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Android Intelligence
  The Latest Android Intelligence: The Android notification inbox and the 15-minute Chromebook tune-up
  3 Things to Know This Week: Android Q's early appearance, Google's permissions crackdown, and the first funky phones of 2019
  Tips o’ the Week: How to mute an annoying website on your phone and the right Linux apps for your Chromebook
  Deal Intelligence: Smart savings on Smart Displays and free money from Google
  Plus a "Back to the Future" gadget becomes a present-day reality — whoa, Doc, that's heavy...
 A Word of Welcome

Hola! I'm trying out some tweaks to the rhythm of the newsletter this week. The nice thing about having this be such a small and independent operation is that I can constantly think about ways to refine and improve the reading experience — to find that just-right balance of depth and length for this medium — and then implement those changes right away to see how they work. Lemme know whatcha think, won't ya?

 The Latest Android Intelligence
Android Q Dreaming: Imagine the Notification Inbox

 The Short Version: Smartphone notifications come and go and are all too easy to get lost in the shuffle. What if there were a better way?


 Know More: Android OS updates don't typically need sweeping interface changes anymore, but that doesn't mean there aren't still meaningful enhancements waiting to be made. When it comes to notifications, specifically, Google could give us a monumental upgrade by moving from the current ephemeral model to a more inbox-like setup, with simple built-in options for archiving, snoozing, and finding notifications — just like we enjoy with email.


 Read more: The full column is here.

The 15-Minute Chromebook Tune-Up

 The Short Version: Some easy-to-follow annual steps can make your Chromebook faster, smarter, and more pleasant to use.


 Know More: Chromebooks are all about low maintenance, but even with Chrome OS's minimal-upkeep nature, there are things you can do to clean up your device, clear out its clutter, and keep it primed for optimal productivity — and they don't take long at all to power through.


 Read more: The full column is here.

Take your Android Intelligence to the next level.


In this week's Platinum Edition newsletter, a members-only giveaway of the no-longer-available Chromecast Audio gadget — plus quick takes on useful news you mighta missed, deep reads on thought-provoking mobile tech topics, and an enlightening trip back in time with the A.I. Platinum Weekly Rewind.


Your membership also includes access to the resource-packed Platinum Lounge — and it directly supports this independent editorial effort (head count: one) and helps make this newsletter possible. Whew! That's one hefty slice o' cake.


Interested? Aw, shucks — you're a peach. Learn more here.

 3 Things to Know This Week
1. Android Q is making its first (alleged) appearance

 The Short Version: An apparent leaked early development build of Android Q suggests Google is working on a system-wide dark mode and an expanded permissions system — something that'd give you even greater control over how and when apps can access things like your location or camera — for this year's upcoming update. There's also a mysterious mention of an "experimental desktop mode on secondary displays" in the software's developer settings, but the specifics of what that might entail aren't entirely clear.


 Know more: The two big-ticket items here — the dark mode and the more granular permission system — should come as no surprise: We've known for a while now that Google is working on a dark mode for Android Q, and the permissions revamp fits in perfectly with the company's ongoing focus on elevated privacy (more on that in a sec). As for the desktop mode, while the common speculation is that it's meant to power a two-in-one, phone-plugged-into-a-monitor sort of setup, I can't help but wonder if it's actually something meant to work on future phones with secondary displays, as a way to take advantage of that extra screen space.


 Read more: You can find all the details of the leak along with plenty of images here — and if you'd prefer a video tour, well, here ya go.

2. Google's getting stricter about allowing apps to access your call log and text messages

 The Short Version: We've heard no shortage of stories about apps taking advantage of call log and SMS permissions as of late (hi, Facebook!), and now, Google is implementing a new policy that'll require developers to get explicit permission — from an actual human at Google — before even being allowed to ask for such access on an Android device.


 Know more: The policy is meant to limit SMS and call log permissions mostly to apps that'd serve as default texting or calling tools, though there are some carefully defined exceptions. More broadly, though, what's interesting here is the way Google's Android security chief framed the change (emphasis is mine): "2019 will see big safety improvements related to sensitive permissions usage in apps." Right. Remember that Android Q permissions stuff we were talking about a minute ago?


 Read more: Google's developer-targeted announcement is here, while the security chief's context-providing remarks — overlooked by most (but not by you!) — are right here.

3. Android phones are about to get seriously funky

 The Short Version: In addition to the foldable phones expected to start arriving in a matter of weeks, we're now hearing that LG is working on a phone with a "second-screen attachment," while OnePlus is planning on implementing a sliding-out selfie camera into its 2019 models. Oh, and don't forget about the Galaxy S10 and its increasingly rumored "dual hole-punch" design.


 Know more: You know by now how I feel about these trends, right? But whatever we want to say about their practical value and the compromises they'll probably require, it seems like a given at this point that the funky phone fad will be a prominent talking point for the coming year. And in the case of the LG oddity and the crop of foldable phones, think back to that "secondary display" bit from the Android Q leak — then think about the question of what the extra screen space introduced on these devices could possibly accomplish. Maybe, just maybe, there's a connection.


 Read more: All the details of the LG device await you here, while the OnePlus info is here and the latest Galaxy S10 leak is here.

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 Tips o' the Week
Keep annoying websites from auto-playing audio on your phone

Ever visit a website on your phone and find yourself scrambling to stop a noisy video it started without your knowledge? It's the worst. But luckily, there's a way to make sure no site ever pulls such shenanigans on you a second time.


Here's the trick: Whenever you get an unwanted audio surprise, tap the lock icon to the left of the site's address in Chrome. Tap "Site Settings" in the box that appears, then tap "Sound" and change the setting to "Block."


Ahh...the sound of silence.

Give your Chromebook new skills with the right set of Linux apps

Linux app support on Chrome OS is one of those things that's intriguing in theory but tough to know what to do with in the real world (unless you're one of those rare people who actually uses and understands Linux). After all, aside from figuring out how to set up and install Linux app support, you have to figure out which Linux apps to try — and there's no simple menu of standout options.


Well, until now, that is: I've spent the past few months experimenting with Linux apps on my Chromebook, and I've come up with a collection of programs that run admirably in Chrome OS and actually add a meaningful level of value into the experience — everything from local word processors and image editors to standalone email/calendar software and, my personal favorite, a native desktop Slack client (huzzah!).


You can find the full collection here.

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 Deal Intelligence
$50 off a Google Home Hub or $40 off a regular Google Home

Google's hardware sale is going strong this week, with $50 off the Home Hub Smart Display — making it $99 — and $40 off the regular screen-free Google Home, bringing its price down to $89.


Pro tip: Spend the extra 10 bucks and get the Home Hub.


 Check it out: Google Store (and elsewhere)

$100 off the Lenovo 10-in. Smart Display

If you want a larger Smart Display with more powerful speakers, Lenovo's 10-in. Smart Display is the way to go. It's much better suited to video-streaming than the small-screened, mediocre-speakered Google Home Hub. We've got one in our kitchen and use it all the time for cooking-hour entertainment.


Costco's selling the suckers for $100 off right now. That means, of course, you need a Costco membership in order to get the deal — though memberships appear to start at $60 for a year, so you could conceivably sign up and still save $40 on the device while basically getting a year-long Costco membership for free.


 Check it out: Costco

Up to $20 free from Google Express

I've mentioned this one before, but it's good enough to warrant repeating: If you buy something from Google Express for the first time right now, you can get 20 percent off your total purchase — up to $100, meaning you can essentially get $20 free.


Google Express lets you buy from a bunch of different retailers, including Best Buy, Target, Fry's, Costco, and Home Depot, so there's no shortage of viable options. The catch is that the promotion works only for first-time Google Express users — but even if you've bought from Express before, there's nothing stopping you from signing in with a secondary Google account to take advantage of the deal.


The promo code is NEWYEAR19, and it's valid through February 3rd.


 Check it out: Google Express

 And Just For Funsies...

Well, great Scott, Marty: It looks like those self-lacing sneakers from "Back to the Future" are finally gonna start showing up on feet in the present.


Nike showed off its new Adapt BB shoes at an event in New York City this week. The shoes are technically the second to include self-lacing technology, but the first was more of a prototype than anything. These new ones will actually be available to us regular ol' earthlings — for 350 bucks a pop, starting in February — and they can even pair with a smartphone app (naturally) in addition to allowing you to snug up their fit via a built-in button.



You can read all about the tech that makes the shoes possible here, if you're interested, and you can see 'em in action in this YouTube video.


Laces? Where we're going, we don't need laces.

Until We Meet Again...

What? The end of this issue, already?! My — time flies.


For now, I'll leave you with one last important bit of high-tech advice:


Never attempt to use peanut butter as thermal grease for your computer's CPU. It won't work, and your sandwiches will suffer.




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