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Android Intelligence
 
 
IN THIS ISSUE:
 
  The Latest Android Intelligence: Standout Android email apps and Android's (maybe) multitasking breakthrough
  3 Things to Know This Week: Google's curious G+ revamp, some noteworthy new Google Docs features, and a different purpose for the next Pixelbook product
  Tips o’ the Week: Incredibly useful things you didn't know Google Calendar could do and a new way to silence devices from afar
  Deal Intelligence: A hundred bucks off a portable Assistant speaker, $70 off a Google Home Hub, and free store credit from Staples
  Plus the secret to stopping Amazon from storing your personal data — you'd better start a-stretchin'...
 
 
 A Word of Welcome

Modern apps and services are kinda like virtual gold mines, aren't they? I mean, sure, there's plenty of shiny stuff on the surface — but it's when you start digging around in the darker corners that you really uncover the most interesting treasures.

 

That's exactly what happened when I started probing Google Calendar for my latest Fast Company feature. I've used Calendar on a near-daily basis for years now, and yet I still came across tons of handy out-of-the-way nuggets I had no idea existed.

 

Experiencing and then sharing those "aha!" moments is one of my absolute favorite parts of this job. Check out my collection of little-known Calendar gems — in the Tips section, below — and see what buried bits of riches you discover.

 

Oh, and don't forget your hard hat, okay? You never know when something new might plop out unexpectedly and clonk ye right on the noggin.

 
JR
jr@androidintel.net
 
 
INSIGHT
 The Latest Android Intelligence
 
Gmail, G-meh: 4 Alternative Android Email Apps, Evaluated

 The Short Version: Still mourning Inbox? Or just itching for something different? These alternative Android email apps might be worth exploring.

 

 Know More: Inbox may be gone, but there are still some interesting alternatives out there. These are the ones that stand out the most to me — what they're all about, where they excel, and why you might (or might not) wanna use 'em.

 

 Read more: The full column is here.

 
 
Android Q's Bubbles Could Be a Mobile Multitasking Breakthrough

 The Short Version: A recently revealed Android Q feature brings a fresh twist to an old concept — and could have the potential to really shake up how we interact with apps on our phones.

 

 Know More: When I first saw signs that Google was toying with a bubble-like concept for Android Q, I was confused. A bubble-based interface in Android — now? Why? While the timing and the sudden renewed interest in the notion still perplex me somewhat, though, I've gotta say: Having now studied Google's plan for Bubbles in Android Q and beyond, I'm genuinely excited about the idea and what it could mean for us finger-using land-creatures who carry Android products.

 

 Read more: The full column is here.

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Thanks for being a part of this unconventional adventure.

 

-JR

PERSPECTIVE
 3 Things to Know This Week
 
1. Google's bringing a big boost to its business customers — including a curiously rebranded revamp of Google+

 The Short Version: At an enterprise-centric conference this week, the Big G took the wraps off a bunch of big new services for its G Suite business customers — including the long-awaited arrival of Assistant support for G Suite accounts, a version of Google Voice made specifically for business users, a powerful new form of business-aimed artificial intelligence, and an oddly rebranded version of Google+ for the enterprise.

 

 Know more: It's kinda weird that Assistant hasn't worked properly with G Suite accounts up til now — particularly when it comes to Calendar-related requests — but hey, better late than never, right? The new business version of Google Voice, meanwhile, positions the service as a "complete cloud-based phone system that's optimized for businesses of all sizes," which seems like a smart way for Google to tweak something it's had available for years and turn it into a profit-generating perk for its actual paying customers. The same can be said for the relaunched communications platform rising from the ashes of Google+ and now being rebranded as Currents (an odd choice, given the fact that Currents was previously a Flipboard-like news-reading app that itself was killed off in favor of a shinier alternative — a full-circle progression for the name, so to speak). All in all, the take-home message is that Google's getting increasingly serious about serving the enterprise side of its business, which is a trend we've been seeing shape up for some time now.

 

 Read more: You can find an overview of all this week's business-centric announcements here. For more on Google Voice, specifically, check out this official post; for a detailed look at the new enterprise-oriented A.I. programs, check out this rundown; and for the Currents launch info, look to this slightly strange-feeling explanation.

 
 
2. Google Docs is getting a couple of noteworthy upgrades

 The Short Version: Also a part of its business push, Google just announced two significant upgrades for its Google Docs productivity suite: the ability to edit, comment, and collaborate on Microsoft Office files directly within Docs (as well as Sheets and Slides), with full compatibility and no file conversions required — and the ability to use special versions of Google's services that live inside of Dropbox and let you store your files there.

 

 Know more: The native Office compatibility thing seems pretty darn significant to me. I've used Docs forever, but lots of the people I work with still use Microsoft Office — and that means I'll often get documents from editors that rely on Microsoft's commenting and change-tracking systems and are a pain to work with within Docs. Having things "just work," as they say, without any thought or complicated hoop-jumping required, marks a huge improvement over this current situation. (I've also confirmed with Google that the feature will reach both G Suite users and regular consumer accounts as it rolls out over the next few weeks.) The Dropbox thing seems to be a bigger deal than you'd suspect at first glance, too, as it doesn't just let you store Docs-related files within Dropbox; it lets you actually use a custom version of Google Docs from inside the Dropbox app — complete with plenty of Dropbox-specific features and elements in place.

 

 Read more: The lowdown on the Office editing improvement is here. For an up-close look at the Docs-Dropbox integration, see this hands-on exploration of the brand new system.

 
 
3. The next Pixelbook product will be designed for "on-the-go" productivity

 The Short Version: Google also revealed plans for a new laptop/tablet product aimed at business folk who spend most of their time working away from their desks — something that seems to sit between the current Pixelbook and Pixel Slate in purpose.

 

 Know more: The very fact that Google is talking about making more laptop/tablet-style devices is dominating much of the coverage around this right now, thanks to previous reports that questioned the future of Google's efforts in that area — but that part of the story shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you've been paying attention. The real noteworthy tidbit here is the fact that the device in question isn't just an updated version of the Pixelbook but rather an entirely new type of laptop/tablet product that's designed to be different from what we've already seen. In a session at that same business-focused convention, a product manager reportedly talked about how the product would be built specifically for folks who fall into that "remote work" area and would present some "unique things" that'd be done "differently than the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate" in order to meet their needs. More details are expected sometime, vaguely, "down the road."

 

 Read more: You can find a summary of the session at which all of this happened here. For extra context on the state of Google's hardware efforts (and how this all fits in with the previous reports of a laptop/tablet scaleback), look back to my column from March: "Making sense of Google's hardware pivot."

Productivity
 Tips o' the Week
 
Get more out of Google Calendar

Google Calendar can do so much more than just basic appointment-keeping. As we talked about at the start of this issue, I dug deep to find some of the service's most interesting and useful options, shortcuts, and features.

 

Check out my collection, and get ready to experience Calendar in a whole new way.

 
 
Silence your phone from any Assistant device (or vice-versa)

The next time you want to stop all of your devices from making noise, take note: You can now ask a Google Home or Smart Display to silence your phone, no matter where it's located.

 

You'll need to have Voice Match enabled first so that Google Assistant can recognize who you are and know which devices to handle. (If you haven't yet set that up, you can find instructions for doing so here.) Then, all you've gotta do is ask the Google Home or Smart Display to silence your phone — and any phones associated with your account will have their Do Not Disturb modes toggled on within seconds.

 

You can also do the opposite and ask Assistant on your phone to silence your other devices — namely any Google Home and Smart Speakers you have scattered throughout your abode. Just fire up Assistant on your phone and tell it to turn Do Not Disturb on (or off) on any specific device ("my kitchen display," "my living room speaker," or whatever) — or tell it to silence all devices if you want everything in your house to hush for a while.

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SMART TECH
 Deal Intelligence
 
Up to $100 off a JBL portable Google Assistant speaker

A heck of an off-the-beaten-path deal to pass along to ya this week: You can pick up one of JBL's excellent Link 10 Google Assistant speakers for a mere 50 bucks right now. JBL itself is selling manufacturer-refurbished models of the device for a full $100 off the regular price, and since they're coming directly from JBL, they still have the regular full warranty in place.

 

If you'd rather get a brand new, non-refurbished device, Best Buy and Walmart both have those knocked down by 70 bucks to $80 right now as well.

 

The Link 10 is basically a Google Home that can work either plugged in or via its integrated battery. It responds to voice commands, lets you stream music, and all the usual stuff. We've got one that we bring with us outside or on the go sometimes, and it's pretty awesome to have around.

 

 Check it out: eBay (for the refurbished version), Best Buy or Walmart (for the new version)

 
 
$70 off a Google Home Hub

Google's display-packin' Home Hub is sporting the eye-catching price of $80 at Monoprice as of this moment. That's 70 bucks lower than the device's standard $150 price and just low enough to put it into impulse-purchase territory. Quite a deal to leap on, if you've been thinking about picking one of these suckers up.

 

 Check it out: Monoprice

 
 
$10 off anything if you recycle old electronics at Staples

Starting next Sunday, you can bring any junky old tech product into a Staples store and get $10 off your next purchase of $30 or more. Anything from an old phone or tablet to an MP3 player or even a calculator counts. You do have to be a Staples Rewards member to get the credit, but that's just a free perks program that takes a matter of seconds to sign up for.

 

The deal is available from April 21st through 27th.

 

 Check it out: Staples

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 And Just For Funsies...
 

Given all the hubbub about Amazon's apparent habit of having actual humans listen to and analyze spoken commands from Alexa owners' homes, this Onion story jumped out at me as being especially amusing and appropriate:

 

"We take privacy concerns seriously, and I want our valued customers to know they can erase all the information their Amazon Echo has gathered just by being dropped from a helicopter over one of our towers, using a diamond-tipped glass cutter to carve out a hole in a 32nd-story window, and then employing advanced cyberwarfare techniques to compromise our data centers," said Bezos, who added that users merely need to have their demolitions expert blow through a 7-foot steel barrier and reach Amazon’s highly complex cloud storage system to access the audio captured by Alexa.

And that's just the start. The funniest part is that this Onion story was actually written a while back, in response to a completely different Amazon privacy uproar.

 

Some things are just timeless, I guess.

 
Until We Meet Again...

Thanks as always for the delightful inbox hang. And hey, don't forget to check out this week's Android Intelligence podcast episode, "Champagne Supernova," for an even deeper dive into the week's most interesting stories — along with a candid rant about antiquated app approaches and a listener question about Chromebook app organization.

 

I'll see ya back here soon.

Thoughts
JR

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