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May 19, 2021

👋 Good morning! So much to get to, with more from Google I/O later today, but first thanks again to today’s sponsor, Verizon Fios.

Verizon logo

Verizon has a couple of new offers on Fios plans that can ease the load on your network! The offers start with a 200Mbps plan for $39.99 p/m with AutoPay, with three months of Discovery Plus sprinkled on top if you have an existing Optical Network Terminal. For a family of devices you can double it to 400Mbps for $59.99 p/m with AutoPay, with Fios including an Echo Dot and a Blink Mini just for signing up. Then there’s Gigabit! Up to 940Mbps for $79.99 p/m with AutoPay, plus Fios will add Amazon Prime to the mix for one year, an Echo Dot, and more.

There are also Fios TV offers to add to your Wi-Fi plan too: through September 15, you can hop into Your Fios TV or the Fios TV Test Drive plan for just $50p/m. If you commit to More Fios TV for $70, you’ll get a $50 Verizon e-gift card or a $150 e-gift card with the $90 Most Fios TV plan.

Biggest Google I/O takeaways
Google IO 2021 Sundar Pichai talks chromebooks

The massive Google I/O keynote was a two-hour Google-y affair. Though, if you sat watching for new hardware, no dice!

  • Neither the Google Pixel 5a nor the Pixel Buds were on show, with no new Google hardware launches.
  • Google did reference Pixel phones in “fall” but that was about it.
  • So, on with what Google did announce.
android 12 beta 1 hands on lock screen header image
Jimmy Westenberg / Android Authority

Android 12:

  • Finally we saw the new Android 12, which started with a focus on a fresh design update to the UI, called “Material You”. 
  • Helpfully, Google also released the beta version of Android 12, and those with a Google Pixel could install it almost straight away. I’m running it now and the design changes really are super noticeable, clean, and quite vibrant. Google called it playful, and it’s customizable — though a bunch of the Material You changes are still to roll out.
  • It’s the biggest set of design changes to the Android UI since 2014.
  • Android also has new privacy features, with a Privacy Dashboard, better mic and camera controls, approximate location permissions, and more. 
  • Let me steer you towards my colleague Jimmy Westenberg’s hands-on with Android 12, which shows you a bunch of the details 

Wear OS + Tizen

  • Ok so this was unexpected. WearOS 3.0 was shown off, and Samsung is partnering with Google to combine WearOS and Tizen. The duo is promising faster performance, longer battery life, and a bigger developer community. 
  • Google’s let Wear OS drift for years, while Samsung’s Tizen has progressed with its hardware. Google suggested the new combined platform, which is available for all device makers, can do things like run the heart rate monitor continuously.
  • Little details, like Google finally adding offline listening via Spotify on Wear OS, and YouTube Music coming to Wear OS, are also happening. Finally!
  • Is this likely a better outcome than Google just letting WearOS sit miserably in a corner, unloved and untouched? Yes.
  • But… as Google SVP Vic Gundotra said back in 2011, when Microsoft and Nokia teamed up to take on Android: “Two turkeys do not make an Eagle“. Can this collaboration fly? 
  • Also: Fitbit will launch a WearOS wearable.
  • Also also: Google just started calling it Wear, not WearOS. Odd.

Project Starline

project starline
  • This was Google’s surprise, and the real-time 3D model video chat looks incredibly cool. Genuinely impressive and interesting – Wired had a chance to try the hologram videobooth and came away impressed.
  • That said, the hardware is $50,000, and there is not a worse company than Google at actually delivering on these innovations.
  • Best case, Google licenses out or spins off the tech. Unless you work at a mega-corp that might consider installing one of these bad boys at full price with a speedy fibre connection in tow, the best case is maybe …2026?

Google apps

  • From Google Maps to Google Docs, if you use a Google app, it’s going to get an update.
  • Google Maps is a big one, with some of the most substantial enhancements including a new Live View with AR signs for landmarks and streets and avoiding “hard-braking” moments when driving via route management. There’s also a cool new feature showing where busy areas are in a city, which is helpful for residents to avoid, and tourists to know where the hot spots are.
  • Also, hooray, Google Docs is getting its biggest improvement in years with a new Workspace feature moving away from the idea that any Google Doc starts as a page you’ll print, and something more freely workable like Notion. Platformer has a neat breakdown

Other related bits from Android 12 or the event:


🎁 Some big news: Android Authority has a fresh new look! Years in the making, months in the refining, and now live. The new homepage, along with redesigned article pages, has fresh fonts, and lots of good, speedy loading touches. Have a look!

⛔ If there’s a time to hide bad news, it might be when Google announces a bunch of stuff: Microsoft confirmed Windows 10X is dead, though the company implies it’s because it wants ideas from 10X to be for more people, not just mobility applications in a Windows Lite. So, it may be good news for a wider audience? (Android Authority).

🍎 Bloomberg reports that Apple is readying its Apple Silicon MacBook Pro and MacBook Air revamps, shifting towards just a lot of new chips and variations, including a “Mac Pro desktop with 40 cores” for performance spec (Bloomberg).

⚖ Epic v. Apple: “At the Epic trial, Phil Schiller got away clean(The Verge).

🔋 This is Ford’s electric F-150 pickup truck, given a sneak peek via a factory speech by President Biden (The Verge).

👉 Intel’s Optane H20 is the latest attempt at “hybrid” laptop storage (Ars Technica).

⛏ Nvidia is trying to stop crypto miners buying RTX 3000 series cards (again) (Kotaku).

💘 “Online dating apps are actually kind of a disaster(Wired).

🗺️ An up to date map of the internet. (Halycon Maps).

🧂 ELI5: “Why do we primarily use table salt (NaCl) in food? Are there no other crystalline compounds that may also taste good?” (r/explainlikeimfive)

Wednesday Weirdness
Cyrillic is one of the best russian learning apps for android

This is rather brilliant: “Try this one weird trick Russian hackers hate,” writes KrebsOnSecurity

  • “KrebsOnSecurity noted that virtually all ransomware strains have a built-in failsafe designed to cover the backsides of the malware purveyors: They simply will not install on a Microsoft Windows computer that already has one of many types of virtual keyboards installed — such as Russian or Ukrainian. So many readers had questions in response to the tweet that I thought it was worth a blog post exploring this one weird cyber defense trick.”
  • “DarkSide, like a great many other malware strains, has a hard-coded do-not-install list of countries … [mostly] former Soviet satellites that mostly have favorable relations with the Kremlin.”
  • Why? For legal protection!

How to:

  • “To install a different [virtual] keyboard language on a Windows 10 computer the old fashioned way, hit the Windows key and X at the same time, then select Settings, and then select “Time and Language.” Select Language, and then scroll down and you should see an option to install another character set. Pick one, and the language should be installed the next time you reboot. Again, if for some reason you need to toggle between languages, Windows+Spacebar is your friend.”


Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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