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Nokia X now has an AOSP-based ROM

Posted by wicked April - 10 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Truly it was only a matter of time. Nokia‘s first, and probably only, foray into Android has just gotten its very first AOSP custom ROM, making the Nokia X possibly one of the most affordable Android devices you can play around with.

The Nokia X isn’t exactly an impressive device. The hardware is what you’d normally consider low-tier or even mediocre. It doesn’t even run the latest Android version. It’s novelty comes from the fact that it comes from Nokia, with a Nokia UX touch, and a very tempting budget price. Now those specs can be put to somewhat better use thanks to this new ROM.

The Android 4.1.2 ROM comes via XDA and is based on Code Aurora, itself based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) with custom Qualcomm patches included. The ROM is, surprisingly in a usable state, with Bluetooth, Camera, FM radio, GPS, media playback and even multi SIM support all marked as working. What doesn’t work include audio out during calls and all sensors, but it’s still a work in progress so things can change quickly. One quirk of the Nokia X is that it has a single hardware key for Back, which can make navigation a pain in one’s extremities. Fortunately, two builds are available, including one that has a sofware navigation bar like those on devices with no hardware buttons at all.

One, however, might wonder if wiping out the custom Nokia interface, including Fast Lane and Nokia apps, effectively removes one of the device’s most unique feature. Nonetheless, this ROM gives Android buyers an option to purchase a relatively cheap device and not give a care to Nokia’s customization. What’s more, this build can hopefully lead to more ROMs, including, hopefully, one using Android 4.4.

VIA: XDA

A look at the Android world outside of Google’s control

Posted by wicked April - 3 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

 google logo (1)

Quinn Dombrowski

The dominance of Android in the smartphone market worldwide is still growing. Google continues to improve the platform. Manufacturers are producing a great range of devices. But the future doesn’t look rosy to everyone. Is there a storm on the horizon? Could forked versions of the platform spell disaster for Google? Is there a real danger it could lose control?

According to ABI Research the platform accrued a 77% market share in Q4 of 2013 and it was on 78% of the nearly 1 billion smartphones that shipped during last year. To get to the juicy part of ABI’s research, the part that has been generating headlines, you have to dig a little deeper and examine the split between Google’s Android and the AOSP (Android Open Source Project).

Taking a closer look at Q4 2013 we find that 25% of the market, or 71 million smartphones, were running forked versions of Android or AOSP. Google’s Android actually accounted for 52% of shipments. That 52% is not to be sniffed at, it compares to 18% for Apple’s iOS and 4% for Microsoft’s Windows Phone, but the 25% for AOSP is very significant. If we set Google’s Android aside with its 52% then we find that AOSP accounted for more shipments than the whole rest of the market put together.

China, India, Russia, and other markets

There is one major driving force behind this trend. It’s very simple. Smartphone sales in China, India, Russia, and a few other markets are incredibly high right now and they are continuing to grow very quickly. These are markets where Google is a foreign company up against good local competition. Take a look at this chart, compiled by The Guardian’s Charles Arthur.

Smartphones in 2014: who's buying?

China is the biggest market by far. Google has fought a long and highly publicized censorship battle with the government there and after a serious cyber-attack back in 2010 it even suggested that it might close down its Chinese operations. Its popularity in China dropped significantly after that and ultimately Google backed down.

If we take a look at the figures for page-views in China in 2013, according to Tech In Asia, then it becomes clear how bad things are for Google. Baidu is dominant, although its share dropped to 63.1% in December 2013 as Qihoo soared up to 22.5%. Google managed just 1.6%.

Baidu and Qihoo both have app stores, not to mention web browsers, music streaming services, and anti-virus apps. You may recognize the name Qihoo as the company already offers a great range of security apps, like 360 Mobile Safe in the Play Store. There’s every chance that these players will go head-to-head with Google beyond China’s borders in the future.

Google’s fortunes in India appear to be brighter and it can claim 90% of the search market. This Forbes India piece gives an insight into the efforts that Google has made to capture and retain the Indian market, which has huge potential for growth.

In Russia, Google trails way behind Yandex on Web search, Bloomberg suggests 62% share for Yandex to Google’s 27% and it also points out that Huawei and Explay (accounting for roughly 6% of smartphone sales in Russia) will pre-install Yandex services instead of Google services on their devices.

Other Android forks

Closer to home the big threat is currently Amazon. If we glance at the latest tablet stats from Gartner we find that Amazon has a 4.8% market share for 2013. That’s down from 6.6% in 2012, but Android grew 127% over the year to take the number one spot in tablets, so Amazon is still making gains. It is easy to sideload Google services onto Amazon tablets, but we have no idea how many people do this.

The threat isn’t confined to tablets as we also have Nokia’s Android X phones on the horizon now, although, once again, it is easy to sideload Google services.

nokiax-7

What does this mean for Google?

The growth of AOSP without Google services is going to impact on the company monetizing the Android platform. It’s a lot of potential revenue being siphoned off by competitors.

Let’s not get carried away here. There’s no imminent coup that’s going to sweep Android out of Google’s hands. It’s perfectly natural for companies to do better in specific countries than they do in others. The important point right now is that Google offers a better experience than anyone else in an awful lot of markets. If Baidu can deliver what Chinese people want better than Google, then it deserves to dominate – same goes for Yandex in Russia. Google has no divine right to those users.

There are signs that Google is starting to exercise a little more caution with Android and ensure that more of the exciting and desirable new developments in the platform are part of Google’s Android rather than AOSP. If you’re in the US, the UK, or a number of other markets then the experience that Google delivers is simply unbeatable right now. Amazon’s Android fork feels limited and it’s hard to imagine new players breaking into the market and offering something more compelling than what Google currently offers. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but Google is hardly resting on its laurels.

The battle for mobile

Different companies have very different aims in mobile. The sale of Motorola Mobility could spell the end of Google’s experiment with hardware. Google’s profits are based on advertising and the unparalleled insights it can draw from the big data all those users generate. Without the pressure to make direct profit by selling services it has been able to totally disrupt a number of industries. Android is obviously the biggest success story beyond search, and it’s all about making sure that Google has a good slice of the mobile action, which is clearly where the market is moving.

The real barrier to someone else stealing away the Android platform is the difficulty of doing a better job than Google. Let’s not forget that Google’s Android still accounted for 52% of shipments in that Q4 of 2013, which is more than 150 million devices with Google services onboard. Panic may be premature.


    







Paranoid Android redefines itself to stick closer to AOSP

Posted by wicked March - 4 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

The developers of the Paranoid Android just made an announcement that could further endear some users but also estrange others. The team wants to recreate itself in a new image, one that sticks closer to the Android experience as it is found in the Android Open Source Project (AOSP).

Custom ROMs seem to be reaching a new phase. There was a time when custom ROMs were popular and favored not only for the freedom that they offer but also for the rapid development of interesting features and risky changes, more than manufacturers would be willing to undertake. Lately, however, there seems to be a trend towards keeping things closer to a vanilla Android experience, with as little changes as possible or necessary.

Paranoid Android seems to be trekking that road as well and is taking advantage of the jump to Android 4.4 to make that transition. That meant that some features could be dropped and the Halo multitasking feature was the first one to have been confirmed to get the boot. Now the team is setting the record straight, explaining to fans and followers what they are aiming to do.

Basically, the custom ROM will be restarting from scratch and will stick closer to what is found in AOSP. The developers will go over everything with a fine-toothed comb to see which should make the cut and which ones will be dropped. Yes, Halo will be gone, but both those that will be reinstated and those that have been removed will undergo surgery to make it fit the new paradigm. Whatever form they end up in, Paranoid Android aims to deliver a simpler, less cluttered, and easier user experience.

The first feature to receive a facelift is Pie. Android 4.4 has changed the face of Android in subtle yet significant ways. It immersive mode has forced Paranoid Android developers to rethink how Pie works. The good news is that Pie will still be in the next ROM release, but it will look different. For one, it has been updated to match KitKat’s aesthetics. But it also integrates more deeply with Android’s features, particularly Google Now. However, Pie will no longer feature notifications and quick settings.

Interestingly, Paranoid Android is also redefining its target audience. While its is not exactly excluding “crackflashers” and users who love to tinker with Android’s innards, the ROM wants to gain more users on the normal range. Paranoid Android wants to deliver a stock Android that can be enjoyed without having to fiddle with dozens of switches and settings.

SOURCE: +Paranoid Android (1), (2)

Future Android security feature could break many root apps

Posted by wicked January - 23 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

A set of commits have recently been pushed to the Android Open Source Project that seeks to harden the platform against malicious attacks. But while the intention is definitely good, this new feature could very well spell disaster for the dozens of root apps out there.

android-security

These code changes were pointed out to Chainfire, developer of one of the most popular root access management apps available, SuperSU. After realizing the far-reaching implications of this new feature, he took to Google+ to call attention to it in the hopes of alerting other root app developers and hopefully even Google’s developers as well.

The security feature uses SELinux, which was introduced in Android 4.3, to prohibit files under the /data partition with the unconfirmed domain tag from being executed. This block was put in place to prevent rogue apps from getting unauthorized access. Unfortunately, that security hole, if one can call it that, is the very same mechanism used by root apps to work. Thus, if that new feature makes its way to the next Android version unchanged, a good number of, but not all, root apps will no longer work out of the box.

The situation isn’t totally hopeless but definitely needs to be addressed as soon as possible. There are possible workarounds possible, but there isn’t any solution that would work for all root apps. It is also possible for Android developers to find a better way of protecting the platform without removing the possibility of running root apps on Android in the future.

SOURCE: +Chainfire
VIA: Android Police

OmniROM reveals Google-free dialer in the works

Posted by wicked January - 15 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Google may have introduced a fancy new integrated phone directory in Android 4.4 KitKat, but that has not exactly sat well with everyone, particularly those who adhere closely to the more open source nature of the Android Open Source Project. Fortunately, there might soon be soon be an alternative now that OmniROM is hard at work on an equivalent, or even better, dialer.

omnirom-logo

Recently, Google has been putting in its own new features into the core experience provided by Android. Some, like the photos and SMS, are being replaced by Google+ equivalents. Others are just plain smarter, like the new integrated phone directory, but also tap into Google’s enormous database. Unfortunately, this is not free from disadvantages. Privacy-conscious individuals might shudder at the thought of letting Google know each and every number or name you try to dial. Another is that the core open source apps shipped with AOSP are practically left to rot in favor of Google’s proprietary equivalents.

Knowing full well those concerns, OmniROM has decided to build up on the AOSP dialer and try to deliver something similar. The new AOSP-based integrated phone directory will pretty much function the same way as Google’s version does. Simply type in a keyword or name and, after a few seconds, the numbers of nearby locations and establishments will appear. There are, of course, key differences between the two. For one, OmniROM’s implementation uses the free and open OpenStreetMap instead of Google’s services. Secondly, the app won’t send your exact location even to OpenStreetMap’s servers. Instead, it will simply give your rough position. There is even a possibility that for more able users to use their self-hosted OSM server if they want.

omnirom-integrated-phone-directory

Right now, this open source dialer is still in development and there isn’t much to show yet, aside from a lone screenshot. OmniROM indicates that it plans to give users the freedom to choose their own poison, allowing them to either use the more open OSM or the admittedly more complete Google Places API.

SOURCE: OmniROM

CyanogenMod GalleryNext takes a shot at becoming the next photo viewer app

Posted by wicked January - 14 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Users and fans of CyanogenMod will already be familiar with how the custom ROM tries to take a good idea and makes it better. Next on its hit list is the AOSP gallery app, which it has weighed and found lacking, and will soon be replaced by its very own GalleryNext.

cyanogenmod-gallery-next-1

GalleryNext promises to be chock full of features without becoming too burdened and be confused as a full blown photo management and editing program. Its goal in life is simple: to be the one true place where you can view all your photos, stored both on your local device and in the cloud above. As such, it supports integration with Flickr, Picasa (or Google+), Facebook, and Dropbox. It also plays back videos you might have stored in your albums as well.

cyanogenmod-gallery-next-2
cyanogenmod-gallery-next-3

If that feature set sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost the same ones found in the current gallery app, give or take a few media sources. But the official AOSP gallery app may soon be on its way out, supplanted by Google+ Photos. Luckily, CyanogenMod’s GalleryNext will be there to pick up the pieces and add some flair of its own. New features include support for animated GIFs, a “Moments” feature which automatically groups and classifies images and videos based on their metadata, and deduplication in its “All” view.

cyanogenmod-gallery-next-4
cyanogenmod-gallery-next-5

Being a CyanogenMod project, users will have a voice in what direction this app will take. Those interested in seeing GalleryNext in the flesh can try out the Beta by first joining the CyanogenMod community.

SOURCE: +CyanogenMod

OmniROM “open ROM” coming soon to take CyanogenMod’s place

Posted by wicked October - 14 - 2013 - Monday Comments Off

A group of Android developers have joined forces to create OmniROM, a new ROM in a rapidly shifting Android custom ROM scene. With a title such as “open ROM”, this new project sets out to try to occupy a hole recently left by CyanogenMod.

omnirom-logo

CyanogenMod is, without a doubt, the most popular custom ROM for Android, with a strong following and an equally strong list of supported devices. Recently, the core developers have revealed after the fact that they have formed themselves into a company, Cyanogen, Inc. and have also partnered with OPPO to ship with the phone manufacturer’s latest OPPO N1 device. This has ruffled a few feathers and raised questions about the ROM’s future, as well as some conflicts of interests when interacting with the once purely community-based group.

CyanogenMod is, of course, not the only custom ROM around and there are others that also have a large following. But those who want CyanogenMod’s blend of development and openness might find their new home in OmniROM. Based on the Android Open Source Project (AOSP), OmniROM is being spearheaded by Chainfire, the popular developer of the Super SU and Triangle Away tools, Dees_Troy, lead developer of TWRP custom recovery, and XplodedWild, developer of the Focal camera app who withdrew his app from CyanogenMod because of recent events. The project will attempt to take off where CyanogenMod left, with customzations, tweaks, and apps built on top of AOSP. And of course, a focus on the user community.

The developers will also be working on a new open source ROM installer called OmniInstaller, which will simplify the process of installing not just OmniROM but other custom ROMs such as Paranoid Android and AOKP as well. There is no timeline yet when a first release will be made, but so far the only supported devices are currently composed of the Nexus 4, both Nexus 7 models, and the Nexus 10.

VIA: Liliputing

Jean-Baptiste Queru surfaces at Yahoo!

Posted by wicked September - 17 - 2013 - Tuesday Comments Off

jbq_new_job_tweet

Jean-Baptiste Queru, aka JBQ, who was the lead for Google’s Android Open Source Project, announced via a tweet that he is now working at Yahoo! with the team developing their mobile apps. You may recall last month, after the release of the Nexus 7 2013, that JBQ became extremely frustrated with the inability to get factory images thanks to hesitancy on the part of Qualcomm in releasing their binaries. That frustration led to JBQ walking away from Google and the AOSP. That in turn appears to have triggered Google and Qualcomm to resolve the issues and post the factory images, though apparently too late to retain one of their leads.

JBQ indicates he started in his new position as an architect and senior principal engineer this week.

source: @jbqueru
via: AllThingsD

Come comment on this article: Jean-Baptiste Queru surfaces at Yahoo!

Nexus 7 LTE factory images and binaries posted

Posted by wicked September - 17 - 2013 - Tuesday Comments Off

Similar to what we have seen with other Nexus devices, Google has recently released the factory images and binaries for the Nexus 7 LTE tablet. These files are all available by way of the Google Developers pages and are listed as being for the “razorg” Nexus 7 2013 Mobile. The files are listed as being Android 4.3 and with build number JLS36C.

Screen-Shot-2013-07-24-at-10.48.03-AM2-540x3121112

Nothing surprising in terms of the version and build numbers, and in the end this basically means those sporting a Nexus 7 LTE would easily be able to roll back to the original stock setup should something go wrong while they are playing around.

Those looking to download all the files ahead of time, just in case, should be looking for four downloads in total. The factory image is just one file and there are three files listed on the binaries page. That one includes one file from ASUS, one from Broadcom and one from Qualcomm. And just as we always see, all files have an easily found download link along with checksums to make sure you are all set.

The ASUS file deals with audio and sensors, the Broadcom file deals with NFC and the Qualcomm file deals with a variety of items. These include graphics, camera, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, sensors, media, DRM, DSP and USB. But in the end, it may not be as important as what each one does — more so that they are available if needed.

That being said, while the Nexus 7 LTE did disappear from the Play Store, a quick check is showing that is is back in stock and available to ship in one to two working days. And just to clarify, things remain the same with the Nexus 7 LTE being a 32GB model with a price point of $349.

SOURCE: Google Developers Factory Images, Binaries

AOSP available now for the Sony Xperia Z

Posted by wicked April - 24 - 2013 - Wednesday Comments Off

Sony Xperia Z vs Google Nexus 4 aa (8)

Sony has built a reputation as developer-friendly device manufacturer, and in aiming to show their continued support for the extensive Android developer community, the company has decided to create an Android Open Source Project (AOSP) for its 2013 flagship device, the Sony Xperia Z. The Sony Xperia S was the first device from the company to be a part of the AOSP “experiment,” and even though that support was pulled a short while later, the project continued. Now, Sony is hoping to get developers excited about using and contributing to a similar project for the Xperia Z.

Like with the Xperia S, developers can go to Sony’s GitHub page to access the source code related to the Xperia Z. Granted, it’s not entirely open, since some of the binaries are proprietary files provided by Qualcomm to use with the Snapdragon S4 Pro processor powering the device. You can download these software binaries here, after agreeing to an EULA that state how the files can be used, and what limitations exist.

The software can’t be used as your daily driver just yet, but there is a lot that is working already, including boot up, SD card, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, LED Light, and some sensors. Currently not working are the camera and modem, although Sony has both running internally, but is unwilling to publish the proprietary binaries required. This, of course, means that when the AOSP release is installed, the device will not function as a smartphone and as stated before, is not yet ready for everyday use.

Check out the video below of the Android Open Source Project for the Sony Xperia Z -

Next up for the project is replace some of the binaries with source code, and also make available binaries to get NFC to work. If you’re interested in contributing, you can head on over to the project page here.

Are you excited about AOSP being available for the Sony Xperia Z? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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