Category: App Update

Super Mario Run Update Adds Google Play Achievements

The first significant update to the popular Super Mario Run game is now rolling out to Android players.  The update ups the version to 2.1 and brings several improvements and additions to the game.  For those who haven’t kept up, in the game, you are the ever popular Mario and you are doing what you do best:  Collecting coins and progressing your way through six worlds in the game.  The way gameplay works is that you can only move forward, up or down so no going back to get coins you missed for example.  The object of the game is to collect as many coins as you can before get to the flagpole at the end of the level before time runs out.  Sound familiar? Oh, and yes you still can save Princess Peach and defeat Bowser too.  There are two other game play modes as well to keep you entertained.

With this update, the number of toads (which you collect through Toad Rally playing in the game) has now increased to 99,999.  This should make it limitless for casual players.  You can now also use your customized Mii character as your player icon that you have created in Miitomo.  Finding friends also got easier with this update as you can now find them with your associated Nintendo account in the game.

Microsoft Teams Update Brings Improved Chat Management

Microsoft has rolled out a pretty significant update to their enterprise chat & messaging client, Microsoft Teams.  The update, version 1.0.0.201742301 for those keeping score at home and who like to play version Bingo, and it brings some features that make it much more productive and useful.  First, you can now add and remove team members, something that was only available on the Teams site.  You can also create new channels in the app.  This was also something that was web-only when Teams launched and frankly, was a bit of a handicap for the app.  The ability to quickly create channels while on the go is a critical feature for this type of app, especially if Microsoft is positioning it as a Slack competitor.

Other improvements around chats include the ability to rename group chats and add members to existing chats.

Android Messages Update Improves Group Messaging

Google has begun rolling out an update to their text messaging client, Android Messages.  The update, version 2.2 for those keeping score at home, has a few minor UI tweaks but the big news is around group messaging.  With this new update, when you are in a conversation with someone via SMS, you can add another person quickly and easily to the conversation.  To do this, while you are in a conversation, go to the overflow menu (the three vertical dots) then tap on People & Options.  At the bottom of this page there is a button which you can tap to open up your contacts and add them to the conversation.  This is a big improvement over the previous build which essentially required you to start an entirely new conversation for group messaging.

This update also has added the ability to create a group message from the FAB (Floating Action Button) from which you can add your contacts to the conversation.  Both of these improvements lower the number of taps required to start a group MMS.

OneDrive for Android Update Brings Offline Folder Support

Microsoft has rolled out another update to OneDrive for Android, bringing the ability to mark folders available for offline use.  The updated build is version 4.12 for those keeping score and is out in the Play Store now.  Expect the update to hit your devices over the course of the new few days.  The new offline folder feature is available for Office 365 Personal, Home and Solo users currently with support for work and education accounts “will be rolled out soon!”.  When is soon?  That’s not clear but given Microsoft’s consistent updating of their Android apps, likely not very long.

But not all is lost in this update for work and education users of OneDrive.  This update brings an updated design to the Discovery view which now gives you access to a feed of the most relevant content across your company or campus.

 

Google Express Update Brings Shared Shopping Lists

Google Express, the shopping app with next day delivery for subscribers, has been updated with several changes.  The biggest new feature is the ability to invite friends and family to add items to your Shopping Lists.  Items can be added to these shared lists via your phone (the app), computer or by speaking to Google Home.  As you may recall, the Google Assistant shopping list feature of Home moved on Monday from Google Keep to Google Express.  That has irked more than a few Home users who didn’t want to have to install another app to manage shopping lists.  Deeper though, it makes sense as all shopping and shopping lists are now in Express and not in both Express (if you used it) and Keep.  Your mileage, of course, will vary.

Another big part of this update is the deprecation of support for Android Jelly Bean.  That version of Android was released nearly 5 years ago and continues to fall in usage based on the Android Distribution Report.  With regards to Express, the app won’t run on a device running Jelly Bean.

Bing for Android Update Brings Improved Accessibility Support

Microsoft has rolled out an update for their search app Bing for Android today.  The update is versions 6.7.25183495 for those keeping score at home and on the surface, you won’t find much different from the previous version.  There have been a few UX design improvements but overall, not much to see here.  The big news is deeper however in the improved support for accessibility.  Bing supported accessibility features in Android previously but they were limited.  With this update, accessibility support can be found throughout the app, not just searching.

If you are one who has various accessibility features enabled on your phone, this update to Bing will support many of the settings including TalkBack and Magnification gesture.

Google Photos Update Brings Impressive Video Stabilization

Google Photos version 2.13 is rolling out right now in the Google Play Store and with it comes a new video stabilization feature.  The new feature allows you to post-process videos you have shot and uploaded to the service to give your videos a more stable look.  This, my friends, is Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence at its best.  Using ML and AI, Photos is analyzing your video and essentially correcting the video at the pixel level.  It is astonish that it can sort it out and even more astonishing that you have this in the app.  A free app.

The new feature is located on the edit menu when you select a video from your Google Photos library.  Once you have the video open, you will see a new stabilize button.  Tap it and Photos will start processing the video and smoothing it out.

Google Text-to-Speech Update Brings New Languages

Google Text-to-speech is not an app you probably do a lot of tweaking on but it is an important foundational app for Android.  The app essentially serves as an engine for other apps so they can read text on the screen aloud to you.  For example, if you are in Google Play Books and want the app to read aloud a book, this is the app that makes the magic happen.  Or Google Translate to translate text.  So when an update comes out for it, it is important to get it.  The latest update to Google Text-to-speech is rolling out now and it is version 3.11.12 for those keeping score at home.  It comes with several new tweaks for users as well as new languages.

First, let’s cover the languages.  In this update, support for Bangla (India, Czech, Khmer, Napali, Sinhala and Ukrainian have been added to the engine.  Along with this, Google has added intonation control over several more voices that are in the engine and have made general improvements on many of the voices in the app.  Google did not specifically call out which languages were impacted by these latter two.

Showtime App Update Brings Offline Viewing of Movies

The premium movie service Showtime has released an update for their Android app that gives users the ability to view movies and shows offline.  The new feature allows you to download content to your Android phone or tablet so you can view that content offline.  By default, the app will continue to stream content when you view it but now you have the option to download it and take it with you for situations like car trips or plane trips where you don’t have access to the Internet for streaming.

The new feature is simple to use.  Just find the title you want to view then tap the download button.  This will download that movie to your phone so you can view it later.  There is also a new downloads section in the Showtime app that shows you all of the content you have downloaded to your phone or tablet.  Keep in mind that downloading on your phone will give you a maximum resolution of 720p while on a tablet you can download in 1080p.  This is due to screen sizes and to save a bit on storage space on your phone.

Netflix Quietly Replaces Star Ratings for Thumbs Up or Down

In the latest update to the Netflix app for Android, there is a new and simpler rating system for content.  Gone are the up to 5 star ratings that users could give a television show, movie or Netflix original content.  Instead, it has been replaced with a thumbs up or thumbs down rating.  That’s it.  No middle ground.  It has become a binary “Did you like it or not?”  rating.

As you can guess, I’m not a fan.

I understand what the streaming content provider wants to do.  They want to make it less complicated for you to potentially try a TV show or movie.  Think about it: How many 3-star shows have you skipped over only to go back and watch it because it was recommended to you by a friend?  I know I’ve done it probably dozens of times over the years as a Netflix customer.  Which is exactly why they are getting rid of it.

Microsoft OneNote for Android Updates Adds Page Sharing Feature

Microsoft OneNote for Android has a new update that is rolling out which brings a handful of new features to the note taking app.  Perhaps the biggest new feature in the app is the ability to share a page with others.  If you are running Android Marshmallow or later, you can use the Share a Page feature from the Share pane so you can share your notes with others more quickly.  There is also an improved web clipper for Android in this release.  While it is still considered a Preview (translation:  beta) feature, it will allow you to capture anything on your store it in OneNote.

Along with these updates, there is improved Cut/Copy/Paste support along with the ability to access formatting tools quickly through the improved commanding bar in the app.

Google WiFi Adds Network Schedule Pauses

The Google WiFi app for Android has had an update rollout today that brings a great new feature for scheduling access time for certain devices.  Named Scheduled Pause, the new feature allows you to schedule times in which devices that you select are not able to gain WiFi access.  This is a great feature for parents who can block network access to their children’s phones or tablets while it is homework time or after bedtime.  While it won’t block things like 4G data use, it can at least give some control over the WiFi network in the house.

Once you have a schedule setup, you don’t have to do anything to enable it.  It runs and ends at the defined time you selected when setting it up and only impacts the devices you put on the list as being subject to that schedule.