From the outback to your back yard 🐨 🇦🇺 🦘
AR animals came to the Google app at just the right moment earlier this year, when many of us were stuck inside due to the pandemic and in need of cheering up. Since the feature first launched in April, Google has steadily added to the available creatures with various mammals, insects, fish, birds, and even several species of dinosaur. The latest critters all have one thing in common: they hail from down under.
Although Google Maps still doesn't have dark theme support, a workaround as been spotted that could give us a glimpse of what the feature will look like when it does arrive. Some searches in the Google app load their own stripped-down Maps view, and if you can get the app to work in dark theme on your phone, that Maps view is dressed up in a snazzy dark theme, too.
Many users subjected to frustrating 'This internet connection isn't strong enough' error message
After a large number of complaints about a bug affecting Assistant on Android Auto, Google has finally released a fix along with the latest version of the Google app that should put the issue to bed. A post outlining the problem on the Android Auto support site received more than 1,200 upvotes and a similar number of replies from other afflicted users.
What's wrong with Chrome custom tabs?
Google introduced Chrome custom tabs five years ago, and most apps use them these days. Instead of creating their own custom browsers, developers can just hand over websites to a Chrome tab without the added bulk of a regular browser interface. The advantage is that devs don't have to spend resources on creating their own webview implementations and that users can quickly open these custom tabs in proper Chrome without reloading or losing their scroll position. It's a great system. But Google wouldn't be Google if it stuck with a great system (looking at you, YouTube Music). The company began experimenting with a custom browser for its Google Search app around six weeks ago, and it's now rolling out to more people. While it looks snazzy, it comes with more downsides than upsides.
Dark theme is stepping out of beta and into the light
Last year, both Google and Apple added dark theming options into their mobile operating systems, with many system apps supporting the feature. Some apps took longer than others, though, like Google's own search app. We reported that its dark theme was available through the Play Store Beta program earlier this year, and now the feature is rolling out to all users on Android 10.
Be the wildlife videographer you've always wanted to be
You can turn your home into a zoo thanks to Google's AR animals, but so far, you haven't been able to video record your interactions with tigers, alligators, bears, and others. As reported by 9to5Google, the company saw fit to change that and has silently introduced a video recording feature to its 3D viewer that lets you capture your AR visitors on video. That also works for other Google objects like skeletons, cars, planets, and more.
For your more exotic searches
It's been nearly a year since the Google app added an incognito search mode, but anyone who's used that option noticed one major oversight: Once you tap on a search result, it opens in a Chrome Custom Tab, which is saved into your Google account, and thus gets logged into your browsing history. If you'd like your entire search to remain incognito, you need another solution, and that's what the Google app is now starting to offer.
Google claims it's there for all, whether you're on Android 10 or below
The dark mode rollout was a pretty smooth experience for some of Google's apps, which received a single update with a new toggle for dark/light/automatic theme and that was the end of it. For other apps, it's been a rollercoaster of updates, rollbacks, server-side switches, and inconsistent experiences across Android versions and phone brands. Google's search app is one of the latter, but the company now claims dark theme is available to everyone on the app's beta channel.
'Google voice typing' now has. Automatic punctuation, and it's screwing up. People's messages. (Update: Fixed)
While many bilinguals have their issues with Google's speech-to-text algorithms, native speakers or those who have their phones set to one language only generally don't suffer from too harsh inconsistencies. But Google has started adding an incredibly error-prone automatic punctuation feature to its voice typing input method that can't be turned off, and it's driving. People. Nuts.
Google and Google Assistant's relationship with stocks has been messy, to say the least. Even though you can add stocks and view your portfolio in the Assistant's settings, you can't ask it to tell you what your shares are at without integrating third parties. But there's some movement, as the Google app has begun sending out neatly bundled daily stock notifications to some people, giving them an overview of how their investments are doing.
Google finally lets you share and collaborate on bookmarks, hides the feature somewhere you won't find
For years now, I've lamented the lack of an easy way to share and collaborate on bookmarks in Google Chrome, which would streamline researching and saving relevant webpages for any couple, family, group of friends, or colleagues. Unfortunately, the option was available in 2015 but was later removed never to surface again. Given Google's prowess at making much more complicated things shareable, like Play Store family purchases or Drive documents, it was and still is surprising that Chrome doesn't support collaboration. But Google has just added a way to collaborate on bookmarks, you just won't suspect where it's located: the Google search app's Collections.
A few days ago, a new Labs section showed up in Google's search app on Android. In it, users are able to choose which upcoming features they want to enable and which ones they're not interested in. At first, only two options were there: Pinch to zoom on search results and Screenshot editing, sharing, and actions. Now, a third one has joined them: Search Widget Doodles.
(Update: Official) Google Assistant Ambient Mode arrives on more phones, brings smart display features
When Google first introduced the Google Assistant Ambient Mode, it was initially limited to smart displays. Then at IFA 2019, Google introduced a version for portable devices, such as tablets and phones, turning them into something like a Google Nest Hub when they're docked or being charged. After being initially available for only a handful of tablets and phones, the Assistant ambient mode is starting to roll out to more phones.
It feels like there are a thousand ways to find the information you need these days, but folks set in their workflow may rely on at most one or two of them to get the job done. Unfortunately for fans of "basic" search, we recently lost a pretty useful one: Contacts no longer appear in autocomplete when searching via the Google app or Search widget.
A few weeks ago, several Google apps added a nifty gesture that allows you to quickly switch between your accounts. It started with Maps, then Drive, Contacts, and Gmail followed suit. Now two other apps are bringing the same change: Keep and the Google app.
All screenshots aren't created equal, specifically if you snap images directly within the Google application. In February 2018, we discovered that an in-app photo editor had been included in a beta build of the Google search app. After a year and a half of silence regarding its development, this built-in editing feature is showing new signs of life with a revamped UI, rolling out now to the stable version of the Google app.
Every week, I examine somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred app updates while looking for changes. The most interesting things turn into APK Teardowns or Download posts. Many of the remaining updates are unremarkable, amounting to a few bug fixes, routine updates to libraries, or even just pixel-level adjustments to layouts and images. However, there are usually a few updates that land somewhere in between. I don't want to spam readers with dozens of short posts, but I hate to ignore things that people might want to know about, so I'm going to wrap up the leftovers for a little weekend reading and call it Update Notes.
[Update: Rolling out again] Google app getting full dark mode for Search, Assistant, and in-app Discover feed [APK Download]
About a month ago, the Google app started showing early signs of a dark mode implementation, but users who had the design only saw it interspersed throughout the interface in some sort of chimera mode that mixed white elements, dark ones, and illegible text in many instances. Now, the proper dark mode is showing up for some users, with the entire interface dipped into darkness, from the entire Google app to Assistant and all of its settings.
If you own an Android phone running a largely stock experience or use a launcher that mimics it, the chances are you have the Google Discover feed to the left of your home screen. The artist formally known as Google Now/Feed is now just a selection of articles (and, more recently, ads) from around the web according to what Google thinks you're into. Aside from the controls on each post, there's also a place in the Google app's settings to customize your content. It's been given a makeover and also a new name — Interests.
A few days ago, we told you about one big improvement with Google's reminders, which now finally use unbundled notifications and let you act on each one separately. Part of that article also showed off a new interface for reminders, which looks more in line with Google's recent Material Design approach. However, there are a few other aspects in that interface that we didn't delve into, chief among them is the fact that Google's reminders now require Assistant and won't work without it.