About Chandraveer Mathur
Chandraveer is a mechanical design engineer with a passion for all things Android including devices, launchers, theming, apps, and photography. When he isn't typing away on his mechanical keyboard’s heavy linear switches, he enjoys discovering new music, improving his keyboard, and rowing through his hatchback’s gears on twisty roads.
Get to your reading list and browser history faster on desktop
Google Chrome has been the best web browser on Android and other operating systems for several years now, and its popularity boils down to the simplistic design and exceptional ease of use. Take, for instance, the perennial need to access your reading list or browser history (for whatever reason) with just a single click. The Side Panel in Chrome for desktop makes it possible. A recent update suggests Google could eventually allow pinning the Side Panel tabs you frequent in the toolbar atop the browser window.
Our favorite Android launcher also packs app drawer improvements in the latest beta
The Android smartphone market is abuzz with new tech, and some of our favorite devices run stock Android, or a popular skin like Samsung’s One UI. However, these OS skins usually focus on mass appeal, and not personalization, opening up a massive market for custom launchers. Nova Launcher is one of the enthusiast community’s most beloved options, and it just received a new beta update packed to the gills with new features.
Non-proton users can access shared details too, but only after claiming a free account
Encryption and security have become household terms in a digital age rife with security concerns and regular data breaches. A trustworthy password manager can prove critical in ensuring your online safety through timely alerts about compromised credentials. They also bring several conveniences like riddance from password reuse, and convenient credential sharing. Proton Pass, from the privacy-focused Swiss brand Proton, is one of the newest password managers on Android, and it now allows credential sharing, just like its competitors.
The latest beta also breaks down emoji reactions from contacts for channel admins
Telegram has been accepted as the segment leader in the instant messaging space, but Meta-owned WhatsApp enjoys a lion’s share of the user base. We often find the latter adding new features to stay current. Communities for groups and Channels for broadcast-style messages are among the noteworthy recent additions. Both these features continue evolving, and we are now learning of planned support for more message types in channels, along with a dedicated tab for message reactions from your contacts.
A couple of months after the initial rollout of text formatting options in the app
Google has a plethora of apps vying for the same levels of popularity Search and Gmail enjoy among search engines and email service providers. However, the company is also responsible for solutions like Google Keep, well recognized as one of the best note-taking apps on Android, despite lacking a few key critical features like convenient sorting options and version history records. However, Google is inching there with updates like support for text formatting options, which is finally reaching your old notes as well.
Messenger also gets support for dynamic theming
Android 12 was a major update for personalization enthusiasts because it introduced system-wide dynamic theming. When Android 13 rolled around last year, it built upon that base, adding elements like dynamic theming for icons. Most app developers were quick to update their apps with this visual change, but there were a few noteworthy holdouts among the best social media apps on Android — Facebook and Instagram. While the latter finally added dynamic icon theming support earlier this past weekend, Facebook is catching up now.
The latest update with the new icon style comes a whole year after most other apps
It was around this time last year when Android 13 made waves with support for dynamic theming of icons — the next logical step towards home screen personalization after Android 12 introduced us to Material You dynamic theming of other major UI elements. Several mainstream apps, including Google’s own apps, were among the early adopters before the trend slowed down. However, some of the best social media apps surprisingly didn’t bother with icon theming support. Instagram is one among those apps, but it is finally updating its Android app icon.
A new banner on the web version promotes RCS as the way forward
Google has been a longtime advocate of RCS chats, trying its hardest to convince deviants like Apple through quirky ad campaigns, direct on-stage remarks at events, and outright data reports. Even other brands like Samsung and regulators like those in the EU have joined in to pressure Apple into adopting RCS. Google’s latest weapon of choice to promote RCS even further happens to be the Play Store.
Recent changes are a deliberate attempt to get more eyes on Play Games Beta on PC
The Google Play Store is arguably the most popular app store for Android users, even though the OS allows other app stores to operate. Microsoft Windows recently opened its doors to Android apps as well, allowing them to run just like native programs built for Windows. Leveraging this advancement, Google launched the Play Games on PC beta in the US in November last year. However, it’s only now that Google is getting serious about marketing games from the Play Store for Windows users.
Finally plugging a massive corporate data loophole
Sharing files from Android devices was a rather janky affair, sometimes involving cloud storage or third-party apps, until Nearby Share burst onto the scene and simplified the process. It came even closer to Apple’s AirDrop in terms of function with support for sharing files, folders, and text to Windows computers introduced earlier this year. However, convenient data sharing is the bane of corporate data security, and with billions of people using Android for work, the concerns are amplified greatly. Google is finally addressing this concern with an update disabling Nearby Share by default on Android devices when you enable a work profile.
The UI may ditch an animation for a proper flyout menu
WhatsApp developers have been hard at work ensuring their creation stays up to date, rivaling the best chat apps on Android. UI changes are a big part of this endeavor, and we see regular changes like the new UI with a bottom-aligned tab bar and new message bubble colors. However, some changes are more functional than cosmetic, like the new menu, which appears to facilitate switching between voice notes and video messages.
Your selection will now apply to all compatible emoji by default
Keyboards remain critical to facilitate human-machine interaction, and although phones are not Blackberrys anymore, the best keyboard apps on Android have a lot in common. They have become integral to our modes of expression, especially with the ever-growing catalog of available emoji. Google’s Gboard is well aware of the responsibility it shoulders in helping us express thoughts conveniently, and we see frequent quality-of-life changes to the user experience. The latest one makes it easy to pick a default skin tone and gender expression for emoji.
Everyone can create a generic pass by photographing a barcode or QR code
Google Wallet was revived in 2022 as a go-to app for storing all your cards, IDs, and documentation in a secure virtual app, so you don’t need to carry the bulk of papers and physical cards with you everywhere. The app replaced Google Pay in a few markets, making it rather convenient for users to pay with QR codes using the same app. Now, Google is rolling out a new feature for Wallet users, allowing them to convert any barcode or QR code into a generic but functional virtual pass.
Easier switching to passkey authentication wherever it is possible
Passwords have been around for decades as a mode of authentication. Our favorite password managers make it easy to generate unique secure passwords and remember all the others you may have repeated. However, passwords are inherently vulnerable to phishing attempts. Passkeys simplify the sign-in process greatly and eliminate the security risks, too. Google Password Manager already supports storing passkeys, but a new Play Services update could prompt you to embrace the change and go passwordless.
Super-low brightness and display refresh rates seem to trigger the issue
Google unveiled the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro to the world earlier this month, and we had high hopes the devices would fix issues like overheating, poor cellular reception, and several launch-day bugs which ruin the user experience. Several Pixel 8 Pro units have now made their way to buyers, and unfortunately, a weird display tinting issue has come to light, but a fix remains unavailable.
The feature is now stable after many months of beta testing
The modern digital landscape is rife with cyber crime, and protecting yourself with passwords doesn’t cut it anymore. Thankfully, biometric authentication is now mainstream and readily available even on the best budget Android phones. Leveraging this, several popular password manager apps and social media platforms are adopting passkeys for user authentication. After a month of beta testing, WhatsApp is the latest app to announce passkey support for all its users.
This feature enabled by a shell command suggests Android’s desktop mode could improve
Our favorite Android phones get more powerful every year, and there’s no dearth of computational muscle even on most mid-range devices. However, most people only consider a Chromebook or Android tablet as a substitute for a desktop-like computing experience. Custom Android skins offer the ideal middle ground with equivalents like Samsung DeX, powered using just your phone. Android’s Desktop mode could soon get better, because the Pixel 8 supports display mirroring via USB-C now.
Flags are moving UI elements around to make them accessible
Most of the best Android phones are large yet pocketable slabs of glass, and it can be hard to reach all corners of the display without using your second thumb. Accessibility features like One-handed mode on Android help matters by scaling down the entire display, but lay waste to a large amount of the screen in the process. Google Contacts could soon join the small number of apps designing their way around reachability issues with a few critical user interface (UI) changes.
There are many robust pre-built options to choose from
A keyboard remains critical to human-computer interaction today, but heavy users like typists, programmers, and casual gamers can significantly enhance their experience with a mechanical keyboard. The underpinnings for the best Chromebooks have evolved significantly since the IBM Model M, but they prioritize cost-effectiveness over the enjoyable user experience of older options.
The VPN implementation is changing for the better
Staying safe online is challenging in the modern digital landscape, but Google makes some of the best Android phones with built-in privacy features. Google One VPN comes installed by default on Pixel phones to protect your IP address from prying eyes on the internet, but it can be a little annoying to use, with a persistent notification in the status bar. With the Pixel 8 series debut earlier this month, Google is changing the way its VPN service is implemented, saving you valuable space in the status bar.