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Android Intelligence: The upgrade downslide, notch envy, and $30 free from Google

IN THIS ISSUE: The Latest Android Intelligence: The Android upgrade downslide and the new unlikely u
March 2 · Issue #1 · View online
Android Intelligence
  • The Latest Android Intelligence: The Android upgrade downslide and the new unlikely underdog worth watching
  • 5 Things to Know This Week: Fancy phones, a heating up battle for the smart home, and new features on the way for Assistant and Chrome OS
  • Tips o’ The Week: Floating faces, Photos movies, and a virtual music studio in your browser
  • Deal Intelligence: Save serious cash on your next mobile tech purchase
  • Plus more must-read stories and fun stuff you might have missed!

A Word of Welcome
Oh, hi there! What a lovely inbox you have. Thanks for inviting me. And not to worry — I wiped my feet on the way in.
This, as you may know, is the first-ever issue of the Android Intelligence insider’s newsletter. It’s something I’ve been planning and preparing for a long time now, and I can’t tell you how excited I am to have you along for the ride.
At its core, Android Intelligence has always been about going beyond the headlines and providing the next-level advice, insight, and analysis that’s so often missing from the fast-moving stream of mobile tech news. It’s about serving up something fresh and different — something you’ll enjoy whether you’ve read a thousand news stories in any given week or none.
My hope is that this newsletter will take that same concept and turn it up a notch, with even more useful info for you. It’ll always have the most current columns, of course — with a little extra context and commentary sprinkled in — but it’ll also bring you perspective on the week’s most impactful Android news, a hearty helping of bonus tips and recommendations, and plenty of other interesting extras.
Android Intelligence isn’t your average Android news — and this most certainly won’t be your average newsletter. This journey is just beginning, and you and I, my friend, are in it together. Keep me posted and let me know what you think. All you’ve gotta do is hit “reply.”
The Latest Android Intelligence
Android upgrade downslide: 4 years of damning data in 3 crazy charts Android upgrade downslide: 4 years of damning data in 3 crazy charts
Following up on my incredibly disheartening Android Upgrade Report Card from last week — in which, in case you missed it, pretty much everyone other than Google reached new lows of embarrassingly poor performance — I thought it’d be interesting to step back a little and look at things from a bigger-picture perspective.
I’ve been closely tracking Android upgrade performance since the early 1800s, after all. We all know the device-makers have been doing poorly as of late, but have they at least gotten a teensy bit better with each passing year? Or maybe stayed at a stable level of shoddiness, if nothing else?
The answer, in short, is no. I pulled together data from the past four years of upgrades — from Lollipop, in 2015, to Oreo today — and man, oh man: Seeing it all laid out in visual form, it’s even worse than I ever would have imagined.
Check out the column for the full analysis and some charts that speak volumes.
The unlikely new Android underdog worth watching The unlikely new Android underdog worth watching
A spark of promise amidst all the upgrade-centric doom and gloom: Nokia — yes, Nokia — is emerging from a week of flashy new phone announcements as the most interesting player roaming the Android field.
And if the company’s first year in the Android ecosystem is any indication, what we’re seeing now may be the beginning of something big.
5 Things to Know This Week
1. The Galaxy S9 is here…
…and it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect: an incrementally updated version of last year’s Samsung flagship, with all the usual year-to-year talking points (better display, faster internals, more advanced camera, more kitten pics per capita, etc). It’ll almost certainly sell well and make for many a happy buyer, but there’s not a heck of a lot that’s particularly exciting.
If you’re a Samsung fan and find your buying bone being tickled (watch it…), pre-orders kick off pretty much everywhere today, and the phone will actually be available starting March 16.
2. The shameless notch clones are coming
We knew it was inevitable, and sure enough: Apple’s magical and revolutionary iPhone X notch is officially on Android. Asus got the party started with the introduction of its almost-hilarious ZenFone 5 this week. 
Oh, yes:
Anyone else getting a hankering for some Doublemint gum?
Anyone else getting a hankering for some Doublemint gum?
Per the crew at Android Central:
The phone’s most distinguishing design choice is not just a blatant copy of another company’s original idea, but it’s also functionally hollow.
But hey, at least it looks silly, right?
JR Raphael
Calling it now: "You'll get used to the phone's front camera cutout" is the new "The smartwatch's flat tire really isn't *that* bad."
Huawei, OnePlus, and LG are also said to have notch-tacular innovations of their own in the works.
3. Amazon is inching its way further into the smart home
Word broke this week that the retailer is shelling out big bucks to buy Ring, maker of the Ring Video Doorbell and security cameras. Given the fact that the now-Google-incorporated Nest is just weeks away from shipping its first competing video doorbell product, this sets the stage for an elevated battle between Google and Amazon — with an invitation to your (allegedly) smart abode being the prize.
4. Google Assistant is learning some new tricks
Buried within all the week’s mobile tech hand-flapping were some interesting little tidbits about fresh features coming to Google Assistant. First, Assistant will get the long-ago-promised native ability to handle multipart “routines” — like turning on your lights, cranking up the A/C, and blaring your favorite Chumbawamba jam, all with a single spoken command. That’ll roll out to Assistant-packing devices “over the coming weeks.”
Later this year, meanwhile, Assistant will be able to control more hardware-specific phone features and carrier-specific account functions — like letting you ask how much data you have remaining or why the AT&T logo occasionally haunts your nightmares.
5. Chrome OS is creeping further into tablet terrain
You know my theory about Chromebooks being the new Android tablets, right? In yet another step in Google’s never-ending Android-Chrome OS alignment, the tablet-like pull-to-refresh command has officially shown up in Chrome. The option is tucked away in the developers’ channel for now, but it’s a beginning — and another move that’ll soon fill in the few remaining gaps between an “Android tablet” experience on a traditional tablet and an “Android tablet” experience on a touchscreen Chromebook.
Tips o' the Week
Float a face in your Phone app
Got a Pixel, Nexus, or Android One device? You probably got an update to the Google Phone app recently, and hidden within it is a handy new unlisted feature: a floating bubble that appears anytime you start a call and then move into another app on your screen.
"Sorry, pal, wrong number."
"Sorry, pal, wrong number."
Novelty aside, the bubble serves as a simple way to manage your ongoing voice calls: Just touch your finger to the face of the person with whom you’re speaking and then drag the bubble down to the bottom of your screen to end the connection.
Movie time
You know those cool Google Photos compilation reels you get in the app every now and then? You can now manually make your own — picking from a variety of aww-inducing themes like “Father’s Day Movie,” “They Grow Up So Fast,” and “Meow Movie.” Photos does all the heavy lifting for you: You just pick a face or two to include, and it’ll handle the rest. Hit up the Movie option within Photos’ Assistant tab to give it a whirl.
The sound of music
Break out your inner Beethoven and head on over to Google’s brand spankin’ new Chrome Music Lab Song Maker site when you have a few minutes to kill. The site lets you program your own tune, using a variety of instruments and tools, and then share it with anyone — and even allow them to jump in and collaborate, if they’re so inspired.
Hey, at least I can say I knew you when.
Deal Intelligence
Up to $30 free from Google Express
This is a good one: Ever heard of Google Express? It’s Google’s market-like shopping site, and it features items from a ton of different retailers — Walmart, Fry’s, Home Depot, Google’s own Google Store, and a couple dozen other well-known outlets. Point being, it’s got tons of stuff. And if you buy anything through the official Google Express Android app right now and use coupon code APPSAVE30 at checkout, you’ll get 30% off your entire order (with a max discount of $30). The promotion appears to be good for all first-time Express shoppers through this Monday, March 5, so don’t wait long.
$100 off a Galaxy S9 pre-order
If you’re getting the Galaxy S9, get it today: Best Buy is offering $100 off all pre-orders today and today only (Friday, March 2).
$100 in Google Store credit with a Pixel 2 XL purchase
If the Pixel 2 XL is on your wish list, Google’s offering a $100 Google Store credit with all purchases of the phone. The offer runs from now through March 17.
$100 off a Pixelbook
The top-of-the-line Pixelbook is marked down by a hundred bucks right now, making it $899 at both the Google Store and Amazon. This one’s valid through tomorrow only.
40% to 50% off UE Boom Bluetooth speakers
UE Boom’s wireless speakers tend to be well-reviewed (I’ve had one myself for years), and right now, the Boom 2 is half-off, at $99, while the waterproof Wonderboom is 40% off, at $59.99, both courtesy of Amazon.
Other Interesting Stuff
The House That Spied on Me
In an Era of ‘Smart’ Things, Sometimes Dumb Stuff Is Better
And Just For Funsies...
An Ode to the Video Store Chain, on the Occasion of Blockbuster’s Demise
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