Google announces AppCompat version 21, allows for Material Design on pre-Lollipop devices

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Continuing the pre-Android 5.0 Lollipop update extravaganza, Google this evening announced that it has updated the public AppCompat library to version 21. For those unfamiliar, this essentially means that it will allow for a more Material Design look and feel in apps on devices running pre-Lollipop versions of Android. This concept is exactly what we’ve been seeing in recent Google app updates, giving us the look of Material Design without running Android 5.0.

AppCompat (aka ActionBarCompat) started out as a backport of the Android 4.0 ActionBar API for devices running on Gingerbread, providing a common API layer on top of the backported implementation and the framework implementation. AppCompat v21 delivers an API and feature-set that is up-to-date with Android 5.0

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Google Now rolls out Solar Eclipse and Police Activity cards

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Google Now can remind you to pay your bills and now it appears that Mountain View’s intelligent personal assistant software can help keep you safe. A group of Reddit users have received police alert cards from their local law enforcement branches advising them of nearby criminal activity. So be sure to read these cards carefully if you happen to see one on your phone.

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Google’s new Inbox app is a marriage between Gmail and Google Now (update)

 

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Today, Google unveiled a new email solution called Inbox, which looks like a marriage between Gmail and Google Now. Currently available by invitation only, this new app takes bits from your email like purchase invoices and bank statements and groups them together for fast access. Like Google Now, Inbox adapts to the way you operate, highlighting key pieces of emails like flight plans, photos, documents and upcoming event information.

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Hangouts isn’t going anywhere, Google explains Android’s new Messenger app

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Google announced a plethora of goodies today and while we’ve been seeing several shots the company’s latest hardware, we keep noticing unfamiliar software icons hanging out on Mountain View’s new devices. Pictured above is a shot of Google’s new Messenger app that will be shipping with the Nexus 6 as part of Android 5.0 Lollipop.

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Google Play app downloads exceed Apple’s App Store by 60 percent

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A new report from App Annie revealed that application downloads from Google Play exceeded downloads from Apple’s App Store by around 60 percent compared to statistics from the same time period last year. Although the Play Store saw a fair share of growth, iOS downloads managed to earn more money during Q3 2014, with a gap of nearly 60 percent. It’s possible that these changes could be due to Google Play’s expansion into emerging markets where people typically don’t download paid apps.

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Firefox for Android updated with Chromecast and Roku video streaming

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You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but what about a fox? Better yet, what about a Firefox? Cheesy introductions aside, today Mozilla announced a new video streaming feature for Firefox’s Android web browser. This Chrome alternative can now push videos from your mobile device to your TV via Google’s Chromecast media stick or a Roku set-top box.

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Google Classroom gets Groups integration, improved teacher controls & more

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Google just announced some enhancements and new features rolling out to its Google Classroom service today including much improved controls for teachers. Google Classroom, a platform for teachers to plan lessons, assignments, and work alongside students in real-time, was announced earlier this year and first opened to all Apps for Education users in August. Read more

Microsoft latest to mimic Snapchat with new Skype Qik ephemeral video messaging app

Microsoft has just joined the ranks of companies looking to capitalize on the success of ephemeral messaging apps like Snapchat. Through its Skype division, the company has launched a new cross-platform app for iOS, Android, and (of course) Windows Phone called Skype Qik. The premise of the application, as can be seen in the video above and screenshots below, is simple: you can record a quick video, and then share it to either one person in your address book or multiple groups of people.

By default, videos will expire after two weeks, and you can also un-send messages at any time. A cool feature of Skype Qik is the ability to pre-record various 5 second GIFs that you can send as instant replies. So, if you don’t have the ability to send a live video reply, you can just choose one of your pre-record defaults. The app is free today on the aforementioned platforms, and Microsoft says that updates, such as one for blocking iPhone contacts (that feature is available today on Android and Windows Phone), will come often to enhance the feature-set.

You can view some screenshots of the Android app in action below:

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Anki Drive gains Android support, but only works with a few devices at launch

The app-powered Anki Drive cars first demoed during WWDC 2013 are finally gaining very limited Android support, TechCrunch reports. Nearly one year to the day after the official launch on iOS, the artifically-intelligent racers are finally available to users on select Android devices.

The only devices that will support Anki Drive out of the box today are the Nexus 5, Galaxy Note 3/4/10.1, or the Galaxy S4/S5. Unfortunately, the app will not support cross-platform play, which means everyone playing has to have the same operating system: Android users can only play with other Android users and iOS users can only play with other iOS users.

Anki Drive was updated in January with new customization options and a new car. The starter kit can you yours for $150, with additional cars available available for $50. Read more