All posts in “Google”

YouTube app joins the billion-dollar club thanks to in-app purchases

People are spending a lot of money in the YouTube app. 

The Google-owned platform has taken in more than $563 million in 2019, bringing the app’s lifetime revenue to more than $1 billion, according to new analysis from app analytics firm Sensor Tower.

That milestone places YouTube amongst an elite group of just a handful of non-gaming apps to hit the $1 billion mark. Sensor Tower only looked at revenue from in-app purchases and subscriptions, so the $1 billion doesn’t reflect YouTube’s ad revenue, or what the company has made from the YouTube Music or YouTube TV apps.

YouTube has consistently ranked as one of the most-downloaded apps, so it’s not necessarily surprising that it’s also a major moneymaker for the company. Google has been notoriously secretive about YouTube revenue, but Sensor Tower’s report highlights just how much in-app spending has spiked in the last year. 

YouTube users spent more than $563 million in the app in 2019 so far, compared with $277 million in 2018, according to Sensor Tower. And spending outsides of the United States has been growing even more quickly, jumping from $53.8 million in 2018 to $181.7 million in 2019. 

Spending in the YouTube app jumped in 2019.

Spending in the YouTube app jumped in 2019.

Image: sesnor Tower

A big part of that is likely due to YouTube’s expansion of its monetization features for channel owners, like SuperChat, or the ability to sell products

“Today, thousands of channels have more than doubled their YouTube revenue by using new features that help fans engage with creators, like Super Chat, Channel Memberships, and Merchandise,” YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki wrote last month. “More than 100,000 channels have received Super Chat, and some streams are earning more than $400 per minute as fans reach out.”

YouTube didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, but Sensor Tower’s analysis indicates these efforts are starting to pay off — literally. 

Lenovo Smart Display 7 review: Small, but mighty (and stylish too)

Chic design • Responsive touchscreen • Compact for any room in the house • Great far-field microphones • Camera shutter button adds a layer of privacy
Intermittently disconnects from Wi-Fi • Only has a single speaker • Video calls tend to lag
Lenovo’s Smart Display 7 packs all the smart essentials you need into a chic design, making it a great companion throughout the home or office.

⚡ Mashable Score
4.25

The Google Nest Hub (formerly known as the Google Home Hub) might’ve met its match, and it comes in the form of the $129.99 Lenovo Smart Display 7

As a follow-up to last year’s 8-inch and 10-inch Smart Display models, the 7-inch display comes with all the same features as its predecessors. But its smaller size is compact enough to fit on your nightstand or kitchen counter without having to go through the struggle of making room for it. Plus, if we’re being honest, it’s also a lot better looking.

Like the Nest Hub, it’s essentially a glorified digital photo frame. But with the built-in Google Assistant, you can use it for a variety of different things, from streaming recipes on YouTube to controlling the thermostat right from the display or hands-free. You can also make video calls using Google Duo. 

Considering both the Nest Hub and Lenovo Smart Display are the same price and come with the same features, it really all comes down to aesthetics and your preferred ecosystem. 

Adds a chic touch to any room

It's not a smart speaker you'll want to hide.

It’s not a smart speaker you’ll want to hide.

Image: ZLATA IVELEVA/MASHABLE

When I first saw the Lenovo 7-inch Smart Display, the first words that came to mind were, “it’s so cute.” The entire device is petite, compact, and sleek enough that I welcomed it with open arms as desk decor. But it also looked great plugged in on my kitchen counter, nestled right in between the coffee machine and the toaster oven. 

It’s also fairly portable and lightweight. While it’s not the best travel companion, I easily popped it in my bag to take from the office to my apartment. And, while home, I would occasionally switched back and forth between using it in the kitchen to watch YouTube videos or in my room to listen to music. 

It has a different aesthetic than both the 8-inch and 10-inch options. Rather than a speaker equipped to the side of the display, the 7-inch version has a single 5-watt speaker attached to the bottom instead. It looks a lot more sleek and seamless. 

In terms of sound quality, the speaker gets very, very loud and sounds crisp for the most part. But it can get a little muffled at times.

My favorite little detail is the gray cloth over the speaker grille, similar to what you’d find on any of the Google Home smart speakers, which adds a nice and cozy touch. 

Meanwhile, the display itself has 1,024 by 600 SD resolution, which is a bit of a downgrade from the 1,280 x 800 HD resolution featured on the 8-inch display. But content on the IPS screen still looks bright, crisp, and clear on photos. The display is also super responsive—swiping through different apps and cards felt fluid and smooth. 

An RGB sensor helps with the quality as well. The display adjusts depending on whether the lighting in the surrounding environment is warmer or cooler. 

In the middle is a two-megapixel wide angle camera, that comes complete with a privacy shutter. So, those paranoid of being watched involuntarily can feel secure. For extra security, there’s also a switch to mute the microphone. Next to it, you’ll find the volume controls.

The microphone mute switch on top, for when you don't want to be heard.

The microphone mute switch on top, for when you don’t want to be heard.

Image: ZLATA IVELEVA/MASHABLE

The camera shutter button on the back, when you don't want to be seen.

The camera shutter button on the back, when you don’t want to be seen.

Image: ZLATA IVELEVA/MASHABLE

Speaking of the microphone, the Smart Display comes with dual-array microphones that pick up “Hey, Google” voice commands from pretty far away. 

One night while sitting on my couch, I asked Google to stop playing music while the device sat on the kitchen counter. Though it isn’t far from the device to my kitchen, I didn’t have to raise my voice for it to register the command instantly. Another time, I asked my Google Home Mini to turn the TV on in my room, and the Smart Display managed to pick it up a few rooms away.

Unfortunately, the Smart Display doesn’t come in that same unique bamboo finish like the 10-inch model. It only comes in white, but it easily blends in with all types of furniture and interior decor. 

I do prefer the look of the Google Nest Hub though. It has a more modern design that suits my taste, and, it comes in fun colors like Aqua and Sand. The Lenovo Smart Display, while sleek, looks more basic and practical in comparison.

A display with plenty to offer

The Smart Display has all the standard capabilities that come with any Google Assistant-powered device. A tap on the display pulls up cards like Google News, Google Maps, Podcasts, and suggestions for the Assistant tailored to your activity like “Play music,” “Find breakfast recipes,” and “What’s in the news?”

The display cards make it easy to swipe through tailored content.

The display cards make it easy to swipe through tailored content.

Image: ZLATA IVELEVA/MASHABLE

Every morning when I got to my desk, I’d quickly scroll through the top stories of the day to catch up on news from the prior evening or throughout the night. But it’s definitely more useful at my kitchen counter, where I can watch the news videos while drinking coffee or getting ready.

I’d also use it to check commute times between the office and my apartment, along with movie times at theaters nearby. For the most part, I used the touchscreen display while exploring the day’s lineup of info. 

As with any Google Assistant device, you can also use it for other things like to find restaurants and bars in your area, check your Google Calendar, set alarms and timers, and more. And, if you forget all the things you can do with it, the bottom of the display has tons of additional cards labeled with different actions.

All the options can get overwhelming, but Google Assistant has your back.

All the options can get overwhelming, but Google Assistant has your back.

Image: ZLATA IVELEVA/MASHABLE

Like the Google Nest Hub, you can also use it as a digital photo frame or ask Google Assistant to show you your photos.

Swipe down on the display to find controls for all your Google Home devices. Whether a thermostat or bulb, the screen lets you adjust temperature, brightness, and modes using the dials on the screen.

I preferred using voice commands. With a quick “Hey Google,”I turned both the space heater and lamp on in my room while still in the kitchen, all of which worked effortlessly. 

You also have the ability to manage routines right from the screen. Depending on the different smart devices and smart plugs you have at home, you can create routines catered for a specific time of day. For example, a simple “Hey Google, good morning” can turn on your lights, and coffee machine, all while the Assistant tells you about what you have planned for the day.

While I don’t use Google Duo often (I like to stick to good ol’ FaceTime), you can leverage the display and camera to make video calls. While working from home, I called a friend to test the feature.

I simply said, “Hey Google, video call Julian Chokkattu.” Within a few seconds, he answered on his Google Pixel 4. While the audio was standard, the picture quality was a bit grainy. It also lagged quite a bit throughout the call. I wouldn’t necessarily use it to video chat for long periods at a time, but it’s useful for quick calls to check in with friends and family.

Casual vid chat with my friend and his cute dog.

Casual vid chat with my friend and his cute dog.

Image: Brenda stolyar/mashable

I did also notice the Smart Display had a tendency to disconnect from Wi-Fi intermittently. While I thought it had to do with my somewhat troublesome Wi-Fi setup at home, I experienced the same thing at the office. While annoying, it was a quick fix—I simply opened the Google Home app to check connectivity, disconnected from my Wi-Fi, and then reconnected to it.

A useful little companion

If you’re on the hunt for a smart display, whether for your office, kitchen, or bedroom, you can’t go wrong with the Lenovo Smart Display 7. And, at $129.99, it’s not terribly expensive.

For starters, it’s small enough that you can place it really anywhere in your home. And, its sophisticated design will have you rearranging your decor to make it the focal point of whatever space it’s in. 

With the full suite of Google Assistant features, you have all your information at your fingertips—quite literally. And, if you’re not in the mood to swipe on the touchscreen display then voice commands will also do the trick. 

If you’re looking for a larger display, then the Lenovo 8-inch or 10-inch models will also do the trick. While I prefer the look of the 7-inch model, both Smart Displays come with the same features. But that also means you’ll have to shell out a little more money, particularly around $200 to $250, depending on the size. 

Of course, there’s also the Google Nest Hub which costs the same as the 7-inch Smart Display. As mentioned before, it comes in a variety of different colors and has a more contemporary aesthetic. It’s also the more practical choice if your home, like mine, consists only of Google Home speakers.

Regardless, the Lenovo Smart Display 7 delivers on its promises. You can use it to control your connected devices, manage your schedule, catch up on entertainment, and ask Google all the questions. 

Having used the Lenovo Smart Display 7 for quite some time now, I can confidently say I’m going to miss having this little baby keep me company at my desk.

BMW says ‘ja’ to Android Auto

BMW today announced that it is finally bringing Android Auto to its vehicles, starting in July 2020. With that, it will join Apple’s CarPlay in the company’s vehicles.

The first live demo of Android Auto in a BMW will happen at CES 2020 next month and after that, it will become available as an update to drivers in 20 countries with cars that feature the BMW OS 7.0. BMW will support Android Auto over a wireless connection, though, which somewhat limits its comparability.

Only two years ago, the company said that it wasn’t interested in supporting Android Auto. At the time, Dieter May, who was the senior VP for Digital Services and Business Model at the time, explicitly told me that the company wanted to focus on its first-party apps in order to retain full control over the in-car interface and that he wasn’t interested in seeing Android Auto in BMWs. May has since left the company, though it’s also worth noting that Android Auto itself has become significantly more polished over the course of the last two years, too.

“The Google Assistant on Android Auto makes it easy to get directions, keep in touch and stay productive. Many of our customers have pointed out the importance to them of having Android Auto inside a BMW for using a number of familiar Android smartphone features safely without being distracted from the road, in addition to BMW’s own functions and services,” said Peter Henrich, Senior Vice President Product Management BMW, in today’s announcement.

With this, BMW will also finally offer support for the Google Assistant, after early bets on Alexa, Cortana and the BMW Assistant (which itself is built on top of Microsoft’s AI stack). As the company has long said, it wants to offer support for all popular digital assistants and for the Google Assistant, the only way to make that work in a car is, at least for the time being, Android Auto.

In BMWs, Android Auto will see integrations into the car’s digital cockpit, in addition to BMW’s Info Display and the heads-up display (for directions). That’s a pretty deep integration, which goes beyond what most car manufacturers feature today.

“We are excited to work with BMW to bring wireless Android Auto to their customers worldwide next year,” said Patrick Brady, Vice President of Engineering at Google. “The seamless connection from Android smartphones to BMW vehicles allows customers to hit the road faster while maintaining access to all of their favorite apps and services in a safer experience.”

‘What is a boomer?’: The most popular Google searches of 2019

From the infamous occupation of Area 51 to “OK, Boomer,” there was a lot to Google in 2019. 

There are a lot of great tidbits buried in Google’s annual Year In Search report — sorry, Baby Shark, but Baby Yoda was the most popular baby on the internet in 2019 — but the “What is…?” section is, as always, fascinating. Here are what people were curious about in the United States. 

  1. What is Area 51?

  2. What is a VSCO girl?

  3. What is momo?

  4. What is a boomer?

  5. What is quid pro quo?

  6. What is camp fashion?

  7. What is Disney Plus?

  8. What is Bird Box about?

  9. What is a Mandalorian?

  10. What is Brexit?

Most of these were the online trends that defined 2019, so it’s easy to imagine clueless web surfers searching for the terms and being either delighted or horrified at the results. Face it, once you find out what “momo” actually is, you’ll never forget it.

But real, impactful world events managed to sneak in among searches for VSCO girls and camp fashion. Not only is Brexit dragging on, but apparently people still need to be reminded what it actually is.

And, of course, there’s “quid pro quo,” the phrase at the center of the Trump impeachment trial. Translating (roughly) to “this for that,” it’s the Latin phrase most have used to describe what Trump allegedly demanded of Ukraine.

Here’s to 2020 and all the election controversies and confusing memes that will fill our Google search bars for the next 12 months. 

Larry Page’s secret war on the flu

Google co-founder’s efforts to beat influenza are nothing to be sneezed at

Now that Larry Page has stepped down as CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, he could be following in Bill Gates’s footsteps and tackling global health challenges.

According to charity and business documents obtained by TechCrunch, the billionaire co-founder of Google has been quietly waging a war on the flu.

Thousands of children and teachers in San Francisco’s Bay Area will receive free flu shots at their schools this year from Shoo The Flu, which describes itself as a “community-based initiative.” In fact, it is wholly funded by a for-profit company controlled by Page. Another of his companies, Flu Lab, is supporting multi-million dollar efforts to develop a universal flu vaccine. Neither effort makes public Page’s role in them.