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.

Today’s Deal – Big Savings on SanDisk Products at Amazon

Today’s Deal is actually on a lot of things today.  Amazon has a wide range of SanDisk storage solutions as part of their Gold Box Deal that can save you up to 35% off.  All of the items on sale can be found here and some of them are a great deal.  For example, you can pick up a 128GB MicroSD card for just $32.99 and a 64GB card for $21.99.  One of my personal favorites, the SanDisk Ultra Fit USB Flash Drive, is down to $14.29 for the 64GB model.  The sale has really any form factor that you could need, from MicroSD cards all the way up to SSDs and external hard drives.

Amazon every quarter or two does one of these huge sales and it typically involves SanDisk when it comes to storage.  I often highlight them in Today’s Deal because I one, use them personally, and two, I know they are reliable with great performance.  The great thing is, even if you aren’t an Amazon Prime customer, you can still get these great prices.  Prime just gives you the free shipping.

The sale is today only and at the time of this post, all of the products on the Gold Box page were in stock.  There is typically no limit to how many you can buy but things to tend to go out of stock the further we get into the day.  For all the SanDisk products in Today’s Deal, head over to Amazon to check out the details.

Audio Only Calls Rolls Out to Google Duo Globally

After being announced and released in the Brazilian market last month, Google Duo now has the ability to make audio-only calls for all users worldwide starting today.  The update is mostly a server side change but you will need to make sure you have the latest version of Duo installed on your phone.  For reference, that is build 9.1.151636499.  Once the update is on your Google account, you will have a toggle panel at the top of the display in the app where you can switch between video and audio calls.  To place an audio only call, just tap the New call button and select who you want to call.  As with video calls, the person you want to call must have Google Duo installed.

The addition of voice calls to Duo is a bit odd and, frankly, speaks to the ongoing confusion that Google has around their message apps and their roles.  Duo was originally setup to be the video call app for consumers with Google Allo being the message app with Google Assistant built in.  With the addition of voice calls to Duo, it is out of it original role a bit although you could argue it is still a real time communication event. Regardless of the logic, Google needs to clean up their messaging around their messaging & communication apps.

LineageOS Now At 1.3 Million Installs – New Improvements & Devices Added

The steady and fast climb of LineageOS continues with the latest update bringing several new fixes and support for new devices.  Based on the latest statistics from the company, over 1.3 million installs of the platform have now been installed on a wide range of Android devices.  Just last month they hit the 1 million mark to give you perspective on the growth.  Now the company has released another new update and have added a handful of additional devices that are officially supported.

From a feature perspective, there are two new apps and an improvement on one.  First, there is a new gallery app with easier navigation between timeline, albums and videos view and the app now supports full screen video playback.  Second, there is a new FAB (Floating Action Button) in the Recorder app and you can also choose when the recording actually starts.  As for improvements, the LineageOS Updater has been improved and should no longer break downloads or corrupt them in certain situations.

Review – Huawei P10 – Killer Performance in a Small Package

I’ve been reviewing mobile devices for the better part of 15 years now.  I’m often asked, “What is the best phone to get?”  My answer is always the same:  The phone that works best for you.  For some, that’s iPhones.  For some, that’s Android.  But when it comes to any phone, rarely do you find one that ticks all the boxes when it comes to performance, a solid camera, good battery life and user experience.  I’ve found one of these rare phones in the Huawei P10.  It’s not perfect, but it is close and this 5.1″ phone is once to seriously consider.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past few weeks to use the Huawei P10 as my daily driver and it has not disappointed.  It has the power to get me through the day and the performance to do anything I need it to do – from email, to streaming music and video, to playing a game or two.  It is a device that I have no reservation in recommending.  Yes there are some things to get use to with it, most notably the multi-function fingerprint scanner, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll really unlock this phone.

Android Pay Adds 13 New Banks in The United States

The growth of Android Pay continues at a torrid pace in 2017.  This weekend, another 13 banks were added to the service which pushes the total number of new banks added this year alone to over 100.  If you remember, 51 new financial institutions were added last month and given the heavy push that Google is making to get Android Pay used more and out there, the addition of so many banks big and small will help drive its adoption.

As with the additional banks last month, this month’s additions are generally smaller financial institutions.  Here is the rundown for this month’s additions:

  • Bank of Stockton
  • Boundary Waters Bank
  • Citizens Bank of the South
  • Country Bank for Savings
  • Countryside Bank
  • First Green Bank
  • First State Bank of the Florida Keys
  • Greenfield Cooperative Bank
  • Infirmary Federal Credit Union
  • Indiana University Credit Union
  • Maquoketa State Bank
  • McFarland State Bank
  • The Conway National Bank

If you use one of these financial institutions, you should now be able to add your bank-backed credit or debit card to Android Pay.

Multiple Account Support Coming to Google Home

While the feature isn’t enabled yet, it appears that Google Home will soon be getting the ability to support multiple accounts.  As a Google Home Pioneer, if there are two feature requests that have been at the top of the list, it has been multiple account support and support for Exchange calendars.  The former, at least, appears to be nearly ready.  This is something that I also pointed out in my review of Google Home back in October as being something which Google needed to address.

If you aren’t familiar with Google Home, right now you can only associate one Google account with the device.  If, for example, you and your partner want to use Home, it will only give you the calendar and other personalized information for the first account setup on the device.  The issues with this are pretty self evident:  I can get my calendar’s next appointment but when my wife asks for her, she gets mine.  Even if you add a second account to the Home app, it will only give you the personalized information for the first account.

Chrome OS Receives an Incremental Security Update

A small but important incremental update to Chrome OS has been released by the Chromium team for a wide range of devices.  The update is build 57.0.2987.146 (Platform version: 9202.64.0) and it has been released for the same set of devices of the last update to the platform back on March 30th.  The devices that won’t see this update are as follows:  AOpen Chromebase Mini, AOpen Chromebox Mini, Google Chromebook Pixel (2015), ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA, Samsung Chromebook Plus, Acer Chromebook R11 (CB5-132T / C738T) and HP Chromebook 14.

The update addresses a handful security bugs in the platform and other performance updates.  The exact details of what is fixed or addressed in this update has not been released by Google yet.  This is a common practice by the Chrome OS team until a majority of eligible devices have been updated.  They don’t want to have devices exploited in the interim.

Review – Choetech USB-C Cable 6-Pack – Great Value and Performance

Like many of you, I have a lot of gadgets around my office that require charging.  It is logical, therefore, that I’m usually hunting around for a cable to charge said gadgets.  In my office, I’ve pretty much got it setup the way I want but when I go on the road, I have to take some of those cables with me.  Inevitably I forget one (or two) at home.  Or, worse, I have one break.  That’s where bundles of cables really become a great value for me personally and I suspect I’m not alone.

Choetech has been making accessories for Android and iPhones for several years now and recently they sent me their 6-Pack of USB-C to USB-A cables to review.  I accepted the review cables because, having reviewed several Choetech items here on the site, I suspected that they would be good quality, solid construction and great performers.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I tested all of the cables in the pack for this review and all of them did exactly as I would have expected.  Considering that you are getting 6 of these cables in the pack for $19.99, they are also  a good value.

Verizon Bound Google Pixel and Pixel XL Seeing Nougat 7.1.2 Update

After being released on Monday for the unlocked variants, the Android Nougat 7.1.2 update for the Google Pixel and Pixel XL on Verizon has now been released.  The build for the Verizon Pixels is NHG47K, slightly different than the release for the unlocked devices.  That build was N2G47E.  The update is under 500MB in size but it is a good idea to download via Wi-Fi for speed and data plan savings.  Once downloaded, the update will take about 15 minutes to install and your phone will reboot once it is completed.

Th update for the Verizon variants contain the same updates as the unlocked versions of the Pixel and Pixel XL.  This includes improvements around Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, backup improvements to restore data from 1st-party apps like Calendar, and the April 2017 Android Security Patch.

Review – iClever BTS09 Bluetooth Speaker – Modern Style and Booming Sound

When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, the vast majority of them are rectangles or maybe an elongated pill design regardless of manufacture.  That’s why the new iClever BTS09 Bluetooth speaker stands out in the crowd.  It is a striking, modern design that is dominated by the aluminum disk that covers the dual 10W speakers.  It is a far cry from your run-of-the-mill box style that will get anyone’s attention at first glance.  Looks are one thing but the expectation of a Bluetooth speaker is that it will have solid audio quality.  The BTS09 does not disappoint.  Its design allows sound to project, easily filling a room with music but in a distortion free, crisp way.  Plus, with the 4000mAh battery built into it, it can go for hours without charging.  That makes it great for get togethers, parties or just listening to some music as you work or relax.

A few weeks ago, the iClever team sent me the BTS09 to review.  I’ve been fortunate to review their Bluetooth speakers in the past and I’ve never been disappointed.  With the BTS09, I think it could arguably be their best yet.

Today’s Deal – SanDisk Ultra USB-C 64GB Flash Drive for $21

Today’s Deal is on an excellent flash drive for USB-C.  The SanDisk Ultra USB-C flash drive allows you to have external storage with super fast transfer speeds and storage up to 128GB.  Right now you can pick up the 64GB model for $20.99 on Amazon.  As the name suggests, this flash drive has the new USB-C connector, not the older USB-A connector you see on most flash drives.  This allows this to work with the latest lineup of Macs and Chromebooks easily.

Because this drive is leveraging USB-C, transfer speeds are impressive.  You get up to 150mb/s using this drive so moving files to and from this drive is fast and efficient.  That USB-C port is also protected by a sliding cover that is built into the chassis of the drive.

The SanDisk Ultra USB-C drive is offered in four different sizes to meet your needs.  Here are the prices and savings on this deal today.

At the time of this post, all sizes were in stock although quantities were limited on the 64GB model.  If you are an Amazon Prime customer, you get free shipping on these too.