A recent policy change by Google is banishing bloatware on some of our favourite devices
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 does not have Google+ installed. This isn’t because Google+ is finished (not yet at least), but because it’s relaxing its own rules on which of its apps must be installed as standard on Android devices. The full list of apps that were once mandatory, but are now optional, reads: Google+, Google Play Games, Google Play Books, Google Play Newsstand, Google Earth and Google Keep. Don’t worry, they will all still be freely available for download through the Play store. The requirement for having certain apps pre-installed is not widely known and it highlights the conflict in the ownership of Android. Android, the operating system, is free and open source to all. This means that any manufacturer who wishes to build an Android device can simply download it and get started. Yet so much of what we think of as the Android experience actually comes from Google: Chrome, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Play services tying it all together. If a manufacturer wants these apps, it must conform to certain guidelines set by Google. This includes the insistence that if you want one Google app, then of course you must have them all. While there are a few outliers, such as Amazon’s Fire OS, for most manufacturers the prospect of going Google-less isn’t an option because Google also owns the Play store. Although you can find third-party alternatives for the browser and maps, if you don’t have a fully stocked app store then you don’t stand much of a chance. Just ask Microsoft. Which is where the bloatware comes in. You want the Google Play store? Then you’ve got to have Google Newsstand too. Google’s change of mind on this policy is a good thing for everyone. It’s less restrictive for manufacturers and there is less clutter for users too. Plus – and this may be part of the motivation behind the move – it’s less likely to draw attention from competition watchdogs.
The long-awaited Huawei Nexus 6P and LG Nexus 5X are unleashed
Google officially announced the two latest additions to the Nexus family by revisiting a former favourite and welcoming a new manufacturing partner to the party.
The Nexus 5 by LG was one of the most popular Nexus devices ever, so Google returned to the South Korean company to make the 5X, a mid-range, 5.2-inch handset. It contains a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 1.8GHz processor, the same as in the LG G4, and a reasonable 2,700mAh battery that supports Type-C and Fast Charging.
The 6P, meanwhile, represents a new direction for Google, trusting an up and coming Chinese manufacturer to make its flagship handset. This 5.7-inch monster sports a display running 518ppi and an enormous 3,450 mAh battery to keep it running.
Get to grips with Google thanks to this amazing new bookazine
Google is an ever-changing company that is constantly launching new products, buying new companies and generally re-inventing itself.
This year has been no different, with the announcement of its brand new parent company Alphabet as well as its plans for a fleet of Internet-carrying balloons, self-driving Google cars and unlimited photo storage.
The Google I/O conference earlier in the year was a huge event that revealed changes to Android, Google+ and Chrome. With the company changing at such a pace, it can be tricky to keep up, which is why the Google Tips & Tricks bookazine is such a great idea.
Google’s Artificial Neural Network Deep Dream has been creating some of the trippiest images ever.
Google is always trying to learn more about the world around it. To help the search engine giant do so, engineers are developing the Artificial Neural Network (ANN) that attempts to make sense of the world around it. This is the framework on which Google Now on Tap is being built.
Engineers show it thousands of images to try and get it to learn, for example, what a chair looks like. In time the network should realise that an object with four legs, a horizontal surface and a vertical surface is probably a chair and therefore searches should prove more intuitive.
To test how the ANN is progressing, Google’s engineers have been getting it to draw images and the results have been trippy to say the least. The ANN has been seeing dog faces, eyes and slugs in places where there are none, simply because there are shapes that it vaguely recognises. It has also been adding arms into pictures of dumbbells because the images of dumbbells it sees usually include arms. It’s sweet but ever so slightly scary.
How the newly announced Android Nanodegree can help you make a career out of coding
Google wants to make it faster and easier for the next-generation of hackers to become Android developers. It has partnered with the online education centre Udacity to produce an program that promises to help you “learn to develop for Android and transform your career outlook” over the course of 6-12 months.
Called the Android Nanodegree, the program offers free video content, along with the option of personal help, tuition and feedback for $200 a month. It’s aimed at established or intermediate developers who want to jump to Android or improve their general skills. Tying together other Android learning programs into a structured whole, the new nanodegree is developed and taught by expert Google instructors, and covers everything from UX design to integration with Google Play services.
Google and Udacity are both keen to promote the new course and get students enrolled (you can sign up online at specific times throughout the year). In fact, Google is going to hand-pick 50 Android Nanodegree graduates to attend a hackathon in Mountain View in the near future. In Google’s words, it’s “an education credential that is designed for busy people to learn new skills and advance their careers in a short amount of time from anywhere at any time”.