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How to re-enable Chrome tabs on Lollipop – Android customization

Posted by wicked July - 23 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

Reenable Chrome tabs

I hope that last week’s Android customization post has helped you keep your data safe, walking through the setup to automatic backups of your SMS and more. We’ll keep things light this week as well, for those of you that are using Chrome on the new Android Lollipop, this is how you re-enable Chrome tabs, instead of treating each tab as a new entry in your recent apps list.

Remember, this is a short tutorial for Lollipop users, and one that many of you will consider to be a beginners topic.

Before we begin

No apps are required today, provided you have an Android 5+ Lollipop device and the Chrome web browser installed. We are simply diving into the settings menu of Chrome today.

Re-enable Chrome tabs on Lollipop

Here’s what’s up, you’re plunking along enjoying your favorite Android Authority posts on your favorite Android phone or tablet, when you come across something that deserves to be opened in a new tab. You go ahead and long press on the link to get the option to open it in one of several ways other than in the same tab, and just like that, you’ve created what many Lollipop users consider to be a problem. Your tabs are no longer treated as one app in the Recent apps list, instead, each new tab acts as its own entry.

For many of us, having each tab as a separate Recents list entry is a slick thing, dramatically speeding up our device navigation. If you do not like this, and would like Chrome to be a single Recents list entry, regardless your open tab count, follow along, we will show you what to do.

From within almost anywhere inside Chrome, tap the three dots menu icon.

Enable Chrome Tabs

Choose Settings.

Tap on Merge tabs and apps.

Turn the option off.

You will be asked to confirm that you want your tabs to be controlled through Chrome and not by the Recent apps menu. Tap OK to confirm.

Chrome will restart now, just give it a moment to come back up with the most recent tab you were using.

You will now see a little square icon in the top right corner, I hope it looks familiar, it is the Chrome Tab count from before Lollipop.

Chrome tab management

What’s next

Do play around with the setting, you may find that Google’s new approach in Android Lollipop is the tool you’ve been needing. If you do not like Google’s new approach, you now have the skills to revert back to what you are comfortable with.

This setting exists independently in Chrome, Chrome Beta and Chrome Dev. Be sure to figure out who is who and which you want to take advantage of the new tab management features.

Next week

We hope you now have a cleaner Recents list thanks to this simple Android customization in Chrome on Lollipop. Next week we will continue with Chrome, how would you like to save some mobile data with one simple setting?

Do you like Google’s new approach of having all your Chrome tabs open in the Recent apps list, or have you already turned it off using the steps above?

Backup your SMS, MMS and call log automatically – Android customization

Posted by wicked July - 16 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

SMS Backup plus Play Store

Judging by your overwhelming response to last week’s Android customization post, many of you have strong feelings either for or against Google Now. Either way, I hope that you found value in the ability to swap out the functionality of the swipe up gesture to a task better suited to your needs.

This week, we want to make sure that everyone is looking after their data, specifically we want to make sure you are backing up your SMS. I know at least our Canadian readers prefer the term ‘text messages’ here, which is possibly more accurate, but I’m going to stick with SMS, sorry guys.

Join us as we explore an app called SMS Backup+, and another app you’ve already heard of, Tasker.

Before we begin

Get SMS Backup+Many SMS and messaging apps and services have the ability built right in to backup or otherwise prevent loss of your messages should you lose your phone, but that is not always the case. When in doubt, or if you are using a messaging tool that does not have backup capabilities, we will point you towards SMS Backup+, a free app in the Google Play Store, that syncs your messages to your Gmail account for safe storage.

Get TaskerAs a completely optional addition to the project today, we will use Tasker to fine tune the controls a little. If you do not yet have Tasker installed, prepare to drop $2.99 in the Google Play Store to follow along.

Tasker in the Google Play Store

Use SMS Backup+ to keep your messages safe

There is a good chance you’ve got a SMS message or two on your Android device, and there is a good chance one or more of those you’d rather not lose if you happen to misplace your phone. If for no other reason, perhaps you should look at backing up your SMS messages on a regular basis.

Straight out of the box, SMS Backup+ is super easy to use and looks to backup not just your SMS, but also your MMS and call log. The idea is to dump these items into your Gmail account with a custom Gmail Label to keep them under control.

Now, if you are a Google Voice and/or Google Hangouts user, have a look for the ‘SMS’ Label in your Gmail. If you see the Label, and it is packed full of your messages, today’s tasks are not really for you, your messages are secure and you may go on with getting ready for your weekend.

The general setup of SMS Backup+ is pretty near all of the input this app requires to keep your messages rolling to Gmail. Install the app, fire it up and let’s walk through it from there.

SMS Backup plus setup1

First, you will need to connect to your preferred Gmail account. Not to worry, this app uses OAuth, like all good apps should, so you can block access at any time from within your Google account settings on the web.

Tap the Connect check box.

Choose your Google account.

Decide whether or not to begin a full backup of all existing messages on your device, or to skip and only backup messages received from this point forward.

If all you desire to do is backup everything to a Label called SMS in your Gmail, turn on the Auto backup checkbox and enjoy your day. However, if you’d like to tune things a little, please continue along.

SMS Backup plus setup advanced

Next up, head into Advanced Settings.

Tap on Backup settings.

Choose which types of messages you would like to backup to Gmail. I usually do not backup MMS myself, but that’s just a personal preference.

Click on SMS near the bottom of the list to change the name of the Label that will be created in Gmail. You don’t have to do this, but remember that your Google Hangouts and Voice also backup to the SMS Label. I called mine “SMS+“, nice and simple.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit back to the SMS Backup+ home screen.

SMS Backup plus setup frequency

Tap into Auto backup settings.

Tap on Regular schedule to set the frequency with which SMS Backup+ backs up your messages. It is set to 2 hours by default. I like to save juice and risk the loss, I choose 24 hours.

Tap on incoming schedule to set a time in which SMS Backup+ is triggered to run after a new message arrives. It defaults to 3 minutes, which is where I leave it, but you might want to bump that to 30 minutes or more if you regularly have extended SMS conversations.

Tap the system Back button to get back to the main screen again.

Now, tap that Auto backup check box to make sure the backups are turned on and you may call it a day.

If ever the scheduled backup frequency is not to your liking, or you do not want auto backups at all, there is a big Backup button at the top of the screen just waiting to be pushed.

If you do like the auto backup, but the Regular schedule times do not work for you, it is time to use our favorite customization app, Tasker.

Backup SMS using Tasker

To use Tasker to trigger SMS backup, we will use SMS Backup+ as a Third Party extension to Tasker.

First, head into SMS Backup+ to enable the integration.

SMS Backup plus enable 3rd party

Tap into Auto backup settings.

Turn on 3rd party integration.

Exit SMS Backup+ and head into Tasker.

Create a new Tasker Task and name it appropriately. I’ve named mine “Smsbackup“.

Tap the “+” button to add an action.

Tasker Task SMS Backup plus

Choose 3rd Party.

Choose SMS backup+.

That is really all there is to the Task, hit the system Back button to save and exit the Task creation.

Now, you need to decide how and when Tasker should run the backup. For our purposes, let’s setup a Profile that runs the backup every Sunday.

Head to the Profiles tab of Tasker, create a new Profile and name it appropriately. I’ve called mine “Sundaysmsbackup“.

Tasker Profile SMS Backup plus

Choose Day.

Tap the Month Day drop down and change it to Week Day.

Choose Sunday.

Tap the system Back button to save.

Choose your backup Task, I had called mine “Smsbackup.”

That’s it, you are done.

Tasker Profile Sunday SMS Backup plus

What’s next

While I am sure you have far different ideas than mine when it comes to backup frequency, I hope that you see all of the available ways and times that you can use SMS Backup+ to fire your data over to Gmail.

We used a Day value in our Tasker project, be sure to think outside the box for your needs. Perhaps backup your SMS when you connect to your home WiFi router. Maybe put a 10 minute delay after receiving a message – that’s too easy, I know, create a few Tasker Profiles and Tasks that add 1 to a variable every time you receive a message, then fire the backup when you get to 10 messages. Don’t forget to then reset the variable back to 0.

Zooper Widget Gmail SMS Count

Finally, SMS Backup+ sends your messages to Gmail, what are you to do if you do not want to use Gmail? You know it, there are well over a million apps in the Google Play Store, I am sure a few of them can help. Might I suggest SMS Backup & Restore, also free in the Google Play Store, which saves your messages as a text file (XML, to be more accurate,) on your device. Make sure to pull the files from the device for secure backup.

Next week

I hope that SMS Backup+ and Tasker helped you to save your data from a loss, or at least we hope today’s Android customization allowed you to use your data in a different way. Next week we would like to take a look at a new feature available in Chrome for devices running Android 5+ Lollipop, specifically, how to control the new tab management.

Do you care to keep record of your SMS, MMS and call log history, what tools do you use to manage things?

Motorola may expand the Moto Maker club to include the upcoming Moto G (2015)

Posted by wicked July - 14 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

Moto_G_2014_2nd_Gen_Back_Slanted_Camera_Lens_Motorola_Logo_TA

One of the great things about the Android operating system is being able to customize the software to our hearts content. There is absolutely no reason the layout on any two phones should appear the same unless it’s by design. Motorola offered even more freedom of choice when it released its Moto Maker customization tool allowing Moto X owners to customize their phones on the outside as well. Now it seems that Motorola is getting ready to expand Moto Maker to cover the upcoming Moto G (2015 edition).  

This is according to that semi-retired serial leaker, @evleaks (Evan Blass), who tweeted the above message. While it isn’t concrete proof that the Moto Maker will cover the Moto G (2015), he does have a solid reputation when it comes to leaks. What do you think? If the leak is confirmed, would being able to customize your phone’s outward appearance draw you to the Moto G (2015)?

 

Source: @evleaks (Twitter)

Come comment on this article: Motorola may expand the Moto Maker club to include the upcoming Moto G (2015)

Replace Google Now swipe up gesture camera

Did you get the chance to put together an awesome Story after tinkering with last week’s Android customization post on Google Photos? I hope so. If not, head back now, perhaps you have some Fourth of July photos to put together.

This week, we want to take a look at something you may have thought of doing, but haven’t been sure how to approach it, replacing the swipe up action from your Home button to another action in place of Google Now. You’ll never guess what app we plan to use for this action… Tasker!

Before we begin

Get it on Google Play ButtonTasker is not the only app around that can handle the ‘swipe up from the Home button’ gesture used on many devices to activate Google Now. We will quickly discuss a few alternatives later, but for now, let’s use Tasker. Tasker will run you $2.99 in the Google Play Store, but if you have been following along for any length of time, you probably already have it installed.

Customize the swipe up gesture

By default, your device will likely jump straight into Google Now when you swipe up from the on-screen Home button on your device, or from the center of the bottom edge if you have a physical Home button. There are a few apps that can also take control for this gesture, one of which is our trusty old favorite, Tasker.

To change things up from Google Now to a custom Tasker action, open Tasker and head to the Tasks tab.

Tasker Task launch app camera

Tap the “+” button to begin your fist Task. Remember to name it appropriately, I’ll call mine “SwipeUp“.

Decide what you want to have happen on your device. There are many things that you can make Tasker do, check out some of our previous Tasker tutorials for some ideas, for today, I would like simply to launch my camera app. To do so:

Tap the “+” button.

Choose App.

Choose Launch app, then choose the app you want to launch. For me, that is just Camera.

Remember that you can long press on an app in this list to select a specific Activity within the app, if available. So, for the Camera app, I can head straight to the video recorder, if that is what I wanted.

Tap the system Back button to save and exit out of the Task, that is all you need.

Head over to the Tasker Profiles tab and tap the “+” button to create a new Profile.

Tasker Profile Swipe Assistance Request

Name the Profile appropriately, I’ve named mine “ReplaceSwipeUpGesture“. I bet you can make something shorter.

Select Event.

Select UI.

Select Assistance Request.

You have the ability to use this Tasker project in only specific apps, you may play with that later, for now:

Leave everything as it is and hit the system Back button to save and exit. By not selecting a specific app, the action will work for all apps.

Choose your “SwipeUp” Task for the Profile to fire.

We are all done in Tasker, hit that system Back button to save and exit.

Does your Tasker Task fire when you swipe up from your Home button? I bet it did not, but I’m sure you can figure out why it did not work, right? That’s right, you likely already bound the gesture to Google Now on our device, we’ll need to kill that association.

Settings Google App Clear Defaults

Head in to your system Settings.

Go to Apps.

Find and head into the Google App.

Scroll down a little ways until you find the Clear Defaults button. Read a little about what is going to happen, or just go ahead and hit that button. No worries, we can always re-bind the gesture at any time.

Tap that system Back button to get out of Settings. It’s time to try that swipe up gesture again.

Swipe up Gesture Tasker Camera

This time around, Android will ask you how you want to handle the swipe up gesture, you need simply select Tasker to continue.

Boom, my Camera app opened!

What’s next

As you know, the second time you try to run the same gesture on the same app, you will be able to assign the app as the default action. It is certainly up to you what you choose to do there, myself, I prefer not to choose a default, treating the swipe up gesture as a mini app drawer.

Was Tasker the best alternative to Google Now for the swipe up gesture? Depending on your needs, it may not be, it is a good thing then that there are many great apps you can install to handle things here. A couple that jumped out at us are Home Button Launcher and Swipeup Utility. Let’s take a quick peek.

Home Button Launcher

Free in the Google Play Store, Home Button Launcher provides a grid, customized to your liking, that you fill with your favorite apps and system settings, like locking your screen orientation. When you swipe up, you simply choose an app from the grid. You can even put Google Now as one of the apps on your list.

Home Button Launcher


Swipeup Utility

Also free in the Google Play Store, Swipeup Utility offers a few fewer options, with the ace up its sleeve being the ability to completely turn off the swipe up gesture. No more misfires in the heat of your favorite game.

Don’t forget that you’ll need to set either of these as the default action for the gesture, or be sure that nothing is set as default to create the ‘mini-app drawer’ for easy access to these and more.

SwipeUp Utility


Next week

I do hope you found value in this Android customization post, I will admit that I learned a few new things about replacing the action behind the swipe up gesture while writing this piece. Next week we want to make sure that all of you non-Hangouts and Google Messenger users are covered for backups of your SMS/text messages, we have an old app that we’d like to show you; it’s one of my favorites, I rated it 5 stars back in 2011, and I still use it.

Are you an avid Google Now user?

How to manually create a Story in Google Photos – Android customization

Posted by wicked July - 2 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

Google Photos Story Portland

While Google Maps has proven to be the best real-time traffic tracking navigation tool on my Android device, last week’s Android customization using Zooper Widget has been a priceless addition to the experience. I hope it has helped you speed up your usage of Maps as well.

If you are like me, you’ve been getting in some travel this summer. While on the road, many of us go a little snap happy with our cameras, and then have dozens, hundreds or more images to sort through when we get home. While I am leaving you to sort your own photos for today, I would like to show you how to force Google Photos to create one of those cool Stories that sometimes pop up on their own.

Before we begin

Get it on Google Play ButtonTo follow along today you will require a current gen Android device with the new Google Photos app installed. Google Photos is free in the Google Play Store, as is the storage space you’ll need to store the photos that you wish to work with. Go ahead and get the photos uploaded, either through your Android device or by using the Windows uploader.

Manually create a Google Photos Story

As mentioned, Google Photos is pretty clever, and often pumps out a Story from your uploaded photos from a trip. However, you may have taken a photo or two that just don’t belong in the Story, or you have another set of photos altogether that you would like to turn into these shareable short clips. This is where the new Google Photos app on Android comes in handy.

Google Photos Story Vancouver

Now, we’ve discussed before that Google Photos can create several nifty types of photo and video presentations through the new Assistant section of the app. Albums, Movies, Stories, Animations and Collages are all ready to be created either automatically through what was once called Autoawesome, or you can now make them happen on command. Let’s build a Story.

Head into the Google Photos app, it will just be called Photos in your app drawer.

Start by heading into the left hand menu and choosing Assistant.

Once in Assistant, you can view all of the auto generated items, be sure to save the ones that you like, and, who knows, it may have already created the Story you were hoping for.

Google Photos create Story

If your desired Story does not exist, head into almost any section of the app and tap the “+” button in the top right corner.

In the list of items that you can create, tap Story.

You will now need to select photos and videos, run through your list and grab all that you want included in this Story.

When ready, tap the Create button in the top right.

That is really all there is to it. If the photos relate and are geo-tagged, Google Photos is smart enough to attach a title and fill in a few other blanks for you. Run through the Story to add some descriptions and fine tune image placement, then go ahead and share with the world.

What’s next

You may not know this, but you just went through the exact same basic steps required to create any of the fancy image tools in the new Google Photos. Each has their own settings and abilities on the other end, but simply tap new and select your photos to get started, Google Photos will do all the heavy lifting.

Google Photos Create New

Next Week

I hope this little Android customization project helps you get some awesome image and video presentations out of Google Photos this summer. Next week we want to get back to manipulating how Android actually operates on your device, we’ll take a quick look at Google Now, or at least at the swipe up gesture and what you might like to use it for instead.

Do you use Google Photos as your image storage solution?

Customized one-click Maps navigation using Zooper Widget – Android customization

Posted by wicked June - 25 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

Zooper Widget Maps navigation shortcuts

I hope your device is running as smooth as ever with last week’s system checkup Android customization. Keeping tabs on your background data usage can have a significant impact on your device performance, and your wallet.

This week we quickly address a little problem I was having personally, and help you prep for your summer holidays with Maps navigation and Zooper Widget.

Before we begin

Get it on Google Play ButtonYou will require both a recent version of Google Maps installed on your device, as well Zooper Widget. It’s been a while, so I’ll remind you that Zooper Widget has a free version, but you’ll probably want to drop the $2.99 to go Pro. Google Maps is completely free, it is likely that you already have it installed, but if not, grab it from the Google Play Store as well.

Finally, I’ve taken the time to find a few images, a background image and some icons, that I want for my widget, you should do the same at this time.

Why create one click navigation buttons?

You may be asking yourself why you would bother taking up valuable Homescreen real estate to create dedicated shortcuts to Maps navigation. I thought the same thing until a recent road trip to another state.

Google Maps Portland to Mount Hood

You’ve probably been there, you’re on a long road trip using Google Maps to find your way, all is going well until you pull off the highway to fuel or grab a snack. The moment you divert from the intended route, Google Maps gets a little flustered and re-routes you back to the highway or worse, attempts to change your route altogether, causing grief and confusion.

There are a number of other reasons that your navigation may hiccup and even turn off while you are on the road. It can be several clicks, including some typing, to get things back up and running again – which is not a great thing to be doing while driving. This happened to me often enough on my last trip, just a 12 hour drive, that I opted for the shortcuts, but not just any shortcuts, they needed some style, so I used Zooper Widget instead of the default shortcuts and icons.

The best part of using Zooper Widget to create Maps shortcuts is that you can condense them as much as your display will allow, otherwise, you are stuck with a full 1×1 Homescreen link per Maps shortcut. that can take up a lot of space.

Create Zooper Widget Maps shortcuts

Do you recall the basics of setting up a Zooper Widget widget? Hit one of our early tutorials if you desire a refresher.

Zooper Widget setup

Create your Zooper Widget widget, place it anywhere on your screen, and size it as you see fit. For our example we’ll be using a 1×1 widget that has been re-sized through the Launcher to 3×2, but again, any size will work.

Once sized, tap on the widget to get started.

I recommend creating an Empty widget.

Tap on Layouts. Or, if desired, clean up the Widget Background color first, don’t worry you can come back later.

Tap on the “+” icon in the top menu to add an element to the widget design.

Zooper Widget bitmap directions

Choose Bitmap.

Scroll down a bit and tap on Bitmap to choose an image stored on your device. Take the time to re-size and position the image as desired.

Tap on Module OnTap.

Swipe over to Shortcuts and choose Directions.

Choose your method of travel, enter the address and provide a shortcut name.

Hit Save to finish up the shortcut. Then tap the system Back button to save this bitmap element to the widget.

Zooper Widget bitmap Locations

Repeat for each location desired.

If you have a good handful of locations, you may want to fill the Module Name field in each image, but that’s up to you.

When complete, just tap the system Back button until it saves and exits out of Zooper Widget.

Give it a try, tap on one of those icons and Maps will fire up to provide directions.

What’s next

As is almost always the case when building Zooper Widgets, you should expect to jump back into the editor more than once to make some fine-tuning edits. You can also re-use some of what you build now for later directions, just change the Module OnTap settings to a new Directions shortcut.

Zooper Widget Maps navigation shortcuts short

Zooper Widget is absolutely not required to get Maps shortcuts on your Homescreen. There is a built-in Maps Directions shortcut available through your Launcher, go ahead with that if you desire. As mentioned earlier, this shortcut is not very customizable, but it is there if you need it.

Next week

We hope we’ve helped you find your way with this week’s Maps navigation Android customization project with Zooper Widget. Next week may also relate to maps, specifically, offline use maps (I have another trip coming up.)

Do you use Google Maps for your navigation needs?

System checkup, keep tabs on background data usage – Android customization

Posted by wicked June - 18 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

Android Data usage graph

Did you know that I used Chrome Remote Desktop to publish last week’s Android customization post on remote desktop applications? It wasn’t the first time I’ve done that, and it won’t be the last. I hope you get the same value out of the apps.

This week we are going to skip the Tasker and Android M topics we’ve been brainstorming for you, instead, I’ve heard from a few of you this past week alone asking about troubleshooting data usage on your devices. Let’s collectively answer a few of those concerns with a quick system check and general look at managing your data use and background services.

Before we begin

The more seasoned Android user may consider this piece to be for the beginners in the crowd, and they are probably right. We are not looking at any fancy tools or techniques today, just running through the default system settings of your Android device.

As mentioned, you do not need to install any apps today, just pick up your Android device and get ready to roll. We will be using our trusty stock Android 5.0+ Lollipop device, your experience may differ with manufacturer and carrier skins or older versions of Android, but we think the concepts are pretty standard, you should be able to mostly follow along.

Data Usage Settings

Android comes with a built-in data usage tracker that is able to keep tabs on your cellular and WiFi total usage, as well as usage for individual apps. Although this tool is quite consistent and effective, please consider your carrier’s data tracking tools to be king for your cellular usage, we don’t want you going over your limit because Android failed to properly track something.

Android Data usage settings

Head into your system Settings.

Click on Data Usage.

From here, poke around to find the option to swap between Cellular and WiFi data counts, turn on or off your cellular data and WiFi and more. You’ll see a graph of your current month’s usage with a drop down to see previous months usage amounts. Finally, scroll down to see a list of all of the apps that have connected to the internet on your device.

Tap an app to see a detailed view of its data usage and turn off its ability to use data in the background.

Turn off background data

If you are experiencing an app that is eating up your data in the background, which also eats up your battery, you can turn off background data for each individual app, as noted above. But if there is just too much going on, you can also turn off all background data.

Android Data usage Restrict background

From within Settings -> Data Usage, tap on the menu button in the top right corner, then tap Restrict background data.

And when things get really bad, you can come back to completely turn off cellular data. This is a little bit less restrictive than turning on Airplane mode, but can also be accessed from the quick settings section of your notification shade.

Turn off Scanning always available

This is a controversial one. Google enables the setting Scanning always available by default because it enhances your user experience. While this is true, it also allows apps to eat up WiFi and battery, even when WiFi is turned off. Turning this setting off may not save you much actual data, but some report that it has saved them significant amounts of battery drain.

We recommend you play with this setting independent of the rest of the changes you make today, so that you can evaluate if turning it off has actually helped you.

Android Data usage Advanced WiFi

From the main system Settings, head into Wi-Fi.

Tap the three dots menu button in the top right.

Select Advanced.

You’ll also see the options to turn off notifications for public access points and WiFi usage while the device is sleeping and more.

Check Accounts sync

Last thing today, you will find that much of your data usage is from apps and services that sync in the background. This goes especially for Google services, but many other apps also have controllable sync settings from within Android settings.

Android Accounts settings Sync

Head into your system Settings.

Tap into Accounts.

You see now what apps and services have sync controls. Don’t forget to check these and other apps for sync settings within app as well.

I recommend clearing the others first, leave Google for last. Again, you want to be choosy here, apps and services that you use frequently, or enjoy receiving notifications from, will need to stay turned on. You can see that I turn off Humble Bundle sync, nothing against them, I actually own almost every mobile bundle, but I simply do not access the app frequently enough to require constant syncing.

Android Accounts settings Google Sync

When you tap into the Google section, you will see all of the accounts that you have logged into the device, and the last time they reached out to Google servers to sync.

Tap on your account (email address) to see a detailed list of services.

Toggle on and off the service you wish to have constantly updated.

You notice that I have my Android Authority account logged in, but I only have one Google service syncing, Gmail. All of the other Google services I want with me on this device and actively syncing are tied to my personal account(s). Each of my devices is configured slightly different based on the services that I use them for, but my general rule for my gear is that if I’m not using it, I don’t sync it.

What’s next

Well, there you have the three biggest data usage controls on your Android device. Take some time to get to know your device and needs, play with the available settings. There is some trial and error ahead of you as you figure out which items to turn off and which you must keep turned on to keep your device operating properly.

Android Data usage rogue apps

You may also encounter rogue apps, including this strange one called Android OS, that eat far more data than you think they should. Diagnosing this is a case by case situation, but a few things to keep in mind are as follows:

1. The many services across Android will sometimes report data use under unexpected apps. For example, the very first time I pinned and downloaded music to Google Play Music on my tablet, most of the collection reported data under Play Music, but a large amount appeared to have reported under Google Services and a little under both Android OS and Media. I’ve seen this type of random distribution for data that should have landed under Removed apps and users as well.

2. Android Share menu. There are times when you will take action on your device, perhaps sending pictures to a friend or downloading a file from your cloud storage solutions. Depending on your situation, it is possible that the data usage will report under the app you started with, the app you shared to, or both. We need an example here, the new Google Photos will work – As you view photos that are stored in your Google+ Photo storage, Photos will use the data to download and view, but if you then share some of those photos over G+, will Google+ then report the data use, or will Google Photos? I haven’t actually tested this, but I hope you get the idea.

3. Uninstalled apps. Admitting that there is a dedicated data usage entry called Removed apps and users, I do not trust that all data is properly reported here. Once again, I suspect at least some data use from uninstalled apps reports elsewhere.

So, what do we do about all of this data reporting leakage? Feel free to discuss in the comments below, I will eventually revisit this with some suggestions, but it might be a while before I get to it, sorry. In the end, the numbers do add up to report your total data usage with some accuracy, regardless which app it reports as using your data.

Please remember that we kept it very simple here today, there are apps and custom ROMs that focus on reporting and controlling your data much better than the built-in Android tools. Perhaps we’ll visit those around here one day as well.

Next week

I hope today’s Android customization post has empowered you to take and keep control of your data services and usage. Next week is another grab bag, there is still one particular feature in the recently updated Tasker that I want to share with you, just as there are tons of great new features in Android M.

What do you say, any really weird data usage reports in your device, like, is anyone else getting usage numbers for 60 years into the future and can help me fix that?

Android Data usage in the future 2072

Chrome Remote Desktop Play Store

I hope you had the chance to follow along last week’s Android customization post, where we used Tasker to put one-click action buttons and custom system info right on your Lollipop lock screen. We are shifting gears dramatically this week, we want to look at two of my favorite apps to remotely access and control a PC from Android phones and tablets.

The apps I am about to share with you today may not be the most full functioning, feature rich or friendly to use, but they are simply the overall two best remote desktop apps that I’ve ever used. I might add that I use them frequently, perhaps not every day, but at least three times per week as I am on the road often, with my PC back at the house.

The apps today are Google’s own Chrome Remote Desktop, which is a fairly new player in the Android remote desktop game, only releasing about a year ago. The second app on deck is called TeamViewer, which is the PC to PC remote connection tool I’ve been using for the better part of the last decade, with a newer Android app that has been around for a few years now itself.

Before we begin

Both of our apps today are free to install and use. While Chrome Remote Desktop remains just as free as most Google products are, Teamviewer offers several tiers of service. Don’t worry, TeamViewers paid offerings are focused on business users, the personal use tools are are free and more than capable.

Grab Chrome Remote Desktop from the Google Play Store.

Grab TeamViewer from the Google Play Store.

Also, and I hope I can get by without much explanation here, you will need a PC up and running, with the matching apps installed and configured, to be able to remote in from your Android device. I’ll have links to the sites and apps in the sections below.

Chrome Remote Desktop

Let’s start right from the beginning, you need to install and configure Chrome Remote Desktop on your PC before you can access from your Android device. Let me say straight up that this tool is an extension of the Chrome web browser, which you will then also need to have installed on your PC.

Head on over to the Chrome Web Store to grab the extension.

Chrome Remote Desktop Windows

Once installed, fire up the app. You will see two sections, the Remote Assistance section that allows you to give control of your PC or take control of another. The second section is the My Computers section, which offers a shortcut method of accessing your own personal PCs, this is the one you should use for your Android device access.

If you are working with friends or family, or otherwise do not intend to keep full time access to the PC, use the Remote Assistance tool. It creates a one-time use access code that you can use to access the machine from another. This requires that a human be at both devices every time you want to get up and connected, but isn’t really the tool for your Android connection needs.

If this is your PC, and you want to generate a permanent access PIN so that you can access your machine without needing a human to click the buttons on the PC, use the My Computers tool. This requires that your PC and your Android device be logged in using the same Google Account, but the benefits are worth it.

Follow the on screen steps on your PC to start either a temporary or dedicated remote access session, then pick up your Android device and fire up the Remote Desktop app.

Once the app is fired up you will be presented the list of all of your available connected computers. Indicating which are online or not.

Chrome Remote Desktop Android

Tap on the desired PC.

Enter your PIN and decide if you want your Android device to remember it for later use.

Enjoy your connection, which even supports multiple monitor configurations, as you can see I have in use.

For more info, hit up the Chrome Remote Desktop support pages.

TeamViewer

One of the first remote desktop applications I had ever touched after giving up on Microsoft’s built-in tools in Windows, was TeamViewer. I started on the free personal account to manage my web and file server at home while I was at work all day. This was several years before I purchased my first Android phone.

Since the introduction of the TeamViewer Android app, I’ve been using it to write many of these very articles using just my Nexus 7 and Nexus 9 tablets from the road.

To get started, head on over to the TeamViewer website to download the application for your PC. There are two versions available, the full release allows you to both accept incoming connections and to take control to connect to others from your PC. It is installable and allows you to create a static password for access any time.

TeamViewer Remote Control PC

The other version of the TeamViewer application is called QuickSupport, this is a simple .exe that does not install on your PC, it simply runs to allow an incoming connection, nothing more.

Fire up either of the TeamViewer applications on your PC and you will be presented with a unique ID for your PC, and a one-time use passcode to connect.

The two versions of the app have migrated to Android as well, you’ll want the one called TeamViewer for Remote Control. I should note that the QuickSupport app for Android is only available for Android 5.0 Lollipop and newer devices.

TeamViewer Android

Open TeamViewer and enter the ID number from the PC you wish to control and click the Remote Control button.

Enter the provided PIN from the PC, or the dedicated passcode if you set that up.

TeamViewer handles multi-screen PCs a little differently, providing a toggle button to control one display at a time. This may sound a little less convenient, but it certainly helps reduce your overall data usage and required connection strength.

What’s Next

While there is so much more that you can do with these two remote desktop applications, and even more that can be done with all of the other apps out there, we will basically call it quits for today.

You can try out file transfers, presenting to more than one other user and more, just for fun.

remote desktop connection screenshot

Next week

I hope this week’s Android customization post opens up a new world of mobility for you. Next week will be a toss up folks, I really want to talk about a new feature of the recently updated Tasker, but I’m not ready to commit to that yet. I also want to talk about some of the cool new things you can do with Android M, but I’m not ready for that just yet either. I may not talk about either. Sorry to keep you guessing.

Do you frequently utilize remote desktop software? What app is your favorite?

Facebook Lite for emerging markets now official, begins rolling out

Posted by wicked June - 5 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

facebook-lite

Facebook’s solution for mobile users in emerging markets, “Facebook Lite,” is now rolling out in select regions.

The app is designed to work efficiently on slow networks with minimal bandwidth capacity. The download is only a 1MB file, so you could imagine there are quick install and load times. Features in the app include core Facebook functions, including status updates, News Feed, photos, notifications, etc.

Asia’s first on the list to receive the app — next up is Latin America, Africa and Europe.

Source: Facebook Newsroom

Come comment on this article: Facebook Lite for emerging markets now official, begins rolling out

Tasker Notification lock screen

Last week on our Android customization series, we looked at an app or two that bypasses the removed widgets from your lock screen in Android Lollipop. We brought widgets back by placing them inside of notifications.

While this was happening it occurred to us, why should we spend money on a new app when we’ve already paid for Tasker, which can do nearly the same thing? And so, I give you today, Tasker notifications on your Android Lollipop lock screen.

Before we begin

Get it on Google Play ButtonThe obvious requirement today is an Android 5.x Lollipop powered phone or tablet. I know that at least 12% of you have the update already, and more arrive daily. From there, you will also need your very own copy of Tasker. If you’ve been following this series for a while, you probably already have Tasker purchased, if not installed, and if you do not, Tasker can be had for $2.49 in the Google Play Store.

Fair warning, with Google I/O, Lenovo Tech World and Computex all occurring since we met last week, I feel like I did not get the time to bring you great visuals this week, we’ll plow through the steps and get you going, but you may need to employ your own sense of finesse to get the most out of today.

Tasker Notifications

To get Tasker actions onto your lock screen is going to be a little bit easier than you might imagine. Android Lollipop already places notifications onto your lock screen, it is merely a matter of ensuring that your settings allow the notification to show and that we set the notification as permanent so that it remains running for you.

Wouldn’t you know it, we’ve created Tasker notifications in the past, feel free to give that a look, or follow along as we make a crude notification below.

Open Tasker and head to the Tasks tab.

Tap the “+” add button to create a new Task.

Name your Task appropriately. Remember that it should be nice and concise, I’ll break that rule just a little bit and call mine “LockscreenNotification.”

Tasker Notification

Tap the “+” add button to add an action to your Task.

Select Alert.

Select Notify.

Provide a memorable Title. It does not need to be special, but it will display on your notification and you will need to remember it exactly for later. I’ve given my title as “Tasker on lockscreen“.

Leave Text empty for now, I’ll explain later.

Tap the icon button beside Icon to choose an icon for your notification. This is the image that will show in your notification bar at the top of the screen.

Scroll down and turn on Permanent. You can experiment without this setting, but you will get better results on the lock screen with it turned on.

Finally, tap the “+” add button within Actions to add other Tasker Tasks to this notification. This is where the magic happens, so take your time and choose wisely the maximum three actions per Tasker notification that you want available on your lock screen.

For today, I have chosen two simple convenience actions, then I used the third slot to create a close button for the notification. As follows:

Play music button

First, I created a quick music play button. Audio controls will show on the lock screen once music is playing, but this button will allow me to fire up the music if it is not already going. Just be sure that you have your queue in good order before you go blaring inappropriate tunes.

Tasker Media Toggle Pause

To create the music play button, tap the Action button on the right. Tap Media. Tap Media Control. Change Next to Toggle Pause. Hit your system Back button to save and exit.

Take a photo button

Second, I created a quick photo button. My phone does not have a fancy gesture or button combination to quickly fire up the camera app, so I will do it with a button here. I have already created a picture taking Task in a previous project, so I simply want to call that Task here, instead of re-creating it.

Tasker Perform Task

To call an existing Task, tap the Action button on the right to get started. Tap Tasks. Tap Perform Task. In the Name field, tap the magnifying glass icon to choose a Task from your existing library. My old Task was named QualityPhoto, but you go ahead and choose any previous Task in your list. Then tap the system Back button to save and exit.

Close notification button

My third action is a simple close button for the notification. This is required because I do not always want the notification running, but because I set it to Permanent above, it won’t just swipe away, you’ll need an actual close button.

Tasker Cancel Notify

To create a close button, tap the Action button on the right. Tap Alert. Tap Notify Cancel. In the Title field, you will need to enter exactly the name of your notification, mine was called “Tasker on lockscreen.” It is case sensitive and all that, so I like to turn on the Warn Not Exist option, just for testing purposes. Tap the system Back button once again to save and exit.

Tasker Notification Actions

Before we leave here, you have the option to add icons to each of the three actions, as well as enter label text. Although these are not required steps, I recommend using at least one of the two, just something to help remember what does what later. Just make sure your labels are as short as possible, they get cut off after just a few characters.

Hit that system Back button to save and exit out of this Action.

Tasker Task Notification

You see now your simple Tasker Task to fire up a permanent notification on your device. Go ahead and hit that ‘play’ icon in the bottom left of your screen to give it a go.

You’ll now see your Tasker notification up in the notification bar and when you pull down the notification shade you’ll be able to hit your buttons. This remains true when you next turn on your device, providing this same notification right on your lock screen. Again, I apologize that mine is a little sloppy, please look past that and enjoy the functionality.

What’s next

Of course, you are going to need to provide a way to fire up this notification on your device. You could get clever and create a Tasker Profile that watches for when your display turns on, myself, I’m in a rush and have some space left on one of my Homescreens. I’ve added an icon to my Task and simply dropped a Tasker Task widget that I can click whenever I want the notification to run.

Boom, just like that I have quick access to start my music or take a photo using my Tasker built Quick Photo Task, all without having to unlock the device.

Tasker Task Notification Homescreen lock screen

But wait, I have fancy device info showing on my notification. Remember how I told you earlier that I would explain the Text field in the Notification settings? This is what it does for you. Of course, you could just copy my string of text from image way above, including Tasker variables to pull in the device info, or you can get creative and piece together your own string. Just remember that it is just one short line of text, so you’ll again have to choose carefully what little info you wish to see.

The last thing I want to discuss is something I mentioned briefly last week. If the limitations of only three items and just a short snippet of text is not going to cut it for you, you can start combining tools here to make something truly unique and powerful. Simply put, you can embed Tasker Tasks and collected system info into icons and text on a Zooper Widget, and from there you can embed a Zooper Widget into a Notifidgets notification. This allows you to put nearly limitless info and action buttons on your lock screen, if you don’t mind combining three paid apps to get there.

Next week

Man, that got intense at the end, certainly, putting a simple Tasker notification on your lock screen is a good Android customization, but loading up Tasker into Zooper into Notifidgets is a little crazy. Next week I’d like to take a little look at two competing apps that I find crucial to my mobile computing experience, let’s call it a remote desktop app shootout, of sorts.

What do you think, can you live with a simple Tasker notification as a custom info and action tool on your Lollipop lock screen?

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