Jamboard Now Available for Order for G Suite Customers

Back in March, at the Google Cloud Next event, Google announced a new whiteboard-meets-collaboration tool, Jamboard.  The 55″ 4K monitor comes with a stylus for interactions (it’s passive so no pairing required) and can even distinguish between the stylus and your finger.  Think of drawing with the stylus and erasing with a finger.

The idea is to increase productivity.  You have a whiteboard session that multiple users can interact with from different locations.  That includes Drive and the rest of G Suite. You can then collaborate seamlessly and has a built-in camera so it can be the center piece of a conference room.  While Google did not say specifically it was aimed at Surface Hub from Microsoft, it’s pretty clear this is aimed to take it on.

For those of you who are on G Suite, you can now call your Google Cloud partner or rep and order your Jamboard.  It costs $4999 plus an annual maintance fee of $600 ($300 if you order by September 30th).  If you want the rolling stand, that’s $1199 before September 30th, or $1399 afterward.

Search Phrases Comes to Gboard in Google Assistant

One of the best apps of late last year was Gboard from Google.  It replaced Google Keyboard and it is a much smarter, faster keyboard for your Android devices and for iPhone, where it debuted originally.  Now Google has quietly added a nice new feature to Gboard when you use it within Google Assistant.  It provides you with common search phrases just above the keyboard to make interacting a bit faster.

Assuming that you have Google Assistant on your phone (if you have Android Marshmallow or Nougat, you likely do), just long press the Home button on your phone to bring up Assistant.  Normally at this point I find it faster just to speak to Assistant to get the information I need but there are times that I can’t do that (I’m in a quiet place for example).  After you open up Assistant, note the keyboard icon in the lower left corner.  Tap it and that opens up your keyboard so you can type a query.

Android Pay Comes to Russia with Support from 15 Banks

Мои русские друзья, это хороший день для вас!  Good news for those in Russia.  Android Pay has come to your country with 15 banks supporting it.  The tap-to-pay service has been rumored for weeks to be coming to the country but Google made it official on their Russian site today.  It’s good news for a country and good for Android Pay as it continues its slow march across the planet.

As for the banks supported, here is the rundown:

  • Sberbank
  • Alfa-Bank
  • VTB24
  • Russian Standard Bank
  • Raiffeisen Bank
  • Bank Otkritie
  • Rocketbank
  • Tochka
  • Russian Agricultural Bank
  • Yandex.Money
  • B&N Bank
  • Tinkoff
  • Promsvyazbank
  • Ak Bars Bank
  • MTS Bank

While it certainly isn’t every bank in the country, key large banks within the country on on the list which means it will hit a large percentage of customers.

SMS Support In Google Hangouts Ends – Except for Fi Users

Google Hangouts has officially dropped support of SMS for non Project Fi or Google Voice users.  The support ended yesterday and was something that had been planned since Google announced the change back in March.

The change is part of the overall strategy of Google to move their G Suite customers to the new Google Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat while leveraging Android Messages for SMS on Android devices.  For consumers, the focus is on Google Allo and Duo to meet these communications needs.

Chrome OS Sees Another Minor Update

Chrome OS users, there is another new update out for you.  Version 58.0.3029.140 (Platform version: 9334.72.0) is rolling out now to compatible devices and brings just a handful of security updates and performance improvements.  This is the second of these smaller updates in as many weeks.  As is normally the case, what exactly is addressed in this update is not outlined in the release notes.

For those that are new to Chrome OS, the Chromium team within Google tends to keep the nitty-gritty details of what is fixed, especially around security, until a majority of devices are updated.  The logic is that they don’t want those with not-so-good intentions to exploit a security hole by publishing what the issue is until after devices are updated.

MyFitnessPal Adds Item Nutrition Information to Diary Entries

The calorie and diet tracking app MyFitnessPal has an update rolling out to Android users that will more granular nutrition information to your diary entries.  When you add an item to your diary, be it from a manual entry or a barcode scan, the app will now give you information such as calories, carbs, fat and protein in that item.  It will also give you the percentages of your daily goals in these areas with everyone getting calorie percentages while Premium subscribers get carbs fat and protein percentages.

The information is aimed at helping you make informed and wise food and drink decisions to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Smart Reply in Gmail Now Rolling Out to Everyone

One of the announcements this week at Google I/O ’17 was the addition of Smart Reply to Gmail.  This one-tap feature allows you to reply to an email quickly and without having to type anything in response.  It is a feature that has been in Google Inbox for some time now and it appears that users of the Gmail app on Android are starting to see it show up.  If you aren’t familiar with Smart Reply, here is how it works at a high level.

Using Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, the email you receive is interrogated for information – Is there a question?  Is there a date or time?  Those kinds of things.  If such an item is found in the email, you will see a selection of replies to that question at the bottom of the page.  Just tap the appropriate response and a new email pane is opened.  Tap send and you are done.  That’s it.

Samsung Chromebook Pro Now Available for Pre-Order at Amazon

After being announced at CES in January, the much anticipated Samsung Chromebook Pro is finally available for pre-order.  The bigger, more powerful brother of the Chromebook Plus, which is already available, can be ordered on Amazon for $549.99 and it will ship starting May 28th.  The Chromebook Pro is one of just a handful of Chrome OS devices that can run Android apps and with some pretty serious specs for a Chromebook, it will have the horsepower to run the core OS and these apps with no trouble.

In case you don’t remember, the Chromebook Pro is powered by the Intel Core M3 6Y30 processor with integrated Intel graphics.  The processor is clocked at 2.2GHz and is coupled with 4GB of RAM (LPDDR3 for those interested).  It has 32GB of internal storage which is generally more than enough for a Chromebook and has a 12.3″ touchscreen that renders Quad HD resolution.  That display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 and there is an digitized stylus that comes with it.

Today’s Deal – LG G6 Unlocked for $625 on Amazon

Today’s Deal is on LG’s latest flagship, the LG G6.  Right now on Amazon you can pick on up in Black or Ice Platinum for $624.99.  If you want the White version, it is $617.99 but quantities are very limited.  The great things is, this is the unlocked version of the phone.  It will work with any GSM carrier in there in the US like AT&T and T-Mobile.  That makes this price less than what most carriers here in the US are offering the phone for locked to their network.

In case you don’t remember, the specs for the LG G6 are solid.   It is powered by the Snapdragon 821 processor and is coupled with 4GB of RAM.  Storage wise, it has 32GB onboard which can be expanded up to an additional 256GB thanks to the MicroSD slot.  It is powered by a 33oomAh battery and supports Quick Charge 3.0 technology for rapid charging.  The G6 has a fingerprint scanner in the back which is also the  physical power button for the device.

Reality Check – Don’t Expect Project Treble on Your Android O Upgraded Phone

Friday for the Android faithful was a fun day.  Ahead of Google I/O, which starts this week, the company announced Project Treble, a modularized change to Android that will make it far easier for Google themselves to upgrade the core OS while leaving the manufactures and carriers to upgrade their bits on your phone.  It has a huge amount of promise and would go a long way in sorting out one of Android’s biggest problems – timely updates.

Timely updates, particularly security updates, has always been a challenge.  Manufactures are slow (and don’t really have an incentive to keep things upgraded) and carriers just add to the pain. It is a key reason I have chosen Google Nexus and Pixel products as my main drivers.  I know I will get timely updates.   Treble would leave the base level OS upgrades to Google who could upgrade your devices directly for things like security patches without having to involve the manufactures or carriers.

Unfortunately, I have to rain on everyone’s parade a bit.  Treble is coming for Android O and this week at I/O we are likely going to hear a lot more about it.  But don’t expect it to hit your current phone.  Even if you have a Google Pixel, don’t expect it.  Why?  Two Words:  System Partition.

Netflix No Longer Installs on Rooted or Unlocked Devices

For those of you who have a rooted or bootloader unlocked phone, the Netflix app just got a bit more difficult to installed.  If your device rooted or unlocked, you will no longer be able to install it directly from the Google Play Store.  Netflix has confirmed to the team over at Android Police that they are fully reliant on the Widevine DRM provided by Google and thus, devices that are unlocked or rooted will no longer be able to install the latest app.  Widevine, for those that do not know, is a Google created DRM technology that works across multiple platforms.

The good news is that, for now, the app will still work if you have it installed already or you side load it.

Minor Update for Chrome OS Released for Most Devices

A small security and bug fix update is currently rolling out for most devices in the Chrome OS Stable channel.  The update takes devices to build 58.0.3029.112 (Platform version: 9334.69.0).  This build from the Chromium team appears to be for a wide range of devices with no exceptions noted in the release notes.  This is somewhat different than the last few major releases as there have been specific devices excluded from the updates.  Those devices have been for the most part the handful of Chromebooks and Chromeboxes that can run Android apps.

As for what is fixed in this update or patched, that information was not released.  That is the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the Chrome OS team as they tend to not release specifics on an update until the majority of devices have been updated.