Android Messages v3.0 drops KitKat support, prepares notification improvements, more on purchases and enhanced chat features [APK Teardown]

Android Messages just hit version 3.0. While hitting a new major version number might be an occasion for big things in some apps, this one appears to be a simple incremental step up from version 2.9. While there aren’t any immediately obvious changes on the surface of this update, there are some things happening under the hood. It looks like support for KitKat has been dropped with this update, leaving behind about 12% of previously supported Android devices.

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Android Messages v3.0 drops KitKat support, prepares notification improvements, more on purchases and enhanced chat features [APK Teardown] was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Downloading Motion Photos via Google’s Backup and Sync is broken for some

For many people, especially those of us here at Android Police, Google’s various backup tools are an integral part of our daily workflow. Frankly, I’d have to entirely restructure how I do things without the convenience of Google Photos and Google Drive/Backup and Sync. For some, the combination of those two services isn’t working as expected when it comes to Motion Photos, and backup synchronization to a desktop fails for those MVIMG-labeled images. 

This isn’t the first time Motion Photos have introduced problems with Google Drive. Last year, shortly after the introduction of the new Motion Photos, MVIMGs files deleted via Google Photos weren’t actually being deleted (much to our own Artem’s chagrin).

This new problem, in which Motion Photo images refuse to download via the Backup and Sync client, has been reported since around the beginning of the year, and not everyone seems to be affected. Again, Artem is experiencing the problem on his account, but mine is synchronizing Motion Images/MVIMG-labeled photos just fine.

So far reports on the Product Forum are mostly for Windows clients, but some of our readers on OSX are also affected. You should be able to confirm the problem by glancing at the status of Backup & Sync on your desktop (right-clicking the icon in the taskbar on Windows, clicking the app icon in the menu bar on OSX, or righteously raging at Google for the continued lack of a client on Linux) and checking for “can’t sync” errors. If any are present and the files associated with the problem begin with “MVIMG,” then you are likely affected.

  • Thanks:
  • Jason Martin

Google Assistant shortcut app now installs on Lollipop, tablets

The Google Assistant listing on the Play Store might only be a glorified shortcut, but it’s still one avenue for accessing the Assistant on supported devices. And, as of a few days ago, it was officially updated to support devices running Lollipop 5.0. Explicit Android tablet support was also added, which brings parity to today’s announcement that the Google Assistant is now supported on the iPad, too. 

Lollipop support might not seem like a big deal, but almost 25% of Android devices are still running Android 5.0/5.1 according to February’s platform distribution numbers.

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Google Assistant shortcut app now installs on Lollipop, tablets was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Essential Phone now receiving Android 8.1 Oreo update

At the end of January, Essential announced that it would be skipping a full release of Android 8.0 Oreo, instead going straight to 8.1. About a month after the first beta build of 8.1 came out for the Essential Phone, the official Android 8.1 Oreo update has been released from the floodgates.

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Essential Phone now receiving Android 8.1 Oreo update was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Oh, Dark Mode for YouTube Android App is Coming Soon

YouTube recently rolled out a Dark Mode to its website, and frankly, it’s hot. All Dark Modes are hot. According to The Verge, a Dark Mode will now also come to the YouTube app for both iOS and Android.

With the Dark Mode, essentially all of the White you see in the UI will be turned Black, making for a much darker browsing and viewing experience.

The iOS version is apparently rolling out today, with the Android version “coming soon.” Not the first time we’ve heard that phrase as Android users, but that’s life.

Let us know if you see Dark Mode hit your YouTube app at some point!

// The Verge

24 new and notable Android games from the last week (3/7/18 – 3/13/18)

Welcome to the roundup of the best new Android games that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the previous week or so.

Please wait for this page to load in full in order to see the widgets, which include ratings and pricing info.

Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.


The Sims™ Mobile

Android Police coverage: After almost a year in testing, EA has officially released ‘The Sims Mobile’ on Android

The Sims Mobile takes the gameplay from EA’s mobile life simulation game The Sims FreePlay and adds on top some of the mechanics from The Sims 4.

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24 new and notable Android games from the last week (3/7/18 – 3/13/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

ecobee Switch+ is a $99 Light Switch With Amazon Alexa Built-In, Pre-Order Now Live

ecobee, the makers of the smart thermostat that I use in my own home, have the Switch+ smart light switch up for pre-order starting today, priced at $99.

So, what makes a light switch smart?

The Switch+ comes with Amazon Alexa, meaning you can simply tell Alexa to turn on the lights, play some music, get traffic information, or anything else that Alexa is capable of doing. It also means you can control other aspects of your smart home, all from your light switch.

The Switch+ is priced at $99, which doesn’t seem terrible when you think about the cost of every other smart home gadget.

Something important to note, while the Switch+ ships Alexa, specifically labeled on ecobee’s website is support for Google Assistant. My assumption without having used this device is that you can use Assistant to turn on the lights through this device, but not much else in terms of functionality. It would actually be great if ecobee made two models, one with Alexa and one with Assistant, but oh well.

You can pre-order the Switch+ by following one of the links below. Shipments will roll out later this month.

Pre-Order Links: Amazon Link | ecobee Link

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Fitbit announces Versa smartwatch and Ace kids wristband, adds female health tracking to the Fitbit app

Fitbit announced two brand-new products today, plus a much-requestion additional feature for the Fitbit app. The Fitbit Versa is the company’s new flagship smartwatch, something of a replacement for the Ionic. The Ace wristband for kids is essentially a Fitbit Alta for children aged 8+. For the first time, with an update due in May 2018, the Fitbit app will offer female health features such as period tracking.

Fitbit Versa

Fitbit’s Versa watch had already been leaked ahead of today’s announcement, and it looks just as we expected. It boasts a much nicer design than its predecessor, the disappointing Ionic, and comparisons can easily be made with the Apple Watch. The Versa has a 1.34″ display covered with Gorilla Glass 3 with a brightness of up to 1000 nits. Fitbit promises at least 4 days of battery life for what it says is “the lightest metal smartwatch in the U.S. market.”

It will run Fitbit OS 2.0, which offers a new personalized dashboard and smart replies for Android users. On-screen workouts are able to guide you through your routines, and there’s automatic sleep tracking built-in. A Special Edition will also be available that will include an NFC chip for use with Fitbit Pay.

The Fitbit Versa will be available next month starting at $199.95 for the standard version and $229.95 for the Special Edition. You can pre-order it right now on the Fitbit site. It will come with both a small and large standard wristband, but leather, metal, and mesh alternatives can also be purchased starting at $49.95.

Fitbit Ace

The Fitbit Ace is a fitness tracker designed with kids in mind. It monitors steps, active time, and sleep, and the company says the showerproof wristband will last up to five days between charges. A new family Fitbit account accompanies the Ace, offering parental control features to keep the kids safe while using the device.

Other features include motivating challenges built-in, as well as move reminders and rewards to encourage positive action. The Ace will go on sale in Q2 2018, and can also be pre-ordered straight away from the Fitbit site. It will be available in blue or purple and cost $99.95.

Female Health Tracking

At the same time as announcing the new products, Fitbit has drawn attention to some improvements it has planned for the Fitbit app. After copious requests from users, the company is adding period tracking to its app. Coming in May, the new in-app and on-device features will aim to help female users understand their menstrual cycles better to enhance overall health and well-being.

You’ll be able to log periods and get push notifications for your predicted start date. Your Fitbit watch will also show your fertile window in your Today dashboard if you so choose. Fitbit has also worked with a group of medical advisors to produce female health education materials to help users learn more, plus new Fitbit community groups on a range of associated subjects are being set up.

Android P: Our 5 favorite new features so far

Today marks the 7th day that Android P’s first developer preview has been available. In the time since, we’ve spent countless hours digging through P on our phones, decorticating every feature, and checking every tip about small and large changes alike. Our full list of P features has now surpassed 50 items and we’ve rounded them up with a quick description in case you don’t want to spend hours reading each one (though we encourage you to).

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Android P: Our 5 favorite new features so far was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Google Keep for Android Wear gets a new UI, removes shortcut to open a note on your phone

Google Keep for Android Wear has made a significant jump from version 2.0.08 to 4.1.091. Along with this jump comes a new design that makes note actions easier to get to, though it does remove one neat feature that I often used.

To start, it’s not clear to us whether this is the first proper Android Wear 2.0 APK for Keep or not. From the changelog’s wording, it seems like the app is just now being directly distributed on the Play Store to Wear watches instead of the APK coming from the Keep app on your phone – the fact that it’s now become compatible with iOS lends credence to that, but again, we’re not 100% sure.

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Google Keep for Android Wear gets a new UI, removes shortcut to open a note on your phone was written by the awesome team at Android Police.