Category: App Update

Google Trips Update Brings Ability to Manually Add Reservations

Google Trips has seen its second update this week, bringing two new features that users will appreciate.  First, you now have the ability to manually add hotel and airline reservations to a trip.  Previously, there was no way to do this and the only way to get reservations into a trip was by having it automatically added via Gmail.  Now when you go into a trip within the app, you will see a FAB (Floating Action Button) which will now let you add flight and hotel information.

The other big change in this update is that Google Trips will now watch your Gmail for bus and train travel and add those automatically to your trips.  This expands the apps ability in searching Gmail as previously only hotel and airline information was automatically added.

Google Photos Gets Backup Improvements for Slow Connections

Google has announced that a new backup feature is rolling out for Google Photos.  The update will be for both Android and iOS and will offer users the ability to backup low-resolution copies of their photos while they are on a slow mobile network.  The photos, which will look fine on smartphone screen, will be replaced by a High Quality version of the photo once a stable Wi-Fi connection is established on your phone.

The feature is aimed at users who do not have a high throughput mobile signal.  This gives users the option to have photos backed up so in case something happens to their phone, they will not have lost the photos.  To this point, backing up in Google Photos on mobile networks was done at full original or Google’s compressed High Quality.  Those can take a lot of time to backup on a slow connection.

Google News & Weather Update Brings Infinite Headline Scrolling

Google News & Weather has been updated with a new feature that basically allows you to infinitely scroll news headlines.  The new feature, named More Headlines, brings you 200 headlines to stories that you can scroll through and read.  The articles offered up are based on the settings you have in the app but also an algorithm to keep articles clustered together and to present you more relevant information.  It is a nice update to an app that has taking a little bit of a backseat to the recently revamped Google News app.

The new More Headlines feature is enabled by default once you have the latest version of the app.  That is version 3.1.4 for those keeping score at home.  You will get your normal weather card and headlines from categories that you have selected in the settings of the app.  Once you’ve gone past those sections, you will see the new More Headlines section.  Then just keep scrolling!

Evernote Update Brings Advanced Editing Features to Android

Evernote has begun rolling out a healthy update to their Android app that brings several improvements on editing of notes.  The update, version 7.9.9 for phones for those keeping score, adds the ability for strikethrough, subscript and superscript text in notes.  These text styles were available on the Mac or PC version of the Evernote app, and were visible in the mobile versions, but you couldn’t actually add them in the Android app.  Now you can just like you can on your laptop.

Improvements have also been made to the camera function of the app.  Now it can automatically detect and capture business cards, documents, whiteboards, Post-it® Notes and receipts.  Just enable the camera function in the app, point it at what you need to capture and it will do the rest for you.

Google Trips Update Fixes Notifications About Your Trips

Google Trips, Google’s travel organizer app, was released back in September 2016 and hasn’t had a whole lot of fanfare.  It’s a solid little app that helps you keep your trips organized with all of your reservations as well as things to do and see while you are in that location.  Since its launch, the app hasn’t had many updates but for some users, there has been a nagging bug that has finally been addressed.  A small update is rolling out now that fixes an issue with notifications in the app.  Those notifications should now work, letting you know when you have a trip upcoming or events within that trip.  Previously it worked… sometimes.

If you have Google Trips installed on your phone, the update should be coming to you over the course of the next few days.

Pocket Casts Update Brings Small Bug Fixes

Pocket Casts, one of the most popular podcasts apps for Android, has had a series of small updates over the past couple of weeks.  The latest update, version 6.2.3rd for those keeping score at home, brings a wide range of bug fixes to the app.  The developer, Shifty Jelly, has fixed an issue with the widget for the app on the OnePlus 2, fixed the lock screen skip buttons on Android 4.4 phones and addressed an issue with the podcast artwork flashing.  If you use Pocket Casts and have been impacted by one or more of these issues, this is the update you need to get from the Play Store.

Another issue that was addressed was double Chromecasting notifications.  They have attempted to address this issue but in the release notes, Shifty Jelly indicates that it is still possible you will get the default Android notification.  If you do, you can disable that in the settings on your phone or tablet.

SwiftKey Update Brings Improved Swipe Typing Suggestions

SwiftKey, one of the more popular keyboard apps for Android, has received a sizable update that brings improved Flow typing predictions to your phone.  The Microsoft owned SwiftKey will now give you three predictions as you type or use Flow, the swiping across the keyboard to spell words.  As you type, the center word is highlighted and will be automatically inserted as you begin typing the next word.  If, however, that word is not correct, you can tap the left or right word next to it for it to be inserted.  Previously it would only insert whatever word it though you were typing which caused users to have to backspace to type in the correct word.

Along with new predictive typing model, this update also fixes a big where the brackets in right-t0-left languages are no longer flipped incorrectly and has added four keypress sound profiles to the

Swiftkey for Android

SwiftKey for Android

app.  If you want to have sound with keypresses, you can now choose from Modern, Android, Traditional or Blip.  Previously only Traditional was available.

 

While Google’s GBoard has been getting the lion share of attention these past few months, rightfully so, SwiftKey has been doing a lot of what GBoard does for a long time.  It also has some 250 million users globally which shows its stamina.  If you haven’t tried it out, it is free and available in the Play Store.

Microsoft Officially Brings Tablet Support in Arrow Launcher

Last month I told you about the latest beta of Microsoft’s Arrow Launcher bringing support for Android tablets.  That support is now official.  The latest update to the popular launcher is rolling out in the Play Store now and with it comes support for tablets along with a handful of other updates & tweaks.  The support of tablets is something that long time Arrow users have requested of Microsoft as it gives a uniform experience across their devices.

Along with with, Arrow Launcher also supports horizontal layout for your apps page from the app drawer.  This is primarily aimed at tablets and it is an option that needs to be enabled.  The backup & restore feature also has more backup options available.  It still backs everything up to OneDrive but you can now have it save things like SMS messages too.

Microsoft Arrow Launcher on a Nexus 9

Microsoft Arrow Launcher on a Nexus 9

The utility page, something that was introduced in the last update to the app, can also be configured in this new release.  You can show it or hide it as well as chose if you want the card to be transparent or white.  For those who may have tried Arrow Launcher in the past, the utility page is now where you find things like your recent contacts, your recent documents and other information.  These all use to be separate pages in the launcher so having them all in once place makes life a bit easier.

If you have Arrow Launcher installed on your phone, you should get the update to the latest build over the course of the next few days.  Unless you are in the beta, you will need to go to the Play Store to install it on your tablet.

Bing Update Brings Improved Local Travel Results

Microsoft has begun rolling out a nice update to their Bing search app for Android.  The update brings improvements around the travel results for places to go and the best time to go to those places.  This is very similar to Google search which has a bar graph that shows you when a location is busiest.  Along with the improved time suggestions, the app also gives you tips and guides and one-tap directions to the location from your current location.

While those of you who use Google search may give a shrug of the shoulders at this being added to Bing but for those who depend on the Microsoft

Bing Local Travel Results

Bing Local Travel Results

search solution, this is certainly good news.  Bing has continued to make solid strides in the search space over the past two years and while it is certainly behind Google in overall usage, those who are deeply tied in to the Microsoft ecosystem continue to leverage it for their search needs.

In addition to the new location information, this update also gives warning about malicious websites and has a homepage gallery filer.  This feature allows you to filter and find your favorite Bing homepage images.  If you haven’t checked out the daily images from the site, you are missing a treat.  Some of them are spectacular.

If you have the app installed then you can expect the update to hit your phone over the course of the next few days.

Google Drive Adds Machine Learning-Backed Quick Access

Google has rolled out an update to Google Drive that brings a new, Machine Learning-backed Quick Access panel to the app.  Machine Learning is something that Google is rapidly deploying in all of their products, from G Suite to Google Cloud Platform.  The good news is that everyday users can also gain the advantages of ML in the everyday apps they provide.

This feature rolled out a few months ago for those who are G Suite customers and principally what it does is use a wide set of patterns to determine the files you need to access quickly.  This isn’t just your most recent files as that’s fairly mundane these days.  No, this looks at things like your calendar or activity on your Drive to bubble up the files you are likely to need.

Google Drive Quick Access

Google Drive Quick Access

For Quick Access, however, we constructed thousands of simple features from the various signals above (for instance, the timestamps of the last 20 edit events on a document would constitute 20 simple input features), and combined them with the power of deep neural networks to learn from the aggregated activity of our users. By using deep neural networks we were able to develop accurate predictive models with simpler features and less feature engineering effort.

It is a pretty impressive model and frankly, it works just as impressively.  Looking at a meeting I had on my calendar, it bubbled up a Docs file that I had been using for notes around this particular meeting.  I didn’t have to search for it.  As you use Drive and other Google apps like G Suite (which includes the likes of Gmail, Calendar and of course Docs, Sheets and Slides), it will learn you better to give you more personalized results.

For Quick Access to work in Google Drive, you need to have the latest version of the app on your phone or tablet.  The feature should be enabled by default but if not, you can go into Setting to enable it (or disable it). You can read more about it on the Google Research Blog.

Google Play Newsstand Now Supports App Shortcuts

App Shortcuts, the ability to tap-and-hold to get to specific parts of an app in Android Nougat 7.1, continues to grow and Google is catching up too.  The latest update to Google Play Newsstand now supports the shortcuts, allowing you to quickly get to your curated news, digest of news, Magazines and items you have marked for reading later.  Newsstand undergone a lot of changes in the past six months, most of which have been pretty good.  The big knock I had on the app was that in the redesign, getting to your magazine subscriptions became confusing and not-so-easy to figure out at first.  It’s still that way but with the shortcut now available, it makes it easier to get to them.

As readers probably know, in order for app shortcuts to work, you must be running Android Nougat 7.1 or higher.  That means it is almost completely for Pixel and Nexus devices as very few other devices from other manufactures have 7.1 as of yet.

Formula 1 App Update Brings Improved UI for the 2017 Championship

The official Formula 1 app for Android has received a nice update this week ahead of the start of the 2017 championship in a few weeks time.  The update brings a significantly improved UI to the app with bottom navigation buttons and a brighter overall look to the app.  All of the content that you have had in past seasons is still there but there are a load of new notifications you can sign up for within the app, including the current pre-season testing that is going on in Barcelona.

The Formula 1 app is a subscription-based app.  For free, you get live timing at each race, post-race interviews, video highlights and standings.  The $2.99 per month subscription gets you access to all of that plus timing & scoring for all sessions (practice & qualifying), in-car audio, in-race commentary and full 3D maps that you can view the race in action.