You will soon be able to send money with Google Assistant

Google Assistant, Google’s first public step into artificial intelligence, was introduced at the 2016 Google I/O conference. Initially it was an exclusive feature of the Pixel, Google’s own flagship Android smartphone, but over time, the Assistant has become available to more and more smartphones (including the iPhone) and expanded its skill set. At Google I/O 2017, Google discussed the future of Google Assistant and revealed that in the near future, you’ll be able to even make payments with the the AI.

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What is Google Assistant?

As implied by the name, the Google Assistant is an intelligent personal assistant aimed at making your life easier. In simple terms, Google Assistant can be seen as an evolution of Google Now, just more personal. While Google Now and Google Assistant share some of the same features and functions, like search and checking the weather – Google Assistant is capable of holding two-way conversations with a user. Thanks to Google’s natural language processing algorithm, it continuously learns and evolves.   

androidpit google assistant Talk to me! / © ANDROIDPIT

What devices have Google Assistant?

When the Google Assistant was first introduced at the Google I/O 2016, it was an exclusive feature for Pixel devices and Google Home. While it was rumored that Google had planned to keep the Assistant as a Pixel only feature, Google officially confirmed that the assistant would see a wider rollout to other smartphones running Android 6.X Marshmallow and Android 7.X Nougat. Google Assistant is now available for Android Wear devices running Android Wear 2.0, and a rollout is planned for Android TV and Android Auto. The most notable phones and devices to have already received the Google Assistant are:

  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+
  • Google Home voice-activated speaker
  • Nvidia Shield TV (Assistant will be available in early 2017)
  • Android TV
  • Android Wear 2.0 smartwatches
  • LG G6 
  • HTC U11
  • OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T
  • Apple iPhone (running IOS 9.1 and up)

For a better overview on what devices currently have Google Assistant, which devices will get it in the near future and how to get Google Assistant on your smartphone check out the following article: 

Google Assistant features

Activating Google Assistant is as simple as saying “Ok Google” or tapping the “Home” button on your phone. As mentioned above, Google Assistant shares a common skill set with Google Now, so you’ll still be able to ask it to play music, give directions and restaurant information, or any other general Google search query that you may have. We’ve created (an ever expanding) list of tasks and features Google Assistant can perform.

Make payments with Google Assistant

Google has always tinkered with mobile payment solutions, launching both Android Pay and Google Wallet in previous years. Its no surprise that Google has now released the Google Payment API. This will let you make purchases within apps and on websites using your Google account. The system is quite similar to a product that Google had launched and killed off a few years ago called Google Checkout. For reasons that be, Google seems to prefer using this feature rather than Android Pay to let users send each other money over the Google Assistant. In addition to sending friends and family money, you can also pay for orders and delivers. This feature will be released in the coming months, and as always with these things, it’s going to be US-only for the time being.

New app related features

Google Assistant is more than just a glorified Google search. Like Google Now, Assistant can connect and collaborate with other apps on your smartphone. Thanks to the Google Home app, you can see which apps can communicate with the Assistant. Simply go into the app’s Settings, then to Services. You’ll find a list of 3rd party apps that will happily work together the digital assistant.

Here’s a sample list of tasks that are already possible:

  • Provide movie ratings on IMDB
  • Use Chefling to search for recipes
  • Get suggestions on beer, wine and food from specialized websites
  • Control your Neato robot vacuum
  • Ask health related questions 
  • Guide you to build your own PC

On-screen search button

Apparently Google may be testing a new on screen search function. A user on reddit shared a screenshot, where you can see a new button called “What’s on my screen?”. It seems like Google Assistant might be able to recognize better what’s on your screen and share context related information to the image. For example, if someone is sharing a photo of food, Google might be able to tell you what it is, the recipe or a restaurant close to you where you can order it. This feature currently only seems to be available to some beta testers in the US.

androidpit google assistant busqueda pantalla What’s on my screen? You tell me  / © Reddit (@rohitsabu)

Read and reply to messages

At last, Google has included the possibility of interacting with messages on your smartphone, something users have been asking for since its launch. For Google Assistant to show you your text messages, just say one of the following commands: “Show me my messages” or “Do I have any messages?”. After showing the messages, a pop-up message will appear suggesting if you want them to be read aloud.

Navigation and directions

Wondering how long it will take to get somewhere? Just ask Google Assistant how long it will take to get to your desired destination, and you’ll get a suggested route and estimated travel time.

Play music

Feel like listening to some music? Ask Google Assistant to play you some music.

Group chats

You can now also add friends to conversations. If for example you’re planning to out for dinner together, you can have Google Assistant add them all together, so they can read and comment on suggestions. 

Translate other languages

If you are in another country and want to know how to say something in the other language, Google Assistant can easily translate the text, but also texts from images. A useful feature borrowed from Google Translate.

How do you feel about Google Assistant? Have you tried all these features? Let us know in the comments.

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Google Home Mini: the low-cost version of the Google Assistant device

If you’re curious about the Google Home connected device but its price tag is outside of your budget, here’s a spot of good news for you! According to a few reliable sources, Google will soon be launching a miniature version of its device for a mere $ 49!

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Alongside the upcoming launch of the imminent second generation Pixel phones, Google could be preparing a few other surprises. And one of these may just be the launch of a mini version of its Google Home device. It wil lbe smaller but also more affordable and will of course come with the Google Assistant, Google’s artificial intelligence.

In short, you speak a command and the Assistant responds. You can ask it a question and it will search for the answer on Google then read out the best answer to you. You can command it to play music, and it will launch Spotify or YouTube. You can ask it to interact with your connected devices and it will do so.

According to the latest news from Droid Life, the main aim of the Google Home Mini is to rival Amazon’s Echo Dot (a miniature version of the Alexa smart assistant device). The Echo Dot is also sold for around $ 50 in the US. Like the Echo Dot, the Google Home Mini should come with a wall plug rather than a rechargeable battery. 

This Google Home Mini should be available in three colors: Coral, Chalk and Charcoal. However, unlike the bigger Google Home, you won’t be able to change the casing. Last but not least, the Google Home Mini still has the little lights on the top of the device to indicate when the Assistant is active.

androidpit google home mini Here is the Google Home Mini – coming soon! © Droid-Life

In any case, we’ll follow up closely on this new Google Home Mini. We’re expecting it to be launched at Google’s Pixel event on October 4 alongside the new Pixel devices. 

Are you interested in the mini version of Google Home? Would you buy it? Share your thoughts below!

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Google acquires HTC 'Pixel Team' for $1.1 billion

After much rumor and speculation, the deal has been made official. Google has acquired half of HTC’s employees, all of which were involved in smartphone development, in particular the team that developed the Pixel and Pixel XL. 

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Google will pay $ 1.1 billion for the research and development division “Powered by HTC”, which largely consists of the aforementioned Pixel team. According to HTC CEO Peter Shen, this accounts for almost half of the staff of its research and development team, which currently employs around 4000 people.

The agreement also includes a non-exclusive licence of HTC’s intellectual property, i.e. that Google may use the technologies developed by HTC.

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Rick Osterloh, leader of Google’s hardware division, reminded us in an official statement that this agreement is the culmination of a long collaboration of over 10 years, starting with the HTC Dream. Google’s aim is to become a strong contender in the spheres of hardware and consumer electronics as well as software. In Osterloh’s words: “Our team’s goal is to offer the best Google experience across hardware, software and services to people around the world”. Is it just me, or does Google’s ambition to control both software and hardware carry more than a whiff of the philosophy of their great rival, Apple?

AndroidPIT rick osterloh pixel boss google Rick Osterloh, head of Google’s hardware division / © AndroidPIT

HTC stated in a press release that it will still continue to develop smartphones, talking up a successor to the great HTC U11. The Taiwanese company retains its dedicated virtual reality team and remains committed to the HTC Vive.

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What do you think? Will we see some serious rivals to the Pixel emerge in the next couple of years?

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Is HTC getting acquired by Google?

HTC is undergoing turbulent times and has been in the eye of the public for a while now. There are more and more signs pointing towards the announcement of Google’s acquisition of HTC. Suspicious activity has just been reported both on the stock exchange and at headquarters in Taiwan.

HTC has long been a potential takeover candidate, but now it seems like it might have found an acquirer, things could really move quickly. The China Times reports that the HTC headquarters in Taiwan are preparing for a big announcement. On the second floor of the company’s headquarters, a large auditorium has been set up, including cameras, presumably for a certain announcement. Equipment for a TV transmission is also apparently being set up. On-site HTC manager Cher Wang, had actually planned a trip to Japan, the newspaper continues, but ended up staying in Taiwan. The newspaper leaves the question open as to whether it really could be about a takeover by Google or just closer cooperation between the two companies.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan Stock Exchange has announced that HTC’s shares will be delisted from trading on September 21. The well-known Leaker Evan Blass has spoken on this subject. According to him, HTC and Google have come to an agreement: employees will be informed about details of sales talks between HTC and Google soon. Google will buy some hardware departments, but HTC will remain its own brand.

Apparently, Google will not take over the entire HTC company. At least, the Vive division will remain in place though further details are unclear at the moment. In a statement, HTC said that it does not comment on rumors, but this comes a response to the China Times report. The fact that the shares will be temporarily withdrawn from trading is obviously not a rumor, once it was announced by the local stock exchange.

There are currently no concrete statements from HTC or Google. As soon as we receive further information, you will be informed immediately. Stay tuned!

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Why I decided to get Google Home

I’ve been trying out a Google Home device for a few weeks now so it’s about time I shared my opinion of it with you. Is it worth you spending your money on one? Well, I was highly skeptical at the beginning, but I have been totally converted now. Here’s why.

Google Home is a connected device that features the Google Assistant, Google’s artificial intelligence. In simple terms, you talk to it and it replies. You can ask a question and it will search for the answer on Google and read/speak it out to you. You can ask it to interact with your connected devices and it will do as you command. Even though, in practice, not everything is that simple, I have to say, this device pleasantly surprised me.

Good sound quality

You can do many things with Google Home, but the feature that I use the most is without a doubt audio playback. With the help of the Home app, you can connect your device to an online music service (or even several). In my case, I use Spotify and TuneIn and it didn’t take me more than 2 minutes to set up. Once that’s done, all you need to say is “OK Google” and ask for a song to be played. It will then search through your songs on Spotify and through radio stations on TuneIn (or other services if you have set them up). 

The sound is then emitted in all directions thanks to the three loud-speakers and the quality is excellent. On the back, there are two omnidirectional microphones (which means that they can pick up sound from all directions). To turn music off, you can say “OK Google, be quiet” (or a less polite version of that, depending on your humor).

AndroidPIT google home 7016 Google Home offers good sound quality. © AndroidPIT

A voice interface to make you change your ways

Before I tried out this device for the first time, I must admit I wasn’t sure about it at all: with a smartphone/tablet/computer and a Bluetooth device, it’s easy to achieve the same result. The difference is the time it takes to set the devices up to listen to the radio. With Google Home, you don’t need to consult your smartphone, turn up the sound, connect the devices, search for content and play it: instead you can simply say “OK Google, play Redemption Song by Bob Marley”. Google Home will confirm it has heard your request and will play the song.

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Of course, there are several options when it comes to sound settings. If you want to turn up the volume, you can just say “OK Google, turn up the volume” or even “OK Google, set volume to 60%”. Remember that you lose a little sound quality if you put the volume up too high, but if you live in a small apartment, I would advise against it because the distortion will no longer be your biggest problem, you’ll have angry neighbors knocking at your door.

In short, all you have to do is say the word and it will play music. Of course, you could think “this is for lazy people who can’t be bothered to go and find their phone”, and perhaps that’s true but, in any case, you get used to playing music quickly through the voice interface and it’s hard to imagine going back to the manual method.

AndroidPIT google home 6975 Say “OK Google” and lights appear: the device will listen to your questions/requests. © AndroidPIT

A very useful assistant

Having no connected objects at home, I mainly used my Google Assistant to find out information. I have to admit, its current potential is a little limited: I had to repeat my questions multiple times (though that’s probably mostly because of my accent) and it often answered with “There’s a problem” because it couldn’t find the information that I asked for. But Google Assistant is still developing so the situation could improve soon.

Its big advantage isn’t necessarily a feature as such but rather more just the fact that all its features are accessible from the same place. You can ask it to wake you up, ask what the weather forecast is, get it to look up stuff on Wikipedia or Google, ask it where to go shopping, all from the same place and via a voice interface. Useful, right?

To sum up, there’s a difference between the practice and the theory, there’s some disjoint betwen the idea that people have of Google Home and what it really does. I thought I would only use it for a few days but I ended up getting used to it because it let me do things that usually took me a while in just a few seconds.

What about you, have you tried Google Home? if not, are you curious? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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Google Pixel problems and solutions

The Google Pixel is attracting a lot of attention and, once again, it’s for all the wrong reasons. A number of Pixel users running Android Oreo have been reporting that they’re getting notifications that their “mobile data has run out” even when it hasn’t. Google is aware, but there’s no fix yet. Get the details below.

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Google Pixel “mobile data has run out” problem on Oreo

For some Pixel users on Oreo, mobile data stops working randomly and the phone turns off all cellular data as if you’ve run out of your carrier data allowance for the month even when you haven’t. This is accompanied with a notification saying that “mobile data has run out.” Pixel devices are also cutting data access for users who have a plan which allows unlimited access to certain services, like WhatsApp, even after the main data allowance runs out. This issue is happening with in many countries, including Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Indonesia, Romania and more.

Google Pixel “mobile data has run out” solution on Oreo

Google is aware and it’s already working on a fix, according to one employee. We don’t yet know when to expect it, though hopefully it won’t be long as Google says it’s a high priority. So, the only solution for now is to flash back to Android Nougat while you wait for an update to fix the problem, or just live without mobile data temporarily.

Google Pixel microphone problem

The Google Product Forum is the information hub for anything and everything to do with the Google Pixel and Pixel XL, and in recent months some users have been reporting catastrophic issues with the microphones on both of Google’s flagship devices. People posting on the forum have said that resorting to a factory reset doesn’t resolve this issue, but the fault hasn’t affected the camera app. 

Google Pixel microphone issue solution

Google has confirmed that this is a hardware issue, so software updates will do nothing to resolve this new microphone problem. Google has said that they are now engaging in a more rigorous process during the general manufacturing process and when certifying refurbished phones, in order to ensure they no longer have this defect.

Happily, for those of you who have purchased a new Pixel or Pixel XL in the last month or so, your device shouldn’t be affected. If you are experiencing any issues, Google recommends you seek a replacement for the device or contact the retailer where you purchased it.

Google Pixel speaker sound quality problem

Some owners of the Google Pixel and Pixel have been experiencing issues with their device’s audio in the past few months. In particular, the sound quality of the speakers is bad when the volume is set to its three highest levels, making a scratching, crackling sound. The result is that certain applications’ audio becomes unusable. To see if your device is affected, turn your device up to its top three volume levels, and try playing music or other audio. 

AndroidPIt google pixel 9871 Do your speakers sound awful at high volume, too? Try a software update. / © AndroidPIT

Google Pixel speaker sound quality solution

What was once believed to be a hardware problem has now been fixed by a software update from Google. The February 2017 monthly security updates for the Pixel and Pixel XL has brought a fix to the issues with crackling speakers at the highest volume settings. If you’re still experiencing the issue, try getting the latest updates to fix the problem.

Google Pixel Bluetooth connectivity issues

After Google shipped out the February 2017 security update for the Pixel and Pixel XL , quite a few users noted that their devices were experiencing bluetooth connectivity issues. Users reported that their bluetooth connections were dropping as it seemed like bluetooth was being disabled at random. Some users also reported that after re-booting theirs phones, they couldn’t enable bluetooth over the shade shortcut, thus forcing them to go into the settings to change it there. While the security patch fixed the Pixel’s audio issues (mentioned above), it seems like it was also the cause for the bluetooth connectivity issues. 

Google Pixel Bluetooth connectivity solution

Google acknowledged this problem fairly quickly and has stated that their support team have already identified the issue. News has spread in the support forum that the issue has apparently been fixed.  Thankfully it seems like you don’t need to wait for an update as it was a server-side solution. 

I just got word that Google has just finished putting a fix in place for this issue on our end – no downloads or updates to your devices or apps are needed.

We’d love to hear feedback from this group. If you have a chance to test your Bluetooth connection, please let us know how it goes.

Source: Google

Google Pixel hardware changes?

While the Pixel had a few minor teething problems at launch, 9to5Google reports that Google’s actually been selling devices with a slightly revised hardware setup that could well include the fix for the microphone issue. According to one device owner, their handset has ‘Rev.B’ printed on its packaging. 

That’s not exactly uncommon – small problems are often addressed with minor hardware tweaks post-launch – but unfortunately there’s no firm details on what could have been changed for these devices. We’ve asked Google to spill the beans and will update if we hear back. 

Have you been experiencing issues with your Google Pixel or Pixel XL? Will you be contacting Google about getting a replacement? Let us know in the comments below. 

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New Google Pixel Launcher leaked at Google I/O (Video)

Google leaked an unreleased version of the Pixel Launcher at the Google I/O 2017 conference. It was found by Stephen Hall from 9to5Google, who stumbled onto on a phone in one of the Google I/O sandboxes where conference attendees can check out the demo for Android Instant Apps. This version of the launcher was updated with more than just support for Instant Apps though, as it also revealed a new UI design and other features.

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The most immediately noticeable change to the Pixel Launcher is with the Google Search UI. The bar has been moved to just below the dock app icons, and changed from the white pill look to a transparent gray bar. You can see it in action in the video below:

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There is also expanded search functionality. From the launcher, you can search not just for apps already on your phone, but also search the Play Store for apps to install. This is shown in the below video.

There’s no way to know if this leaked version of the Pixel Launcher will be released to the public in future iterations of Android, or if the launcher will go in another direction entirely.

What do you think of the Google search bar design changes? What about the new search feature? Let us know in the comments below.

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You can forget about a Snapdragon 836 on the Google Pixel 2

Last year, Google didn’t use the Snapdragon 820 processor in its Google Pixel smartphone. It opted for an improved version of the chip: the Snapdragon 821. Rumors are flying around suggesting that Google will use an improved version of latest chip in the new Pixel phone, but those are just rumors.

This rumor about the creation of a Snapdragon 836 chip did make sense but if we’re to believe our colleagues at XDA Developers, it’s far from the truth. An “extremely reliable” source confirmed to XDA Developers that there would not be any Snapdragon 836 chip, neither for the Google Pixel 2 nor at any point in the future.

XDA Developers concluded that the next Pixel phone will likely use a Snapdragon 835 chip. But that’s nothing to be disappointed about, it is one of the best processors at the moment (if not, THE best), and will be able to offer excellent performances worthy of high-end smartphones.

AndroidPIT qualcomm snapdragon 835 benchmark event 091317 The Snapdragon 835 is one of the best processors available. © AndroidPIT

Of course, that’s not to say that Qualcomm won’t soon launch its latest processor. Perhaps towards the end of th year or next year, Qualcomm will present a new chip in order to be able to keep up the best performances. One thing is certain, Qualcomm’s next high-end chip, whatever it may be called, will be used by most high-end smartphones, as it the case today. 

Is it important to have the latest processor chip in your phone? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Samsung’s AI speaker to best Google and Amazon in 2018, according to Harman Kardon CEO

Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to be a trailblazer in the world of technology, having made inroads in our lives in different ways. South Korea’s Samsung intends to jump aboard the AI speaker bandwagon in 2018, a market that is currently dominated by Amazon and Google.

Samsung will not be working on the AI speaker alone, where the conglomerate has enlisted the assistance of Harman in order to speed up proceedings. According to Dinesh Paliwal, CEO of Harman International, there is plenty to look forward to in this partnership. “A significant level of joint research and development of the device is underway. “The Samsung speaker will have a better AI platform than Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa,” oozed Mr. Paliwal with optimism, who continued, “What we are going to launch will be a whole new ecosystem. It will be a platform that will be able to connect all devices and home appliances.”  

To claim that the upcoming Samsung AI speaker is going to be superior to Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant is certainly an extremely confident assertion. After all, Amazon’s Alexa has been tried and tested, boasting of a wide compatibility list that makes the whole home smarter. As for Google Assistant, it has pervaded many areas of life with its versatility, showing no signs of slowing down either.

amazon echo look 4 Amazon’s Alexa is riding high now, but it might see a strong competitor from Samsung next year. / © Amazon

The Samsung AI speaker will be is touted to be a complete platform which will be able to play nice with virtually an entire range of home appliances, with the compatibility extended to mobile devices as well. The core idea? To merge a unified AI ecosystem. No doubt this unified AI ecosystem would be best served with Samsung and Harman-branded devices. However, to truly achieve a wide level of adoption, being compatible with different manufacturers make the most sense.

What do you think about this claim from Samsung and Harman? A bit too early to tell or a definite foreseeing of the future?

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Sony also wants Google Assistant in your home

Sony didn’t just gush about its recently released smartphones and speakers during this year’s IFA, currently taking place in Berlin, Germany, the company also presented some Google Assistant-integrated speakers that Sony hope you’ll include in your humble abode. But is this really an home addition worth having?

It’s called the LF-S50G (yes, the name could use some work), and are Sony’s new Smart Speakers, which are ready to serve you with the functions of Google Assistant.

The integrated artificial intelligence assistant integrated into the wireless speaker can be activated by the usual OK Google and can be used to do such things as adjust the lighting of your smart bulbs, the temperature of your smart thermostat, play your favorite playlists, turn on the TV to play YouTube while you cool in the kitchen, turn up the volume of your TV etc.

AndroidPIT SONY Smart speaker 8643 Raise or lower volume with a gesture. © AndroidPIT

The AI smart speaker LF-S50G is also integrated with gesture control to adjust the volume, play a song or skip to the next one. It’s water-resistant, meaning you can place it in your kitchen without fear of water damage. The speaker has a small built-in screen, which is hidden under the cloth covering, which displays the time. The speaker can be connected via NFC or Bluetooth, has a very minimalistic design and really reminds me of Apple’s own HomePod, just without Siri for course. Google Assistant is the star of this show.

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The number of speakers that are integrating Google and its assistant is seeing a steady increase, and as a consequence, the end user will soon see a plethora of speakers that offer will offer the AI assistant on board. Soon, these manufacturers will have to think outside the box to provide something that is unique from the rest. In Sony’s case, the LF-S50G seems to be different in that it really concentrated on providing a great audio experience. The LF-S50G offers full-range sound thanks to two omnidirectional speakers.

Sony’s smart speaker will arrive on the market in October, coming in black and white, and be sold for 199.00 USD. What do you think of Sony’s speaker? If you could choose between Google Home and LF-S50G, which would you choose?

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