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Android Intelligence
 
 
IN THIS ISSUE:
 
  The Latest Android Intelligence: Android upgrade failures and a serious Chromebook quiz
  3 Things to Know This Week: A simpler way to manage apps on Chrome OS, fresh details on Android Q's privacy enhancements, and interesting new audio tools from Google
  Tips o’ the Week: Extra protection for your passwords, tons of Google Keep tips, and a new Assistant trick worth remembering
  Deal Intelligence: Up to $80 off a Smart Display and $250 off a Pixel phone
  Plus how Samsung wants to bring romance and refrigerators (yes, refrigerators) together — saucy!
 
 
 A Word of Welcome

I've been tracking phone-makers' performance with Android upgrades for a while now, and you know what? Pretty much every year, it seems like this should be the cycle where everything changes — where the manufacturers finally get their acts together and start sending out updates at a non-tortoise-like pace. This year, that was more the case than ever — and yet, as you'll see in my annual Android Upgrade Report Card, the picture's still pretty darn bleak (and, erm, tortoisey).

 

Sigh. Maybe Android Q will be the one where the magic finally happens? Maybe. Probably not. But hey, we can always keep hoping, right?

 
JR
jr@androidintel.net
 
 
INSIGHT
 The Latest Android Intelligence
 
Android Upgrade Report Card: Grading the Manufacturers on Pie

 The Short Version: Six months after Pie's release, how have Android device-makers done at getting the upgrade into users' hands? The grades are in — and, uh, yeah: They aren't exactly exceptional.

 

 Know More: Android 9 Pie was the first Android release to feature the full benefits of Project Treble, a complex effort to make it easier for manufacturers to update their devices with new operating system versions. The results are a mix of good and bad news, but it seems safe to say the overall picture isn't what anyone would have hoped for.

 

 Read more: The full column is here.

 
 
Is Chrome OS Right for You? A 3-Question Quiz to Find Out

 The Short Version: Chromebooks aren't like regular computers — so are they right for your needs? These three questions will help you find the answer.

 

 Know More: Since people are always asking me whether a Chromebook might work for them, I thought I'd put together a quick guide to help anyone figure it out. Whether it's you or someone you know who's curious, the info within will shed some light on what the platform's all about and for whom it makes sense.

 

 Read more: The full column is here.

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PERSPECTIVE
 3 Things to Know This Week
 
1. Managing apps on Chrome OS may soon get a whole lot simpler

 The Short Version: A freshly uncovered option has revealed an interesting advancement in the works for Chrome OS: a new centralized "Apps Service" that'll bring Chrome apps and Android apps (and eventually also Linux apps) together into a single place for simple management — kind of like what we see in the Apps section of Android's system settings today.

 

 Know more: The fact that Chrome OS now supports so many different kinds of apps is really both a blessing and a curse. It's exponentially expanded what you're able to accomplish on a Chromebook — and torn down so many of the platform's long-standing limitations — but it's also turned a once-delightfully-simple operating system into a convoluted mess. Bringing all those app types together into a unified-feeling interface would go a long way in making it feel like a Chromebook experience instead of the disjointed (if impressively versatile) mishmash it is today. The next and equally important step will be creating a centralized system for finding and installing apps — something I'm hopeful we'll see sooner than later, based on a variety of recent clues.

 

 Read more: You can take a look at the new under-development Apps page in action here. And for more on the centralized app installation possibility, check out this and this.

 
 
2. Android Q's app-permission enhancements are coming into focus

 The Short Version: Newly released details from an Android Q leak show us exactly how Android's upcoming privacy improvements could help us on a day-to-day basis — and based on this early peak into Google's progress, things look pretty darn promising.

 

 Know more: When it comes to privacy, it's looking more and more like Android Q will pick up where Pie left off and refine the ideas introduced in Google's last major effort. To wit: When you're asked to grant an app permission to access your location in Q, instead of seeing a binary yes/no choice like you do now, it seems like you'll be given four options: "Allow all the time," "Allow only when the app is in use," "Deny," and "Deny and don't ask again." Q also appears poised to provide prominent reminders anytime an app is accessing a sensitive permission such as location, camera, or microphone, making it even easier to remain aware of such access and stop it whenever you want.

 

 Read more: All the latest details, including plenty o' screenshots, are here.

 
 
3. Google's got a couple of interesting new audio-centric Android apps

 The Short Version: Google launched two noteworthy new apps for Android this week: Live Transcribe, which listens through your phone's microphone and then generates real-time captions of any words being spoken, and Sound Amplifier, which lets you filter out background noise and boost quiet sounds so you can more easily hear a person speaking in a noisy environment.

 

 Know more: Both apps are designed with accessibility in mind — and seeing ways our modern mobile technology can improve the lives of folks who are hard of hearing is obviously pretty incredible. Beyond that, though, it's easy to imagine broader benefits these apps could bring to any of us, regardless of our aural capabilities. If Google eventually adds in a feature to save the captions from the first app, for instance — something that seems like a logical addition — the app could serve as a powerful and simple way to store a full transcription of any conversation you need to remember. As for the second app, who among us hasn't been in a crowded and noisy room where we're trying to focus on a speaker or other distant source of sound?

 

 Read more: You can read more about the new apps here — and if you want to try 'em out, you can find Live Transcribe here and Sound Amplifier (available only on devices with Android 9 or higher) here.

Productivity
 Tips o' the Week
 
Give your passwords a couple extra layers of protection

Using strong, unique passwords is one of the smartest and simplest ways you can keep your online accounts safe — and now, Google has two Chrome extensions that can help make sure your credentials remain uncompromised.

 

The newest one, rolled out this week, is called Password Checkup. Whenever you sign into a site within your browser, the extension checks to see if your username or password match any of those associated with a known data breach — and if they do, it warns you to change 'em right away. If no problems pop up, you'll never even know the extension is running. (And Google swears, by the way, that the tool itself is designed with the highest possible security so that the company never stores or even learns any of your sign-in info as part of the process.)

 

The second is one that's been around for a while and is often forgotten but can be equally valuable. It's called Password Alert, and it aims to keep you safe by watching for phishing attacks related specifically to your Google account password. If you enter your Google password on any page other than an official, secure Google site, it'll pop up and warn you against proceeding. Otherwise, it'll just run quietly in the background without ever bothering you.

 
 
Get more out of Google Keep

Google's note-taking service seems simple on the surface, but there's a lot more to Keep than you probably realize. Even I constantly forget just how much cool and genuinely useful stuff the app can do.

 

Well, overlook no more: I've assembled a hearty new collection of Keep tips for Android that's chock full of handy pointers. Check it out or save it for a quiet day — and find a few new note-taking tricks of your own.

 
 
Let Assistant act as your real-time interpreter

A nifty new Assistant feature announced last month is now available on most Google Home and Smart Display devices. It's an on-demand interpreter service that lets you translate between multiple languages as you speak.

 

To try it out, simply say something like "Hey Google, be my Spanish interpreter" — or "Hey Google, turn on interpreter mode." You can then say anything in your usual language or the language you specified (assuming the language you want is on Google's current list of supported options), and Assistant will repeat the words in the other dialect.

 

(Interpreter mode isn't available within Assistant on phones as of now, by the by, but you can get a similar feature with the help of the Google Translate app.)

 

No está mal, eh?

SMART TECH
 Deal Intelligence
 
$50 to $80 off a Lenovo Google Assistant Smart Display

It's a bit of a quiet time for deals right now, but there are a few price drops worth noting: First, Lenovo's commendable Google Assistant Smart Display is marked down by $50 to $80, depending on where you look. Best Buy currently has both the smaller 8" model and the larger 10" device at $50 off — making them $150 and $200, respectively — while HSN has the 8" gadget available for $120 as of this writing.

 

You can also knock 15% off the HSN price if you sign up for the site's email list (which should appear as a pop-up when you first pull up the page). That'd bring the total price down to just over a hundred bucks on a product that normally goes for $200. Not bad, right?

 

 Check it out: Best Buy, HSN

 
 
$250 off a Pixel 2 XL

Google's got a good deal on its previous-gen plus-sized flagship phone right now: You can pick up a brand new Pixel 2 XL — which, remember, is still guaranteed to get timely ongoing OS updates and security patches through October of 2020 — for $599, down from its original $849 price. It may be an "old" phone, but it's still a spectacular device with plenty of life left.

 

The smaller Pixel 2 is marked down a bit as well: That phone is currently selling for $549, which is $100 less than its original price.

 

 Check it out: Google Store

 And Just For Funsies...
 

Just when you thought the idea of a smart refrigerator couldn't get any more ridiculous, Samsung is here with one of its trademark "because we can" innovations: The company responsible for more pointless Android apps and features than I can even remember has come out with a new app for its Family Hub Refrigerator called — wait for it — Refrigerdating.

 

I know, I know. But I swear I'm not making this up.

 

Refrigerdating, according to the internet's most important interview of all time (clearly), aims to act as the "Tinder for your fridge" (a phrase I never thought I'd hear and kinda still wish I hadn't, if we're being honest). It lets you use the smart fridge's camera to snap a photo of the food you're keeping cool — and then scan through other people's fridge photos and swipe left or right to accept or reject 'em.

 

"We hope people can meet under more honest or transparent circumstances with the help of the contents of the fridge, because that can tell you a lot about the personality," a Samsung PR person somehow managed to say with a mostly straight face.

 

But hey, who knows? Maybe we're jumping to conclusions. Maybe one day, we'll hear happy couples reminiscing about meeting over a shared love of meatloaf — or being wooed by their partner's immaculately stacked boxes of leftover moo shu. Let's just hope the trend doesn't spread from here to the washing machine or, weirder yet, the toaster.

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Ciao For Now

And with that, we wrap up another week of mobile tech madness. I don't know about you, but I'm having a sudden hankering for Chinese food. Anyone up for some noodles?

 

Hey, thanks for inviting me into your inbox, as always. I'll see ya back here next week — same time, same place. I'll bring the soy sauce, just in case.

 

Chomp.

Thoughts
JR

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