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Device Review: Nvidia SHIELD Tablet

Posted by wicked August - 16 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

shieldtabletreview

A little over a year ago, Nvidia decided to change the game–literally. The Nvidia SHIELD Portable was announced, released, and was very well received. Here we are, shortly following the announcement of a new, and epic, generation of mobile device processors, and Nvidia has officially released their next SHIELD installment, the Nvidia SHIELD Tablet.

Hardware

One of the chief complaints we saw with the original SHIELD Portable was the screen size and resolution. A 5” screen with 720p resolution was usable for most tasks, but could get to be a bit of a strain on the eyes after a while. Nvidia has attempted to address this with an 8”, 1920 x 1200 display (which is, by the way, quite nice).

Check out Jordan’s Video Review:

Hardware specifications:

Processor NVIDIA® Tegra® K1 192 core Kepler GPU,2.2 GHz ARM Cortex A15 CPU
RAM 2GB
Display 8-inch 1920×1200 multi-touch Full HD display
Audio Front facing stereo speakers, dual bass reflex port with built-in microphone
Storage 32 GB (WiFi+4G LTE) / 16 GB (WiFi-only)
Wireless 802.11n 2×2 Mimo 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-FiBluetooth 4.0 LE, GPS / GLONASS
Connectivity WiFi+4G LTE or WiFi-only, Mini-HDMI, Micro-USB 2.0, MicroSD slot, 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack with microphone
Camera Front: 5MP HDR;Back: 5MP auto focus HDR
Stylus DirectStylus 2 with 3D Paint (Included)
Battery 19.75 Watt Hours

 

As you can probably imagine, with the Tegra K1 and 2GB of RAM, this thing eats up games for breakfast.

Accessories

As this latest SHIELD is a standalone tablet, if you want to interact with your games like you did on the SHIELD portable, you’ll need a controller. With most other devices, this means pairing a Bluetooth controller. This usually introduces a bit of latency, which could mean the difference between getting a headshot and BEING headshot.

With the SHIELD Tablet, Nvidia released the SHIELD controller, a WiFi-direct solution that promises lower latency and easier pairing. In practice, both of these claims appear to be true.

Additionally, a magnetic tablet cover is available that makes it simple to stand the tablet up on a flat surface so you can keep right on gaming with the wireless controller.

Software

As with the SHIELD Portable, the tablet comes with a version of Android KitKat (specifically, version 4.4.2) that is only minimally customized, adding in pieces and parts to make the controller and stylus work appropriately, as well as whatever’s necessary for game streaming and recording. This means that updates can, and should, come frequently, as they have with the original SHIELD.

This also means that rooting the device is quite painless, as you can see in the following video:

Audio

Sound is one place where the SHIELD Tablet really shines. With most Android devices, and especially most tablets, speakers come in the form of one or two small, tinny speakers at the bottom, or the back, of the device.

The SHIELD Tablet has front facing stereo speakers as well as bass reflex ports on the side, which makes for some truly decent sound quality. I rarely found myself bumping the volume over about 50%, because the speakers were just that loud, clear, and crisp sounding.

Screen

This is another area where the SHIELD Tablet shines. It’s easy to throw around numbers like 8” and 1920×1200, but it doesn’t do it justice. The colors are vivid, and the viewing angles are excellent.

Game Recording / Streaming

One new feature introduced with the SHIELD Tablet is the ability to record screencasts directly from the device, including the built-in camera and microphone. This really makes this device a unique experience, as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve only tested this functionality a few times, and it seems to be a bit hit-or-miss. It records at a strange resolution, 1728×1080, presumably because the native screen resolution is 1920×1200 instead of 1920×1080. Additionally, the audio can sometimes go wildly out of sync from the video. Rebooting the device seems to take care of that issue, but you don’t know about it until after the recording, so it’s safest to just reboot before you’re going to record anything.

The built-in microphone really isn’t all that bad. My initial tests made me think it might be, but as it turns out, if you’re using the wireless controller, it attempts to use the microphone in it instead, which IS a pretty rough microphone.

Built-in streaming to Twitch.tv is also supported, which is absolutely awesome. You have to turn the quality down before attempting it, but still, it’s an all-in-one game streaming solution.

The downside of all of this, as I hinted earlier, is some glitchiness in the software. I attempted to record gameplay of games like Half-Life 2, but if I tried to leave the camera turned on while doing so, the game would immediately crash. I believe most of these things will be fixed, in due time, with software upgrades.

Camera

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is a tablet. Please don’t use it as a camera.

That said, the pictures I took with the rear-facing camera were… well, not great. 5MP doesn’t go quite as far as it used to, so they were blurry and grainy. However, for the front-facing camera, while it’s still a bit grainy, it’s leaps and bounds better than a lot of other front-facing cameras, and given that its primary intention is to be used while streaming or recording games, it works extremely well for that!

Stylus

A stylus is not something you’d normally talk about with a tablet, but this is a bit of an exception. The stylus of the original Tegra Note has been revamped a bit for the SHIELD tablet, with excellent results. I’m no artist, but the stylus has been extremely easy to use and feels very sturdy and solid in the hand, allowing for fine-grained control.

Unfortunately, the stylus doesn’t appear to work with all other devices, though it DID work with the HP Slate 7 Extreme, which also uses Nvidia DirectStylus technology.

Battery Life

According to Nvidia, the battery in the tablet is 19.75 Watt hours. That should equate to about 5200 mAh, which is just above average for a tablet of this size. In practice, I usually don’t find myself sitting down with a device like this for more than a couple of hours at a time, so I regularly saw several days of battery life, but my gaming was probably lighter than average. With heavier usage, of course you’d be able to drain the battery in just a few hours, but that can be said of just about any device with any battery size.

Conclusion

As a “next step” in the SHIELD family, the new SHIELD tablet is definitely a very worthwhile addition. Excellent performance, interesting software additions, amazing sound quality make it a powerful combo, not just for gaming, but for everyday tasks, media consumption, and even a bit of artistry. With a price tag of $299/$399 (and even more if you want the wireless controller and magnetic device cover) it’s a bit on the steep side, but if you’re looking for a good all-around tablet, and an especially good gaming tablet, this is the one.

The post Device Review: Nvidia SHIELD Tablet appeared first on xda-developers.

Blackphone Gets Root Access in MORE Than Five Minutes

Posted by egzthunder1 August - 13 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

root blackphone jcase

Security is a rather paramount issue in this day and age where sensitive technology is handed to people who probably should not have it until they are old enough to drive. People are as widely, overtly inappropriate on the Internet as they humanly can be, yet they have the audacity to reach out for web outlets whenever their “stuff” leaks out into the Internet. Then, these same people are the ones who complain that hackers and the government are after them because of all the important (eye of the beholder) text messages that are stored in their devices are gone. After all, nothing screams “national security threat” like a message from your mom asking if you want meatloaf for dinner. That is one side of the coin, while the other side involves people who truly need to have some sanctuary from the horrors of the likes of hackers, root, or even the government. They can, and probably are, holding onto important information on their e-mail accounts and whatnot that could jeopardize something worth going after. So, how do the latter deal with such a sword of Damocles dangling on top of their heads? The answer is to get a phone that is secure enough to hold all their stuff. Enter the Blackphone.

The Blackphone is a device made by a joint venture between Silent Circle and Geeksphone, which is now known as SGP Technologies. The device is an Android phone unlike many others out there. The main difference between this and your [enter your device name here] lies mainly in the software make up of the phone. Yes, it still runs on Android, but with a modified version of the OS (read: custom ROM) known as PrivatOS. This ROM has been loaded with several “secure” applications that should make you feel more secure while going about your daily routine. Also, the phone’s security has been boasted by the company to be parallel to none as the PrivatOS is more mature than most OEM options currently out there and therefore, most (if not all) vulnerabilities are nothing but a thing of the past. So much was their confidence that the company decided to take their product into one of the largest hacker expos, Def Con. Now, as you are aware, there are various types of hackers, all with very different motivations to do what they do, but one thing that they do have in common: They sure do love a challenge when presented with one, and XDA Senior Recognized Developer and Forum Moderator jcase is no exception.

According to jcase, the device was rooted but it was not an easy task as reported by many, many, many other blogs (several of these pro Blackberry blogs taking this opportunity to take a few stabs at their new competitor, which is a fight that equates Android users and iOS users to a certain extent). Most of them reported that the entire ordeal lasted a whopping 5 minutes, which is factually incorrect (and in fact, many have either withdrawn the articles or amended them with the proper information). Jcase goes on to state that there were 3 different vulnerabilities found in the device at the time, and that root was achieved without the need to unlock the device’s bootloader.

The first vulnerability found was a way to re-enable ADB on the device, which is disabled by default. The company went a few steps further than simply disabling ADB and decided to do away with Developer Menu altogether. The company came back stating that this was not done as a security measure but rather as a temporary fix due to USB ADB connectivity creating stability and performance issues on the device (when ADB was on and encryption was turned on, the device was said to go into a bootloop). Due to a pressing and rather tight schedule, instead of trying to quickly work out a patch to see where the issue was, they simply swept it under the rug until they could find what was causing the problem with hopes to push an OTA update to re-enable the missing dev options and ADB with it. In any case, this vulnerability (regardless of whether the company admits it or not) was required to get the root method to work.

The second part of the root process involved a lot of tinkering with the actual device. First and foremost, you needed to get USB ADB going on it (hence, the previously mentioned vulnerability). Next, you pretty much need to flat out ignore any and all recommendations by the manufacturer during set up. Next up, device encryption needed to remain off and you needed to grant permission to “unknown sources” for installing apks. And last but not least, you needed to either disable or at the very least know the PIN to the device in question. There was a third part in the whole exploit process but jcase has decided not to disclose this part to the general public and instead reported it to the company.

The entire affair was not exactly short lived, despite what other blogs may state and jcase walked out of this one with nothing but bragging rights and a custom made t-shirt, effectively letting the company know what he thought about the “reward” for his efforts. This, however, was really nothing but a joke as jcase holds no ill will against the company and in fact, has gone on to say that he appreciates the professionalism displayed by their CSO and CEO regarding the entire ordeal. Yes, the device was rooted but it is far from being the insecure junk that Blackberry users make it seem. This device is an alternative to those who own BB devices and cannot justify giving up the security perks of the device for a brand new and shinny Android phone. Yes, the device may have obtained root access but that does not make it any less secure. So, to all the people out there who brag about BB’s security, lets just say that you may be picking attention from the very people your “security” is meant to drive away. Just remember, in the words of JFK

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. – John F. Kennedy

Just replace “go to the moon” with “hacking BB10″. You can find more information in the original (and actually accurate) article from Ars Technica.

The post Blackphone Gets Root Access in MORE Than Five Minutes appeared first on xda-developers.

Latest Android Platform Stats: KitKat Nearly 21%, 2.x Hovers Around 14%

Posted by Will Verduzco August - 13 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

August 2014 android platform stats

August 2014 android platform statsNear the beginning of every month, just like clockwork, Google updates its Developer Dashboard website with updated Android Platform Stats. As we’ve said many times in the past, these numbers show the current state of Android ecosystem fragmentation–both in terms of version/API adoption, as well as screen size and density, and OpenGL support. As such, this is all incredibly valuable information for developers looking to better target their application development efforts.

The last time we took a look at the Android Platform Stats just one month ago, we were pleased to see quite a bit of continued growth in the right direction. Android 4.4.x KitKat was up to 17.9% from 13.6% the month before, resulting in a 32% relative growth. But just as we’ve seen in previous months, Android 2.x still was hanging around at 14.6% of devices last month.

August 2014 stats 2

This month, we’ve continued the positive trend in KitKat adoption, but just as was the case last time around, the rate of adoption is slowing as more and more flagship and former flagships receive KitKat. This month, Android 4.4.x KitKat saw a 16.8% relative growth, which resulted in a total of 20.9% of active installs. Surprisingly, Android 2.x is actually up one tenth of one percent to 14.3%, and this is due to Gingerbread going from 13.5% to 13.6%. We shouldn’t be too concerned with the increase per se, as this is likely a stats collection artifact, but the lack of a decrease could signal that the platform’s Gingerbread problem will remain for quite some time.

Another way of looking at the user adoption data is that KitKat is on the rise, but the pace of this formerly meteoric rise has now tempered off for two months, as more and more devices that will get eventually KitKat have already gotten it. 2.x is still holding strong, and perhaps that number will stay this way until those users who are still clinging to their archaic devices are forced to upgrade due to malfunction or growing minimum app requirements. While the growth trends in this month’s adoption stats aren’t quite as rosy as we’ve seen in previous updates, this is still good news given KitKat’s continual rise.

In addition to version stats, the Android Developer Dashboard also reports information regarding screen size and resolution, as well as max supported OpenGL version. This can be seen below:

open gl stats aug 2014

It’s certainly encouraging to see continual progress in bringing the latest Android versions to more and more devices. Now that we’re just a few short months away from the official release of Android L, only time will tell if future Android version update adoption improves upon what we’ve seen in the past. Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!

[Source: Android Developer Dashboard]

The post Latest Android Platform Stats: KitKat Nearly 21%, 2.x Hovers Around 14% appeared first on xda-developers.

Device Review: OnePlus One

Posted by wicked July - 30 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

oneplusone1

oneplusone1Seemingly every day, there are a bunch of new devices being released. Some are budget devices and some are flagship devices. Naturally, there are budget conscious enthusiasts who would like to have both. Recently, a device has made a big splash in the tech industry, and is called by some as the Nexus killer. Then again, what’s not being (perhaps inaccurately) called a Nexus killer these days? This device is the first offering from OnePlus. Let dive in and see if we have a Nexus killer or not.

Before we start this review, please note that some people are having some issues with the service of the company. That being said, this review is of the device hardware and software and our experience with it.

The version of the 1+1 that we are reviewing here today is the black 64GB option. The outside of the device is clean and reflects an attention to style by OnePlus and its unique relationship to Chinese manufacturing company Oppo.

There is a power button on the right, but fear not, the CyanogenMod install makes it almost unnecessary. Additionally, you will find the headphone jack on the top, a Micro USB on the bottom, and a volume rocker on the left side next to the SIM slot. In the photography department, you have a 13 MP shooter on the back and 5 MP on the front.

OnePlus One

Display

The display is colorful and sharp at 5.5 inch size. Sporting an IPS panel at the Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080, working out to 401 PPI with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and Touch-on-Lens Technology, the display looks and feels great. Even in sunlight, watching movies on this display was a pleasure.

My review unit does suffer from the much publicized light yellow bar on the display. Yet, it was not readily apparent and I could not see the line while using the device day in and day out.

Hardware

Hardware specs include a 2.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, which features the Adreno 330 GPU, as well as 3GB of RAM. These specs make the OnePlus One comparable to flagship devices from HTC and Samsung. CyanogenMod 11s makes full use of the hardware power.

The back is removable, but it is really a cosmetic feature, as there is no removable battery and no expandable storage. For most, the built in 64GB storage should be more than enough to satisfy your storage needs.

One issue with the back is that you need to be surgeon to get back cover off. If you ever want to change it out, you will be in for the long haul. Thankfully, the black cover on this unit looks great, though it attracts many fingerprints.

Battery

The non-removable OnePlus One battery comes in at 3100 mAh, and it uses lithium polymer technology. Using the device for 1.5 weeks, the battery was holding out for 1 to 1.5 days on a single charge. This is very impressive since my experience with the Note 3 (which has a bigger battery) would get perhaps a solid 14 hours from a full charge.

Never Settle

Camera

In the camera department, the OnePlus One has a 13-megapixel Sony Exmor IMX 214 at f/2.0 Sensor with dual LED flash for the main shooter on the rear. The front camera is 5 megapixels. The camera software is nice, has a lot of filters, and performs quickly and decently.

You can record video up to 4K using this Sony 13MP sensor. You even get slow shutter option for nice video effects. While the camera app looks stock, you have a lot more options than the normal Google Camera. Perhaps this is a credit to the years of customization experience from the CyanogenMod team.

Speakers

While we usually don’t call out the speakers explicitly unless they are unique the OnePlus One has caused a bit of a stir with theirs. While there are two speakers, there are not stereo. What is actually on OnePlus One device is dual mono speakers. Though they are not stereo speakers they produce loud sounds and the built in EQ makes tweaking the settings easy. I was able to watch a movie on the bus and still enjoy it. It would have been nice to see stereo speakers, maybe OnePlus Two.

OnePlus One Hacking

Software

CyanogenMod 11s based on Android 4.4.2 is what runs on this device. The CyanogenMod team built this version specifically for this device. The implementation of CyanogenMod 11s is perhaps the best OEM software out of the box that I have seen.

The OnePlus One has a lot of options to customize it out of the box, making it quite possibly the most customizable device from the factory. Some of the apps you get include a theme manager, a built in EQ, and the CyanogenMod gallery.

The CyanogenMod team has historically been very good at providing OTA updates for the devices it supports. The fact that we have KitKat 4.4.2 under the hood is not a major issue, and 4.4.4 should be supported shortly after release. You can control the device with gestures, even if the device is sleeping. Some of the gestures include: fast camera launch, flashlight, and double tap notification bar to sleep.

Hackability

From a hackabiltiy standpoint, you have many options right now. The OnePlus One is very developer friendly. You can root and unlock the bootloader, and get TWRP installed. You can install custom ROMs including the Color OS ROM from the OPPO Find 7. There’s quite a bit of development activity within the device forum.

Conclusion

The OnePlus One is the device that wants you to believe that it will be a Nexus killer. In truth, it’s comparable to many flagship devices currently on the market. At $299 for the 16GB model and $349 for the 64GB model, it’s a great deal to boot. It’s even cheaper than the current Nexus 5! Like the Nexus line, it’s sold unlocked.

Other than perhaps the speaker situation, there isn’t too much corner cutting here. It’s a great phone with a great set of hardware specs, as well as a good software experience to match. Now we just have to wonder why they don’t also release a tablet.

The post Device Review: OnePlus One appeared first on xda-developers.

Cell Phone SIM Unlock Bill Just Steps Away from President’s Desk

Posted by egzthunder1 July - 28 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

Victory

For all those who believe that Cinderella stories don’t actually exist, I guess I can safely say that you are dead wrong. For the past year and a half (give or take a few months), there has been a push by the people of the United States to try and fix one of the many things that are wrong with the country. I’m not talking about Healthcare or firearms regulations, but one issue that is far closer to home and affects us and what we do here on XDA directly. In case you are not familiar with what went on over the last year and a half, let me brief you in a bit. XDA-Developers has been an avid supporter of certain groups, including the FSF and EFF in particular, during the fight against the specific sections in the DMCA that deal with cell phone SIM unlocking. Back in October of 2012, the Library of Congress (with the push of a lobbyist group known as CTIA) essentially made a monumental mistake by removing an exemption from the bill that allowed people to legally SIM unlock their devices. This consequently pretty much went against what every other country in the world does in this regard.  A petition made it to the White House, which gathered well over 110,000 signatures. At that point in time, there was no clear cut answer from the government regarding what, if anything, they intended to do.

Fast forward to March of the following year (2013), when SIM unlock regulations were already under way. It was officially illegal to unlock a device–at least, it was no longer a protected practice under DMCA. However, not all hope was lost, as it seemed that some people in Washington DC did take the petition seriously and decided to do something regarding what is otherwise the denial of full ownership of personal property. But the issue is that, again, certain groups tend to have a bit more weight than others on Capitol Hill. Because of this, what congressmen considered to be a full effort on their part to make things right with the general public not only fell short from its intended target, but in fact it gave even more power to the likes of the carriers and manufacturers over the products that we purchase. From that point on, it has been a constant battle between members of Congress to try and come up with a feasible enough solution that would make everyone happy. This is not exactly an easy task, mind you. A lot more effort went into the bill. And by providence of Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, the bill transformed, over the following year, into something far more tangible that actually had us, the people, in mind.

This past Friday shows and marks the result of a long year of hard labor, in which a new bill named Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act was unanimously passed by Congress. This bill is now on its way to the President’s desk to become law. President Obama has already weighed in on the new bill, commending all those involved in the crafting, pushing, and supporting of this new bill that will essentially make technology ours once again. You finally have the right (once again) to SIM unlock your device to your heart’s content, so don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. To quote President Obama:

I applaud Members of Congress for passing the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act. Last year, in response to a “We the People” petition from consumers across our country, my Administration called for allowing Americans to use their phones or mobile devices on any network they choose. We laid out steps the FCC, industry, and Congress should take to ensure copyright law does not undermine wireless competition, and worked with wireless carriers to reach a voluntary agreement that helps restore this basic consumer freedom. The bill Congress passed today is another step toward giving ordinary Americans more flexibility and choice, so that they can find a cell phone carrier that meets their needs and their budget. I commend Chairmen Leahy and Goodlatte, and Ranking Members Grassley and Conyers for their leadership on this important consumer issue and look forward to signing this bill into law.

This is a huge win–and again, something that skeptics in the audience can attribute to justice being served. Despite this not being a perfect world or a fairy tale, we live in a society where there is still some semblance of justice and common sense left in the right people. So, get out there and SIM unlock your previously locked device for once and for all. Do you hear that? It is freedom calling.

[A special thanks go to Sina Khanifar and Derek Khanna for fighting the good fight! Way to go guys, it would have not been possible without you!]

The post Cell Phone SIM Unlock Bill Just Steps Away from President’s Desk appeared first on xda-developers.

Google to Consider Changing SD Card Access Rules in Final Android L Release

Posted by Will Verduzco July - 9 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Android L SD Card

With the release of Android 4.4 KitKat, Google introduced a few changes that impacted the way in which SD cards are handled. As a result, user-installed applications are not longer allowed to access the entirety of your SD card partition. Instead, user-installed apps running on KitKat are only given full access to files and folders of their own creation.

The change in SD card behavior in KitKat was a very deliberate one–and one which was aimed at improving both security and overall SD card tidiness. As you would expect from such a marked change, both users and third party applications were caught in the cross-fire and left with broken apps and support nightmares. Luckily for those looking to revert this behavior, there’s an easy workaround. But as you would imagine, this isn’t quite idea.

Now, there’s a glimmer of hope that a more ideal solution may be introduced into Android L when it is eventually released later this year. Earlier today, a report was filed on the Android L developer preview issue tracker that details one app developer’s concerns with the changes introduced into KitKat. The issue reads as follows:

In every Android version before 4.4, apps were allowed to (unofficially) write to the user’s external storage. Due to competitive pressures, users demanded this feature from app developers, whom were expected to provide this feature.

In Android 4.4, this was changed so that only system apps continued to have full access to the external storage, and other apps did not, unless they used new URI-based APIs.

My concerns:

  • I don’t see how these APIs are usable from Java or Native code that expects to work with Files, not URIs.
  • It places all 3rd-party app developers at a disadvantage versus system apps.
  • Users expect apps to offer them full access to the SD card, and are not asking for this restriction. This has been my experience based on user feedback.

I don’t currently see how the changes in L will improve this situation. Am I missing something? If the situation’s not as dire as I see it, perhaps Google can consider a migration guide so that it’s more obvious how to transition to the new APIs and provide the same feature set as the current java.io.File / POSIX File APIs?

Please reconsider restoring this access, even if tied to a new permission.

The issue was promptly marked as “Acknowledged” by an Android project team member, who later followed up by saying that this suggestion will be passed along to the development team.

Obviously, this in no way indicates that the SD card access rules will be changed once Android L is released in the Fall. After all, simply reverting the change in KitKat would be counterproductive for the vast majority of Android users. However, it does indicate that Google is willing to consider taking another look at the policy change–even if nothing can or will be done as a result.

Are you an app developer frustrated by the SD card access policy changes in KitKat? Are you a frustrated user tired of broken apps? Or are you pleased with the added security and order made possible by this change? Let us know in the comments below!

[Source: Android L Issue Tracker | Thanks to XDA Forum Member shree15 for the heads up!]

The post Google to Consider Changing SD Card Access Rules in Final Android L Release appeared first on xda-developers.

Latest Android Platform Stats: KitKat Nearly 18%, Overtakes Gingerbread But Growth Slows

Posted by Will Verduzco July - 8 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Google Android Platform Stats

Google Android Platform StatsIt’s become quite customary for Google to release updated Android Platform Stats at the start of every month. These figures show the latest state of fragmentation in the Android ecosystem–valuable information for developers looking to better target their application development efforts.

When we last left off one month ago, we were pleased to note some rather significant progress in the right direction. Android 4.4.x KitKat was up to 13.6% from 8.5% the month before, resulting in a 60% relative growth. This figure kept pace with the 60% relative growth over the month before. Unfortunately, Android 2.x was still hanging around at 15.7% of devices last month.

julyplatformstats2

This month, we’ve continued the positive trend, although the rate of progress has slowed significantly. Android 4.4.x KitKat saw a 31.6% relative growth, which resulted in a total of 17.9% of active installs. Android 2.x is now down to 14.2%. This equates to a 9.6% relative drop, which keeps pace with the 9% relative drop the month before. Another way of looking at this data is that KitKat is on the rise (though its rapid inflation has slowed substantially now that a good percentage of the devices that will receive official upgrades have already gotten them), and 2.x is going down as people put down their old devices and purchase new phones. But perhaps most significantly, KitKat has finally overtaken Gingerbread, and in fact, all of Android 2.x. This is good news, folks, as we’re one step closer to finally saying goodnight to Android’s dark, software-rendered past.

In addition to version stats, the Android Developer Dashboard now also reports information regarding screen size and resolution, as well as max supported OpenGL version. This can be seen below:

 platformstats3

As we said time and time again, it’s great to see progress in the right direction. Although we’re only a few months away from the official release of Android L, we still look forward to seeing KitKat rise in the coming months. Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!

[Source: Android Developer Dashboard]

The post Latest Android Platform Stats: KitKat Nearly 18%, Overtakes Gingerbread But Growth Slows appeared first on xda-developers.

Rovo89 Speaks up Regarding ART and Android L Support

Posted by Will Verduzco July - 5 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

xposed

If by now you haven’t already heard of XDA Senior Recognized Developer rovo89‘s fantastic Xposed Framework–well, maybe you’re in the wrong place. But for those of us who are well acquainted with this incredibly versatile and powerful tool, there’s only one question: When Xposed will gain support for ART runtime, and by proxy, Android L.

Two weeks ago when we first learned that the L release would be the first version of Android to remove all traces of Dalvik and make ART the default runtime compiler, many in the comments were quick to complain about how this would “be the end” of Xposed Framework. Obviously, this is not true. However, bringing Xposed to ART isn’t as simple as one would imagine–especially given how rovo intents on releasing something that doesn’t just work, but also works well. In his words:

Well, “once” kind of implies that this will happen immediately after Google publishes the “final” version of ART. It should rather be read as “not before” they do so. It’s true that I’ve had a very experimental test build running some months ago. But ART is pretty complex, with lots of different operation modes that need to be tested. I figured it would be a waste of time to do so before ART becomes more stable. The fact that they are still pushing changes every day, including several huge internal refactorings (which will require adjustments in my code) confirms this. I will have to look at it once the official version is available, as then the change rate will hopefully decrease and also because much of it is trial and error. Apart from that, it will also show how other changes (e.g. dual-stack 32/64 bit Zygote, very strict SELinux policy) have an impact on Xposed.

So keep calm everyone. I’m pretty sure that the will be Xposed for ART (the final version, probably not for KitKat, at least at first), but please don’t freak out if it *still* isn’t published three days after Google I/O. If it takes a few weeks, then that’s what it takes.

But of course, a statement like this isn’t enough to keep users from asking this prized developer on a daily basis about when Xposed will be updated to work with ART and L. Luckily, he has once again spoken up regarding Xposed’s future, the progress thus far, what’s standing in the way, and more:

Q: if you can get xposed running in android L developer preview it will make xposed available to kitkat with art ?

“Getting it running” is one thing, whether it’s good to publish it is another question. I’ve had a prototype of Xposed for the ART preview in December already. Barely tested, needed manual installation, probably failing here and there, but generally it did what it should. But already back then, I’ve seen that Google is still working actively on improving ART. They have made huge internal changes since then. Last weekend, I made my prototype compile against the master branch of AOSP and I had to introduce lots of conditionals. That’s without knowing whether it will actually work, I just changed declarations, calls etc. to avoid compile time errors.

The ART preview in KitKat and the ART almost-final in the Android L preview are different pieces of software. Maintaining support for both of them means basically twice the work, especially for testing. That, and the fact that ART in KitKat was just an optional preview (with potential bugs that may be incorrectly blamed on Xposed), makes it less likely that I will publish Xposed for the KitKat variant of ART. That’s not a final decision, it depends on how ART development continues and how well I can support Android L. It’s important that Xposed works fine on upcoming Android versions where ART is the only runtime. KitKat support would be a bonus if it’s not too much effort to maintain in parallel.

Oh, and for everyone who thinks that posting “pleeeeease” or “you have to support it” will increase the chances of publishing something: It won’t. It will just annoy me and make it less likely.

Q: How about you just let him work on it and see how it’s goes. 
There’s literally no reason at all to bother him with questions, when he has something new to share he will, when he doesn’t those questions will be just annoying to him. Not yours personally, but the sheer amount of people bombarding him with all kinds of art related questions just add up.

Indeed. I have received lots of hints “hey, Android L is out now” – yes, I know. So for now, I have disabled PMs…
By the way, I have just read the “How to Report Bugs Effectively” essay by the PuTTY developer. It’s so true! 

So there you have it, folks. It’s actively being worked on right now. But even though there are ART-compatible test builds right now, the project is not yet ready for release because he wants to do more than just “get it running.” Furthermore, the differences between ART’s “preview” in KitKat and the more complete form in the L Developer Preview make it even more difficult to maintain code for both platforms.

In short, stop asking rovo for an ETA. And just like what we said for application developers, let him develop in peace.

The post Rovo89 Speaks up Regarding ART and Android L Support appeared first on xda-developers.

Don’t Expect Developers to Update Apps for Material Design Just Yet

Posted by Will Verduzco July - 1 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

Android L Developer Preview SDK

Android L Developer Preview SDK

During the Google I/O 2014 opening keynote, we caught our first glimpses of the radically different Android L. And when Google made an early developer preview available, many end users went ahead and installed L on their own devices. Unfortunately though, intrepid users were quick to find that the developer preview didn’t feature all of the UI goodies that we saw in the Android Design Guidelines and event keynote.

While part of the disconnect between expected and actualized features is due to the incomplete nature of the developer preview, an even larger part boils down to the lack of application support for Android’s new UI paradigm, Material Design. So we should all urge our favorite app developers to get with the program and update their apps, right? Wrong.

Alongside the release of the Android L Developer Preview images, Google also released the Android L Preview SDK. Using the L Preview SDK, developers are now able to make use of Theme.Material.* and give their applications this highly sought after theme. And in fact, this is only available when using the preview SDK. However, Google makes it very clear that applications created with the preview SDK should not be published to the Google Play Store:

The L Developer Preview gives you an advance look at the upcoming release for the Android platform, which offers new features for users and app developers. This document provides an introduction to the most notable APIs.

The L Developer Preview is intended for developer early adopters and testers. If you are interested in influencing the direction of the Android framework, give the L Developer Preview a try and send us your feedback!

Caution: Do not not publish apps that use the L Developer Preview to the Google Play store.

What’s more, users not running Android L can’t even install applications created using the L Preview SDK, even when the application is created with minSDK set to something lower than what’s supported by the target device:

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So where are we going with all of this? We should stop harassing our favorite app developers to update their applications to Material Design. This is because the Material Design theme is only available using the L Preview SDK, and applications built using it can’t be uploaded to the Play Store. So let’s give our developers a break  and let them use the Android L Preview SDK the way it’s meant to be used: as a way to get their applications ready for when Android L is released in the fall, rather than to create shipping applications now.

[Via Daniel Velazco]

The post Don’t Expect Developers to Update Apps for Material Design Just Yet appeared first on xda-developers.

android wear tv auto

Android OEM customizations like Samsung TouchWiz and HTC Sense are undoubtedly a love-it-or-hate-it affair. There are certainly users out there who care for the added features that these skins introduce. But on the other side of the coin, there are more than a fair share of users who despise the aesthetic nightmares found in some skins. What’s more, this extensive customization often (but not always) results in Android firmware update delays—and that’s if the bloated firmware doesn’t prevent updates in the first place. Oh, and let’s not forget about how these customizations result in a greater number of security vulnerabilities.

Android’s Early Beginnings

OEM customizations certainly had their place in the early beginnings of Android, when its stock UI was clunky and supremely unpolished, and when these custom interfaces added legitimately useful features. However, Android has evolved quite a bit, and ever since Ice Cream Sandwich (or arguably even Honeycomb), has also offered a fantastic and intuitive UI that certainly had its own flair. But as we all know, this flair was for all intents and purposes lost in the excessive OEM and carrier customizations. After all, does a Samsung Galaxy S 5 phone look and feel more similar to another phone running KitKat like the HTC One M8, or does its UI remind you more of an ancient TouchWiz-laden device like the original Galaxy S?

Increased Platform Unity

As we noted in our I/O 2014 coverage, Google has been trying to bring some unity into Android ever since Sundar Pichai took over the platform. And now with Android Wear, Android TV, and Android Auto, they’re taking the first big step by requiring manufacturers to deliver a relatively untarnished user experience.

In an interview with Ars Technica, Google engineering director David Burke confirmed that all of Android’s new initiatives will feature user interfaces and underlying software that is controlled by Google, and not by the OEMs. This is because on these products, “the UI is more part of the product in this case.” And as one would expect given Pichai’s new role, the end goal is to make Android updates “more like Chrome on the desktop.” There will be a few differences in OEM implementations with regards to built-in features and pre-installed apps, as described by Google, but for the most part, these implementations will be nearly identical to the end user, and reinforce Android’s new image.

Questions Remain

There are now undoubtedly several questions from both a developer and end user perspective. First off, how exactly does Google plan on enforcing this? Would this be accomplished by limiting Google Play access to certified implementations? This is already done in limited capacity with new Android devices to ensure that they pass the Android Compatibility Test Suite. But still, what’s to prevent an OEM from building an Android Wear device, which doesn’t require direct access to the Play Store in the first place, and making it hook into the appropriate APIs? This then brings us back to a question we posed several months back when Android Wear was first unveiled: Just how open will Android Wear actually be?

The unfortunate truth is that we don’t know yet if Android Wear itself (or how much of it) will be open source, or how this unified UI will be enforced. Perhaps only the shared AOSP codebase will be open, with the rest being proprietary and used as a means of enforcing platform unity. This is both a good and bad thing–for both developers and end users. However, it’s easy to imagine how this move, alongside the emergence of all of the recent closed-source Google apps, can hurt Android’s openness.

What are your thoughts on all of this? Are you a fan of Google trying to preserve Android’s identity at seemingly all costs, or would you rather have a more open ecosystem, where developers and manufacturers are free to use (and abuse) Android’s openness to differentiate their products? Be sure to sound off in the comments below!

[Source: GoogleArs]

The post Google to Take Back Platform Control with Android Wear, Auto, and TV–That’s a Good Thing, But Questions Remain appeared first on xda-developers.