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Posts tagged with "google"

Google I/O Roundup: Assistant Comes to iPhone, Photos and Gmail Receive Improvements

Today Google kicked off its I/O event with a keynote that covered a wide array of announcements, several of which were particularly relevant for Apple users.

Google Assistant Coming to iOS: Google Assistant is coming to the iPhone in the form of a dedicated app, launching today. Assistant is the company's Siri competitor, and until now it has been largely restricted to Android and Google-made devices like Google Home. The messaging app, Allo, has had some form of Assistant since its launch last September, but the full Assistant has not been available on iOS until now. Like every other third-party digital assistant on iOS, Google Assistant will be more restricted in its system access than Apple's own Siri, and less convenient to activate as well. To engage the Assistant, you'll have to open the app or interact with the app's widget. (Source)

Sharing Features and Photo Books with Google Photos: In the coming weeks, Google will be adding new sharing features to its Photos iOS app. Similar to the smart sharing features in Apple's Clips app, Google Photos will identify the subjects in your photos and suggest sharing the images with those people. Separately, a new Shared Libraries feature allows easy sharing of all images that fit the parameters you set. One option that's especially interesting is the ability to automatically share only the photos that contain a certain person in them. The last of the Photos announcements was that starting next week, U.S. users will be able to order Photo Books consisting of selections from their libraries. (Source)

Smart Reply Comes to the Gmail App: Google previously added a Smart Reply feature to its Inbox and Allo apps, but today it is expanding the feature to Gmail for iOS and Android. The feature offers three suggested responses that you can quickly tap on to send. Google says the feature has already driven 12 percent of replies in the Inbox app, so it is likely to receive a lot more use as it expands to more users. (Source)

Today's Apple-related announcements are on the lighter side when compared to some past I/O keynotes, but they're still nice to have for iPhone users who rely on Google services.

Google Hangouts Evolves to Better Compete with Slack

Dieter Bohn of The Verge reports on some major changes coming soon to Google Hangouts. Google's new strategy for the service aims to make Hangouts a formidable Slack competitor as a team collaboration tool. The changes are focused in two main areas:

  • Hangouts Chat will add new group chat rooms, similar to channels found within Slack, but with all the nice Google perks – Docs and Sheets integrations, extensive search tools, and a bot that can look at users' Google Calendars and suggest the best meeting time.
  • Hangouts Meet is the new name of Hangouts' video functionality, which Google promises will tie up far less processing power than before. Meet will also provide easy methods for adding people to a group call.

Bohn adds:

Google Hangouts has been having an identity crisis ever since Google tried to relaunch it as an end-all, be-all replacement for Gchat. It’s been ping-ponging between Google Plus, business video chat, Google Voice, Project Fi, SMS, and lord knows what else. Focusing on business chat seems like a better strategy — and thankfully one that doesn’t feel beholden to some other Google product with a dubious future. Hangouts is fully a Google Cloud / G Suite product now, and it will be developed for those users.

Google's changes to Hangouts follow recent moves by Facebook and Microsoft in the collaborative chat space. These days, it seems everyone wants a piece of the workplace collaboration pie.

Apple added collaboration tools to iWork last year, but otherwise the company has shown no signs of creating its own competitor to Slack. I do wonder, though, how iMessage could potentially evolve in the future to serve many of the needs that tools like Slack currently meet. The user base is already there, and iMessage Apps could provide the extensibility needed to compete with Slack.

The question, however, is not "Could Apple do it?" Instead, it's "Would they want to?" They could very well be content to simply serve as the platform where these competing services live.


Google Updates Gboard with Dictation, Doodles, New Languages, and Emoji

Nearly one year ago Google launched Gboard, a third-party keyboard for iOS that brought the power of Google search to iOS's keyboard. The company has continuously improved the keyboard over time, with updates including support for multiple languages and a 3D Touch-powered trackpad mode. Earlier this year the keyboard was integrated with Google's standard search app. Today the improvements continue with three separate highlights.


The default iOS keyboard has long presented the option to dictate text rather than type it, and Gboard has gained that ability starting today. Users will notice a speaker icon that now appears on the right side of the space bar. Long pressing that speaker icon will engage dictation mode.


Google's Doodles add a sense of whimsy to the company's search page, but until today searching through Gboard meant missing out on Doodles. Going forward, whenever a Doodle is available the "G" button on the left side of the keyboard will animate, indicating you can pull up the Doodle with a quick tap.

Languages and Emoji

In addition to support for many new languages – Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Polish, Romanian, Swedish, Catalan, Hungarian, Malay, Russian, Latin American Spanish and Turkish – Gboard has also been updated to enable searching for and using the new emoji that Apple added to iOS 10.

Gboard can be downloaded from the App Store.

Google Updating AMP Pages with Easier Way to View, Copy Source URLs

A few months ago, I decided to remove Google AMP support from MacStories due to the obfuscation of our permalinks by the AMP plugin. There was a good discussion about publishers' AMP concerns, including a story on The New York Times.

Today, Google has announced that they're introducing a new feature that makes it easier to see a publisher's full URL and copy it. Here's Alex Fischer, writing on the Google Developers Blog:

Today, we're adding a feature to the AMP integration in Google Search that allows users to access, copy, and share the canonical URL of an AMP document. But before diving deeper into the news, let's take a step back to elaborate more on URLs in the AMP world and how they relate to the speed benefits of AMP.


In addition to the above, many users have requested a way to access, copy, and share the canonical URL of a document. Today, we're adding support for this functionality in form of an anchor button in the AMP Viewer header on Google Search. This feature allows users to use their browser's native share functionality by long-tapping on the link that is displayed.

Google is also hoping that browsers will add support for a new Web Share API (which sounds nice as long as it can only be manually activated by the user; I can imagine websites abusing programmatic activation of the system share sheet).

I'm still not going to re-enable AMP in the short term, but I'm glad to see Google is listening to publishers and iterating quickly.


YouTube Updated with Chromecast Control Features

If you own a Google Chromecast or Chromecast-compatible device, you now have more options for controlling it from an iOS device. The YouTube app received an update that lets you play, pause, skip forward and back, and control the volume of streaming video from the Lock screen and Control Center of an iOS device, or from an Apple Watch. This functionality has been available on Android for a long time, so it’s nice to see it extended to iOS users who have a Chromecast too.

Fabric Acquired by Google

Fabric, a suite of developer tools owned by Twitter, is being acquired by Google and will become part of Google's Developer Product Group, working with Google’s Firebase team. According to Francis Ma, Firebase Product Manager:

As a popular, trusted tool over many years, we expect that Crashlytics will become the main crash reporting offering for Firebase and will augment the work that we have already done in this area. While Fabric was built on the foundation of Crashlytics, the Fabric team leveraged its success to launch a broad set of important tools, including Answers and Fastlane. We'll share further details in the coming weeks after we close the deal, as we work closely together with the Fabric team to determine the most efficient ways to further combine our strengths.

It appears that Google is clearly interested in Crashlytics, Fabric’s crash reporting tool, but has left open the extent to which the other components of Fabric will be incorporated into the Firebase toolset.

Gboard Incorporated into Google’s iOS Search App

Google released an update to its iOS search app today that includes Gboard integration. Gboard is Google’s alternative to the iOS system keyboard and one of the better third-party keyboards available on iOS. The keyboard supports web, image, and GIF searches, instant-answer search results, multiple languages, 3D Touch cursor movement, contacts, and other features.

Gboard must still be installed by navigating to the Keyboard settings in Apple’s Settings app, but after you do that, Gboard’s settings can be adjusted in the Google app instead of the separate Gboard app. The downside of the new approach is that if you already have Gboard installed, it is now possible to have two Gboard keyboards installed at once – one from the standalone Gboard app, which is still available on the App Store, and the other from the Google app. If you’re a Google app user and already have Gboard installed as I did, I suggest deleting the Gboard app because there is no reason to have two instances of the Gboard keyboard installed.


Google Introduces Featured Photos Screensaver for macOS

Popular Google+ photos have been available via Google's Wallpapers app on Android and on Google Fiber and Chromecast devices, but today, Google is bringing them to macOS too. Google’s Featured Photos Screensaver rotates through a selection of high-resolution photographs that have been publicly shared on Google+ and don’t include people in them. Each photo also includes information about the photographer that took the shot and links to more of their work. If you’re a photographer and want your photos to be considered for inclusion in the app, you can learn more here.


Google Play Newsstand Redesigned

Google has been on a tear with new and updated iOS apps. The latest is a redesign of Google Play Newsstand, a free app for browsing news outlets and magazines similar to Apple News.

Blending a variety of national and local news with article recommendations based on your personal interests using machine learning, Newsstand creates a media-rich 'For You' page divided into two sections. The 'Briefing' includes a handful of what Google deems the most important and relevant stories to you. Below the Briefing is 'Highlights,' a longer list of articles culled from you favorite sources and topics. Each article in Highlights helpfully explains why it was suggested.

Tapping the three dot menu button below any article lets you hide stories from its source, have fewer articles of that type suggested (I took advantage of this immediately with CNN's report on a Parmesan cheese recall), or jump directly to the source or topic of the article. I've found the last two options a great way to quickly build a database of topics and sources that I want to follow.

Newsstand is built on an AMP foundation:

We have improved our support for multimedia content building on the AMP support we launched earlier this year. Scroll through your feed, and you will see autoplay videos, easy podcast controls, and high-resolution, full-bleed images. Every story and topic in Newsstand now comes to life in a more engaging, beautiful presentation.

I'm not a fan of autoplay anything, but Newstand's articles look terrific and load fast.

Finally, Google also touts Newsstand's new web app as a way to access news wherever you are. It’s broad claim that needs to be qualified. The unstated assumption seems to be that the web app is for desktop use only because it doesn't work on iOS even if you use Google's Chrome browser. Moreover, on macOS, Newsstand doesn’t work with Safari, instead directing you to download Chrome.

Newsstand's web app does not work on Safari for iOS or macOS.

Newsstand's web app does not work on Safari for iOS or macOS.

In some ways Google Play Newsstand feels like a modern implementation of Google Reader, which was shuttered in 2013 around the same time that Newsstand was introduced. I wonder how much better my recommendations would be if Newsstand had the benefit of all the years I used Google Reader. Maybe it does have access to that data, but using Newsstand feels too much like starting over for that to be the case. In any event, Google Play Newsstand is a worthy competitor to Apple News. Perhaps 2017 will see competition among news services similar to what we've seen with photo services this year.