Google Assistant is slated to ditch 17 features in the coming weeks

Google Assistant is going to be shedding some weight as at least 17 “underutilized” features will be removed in the coming weeks.

In a recent announcement post, the tech giant says it wants to focus on the parts of its digital assistant that people actually use, so it will be getting rid of the ones that see little interaction. A list of upcoming dropped features can be found on the Google Help website. They include playing audiobooks on Google Play Books via voice command and asking for information about your contacts. For every feature being removed, the company recommends workarounds you can use to replicate the same action. For example, even though users won’t be able to control audiobooks with their voice, they can still cast them from a mobile device.

Pulling the plug

Not everything will receive an equivalent workaround. Google Assistant’s integration with Calm is getting axed, and there’s nothing you can do to duplicate the service. Google instead recommends playing a meditation video on YouTube. 

It’s worth pointing out that although the Help page lists 17 features, the wording implies more will be removed. We reached out asking for details regarding the exact number of deprecated features. This story will be updated at a later time.

It’s unknown exactly when the company will shut everything down. The announcement post states that beginning on January 26, Google Assistant will send a notification telling you a feature “won’t be available after a certain date” if you ask for it. That day officially remains a mystery. However, 9To5Google claims in its report the date is February 26 for most features. The Nest Hub Commute Tiles and Google Maps App Launcher will go offline a little earlier on February 7.

Upcoming tweaks

In addition to all of the removals, Google will be making a few tweaks to its mobile app. 

Using the microphone icon will now activate “Search results in response to your queries”. But you'll no longer be able to use said microphone for certain Google Assistant actions, like turning on the lights or sending texts. This deprecation extends to the search bar on Pixel phones. On the smartphone, tapping the icon will activate Voice Search instead of Assistant.

The company admits these changes may be jarring for some. If there are issues, they ask that you say “Hey Google, send feedback” to Google Assistant and share your thoughts. 

If you're in the market for an AI assistant to help with your daily routine but don't know where to start, check out TechRadar's list of the best smart speakers for 2024.

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Google Chat will officially replace Hangouts within weeks

Google has finally confirmed the date when it will be closing its Hangouts instant messaging service for good.

The company has revealed that enterprise and business users on “Classic Hangouts” will be upgraded to the new Google Chat service by March 22, 2022.

In a blog post, the company added that the move will ensure all Google Workspace customers will be using the same platform, with anyone trying to access Hangouts being redirected across to Google Chat.

Farewell Google Hangouts

The news brings an end to a rather protracted saga for Google that saw it extend the deadline for Hangouts' retirement several times.

News of a move first emerged in October 2019, with Hangouts officially rebranded as Google Chat for what was then G Suite enterprise users back in November 2020, and user migration over to the new service beginning the following month.

The news came as Google also revealed it would rebrand its video conferencing service (then Hangouts Meet) to Google Meet.

Now, the “final phase” of the migration will be complete within weeks, with Google noting that “it is not possible to opt out of this change”, and that all classic Hangouts applications will also be disabled, including the Android and iOS apps.

However, users will be able to export their historic Hangouts and Chat data using a special Google tool.

The change will not affect Hangouts users with only personal Google accounts, but it's likely that they will see a similar change soon.

For now, if your organization’s Google Workspace Admin console setting is set to “Chat and classic Hangouts,” the automatic upgrade to the new platform will occur “over the course of three weeks starting March 22, 2022.”

Customers with the “Classic Hangouts only” setting will be upgraded over the course of five weeks, starting April 4, 2022. 

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Huawei P40 series pricing tipped weeks before the launch

The Huawei P40 family will be unveiled on March 26. While specific details around the smartphone are yet to be confirmed, a leakster has already been able to obtain the series’ pricing.

Every March, Huawei announces new members to its P series, which has often set new benchmarks for smartphone photography. However, this time, the odds are against it as it looks to thrive without Google as well as make its way through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

That doesn’t seem to slow down Huawei as it continues to push towards the launch of the P40 series. Teme, a reliable leakster when it comes to Huawei smartphones, has shared what could be the final retail prices of the Huawei P40 series in Europe. 

The standard Huawei P40 model is said to be priced between €799 and €899(~Rs 70,000), with the P40 Pro being priced in the €999-1,099 range(~Rs 87,000). There will also be an even more premium edition (Porsche design?), which is suggested to be priced between €1,199 and €1,299(~Rs 1,04,000). He further adds that prices can vary by a bit in different markets. Considering how wide the ranges are as well as the series’ past, these could very well be the final prices when the phones get announced in two weeks. 

Leaks have also given us a fair idea about what to expect from the Huawei P40 series. All of them will be powered by the Kirin 990 chipset and will have 5G capabilities onboard. As for the cameras, we expect a new bigger 52MP  Sony IMX700 CMOS image sensor, which will boast an unparalleled pixel size as well as an RYYB matrix for better low light photography. 

Our teammates got a chance to go hands-on with the device and suggested that the display will have pretty sharp curves, not only on the sides but also on the top and bottom. The camera island will be bigger than ever too.

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