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Android Intelligence
  The Big Idea: Android trends to watch in 2020
  3 Things to Know This Week: Assistant's latest upgrades, Android's midrange revolution, and a whole new Galaxy of Chromebooks
  3 Things to Try This Week: Two time-saving shortcuts and the Chrome command center
  Plus: Some 2020 predictions that didn't quite pan out
 Just Between Us...

My brain is still struggling to boot back up from the holiday break, but apparently, the tech industry didn't get the memo.


2020's off to a hell of a roaring start, with massive clouds of cigarette-scented mobile tech news floating out of Las Vegas and seeping slowly into our brains. The annual CES electronics freak show is quieting down this morning, though, and that means it's time for us to step back and start making sense of its more significant announcements.


The good news is that there isn't nearly as much significant stuff as you might think. Despite all the high-decibel shouting, most of CES is meant more for industry insiders than regular tech-totin' folk like us — hence the wacky concepts and impractical prototypes presented mostly to gauge reaction, generate discussion, and drum up corporate partnerships.


Amidst all the mush, though, there are a few noteworthy Google-connected tidbits worth digesting — along with some broader Android trends to start chewing over — and that's precisely what we'll tackle today.


Oh, and by the way: You might notice things look just a teensy bit different 'round these parts. That's intentional: In honor of the new year, this sweet little newsletter o' ours is sporting a few freshly fried tweaks — nothing super dramatic, mind you, but some subtle refinements to make it a little more cohesive, a little easier to follow, and hopefully a little more pleasant to read. Lemme know whatcha think.


Welcome to a new year of Android Intelligence. Lots o' good things are ahead — and, my goodness, we've got some serious catching up to do.

 The Big Idea
7 Android Trends to Watch in 2020

 The Short Version: Empty predictions are a dime a dozen — but with mobile tech in particular, long-term trends can tell us a lot about what the future may hold. And with Android, specifically, a handful of areas are really worth watching right now.


 Know More: There'll almost certainly be unexpected twists and turns over the coming dozen months, but it seems safe to say we'll be spending plenty of time talking about these seven subjects. Only two of 'em are actually good for us as humans who buy and use Android devices, but all of 'em are important for us to be aware of and thinking about as the year gets started.


 Read more: The full column is here.


 Hear more: Listen to me chat candidly about everything in this article in the latest episode of the Android Intelligence Platinum podcast: "Fly Like an Eagle." A new ad-free show is available every week — one of the many perks of supporting my work with a Platinum membership:


 3 Things to Know This Week
1. Google Assistant's getting some interesting new features

 The Short Version: Google tapped into CES to unveil a handful of fresh capabilities for its Assistant service, including a virtual sticky-note system for Smart Displays and a universal read-out-loud option for articles on Android devices.


 Know more: The fact that Google uses a gadget-centric show like CES mostly to showcase Assistant — not Android, not Chrome OS, and not any of its Pixel-branded products — tells us more than anything here. Assistant is Google's core focus nowadays and the connective tissue tying all of its most important products and services together. It's the search interface of the future, far more so than any box on a page, and its success is absolutely critical to Google's survival. Keep that in the back of your mind as the year inches forward, and you'll see everything Google does in a much clearer light.


 Read more: See for yourself just how much attention Google is drawing to Assistant this week in this tour of the company's gigantic CES booth — and get a more detailed overview of the new Assistant features in this official Google CES blog.


 Dive Deeper: For all of Assistant's progress, there's one big honkin' opportunity for improvement that remains irritatingly unaddressed. Think it through with me here.

2. Android's midrange revolution is picking up steam

 The Short Version: Samsung is gearing up to release its first-ever Galaxy Note and Galaxy S Lite editions, while OnePlus is rumored to be cookin' up a midrange phone model of its own. Decent devices at affordable prices — a novel concept, eh?


 Know more: Up until recently, midrange phones had by and large been underemphasized and loaded with compromises — crappy cameras, subpar screens, and piss-poor support (to use the technical term). Google's Pixel 3A changed that: The device offered a flagship-caliber camera, a decent display, and a full three years of timely operating system and security upgrades for a mere 400 bucks (or often even less, if you managed to catch the thing on sale). It's hard not to see a parallel between what the Pixel 3A did for the midrange Android realm and what the Moto G did for the budget Android realm several years back. Both phones raised the bar and redefined the standard, which forced other phone-makers to follow suit and step up their games in each respective domain. And now, on the midrange level, we may be seeing the first effects of that starting to trickle out.


 Read more: You can check out the Galaxy Lite phones in this hands-on assessment, get a glimpse at the likely OnePlus 8 Lite in this recent series of leaks, and look at the latest Pixel 4a predictions in this rumor roundup.

3. Some snazzy new Chromebooks are coming our way

 The Short Version: Samsung, Lenovo, and Asus have all taken the wraps off of noteworthy new Chromebooks this week — ones that just might deserve your attention if you're in the market for a new Chrome OS laptop.


 Know more: Samsung's Galaxy Chromebook is stealing the show, and for good reason: It's a high-end, super-premium (and super-pricey) model being positioned as the closest thing to a new Pixelbook in 2020. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to share the Pixelbook's exceptional keyboard (but, uh, it comes in orange, I guess?). Beyond anything about the device itself, the fact that Samsung is bringing its coveted Galaxy brand into the land of Chrome OS for the first time ever is pretty darn interesting, if you ask me — and perhaps, if we want to read into this a little, at least somewhat indicative of the company's evolving position on the platform.


 Read more: My pal Kevin Tofel has an excellent hands-on look at the new Galaxy Chromebook. You can take a closer peek at Asus's Chromebook Flip C436 — which, if we're being honest, is probably the device that's gonna be more appealing to the masses — in this hands-on gallery and then learn all about Lenovo's fully detachable Duet Chromebook in this thoughtful assessment.

 3 Things to Try This Week
1. Take advantage of Android's menu-sliding shortcut

Android has a handy hidden shortcut that's all too easy to forget (something I'm absolutely guilty of doing!): Anytime you're opening a dropdown menu within an app — the kind that typically gets triggered by tapping a three-dot icon in one of the app's upper corners — save yourself a step: Instead of tapping the icon and then lifting your finger and tapping the menu item you want, simply slide your finger downward on the icon.


In lots of apps, including Chrome and Gmail, that single movement will cause the entire menu to appear, and you can then just keep swiping downward until your finger lands on the item you want. When you lift up, it'll be selected — all in one smooth movement, without any unnecessary tapping.


You can find more tips like this in my new collection of Chrome-Android knowledge: 21 Time-Saving Tips for the Chrome Android Browser.

2. Save time by snapping between apps on Android

Here's one from my recently updated guide called 8 Ways to Turn Android Into a Productivity Powerhouse — another worthwhile shortcut that sometimes slips the mind: Just like you can hit Alt-Tab or Cmd-Tab to snap between your two most recently used programs on a desktop computer, you can flip quickly between apps on Android — if you remember the right gesture.


Etch this into your ever-busy noggin:

  • If you're still using the traditional three-button navigation system on your phone — with Back, Home, and Overview keys at the bottom of your screen — double-tap the Overview key to move back and forth between your two most recently used apps.
  • If your phone is running Android 9 and you've got Google's Pie-level gesture setup — with a chunky pill-like Home button at the bottom and a small Back button that shows up some of the time — flick that Home button to the right to accomplish the same basic thing.
  • And if you're using Android 10 and the current Google gesture system, flick quickly to the right anywhere along the bottom edge of your screen to hop back to your last app. Then, if you want to jump back to the app you came from, flick to the left in that same area.

Snappy, no?

3. Create your own Chrome command center

If you're anything like me, Chrome basically acts as your home screen on a desktop computer — the foundation and starting point for almost everything you do. Well, with a few crafty tweaks and choice additions, you can make your browser environment a far more efficient launching pad for all of your productivity needs.


In this week's Platinum Power-Up — my weekly digest of next-level tips and app insight — I walk through some creative ways to pack your browser's interface with powerful shortcuts for everything from launching new emails with a single click to keeping practically every Google service at your fingertips, no matter what else you're doing. It's stuff that's so sensible, you'll wonder why it isn't built into Chrome automatically.


Get all the info now and get extra knowledge in your inbox every Monday by signing up for a free trial of my premium resource package, Android Intelligence Platinum. You'll learn something new and useful each week — I promise.


 And Just For Funsies...

With all the robots and, erm, Star-Trek-reminiscent self-pleasuring companions showing up at CES this week, it's easy to feel like we're living in the future. But when you look back at what people expected life to be like in the year 2020, well, it's pretty clear we've got a ways to go.


CNN put together a fun collection of 2020 predictions from the past. Some of 'em are impressively on the mark, while others — yeah, not so much.


A few of the more amusing predictions:

  • We'll all be wearing "active skin" — with electronics "printed" onto our bodies that let anyone "record and replay a sensation such as cuddling your partner while you're away." Uh, do all those touch-simulating doohickeys from CES count?
  • Human food consumption will be dwindling, thanks to the presence of "tiny nanobots" in our bodies that "intelligently extract the precise nutrients we require." I'm not sure about all that nanobot stuff, but I'm fairly certain the rise of Taco Bell is clear evidence that actual food consumption is indeed on the decline.
  • We'll all live with specially bred "well-trained apes" who serve as family chauffeurs and handle our "cleaning and gardening chores." I mean, my kids are kind of ape-like in terms of their climbing and, shall we say, hygiene habits, but they sure as hell don't help much with cleanup.

Hey, you win some, you lose some — right? Maybe in 2030, we'll finally get those damn electronic cuddles and gibbon butlers.


Here's hoping.

Until Next Time...

Thanks for reading, and thanks as always for inviting me into your inbox and letting me yap away into your brainspace. Here's to a whole new year of mobile-tech madness. We'll tackle it all day by day, week by week, together.


I'll see ya next Friday.


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