Google today is introducing a new standalone podcast app for Android. The app, called simply Google Podcasts, will use Google’s recommendation algorithms in an effort to connect people with shows they might enjoy based on their listening habits. While podcasts have previously been available on Android through Google Play Music and third-party apps, Google says the company expects Podcasts to bring the form to hundreds of millions of new listeners around the world. (Google Listen, an early effort to build what was then called a “podcatcher” for Android, was killed off in 2012.)
“There’s still tons of room for growth when it comes to podcast listening,” said Zack Reneau-Wedeen, product manager on the app. Creating a native first-party Android app for podcasts “could as much as double worldwide listenership of podcasts overall,” he said.
Google Podcasts will look familiar to anyone who has used a podcast app before. It lets you search for new podcasts, download them, and play them at your convenience. More than 2 million podcasts will be available on the app on launch day, Google says, including “all of the ones you’ve heard of.”
Open the app, and a section called “For you” shows you new episodes of shows you’ve subscribed to, episodes you’ve been listening to but haven’t finished, and a list of your downloaded episodes. Scroll down, and you’ll see top and trending podcasts, both in general and by category. The podcast player has fewer fine-grained controls than you might be used to from apps like Overcast. You can’t customize the skip buttons or create playlists of podcasts to listen to, for example.
The Podcasts app is integrated with Google Assistant, meaning you can search for and play podcasts wherever you have Assistant enabled. The company will sync your place in a podcast across all Google products, so if you listen to half a podcast on your way home from work, you can resume it on your Google Home once you’re back at the house.
In the coming months, Google plans to add a suite of features to Podcasts that are powered by artificial intelligence. One feature will add closed captions to your podcast, so you can read along as you listen. It’s a feature that could be useful to people who are hard of hearing or for anyone who is listening in a noisy environment. (I usually miss a few minutes of the podcasts I listen to every day, thanks to a noisy subway ride.)
Closed captions also mean that you’ll be able to skip ahead to see what’s coming up later in a show. Eventually, you’ll be able to read real-time live transcriptions in the language of your choice, letting you “listen” to a podcast even if you don’t speak the same tongue as the host.
Google also wants to expand the number of people making podcasts. The company’s research showed that only one-quarter of podcast hosts are female, and even fewer are people of color. In an effort to diversify the field, Google formed an independent advisory board that will consider ways to promote podcast production outside of the handful of major metropolitan areas in the United States that currently dominate the field.
Google will not pay any creators to make podcasts directly, the company said, but it will likely explore ways of giving podcasts from underrepresented creators extra promotion. It’s also examining ways to make recording equipment more accessible to people who can’t afford it.
If you already listen to podcasts on Google Play Music, nothing will change today. But the company made it clear that it plans to focus its future efforts around podcasting in the standalone app.
The Android app can be downloaded here. There are currently no plans for an iOS app.
GOOGLE MAKES $550M STRATEGIC INVESTMENT IN CHINESE E-COMMERCE FIRM JD.COM
Google has been increasing its presence in China in recent times, and today it has continued that push by agreeing to a strategic partnership with e-commerce firm JD.com, which will see Google purchase $550 million worth of shares in the Chinese firm.
Google has made investments in China, released products there and opened offices that include an AI hub, but now it is working with JD.com largely outside of China. In a joint release, the companies said they would “collaborate on a range of strategic initiatives, including joint development of retail solutions” in Europe, the U.S. and Southeast Asia.
The goal here is to merge JD.com’s experience and technology in supply chain and logistics — in China, it has opened warehouses that use robots rather than workers — with Google’s customer reach, data and marketing to produce new kinds of online retail.
Initially, that will see the duo team up to offer JD.com products for sale on the Google Shopping platform across the word, but it seems clear that the companies have other collaborations in mind for the future.
JD.com is valued at around $60 billion, based on its NASDAQ share price, and the company has partnerships with the likes of Walmart and it has invested heavily in automated warehouse technology, drones and other “next-generation” retail and logistics.
The move for a distribution platform like Google to back a service provider like JD.com is interesting since the company, through search and advertising, has relationships with a range of e-commerce firms, including JD.com’s arch rival Alibaba.
But it is a sign of the times for Google, which has already developed relationships with JD.com and its biggest backer Tencent, the $500 billion Chinese internet giant. All three companies have backed Go-Jek, the ride-hailing challenger in Southeast Asia, while Tencent and Google previously inked a patent-sharing partnership and have co-invested in startups such as Chinese AI startup XtalPi.
Source: Tech Crunch.
HUAWEI MATE 20 PRO TIPPED TO SPORT A 6.9-INCH SAMSUNG OLED DISPLAY
arlier this month, Huawei introduced the Watch 2 smartwatch with an eSIM and voice call support. Now, a new development claims that the company is procuring OLED displays from Samsung. The South Korean giant is said to have already sent out samples to Huawei, and if all goes well, full scale production is expected to start by Q3 2018. The smartphone to sport these 6.9-inch OLED panels is said to release sometime in the fourth quarter or even early 2019, and we largely expect to see them on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
South Korean media The Bell reports that Samsung is in the process of finalising samples with Huawei for its order of 6.9-inch OLED displays. These large-sized displays are usually seen on Huawei’s P series or Mate series. While the P30 series is not expected to arrive before MWC 2019, the Mate series traditionally arrives sometime in Q4. Furthermore, with the screen size being so large, we expect the Pro version to sport the 6.9-inch display, while the Mate 20 could sport a 6.1-inch or some such.
If Huawei is indeed bringing a 6.9-inch display smartphone, it should easily win the screen size battle, as the iPhone X Plus is expected to sport a 6.5-inch display, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is expected to sport a 6.4-incher. These large sized displays are very popular in the Chinese market, and Huawei wants to meet expectations in its home market. Bigger screens are popular also because of the large text area used by the Chinese language, the report adds. Huawei wouldn’t want to lose its momentum in its biggest market by not staying ahead of its game.
Of course, all of this is based on sheer speculation, and we expect you to take everything with a pinch of salt, till Huawei makes things official.
WWDC: WHEN APPLE WATCH BECAME A PLATFORM
Many incremental improvements mean Apple Watch is becoming more effective for communication, augmentation and more.
Apple’s watchOS 5 plays to the strengths of Apple Watch and opens up some new and interesting ways to develop for and make use of the device.
The enterprise case for Apple Watch
Apple always says its goal with the Apple Watch is to deliver brief and meaningful interactions at exactly the right time.
This dedication to context and convenience means that when the company ships the next iteration of the OS, it will make its solution much more essential to anyone who needs to stay up to date while remaining focused on the matter at hand, or who needs to stay in touch while leaving the phone behind.
Apple Watch is becoming a viable alternative to an iPhone. watchOS 5 builds on the built-in SIM the company put inside the device last year with a series of enhancements:
- The most immediately useful improvement for most of us will be the ability to connect to a Wi-Fi network straight from the Apple Watch.
- Walkie-talkie lets you contact friends and family just by pushing a button on your device, once you set them up. This works over Wi-Fi and cellular connections, and it can connect people worldwide.
- You can answer FaceTime and Group FaceTime calls as audio calls on your watch.
In combination with the device’s existing ability to dictate notes and messages, and the new addition of support for looking at websites (see below), Apple Watch has become a powerful communications tool in its own right.
There was a huge cheer at WWDC when Apple announced the introduction of Grouped Notifications on iPhone. This extends to Apple Watch, making it far easier to manage and control the alerts you receive.
The newly introduced Dynamic Notifications feature is something that both public-facing business offering front-end app support to customers and enterprise firms deploying their own proprietary iOS apps will want to explore.
This lets developers add additional steps to a notification — a restaurant may remind you of your booking and ask you to confirm (or change) your arrival time or the number of guests that should be expected. Or a ride sharing app may let you pay, rate, and tip for your ride — all from within the notification.
Finally, Critical Alerts are a new kind of notification intended for extremely urgent alerts. These need to be given explicit user permission to work and are intended to alert wearers to things such as heart rate anomalies or diabetes-related blood sugar warnings.
Siri gets lots better
The updated Siri watch face is a great illustration to show how much smarter Siri has become across all Apple platforms.
Siri will use the watch to provide the wearer with a host of additional predictive and proactive shortcuts throughout the day “… based on routines, locations and information such as heart rate after a workout, commute time with Maps at the appropriate time of day, or sports scores for a favorite team.”
What makes this even more interesting is that it will now show actionable content from third-party apps, which is great for consumer and specialized enterprise apps.
Siri Shortcuts also makes it to the new Apple Watch OS.
Apple is pushing developers to ensure the Apple Watch shortcuts they provide are to the most relevant tasks. The basis for deciding this might be time, location, or app utility (a recipe app may provide a recipe of the day, for example).
What Apple sees as critical is that these notifications are interacted with and truly represent what Apple Watch users need.
App developers need to note that when Siri decides which Shortcuts it will offer on the Siri Watchface, Siri will pay particular attention to how the user has interacted with your app in the past.
Also, you don’t need to say “Hey, Siri” to activate the assistant. All you need to do is start speaking to Siri as you raise the Watch towards you.
The intention is that you will be able to use Siri to get essential tasks done from your Watch, and you will be able to explore new ways to enhance customer and employee experiences when using your app.
The tiny web
Do you remember how Steve Jobs — when announcing the original iPhone — boasted that the iPhone offered people access to the real internet, rather than some stripped-down version?
watchOS 5 brings a little of that same delight and now integrates WebKit support, which means you can use your watch to glance at things such as web links or other items sent to you.
You can control the content, too:
- Turn the Digitial Crown to scroll the page.
- Double-tap to zoom in and out.
- Use Force Touch (a firm press) to invoke back and forward buttons you can use to navigate through your viewing history.
It’s not perfect — you can’t access video playback or web fonts, though you can use your Watch to fill in HTML-based forms. Apple will render pages in Reader Mode when that mode is available.
All the same, some people will wonder if web designers will now need to figure out how to design websites that scale all the way from a Watch to a 30-inch display.
Health and wellness
There are lots of workout improvements in Apple Watch, including auto-workout detection. Not only does your Watch figure out when you are exercising, but it will also terminate a workout once it detects the activity is over. New yoga and hiking workouts and helpful tools for runners makes the device even more useful as part of your general scheme to stay well. And Activity Sharing competitions let you invite others to compete in meeting those activity challenges.
Control Center lets you put all your toggles in the order you most prefer. You can also get to Notifications and/or Control Center while in any app.
Apple Watch users will gain a new Podcasts app. This will sync with shows, as well as stream any new shows Siri can find on your behalf. Enterprise users and developers will need to know that Apple will now allow audio from third-party apps to sync to the watch for offline playback.
Source: Computer World