Google Pay: Caring Is Sharing

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Google Pay: Sharing Is Caring

Earlier this year Android Pay and Google Wallet combined forces to create Google Pay, a one-step payment process for Android users.  The app has featured online payments with certain websites/apps by initially linking a credit card and then checking out in the future with one click. More technologically impressive it uses NFC (Near Field Communication) to allow users to hold up their phone at a cash register and buy things in person too.

Google Pay seeks to make users lives easier by removing the hassle of reaching into you wallet/entering checkout info every time you buy something.  Yet the adoption rate for it has been…sub-optimal.  So far we’ve seen about 6% of total smartphone users give Google Pay a try.  It’s a growing number, but it’s still not very big.  If it’s because Google Pay doesn’t do enough for users, then it may start growing faster.

So what’s new?

Today Google announced some new features for the app that make it more useful.  The biggest of these is that you can now use Google Pay to send money to friends.  With apps like Venmo, PayPal, and the CashApp this is nothing new, but it’s necessary for the Google Pay to become relevant as it’s one of the primary ways younger generations pay one another.

And if you haven’t used cash sharing apps like these before GET ONE.  They’re essentially the staples easy button for splitting bills at restaurants and paying back friends.   Google Pay has a challenge of gaining traction in this sector since there are already a few established apps and sharing apps are only as useful as their adoption rate.  But then again, it’s Google and they choose what apps comes preloaded on Android phones.  Chances are they’ll be alright.

But wait there’s more!

Another new upgrade for the app is that it will be supporting boarding passes and event tickets.  Companies like Southwest and Ticketmaster will be incorporated into the app to allow users to take one step closer to a one-stop shop.  These tickets will update with real time information if something like a flight delay takes place, and they’ll work alongside any loyalty cards you have.

The updated Google Pay app is rolling out today, but it will be a few weeks until it reaches everyone who uses it.  The long term goal is clearly for Google Pay to become your go to app for any circumstances. I’m certain we’ll see some more new features come up in the news soon, and I’m also sure you’ll be able to read about them here!

What are your thoughts on Google Pay’s changes?  Is it still lacking something essential for success?  Let us know in the comments below.

Improved Security Or Less Freedom? APK Updates

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Improved Security Or Less Freedom? APK Updates

Earlier this week a small change rolled out to the Google Play Store.  It’s one that you likely won’t even notice, but for those who have it’s tough to decide whether the shift is good or bad.  What change?  Just a small string of metadata for apps.

Google is adding a security string of metadata to all Android APKs (the file format android apps are stored in).  This string will come along with the usual app and be used to verify that apps are distributed through the Play Store or another approved channel.

But why?

The reasoning is (of course) for security purposes.  Users will be able to verify that the apps their downloading aren’t malicious apps seeking to wreak havoc on your system.  There are plenty of apps that have posed as secure looking every-day apps when in reality they were doing other things under the hood (such as mining bitcoin).  This new metadata will supposedly help catch apps like this and ensure that any apps users are downloading are coming from a safe place.

We’ve talked before about how android apps are pretty secure through their information silos.  Apps must use a content provider/resolver to access information from one another, and in order to get access to your serious information (contacts, messages, pictures) apps are required to request permissions that must be explicitly granted by the phone’s owner.  That being said it’s still not a good idea to go around downloading every app you can just for the heck of it.  Security should not encourage reckless behavior.

So what’s the issue?

So why the controversy?  If this new string of data will help keep our phones more secure why could people be opposed to it?  Well the new string is essentially DRM (Digital Rights Management).  As with media services, there’s potential for companies to abuse DRM to choose how and when you use their product.

Let’s say for example you download an app and like it how it is.  A new update comes out and you hear horrendous things about it like it makes an ad pop up every 5 seconds (a terrible marketing strategy).  Naturally you would try to hold off on updating to this new version as long as possible.  Well with DRM it might be difficult/impossible to tinker with the app to remove ads, and a developer could potentially force you to update to the new version by altering the metadata.  It’s a win for mobile app security, but it also invites misuse.

It’s not easy to say if this is a big deal or simply a step in the right direction for security, but it also hasn’t been in the limelight for long.  What are your thoughts on this change to coming apps?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

Google I/O Is In!

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Google I/O Is In!

We’ve talked about Google I/O being on the horizon here before, but we can do that no longer.  It’s here! (Actually once it’s over we’ll probably immediately start writing about 2019’s event).

Yes, today marks the kickoff of Google’s 11th annual conference.  And as such the entire Android population has a lot of stuff to talk about.  Google I/O started off strong with its keynote mapping out some of the things to be discussed this year.  Here are some of the highlights of day one:

Artificial Intelligence:

As with most other places these days, AI was one of the most used buzzwords at day one.  It’s somewhat become an all encompassing term for any technological advancement that helps us.  Despite this, Google separates itself from the pack by bringing some pretty cool new features to the table.  Whether it’s self-writing emails or auto adjusting screen brightness to your preference, Google is working on slipping AI into every part of our days.

Actually it’s so much cooler than that.  In the video above at 3:10 you can watch the Google Assistant play as your personal secretary.  It makes a call to a local hair salon and books an appointment without the person on the other end ever realizing they’re talking to AI.  Scary cool.

Android P:

There’s been lots of hype about Android P in the past few months, and we got to see more today.  With it’s 3 key themes of Intelligence, Simplicity, and Digital wellbeing, Android P seeks to one up everything else already in your hand and provide a predictive, pleasant experience.  We’ve talked before about some of the new features coming with Android P, and today that list only gets longer.

Adaptive Battery is a feature aimed to conserving battery life by using (you guessed it) AI.  It studies your app usage patterns and then can dedicate more battery power to conserving the things that you will likely be using in the near future.  Along with this comes the Adaptive Brightness feature I mentioned above where your screen will auto-adjust given your preferences.

Not only does P look to alleviate your battery strain under the hood, but it uses its predictive analytics to bring apps you’re about to use to the forefront.  P is currently available on a select few devices (9 total), and if you’re interested in downloading it click here.  If you’re unsure what you’re doing and want support with flashing your phone, then check out our Smartphone Tech Course over at Phonlab.  Otherwise stay tuned and we’ll post a guide in the near future.

Augmented Reality:

As for the other big buzzword topic, Augmented Reality had some cool new features to display.  Maps have been souped up with the newest computer vision features to recognize where you’re looking in the real world and flash both directional arrows for guidance as well as information about local places.  If you’re walking down the street and a restaurant catches your eye, say goodbye to opening up yelp and searching for its reviews.

The camera has also become greatly enhanced with its new capability to recognize where things are in the real world in terms of depth perceptions.  Moving your phone around your room, office, or down the street you’re able to get live estimates of how far away things are.  This is sure to be crucial in a lot of coming apps.

There’s a lot more to come in this year’s Google I/O, and we’ll keep you updated here.  Is there anything in particular you want us to go more in depth on?  Comment below and we’ll give you all the info you could dream of!

 

 

 

 

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