Here Are Five New Google Features That Make Life Easier And More Enjoyable

Google keeps finding new ways to help.

Google never stops tweaking and improving its products. Here are some recent upgrades that make listening to audiobooks, watching movies or TV, sending yourself reminders, and communicating with others easier and more enjoyable.

Google Play Audiobooks has new features.

Improvements for Google Play Audiobooks

Google added audiobooks to Google Play in January. Now, they’ve updated their audiobook service with several new features.

Smart Resume automatically rewinds a book to the beginning of a previous word or sentence. It’s designed to make it easier to pick a book back up after an unexpected interruption caused a pause at an inopportune time. Google describes the rewind as “intelligent”. I hope that means a rewind will not occur when reading is stopped at an obvious breaking point.

The Google Play Books app now has a Bookmark function that lets you save locations you might want to return to later. Just tap the icon to return to the bookmark.

Audiobooks can now be included in the Routines that work with Google’s Assistant. This can be very useful if, for example, you’d rather listen to a book than music or a podcast during your daily commute. It won’t be so useful if Google’s audiobooks don’t sync across devices.

The reading-rate control has been expanded. Books can now be heard from 0.5 to 3.0 times the normal reading rate.

Home-controlled Bluetooth speakers

Audiobooks often succeed or fail based on how well the reader captures the written word and communicates it to the listener. Google can help with that. Its Home devices now have the ability to control Bluetooth speakers. If you use Home to control your audiobook, the reader will sound better, and you may find the book is more engaging.

A single Home device can control Bluetooth speakers throughout the house, so whatever you’re listening to can stay with you wherever you go. The communication between Home and the speaker is one way, however. You can’t issue commands to Home through the speaker, so if you have to pause the audio when you’re in a room where Home can’t hear you, you’re out of luck.

Google’s original Home smart speaker.

Home handles location-based reminders

The ability to connect with Bluetooth speakers isn’t the only new feature Google recently added to Home. The Assistant in Google’s smart speaker can now handle location-based reminders. Ask Home to remind you, and the Assistant in your phone will deliver the message when you’re at the location where you want to hear it. Location-based reminders are great for people like me who tend to remember to do something in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Adding location-based reminders to Home is a step in the direction of eliminating one of the Assistant’s most annoying faults. The Assistant can be found in a lot of devices but it doesn’t function the same way across all of them. For example, the Assistant in smartphones has supported location-based reminders for some time but until now the Assistant in Home did not. Pulling your phone out to talk to the Assistant with Home sitting right in front of you is not only ridiculous, it confuses the two Assistants because they both wake up to “Hey Google”. You don’t have this problem anymore for location-based reminders.

Easier access to GIFs in Google Images

Suppose you want to use a GIF to let someone know how much you love/hate your current audiobook or add a GIF to the post the Assistant reminded you to send to your favorite social media platform when you got to work. Google has plans to make that easier for you.

Google recently purchased Tenor, a GIF-sharing keyboard for both mobile and desktop. The plan is to incorporate Tenor’s immense library of GIFs into Google Images and products like Gboard. The goal is to surface the GIF you want, whenever you want, within the Google product where you want to use it.

Tenor claims that more than 300 million people launch over 12 billion searches for GIFs every month using its platform. People who already rely on Tenor will still be able to do so because the company will continue to operate as a separate brand.

Google’s Movies TV app now has a Watchlist that saves what you want to watch later.

New features for Google Play Movies TV

Audiobooks and GIFs are great, but sometimes you’d rather watch than listen and you’d like to watch something with more substance than a GIF. Google can help. The Google Play Movies TV app has been enhanced with several new features that make it easier to find and watch what you want.

Search for a TV show or film and the app will bring it up for sale on Play Movies TV and also return a list of services where it can be streamed. Google has more than two dozen streaming services lined up with promises of more to come. Unfortunately, Netflix is not included. While this isn’t surprising given the ongoing war between Amazon and Google, it’s still a major omission.

If you don’t have a particular title in mind, you can search by genre. You can also tune the search toward the kinds of movies and TV shows you like with a thumbs up or down rating system. If you come across something you’d like to watch but can’t do it at the moment, the app will save it for you under a Watchlist tab.

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