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27
Jul

Ford’s Chariot rideshare service expands to New York City


New Yorkers are set to get yet another transportation option this summer, when Ford’s shuttle service Chariot expands into the city. The service initially launched in San Francisco in September 2016, with the automaker not long after announcing its plans to roll it out to eight new cities in 2017.

Chariot is part of Ford’s continued investment into its Smart Mobility program. When it arrives in New York the service will run two pre-planned routes in Manhattan and Brooklyn for $4 per ride, with additional crowdsourced routes to be added at a later date.

The company anticipates around 60 of its Chariot-branded Transit vans on New York’s roads by the fall, each able to carry a dozen passengers at a time. Users book rides via a mobile app and will be able to pay with pre-tax dollars thanks to Chariot’s partnership with commuter benefits programs. But while the ridesharing program is a blessing to tired commuters in the short term, it represents just one step towards Ford’s ultimate goal of vehicle autonomy, which means it won’t be long before these Transit vans are driving themselves.

Via: The Verge

27
Jul

Apple Discontinues iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle


Apple today removed the iPod nano and iPod shuffle from its website and online store around the world, and it has since confirmed the iconic portable media players have been discontinued. Apple continues to sell the iPod touch with updated pricing and storage, including a 32GB model for $199 and 128GB model for $299.

For now, it appears the iPod nano and iPod shuffle are still available to purchase at many Apple Stores and other resellers, but that likely won’t be the case much longer. In the United States, the latest iPod nano started at $149 with 16GB of storage, while the iPod shuffle cost $49 with 2GB of storage.

Beyond new colors and storage capacities, Apple had last updated the iPod nano in October 2012 and the iPod shuffle in September 2010. Apple last updated the iPod touch in July 2015 with an A8 chip and an 8-megapixel rear camera.

Apple introduced the iPod shuffle in January 2005, followed by the iPod nano in September 2005. In total, there were seven generations of the iPod nano, and four generations of the iPod shuffle.


iPod sales had been declining for several years. Apple reported 2.6 million iPods sold in the fourth quarter of 2014. Since then, Apple has grouped iPod sales under its “Other Products” category in earnings results. iPod sales peaked at 54.8 million in 2008, compared to 14.3 million in 2014.

The success of the iPod, first introduced in 2001 by the late Steve Jobs, helped Apple reestablish itself as one of the world’s most successful technology companies at the turn of the millenium. But, after the iPhone launched in 2007, the iPod nano and iPod shuffle became increasingly niche products.

Update: “Today, we are simplifying our iPod lineup with two models of iPod touch, now with double the capacity starting at just $199, and we are discontinuing the iPod shuffle and iPod nano,” an Apple spokesperson told Business Insider.

Related Roundups: iPod shuffle, iPod nano
Tag: Apple retail
Buyer’s Guide: iPod Shuffle (Don’t Buy), iPod Nano (Don’t Buy)
Discuss this article in our forums

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27
Jul

Apple Adjusts iPod Touch Prices and Storage: 32GB For $199, 128GB For $299


Apple today tweaked its iPod touch storage and pricing configurations after discontinuing the iPod nano and iPod shuffle.

Apple now offers a 32GB model for $199, and a 128GB model for $299, in the United States. 16GB and 64GB models have been discontinued.

Apple’s previous iPod touch lineup was priced as following in the United States:

• 16GB: $199
• 32GB: $249
• 64GB: $299
• 128GB: $399

The new configurations are currently in stock on Apple’s online store in the same colors as previously: Silver, Gold, Space Gray, Pink, Blue, and Red.

Apple last updated the iPod touch in July 2015 with an Apple A8 chip and 8-megapixel rear-facing iSight camera.

Related Roundup: iPod touch
Tag: Apple retail
Buyer’s Guide: iPod Touch (Caution)
Discuss this article in our forums

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27
Jul

Best iOS app deals of the day! 6 paid iPhone apps for free for a limited time


Everyone likes apps, but sometimes the best ones are a bit expensive. Now and then, developers put paid apps on sale for free for a limited time, but you have to snatch them up while you have the chance. Here are the latest and greatest iOS app deals available from the iOS App Store.

These apps normally cost money and this sale lasts for a limited time only. If you go to the App Store and it says the app costs money, that means the deal has expired and you will be charged. 

Workout Playlist

Workout Playlist is the first weightlifting app to introduce the playlist format to working out. Select the muscle groups you want to train, time, and intensity, and get working.

Available on:

iOS

Photosets

This app combines a camera, editor, and slow-motion video camera to help you capture bursts of photos at up to 30 photos per second. Photosets are stored only within the app.

Available on:

iOS

TickleMeThink

TickleMeThink is a brainstorming app that helps you get new ideas and solve problems. It offers a simple structured thinking process that makes thinking easy and fun.

Available on:

iOS

Blink

These powerful and beautifully designed tools will help you add frames, filters, text, and so much more to your photos, in the most creative and playful way.

Available on:

iOS

Baby+

New parent? Track your baby’s development, and save those special moments forever. Get the supportive baby app for moms and dads alike.

Available on:

iOS

Ask MathStudio

Ask MathStudio gives you instant answers to your math questions using natural language. Ask everything from basic math to college calculus to everyday queries like today’s forecast.

Available on:

iOS




27
Jul

We tested all of AMD’s new Ryzen processors to find the value king


The more Ryzen chips we test, the more we start to appreciate their value. AMD’s latest generation has taken a turn for the better after the less-than-stellar Bulldozer chips that launched in 2011, providing better per-core performance, power efficiency, and support for more modern technology. Of course, the question remains — which Ryzen CPU should you buy?

The Ryzen family is broken into three branches, with many chips in each to choose from, which makes choosing the “best chip” a bit of a trick. With the Ryzen 3 family arriving in the form of the $110 Ryzen 3 1200 and $130 Ryzen 3 1300X, it’s finally time to move past the question of whether you should buy a Ryzen chip, and move onto which one you should buy.

Buy Ryzen 7 for maximum multi-thread performance

When we discuss computational performance, we try and cover a wide spread of tasks a modern CPU might be asked to complete. To that end, we ran each of the Ryzen processors through a series of synthetic and real-world tasks.

These single-core tests should be taken with a grain of salt. Less cores means faster clock speed on each core, so the results are going to vary based on how many cores each chip has, whether it’s equipped with AMD’s Extended Frequency Range — denoted by an X after the number — and a splash of luck for having a highly-stable single core.

Aside from that, it’s rare to see a single-core workload that’s intensive in modern programs. Most programs not coded to use multiple threads will need minimal CPU power. There are exceptions – gaming can still be cited as an example – but we’ll dive into that later.

The multi-core scores, below, are a more direct evaluation of how much power each chip can produce in an ideal scenario, with a fully optimized workload. You’re unlikely to see that sort of use case in the real world, but it at least shows that the extra cores are working properly, considering there are more of them than Intel offers at the same price point.

Our first practical test, Handbrake, sets apart the chips by family quite succinctly. More cores mean more power, particularly when it comes to encoding video, and the most expensive Ryzen 7 1800X manages to crank out a much faster time than chips with less cores.

The Cinebench test, a benchmark created by Maxon, the developer behind Cinema 4D, delivers a gut check to your system’s rendering capabilities, and then sees how fast it can deal with it. The complex set of tasks benefits immensely from extra cores, and once again, the Ryzen 7 chips take a strong lead over even the well-equipped Ryzen 5 offerings.

Finally, the two browser tests are a bit scattershot, but they do reveal interesting trends between chips of the same family. The chips with extended frequency range all take a strong lead over their counterparts without an X after their name. Browsers aren’t typically capable of stressing more than one core, so the extra power left over from the other cores left idle can extended the working core’s frequency. The extended frequency range doesn’t always come into play, but in some workloads, it can make a difference.

The takeaway here is that users who demand a fast processor will see the Ryzen family’s performance laid out as the pricing suggests. Ryzen 3 is entry-level, and not really suited for such tasks, while the best Ryzen 7 chips run away from the pack.

However, the field is more compact if you have modest needs. You’ll see very little value out of a Ryzen 7 if you don’t put its extra cores to work. Even the Ryzen 3 is far beyond adequate for the everyday routine of checking emails, browsing the web, and watching video.

Yes, demanding workloads are also needed to see the most out Intel’s Core i5 and i7 desktop chips, but Ryzen’s reliance on core count for high-end performance creates an even less dramatic spread in single-core tests. A Core i7-7700K beats the snot out of a Core i3-7100 or a Core i5-7400 even in single-core tests. With Ryzen, the gap in single-core performance is smaller.

Buy Ryzen 3 for mid-range gaming, Ryzen 5 for the rest

Ryzen is obviously great for multi-core scenarios, but it’s also been marketed as a gaming processor. That seems odd, because games usually don’t benefit much from extremely high core counts.

To get to the heart of the matter, we’ve chosen the MSI Gaming X+ RX 580, a mid-range option, and the beefy Zotac GTX 1080 Ti AMP! Edition, to power our gaming tests.

Let’s get started with 3DMark, a synthetic test.

The 3DMark Time Spy benchmark pushes all our hardware to its limits, and the results are a bit boring. The scores slide up the scale in mostly equal increments, with a slight jump on the two highest-end chips when paired with the GTX 1080 Ti. Frankly, the results are what you would expect. More expensive processors score better.

While these scores represent each pairing’s potential power, it isn’t always indicative of real-world gaming, which is where our real-world game tests come into play.

Ah – now it gets interesting.

As we’ve seen before, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1080 Ti conquers even the heavyweight Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, with performance sliding and wobbling a bit. That said, the difference in frame rate is only about a 15 percent swing from top to bottom, if you exclude the the lowest-end Ryzen 3 1200.

Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Pairing the Ryzen 3 1300X with a GTX 1080 Ti might seem notes, and we’d agree it’s not quite the right balance. However, it does show that, in this game, a fast video card is much more important than a fast CPU. If you had only $600 to spend on both, it might make sense to buy the $130 Ryzen 3 1300X, and spend the remaining money on a GTX 1070 (if you can find a graphics card at MSRP, which is hard right now).

The RX 580 makes CPU’s lack of importance even more dramatic. Its results are completely static when it comes to average frame rate. The game is already using all the GPU’s power, so there’s nothing extra for the processor to offer. Even the Ryzen 3 1300X is more than capable of playing with the RX 580. Upgrading from it to the Ryzen 5, or Ryzen 7, would get you nothing. Good day, sir!

That’s a good sign for those eyeing the lowest-end chips to pair with mid-range video cards. If you asking yourself which Ryzen CPU you should buy for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and other graphics-intensive games, the answer is the Ryzen 3 1300X (if you have a RX 580 or GTX 1060), or a Ryzen 5 (if you have a faster video card).

However, these results represent just one game. Some titles put more strain on the processor.

Sid Meier’s Civilization VI and its predecessors have been mainstays of our game benchmarking for years, and likely will be for years to come. Not only is every game in the series extremely popular, but it they place a lot more strain on the CPU than most games do, particularly when the field fills with units and cities.

Even the Ryzen 3 1300X is more than capable of playing with the RX 580 at 1080p.

Even still, the whole pack falls within about a 25-percent performance spread regardless of CPU, again throwing out the results from the Ryzen 3 1200, which is left behind. That chip falls another 20 percent behind the Ryzen 3 1300X when paired with the GTX 1080 Ti, although just slightly behind when paired with the RX 580.

Once again, there are diminishing returns for gaming after the six core Ryzen 5 1600X, which takes a lead in most of the practical gaming tests.

A 25-percent spread is nothing to laugh at, so it would still be wise to target at least a Ryzen 5 1500X if you intend to play this game on a system with a GTX 1080 Ti, or AMD’s upcoming Vega video card. If you are playing on a more affordable video card like the AMD Radeon RX 580, however, you could get away with buying the $130 Ryzen 3 1300X.

Which Ryzen CPU should you buy? The long story

It’s tricky to recommend just one Ryzen chip, as the family extends across a wide range of price points, and offer a very smooth performance scale as you spend a bit more. As always, you should carefully evaluate your current and potential workload, and then build a balanced system within your budget that fulfills those needs. That said, one way to look at choosing a CPU is picking based on value per dollar.

The moral of the story here is that the Ryzen 3 1300X and Ryzen 3 1200 are both an excellent value proposition compared to the highest-end chips which, at three or four times the price, don’t offer three or four times the performance in most cases. In fact, the new Ryzen 3 1300X is a standout value, posting incredible results for a $130 chip.

That’s no big surprise. There’s usually a premium attached to high-end performance, and the faster processor is, the steeper the value curve. Still, it’s good to see even the budget-friendly Ryzen 3 1300X, at $130, pairs excellently with mid-range $200 GPUs like the GTX 1060 and RX 570.

The budget-friendly Ryzen 1300X, at $130, pairs excellently with mid-range GPUs like the GTX 1060 and RX 570.

It’s impossible to deny the value that offers to gamers, and it looks even better if you take a glance at Intel’s competing chips. At similar pricing, you’ll end up with a Core i3-7100, which has only two cores with Hyper-Threading, for a total of four threads. The Core i3-7100 also can’t be overclocked, while the Ryzen 3 1300X can. Plus, Ryzen is on a newer platform, so there’s the potential to upgrade to a faster processor in a couple years, without replacing the motherboard. The Core i3-7100’s platform is over the hill, so it’s almost certain you’ll need to buy another motherboard when it comes time to upgrade.

We think most people build enthusiast desktops for gaming, and few power them except when launching Steam. Users looking to play games at 1080p with a GTX 1060 or RX 570 should pick up a Ryzen 3 1300X. Anyone looking to step up the gaming performance a bit with a GTX 1070, GTX 1080, or GTX 1080 Ti, should look to the Ryzen 5 1500X or 1600X to prevent bottlenecking.

On the other hand, if gaming is an afterthought, and encoding video or compressing files is the most important metric, we still think the Ryzen 7 1700 is an excellent choice. Its performance is extremely close to the Ryzen 7 1800X, which costs $170 more at MSRP, and $160 more current Newegg prices. That’s a price leap of about 50 percent, for a performance leap that, in our multi-core tests, hovered between 5 and 15 percent.

Which Ryzen CPU should you buy? The short story

If you still feel confused, don’t worry. We’ll break it down.

Building a budget rig, for gaming or otherwise? You want the Ryzen 3 1300X.

Putting a mid-range to high-end gaming PC? Pick the Ryzen 5 1500X or 1600X, as budget allows.

Need a workstation? Then you want the Ryzen 7 1700.

Whatever you choose to buy, AMD fans will be happy to know the Ryzen line is competitive across the board. Intel still has advantages, like superior per-core performance. Still, whichever Ryzen CPU you buy, you will end up with hardware that’s extremely capable in today’s most demanding workloads.




27
Jul

As promised, AMD’s Ryzen 3 processors are now here to rejuvenate mainstream PCs


Why it matters to you

AMD is revving up the mainstream desktop market with its new Ryzen 3 chips, making now a great time to upgrade current builds or purchase a new one.

As promised, AMD’s Ryzen 3 processors are here to address the mainstream desktop PC market. They complete the company’s “vanilla” Ryzen desktop CPU rollout that began earlier this year with the launch of its three Ryzen 7 chips followed by four Ryzen 5 processors in the spring. AMD also plans to release two Ryzen Threadripper desktop CPUs in August to appease the extreme high-end desktop market.

Here is AMD’s new Ryzen 3 lineup:

Cores
Threads
Base Speed
Boost Speed
Power Draw
Price
1300X
4
4
3.5GHz
3.7GHz
65 watts
$129
1200
4
4
3.1GHz
3.4GHz
65 watts
$109

According to AMD, the Ryzen 3 1300X chip is up to 29 percent faster than Intel’s Core i3-7300 processor in Cinebench. Using a 1080p resolution, it is also around 10 percent faster in Tom Clancy’s The Division (DirectX 12), around 13 percent faster in Overwatch (DirectX 11), and around 11 percent faster in DOTA 2 (DirectX 9). In addition to gaming, the Ryzen 3 1300X supposedly provides better performance in video encoding and content creation when compared to Intel’s chip.

To be fair, Intel’s Core i3-7300 is a dual-core chip, and here are the hardware details:

Cores
Threads
Base Speed
Boost Speed
Power Draw
Price
i3-7300
2
4
4.00GHz
N/A
51 watts
$138 to $147

In keeping with the comparison theme, AMD is pitting the Ryzen 3 1200 processor against Intel’s Core i3-7100 chip. AMD admits that the competing processor outperforms the Ryzen 3 1200 by around two percent in 1080p gaming. However, according to the company, the Ryzen 3 1200 offers around 17 percent better performance in video encoding, and around 14 percent better performance in content creation.

Here are the hardware details of Intel’s Core i3-7100 processor:

Cores
Threads
Base Speed
Boost Speed
Power Draw
Price
i3-7100
2
4
3.90MHz
N/A
51 watts
$117

Ultimately, the comparisons focus on AMD’s intent to provide more performance per watt with a cheaper price tag. Although the actual maximum power usage is slightly higher than Intel’s two chips, AMD crammed four cores into its Ryzen 3 lineup with a cheaper price tag. What will be interesting to see is how well Ryzen 3 will compete against Intel’s two processors in benchmarks outside AMD.

Both AMD Ryzen 3 processors fit in the AM4 socket, and support the X370 (enthusiast), B350 (performance), and A320 (mainstream) motherboard chipsets. They will also ship unlocked, enabling PC builders to overclock the chip’s speed unless they’re installed on a motherboard with the A320 chipset, which doesn’t support overclocking. For small form factor PCs, the processors are compatible with the X300 (unlocked) and A300 (locked) chipsets.

Ryzen 3 processors are sold with AMD’s Wraith Stealth fan-based processor cooler promising a low profile and low noise. However, customers will eventually have the option to purchase AMD’s Wraith Max fan-based CPU cooler, which isn’t low profile but includes customizable RGB LED illumination.

Finally, like the Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 5 processors already on the market, the Ryzen 3 models support AMD’s SenseMi technology. This essentially adjusts the power draw to meet the demands of the current workload, adjusts the speed in 25MHz increments when needed, enables clock speeds beyond the Precision Boost limit (depends on the cooling solution), and manages how programs utilize the CPU using built-in artificial intelligence.




27
Jul

How to get started with Samsung SmartThings


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Samsung SmartThings are a great addition if all you’re looking to do is automate a few simple things around the house.

Did you know you can automate your home in about an hour? That’s how long it took me to set up the Samsung SmartThings Hub and two additional SmartThings helpers. I set up an outlet and a multipurpose sensor, though you can take your pick from the litter of available SmartThings integrations. They’re fun to bring home in an attempt to figure out the most tedious and genius automation formulas.

If you’ve recently found yourself venturing onto your own journey of installing Samsung SmartThings in your home, here’s how to get started.

Getting started with Samsung SmartThings

First things first: before you can get started setting up Samsung SmartThings, ensure that you’ve got a SmartHub installed somewhere in your home. For this how-to, I’m connecting to the SmartThings via the Connect Home mesh Wi-Fi router system, which has built-in ZigBee compatibility. But you can also connect with the SmartThings Hub on its own, regardless of whatever Wi-Fi setup you have to power your household.

Next, you’re going to want to have the Samsung Connect app installed and ready to go on your smartphone. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a Samsung smartphone either; I managed just fine with a Google Pixel XL.

Launch the app and plug in your Samsung account information; follow the in-app instructions if you see a prompt, or tap on the floating action button to manually activate the hub. You’ll need to enter the “Welcome Code,” which is available on a separate card located inside the box the hub came in. Then, connect the hub with the included power and network cables. Once the setup process is squared off, you’ll see the device display a solid green light.

How to add a new SmartThings device

Adding a new SmartThings accessory to your network is easy to do as long as the SmartHub is all set up and ready to roar. Note that this walkthrough is for connecting your SmartThings through the Samsung Connect app — not the SmartThings app.

Tap on the plus sign to manually add a device.
Tap add device manually if the device doesn’t automatically populate.
Select your SmartThing.
Follow the instructions on screen for your specific device.

Tap Done once it’s connected.

smartthings-add-a-device.jpg?itok=MPC8md

Now that you’ve connected your new SmartThings, tap on the device under My devices to customize it. If you’re using a SmartThings outlet, for instance, you can see how much power it’s drawing from this screen. Or if you’re using the multipurpose sensor, you can check to see that the door you configured it for is closed.

Ready to get even more creative with automating your home? You can sync up some of your Samsung SmartThings with the Google Home or play with formulas at IFTTT so that you’re receiving ample notifications for those motion sensors.

How to program Rules for you Samsung SmartThings

Samsung SmartThings come with their own automated abilities. You can program them out yourself in the Samsung Connect app.

Launch the Samsung Connect app.
Tap the menu button.
Tap Rules.
Tap Add rule.
Enter a name for your rule and choose where you want to use it.
Tap Add Condition.

Tap through your choice of time of day, time period, or device condition.

smartthings-add-a-rule.jpg?itok=VohuOhHJ

You can tinker with individual formulas as you see fit. I personally chose to set up my SmartThings outlet to turn on the light at the exact time of day. From Monday to Thursday, a light comes on in the master bedroom at 9 PM to beckon me to begin my nighttime routine. But you can set it up any way you choose. All you need is a little imagination.

Questions?

Let us know in the comments below.

27
Jul

New rumor says Samsung Pay could be heading to non-Samsung phones


Samsung is looking to vastly expand the availability of Samsung Pay.

Samsung Pay is limited to the company’s flagship devices and select mid-range models, but that may not be the case for much longer. According to Gadgets 360, Samsung held “internal talks within the company and with OEMs” to bring Samsung Pay to non-Samsung devices.

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The key difference between Samsung Pay and Android Pay is that the former supports both NFC and MST (Magnetic Secure Transmission). MST mimics a card swipe, making Samsung Pay compatible with POS machines that don’t have NFC built-in. The technology is enabled by a proprietary chip that’s built into the rear panel of devices like the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy A7 2017, and it looks like Samsung wants to integrate the chip in other manufacturers’ devices.

It would certainly be a welcome move — Samsung Pay works at most offline retailers — but it’s hard to see other manufacturers integrating Samsung’s proprietary tech in their devices.

Samsung wants to turn Samsung Pay into an ubiquitous payments service.

An alternative would be an accessory that enables full-fledged Samsung Pay on non-Samsung devices. The company is said to be exploring both options, with a go-to-market timeline slated for mid-2018.

Gadgets 360 also notes that Samsung Pay will be heading to the company’s mid-range phones. The service is available on the Galaxy A7 2017, but it could be making its way to devices in the Galaxy C series, and possibly the Galaxy J series.

In its Q2 2017 earnings, Samsung noted a sales decline in the mid-range and budget segments, and one way to counter that would be to bring Samsung Pay to these devices.

Would you be interested in using Samsung Pay on a non-Samsung device?

27
Jul

You can now play The Elder Scrolls: Legends on your phone


The Elder Scrolls: Legends made its debut on the PC back in March, and the strategy card game is now available on Android with the Heroes of Skyrim expansion in tow. The free-to-play title features cards based on characters from the Elder Scrolls franchise, and you’ll be able to play against online opponents or with an AI.

Here’s a look at what’s on offer with the game:

  • PLAY ON YOUR OWN: Story mode provides hours of solo gameplay in which you’ll earn new Legends cards, decks, and packs. Or draft a deck from scratch and battle a series of computer opponents.

  • PLAY AGAINST OTHERS: Test your decks against friends, challenge online opponents in ranked play, or draft a deck from scratch and battle other players who have done the same.

  • PICK YOUR BATTLES: Legends gameplay features a divided battlefield with “lanes” that deepen your strategy options.

  • LEVEL UP! You can upgrade certain cards in Legends by winning games with decks that contain them. Level up your cards to improve your decks, give you more flexibility, and tailor them to your play style.

If you’re interested in taking a look, head to the Play Store to download The Elder Scrolls: Legends.

27
Jul

Debugging a killer launcher feature: Why Google Now on third-party launchers has to jump through hoops


google-now-noa-launcher-s8-rainbow.jpg?i

Google Now’s feed is a killer launcher feature with a killer requirement.

Months ago when Google announced it would be retiring the Google Now Launcher, it also announced that it was releasing code from that launcher for manufacturers to build their own version with, allowing them to put a Google Now page in their pre-loaded launcher. As expected, this code is something third-party launchers would love to play with, and it’s already been implemented by Nova Launcher and is in progress for Action Launcher.

There’s just one big problem these launchers and others are running into: Google Play won’t allow it.

google-now-pane-nova-settings-screen-red

In its current form, implementing a Google Now page in a launcher requires an API that’s officially restricted to system apps. Manufacturers can make a launcher with it and pre-load it on their devices as a system app no problem. For third-party developers and non-root users, the API is still usable, but the non-system app or launcher that uses them has to be debuggable, and debuggable apps are not allowed by Google Play’s standards.

So how can you use Google Now on Nova Launcher if Nova Launcher’s on Google Play?

Sideloaded plugins!

Nova Launcher couldn’t integrate the Google Now page into its main app and risk getting kicked off Google Play, so it decided to offload that portion of the launcher to a companion app that users manually download and install once they’ve checked the oh-so-ominous “Allow installs from Unknown Sources” toggle in security settings. Nova Google Companion plugs into the main Google Play-compliant Nova Launcher and allows you to activate the Google Now page, just like TeslaUnread did for Nova’s unread badges for years. And like unread badges, the Google Now page could eventually come to the main app but not while the API’s restrictions and Google Play’s restrictions both remain in place.

lawnchair-launcher.jpg?itok=DykLoBIi

Lawnchair is basically a Pixel Launcher with customizable bells and whistles, and as such it has the Google Now page to the left. Lawnchair is also not on Google Play, instead existing on the developer’s site as well as forums like XDA.

Is Google Now worth it?

Swiping left for Google Now while keeping all the bells, whistles, and icon packs of a third-party launcher is great, and I’ve used Google Now waaaay more since installing the Nova Google Companion than I had in years. That said, Google Now is also a teeny bit outdated. Google Assistant can read me the news, the weather, and control my home. Google Now’s feed can show me where I parked (if I somehow forget), some headlines, and some recipes, but it just… doesn’t feel as helpful anymore. I know, it’s heresy, forgive my sinner’s tongue, but the Google Now pane just isn’t as vital to me as it felt years ago.

google-now-nova-rivers-theme-s8.jpg?itok

Some users still swear by the Google Now pane, and they are swearing to use the Google Now Launcher until the damn thing just won’t execute anymore. I’m all for having the option of Google Now on my quite customized launcher, but I do wonder how much benefit it brings in an Android world where a bigger, better Google Assistant is a long-press away.

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