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Not OK, Google: Assistant will be exclusive to Pixel

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Google came out with the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones this week, with one of their main attractions being Android 7.1 Nougat, which no other phone has for now.

And while we expect the software update to roll out later this year (presumably to Nexus and Android One devices first; the beta version will launch later this month), it’s imperative to talk about Nougat on Pixel because both handsets will reportedly have some software features that may not be found anywhere else. Features you’ll want to use with regularity, or at least try out.


Android Police has put together a list of “Pixel-exclusive and non-exclusive changes” that are baked into Android 7.1 Nougat. The list is surprisingly long — well, for a small tick up on the upgrade ladder — so take a deep breath before reading through the entire change log. Oh, and spoiler alert: You won’t like what you read, for reasons we’ll explore later.

Pixel-specific features:

  • Pixel Launcher—swipe up for all apps, new Search Box, date/weather header on home
  • Google Assistant
  • Unlimited original quality photo/video backup to Google Photos
  • Smart Storage—when storage is full, automatically removes old backed up photos/videos
  • Phone/Chat support (new support tab in settings), screen-share functionality
  • Quick switch adapter for wired setup from Android or iPhone
  • Pixel Camera:
    • Electronic Image Stabilization (“video stabilization”) 2.0
    • Pro Features
      • White Balance Presets
      • Exposure Compensation
      • AE/AF Locking
      • Viewfinder grid modes
    • HW-accelerated (on Qualcomm Hexagon coprocessor) HDR+ image processing
    • Smartburst
  • Sensor Hub processor with tightly integrated sensors (accel, gyro, mag) + connectivity (Wi-Fi, Cell, GPS)
  • Cosmetic
    • Solid navbar icons with home affordance for Assistant
    • SysUI accent color theming
    • Wallpaper picker with new wallpapers and sounds
    • New setup look and feel
    • Dynamic calendar date icon

Android 7.1 features (not Pixel-specific):

  • Night Light (this shifts the color temperature of your screen a la iOS’ Night Shift mode or f.lux)
  • Touch/display performance improvements
  • Moves (Fingerprint swipe-down gesture—opt-in)
  • Seamless A/B system updates
  • Daydream VR mode
  • Developer features:
    • App shortcuts/shortcut manager APIs
    • Circular app icons support
    • Keyboard image insertion
    • Fingerprint sensor gesture to open/close notification shade
    • Manual storage manager Intent for apps
    • Improved VR thread scheduling
    • Enhanced wallpaper metadata
    • Multi-endpoint call support
    • Support for various MNO requirements
      • PCDMA voice privacy property
      • Source type support for Visual Voicemail
      • Carrier config options for managing video telephony
  • Manual storage manager – identifies apps and files and apps using storage

So yeah, in case it wasn’t already clear, Google Assistant — the voice-activated digital assistant honed and refined by years of us using Google services, the single product Tuesday’s keynote address hinged on — won’t be coming to non-Pixel handsets and tablets.

Which is a head-scratcher, to say the least, because Google executives devoted much of their speech to outlining a future powered by voice. They conveniently left out the part about that future depending upon the general population choosing the Pixel over the similarly priced Samsung Galaxy S7 or Apple iPhone 7, or even the OnePlus 3.

It should’ve been the other way around — the benefits of Google’s artificial intelligence needs to reach all Android devices going forward, not just two. Regardless of whether or not people are ready and willing to have conversations with their phone.

However, Google isn’t closing down possibilities with Pixel’s best features, including Assistant. Some features could trickle down to other devices running Android Nougat; Google could release a diluted app version of Assistant that could be installed onto Androids and iPhones. That might happen in 2017. Speaking to TechCrunch, a Google spokesperson said: “Our goal is to make the Google Assistant widely available to users, and we’ll continue to launch new surfaces over the course of the next year.”

[irp posts=”8575" name=”Android made downloading from Google Play much easier”]

Source: Android Police

Image credit: NPR

Apps

Google wants to assists users without depending on the Internet

And Google Pay just got more exciting!

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Google is by definition an “internet” company. Every part of its business depends on connectivity, whether its Google Search or AdSense. The company has penetrated every developed market and now intends to grab the untapped markets of India and other Southeast Asian countries.

Google Assistant

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

At its Google for India 2019 event, the company announced the launch of a special helpline that users can call to have their questions answered. We usually use Google Assitant on the go via any Android phone, but it depends on internet connectivity. How do you reach out to a feature-phone user who barely has a 2G connection?


A 24×7 healpline. Teaming up with Vodafone India, users will be able to dial 000-800-9191-000 and they won’t be charged for the call or the service. Early this year, Google also worked with KaiOS to integrate Google Assistant on entry-level 4G phones like the JioPhone.

Google Assistant was launched in India a couple of years back and Hindi is now the second-largest language globally. You can also switch languages by a simple voice command now.

Google Pay

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

Usually, you can use payment solutions like these in the US via NFC. Your cards are saved on the app and a gentle tap to a PoS machine will initiate the transaction. However, in India the app leverages the countries universal UPI protocol to transfer money. Up till now, you had to add your bank account in the app and scan a QR code to send money.

Google has now announced support for NFC cards. This will make the experience much simpler and streamlined. Though your phone needs to have an NFC reader and only HDFC, Axis, Kotak, and Standard Chartered bank are supported for tokenization at the moment.

The company went on to share a few interesting stats about its position in the country. The app handled 918 million transactions a month in the country.

New AI Lab

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

A new artificial intelligence research lab is being set up in Bengaluru to create India-specific products. Google has tied up with state-run BSNL for expanding Wi-Fi hotspots in villages in Gujarat, Bihar, and Maharashtra. They’ve already deployed more than 5,000 WiFi hotspots in partnership with Indian Railways.

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India

India is banning the consumption of e-cigarettes

This includes flavored vapes

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E-cigarettes or vapes are considered to be a better alternative than actual cigarettes. Many active smokers have shifted to these electric pens and have been successful in overcoming their addiction. Countries around the world recognize the benefits of an e-cigarette, but India has a different opinion.

India has banned e-cigarettes amid growing fears over the health risks posed by vaping. The Union cabinet has made the manufacturing, import, sale, distribution, and advertisements of e-cigarettes a cognizable offense.


Justifying the ban, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “E-cigarettes were promoted as a way to get people out of their smoking habits but reports have shown that many people are not using it as a weaning mechanism but are rather addicted to it.”

E-cigarettes are the most common form of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). These are basically devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves. Instead, they vaporize a solution using a battery. This vapor is then inhaled by the user.

The government said the decision to ban e-cigarettes is aimed at protecting the youth, the section that is most vulnerable to the health hazards of e-cigarettes. Though, India isn’t the only country to have concerns.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported six deaths due to unknown lung disease in the last few weeks. Governments have long considered a plan to regulate or limit the usage.

Justifying the ban, Sitharaman cited a US report that said e-cigarette sales have risen 77 percent because of consumption by students. Storage of e-cigarettes shall now be punishable with imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to INR 50,000 or both.

Obviously, following the announcement, tocks of cigarette makers ITC and Godfrey Phillips ended higher by 0.9 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. Conventional tobacco-filled cigarettes are still legal in the country but heavily taxed. The government has repeatedly tried to make them more expensive to discourage consumption, but the plan never worked.

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Enterprise

Apple is trademarking the slofie

Is the slofie a thing now?

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“Selfie” will always be a part of our everyday lexicon. Even if you don’t like taking selfies, you still know what a selfie is. Since the invention of the front-facing camera, everyone has taken a selfie in one form or the other. Likewise, most people also know what a groufie is — the selfie’s group-oriented cousin. Both the selfie and the groufie have seemingly covered all the bases in the front-facing phenomenon. Besides, we have enough of these terms to last us a lifetime.

Apparently, Apple doesn’t think so. At its latest iPhone 11 launch event, the company introduced another monstrosity into our packed vocabulary — the slofie, a selfie but shot in slow motion. The slofie promotes Apple’s newest camera feature. The iPhone 11 Pro’s front-facing camera packs in a slow-motion shooting capability. The camera shoots at an astonishing 120 frames per second.


As with the Animoji years ago, Apple is going all-in on the slofie. The company has applied for a trademark on the term. The trademark application covers all software involved in shooting the slow-motion selfie. Basically, Apple wants to control the market when the iPhone 11 drops. If the slofie does gain traction, it will likely face competitors and imitators. (For example, the Animoji had its fair share of imitators.) A trademark can prevent that from happening.

In another vein, Apple is still trying to make slofies a thing. Apple, please don’t make slofies a thing.

SEE ALSO: The Apple Watch Series 5 is here!

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