About the Author

Abner Li

@technacity

“It’s Google’s Alphabet’s world & we’re all just living in it.”

The above is Abner’s philosophy and why in his 6 years of writing about tech Google and Android has been the main focus.

He resides in Los Angeles.

Send tips to abner@9to5mac.com.

Email or Twitter @technacity if you want to discuss anything remotely Android or Google related with him.

Abner Li's Favorite Gear

Yesterday

Assistant’s ‘Hey Google’ hotword now more widely available on Android phones

Over the past month, users have noticed that the “Hey Google” hotword is no longer limited to Google Home. For some, the command is recognized on Android and works to invoke Assistant. Today, this feature is now more widely rolling out.

Back in September, the Google Store and Project Fi unveiled a trade-in program to get credits towards a new device. However, one critique that quickly emerged was the flimsy packaging Google was sending out to ship phones back for appraisal. Weeks later, Google has finally remedied the situation.

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While ARCore made its first big consumer debut with AR Stickers on the Pixel and Pixel 2 this week, Google announced today that its original augmented reality project is shutting down. Tango will no longer be supported next year and given the advantages of ARCore, this moving is not all too surprising.

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Everyone can use an Echo Dot: Just $50!

After entering beta last month, the stable version of Gboard 6.8 is now rolling out. Notable functionality includes the addition of a built-in handwriting support without the need to download a separate app, as well as suggestions in URL fields, like Chrome’s Omnibar.

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ARCore made a significant public debut with AR Stickers rolling out to the Pixel and Pixel 2 earlier this week. However, Google’s platform for Android-based augmented reality is still a developer preview for several more months, with the latest version rolling out today.

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In a teardown last month, we spotted Allo preparing a transcription feature for voice messages. With version 25 rolling out now, that functionality is beginning to go live for users, while Google continues work on camera effects and a Reply feature that quotes previously sent messages.

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December 14

With version 63 rolling out on Mac, Windows, Linux, and Android, Chrome 64 is now in the beta channel. End users will particularly benefit from a stronger pop-up blocker, sitewide audio muting, and an assortment of other features, including those on Chrome OS.

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Machine learning is increasingly being leveraged in a variety of consumer products and other research. The latest use sees Google apply AI to planet hunting and in the process discovering two previously overlooked exoplanets.

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In early December, Google and Amazon’s product dispute escalated resulting in the removal of YouTube from the Echo Show, but more importantly Fire TV. Today, the online retailer appears to be acquiescing to Google’s complaints over the lack of Chromecast devices on sale.

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Earlier this year, Samsung was rumored to be developing a smart speaker to compete with likes of Google Home. Today, a new report provides the first concrete details on the device, as well as a possible launch date. Meanwhile, another report notes a possible launch for the rumored Google Home with a display.

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Google’s suite of travel applications and services are already gearing up for the next traveling season with a number of updates today. Google Flights will now use its machine learning smarts to track hotel prices, while Trips is adding a new Discounts feature.

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Google+ makes comment moderation tools available to all users

Following this week’s addition of advanced search filters and more stats for Community moderators, Google+ is now gaining more tools to moderate comments. Specifically, all users will be able to delete, report, and block comments on their posts.

December 13

G Suite’s latest protections can disable work apps on insecure Android devices

Besides offering a host of cloud applications, one of G Suite’s key features is the ability to manage a fleet of employee devices. Today, the service is adding new protections to ensure enterprise data isn’t compromised on insecure Android and iOS devices.

After spotting references in our teardowns over the past several weeks now, the Google Assistant is finally coming to tablets. Meanwhile, Google is today also expanding the virtual personal assistant to phones running Android 5.0 Lollipop.

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PhotoScan is an incredible tool for digitizing physical prints en masse without the need of a dedicated photo scanner. Today, the app is getting even more convenient with images now automatically saved to device — and Google Photos — after capture. Meanwhile, version 1.5 also adds cropping enhancements.

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Besides YouTube, Google’s other major yearly recap is for Search. The big trend — as encapsulated by the annual video — in 2017’s top searches are questions of “how.” These queries range from how to help those affected by natural disasters, local communities, and more. Meanwhile, Google has also posted the global and national list of top searches.

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December 12

Bolstering its status as an AI first company, Google has opened machine learning research labs around the world in recent years. The latest is the Google AI China Center headquartered in Beijing.

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Google+ adds advanced search filters, ‘Insights’ tab w/ Community stats for mods, owners

Google’s nascent social network geared towards Collections and Communities is gaining advanced search features to make it easier to find posts. Meanwhile, Google+ is also adding more metrics for Community moderators and G Suite admins.

Project Fi’s annual ‘holiday treat’ for subscribers is now live

As is tradition, Project Fi is again gifting a “holiday treat” for subscribers of the Google MVNO service. The interactive experience for 2017 is a fun ski game that’s coupled with an in-flight Wi-Fi code.

December 11

The final distribution numbers for the year are in and continue to show slow growth for Android 8.0 This minimal increase comes as Nougat rises and all other versions decline.

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