Asus says it’s cutting the bloat and boosting the speed with ZenUI 4.0

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Alongside the six new Zenfone 4 smartphones that Asus launched during its event in Taiwan, the company also announced ZenUI 4.0, its latest Android skin that will make its debut in the Zenfone 4 series.

Previous ZenUI versions were known for their bloatware, and though it did not generally affect a phone’s performance, it’s not as if we were thrilled to see so much of it. Asus hopes to change that with ZenUI 4.0, which brings the number of pre-installed apps down from 35 on ZenUI 3.5 to 13. In addition to those 13 apps, ZenUI 4.0 also has Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram pre-installed, though those are three apps the majority of folks will likely download anyway.

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Asus also touts ZenUI 4.0’s speed boost when it comes to app usage, with boosts ranging from 34 to 61 percent relative to ZenUI 3.5. In addition to the performance gains, ZenUI 4.0 features Twin Apps, which lets you have two social media accounts on one device, and Page Marker, which is a bookmarks app. I’m not really sure why Asus would make a separate bookmarks app, but to each their own.

After debuting on the Zenfone 4 range of devices, ZenUI 4.0 will head to the Zenfone 3 series, though specific dates were not given. The Zenfone 3 and 4 series will also get updated to Android O, with gradual roll-out expected to be completed by the second half of 2018.



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Gboard’s latest beta throws in stickers, Bitmoji, and some tweaks here and there

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Gboard, Google’s official mobile keyboard, comes with a few perks, such as a beta version that allows folks to try out new features before they are available to the masses. Those people have more stuff to try out today, since Google updated the Gboard beta to include support for stickers and the Snapchat-owned Bitmoji.

When typing a message to someone, you will now see a sticker tab that you can access from the top button bar or overflow menu, depending on where you move it to. You can also press the emoji button on the lower left part of the keyboard and press the sticker tab at the bottom.

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Regardless of how you choose to get to it, the sticker tab gives you access to the installed sticker packs and Bitmoji app. You can search for stickers and Bitmoji, though keep in mind that stickers will only work with apps and text areas that support Gboard’s GIFs and images. At the time of this writing, Allo integration is not yet live, though that will likely change either with an update or a server-side switch.

As for other changes, the shift and backspace buttons now have outlines, with the shift key filling up when typing capital letters. Other tweaks include the Dictionary page no longer including add-on dictionaries and a redesigned Themes page within Settings.

If you want to give the latest Gboard beta 6.5 a try, you will need to first sign up for the testing program. From there, just wait for the update to be available on your device and you’ll be good to go.



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Android Instant Apps now work on over 500 million devices

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In May, after a number of months in testing, Google officially launched support for Android Instant Apps. Since then, these lightweight versions of standard Android apps have been able to be used by a growing number of smartphones and tablets. Today, Google confirmed that support for Android Instant Apps is now available on over 500 million devices since it launched just a few months ago.

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What Android Instant Apps mean for Google Play install numbers

What Android Instant Apps mean for Google Play install numbers

May 18, 2017

As we have reported before, these apps are supposed to give people a way to simply go to the Google Play Store, via a website or other link, and instead of fully downloading an app, they can simply click on an “Open App” selection to almost instantly begin using it. The idea is to give consumers a way to access an app they would not normally keep stored on their device, but still allow them to use it. It also gives developers a way to introduce people to their app, as a kind of demo so they might be tempted to download and use the full version later.

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Since the launch of its Instant App, Vimeo has seen an increase of session durations by 130 percent

In a blog post today, Google mentioned that a number of companies have already seen some success in developing and releasing Android Instant Apps. One of them is the streaming video service Vimeo. Since the launch of its Instant App, Vimeo has seen an increase of session durations by 130 percent. Another company that launched an Instant App is the shopping service Jet, owned by Walmart. Since its Instant App launch, Jet has seen their conversion rate go up by 27 percent.

Even the famous New York Times Crossword launched an Android Instant App version. Google says since its release, the NY Times Crossword saw over double the number of online sessions compared to its regular app. That means more people are likely to purchase subscriptions to the full version of the app.

Have you used any Android Instant Apps and, if so, what was your experience like? Let us know your impressions in the comments!



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It looks like the BlackBerry KEYone’s display issues have been solved

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You may remember that issues with the BlackBerry KEYone’s display started showing up back in June. YouTuber JerryRigEverything released a durability test showing the device’s screen would pop out of the phone under modest pressure. Just two days later BlackBerry released a statement saying it would be adding additional adhesive around the display to prevent the issue for happening again.

Well, it looks like Blackberry kept its word.

We reported in July that updated BlackBerry KEYone units were making their way to retailers, and now, in an updated video, Zach from JerryRigEverything puts the phone through its paces again. This time, it passes with flying colors.

During the bend test, the KEYone flexes, but the screen stays put. Zach even took a heat gun to the phone but had to eventually break the display to remove it from the phone’s body. The extra adhesive added to the sides of the display kept it in place even under extreme circumstances.

We’re happy to see that these updated KEYone units seem to be holding up. If you’ve had issues in the past with your KEYone’s display, be sure to contact BlackBerry to get a replacement.

Next: BlackBerry KEYone review



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Google shows how easily image watermarks can be removed by AI, and how to combat this

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Watermarks are the most common way to prevent images from being used without licensing, but they're not nearly as potent as you'd imagine. Research at Google recently published a paper called "On the Effectiveness of Visual Watermarks" regarding how easily watermarks can be removed, and how this can be prevented.

You might think that it would be hard to eliminate all of the watermark's lines and curves from an image, but given a decent amount of images with the same watermark and the right algorithm (which is very common on photo licensing sites), computers can actually remove it automatically.

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Google shows how easily image watermarks can be removed by AI, and how to combat this was written by the awesome team at Android Police.



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