Not OK, Google: Assistant will be exclusive to Pixel



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


Valve, Lenovo are giving away the Steam Deck and Legion Go

For tomorrow’s The Game Awards



The upcoming Game Awards is an amazing time for gamers. Aside from awarding the best of the best this year, the annual event also previews some of the most highly anticipated titles coming in the next year or so. Now, if you tune in, you might also get a chance to win cool freebies. Valve and Lenovo are giving away a hundred units each of the Steam Deck and the Legion Go.

Earlier today, Valve announced a giveaway for those who tune into the Game Awards on December 7. Viewers can sign up to win one of a hundred Steam Deck OLEDs. The signup period is incredibly slim, though. Interested viewers can place their entries only during the show — that is, from 4:30pm to 8:00pm, Pacific Standard Time. Plus, only residents in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and several countries in Europe can join.

Not to be outdone, Lenovo has followed suit and announced its own giveaway. As with the above, viewers can win one of a hundred units of the Legion Go during the awarding ceremony. Unfortunately, whereas Valve opened the sweepstakes for several countries around the world, only residents in the United States can sign up for the chance to win a Legion Go.

It’s a big giveaway for both companies. For one, the two handheld consoles are likely on a lot of Christmas wish lists this year. Both devices are certainly worthy of their hype, but their exorbitant price tags are probably too much to splurge on. The giveaway presents an interesting opportunity to grab two of the hottest devices in 2023.

SEE ALSO: Lenovo Legion Go review: There’s a new king in town

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Twitch is shutting down in South Korea

By the end of February 2024



Livestreaming has been an entertainment juggernaut since 2020. A lot of users online, especially those stuck at home or who have transitioned to work-from-home lifestyles, have turned to streaming both as viewers and as creators themselves. Unfortunately, in some countries, streaming doesn’t come cheap. If you’re in South Korea or are fans of Korean streamers, the streaming landscape is about to change. Twitch is shutting down in the country.

In a blog post released today, Twitch CEO Dan Clancy announced that the company’s operations in South Korea will stop on February 27. After this date, streamers who made Twitch their community’s home will have to find a new platform.

As a gesture of goodwill, Clancy says that the company will help Korean streamers find a new home — even if it’s not on Twitch — leading up the shutdown date. Currently, YouTube remains a possible destination for streamers.

Operating an online company in South Korea is pricey. Because laws are different in the country, internet service providers can charge companies significantly more for bandwidth usage. Because of the exorbitant costs, “Twitch has been operating in Korea at a significant loss,” Clancy said, leading to the withdrawal.

The death knell has sounded for a while. Last year, the platform downgraded the country’s maximum resolution to only 720p in an attempt to reduce costs. Though a former leader in South Korea’s thriving esports community, Twitch now finds itself on a flight heading out of the country.

SEE ALSO: Twitch cuts support for Nintendo Switch app

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Google introduces a new AI model called Gemini

Already in the Pixel 8 Pro



Artificial intelligence is the story of 2023. While the hype might have simmered down since the middle of the year, the segment is still pushing towards more advancements for the future. Unbothered by the dominance of OpenAI, Google has introduced its latest large language model called Gemini.

Touted as Google’s most flexible model yet, Gemini can understand text, code, audio, images, and videos. Though Google has not shared exactly how many parameters that the model can handle, the company says that Gemini can perform all the tasks you’d expect an LLM to do more accurately and more quickly.

Gemini will come in three flavors, spanning several markets: Nano, Pro, and Ultra. As the name implies, Gemini Nano is the model’s smallest variant. Starting today, the Pixel 8 Pro will start getting Nano to enhance the flagship’s on-device generative AI. The biggest improvements are naturally coming to the device’s camera capabilities. Photos and videos should be clearer and brighter, regardless of lighting conditions.

Meanwhile, Gemini Pro will come to Google’s other offerings. Bard, for example, is getting a huge upgrade, allowing for more intuitive replies. The same model will also come to Search, Ads, Chrome, and Duet AI.

Now, the beefiest of the three, Gemini Ultra is meant to further development in the field. While the previous two are available now, Ultra is coming next year. The premium model will mostly cater to enterprise customers and developers. However, if you want to try it for yourself, Google is also launching the top-tier model to an upcoming version of Bard called Bard Advanced.

SEE ALSO: Google Bard hands-on: Not much to worry about

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