Google’s staring down the barrel of a Russian antitrust probe

It's only been two days since Russian search giant Yandex accused Google of anticompetitive mobile shenanigans, and the country's Federal Anti-Monopoly Service has already leapt into action. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier today that Russia's antitrust body is kicking off a probe investigating how Google requires some smartphone makers to preload its apps onto their devices before they hit store shelves. If those deals are found to have run afoul of Russian law, Google could be on the hook for some hefty fines and might even have to change how it licenses Android to device makers.

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Source: Wall Street Journal

Google is testing Hangouts-based customer service

Google isn't exactly known for interacting directly with its customers, but according to TechCrunch, the company wants to change that -- if you're looking to a buy a new gadget. Apparently, Mountain View has started testing a service on the Play Devices page that connects you to a Google Device Expert through Hangouts. Remember Helpouts, that portal the company introduced in 2013 where you can get lessons or ask for advice from professionals for a price? It's somewhat similar as they both go through Hangouts, but consultation for this service is thankfully free. You'll simply have to navigate to Devices' Help section and choose Video call to ask actual human reps about the smartphones, tablets and Chromebooks the company's selling. Curiously, it doesn't include Nest and its products Dropcam and Protect, so you're on your own if you're in the process of automating your home.

[Image credit: Shutterstock]

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Via: TheNextWeb

Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft’s Office preview for Android tablets is now available to everyone

PowerPoint on an Android tablet

If you've wanted to try the preview of Office for Android tablets during its brief history, you've had to request to join a Google+ group. That's not the hardest thing to do, but do you really want to participate in a special club (and in some cases, sign up for Google+) just to try some productivity apps a little early? As of now, you don't have to. Microsoft has posted the previews of Excel, PowerPoint and Word on Google Play, so you can download them like you would any other app. The only major requirements are that your slate runs at least Android 4.4 KitKat and that you're comfortable with less-than-polished software. You may not want to finish an important report with these releases, then, but it's now easy to experiment with the new Office suite before it's completely ready.

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Via: Office Blogs

Source: Google Play (Excel), (PowerPoint), (Word)

Amazon’s Android app has quietly been removed from Google Play

When Amazon updated its primary Android app with an "Apps & Games" section, it was a milestone in third-party distribution: finally, you could access Amazon's library of applications without side-stepping Google Play. It didn't last long -- Amazon's app store mysteriously disappeared from Google Play this week. Well sort of, the URL for the Amazon app's product page is still active, but it's no longer searchable from within Google Play. Why the sudden return to the status quo? It's exactly what you'd expect: Google didn't like facing competition from within its own app store.

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Source: Android Police, TechCrunch

T-Mobile’s data-free streaming adds Google Play Music and more

Google Play Music was absent from T-Mobile's Music Freedom options... until now. After a public vote to see who should be next, Mountain View's streaming library will no longer gobble your data on the UnCarrier's network. Google's music service is among 14 others, including Xbox Music and SoundCloud, that won't count against that monthly allowance when you're in need of some tunes on-the-go. Of course, Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and ten others were already given the free pass, so with the recent additions, that total now tallies 27 in all. The full list of today's additions awaits on the other side of the break.

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Source: T-Mobile

Nokia’s simple yet smart Android launcher reaches Google Play

Nokia Z Launcher beta

If you've been eager to put Nokia's adaptive Z Launcher home screen on your Android phone, you'll be glad to hear that you don't have to jump through quite so many hoops to give it a try. The ex-phone maker has released a free beta version of Z Launcher on Google Play. You'll need to live in the right region to give it a shot, but you no longer have to sign up for a testing spot and hope you get lucky. This edition should work with many phones running Android 4.1 or later, although Nokia is still promising full support only for the Nexus 5 and recent Galaxy S phones. %Gallery-slideshow244725%

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Source: Nokia Z Launcher, Google Play

Disney Movies Anywhere service comes to Android with a link to Google Play

After years of development Disney unveiled its digital movie service on iOS earlier this year and today it's coming to Android too. When it launched, Disney Movies Anywhere had an unprecedented deep link to iTunes, and now on Android it's sharing a similar tie with Google Play. For users it's apparently as seamless as can be -- as long as they have a Disney account, any movies they unlock will be viewable on either family of devices (or the DMA website). The agreement covers access to around 400 Disney, Pixar and Marvel movies, and to make the sign-up worth your while, Disney is throwing in a free copy of Wreck-it Ralph for anyone that signs up and links an account.

Going cross-platform makes Disney's KeyChest-based system much more appealing -- and conveniently timed for the launch of Nexus Player / Android TV -- but we're still waiting to see if a tie-up with the likes of Amazon or Ultraviolet can fulfill the promise of unlocking a single copy in one store or with a Blu-ray / DVD purchase, and then being able to watch it anywhere, on any device. The Android app isn't live yet, but you can check out a demo video for now (embedded after the break).

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Source: Disney Movies Anywhere (YouTube), Disney Movies Anywhere

Google makes Play Books more student friendly

Google's latest Play Books update for Android makes the app a lot easier to use for reading non-fiction e-books. See, Play Books is perfect if you're just reading something from cover to cover. But if you're using it to read text or reference books for school, or maybe even cookbooks (materials you usually flip through to find the page you're looking for), then it can be infuriating to use. Now, the latest version comes with a handful of features to change that, including one called Skim Mode that makes it easy to skim pages, as you can see after the break. Another feature called Quick Bookmarks lets you jump between the parts you've bookmarked, while the last one called Notes & Highlights is especially useful for students, since it lets you highlight text (say, quotes or important info you want to remember later) and take notes while reading. If you desperately need these features to get you through the next semester, head over to Google Play to download the app's latest version.

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Google Play on Android has its flattest design yet

With how many of Google's core apps are getting the update to its new, flatter Material Design lately, the release of Android L can't be too much further away. While we wait for that, however, the Google Play redesign leaked not too long ago is available for sideloading right now, as spotted by Droid Life. With it, the "What's New" section's been moved back to the top of the store and you'll now be able to create device-specific profiles (like one for phones and another for tablets) for restoring a custom set of apps per gizmo-type. If you'd rather not wait your turn for the update from Mountain View, DL has the APK, while Android Police has a smattering of screenshots if you want an advance look of what you're getting into. If you haven't started a betting pool for when Android L will hit, now just might be the time.

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Source: Droid Life, Android Police

Rebels aren’t taking ‘Star Wars: Tiny Death Star’ offline — Disney is

Let's say you're perpetually late to the party and are only just now getting around to checking out Star Wars: Tiny Death Star. Well, sadly your 11-month tardiness isn't doing you any favors here: Disney is pulling the app from both Google Play and the App Store, as spotted by Gamezebo. An anonymous source told the site that Tiny Death Star and Star Wars Assault Team are getting the axe with the intent to retire them and focus on other titles instead. Ian Marsh, co-owner of Death Star developer NimbleBit, revealed to Gamezebo that the delisting is as much a surprise to him as it is to everyone else. Speaking to Pocket Gamer, he said that he hadn't been told of any of this by Disney before it'd happened and that Mickey and Co. likely no longer felt the game was worth the cost of upkeep anymore. Death Star was a "significant source of revenue" for Marsh and his team, which he says makes this sting that much more.

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Source: Pocket Gamer, Gamezebo, iTunes