YouTube is testing a cool new premium feature on Windows 11… but you’ll have to pay to try it

It looks like Google is testing a new YouTube 1080p premium tier for a better viewing experience on Windows 11. The feature is designed to increase the quality of high-definition videos and, up until this point, it was only available to mobile users on a paid premium tier.

Windows Latest first noticed the new ‘1080p Premium’ option when watching videos in Microsoft Edge or in Chrome using a Windows 11 device. When Mayank Parmar from Windows Latest clicked on the new option, a pop-up appeared that asked him to subscribe to YouTube Premium, which he was already subscribed to.

According to support staff working at YouTube, the company tested the feature with select users last month and has made an effort to expand this feature to Android phones and TVs. The option is currently only available for videos up to 1080p and no higher. In a screenshot from Windows Latest, you can see the ‘1080p Premium Enhanced Bitrate’ option for a music video that only goes up to 1080p, but not for 4K videos.

Google confirmed the enhanced 1080p playback on mobile devices in April, and it seems the company is making a push to bring the feature to desktop platforms.

What’s the difference?

It may sound like an exciting new tier of premium viewing, but there isn’t much to get excited about. 1080p may not be super high-end quality, especially if the bitrate is low. A lower bitrate will tank the quality of even 4K video.

Some users have noted that Google has reduced the quality of 1080p YouTube videos which possibly helps save bandwidth costs. The proposed feature would unlock a higher bitrate for 1080p with a monthly subscription, which kind of sucks. 

We have a lot of subscriptions already, and for Google to purpose hiding better quality 1080p videos behind a paywall isn't exactly consumer friendly and feels like another expense for absolutely no reason. Obviously, if you’re already subscribed to YouTube Premium it doesn’t make a difference to you, but if you aren’t and don’t want to add on another subscription this could be pretty annoying. 

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You’ll soon be able to create all kinds of documents in Google Docs – here’s how

Creating all kinds of documents with Google Docs could now prove a lot easier thanks to a new update.

The word processor tool from Google Workspace is now leveraging a boost in its smart chips technology to be able to create different types of specialized documents such as invoices or contracts.

Far from having to manually input and tweak your document to get it into exactly the right format, Google Docs users will now be able to set pre-defined items and placeholders, with the software automatically creating the type of file needed.

Google Docs smart chips

“Today, we’re introducing variable chips, a new feature that makes document creation for things like invoices, contracts, or broader communications much easier,” a Google Workspace update blog post announcing the news said.

Users will be able to pre-define and insert placeholders such as a client name, contract number, or an address, and then update it throughout their entire document simply by editing the value in one place. 

Google Docs variable smart chips

(Image credit: Google Workspace)

The update is available now, with no admin control necessary for business users. It will be available to Google Workspace Business Standard, Business Plus, Enterprise Standard, Enterprise Plus, Education Plus customers and Nonprofits only, meaning users with personal Google accounts won't get access. Rollout has started now, with users set to see the new feature over the next few weeks.

Opinion – a possible Google Docs game-changer?

As someone who creates all kinds of different types of documents within Google Docs, getting the right format and layout is often one of the trickest things to nail down – whether its a news article, a formal letter, or a contract, everything needs to be formatted in the correct way.

This launch shows Google Docs paying heed to such concerns in a way that Microsoft Word and other competitors are still yet to fully do, and could be a game-changer for workers around the world. Spelling an end to fiddly manual editing processes, the use of smart chips for intelligent editing and formatting could be incredibly valuable, and I'm all for it.

Coming on the heels of other new features such as collapsible headings, which make longer documents much easier to consume, and tweaks to tables of contents, Google Docs is finally becoming a true tool for all players.

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Hopefully you’ll never have to use this Microsoft Teams update

Highlighting emergency calls through Microsoft Teams should soon be a lot easier thanks to a new update coming to the service.

The video conferencing platform will soon allow admins to create customizable banners within Microsoft Teams that will alert users when an emergency call is coming through.

This should help such calls stand out immediately to users, particularly if their attention is divided between a number of other tasks.

Microsoft Teams emergency

In its official entry on the Microsoft 365 roadmap, the company notes that users will be able to acknowledge their admin's message by clicking on the banner within a Microsoft Teams call.

This will allow admins to phrase or word the alerts however they need to, which could be extremely handy for schools or industrial customers, who might have entirely different emergency categorizations.

The feature is still in development for now, but Microsoft has set an expected release date of April 2022, meaning it could arrive soon.

Upon launch, the feature will be available for Microsoft Teams users across the world on desktop and Mac platforms.

The news is one of a long series of improvements and upgrades made to Microsoft Teams in recent months as the company looks to ensure hybrid and remote workers are still able to get the most out of its collaboration tool.

Perhaps most usefully, Microsoft recently revealed that Teams users will soon be able to mute notifications whilst they are in a video conferencing meeting or don't want to be disturbed.

On a similar note, another upgrade concerns the addition of chat bubbles so that users wouldn't miss private messages sent during a video call, both 1:1 or as part of a group call.

Recent figures from the company suggest that Microsoft Teams now boasts over 270 million monthly active users (MAUs), as the hybrid working age continues to drive the platform from strength to strength.

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You’ll want to install this Windows 11 update to speed up your PC

If your Windows 11 PC is feeling slow, then you may want to make sure you download Microsoft’s latest update, known as Windows 11 KB5010386.

This patch was released as part of Microsoft’s big ‘Patch Tuesday’, a monthly event where the company releases a series of important updates for its software.

Included in the patches is KB5010386, which addresses a serious flaw in Windows 11 that caused the speeds of SSDs to drop – which in turn made affected PCs run slowly. While Microsoft has previously addressed this issue with the January 2022 cumulative update, as Windows Latest reports, some people have continued to suffer from this problem.

This new update aims to fix this issue once and for all, so it’s well worth downloading if your PC isn’t performing as fast as it should. The update is currently rolling out to Windows Insiders, who have signed up to test out early builds of Windows 11, but it’s also available to download directly as well.

Other patches

February’s Patch Tuesday also brought a cumulative update with security patches for 48 vulnerabilities. Again, this means making sure your version of Windows 10 or Windows 11 is updated to the very latest release.

There have been some more fixes to various errors in Windows 11 as well, to make it run more smoothly, including a fix for an error that prevented the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) Modify operation from working correctly, as Windows Central points out.

This may be a bit of a niche issue, but as it comes with the security patches, it’s well worth installing anyway.

To make sure your PC is up to date, open the Start menu, type in ‘Update’ and click ‘Check for updates’. If any are found, click them to download and install.

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Bad news – you’ll have to start paying for Google Workspace this year

Google is looking to move users of its office software products over to paid subscriptions, meaning your business will soon have to pay for the likes of Gmail, Docs, and Sheets or lose access.

From May 1 2022, G Suite legacy free edition users will need to switch to a paid Google Workspace subscription in order to keep using the software.

Google says that the G Suite legacy free edition itself will no longer be available from July 1, 2022, with any users found not to have started paying after 60 days being locked out.

Google Workspace subscription

“To maintain your services and accounts…upgrade by May 1, 2022,” a help page on the Google Support site noted. “Upgrading to Google Workspace takes just a few steps with no disruption to your users. After you upgrade you can use your new subscription at no cost until at least July 1, 2022.”

In a seperate email to admins seen by TechRadar Pro, the company said from May 1, it plans to automatically upgrade free users to “an upgraded Google Workspace paid subscription” based on its analysis of the customer's usage and the features it thinks you'll need.

Google Workplace plans start at $ 6/user/month for its Business Starter option, with Business Standard ($ 12/user/month), and Business Plus $ 18 /user/month also on offer, providing an increasing level of services with the amount paid.

Google is offering a discount for 12 months, and won't start charging subscription fees until July 1, 2022. The company is also offering businesses who don't want to pay or upgrade the chance to export their data at no extra cost.

Google rebranded G Suite as Workspace back in October 2020 in a bid to bring more structure to its myriad of apps and services.

Initially described as “the future of work”, the new platform looked to improve the interoperability of its various productivity services, blurring the lines between each product for a more fluid feel.

The change also coincided with a major shift in the way staff work and collaborate with each other due to the new hybrid working way of life helped by the pandemic.

“This is the end of the ‘office’ as we know it. From here on out, teams need to thrive without meeting in person, protect their time to focus on the most impactful work, and build human connection in new ways,” Google said at the time.

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Gmail is getting a new ‘inbox zero’ icon – but you’ll probably never see it

For those of us who really dominate the email game, a new Gmail update has promised a reward in the form of an all-new congratulatory “inbox zero” icon.

The refreshed Gmail graphic, spotted by Android Police, replaces the previous image, which, under the congratulatory message “You've finished! Nothing in Primary”, showed an abstract cartoon of a smiling woman, lying on her front without a care in the (working) world, reading a book in the countryside under a happy sun, suggesting an air of calm and peace for those lucky enough to clear their inboxes.

Clearly, this is not a Covid-friendly view of the new hybrid working world for Google, which has now refreshed the image with something a bit less outside-y.

Gmail inbox zero

(Image credit: Android Police)

As seen above, shown in dark mode on a mobile device, our carefree pal has been replaced with a selection of empty colorful boxes (inboxes?) stacked on each other, topped by a flag not unlike a castle banner (much like that seen at the end of every Super Mario Bros level). 

The congratulatory message still remains, but it's a much colder, more sterile feeling to achieving the goal of clearing all your work tasks for the day.

Gmail inbox zero

Inbox zero may just be a pipe dream for many of us, especially with a work account, but Google clearly sees it as something worth celebrating.

Recent research carried out by TechRadar Pro and OnePulse found that over three-quarters of email users (75.6%) have between one and 10,000 emails in their inbox, followed by 16.75% with between 10,001 and 100,000, with just 7.59% having over 100,001 or more. Over half of users (50.2%) either said they don't know or don't care how full their inbox is. The rest have up to 5GB filled (32.8%) or over 5GB (17%). 

Gmail was found to be the most popular email platform around, a conclusion backed up by recent figures from Google itself, which claimed in January 2022 that Gmail for Android has now surpassed 10 billion installs on the Google Play Store.

Via Android Police

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Amazon TVs will now do Zoom calls – but you’ll need one crucial piece of kit

Video calls are coming to your living room thanks to a new partnership between Amazon and Zoom.

The video conferencing giant has revealed that its platform will now be available on Amazon Fire TV sets just in time for family calls over Christmas.

The Fire TV Omni Series will let users start and join Zoom meetings, with users in the US and Canada able to enjoy the service from today.

Webcams essential

Amazon revealed its first own-branded Fire TV sets in September 2021, looking to target customers looking for more affordable hardware.

Zoom was mentioned as one of the initial apps set to be bundled with the devices, however it has been missing until now – marking the first time the company has released an app for a smart TV.

However, as there is no camera built in to the TVs themselves – you'll need to get a webcam to actually be able to carry out any Zoom calls.

Luckily, Amazon has some ideas on what webcams you can use – namely, any of the Logitech C920, C922x or C310 (although it does say any webcam offering “720p-1080p” should be compatible).

Once you're all set up, the Zoom app can be downloaded from the Fire TV Appstore, and accessed with your usual logins.

If you've got your microphone turned on, you can use Alexa to join a zoom meeting with the command “Alexa, join my zoom meeting.”

Amazon notes that the Zoom app will only use audio from your TV speakers,  meaning that users won't be able to pair with a soundbar or speakers just yet.

The news comes shortly after Zoom doubled down on its pledge to stick around even after the pandemic has ended. The company said it can play an important role in the post-pandemic world, mainly through helping facilitate and encourage hybrid working as employees look to split their time between the office and a more comfortable home environment.

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