As of the most recent update to the Google Stadia app on Android, you can now browse your games in landscape orientation, a long-requested addition.
Up until recently, to play Stadia games on Android you needed to connect a separate controller, with many players using a mount or “claw” to hold their phone and controller together. Since these accessories typically hold your phone in the landscape orientation, it seemed almost silly to think that the Stadia app for Android was limited to portrait until you got into a game.
And yet, that was the bizarre reality of the first seven months of Google Stadia’s existence — until today. Starting with version 2.23 of the Stadia app, which also enables the ability to connect the Stadia controller to your phone wirelessly, the entire Stadia app now works in landscape mode.
With landscape orientation offering more horizontal screen real estate, the Stadia app is able to show more of your games and captures at once than portrait allowed. For example, on the Pixel 3, instead of only seeing one or two of my Stadia games at a time in portrait, I can see as many as four in landscape. Otherwise, everything in the app looks and feels identical, with the change simply saving folks from holding their phone awkwardly when switching games.
All said and done, landscape mode is far from an exciting addition, but it’s still good to see that Google is listening to and ultimately addressing the Stadia community’s complaints, slowly but surely. If you’re looking for bigger changes to the Stadia experience, we’ve found that Google is preparing an Android TV app, as well as allowing phones to experimentally play on mobile data.
At 9 a.m. PT, Google Nest on Twitter and Facebook posted the following tweet with an accompanying video:
Take a deep breath and prepare. Something special is coming this Monday.
The four-second long clip features comedian Fred Armisen in a long, white wig that could be straight out of sketch comedy series Portlandia. I can’t quite make out what he’s mouthing, but we then jump to a side shot of the funny man that reveals he is sitting cross-legged on a stole in a meditation-esque pose that fits the “deep breath” aspect of this teaser.
People are immediately jumping to the conclusion that the “something special” in question is the Nest speaker given how recently that occurred. A one-off hardware announcement is possible, but it would chip away at what could be announced — presumably — in the fall. That said, in the US and Japan, the speakers have received the necessary regulatory approvals to go on sale, while Google could always announce and ship later.
If Monday doesn’t see a hardware announcement, then software is the other possibility. Given the nature of the tease, Google Assistant and Nest devices could be getting some kind of relaxation/meditation feature, while one long shot is an Armisen celebrity Assistant voice. John Legend departed last year leaving Issa Rae.
In this week’s top stories: the Google app confirms the “Pixel 4a (5G)” and “Pixel 5,” Android 11 Beta 2 arrives for Pixel phones, more Nest controls previewed for the Google Home app, and more.
There was a lot of movement this week on the Made by Google news front. On Friday, our APK Insight team discovered the names and codenames of all three Google Pixel phones for 2020, the Pixel 4a, Pixel 4a 5G, and Pixel 5, with no signs of a “Pixel 5 XL” being in development. More intriguingly, the evidence suggests that the Pixel 5 and the Pixel 4a 5G will run on the same Snapdragon 765 chip.
But how will Google differentiate these two seemingly very similar devices? The most obvious ways they could do this are through cost and build quality differences. By using “cheaper” materials like plastic on the Pixel 4a (5G) and more “premium” materials like glass and aluminum on the Pixel 5, the two could look and feel obviously different.
With Beta 2, developers are encouraged to start “final compatibility testing” for apps, SDKs, and libraries. Google this year introduced the concept of “Platform Stability” where “all app-facing surfaces and behaviors are now final.”
While Nest has been slowly but surely migrating to Google Accounts and the Google Home app, the latter is still missing features from the dedicated Nest app. While discussing Android 11, Google happened to show off what appears to be new Nest Thermostat controls for the Home app.
We can make out a heating icon and something to do with temperature, while the last two items are today’s “History” and “Fan” shortcuts. Notably, the Nest icon has been removed from the top-right corner. This could hint at a future where Nest devices no longer require a separate client, which comes as Google winds down the Works with Nest program for a Google Assistant equivalent.
Android TV fans have been keeping an eye on the upcoming series of “Mi TV Stick” dongles from Xiaomi, if for no reason other than their likely low pricing. “How low,” you ask? According to a new pricing leak from Xiaomi’s own online store for Portugal, €39.99.
Directly converted to US dollars, that would be about $45, but it’s not quite that simple. A quick peek into the Google Store in Portugal shows that the company’s latest-generation Chromecast — also limited to 1080p — sells for €39. I’d wager that Xiaomi is targeting the Chromecast’s price point for the Mi TV Stick’s FHD model, meaning it could arrive in the US for $35. That’s just speculation at this point, though.
In a final bit of Made by Google news, the company’s next Nest branded smart speaker arrived at regulators around the world, revealing its bold, mostly fabric design. Possibly to counteract the less-than-flattering images reaching the public, Google reached out to 9to5Google and other publications with a short promo video of this new Nest speaker.
Whenever this product does arrive, it will replace the original Google Home. With that in mind, it makes some changes that better align it with the rest of the portfolio. That includes an all-fabric design, a rubber bottom, and also a physical mute switch instead of a button. There’s also a new plug design. Where the original Home had a slick hidden port, this new Nest-branded speaker has a traditional plug that juts out the back. Shame.
One feature that Android fans have to be envious of the iPad for is Sidecar, the ability to use your iPad as an external display. It seems the folks at Lenovo are eyeing an interesting way to solve that by making an Android tablet that doubles as an external monitor, the “Yoga X.”
This evening, two different leakers shared information about an upcoming device from Lenovo, reportedly called the “Yoga X.” Evan Blass shared an image on his Patreon depicting a simple illustration of this Yoga X, with a design that suffices it to say odd for a typical Android tablet. At first glance, it looks more like Chromebook folded into presentation mode than an Android tablet.
Fellow leaker Till Kottmann, via XDA-Developers, has provided a bit more context on what this device has in store. According to internal Lenovo documentation uncovered by Kottmann, which references a “second screen UX wireframe,” the Lenovo Yoga X will be able to connect via mini HDMI to another device. In doing so, the Android part of the tablet will lock to secure your data and the Yoga X will act as a display for what you’ve connected — be it a laptop, game console, or phone.
Elsewhere in the internal document, reportedly parts of the tablet’s Android side will still function as normal, including the brightness and volume controls as well as the audio output, should you want to use the Yoga X’s speakers.
Unfortunately, no other details have been discovered, such as specs, display size, or pricing. Given the lack of details and how bold and experimental an idea it would be to turn an Android tablet into an external display, it’s entirely possible this “Lenovo Yoga X” could never reach the market.