Finding new apps may soon get even easier
Google’s quietly experimenting with a new approach that’d make app discovery a core part of the operating system on both of its big platforms.
Not many folks have made the connection with this, but it’s yet another example of Android and ChromeOS overlapping and aligning in some really interesting ways.
- On the Chromebook side, the latest ChromeOS update introduces Play Store app results into the regular launcher search tool.
- At the same time, Google’s continuing its efforts to turn the Play Store into an all-purpose discovery tool that houses all sorts of apps — not only those designed exclusively for Android.
- And on the Android front, Google’s now testing the ability to surface Play Store results directly from the home screen launcher search box. See how this is all coming together?
Google’s cracking down on some of device-makers’ dumbest decisions
Certain Android device-makers are notorious for mucking around with the software’s system for managing how apps operate in the background. Now, at long last, Google’s taking action.
As any Android app developer will tell you, companies like Samsung and OnePlus have irksome habits of implementing aggressive restrictions on what apps can do when you aren’t actively using ’em.
- On the surface, that practice seems to boost a phone’s battery life. (Yay!)
- But in reality, it accomplishes that by preventing apps from actually doing what they need to do — and that, in turn, prevents lots of different processes from working the way they should. (Aww…)
- As of Android 13, Google will require device-makers to provide a “public and clear document” of any such “proprietary restrictions” along with instructions on how you can get around ’em. Progress!
READ MORE: This detailed thread has all the ins and outs of what’s changing and what it means for you.
The Android 13 CDD is out, and one of the most interesting tidbits is the revision to Section 3.5.1 – Application Restriction. This covers what happens if OEMs implement a proprietary mechanism to restrict apps that are more restrictive than the Restricted App Standby bucket.
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) August 18, 2022
YouTube’s taking on a new role
Just four years after launching its first standalone podcast app for Android and the web, Google appears to be pivoting and preparing to turn YouTube into its primary podcast destination.
Here we go again, eh? This move has the ghost of Google Play Music written all over it…
- YouTube’s in the midst of getting a new podcast-specific hub this week. And NPR just announced a deal to bring a bunch of its popular shows onto the platform.
- It’s pretty clear why: A series of industry reports shows YouTube is actually the world’s most-used platform for podcast consumption — ahead of both Spotify and Apple Podcasts. And that’s without any official emphasis on the form.
- What isn’t clear yet is what exactly this means for the future of the Google Podcasts service. But, well, we’ve been down this road before.
READ MORE: This meandering digest digs deep into the change and the context around it.
Make your phone less annoying with out-of-sight Contacts superpowers
When you think about Android’s most advanced and action-packed corners, your phone’s Contacts app probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
But mundane as it may sound, Google’s tool for managing all the people in your life is absolutely overflowing with step-saving potential. It’s just up to you to figure out how to find it.
Say so-long to digital calendar invite noise
Keeping a digital calendar is all about convenience — and yet, one piece of that puzzle is consistently annoying.
I’m talkin’ about the way Google Calendar automatically adds events onto your agenda when someone sends you an invite. It’s meant to be helpful, but it often ends up being exactly the opposite.
Well, get this: Google recently added an option into Calendar that lets you instruct it to add an invitation to your agenda only if you actually know the person who sent it. Logical, no? I’d sure say so. It’s off by default, though, so you’ve gotta go in to find and flip the switch.
Google actually announced the new option about a month ago, but in typical Google fashion, it’s been taking its good sweet time to roll it out to everyone. I’ve been keeping an eye on it for ya, and it looks like it’s at long last starting to show up broadly for most people.
So do this:
Step 1: Open up the Calendar website on a computer.
Step 2: Click the gear-shaped icon in its upper-right corner and select “Settings.”
Step 3: Click “Event settings” on the left side of the screen.
Step 4: Look for the box labeled “Add invitations to my calendar” in the main area of the screen.
Step 5: Click it and change its setting to “Only if the sender is known.”
And that’s it: Now, anytime you get an invite from someone you haven’t interacted with, it won’t show up in your calendar unless you manually accept it. But anytime someone you know sends you an invite, Calendar will automatically pick up on it and add it into your agenda for you.
Much more sensible, wouldn’t ya say?
Give Google Maps a fun visual upgrade
Here’s a silly but satisfying switch for your Android navigation experience:
The Google Maps Android app has a secret option for flipping away from the default blue-dot icon that shows your current location during a navigation and instead using a much more colorful and easy-to-spot vehicle to represent you.
You’d never realize it, but it’s actually super-easy to find and enable once you know the trick:
Step 1: Fire up Maps on your phone and start a navigation.
Step 2: Once you’re navigating, tap the pulsing blue circle that represents your current location.
Step 3: That’ll pull up a panel with your vehicle choices, and you can tap any of ’em to turn it into your own custom icon.
Android 13 is officially official
The latest and greatest Android version is on its way to Pixel owners as we speak and should start reaching other devices “later this year,” according to Google.
Android’s open nature means it’s up to each individual device-maker to process and send out updates on its own — which is both a blessing and a curse, depending on your perspective.
- That same open nature is what allows different companies to customize Android and add in their own features and interface adjustments (for better and, yes, often for worse).
- Android upgrade delivery times have gotten a bit better in recent years, but most companies outside of Google still take an embarrassingly long time to get current software into their customers’ hands.
- This rollout is especially awkward, as Android 13’s most noticeable front-facing changes are aimed at tablets and foldables — and odds are, it’ll be a while before any such devices see the software.
You can find an impressively detailed rundown of every new Android 13 feature worth knowing about in this thorough tour.
Android widgets may soon go wild
Some crafty new code-sleuthing gives us a glimpse at a plan for expanding the reach of Android widgets and transforming yet another Googley home screen into an interactive surface.
The intel comes from the open-source ChromeOS code base and suggests the long-quiet Chromebook desktop could soon house a variety of advanced info.
- The code refers to a series of “glanceables” that’d live within a grid on the ChromeOS home screen and provide active views of things like the time and weather.
- It’s not entirely clear yet if the full selection of Android widgets would be compatible or if the system would be more limited to start.
- When I interviewed a couple ChromeOS execs last year, they told me they had a long roadmap of plans to bring Android devices and Chromebooks even closer together and that they wanted to be “very thoughtful” and “focused on usability” when thinking about if and how different elements should carry over from one platform to the other.
This code-diving chronicle has all there is to know about the under-development Chromebook widget system.
YouTube wants to become your streaming video hub
Google is apparently working on expanding YouTube to make the service more than just a home for its own self-hosted videos.
The plans, according to a new report, would turn YouTube into a full-fledged “streaming video marketplace.”
- In addition to the standard YouTube content, you’d be able to pay for access to services like Netflix and Peacock and then see stuff from those venues right within YouTube.
- The idea is that it’d simplify the streaming experience for regular screen-starin’ schmoes like us by bringing everything together in a single simple app that we’re already using, anyway.
- But the situation seems a lot less simple when you remember that Google also offers a separate TV-like service called YouTube TV — not to mention the hub-like Google TV (or Android TV, depending on where you look) for interacting with different types of streaming content. Oof. My head hurts.
For the full scoop on all the possible YouTube pivots, check out this info-packed article.
Dig up Android 13’s best buried treasures
If you’ve got a current Pixel phone and you’re lucky enough to have Android 13 in front of you already, you’ve got some serious exploring to do.
And even if you don’t have Android 13 yet, you’ll want to make yourself some mental notes about all the little gems worth unearthing once your phone-maker gets around to sending the software your way.
- Goodness gracious, are there some splendid gems here, too — everything from newly added shortcuts to a more capable clipboard and some stellar new forms of vibration customization (ooh, baby).
Uncover some hidden tricks for more efficient Android messaging
Next up in our buried treasure tour is a trip deep into the belly of your Android phone’s messaging setup.
- Google’s Android Messages app has gotten surprisingly good over the years, and some of its more powerful efficiency-enhancing possibilities are hidden out of view and all too easy to overlook.
Best of all? No matter what type of Android phone you’re using or what Android version it’s running, all this stuff should be available to you this instant.
Tap into Android’s browser tab superpower
I don’t know about you, but I frequently find myself moving between my phone and a computer whilst wandering the web. And few things are as frustrating as trying to remember where you left off on one device and then get that same set of sites open on another.
Well, here’s a little-known browser trick that can make your life immeasurably easier: Provided you’re using Chrome on both your phone and your computer (and that you’re signed into the same Google account in both places), the next time you pick up your phone and want to pick up where you left off on your computer…
Step 1: Open up Chrome on your phone.
Step 2: Tap the three-dot menu icon in the browser’s upper-right corner and select “Recent tabs” in the menu that comes up.
Step 3: Find the name of your computer.
Step 4: You’ll see all the tabs you had open there most recently beneath its name — but the real magic comes when you press and hold your finger down to that same line for a couple quick seconds.
That’ll reveal a hidden menu with the option to open all of the tabs from your other device in one fell swoop.
Samsung’s got some fancy new folding phones
The shiny new Galaxy Z Fold 4 and Galaxy Z Flip 4 (gesundheit!) are all about refining the foldable phone formula — both inside and out.
This latest generation of foldables really is aimed at improving the folding phone experience and reducing the number of asterisks involved.
- The Fold 4 and Flip 4 both have better battery life and cameras along with (allegedly) less fragile screens — the biggest sticking point for this type of technology so far.
- They’re also the first phones to run Google’s in-betweener Android 12L release, which introduces a new ChromeOS-like taskbar for tablets and foldables.
- In an awkward twist of timing, the devices are coming out just ahead of the launch of Android 13, which is where a more optimal large-screen Android experience truly comes into focus. And if past trends are any indication, it may be a while before Samsung gets that software processed, ready, and into phone-owners’ hands.
READ MORE: You can get a good overview of what the new devices are all about in this hands-on assessment and see a fascinating view of how Samsung’s folding phone philosophy has evolved over the years in this impressively detailed guide.
Your TV could gain some neat new Googley features
After years of stagnation, Google’s recently rebranded TV software is on the brink of a major expansion, according to a new report.
The report says Google wants to turn Google TV (and/or Android TV, depending on where you look) into a “key pillar of the Android ecosystem” — in large part by increasing its role with fitness.
- Google apparently wants to integrate the platform closely with fitness trackers and encourage developers to create “interactive workout systems for the living room.”
- The setup would also reportedly tie in to WearOS and Fitbit so you could monitor your health stats on the big screen whilst you sweat.
- Beyond that, plans call for tying TVs in more with Google’s smart home systems to make it easier to access cameras and connected-device controls while watching an endless stream of “Alf” (or whatever it is you watch while flailing around wildly and pretending to exercise).
READ MORE: You can find all there is to know about the yet-to-be-announced plans in this thorough report.
Google’s stepping up its messaging war with Apple
El Googster has launched a full-fledged assault against Apple in what’s quickly becoming a very public battle over the future of mobile messaging.
Well, this certainly took a dramatic turn, didn’t it?
- Google’s new campaign includes a dedicated website and series of celebrity tweets that aim to set the record straight about why the iPhone-to-Android messaging experience is so subpar.
- In essence, Apple deliberately makes messaging with Android users from an iPhone unpleasant — presumably to create the perception that Android is the problem and to increase iOS loyalty.
- Apple could maintain its iOS-only iMessage platform but use the more modern RCS standard as a fallback for messaging with anyone who isn’t on iOS instead of relying on the now-38-year-old SMS standard, as it currently does. That’d make for a meaningfully better and more secure experience for its own users. But, well — y’know.
READ MORE: The new “Get the Message” website says it all.
Speed up your Android typing with seven smart settings
Time to talk typing, Android-style — and our first set of tips is all about out-of-sight Gboard settings that’ll get you ready to shift into turbo typing mode.
Your newfound superpowers include:
- Swifter symbol summoning
- Speedier long-pressing action
- The fastest number access imaginable
- And snappier fixing of auto-correct missteps
Handle Android text capitalization like a total typing pro
Next up: Stop wasting your time changing the case of your on-screen text like a caveman and instead start tapping into Gboard’s tucked-away text capitalization shortcuts.
Here’s the short version:
- As long as you’ve got Gboard’s gesture typing option enabled, you can slide your finger directly from your keyboard’s Shift key (the up-facing arrow) onto any letter to capitalize it instantly.
- And anytime you want to change the case of some text you’ve already typed out, remember this: You can double-tap your finger on the word or words to highlight ’em — then hit Gboard’s Shift button to shift the text into Sentence Case, lowercase, or UPPERCASE. Keep hitting Shift to rotate through all the possible stylings.
Take advantage of Gboard’s hidden option for better voice input
Android’s always been great at turning your spoken words into text on the screen, but now that Google’s making phones with its own custom chips inside ’em, it’s starting to unlock even more powerful options for spoken dictation.
If you have a Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, or Pixel 6a, make a mental note of this underappreciated gem:
Anytime you want to dictate text to your phone and keep your phone listening indefinitely, you can double-tap the microphone icon in Gboard’s upper-right corner.
That’ll keep the mic open until you tap it again, close the keyboard completely, or say the word “stop” — which is a pretty nice change from the standard behavior, where the system just stops listening whenever you pause for more than a few seconds.
And an extra little bonus for my Pixel-palming pals: This brand new guide has 10 out-of-sight Pixel settings you’ll absolutely want to dig up and explore.
Android 13 may surprise you
Google’s next big Android version is expected to be ready to roll out any moment now — but when the software shows up on your phone, you might be left scratching your head.
Android 13 really is one of the strangest Android versions to date. It’s both one of the most shape-shifting updates in Android’s history — and one of the most subtle sets of changes we’ve ever seen from a major Android release.
- On the phone front, where most of us will experience Android 13 first, you probably won’t notice much of anything different when the rollout reaches you.
- It’s with foldables and tablets where the software’s most dramatic enhancements will be apparent — but barring some unprecedented miracle with Android upgrade delivery, we won’t get a glimpse at any of that for a while yet, since the companies responsible for the current crop of those devices tend to be a bit poky with their rollouts.
- That creates an unusual situation where Google’s putting one of its most ambitious Android software updates out into the world, and we’re likely still months away from being able to experience its most significant elements. So, yeah: pretty awkward, to say the least!
Your phone’s back gesture is about to get better
One of the most intriguing ideas we heard about early on in the Android 13 development process was a new “predictive back gesture” that’d make it more obvious where the system-level back command would take you. And now, we’re getting a clearer picture of what the enhancement’s all about and when we’ll actually see it.
Few folks noticed, but Google quietly revealed this week that the new system won’t be visible to regular ol’ phone-totin’ schmoes like us in Android 13 — but that it is available for developers to start testing as of the latest (and final) Android 13 beta.
- The new setup will eventually let you see what exactly a swipe-in back gesture is gonna do before you finish the action.
- Android’s back command has always been a little inconsistent and confusing, so this should be a pretty big improvement.
- Google’s asking all developers to get their apps ready now so the feature can become available to everyone in a “future Android release.”
Take a peek at this Android Developers Blog post for a detailed overview of what’s happening now and what’s next.
A core Android app is about to get a new identity
The confusing transition of Google’s Duo Android app is officially underway — and that means a new name will be showing up in your phone’s app drawer any day now.
Google announced its plan to merge Meet and Duo about a month ago, and this week, the first signs of the transition started appearing on Android devices around the world.
- If you open the Duo app on your phone, you’ll probably see a message alerting you to the coming change.
- Some folks are also now starting to see the existing Duo app fully morph into Google Meet — a change that’s seemingly showing up at a slowly phased-in pace.
- The change is expected reach everyone by sometime next month, at which point the app formerly known as Duo will be Google Meet and the only official Google video calling service.
If you want to try to wrap your head around this amusingly ridiculous rebranding mess, this article has a simple rundown of what’s going on and what you can expect.
Find a handy new Android search shortcut
Search, more than anything, is Google’s core strength. And one of the company’s most impressive search systems lives in a nifty little service called Google Lens.
- Lens, if you aren’t familiar, is a real-world search tool that lets you do everything from copying text off a physical paper to grabbing words out of images and even scanning QR codes.
- It’s built directly into Android, and you can get to it in a variety of ways.
- At some point in the recent past, Google quietly added in an extra-convenient shortcut to reach Lens for real-world searching from right within Chrome.
So try this: Open up Chrome on your phone and tap the address bar at the top. See that little camera-like icon all the way over at the right of that line?
Tap that, and you’ll be taken immediately to Lens, where you can use your phone’s camera to do all sorts of time-saving stuff.
Try out a nifty new YouTube zooming feature
Ever find yourself watching a YouTube video on your phone and wishing you could zoom in a little closer to one specific part of the screen?
A new experimental YouTube Android feature lets you do exactly that. And if you subscribe to Google’s YouTube Premium service, you can try it out this second.
Provided you have YouTube Premium, head into the YouTube app on your phone — then:
Step 1: Tap your profile picture in the app’s upper-right corner.
Step 2: Select “Settings” followed by “Try new features.”
Step 3: Look for the “Pinch to Zoom” card and tap the Try It Out button within it.
And that’s it: From that point forward, you should be able to pinch on any actively playing full-screen video with two fingers to zoom in anywhere you want.
One quick tip: After activating the option, you’ll probably have to restart the YouTube app completely — either by swiping it away from your Recents screen or by backing all the way out of the app and then reopening it — before it’ll work.
Check out Android’s latest music-surfacing gem
One of the coolest parts of YouTube Music is the way the service integrates seamlessly with YouTube itself. That makes it possible for you to listen to a sprawling library of live user-uploaded performances right alongside your regular recorded music collection.
Now, Google’s making it even easier to discover live versions of your favorite tunes within the YouTube Music app.
The next time you’re playing something in YouTube Music on your phone, try tapping the “Related” tab at the bottom of the playback screen — then look for a newly added section called “Other performances.”
Take note: The section will only appear when the system actually finds a fair amount of live performances for the specific song you’re playing, so if you don’t see it right away, try it with a handful of other tracks.
When that section does show up, it’s an awesome way to find interesting alternate versions of your favorite music — and especially if you love listening to live music as much as I do, it’s a spectacular new option to have.