Many of Google’s expansions into new product segments have begun through corporate acquisitions. These acquired companies often serve as natural extensions to what Google already offers in a particular field such as the recent purchase of SlickLogin, which may signal that sound-based authentication is in the cards for a future version of Android. The same can be said for Google’s acquisitions of Green Throttle Games and AI startup DeepMind, as these will respectively bolster Google’s efforts in mobile gaming and Google Image Search.
Now, Google has agreed to acquire drone maker Titan Aerospace for an undisclosed sum. While this acquisition may instill some Skynet-type fears into the hearts of many, it’s far more likely that this acquisition has more to do with Project Loon than it does with another one of Google’s recent acquisitions. According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is looking to use Titan’s drones in order to assist the former’s Internet access-providing stratospheric balloons. In addition, it seems highly likely that this drone technology will be used to gather detailed mapping data and imagery for Google Maps.
What are your thoughts on this latest acquisition? Do you welcome our new Google robotic and drone overlords? 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!]
April 2, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
Now we’re talking! And no, this isn’t an April Fool’s Prank. For the first time since Android 4.4 KitKat was launched back in late October of last year, we’re finally seeing some significant adoption for Google’s latest and greatest. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers, shall we?
When we talked about Android’s platform distribution numbers early last month, KitKat was running on 2.5% of devices with access to Google Play Services. While this was a significant proportional rise from February’s 1.8%, the total number still remained quite low. Blame OEM’s, carriers, or even Tom Cruise, but the unfortunate reality of Android is that mass market devices will lag behind Google’s Nexus lineup.
But this past month, something changed. KitKat is now on 5.3% of devices with access to Google Play Services, which is more than double what we had last month. Not only is this a bigger jump numerically, but it’s also a proportionally larger leap. This shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise, however, as various large OEMs such as Samsung, HTC, and LG have been issuing KitKat OTAs to their previous generation flagship and midrange devices.
Now let’s take a look at the rest of the numbers. Last month, we saw that Jelly Bean was approximately the same as it was the month before, hovering at around 62%. This month is no different, as it has only dipped slightly to 61.4%. Similarly, ICS went from 15.2% to 14.3%. But the biggest “loser” this month was Android 2.x, which went from a combined 20.2% to 18.9%. OK, so this isn’t exactly an Earth-shattering change, but it’s progress.
It’s great to see KitKat on the rise, as the whole developer ecosystem benefits from users being on recent versions of Android. And in the coming months, as products announced at this year’s MWC start making their way into more consumer hands, this will only continue to rise. Here’s hoping that we break 10% by next month!
[Source: Android Developer Dashboard]
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 (188.8.131.529658), 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 15, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
The world was first introduced to the concept of a touch-driven radial menu through an experimental “Labs” feature in Google’s AOSP browser in Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Affectionately known as PIE Controls, this radial menu allowed users to perform various browser navigation tasks easily and efficiently—all while saving valuable screen real estate in the process.
Since the dark days of Honeycomb, PIE Controls have been implemented in several custom ROMs starting with Paranoid Android, as well as a few aftermarket applications. A similar implementation was even included in Samsung’s Air Command on the Galaxy Note 3. Now, Google has patented an new implementation of the radial menu, but it’s not quite what any of us are used to. But rather than a simple one-finger gesture, Google’s freshly patented radial menu relies on two fingers: your thumb, which serves a a permanent anchor point, and your index finger, which calls a secondary menu and then selects from the available options.
Because of the inherent differences, it’s impossible for this patent to be used to go after existing applications using current generation PIE Controls. Rather, it’s far more likely that Google is planning an entirely new UI paradigm for use in Android—one that could potentially deliver the versatility of on-screen navigation, but without the wasted space of a dedicated navigation bar.
Ultimately, this is most likely a good thing for Android. It likely signals the coming of a “best of both worlds” approach combining the best from hardware and on-screen navigation. What do you think Google’s up to with this new patent? Let us know in the comments below!
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!]
February 28, 2014 By: Jimmy McGee
Android 4.4.2 KitKat for the AT&T Samsung Galaxy S 4 has been released! 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 that the United Stated House has passed the Consumer Cell Phone Unlocking Bill and the Nokia Store has already been ported to other Android Devices! That’s not all that’s covered in today’s video!
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer TK released an Xposed Tuesday video for Google Experience Launcher Settings, Jordan talked about all the cool mobile phones announced at Mobile World Congress, and finally TK gave us an Android App Review of Castaway. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
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!]
February 25, 2014 By: Jimmy McGee
If you are a frequent visitor here at XDA, you more than likely enjoy Android, and probably “stock Android” without all the crap OEMs or carriers like to add. On their “stock Android” Nexus 5, Google launched the Google Experience Launcher. But to some, the experience is similar to OEM experience because you can’t fine tune the settings as much as a power user might like.
In this episode of XDA Xposed Tuesday, XDA Developer TV Producer TK reviews an Xposed Module that allows you to control your Google Experience Launcher settings in more detail. XDA Forum Member theknut created the GEL Settings Xposed Module. TK shows off the module and gives his thoughts, so check out this Xposed Tuesday video.