July 24, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
With Android L on the horizon, it’s no surprise that Google’s preparing itself for the upcoming major changes to its mobile platform. Undoubtedly, much of these changes are due to Android L’s new UI paradigm, Material Design. Just two days ago, Google issued a rather significant update to the Play Store that brought with it the first traces of Material Design. Now, Google’s given a similar makeover to its Chrome Browser beta channel.
Today’s update brings Chrome Beta to version number 37.0.2062.39 (up from 36.0.1985.81 last month). As one would expect from a major version number change, Chrome Beta 37 brings a few new tricks to the table. According to the official release notes on the Chrome Releases Blog:
This release contains a number of new features including:
- Material Design updates
- Simplified sign-in
- Lots of bug fixes and performance improvements!
This update’s main claim to fame is undoubtedly the first bullet: Material Design. This manifests itself in the form of a lightly tweaked tab switcher interface, reminiscent of the new Recents menu found in the Android L developer preview, as well as a larger omnibar, refreshed action overflow menu, and more open typography. Unfortunately, individual tabs do not yet tie into the Android L Recents feature, as was promised in the Google I/O 2014 keynote. Strangely, the tab selector button no longer shows you how many open tabs you have. And at this time, it’s unclear as to whether this is a limitation of the developer preview or if Chrome simply hasn’t taken advantage of the feature just yet.
Just like what’s always the case with Chrome Beta channel updates, this version should already be live for everyone in the Google Play Store. But since not everyone has access to the Play Store, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APK for your sideloading pleasure.
July 22, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s not Wednesday yet, but we’ve got a great Google first party Android app update to share. Rather than an app update in the traditional sense, today’s update is actually to the Google Play Store–and this new version packs quite a nice visual makeover that features a new and image-rich UI, as well as a hint of Material Design.
Today’s update to the Google Play Store brings the virtual storefront to version 4.9.13, up from version 4.8.22 that we shared just six days ago. And as you can expect from a relatively significant version number change, 4.9 brings a few very noticeable visual changes. For starters, when you access any particular Play Store entry–be it audio, video, apps, or written content–you are given a new image-rich listing page. This new style, which is seen in the leftmost screenshot, makes it easier to get a sense of your potential app purchase, as well as allow developers to create more enticing listings. In addition, Play Store listings now feature a floating action bar menu that fades into place when scrolling down any entry. This, along with a new and more prominent Google+ section can be seen in the middle screenshot. Finally, an updated “What’s New” section can be seen in the rightmost screenshot. This can be summoned by tapping on the section and dismissed by either clicking the “x” or scrolling up past the content.
The update isn’t complete in its visual transformation, however. When first launching the app, users won’t see any readily apparent changes. At this time, only the listing pages appear to be changed. That said, the update is a good move in the right direction, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the app’s visual makeover–perhaps in time for Android L and Material Design in the Fall.
While Play Store 4.9 has already begun rolling out, it will naturally be some time before everyone receives the update. As such, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APK for your sideloading pleasure.
[Many thanks to XDA Recognized Developer febycv for the APK!]
July 22, 2014 By: Jimmy McGee
Our international xda:devcon ’14 in Manchester, UK on the weekend of September 26-28 is a celebration of all things mobile. The most popular sect of mobile development is perhaps software development. There are many different ways to develop software. You can use libraries and APIs to help advance your skills, among other things.
Today, we are happy to announce another great speaker that will be at xda:devcon ’14. MaR-V-iN is a computer science student, privacy enthusiast and hacker. MaR-V-iN started coding for Android at the end of Gingerbread era. Since then contributed to numerous Free Open Source Software projects. He is a big fan of penguins around him.
At xda:devcon ’13, XDA Elite Recognized Developer Stericson gave a presentation entitled “Root Application Development with the RootTools Library.” In his presentation, creating root applications for rooted users becomes extremely trivial with the RootTools open source library. If you wanted to learn about creating root apps check out the video from last year.
This year, MaR-V-iN’s presentation will be about which APIs are missing on non-Google systems, how they work, with specific focus on Play Services and what developers should do about it. Entitled “The Google in Android™,” this presentation talks about how since the first release of Android, Google has been an integral part of Android. At Android’s beginning, most apps by Google were just standard apps and use was not forced. More recently, however, Google started providing APIs through these apps. Since the rollout of alternative AOSP distributions, Google increasingly provides APIs through “Google Play Services” and the corresponding library. While Google claims that they’re combating fragmentation between Android versions this way, they’re in fact targeting fragmentation between Android and alternative AOSP distributions. So check out this talk to learn more about Google’s APIs, this is the talk for you.
July 19, 2014 By: Tomek Kondrat
Software is never completely secure. If you think otherwise, you are in for a rude awakening. Every now and then, hackers will find a way to take control of an app or expose private data–for money, fun, or fame. Motives varies, but these types of hackers are extremely talented, and often their potential is wasted to illegal activities. One of good guys in finding and neutralizing security flaws is Google. Current efforts have been focused mainly on their own products like Chrome OS or Chrome browser. But now, the whole idea of protecting the Internet has gone to a new level.
The Android Open Source Project is a good example of how the community can be used to make a big project used by millions safer and more complete. Android isn’t made only by developers gathered together in Mountain View. We’ve seen some contributions made by multiple XDA developers like Senior Recognized Developers jcase and Chainfire. Google obviously found out that some talented hackers are spread all over the world, so they came up with a new initiative, Google Project Zero. It’s a team made of top Google security researchers that have a sole mission to keep the world safe–free of security flaws, like the Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL project. Google Project Zero’s mission is to try and expose every security vulnerability and let companies know to fix them.
Google has already recruited some hackers from their own company and even XDA. New Zealander Ben Hawkes discovered dozens of bugs in software like Adobe Flash or Microsoft Office 2013. English researcher Tavis Ormandy discovered some zero-day vulnerabilities in antivirus software. Finally, George Hotz, for us known more as XDA Recognized Developer GeoHot, the creator of the Towelroot root exploit compatible with almost every device using an unpatched kernel. Before creating Towelroot, GeoHot was involved in iOS Jailbreaking and won the Pwnium hacking competition last March. Last but not least is Ian Beer. With such an All-Star team, Internet users will one day be a bit more safe.
It’s remain unanswered whether Google Project Zero will be a successful initiative. That said, exposing the flaws in order to encourage and allow companies to fix them is an innovative project, and other companies should follow the Google’s path in making the Web a safer place to work, communicate, and simply have fun.
Yesterday, we had a rather typical Google Update Wednesday, with major updates to Google Wallet and Chrome Stable, as well as a minor update to the Google Play Store. Now, Google is following up on yesterday’s updates with a major revision to Google Maps, which brings elevation info when using biking navigation and better support for voice input.
Perhaps the most interesting new feature in Maps 8.2 is elevation information in route planning. When viewing route options in biking mode, you now get a visual representation of route altitude This feature is currently reserved for those using biking directions, as it wouldn’t be of much use to those driving to their destination.
In addition to the new elevation info, you are also now able to issue voice commands while in navigation mode. Voice input is initiated by tapping on the microphone icon in the lower left hand corner of the display. Using voice input, you are able to ask Maps questions like, “how long until destination,” “what time will I get there,” “mute voice guidance,” “show a route overview,” “show traffic,” “what’s my next turn,” and so on. Unfortunately, however, Google’s traditional Fuzzy Logic voice input capabilities haven’t quite carried over into maps. So if you don’t say the exact right phrases, it doesn’t appear to work very consistently.
While Maps 8.2 has already begun rolling out, it will naturally be some time before everyone receives the update. As such, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APK for your sideloading pleasure.
July 16, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s Wednesday once again, and more often than not, that means that it’s time for another set of Google first party Android app updates. Today, we have major updates to Google Wallet and Chrome Stable, as well as a minor point revision to the Google Play Store.
First up, we have Google Wallet. Today’s update brings us to version 2.0-R172-v18 (up from the 2.0-R163-v17 update about two months ago). Despite not escalating much in terms of version number, it brings one key feature that has been in the works for some time: gift card management. In addition, it also allows you to ask for money directly within the app and send money for free using your debit card.
Next up, we have an update for Chrome Stable. This update brings the stable release channel to version 36.0.1985.122, up from last month’s 35.0.1916.141. It doesn’t add much in the way of user-facing features other than something we spotted in Chrome Beta last month when it was updated to version 36: improved text rendering on non-mobile sites.
Finally, we have a minor update to the Google Play Store, bringing it to 4.8.22 (up from 4.8.20). This update should proceed in the background for most people, and if not, you can manually request it by going to Play Store settings and tapping on the version number. However, this doesn’t always work for everyone, so we’ve gone ahead and mirrored it (and the other two updates) below for your sideloading pleasure:
[Many thanks to XDA Portal Supporter MihirGosai for the Play Store APK]
July 9, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Although Google’s first party application update timing isn’t quite as predictable as it once was, “Google Update Wednesday” is still a thing. Today, Google has issued major updates to its first party Google Camera and Gmail apps, following up on a minor Google Search update that was issued yesterday.
The stars of the show here are Google Camera and Gmail. The update to Google Camera brings us up to version 2.3.017 (up from 2.2.024 a little over a month ago). This update brings support for Android Wear as well as a refreshed panorama mode interface. The new panorama and PhotoSphere interface increases visual polish by giving us larger and more visible guide circles, as well as a new in-app guide to show you how to get the best results.
Next up, we have a moderately significant update to Gmail. This update brings us to version 4.9 (1266230), up from version 4.8 last month. For those who don’t remember, last month’s update brought us the ability to save attachments directly to Google Drive from within Gmail. Today’s update takes the Google Drive integration one step further by allowing users to insert attachments directly from Drive. Google Drive-based attachments can be inserted just like standard local attachments, and they can be found in the action overflow menu in the compose screen.
Finally, we have a minor update to Google Search that brings us up to 18.104.22.1682550 (up from 22.214.171.1244234 just a few weeks ago). This update, which started rolling out yesterday, is pushing out to both x86 and ARM devices. It doesn’t seem to add any new functionality that we’ve noticed just yet. However, we don’t have too much reason to complain on that front, thanks to yesterday’s backend update.
All of these app updates will make their way out to consumer devices through the Play Store via a staged rollout. Naturally, not every device will be in initial wave. However, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APKs over on our Google Drive for your sideloading pleasure:
July 8, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
As accurate as Google Voice Search has become over the years, it’s still far from perfect–especially for less common words or when issuing search queries in noisy environment such as a car or crowded area. Now, a Google Search backend update update has made Voice Search a bit smarter by allowing you to correct misheard queries.
Google Voice Search has demonstrated contextual awareness for quite some time. For example, if you search for “Show me pictures of Renaissance art,” it shows you pictures of Renaissance art as you would expect. If you then follow this up with, “how about Baroque,” you are then shown pictures of Baroque art. Today’s update takes this one step further by allowing you to correct misheard search queries by simply saying “No, I said,” followed by the corrected query.
The results are pretty hit or miss right now, as Google Search seems to break contextual awareness somewhat frequently when correcting search queries. This is even more likely if you attempt to correct a misheard query multiple times. However, this added functionality is certainly a step in the right direction. And when used in conjunction with “OK Google Everywhere,” Voice Search is now even more useful for those in situations where direct device control isn’t the most convenient.
July 3, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
You may recall how last week’s update to Google Search brought “OK Google” hotword detection to any screen, something which was previously only available when on the home screen of the Google Experience Launcher or in the Google Search app itself. We’ve now received one more update to Google Search, but even with this latest update, the revised hotword detection is only available to certain Google accounts. Luckily, root-enabled users were quick to find workarounds, but as we all know, not everyone’s running a rooted device.
Now, Redditors have found a way to get this working on any device and user account, without the use of any fancy root-enabled sorcery. The procedure itself involves nothing more than searching for “OK Google Everywhere.” After doing so and then backing out of Google Now, you’ll be able to go to Google Now Settings –> Voice –> OK Google Detection and enable hotword detection from any screen (including the lock screen).
- Open Google Now
- Search for “OK Google everywhere”
- Click any link [may be unnecessary but I did it]
- Back out to Google Now
- Go to Settings>Voice
- Audio History and Anywhere Detection should now be available as settings.
If you’ve been longing for the Moto X-like hotword detection from any screen, now’s your chance to get in on the fun. Now if only this could be extended to when the display is powered off for users willing to sacrifice a bit of battery life for this added functionality.
July 3, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
It’s still Wednesday in Mountain View, and you know what that means—it’s another Google Update Wednesday. Today, we have one entirely new application in the Play Store, two major app updates that bring Android L compatibility, and four other, more minor updates.
First off, we have Android Wear. Coming in at inaugural version 126.96.36.1991840, this app allows you to pair with and edit the parameters of your new Android Wear device–provided you’re one of the lucky few to already own one. In addition to basic device configuration settings, this app also allows you to control voice action preferences, as well as notification settings.
Next up, we have Google Docs 188.8.131.52 and Google Sheets 184.108.40.206. Those of you brave enough to be using the Android L Developer Preview on your daily driver device will have undoubtedly noticed that before today, Docs and Sheets simply would not install on L Preview. This changes today, thanks to updates to both of these apps. In addition, both updates now allow you to directly edit Microsoft Office (Excel and Word) files, just like what we saw in Slides not too long ago. If that’s not all, both apps have been given a touch of Material Design UI flair, thanks to a floating action button and trademark Material Design visual stylings.
Finally, we have minor updates to Search, YouTube, Slides, and Google Play Services. These updates come in at versions 220.127.116.114529, 5.7.41, 1.0.783.22, and 5.0.84, respectively.
All of these app updates will make their way out to consumer devices through the Play Store via a staged rollout. Naturally, not every device will be in initial wave. However, we’ve gone ahead and mirrored the APKs over on our DevHost account for your sideloading pleasure:
Latest App Updates:
Google Play Services:
[Many thanks to XDA Portal Supporter MihirGosai for the APKs!]
June 29, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Android OEM customizations like Samsung TouchWiz and HTC Sense are undoubtedly a love-it-or-hate-it affair. There are certainly users out there who care for the added features that these skins introduce. But on the other side of the coin, there are more than a fair share of users who despise the aesthetic nightmares found in some skins. What’s more, this extensive customization often (but not always) results in Android firmware update delays—and that’s if the bloated firmware doesn’t prevent updates in the first place. Oh, and let’s not forget about how these customizations result in a greater number of security vulnerabilities. READ ON »
June 28, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Approximately two years ago, Google acquired Quickoffice, Inc. Then about nine months ago, the QuickOffice suite was re-released as a free app in the Google Play Store. At the time, many were quick to criticize the redundancy of having editing capabilities in Google Drive, as well as a standalone office suite. Complicating matters further, Google also decided to release standalone Docs and Sheets apps at the end of April. But two days after the release of Docs and Sheets, Google Drive 1.3 removed its built-in editing capabilities in favor of the new standalone apps.
Now that we also have the standalone presentation editor Slides, it’s natural to assume that Google would aim to remove the last remaining redundancy: the QuickOffice app itself. As stated on the Google Apps blog, QuickOffice will be removed from Google Play and the iOS App Store in the coming weeks:
With the integration of Quickoffice into the Google Docs, Sheets and Slides apps, the Quickoffice app will be unpublished from Google Play and the App Store in the coming weeks. Existing users with the app can continue to use it, but no features will be added and new users will not be able to install the app.
With the removal of QuickOffice, hopefully Google will be better able to focus its efforts on making Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive as smooth and capable as possible. Are you a QuickOffice user? If so, what are your thoughts?
June 27, 2014 By: Jimmy McGee
Android L developer preview is available for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7(2013)! That and much more news is covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is the announcement of Android L and what interface changes it has in store, and there is an article about Nokia’s new X2 Android phone! That’s not all that’s covered in today’s video!
Be sure the check out the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer TK released an Xposed Tuesday video for MinMinLock. Then, Adam did an XDA Unboxing of the ASUS PadFone X. And later, TK gave us a an Android App Review of WiFi Scheduler. Pull up a chair and check out this video.