Gmail 5.0 for Android

Gmail's app for Android has a new interface based on Material Design. The application is now an email client, as it supports adding email accounts from Outlook.com, Yahoo Mail and other email services that use POP3 or IMAP, but it adds them separately from your Gmail accounts.


Gmail 5.0 for Android makes it easy to switch between accounts, find the number of unread messages and reply to an email.


The compose button is now at the bottom and it's a lot bigger.


It's a cleaner, more modern interface that uses some ideas from Google Inbox.




Google says that the new version of the Gmail app will support all Android 4.0+ devices and it will be available on Google Play over the next few days. If you don't want to wait, you can manually install the APK file from Android Police.

A Smarter Google Calendar

If you wanted a Google Calendar that works more like Google Inbox, that's what you'll get in the new version of Google Calendar for Android.

The new Google Calendar is designed to be "a helpful assistant", so it creates events automatically using information from your Gmail messages. If you book a flight, buy concert tickets or make a hotel reservation, you'll usually get an email conformation and Google Calendar now creates events by extracting relevant data from your email. The nice thing is that the events are updated if you change your reservations or your flights are delayed and you get email updates.


Google Calendar now offers suggestions when you create events and the suggestions are based on the events you've previously created. "With Assists, Calendar can suggest titles, people and places as you type, as well as adapt to your preferences over time. For example, if you often go running with Peter in Central Park, Calendar can quickly suggest that entire event when you type 'r-u-n.'"



Google uses data from Google Maps and other Google services to make the calendar look better. The new Schedule View "includes photos and maps of the places you're going, cityscapes of travel destinations, and illustrations of everyday events like dinner, drinks and yoga".


Google Calendar Permalinks

Google Calendar for desktop has recently been updated. The changes may seem minor, but they add some features that were already available in Gmail and make Google Calendar a better app.

Google Calendar now uses permalinks for all views, sections and events. You can quickly bookmark them, as the URL changes in the address bar when you switch to a different view, open an event or use the search feature. An important side effect is that you can now uses the browser's back and forward buttons in Google Calendar.


Another new feature is that Google Calendar updates automatically. You no longer need to click the refresh button to make sure that all the events are updated and you're not missing some new events.

The calendars from the "other calendars" section that are currently enabled are now placed at the top of the list. This is useful if you've added a lot of calendars.


New Google Calendar Favicon

Google Calendar has a new favicon and it looks just like the icon of the new Google Calendar app for Android, except that it changes every day.


The new icon is also added to the landing page that introduces the updated Google Calendar app. Here's a bigger version.


Google Calendar last updated the favicon back in 2011, when it started to change every day.


YouTube Music Key

YouTube is the most important online music library and Google wants to make it easier to use. Until now, YouTube was optimized for playing videos, not for playing music. This was especially obvious when you used YouTube's mobile apps, which didn't offer features like playing videos in the background or caching videos.

YouTube wants to change all this. "Starting today, you'll see a new home just for music on your YouTube app for Android, iOS and on YouTube.com that shows your favorite music videos, recommended music playlists based on what you're into and playlists of trending music across YouTube," informs the YouTube blog. "In the coming days, you'll be able to see an artist's discography on YouTube, and play a full album with both their official music videos and high-quality songs our music partners added to YouTube."





The most important announcement is YouTube Music Key, a subscription service that lets you play YouTube music videos without ads, in the background and offline when using your mobile device. For a limited time, it costs $7.99/month (discounted from $9.99/month) and it also includes Google Play Music All Access. YouTube Music Key is invitation-only and you can try it 6 months for free. Apparently, YouTube will send email invitations to their "biggest music fans first." Billboard.com reports that the service will be launched on November 17 in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland and Portugal.

It's not clear if Google Play Music subscribers have to pay extra for YouTube Music Key, but I don't think they should. YouTube Music Key looks like a great opportunity for Google to enhance the Play Music catalog with all the remixes, covers and indie music uploaded to YouTube.




Particles Visualization in Google Play Music

Google Play Music's desktop web app has a cool visualization you can enable when playing a song, but it only works in Chrome. Mouse over the small album art thumbnail at the bottom of the window and click "Particles" to enable the visualization. You can disable the visualization by pressing Esc or clicking anywhere inside the animation pane. To enable it again, just click the album art thumbnail.



If you don't like the particles visualizer, you can always mouse over the album art thumbnail and pick the album art visualizer, which is more subtle. Google Play Music remembers your last pick.



YouTube Music Key, Free for Play Music Subscribers

When YouTube announced the Music Key subscription service, I wondered if Google Play Music subscribers will be able to use it for free. It made sense to assume this, since YouTube Music Key bundled Google Play Music All Access. It turns out that Google Play Music subscribers will get access to YouTube Music Key for free.

"Starting next week, as a Google Play Music subscriber, you'll get free and complete access to the YouTube Music Key beta, a new service from YouTube where you can watch ad-free music videos, and keep the music playing in the background or when you're offline. The Google Play Music app will also include ad-free music videos alongside select tracks," informed Google.

This means that Play Music subscribers will be able to use Music Key starting today. It's worth pointing out that Music Key will only be available in the US, UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Finland and Portugal.


Music Key and Play Music All Access are complementary services. Music Key uses Play Music data to show recommendations and metadata, Play Music's catalog is enhanced by adding YouTube's huge music library. Play Music's subscription service offers more value, while Google manages to use YouTube's strengths to make Play Music more popular.

Time Zone Converter in Google Search

I'm not sure if this is a new Google feature, but it's pretty useful. You could always ask Google "what's the time in Mountain View?", "what's the time in Australia?" or "time in GMT". Now you can also convert time zones. For example, you can convert "PDT to EST", "2PM GMT to EST" or "10 PM in Mountain View in Vienna time".




You can also search for "10 AM in San Francisco is what time in London?".


If you search for "10 PM in Mountain View in Australia time", Google shows the time in Canberra and mentions that Australia has 13 time zones, while linking to the search results for "time in Australia".


Google Keep Adds Note Sharing

Google Keep has a new interface powered by Material Design. Google also addedsome new features: sharing notes, real-time collaboration and search filters.



Just like in the old Google Notebook, you can share notes with other people and allow them to read your notes and edit them. Notes update automatically when other people edit them and there's no way to revert the changes. You can't share a note in read-only mode.


"Searching for your notes is simpler now too. You can filter notes by color and other attributes such as whether they're shared, have a reminder, are lists, or have an image or audio," explains Google.


Google started to roll out the new version of the Google Keep app for Android, but the new features are also available in the desktop web app and the Chrome app.

Google Updates Recent Activity Section

Google updated the Recent Activity card from the account settings page. There's a new interface, the information is grouped by devices and the main page is now called "devices & activity".

Google now shows a simplified list with all the devices you've used to sign in to your Google account. Next to the device's name, you'll also see your location.


Click a device to find more information: a list of browsers, the device model, the account access type and more. If there's no Google Account activity in the past 28 days, Google suggests to remove its account access "if you're not currently using this device or you've reset it".


It's interesting to note that Google no longer displays useful information like IP addresses and browser versions. Here's the old interface:


You can find additional information in the new "notifications & alerts" page. "You can see security-related activity from the past 28 days. For example, it will show if you changed your password or added a phone number to your account," informs Google.


Google's Coin Flipper and Dice Roller

Google tries to add more and more quick answers and interactive widgets to Google Search and its mobile apps. They're useful on the desktop, but they're even more useful on a smartphone or smartwatch. Now you can ask Google to "flip a coin", "roll a die" or "roll dice" by typing these queries or using voice input. From what I noticed, it's likely that this only works in the US.

Google shows a realistic animation when searching for "flip a coin" and then it shows the result: "heads" or "tail".



Google's desktop site no longer uses animations when searching for "roll a die" or "roll dice" (singular die or dice, plural dice).


This also works when using a mobile device.


These images are from Google's Google+ posts, but they're only promotional images. You won't see these animations.



Mobile-Friendly Label for Google Search Results

Google tested various ways to highlight if search results are optimized for mobile devices. Some of the experiments displayed icons next to mobile-friendly results, other experiments placed icons next to the results that aren't optimized for mobile devices.

Google announced that it will add in the coming weeks a "mobile-friendly" label next to the mobile search results that are optimized to be viewed on a mobile phone. Google will only add this label if the pages don't use plugins like Flash, if text is readable without zooming, content is properly adjusted so that users don't have to scroll horizontally or zoom and links are placed far enough apart so you can tap them.


There's a page that lets you test if a site is mobile-friendly. Google also has some articles that help you create a mobile site.

I think that adding a small icon is a better idea than using the label "mobile-friendly" next to search results. It uses less space and it's easier to find mobile-optimized results.

Google Knowledge Graph Links to Social Profiles

Here's another sign that Google+'s importance is diminishing: Google's Knowledge Graph cards now include links to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and sites like YouTube and Instagram. Google also adds links to Google+. Some examples: Bj√∂rkKirsten DunstBarack Obama.


Knowledge Graph cards still include the most recent Google+ post and don't show updates from Twitter or Facebook. 

Weather in Google Maps

Google Maps used to have a cool weather layer that displayed temperatures and weather conditions around the globe. This feature is no longer available, but Google Maps now shows weather information and local time when searching for cities, just like in Google's Knowledge Graph cards. For example: LondonMountain View.



To switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit degrees, click the icon that illustrates weather condition and click °C or °F in the weather card from Google Search. You can always click the icon to find temperatures, wind and rainfall forecasts for the next 7 days.

Google Maps Smart Search

One of the coolest Google Maps features is the integration with Google's Knowledge Graph. Besides providing useful information about different places, Knowledge Graph makes the search feature smarter.

You can search for [Canada capital], [Tom Cruise birthplace], [Amazon river where does it start], [largest city in India] and many other queries that return a location in Google Search.



It's much easier than using Google Search to find a place and then switching to Google Maps and searching for it.

This also works in the Google Maps mobile apps for Android and iOS:


It works in the classic desktop interface too: