Plus a handy new Google Assistant trick
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Android Intelligence
 
 
IN THIS ISSUE:
 
  The Latest Android Intelligence: How to get Android 10's hidden features on any phone today — and the secrets to smarter Smart Displays
  3 Things to Know This Week: Android's latest security scare, Google's latest service murder, and what Android Q coulda been
  Tips o’ the Week: A handy new Assistant trick and the best Android file managers
  Test Your Knowledge: Android robot, identify thy maker
  Plus the wizard hiding within Google Search — pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...
 
 
 A Word of Welcome

Well, crikey: For a relatively quiet news week — the calm before the coming September-October mobile-tech storm — we've sure got a lot of thought-provoking nuggets to noodle over right now, don't we?

 

Before we dive in, I don't want to forget to tell ya: There'll be no newsletter next week, as I'll be taking a few days off around Labor Day for some relaxing family vacation time — if by "relaxing family vacation time," you mean numerous hours in a car with a perpetually sticky pair of toddler primates (aka my children). If you don't hear from me again, you'll know they got the better of me.

 

Barring any sudden death by high-decibel shrieking, though, I'll be back here and back to our regularly scheduled programming the following week — battle scars and all — with what's sure to be a jam-packed September 13th issue.

 

Try not to miss me too much, mmkay?

 
JR
jr@androidintel.net
 
 
INSIGHT
 The Latest Android Intelligence
 
How to Get Android 10's Hidden Features on Any Phone Today

 The Short Version: Try out two of Android 10's most interesting and elusive elements — no matter what version of Android you're running! — with these easy-to-follow steps.
 

 Know More: Focus Mode and Bubbles haven't made their way to the surface of Android 10's beta releases just yet, but a little creative tinkering will let you experience their magic on any device right now.

 

 Read more: The full column is here.

 
 
7 Ways Google's Smart Displays Could Get Smarter

 The Short Version: With a little fine-tuning, Google's Assistant-powered Smart Displays could turn into indispensable deskside companions.

 

 Know More: I've had a Smart Display on my desk for months now, and y'know what? It's okay. Not great. But it's so close to being phenomenal, and all it'd take is a teensy bit of tweaking to turn it into an awesome productivity tool. Even more than any of the surface-level hardware improvements we're expecting to see this fall, this is the stuff Google needs to focus on if it wants to make the Smart Display more than just a mildly useful novelty.

 

 Read more: The full column is here.

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PERSPECTIVE
 3 Things to Know This Week
 
1. Android's latest malware scare may not be as scary as it seems

 The Short Version: Word broke this week that a popular PDF creation app called CamScanner had some shady code inside it for a while — a "Trojan Dropper" that downloads "malicious modules" onto your device (HOLY HELLFIRE!) — but as usual with most Android security scares, the real story doesn't appear to be quite so sensational.

 

 Know more: This story came to us from the folks at Kaspersky, who — yup, you guessed it — sell a bloated and unnecessary security suite for Android and are using this discovery mostly as a marketing vehicle for their product. Their finding does appear to be legitimate, though, and seeing something shady in such a high-profile app is obviously never a good thing. But let's put it in context: As of now, signs suggest the questionable code was part of a third-party advertising system used by CamScanner and that its only real purpose was to perform click fraud — a fancy way of saying it'd quietly click on ads in the background in order to generate extra revenue. That's certainly not something you want to be involved with, but it also isn't the malicious, soul-stealing demon this whole thing was made out to be. CamScanner seems to have addressed the issue as of the end of July, though the app is currently offline in the Play Store as Google investigates the situation and what level of policy-breaking was involved.

 

 Read more: You can find the original Kaspersky announcement/marketing campaign here, see CamScanner's response to the situation here, and see an analysis of when exactly the shady code appeared and then was removed here.

 

 Dive Deeper: For more perspective on Android security scares and the almost shockingly consistent patterns they tend to follow, look back to my column from last month: "5 smart questions that'll smother most Android security scares." And if you want an app for scanning documents and turning them into PDFs, by the way, get Microsoft's free and reliable Office Lens utility. Aside from its lack of obnoxious over-the-top advertising compared to CamScanner, it's also just the best all-around tool for the job.

 
 
2. Google's killing yet another service

 The Short Version: Google has announced it's shutting down Google Hire, a hiring service it launched for businesses just two years ago.

 

 Know more: This could practically be a standing element of the newsletter at this point — the "what service Google is killing now" section — and that's the real shame of this: Whether or not you used or had even ever heard of Google Hire, the frequent sunsetting of once-highly-promoted services reinforces the feeling that Google's got a serious problem with commitment and that investing yourself in any new Google service is ultimately just setting yourself up for disappointment down the road. This latest service murder fits almost too perfectly into that narrative: One Hire user noted that Google gave his business "the hard sell" on Hire a mere two months ago and talked up the product's "extensive roadmap" for improvements over the coming years. Every company abandons efforts occasionally, but Google sure seems to give up on stuff quickly and at an almost comical rate — especially as of this last year or so.

 

 Read more: All of the details surrounding Hire's shutdown are here.

 

 Dive Deeper: This column of mine from last October seems particularly appropriate once more: "Google's most enthusiastic users have good reason to be wary"

 
 
3. Android Q was almost called Queen Cake

 The Short Version: In a new interview, Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke revealed that Queen Cake was a leading contender for this year's Android version name — up until Google decided to go in a different direction and abandon the version names entirely.

 

 Know more: This revelation is of little practical significance, but it's still a fun bit of trivia to know — don't you think? Queen Cake is apparently a traditional British dessert also known as Queen Elizabeth Cake. Q isn't all about royalty, though: Burke also revealed that internally, Google has referred to the Android 10 release as Quince Tart. He says Google will keep using internal dessert-themed codenames for future Android versions (as it has since the KitKat era, when Key Lime Pie was the internal moniker) but that those names won't be discussed publicly or used in any front-facing manner.

 

 Read more: You can watch or listen to the full interview on this week's TWiT-produced All About Android podcast or read over the high points here.

Productivity
 Tips o' the Week
 
Tell Google Assistant to zip it

Have you ever opened up Assistant on your phone and asked it something — whether by speaking or by typing — and then been not-so-pleasantly surprised when the service responded to you out loud instead of just putting the info on your screen?

 

I sure have. And I've often wished there were a way to tell Assistant to answer me quietly, with only an on-screen response and no spoken accompaniment.

 

Well, thank your lucky stars and/or charms, for such an option now exists: Open up Assistant on your phone and swipe up on the partial panel to get into the full-screen interface. Tap your profile picture in the upper-right corner, select the "Assistant" tab, then scroll down and tap the line labeled "Phone" (under the "Assistant devices" header).

 

Now look for the "Speech output" option, tap it, and change its setting to "Hands-free only." That'll make Assistant answer you out loud when you activate it via the "Hey Google" hotword but then give its answers only on-screen, silently, in any other scenario.

 

Ahh...much better.

 
 
Upgrade your Android file manager apps

Managing files isn't the most exciting part of mobile technology, but it sure is an important one. And having the best file manager app for any given purpose — whether it's sharing stuff you've downloaded, cleaning up your phone's storage, or backing up your device to the cloud — can make a world of difference.

 

Check out my newly revised recommendations for the best file manager tools on Android and see if there might be a sensible upgrade out there and just waiting for your embrace.

Quiz Time
 Test Your Knowledge
 
Who came up with the now-iconic (and just recently updated) green Android robot logo?

Right-o! Blok, a former designer at Google, has said her only real directive was to come up with something easily identifiable that involved a robot. She says she looked to the simple drawings that appear on restroom signs as a source of inspiration. D'oh! Wrong answer. Try again.

 Test your friends (and/or fibulas)

This interactive quiz is optimized for Gmail on Android or the web. If you're using another mail client and nothing's happening when you click or tap a choice, don't despair: You can find the right answer at the bottom of this email.

 

If the quiz isn't appearing correctly at all for you (hi, Windows Outlook/Mail users!), open this issue in your browser instead. It'll work A-OK there.

Know someone else who might enjoy this issue?

 

https://androidintel.net/083019

 

FORWARD IT TO A FRIEND

 And Just For Funsies...
 

I've run into all sorts of Google Easter eggs over the years, but I stumbled onto a funny one this week that I don't recall ever seeing before. (Or maybe I saw it at some point and then forgot. That's entirely possible, too, especially considering the fact that my brain is approximately 92% mush these days.)

 

Try it out for yourself: Type Wizard of Oz into any Google Search prompt. See the ruby slippers at the top of the screen? Click or tap 'em three times — y'know, just like Dorothy. You can even say "There's no place like home" over and over, if you really want to make anyone around you think you're crazy (something I always recommend).

 

Last but not least, show the trick to anyone gullible around you (this is pretty much what children are made for), convince them that you're the wizard who made the magic happen, and bask in your newfound fame and glory.

 
See Ya in Two Weeks

Don't forget: no newsletter next week.

 

Have a happy holiday weekend, if you're in the U.S. — and a happy regular weekend, if you're anywhere else! I'll see ya on the other side.

Thoughts
JR

The answer to this week's quiz is: Irina Blok

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