Showing posts with label Android. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Android. Show all posts

Google Major Update in Maps Big Offline Google Maps Save

I don't know about you, but my Google Maps for Android has just enabled the new offline features. Even if you have the latest version of the app, you still need to wait until these features are enabled because they're gradually rolled out.

My first disappointment is that the new features are still limited. The biggest size for an offline area you can download is 120,000 square kilometers and there are many countries that are bigger than that. I downloaded London's map and checked the size of the map: 332 MB. It also expires in 29 days (maps need to be updated at least every 30 days).



It looks like Google's maps include too much information, they take up too much space and there's no way to download some simplified maps.

Let's try one of the smallest countries in Europe: Liechtenstein, which has an area of only 160 square kilometers. The offline map has 62 MB. New York? 409 MB. Los Angeles? 356 MB. Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Bangkok? Not available because of licensing issues.


Forget about downloading the map for an entire country. Google Maps still can't replace the Here app or paid navigation apps.

Google About Me Account Details

It looks like Google works on a replacement for Google+ profiles. About Me is a new site that lets you control what people see about you. "Changes you make here show up across Google services like Drive, Photos, Google+ & others," informs Google.


You can change your name, photo, sites, gender, birthday and occupation. If you click the "+" button, you can also add work contact info, personal contact info, education, work history and places.

"You can change what other users of Google products see about you. For instance, when you connect with people on apps like Gmail or Hangouts, you can choose to share certain additional information with them, like your birthday and phone number," mentions Google's help center.

For now, the "view as public" feature doesn't work. "You'll soon be able to see what you look like to other people across Google services in this card. While we are working on it, view your public Google+ profile," suggests the site.

Google News Card for Android iOS and other Mobile Search

Here's a quick way to find the latest news stories when using a mobile device. Just search Google for [news] and you'll get a card that shows the top stories. Tap the arrow icons or swipe left/right to switch to other Google News sections like world news, business, technology, entertainment, sports, science or health.



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Google Launch Maps Full-Featured with Offline for Android Users

Google Maps has a really cool mobile app for Android and iOS, but most of its features aren't available when you're offline. You can cache maps for small regions and that's pretty useful, but what if you want to cache the maps for an entire country or use navigation and driving directions when you're in a different country? The Here app offers this feature for free and now you can use it in Google Maps too.

"Now you can download an area of the world to your phone, and the next time you find there's no connectivity — whether it's a country road or an underground parking garage — Google Maps will continue to work seamlessly. Whereas before you could simply view an area of the map offline, now you can get turn-by-turn driving directions, search for specific destinations, and find useful information about places, like hours of operation, contact information or ratings," mentions Google.


"You can download an area by searching for a city, county or country, for instance, and tapping 'Download' on the resulting place sheet, or by going to 'Offline Areas' in the Google Maps menu and tapping on the + button. Once downloaded, Google Maps will move into offline mode automatically when it recognizes you're in a location with spotty service or no connectivity at all. When a connection is found, it will switch back online so you can easily access the full version of Maps, including live traffic conditions for your current route."


The new feature is gradually rolling out in the latest version of Google Maps for Android and it will soon be added to the iOS app. 6 years after launching turn-by-turn navigation, this feature works offline and Google Maps can finally replace paid navigation apps.

Android Action Cards in Google Search

Google has a few search cards that let you send some information to an Android phone from your desktop computer. In addition to finding your device, you can send directions, send notes, set alarms and reminders.

Search for [send directions], set a destination and click "Send directions to your phone". When you unlock your phone, Google Maps will automatically open and show your destination.



When you search for [note to self] or [send a note], you can enter some text and you'll get a similar notification on your mobile device. Another option is to add the note to your query and search for things like [note to self buy some milk].




Another action card lets you set an alarm on your phone. Just search for [set an alarm] and enter the right time for your alarm. You can also search for [set an alarm for 9:00] or other similar queries.




"You can connect your Android phone to Google, which lets you send information from your computer to your phone," informs a help center article. To use this feature, you need the latest version of the Google app for Android, Google Now cards and notifications need to be enabled, Web & App Activity has to be enabled in Google Account History. Another requirement is to log in to your Google account.

Tip: if you're not in the US and you don't see the cards when you enter the queries listed above, add &gl=us to the URL. For example: https://www.google.com/search?q=set+an+alarm&gl=us.

{ via +Google }

Google Handwriting App for Android

Google has a new Android app that lets you input text using handwriting. "Google Handwriting Input allows you to handwrite text on your phone or tablet in 82 languages. It supports printed and cursive writing, with or without a stylus. Google Handwriting Input also supports hundreds of emojis, so you can express yourself in any Android app."

After you select your favorite languages from the settings, Google downloads the language packs. The English files are preloaded, so there's nothing to download. By the default, handwriting recognition works offline, but you can tap the cloud button to switch to the online recognition mode. Here's a help center page that offers more information about Google Handwriting Input.


Google Handwriting Input works like a regular Android keyboard, so you can use it any Android app that lets you input text. Google automatically converts your handwriting to a text and shows some other candidates (long press the centered candidate to see even more suggestions). If you try to write a word that's too long, you can type the first part of the word and then continue entering the rest of the word, as Google's app is smart enough to merge them. You can also write two lines or switch to the landscape mode.


"By building on large-scale language modeling, robust multi-language OCR, and incorporating large-scale neural-networks and approximate nearest neighbor search for character classification, Google Handwriting Input supports languages that can be challenging to type on a virtual keyboard. For example, keyboards for ideographic languages (such as Chinese) are often based on a particular dialect of the language, but if a user does not know that dialect, they may be hard to use," informs the Google Research blog.

Google's app claims to support even terrible handwriting, but that's not always the case. Sometimes a poorly written letter can make the app return incorrect results, especially for less common words.

Google Handwriting Input requires Android 4.0.3 or later and works for both phones and tablets. It integrates many features that were previously available in other specialized Google apps and services (Mobile Google SearchGoogle Translate for Android and iOS, Google Input Tools for Gmail, Google Docs and Google Translate,Gesture Search for Android, Input Methods for ChineseCantonese and Hindi).

ARC Welder: Run Android Apps in Chrome

Google added support for Android apps in Chrome OS, but there are only a few Android apps in Chrome Web Store. Developers tested the apps and tweaked them to work well in Chrome OS, even if they were created for phones and tablets.

Now there's an app for Chrome and Chrome OS that lets you run Android apps. It's called ARC Welder (ARC = App Runtime for Chrome, Weld = to unite) and it's mostly for Android developers that want to test their apps before submitting them to Chrome Web Store. You can select any APK file, but not all of them work, especially if they use Google Play Services APIs.


I've tried various APK files from APKMirror.com. A few of them worked properly (IMDb, BBC News, Wikipedia), while others crashed (for example: Amazon and Yahoo Weather), required Google Play Services (like YouTube and other Google apps) or didn't work that well (like Aviary). ARC is still in beta, so there are still many bugs that need to be fixed.

First TVs Powered by Android TV

Android TV is Google's second attempt to bring Android to TVs (the first one was Google TV). After Chromecast's success and the launch of Nexus Player, Google partnered with a few TV manufacturers that will launch Smart TVs powered by Android TV.

"This spring, Sony, Sharp and TP Vision, with its range of Philips TVs, will start shipping televisions powered by Android TV. These have all the goodness of Android TV built in so you won't need to plug anything extra into your television. You can use a single remote to watch live TV channels and play games, movies or shows from Google Play and your apps. These televisions feature voice search, to help you quickly find what you want, and they're Google Cast Ready so you can cast your favorite entertainment from your phone or tablet to the big screen," mentions Google.

From The Verge: "Live at CES 2015, Sony's CEO Kaz Hirai announced that the company's new smart TVs will run on Google's new platform for television, Android TV. The remote control for the TV is essentially a giant trackpad, so that you can navigate the Android TV interface more easily. The remote also comes with a microphone, to make searching easier." According to Sony, "all new 4K and some new Full HD BRAVIA models will come equipped with Android TV."




Other manufacturers use different operating systems: Samsung uses Tizen, LG usesWebOS, while Panasonic launches Firefox OS Smart TVs. It's interesting to notice that Samsung and LG use their own operating systems to power smartwatches, smart TVs, smart washing machine, smart vacuum cleaners, cars and more. "The OS of everything - Tizen is the open-source operating system for all device areas," mentions Tizen's homepage. Having their own operating system allows them to control their own destiny and launch new devices without relying on software from Google.

Android Lollipop's Slow Growth

I'm running Android Lollipop on my Nexus 5 and I must say that this is a great Android release, the best Android experience on a mobile device. Many reported performance issues and various bugs, so Lollipop still has a way to go until it's properly optimized.

Google has recently updated the Android platform distribution numbers and it's interesting to notice that Lollipop still doesn't show up, 2 months after its release. Google doesn't display Android "versions with less than 0.1% distribution", so it's obvious that less than 0.1% of the Android devices run Lollipop.



Back in June, Google reported that the number of active Android users was 1 billion, while in May 2013, the number of Android devices that were activated was 900 million. It's hard to estimate the number of Android devices that run Google Play Store (this excludes Amazon devices and Android devices from China), but assuming that the number is still around 1 billion, this means that less than 1 million Android devices run Lollipop.

In January 2014, Android stats looked different: KitKat's market share was 1.4%, 2 months after its release. "KitKat, which was positioned at 1.1% last month, has eked out an additional 0.3% to reach 1.4%," reported Android Police back then.

So why is Lollipop's market share growing so slowly? 

* The Lollipop launch devices (Nexus 6 and Nexus 9) were more expensive, more difficult to find and reviews weren't that great. I've checked Google's Play Store US site and Nexus 6 is still out of stock. Google no longer offers an affordable tablet (Nexus 7), while Nexus 6 is not a phone for everyone: many people think it's too big.

* A lot of users reported issues after updating to Android 5.0 and some of them downgraded their devices to KitKat. Other users no longer updated their devices, after reading all the news articles about Lollipop issues.

* Google didn't push Lollipop to all Nexus devices. I have a Nexus 2012 WiFi and there's no Lollipop OTA update in the settings.

* Some Nexus and Google Play Edition devices started to get the Lollipop update late. Galaxy S4 GPE was the last to get Android 5.0

Despite all of these issues, Lollipop is available for a lot of devices: Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 6, Nexus 7 (2012), Nexus 7 (2013), Nexus 9, Nexus 10, Galaxy S4 GPE, Moto G GPE, One M7 GPE, One M8 GPE, Sony Z Ultra GPE, LG GPad 8.3 GPE (GPE = Google Play Edition). No other Android release was available for so many devices in the first 2 months. Some Android manufacturers already started to release Lollipop updates for phones like Moto X (2014), LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy S5. HTC promised to update HTC One M7 and M8 this month.

With so many popular devices getting updates, Lollipop's market share will grow much faster in the coming months.

New Google Account Switcher in Chrome for Android



I noticed something strange in Chrome for Android. I was already logged in to one of my Google accounts and I visited Google's homepage to log in to a different Google account. The account switching interface had a new feature called "go incognito" and the "manage accounts" link opened Chrome's account settings sections.


"You're signed in to the following Google Accounts. Add or remove accounts in Android settings," explained Google. There's also an option to "go incognito to browse privately or sign in temporarily".  So now I have to add the account to my device if I want to sign in to a Google account in a mobile browser.


When tapping "add account", you're sent to a different section that lets you sign in to your account and enable various syncing options.



Chrome is just a browser, Google is just a site. Why would you add a Google account to your device when you only want to log in to that account in a browser?

To log in to a different account you can either open a new incognito tab or go to Chrome's settings, disable all accounts and dismiss the warnings. Or you can install a different browser. Why make things so complicated?

Update: There's a flag in chrome://flags called "Enable identity consistency between browser and cookie jar". When enabled, "the browser manages signing in and out of Google accounts". Google also tests a new profile management menu borrowed from Chrome OS. You can try it by enabling these flags: "Enable new profile management system" and "Enable the new avatar menu". "If you share a computer, click 'Switch person' to add your profile and get your own bookmarks, apps, and theme. Switching lets you keep your stuff separate," informs Google.

Device Assist for Android

Google released an Android app that provides tips for using your device and helps you solve some of your device's issues. The app is called Device Assist and it's currently available to "US-based Nexus, Google Play edition and Android One devices running Android 5.0, Lollipop".

Device Assist detects some of the problems concerning your device and offers tips like "consider using a wall charger" or "screen brightness setting is battery intensive". For some of the tips, there's a "do it for me" option that automatically changes settings.


Google also provides tips that help you explore new features and improve the performance of your device. The list of tips is searchable and there a few useful tips when searching for things like "battery" or "screen".



Device Assist makes it easy to share information about your device with Google and to get access to live Google support. This option is only available for Nexus and Google Play Edition devices.


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.

Auto Awesome Snow Shake in Google+ for Android

This is another fun feature for the holidays, but it's limited to the Google+ app for Android: "Shake your device while viewing one of your photos, and watch the snow fall. Shake it again to save your new snowy photo and share it with family and friends."

It's a way to manually trigger the Auto Awesome Snow effect for any photo.


You need the latest version of the Google+ app (4.2.4), which was released today. Blame staged rollouts if you don't have the new version. You can also manually download the APK file.

This is not the only new feature: "when you +1 posts in the stream, you'll see something lovely" (hearts). There's also a unified search box, a new section for less important notifications and separate "What's Hot" streams for different categories.