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Google releases Android apps feature updates

The latest tweaks from Mountain View
Thu Dec 12 2013, 16:17
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SOFTWARE DEVELOPER Google has been particularly productive in the past few days, so here's a round-up of its latest releases.

We've already reported on Google Play edition gadgets, crowdsourcing for Street View, Android 4.4.2 Kitkat for the Nexus 7 and Chromecast screen mirroring for Android, but here are some of the other features and tweaks that have recently emerged from Mountain View.

Google has updated Gmail for Android with a couple of new functions. It added a vacation responder allowing you to tell people that you're not available over Christmas. It has extended attachment support to all file types, and Android 4.4 Kitkat users can enjoy printing emails direct from their devices.

In addition, it has given Android the Project Svelte treatment to lower its memory usage and make it perform a little bit better.

Anyone in the US who has managed to get their paws on one of the new Google Play devices will discover that a stock app has been removed from the build. There has been speculation for some time that Google would accelerate its policy of gently nudging users towards Google+, and sure enough, it has removed the Gallery app, leaving the only way to access your photos natively as the Google+ Photo app that it added to all handsets recently.

We've got nothing against Google+ and think people should be free to use the social network of their choice, but users tend to hate having one rammed down their throats.

Google is also rolling out an Android client for the Device Manager function that allows users to track, lock and delete lost and stolen devices. The service, which up to now has had no front end beyond activation, was previously only available from the desktop version of the Google Play Store, however this app offers full functionality for users to control one device from another on the same account.

Finally, Google has updated its fledgling notetaking web app Google Keep to bring it into line with the colourful Android app. As well as a Technicolor palette, the web interface now allows you to rearrange items in your list and has scaling text, plus improvements to navigation and search.

It's apparent that no one is resting on their laurels at Google, and while most of these changes are relatively minor, they show that Google is enhancing both Android and desktop software product features and bringing them more into line with each other. µ


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