Don’t Do It, Samsung

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 smartwatch

Photo: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

Rumors that Samsung may potentially ditch Tizen, its proprietary OS for wearables, for Google’s Wear OS, have been flying lately. It’s a baffling idea, considering that Samsung smartwatches are the best Android-friendly smartwatches right now, and Wear OS is a stinking hot mess.

Case in point: 9to5Google reports that the “OK Google” or “Hey Google” phrases to trigger Google Assistant on Wear OS watches have been broken for months. Google also confirmed to The Verge that it was aware of this bug, which has been plaguing users since at least November 2020, and is working on a fix. While you can still use the Assistant by long-pressing buttons (which is actually my preferred method of bringing up Assistant on Wear OS), it’s telling that Google has known about the problem for this long and still hasn’t fixed the issue.

Wear OS has long been one of Google’s most neglected projects, but this is a new low. The main reason to pick a Wear OS watch over a Fitbit or Samsung smartwatch is native integration with Google Assistant and Google Pay. If you don’t care about quickly fixing one of the main selling points of your wearables platform, then I’m not sure I can confidently say Wear OS is going to be around for the long haul. And this isn’t the only instance. Back in October, even Google put Wear OS second by opting to release a YouTube Music app for the Apple Watch first. Worse yet, Google’s most recent updates to Wear OS were paltry at best, with slightly better app loading times and a weather tile as the marquee features.

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This was all Wear OS had to offer in 2020. Compare that to Samsung’s blockbuster year, in which it absolutely knocked it out of the park with the Galaxy Watch 3. Right now, the Galaxy Watch 3 is the only other flagship smartwatch that can go toe-to-toe with the Apple Watch on nearly every single feature. Of course, it’s not perfect. Some features like its FDA-cleared electrocardiogram app are currently only available for Samsung smartphone owners. However, there’s really no competition between the Galaxy Watch 3 and even the best of the best Wear OS watches I’ve tested.

To be fair, once upon a time Samsung did use Wear OS—then Android Wear—on its smartwatches. But in 2014, it made the switch to Tizen with the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, probably for the same reasons nearly every other smartwatch maker besides Fossil at the time did: Google’s clunky UI, low adoption rate, and the outdated Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 chip.

So why, why would Samsung go back to a platform that has yet to get its shit together? I can think of a few reasons, but none of them are particularly good. For starters, Tizen doesn’t have a great ecosystem of third-party apps, and switching to Wear OS might open it up to more apps. But to be quite honest, Wear OS apps don’t get much developer love, even if there are more of them. For instance, Spotify for Wear OS is a glorified remote control, while Spotify for Tizen lets you use offline playlists. Google’s native Wear OS apps are OK at best, and frankly, it’s bizarre that the built-in Google Fit workout app is actually now split into several different versions. Google Fit, even with newer updates, is also not better than Samsung Health, and having both installed on your watch is again, tedious.

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The other reason I could see Samsung making the switch would be to bring the option of Google Assistant and Google Pay to Samsung watches. And that would be awesome, because Samsung Pay is more restrictive to use than Google Pay, and who the hell actually likes Bixby? But does Samsung need to go all-in on Wear OS to incorporate Assistant and Google Pay? Fitbit manages to have Google Assistant work on Fitbit OS, why not allow Samsung to do the same? (Granted, Fitbit likely has Assistant because Google now owns the company.)

There’s the distinct chance that a Samsung Wear OS watch would suck less than every other Wear OS watch. But that’s mostly because Samsung could use its proprietary Exynos SoC instead of relying on Qualcomm’s, which is doing the bare minimum. Also, while I’m sure Samsung’s rotating bezel navigation could be ported onto a Wear OS watch, it just wouldn’t be quite as good unless Google allowed Samsung to run a Wear OS skin (which is what Oppo did with its Wear OS watch). It’s telling that Wear OS was actually decent on the Oppo Watch because it didn’t look or function anything like Wear OS. And at that point, what even is the reason to switch from Tizen again?

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It’s clear that Google gets more out of Samsung using Wear OS than vice versa. Samsung bringing its smartwatch innovations to that platform would suddenly make it relevant again—provided that all of Samsung’s apps, including the ones that need FDA clearance, could seamlessly make the jump.

Except that wouldn’t make Wear OS as a whole good. For that to happen, other watchmakers would have to figure out how to make the best use of Wear OS. Google would have to actually update the damn platform consistently with actually good features, not incremental ones that are barely a blip on the radar. Qualcomm would have to figure out how to update its wearable SoC to current process technology and do it more than once every two years. And that’s if Google doesn’t decide to up-end the whole thing now that it owns Fitbit to make something else entirely.

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Android users—and not just the ones who use Samsung smartphones—deserve an excellent smartwatch. This just doesn’t seem like the best way to get one.

Google’s Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Illustration for article titled Google's Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

Live Captions is one of the most useful features on Android phones, allowing your mobile device to automatically transcribe any audio it’s currently playing. And now it seems Google is bringing Live Captions to Chrome, with the feature already available as a hidden option in the browser.

First noticed by Chrome Story, Live Caption can actually be activated now in Windows, macOS, and Chrome OS versions of Chrome 88. But if you want to try out Live Captions for yourself, you’ll need to manually enable it as it’s currently still listed as an experimental feature. To activate Live Captions, you can paste this command chrome://flags/#enable-accessibility-live-caption into Chrome’s search bar, and then search for Live Captions to see the toggle option.

Illustration for article titled Google's Live Caption Tool Is Now Available as a Hidden Feature in Chrome

Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

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Once you have Live Captions turned on, you’ll be asked to relaunch Chrome. From there, to get it working, all you need to do is browse over to a video or something like a podcast in Chrome, and a small bar should automatically pop up along the bottom of the browser displaying live captions.

That said, Live Captions is still an experimental feature and there are a few bugs. The first is that it doesn’t seem to work with YouTube at all (unless you are running Chrome Canary), though that’s not necessarily a huge deal as YouTube already offers automatic closed captions for many videos.

Live transcriptions works for both videos and pure audio sources like podcasts.

Live transcriptions works for both videos and pure audio sources like podcasts.
Screenshot: Sam Rutherford

Additionally, depending on the audio source, transcriptions may not automatically appear as you expect or might stop working if you pause a video, so you may have to restart the Live Captions feature by turning it on and off from Chrome’s Global Media Settings controls (the music note icon in the top right corner of Chrome). And on Chromebooks and other Chrome OS devices, Live Captions doesn’t seem to work for audio coming from Linux or Android apps either.

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Still, some bugs are to be expected for something that hasn’t been officially released yet, and even though in my experience the accuracy of Google’s Live Captions can be somewhat hit or miss, the feature is still a valuable upgrade for general accessibility.

How Android’s Nearby Share Compares to Apple’s AirDrop

Illustration for article titled How Android's Nearby Share Compares to Apple's AirDrop

Image: Google

Android finally has its own version of Apple’s AirDrop. It’s called Nearby Share, and it makes it easy to quickly send files to another Android device.

Using a file-sharing app requires deep access to your devices to work properly, and going with the official Google option means you don’t have to put your trust in a third-party solution that may not be as secure as it seems. As we’ve seen with an extremely popular Android file-sharing app’s recent malware revelations, you may be putting yourself at risk.

Nearby Share’s Android integration means that it’s very easy to access, too. Based on the time that we’ve spent testing it so far, the tool works as advertised, without any noticeable problems in terms of connectivity or speed. If it’s anything like AirDrop, it’s likely to become the default local file-sharing choice for a lot of Android users.

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Nearby Share and AirDrop use a mix of Bluetooth and wifi technologies to quickly move data between two devices. This data could be a photo, a document, a web link or an Android app for example. There are a bunch of app options for sharing files, from Dropbox to WhatsApp, but Nearby Share and AirDrop work as device-to-device connections, so you don’t need to be connected to wifi or even a cell network to drop your photos.

Illustration for article titled How Android's Nearby Share Compares to Apple's AirDrop

Screenshot: Android

Nearby Share works on all devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later, which should be just about all of the devices still in widespread use. It doesn’t work with iPhones or iPads, just as AirDrop doesn’t work with anything running Android. There’s no sign that Apple or Google would ever want to make our lives that easy and convenient.

The instructions here are for Nearby Share on the stock version of Android 11 that Google installs on its Pixel phones—if you’re using an older version of Android or a phone made by a different manufacturer, some of the menus and screens might vary slightly, though Nearby Share should still be available if you’re running the latest software.

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For Nearby Share to work, your device needs to have both Bluetooth enabled (Connected devices, Connection preferences and Bluetooth from Settings) and location reporting enabled (Location from Settings). You can then enable Nearby Share by opening Settings and tapping Google, Device connections, and Nearby Share. You can also just initiate a share to turn the feature on.

You can also tap Google, Device connections, and Nearby Share from Settings to customize how the feature works in more detail. Tap Device name to change the name that other users see during a share, and Data to set whether or not Android can use wifi and cell networks to transfer files if necessary. You can disable this and keep shares fully offline if you want to.

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Illustration for article titled How Android's Nearby Share Compares to Apple's AirDrop

Screenshot: Android

Tap Device visibility to set how easily you can be found by other people. Pick All contacts, and everyone in your contacts list will be able to see your device when they start a share; pick Some contacts, and only the people you select will be able to see your device. This is assuming you have Nearby Share enabled on your device of course—if you don’t, no one will be able to see you, and you won’t get any prompts to receive shares.

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The final option is Hidden, which means no one can see you until you make your device visible. The difference between this and just turning Nearby Share off completely is that you will get a notification prompt if an Android device in close proximity has started a share. You can then tap the prompt to show your device.

Whichever option you choose here, you’ll always be asked to confirm the file transfer once the sender has picked your phone as a destination, so you won’t suddenly find your phone bombarded with pictures or videos that you didn’t ask for. These options don’t affect your ability to send files with Nearby Share either, or which devices you’ll be able to see when you do.

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Nearby Share will appear as an option whenever you hit the standard share button anywhere in Android. You might see a Nearby button or a Nearby Share button, depending on the app. If you don’t see the option, you might have to tap the More button to see it, or double-check the feature is actually enabled on your device.

Illustration for article titled How Android's Nearby Share Compares to Apple's AirDrop

Screenshot: Android

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With a share initiated, you simply choose the device you want to share with. The recipient will then be asked to confirm the file transfer, and off it goes. You don’t have to keep the Nearby Share panel open while the data is sent and received, because the process will carry on in the background until it’s completed.

“Nearby Share then automatically chooses the best protocol for fast and easy sharing using Bluetooth, Bluetooth Low Energy, WebRTC or peer-to-peer wifi—allowing you to share even when you’re fully offline,” Google explains.

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The feature is also rolling out to Chromebooks in the near future, though it hasn’t gone live quite yet. You can enable it with the right flags.

Nearby Share and AirDrop are very similar, though the options for keeping your phone visible differ slightly. If you pick General then AirDrop from Settings, you can choose Receiving Off (no one can see your device), Contacts Only (only contacts can see your device), or Everyone (everyone can see your device).

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Unlike Nearby Share, you won’t see a prompt to become visible if you’re hidden and someone is using AirDrop nearby—you’re either visible or you’re not. Like Nearby Share, no matter what your visibility settings, you’re still going to have to manually approve transfer requests before any data gets moved over.

Google Maps Dark Mode and More Useful Android Features Are Rolling Out Today

Illustration for article titled Google Maps Dark Mode and More Useful Android Features Are Rolling Out Today

Image: Google

While we wait for Android 12 to officially go live later this year, Google has a bunch of tweaks and updates coming to Android this spring.

Following the 2019 update to Chrome, Google is now bringing Password Checkup to Android to help alert you about potential leaks or data breaches that may have exposed your existing passwords to hackers. Password Checkup will be rolling out to devices with Android 9 and above, and will automatically check passwords already saved in Android along with any new ones. If Google detects that your password has been exposed, you’ll get an alert strongly suggesting you change it.

Gif: Google

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Password Checkup is important, but let’s get down to the good stuff: Google Maps is finally getting the long-awaited official dark mode. And in Google Messages on Android 7 and above, Google is adding the ability to send scheduled messages, similar to Gmail’s scheduled email feature. All you have to do is write a message as normal, and then hold the send button, which makes a new menu appear allowing you to set an exact time for when your text will go out.

Even the Google Assistant is getting a small upgrade, with the ability to make calls, set timers and alarms, and play music on your phone using voice commands. This means your Android phone can now kind of double as a smart speaker, and helps expand the role of the Google Assistant as something that simply answers questions with these additional automation features.

Finally, an official dark mode for Google Maps.

Finally, an official dark mode for Google Maps.
Image: Google

Android Auto is also getting a refresh. Google added new car-inspired backgrounds and voice-activated games like Jeopardy to help those long road trips go by a little faster. And to help make things like contacts easier to access, Google is also adding shortcuts to Android Auto, and cars with widescreen displays get a new split-screen mode so you can see Google Maps and your media controls at the same time.

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Finally, for folks who are blind or have low vision, Google is also releasing a new version of its Talkback app featuring a redesigned menu, more intuitive gesture recognition, improved reading controls, and more.

Here’s what the new scheduled sending options will look like in Google Messages.

Here’s what the new scheduled sending options will look like in Google Messages.
Image: Google

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Google’s new Android software updates will start rolling out today, with Talkback version 9.1 available now in the Google Play store and the update to Android Auto expected to be available “in the coming days.”

Chromecast With Google TV Really Is Perfect Now, Huh?

Illustration for article titled Chromecast With Google TV Really Is Perfect Now, Huh?

Photo: Catie Keck/Gizmodo

Our favorite streaming device just got a major update.

As initially teased by Google back in December, Chromecast with Google TV now supports the Apple TV app on its platform. Other Google TV-powered devices will also get support for the app, including Sony and TCL’s 2020 televisions when they eventually hit the market later this year. Google also said the app will arrive on additional Android TV-powered devices in the months ahead but did not elaborate on which specific devices would be included.

The addition of the Apple TV app for Chromecast devices is huge—it means that longtime Apple users will now be able to access all of the content they’ve purchased through the platform on their Chromecast with Google TV. Additionally, for folks with subscriptions to Apple TV+, they’ll also be able to stream Apple’s originals on the Google device now too.

Apple TV was one of the last major streaming apps missing from the Chromecast with Google TV, and the addition makes it a strong contender as a cheaper alternative to Apple’s own set-top boxes. The interfaces are markedly different, with Google TV placing a much greater emphasis on recommendation and discovery. But specs-wise, and especially for the casual streamer who doesn’t require a ton of on-device storage, Google TV checks most of the same boxes for premium features—and it costs a quarter of what the Apple TV 4K box does.

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Apple originals will now appear in Google TV search results and content recommendations, as well as be added to the Watchlist. Additionally, the Google Assistant will now be able to play Apple titles. These features are available in the U.S. now but will roll out to global users in the months ahead, the company said.

The best budget streaming device just keeps getting better.

The First Android 12 Developer Beta Is Here

Illustration for article titled The First Android 12 Developer Beta Is Here

Image: Google

Google just announced the release of the first developer preview build of Android 12, giving us a few hints at what changes to expect when the software upgrade rolls out widely.

While this initial build is far from final and new features will surely be added throughout the spring and summer, this first Android 12 developer preview already hints at the features that will roll out officially later this year, including improved media transcoding, faster notifications, enhanced app testing, and a general emphasis on security and privacy.

In order to help support higher-quality media, Google is adding a media transcoding feature to Android 12 that allows developers to more easily convert videos to HEVC. To improve general image quality, Android 12 is also getting support for the AV1 Image File Format (AVIF), which offers better quality and smaller file sizes thanks to improved compression. And to help make sharing content even easier, Google is adding a new API that makes it so apps can receive rich content from your clipboard, keyboard, and more.

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Support for AVIF should help improve image quality compared to standard JPEGs.

Support for AVIF should help improve image quality compared to standard JPEGs.
Image: Google

Google is testing out a revamped design for notifications that it expects to be more functional. This includes a new layout for the notification shade and faster animations across the board. On top of that, Google wants to make launching into apps from the notifications shade even faster, so in Android 12, instead of relying on “trampolines” to launch an app, Google is recommending developers use Activity triggers to launch into apps directly.

Here’s what the new compatibility toggle menu will look like in Android 12.

Here’s what the new compatibility toggle menu will look like in Android 12.
Image: Google

In terms of app compatibility and stability, Google is expanding support for Project Mainline, providing more tools to help developers optimize their apps for tablets, foldables, and Android TV, and even creating a new toggleable settings menu for a number of debugging options.

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Finally, to help support user privacy, Google is adding new controls for identifiers used for tracking, improved cookie behavior in WebView, better protection against apps exporting your activity, and more.

For a full rundown, you can check out the Google’s Android 12 developer site here.

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Also, while this preview build isn’t intended for the average home user to test out, developers and other power users can flash the Android 12 Preview today onto a recent Pixel phones (from the Pixel 3 to the Pixel 5) or test Android 12 using the Android Emulator in Android Studio.

Google Maps Adds Tools to Pay for Parking and Transit in App

Illustration for article titled Google Maps Adds Tools to Pay for Parking and Transit in App

Image: Google

As part of Google’s continued efforts to expand the features of its popular mapping app, today Google announced the ability to pay for both parking and transit fares directly in Google Maps.

With the pandemic making people even warier of touching public surfaces, the ability to pay for parking in Google Maps is not only a bit of added convenience but also a helpful safety precaution. To start, Google will be partnering with two parking solution providers (Passport and Park Mobile) in more than 400 cities across the U.S. including Boston, Cincinnati, L.A., NYC, and Washington D.C.

Here’s a demo of what Google Map’s new parking payment feature will look like.
Gif: Google

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The way it works is that once you find a parking spot, all you have to do is enter the meter number, set the amount of time you need, and then hit the Pay button. And as an added bonus, if you need to add more time to the meter before you get back, you can extend your time inside Google Maps too.

As for public transit, people will now be able to pay for public transit fares inside Google Maps for more than 80 different transit agencies across the world. By making it possible to plan and pay for a trip in Google Maps, Google is hoping to reduce the hassle of switching between multiple apps and eliminate the confusion of having to find a physical ticket machine. And in certain places like San Francisco Bay Area, you’ll even be able to buy a digital Clipper card, so you can get past the turnstiles just by scanning your phone.

Gif: Google

The one important thing to know is that it seems payments for transit fares will come from a credit card or debit card linked to your Google Pay account, so if you don’t use Google Pay, you’ll likely need to set it up before being able to use Google Map’s new transit payment features.

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Google says support for parking payments in Google Maps will begin rolling out on Android today with support for iOS “coming soon.” Meanwhile paying for transit fares in Google Maps will become available on Android sometime “in the coming weeks.”

A Hugely Popular File-Sharing Android App Also Has Giant, Terrible Security Flaws

A file-sharing app that claims it has been downloaded from the Google Play store more than 1 billion times has serious security flaws.

A file-sharing app that claims it has been downloaded from the Google Play store more than 1 billion times has serious security flaws.
Photo: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

An Android app used by a significant chunk of the global population also has glaring security flaws that would allow a savvy hacker to steal a user’s data or even hijack the app’s operations using arbitrary code.

ShareIt, which claims to have more than 1 billion global downloads, is the product of Singapore-based developer Smart Media4U. Its primary feature is peer-to-peer file sharing, which gives users the ability to exchange photos, music, videos, gifs, etc. The app, which has been on an upward trajectory over the past several years, has garnered recognition for its swift growth and global reach.

But it also apparently has software vulnerabilities that would allow a bad actor to easily leak a user’s data or even execute arbitrary code by abusing ShareIt permissions, according to a new report from Trend Micro.

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Illustration for article titled A Hugely Popular File-Sharing Android App Also Has Giant, Terrible Security Flaws

Screenshot: Lucas Ropek: Google Play Store/SHAREit

The report shows that the one of the app’s chief vulnerabilities stems from how it shares information and permissions with other apps. Indeed, due to the way Android phones are set up to share information between different programs, the platform has a history of bad actors attempting to exploit inter-app communication and leverage it toward malicious ends. Specifically, “bad apps” or programs secretly run by a bad actor may look for ways to access data on legitimate apps.

ShareIt is set up to essentially swing the doors wide open to other apps when it comes to data exchange via its content provider interface. According to researchers, these vulnerabilities could allow “any third-party entity” to “gain temporary read/write access to the [app’s] content provider’s data.” This would essentially allow for a hijacking of the app to run “custom code, overwrite the app’s local files, or install third-party apps without the user’s knowledge,” ZDNet notes.

Trend Micro researchers discovered this vulnerability by doing it themselves. By manipulating how apps in the Android ecosystem talk to each other, they found that the ShareIt app would share way too much information, revealing a user’s “arbitrary activities, including ShareIt’s internal (non-public) and external app activities.” In various ways, these security flaws could ultimately be “abused to leak a user’s sensitive data and execute arbitrary code with ShareIt permissions,” researchers write.

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Probably the worst thing in the whole report is the fact that Trend Micro says it shared these security issues with Smart Media4U about three months ago and that the company apparently did nothing. The report concludes:

We reported these vulnerabilities to the vendor, who has not responded yet. We decided to disclose our research three months after reporting this since many users might be affected by this attack, because the attacker can steal sensitive data and do anything with the apps’ permission.

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This is also not the first time that ShareIt has been flagged as a security risk. The app was actually blacklisted by the U.S. in January, when a vaguely worded executive order from the Trump White House listed it as one of several “Chinese connected” applications that Americans should stay away from for fear of where their data might end up. On his way out the door, Trump issued a blitz of such orders targeted at the Asian technology sector, most of which seemed designed to antagonize and isolate Chinese companies. The order proclaims:

The United States has assessed that a number of Chinese connected software applications automatically capture vast swaths of information from millions of users in the United States, including sensitive personally identifiable information and private information. At this time, action must be taken to address the threat posed by these Chinese connected software applications…

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It’s unlikely that a ton of Americans actually use ShareIt. Industry outlets seem to show that a majority of the app’s user base is located in the Middle East, Africa and Asia (it was recently banned in India, where the government barred its military service personnel from using the app due to data security concerns). Nonetheless, if you have downloaded ShareIt and are using it for some reason, it might be best to rethink that decision.

We have reached out to Smart Media4U for comment and will update this story if we hear back.

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Amazon’s Large, 1080p Fire HD 10 Tablet is Amazingly Just $95 Right Now

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Fire HD 10 Tablet | $95 | Amazon

Amazon makes the cheapest brand-name tablets around, and while we wouldn’t put them on par with proper iPads, they’re solid budget-friendly options for use-anywhere streaming media, ebooks, web browsing, and more. Usually, the dirt-cheap Fire 7—currently just $40—and the Fire HD 8 (now $65) catch our attention, but it’s the sizable Fire HD 10 tablet that might be Amazon’s best bargain at the moment.

Right now, the large 1080p slate is just $95, a 37% savings off the $150 list price. This sizable Android tablet gives you a solidly crisp screen ideal for media, apps, browsing, and even games, plus the 12-hour battery life will keep you entertained whether kicking around at home right now or hopefully on future, safe travels.

Amazon’s tablets aren’t the most powerful devices around, so keep your expectations in check as far as glossy 3D gaming and speedy multitasking. However, they hit a sweet spot in terms of function and price and are ideal for consuming media. Amazon customers give the Fire HD 10 a 4.6-star rating and the $95 price is for the 32GB version with ads on the lock screen. The ad-less version is $110, or you can always pay a fee to remove the ads later.

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Leaked Android 12 Screenshots Show Some iOS-Like Changes Coming

Illustration for article titled Leaked Android 12 Screenshots Show Some iOS-Like Changes Coming

Screenshot: Google (Other)

While Google typically waits until much later in the spring to officially show off new updates and features, some leaked screenshots may have just given us an early look at changes coming to Android 12.

The leaked screenshots posted by XDA Developers are said to be part of an early draft sent out to developers meant to document and help explain changes coming in the next version of Android. Usually, these drafts contain preview source code and screenshots showing off new features, and while XDA wasn’t able to confirm their authenticity, many of these new features do seem to jive with early expectations for Android 12.

The most obvious change depicted in this screenshots is a new look for Android’s Quick Settings and Notification shade, which in these screenshots features a light beige background (which most likely changes dynamically depending on your background) and more room between icons, bumping the total number of displayed quick settings from six down to four.

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Illustration for article titled Leaked Android 12 Screenshots Show Some iOS-Like Changes Coming

Screenshot: Google (Other)

But more importantly, if you look in the top right corner, it appears Google has added new privacy indicators designed to more clearly highlight when an app is using your phone’s microphone or camera. Additionally, by tapping on the indicator icon, users will be able to see each individual app that is currently using your phone’s hardware, so there’s no confusion about what software may be compromising your privacy. Apple added similar indicators in iOS 14.

Digital privacy is slated to be a major focus in Android 12, and in addition to these new privacy indicators, the leaked screenshots indicate that Google is overhauling Android Privacy settings menu to include toggles that make it even easier to completely disable individual hardware components like your phone’s mic, cameras, GPS, and other sensors.

Illustration for article titled Leaked Android 12 Screenshots Show Some iOS-Like Changes Coming

Screenshot: Google (Other)

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And following Apple’s introduction of widgets in iOS 14, it appears that Google is adding a new Conversations widget in Android 12 that will make it easier to keep tabs on things like texts, calls, and more via a simple box on your home screen. It’s possible that the Conversation widget might end up being a mandatory feature in Android 12, as it would help tie in to Google’s People Shortcuts, which should make it faster and easier to share content with others.

At this point, Android is a very mature OS, so while you shouldn’t expect any major overhauls, it’s nice to see Google focus on things like privacy and sharing, which have become increasingly more important topics over the last few years.

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Typically, Google I/O is the big public launch for the next major Android beta version. Google canceled last year’s event due to the pandemic, so it remains unclear what the company has in store for later this spring.