144 articles published since December 19, 2022
About Dallas Thomas
Dallas was the type of kid who would take apart his toys to see what made them tick, and he grew up to become a mechanic for a while. His innate curiosity for how things work led him to a career covering Android in 2014, and that's where he found his true calling. He's rooted every phone he ever owned, although he usually sticks with the stock ROM nowadays. When he's not digging into Android, he's either hiking, watching a Rockets game, or busy raising his young son.
The company made a surprise announcement at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit
We already knew that the Xiaomi 14 series would make its debut later this week, but the company's president just dropped a pretty big bombshell at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit 2023: it will be the first line of phones to ship with a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chipset. Its predecessor, the Xiaomi 13, used a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, so you might think this was expected — but with this year's model being announced earlier than last year's, it seemed like it might miss out on Qualcomm's next-gen chip. Evidently, it was right on time.
Using generative AI to find the best clips and pics of people and places
Since its inception, Google Photos has been more about smart functionality than simple cloud media storage. Users are drawn to features like the automatically curated Memories that highlight your best shots in collages, albums, and even tear-jerking video clips. And when the magic doesn't happen automatically, the service gives you tools to easily create highlight videos out of clips and still photos. But now, Google is throwing generative AI into the mix, and the results could be quite interesting.
Reducing background activity by 50% without sacrificing functionality
We've talked about it before, but Android 14 really seems to make a difference when it comes to performance. With the advent of Feature Drops, major OS version bumps aren't as packed to the brim with user-facing changes as they once were. But Android 14 has several major improvements that users will surely notice even if they're not visual upgrades or new functionality: Google has changed the way the system handles RAM and processor workloads, and the end result should be significant performance gains.
A version for the Pixel 8 and 8 Pro is 'coming soon'
The Pixel 8 and 8 Pro have several advertised features that are yet to launch, such as Zoom Enhance, Video Boost, and the ability to use the temperature sensor to check a human's temperature. We're expecting most of these to come as part of the December Pixel Feature Drop due out in about a month and a half. Testing for this new version is already underway, as Google has opened up the Android 14 Quarterly Platform Release 1 (QPR1) beta program. Today, the next major update for Pixel phones just got one step closer to release.
The company also confirmed a 'Pixel 8+,' or are we reading this wrong?
The Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro were built to showcase Google's AI advancements over the last year, and exclusive cutting-edge features like Best Shot and Magic Editor are a testament to that. One of the more practical additions is a feature that can seamlessly detect languages when using the Google Assistant for voice typing in Gboard, giving Google's newest phones a major selling point for multilingual users. However, it appears this feature could soon make its way to older Pixel devices.
Precise background location access could supplement Google Location History
For Android users with Google Location HIstory enabled, the Google Opinion Rewards app is a no-brainer — just answer a couple questions and get money to spend on apps and games in the Play Store. Opinion Rewards uses various sources to find relevant surveys to give you, with your Google Search history and the account-based Google Location History being the main two. Now, it appears there will be another option.
No sign of the Pixel 8 in the beta program yet
Google's on a roll this week, launching the Pixel 8 and Pixel Watch 2 at its hardware event, then releasing the stable version of Android 14 immediately after. The company isn't even taking the time to sit back and admire its work — in fact, it's already looking forward to its next major software release, the December Pixel Feature Drop, also known as Android 14 Quarterly Platform Release 1 (QPR1). Beta testing started for this version in late September, and just over two weeks later, Google is already back at it with Beta 2.
A rare combination of practical fitness data and conversational smarts
AI has been around for years, but recent advancements with generative AI, in particular, have sparked one of the fastest periods of technological advancements we've seen in recent years. After ChatGPT showed the world what today's large language models are capable of, companies like Google have been scrambling to incorporate the tech into every product they can. But it's not all slipshod work and buzzwords — Fitbit just announced some new generative AI features that look genuinely useful.
It doesn't just blend pixels, it generates new ones based on context from the photo
Google's Tensor chips aren't much different from Qualcomm's Snapdragon or Samsung's Exynos line, but the company does customize its mobile SoC to put a bit more emphasis on machine learning computations. This has led to several of Google's more innovative AI features debuting first on its Pixel phones before disseminating out to other Android devices after a few months of exclusivity. Such was the case when Magic Eraser debuted on the Pixel 6, and now it appears the Pixel 8 Pro will follow suit with an improved version of this feature.
From Channels to Communities to AI, it was a busy month for WhatsApp
If you asked around this time last year, most people would have told you WhatsApp was lacking in features compared to other encrypted messengers like Signal and Telegram. But 2023 has been a banner year for Meta's engineering team, and their renewed vigor for adding functionality has taken WhatsApp past feature parity with its competitors to the point where it now probably leads the pack — at least on the beta channel.
Several users have reported seeing the new Material You revamp
Google's Weather app is nice and informative, pulling data from weather.com to paint a thorough picture of the forecast, but its UI hasn't seen much attention since its inception. Sure, it picked up a slipshod dark mode earlier this year, but that was mostly a result of a change to Android's underlying WebView system. Now, it appears a full redesign is imminent.
Google's new OS version isn't out yet, but its next quarterly release is already in testing
Most Pixel users expected to be on Android 14 by now, but things don't always work out as we'd like. It seems Google will delay the release of its next major OS upgrade until October, when in past years we've seen the new version by August. But that hasn't stopped the company from pushing forward on its next major beta program, and now, Android 14 QPR1 Beta 1 is here.
Android 13 gets one last hurrah on Pixel phones
When Google launched its Android 14 beta program back in February, we figured the new version would be sent out to ordinary users sometime in August — after all, Android 13 officially debuted on August 15, 2022. And when August came and went, we were all but certain the new OS would be ready in September — that is, until we heard rumors it would be delayed until the first week of October. Now, those rumors are all but confirmed, as Google's September monthly security update is here, and it's still based on Android 13.
Google's latest teaser did a lot more than tease
Google doesn't seem at all interested in keeping its upcoming products tightly under wraps — in fact, it even went so far as to show off the Pixel 8 and Pixel Watch 2 itself in a teaser video yesterday. Here we are just under a month away from the October 4 Made by Google event, and the company is back at it with another teaser video giving us an unexpectedly close look at its upcoming smartwatch.
Pixel Fold and Pixel Tablet get some extra love in this release
Android 14 has been in testing since February, and Google's initial timetable for its development listed July as the last month of beta testing. So it's safe to say that this year's major Android upgrade is running a little behind at this point, and more evidence has just been added to the pile: Google is releasing yet another beta build for its new operating system.
A visual overhaul with new enterprise features and useful AI
When Google finished migrating the last few Hangouts users over to Chat late last year, it marked the symbolic end of a tumultuous journey that saw the company try its hand at what seemed like every messaging solution it could think of. By comparison, Google is laser-focused now, investing its efforts in Chat for web and enterprise users and RCS for texting. Now, the company has announced some major changes in the pipeline for Google Chat.
There’s also a fix for other Pixels stalling during reboot
Google caught us all off guard last week when it released the Beta 5.1 update to its Android 14 testers on a Friday. The company had already called Android 14 Beta 5 the "the last scheduled update" before the new OS version would be set to make its debut, but here we are two weeks later and Beta 5.2 has begun rolling out.
A last-minute update on a Friday afternoon
When Google seeded Android 14 Beta 5 last week, the announcement post called it "the last scheduled update in our Android 14 beta program." But projects as complicated as a major version update to the world's largest mobile operating system don't always run on schedule, and Google is right back at it with another update just eight days later.
We also get a peek at a new blue colorway
Google has a long history of being loose lipped with its upcoming hardware releases, to the point where you almost have to question if the company is dropping breadcrumbs on purpose sometimes. A leak that has just emerged today appears to be a genuine slip-up, however, as it spoils a headlining feature Google could be including with its new Pixel 8 flagships: Audio Magic Eraser.
The official release is still 'only weeks away'
When Google dropped Android 14 Beta 4.1 in the last week of July, we thought that might be the final prerelease version before the new OS went stable this month — after all, Android 13's beta program ended with a 4.1 release in late July ahead of a mid-August launch of the stable version. Evidently, this year's big update needs just a little more time in the oven, as Google has started seeding a surprise Android 14 Beta 5 update today.