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How To Change Your Default Apps On Android Phones

But what if you don’t have a certain app installed on your phone? For example, if someone sends you a Play Store link for a cool chess game. Tapping on the link takes you to the Play Store listing of an application that supports the Instant App feature. In a nutshell, an Instant App is a condensed web-based version of an app that lets you get a brief taste of it without having to download and install it. Not all Android applications support the Instant App system, and it is up to the developers to offer the convenience. A

For applications that support the Instant app functionality, there’s an option to specify the default link opening behavior — open the Play Store in a link in a browser, or directly launch the Instant app version in the Play Store. To do so, follow the steps below:

1. In the Settings app, head over to the Apps section.

2. Scroll down and open the Default apps section, and then select the Opening links option at the bottom.

3. On the next page, select Instant Apps preferences and then enable the toggle that says Upgrade web links.

4. Once enabled, users will be able to directly access the Instant Play option for eligible apps, as is depicted in the image above.

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Security

US State Department phones were reportedly hacked by NSO spyware

At least nine employees of the US State Department working in or with Uganda had their iPhones hacked with spyware made by NSO Group, according to a report from Reuters. The Wall Street Journal has corroborated the story, putting the number of US and Ugandan embassy workers hacked at 11. While it’s unclear who carried out the attacks, NSO Group says it only sells its software to government organizations that have gotten approval from the Israeli government.

NSO has claimed that its spyware isn’t able to target US phone numbers (that is, numbers with a country code of +1). This case doesn’t seem to disprove that claim — Reuters reports that, while the people targeted were employees of the State Department, they were using foreign telephone numbers. Still, the devices were used for official State Department business, suggesting NSO may now be implicated in an espionage effort against the US government.

According to Reuters, the attacks happened in “the last several months.”

NSO’s Pegasus spyware is capable of remotely logging data from an infected iOS or Android device and can be used to covertly turn on a phone’s microphones or cameras. It’s also designed to infect phones using a “zero-click” attack, in which spyware can be installed without the target clicking a link or otherwise taking action.

Pegasus is also not supposed to leave any traces, though investigators have developed some methods to determine if a phone was hacked by it. You can read our explainer on it here, which goes into the media investigations of its usage by governments to target journalists, politicians, and activists.

NSO, based in Israel, has to get approval from the Israeli Ministry of Defense before it sells its software to another government agency. NSO co-founder Shalev Hulio has insisted that the company doesn’t know who its clients are spying on using its software. The company also says that it will investigate clients if they’re using Pegasus on off-limits targets and cut off the client’s access to the software if there’s evidence of abuse.

An NSO spokesperson told Reuters that the company would be investigating its reports, and the Israeli embassy told the outlet that a government targeting US officials with Pegasus would be “a severe violation” of its licensing agreements.

The US recently added NSO to its entity list, which puts heavy restrictions on American companies being able to sell their products or services to the group. In the private sector, Apple filed a lawsuit against NSO Group, claiming that the company broke Apple’s terms of service by creating over a hundred iCloud accounts to send malicious data via iMessage. Apple says that it patched the specific vulnerability NSO used to install Pegasus with iOS 14.8 and that it had added additional protections in iOS 15, which the company says it hasn’t seen Pegasus breach yet.

When the company announced its lawsuit, Apple said it would also notify users who had been targeted by a state-sponsored spying campaign. Ugandan politician Norbert Mao tweeted in November that he received one of the notifications. The Wall Street Journal reports that the US officials also received these notifications.

There are also reports that the US government is working on an initiative with other countries to prevent surveillance tools and technology from being sold to authoritarian governments. According to The Wall Street Journal, the effort will focus on export controls and will likely be announced at the Summit for Democracy, which starts December 9th.

Update December 3, 5:35PM ET: Added information from The Wall Street Journal’s report.



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Security

Google Photos’ Locked Folder is now rolling out to more Android phones

Google Photos’ Locked Folder feature, which promises to keep sensitive photos out of your main photo roll, is starting to roll out to non-Pixel phones, according to Android Police. Google said in September that the feature would be rolling out to more Android phones “soon,” and it’s reportedly started to show up on some Samsung and OnePlus devices, according to Android Central. Older Pixel devices that didn’t originally get access to it are also getting it now, based on our tests.

The feature lets you choose specific photos or videos and put them in a passcode or biometrics-locked folder, taking them out of your main photo feed and keeping them off the cloud. It was introduced on Google’s own phones (Pixel 3 and up) in June, after being announced at Google’s I/O presentation in May.

In its presentation, Google used the example of parents hiding pictures of a newly purchased puppy from their children. A valid use case for sure, though I suspect most people will probably use it for less wholesome pictures, alleviating the “what if they swipe too many pictures back and see my butt” anxiety that can come when showing people photos from an unfiltered library. (Surely a relatable concern.)

The feature should be available to phones running Android 6 or later, and I was able to access it on my Pixel 2 running Android 11 by going to Photos > Library > Utilities. Google also said that the feature will come to the iOS version of Google Photos early next year.

If you’ve got the feature and want to use it, it’s worth noting that photos stored in the Locked Folder won’t be backed up to the cloud and will be deleted if you uninstall Google Photos or wipe your device without transferring them. You can read more on Google’s Locked Folder support page.

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Security

Pegasus spyware used to target phones of journalists and activists, investigation finds

A sweeping investigation by 17 media outlets found that NSO Group’s Pegasus software was used in hacking attempts on 37 smartphones belonging to human rights activists and journalists, The Washington Post reported. The phones were on a leaked list of numbers discovered by Paris journalism nonprofit Hidden Stories and human rights group Amnesty International, according to the Post. The numbers on the list were singled out for possible surveillance by countries who are clients of NSO, the report states, which markets its spyware to governments to track potential terrorists and criminals.

Pegasus can extract all of a mobile device’s data, and activate the device’s microphone to listen in on conversations surreptitiously, as The Guardian notes. The list of journalists dates back to 2016, the Post reports, and includes reporters from the Post, CNN, the Associated Press, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News, Le Monde, the Financial Times, and Al Jazeera.

In a statement emailed to The Verge on Sunday, an NSO spokesperson denied the claims in the report, saying it was “full of wrong assumptions and uncorroborated theories that raise serious doubts about the reliability and interests of the sources,” and questioned the sources that supplied the information.

“After checking their claims, we firmly deny the false allegations made in their report,” the statement continues. The company is considering a defamation lawsuit according to its statement, because it says “these allegations are so outrageous and far from reality.”

It’s not the first time NSO’s Pegasus spyware has been accused of being part of a larger surveillance campaign. Between July and August 2020, research organization Citizen Lab found that 36 phones belonging to Al Jazeera journalists had been hacked using Pegasus technology, possibly by hackers working for governments in the Middle East. In 2019, WhatsApp sued NSO, claiming Pegasus was used to hack users of WhatsApp’s encrypted chat service.

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Tech News

This Android app can test your phone’s water resistance without water

A user on Reddit, going by rayw_reddit, recently posted in the r/Samsung subreddit that they had built a new app to test water resistance for smartphones. The app claims to test the IP67/IP68 water-resistance seals without having to dunk the device in water. The creator says the app was designed to give people confidence that their expensive smartphone is water-resistant.

The app can also be used to hold repair shops accountable to ensure that water resistance has been restored after repairs. For those wondering how an app could test water resistance, it works by using the barometer built into the phone. The builder says that two community members at Reddit tested the app and confirmed its methodology is the same that Samsung service technicians use.

There are a few scenarios where the app builder says the creation can be particularly useful. One useful situation could be when a battery replacement is needed. In that situation, the user could run the app before taking it in for repairs to ensure the seals for water resistance are intact. When the device returns from the repair shop, the user can run the app again to see if the water-resistance seals still intact.

If the water resistance is no longer intact, the user can go back to the shop for repairs or a refund. Another potential use scenario is testing a used phone that is supposed to be water-resistant or a new phone with claimed water resistance. Water resistance is a big deal as phones are often exposed to liquids in day-to-day use ranging from spills to getting caught in the rain or splashing water on your device while washing hands. The app can be downloaded on Google Play.

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Tech News

The best affordable 5G phones to buy right now (2021 Edition)

4G skyrocketed smartphone sales and 5G – with the promise of blazing speeds, reliability and enhanced responsiveness – is taking it to a new dimension. As infrastructure grows at a steady pace, 5G enabled smartphones, for now, are just about doing what 4G phones do, only a little quicker; but that’s enough for 5G smartphones to be the talk of the town.

At the recently concluded MWC (Mobile World Congress) 2021, 5G was the biggest talking point. In that, the most discussed was how the prices of 5G devices have “come down.” The 5G smartphone prices are dropping dramatically and smartphone makers have some exceptionally good devices in the sub $500 category.

Considering this, and the way how new 5G enabled affordable handsets are appearing on a regular basis, we thought of compiling an essential resource. This would assist anyone considering an upgrade to a budget 5G handset.

Since these devices will not require you to break the bank, you can enjoy high-speed connectivity at a nominal price with premium features. In order to achieve low pricing, manufacturers at certain levels tend to cut corners; therefore, you will have to be sure of what device you are investing in. Here is a roundup of the best 5G mid-tier phones from different manufacturers you can buy right now with confidence.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Earlier this year, Samsung debuted the mid-range Galaxy A52 5G with the intention to lure in people wanting to experience superfast 5G speeds at little possible cost. The phone was rolled out with additional two devices in the company’s A-series, starting at $500 and it presented an affordable alternative to iPhone 12 Mini.

What We Like

– Brilliant display with high refresh rate
– Nicely built and durable
– Longer battery life

What We Don’t Like

– Slower performance
– Average secondary cameras

Galaxy A52 5G features 6.5-inch FHD+ SuperAMOLED with 120Hz refresh rate. Its display touts 800nits peak brightness and is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G. Starting at 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage, the Galaxy A52 5G comes with a quad-camera setup spearheaded by a 64MP camera. To add some ruggedness, the A52 5G comes with IP67 water and dust resistance rating. Running Android 11 based One UI 3.1, the device features a 4,500mAh battery with 25W fast charging support.

Motorola One 5G

Launched toward the end of last year, Motorola One 5G is still a better option than this year’s Motorola Moto G50. So, if you are willing to move out of 4G and venture into the 5G space, this Motorola option with solid and reliable features at an affordable $449 tag is not a bad option.

What We Like

– Great battery life
– Affordable pricing
– Six camera setup

What We Don’t Like

– Average display
– Only one year major OS update

Motorola One 5G features a full HD 6.7-inch IPS LCD display with HDR10 and 90Hz refresh rate. Even though the screen is an LCD instead of OLED, the display does offer pretty consistent and bright colors. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 765 processor paired with 4G of RAM and 128GB onboard storage. The camera module on the back comprises 48MP primary lens and the phone has dual selfie cameras on the front. The phone runs Android 10 out of the box but has a large 5,000 mAh capacity battery that supports 15W fast charging and comes with 3.5 headphone jack.

OnePlus Nord CE 5G

Positioned as a core edition based on the original Nord, the OnePlus Nord CE is another affordable 5G phone that leaves one impressed with a great bright display, almost day and a half worth of battery life. If you’re an existing OnePlus user, you may dislike the omission of the alert slider, otherwise, an always-on display here on the $330 device should be a subtle crowd puller.

What We Like

– Decent sized always-on display
– Pretty responsive fingerprint scanner

What We Don’t Like

– A brighter display would be better
– No stereo speaker

OnePlus Nord CE 5G features a 6.43-inch fluid AMOLED full HD+ display with 90Hz refresh rate and comes with only a triple camera setup as opposed to a quad camera on the original Nord – the setup is spearheaded by a 64MP lens. On the front, the core edition model has only one 16MP sensor in notch form factor. Drawing power from a Snapdragon 750G processor, the phone with a 4,500mAh battery comes with up to 12GB RAM and 256GB of internal storage.

POCO F3

With the launch of POCO F3 in March this year, the company ensured it had a powerful smartphone on the mid-range 5G phone market. The incredibly arranged design of the phone may be based on Redmi K40 – China-exclusive model – but the phone packs in a strong processor, powerful battery, bright and responsive display, all at an affordable $350 starting price.

What We Like

– Bright AMOLED display
– Dolby Atmos dual speakers
– Nice performance

What We Don’t Like

– Improvement in battery life was possible
– Average camera performance

Arriving with a 6.67-inch full HD, 120Hz AMOLED display, the POCO F3 features HDR10+ and delivers a 1300nits peak brightness. With Snapdragon 870 under the hood paired up to 8GB RAM and 256GB internal storage, the POCO smartphone feels like a real bargain. With a triple camera setup featuring 48MP primary lens, the phone gets a 20MP selfie camera, 4,520mAh (with 33W fast charging support) battery and runs Android 11 based MIUI 12.5 for POCO.

Google Pixel 4a 5G

Google made remarkable progress with the Pixel 4a, then it launched the Pixel 4a 5G, which comes with support for Sub-6 GHz 5G. If you want to leverage the Ultra-Wideband network, you need to shell an extra $100 for Pixel 4a 5G UW. This however defies the purpose, considering Pixel 4a 5G is priced at $499 making it a good bargain in the affordable 5G market.

What We Like

– Great battery life
– Nice camera performance
– Excellent Android experience

What We Don’t Like

– Average built quality
– No IP rating

Launched with a 6.2-inch OLED display, the Pixel 4a 5G has one of the biggest screens of Google’s line-up from last year. It boasts 1080 x 2340 resolution but has only a 60Hz panel. There’s no IP68 dust or water resistance on the device but is powered by a Snapdragon 765G chipset which is paired to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. The battery at 3,885mAh seems modest, but it offers good playback and it supports 18W fast charging. The phone features a 3.5mm headphone jack and you get dual rear cameras including 12.2MP primary sensor and a 16MP ultra-wide lens.

Wrap up

While things may have tread at snail’s speed during the pandemic, the 5G industry galloped at a horse’s pace. An increasing number of OEMs have ventured into the 5G scene and mobile network carriers in various countries worldwide are pushing to extend the 5G coverage.

The 5G chipset costs are also becoming affordable and OEMs are trying to pass down their savings to the end-user. Therefore, even before 5G becomes a norm, smartphone makers are filling the budget and mid-range market with numerous devices.

Today thus there is a handsome collection of 5G devices for every budget on the market. The coverage of 5G is increasing with every passing day, and if you are in a country where the network carriers are doing their share, it may be a good time to invest in an affordable 5G smartphone.

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OnePlus Android software updates expand to 3 years for some phones

OnePlus revealed today that they’d be expanding their software update and support system for new devices and old devices back to OnePlus 8. To make this happen, OnePlus is “working on integrating the codebase of OxygenOS and ColorOS.” According to OnePlus OxygenOS Product Lead Gary Chen, this is a change that users wont likely notice on their phones – meaning there’ll be no major change to the software UI, for now.

Behind the scenes with OPPO

“This is a change that you will likely not even notice since it’s happening behind the scenes,” said Chen. “We now have a larger and even more capable team of developers, more advanced R&D resources, and a more streamlined development process all coming together to improve the OxygenOS experience.”

SEE TOO: OnePlus and OPPO are merging: Here’s what that means

Chen also suggested that the company decided that they’d “best leverage our shared resources with OPPO” by integrating the codebase of OxygenOS and ColorOS. This would, said Chen, “improve efficiency and standardize the software experience across our portfolio.”

The next big change in software, with this new “more stable and stronger platform” will occur in a single OTA update that’ll also deliver Android 12. Devices that are released in the future will have this newly integrated platform right out the box.

OnePlus Android update commitments

OnePlus committed to 3 major Android updates and 4 years of security updates for all OnePlus devices, including T and R series, back to OnePlus 8. If you have a OnePlus flagship device that is a OnePlus 8 or newer, OnePlus suggests you’ll get 3 major Android updates – that effectively means you’ll get the key Android update of the year for the three years after the phone was first launched.

OnePlus committed to 2 major Android updates and 3 years of security updates for the first OnePlus Nord phone and newer Nord/Nord CE devices. The Nord N series, starting with the Nord N10 and N100, will get 1 major Android update and 3 years of security updates.

All OnePlus devices released prior to the OnePlus 8 series will remain part of the guaranteed “2 major Android updates and 3 years of security updates” system. OnePlus also suggested that certain devices may not follow along with the pack in this regard if they are a “carrier version.” Per Chen, “Software update plans for carrier versions will follow the requirements of our carrier partners.”

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This new WiFi bug may have crippled your phone’s internet

If you’re using a smartphone or a tablet, there’s a sort of WiFi network out there that could mess up your day. This situation may be rectified by the time you read this article – if you’re reading this article a few months into the future – but for now, it’s time to beware. The network name is the bit you’re looking for – it’s simple, and avoiding said network should be simple, too.

Avoid these WiFi names

There’s a silly situation going on right now with WiFi names and smartphones. Per reverse engineer and Secret.Club founder Carl Schou, SSID with percent symbols followed by the letters p, s, s, s, n disabled WiFi on his iPhone. This mess is not permanent – unless you refuse to reset your network preferences after you run the test. You’ll do well to avoid any WiFi names with the “%” symbol, at any point, start to finish.

If you have a friend or relative that’s having trouble with internet connectivity on their smart device in the near future, it may be time for a bit of a reset. You do not need to reset the whole phone, just one part.

How to fix WiFi

If you’re on an iOS device, like iPhone or iPad, go to Settings – General – Reset – Reset Network Settings. Once you’ve done this, you can re-join your known networks manually. Removing the malicious network from the memory of your phone should allow your phone to work normally.

If you’re on an Android device, your path likely begins with Settings – System – Advanced – Reset Options – Reset Wi-Fi, mobile & Bluetooth. You will be able to re-join networks manually.

Don’t connect automatically

For your iPhone or iPad, go to Settings – WiFi – Ask to Join Networks. You may also want to remove your “known networks” one by one, just to make sure there’s no chance that one of your previously-joined networks is being run by a prankster.

The bug we’re talking about today only appears to affect the iPhone – but it’s probably best, right this moment, to take some precautions regardless of what sort of device you use. If you’re using an Android phone and you’d like to turn off automatic connections to open WiFi networks, the process is simple. Open Settings – Network & internet – WiFi – WiFi preferences – deactivate “Connect to public networks.”

That’s the process on an Android device running the most basic version of Android. Your steps may be slightly different, and your phone might not have the ability to automatically connect to public networks – but it’s worth taking a peek. You’ll still be able to join networks manually, even if this option is switched off.



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A brief history of our beloved mobile phones

I have a cellphone built into my watch. People now take this type of technology for granted, but not so long ago it was firmly in the realm of science fiction. The transition from fantasy to reality was far from the flip of a switch. The amount of time, money, talent and effort required to put a telephone on my wrist spanned far beyond any one product development cycle.

The people who crossed a wristwatch with a cellphone worked hard for several years to make it happen, but technology development really occurs on a timescale of decades. While the last steps of technological development capture headlines, it takes thousands of scientists and engineers working for decades on myriad technologies to get to the point where blockbuster products begin to capture the public’s imagination.

The first mobile phone service, for 80-pound telephones installed in cars, was demonstrated on June 17, 1946, 75 years ago. The service was only available in major cities and highway corridors and was aimed at companies rather than individuals. The equipment filled much of a car’s trunk, and subscribers made calls by picking up the handset and speaking to a switchboard operator. By 1948, the service had 5,000 customers.

This promotional film from the 1940s touts Bell Telephone’s Mobile Telephone Service.

The first handheld mobile phone was demonstrated in 1973, nearly three decades after the introduction of the first mobile phone service. It was nearly three decades after that before half the U.S. population had a mobile phone.

Big history in small packages

As an electrical engineer, I know that today’s mobile phone technology has a remarkable number of components, each with a long development path. The phone has antennas and electronics that allow signals to be transmitted and received. It has a specialized computer processor that uses advanced algorithms to convert information to signals that can be transmitted over the air. These algorithms have hundreds of component algorithms. Each of these pieces of technology and many more have development histories that span decades.

A common thread running through the evolution of virtually all electronic technologies is miniaturization. The radio transmitters, computer processors and batteries at the heart of your cellphone are the descendants of generations of these technologies that grew successively smaller and lighter.

The phone itself would not be of much use without cellular base stations and all the network infrastructure that is behind them. The first mobile phone services used small numbers of large radio towers, which meant that all the subscribers in a big city shared one central base station. This was not a recipe for universal mobile phone service.

Engineers began working on a concept to overcome this problem at about the time the first mobile phone services went live, and it took nearly four decades to roll out the first cellular phone service in 1983. Cellular service involves interconnected networks of smaller radio transceivers that hand off moving callers from one transceiver to another.

The author explains the ‘cell’ in cellphone service.

Military necessity

Your cellphone is a result of over a hundred years of commercial and government investment in research and development in all of its components and related technologies. A significant portion of the cutting-edge development has been funded by the military.

A major impetus for developing mobile wireless technologies was the need during World War II for troops to communicate on the move in the field. The SRC-536 Handie-Talkie was developed by the predecessor to Motorola Corporation and used by the U.S. Army in the war. The Handie-Talkie was a two-way radio that was small enough to be held in one hand and resembled a telephone. Motorola went on to become one of the major manufacturers of cellphones.

The story of military investment in technology becoming game-changing commercial products and services has been repeated again and again. Famously, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency developed the technologies behind the internet and speech recognition. But DARPA also made enabling investments in advanced communications algorithms, processor technology, electronics miniaturization and many other aspects of your phone.

A watch that’s a telephone.

Looking forward

By realizing that it takes many decades of research and investment to develop each generation of technology, it’s possible to get a sense of what might be coming. Today’s communications technologies – 5G, WiFi, Bluetooth, and so on – are fixed standards, meaning they are each designed for a single purpose. But over the last 30 years, the Department of Defense and corporations have been investing in technologies that are more capable and flexible.

Your phone of the near future might not only fluidly signal in ways that are more efficient, enable longer ranges or higher data rates, or last significantly longer on a charge, it might also use that radiofrequency energy to perform other functions. For example, your communications signal could also be used as a radar signal to track your hand gestures to control your phone, measure the size of a room, or even monitor your heart rate to predict cardiac distress.

It is always difficult to predict where technology will go, but I can guarantee that future technology will build on decades upon decades of research and development.

Article by Daniel Bliss, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Arizona State University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Chromebooks might soon be able to stream Android apps from phones

Microsoft and Samsung enjoy a rather cozy partnership that integrates Samsung’s Android phones and Windows 10 PCs almost seamlessly. On select models, one can even run Android apps on desktops and laptops as if they were native Windows programs. It seems almost ironic, then, that Android and Chrome OS don’t have that, considering they’re made by one and the same company. The could be changing soon and the Chrome OS Phone Hub could indeed allow users to stream apps from their phone to their Chromebook.

On second thought, it might not really be that surprising to realize how wide the gap is between Chrome OS and Android, despite the common parent. Google has always been a gigantic company where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Of course, Google has been bridging the gap between its two platforms but there is definitely a lot of work to be done.

XDA unearthed evidence from the latest version of Google Play Service pointing to an even more intimate bridge. That evidence, unfortunately, were just strings of text talking about the ability to “Stream apps to your Chromebook”. Of course, it isn’t enabled yet so the site didn’t have any opportunity to test what it would have looked like.

There also isn’t much information on how Google will be implementing this feature. It has reportedly been working on a technology that builds upon WebRTC, which is used primarily for video chats, to sync video and send data between devices in both directions. More importantly, however, this feature was noted to be dependent on Google Play Services and may even be exclusive to Pixel phones.

This closer bridge between Chrome OS and Android is long overdue, especially considering how different Windows laptop vendors have already been implementing something similar for almost years now. It was just yesterday, even, that Google announced Chrome OS support for Android’s Nearby Share, making it painless to share things between Chromebooks and Android devices.

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