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Google to exert control over Android Auto, TV, Wear UI

In a way, it is to be expected but will still worry some long-time Android fans. Google engineering director David Burke has confirmed that the user interfaces for its next Android platforms will all be developed and curated by Google, not OEMs. While it sounds a bit restrictive, it also tries to address one of Android’s most criticized flaws: fragmentation.

Android fragmentation is a natural but somewhat unfortunate by-product of the platform’s nature and birth. In order to penetrate the market faster and wider, Google gave OEMs some leeway in adopting Android. OEMs, on the other hand, had to think of ways to differentiate themselves from competitors. This resulted in dozens of skins, device form factors, bloatware, and other features or misfeatures that did distinguish products but also marred the image of the platform itself, giving everyone, users as well as the OEMs that made them, a more difficult time than necessary.

However, that is something that cannot, or should not, happen on the new platforms that Google unveiled last week a Google I/O 2014. Though it might be a bit debatable on a smartwatch, as products like Pebble and Samsung’s smartwatches exemplify, Android on a car and in a TV needs to be the same Android no matter what. For one, it’s a question of expense. It is far easier to replace a smartphone or a smartwatch whose interface and user experience you don’t like than a TV or a car. For another, it is almost inconceivable to have to retrain users in one manufacturer’s Android TV or Android Auto interface when they switch over to a different brand after a number of years.

And so Google is putting its foot down hard now that it can. I might be a bit too late for Android, at least in the immediate future, but not so these new Android implementations, which yet to have actual products by the end of the year. For these devices, the UI will all be Google. The updates will all be Google. The core experience will all be Google. But that’s not to say that manufacturers won’t be able to inject their own brand into the product. Like in the case of the first batch of Android Wear smartwatches, LG and Samsung have differing feature sets, with the former adding a World Clock app by default and the latter integrating a heart rate monitor. Sadly, this isn’t the end of bloatware at all.

While this news might be great for Google and majority of users, it’s a mixed bag for OEMs and somewhat of an omen for some Android fans. While this frees up manufacturers from having to maintain and roll out software updates themselves, it also removes some freedom in imprinting their uniqueness. Gone will be things like TouchWiz, Sense, or whatnot. They will then just have to compete on the merit of their hardware alone as well as the services and add-ons that they offer. For some users who have been fearing as much, this could also be taken as signs of Google flexing its muscles and testing its OEM relationships towards imposing an iron grip on all of Android in the future.

VIA: Ars Technica

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Google Takes Heat Over Android Tablet Os

Android device makers around the world are anticipating great things from the next version of Google’s mobile software, and they need the boost. Apple has a strong head start with sales of its popular iPad, while the App Store and iTunes give it apps and content, to boot.

Earlier this year, for example, Samsung Electronics, had to fight to have the Android Market app, which connects users to the software’s online treasure trove of over 150,000 apps, on its Galaxy Tab, according to one executive who asked not to be named due to his company’s close relationship with Google.

At the time that Samsung was developing the Galaxy Tab to use Android, Google was struggling to decide if it wanted to put its upcoming Chrome OS in tablets and make Android exclusive to smartphones. The Chrome OS better fits Google’s Cloud strategy, the executive said.

Google’s decision to make a tablet-friendly version of Android became a must after Apple launched its groundbreaking iPad, analysts say.

“Earlier in the year, Google probably thought that Chrome OS might be the right platform for tablets. However, the importance of the compatibility of apps across smartphones and tablets, evident from the iPad experience, has created the need for Google to ensure that the commercial success of apps can be preserved in the tablet proposition,” said Martin Bradley, an analyst at Strategy Analytics.

By contrast, Google’s Android Market does not offer any tablet-only apps to users, only smartphone apps. However, upstart Appslib is filling the void with its own tablet-only app store for Android lovers. Appslib is not affiliated with Google.

Companies expect tablet sales to reach up to 60 million devices in 2011, with Android and Apple’s iOS the leading software in the devices.

Market researcher Ovum expects Android and Apple’s iOS to take about 71 percent of the total market for tablets and other mobile Internet devices by 2024, while the also-rans, BlackBerry tablet OS, Hewlett-Packard’s WebOS, Intel’s and Nokia’s MeeGo, and Microsoft Windows making up the rest of the share.

“It’s difficult to see past iOS and Android in tablets at the moment,” said Tony Cripps, principal analyst of devices and platforms at Ovum.

But infighting in the Android camp could be the worst problem at the moment. Companies gripe about a number of issues in working with Google.

There is also some controversy about how Honeycomb is to be launched.

The Internet giant’s penchant for working with a specific device maker and chip maker on each major design change for Android has gone on for at least the past three upgrades to Android.

With version 2.2 of Android, dubbed Froyo, Google worked with smartphone maker HTC and chip designer Qualcomm to create the Nexus One. In Android 2.3, Gingerbread, Google worked with Samsung Electronics on both the phone design and chips, Samsung’s Hummingbird processor, for the Nexus S.

But the strategy is unfair to other Android device makers because it gives the chosen ones about a four- to five-month head start over others, said Glen Burchers, head of marketing at Freescale Semiconductor’s consumer chip division.

Don’t mistake this frustration for mutiny. Nobody is talking about dumping Android.

Overall, companies using Android in smartphones and tablets are tickled with Google’s development efforts. What they wanted earlier this year was a speedier decision to use Android in tablets so they could put out iPad-rivals ahead of the holiday season.

What device makers are really saying is: Come on Google. Help us compete against Apple. Unleash the dogs of war with a tablet version of the Android OS and tablet apps on the Android Market.

One thing holding device makers back from using Android as they please, since it is open source software, is Google’s certification effort.

The lack of camaraderie in the Android camp has hurt Google and device makers alike. While Google mulled a decision on Android versus Chrome OS in netbooks, Windows ran away with that popular device category. In tablets, Apple has run off to a huge head start, while the Android camp nearly failed to put out strong rival devices before the holidays until Samsung pushed for app support in the Galaxy Tab.

Android may also ultimately pave the way for the Chrome OS in mobile devices.

Ovum’s Cripps believes Chrome OS and Android will converge over time, “especially in terms of bringing the Chrome Web browser to Android. The Chrome browser is really the heart of Chrome OS from a developer perspective and it would make sense to bring it to Android,” he said.

Now if the Android camp can find a way to work together better, they may give Apple a run for its money in the tablet market.

Tag Heuer Unveils Android Wear

Tag Heuer, a Swiss watch maker, announced at today’s event in New York City a brand new smartwatch that its outspoken CEO Jean-Claude Biver claims has “almost the same features as an Apple Watch”. Marketed under the Connected moniker, the $1,500 titanium-clad 46mm device is powered by Google’s Android Wear software for smartwatches, delivering “micro apps” to your wrist.

It has a classic design and Tag Heuer is offering a selection of six colorful bands (black, white, green, blue, orange, yellow and red). The watch is priced at $1,500.

Based out from La Chau-de-Fonds, the cradle of Swiss watchmaking in the middle of Alpine pastures and mountains, Tag Heuer has officially become the first Swiss watch vendor to officially make a smartwatch in partnership with Google and Intel.

Inspired by its classic Carrera watch (an auto racing timepiece that dates back to 1963), the Connected features an almost unchanged titanium case and sports a sapphire crystal-coated 1.5-inch circular LTPS LCD touchscreen display with a 360-by-360 pixel resolution and a pixel density of 240 PPI.

As for the sensors, you have your gyroscope and tilt detection in the form of an accelerometer but that’s about it, there’s no heart rate monitor or other dedicated sensors on this device. It also lacks GPS, cellular connectivity and a speaker, an odd decision since there’s built-in mic.

Build quality should be super because titanium is very strong and Tag Heuer is renowned for the durability of their watch cases. The Connected is 12.8mm thick and weighs in at 52 grams. Its sandblasted bezel has an anti-fingerprint coating and the watch is IP67-certified waterproof, making it splash-proof.

Specs game

In addition to running Android Wear, the Connected uses Intel’s Atom Z34XX dual-core chip clocked at up to 1.6 GHz, with 500 megahertz “normal operation speed.” The Intel chip includes one gigabyte of RAM. A built-in 410 mAh battery should keep you going for 30 hours with normal use. The watch provides haptic feedback and packs in four gigabytes of flash storage.

On the connectivity front, the timepiece features energy-efficient Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11 b/g/n/ Wi-Fi networking. The Connected displays the time with an accuracy of one-hundredth of a second. A range of watch faces with classic TAG Heuer dials are available through the software, with customizable complications.

The watch connects with both Android and iOS devices.

It’s interesting that Apple last year poached Tag Heuer’s Vice President of Sales and Retail, Patrick Pruniaux, who is now charged with Apple Watch positioning and marketing.

“The difference between the TAG Heuer watch and the Apple watch is very important,” said Biver in July 2014. “That one is called Apple and this one is called TAG Heuer.”

He was half-joking, of course, but there’s one crucial difference between Apple and Tag Heuer when it comes to obsolesce: After two years, Connected owners can pay another $1,500 to have their unit swapped for a mechanical TAG Heuer watch. Oh, and you get a full two year warranty coverage for your purchase.

According to Bloomberg, the case and buckle are designed and manufactured in Switzerland by the same team that makes the rest of TAG’s watches, but it’s unclear if the device bears the ‘Swiss Made’ label reserved for watches with at least 50 percent of components made within Switzerland.

More information is available on the Tag Heuer website. A replay of the company’s press conference in New York City can be watched on YouTube.

Availability

The Carrera Connected is available starting today in the United States in limited quantities before its November 12 debut in Japan. The Connected will follow shortly in other countries, said the company.

How To Control Screen Time On Android With Google Family Link

It seems like an impossible task, and it’s certainly far from easy. Even if you successfully manage to block one device, they’ll probably find another or turn on the TV and watch Netflix.

There is no magic bullet and you’ll still have to do some supervision (as well as hiding the TV remote) to ensure your child isn’t seeing stuff they shouldn’t.

Plus, you should sit down with them and talk about the dangers of unrestricted use and explain why you’re about to install an app that will let them control how much their use their precious device. 

We’re not saying there won’t be arguments and tantrums, but since asking a child to turn off their phone and do something else is largely ineffective, here’s how to use apps and settings to control their screen time on Android phones and tablets (and Chromebooks, too).

parental control software that works across all of them and can enforce the time limits you set regardless of which device they use.

How to use Google Family Link

In 2023, things are much better, and in our experience, Family Link does what we want it to. Here’s a summary of its features:

It provides an overall screen time limit, which can be different every day

It lets you set a bedtime: hours between which the device cannot be used

For any given app (including games and social media) you can set a time limit, block it or always allow it, regardless of whether the daily screen time has been used up

It lets you approve or deny requests to install specific apps from Google Play

It lets you see a child’s current location on a map (requires mobile data)

Parents can install it on iPhone or Android to monitor and change settings on the child’s Android device

Many paid-for parental control apps fail to do all of the above, so Family Link is a good way to control screen time, all for free.

Family Link is designed to be used with child Google accounts (i.e. accounts for children under 13). However, it also works with pre-existing Google accounts of children any age, so you can continue to restrict screen time for kids older than 12.

Do note that Family Link does not block offensive content; it is up to you which apps you allow your child to use.

Also, bear in mind that Always Allowed apps will work even if the child’s screen time is used up for the day, but only until Bedtime comes into effect. This is in contrast to Apple’s Screen Time where apps that are always allowed work regardless of any screen time limits and bedtime restrictions. 

To set up and use the app, you will need both your phone and your child’s phone. The steps may vary slightly, but here’s the basic process:

Go to the app store on your phone – Android or iPhone – and search for Google Family Link.

Follow the instructions to sign into your Google account

If you’re not already a Family Manager, follow the steps to set up a Google Family and make yourself the manager (or one of the managers)

Choose an existing Google account you want to manage, or create a new child account

Install the Google Family Link app on the child’s phone

Follow the prompts on the parent’s phone to link the child’s device (this requires the two devices to be within Bluetooth range)

Choose from the list of apps already installed on the child’s device whether to allow or block them

Once this first stage of the process is complete, you can then use the Family Link app on the parent’s phone to:

Manage settings such as purchase and download approvals

Choose age restrictions for apps & games, films, TV and books

Configure (or edit) limits, including Daily Limits (total screen time) and Bedtime

Use App Controls to set a specific time limit for each app

See the current location of the phone

See the total amount of screen time used today (and historically)

Lock the child’s phone to temporarily prevent them from using it

‘Ring’ the child’s phone to locate it when it has been misplaced

Like other Google apps, Family Link uses a series of ‘cards’ so you need to scroll up and down to get to the section that you want. It should list other devices besides the one you’ve just installed Family Link on which the child has been signed into. You’ll need to install the app and link those devices before time limits will be enforced across them. Until you’ve done that, they’ll have unlimited use on those devices.

How to restrict content in the Google Play Store

If you’re not going to use Family Link, you can set similar restrictions about the apps, games, films, TV and books your child can download from the Play Store.

To do this, launch the Play Store app on their device and tap the profile picture to the right-hand side of the search bar. If necessary, scroll down and tap Settings, then tap Family.

Tap Parental controls and tap the toggle to enable them – enter a PIN so that the settings cannot be changed by the child.

Confirm the PIN, then you’ll be able to go into each section and set the restrictions you want in place. 

The different sections are Apps & games, Films, TV and Books. Unfortunately, Music is no longer one of the categories.

Tap on one and you’ll see the various age categories available. Simply tap the highest age you want the child to have access to and then tap Save.

Now, whenever your young one is in the store they won’t be able to download any content that is rated above the setting you’ve put in place. Books is slightly different, in that the settings cordon off content that is marked as explicit rather than by age. 

If you want to prevent kids from buying content freely, go back to the Settings menu and tap on the Authentication heading.

Now tap Require authentication for purchases. Make sure ‘For all purchased through Google Play on this device’ is selected. They will now need your password to install any apps or make in-app purchases.

Google Tv: 5 Burning Questions

Google TV will help you access Web videos and other online content, TV programming, recorded shows on your DVR, and more, right from the comfort of your couch. Google TV will feature universal search capabilities making it faster and easier to access the content you want to find whether it’s online or scheduled on regular TV. The search giant is also planning to integrate third-party applications into Google TV to bring more Web functionality to the platform.

Google TV sounds like an interesting concept, but there are still a lot of questions to be answered about the new Web-meets-TV platform. Here are five questions that are top of my mind.

How Revolutionary is Google TV?

While Google TV’s demo, despite the technical difficulties, was very interesting, is this really a significant leap ahead for your television experience? There are already numerous televisions, set-top boxes, and home theater systems that offer access to Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Pandora, Web content through Yahoo TV Widgets and a host of other services.

Isn’t Google TV just one more platform adding to this list in an already growing market? The big differences with Google TV might be the platform’s universal search capabilities and the capability to merge Web content, like sports scores, with what you’re watching on TV. That could be helpful if you want to track what’s going on around the NFL while you’re watching the Jets crush the Patriots.

What Will Apple Do?

Apple has famously called its Apple TV set-top box a “hobby,” but will Google’s battle plan for the living room change all that? Apple TV has always been missing a few key pieces, including the capability to stream anything directly off the Web and DVR functionality. Google TV appears to have both of these features, and Google is also building a third-party application ecosystem for the Android-based Google TV. If ever there was a time for Cupertino to start developing Apple TV more aggressively, this is it.

What Will Microsoft Do?

Microsoft also has to make it easier for people to use Windows Media Center, because the platform has been around for about seven years, and clearly hasn’t caught on as an easy way to bring your PC and television together.

Will we see a renewed effort from Microsoft to popularize Windows Media Center in the face of the Google TV launch?

What About Hulu?

Hulu’s content partners such as ABC, Fox and NBC have already shown through fights with services like Boxee that they don’t like it when other services manipulate their content on Hulu. So will Hulu block Google TV?

Maybe it was just me, but I missed the part where Google explained how Google TV can interact with your computer’s hard drive and pull in content from there. This is always the problem with all-in-one solutions that try and merge your computer and your TV: they’re always missing a key piece.

Apple TV can pull in content from your hard drive and the iTunes Store, but not much from the Web. Microsoft can access your hard drive and act as a DVR, but doesn’t do a great job with Web content either. Google TV can pull in the Web and Web-based services, but it appears it can’t talk to your hard drive.

Connect with Ian on Twitter (@ianpaul).

How To Safely Control Spotify From Google Maps And Waze

Using your smartphone to control music streaming while driving can be a recipe for disaster. Many accidents occur each year because people are fiddling with their phones while driving, yet you don’t want to stop every time you want to change what you are listening to on your music apps. Fortunately, road trip music can be controlled directly from some navigation apps. This guide shows you how to safely use Spotify (and other apps) directly from Google Maps and Waze.

Tip: need a positive moment in your day? Check out the best uplifting Spotify podcasts.

Which Streaming Services Are Supported in Google Maps?

The embedded music feature in Google Maps allows you to control your music streaming apps with a button on the navigation screen. With a tap, you can access the audio player and make selections while actively navigating. You don’t have to leave one app to use another.

The audio player on Google Maps supports YouTube Music, Apple Music, and Spotify (iHeartRadio also seems to be available in some regions) on Android phones and Apple Music and Spotify on iOS.

How to Enable the Music Player from Google Maps

To control your music streaming app from within Google Maps, you’ll have to first enable the music player feature.

Android

Open Google Maps on your phone.

Tap your Google account’s profile picture in the top-right corner.

Scroll down to “Settings” and tap it.

Tap “Navigation Settings.”

Tap the “Assistant default media provider” option.

Select your preferred music service from the next screen. YouTube Music is already added by default. If you want to connect Spotify or Apple Music to your Google Maps, you’ll need to tap the respective option.

A new window will appear where you’ll be asked to link your Google account (the same one you use in Google Maps ). It will be enabled on all devices. Tap “Continue.”

On the next screen, tap “Agree and continue.”

If linking to Spotify, you’ll be taken to a page where you’ll be asked to allow Google to view your Spotify activity and account data (among other things). Tap the green “Agree” button at the bottom.

Your chosen music streaming app will now be your default music service in Google Maps. If you wish to remove it, press “Unlink” underneath.

Good to Know: if you’re constantly traveling to a particular location, it may be handy to know how to save a route in Google Maps.

iOS

Open Google Maps on your iPhone or iPad.

Tap on your Google account profile picture in the search bar at the top.

Select “Settings.”

Tap “Navigation” at the top.

Tap the “Music playback controls” option.

Select either Apple Music or Spotify. If you want to use the latter service in Google Maps, make sure you’ve downloaded the app from the App Store. Apple Music is preinstalled on your iOS device.

Press “Open” in the following pop-up.

If you selected Spotify, authorize Google to access your Spotify info by pressing the “Agree” button.

Your chosen music streaming app will now be your music player in Google Maps on your iPhone or iPad.

Tip: you can easily transfer your Spotify playlists to YouTube Music if you like this service better.

How to Control Your Music App in Google Maps

Once you have enabled your music player and are ready to start your trip, follow these steps to access your music without leaving Google Maps.

Android

Open Google Maps.

Open the Spotify app (or any other, depending on your preference) on your device and start playing music.

In Google Maps, enter your destination and begin navigation. You should see the music bar at the bottom.

It will display the artist’s name as well as the song playing. You can control music playback from there with a single tap. Press either Pause/Play or skip to the next song. If you have already created a playlist for your trip, learn how to create collaborative playlists with Blend on Spotify.

You can collapse the music bar by tapping on the downward arrow at the top of the card.

The streaming service’s icon will be visible in the app tray.

Interestingly, you can add content from more apps from the Navigation menu in Google Maps. Tap on the icon shaped like four tiny squares in the lower right corner.

You’ll be able to select the streaming apps you have installed on your device. In this example, we can get access to Castbox, Audible, and Podcasts.

Once you tap on the app, you can select a podcast from Google Maps.

Tap on what you want to listen to, and it will immediately start playing.

Tip: Looking for a Google Maps alternative? This list includes the best ones currently available.

iOS

Follow the first three steps outlined in the Android section to bring up the music-playing bar at the bottom of Google Maps.

Interestingly, on iOS, you get an extra “Browse” button.

This takes you to a page offering recommendations based on the music you previously listened to. You can “Open Spotify” from there too.

The bar also features music controls, just like on Android. Although on iOS, you have an extra “Go to previous song” button.

Which Streaming Services Are Supported in Waze?

Google Maps is not the only app that allows integration with music apps. The Waze app also does so on a larger scale. Whereas Google Maps only gives you two options for your media player, Waze gives you a choice between multiple services! You can use Audible, Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, TIDAL, TuneIN or Scribd on Android. On iOS you have all these options as well, plus TuneIN Pro.

How to Enable the Music Player in Waze

As with Google Maps, you’ll need to first enable the music player in Waze before controlling music streaming from the navigation app. The steps for Android and iOS are similar, with a few minor exceptions.

Open the Waze app on your device.

Tap on “My Waze” at the bottom. On iOS, swipe left to bring up a side menu.

Press on the gear icon in the upper-left corner.

Look for the “Driving preferences” section and select “Audio player.”

Make sure the “Show on the map” toggle at the top is enabled. “Show next song” is optional.

Check the list of supported streaming apps. If the app you want to use isn’t installed on your device, there is a handy “Install” button that takes you directly to the Google Play Store.

Tip: provide more accurate directions with pins on Google Maps.

How to Control Your Music App from Waze

Once you ensure the music player option is visible within the app, enter your destination in the “Where to” bar.

Pressing the “Go now” button will kickstart the app’s navigation mode.

Tap the floating pink music note icon.

Select an app from your list. Waze does not have a default player, so select which one you want to use from inside the navigation app.

The first time you use each app, you must accept the permissions.

When Spotify finally connects, press “Play.” There are also controls for navigating to the next or previous song, shuffling, and “Loving” the song that’s playing.

If you want to change songs/albums quickly, tap on the “Show list” button underneath.

A pop-up will display your most recently played music.

To change the streaming app in Waze, tap “Audio apps” at the top of the screen and select a different one.

The music app you’ve used in Waze’s navigation mode will show under “Audio player” in Settings under “Your apps.”

Tap “Disconnect” if you don’t want to be connected to the app anymore while in Waze.

Remember, it is still risky to change apps or playlists while driving, but these features in Google Maps and Waze make it almost as easy as changing a channel on the radio. It’s also possible to create a radio station on Spotify and find new music to listen to while you’re out cruising.

Good to Know: wondering which music streaming service is the best? Check out our Spotify vs. Apple Music comparison.

Frequently Asked Questions Why does music and podcasts continue playing even after I’ve exited and closed the Google Maps app?

This can happen if you’ve forgotten to “Pause” the song or the podcast you’re listening to from the Google Maps app. Even if you’ve closed the navigation or music apps properly before, you’ll need to open Maps again, add a destination, and go to navigation mode. You’ll notice that the audio is still running. Pause it,before exiting the app and you’ll have total silence.

Image credit: Freepik. All screenshots by Alexandra Arici.

Alexandra Arici

Alexandra is passionate about mobile tech and can be often found fiddling with a smartphone from some obscure company. She kick-started her career in tech journalism in 2013, after working a few years as a middle-school teacher. Constantly driven by curiosity, Alexandra likes to know how things work and to share that knowledge with everyone.

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