Brought to you by:
Man, typing on an iPhone sure is terrible.
I can't be the only one who's noticed that, right? I mean, look, I get it: We're at a point now where Android and iOS are pretty darn similar, where neither platform is inherently "better" than the other, and where...blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda, yadda. Some things just objectively suck. And typing on iOS is one of 'em (even, somehow, when you're using a third-party keyboard on an iPhone).
Spending time with iOS makes me appreciate lots of different things about Android — but more than anything, it makes me appreciate the value of having a hassle-free, exceptional mobile text input experience. And it makes me realize how easy it is to take that for granted.
In this week's 3 Things to Try section, we'll explore one tiny but terrific example of Android's typing excellence. But first, my goodness, we've got some hell-freezing-over-level new plot twists to contemplate.
➜ THE SHORT VERSION: In a surprise no one seemed to see coming, Microsoft just announced that its upcoming new Windows 11 operating system will support the native installation of Android apps — but with a catch: The apps can be downloaded only from the Amazon Appstore, not from the far more thoroughly stocked and frequently updated Google Play Store.
➜ KNOW MORE: What a twist, eh? This sure seems like a response to Google's integration of Android apps into Chrome OS, which has turned into an ever-increasing threat for Microsoft over the years. It's certainly an interesting move, too, and one that should only further encourage developers to invest the time and resources into crafting high-quality apps for Android. My main worry is just how good of an experience the Amazon storefront will provide, 'cause quite honestly, it's pretty shoddy in general — in terms of both what's available and how often its titles are updated. You won't find any Google apps there, for instance, nor will you find big-name titles such as Slack, Pocket, or pretty much any popular password management service. Heck, even most of Microsoft's own Android apps are missing in action. But maybe this will force Amazon to step up its game and/or inspire developers to start treating it as more than a second-rate Play Store alternative. Maybe?
➜ READ MORE: This detailed report has all there is to know about the change and the broader evolution of the app store approach on Windows.
➜ THE SHORT VERSION: Speaking of app store competition, Apple's facing increased scrutiny over its policy of letting iPhone users download apps only from its own official iOS App Store — and in its attempts to defend that stance this week, an executive suggested it's all about security and that people who want more choice can find it outside of Apple's garden. Um, right. Point taken?
➜ KNOW MORE: Apple's misleading mandate on this is really missing the point. Yes, Android allows you to download apps from outside of the official Play Store, and yes, you can most certainly run into shady stuff as a result. But malware doesn't just jump out of nowhere and bite you. You really have to go out of your way to skip numerous prompts and warnings before you could even download something from an unofficial source in the first place. And despite all the sensational headlines suggesting otherwise, malware just isn't a significant real-world problem on Android. Being able to download apps from anywhere you want represents a freedom to use the product you paid for in whatever way you see fit. And as this lovely ecosystem of ours illustrates, there is a way to accomplish that while still protecting the vast majority of users. The truth is that that approach just doesn't align with Apple's business interests. And that's something the company won't ever admit.
➜ READ MORE: The full story of the Apple-Android comments are in this sprawling interview. For more context on all the misconceptions surrounding Android and security, meanwhile, look back to my 2019 column: "5 Smart Questions That'll Smother Most Android Security Scares."
➜ THE SHORT VERSION: Some under-development code suggests Google's working on an expanded Find My Device feature for Android that'd mimic Apple's approach and allow devices to rely on each other for location detecting, even when there's no active network connection.
➜ KNOW MORE: Lots of folks don't even realize it, but you already can find any Android device today simply by typing "find my device" into any Google Search prompt while you're signed into your account. From there, you can remotely ring a phone, even if it's set to silent, and you can lock it or erase it, too. But the catch is that the device has to be powered on and connected to either Wi-Fi or mobile data in order for that to work. This new system, from the looks of it, would let you find a device even if it didn't have a reliable internet connection. (It'd almost certainly still have to be powered on, though. No easy way around that.) The trick would be relying on Bluetooth pings from other devices in the area to pinpoint the missing phone's exact location. Wild stuff, right?
➜ READ MORE: You can read all about the under-development feature — which, to be clear, has not been officially announced as of yet — in this code-sleuthing report.
As an Android Intelligence reader, you've got the chance to check out an awesome new info-organizing tool before it becomes publicly available.
It's called Joggo, and it's all about making it easier to juggle the content coming into that beautiful brain of yours. You just save anything you encounter into the service — an article, a podcast, even (ahem) an exceptionally well-written newsletter — and Joggo puts it into your personal content inbox and gives you a bullet-pointed summary.
Joggo has lots of intelligent systems for making sure you actually get through the stuff you save. And you can expand your horizons with expert-curated lists, too, including the Android Intelligence-created "Incredibly Cool Chrome Knowledge" and "Ultimate Gmail Tips" collections.
Oh, and unlike practically every other company, Joggo is releasing its Android app first — ahead of that other smartphone platform. You'll be first in line to try it.
Come skip the waitlist and start using Joggo now with invite code ANDROID2021. It's totally free, and this is your chance for early access:
|CHECK OUT JOGGO NOW ➜|
You probably know how much I love typing tricks by now, right? Well, this week, I stumbled onto a cool possibility with Gboard that I never knew existed and have never heard anyone else mention. It's one of those hidden advanced shortcuts Google loves sneaking into its products, and good golly, do I ever enjoy unearthing 'em.
So here it is: When you're using Gboard in its floating mode, you can zoom in or out on the keyboard to adjust its size in any way you want.
Check it out:
Not bad, right? Mesmerizing delight aside, this really lets you fine-tune Gboard to make it exactly right for your specific finger size and the precise place you're putting the keyboard on your screen at any given moment.
It's an awesome little ergonomics and efficiency upgrade, and it couldn't be any easier to do. Check out my step-by-step instructions, and get ready to zoom-a-zoom zoom zoom to your heart's content.
Speaking of zoom-a-zoom zoom zoomin' (with or without a boom-boomin'), Google's Messages app for Android is in the midst of getting an interesting unannounced upgrade, and it's something you'd probably never realize was there.
But here it is: Anytime you're inside a conversation within the app, you can now pinch to zoom in or out — just like you would on a web page. Plop two fingers on the screen and then slide 'em slowly apart, and you'll see the text in the thread grow progressively larger (like on-demand reading glasses!). Push those fingies back together, and it'll get smaller again (you sharp-seeing show-off).
If it isn't working for you yet, check the Play Store for an update to the app — then give it a few days and check again. The feature seems to be rolled out fairly broadly, best I can tell, but we all know how Google often takes its time getting these sorts of rollouts out to everyone.
Pixel pals, listen up: I've put together a whole new collection of productivity-boosting Pixel extras. These all revolve around the Android Overview interface and some super-thoughtful ways Google has added advanced actions into that area of the software on its self-made phones.
From copying uncopyable-seeming text to extracting images from anywhere and even capturing quick, easy, and unusually clean screenshots, there are some seriously useful gems just waiting to be discovered.
You can explore every last one of 'em in this 12-part guide.
One of the most rewarding parts of my week is interacting with readers and answering questions — everything from requests for specific device recommendations to creative ways to accomplish custom tasks on Android. And then, of course, there's the always-fun act of troubleshooting and figuring out what's wrong with a stubborn, misbehaving phone.
You can get on-demand access to one-on-one advice from me whenever you need it as a member of my Android Intelligence Platinum resource community. I have an entire private forum in the members-only Platinum Lounge devoted to that purpose, and my inbox is always open as well. I even feature one especially interesting question in the expanded Platinum Edition of this newsletter you'll get every Friday as a member as well as in the Platinum podcast that'll be in your ears every Thursday.
These kinds of personal, custom interactions take time, and the Platinum program is what allows me to devote the hours needed to make 'em possible. Come check out all the practical benefits of being an Android Intelligence Platinum member, and let me show you just how good in-depth, independent, and interactive tech journalism can be:
|START YOUR FREE TRIAL ➜|
Here's a fun little distraction for ya: Google's Arts & Culture lab has come up with a new web experiment that lets you see what it's like to create art and hear the sounds of your painting.
Astonishingly, the experiment does not involve hallucinogens.
Nope — it's an interactive website called, rather fittingly, Paint With Music. Pull it up on your phone or computer, decide whether you want to paint in the sky or underwater, among other options (again, no hallucinogens involved, I swear), and then just swipe and swoosh your finger or mouse around the screen to create something original.
Beautiful, ain't it?
As you paint, the experiment will make (allegedly) musical sounds to go along with your motions. You can even choose from different instruments to create the most
annoying inventive medley imaginable.
Irritating your friends and family has never been so entertaining.
Thanks as always for hangin' out and having me over to your inbox. We may be in the relatively quiet summer months of the tech product cycle right now, but make no mistake about it: We'll have plenty of interesting stuff to discuss in the weeks and months ahead.
See ya next week.
➜ New here and not yet subscribed? Take two seconds to sign up now.
➜ Hungry for more? Try a Platinum membership to gain access to three premium Android Intelligence publications along with oodles of other practical perks.