Archive for Google
In the beginning, Google gave users a full 24-hours to regret an app purchase. In 2010, they updated their policy such that users only had 15-minutes to change their minds (which is a little tight, especially if you like to shop on your desktop and have apps downloaded onto your device from there –this method of shopping can add a few extra minutes to complete installation). As of September 10, 2014, the Google Play Store has become a little more generous and settled on a 2-hour refund window.
While many people enjoyed the original 24-hour window, most are willing to agree that it was overkill. Having 2 full hours to test-drive an app is very reasonable, and it is hard to complain when it beats the 0-minutes offers by the competition!
Some developers may be unhappy with this window being extended, but it should have a positive impact on reviews –with fewer users leaving poor reviews indicating that they are completely dissatisfied.
Google made this change without a press release or much fanfare, but it is laid out in black and white on the Google Play support page.
Google Play users on Android have had the ability to save television shows and movies for offline viewing for a while now, but thanks to a new update, iOS users can experience the same convenience. Whether you are frequently on-the-go and find yourself away from an Internet connection or suffer with slow download speeds, being able to save content for later is extremely valuable. Even more valuable when you consider that an investment into content from Google Play is entirely cross-platform, making it useful for the entire family no matter the device they prefer.
Downloading content has to be done over Wi-Fi, which just makes sense –and it can be done in the background, though Google does caution that doing so can decrease battery life (but I am sure we all could have guessed that).
Unfortunately, not all of the news is good… for those of us who use the service regularly, it would be nice if they added the ability to buy content directly from the app (of course, it’s safe to assume that the reason they don’t allow it is due in large part to the 30% cut that Apple takes on every sale made using their platform).
If you haven’t tried the Google Play Movies & TV app on your iOS device, this latest update makes it even more compelling to download it for free now.
Following in the footsteps of a 32.5M settlement reached with Apple in January, Google has agreed to pay back over $19M in charges racked up by kids playing games on smartphones and tablets. According to the details of the suit, the Federal Trade Commission noted that children were able to make these considerable payments using their parents’ credit cards for in-app currency and incentives.
In addition to the monies being returned, Google also agreed to update their billing practices so this kind of thing cannot happen in the future. Beginning in March of this year, Google has ensured that users are more aware of when actual money is being spent. They also allow consumers to decide if they want to be prompted for each purchase that is made (something that makes good sense, even if you don’t share your devices with other people –a little bit of hassle is worth the protection of not transferring money on a whim).
This wasn’t the case in 2011, when Google allowed purchases to be made inside apps without any password required. In 2012, a password was required, but entering it began a 30-minute window during which additional purchases could be made without further verification.
At the time the suit was filed, Google’s response to parents had been to advise they take their complaints directly to the app developers responsible for the games being played.
Sources close to The Wall Street Journal are indicating that instead of Google, it is Amazon that is readying to acquire the Twitch.tv video game streaming service. Rumoured to be selling for a meagre $1 billion, Twitch.tv is considered to be a true streaming video giant. Using the service, over 50-million monthly active users are able to stream live video of themselves playing their favourite games.
When we first heard that Google was interested in purchasing the service, it seemed like a logical move for the company that controls YouTube. So what does Amazon want with Twitch.tv? So far it is just speculation. Perhaps they are going to try and compete with Google in the streaming amateur video arena, but that seems like a difficult place to succeed. Other thoughts swirling around the rumour mill wonder if Amazon may be wanting to extend their own video rental and sales offering –or if they plan on trying to sweep in and dominate the growing eSports genre.
Update: Amazon has purchased Twitch for $970 million in cash. Twitch’s founders have attempted to quell any concerns that the Twitch’s community may have about the acquisition.
“We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster,” wrote Mr Shear in a letter to users.
“We’re keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon’s support we’ll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.”
Rounding out their business-oriented app offering, Google has launched Slide for iOS (complimenting Google Docs and Google Sheets, which were already available). Slides provides similar functionality to competing apps: Microsoft’s PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote, allowing users to create, edit, and collaborate with users on presentations.
Google has also released update for both Docs and Sheets, adding support for Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel that will now allow users to open and edit documents in these formats. Becoming more competitive with Microsoft is a wise move and sure to gain market-share, when you consider that in order to use their ‘free’ apps, an Office-365 membership is required.
Discussing these updates, the official update feed from the Google Apps team, stated:
“The new Google Slides mobile app is now available on iOS, making it easier for people to quickly find, edit and create presentations on the go–online or offline. As with the Android version, the Slides iOS app includes support for editing PowerPoint files. Additionally, as announced for Android in June, the Google Docs and Sheets apps for iOS have been updated to allow for seamless editing of Word and Excel files. No need to worry about file compatibility or internet connections anymore with the new Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides apps on iOS–it all just works.”
It shouldn’t be shocking to learn that Microsoft is trying to find a way into the wireless media streaming game. Apple started things off with AirPlay, Google is working hard to compete using Chromecast, and now Microsoft is targeting both technologies with their rumoured Miracast Dongle.
This new dongle is expected to build on Microsoft’s existing Miracast technology, currently used for screen-sharing on Windows 8.1, Windows RT, and Windows Phone 8.1 (and handily, also built in to Android 4.2 and BlackBerry 10.2.1); it is expected to be capable of mirroring phone, tablet, and laptop screens to a television.
Little more is known about the device, other than speculation that the price-point will be attractive (whenever it ends up being released). For those paying attention to these new streaming devices, the most significant question that comes to mind is which third-party hardware manufacturer will be first to market with an affordable and compelling product that accommodates all three of these devices simultaneously.
Jetpac is best known as the iOS app that is able to recommend restaurants, bars, and attractions based on their analyses of Instagram photographs by the thousands. Google has announced that they were able to acquire Jetpac (for a indeterminate amount of money), meaning that iOS users will lose the company’s app come September 15, 2014. Speculation suggests of course that Google will integrate Jetpac’s neural network technology into upcoming versions of their own apps, like Maps.
There is no exact science behind the scenes in how Jetpac works, other than it does represent highly advanced image processing. It’s actually rather clever… Jetpac takes every single detail from every single photograph and makes it relevant. While similar services may deliver recommendations based on the reviews provided by users, Jetpac makes carefully calculated assumptions: the more people captured leaving a restaurant with a smile, the better the odds are that you will also enjoy eating there. This concept is exciting on its own, but they take it a step further by reviewing the other photographs users have associated with their accounts. This may mean that the coffee shop you are being directed toward has resulted in satisfied dog lovers twice as often than those with a stronger affection for cats.
Who knows what Google really has planned, but with their strong interest in artificial intelligence combined with their renewed attention to online social elements, the marriage of the two companies seems like a great idea.
Rumours have swirled for several months now that suggest Google is readying to launch a You-Tube branded subscription music service. New details tell us that this service will be called YouTube Music Key. It is a little confusing of course, because the tech giant already has their Google Play All Access service –though all signs point to the two being joined.
Features of the service compare to the competition, offering: ad-free playback, the ability to save songs and videos for offline listening, and an optional audio-only interface.
The cost for YouTube Music Key is a very reasonable $9.99 per month (following a free 30-day trial) and is expected to include access to the Google Play and YouTube Music Key services together.
A date for the official launch hasn’t been announced, but it appears we are getting very close!
An update to Google+ this week came in under the radar, but is a little exciting for Android users who have longed for the full functionality that Apple’s Airplay offers iOS users with an Apple TV: thanks to a small Chromecast button found in the interface, you can view your stream up on your television. Oddly, the change isn’t visible in the Google Play changelog –but it’s definitely there.
Initial functionality is limited: you can automatically loop through recent Google+ posts from people in your circles with the option to pause the loop or view posts one at a time.
Any Chromecast updates are updates are welcomed by the Android community with open arms, even though most people will find it more convenient to view this kind of content directly on the device.
In my experience, the best reasons to use AirPlay (and now Chromecast) are related to the occasional sharing of content with friends and not so much to take advantage of a large screen for personal use.
If you haven’t yet installed Google+ for Android, download it now for free.
Friends of mine have voted me ‘most likely to get lost at the mall’. I have a terrible sense of direction, combined with an even worse memory… which adds up to plenty of time wandering aimlessly through parking lots trying to remember exactly where I last saw my car. Of course, there are oodles of apps that will help you out in these situations, but you are already using Google Now for so many other things, adding features like this just make it more indispensable.
Most of those other parking helper apps require you to specify your location before walking away from the vehicle (allow me to refer back to my comment regarding my terrible memory, as this would involve my needing to remember that I need to remember). Brilliantly, Google Now uses sensors in your device to determine when you were last inside a previously moving vehicle. From there, the app supposes when you have left that vehicle and notes the location (along with the time, which can be helpful).
Enabling this feature inside of Google Now is as easy as specifying your main mode of transportation to be “Driving” as seen in the image above.
It may not always deliver perfect results, but it sure does beat wandering around parking lots with my key fob in the air trying to sound my horn.
With the pilot phase completed, Google Classroom is now live for all Google Apps for Education users. Designed to be a free learning management system, Classroom laces together the functionality found within Google Drive, Docs, and Gmail in an effort to help teachers “save time, keep classes organized, and improve communication with students.”
Behaving as a support system, tools like Classroom aim to minimize the administrative effort required by teachers so they can focus more on educating their students instead of pushing paper. Designed to offer a paperless assignment workflow, teachers are able to create, review, and grade assignments quickly and easily. If students are struggling to complete activities, or need additional help, educators are able to collaborate and communicate with individuals directly –offering assistance as it is required.
Students are also supported by Classroom, with an Assignments page that lets them keep track of assignments and their due dates. Parents will also appreciate this centralized hub approach as it provides a realistic overview of what their child should be working on, as well as the specifications for each item.
Other features of the system include: student and teacher participation in class discussions, sharing resources among classmates, and access to class materials (which can be automatically filed into folders in Google Drive). Security is also a critical part of Classroom; there are no ads, and the content (including student data) is never used for advertising purposes.
Classroom brings Google’s educational offering full circle: Google laptops run Google apps that allow students to complete assignments through Google Classroom. This strategy is not a foreign concept, you may recall just how many Apple personal computers were in schools during the early 1980’s –this was no coincidence. Increasing adoption of Google products and services is almost certainly going to increase brand loyalty: when these students mature into smartphones and tablets, they will be familiar with Google and there will be a feeling of compatibility… and the rest of the family is likely to follow suit.
During the pilot phase, more than 100,000 educators located in more than 45 countries signed up and provided feedback and suggestions.