TIME apps

New Tricks for Google Play Music: Easier Uploads and a Mini Player

Google

Finally, a way to add new music without the extra software.

A couple of new experimental features have popped up in Google Play Music, making it easier to manage and listen to music through the browser.

If you’re using Chrome, you can now upload songs by dragging files or folders into the browser. You can also keep your computer’s entire music collection in sync by adding folders through the Settings menu.

To enable drag-and-drop uploads, head to the labs section and enable “Google Play Music for Chrome.” You’ll then see an “Add music” button in the top-right corner.

Without this feature, Google requires you to use its Music Manager software for Windows, Mac or Linux. The software works well enough for syncing your main music library, but it doesn’t provide an easy way to upload individual songs from another folder or computer.

Enabling the labs feature also adds a mini music player, which you can open by clicking the arrow button in the bottom right corner. Unfortunately, this player only works while the main Google Play Music window is open, and there’s no way to make it stay visible over other windows.

Google Play Music lets you store up to 20,000 songs online. You can then stream those songs to any web browser and to Google’s official apps for Android and iOS. (Unofficial apps are also available for other platforms.) It’s a great service for accessing your music collection on phones and tablets without using up storage space, and these new features make it just a little easier to get started.

TIME Google Play

Android v. iOS Gaming: Google Play to Get Cross-Platform Support

Google

Imagine playing a game on your Android phone or tablet with a friend who’s playing the same game on an iOS device — cross-platform support, in other words. That’s the promise behind what may be the most significant new feature in a medley of enhancements coming to the gaming side of Google Play, unveiled by Google at the Game Developer’s Conference this morning (the developer-focused video games show kicks off today in San Francisco and runs all this week) .

Google says the feature will bring “turn-based and real-time multiplayer capabilities to both Android and iOS,” and that it’s updating its Unity-related plugin to support cross-platform multiplayer. It’s also rolling out a C++ SDK that’ll fold in all-important achievements and leaderboards.

Other features include a new analytics tool in the Google Play Developer Console (a dashboard that helps track daily player engagement, active users, achievements and leaderboard activity), something called “game gifts” that’ll let players wing in-game objects at their peers, and direct multiplayer invite support. There are new game categories as well, bringing the total to 18 and making the genre-hunt more granular (Google’s FAQ has the new category list). Google says it’s also tweaking its ad-focused AdMob platform to help developers devise better targeted (and therefore theoretically more alluring) in-app purchases.

For anyone not attending the relevant GDC sessions, Google says it’ll live-stream them on YouTube, starting tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. ET.

TIME Video Games

Apps with "Flappy" in Their Names Reportedly Being Rejected by Apple and Google

Sad boy is sad.
Sad boy is sad. Getty Images

Might I suggest Bappy Flird?

Bet you thought you’d wake up this morning to find that the ’round-the-clock coverage of Flappy Bird that saturated tech blogs last week had finally ground to a halt.

Sorry. And I recognize the irony that I’m part of the problem. Again: sorry.

TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez reports that several developers have found their Flappy Bird clones being rejected by Apple’s and Google’s app stores. One developer spotlighted in Perez’s story was apparently told by Apple that his app – Flappy Dragon – was rejected because it “attempts to leverage a popular app.”

As of roughly 9am on Monday, a search of “Flappy” turned up oodles and oodles of Flappy-themed results in the Google Play store: Flappy Pig, Flappy Doge, Flappy Fish, Flappy Flying, another Flappy Doge, two Flappy Bees, another Flappy Fish, another Flappy Pig – you get the idea. Apple’s iTunes app store is still returning plenty of results for a “Flappy” search, too.

These apps may be grandfathered in, but it appears Apple and Google are all set when it comes to new games in the Flappy Bird vein. At least, apps with “Flappy” somewhere in the title. Might I suggest Bappy Flird?

Apple & Google Begin Rejecting Games With “Flappy” In The Title [TechCrunch]

TIME Gadgets

It’s About Time for Google’s Nexus Line to Go Away

Jared Newman / TIME.com

The brand has outlived its usefulness thanks to Google Play edition hardware and other market changes.

There’s a rumor going around today that Google will terminate its “Nexus” brand of hardware some time next year.

The source is Russian blogger Eldar Murtazin, who says Google will concentrate on Google Play edition devices after releasing a few more Nexus products, and will rebrand the entire hardware effort in 2015. Murtazin’s track record is not exactly spotless, but the rumor is still worth considering. The Nexus brand has become irrelevant, and the product line itself is running out of reasons to exist.

Over the years, the Nexus line has served three main purposes, some of which overlap:

  1. Provide developers, Android enthusiasts and Google itself with devices that show off Android at its best.
  2. Disrupt the subsidy-driven wireless market by selling unlocked, full-price devices directly to users.
  3. Provide mainstream users with the best “pure Google” experience at the lowest cost possible.

The first purpose is no longer served by Nexus devices alone, thanks to “Google Play editions” of existing phones and tablets such as Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and LG’s G Pad 8.3. Nexus devices once represented a cheaper option for pure Google devices, but this is already changing due to advancements in low-end hardware. The Google Play edition of Motorola’s Moto G, for instance, sells for $179, which is $170 less expensive than the Nexus 5. As long as Google Play editions cover a wide range of prices, enthusiasts won’t need Nexus devices.

Shaking up the subsidized phone market was a noble goal, but one that Google could never accomplish on its own. If you’re a smartphone user in the United States, and you don’t regularly take your phone abroad, you’re almost always better off with a $200 phone and a two-year contract than a $300 phone and no contract.

The big exception is if you’re able to get cheaper wireless service by paying full price for the phone. T-Mobile has offered this subsidy-free option for some time, but only recently started structuring its core business around it with installment-based payment plans. In other words, it’s T-Mobile that did the disrupting, not Google. As its subscriber numbers grow, we’ll surely see more solid mid-range phones that allow for lower monthly service bills, with or without Google’s involvement.

‘s Nexus 7 tablet Google

Google’s third goal with Nexus was to sell low-cost, pure Google devices to mainstream customers. The idea was that users would be lured to the cheap hardware, and subsequently get hooked on Google content and services. It’s a strategy that applies more to tablets such as the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 than to smartphones, because there are no subsidies or carrier partnerships to get in the way.

These devices have been, at best, a small-scale success. Sales of Google’s Nexus 7 tablets are reportedly in the millions, but usage in North America trails far behind tablets from Apple, Amazon and Samsung. The Nexus 7’s combination of decent tech specs and low prices was novel in 2012, but not any more as all tablet prices have fallen drastically. Meanwhile, it’s clear that the vast majority of price-conscious users don’t care whether a device is “pure Google.”

Android enthusiasts care, but that brings us back to the first point, and the expanding availability of Google Play edition phones and tablets. As long as we see a greater selection of these devices at reasonable prices, the loss of Nexus devices isn’t so tragic.

The one thing that potentially gets lost if the Nexus program goes away is Google’s design influence. Asus chairman Jonney Shih has talked about how the company was pushed to its limits by Google while creating the second-generation Nexus 7 — and it shows in the finished product. But if Google can provide a big enough stage for what it believes is the best Android hardware, perhaps vendors will do a better job of pushing themselves.

In any case, the Nexus brand name itself is due for retirement, because it communicates nothing about the product to those who don’t already know its meaning. “Google Play edition” is closer to the mark, but still a bit wordy. Whether or not this rumor pans out, a single product line with a sharper focus makes plenty of sense.

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