JR Raphael

About the Author JR Raphael


28 ways Google Assistant can make you more efficient

Google Assistant is artificial intelligence at your fingertips — but sometimes, it can be tough to know what to ask an omniscient robot to do.

I’m here to help. I’ve talked to my phone more than I’d care to admit (even before it did anything in response — boy, were those awkward times), and I’ve put together the ultimate guide to Google Assistant’s most useful productivity-oriented commands.

So clear your throat, grab your nearest Assistant-packing gadget, and start putting that virtual companion of yours to work.

(Google Assistant is available on Android phones and tablets running Android 5.0 or higher, on iOS devices via a downloadable app, and on certain Chromebooks and home speaker products. With Android and other Google devices, Assistant can typically be summoned via voice command or by pressing and holding the Home key. You can also download an app that’ll give you a more traditional home screen shortcut. Unless otherwise noted, the functions described in this article should work on any Android phone, but some of them may not be available on iPhones, iPads, or other types of Assistant-enabled devices.)

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What the virtual assistant battle is really all about, in a single word

With Apple’s better-late-than-never arrival into the smart speaker market this month, there’s been lots of talk about the state of the smart assistant — and why, ultimately, all these companies are working so hard to get you talking to their technology.

From Siri to Alexa and Google Assistant to Bixby (yes, even Bixby), the virtual assistants are all soldiers in the tech world’s latest battle for our attention. And what these artificially intelligent entities are really all about comes down to a single four-syllable word:

Ecosystem.

Whether you’re Apple, Amazon, Google, or any of the less equipped companies fighting to get a foot into this arena, the virtual assistant is the latest and most promising way to get folks further entrenched in your ecosystem — and thus likely to keep using the associated products and services that benefit your bottom line.

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5 missing footnotes from those Android P rumors

Well, gang, we knew it was inevitable, and now it’s actually happening: Here in the land of Android, we are officially talking about the first stream of P leaks.

Hey, it could be worse. Just wait until developers start getting P on their devices.

In all seriousness, though, Android P is inching ever-closer to its actual arrival. The first developers’ preview of Android O landed on March 21st last year, 57 days ahead of Google’s 2017 I/O convention. This year’s I/O event is happening even earlier — starting on May 8th — and so it’s not unreasonable to think the first Android P preview could come out even earlier as well (especially considering that Google has been putting out its previews earlier and earlier every year, regardless).

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The game-changing side effect a Chrome OS tablet could create

Google’s Chrome OS platform is on the brink of yet another potentially massive expansion. That much we’ve established.

What we didn’t discuss in Tuesday’s “Chrome OS takeover” column, though, was a significant secondary effect that could result from this coming evolution.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, what we’re talking about here is the ongoing alignment of Chrome OS and Android and the fascinating changes that are happening as a result. In short, the presence of Android apps on Chrome OS is redefining the platform’s possibilities and limitations. Those new parameters, combined with the accompanying advancements in hardware, are effectively turning the Chromebook into the next-gen “Android tablet.”

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The next phase of Google’s Chrome OS takeover

You know that feeling when a band you’ve followed for ages finally starts to get its due — when the right album at the right moment helps the skeptical masses see all that raw potential you’ve long been applauding?

That’s precisely what’s happening right now with Chrome OS. The platform’s been picking up serious steam and winning mountains of overdue praise these past few months — and if Google has its way, that momentum won’t be letting up anytime soon.

Up until now, the saga of Chrome OS’s rise has been more slow march than dramatic leap. Those of us who watch the platform closely have seen the seeds of something significant for years and have observed as Google slowly but surely built up a garden to nurture them.

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How to get iPhone X-like gestures on any Android device right now

Getting around a phone with gestures is getting an awful lot of attention right now — including right here in the Android empire.

Apple popularized the idea of gesture-based navigation with its notchtacular iPhone X, and now, OnePlus is bringing a similar concept to owners of its OnePlus 5T device.

As part of a new beta version of its Oreo update, OnePlus is giving users the option to ditch the traditional on-screen navigation keys and instead use a series of iPhone-reminiscent swipes to move around the operating system — a swipe up from the bottom-center area of the screen to go home, a swipe up from the bottom-left or -right to go back, and a swipe up and hold from the bottom-center to open the Overview function and jump to a recently used app.

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The best Android apps for team collaboration

Working together sure isn’t what it used to be.

These days, you don’t have to be in the same conference room — or, heck, even time zone — to work side by side with co-workers. Thanks to the variety of top-notch collaboration tools for our ever-connected devices, you can edit, organize, and communicate with anyone as if you were sitting right next to them, no matter where your corporeal form resides.

And you don’t even have to be perched at a computer for that to hold true: With the right set of Android apps, you can put the power of collaboration into your pocket — ready to jump into action anytime, anywhere.

These are the best Android apps for effective and efficient collaboration, broken down by what they’ll help you do.

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Galaxy S9 and the elephant in the room with Samsung’s Android phones

Ahhh — take a good, deep breath. Can you smell it?

Yes, my friends, it’s that time of year again: time for the air to be filled with the familiar and curiously pungent scent of Samsung flagship phone leaks.

You know the deal: Every year ’round this time, we start to see clouds of grand Galaxy S promises — spec sheets, feature lists, phone images, and the occasional crudely drawn caveman sketch — wafting out into the world. Samsung’s ship is about as leaky as they get, and hype-generating tidbits always seem to slip out at juuust the right time (but it’s absolutely, positively not a deliberately orchestrated marketing tactic — no way, José!).

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7 handy but hidden Android features you probably forget to use

With every new Android version comes a flurry of fresh features. Some of them immediately transform the way we work, while others just quietly fade away without making much noise.

Then there are the features that fall somewhere in between — features that seem useful, maybe pique our interest, but then get lost in the shuffle and forgotten in day-to-day use. Especially when said features are out of sight and not at all obvious, they’re all too easy to overlook over time.

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A new way to save time with text message templates on Android

If you know anything about me, you know that I’m all about saving time and making tech more efficient. And one thing that can always use a potent productivity booster-shot is the act of inputting text from our mobile devices.

Déjà vu? Don’t worry: You aren’t losing your mind. (Well, OK, you might be. But not on account of this, at least.) We’ve indeed talked about the time wasted with smartphone text input before — not that long ago, in fact, when we were getting into the subject of macros and advanced text substitution. As of this week, though, there’s an even easier way to create and use templates for common phone-based responses, and it’s built right into one of my favorite messaging apps.

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5 Google launches from 2017 that still haven’t landed

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Google announces an awful lot of stuff.

Between its annual I/O convention, its fall hardware event, and the beefy stew of blogs posted in between, the big G always seems to have some big new feature, product, or service up its sleeve — so many, in fact, that it’s easy to lose track and forget about a few things along the way.

That’s precisely what I discovered when I slogged back through the past year’s worth of Google revelations. Amidst all the now-familiar fare was a small handful of leftover items — little this-and-thats mentioned as part of broader announcements and then never brought up again. They’re things we heard about, talked about, then largely forgot about.

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8 Android narratives to approach with skepticism in 2018

Ah, early January. It’s a time when hopes are fresh, promises are grand, and hype is about as hyperbolic as it gets.

As we mark the start of CES and the beginning of a new year of ambition and anticipation, it’s more important than ever to maintain perspective. In a realm where practically everything includes a superlative, after all, a good old-fashioned reality check is the best chance we’ve got to keep ourselves grounded.

And in the realm of Android, specifically, some of the same grandiose narratives seem to pop up time and time again — so much that they’re basically just empty words at this point.

Will this be the year some of these things actually come true? Maybe. But given the context and history we have in front of us, anyone would be well-advised to take the following now-standard Android narratives with a healthy grain of salt in 2018:

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8 New Year’s resolutions for Android fans in 2018

Well, gang, the start of a new year is upon us, and we all know what that means: Time to make wildly ambitious resolutions you know you’ll never keep.

But hey, do that on your time, won’t ya? We’ve got important business to attend to here — namely making some beneficial yet realistic goals for the Android side of our lives.

If you have one or more Android devices, step off the scale for a few seconds and commit yourself to some of these immensely achievable 2018 tasks:

Resolution #1: Get your security situation in order

Android security is a loaded subject, but the long and short of it is that there’s really not much to worry about — provided you (a) use common sense and (b) take advantage of the tools Google gives you.

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