apps and services. If you've been using the Google Keyboard, you should check the Google Play store to update your phone to the Gboard.

Bottom-line: Gboard has pretty much every feature you'd want from a touch keyboard, including the ability to quickly search Google from virtually anywhere in your phone. It's fast, reliable, and minimalist, with theme options to tweak in the settings.

One more thing: Go into the keyboard settings and turn on the G button for quick access to Google search. You won't regret it!

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3 months ago

Get an eight-course Ethical Hacking bundle for only $39

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It seems like every other day there's another high-profile hack that puts thousands of users' information into the hands of people who shouldn't have it. To safeguard against these types of attacks, companies hire Ethical Hackers who expose security flaws. These Ethical Hackers are in high demand, and the profession can be quite lucrative,

Get eight Ethical Hacking courses for only $39 Learn more

Because this profession requires a broad range of knowledge, the courses needed to become an Ethical Hacker are generally quite expensive. Right now, however, Windows Central Digital Offers has a pretty amazing deal. You can get this 45-hour bundle for only $39; that's 96% off the regular price of $1,273.

The eight courses in the bundle include:

  • Ethical Hacker Bootcamp for 2017
  • A to Z Ethical Hacking Course
  • Learn Burp Suite for Advanced Web Penetration Testing
  • Complete Ethical Hacking/Penetration Testing Course
  • Intro to Ethical Hacking Certification
  • Real World Hacking & Penetration Testing
  • Learn Kali Linux and Hack Android Mobile Devices
  • Learn Hacking/Penetration Testing Using Android From Scratch

Don't worry about your skill level, as these eight courses take you from the basics to advanced tools used in the profession. After completing these courses, you'll be more than ready to jump into the world of Ethical Hacking.

This Ethical Hacking bundle is 96% off! Learn more

Ready to take the plunge into a new, lucrative career? Ethical Hackers are in high demand, and this course contains everything you need to get started. Don't wait too long, as this amazing deal won't last forever.

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3 months ago

India's leading mobile wallet Paytm heads to Canada to facilitate bill payments

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Paytm lets Canadian customers make bill payments.

After crossing 200 million customers in India, the country's leading mobile wallet Paytm is now making its way to Canada. The app allows customers to pay for utility, cable, and cell phone bills, with the platform supporting thousands of service providers. Customers will also receive a bill reminder option ten days before a bill is due, followed by periodic reminders as the due date draws near. The app promises "100% Service Assurance," stating it will only debit money from your account after the bill is paid.

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3 months ago

Gmail for desktop now lets you stream video attachments

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You no longer have to download video attachments to view them.

If you've ever received a video attachment in Gmail, the only option was to download the file to view it. That's changing today, as Google is now rolling out the option to stream video attachments from the Gmail desktop client.

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3 months ago

Google has ANOTHER new messaging app, because of course it does

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I kind of like this better than Allo, not gonna lie.

The guttural moan that escaped my face hole when I saw a new messaging app from Google in the Play Store, entirely separate from Allo and Duo and Hangouts and Google Voice and everything else Google has elsewhere, was enough to send my dog running from the room. Can we get 10 minutes where Google seems focused on delivering a single cohesive messaging experience to its users please? Do we really need another app for talking to people with Google accounts?

It turns out, the answer is yes. I fully expected to hate this experience and spend the next 500 words giving Google hell for wasting everyone's time, but I'm pretty sure this is actually something I'm going to love using with my friends.

It's called Supersonic, and it's not technically a Google app. In its current form, it'll never be a part of the core Google experience. The app itself is under the publishing name Area 120, because it's the creation of Google employees inside of an internal incubator program for building new and exciting apps. At its core, Supersonic is a walkie-talkie style voice chat app for your friends. You hold down the mic, speak, and the message is transcribed to text with a voice recording attached.

This is where things get kind of interesting. If you're actively chatting with a friend, those messages arrive in real-time and the voice autoplays as though you're on speakerphone with them. This means you can either send a quick message to be read later, or have a quick nearly real-time chat without a constant voice connection. It's less data being used, and if you're in a noisy place you can read instead of listen. You can also message in a group, which can be especially handy when you have chatty friends and are sick to death of Facebook Messenger.

This app will let me chat in a slightly more personal way with my closest friends

It also helps that the text translation is real time and remarkably accurate, given some of the Google text hilarity we've seen in the past. Part of the text transcription includes converting some of your words to emoji, which is either deeply frustrating or incredibly cool depending on your age. If you like this feature, and would like more emoji, the app allows you to submit phrase translations you'd like to see in the future.

While having another messaging app on my phone is the absolute last thing I wanted right now, I'm going to keep using Supersonic for a bit. Unlike Allo, I don't have to give a phone number. Supersonic isn't limited to a number of devices, and I don't have to import my whole Hangouts list if I don't want to. This app lets me chat in a slightly more personal way with my closest friends, and while that would be a nice thing to see built into one of my existing apps at some point this is actually kinda nice.

Check out Supersonic on Google Play

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3 months ago

Starbucks finally launches its mobile app in India

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You can now pay for your favorite beverages right from your phone.

Starbucks has rolled out its mobile app in India, allowing you to quickly see your rewards and pay using your linked Starbucks card. You have the option of managing all the cards linked to your account, adding funds to your card, and paying for coffee and other items with your phone by scanning a barcode.

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3 months ago

WhatsApp brings back the classic Status feature after complaints about the new one

10

WhatsApp is now calling status update About because Stories is actually Status. Got all that?

The new About feature is actually the old Status feature.

If you're a WhatsApp veteran you'll know that until recently the service used the passive and often unwieldy (but extremely popular) status update to give friends and family an idea of what its users were up to. That changed with the proliferating Snapchatification of all of Facebook's properties when WhatsApp added a new Status, lifting Stories straight from the popular ephemeral messaging platform.

But after considerable pushback, WhatsApp has announced that it is adding the original status update back, calling it 'About', since Status is already taken. Beta users can access the new About feature through Settings —> Profile, which will then show in the chat window just as it did before. The feature is meant to live alongside Stories Status, and only happened because thousands of people submitted complaints to the company.

Despite the complaints, WhatsApp continues to be one of the most popular messaging apps in the world, with over 1.2 billion people using it every month.

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3 months ago

Google Family Link finally brings broad parental controls to Android phones

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Parents will soon have new tools to manage their child's phone access.

Google is making a huge step toward letting families manage Google accounts and phones of children in the house, moving well beyond Google Play Family Library. Family Link is Google's new system for parents to create Google accounts for minors (under 13 years old, officially) who technically can't have their own accounts, and when attached to an Android phone the parents get all sorts of great tools to manage their use.

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3 months ago

There's reason to be skeptical of Samsung's new 'commitment' to monthly security updates

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A generic form response from Samsung's 'security team' does not mean what you think it means.

Building on the frustration of the U.S. unlocked Galaxy S7 still not having Nougat while other models are updated, a story is swirling this week about Samsung Mobile Security saying in an email that it will "commit" to updates every month for unlocked phones. As great as it would be, there's plenty of reason to be skeptical about the possibilities of Samsung flipping the switch to a full-on commitment to release these updates monthly — even for a single device in a single country.

Going back as far as August 2015, Samsung has made a commitment to streamlining the security patch update process, going so far as to list devices that would receive the updates and start surfacing the patch level in its software. We were rightfully excited back in 2015 — then everyone forgot about it as things got back to normal and various phones and tablets skipped patches for months at a time.

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3 months ago

Google I/O 2017 preview: Everything you need to know about Google's dev conference

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What we expect to see from this year's Google I/O.

Google I/O 2017 will be here before you know it. Everyone's involved: Google itself, presenters, hardware partners, and anyone else who will make the three-day event awesome is busy getting ready. We're going to have fun and learn stuff. That's the perfect combo.

Last year's Google I/O had some logistics problems that shouldn't return in 2017.

2017's I/O is going to be at Mountain View's Shoreline Amphitheatre like it was in 2016. That caused a few, ahem, difficulties last year and we learned that even Google is unable to control the weather and figure out you need more than 50 chairs to seat 200 people. I'm sure they did a good bit of post op and think they have a better handle on things this year. I know we do and we're already talking about how we can do our jobs better at this type of event.

Of course, the most important things to come out of Google I/O will be seeing the direction Google's products will be taking for the year. We typically see several announcements that have everyone shifting gears and trying something new, but most of Google's products are mature and won't see any major changes on the user-facing side. When the event is over, some will be excited and some will be disappointed, so it will be the same as every year on that front. But make no mistake; Google will be pushing Android and Chrome forward while they chase the next billion users.

Android O

By Evan-Amos - Public Domain

There's no way Google can get through the week without saying something about the next version of Android.

I expect to see some early demos on the big screen, as well as just enough information about what's changing to get developer interest piqued. But we're not going to be flying home from the Bay playing with any type of beta software.

Expect Google to announce Android O without giving it a name, announce a beta program without giving it a date, and announce that it will be the best Android version yet. It's early in the year so all we really need is a good bit of hyperbole.

Security

There is so much misinformation being spread around (much of it on purpose) about phone hacking that Google almost has to address this area.

Expect Google to affirm that the encryption methods used to secure your data inside Android haven't been cracked by anyone no matter what any ex-pats may say on Twitter. But they will recognize the threat we're seeing from leaked documents and how the focus has changed. A shift from widespread surveillance then pouring through it all has moved to targeted methods to attempt to gather intel one phone at a time. That's a very big challenge for Google, Apple, and Microsoft to tackle and will mean some changes have to come.

Now would be a good time to encrypt Gmail from end to end, Google.

VR

Daydream is just the beginning. Google needed to make VR inexpensive and comfortable before they could take the next step and we're already seeing enormous amounts of work from the Android and Chromium teams when it comes to VR and AR.

Strap yourself in because VR is going to be bigger than ever.

We can say with confidence that Google wants to be able to bring rich mixed reality content to your eyeballs via the web, on every screen you own. How they plan to do this is still a mystery, but the first steps — a VR web experience through Chrome for Android — are already in place. More importantly, developer tools that make it easier to build a VR web are a priority and alliances, like the Khronos Group, are making the technology ready for content.

The success of products like the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR mean that the market for people who won't or can't spend that much money is super important. Google and Facebook and Samsung and Oculus all competing to try and outdo each other is great news for us.

You'll be able to get your fix for everything VR from Google I/O both here at Android Central and VRHeads, so you won't miss a thing!

Google in your house

Google has been thirsty to get into our living room for years. The combination of Chromecast, Google Home, and Android TV give them the best shot of doing it that they've had.

Google knows the edge they have when it comes to Assistant. It's part of an internet writer's job to remind you that Alexa can do 11 more things than Assistant right now, but that's the tiny picture. Google has a mountain of your data. When combined with the mountains of data from everyone else, they have the most difficult part of training an AI system to be smart. They just have to figure out how to present it while it's learning so we want to keep using it. Amazon doesn't have this, but Facebook does and they will soon make their play in the same space. Google needs to be one step ahead here.

One of the bigger pieces of the puzzle that often gets overlooked is Android TV. With Nougat, Android TV has most everything it needs to become (and replace) your cable box and DVR. Potential changes planned with Android O could fill in the rest and the right hardware partner could mean Google is at your cable company, too. Google routers and TV boxes can provide everything we want from an entertainment package and Google gets more of that precious data they need to survive.

Android Wear

Google was very smart in how they handled the Android Wear 2.0 update and it reminds us that they are serious about wearables, even if we don't get news on them every day.

Wear 2.0 took the best ideas about how computing on your wrist can be done and implemented them without adding extra cruft to a system designed for very limited hardware. From first experiences, it looks like they were successful and Wear 2.0 is part of what it will take to make smart watches compelling again.

Wear 2.0 is good enough to make us want smartwatches again and Google is going to make sure we know it.

What's missing (and what we saw from Apple) is the right fitness partner. Names like Nike can make a platform mainstream as long as the initial release is good enough to get people to buy the next release. Any new platform, whether it be on your wrist, on your TV or in your car, is instantly caught in the worst Catch-22 situation available: Content is needed to attract buyers and buyers are needed to attract content creators.

We know companies like LG can make the hardware and Android Wear can power it all. Now Google needs to make sure everyone else knows and some big news for wearables at their annual developer conference would be a smart way to get started.

The Web

Google has some amazing products and projects for use on the web in general. Some we use every day and others that we only know the buzzwords surrounding them. And plenty of others we don't know about at all.

Besides the obligatory news and improvements for advertisers and analytics (someone has to make all the money so everyone else can have some fun), we might get to hear some really cool stuff about Tensorflow and deep learning. And there's a lot there to talk about, covering a wide range of spaces like cancer research, cars that drive themselves, or even something as mundane as finding files on your Google Drive faster.

The Cloud is a platform and Google knows it. And it will take everything Google can do to wrest it away from Amazon and Microsoft.

These and other web technologies Google has at work all mix into another area where google would love to get a stronger hold — Internet As A Service. Amazon and Microsoft have a tight grip on the market because they offer great products and services. Google has great products and services of their own and as they further develop and work together, we'll see more and more ways Google can provide what a business needs for data services.

There is a lot of money to be made here. Like every company, Google wants their chunk of it.

Everything else

Every department at Google will have something worth seeing and hearing about at Google I/O. Hearing about some of them, like Android and Chrome, is a given, but there will certainly be a surprise or two. Last year, Firebase came out of nowhere (not really, but tech press wasn't ready) and stole the show with the way it makes everything easier for people developing for the future.

Who knows what this year's sleeper hit might be? That's anyone's guess, but you can bet that we'll be itching to talk about everything we get to see at Google I/O 2017.

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