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Alphabet Scoop 095: Understanding Pixel 4a, 4a 5G, and Pixel 5… and a Nest speaker

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This week we dive into the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a (5G), and Pixel 5 following their surfacing in the Google app. In addition to making sense of Google’s 2020 phone lineup, we talk about the upcoming Nest speaker that was just officially teased.

Alphabet Scoop is available on Google Play, Google PodcastsiTunes and Apple’s Podcasts app, and through our dedicated RSS feed for Pocket Casts and other podcast players.

New episodes of Alphabet Scoop are recorded every Thursday afternoon at 4-5 PM ET and published on Friday mornings. Subscribe to our podcast in Google Play or your favorite podcast player to guarantee new episodes are delivered as soon as they’re available.

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This week’s top stories: Google+ lawsuit settlement, likely Pixel 5 launch date, Android 11 for OnePlus

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In this week’s top stories: Google sends notices for a Google+ class action lawsuit settlement, the Pixel 5 may have gotten its launch date leaked, OnePlus teases Android 11 based HydrogenOS, and more.

In a week filled with hardware announcements from Samsung and Google, the story that captured most people’s interest this week is a suspicious looking, yet legitimate notice from Google informing folks of a class action lawsuit settlement. The $7.5 million settlement could give past Google Plus members as much as $12, depending on how few folks decide to file a claim.

Those who are part of the lawsuit’s class — the full definition is down below, but the short version is anyone with a Google+ account between January 1, 2015 and April 2, 2019 — should be able to go to the listed website and file their claim. If you’re included in that group, you have until October 8 to decide to claim, opt out of the settlement, or file an objection.

This week, Google finally took the wraps off of the Pixel 4a, over two months after we initially expected it to launch. In their announcement, Google calls the Pixel 4a the “helpful Google phone, at a helpful price,” and it’s hard to debate that claim judging from early reviews.

It is the second phone after the Pixel 4 to feature the new Google Assistant. On-device speech recognition and language understanding allow for faster commands. This in turn lets you navigate apps and perform certain actions hands-free. For example, you can search Google Photos and after finding the right image send it to a contact via voice. In addition to English, it now works in German, French, Spanish, and Italian.

While the formal unveiling of the Pixel 4a after its many delays is plenty exciting, our eyes, as always, are looking ahead to the next release. In the original version of Google France’s announcement of the Pixel 4a, it was spotted that the company included a date for when the Pixel 4a (5G) and Pixel 5 should launch — October 8.

This October 8 event would most likely be a full-blown Made by Google hardware event, serving as an opportunity for Google to launch their upcoming Android TV dongle as well as the recently teased successor to the Google Home.

OnePlus fans got their first glimpse at Android 11 this week, as the company announced an upcoming update to their China-exclusive HydrogenOS. While full details of the update should be unveiled on August 10, OnePlus spent this week teasing new features in their Android 11 update like an improved dark mode.

OnePlus also shows several designs for its always-on display, another overdue feature that users have been requesting for years. As seen previously, there are some slick and unique designs here, but also some more traditional options that play off of analog and digital clockfaces.

On the flip side of OnePlus news, it’s now been revealed that the smartphone company has struck a deal with Facebook. Specifically, their phones, starting with the OnePlus 8, come with Facebook App Installer, Facebook Services, and Facebook App Manager pre-installed in such a way that they cannot be uninstalled, only disabled.

With those apps installed and active, you might notice that updates for Facebook apps may come through that service instead of the Play Store. You may also notice that those services eat up little bits of data even while not in use, which is a tad concerning considering you don’t know what data is being sent back to Facebook.

The rest of this week’s top stories follow:

Android 11 Beta 3 |

Android |

Apps & Updates |

Google Assistant |

Google Stadia |

Made by Google |

OnePlus |

Samsung |

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Google Assistant can now play your ‘personal’ YouTube Music playlists, still in limited testing

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Google this week laid out how Play Music will stop working in the coming months. With that on the horizon, YouTube Music is striving for feature parity, and the service is finally gaining the ability to have personal playlists be played from Google Assistant. However, this is still in testing with limited reach.

YouTube Music is known for its curated and programmatic playlists, but that’s the only collection users have been able to play from Google Assistant since launch.

Google on Friday revealed that it’s “testing the ability for you to play personal playlists from YouTube Music via Google Assistant.” The feature and “Hey Google” command is as straightforward as it sounds: “Play my [x] playlist” or just “Play [x] playlist.”

Note: we’re also testing the ability for you to play personal playlists from YouTube Music via Google Assistant – a feature that many of you have previously asked for. This is currently available to all YouTube Music listeners on Nest speakers and smart displays in the United States, with plans to roll out to more countries and devices in the future!

As of today, the feature is only available on Nest speakers and Smart Displays in the United States. Both free and Premium subscribers have access to this capability, with Google promising that it will “roll out to more countries and devices in the future.”

The Assistant command currently does not work on phones, though the saving grace is that most just use the excellent “Your mix” playlist. 

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Google weather app disappears for some Android users, probably a bug

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For a long time, the Google app on Android has had a not-so-hidden weather “app” built in. It offers a full UI with limited, but useful features. It gets the job done for a lot of people, and has a cute little frog too. Now, though, some Android users have noticed that the Google weather app has disappeared off of their phones.

Presumably as part of a bug or an A/B test, the Google app is removing the weather app. When the app was working, it was accessible from the “At a Glance” widget used on Pixel devices as well as when searching “weather” through the Google app or search bar. When accessed, too, a shortcut to this weather app could be added to your homescreen.

Over the past several days, more and more users have been reporting this change. We’re not exactly sure how widespread this is or what triggers the change. It seems possible this could be linked to the Google app beta, but it could also be caused by a server-side change. There’s really not much rhyme or reason to the change, either. I’ve got the app on my Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but a Pixel on the same account lacks it. For some users, it also goes back and forth.

Without the proper app, a simple knowledge graph card is shown (pictured below) with the current conditions, an hour slider to see the forecast, and a look at the next several days ahead. It’s functional, but it looks nowhere near as nice.

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Hopefully, this is just a test or a bug within the Google app. In the meantime, though, there’s a neat workaround that still allows access to the weather app, complete with that adorable frog as its homescreen icon.

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