Every week, I examine somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred app updates while looking for changes. The most interesting things turn into APK Teardowns or Download posts. Many of the remaining updates are unremarkable, amounting to a few bug fixes, routine updates to libraries, or even just pixel-level adjustments to layouts and images. However, there are usually a few updates that land somewhere in between. I don't want to spam readers with dozens of short posts, but I hate to ignore things that people might want to know about, so I'm going to wrap up the leftovers for a little weekend reading and call it Update Notes.
Special thanks to נתנאל מ for the great hero image on this post!
Google app v8.18 beta
As is becoming tradition, an update to the Google app began rolling to the beta channel just in time for it to play with users over the weekend. As updates go, this one may be the least eventful I've seen in many months, thus the demotion to a spot in Update Notes rather than a dedicated post. So far there's no sign of changes to the live interface, and the teardown only adds a couple minor follow-ups and what looks like the reimplementation of a settings screen.
New voice search settings screen
There's a new layout for what looks a lot like the voice search settings screen. I describe it that way because the options are mostly the same, but the way they're organized is a bit different and there are a couple of new options. In case you don't want to go looking it up on your own phone, here's what that screen looks like currently:
Rather than make anybody read the layout XML of the new screen, I'll spell out the structure here – or just skip down to the next part where I comment on the differences. Bold lines can be tapped to open a different screen or toggle a setting, italics are summary text under a title, and underlines are titles for sections.
Opens a dialog box with the options: All voice searches and Hands-free searches only.
Offline speech recognition Manage downloaded languages
Hide offensive words Offensive words will be replaced with asterisks (*) in the search box
"Ok Google" detection
Opens the hotword settings
Voice search on Bluetooth devices Enables voice search when you have a Bluetooth headset connected
There's obviously some difference between the current and new screens, but they're quite similar. Aside from losing the Voice Match shortcut, which should remain accessible at the top level of the Google Assistant settings, everything in the current screen will also appear in the new screen, albeit possibly with a different name. The one notable change is to the setting for "offensive words" which are now obscured by asterisks instead of being blocked entirely.
The new version of the screen introduces a couple of new settings, as well. Both can be found in the Hands-free section at the bottom. The first enables voice search via Bluetooth devices, which differs a bit from the existing option that "records audio" through Bluetooth devices if they are connected. The other addition is a toggle for wired headsets, which is really no different than the Bluetooth option, but is of course technically less secure than wireless devices.
<stringname="prefSummary_profanityFilter_hub">Offensive words will be replaced with asterisks (*) in the search box</string>
<stringname="prefSummary_ttsModeOn_hub">All voice searches</string> <stringname="prefValue_ttsMode_always_hub">allVoiceSearchesHub</string> <stringname="prefSummary_ttsModeHandsFreeOnly_hub">Hands-free searches only</string> <stringname="prefValue_ttsMode_handsFreeOnly_hub">handsFreeOnlyHub</string> <stringname="prefTitle_voiceSearch_bluetooth">Voice search on Bluetooth devices</string> <stringname="prefSummary_voiceSearch_bluetooth">Enable voice search when you have a Bluetooth headset connected</string> <stringname="prefTitle_wiredHeadset">Wired headset</string>
It goes without saying that supporting any one language is a challenge, and supporting more than one at a time is a monumental feat. Google announced multi-language support for Assistant back in February, but there wasn't a timeline or many details beyond the initial set of languages: English, French, and German.
For the first time, there's a little bit of activity in the Google app that represents multilingual support. A few lines have been added that mention mixing languages is in beta. One specifically disclaims Assistant as still learning how to understand two languages together and promises continued improvements.
<stringname="assistant_settings_language_beta">Beta</string> <stringname="assistant_settings_language_beta_context">Your assistant is still learning how to use these languages together. It will get better over time.</string> <stringname="assistant_settings_languages_device_warning">These languages won\'t work on some of your devices.</string>
There's also a bit of new text for the eyes-free feature that made a minor appearance in the v8.16 teardown. The additions are trivial, but it shows that a notification will pop up to ask users to authorize the Google app to access notifications so they can be read aloud.
<stringname="notification_assistant">Assistant</string> <stringname="notification_heading">Allow Assistant to read notifications to you</string> <stringname="notification_text">To hear your messages, calendar events, and other important info, give the Google app access to your notifications.</string> <stringname="notification_settings">SETTINGS</string>
There's not much to say about the latest updates, nothing appears to be different in the UI, and the teardown only turns up some additional lines related to a payment type referred to as 'Thermo' in the text. However, since it was skipped previously, let's cover it now.
Thermo: Carrier Billing... and more?
The first appearance of the Thermo name was somewhere in the v1.x line, roughly around the beginning of 2018 or late 2017. At the time, one line clearly showed that this was tied to carrier billing, so it looked like the intent was merely to label line items appropriately if they came had been billed to you by the carrier and happened to appear in Google Pay thanks to the feature that shows purchase history for linked payment methods.
<stringname="action_add_se_thermo_payment_card">Thermo</string> <stringname="thermo_name">Name</string> <stringname="thermo_postpaid_explanation_label">Pay your bill each month</string> <stringname="thermo_postpaid_label">Postpaid</string> <stringname="thermo_prepaid_explanation_label">Add money to your card before using it</string> <stringname="thermo_prepaid_label">Prepaid</string> <stringname="thermo_year_of_birth">Year of birth</string> <stringname="thermo_confirmation_title">Confirm your information</string> <stringname="thermo_area_label">Residence</string> <stringname="thermo_basic_information">Basic personal information</string> <stringname="thermo_carrier_explanation_label">Connect and pay with your phone bills</string> <stringname="thermo_carrier_label">Carrier billing</string> <stringname="thermo_choose_card_title">Choose a card</string> <stringname="thermo_company_name">Name service</string>
With the v2.71 and v2.72 updates, a few new lines popped up that suggest there's more to this. It looks like there may be a perk associated with Thermo that links points with miles. This brings to mind plenty of credit cards that reward spending with air travel, but in this case, the text seems to suggest you'll gain points alongside the miles. Regardless of the specifics, this is probably something to look out for if you're a fan of reward programs.
version 2.71 <stringname="thermo_provision_title">Enjoy Thermo even more on your phone</string> <stringname="thermo_provision_subtitle">Link your milage to earn points automatically</string> <stringname="milage_option_1">Milage option tbd</string>
.version 2.72 <stringname="thermo_point_link_message_not_linked">Link your Thermo account to keep on earning points with every use</string> <stringname="thermo_point_link_title_not_linked">Earn Thermo points</string>
Changes to notification channels in apps are rarely interesting, but it's worth noting that some potentially confusing things are happening to them with the Fit v2.0 update. One thing many users may not realize is that apps can wait to create channels until they're going to use them, and it's possible to create and then abandon channels. This normally doesn't matter, but it can become a problem with apps like Android Messages that creates channels for individual contacts, but gives you no way to remove those channels even if you remove the contact.
Left: v1.82. Center: v2.01 after update. Right: v2.01 fresh install.
As it turns out, the channels created in earlier versions of Google Fit were not removed with the update, but those channels appear to have been left hanging out for those updating from an old version. A fresh install will not have any channels, as you can see from the screenshot on the right. I bring this up because it may be possible that you'll open up the channel settings to turn off or change settings for a channel and unknowingly pick a channel that has been abandoned.
Does that mean there aren't any channels? Nope, quite the contrary, there are actually more channel names shown in a teardown than ever before. Most are simply the obvious channels that already existed, but they've been broken down into more granular options, but there's another we'll talk about in the next section. Here's the full list with descriptions, though some of these may never pop up:
Activity tips Get tips to help you meet physical activity recommendations
New features Get updates about the latest Fit features
Goal adjustment Get suggestions to increase or decrease goals
Completed goals Get updates when you reach your goals
Goal progress tips Get tips to help you meet your activity goals
Workout tracking Get status updates for tracked workouts
<stringname="notification_channel_activity_tips_label">Activity tips</string> <stringname="notification_channel_activity_tips_description">Get tips to help you meet physical activity recommendations</string><stringname="notification_channel_fit_updates_label">New features</string> <stringname="notification_channel_fit_updates_description">Get updates about the latest Fit features</string><stringname="notification_channel_goals_adjustment_label">Goal adjustment</string> <stringname="notification_channel_goals_adjustment_description">Get suggestions to increase or decrease goals</string><stringname="notification_channel_goals_completed_label">Completed goals</string> <stringname="notification_channel_goals_completed_description">Get updates when you reach your goals</string><stringname="notification_channel_goals_progress_label">Goal progress tips</string> <stringname="notification_channel_goals_progress_description">Get tips to help you meet your activity goals</string><stringname="notification_channel_workout_tracking_label">Workout tracking</string> <stringname="notification_channel_workout_tracking_description">Get status updates for tracked workouts</string><stringname="notification_channel_medication_reminders_label">Medication reminders</string> <stringname="notification_group_activity_label">Your activity</string> <stringname="notification_group_coaching_label">Coaching messages</string> <stringname="notification_group_new_features_label">New features</string>
Given that medication reminders are now a notification channel, and basically everything else about the current Fit app sounds like an incomplete version of what Google Coach is likely to be, I think it's safe to assume there won't actually be a brand new app, but just another major update to the Fit app in the future. Okay, I know that's fairly obvious, but some people suggested this could be a brand new app, which is looking pretty unlikely now.
New Play Store listing
From time to time, Google's developers will include things like app descriptions and other text in the APK for some reason or another. In this instance, it looks like the text intended for the Play Store listing has been included. I don't see anything particularly significant that isn't covered or already known, but the description is at least more thorough than what you can read on the Play Store today.
Get to a healthier and more active life with the new Google Fit!
It's hard to know how much or what kind of activity you need to stay healthy. That's why Google Fit worked with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Heart Association (AHA) to bring you two new activity goals that can help improve your health: Move Minutes and Heart Points
• Move Minutes
When it comes to your health, it's important to move more and sit less. Earn Move Minutes for all of your activity and get motivated to make small, healthier changes throughout your day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or catching up with a friend over a walk instead of a coffee.
• Heart Points
Activities that get your heart pumping harder have tremendous health benefits for your heart and mind. You'll earn one Heart Point for each minute of moderate activity, like picking up the pace when walking your dog, and double points for more intense activities like running. It takes just 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week to reach the AHA and WHO's recommended amount of physical activity, which is shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, improve sleep, and increase overall mental well-being.
Google Fit will also help you:
TRACK YOUR WORKOUTS FROM YOUR PHONE OR WATCH
Get instant insights when you exercise and see real-time stats for your runs, walks, and bike rides. Fit will use your Android phone's sensors or Wear OS by Google smartwatch's heart rate sensors to record your speed, pace, route, and more.
MONITOR YOUR GOALS
See your daily progress for Heart Points and Move Minutes. Meeting your goals each day? Based on your activity and goal progress, Google Fit will help you adjust them so you can keep challenging yourself to achieve a healthy heart and mind.
MAKE ALL YOUR MOVEMENT COUNT
If you walk, run, or bike throughout the day, your Android phone or Wear OS by Google smartwatch will automatically detect and add your activities to your Google Fit journal to ensure you get credit for every move. Enjoy a different type of workout? Select it from a list of activities like pilates, rowing, or spinning, and Google Fit will track all the Heart Points and Move Minutes you earn.
GET COACHING THAT FITS YOU
Get customized tips and actionable coaching, such as recommended goal adjustments based on your activity
CONNECT WITH YOUR FAVORITE APPS AND DEVICES
Fit can show you info from many of your favorite apps and devices to give you a holistic view of your health, so you'll never lose track of your progress. These include Lifesum, Wear OS by Google, Nike+, Runkeeper, Strava, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, Lifesum, Basis, Sleep as Android, Withings, Xiaomi Mi bands, and more.
CHECK IN AT ANY TIME
See a snapshot of your activity history across Fit and your integrated apps in the redesigned journal.
Learn more about Google Fit and see a list of supported apps at: www.google.com/fit
The ARCore updates generally aren't notable for features, but rather for the new devices that are added to the list. This month has been pretty rich with newly added handsets, plus the first Chrome OS device. Strangely, on the same day that the list was expanded to include a few more new phones, a new update to the APK also rolled out that expanded the list slightly further.
Newly supported devices
The additions are really quite short, but that's not to surprising since even the version number barely changed. There are four devices listed, but one is just a phone that had already been on the list with another codename, the Xperia XZ2 Premium.
Xperia XZ2 Premium [SOV38] (not actually new)
The new entries on the list include two phones from LG, the Q8 and V40, and another device bearing the codename "falcon." That name has been used by at least three OEMs in the past: Motorola, BORQS, and Future Mobile Technology. The Motorola phone happens to be the first generation Moto G, which was made in 2013 and never received updates to Android 7.0, which is a minimum requirement for ARCore, which rules it out.
If you've never heard of those other two companies, I'm right there with you. However, both produce phones that could technically qualify for ARCore; but neither has qualified . The other possibility is that another brand new phone has been internally known as falcon and we've just never seen it.
Anyway, if you are buying any of these devices and had any doubts that they might not have ARCore support – and I can't imagine why you wouldn't expect them to – then you can rest easy in knowing that they are on the list.
Along the same lines as ARCore, the Google Lens app contains a list of supported devices. In the most minor of minor updates, there are two new devices supported in this version, both by Xiaomi. These are the Mi A2 (jasmine) and the Mi A2 Lite (daisy). These two devices were just released, so this is obviously a routine addition, but maybe it's somehow significant if there was any reason to doubt they would have Lens.