An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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December 10, 2015

Google Play Music Family Plan

Google Play Music started to offer a new family plan: $14.99/month for up to 6 family members, just like Apple Music. You and 5 other family members can subscribe to Google Play Music All Access and keep your own playlists, radio stations, ratings and recommendations. The new family plans are available in the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, France and Germany, while also requiring regular Google accounts (no Google Apps, for now). You can only sign up from the Google Play Music app for Android, but everything else works for all the platforms supported by Google Play Music.

Google says you can "share a payment method on Google Play so your family can purchase apps, movies, books and music." It looks like Google will add a family sharing feature for Google Play, so that purchases are shared between family members, just like in iOS. Hopefully, sharing the payment method will be optional.

Save Google's Image Search Results

If you find beautiful images using Google Image Search's mobile site, you can save them and organize them using a new Google service. Just tap the star icon next to a search result and the image is saved to your account. Go to to see all the images and add tags or notes (the link only works from mobile Chrome and Safari).

"When using your phone or tablet's web browser, you can easily save images you find in Google search results as links. You can see your saved images, which are similar to bookmarks, when you're signed in to your Google Account. You can return to your saved images at any time and add tags to organize them," informs Google.

December 8, 2015

Reminders in Google Calendar

Google Calendar's apps for Android and iOS now let you add reminders, just like you can do using Google Keep, Google Search or Google Inbox. This feature is rolling out this week if you have the latest version of the Google Calendar's mobile app. Until now, you could only see your reminders in Google Calendar.

"You might already create calendar entries to remind you to call the doctor or pick up groceries on the way home. But while those entries come and go, Reminders stick with you over time so you can track them until they are actually done. If a Reminder isn't completed, it will appear at the top of your Calendar the next day. And the next. When you do finally call the doctor or pick up those necessities, just swipe the Reminder away ... and you're onto the next to-do," informs Google.

Calendar events are different from reminders, but you can now manage them from the same app. Google promises to bring this feature to the Google Calendar web app in the near future.

All Tab in Google Search

Google has a new name for the "web" tab from search results pages. It's now called "all", which better reflects that Google no longer shows only web pages, but also quick answers, facts, images, videos, news, maps, apps, books and more. That's the whole idea behind Universal Search, which was launched back in 2007.

November 24, 2015

Travel Guide Snippets in Knowledge Graph Cards

Google's Knowledge Graph cards include a lot of information from Wikipedia. Google usually shows a snippet from a Wikipedia article and links to the article. I was surprised to notice that cards for countries and big cities from all over the world no longer quote Wikipedia and now include detailed information from travel guides.

Here's an example for [France]: "France, in Western Europe, encompasses medieval and port cities, tranquil villages, mountains and Mediterranean beaches. Paris, its capital, is known worldwide for its couture fashion houses, classical art museums including the Louvre and monuments like the Eiffel Tower. The country is also renowned for its sophisticated cuisine and its wines. Lascaux's ancient cave drawings, Lyon's Roman theater and the immense Palace of Versailles are testaments to its long history."

The snippet from the corresponding Wikipedia article is less poetic: "France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state comprising territory in western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The European part of France, called Metropolitan France, extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. France spans 640,679 square kilometres (247,368 sq mi) and has a total population of 67 million. It is a unitary semi-presidential republic with the capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre."

Show Zoom Slider in Google Maps

Are you missing the zoom controls from the old Google Maps interface for the desktop? Mouse over the "-" or "+" button at the bottom of the Google Maps page and click "show slider". You'll get the old zoom slider which allows you to quickly control the zoom level of the map.

If you want to go back to the default interface, mouse over the "-" or "+" button and click "hide slider". The nice thing is that Google remembers your preference.

Big Offline Google Maps

I don't know about you, but my Google Maps for Android has just enabled the new offline features. Even if you have the latest version of the app, you still need to wait until these features are enabled because they're gradually rolled out.

My first disappointment is that the new features are still limited. The biggest size for an offline area you can download is 120,000 square kilometers and there are many countries that are bigger than that. I downloaded London's map and checked the size of the map: 332 MB. It also expires in 29 days (maps need to be updated at least every 30 days).

It looks like Google's maps include too much information, they take up too much space and there's no way to download some simplified maps.

Let's try one of the smallest countries in Europe: Liechtenstein, which has an area of only 160 square kilometers. The offline map has 62 MB. New York? 409 MB. Los Angeles? 356 MB. Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing, Bangkok? Not available because of licensing issues.

Forget about downloading the map for an entire country. Google Maps still can't replace the Here app or paid navigation apps.

Google Star Wars Experience

Google has a new site for Star Wars fans. You can join the dark side or the light side and transform your Google experience across Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Waze, Google Translate, YouTube, and other Google services.

"We reached out to our friends at Lucasfilm and Disney, and since then we've been working together on building It's a place for fans, by fans, and starting today you can choose the light or the dark side, and then watch your favorite Google apps like Gmail, Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome and many more transform to reflect your path. And that's just the beginning. We've got more coming between now and opening night — the Millennium Falcon in all its (virtual reality) glory included, so stay tuned. And we've hidden a few easter eggs, too. So awaken the Force within, and be on the lookout for things from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away," mentions Google's blog.

There's a new Star Wars theme in Gmail, a new progress bar for the loading page and probably some other changes.

Google Inbox has a Star Wars background image.

Google Calendar adds some Star Wars events like "Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters everywhere".

YouTube has a new progress bar for Star Wars fans. Check the player too.

Google's Deals Alerts

Google's mobile search site shows some ads that promote a new notification service. Google's own ads feature a "subscribe" button that lets you "stay up to date on the latest deals, promotions, and updates from popular retailers". Basically, you'll get deals via text messages, just in time for Black Friday.

Tap the "subscribe" button and then you can text "join" to Google's SMS number: +1-646-665-2745. There are multiple alerts for phones, computers, TVs and more.

November 13, 2015

Chrome Beta for iOS

In addition to the stable channel, there are 3 other Chrome channels you can use to check the latest features before they're released for everyone: beta, dev and canary. Canary builds are only for Windows and Mac, the dev channel is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS and Android, while the beta channel is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS, Android and now iOS.

That's right, you can try out Chrome Beta for iOS. You need to enter your email address and confirm you "understand that Google will share your information with Apple in order to participate in the TestFlight program". Google will send a confirmation email. "Once you have confirmed your e-mail address, you can expect to receive an invitation to join TestFlight within a few minutes."

Install the TestFlight app on your iOS device, tap "redeem" and enter the code from the invitation. If you've already installed Chrome on your phone or tablet, TestFlight will ask you if "you want to replace the current app version with the test version".

Right now, you can upgrade from Chrome 46.0.2490.73 to Chrome 47.0.2526.53. The new version adds support for more Bluetooth keyboard shortcuts (open/close/change tabs and voice search) and adds 3D touch support on iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus (force touch the Chrome icon to open a new tab, a new incognito tab or start a voice search).

{ Thanks, Stefan. }

YouTube Music

YouTube launched specialized mobile apps for kids, gamers and now for music lovers. YouTube Music replaces the music section from the regular YouTube app and provides a better interface for playing music. There are no comments, you can switch between the video mode and the audio-only mode, the autoplay feature is enabled by default and you can't disable it.

"With YouTube Music, you'll get a completely new type of experience, designed to make discovering music on YouTube easier than ever. No matter where you start in the app, the music will never stop. Every song you play or artist you choose will take you on an endless journey through YouTube's music catalog. (...) The home tab will recommend tracks just for you and create personalized stations based on your tastes," informs the YouTube blog.

You can download YouTube Music from Google Play Store and Apple App Store, but only in the US. If you're not in the US and you manage to install the app, you won't be able to use it without a proxy/VPN service.

YouTube Music works even better if you use YouTube Red, so you get the YouTube Red features for free for 14 days. No ads, background audio, offline music.

November 11, 2015

Google's Timer and Stopwatch Card

Google's timer card added a new feature: stopwatch. You can search for [stopwatch] or search for [timer] and switch to the stopwatch tab. Click start/stop, reset or use the full screen option for an immersive experience. You can't add laps and the "stop" button should probably be renamed "pause".

To start the timer, search Google for [timer 10 minutes], [countdown 5 minutes], [set timer for 30 seconds], [start a timer for 1 hour and 45 minutes], [set a timer for half an hour], [start a timer until 13:00], [start a timer until midnight] and more.

It's worth pointing out that you can use both features simultaneously.

{ Thanks, Jonah Langlieb. }

November 10, 2015

Google About Me

It looks like Google works on a replacement for Google+ profiles. About Me is a new site that lets you control what people see about you. "Changes you make here show up across Google services like Drive, Photos, Google+ & others," informs Google.

You can change your name, photo, sites, gender, birthday and occupation. If you click the "+" button, you can also add work contact info, personal contact info, education, work history and places.

"You can change what other users of Google products see about you. For instance, when you connect with people on apps like Gmail or Hangouts, you can choose to share certain additional information with them, like your birthday and phone number," mentions Google's help center.

For now, the "view as public" feature doesn't work. "You'll soon be able to see what you look like to other people across Google services in this card. While we are working on it, view your public Google+ profile," suggests the site.

{ Thanks, Elchanan. }

Full-Featured Offline Google Maps

Google Maps has a really cool mobile app for Android and iOS, but most of its features aren't available when you're offline. You can cache maps for small regions and that's pretty useful, but what if you want to cache the maps for an entire country or use navigation and driving directions when you're in a different country? The Here app offers this feature for free and now you can use it in Google Maps too.

"Now you can download an area of the world to your phone, and the next time you find there's no connectivity — whether it's a country road or an underground parking garage — Google Maps will continue to work seamlessly. Whereas before you could simply view an area of the map offline, now you can get turn-by-turn driving directions, search for specific destinations, and find useful information about places, like hours of operation, contact information or ratings," mentions Google.

"You can download an area by searching for a city, county or country, for instance, and tapping 'Download' on the resulting place sheet, or by going to 'Offline Areas' in the Google Maps menu and tapping on the + button. Once downloaded, Google Maps will move into offline mode automatically when it recognizes you're in a location with spotty service or no connectivity at all. When a connection is found, it will switch back online so you can easily access the full version of Maps, including live traffic conditions for your current route."

The new feature is gradually rolling out in the latest version of Google Maps for Android and it will soon be added to the iOS app. 6 years after launching turn-by-turn navigation, this feature works offline and Google Maps can finally replace paid navigation apps.

November 5, 2015

Multiple Search Results For Google News

When searching Google for [news], the first page shows 9 results and 4 of them send users to Google News. The news site owned by Google is the top search result, but there are also 3 duplicate results that have some additional parameters:

This is obviously a bug and it's strange to see that Google didn't ignore Google Analytics parameters.

Google News Card

Here's a quick way to find the latest news stories when using a mobile device. Just search Google for [news] and you'll get a card that shows the top stories. Tap the arrow icons or swipe left/right to switch to other Google News sections like world news, business, technology, entertainment, sports, science or health.

Google Updates Search Interface For Tablets

It looks like Google updated the search interface for tablets and switched to the mobile UI. The previous tablet interface was an interesting combination between the desktop and mobile UIs.

Here's a screenshot from Safari for iPad:

And here's a screenshot from Nexus 7:

It's strange to see that Google still shows the "mobile-friendly" label, even though it's not that important for tablets. It's also weird that Google abbreviates long URLs, while there's enough space to display the entire URLs. Google switched to the mobile UI and forgot to optimize it for tablets.

October 29, 2015

Google to Merge Android With Chrome OS

Update: Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google's SVP for Android, Chrome OS and Chromecast says that Chrome OS is here to stay: "While we've been working on ways to bring together the best of both operating systems, there's no plan to phase out Chrome OS."

Original post:

Wall Street Journal reports that Google works on integrating Chrome OS into Android and will release a unified OS that runs on phones, tablets, laptops and more. "The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year."

So why kill Chrome OS and switch to Android? Chrome OS has a small desktop market share, while Android is the dominant mobile OS. There are a lot more apps in the Google Play Store than in the Chrome Web Store and Google had a hard time convincing developers to build Chrome apps. Google even ported the Android runtime to Chrome, so that you can run Android apps in Chrome OS.

Google's CEO, Sundar Pichai, has recently said that "mobile as a computing paradigm is eventually going to blend with what we think of as desktop today". Most likely, Google wants to bring Android to the desktop and provide a coherent experience. This solves some of the issues with Chrome OS (the lack of apps, low market share), but brings more challenges (Android is less secure than Chrome OS, it's updated less often, has a more complicated interface, it doesn't have a windowing system, apps aren't optimized for desktop).

I like Chromebooks because they're simple devices that require no maintenance. There are few things you can change, few things that can go wrong. It's easy to share them with other people, you don't have to worry about backups or saving your data.

Pixel C's announcement makes more sense now. It's an Android tablet developed by the Chromebook Pixel team. “We think the Pixel C’s tablet and keyboard experience really unlocks new ways to both play and be productive on one device,” mentioned Google.

Google has a lot of work to do. Android's tablet interface is pretty poor, there's no native multi-window support, Chrome for Android doesn't support extensions, apps and themes.

Chromebooks were all about the web, but native apps turned out to be more important for users. Better performance, better integration with the operating system, better interface - native apps trumped web apps and Chrome OS couldn't find a way to turn the tide.

{ Thanks, David. }

October 28, 2015

YouTube Red Launched

As promised, YouTube Red was launched today in the US. If you use the mobile apps for Android and iOS, you probably noticed that the title changed to "YouTube Red" and there's a new "YouTube Red" section in the settings. YouTube didn't even update the apps: the changes were probably triggered automatically.

There are 3 different ways to sign up for YouTube Red: from or the Android app, from Google Play Music and from YouTube's iOS app. If you use in-app purchases on iOS, you'll spend 30% more every month ($12.99 vs $9.99 regular pricing), so it's not a good idea to do that.

The desktop site has a new logo:

Here are some screenshots from the iPad app:

"With a YouTube Red membership, you’ll experience YouTube without video ads, be able to save videos to watch offline, and play videos in the background on your mobile device, all for $9.99 a month. And just like with our advertising revenue, the majority of revenue we get from YouTube Red memberships will go to our creator community," mentions YouTube's blog.

YouTube Red is free for Google Play Music subscribers and there's a free 30-day trial for US users. For now, YouTube Red is limited to the US and there are some additional restrictions: "if you leave the U.S., you won't be able to save videos offline, videos won't play in the background, and you will see ads. Any videos that you've saved offline before leaving the U.S., will continue to be available offline for 30 days."