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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

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Next Xiaomi phone will reportedly have a 120x zoom camera

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Smartphones cameras are absolutely brutish nowadays. Whether to capture a picturesque landscape, to record a fast-paced basketball game, or to gaze lovingly at all your pores, today’s smartphones can already replace our professional cameras in all but the most rigorous of photoshoots. Every year, the industry pushes the boundaries even further into unbelievable levels. What else can a smartphone camera accomplish?

According to Xiaomishka, a Xiaomi-focused outlet, Xiaomi is working on the next level of smartphone cameras. Codenamed the “CAS,” an upcoming device will reportedly sport a 108-megapixel camera, capable of up to 12x optical zoom and 120x digital zoom.

Of course, this isn’t the first time a smartphone crossed the 100x digital zoom barrier. Earlier this year, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra pushed a similar camera with up to 100x digital zoom. Based on our own tests, the periscope lens is a beast, capturing sights from kilometers away. We can only assume what Xiaomi’s upcoming project can do.

To deflate the hype a bit, a camera’s digital zoom does not accurately represent its actual capabilities. At maximum digital zoom, photos are usually blurry messes. If you want crisper photos, maximize optical zoom. Though the upcoming Xiaomi device’s 12x optical zoom pales in comparison to the digital zoom, it is still one of the more powerful devices to come out.

Inside, the smartphone will reportedly carry a Snapdragon 775G chipset. It is also rumored to follow the Mi CC9 series, which also touted a revolutionary smartphone camera setup last year. The Xiaomi “CAS” will likely debut sometime in July.

SEE ALSO: Mi CC9 Pro Premium Edition has the best cameras on a phone

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Google sued for tracking Chrome users in Incognito Mode

Incognito Mode is not really private browsing after all

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Over the years, Google has been increasingly scrutinized by the government and public sector for its tracking activities. The latest lawsuit filed in California sheds light on the company’s tracking reach. It alleges that the company misleads Chrome users and continues to track their activities even in Incognito Mode.

A law firm from California — Boies Schiller & Flexner — filed the lawsuit with an aim to seek a minimum of US$ 5 billion in damages. The lawsuit alleges that Google intentionally deceived its users who browse in Incognito Mode by continuing to track their activities even when it is supposed to be “private”.

However, there’s also a chance that the lawsuit may not succeed at all. A Google spokesperson has stated in reply that third parties can still gather any browsing data even when in Incognito Mode. As a matter of fact, there’s a disclaimer warning a user that Incognito Mode is not foolproof, and states that any browsing activity might still be visible to third parties, employers, or service providers.

Incognito Mode is not really private at all

By default, Chrome in Incognito Mode doesn’t store your browsing history, cookies, and form information. These browsing data tell a lot about the user and keeps them signed in on most sites too.

However, most websites by now also rely on other data to build a profile of its users. Ads and other tracking elements enable third parties to gather data on website visitors. Websites can even gather real-time device information like geolocation and IP addresses. As such, third parties can still infer your browsing activity even in Incognito Mode.

There are many ways to circumvent third-party tracking. One easy way is to use an ad-blocking browser extension that blocks ads and other tracking elements. Other ways include using a much secure browser like Brave, Firefox, and Tor.

As for Google Chrome users, they can only hope that Google changes its course and make the Incognito Mode more private. After all, the company earns a majority of its revenue through ads that track users. Making an Incognito Mode that really blocks ads and other tracking elements will somehow affect their revenue, considering that Chrome is the most popular browser in the world right now.

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Facebook starts labeling which media outlets are paid by governments

Indicated in the Page Transparency section

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Facebook has a troubling content problem. For the past few days, the ubiquitous social media network has faced tremendous backlash for its lack of moderation towards political but factually ambiguous posts. Current Facebook employees have even virtually protested against Mark Zuckerberg’s stance on moderation, especially in light of the ongoing Black Lives Matters happening across America.

While the George Floyd issue rolls on, Facebook is attacking the content moderation issue from another angle. Today, the company has started putting official labels on state-controlled media outlets.

Especially after the 2016 presidential elections in America, Facebook faced the possibility that state-backed media could control the global conversation and pave the way for a candidate of their choice. To prevent that controversy from happening again in this year’s elections, the company promised to update current policies to protect against state intervention last year. Today, the update is finally rolling out.

Facebook will start displaying the label under the Page Transparency section wherein pages will indicate which governments are backing their content. For transparency, the company has revealed how it will determine outlets that will need the label. Critically, it won’t apply to outlets based solely on financial support. Instead, Facebook will consider the outlet’s mission statement, ownership, and editorial independence from backers. If an outlet fails the independence test, it can appeal its status by proving its internal measures to prevent state interference.

Though too late to affect the results of the 2016 presidential elections, the measure will hopefully safeguard the 2020 elections and any others after that.

SEE ALSO: Facebook adds new tool to help you delete your cringey posts easily

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