Tag Archive | "Google"

Google Phone 9.0 teardown reveals upcoming features – notification channels, picture messaging and more

A Google Phone update doesn’t usually offer too much to talk about. Last week’s version 9.0 rollout apparently had nothing for us to write about, but a teardown has uncovered a few gems within the code. There is evidence of at least a handful of new features present in this new update.

For starters, notification channels are a hot Android O topic, and Google looks to be getting its Phone app ready to take advantage of these. This new feature will allow applications to group notifications into categories. Sounds, vibrations and notification lights could then react differently to each.

See also:

Everything new in Android O: features and changes

March 22, 2017

Plenty of phones have the option to send a prewritten text message when one can’t answer a call, but what about the caller? It’s common to send a message to the recipient, letting him know what the call was about, or its level of urgency. There is code in this APK file regarding “post-call messages”, which would be just what their moniker entails. There aren’t many details on how this will be implemented, but it sure sounds like a helpful tool is in the works.

There is also some code in Google Phone 9.0 that hints at more convenient picture messaging. Here’s the thing: if you’ve ever wanted to quickly send an image during a call, you’d normally need to exit the phone app, open your messaging app of choice, then go about sending your photo. Google Phone 9.0 contains a few different notifications relating to picture messaging, including “Received a photo” and “Sent a photo”.

Lastly, there’s some code relating to dialer codes, too. Not familiar with dialer codes? The idea is that you can dial a series of characters to display information or perform certain actions. Now it seems like the Google Phone app will be able to take advantage of these.

Plenty of codes show up in the teardown, but we don’t know what they do just yet. And while some have been used in the past, we advise that you don’t test your luck. That is, unless you know what you are doing and realize using these could potentially damage your phone and/or void your warranty. Hit the source link to see the codes.

Android Authority

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Google rolling out high priority email notifications to some Inbox users

Some users of Google’s popular Inbox email client are getting a new, and much requested, feature to play with. They are reporting that a new option is available in the app’s settings, which allows Inbox to only send out notifications for incoming emails that are considered to be high priority.

See also:

Best email apps for Android

October 4, 2016

As first reported by Android Police, the setting for this new feature can be turned on or off by the user. What is not yet known is how Inbox will “know” which of your emails are considered to be high priority and which are not. Since this feature has just been spotted by a limited number of Inbox users, it’s more than possible that the high notification setting may not be quite ready for prime time.  It’s also not known if this is a true app update for download, or one that is available via a server-side update.

Hopefully Google will make an official announcement on this new Inbox feature, along with how it works, very soon. In the meantime, if you use Inbox a lot, have you personally spotted this new high notification setting? If so, do you think it will be a useful feature, depending on how well it identifies emails as being truly high priority? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Get it at Google Play

Android Authority

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Google releases Android Things Developer Preview 3

Google has released the third developer preview of Android Things, the company’s platform that offers APIs to developers to help them build smart devices.

Leveraging Android Things, developers can develop for Internet of Things and take advantage of regular updates, Google services, and most importantly, a secure platform. The Developer Preview 3 introduces a few enhancements to improve the features available to developers.

See also:

What is Android Things? – Gary explains

January 13, 2017

As of Developer Preview 3, Android Things now supports all Android Bluetooth APIs for android.bluetooth and android.bluetooth.le packages across all supported devices. The improvements mean that developers can leverage Bluetooth as if it were an Android smartphone enabling the full range of Bluetooth capabilities.

In addition, USB Host Support has been added to Android Things to provide the same functionality that has been part of Android since version 3.1. USB Host allows a regular user space application to communicate with USB devices without root privileges or support needed from the Linux kernel.

The introduction of these two features in Developer Preview 3 bridges the gap yet further towards integrating the functionality we all know and love in Android into Internet of Things. With IoT devices quickly finding a place in everyone’s home, it’s good to see Google help provide a standardized platform to develop on that will hopefully improve accessibility and interoperability.

To download images for Developer Preview 3, you can visit the Android Things download page and also join Google’s IoT Developers Community on Google+ to connect with others interested in Android Things.

Android Authority

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Why Google Hangouts is irreplaceable to me

Google is making some big changes to their messaging services. Android’s Messenger is now Android Messages. Hangouts is now Hangouts plus some chat and meet options. What ever happened to keeping things simple? Am I really in the minority in liking Hangouts just the way it is?

Just what is going on with Google Hangouts? Let’s explore, and then let me make something clear, Hangouts is irreplaceable for me, for now.

Google Hangouts – a brief history

Don’t worry, I don’t want to recall the entire Hangouts history either, let’s be brief. Hangouts began its life as a section of Google+ on the web, but let’s pick up with a different beginning, Google Hangouts for Android launched in May of 2013. In the big picture, the app has not really changed much since launch.

Not all features were in place from the beginning, but at this stage Hangouts mimics most of the web functionality. Users get one-to-one chat, group chat, audio calling and video calling with up to ten users. Make that up to twenty five users at work or in school, but you and I at home get ten.

Hangouts can also handle SMS messaging. Despite a rocky start with a troublesome interface that let down those hoping for an iMessage killer, Hangouts became the default messaging app on some phones, like my Nexus 5. Of course, Hangouts is not as integrated into Android these days.

On the technical side, Hangouts uses a proprietary protocol, which means you can’t plug it into an old-school XMPP messaging handler. If you don’t know what I just said, don’t worry, not to discredit the folks behind XMPP and supporting tools, but they’re a thing of the past, even if the tech is still valid. Sorry.

As a proprietary service, Google offered up an API to tie in, but, what is worrying people like me today, that API access is being discontinued in April of 2017. That’s a month from now. Should we be worried that Hangouts, as we know it today, is on the verge of shutting down as well? We don’t know, but we’re afraid of what the answer might be.

Why I need Hangouts

To use Google Hangouts, you must sign in with a Google Account. Simple enough, we’ve all got one of those, right? This is where the magic begins, Google syncs all of your Hangouts messages across all of your devices. Not to mention that it pulls your contact info from your Google Account, so you have all your people immediately at your finger tips.

Better than syncing across just your mobile devices, Hangouts syncs everywhere you go. Log in at hangouts.google.com, all your chats will be there. Use the Chat tool in Gmail on the web, that’s Hangouts as well.

You know how your messages go and disappear when you use Snapchat, or you have to sometimes copy and paste info from your other chat software into an email or over to Maps? You’ll still have some of that with Hangouts, but a lot less. Hangouts can display maps and more based on your location or addresses you enter into a chat, making it a one-click action to get to navigation and more.

The same one-click action will get you into web pages, phone calls and more. In short, Hangouts, at least for Android, is a less personal personal assistant, but only for a few things. These are perks, not requirements, and certainly not unique to Hangouts, though.

Unique to Hangouts is the one-stop shop of communication, and the ease with which users can get involved. This is what makes Hangouts priceless to me, I am never more than a click away from chat, audio and video calls with nearly anyone in my life.

Google Allo and Duo, announced at Google I/O 2016, appeared to be promising apps, but my people never bothered with them. It is not that they are bad services, it is that they didn’t make a difference. My parents have never heard of Duo, I can almost guarantee that, and since they use a smartphone as a feature phone and connect to the world via PC, Allo’s need to be set up with a mobile number will never happen.

Easy to use, cross platform services will win out over cool features in the end.

This exact concept is accurate for most of the people in my life, they either do not want to use their phone as a computing device for communication, or they don’t use Android. The idea of getting them onto WhatsApp or any of the other chat services is laughable as well, unless they can access exclusively from a PC.

The people in my life are a little bit different than the tech enthusiasts that build the top chat apps today, and this is exactly why I need Hangouts. This could also be a wake up call to many services: cross platform and easy to use services will win out over cool features in the end.

The fact that I can grab absolutely any computing device that I own and pick up an ongoing conversation is priceless. More importantly, as boring as Hangouts may seem to most users, I can connect with anyone that has ever used a Google service.

Hangouts Chat and Hangouts Meet

Google released Hangouts Meet, a business focused video conferencing app for Android that is extremely easy to use. Good on them for making a video conferencing tool dedicated to G Suite (Google Apps) business users. With Meet meetings tied into Calendar events, and one-click access to join a meeting, this could be huge if it ever leaves the education and work space.

I just used my G Suite to setup and host a Hangouts Meet video call. It worked fine within the organization, but when I used my normal Google Account to join the call it launched in regular Hangouts. Yes, I had Meet open on my screen, but Hangouts took the call. Sorry, why do I have Meet? What is it doing exactly? Particularly with a basic Google user account, Meet is certainly not meeting my expectations at this stage.

Now, actively communicating within Meet, I want to type something out, where do I do that? I head over to Hangouts Chat to, say, send a link to a project we’re video chatting about…. No, wait, Chat isn’t out yet, so I have to use Hangouts.

Google, what’s up with this?

Just as important, Duo and Allo never once crossed my mind in the active workflow. In the end, I spent 25 minutes today semi-unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to use Meet, Duo and Allo to do something that people do almost by accident on Hangouts, communicate without the tech getting in the way.

To be fair

I am not really giving Google time to play all their cards here, I know this. In fact, with the idea that Hangouts Chat has Slack in their headlights, I am very excited to see what comes of it. Slack is a fantastic communications tool, organizing one-to-one chat, group chat and audio calling into a single, cross-platform and fully syncing communications tool. Sound familiar?

Before we wrap things up, I should probably give some credit to Skype and Facebook Messenger. As far as being able to sit down to any computing device and communicate, they have a far reaching user base and decent platforms. Each only tick a portion of my ‘must have’ features, but they’re still good services. Is it fair to mention that I do not at all use Facebook? This article may have played out different if I did.

David Imel urged me to think analytically about this all, instead of just reacting with anger that Hangouts might be changing or even shutting down. He asked me to consider iMessage as well, which is a fair comparison to the SMS and text chat experience through Hangouts on Android. Wait, did I just say that iMessage offers just one half of the functionality, and only on a limited set of devices? Sorry David, iMessage may be a solid tool, but it just does not compare for me.

David was absolutely right about one thing, iMessage is super easy to get up and running. If you have an Apple account, iMessage just works and everything syncs across devices etc.

Wrap up

There are many great text chat tools out there. There are a good handful of solid video conferencing tools making the rounds and there are many wonderful audio chat apps and programs to choose from. There are even a few services that combine some or all of the above. We each have our own needs, desires and circles of people that prefer differing services as well.

The automatic sync between all devices, cross-platform support and storage of all messages into a log in Gmail may also not be for everyone. Google Hangouts offers a simplistic user experience, which is not uncommon, but with all of the capabilities built in, I’m not sure many other services can compare. Most importantly, I feel people spread themselves too thin if they attempt to use even just the most popular services on the daily, never mind all of the services.

It is entirely unfair to say that one communication tool rules them all, but for me, in my world, with my people, nothing comes close to the existing Google Hangouts.

If you had to choose just one communications app on your Android device, what would it be?

Update: SMS integration to be removed in May 2017

That’s it guys, Hangouts is falling apart. The ability to mindlessly respond to SMS messages from my PC will soon require a new tool. Not entirely, mind you, as Google Voice numbers will still work and I am one of the relatively few that also use Project Fi, so we’ll see how that plays out, perhaps all my Hangouts functionality will remain. Bottom line, however, most of us are out of luck, SMS is the first to go, hopefully that doesn’t kill Hangouts.

Starting March 27th, as the news goes, expect to see a message from Google on your Android device, it’s pretty simple, we are welcome to use another SMS app on our phones after May 22nd. Lucky us. Stay tuned for more on this, the news just broke, we have to figure out the details yet.

Android Authority

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Google Allo vs. iMessage: Which one does it best?

Google Allo vs. iMessage

Messaging apps are like fine wine – they get better with age. Or, at least in the case of the two we’re looking at here – Google Allo and iMessage – that seems to be the case. Similes aside, with the launch of Google Allo late last year, and with the most recent updates to iMessage in iOS 10, it’s hard not to draw clear commonalities and stark differences between the two and wonder which one is actually the superior app.

Yes, I know, this is Android Authority, and you don’t come here to read about Apple, but if Google has any hope of gaining market share in the world of interactive, rich messaging, they might have a thing or two to learn from Apple’s long-standing app. So, let’s take a quick look: Google Allo vs. iMessage.

User Interface

Let’s start by taking a look at the overall design, ease-of-use and fluidity of the apps. No matter what capabilities your app offers, I’m not inclined to use it unless it’s easy on the eyes, easy to figure out, and simply a joy to use. Fortunately, Google Allo and Apple’s iMessage both check off those boxes, but let’s take a look at some more of the specifics.


If you’ve used any of Google’s other apps like Hangouts or Inbox, you won’t find any surprises in Allo. You’ve got the standard hamburger menu where you’ll find your application and profile settings, and a floating action button to start a new conversation. Inside of conversations, you’ll find a very Nougat-esque design language, with the pill-shaped text bar that is a bit less harsh than the hard corners you’ll find in something like Google’s SMS app, Messenger. For a little added flair, you can change up the theme of your conversations for more fun background designs and message bubble colors. It’s a small feature, but goes a long way towards making the app more fun to use.


Given that iMessage has been around for so long at this point, there’s a good chance you’ll know what to expect when opening the app. Speaking of fluidity, there is no arguing that Apple goes above and beyond to create a uniform experience inside of their “stock” apps, and iMessage is no different. The brilliance of the iMessage application comes from its level of polish everywhere you look. Every animation, every menu, every button – you can tell that no detail was left unexplored to ensure that you get the best experience possible. The iMessage application embodies what users have come to expect of Apple, a reliable, well-thought, buttoned-up experience.


Google Allo vs. iMessage

Now let’s get to the fun stuff. At their core, both Google Allo and iMessage are simply messaging apps, but it’s their features, and lack thereof in some cases, that set them apart. Obviously, iMessage is an Apple exclusive, and Allo was designed with Android in mind, but let’s look beyond that.


When Allo was announced early in 2016, its primary draw was, of course, Google Assistant. Assistant, the evolved state of Google Now, is intertwined within the app, able to be accessed from within conversations to pull relevant information such as weather, locations, movie showtimes, etc. At first, it kind of seems gimmicky to be texting with a virtual assistant, but after a while of using the app, it’s actually pretty convenient to have Google ready when you need it during any conversation.

Google Assistant also exists as its own ‘contact’ in Allo, with which you can have standalone conversations. Here, you can basically query information like you would from the Google app, but your results will be returned in a more conversational manner. Assistant shines in this context by alerting you of reminders, sending you information like weather forecasts on a daily basis, and more. The conversational manner of Assistant also allows you to ask subsequent questions in context to get more information.

For example, you can ask Google “What’s tomorrow’s forecast?” and you will receive a nice visual representation of what you asked for. Then, you can immediately follow up with “What about this weekend?” Google will recognize that your second question is related to the first, and will return the additional information. Furthermore, Allo’s suggested responses that appear automatically above the keyboard make getting more information from Assistant incredibly easy to do with little input.


Let’s start with the basics – iMessage supports SMS. Sounds like a no-brainer, but given that Allo does not, it’s definitely worth noting. So yes, you can text anyone from iMessage, you just won’t be able to use some of its key features.

Apple’s iMessage is a solid messaging app, no question about it. However, it doesn’t really have one ‘main draw’ like that of Google Allo. But, the fact is, it doesn’t need one. Unlike Android devices, iPhone’s comes with an excellent messaging application out of the box. One that’s packed full of features, and usually is enough to keep users from seeking an alternative. Many of iMessage’s flagship features focus on making conversations with your peers more intimate (in the innocent sense of the word) and personal. For instance, if you want to send a message to your wife saying, “I love you!”, you can add an animated heart balloon that will begin its animation when she views the message.

Other examples of this include confetti that takes over the screen, party balloons that float up from the bottom of the screen, fireworks exploding in the background, a shooting star, and more. These message enhancements are taken a step further with actions such as Slam; powerful and large text bubbles, Whisper; smaller and gentle text bubbles, Invisible Ink; keeps text and photos hidden until tapped, and more.

One of the coolest features of iMessage is the ability to replace words in your message with emojis. So if you type “Want to grab pizza tonight?”, the word ‘pizza’ will be highlighted as yellow text, and upon touching the word, will be replaced with a pizza emoji. On top of that, the App Store specific to iMessage has a ton of applications that enhance the experience of the app by giving you access to more stickers, the ability to make payments and more.

It’s hard to name a clear winner in this category since the applications share the same basic messaging functionality, as well as some others, such as the ability to send photos and videos, audio clips, stickers (with additional packs available for download) and real-time location sharing. However, when it comes to sheer volume of the things you can do with the app, iMessage edges out Google Allo. It’s very clear how much time and attention Apple has put into its messaging application, and if taken full advantage of, iMessage is a really enjoyable communication application to use.

Backup and Privacy

Privacy isn’t something we think about all the time when it comes to texting back and forth with friends, but the truth is, any information that falls in the wrong hands can spell bad news. So, what do iMessage and Allo offer in the way of privacy? And, what are your backup options if you ever to need to restore your messages at a later time?


Do you remember all that fuss about Google Allo indefinitely storing your messages to improve the app? Even Edward Snowden joined the conversation. Well yeah, that’s a thing. Messages you send with Google are protected from online predators by being scrambled from the time you send them to the time they reach Google’s servers, and again from the servers to the recipient, but Google does keep normal messages sent from Allo for their special use. Doing so allows Google’s messaging app to create those handy quick reply suggestions, as well as power Google Assistant.

However, if you are concerned with your privacy, you can use Allo’s Incognito Chat to ensure your messages are encrypted end-to-end, so only you and the recipient can read the message. Incognito Chat also has a pretty cool self-destruct feature (called “expiration” in the app) that gives you the ability to have your messages disappear from your device, as well as the recipient’s, in a set amount of time. The amount of time can range anywhere from 5 seconds to 1 week.

Backing up messages in Allo is something that definitely needs some work to say the least. Many users (including myself) have complained that when switching to a new device, you lose all of of your previous messages, even after linking the same Google account and phone number.

Given that Google is storing your conversations for other reasons, you’d think they would at least let you sync your message between different devices, but unfortunately that’s not an option.


iMessage doesn’t have any real privacy settings, but that’s because Apple swears by its built-in privacy. Conversations in iMessage are encrypted end-to-end, and Apple says they will never store or scan messages for their own use – preventing them, or anyone else, from ever invading your privacy.

As you’ve likely heard about during recent events, Apple doesn’t create any “backdoors” with their products because that “undermines the protections” they’ve put in. The only two real privacy options you have with iMessage is the ability to choose how long your messages are stored; forever, a year or 30 days, and, how you would like your message previews to be displayed on the device.

When it comes to backing up your messages, there’s not much to worry about. There is a ton to complain about when talking about iCloud, but you can count on your iMessage conversations being backed up and accessible in multiple ways. If you get a new iPhone, iPad or Mac, you’ll immediately find your previous conversations right where you left them. As part of their privacy promise, however, you can opt to not have your messages stored at all if having them later is something you aren’t concerned with.

Major Complaints

Google Allo vs. iMessage

No app is without its flaws.


Oh, where to start. Don’t get me wrong, I like Allo. I really like it, but it has a long way to go before it will be what most people want it to be. To start, there is no SMS support. This is likely the biggest complaint among all users, because without true SMS support, Allo can’t replace your other messaging applications. Sure, you can send SMS messages to people who aren’t Allo users, but there’s a catch.

Instead of your message coming from you, the person you’re texting will get a message from a random 5-digit number. They’ll only know it’s you by seeing your name, followed by a colon, at the beginning of each message. On top of that, any Assistant-enabled functions you use in that conversation will come through as a vomit of links and special characters. I can promise this will come across as annoying to the recipient.

Allo also has no desktop client. So for those of us who sit in front of a computer for the majority of the day, this is a huge disappointment. Sure, you could use Hangouts, but what’s the point in using two different messaging apps when you could just use one? With iMessage, your messages are synced across your other devices, including macOS. So that might satisfy your need for a desktop client.

In my opinion, Allo is sort of facing an identity crisis, and Google is struggling to figure out where it fits in. Their long-running chat application, Hangouts, has a huge user-base given that it is built in to GMail, and the Android application has 1 BILLION+ installs (granted it comes pre-installed on many devices.)

Hangouts can be used as a default SMS application, but you also have Google Messenger which is a dedicated SMS app with 50,000,000+ installs. So, Google already has a dedicated chat app, and a dedicated SMS app, so that begs the question – why introduce something brand new instead of improving on what you already have? For me, I was expecting a full-fledged text messaging app that could replace what I currently use. But, what I got was a glorified chat app with some really cool baked-in goodies (i.e. Google Assistant).


I’m honestly having a hard time finding things to complain about for iMessage. For the most part, it’s a pretty polished app. But, like I said, no app is perfect. As an Android user and long-time fan, one of the reasons I don’t use an iPhone is because of the lack of customization. iMessage mimics that experience for me. There is no option to customize your conversations between different contacts with various colors, and you can’t change the background of your conversations, other than using screen effects mentioned earlier.

My other complaint with iMessage is the slight learning curve when trying to grow accustomed to the many features available. For instance, to access the text enhancement features – Slam, Whisper, Invisible Ink, etc – you have to force touch the send button. But to access the stickers, GIFs, and other apps, you look in the iMessage App Store menu. To send heartbeats, kiss effects, etc. – that’s another menu. And finally, if you want to send a handwritten message, you have to flip the phone horizontally to reveal the sketchpad.

Bottom line – there are just too many features in too many places. Until you’ve had considerable amount of time to play around, you might find yourself hunting for a certain feature.

Lastly, I mentioned how iMessage syncs across all of your Apple devices, but what if you don’t have a Mac? In this case, you’ll have no means of using iMessage from your computer. This is especially frustrating considering that almost all other iCloud applications are available to access and use at iCloud.com, including Notes, Reminders, Photos, Calendar, and more. So why, Apple? Why haven’t you made iMessage accessible with an online interface?


Google Allo vs. iMessage


So, how do we wrap this all up? Well, I’m not going to call a clear winner here because I like both apps for different reasons. Sure, if we’re talking sheer volume of features, and level of polish, iMessage takes the cake, but the truth is, I have just as much fun using Allo as I do iMessage. And for me, that’s really what it’s about.

For Google Allo, I think the problem lies in how it was launched, how it was positioned at launch, and what users thought they were going to get, but didn’t.

For Allo to pick up any steam, and gain more market share among the other messaging apps, Google needs to make this clear to consumers. Google Assistant is an excellent selling feature, but without being able to text other people not using the app, why would users adopt this vs. Google Messenger? And, with no desktop interface, why would anyone adopt Allo instead of Hangouts?

As for iMessage, it clearly has its place in Apple’s ecosystem. You have it on your phone, you have it on your iPad, you have it on your Mac. Your messages sync across devices, are backed up for when you get a new device, and there are ton of cool features to make sure you’re always having fun. But, iMessage is missing that one BIG THING to really sell it. Maybe if Apple could improve Siri (on a couple of different levels) and integrate it into iMessage, similar to that of Google Assistant in Allo, there would be more of draw to the application. Fortunately for Apple, they have a leg up with the app being installed on every device. No need for them to worry about consumers having to beg their friends to jump on the bandwagon. They’re already there.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Will Google Allo ever be the iMessage of the Android world? Are the features in Google Allo enough to keep you interested and to make you try to convince your friends to join you? Let us know in the comments below!

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Google Pixel XL International Giveaway!

Welcome to the Sunday Giveaway, the place where we giveaway a new Android phone or tablet each and every Sunday!

A big congratulations to last week’s winner of the Google Pixel XL International Giveaway: Brandon B. (USA).

This week we are giving away another brand new Pixel XL Smartphone!

The Pixel XL features a vibrant 5.5-inch QuadHD AMOLED display alongside a Snapdragon 821 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 3,450 mAh battery and an all-new 12MP Pixel XL camera with phase detection and laser autofocus. The standout feature is Google Assistant, a new incredibly-clever AI assistant that also powers Google Home. To see how the Pixel XL compares to flagships new and old, check out the Pixel XL vs Galaxy s7 edge and best Google Pixel XL cases!

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7 things the Google Play Store does better than the Apple App Store

Android or iOS? It’s one of the modern era’s greatest unanswered questions and a point of momentous contention for fanboys on both sides of the fence for thousands of years. Or maybe just the past decade.

There are valid arguments that can be made for both sides: Clearly, Apple created a mobile operating system that is incredibly smooth, snappy, and clean. Then again, Android has gotten quite good — Dare I say it? Even attractive — and powers a mind-bogglingly diverse selection of devices. But I’m not here to goad the cries of fanboys the world over. Instead, I’m tackling a much simpler — albeit no less loaded — question. In a feeble attempt to minimize the wrath of followers of Apple fans everywhere, I will address this question as objectively as I can. That question is…

In what ways is the Google Play Store better than the Apple App Store?

Google Play Store is more developer-friendly

From the very beginning, Apple has been extremely (and, for developers, frustratingly) selective about the apps that are allowed on the Apple App Store. The reason for being so selective was basically for quality assurance. Sure enough, iOS apps have surely gained a reputation for working well and being quite polished. As just a single example, Snapchat for iOS is infamously better than the Android version. This reputation for quality has occasionally resulted in certain developers developing iOS apps either exclusively or first; the latter has been the case with the highly-anticipated Super Mario Run, released for iOS in December and yet to be released for Android.

For developers, there much less risk that you’ll spend thousands and thousands of hours on development just to have your app denied for inclusion on the Google Play Store.

While there’s something to be said for making sure your users get only the best-quality apps, there’s certainly a downside. For app developers, there much less risk that you’ll spend thousands and thousands of hours on app development just to have your app denied for inclusion on the Google Play Store. This has also led to a much more vibrant development community for Android apps.

This is not to say there’s a shortage of apps for iOS. Users of both platforms have more than their fair share of apps at their disposal.

Perusing the Google Play Store, you’ll find a wide variety of interesting and creative apps. For starters, there are many powerful launchers available with which you can totally change the look of Android, and that’s something you won’t find on the Apple App Store. Then there are apps like Tasker that open up a world of possibilities for automating tasks and processes on Android devices. Granted, not all the apps submitted to the Google Play Store are winners; however, with things like Google Home and Android Auto, it’s not a bad idea to encourage and support innovation in mobile software rather than to homogenize it.

Google Play apps are more discoverable

Here’s something that you may not have known about the Google Play and Apple App Stores: when you search for an app, you’re somewhat more likely to find what you’re looking for in the Google Play Store than the Apple App Store. Let me explain why.

The Google Play Store runs your search queries through basically all the textual information available on an app’s page. For example, you could search the Play Store using a series of keywords or a phrase and the Play Store would scan even the descriptions of apps to find ones that most closely resemble your query. By comparison, the Apple App Store compares your query against the keywords that developers manually enter into a keyword section, which exists specifically for this purpose. This isn’t a problem if your query happens to be one of the keywords for your desired app, but if you’re searching something that’s a bit more specific, you may have a harder time finding the iOS app that fits your needs.

Of course, the fact that the Google Play Store has more robust search capabilities probably shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as Google is… you know, Google.

See also:

Google testing new search suggestions for Play Store apps

December 12, 2016

Google Play has the ‘social factor’

Historically, downloading and using apps was something we did individually. We found apps on our own, decided whether to download them on our own and used them on our own. Over time, though, finding and using apps has become more social, at least on the Google Play Store.

The Google Play Store has become increasingly social. Seeing who in your network uses an app is like getting personal recommendations from your friends.

When you pull up an app’s page in the Google Play Store, certain information is front-and-center. You’ll easily spot the app’s cumulative rating as well as if any of your friends use and recommend the app. If you scroll down a bit, you’ll find commentary that’s been left by your friends and other users. You can filter that commentary so that you’re seeing only those comments by users who use your same device or who are using the most recent version of that app. In effect, it makes discovering and choosing apps a more social experience. Considering that many apps — particularly games — can connect you with other app users, even using apps has become a more social experience.

By comparison, finding apps on the Apple App Store is a more solitary experience. There are app reviews, but they’re not front-and-center like on the Google Play Store. Perhaps this is due to the assumption that iOS apps are of a higher quality or because it encourages users to choose apps based on those apps’ merits rather than the opinions of others. However, seeing who in your network uses an app is like getting personal recommendations from your friends. This is useful if, for instance, you’re looking for a new game to download to keep you occupied on a flight or long car ride.

Android apps are less expensive

To a degree, the higher price of iOS apps is a statement on how much harder it is for developers to get their apps on the Apple App Store versus the more laid-back Google Play Store. If you run a search query on the Play Store for “to-do list”, the number of results you’ll get borders on obscene. Of course, there are the popular ones like Todoist, Wunderlist, and Any.do, but there are hundreds — if not thousands — of others since virtually anyone with the know-how can have their apps available on the Google Play Store. And for this very reason, they’re free to download.

Clearly, there’s more competition on the Google Play Store, which is why Android apps tend to either be cheaper or free. Think about it this way: Maybe you’ve made a really great app that many would consider worth its cost, but since there are dozen other apps that offer similar functionality and comparable quality, users are likely to make do with one that’s free.

In this case, such competition among apps in the Google Play Store works to the user’s advantages because it makes apps cheaper. Meanwhile, the Apple App Store is more selective about the apps that are accepted; with less competition, developers are able to charge more for the apps because there aren’t as many alternatives. On the development side, developers are better able to monetize their iOS apps without having to riddle them with ads, which has been the downfall of many a promising app in the Google Play Store. So there’s a give-and-take relationship between app cost and the ease with which developers can have their apps included on the Google Play and Apple App Stores. But if you’re someone who doesn’t want to pay for apps — and paying for premium apps surely gets expensive over time — you’re probably better off with Android.

See also:

How to get a refund for apps purchased from the Google Play Store

December 26, 2016

Google Play has a more robust web interface

In many ways, the Google Play and Apple App Stores are two sides of the same coin, far more alike than they are different. If you’re an iOS user, you’d surely have no problem picking up an Android, opening the Play Store, and downloading the app of your choosing; the same goes for an Android user with an iPhone. However, a key functional difference between these two app markets becomes apparent when you try to use them via the web browser of a PC or laptop.

Pushing app installs to your various Android tablets or phones from the web is much simpler than having to find the app on each device individually.

At a glance, much of the same information is available in both places; you can see an app’s name, icon, and a general description displayed prominently on both the Google Play and Apple App Stores. You’ll probably even spot the same screenshots, too. But while the Google Play Store gives you the option to install an app to your Android smartphone or tablet from right there on your web browser, you’ll have to navigate to the app on the Apple App Store on each of your iOS devices in order to actually install it.

Being able to install apps on your mobile devices from the web browser on your PC (or Mac) may not seem like a life-changing convenience if you’re an iOS user, but I’d wager that many Android users have grown to really appreciate this Google Play feature. The most obvious use case would be when you click on a link to an app while you’re browsing the web on your desktop; rather than having to track it down on your phone, you can use the web interface of the Google Play Store to have the app installed and waiting for you on your device the next time you pick it up. Pretty neat, right?

Google Play provides superior information

It might seem odd to say that the Google Play Store offers more info than the Apple App Store after having just said that both app markets offer virtually the same information. That’s still true, but the Google Play Store tends to show a bit more and have that info organized a little better.

On the Apple App Store, the only way to experience an app before you download it is via the provided screenshots. The Google Play Store provides screenshots, too, but oftentimes with an accompanying video. Said video can be a commercial made by the app’s developer or a brief recording of the app being used; however, in either case, the video is much better at giving you an idea of what you can expect from the app and even how the app is used.

Information also seems to be a bit more organized and easier to read on the Google Play Store. The best way to see this difference is to navigate to an app on both the Google Play and Apple App Stores in separate browser tabs on your PC and compare. You’ll notice that an app’s profile on the Play Store is very linear; the identifying info is at the very top, followed by the “Install” button and the video and/or screenshots. Beneath that, you’ll find the app’s textual information, followed by user reviews and some final details at the bottom, including who developed the app, compatibility info, and when the app was last updated.

With the Play Store, everything is in a neat, vertical line, but on the Apple App Store, an app’s information is separated into two columns, a small column on the left and a larger column to the right. Rather than only scrolling up and down to find the info you need, your eyes are darting from side to side, too. And then there’s the fact that an app’s cumulative rating is separated from actual user reviews on the Apple App Store whereas they are a single section in the Play Store.

Of course, everyone has his or her own preferences. You might find the double-column layout of the Apple App Store to be more efficient; however, I’d say the simpler organization and ease of navigation of an app’s profile on the Google Play Store is a noteworthy advantage.

Google Play apps have broader device compatibility

Last but not least, there’s the issue of compatibility, which is decidedly less of an issue for the Google Play Store.

As you may be aware, Android OS powers both Google’s smartphones and tablets. Likewise, both iPhones and iPads run iOS. In theory, you might expect this to mean that both the smartphones and tablets on each platform would be able to run the same apps. While this is largely the case for Google, it’s a bit more complicated for iOS devices

The entire Google Play Store is your oyster whether you have an Android smartphone or a tablet. Unfortunately, iPad users are a bit more limited.

Although many of the staple iOS apps are available for both iPads and iPhones, the ability for an iPad to run an app is contingent on that app having been adapted for use on the iPad’s larger display. However, this isn’t an issue for Android. When you download an app on your Android tablet, one of three things could happen, depending on the app in question and the version of Android your tablet is running. The app will either have been made to be used on both smartphones and tablets (which is the most likely scenario at this point), be automatically scaled-up to fit the larger display, or the app will operate within a smartphone-sized window at the center of the tablet’s display.

The vast majority of Android apps are designed for use on both smartphones and tablets rather than one or the other. In short, the entire Google Play Store is your oyster whether you have an Android smartphone or a tablet. Unfortunately, iPad users are a bit more limited, at least for the time being.

See also:

These are Google Play’s best apps and games of 2016

December 1, 2016

Let me conclude by clarifying that the Apple App Store isn’t without its strengths; I even mentioned several of them over the course of this article. Likewise, even the Google Play Store has its weaknesses. The purpose of this article was not to declare one a winner over the other. Instead, my intent was to merely identify some of the chief differences between the Google Play and Apple App Stores, particularly when it comes to Google’s strengths.

But now I’d like to hear from you. Do you agree or disagree with the characteristics I identified as the Google Play Store’s greatest strengths? Do you feel the Google Play Store is actually better than the Apple App Store? If you think the Apple App Store is better overall, why? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Android Authority

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Ransomware-infected app gets removed from the Google Play Store


While the Google Play Store is supposed to be the most secure place for Android device owners to download apps, there have been a number of examples of malware finding its way into the storefront. This week, a security firm claims that an app in the store, EnergyRescue, became infected with a ransomware program called Charger.

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3 weeks ago

According to the blog post by Check Point Software, the ransomware was first discovered several weeks ago. Once the app is installed, the ransomware program takes the device’s contacts and SMS messages, then asks the user for permission to access its admin privileges. If that happens, a message then pops up on the screen while also locking out the device. What’s more, the “Charger” program will then display this disturbing message on the device’s screen:

You need to pay for us, otherwise we will sell portion of your personal information on black market every 30 minutes. WE GIVE 100% GUARANTEE THAT ALL FILES WILL RESTORE AFTER WE RECEIVE PAYMENT. WE WILL UNLOCK THE MOBILE DEVICE AND DELETE ALL YOUR DATA FROM OUR SERVER! TURNING OFF YOUR PHONE IS MEANINGLESS, ALL YOUR DATA IS ALREADY STORED ON OUR SERVERS! WE STILL CAN SELLING IT FOR SPAM, FAKE, BANK CRIME etc… We collect and download all of your personal data. All information about your social networks, Bank accounts, Credit Cards. We collect all data about your friends and family.

The security firm also noted that its creators used a number of advanced coding techniques so that the app’s true nature could stay hidden in the store.

The good news is that Check Point Software informed Google of the infected EnergyRescue app, and the company has since deleted it from the Google Play Store. There’s no word on how many Android devices got hit with this Charger ransomware, though the blog post notes that at least one real-world handset was infected.

Google recently offered more information on how it finds and gets rid of any malware that could have been published in the Google Play Store. It also launched a new security-themed page on its Android Developers site, offering tips to app creators to make sure their creations are secure.

This latest example shows that even using the official Google Play Store is no guarantee that the app you may be downloading is secure and safe. While the company is taking a proactive approach to eliminating malware, everyone who owns an Android smartphone or tablet should not just download every app they may see listed in the store.

Android Authority

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Google Calculator update brings an option to view calculation history

If you’re using Google’s stock calculator app for one reason or another, you’ll be glad to hear that the much-needed option to view your calculation history is finally here!

See also:

10 best calculator apps for Android

September 6, 2016

I stopped using Google’s calculator app some time ago because although it’s nice and simple, I couldn’t see my previous calculations. As trivial as that may sound, it can actually be quite inconvenient when you are doing a chain of calculations, and say you make a mistake along the way and need to go back a few steps.

Well, it seems like with version 7.2, Google is finally bringing that feature to its calculator app. You can now tap the three-dot menu icon in the upper right corner of the app and select “History” to access your previous calculations. Not unlike some third-party calculator apps, you can also simple drag the calculator pad down to see your history. If you want to clear your calculation history, click the menu icon again and then select “Clear”: there will be a pop-up message confirming your action.

You can now tap the three-dot menu icon in the upper right corner of the app and select “History” to access your previous calculations.

Though I’m glad Google has at last brought this feature with the latest update, I still somewhat prefer Samsung’s approach where nothing is hidden under the menu. The “History” button is right there on top of the number pad, and selecting it brings a sliding window that shows all your calculations with an option to clear at the bottom. It’s more intuitive, at least in my opinion.

If you want to try out Google’s calculator app with the new feature, you can download the APK and sideload it yourself since it looks like the update is not yet available in the Play Store.

Android Authority

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Google acquires Twitter’s mobile app development division Fabric

Twitter is making yet another move away from its side properties and divisions. Fabric, the mobile app development platform that Twitter launched in 2014, has now been acquired by Google.

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December 2, 2016

Fabric was developed by Twitter to give app creators some new tools to help grow. They included the Crashlytics toolkit, which was designed to help developers find the reasons why their apps crashed. They also included the MoPub tools so that developers could more easily put advertisements inside apps. Finally, there was the Twitter Kit, which allowed apps to embed Twitter posts, along with a way to post Twitter messages from within third-party applications.

In the blog post announcing its acquisition by Google, the Fabric team said it would be joining that company’s Developer Products Group, and specifically its Firebase team. In a separate blog post, Firebase confirmed that Fabric’s Crashlytics tools will become the main crash analytical program for the team. The specific financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This is just the latest move by Twitter to get rid of some of their secondary tools and services so it can concentrate its efforts on its main social network. Earlier this week, it officially shut down its Vine six-second online video service, replacing the app with the lower-end Vine Camera.

Android Authority

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Android Developers

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