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Android Intelligence
  The Latest Android Intelligence: New Chrome OS features and why Amazon might want to be America's next mobile carrier
  3 Things to Know This Week: The Android Q home stretch, the full scoop on Google's gaming service, and a sad farewell to yet another great Google app
  Tips o’ the Week: The best Android launchers for enhanced efficiency, a simple way to share your screen remotely, and a useful new tool for on-the-fly transcription
  Deal Intelligence: A dynamite deal on a smart home bundle and $200 off a high-end Chromebook
  Plus the Apple product launch you didn't hear advertised — oh, Timmy...
 A Word of Welcome

On a week where Apple news is dominating the internet, it only seems fitting for us to talk about some Android-exclusive productivity possibilities.


Since you use Android, y'see, you've got a unique advantage over your iPhone-totin' brethren: You can take complete control of your home screen and make it look and work practically any way you want — whether that means carefully crafting your own custom setup or going with an arrangement that continuously optimizes the environment for you.


All you need is the right Android launcher, and your home screen can transform into a time-saving command center for your personal productivity needs — in a way no Apple device could ever offer. I spent some time living with all the top Android launcher contenders recently, and this week seemed like the perfect time to share what I found. Scroll down to the Tips section of this issue and see if maybe, just maybe, there's something new and suitable for you.


Oh, and by the way, didja hear that Apple finally innovated the ability to swipe on your smartphone keyboard and put widgets on your tablet home screen this week? (Well, a limited array of widgets, anyway.) Hey, welcome to 2008, iFriends. Come on in — the water's fine.

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 The Latest Android Intelligence
4 Fancy New Chrome OS Features to Watch For This Summer

 The Short Version: Chromebook owners, take note: Some powerful new possibilities are heading your way soon.


 Know More: From advanced work environments to fresh forms of Android-Chromebook connectivity, some pretty nifty additions are in the works for Chrome OS this minute.


 Read more: The full column is here.

Why Amazon Might Want to Be America's Next Mobile Carrier

 The Short Version: Could Amazon provide the cellular service for your next Android phone? Maybe — and it might not be as crazy as it sounds.


 Know More: Recent reports suggest Amazon is looking at getting into the mobile carrier game, and when you stop and think about it, it actually makes an awful lot of sense — on a lot of different levels.


 Read more: The full column is here.

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 3 Things to Know This Week
1. We're officially in the home stretch for Android Q

 The Short Version: Google launched its fourth Android Q beta this week, bringing some subtle refinements to the software and putting us tantalizingly close to the final Q release.


 Know more: While the changes in this latest Q beta aren't particularly grand, the release itself represents a huge step in the Android development process. As of this beta, all of the APIs — the interfaces developers use to let their apps interact with devices and various Google services — are considered to be finalized, and the official Q Software Development Kit is published and ready to roll. All that's left now is a pair of release candidates for final testing, and then the finished Q version will be upon us. If all goes according to schedule, those last two pre-release builds should land sometime between July and September, and the full Q release should arrive around that same time — probably somewhere in August, if recent past years are any indication.


 Read more: You can find Google's official Q beta 4 announcement here. For a look at the various surface-level tweaks in this latest release, check out this easy-to-follow visual rundown.

2. Google's new game streaming service will launch in November

 The Short Version: After teasing Google Stadia back in March, Google has now revealed that the service will open its doors in November and cost $10 a month plus standard retail prices for any games you want to purchase and play.


 Know more: What sets Stadia apart from a standard gaming environment is the fact that it allows you to play console-quality games on any TV with a Chromecast Ultra attached (along with your own Bluetooth controller), on any computer with the Chrome browser (including a Chromebook!), or on any Pixel 3 or 3a phone (with more device support set to arrive eventually). It uses the power of Google's servers to handle the heavy lifting and let you get the benefits of high-end games without the need for expensive hardware. To start, Stadia will offer 30-some games, with more titles expected to be added over time — including, eventually, some Stadia-exclusive options. As for the fees, the $10-a-month plan will at some point include a selection of free-to-play games in addition to the pay-to-purchase possibilities, and sometime next year, there'll also be a free tier of service available that includes only access to the pay-to-purchase titles. Whew! Got all that?!


 Read more: Every last detail about the Stadia launch is right here.

3. Another great Google app is going away

 The Short Version: Google has quietly revealed that its Trips Android app will be retired on August 5th. Sigh.


 Know more: When Google launched a new travel-planning website under the Trips name a couple weeks ago — and failed to mention its excellent but oft-forgotten Android app with the same name in the process — I wondered what that meant for the future of the handy Android travel-organizing tool. Well, now we know. I can't say I'm entirely surprised, as Trips came around during the Google Inbox era and tapped into its same automatic organization concept, in which details from itineraries in your email are used to create nicely formatted trip bundles. The new Trips website aims to do the same basic thing, but it's far less pleasant to use from a phone (and it's pretty strange that Google would abandon its native app entirely instead of just bringing it up to date with the newer Trips elements). Oh well. Another one bites the dust, eh? Someone had better update the Google Cemetery...


 Read more: You can see the Trips discontinuation notice on the top of Google's old Trips website, and you can find more details about the retirement on this official Google help page.

 Tips o' the Week
Supercharge your smartphone's home screen

Here in the land o' Android, you don't have to stick to a simple grid of static icons on your phone's home screen. And you don't have to stick to whatever setup the company that made your device came up with, either.


A third-party launcher lets you incorporate all sorts of custom actions, interfaces, and shortcuts into your Android phone's desktop — giving your phone a completely different look and feel and creating a system that's custom-tailored to the way you like to get things done.


Check out my pipin' hot new collection of Android launcher recommendations, broken down by what type of experience they offer and in what areas they excel — and get ready to see your home screen in a whole new light.

Share your screen from afar

If you're anything like me, you probably spend a fair amount of time talking friends or family members through various smartphone procedures. Or maybe you're on the other end of the equation, and you're the one getting the pointers from someone in another locale.


Either way, the next time you find yourself needing to glance at someone's screen or let someone see yours remotely, download the Skype Android app. It was just updated to include a simple screen sharing function, which makes it easy as can be to look at a phone with someone else — even when they aren't in the room with you.

Transcribe anything, anytime, for free

You may not conduct interviews as often as I do, but if you ever encounter a situation where you'd like to transcribe some sort of speaking and save the text for later reference — be it a conversation, your own musings, or even a lecture you're attending — snag Google's Live Transcribe app. The app actually debuted earlier this year, but it just got updated with the ability to save anything it captures and then let you copy the text and paste anywhere you want it.


The app is super-effective at providing live captioning in any situation — and with its newfound copy and save capability, its potential utility stretches far beyond its primary purpose of accessibility.

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 Deal Intelligence
$30 off a Home/Nest Hub plus a free Smart Light Starter Kit

Call it the Home Hub, call it the Nest Hub, call it whatever tickles your tech-talkin' fancy — Google's screen-packing Smart Display is currently on sale for $30 off, bringing its total down to the ultra-affordable $99. And if that isn't enough, the device also currently comes with a free Home Mini and GE Smart Bulb thrown in (part of what Google is calling a "Smart Light Starter Kit").


The Smart Light Starter Kit would normally set you back $55 — so all in all, this is quite the deal. It'll be available through June 19th.


 Check it out: Google Store, Best Buy, Lowe's, and other retailers


$200 off the high-end Acer Chromebook Spin 13

If you're looking for a commendable Chromebook at an affordable cost, Acer's favorably reviewed Chromebook Spin 13 is on sale for $698 as of this writing — a significant drop from its usual $900 price.


My pal Kevin Tofel of the website About Chromebooks called the Spin the first Chromebook that "rivals or exceeds the Google Pixelbook." At $698, especially, it might be worth a look.


 Check it out: Amazon

 And Just For Funsies...

Forget everything else you've seen about Apple's latest announcements. This story, courtesy of the always-amusing folks at The Onion, is the best Apple event coverage you'll find anywhere:



Per the article:

"Today, Apple is proud to announce the sale of a really phenomenal personal computer featuring a 350 MHz processor, 64 MB of RAM, and a fully functioning ZIP drive bay — all for only $120," said Cook, adding that Apple would listen to any other competitive offers for the 2002 desktop, which comes in a sleek Graphite case with only a few cosmetic nicks and scratches.

Well, sheesh: That $6,000 Mac Pro and its "intricately engineered" thousand-dollar stand suddenly don't look so enticing anymore, do they?


The best part of The Onion's send-up:

Cook concluded by adding that interested parties could contact him personally at "[email protected]" with a subject line mentioning the Power Mac G4.

Finally, an Apple product that seems reasonably priced and ready to sell.

Let's Do This Again, Shall We?

Thanks as always for having me over to your inbox. Don't forget to check out the podcast, if you're in the mood for an aural adventure — and I'll see ya right back here before you know it.


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