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 (22.214.171.1249658), 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.]
March 17, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
For some time now, Google has been combating Android fragmentation by delivering key developer services and frameworks independently of Android OS versions through Google Play Services. And over the past year and a half, we’ve seen several key updates roll out, which have enabled developers to target a wider range of Android devices. Now with Play Services 4.3, Google has incorporated a few additional developer APIs and updated some of their existing services.
March 12, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Update: YouTube is now being updated to 5.5.27, which does not feature the Dogfood settings or the funky Dogbone icon. We’ll leave 5.5.26 mirrored below in case you accidentally updated and want to retain the funkiness and play with the new settings!
Just when we thought Google was done for the day with first party app updates, after their new versions of Google Wallet, Google Translate, and Chrome Beta, they unleash another significant application update—this time, to Google Maps. The YouTube app also received a strange Dogfood update.
Today’s Maps update to version 7.7.0 brings one major new feature, and that’s the ability to see upcoming event data for locations viewed through Google Maps. It’s reasonable to assume that this data is being pulled from the same sources as the data feeding the Google Now Nearby Events card. And as such, this is quite similar to how Google Wallet now incorporates order tracking data.
The YouTube app was also updated today to version 5.5.26, though given the new icon and what the update entails, we believe this may have been an accidental release. Aside from a strange new icon that can be seen in the title image to your right, this new version also brings a new Dogfood settings menu that can be seen in the screenshot to your right. This allows you to set a few streaming-related options, but we wouldn’t be surprised if changing these from their defaults breaks a few things.
[Thanks again to kautionwirez for the Maps APK, my fellow writer Tom for the heads up on the YouTube icon, and Zanna for letting us know about the Dogfood menu!]
March 12, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s Wednesday, and you know what that means: It’s time for another round of Google first-party Android updates. Last Wednesday, we were happy to report about major updates to Chrome Beta, Google TTS, and Google Play Games. And this week, the updates are for a pair of applications that don’t always receive the most update love from Mountain View: Google Wallet and Google Translate. Oh yeah, and there’s also a very minor update for Chrome Beta.
First up, we have Google Wallet. Today’s update to version 2.0 is as big of an update as you would expect from a new major version. This update now aggregates and displays your online orders and their tracking information. This appears to work for nearly all online orders, in a manner similar to what we’ve already seen in Google Now’s Order Cards.
Next up, we have Google Translate. Today’s update bumps up the version number to 3.0.5, and in doing so brings handwriting recognition for thirteen new languages: Arabic, Bosnian, Cebuano, Gujarati, Hmong, Kannada, Maltese, Mongolian, Persian, Punjabi, Somali, Tamil, and Telugu. It also features fixes for a few unnamed crash bugs.
Finally, we have a very minor update to Chrome Beta, which simply consists of a few crash fixes. This is obviously nothing major like what we saw last week with the added Chromecast support, but at least they’re doing something—and you should probably still update your app.
To get started, simply make your way to the Google Play Store entries for Google Wallet, Google Translate, and Google Chrome Beta. But since these updates are being delivered in the form of a staged rollout, your device may not receive the update immediately. Those looking to get in on the update action a bit early can do so by visiting our Dev-Host mirrors below:
[Many thanks to Senior Member kautionwirez for the APKs!]
March 5, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s become quite the routine to see nearly weekly application updates to Google’s major first-party Android apps. And with so many entries in their Android app portfolio, this is quite a commendable accomplishment. Just last week, we saw Google deliver a massive update to its Google+ app, giving it much improved photo editing capabilities straight from their Snapseed acquisition. Now, Google has delivered major updates to Chrome Beta, their TTS engine, and Google Play Games.
Perhaps the most significant update this is Chrome Beta version 34, which now offers hidden Chromecast streaming support for HTML5 video. Streaming is still not available by default, even in Chrome beta, but it can be enabled by going to about://flags/#enable-cast on your mobile device. Then after a reboot, you should be able to Cast videos from any HTML5 video player, just like you would through your desktop browser. However, the results aren’t always perfect. While this generally works flawlessly on YouTube, other video sites don’t always work as they should. Perhaps this is why this feature must be enabled via flags.
Next up is Google TTS version 3, which brings higher quality voices and a few minor UI tweaks. Loading the app’s voices list, users will now see new options for “high quality” voices. Rather than the standard voices that range from 3-6 MB, these higher quality voices are often well over 100 MB. They do offer a notable improvement, but since the standard quality voices were already better than the competition, this is more of a luxury item.
Finally, Google Play Games version 1.5 brings a few new features that are slated to improve your multiplayer mobile gaming experience. With 1.5, you are now able to see who in your Google+ circles happens to play a particular game. You can now also view all invitations for multiplayer games from within the Play Games app.
You can get in on these application updates by visiting the Google Play Store listings for Chrome Beta, Google TTS, and Google Play Games. But since these updates are coming in the form of a staged rollout and since not everyone has access to the Google Play Store, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APKs over on our DevHost account.
Google Play Store Listings:
DevHost APK Mirror:
[Many thanks to XDA Senior Member kautionwirez for the tip and APKs!]
February 27, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s become quite a routine occurrence to have at least one of Google’s major first-party Android apps updated per week. This time, the latest “victim” is Google+, which received its update to version 4.3—and with it, a plethora of new photo-related options for your shutterbug pleasure.
The most significant update is in the new photo editing menu. Borrowed from Google’s recent Snapseed acquisition, G+ Photos now presents the user with many more photo editing tools. In addition to the standard crop/rotate/auto tools, you can now apply various image tweaks such as brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness through simple swipes. Vertical swipes select between tools in any given mode, whereas horizontal swipes adjust each option’s parameters. In addition, these tools can be applied to specified tool hot zones, as shown in the screenshot with the red circle.
In addition to simply offering more tools to appease your photo editing OCD, the latest version of G+ also allows for non-destructive editing across devices. In other words, you can make edits on one device, and then continue editing, revert changes, or start from scratch at any point on another devices. Finally, the auto photo backup was given a bit of a tweak, now allowing users to backup all local folders, in addition to just those taken by the device camera. This is especially handy if you use other photo apps with different default folders. Unfortunately, this feature does not yet allow users to select which folders are to be backed up—but we can hope that Google will rectify this simple oversight in future versions.
The update is being released in the form of a staged rollout. And while the Google Play Store listing shows that the application has been updated, it may not hit your device immediately. As such, we have mirrored the APK over on DevHost so that you can get in on the action a bit early.
Are you a fan of the Snapseed-inspired photo editing tweaks? Let us know in the comments below!
[Many thanks to XDA Senior Member kautionwirez for the tip!]
November 7, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Just last Thursday, we were graced with Android 4.4 KitKat alongside the release of the Google Nexus 5. Along with the host of improvements inherent to the new OS, early adopters were also treated to the new version of Google Hangouts that was announced at last week’s Google+ event, as well as a refreshed keyboard. Now, these are available for all to enjoy, directly on the Google Play Store.
As a refresher, the Hangouts update brings the SMS integration, as well as support for animated GIFs, location sharing, and a few other key features. Hangouts is available for devices running Android 2.3 or later. The keyboard update, which is available for devices running Android 4.0 or later, brings a refined UI, bereft of the old Holo blue accents. It also incorporates support for multiple word swiping gestures, similar to what we’ve seen previously in Swiftkey Flow.
As promised, the first in our series of “Say Sayonara to Google” articles is about the Play Store. Love it or loathe it, the Play Store is popular. It is so popular, in fact, that it is often berated for the poor quality of apps contained within. While Google is making strides to improve this via their Bouncer malware screening platform, at the end of the day, the Play Store is built on fairly shaky security grounds.
The first security issue with the Play Store is that of remote control. Imagine someone told you the following:
I am able to remotely install arbitrary software to your phone or tablet, which can make use of any permissions available to an app, without prompting you on your device. So I can get access to your GPS location, or access files on your SD card, or access your contacts, and upload all this through the internet
If that were said, I’d hope you would be rather concerned. It’s also true; anyone with access to your Play Store account (i.e. your Google Account) can remotely install software onto your phone from the web interface. And while the Android platform itself has some precautions recently put in place (e.g. since ICS, apps cannot trigger themselves to run until you (the user) have run them once), this is hardly foolproof. Simply install a rogue app with the same icon and title as an app the user already uses, and you have a 50% chance they will open it. Most users would not panic at seeing a second copy of the icon, with power users presuming it a launcher bug.
The attacker who has access to your Play Store web account also knows what apps you have installed (making identification of a suitable app to spoof trivial). While this remote install feature can also be handy if you lose your pre-ICS phone, the ability to remote install software onto your Android device should probably raise a few concerns in the security-conscious mind.
F-Droid is a catalogue of alternative applications, all FOSS (Free, Open Source Software). By default, F-Droid doesn’t contain any applications with ads or attempt to make use of user tracking via analytics engines and the like. It also hides applications that encourage non-free add-ons, and even which promote or make use of non-free network services or require such other applications in order to function.
Applications you download from F-Droid are (for the most-part) compiled from sources by the F-Droid servers, directly from the source code repository provided by the project. While this does entail a level of trust (though again it is worth noting all the F-Droid server software is fully open source too!), it’s also easy to download the application directly from the developer, or to compile it yourself from source (a link is given to the source).
You can see what is available in the F-Droid catalogue using their web interface, and take a look at what’s available. While the variety of apps available is nowhere near that available on Google Play, the quality of Open Source equivalent apps is often well in excess of their commercial rivals. Some apps worth a look include K9 Mail Beta (which has been recently updated to Holo UI) and Agit (an Android git browser).
Either way, the choice of free, Open Source applications is not to be sniffed at, with F-Droid offering an ever-expanding variety to choose from, all delivered using the open source client and built on the Open Source server. If you are a developer who makes Open Source applications, perhaps consider adding your app to the F-Droid repository.