Google+ Quietly Removes Menu Link to Google Spaces

In the latest update to the Google+ app for Android, Google has quietly removed the menu link to Google Spaces.  It could be the first indicator that the carcass of yet another social networking attempt by Google is about to be thrown on the pile.  And frankly, it wouldn’t be all that shocking.  The change can be found in the 9.6.0 build of Google+ for Android and if you open up the menu using the hamburger menu or a swipe from the left side of your screen, you’ll see that there is no link to Spaces.

The idea behind Spaces was never fully articulated.  It was somewhat like Circles in the original Google+ but it was also aimed to allow you to create a “space”, invite friends so that you could discuss the space’s defined topic.  You could also share videos, images, texts and other media.  In theory, a pretty cool idea but Spaces never really took off.

Google Drive Adds 2TB Tier for $19.99 per Month

Google has quietly added a new 2TB storage tier to Google Drive.  The new storage level is $19.99 per month and fills the wide gap that was between the 1TB and the 10TB offering Drive offer previously.  The new tier can be added to your account via the Drive Android app or on the website.  If you already pay for Google Drive storage, you can upgrade your account via the app or web and you will be partially charged for the remaining time on your billing cycle.  The access to the extra storage however goes into immediate effect.  The new tier is available now and you should see it on both the app and the site to sign up.

The addition of the new tier will certainly help those users who need more than 1TB but not the massive – and expensive – 10TB option.  Price wise, the 2TB plan is competitive with other cloud storage solutions and, of course, since Drive ties in nicely with other Google apps, it is convenient.

Remember that if you store Google G Suite files (Docs, Sheets and Slides) and uses High Quality on your Google Photos uploads, those don’t count against your storage quota.  Things like Gmail attachments, PDFs and Microsoft files do count against it.

Google 2-Factor Authentication on Phones Gets More Detailed

Last Summer, Google started allowing users who have 2-factor authentication enabled to get notified and approve account access via a pop-up on their phone.  The feature is deadly handy as it saves a lot of time over having to go over the Google Authenticator app and type in a six digit timed code.  To this point, that pop-up provided basically a yes or no option but didn’t really give you any details other than someone was trying to sign into your account.  That’s changing for the better as Google rolls out an update behind the scenes to improve the details you get when an authorization request is made.

First, if you don’t have 2-factor authentication enabled on your Google account, you can do that by going to myaccount.google.com.  Navigate to Sign in Options and enable it.  After that, you can add your phone to your account as being a device from which you can give authorizations in addition to the Google Authenticator app.  Once you have it enabled, when you try to sign in from another device with your Google account, you will get a prompt on your phone to approve it.

Google Drive Update Brings Support for Password Protected Microsoft Files

The Google Drive team is rolling out an update to the web that allows you to preview password protected Microsoft Office documents.  The update is rolling out to everyone and should get to your account over the course of the next few days.  Once you have it, if you attempt to open a password protected file, you will be prompted for the password and can then preview the file.  The key word here is preview.  You won’t be able to edit the document nor will you be able to open it up in Google Docs, Sheets or Slides.  It is a read-only preview.

While it is limited, this is a nice edition to Google Drive.  Many users store Microsoft files on Drive so being able to at least preview a document before going through the process of opening it up in the apps could potentially save some time.  Interestingly, the ability to open or preview password protected files is something that even Microsoft does not offer with Office 365 online.

Today’s Deal – Sony Xperia X Compact Down to $364 on Amazon

Today’s Deal is on a great phone that I reviewed a few months ago.  The Sony Xperia X Compact has a lot of punch in a little package and right now, it is on sale for $364 at Amazon.  Normally this 4.6″ phone is $499, so this is a healthy amount of savings.  It is powered by the Snapdragon 650 hexa-core processor.  It has four 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 cores &  two 1.8 GHz Cortex-A72 cores.  The processor is coupled with the Adreno 510 GPU which provides good graphics performance.  The X Compact has 3GB of RAM onboard and has 32GB of built-in storage.  That storage can be expanded up to an additional 256GB thanks to the Micro SD slot that is built into the SIM tray of the phone.

Display wise, the Xperia X Compact has a 4.6″ IPS LCD display that renders at 720 x 1280.  That gives you 319 ppi which is low compared to other devices out there.  I caution readers to consider that this device has a much smaller display so 319 ppi is actually very comfortable on this screen size.  Indeed for comparison, the iPhone 6 had 329 ppi so we aren’t talking about a massive difference from even larger devices.  The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3.

Google Sheets Update Brings Formatting Improvements and Mouse Support to Android

Big changes are coming in the latest update to Google Sheets for Android, web and iOS.  There are some nice formatting options that are coming to the app but probably the bigger news is that the Android app will have mouse support for the new breed of Chromebooks that run Android apps.

From a formatting perspective, Sheets will now have the ability to rotate text (this is found under Format>Text rotation) to make your spreadsheet cleaner and more visually appealing.  For example, you could rotate column headers 90-degrees so that they are vertical instead of wide across the column top.  This means you can make those columns more narrow.  Add to that, finally, the ability to format numbers in Accounting style.  This is one of those “why wasn’t it there before?” features but hey, it’s here now.  Under Format>Number>Accounting, you can change your numbers into this format for easier and more consistent reports on budgets and other financial spreadsheets.

 

 

Rounding out the formatting updates are new border styles.  There are several new border styles in the app that have various thicknesses and double borders.  These are all found under Toolbar>Borders>Border styles.

The big changes though and probably the more exciting ones for most are the changes to the Android (and iOS app) app for Sheets.

Google Play Music Brings Back Recents to The Menu

A small dot release of Google Play Music is hitting the Play Store that brings back a menu option and other small improvements.  The updated build is version 7.4 for those keeping score and with it you will find that the Recents option has returned to the main menu or navigation drawer of the app.  This feature disappeared late last year when Google started injecting machine learning into the app so it could better learn your listening preferences.  Since then, your Recents appeared as a button on the main display of the app (but it only shows your downloaded music if you are in offline mode)

The return of Recent to the menu should clean things up a bit whether you are online or offline and make it easier to find the music you have recently listened to in chronological order.

Instagram Update Allows Multiple Photos in A Single Post

Instagram has rolled out an update to their Android app that brings a long wanted feature to the social sharing app.  Now you can select multiple photos or videos from your phone and have them in a single post.  Up to this point, you were limited to one photo or video per post.  Most people got around this by creating collages but that doesn’t always have the desired effect as it shrinks the photos down considerably.

To use the new feature, you have to have version 10.9 of the Instagram app for Android.  That build is rolling out in the Play Store now so it may be a day or two before everyone sees it hit their phones.  Once you have it and you start a new post, you will see a new “select multiple” feature.  Tap it and then tap all the photos you want to add to your post.  You can have up to 10 and you can mix pictures and video.  After you have selected your photos, you can apply filters to one or all of the photos and the post it as normal.  Once your post is done, those who see it can swipe through your photos to see all of them.

Chrome Notification Panel Gets a Material Design Makeover

Slow and steadily, Material Design is making its way into the Chrome browser.  Right now there is a behind-the-scenes update that brings the more polished look to the Chrome notification panel.  If you aren’t familiar with this feature, it is under the bell icon in the taskbar in Chrome.  It gives you notifications from other Google services like Google+, Google Photos and the like.  Previously, this panel was pretty slow to load and frankly, looked a bit dated when you compare it to the beautiful Material Design look of other parts of the browser or even Google’s own websites.  If you have the latest version of Chrome browser, you will get this update and will know you have it when you see a couple of visual clues.

First, the color changing orb that shows up when notifications are loading is gone.  Now you a simple, clean progress bar at the top of the panel.  Second, you will see your notification in sub-divided areas.  So update for Google+ are under one section, Google Photos for another, and so on.

Honor V9 has Powerhouse Specs for a Sub-$500 Phone

Huawei’s junior brand, Honor, has pretty much always had a solid lineup of mid-market phones at a good price.  Then comes along the Honor V9 and it is nothing short of a powerhouse.  The 5.7″ QHD is powered by the Kirin 960 SoC quad-core process running at 2.4GHz, has up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage and will start roughly $435.  The V9 is perhaps the most complete, high-end spec phone that Honor has released and hopefully, hopefully we will see it here in the United States at some point.

There are three configurations of the Honor V9 but regardless of which one you get, they both come with the Kirin 960 processor and Mali G71 GPU.  You can get a 4GB model with 64GB of Storage , a 6GB model with 64GB of Storage, or you can pick up the 6GB and 128GB model.  Both come with a MicroSD slot so you can expand the storage up to an additional 128GB.  So if you picked up the top-of-the-line model and added a 128GB card for roughly $40, you would have a 256GB phone for around $550.  That is a steal.

Today’s Deal: Anker PowerCore 10400 – $20 on Amazon Today

Today’s Deal over at Amazon is a great one if you are needing to pick up an external power pack for your devices.  Today you can pick up the Anker PowerCore 10400 for $19.99, a savings of 60% off the regular $49 price tag.  As the name suggests, this power pack has a 10,400 mAh battery in it so you can easily charge most devices three times before having to recharge it.  It has two USB-A connectors so you can use it with really anything out there:  MicroUSB, USB-C (A to C cable) and an Apple Lightening cable.  It is designed to work with any device and get you powered up and going again.  It also is in a small package.  This pack is slightly larger than a deck of playing cards so you won’t have a big, bulky battery to carry around with you.

Google Camera Update Allows For Shutter Sound Disabling

If you are a Google Pixel or Nexus 5X/6P user, there is a minor update to the Google Camera app rolling out for you.  The update, version 4.3 for those keeping score at home, fundamentally brings one feature to the table:  The ability to silence the shutter sound.  This may not seem like a big deal but it is something many other camera apps have offered for a long time and when you are in a museum or other quiet place, having the shutter sound fire off each time you take a photo can be a bit annoying.

This new setting is found in Settings>General in the app under “camera sounds”.  Toggle this off and there will be no more sounds from the app.  Keep in mind, this also means that the self timer feature will also go silent too.  It completely shuts the sounds off in the app.