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Android Intelligence
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  The Latest Android Intelligence: The worst part about Google's Inbox assassination — and a standout new Android launcher for ergonomic efficiency
  3 Things to Know This Week: The Pixelbooks of the future, another Gmail-related change, and a new twist to Google's next-gen messaging plan
  Tips o’ the Week: Clear up Gmail's clutter, make an old Android phone feel new again, and let Google help plan your next big adventure
  Deal Intelligence: 20% off stuff at eBay and $40 off a commendable cord-cutting accessory
  Plus my super-nerdy confession and a journey back to the pre-internet era of electronic communication (insert loud modem noise here...)
 A Word of Welcome

Oh, bother — here we go again: Another Google service is getting abandoned, and the users who invested in building a workflow around it are getting hung out to dry.


This time, the service on the chopping block is Inbox — Google's experimental email app that's lived alongside Gmail for the last four years. Inbox was supposed to be the future of email, but now, it's about to become the past.


Seeing the level of reaction the app's retirement is getting this week brings me back to the emotion-filled abandonment of Google Reader some years back. Just like Reader, Inbox appears to have a sizable and extremely passionate base of users. But just like Reader, on a relative scale, that base doesn't appear to be enough to make the app worth Google's ongoing effort.


Unlike Google Reader, however, Inbox will be exceptionally difficult for us as users to replace. Cross-platform email clients are tough to come by, and not many third-party companies have found success in creating 'em. Beyond that, many of Inbox's features require a level of Google service integration no third-party app would be able to achieve.


That being said, I'm working on some creative ideas to recreate at least some of Inbox's soon-to-be-lost features within Gmail. It won't be simple, nor will it be complete — but it'll be something. And whether you're a grieving Inbox user or someone who never really took to the app, it should bring an extra punch of productivity into your Gmail setup.


Stay tuned for that next week. In the meantime, you'll find some broad thoughts on the impact of Inbox's demise in this week's first column, below. And hey, just think — the next time someone accuses you of having a fear of commitment, you've got the perfect comeback: "Pshaw! At least I'm not as bad as Google."

 The Latest Android Intelligence
The Worst Part About Google's Inbox Assassination

I'm disappointed about losing Inbox for a number of reasons — but one in particular really, truly stings.


 Read more: Computerworld

A Standout New Android Launcher for Ergonomic Efficiency

You probably know this by now, but I'm always on the lookout for interesting ways to enhance efficiency. It's become a bit of a mild obsession for me.


That's why this clever new take on the Android home screen environment caught my eye. The setup aims to strip your home screen down to its bare essentials and turn it into an ultra-efficient launching board for getting where you need to be.


It's decidedly different from your average Android launcher — and it's absolutely worth a look.


 Read more: Computerworld

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 3 Things to Know This Week
1. Google may have two totally different Pixelbooks in the works

 Here’s the deal: We've been seeing signs for a while that Google's got a new Pixelbook under development for its upcoming fall hardware launchapalooza — and now, two different designs that appear to be Pixelbook products are appearing all over these here internets, giving us our closest looks yet at what may well be Google's next flagship Chrome OS products.


 Know more: The first design appears in a couple different ads seen online and on Google's YouTube TV service. The ads don't mention the Pixelbook explicitly but do show a device that looks almost exactly like Google's current high-end convertible, only with slimmer bezels 'round the display.


The second design is even more intriguing: It appeared originally within a video demoing some sort of glitch in the open-source Chromium Bug Tracker site, and it appears to be a Microsoft Surface-like tablet with a detachable keyboard base.


The keyboard has round keys (yes, round keys) — something that, perhaps notably, matches the round vibe present in most of Google's latest designs and on its way into Chrome OS itself as we speak. Hmmmm...


 Read more: You can check out the various Pixelbook sightings via Chrome Unboxed herehere, and here — and for more info about the upcoming rounding-out changes to the Chrome OS interface, check out this Google+ post by Chrome Evangelist François Beaufort.

2. The old Gmail offline function won't work much longer

 Here’s the deal: Google's getting ready to retire its aging Gmail Offline Chrome app, which for years was the sole ticket to accessing your inbox without an active internet connection. The app will evaporate into the ether in December.


 Know more: Don't freak out just yet: All this actually means is that if you want to be able to access Gmail while offline from a laptop or desktop computer, you need to start using the new version of Gmail — like, now — and you need to make sure you're all set up with its updated method of providing offline access.


With the new Gmail, offline functionality is built right into the website — and once you activate it, it just works: As long as you have the site loaded before you go offline, you can keep using the regular Gmail site to browse your messages and even compose new ones without an active connection. Anything you write will go into a special Outbox folder and then be sent whenever you reconnect.


But — this is critical — you have to activate it before it'll work. So first, make sure you're using the new Gmail. (If you aren't sure, click the gear icon in the site's upper-right corner. If you see an option there to "Try the new Gmail," click it to switch over. If you see an option to "Go back to classic Gmail" in that same spot, you're already in the right place; pat yourself on the back and go get a soda.) Next, head into the new Gmail's settings to activate its offline option before you actually need it.


 Read more: Google's announcement about the Gmail Offline app's retirement is here, if you want the full scoop straight from the horse's mouth (note to self: "The horse" would make a good nickname for Google, or possibly for me). And for more detailed instructions on activating offline mode in the new Gmail, click over to my tutorial from earlier this year.

3. Samsung's getting on board with Google's next-gen messaging plan — but there's a catch

 Here’s the deal: Samsung and Google have announced plans to work together on bringing an advanced form of texting known as RCS, or Rich Communication Services, into the Android ecosystem. Specifically, Samsung says it'll make sure its own Samsung Messages app (which comes preinstalled on most Galaxy phones) will play nicely with Google's Android Messages app so that everyone can have a happy, friendly, modern messaging experience. Well, sort of.


 Know more: Having Samsung's support is a significant step toward Google's goal of making RCS the new universal messaging standard, without a doubt, but there are some important asterisks attached to this announcement.


The thing about RCS, y'see, is that it works wonderfully — so long as everyone involved in a texting conversation has a phone, app, and carrier that supports it. That combination of requirements is what allows RCS to provide advanced features like typing indicators, read receipts, Wi-Fi-based chatting, and "rich" group chatting.


On the phone front, first and foremost, anyone using a third-party messaging app is out of luck. And even with Samsung's Messages app, it'll take an over-the-air update for RCS support to show up — something Samsung says it's planning only for certain models, "starting with" the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. Translation: There are gonna be a lot of phones without RCS support for a loooong time — and that's not even taking into account all the Apple devices out there, which currently have no RCS upgrade plans in place.


And then there's the carrier end of the equation. Even here in the U.S., it's hit and miss. Verizon, for instance — the largest U.S. carrier — still hasn't rolled out RCS support, which means no devices on its network can use it. And outside of America, RCS support is even more spotty.


RCS is a fine idea in theory, but it'll be quite a while before it ever amounts to much in reality (assuming that ever happens).


 Read more: Samsung and Google's official announcement is here. For a closer look at what RCS is actually all about and how it works, check out this easy-to-understand explainer.

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 Tips o' the Week
Give yourself a break from Gmail's new side panel

You know that new side panel that shows up in the Gmail desktop site — the thing at the right, with links to view your Calendar, Keep, or Task info alongside your inbox? You can now collapse that to get it out of your way when you don't actively need it. Just look for the little circular arrow icon in the bottom-right corner of the screen; clicking it will toggle the panel's presence and help you clear a little clutter.

Make your old Android phone feel new again

Little-known fact: Your aging Android device doesn't have to be awful to use. I put together some simple steps that'll give an old phone (or tablet!) new life and get it back to fighting form.


You can find the full list of suggestions here.

Let Google help plan your next big adventure

It's a tough time to talk about new Google apps right now, I realize, but El Goog-o has an interesting new offering that's worth at least noting. It's a web-based app called Touring Bird, and it comes from Google's Area 120 "experimental workshop."


The app's whole purpose is to offer detailed suggestions for trips to popular travel destinations — to give you a complete and thorough "what to do" guide that goes beyond the obvious attractions. It features filter-ready, interest-based suggestions along with tips from locals (real, live locals, garsh-darn it!) for each area. It looks like it could be quite useful, provided you're going to one of the limited locations included as of now — and um, provided Google hasn't killed off the app by the time you read this.


You can check out Touring Bird for yourself here and read more about what went into its creation here

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 Deal Intelligence
20% off a bunch of stuff at eBay

Need stuff? eBay's got it — and right now, the site's offering a 20% discount on a bunch of different items. It's a pretty random selection, really, but a fair amount of electronics are involved, including a few Chromebooks and a variety of phone, computer, and home tech accessories.


The sale runs through midnight PT tonight (Friday, 9/14). Make sure you put in coupon code JUMPINTOFALL before you pay to get the discount.


 Check it out: eBay

$40 off a Tablo Dual Lite OTA DVR

You remember the Tablo, right? It's an over-the-air DVR that lets you record shows using any ol' cheap antenna and the free programming that comes along with it — perfect for any post-cord-cutting household.


Well, Best Buy's got the Dual Lite model knocked down 40 bucks to $100 right now. We've got the larger version of this same device in our house and have generally been quite happy with it.


My buddy and cord-cutting aficionado Jared Newman reviewed the thing here, if you want to learn more. Spoiler: He calls it the "all-around champ" and says it's "the best over-the-air DVR for most people." (If I'm ever called the "all-around champ" or reviewed as being the best anything "for most people," I'm hanging up my hat and declaring victory on life.)


 Check it out: Best Buy

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 And Just For Funsies...

All right — super-nerdy confession time: As a young lad, I created and operated what was known as a computer bulletin board system, or BBS for short. It was a rudimentary form of electronic communication, kinda like a tiny and mostly isolated pre-internet island that people would dial into using one of those ancient noisy modems (ahh...still music to my ears!).


Getting involved in that weird, wild world was one of the first times I felt truly excited by technology and the possibilities it created — and that's a feeling that'd carry me through countless unnecessary purchases and into what I'm doing today.


Anyhoo, a similarly geeky writer decided to take a trip back in time to see if he could find some dial-up BBSes that were somehow still chugging along and available for connection in our internet-everywhere era. His journey (which apparently came out a couple of years ago but just caught my eye this week) is fascinating, funny, and overflowing with tasty tech nostalgia. If you have any memories of the BBS universe, you'll be transported back in time (at the lightning-like speed of 28.8kbps, naturally) — and if that bit of nerdery passed you by, well, you're in for a whole different type of treat.


Hang onto this one for the next time you've got 10 minutes to kill. You'll be glad you did.


 Read more: "The Lost Civilization of Dial-Up Bulletin Board Systems" (The Atlantic)

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Thanks For Reading

Hey, can't tell ya how much I enjoy hangin' out and visiting your inbox each week. And speaking of inboxes, be sure to keep an eye out for next week's issue. I've got my work cut out for me, but I'll have some crafty suggestions for bringing some of Inbox's best ideas into Gmail by then.


We're in this together, you and I. Have yourself a peachy weekend, won'tcha? I'll see ya back here soon.



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