Will Verduzco · Feb 5, 2014 at 06:00 pm

Google Issues Another Round of First Party Android App Updates with New Versions of Maps, Search, Newsstand, Hangouts, and Drive

Just yesterday, we took a look at Android’s latest platform statistics. While adoption of the latest versions of the OS is generally going in the right direction, there hasn’t been very much movement since one month ago—a figure which itself wasn’t too different from what we saw in December.

Luckily, the update process for various aspects of the core Android experience is somewhat decentralized thanks to updates to Google Play Services, as well as numerous first party Google apps that have found their way into the Google Play Store. And just like yesterday brought an update to Google Play Services that also brought support for the new Chromecast SDK, today we see updates to quite a few first party Google apps.

First off, we have an update to Google Maps. Version 7.6, which actually began rolling out late last night, brings a few user-facing changes such as an updated “Offers” interface. This new interface shows past and present offers, and they can be sorted by when you added them, which are closest to you, when they expire, and business name. In addition to the Offers update, the latest version of Maps gives users better control over their routing options. Rather than selecting their preferred public transit method, users are now able to choose multiple options from a list. Finally, the UI was cleaned up a little to bring the overall look more inline with the rest of Android in its latest iterations.

Search was also given a healthy update today to version 3.2. Aside from the stated “bug fixes and performance improvements” cited on the application’s Play Store listing, the newest update brings “OK Google” hotword support for Canadian and UK English. Interestingly, it also takes a new somewhat hidden name as “Google Now Launcher,” perhaps signaling that the previously Nexus 5-exclusive Google Experience Launcher may make its way to other devices in the future in official capacity.

Next up, Google Play Newsstand received a relatively significant update to version 3.1. While the Play Store listing only mentions “bug fixes,” the update also brings a relatively tweaked UI supporting the slide out “hamburger menu,” as well as the option to display article titles in a smaller format so that you can fit more article titles on a page. The update also brings an option to display only content that’s currently available offline, as well as a new home screen widget. Finally, users now have the option to translate certain news feeds to any language supported by Google Translate.

The next two updates were relatively minor. Google Hangouts received a minor point revision to 2.0.3, which brought a few MMS- and SMS-related bug fixes, including the ability to send messages greater than 160 characters (parsed into multiple messages). And finally, Google Drive also saw a minor update today bringing support for animated GIFs, as well as various bug fixes.

Which updates are you most excited about? Arguably the new version of Maps brings the greatest number of user-facing features, but the name change in Search hints at the exciting possibility that the Google Experience Launcher may find its way to other devices in the near future. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!


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