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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.”

Source: Android Police

Image credit: NPR

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Amazon makes a grand announcement of new Alexa-enabled Echo devices

A smart home has to have these

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Amazon continues to make a mark in the smart home market with their announcement of new Alexa-enabled Echo devices. The company announced a slew of devices, but let’s know more about the key Echo products that now have new upgrades.

Amazon Echo Dot

The new Echo Dot gets redesigned to look stylish and more modern. The plasticky design of the previous model is a thing of the past; the new model now has a fabric design that comes in three colors. The new model is also claimed to sound louder and better, but it’s still priced at US$ 50.

Amazon Echo Plus

The new Echo Plus also has similar upgrades with its new fabric design. It comes with an upgraded 3-inch speaker for stronger bass and clearer mids and highs. Like the Dot, the new model is still priced like its predecessor which is at US$ 150.

Amazon Echo Show

The gigantic Echo Show has been redesigned as well. It features a new body with a large 10-inch HD display. Of course, the new display comes with a new sound system composed of two 2-inch drivers with a passive radiator and Dolby audio processing.

It also comes with a new 5-megapixel front-facing camera for HD video calls. Alexa will soon support Skype audio and video calls, so you will be able to use Skype straight from your Echo Show. Additionally, it now has a built-in web browser. Pricing remains at US$ 230 like with the previous model.

Amazon Echo Auto

The Echo Auto is probably the most intriguing of the bunch. It’s a US$ 25 accessory (the cheapest Echo, yet) designed to let you access Alexa even while in your car. It powers itself from your car’s power outlet or a USB port and connects to the Internet via Bluetooth through your phone.

Using the Alexa app on your phone, it can play music or give you turn-by-turn navigation. You can also ask it pretty much anything you’d ask with other Echo devices.

The new Echo Dot, Echo Plus, and Echo Show are already up for pre-order and will go on sale starting October 11. The Echo Auto is also up for pre-order, but by request only.

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Huawei gives free power banks to Apple fans

This is quite a power move!

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Huawei is mastering the art of throwing shade real quick. It started during the iPhone XS launch when the Chinese company thanked Apple for “keeping things the same.” Now that people lined up to finally get their hands-on on the iPhone XS and XS Max, Huawei made sure they’re also in the scene.

In Singapore, Huawei representatives were seen handing out free power banks to the eager Apple fans who queued up for the new iPhones.

It even included a cheeky message saying “Here’s a power bank. You’ll need it,” before making sure the recipient knows who the power bank was from, “Courtesy of Huawei.”

Previously, it was just Samsung that brazenly took shots at Apple. Their latest ones feature anti-iPhone ads that centered around power and stylus support. Before that, they also released an ad mocking the notch.

Huawei, who made significant headway in the smartphone market in 2018 thanks to their P20 models, wants in on the conversation. It looks like it’s not going stop any time soon as they get ready to launch their latest flagship — the Mate 20 — on October 16 in London.

This is not the first time that other brands rode the iPhone wave. HTC once provided warm drinks to combat the cool weather Apple loyalists had to endure. Other brands have also stepped in before to provide some form of comfort or aid for the brave people who lined up.

SEE ALSO: Singapore’s first iPhone XS buyer goes all out

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Instagram now lets you send GIFs through direct messages

About time!

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Image from Unsplash

Instagram continues to evolve from a photo-sharing app to a full-fledged messaging platform. If video chatting service is not enough to convince you that it’s more fun to talk to people on Instagram, then what about GIFs? After the long wait, you can now finally send fun GIFs on Instagram through direct messages.

The incoming (or it’s probably already available to you) update will have GIPHY support to find and send GIFs. It’s somewhat similar to how you can look for GIFs for your Stories, but this one is for private conversations.

Sure, it won’t put Instagram on par with the best communication apps out there like Facebook Messenger, Viber, or WhatsApp, but it’ll make talking to friends much more fun. I think GIFs are fun to send as a reaction to Stories, right?

The feature is rolling out over the next few days, so keep your Instagram app updated. While we’re at it, follow GadgetMatch on Instagram for more content and live updates of what’s we’re currently up to.

Source: Instagram

SEE ALSO: 7 tips to stepping up your Instagram game

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