Browsing: Apps & Updates

After first testing a year ago, Chrome for Android is now rolling out a Material You redesign of the address bar.

Tapping on the pill-shaped Omnibox will expand and morph the field into a rounded rectangle. The suggestions below will no longer appear as just text against a uniform background. Instead, each site and search query is placed in a card with more padding and Dynamic Color leveraged. 

In many ways, the UI now looks like Pixel Launcher search. While Chrome is better conforming to the latest design language, this redesign makes the address bar quite dense and visually complex. Placing everything in a card does help distinguish each line and item, but at the expense of adding more browser chrome, ironically, that is nice but arguably not critical. 

Google first tested this address bar revamp last September. We’re seeing a wide server-side rollout (with Chrome 116) this morning. If you don’t have it yet, Force stop Chrome from App info.

Meanwhile, Chrome 117 is still rolling out as the latest stable. The big change there is Material You redesign on Mac, Windows Linux, and ChromeOS, but it also starts to replace the HTTPS lock in the Omnibox with a new switch icon.

To our eye, it’s placed way too close to the left edge on Android.

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Apps & Updates

Since 2016, you have been able to use Facebook/Meta’s Messenger as an SMS app on Android. That integration is now set to go away next month.

Users that use Facebook Messenger, instead of Google or Samsung Messages, for SMS and MMS are being notified about the depreciation. A support article explains how you “will no longer be able to use Messenger to send and receive SMS messages sent by your cellular network when you update your app after September 28, 2023.”

Meta directs users to their phone’s default messaging app, like Google’s app:

You will still be able to send and receive SMS messages through your cellular network and access your SMS message history through your phone’s new default messaging app.

To switch, open the system Settings app > Apps > Default apps > SMS app and pick another client.

Facebook Messenger first offered SMS support in 2012, but that was dropped by 2013. In 2016, Facebook tried again with SMS kept separate from web-based communications. These threads were themed purple (with others defaulting to blue), with Facebook once calling its experience “SMS on steroids.”

Third-party SMS clients are not particularly popular today and do not have access to RCS. Google has made messaging a first-party Android experience, while carriers and OEMs have predominantly adopted the Messages app as the default.

Messenger is a popular service so there’s presumably a not insignificant amount of people that used the SMS/MMS integration to just have one messaging app. However, it’s likely not a core aim for the company anymore, especially with WhatsApp being the other big service it maintains. The deprecation is ultimately a win for Google and its continued RCS efforts

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Apps & Updates

Following the beta this March, Google is ready to launch Nearby Share for Windows in full today.

Since the preview started, Google has worked to improve speed and reliability of file transfers between Windows PCs and Android devices. Updates in recent months have specifically reduced crashes and increased the transfer success rate. 

Nearby Share has been installed by over 1.7 million users and has seen over 50 million transferred files – with photos and videos unsurprisingly being the most popular file type – since then. Documents, audio, and folders are also supported. 

To mark today’s stable launch, Nearby Share for Windows will show an estimated file transfer time: “This can be helpful when you’re sending large files like videos or entire folders and want to see how quickly it will be shared.” “Less than X minutes left” joins the circular indicator and other existing estimates. 

Additionally, Nearby Share notifications now show an image preview to help you confirm what’s been received, along with where it’s saved.  

Going forward, Google is partnering with manufacturers to include Nearby Share on “select Windows PCs.” HP was the one partner named today, with the Dragonfly Pro getting the app. “New functionality” will also be added as Google continues working on Nearby Share. 

Nearby Share requires a 64-bit version of Windows 10 and up with ARM not supported. Bluetooth and Wi-Fi or Ethernet have to be enabled with both devices needing to be on the same network and “within about 16 feet, or 5 meters, of each other.” You get the same visibility options as on phones: Everyone, Contacts, Your devices, and No one. The middle two options require that you sign in to your Google Account. 

You can download Nearby Share for Windows on

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Apps & Updates

Google today announced its support for interoperable end-to-end encrypted communication between large messaging platforms, with plans to integrate the MLS protocol into Google Messages and Android.

Google says it is “strongly supportive of regulatory efforts that require interoperability for large end-to-end messaging platforms,” which is presumably in reference to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act. That regulation would require iMessage to be interoperable with other messaging platforms.

To achieve this, Google says this interoperability requires “open, industry-vetted standards, particularly in the area of privacy, security, and end-to-end encryption.” If not, end-to-end encrypted group messaging and other advanced features would be “impossible in practice.” Specifically, “group messages would have to be encrypted and delivered multiple times to cater for every different protocol.”

Without robust standardization, the result will be a spaghetti of ad hoc middleware that could lower security standards to cater for the lowest common denominator and raise implementation costs, particularly for smaller providers.

To achieve interoperable E2E encrypted messages, Google points to the Internet Engineering Task Force‘s Message Layer Security (MLS) specification RFC 9420.

…we specify a key establishment protocol that provides efficient asynchronous group key establishment with forward secrecy (FS) and post-compromise security (PCS) for groups in size ranging from two to thousands.

Google says MLS would make possible “practical interoperability across services and platforms, scaling to groups of thousands of multi-device users.” This could “unleash a huge field of new opportunities for the users and developers of interoperable messaging services that adopt it.”

It is also flexible enough to allow providers to address emerging threats to user privacy and security, such as quantum computing.

Google plans to build MLS into its Messages app, which offers E2EE 1:1 and group RCS chats today, and “support its wide deployment across the industry by open sourcing our implementation in the Android codebase.” How RCS factors into this remains to be seen.

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Apps & Updates

One advantage of Google Play Billing is the ability to manage your subscriptions in one place, but that UI and functionality are currently broken on Android.

Opening the account menu in the Google Play Store Android app, going to “Payments & subscriptions,” and then selecting “Subscriptions” returns a blank page. “Discover subscriptions” and “Get started” give off the impression that you’re not currently paying for anything.

Alternatively, you might see your list of Active subscriptions with the next payment date, but tapping takes you to the same empty page.

As such, you cannot cancel subscriptions using the Play Store app on Android right now. However, the workaround is visiting in a web browser.

Your full list of subscriptions and other information appear there, with the ability to cancel subscriptions, update your primary payment method, and set up a backup method.

This will presumably be addressed in a server-side fix by Google in short order since this is a pretty critical capability.

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Thanks, Michael B.

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Apps & Updates