YouTube TV playback controls arrive on the Google Home

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There are just a handful of video services that support voice controls on the Google Home, like Netflix and Google Photos. This allows you to start playback of content on a Chromecast, Android TV, or other Cast-enabled device using Google Assistant voice commands. I'm still waiting for Hulu to add support, but in the meantime, you can now use it with YouTube TV.

The new functionality works just like every other service on Assistant.

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YouTube TV playback controls arrive on the Google Home was written by the awesome team at Android Police.



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Surprise: The Google Pixel 2 has a hidden menu button on its navigation bar

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The menu button used to be oh-so-important to Android in the early years. Google ditched it pretty early on with the introduction of the Galaxy Nexus, but Samsung's flagship Galaxy Note III was released in late 2013 and still had one on board.

But even after menu buttons lost their permanent spots on the chins of phones, some still persisted through long-presses of the multitasking button. You could even find cheaper devices with dedicated menu buttons to the right of their multitasking buttons, and if you really wanted one on your current phone, some custom ROMs would allow you to add one there.

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Surprise: The Google Pixel 2 has a hidden menu button on its navigation bar was written by the awesome team at Android Police.



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Google will begin selling devices at its pop-up shops

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Google is doing everything it can to get its products into your hands. Even though it’s only partnering with one carrier, it is the largest of the four in the US. It also has its phones, Chromecast, and Home devices in big box stores like Walmart and Best Buy so you can check them out in person. Unfortunately, what Google doesn’t have is a retail space like Apple’s stores to truly showcase its products. Even if it were to build something like that, it would take years to see the fruit of its efforts.

Since it doesn’t have its own retail presence, Google has experimented with a few pop-up stores, including one in New York last year. These shops have allowed customers to test the products in hand before buying them online. Now, it’s taking that concept one step further. Google will now begin to sell hardware at the temporary pop-up stores. It’ll start with the Pixel 2, Pixel 2 XL, and Google Home Mini in New York and California. The sales kick off Thursday, October 19 and last through the end of the year.

Google will add more devices as they’re being released to the public over the next few weeks. It currently has stores in retail spaces at 8552 Melrose Ave in West Hollywood, CA and 110 5th Ave in New York, NY where you can go see the latest and greatest hardware it has to offer. Both of the stores are open from 10 AM to 8 PM local time. Since the earliest a Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL will ship from the Google Store is October 29, this might be the fastest way to get your hands on one if you live nearby.

Will you be visiting one of the pop-up stores? Let us know down in the comments.



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Pixel phones hit with a texting bug as Google works on a fix

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Following the texting bug that hit Samsung Galaxy S8 phones a week ago, many Pixel phones are now unable to receive text messages after the official Android 8.0 Oreo update. Outgoing texts seem unaffected, but incoming messages just aren’t happening. Google is aware of the issue and actively working on a solution. The first sign […]


Come comment on this article: Pixel phones hit with a texting bug as Google works on a fix



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What’s keeping Xiaomi from the US?

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Xiaomi is a fun company. Its phones are great to play with. They’re powerful, innovative, and for the most part, cheap. My biggest problem with their phones is that I can’t get them; they’re not available in the United States.

Xiaomi is a China-first affair, with precious few exceptions. Despite public comments about building a patent war chest in advance of a Stateside launch in mid-2015, there’s been no meaningful push into the American market.

Xiaomi’s position has shifted over time— from preparing to enter the United States, to not talking about it, to dismissing the question entirely. Even back at CES 2017, then-global-VP Hugo Barra said, “We don’t want to go anywhere near the half-hearted efforts to launch a brand in the US just to say we’re in the US.” Barra pointed to brand-building efforts in the United States, such as its release of a set-top box at Google I/O 2016. Less than a month later, Barra left Xiaomi. Not drawing any parallels; just saying.

We got you covered…or not

Xiaomi wants to bring its smartphones to the US and Western Europe in a huge way, rather than have a slow build.

About a week later, Xiaomi had a brand-new supplier in the United States. US Mobile, a T-Mobile MVNO, announced they would be the first US-based Xiaomi phone provider. Then, the next day, on February 2, the phones were pulled, and it was announced that they were never an authorized dealer. Whoops.

Later in April 2017, Wang Xiang, who took over Barra’s role as global VP, said that Xiaomi’s engineers were “super busy” and would struggle to effectively manage relationships with US carriers. Xiaomi wants to bring its smartphones to the US and Western Europe in a huge way, rather than via a slow build. Fair enough, but what’s causing the delay?

Android Authority has reached out to Xiaomi for comment and we’ll be sure to update this article if we get a response.

Patently patient

Xiaomi’s patent filings by country and by year. Courtesy of greyb.com

One of the biggest obstacles that Xiaomi faces in entering western markets lies with its patents, or rather the patents of other companies. Every aspect of making a smartphone has been legally secured in markets around the world. Xiaomi has been working on growing its patent collection, but the bulk of those patents reside in its home market of China. Any attempt to bring its products to western markets would open it up to legal issues that would be both costly and drawn out. Think Apple v. Samsung in Europe.

To avoid this, Xiaomi has been building up its patent portfolio through a number of deals over the past few years. GreyB.com has a full breakdown of Xiaomi’s patents, the highlights of which include patent deals with Qualcomm, Microsoft, and Nokia. By building up its patent portfolio, Xiaomi will avoid many legal complications in new markets.

Get ’em while they’re hot

In the meantime, you can actually buy Xiaomi phones in the US. This website allows you to browse a number of Xiaomi phones. If you want to buy them, it redirects to another site where you can actually order the phones. The phones themselves are sold unlocked, without Google Play services, but you can buy them if you want. Neither website is owned or maintained by Xiaomi— they’re only set up to import the phones. I guess that makes it better, somehow?

I get Xiaomi’s reservation here. The sad truth is that smartphone sales are largely carrier driven, which sucks if you don’t have a relationship with one. The number of postpaid carrier accounts is on the rise— people still buy phones from AT&T, not just Apple, Google, Samsung, etc. The fact of the matter is, as much success as Huawei has in the United States now, its lack of carrier relationship made things very difficult. It’s just as likely Xiaomi might see LeEco’s level of success, rather than Huawei’s.

Right idea, wrong execution

Bringing brand awareness to the Western market in the form of a set top box, on the back of Google I/O, is a good idea. But how many people do you know that have a Xiaomi set top box? Yeah, me neither.  Maybe it’s a good idea, but it’s the wrong time to try getting into the already crowded set top box market.

Editor's Pick

Personally, I’d like to see Xiaomi make a go of it. The company is already in a great position in its own market, as well as in India. The Mi MIX 2 is right in line (and in some ways superior) today’s flagships and their minimal bezels. Unfortunately, there are two huge barriers that prevent Xiaomi from doing just that— patents and carrier relationships.

The company has been slowly making deals to account for it’s patent problems, but as for carrier relationships, I’m not sure this is an area where it can afford to wait. Engineers may well be “super busy,” but once the patents are in place, Xiaomi will need to hit the ground running if it plans to gain any traction in the west.

Otherwise, Xiaomi will spend the next years waiting for “just the right time,” which may never come; not that anyone here will notice. We’ll be inundated by the likes of Samsung, LG, Huawei, and a host of other OEMs, but we’ll be missing out on some great hardware, and that’s a shame.



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