Windows 11’s next big update is almost ready to roll – but most people won’t get it for a long time yet

Windows 11’s next major update is coming close to completion, and in fact it’s rumored that it’ll hit its final stage of development very shortly – though its launch for all users will still be a good way down the line (we’ll come back to that).

As well-known Microsoft leaker Zac Bowden shared on X (formerly Twitter), Windows 11 24H2 is on track to hit RTM (release to manufacturing) in April.

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What this means is that the 24H2 update is ready to go to PC manufacturers so that they can work on installing it on their devices. In other words, Windows 11 24H2 is all but done at this point, save for final testing and changes that might need to be applied if PC makers run into any last-minute stumbling blocks.

Bowden mentions the ‘ge_release’ which refers to Germanium, a new platform that Windows 11 is built on with 24H2. While this won’t make any difference to the visible parts of the OS, under the hood, Germanium will offer tighter security and better overall performance.

With RTM for 24H2 happening in April, in theory, the plan is that it’ll take two months to finalize the new Windows 11 Germanium build, and it will be installed on ARM-based AI PCs when they start shipping in June.


Analysis: Clarifying the 24H2 release timeline

Note that as Bowden outlines on X, this does not mean Windows 11 24H2 (Germanium) will be released for everyone in June.

It will only be out on ARM-based laptops running Snapdragon X Elite chips (or variants) initially – like the consumer spin on the Surface Pro 10 or Surface Laptop 6. Which is why only the business models were unveiled recently – they have Intel CPUs that don’t need Germanium. Whereas the Germanium platform is actually required for these new ARM chips – which have been stoking a great deal of excitement – so this is why Microsoft is pushing it out ahead of time so as not to hold up those notebooks any longer than necessary.

As Bowden makes clear in a later tweet, Windows 11 24H2 won’t actually be ‘done’ until August, so the leaker suspects Microsoft wants to limit where Germanium is present until then.

What we can surmise from this is that while Windows 11 24H2 will be out on those mentioned AI PCs as early as June (if everything stays on schedule), not all of 24H2’s full library of features will be enabled – presumably.

Whatever the case, the full rollout of Windows 11 24H2 to all users won’t happen until after it’s fully done in August, meaning a September or October rollout to all Windows 11 users. This is the timeframe Microsoft is working to based on rumors that go back to the start of this year, in fact.

The long and short of it is that while Windows 11 24H2 may be ready for RTM next month and on the cusp of finalization technically, it won’t fully arrive until September (at the earliest). And the rollout will be phased as ever, so you might not get it on your particular Windows 11 device until several months after, which is all standard practice.

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Windows 11 is getting a controversial Windows 10 feature that some people accuse of being pointless bloat

Good news – Windows 11 users are getting the same additional embellishments for the lock screen that are currently rolling out in testing for Windows 10.

Essentially, these are compact lock screen cards that display various bits of info relating to the weather, finance, traffic, and sports scores. Microsoft is now deploying them in the Release Preview channel for Windows 11 test builds, as reliable Windows leaker PhantomOfEarth noticed on X (formerly Twitter).

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They are currently rolling out in testing, so not everyone will see the cards just yet. As for the functionality itself, it’s the same deal as in Windows 10 – you can either turn off the cards, or turn them on, but you’ll have the lot if they’re enabled.

You can’t pick and choose which cards are shown, and, for example, dump the finance one if you don’t care for it – this is an all-or-nothing scenario.

While PhantomOfEarth pointed out the cards in testing, Windows Latest also picked up on this, claiming that this feature is part of the March 2024 optional update, and it’ll be rolled out fully in next month’s cumulative update as a result. That’ll be for all users of Windows 11, not just testers (if it happens).


Analysis: A better layout, but that’s unlikely to mollify haters

Windows Latest further notes that the cards will be enabled by default when the April cumulative update arrives for Windows 11 (and presumably that’ll be the case for Windows 10 users, too). However, if you hate the idea of these info cards on the lock screen, you can turn off the feature.

What also won’t go down well with some is that clicking the cards opens up more details, but they’re fired up in the Edge browser (and MSN within it). This is another opportunity Microsoft is leveraging to promote Edge in other words (and inevitably it’ll be demanding to be your default browser, from time to time).

The good news for Windows 11 users is that the implementation of the info cards is better, with them being centrally aligned on the lock screen, with the time and date also aligned above. It’s a much neater look than on Windows 10, which seems clunky in comparison, but then Microsoft’s focus is obviously on its newer OS, with worrying about the finer points of layout on the older version of Windows clearly not a priority.

As raised previously when we discussed the Windows 10 incarnation of this lock screen feature, Microsoft will hopefully work on the ability to fine-tune the options in terms of specifying the cards you want, and those you don’t need displayed, rather than being forced to have them all on, or none.

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Intel upgrades Bluetooth for Windows 11 – and it’s great news for people with the PS5 DualSense controller

Intel has just released a new Wireless Bluetooth driver for Windows 11 (and Windows 10), and it looks like it could make DualSense, the official controller for the PlayStation 5, work even better with PCs.

As Neowin reports, the Intel Wireless Bluetooth 23.30.0 driver is available to download from the official Intel website for Windows 10 and Windows 11 devices.

According to the release notes, this driver includes “Improved connectivity to a second gaming controller (Dual Sense)”, as well as several new functional updates. Devices that have gone into hibernation or sleep modes will also be more stable when they wake up.

If you have a laptop or PC that comes with Intel processors, its built-in Bluetooth connectivity is likely based on Intel hardware, so you’ll probably be able to benefit from these new drivers.

Making perfect (Dual)Sense

While Bluetooth driver updates are often hardly the most exciting news, I am glad that support for the DualSense is getting improved for Windows 11 PCs.

The innovative DualSense controller, which has lots of clever haptic feedback tricks that make playing games more immersive, is one of the best things about the PS5 – and because it can be hooked up to a gaming laptop or gaming PC, it’s also one of the best PC controllers you can buy.

This is because not only is it a solidly built controller that is comfortable to hold, but you can also make use of its advanced haptic features – including triggers that change resistance depending on what you’re doing in-game.

DualSense controllers

(Image credit: Sony)

However, while you can connect a DualSense controller wirelessly to a PC via Bluetooth, to make use of the more advanced features, you still have to use a USB cable.

Sadly, it doesn’t seem like this driver update changes that – though I would love to see those features enabled for wirelessly-connected DualSense controllers. Instead, going by the release notes, it will allow people to connect two DualSense controllers to a single PC or laptop.

This is still a welcome development, as it will enable people to play local multiplayer and cooperative games on PC. To be honest, if these improvements keep coming, it’s making me less likely to buy a PS5 and just stick with my trusted gaming PC.

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The 3 reasons people are sending back their Apple Vision Pro headsets

Apple Vision Pro owners are announcing they’re returning their headsets because they’re disappointed by the experience offered by the $ 3,500 mixed-reality gadget. 

We’ve highlighted the positives and negatives of using the device in our Apple Vision Pro review, but if you’re still on the fence then the reasons people are giving for returning could help you decide if the headset is the right fit for you.

It also might be worth starting to keep an eye on the Apple Store’s refurbished section. While it’ll likely be a while before the Vision Pro appears – and it’ll probably still be fairly pricey – you might be able to buy one of these returned Vision Pros for a discount in the future. 

As an aside, we’ve been impressed with Apple’s refurbished tech; the checks and replacements it makes mean you’re basically getting a new gadget at a lower price so it’s worth checking its refurb store for the Vision Pro or any other piece of Apple tech you’re after before just buying new – provided you aren’t after something super recent.

Anyway, let’s get into why the Vision Pro headset is being returned.

Two Apple Vision Pros on stands with people taking pcitures

Why is the Vision Pro’s popularity waning? (Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

The end of a (trial) era

There are individual reasons people will be looking to return the Apple Vision Pro, and we’ll get to those, but the main reason you’ll be seeing social media post after social media post on the topic right now is because of Apple’s returns policy.

When you buy a new Apple product from its store you have 14 days to be able to send it back and get a full refund. The Apple Vision Pro launched on February 2 so at the time of writing we’re at that two-week mark.

If someone has decided the experience isn’t perfect enough for them to part with $ 3,500 – or more if they bought a model with bigger storage – then it’s getting to the stage where they either have to live with that subpar experience or send the device back.

Apple Vision Pro on a stand showing the Solo Knit band

(Image credit: Future / Lance Ulanoff)

Comfort is king 

As for the specific Apple Vision faults, a lot of people’s problems come down to comfort.

When you’re spending as much as you’re spending on the Vision Pro you’ll probably feel the need to use it a lot to feel your purchase is justified. But as we heard from some early test events that media were invited to the device could be uncomfortable to wear for long stretches – especially when using the Solo Loop band that offers zero over-the-head support.

On top of complaints that it’s too heavy people have said it can cause motion sickness and eye strain. These issues also exist for other VR headsets – especially among people who are new to VR – but the Vision Pro may exacerbate these problems as, again, people are probably immersing themselves for very long stretches to feel like they’re getting the most out of the headset.

Not only in terms of bang for their buck but also for productivity and watching films – the two main Vision Pro uses. Blockbusters can stretch on for two hours or longer, and typical work shifts are eight hours. Even if you are just sitting looking at virtual windows this is a very long time for new users to be spending in VR without long breaks.

Apple Vision Pro apps floating in front of a snowy background

What’s the Vision Pro’s killer app? (Image credit: Future)

What does it do? 

The other frequently cited issue we’ve seen on social media is the lacking software ecosystem. 

The Vision Pro does have a lot of apps (over 1,000 at the time of writing) at its disposal and has some really neat features. But as many reviewers have pointed out – such as The Verge – the majority of those programs are ported over from iPadOS. 

There are some bespoke spatial apps and improvements have been made to make the iPad programs feel more interactive in mixed reality, but when people think of VR software they imagine epic immersive gaming like Asgard’s Wrath 2, fitness apps like Supernatural, or educational adventures like Out of Scale from Kurzgesagt.

The Vision Pro doesn’t have a good answer (or in some cases any answer at all) to these apps that you can find on rival platforms, and unfortunately for Apple, this is something that will take time to change. And if it seems like all you’re getting are iPad apps, why not save a lot of money and just buy an iPad – or even an iPad Pro?

Given that people have to decide to keep or send the device back for a refund now it’s a lot safer to assume the software problems will persist until the next headset or two launch rather than pray some killer exclusive apps are on the horizon and risk wasting $ 3,500.

Two people sit at a desk with a Mac Studio, a Studio Display, and a Vision Pro headset in front of them.

Don’t like the Vision Pro? You can send it back (Image credit: Apple)

More to the story? 

Remember it’s worth taking the posts you see with a pinch or two of salt – and remembering that most people who bought a Vision Pro are probably keeping it.

Apple tech has a lot of devout fans and haters who will engage with every single post they see about people returning the Vision Pro because it either affirms their negative view or because they feel the need to defend the 2.8 trillion dollar company. No matter how someone chooses to respond to the post, their interaction will boost engagement and amplify the voice of what is very likely a minority of Vision Pro users sending the headset back.

We also wouldn’t be surprised if a chunk of people returning the headset always planned to send it back for a refund, and are just giving whatever excuse they can that isn’t “because I can’t actually afford it.”

Apple’s Vision Pro has, as many expected, created a buzz online with post after post going viral – be they someone giving their hands-on impressions, or finding a weird way to use it like that person who walked their robot dog down the street while sporting the Apple headset. There’s also just a certain level of perceived internet clout that comes from being able to show off that you own and have used a $ 3,500 device.

Once you’ve soaked up that early hype and boosted traffic to your socials do you want to be left with a $ 3,500 hole in your wallet? Or would you rather get the boosted attention and not have to spend a dime? 

That’s not to say there aren’t some genuine issues with the Vision Pro, but don’t let all these reports necessarily put you off if you’ve tried it yourself, love it, and want to own one. As these posts have made clear, you do have just under 14 days to use it at home before you’re locked out from a full refund if you decide the Vision Pro isn’t for you after all.

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These new smart glasses can teach people about the world thanks to generative AI

It was only a matter of time before someone added generative AI to an AR headset and taking the plunge is start-up company Brilliant Labs with their recently revealed Frame smart glasses.

Looking like a pair of Where’s Waldo glasses (or Where’s Wally to our UK readers), the Frame houses a multimodal digital assistant called Noa. It consists of multiple AI models from other brands working together in unison to help users learn about the world around them. These lessons can be done just by looking at something and then issuing a command. Let’s say you want to know more about the nutritional value of a raspberry. Thanks to OpenAI tech, you can command Noa to perform a “visual analysis” of the subject. The read-out appears on the outer AR lens. Additionally, it can offer real-time language translation via Whisper AI.

The Frame can also search the internet via its Perplexity AI model. Search results will even provide price tags for potential purchases. In a recent VentureBeat article, Brilliant Labs claims Noa can provide instantaneous price checks for clothes just by scanning the piece, or fish out home listings for new houses on the market. All you have to do is look at the house in question. It can even generate images on the fly through Stable Diffusion, according to ZDNET

Evolving assistant

Going back to VentureBeat, their report offers a deeper insight into how Noa works. 

The digital assistant is always on, constantly taking in information from its environment. And it’ll apparently “adopt a unique personality” over time. The publication explains that upon activating for the first time, Noa appears as an “egg” on the display. Owners will have to answer a series of questions, and upon finishing, the egg hatches into a character avatar whose personality reflects the user. As the Frame is used, Noa analyzes the interactions between it and the user, evolving to become better at tackling tasks.

Brilliant Labs Frame exploded view

(Image credit: Brilliant Labs)

An exploded view of the Frame can be found on Brilliant Labs’ official website providing interesting insight into how the tech works. On-screen content is projected by a micro-OLED onto a “geometric prism” in the lens. 9To5Google points out this is reminiscent of how Google Glass worked. On the nose bridge is the Frame’s camera sitting on a PCBA (printed circuit board assembly). 

At the end of the stems, you have the batteries inside two big hubs. Brilliant Labs states the frames can last a whole day, and to charge them, you’ll have to plug in the Mister Power dongle, inadvertently turning the glasses into a high-tech Groucho Marx impersonation.

Brilliant Labs Frame with Mister Power

(Image credit: Brilliant Labs)

Availability

Currently open for pre-order, the Frame will run you $ 350 a pair. It’ll be available in three colors: Smokey Black, Cool Gray, and the transparent H20. You can opt for prescription lenses. Doing so will bump the price tag to $ 448.There's a chance Brilliant Labs won’t have your exact prescription. They recommend to instead select the option that closely matches your actual prescription. Shipping is free and the first batch rolls out April 15.

It appears all of the AI features are subject to a daily usage cap. Brilliant Labs has plans to launch a subscription service lifting the limit. We reached out to the company for clarification and asked several other questions like exactly how does the Frame receive input? This story will be updated at a later time.

Until then, check out TechRadar's list of the best VR headsets for 2024.

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Windows 11’s ‘February 2024 Moment’ update is bringing new AI and accessibility features – plus no more Bing blackmail (for some people)

The next major update for Windows 11 is expected to arrive at end of February, and what awaits users includes artificial intelligence (AI) tools for organising your desktop, being able to disable Bing in Windows Search (if you’re in the EU), the ability to uninstall Microsoft Edge (again, EU only), Notepad updates, and more. 

This Windows 11 update has been dubbed “Moment 5” and “February 2024 Moment” (the latter being the name that Microsoft uses internally).

While this update will deliver some new features and tweaks, this update is primarily aimed at making Windows 11 compliant with new legislation from the European Union, the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Mozilla recently published a report accusing Microsoft of using “dark patterns” and bad market competition practices with regard to browser choice, so at least in the EU, this situation will slightly improve. 

What Windows 11 users can look forward to and when

Some of the updates that are coming with Moment 5 update include improvements to Windows 365’s Cloud PC integration, built-in accessibility features in Windows 11, an option to remove news from the Widgets Board, and the capability to remove Bing from the Windows Search pane (if you're in the EU). These features are expected to be previewed in late February 2024 or the beginning of March 2024. 

This is all we know about Moment 5 at the moment, according to Windows Central, and we will continue to watch and report new information about the upcoming update as we have it. Going by the internal name given to the update, “February 2024 Moment,” it’s not expected to stretch into March, and Windows Central  suggests that users will be able to install this update as of February 27, 2024. 

You can try out this update out for yourself (if it’s available on the forecasted date) by doing the following: 

1. Go to your PC’s Settings app. 

2. In the left-hand menu, select Windows Update

3. In the resulting menu, click on the Check for updates button

This will prompt Windows to search for any freshly released available updates. If it finds them, it’ll automatically download and install them on your device. 

Windows 11 Update showing on laptop in an office

(Image credit: TechRadar)

EU-phoria for certain Windows 11 users

This update is good news for users in the EU, with them now being able to disable Bing in Windows Search and choose a different search provider in its place, and uninstall preinstalled apps like Microsoft Edge. It’s certainly a win for Windows 11 users in the EU and a cause for envy from the rest of us – they’re getting more choice and they’re gaining more control over their computers.

It’s not just Microsoft that’s being accused of anti-competitive practices. Mozilla and Google also recently called out Apple for not going far enough with its new rules and regulations that have come about as a result of the DMA, and, somewhat similarly to Microsoft, in engaging in poor browser market competition practices. 

Users have been complaining about Microsoft’s persistent and annoying efforts to try and get them to switch to its browser Edge, and at least for EU users, this will now hopefully end – or at least become less aggressive. The rest of us, however, will have to wait and hope for our governments to follow. 

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Microsoft charging for Windows 10 updates is a necessary evil – but will it get people to upgrade?

Microsoft has announced that from October 14, 2025, it will no longer support Windows 10 – and if you wish to continue to use the operating system, you’ll have to pay for security updates.

While the idea of paying to update Windows 10 is concerning a lot of people, sadly it’s a bit of an inevitability. By the time Windows 10 reaches that ‘end of life’ date, the operating system will be 10 years old.

By this point, it’s likely that Microsoft will have released Windows 12, while still also supporting Windows 11. The idea that even a company as big as Microsoft could offer full support for three different operating systems is rather fanciful.

In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, I think this will actually be for the best. I’d much rather Microsoft focused on supporting its current OS by releasing security updates, bug fixes and new features, rather than spreading itself too thinly with legacy support.

Sure, it would be nice to still get those Windows 10 updates for free, but I guess this is a way for Microsoft to justify keeping a small team for releasing essential security fixes for people who want to stay on the platform.

The choice is yours

This move, which was announced in a blog post (and reported by MSPowerUser), leaves Windows 10 users with a choice.

Firstly, they can upgrade to Windows 11. This is likely Microsoft’s desired outcome, as the company has been trying to encourage people to switch to the newer OS for years now, and despite various schemes, such as offering the upgrade for free, and littering users’ desktops with pop-ups suggesting they switch, many Windows 10 users remain reluctant to do so.

The threat of having to pay for updates could be enough to make them change over. While I don’t love that idea, Windows 11 is a decent OS with some useful features that people sticking with Windows 10 are missing out on. If you do upgrade, you get those new features, as well as free updates until Windows 11’s end of life, which won’t be for a while yet.

Another option is to stick with Windows 10. If you do, you’ll need to pay to get security updates (there won’t be any new features added once Windows 10 hits end-of-life). Microsoft hasn’t revealed how much this will cost, but it will likely be a subscription that will provide monthly updates.

You should also be able to use Windows 10 without paying for updates, as the operating system will continue to function after the date. This might sound appealing, but I really don’t recommend it. 

Without paying, you’ll likely not get any updates, which means if a new virus emerges or security vulnerability is discovered, your PC will remain unpatched and exposed to the risk. After Windows 10 enters its end-of-life period on October 14, 2025, there’ll be no technical support offered, either – so you really will be on your own.

Malicious actors will know that Windows 10 will no longer get free updates, so it’s likely they will begin targeting unpatched versions.

Finally, you could switch operating systems to open-source Linux. Linux distributions come in all shapes and sizes, can run on pretty much any PC hardware and offer a lot of the same features and applications as Windows 10 – and all for free. Many distros, such as Ubuntu, openSUSE and Mint, offer Long Term Support (LTS) versions, which have commitments to be updated and supported until dates far off into the future – and most of these are also free.

Of course, this is the option Microsoft would least like you to take (which might be enough to sell you on it, if you feel particularly put out by the company’s decision to charge for Windows 10 updates).

At least you won’t have choose an option soon, as there’s a while left until October 14, 2025 – and hopefully by that time we’ll all be playing GTA 6, anyway. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind for now, so you don't suddenly find yourself using a compromised version of Windows 10.

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WhatsApp’s built-in AI chatbot looks like its rolling out to more people

AI bots are rapidly being added to just about every app and platform you can think of – with more on the way – and WhatsApp is stepping up its testing of a chatbot of its own, with easier access to the feature now on the way.

Back in September, WhatsApp owner Meta announced a variety of AI upgrades that would be coming to its products. Since then, a small number of users have been able to play around with an AI chatbot inside WhatsApp, capable of answering questions, generating text, and creating art like stickers.

Now, as spotted by WABetaInfo (via Android Police), a shortcut to the AI chat functionality has been added to the conversations screen in the beta version of WhatsApp for Android. If you're running the early beta version of the app, you may see it soon.

It also means that it shouldn't be too long before the rest of us get the same feature, and we can see how WhatsApp's AI helper compares against the likes of ChatGPT and Google Bard when it comes to providing useful and accurate information.

WhatsApp and AI

From what Meta has said so far, the purpose of the AI chatbot inside WhatsApp is to help with daily activities, offering advice and suggestions: how to entertain the kids at the weekend perhaps, or what to look for when upgrading a smartphone.

WhatsApp is by no means the first messaging app to give this a try – Snapchat introduced a similar feature back in February, and the chats with the AI buddy appears alongside the rest of your conversations through the app.

Such are the capabilities of generative AI now, you can really ask these bots anything you like – from relationship advice to questions about complex technical topics. The point of them being built into apps is that you're less likely to leave the app and go somewhere else to get your AI-produced responses.

WhatsApp continues to be one of the most regularly updated apps out there: we've recently seen AI-made chat stickers, newsletter tools, and features to fight spammers introduced for users of the instant messenger.

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Google Maps now looks more like Apple Maps – and a lot of people aren’t happy

Google Maps has had a rejig of the colors used to denote different elements, and a significant portion of its regular users aren't happy about the change.

As you may have seen, this change in color palette was first spotted back in September, but now it’s widely rolling out to users of Google’s navigation app.

Google Maps now has gray roads like Apple, rather than white or yellow roads as before, and forests are a darker green. On the other hand, the shade of blue used for water is lighter.

However, the active route is a much darker blue, with alternate routes shown in lighter blue (these used to be gray).

See the pic above for a comparison of the old (left) and new (right) design, and the one below (in the tweet) for another look at the freshly revamped colors.

These may not sound like massive changes – and to be fair, they aren’t, they’re essentially tweaks. But they have rubbed a number of users up the wrong way. As Android Authority points out, there’s some quite spicy feedback on the new Google Maps on Reddit, X (formerly Twitter) and other online forums.


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Analysis: Lacking clarity?

Some of this is unfamiliarity, as no one likes change, and it takes time to acclimatize to a new look – but there are some consistent and well-observed pieces of feedback on the redeployment of colors for Google Maps.

One common thread is criticism of the new colors lacking clarity, and making it trickier to see what’s what at a glance (and when driving obviously you will just be glancing at the display).

As one Redditor put it: “I’m finding it a little hard to read as quickly as I used to. The toned down look is cute but not practical.”

Another problem highlighted by multiple users on Reddit is that the new alternate routes being blue – as well as the main route, albeit that’s a darker blue – is an issue. It can be difficult to tell those routes apart on a phone at a bit of a distance (and with other potential factors thrown into the mix like sun glare).

Overall, Google may want to have a rethink, particularly around the alternate routes. That said, not everyone is unhappy with the changes, but the majority seem to be at least according to a poll Android Authority is running.

This shows that 44% of respondents don’t like the new colors, compared to 28% who do (with the rest abstaining). So, that doesn’t look great for Google, though of course, it’s a limited sample of around 800 people (at the time of writing).

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