104 articles published since December 19, 2022
About Dallas Thomas
Dallas was the type of kid who would take apart his toys to see what made them tick, and he grew up to become a mechanic for a while. His innate curiosity for how things work led him to a career covering Android in 2014, and that's where he found his true calling. He's rooted every phone he ever owned, although he usually sticks with the stock ROM nowadays. When he's not digging into Android, he's either hiking, watching a Rockets game, or busy raising his young son.
Only for beta testers who aren’t running Android 14
Google's update schedule has gotten pretty hectic in recent weeks. The May security update was just seeded, and meanwhile, the company is running two simultaneous beta programs to test both Android 14 and the June 2023 Pixel Feature Drop. The latter is in development as Android 13 QPR3, and Google has just released a Beta 3.1 update for this version.
New renders showcase the foldable Google says is ‘Coming soon’
We've been tracking the Pixel Fold for months, and recent leaks have seemed to point toward a Google I/O 2023 announcement on May 10. Now, after Google unexpectedly tweeted a render video and set a product page live, the foldable has gone official.
Whatever you do, don’t try to wake up to Where Is My Mind
It wasn't long ago when Google rolled out a handy feature that made Assistant alarms shut up by simply saying "Stop" or "Snooze" — none of that "Hey Google" nonsense needed. These quick phrases were first available for alarms and timers on Google Assistant smart speakers and displays like the Nest Hub, but they eventually made their way to Google's phones starting with the Pixel 6. Now, users are reporting some hilarious unintended side effects with this feature.
Charging brick and mmWave not included
We're just over a week away from Google I/0 2023, where the Pixel 7a is expected to be officially unveiled. Details about the midrange phone have been leaking for months, so we know a fair amount about it, including a potential price increase this year. But in the last week, the Pixel 7a has started showing up in retail packaging, and a few images posted on the web today have revealed details straight from the horse's mouth.
Squashing bugs and plugging CVEs
Google is running two concurrent beta programs right now — one for Android 14 and one for the June Pixel Feature Drop — but that hasn't stopped the company from pushing ahead on its stable channel updates. As fun as new features can be, security patches are more important from a practical standpoint, and the May 2023 update has now arrived to shore up weaknesses in Android 13 for Pixel phones.
Device Care and Modes and Routines icons can now be hidden
As if they weren't already some of the best customization tools on Android, Samsung's Good Lock suite of apps just keep getting better with each update. Theme Park recently gave us full manual theming capabilities with Material You color palettes, and you can even transfer all of your customizations to a new phone. With the latest version of QuickStar, you can now get rid of at least two pesky icons without sacrificing any functionality.
First they were recommendations, now they’re just ads
Back in November, many users started seeing targeted promos for apps when they opened the Play Store’s search menu on Android, but Google assured us at the time that these weren’t ads — merely proactive recommendations for apps you might be interested in, given to you at an opportune time when you might have been looking for them anyway. Now, a new plague of Play Store search ads is cropping up for many users, and this time they're just that — ads.
Cloud backup and a new app icon
Google Authenticator is one of the best standalone two-factor authentication apps out there, but it has one glaring weakness: the one-time passwords (OTPs) it generates are only accessible from one device, as the service lacks any form of cloud backup. That’s finally changing with a new feature that can sync 2FA codes to your Google account, allowing you to use Authenticator on multiple devices simultaneously.
New plans, same old perks — plus or minus a few dollars and gigabytes
Cell carriers have a vested interest in making it as hard as possible to directly compare their service plans — one will show prices for three lines by default, another will show prices for four, and they all do their best to make sure their perks look like shiny apples next to the competitor's oranges. T-Mobile has just announced a new set of Go 5G plans, and if you're not looking closely, it's hard to spot the difference between these and the existing Magenta plans.
Google is juggling two betas right now, and this one’s for the June Pixel Feature Drop
Google is running two separate beta programs for its Pixel phones at the moment, so things are getting a little confusing. But the company has just started rolling out the Beta 3 release of its Android 13 QPR3 build, which will eventually be sent out to the stable channel as the June 2023 Pixel Feature Drop. If you're currently running Android 13 QPR3 Beta 2 or the Beta 2.1 patch release, you should see this new update today.
We finally have something like AirDrop for Android
It may not be the most common pairing, but there are lots of people who prefer the polish of Apple's computers and the flexibility of Android phones. The trouble comes when trying to get these two otherwise awesome platforms to play nice together. Windows users can send files from their phone to their PC using Google's Nearby Share, and of course macOS users can AirDrop stuff to and from their iPhones. Meanwhile, it's always been a little tricky to send files from an Android phone to a Mac, but that's finally changing.
It’s like karaoke for your music app
YouTube Music has a strong library thanks to all the remixes and cover versions it pulls from YouTube uploads, but it lags behind competitors like Apple Music and Spotify in so many other areas. Sure, Google is working to reach feature parity with the bigger players in music streaming by adding things like song credits and automatic offline downloads, but it's hard to imagine the service will ever catch up when it lacks something as basic as real-time song lyrics. Thankfully, it looks like the tide is finally turning.
A quick patch with modem updates
Google's prepping the June 2023 Feature Drop for its Pixel devices, and users on the beta program are starting to see a new update today. Android 13 QPR3, or Quarterly Platform Release 3, has just hit another milestone with a Beta 2.1 hotfix making its debut alongside a fresh set of modem updates.
Deep down, we all knew it was too good to be true
Yesterday, some Google Pay users were treated with exorbitant cashback rewards — we're almost talking dollars on the penny here — and the money stacked up quickly for a lucky few. People were using tap to pay to pick up a candy bar and Google was crediting their accounts with tens of dollars in rewards for "dogfooding the Google Pay Remittance experience." Unsurprisingly, Google is now walking back this erroneous giving spree.
Now we know what's broken, but we still need the fix
Google usually sticks to a pretty tight schedule when updating its Pixel phones, but it seems the company has been hitting the snooze button lately. We normally see security patches on the first Monday of each month, but the March 2023 security update for most Pixel users didn't come until the second Monday, and Pixel 6 owners even had to wait an extra week on top of that. Now, the April 2023 security update is apparently delayed too.
Keep track of your pin even when it's off screen
When you're researching a new place on Google Maps, the navigation tool puts a red location pin at its address for easy reference while you check out cross streets and other nearby attractions. Trouble is, it's easy to fall down a Maps rabbit hole and lose track of the initial pin, which usually means you have to zoom out and pan around until you find it again. Thankfully, this clunky experience has just been made infinitely easier with a new feature that appears to be rolling out now.
Google’s MVNO just flipped the switch on faster coverage for Apple phones
Google Fi used to be a complicated amalgamation of cellular networks, but that's all changed now that T-Mobile and Sprint merged, combining two of the three main service providers for Google's MVNO. The third network, US Cellular, was dropped by Fi earlier this month, meaning Google's cell service provider is now essentially just a reseller of T-Mobile connectivity. While we could lament about late stage capitalism and reduced coverage maps, there's one upside here: it's a lot easier for Fi to implement new features now that its infrastructure has been simplified.
DIY smart home security with a la carte hardware and monitoring
Google teamed up with Brinks to create the Nest Secure alarm system back in 2017, but that partnership was dissolved and products were discontinued, with Brinks slated to end its monitoring service for the Nest Secure later this year. This had been a long time coming, which is why Google made a half-billion dollar deal with ADT almost three years ago, but we didn't see much out of the duo until earlier this year when ADT announced new Nest integration with its mobile app at MWC 2023. Now, Google seems to be back in the monitored home security market after a new product line has appeared on ADT's website.
Classical-only app is out now for iOS devices
Google typically makes all its apps available on iOS, and sometimes takes things a step further with iPhone-exclusive features we don't have on Android. Apple is the complete opposite, preferring to lock its software within its walled garden and keep the grass looking greener to outsiders — in fact, Apple only has six Android apps in total, one of which is Move to iOS, and the others are all tied directly to Apple products or services. Soon, however, there will be a seventh member of the Apple Android family.
Google Search may never be the same
There’s been a lot of chatter around artificial intelligence lately, particularly after OpenAI debuted its revolutionary ChatGPT service that Microsoft is now looking to integrate into Office 365 and Bing search. Meanwhile, Google has been a self-professed “AI-first” company since announcing a shift in focus at I/O 2017, and more recently, it unveiled a new AI-powered chatbot called Bard. But in a sea of buzzwords and initialisms, it can be hard to wrap your head around what these new tools actually do.