April 21, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Back in October of last year, Google integrated SMS functionality into the Hangouts Android app. While many have found the added functionality to be quite convenient, it hasn’t been without its own set of issues.
Ignoring the obvious loss of yet another actively developed AOSP app in favor of a closed source offering, the Hangouts SMS integration always felt a bit incomplete. Part of this undoubtedly arises from how Hangouts has traditionally separated SMS and Hangouts conversations, even if they originated from the same sender. This has always lead to a disjoint feeling when transitioning from one messaging service to another–something that competitors like iMessage have already sorted out.
Now, Google has finally put and end to this, as the latest publicly available version of Hangouts (version 2.1) merges SMS and Hangouts conversations to/from the same recipient. When sending a new message, you’ll be able to select which service to send the message from with a flip of a switch. Message types will be easily discernible, as seen in the screenshot to your right, and you’ll be able to unmerge conversations at will.
In addition to the merged messaging, the new Hangouts app will simplify your contacts list into two main sections: people you Hangout with, and phone contacts. The new update also brings a quick widget to access recent conversations, as well as improved performance and reliability for video calls and SMS/MMS messages.
The new version is currently making its way out to consumer devices via a staged rollout. Because of this, not every device will receive the update in the first wave. Luckily, we’ve mirrored the APK over on our Dev-Host for those who want to get in on the action a bit early. You can check out the full list of added features by visiting the source link below. We can only imagine that quite a few of our readers have been looking forward to this for quite some time. I know I have. Leave us your thoughts in the comments section!
April 16, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Earlier today, we talked about how Google brought two new apps to the Google Play Store. As welcome of an addition as these apps were, we were perhaps a bit too hasty in suggesting that today was not quite another Google Update Wednesday. Now, Google has issued a rather significant update to its YouTube app from version 5.5 to 5.6.
So what’s new in version 5.6.31? Google Chromecast owners are now given the option to cast live videos directly from the Android app. Some of you may recall that this feature was recently added to the desktop website. But now with version 5.6, it’s available via mobile as well. There don’t the seem to be any other changes in 5.6 that we can see at this time, and Google has not yet updated “What’s New” section of the Play Store listing, but it is entirely possible that there are a few other, minor tweaks that made their way into 5.6
You can head over to the Google Play Store listing to get started. But since this update is rolling out in stages, those looking to get in on the update a bit early by way of sideloading should head over to our DevHost mirror.
[Many thanks to XDA Forum Member kautionwirez for the tip and APK!]
April 16, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s become quite common for Google to update many of its first party Android apps on Wednesdays. While today isn’t exactly a large-scale Update Wednesday like we’ve seen in the past, Google has just launched a couple of extremely tasty treats for Android users everywhere.
First, we have Chrome Remote Desktop for Mobile. For those who may recall, Google launched Chrome Remote Desktop a few years ago for its desktop browsers. This allows users who have the appropriate web store app installed to access their primary computers from anywhere in the world, all courtesy of the Google Cloud.
Bringing Chrome Remote Desktop support to mobile has been in the works for quite some time now, and today Google has officially released it into the wild. In order to get it working on your own device, install the web store app. Then, simply login from the Android app, select the computer you wish to access, and you should be good to go.
Next up, we have Google Camera. Though technically not an entirely new app, this is the first time that the Google Camera app has been available in the Play Store. And surprisingly, the app is available to install on all smartphones and tablets running Android 4.4 KitKat—not just Nexus and Google Play edition devices.
In addition to the new distribution method, today’s update packs quite a bit of added functionality. For starters, Google Camera version 2.1.037 can simulate depth-of-field blur (i.e. bokeh) on all devices. In addition, Google Camera now also allows users to “change focus” after a shot has been taken.
Both of these features are similar to what the HTC One M8 offers with the Duo Camera System, but with a few differences. The HTC Duo Camera System, which had its APIs released earlier today, generates depth data through the use of two cameras. Google’s solution instead uses software to pick out visual features by using Structure-from-Motion and bundle adjustment algorithms. Then, Multi-View Stereo algorithms compute the depth data for each pixel. Finally, this depth mask is used to simulate the large-lens, shallow depth-of-field look typically seen in DSLR cameras. And for those wondering, depth data and this bokeh effect are applied at differing levels based on subject distance, as to more accurately simulate the optic effect. In addition to the new features, today’s update also brings a nice UI revamp, higher resolution panorama mode, and an icon to indicate that you must shift to landscape orientation when taking a video.
To get started, simply head over to the Google Play Store listings for the Google Camera app update and Chrome Remote Desktop for Android. You can also learn more by visiting the official Chrome Remote Desktop for Mobile and Google Camera blog posts. And for those living in regions without Play Store access, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APKs on our DevHost account:
What do you think of these new apps? Give them a download, play around with them, and then let us know in the comments below!
April 10, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Although we weren’t graced with the good fortune of receiving another Google Update Wednesday yesterday, the creator of our favorite little green robot has decided to share a few goodies with us today. These come in the form of first-party Android application updates for Chrome Beta and Google Keyboard.
Today’s update to Chrome Beta brings it to version 35.0.191634. As you would expect from a major version change, v35 brings quite a few new features. The most immediately noticeable is the ability to undo closing a tab. Before, one would have to navigate to the recently closed section of the new tab screen in order to reopen a closed tab. But now, you are able to click undo in much the same way as when you delete an email in the Gmail app.
In addition to the undo closed tab feature, Chrome Beta v35 also brings multi-window support for certain devices and improved controls and support for subtitles in fullscreen HTML5 video. Naturally, you must be running a compatible Samsung (or presumably LG) device with ROM support to use the multi-window feature. Finally, the Chrome Releases blog also cites that this version brings Chromecast video casting support even though this was added in a previous update.
Chrome Beta isn’t the only app to receive Google’s update love today. Google Keyboard also received a minor update from 3.0.19373.1072412a to 3.0.19423.1102675a. However, this update is nowhere near as significant as the update to v3. Instead, this seems to simply be a maintenance / bug fix release, as nothing was added to the app’s What’s New section in Google Play.
Both Chrome Beta and Google Keyboard can be found in their respective pages on the Google Play Store. But for those who don’t have access to the Play Store or in case the updates aren’t available yet for all devices, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APKs on our Dev-Host account. You can find those links below:
April 2, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Earlier today, we saw Google release rather substantial updates to its Google Keep and Google Play Movies first-party Android apps as part of its now routine Update Wednesday. However, we were perhaps a bit too hasty to assume that El Goog was done for the day. Now, they’ve begun rolling out an update to Google Play Newsstand.
Today’s update brings Newsstand version 3.2.0, and it ushers in several useful new features. First, the “Read Now” screen now features mini-cards that show more headlines on screen at any given time. Swiping horizontally while in this view changes your view category. Next, “My Library” now combines News and Magazines for easier browsing. And just like in the “Read Now” view, you can switch between them by swiping horizontally. Finally, and perhaps the most noticeable tweak, the actionbar has been given a shiny new blue color to match the app’s overall theme. This color then changes when you switch between categories in the “Read Now” view.
Just like today’s earlier app updates, Google Play Newsstand 3.2.0 is currently being delivered in the form of a staged rollout. But if you wish to get in on the update before your time, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the update on our DevHost account for your sideloading pleasure.
[Thanks once again to kautionwirez for the APK!]
April 2, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Looks like we have ourselves another Google Update Wednesday, folks. Last Google Update Wednesday brought us personalized keyboard suggestions and improved voice search commands. Now, Google has issued significant updates to its Google Keep and Google Play Movies Android apps.
First up, we have Google Keep 2.2. Today’s update brings several important features. However, the biggest addition is undoubtedly optical character recognition for note searches. With Keep 2.2, you are now able to search for printed text within your notes’ photos. Checklists were given a facelift allowing users to set where new and checked items go, and the app finally has a “trash” folder for deleted notes. Finally, the UI was given a little bit of a facelift. In the app’s main menu, the actionbar is now yellow. And when entering a note, the actionbar then changes to match the color of the note.
Next up, we have Google Play Movies 3.1. The biggest change in today’s update is a dramatically improved video seek paradigm. With today’s update, you can swipe left and right in a video to seek backward and forward in 10-second intervals. You can also drag across the screen to scrub with greater precision.
These updates are currently making their way to devices in the form of a staged rollout. As such, your device may not receive the updated apps immediately. However, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored these on our Dev-Host account for those who want to get in on the update action a bit early. You can get in on the sideloading action by visiting the links below:
[Many thanks to kautionwirez for the tip and APKs!]
March 21, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Two days ago, we talked about how Google added a couple new voice commands to its Android Search app as part of this week’s Update Wednesday. The new commands allowed Search to record a video and take a picture just by saying either phrase into Google Voice Search.
Naturally, the new commands added on Wednesday were simply taken care of through Google’s back-end, as no official Android application update was pushed out to end-user devices. Now, Google has added one more command in a similar manner, and it’s quite a bit more useful than Wednesday’s glorified party trick.
As of today, you can now tell the Google Search app to “Play some music,” and it will load a “surprise playlist just for you.” Of course, what Google means by this is that saying this voice commands launches “I’m Feeling Lucky Radio.” This normally assembles a list of songs from music you have stored on your device or have uploaded to Google Play Music, but if you are an All Access subscriber, the music will include anything related to your selected favorites and song history.
It’s nice to see additional functionality added to Google Search. And while Wednesday’s new commands were largely just for novelty, this command could be legitimately useful if, for instance, you use your Android device as a media hub in your car.
March 19, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Oh Google, what would a Wednesday be like without another round of first-party Android application updates? In this week’s serving, Google sent out a major update to its keyboard app bringing it to version 3.0. Google Search also received a back-end update, enabling support for two new voice commands.
The star of the show today is obviously the update to Google Keyboard. Similar to what’s already present in other keyboards such as SwiftKey, Google Keyboard version 3 now uses data from connected apps and services to improve suggestions and corrections. Upon opening the keyboard for the first time following the update, users are given information about prediction and how to turn it off. The keyboard prediction data is stored locally and can be cleared by opening keyboard settings and disabling “personalized suggestions.”
In addition to the Google Keyboard update, Google Search acquired a neat new feature that we originally saw in Google Glass. Now you can open your camera application by simply saying “take a picture” or “take a video” into the voice search box. This update doesn’t come in the form of an official application update. Rather, it’s done through Google’s back-end. So if you’re already running the latest version of Search (184.108.40.2069658), the feature will be good to go.
You can get in on the action by visiting the Google Play Store listings for Google Keyboard and Google Search. But since the Google Keyboard update is being delivered in the form of a staged roll-out, you can head over to our Dev-Host mirror to download the APK and update manually.
[Many thanks once again to kautionwirez for the keyboard APK.]
February 23, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s no secret that pairing your device’s custom ROM with a good Google Apps package is quite important. This is especially true thanks to the emergence of ART, and its incompatibilities with certain Gapps packages.
In the past we’ve featured quite a few ways of getting Gapps on your device with minimal struggle. But thanks to XDA Senior Member TKruzze and the official PA Google Apps, there is a fantastic solution for users of any 4.3- or 4.4-based ROM.
So, what makes this Gapps package unique? For starters, the applications are updated 0-day. In other words, a new version of the Gapps package appears as soon as Google releases a new version. Next, several (modular) packages with varying numbers of built-in applications are offered. Finally, new versions to the Gapps come as OTA updates if you’re a Paranoid Android user.
While these are the official Paranoid Android Google Apps, they should work on any 4.3- or 4.4-based ROM, as long as you select the proper version of Android. Head over to the original thread to get in on all of the latest Gapps action.
January 5, 2014 By: eagleeyetom
If you’ve ever used a custom ROM, you know that due to legal reasons, most of them are released without Google’s proprietary applications, simply known as GApps. Those packages can be a bit finicky, as every version of Android needs a particular package, so sometimes it’s hard to choose the correct file to download.
In the past, we’ve talked about two applications capable of downloading GApps packages easily: EasyGApps and GooManager. But since KitKat’s release, updated Gapps are not hosted on our partner goo.im anymore.
XDA Senior Member ebildude123 created a simple application to download the correct package directly to your phone or tablet, so all you need to do is to apply the package from the recovery of your device. The application supports every version of Android starting from Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread onwards. You can even download GApps compatible with the new ART compiler introduced in KitKat. And if for some reason you are not sure of your Android version, Gapps Manager will let you know so you can pick your poison.
With Gapps Manager, you won’t spend any second longer than necessary when finding and sideloading GApps to your device! If you are looking for easy Gapps manager, you should visit the application thread and get this simple application a try. This comes with good timing, given the recent M2 release of CM11 for quite a few devices.