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Cyngn Explained: Who’s Cyanogen, What’s Cyanogen OS?

Posted by wicked April - 24 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

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While Cyanogen, Inc has been the source of many headlines lately, there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the differences between Cyanogen, Inc and CyanogenMod developers, as well as Cyanogen OS and the CyanogenMod ROM that so many XDA users love. The entities surrounding each of these are sometimes different and sometimes intertwined. We’ve gotten messages and comments requesting for a clearer distinction between these for future reference, which is why we are writing this feature. Let’s start from the beginning.

 

Some History and Perspective

Soon after the first Android device launched (the famous HTC Dream), root access was achieved to allow for all the things that our XDA hobby is founded upon. Throughout the following years, many modified firmware builds or “custom ROMs” started being developed for Android devices, and around the middle of 2009, Steve Kondik’s (a.k.a Cyanogen) ROM started gaining popularity due to its modifications to XDA Recognized Developer JesusFreke’s customizations on the original G1. This ROM (known as CyanogenMod for obvious reasons) eventually had “Team Douche” behind it, which formed the core of what would become the Cyanogen Team. With the help of many volunteers, the ROM kept getting better and better, and it was ported to more and more devices to the point where it became the popular piece of software that it is today.

CyanogenMod is an open source project where volunteers can submit their own code to help create a stabler or more feature-packed iteration. It has the typical model of repositories and distributed revision control, and the contributions can be tested, commented on, voted and then merged into the full body of code by the developers with the right permissions. So far, so good. It is a model that has worked well enough to bring us one of the most notable custom ROMs out there. Nightly and milestone builds spring from these developments, and then other developers (like many at XDA) can grab CyanogenMod and port it to other devices unofficially, as well as fork it and create their own variations and continue the development. In fact, Kondik has been known to respond to people upset about how CyanogenMod did things with “then fork it!”, giving de facto approval for enterprising developers to take and build upon, which is the core of what open source  is.

While the model remained similar in essence throughout the years, the players behind the scenes saw drastic changes. By now, most of us know about Kirt McMaster for his outspoken comments against Google. Cyanogen, Inc is a venture funded company founded in 2013 which, at the moment, has Kondik as CTO and McMaster as CEO. The idea came from McMaster, who found Kondik’s profile through LinkedIn and gave him a call to turn the open source project into a company. McMaster remembers saying “I’ll be CEO; you’ll be CTO. I’ll get some money. Let’s go”. Those words alone would reflect the discord that soon followed, as the volunteer developers felt betrayed and asserted concerns regarding the ethos of the project.

20150422185119881You might remember the controversy surrounding Focal camera, for example, where Cyanogen tried to re-license the open source contribution, add closed source modifications and claim it to be “Cyanogen’s” camera. This is a theme that still circumvents Cyanogen discussions: contributor recognition, as there are many many people building the ROM through volunteer work. Guillaume Lesniak (a.k.a XpLoDWilD) made a heart-wrenching post on Google+ that speaks about the concerns behind the creation of corporate Cyanogen and its treatment to the very contributors that made it what it is today. While some things have changed since then, a lot remains the same, and I urge you to read it at some point as it puts many things into perspective.

What are the differences?

Now that we know more about CyanogenMod, the open source project, its developers and Cyanogen, Inc, we can begin talking about Cyanogen OS. This piece of software is, to put it simply, a modded CyanogenMod for OEMs to put on their phones, straight out of the box. Cyanogen OS features proprietary features and services, too, something we discussed not too long ago as we saw Microsoft’s partnership with Cyanogen become a reality. What this means for users is that there will be bundled apps and services in Cyanogen OS releases, which to many means that Cyanogen is transgressing on the spirit of their original project.

Cyanogen, Inc has paid developers, including many hired away from popular Android ROM projects, who help build and maintain CyanogenMod as well as Cyanogen OS, while the rest of CyanogenMod contributors are volunteers. Like Guillaume Lesniak’s post predicted, the developments that come from Cyanogen, Inc do help the ROM (they just recently expanded their CyanogenMod Team even further), and today their Lollipop builds are among the top ROMs for both users and developers. But like previously stated, CyanogenMod contributors go largely unacknowledged, and unrewarded too. Some CyanogenMod volunteer developers are rewarded with test devices and other neat presents, but in a sense it is still largely unfair. Consider the following:

CyanogenMod volunteer contributors add new code to a project that is open source, but that is ultimately controlled by Cyanogen, Inc and their contributions can (and in most cases will) eventually be merged with a commercial Cyanogen OS build for Cyanogen, Inc’s profit. We discussed some of this in a feature where we said that this is key for Cyanogen to build its commercial ROM, and it is perhaps one of the biggest strengths the company has. It is important to point out that the contributors are not enslaved by Cyanogen, and while they do not get paid, the CyanogenMod project ends up benefiting thousands of users – and developers – around the globe. That being said, they do not get direct rewards for their hard work.

A large part of CyanogenMod makes it into Cyanogen OS, so it can be said that a large part of Cyanogen OS is not made by hired Cyanogen developers but rather independent volunteers. This is one of those things that make Cyanogen’s attacks against other developers or manufacturers all the more ironic (for example, McMaster claimed that “Samsung couldn’t build a good OS if they tried”). Cyanogen, Inc’s mission of an open Android also takes a hit with the newer corporate schemes that they have going for their Cyanogen OS, but luckily their community ROM is mostly unaffected. Many claim that Cyanogen’s project is not open given that they have the last say on code merges and they can “shut it down” if they want to, but Google’s open source project isn’t truly free from these concerns either.

So, in easy terms: Cyanogen, Inc is a company that has developers who build, maintain and support CyanogenMod, which is also largely dependent on volunteer developers. CyanogenMod is an open source project, but Cyanogen OS contains closed source services and bundled apps that are also integrated into the system. Cyanogen OS benefits from CyanogenMod as it is a modification that builds upon it, but with additional proprietary software and exclusive features. CyanogenMod interacts with both the corporation and the team of contributors and the company also rewards some of the volunteers. CyanogenMod and the corporation’s additions result in Cyanogen OS, which means that the contributors indirectly add to the commercial software.

 

This is, in general terms, the relationship between the different names. At least, this is what is mostly perceived, as we cannot know many of the internal mechanisms that go on at Cyanogen, Inc nor all of their interactions with the contributors. Whether this model is unfair for contributors or not is up to you. We hope that his cleared some things up!

 

Thanks to Jeremy for his wise insight on this subject!

The post Cyngn Explained: Who’s Cyanogen, What’s Cyanogen OS? appeared first on xda-developers.

Next@Acer Press Conference – Unveiled Products Roundup

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

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Acer might not be the biggest manufacturer when it comes to Android, but nevertheless they offer some good products for reasonable prices. At today’s New York event, their inaugural next@acer global press conference showed us what’s next in their Android and Chromebook repertoire, as well as some Microsoft products. Their new line-ups are focused on specific areas of life: productivity, education, entertainment, gaming and connecting. Now that the next products are landing and the press release kits are out, we have a clear look.

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The Iconia One 8 features advanced touch capabilities as a selling point. It hosts “Acer Precision Plus” technology for an accurate touch and writing experience, as well as sketching on the fly. You can use the optional “Acer Accurate” stylus, or a simple fine tip 2mm pencil – a cheap and vastly available solution.  The processor inside is a quad-core Intel Atom clocked at up to 1.83GHz with Intel HD Graphics, and you can get up to 32GB of on-board storage. The tablet also features simple gestures and quick access icons. Android 5.0 is on board with an “enhanced user interface”. The Iconia 8 will be available in North America in July with prices starting at  just $149.

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The Iconia Tab 10 Education aims to make learning in class more engaging, and Acer is working with Google to join the Google Education ecosystem with the purpose of bringing richer resources to classrooms all over the globe. It has a Gorilla Glass 4 panel and a reinforced mechanical design to “withstand classroom use” (kids are wild nowadays, I guess). There’s a FHD 10.1 inch Display on board, as well as the previously mentioned “Acer Precision Plus” technology. Inside you can find an Intel Atom processor (quad-core clocked at 1.83GHz) that promises excellent performance and long battery life, as well as 2GB of RAM and up to 64GB of storage. The tablet will be available in North America in May with prices starting at $299.

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The new Chromebook offerings are budget-friendly and also promise long battery life – Acer claims that the CNB-531 model can reach 11.5 hours of light use. This model features an Intel Celeron N2830 dual-core processor with Intel HD Graphics (so don’t expect excellent gaming performance), up to 2GB of RAM and 16GB of eMMC storage (before you judge, let’s not forget this is a Chromebook). The entry-level Acer Chromebook will be available in North America starting in July with prices beginning at $199.99. For those wanting a little more speed and power, the CB5-572 and C910 models offer better processors with a Broadwell Intel Core i3 5005U or Intel Core i5 5200U, and memory up to 4GB as well as SSD storage of up to 32GB. These Acer Chromebooks also feature large and responsive touchpads, as well as two full-sized upwards facing speakers for your hearing pleasure.

Rounded up

So there you have it, the new tablets offer decent specifications for rather cheap prices, and the Chromebooks are very much what we come to expect as well. They are not designed to be game-changers, but rather solid competitors in different market sectors. There’s also an Acer “Predator” Tablet coming up later this year that is said to be focused on gaming, as well as a Liquid X2 phone with a powerful SoC and a 4,000 mAh battery – so if you want amazing performance you should look in that direction. Considering that Acer owns over a third of the Chromebook market, many might want to pick up these new computers out of brand alone. The new tablets might not be as feature or spec packed as the rest of the competition, but Acer is clearly aiming for a particular niche with their educational approach. Precise stylus technology is also welcome on tablets, and with no need for an actual stylus many might find the 8-inch tablet a solid classroom companion.

 

Do you think these new products meet their mark? Let us know below!

 

The post Next@Acer Press Conference – Unveiled Products Roundup appeared first on xda-developers.

Review: “Hello” Facebook Dialer, Bye to Your Privacy?

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

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Facebook is known for releasing many experimental apps which integrate into their core services. Groups, Facebook at Work, Facebook Home (yuck), and the like have met uneven reviews, but in a way they have their own niche. When it comes to this new app, a dialer simply called “Hello”, Facebook tried to get to the core of smartphone functions – that is, being phones. They claim that their solution makes your phone “truly smart”. Facebook has made such claims before, and when looking back at their Facebook phone hype and how it flopped dramatically, we remember to look at their apps and mission statements with all the skepticism in the world. This time we took a look at this so-called “smart” dialer.

Off the bat, let me start by saying that I do not have Facebook apps on my phone, so I got to test the app with and without the Facebook apps integration. I was surprisingly pleased to learn that the app does not truly need Messenger or Facebook to make the experience worthwhile, but if you want to exploit their ideal uses, it is best you have them. Moving onto the installation: this app asks for a lot of permissions, and I mean a lot. Now, in Facebook’s case for example, we can see some clearly defined reasons for the permissions. For this app, I can’t. Some make sense, but some such as “take pictures and video”, “record audio” and “download files without notification” make much less sense on an app that acts as dialing shortcuts rather than a full-blown social media platform. I’ll leave the bits on privacy and security to someone else, but I feel compelled to mention this. Their Licenses documentation is a click away, but let me warn you that it is ridiculously long – you can scroll for minutes at full speed.

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Now that those things are out of the way, I want to mention that my first impression with this app is that it looked great. The design is tidy and organized, the tabs are typical in a good way, and the UI just makes sense in a sense that goes against Facebook tradition. When it comes to dialing apps, this is welcome for it makes the calling experience much simpler. The app borrows your default’s favorite contacts as it shares the sync’d data, so there’s no migration issues. The one thing I would criticize from the overall UI is the lack of a tinted status bar (which their Play Store video clearly shows) – but this is merely a Lollipop pet peeve. The app is also very smooth, and on Android 5.1 it launches at the same speed as the stock Android dialer, so performance is also not an issue.

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But what is the point of this app? The Play Store video claims that one of its strengths is to “see who’s calling you, even iCALL1f you don’t have that phone number saved on your phone”. The second bit might concern some users when it comes to privacy, and unless I missed something, I can’t find any setting in the app to opt out of this (it’s worth noting that most settings and preference menus are the same as and shared with other Facebook services). When it comes to the “see who’s calling” part, Facebook touts the ability to have a preview of, well, who is calling – something we’ve had since flip phones had a second screen. The absolutely mind-boggling aspect of this is that, by default, Facebook’s Call ID overlay appears on top of your native one, meaning that you have an additional screen and task to go through before picking up your phone call. I can’t consider this good design by any means, but at least you can disable the function.

CALL2When it comes to contacts, the application pulls your list and combines all the information it can with Facebook contacts as well. This way, you can pick a friend and, just like in some other services, see their Facebook account in there – but now automatically and with priority for calls and messages. Here is another thing that might concern those that value privacy: you can see your friends’ e-mails in there, but not just the ones you already knew about, and not even just the one that they used to register on Facebook. I’ve seen contact detail pages with at least 3 e-mails I had never seen before, and that I obviously don’t have access to in the main Facebook service. Before you might become alarmed, there already are ways to export Facebook contacts’ emails through various syncing services. But now, access is easier than ever for anyone to contact or harass you. I instantly went to double check and revise my privacy settings after that.

matchService integration is, like previously stated, independent of apps. That said, if you don’t have Messenger and try to send a message, the app will direct you to the Play Store. Calling works outside of the Messenger app, though, which is a neat plus – it calls directly to peoples’ Messenger app. You can obviously head to someone’s profile if it is matched, and if the contact number doesn’t have a number matched to a Facebook account, you can match it yourself. Let me rephrase that: other people can disclose your phone number to Facebook by matching it with your account without your consent. This innocent feature can be abstracted to one of the most clever ways Facebook could have built to get your phone numbers against your will. Again, I won’t touch much on this as we want to look at it in-depth later, but the very idea should raise a red flag if you value your privacy or are paranoid about Facebook.

What about the other features? Well, the actual dialer can display your contacts as you type their name with the numbers as most other dialers but with one name at a time, unlike the stock dialer. And you can search for people (luckily you won’t see their numbers if you don’t have them) or businesses near you so that you can see their details and/or call them. This is a feature that is rather worthless, as Google Now does it much better and with voice controls.

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To sum up, Facebook’s Hello Dialer isn’t bad when you simply glance at it: it has a functional and good-looking UI, some useful features, and it is fast to boot. It is when you try to make sense of it all that you realize that Facebook’s notorious privacy outings are more apparent than ever in here. Many features that the company claims make the app stand out are either poorly designed, intrusive or simply irrelevant when you consider Google Now’s functionality. I’ve tested this app on TouchWiz and CM12.1, and I’ve got to say I prefer both ROMs’ stock dialers to this one. Even leaving the Facebook bits aside, they are just more functional or intuitive. This app seems a little misguided, and could be just another excuse to put more Facebook inside your phone. Some claimed it to be a Google Voice replacement, but the dependency on Facebook services prevents it from coming close to Google’s VoIP solution. When you consider that some of the top dialers out there are much less intrusive and can have literally no extra permissions, Facebook’s app doesn’t look as inventive nor appealing as it could be. So I am sorry Facebook, I will be saying bye to Hello – I hope it doesn’t catch on as you want it to do, as that would prove you right.

 

Would you get this Facebook service on your phone? Let us know below!

 

Do you need a dialer with all those permissions?

 

 

The post Review: “Hello” Facebook Dialer, Bye to Your Privacy? appeared first on xda-developers.

Xiaomi Announces Mi4i in India for Just Rs. 12,999

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

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As we discussed a while ago, Xiaomi continues to aggressively expand its operation outside of China, and after almost monopolizing the budget smartphone sector in India with the launch of the Mi and Redmi series, today’s event furthered their commitment to the subcontinent. VP of Global Operations, Hugo Barra, took to the stage in Delhi to announce the Mi4i, a flagship built for, by and in India.


The Mi4i comes with a 5″ 1080p screen with an amazing 441 PPi, backed by a more-than-capable 3120mAh battery that supposedly powers the device for a day and a half. The device itself features a compact, unibody design with a 13MP camera on the back and a 5MP camera in the front, and packs the impressive 64bit Snapdragon 615, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage under the hood, a powerhouse of specs for the mid-range sector. On the software side of things, it runs Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box and is the first device to run the latest version of Xiaomi’s firmware skin, MIUI 6. The Mi4i comes in five soft touch plastic variants: black, white, orange, blue and pink and is 7.8mm thin while weighing in at 130 grams. It goes on sale from April 30th, initially on Flipkart and eventually on other platforms including its own website, for an aggressive Rs. 12,999 which equates to approximately $205.

In addition to the Mi4i launch, Hugo Barra also announced the release of the popular MiBand fitness tracker in India, competitively priced at Rs. 999 (approximately $16) but unlike the Mi4i, the MiBand will be available exclusively from the Xiaomi website.

The post Xiaomi Announces Mi4i in India for Just Rs. 12,999 appeared first on xda-developers.

Project Fi Goes Live: What To Know About Google’s MVNO

Posted by wicked April - 22 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

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Google’s new wireless service, Project Fi, is now accepting applications from Nexus 6 owners with a hankering for high speeds and low rates. The virtual carrier will work on the backs of T-Mobile, Sprint, and the WiFi from every router to which you connect, making for a truly impressive coverage area at launch. As rumored last week, Fi offers $20 all you can eat domestic calls and texts, with data costing $10/GB on a month-by-month basis. However, you can’t hop on this nascent service just yet; a limited number of invites will go out each week to qualified applicants. Read on for the full scoop on what to expect, then hurry over to the Project Fi sign-up page for your spot in line.

Coverage

Project Fi Coverage

Google’s official coverage map can be found here, and checking how it stacks up against your local zip code is unsurprisingly the first step in Fi’s application. The backing carriers are known for targeting dense population centers rather than springing for broad coverage across the countryside, so the new network does have a few blind spots. Even still, there’s no denying that the map is much greener than either Sprint or T-Mobile can match individually, and WiFi at home and away is like carrying a personal small cell with you wherever you stop. Google’s gamble is that combing the two networks and adding WiFi to the mix will be enough to eat away at Verizon’s coverage-area dominance. Given that Verizon just announced its indifference towards cost-cutting customers due to its impressive coverage map, Project Fi will be a fun one to watch when Big Red’s second quarter filings go live.

Getting down to the details, there’s not much here that we didn’t already know. Phones on Fi will seamlessly switch between Sprint, T-Mobile, and wifi networks without dropping calls thanks to a fancy dual-carrier SIM, and customers will see better coverage in more places as a result. Here’s the Google wording:

Whenever 4G LTE is available, Project Fi will move you to whichever cellular network has the fastest 4G LTE at your location. When 4G LTE isn’t available, we’ll put you on the fastest network type in your area (3G or 2G).

Also,

Project Fi connects you to free, open Wi-Fi networks that do not require any action to get connected (such as, enter a password, watch an ad, or check-in). We use a network quality database to help determine which networks are high quality and reliable.

Further, traffic on these unsecured networks will travel through a Google-hosted VPN for privacy. In theory, this should work like a combination of Google Voice, an auto-login WiFi app such as Instabridge, and a VPN tunnel, but in a unified and polished experience. However, the realities on the ground could be a different story, particularly with regards to battery life. From Google’s FAQ:

We like full batteries too. Our software is optimized to not put extra strain on your battery by only moving you between networks when absolutely necessary.

It’s hard to see how only switching “when absolutely necessary” and always choosing the highest quality network in the moment can coexist, but this is a question that will have its place in the spotlight after the invites begin to fly. For right now, it’s at least comforting to know that Google aware of the (potential) concern.

Nexus 6 Exclusive

nexus2cee_n6_thumb4Yes, the rumors of a device exclusive held true. This will put off many who would otherwise join the bandwagon, but the official statement is that the Nexus 6 has the antenna to support Fi’s carrier-hopping SIM. However, it’s worth noting that Google says the Nexus 6 will be the “first,” not the “only” supported device. As we theorized before, it’s a good bet that the doors will open to other handsets like the Nexus 5 in due time, so stay tuned.

Current Nexus 6 owners have all the hardware they need to join, and a free SIM will shipped out with each device activation. New phones can be purchased through Google Play with pre-installed SIMs (if you don’t mind the blue version), though presumably the SIM-less white is still an option.

Plans & Prices

No contracts, no termination fees, no tethering surcharges, and only the standard state tax of 10-20% – this is the familiar motto of virtual networks, and holds true with Project Fi as well.

Fi Basics – $20/month for unlimited domestic talk & text, unlimited international texts, and cell coverage in 120+ countries. SMS, MMS, short codes and group texting are all included, despite early rumors to the contrary. International rates vary by country, and are found here.

Data – $10/GB, paid up front for the month. Whatever percentage of data goes unused is applied as credit towards the next month’s bill. In other words, you pay up front, but are only charged per megabyte. There are no overage fees, so using extra is simply added per megabyte to the following month.

This is a rather complicated way to phrase a simple idea, and follows in the footsteps of carriers like Ting. However, Ting figured out early on that its customers are smart enough to not pay in advance. Here’s how the pricing really works:

$20/month for all the basics, plus a bit extra for however many megabytes you used the last cycle (charged at $10 per gig).

More Info

Google’s FAQ page covers many of the service basics, including a few details about international calling not addressed here. For more information and a sign-up link, here are the web addresses you’ll need:

Once you qualify and register, Google should make contact within 30 days with the next steps. The roll out will occur in weekly batches, so don’t fret if your name isn’t called in the first pass. Also, remember that a Nexus 6 is required (for the time being), so start looking around for the best deal if you’re interested.

We will have more on Google’s Project Fi roll out as it progresses, so look for updates in the weeks to come.

Are you excited for Project Fi? Do you have a Nexus 6 and the ambition to be a guinea pig on the newest virtual network? Let us know in the comments below!

 

The post Project Fi Goes Live: What To Know About Google’s MVNO appeared first on xda-developers.

Andrognito 2: Hiding & Encryption Made Simple

Posted by wicked April - 22 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

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When we first covered aritraroy’s Andrognito last year, the app was still in its infancy. Less than a year later however and it has developed to become one of the best encryption and file hiding tools we’ve seen. Featuring a glorious Material Design theme and exceptional security, if you don’t already have it take a few minutes of your time to try it out. You won’t be disappointed.

The Premise

The concept behind Andgronito is a simple one, keeping your files both hidden and safe. Register with your name and a pin and then simply select your files from the built-in file browser and they will be hidden using AES encryption. We reached out to aritraroy for a few words on the app:

“Andrognito has always been my dream project. I have always appreciated the power of smartphones, but was quite disappointed by the fact how people do not take their own security seriously. There have been some file hiding apps in Android but none of them could actually satisfy me in terms of security, speed, design, customization and advanced features. So I decided to fill the gap. I am constantly working on improving the app by fixing bugs and adding awesome features. Some we will have a powerful Theme Manager, Stealth Camera, Panic Mode, and more awesome features in it. I want to make the app simple to use yet give power to those advanced users.
I would also like to expand Andrognito beyond file hiding and make it a complete security suite in Android.”

How It Runs

The app’s security is of the up most importance to the developer and as such there are more than a few awesome features:

For your access pin, you can choose either a standard static 4 digit code or enable the ‘Timely’ function which changes your pin up to every minute linking it to the time and date in a variety of formats. The app also supports fake accounts and Force Closes or hiding the app and enabling access through the dialer.

The file browser is clear and responsive making the app quick to use.  The encryption is incredibly fast (we encrypted roughly 150 MB in several seconds). Try, as I could not find anything to fault, everything worked as expected and the process was seamless and very fluid. The options available are very versatile allowing for searching through your encrypted files or organizing by size, name and category.

Until the theme engine is released, the color scheme is a very dark MD, which we know a lot of you want in your apps. The animations are simple and definitely add to the user experience. The overall Layout of the app is simple and clearly defined. We are certainly looking forward to the day when the app can be called a security suite, and if his speed with developing the app so far is anything to go by, this may not be far off.

The free version supports up to 1GB of encryption and lacks some of the more advanced features, but that is more than enough for the average user. If you would like to try it out, or to keep up to date with the latest additions and news head over to the thread!

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The post Andrognito 2: Hiding & Encryption Made Simple appeared first on xda-developers.

The Devices Behind The XDA Team

Posted by wicked April - 22 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

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In a recent episode of XDA TV, TK explained which phone he uses and what he was running on it, but what about the rest of the news team? XDA has an incredibly diverse team from many walks of life and locations, so here we will explore just how that is reflected in our chosen devices. Each member of the team was asked a few simple questions: Which devices do you use, what software are you running, their reasons for choosing them, what devices they would be buying next and what has been their favorite device? Their answers may surprise you.

Mathew Brack

My daily device is a Xiaomi Mi Note Bamboo edition running MIUI 6 (but if anyone is working on a CM or TWRP build for it, drop me a message). I also have my faithful Galaxy Note 2 running CM11, Paranoid Android and MIUI 6 on multiROM which now is being mainly used as a FTP server and NFC Tag writer for my implant as the Mi Note lacks NFC. I love the look and feel of the Mi note, it runs really well and whilst understandably not having a huge development backing, spending even a short while with it reminds of the feeling I had when I got my N7100. I also have a Nexus 7 for personal use and a Galaxy Tab 4 for my work with drones at my university, both of which are running stock. As far as wearables go, I only own a Xiaomi Mi band which I love for the month-long battery life, aided by a modified Mi Fit app. As for my next purchase, I’ll be buying project Ara as soon as I can and possibly the next Nexus depending on manufacturer and specs. My favourite phone to date has to be the Note 2, that phone has taken so much abuse, has a legendary developer backing and has come out all the better for it. Although the T-Mobile G1 (HTC Dream) will always have a special place in my heart, that slide out keyboard was a nightmare to use with in retrospect and boot up time was horrific but back then it seemed like the perfect device.

Emil Kako

I went from using the HTC One M7, to the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, to finally settling on the OnePlus One (no pun intended). I found the form factor and screen size of the OnePlus One to be the most ideal for me personally. While the Note 3 before it had great battery life, I have yet to use any device with battery life as good as the OnePlus One. As far as ROMs go, I gave OxygenOS a trial run for a few days, but it’s just too early in development and lacks too many features in comparison to CM. I’m currently running Cyanogen 12 S and don’t have many complaints.

My next Android device will most likely be between the OnePlus Two and LG G4. Although OnePlus has made some questionable choices this year, their first flagship has been one hell of a phone, and I’m expecting its successor to be just as impressive. The G4 also seems to be quite the device, based on the recent leaks and rumors. If the camera on it is really as good as it is being hyped to be, it will be hard for me to stay away from it.

I don’t really have a favorite phone to date, but I have to admit that I hold a bit of sentiment to my first smartphone ever, the Blackberry Bold 9000. It was magnificent at the time, and was my first introduction to the world of smartphones. It’s been quite the ride ever since.

Jeremy Meiss (Jerdog)

I use: Moto X 2014 (stock 5.1); Xperia Z3 (stock 5.0.2); Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact (stock 5.0.2); Nexus 9 (stock 5.0.1);  Nexus 5 (Omni 5.1) and an LG G Watch.

I like to pick devices that are as close to stock Android as possible, and then utilize ROMs (if needed) which amplify that if I need to go a custom ROM route, I rarely use something that is based on stock because in many cases (with rare exception) those “enhancements” end up being snake oil. So if I go a custom ROM route, it’s going to be something solid and built from source by reputable developers;

With my job (both for XDA and Fastboot Mobile), I come in contact with a lot of different devices across a lot of different markets from a lot of different manufacturers – and so these are the ones I like the most (so far). That being said – I am interested to see what the next Nexus device is, if Google goes back and does a Nexus 5 2015. I am also very interested in the LG G Flex 2 and G4. And as always, I am interested in seeing what Sony deploys with the Z4. Samsung and HTC just haven’t done anything for me in a while, so I don’t have any plans for a device from one of them. My favorite device? That’s like asking me “What is your favorite movie?” because for me you can’t boil it down to one – there are categories for a reason. But, my favorite phone to date would probably be either the Nexus 5 for its OS versatility, or the Z3 for the battery life and power, and my favorite tablet would have to be the Asus Transformer (original) for its trans-desktop abilities.

Tomek Kondrat

I use a OnePlus One with various ROMs. Mostly Omni and SlimSaber, but I’m giving a try to CM12S as of late. Omni is very clear and doesn’t use CAF hybrid while SlimSaber is one of the most complete and bug-free ROMs I have ever used. My next purchase? Tricky question. It’ll Probably be the next Nexus. My favorite device so far… all were great. The best phone I’ve ever owned was probably the Nexus 4. No bugs at all. But I have extreme sentiment to my old Xperia X8 which got me on XDA.

Mario Serrafero

My current daily driver is a white Galaxy Note 4 (SM-N910T) covered in wood-themed DBrand skins. My second carry is a silver Moto 360 with a cognac band, which has just recently replaced my Gear Live. I also have a Note 3 (SM-N900) lying around, and back in my country there’s a Galaxy S3 (GT-I9300) and Nexus 5 awaiting my arrival – both lent out to my parents. Sick of waiting for T-Mobile, I flashed the Canadian BOC4 firmware to my Note 4, as the Canadian variant (N910W8) has the exact same hardware as the T-Mobile Note 4. I also dualboot CyanogenMod 12.1 Nightlies on the side, and switch around to get what I consider “the best of both worlds”. My Moto 360 runs stock Wear without many apps in the way, but a healthy amount of watchfaces. I actually like some of TouchWiz, and since the Note 3 brought pen-window and better stylus integration, the Note series has carried what I consider the most productive Android ROM you can get. With the recent optimizations and sheer hardware of the Note series, I have no performance issues (other than a slight recents menu delay which has dramatically diminished on Lollipop). The appearance of TouchWiz is still an issue to me, which is why I typically flash themes to remedy that. The Note 4’s multi-window is, hands down, the best multitasking implementation in a mobile OS. It completely changes the way I approach the virtual space and navigation within it, and it is just one of the indispensable productivity features I depend on.

The Note 4’s hardware is outstanding in every sense, but I could have stayed with my Note 3. Sadly, my version didn’t include 4G LTE which I came to love in America. The camera, battery life and screen (oh, the screen!) are all the best I’ve had and some of the best out there, and I bought the thing on a $150 discount to boot. I run CyanogenMod 12.1 on the side to still re-visit the zippy beauty of Material Design, but I spend most of my time on TouchWiz 5.0.2. As far as my Moto 360 goes, I picked it up during the Best Buy discount craze (for those unfamiliar, you could get one for as little as $50 if you played it smart). I love it to death and the band and design match with most of my wardrobe as well as my wood-backed phone. No regrets!

Despite my affinity for Note phones, I don’t quite consider myself “loyal” to Samsung. With rumors saying that LG will eventually bring a Stylus, and the sure-coming of multi-window to Stock Android, chances are I might step out of the Note line I am so accustomed to. And if those (and a few other) conditions are met as the Note 5 also does not bring back the microSD slot nor the removable battery… then I’ll migrate for sure. The Blackberry Curve 8310 is my favorite device, but for special reasons: it brought me into the mobile fandom by blowing my mind with amazing web-browsing capabilities… for the time, anyway. I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for that fellow. As far as actual hardware and UX go, I would say my current Note 4. There’s nothing I would change

GermainZ

I’m currently using an S4 with TouchWiz. I’d ideally run Omni but TouchWiz has the best battery life, camera and audio quality right now. I’ve only tried the Ace i, S3, S4 and S5 though I haven’t owned all of these. My favorite among these is the S4 or S5. My favorite fictional phone would have an AMOLED screen like Samsung/Moto phones, a battery like the Elephone P5000, and great dev support like Nexus devices

Chris Gilliam

My daily driver is a Nexus 6, and it’s running stock, rooted, & unencrypted Android 5.1. That said, tweaking custom ROMs and kernels is half the fun of owning a developer phone, so I don’t expect it to stay this pristine for long. The rooted and decrypted state are products of my desire for Greenify/Tasker/Xposed, and for a faster opening Google Camera; encryption kills NAND read/write speed, and slows the shutter.

As for my choice of phone, life with Verizon’s bootloader locking shenanigans and high plan prices taught me to value open systems. This handset can follow me to any carrier on the continent, and should stay a viable piece of hardware and software for years to come thanks to its specs, Google backing, and popularity here on the forums – a truly flexible and future-proof device. Beyond that, I wanted something with a top-notch camera. The outstanding sensor and Camera2 API support on this phone certainly fit the bill, and only the Galaxy S6 (unannounced when I purchased) can rival some of the things I can do with a DNG and manual focus.

The Nexus isn’t my only smart-device, though. In an unexpected and recent turn of events, it’s now flanked by two wearables – a Moto 360 and a Xiaomi Mi Band. Both were purchased far below their list prices, which is how they came to be in my possession, but I still believe the smartatch market lacks the advanced sensors that will bring quantified self tracking to the masses. Show me a two-day battery, mature blood glucose sensor (for real-time calorie intake), and Android Wear, and then we’ll talk. Until then, I’m hoping to be proven wrong with existing tech. The Mi Band and its unofficially tweaked app are off to a good start with notifications and Smart Unlock, and the 360 has proven its worth at parties where stealing a glance at the forecast via watch is easier than using a more noticeable phone, but only time will tell.

I’m still in the honeymoon phase with these purchases, so thoughts of my next devices aren’t yet fully formed. However, the Ara’s interchangeable modules, and the truly open HTML5-based ecosystems of Ubuntu OS and Firefox OS definitely have my attention. Wearables remain a “wait-and-see.”

My favorite phone to date is Samsung’s US variants of the Galaxy S3, circa 2012. At the time, they were the most revolutionary pieces of hardware and software anyone had seen, and I might still be using mine today with a microSD and Zero Lemon battery if it was a hair easier to mod and Verizon had made it worth my while to keep paying the data premiums. The S3 packs NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, an HD AMOLED display with a respectable 306 PPI (only a few shy of the iPhone 6, and well above the threshold most human eyes can detect), and the removable battery & microSD card slot to which I earlier alluded. Slap on Lollipop, and it’s actually better than many mid-range phones today, three years later.

Mike McCrary

I use an AT&T Galaxy Note 3 running stock Lollipop 5.0, an Apple iPad Air 2 WiFi on iOS 8.3 and a SanDisk Sansa Clip Zip with Rockbox custom firmware. I chose the Note 3 for the awesome screen, great pen features and long battery life. The iPad Air 2 for Music Production workhorse, the external Logic controller, and it’s a tablet to lounge around the house with. SanDisk Sansa has Superior DAC, long battery life, plays FLACs loaded onto SD card effortlessly, ton of EQ/Sound settings and it’s small and pocketable. My next phone upgrade is in December so my options are open, however I’m looking more into Android Wear devices at the moment. My favourite device is hands down the Note 3. It’s the best phone I’ve ever owned.

Aamir Siddiqui

I currently use a HTC Desire S. It’s a donated device I received from an XDA Member 2 years ago, and it was an upgrade over my previous device at that stage. Even though the phone is roughly 5 years old, it still performs like a champ in considering the age of its hardware. I did have to chew through a couple of batteries to get this far, because Overclocking takes its hit on the battery.

For my daily use, I use an older build of CM10.1 compiled by Senior Member blindndumb. The OS isn’t the most up to date, but after a lot of experimentation and fiddling around, I found this ROM build to be perfect for my usage pattern. For experimentation and playing around, I tend to flash CM12.1 (yes, you read that right)  by XDA senior member kylon. They are pretty good to get a feel of how the OS has progressed and how it performs on older hardware. As for my next purchase I was just waiting on the OnePlus announcement to see if they would announce something worth waiting for. Looks like I’m getting a OnePlus One within a few days.

Faiz Malkani

I use a Nexus 4, Nexus 9, Nvidia Shield, Moto G and LG G Watch. They are all stock and rooted. The look of the devices influences my choice a lot. Up next for me is the OnePlus Two and my favorite phone to date is the OnePlus One.

As you can see whilst many of us share an interest in particular phones, we have vastly different experiences from them. With the industry changing rapidly, several years from now we could see a complete change in these devices, OEMs and preferences.

Were these answers as you would expect? What are your answers to the questions? Leave a comment below!

The post The Devices Behind The XDA Team appeared first on xda-developers.

New Xperia Z4 Features Stagnation, Regression & Concerns

Posted by wicked April - 21 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

20150420205805228

Sony is, perhaps, one of the most quiet players in the smartphone market. Their Xperia Z line gets a semesterly refresh, and the incremental improvements have proved to make consumers happy. The Xperia Z2 featured, in particular, great battery life, and the Z1 compact, Z3 and Z3 Compact all had or improved upon that too. In fact, that’s been one of Sony’s biggest strengths these past two years and thus we expect the same – or better – from their next handset.

Sony phones also have a particularly efficient user experience, with a skin that is not too intrusive and is rather speedy in comparison to the clunkiest of the bunch. Sensible features like Stamina mode or the pop-up windows make for great little additions, too. When it comes to XDA modding, Xperia phones see vast and varied individual and cross-device development – arguably a stronger point of the lines, and Sony has been really helpful to independent developments with their AOSP builds.

Just yesterday we saw a surprisingly quiet unveiling for the Xperia Z4 take place without prior notice nor post awe, and we now know a lot about the next Sony flagship, which has been the source of endless rumors for the past 6 months. The design is a little shocking for a company that had claimed to be changing its business model, and it does not resemble plenty of the leaks we had from independent sources or the huge Sony hack. So what are Xperia fans getting, and is it worth getting excited for? You probably know the specs, but here we’ll take a look at what the totality of the device means for Sony.

Design

20150421175757229The Xperia line has one of the most iconic design language on Android – you can spot one from a mile away. What you certainly won’t make out from that distance is which device it is that you are looking at. The “Omni-balance” approach has seen incremental refinements iteration after iteration, with better build quality, superior waterproofing and somewhat smaller dimensions and bezels. This last bit is perhaps the most important bit for Xperia phones: the Z1 had immense bezels resulting in a 64.7% screen-to-body ratio, but the Z2 bumped that percentage to around 69.3% and the Z3 did so once more, pushing it to a respectable 70.9%. The Z4, however, maintains that ratio as the dimensions and screen size are identical. Luckily, the device did get thinner (7.3mm to 6.9mm), but in a world where bezels get smaller, we wish we saw another trim.

Other than that, it’s pretty much same-old Sony, with amazing P6X dustproof rating, and IPX5 and IPX8 certification for waterproofing. It also comes with a waterproof micro USB port, so it no longer has any covering flaps like other waterproof phones do. All of these ultimately mean that you can take a swim with this phone and it’ll survive the splash, but other than that there’s not much else that this device can tout.

Display

20150421180108405The design stagnated, but what about the display? Well, from what we know, it did too. It sports the same 1080p resolution, at the same size, with the same X-reality Engine and Triluminos LCD panel. In the past, we applauded Sony for keeping the Z3 and Z3 Compact behind the (unnecessary) curve of 1440p phones. Why? Simply because both phones featured excellent battery life. There were rumors of two Z4 variants a few months ago, one with a 1440p panel and one with the conservative 1080p resolution. We discussed this in a feature where we argued for both sides of the 1440p craze, but the conclusion was that the 1080p panel did help Sony tremendously in claiming the battery king crown. Sony displays have come a long way in terms of technology, but with people praising the newer Samsung panels, we hope that Sony really improves this screen when it comes to calibration and the like.

Battery

The battery size of the Z4 has diminished in size, something that already raises our skepticism given that the latest Xperia flagships are famous due to their longevity. The capacity went from to 3,100 mAh to 2,930 mAh, which is a little over 5% of a differential  – hardly enough to make a difference in real world use, with all other things reamining equal. And so far, all things are astonishly equal. Except for the elephant in the room…

Chipset

Snapdragon 810. That’s really all we have to say to begin having concerns regarding this device. The M9 and the G Flex 2 both heavily throttle in presence of heat (not much at that), and on the M9, performance caps had to be put in place to keep the device from getting too hot. We discussed this a lot during the weeks leading up to the M9, and concluded that the Snapdragon 810 leads to actual issues. At this point, we believe there’s no question about it, and manufacturers like LG are said to be moving away from it altogether.

20150421180524294So, we have talked plenty on the theoretical performance of the Snapdragon 810, but in the real world and with a 1080p panel, it’s not bad at all. In fact, due to the 1080p display and lack of optimization for the Exynos in the S6, the M9 can run some games better than Samsung’s powehouse and it fares pretty well in most on-screen benchmarks as well (the Adreno 430 GPU is still a big step forwards in graphics performance). There might be some stutters, but Sony’s Lollipop update is reportedly great in terms of performance, and this phone will be running Lollipop too. The real concern is battery life:

The G Flex 2 and M9 feature abnormally lower battery results than what their screen resolution and battery capacities would otherwise suggest, and it is clear that much of this regression is due to the Snapdragon 810 they hold. Sony was one of the manufacturers that refused to step into 1440p territory due to battery concerns, and it paid off. Now, the Z4 features the same screen technology (as far as we know), lower battery capacity and a processor that does not have the best track record nor reputation for power efficiency. Moreover, we have seen tests of the Snapdragon 801 (found inside the Z3) outperforming the Snapdragon 810 in certain 3D games, and if they go with the global frequency cap put forth by HTC, we would once again see Qualcomm’s greatest under-deliver in both battery and performance.

Camera

Xperia Z4 CameraWe still don’t know many details about the camera, but the Z4 packs the same 20.7MP count in the rear and a bump from 2.2MP to 5.1MP at the front. The Z3 didn’t have a bad camera, by any means, and Sony loves to tout that they have the best camera (*on a waterproof smartphone)”. We can’t judge a camera just by its image resolution, but Sony’s tendency to use modules that end up worse than those using Sony sensors in other manufacturers’ phones is embarrassingly worrying. And to top things off, the camera does not feature OIS which should be a standard at this point. Again, we’ll hold on this until we know more or see some results, but in a space where Samsung and LG are fiercely competing for the best smartphone camera (*on any smartphone), Sony should try their best and not lose to their own sensors. Let’s also hope that there’s a way around the DRM keys loss when doing what we do best.

Conclusion

To sum up:

  • Design: Stagnating Evolution
  • Display: Apparent Stagnation
  • Battery: Regression
  • Chipset: Apparent Regression
  • Battery Life: Worrying
  • Camera: Apparent Stagnation

I am a big fan of what Sony does for the developer community and all the improvements they throw at Android as a whole. Their Xperia Z line has a great track-record with a recently found strength in battery life. The Z4 does not seem to be advancing (at least not notably) on key fronts, and the M9 and S6 confrontation showed that consumers are getting tired of iterative upgrades. The evolution in the Xperia Z line has always been slow-paced but strong in all the right places, and the progressive refinement culminated in the fan-acclaimed Z3. With this phone, Sony does not seem to be impressing anyone.

Sony is adamant at staying in the smartphone industry, despite their (to put it lightly) less-than-stellar current situation. There were lots we were expecting from the Z4, with rumors of an all-metal body and provoking possibilities shown in each and every leak. It turns out that this Japan-based phone is not at all what we were hoping it to be, and certainly not what we asked for. That being said, we can’t judge a phone simply by its hardware, and the UX might be substantially better than these specs suggest. We just have to wait an see for now, and we wish the best for the Xperia line as it is a source of great developments on XDA. Sony’s mobile division is a personal favorite (and this is saying a lot, considering that my views on Sony are rather negative after reading through some leaked e-mails), and with another flagship rumored to be unveiled in May, they may be able to finally redeem their brand.


What do you think of the Xperia Z4? Discuss below!

The post New Xperia Z4 Features Stagnation, Regression & Concerns appeared first on xda-developers.

Dual Boot on Android: A Power User’s Holy Grail?

Posted by wicked April - 20 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

multiboot

Many of you probably dual-boot your personal computers, be it to run Linux alongside Windows or because you have a Mac and hate OS X. On a computer platform, the process can be a life-saver for a variety of reasons, particularly software compatibility/integration. It’s not rare to see computer programmers with Linux partitions or Mac gamers that use bootcamp for their videogames. On computers, the process has gotten relatively simpler over time, with Microsoft and Apple typically supporting the notion.  On Android, the story is different.

 

androidAndroid’s motto is “choice”, and its banner is the liberty it provides to achieve such motto. But most Android users have unlimited choice within a choice (that is, the ROM they are running). A simple example would be a user who is running a Samsung ROM on Lollipop and can’t yet use Xposed. Sure, there are AOSP ROMs that are able to run Xposed, but the user might not want to switch over just for those perks. The isolated islands that are fragmented ROMs mean that, while the user has unlimited liberty within that island, the decision space is limited by what’s on it. And an island next to it might have a lot of things the user wishes to have.

That is essentially the problem that Windows and Mac suffer from, but not in such a fierce manner since they are proprietary by nature and not as open as Android. Linux users get a particularly isomorphic experience due to the similarities of the platforms regarding openness. But dual boot is still very much possible on Android, even if not quite as mainstream. Luckily, XDA developers and others too have come up with different ways to get your device to run two Android ROMs – or even different operating systems – at once.

Dual booting makes sense on a computer, but does it on a phone? Not for the general user, perhaps. Even experienced users might call it an answer without a question, and it does come with some annoyances too. But to us at XDA, the additional freedom and choice means that, if used right, dual booting can be a power user’s Holy Grail. Let’s explore why.

Some Solutions

20150420185549115MultiROM sits after your bootloader for a GRUB-like experience on Android and allows you to load into different ROMs, and even other operating systems like Ubuntu Touch. MultiROM comes courtesy of XDA Recognized Developer Tasssadar, and it is perhaps one of the best known solutions for dual booting on Android. We covered the installation process in an XDA TV feature, but keep in mind that official support is limited to a handful of devices like the Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and both the 2012 and 2013 Nexus 7 tablets. There’s also unofficial ports and versions in development, so check out compatibility here.

XDA Senior Recognized Developer Hashcode had created an option called Safestrap, which many XDA users with locked bootloaders (thanks to carriers) have come to love. This piece of software is sadly (officially) unsupported by Hashcode at this point, which means official development has ceased. That being said, the lucky ones who can still exploit Safestrap get access to additional ROM slots and a lot of other goodies to boot.

20150420185954904XDA Senior Member chenxiaolong has created DualBoot Patcher which you can use to patch ROMs (and flashables like GApps) and make them available for multi-booting. You can grab the latest snapshot patcher here but keep in mind that some additional steps might be required for your device. For Galaxy Note 4, devices, for example, the guide I used requires a repatcher by XDA Senior Member rlorange. It is also finally used in conjunction with the Swap ROMs APK to hop between ROMs.

There’s also GRUB for Android by developer Michael Zimmermann which is a bootloader alternative for Qualcomm devices that acts like, well, GRUB. You can check the +GRUB4Android community for news and information, as well as links to the sources. There’s also a plethora of other multiboot alternatives, so don’t think these are all of your options. XDA developers, in particular, have managed to get the functionality through various methods to many certain devices, something we love featuring since way back. The best way to find a dual boot solution is to search for one in your device’s specific XDA forum. If you do find a solution you could use, here’s why we at the Editorial Team think that you should go for it:

Virtues

First of all, the best part about it is having a ROM for work and a ROM for play, or rather, a daily driver and a secondary ROM. I personally run TouchWiz on my Note 4 for its productivity features which are invaluable when on-the-run or doing research, homework or working. For when I am no longer occupied with tasks, I can boot into my CM12.1 ROM (or whatever AOSP ROM I happen to be running) for a sleeker, nicer UX that allows me to decompress better. And there’s also the fact that some ROMs come with exclusive features or have certain strengths and weaknesses:

OEM ROMs like TouchWiz can feature better image processing which results in better camera quality, something that is completely lost when transitioning to an AOSP ROM. Some ROMs also have better sound quality or performance in key areas, or features such as stamina mode or the touted “ultra power saving” functionality. In a pinch, these features can come in handy, and with dual booting you don’t have to sacrifice them for another ROM. If you need a feature from another “island”, the reboot will sail you across in less than a minute.

20150420190303891For flashaholics, dual booting also offers the opportunity to safely try out new ROMs (and things like Firefox OS, too) or test certain mods (usually) without risking your daily driver’s integrity. At the Portal Team we’ve shared stories of wanting to get some tweaks on our phones late at night, but holding up in case something went wrong and we would have to spend extra precious sleep time fixing it for the next morning. If you have additional ROM slots, you can tweak things or try mods without the fear of detrimental consequences throughout the rest of the day. Keep in mind that, for obvious reasons, this doesn’t include all mods, as some can still manage to mess up your other ROM (and more). But with the appropriate criteria, you can alter without many concerns.

There are negatives to this, however. Depending on your solution, the process can be quite “hacked-together” and sometimes risky, meaning you must be very careful in each step and at the least, make backups. Many users complain about the initial setup, as setting up a device is always rather annoying. Luckily, Lollipop ROMs streamline the process and with Google’s data backup, app download scheduling and Titanium Backup, the process isn’t too annoying (we are probably all used to it by now). Depending on your method, duplicate data may become a problem, particularly if you have low internal storage. Some solutions share data between ROMs, though, unlike the closed off nature of partitioned systems on PC. These are all things you should be aware of, but we think that the positives largely outweigh the negatives.

Conclusion

20150420191200954If Android is about openness, dual booting adds a whole dimension to the idea. Dual booting can be beneficial not just to Android on phones, but also Android Wear, something we discussed as a solution to the Wear openness conundrum and wish to see made a reality someday. Ultimately, if you are a power user, dual booting might aid you in your hobby and, at the same time, make your UX more rewarding. I personally love the option to switch ROMs in a minute or less, and it allows me to enjoy the latest software developments as well as the software that’s most useful to my use-cases. If you are willing to try it, search your device’s XDA forum and look at your options!

 

Do you dual boot on your Android phone? What do you think of dual booting? Discuss below.

The post Dual Boot on Android: A Power User’s Holy Grail? appeared first on xda-developers.

Find The Best Apps With Google’s Picks & Other Tricks

Posted by wicked April - 19 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

Play Store Collections

The Google Play Store, weighing in with more than 1.4 million apps at last count, is a vast expanse of quality content and APK duds alike. To put this into context, it would take the average user more than 8 days of continuous scrolling to make it through the whole list at two per second, let alone the added months to click through and check out screenshots, or years to separate the wheat from the chaff via thorough review. Blogs and news sites like this one have lept to fill the content discovery void, but it might surprise many to learn that Google itself is among the top posters of quality app lists. In fact, the search giant has produced more than 25,400 such topic-based collections to date, only a few of which are visible as “recommendation” groups in the Play Store at any given time. It is with this in mind that we take a moment to highlight the cream of the listical crop, and point to our favorite methods of discovering the best apps (both with and without the help of Google).

Play Store CollectionsGoogle Play Collections & Recommendations

Have you ever wondered where to find Google’s master list of categories like “Rise And Shine: Alarm Clocks” and “Cloud Storage Apps” that show up in your Play Store feed? It turns out that the URLs for these lists all follow two simple patterns:

  • play.google.com/store/apps/collection/promotion_XXXXXXX_name_of_listical
  • play.google.com/store/recommended?sp=longstringofgibberish&c=apps

These two URLs hold the key to all 25.5k curated Google Play collections, and their potential can be unlocked with entry-level Google-Fu. In a search box, simply type one of these:

  • site:http://play.google.com/store/apps/collection
  • site:http://play.google.com/store/recommended inurl:apps

Add in extra keywords like “games” or “productivity” for a custom touch, and you’re off and running! For the most relevant picks, optionally trim down to the past six months (sorted by newest) using the “search tools” drop-down, or shave off three clicks by adding date:3, date:6, or date:12 to your query (for three, six, and twelve month limits, respectively). Note that time-based searches for the second string – “recommended” app lists – have a few issues due to pesky robots.txt files (more on that in a moment), but the query still pulls up a few good links. Here are the latest app “collections,” grouped by category, to give you a feel of what you will find.

RSS – The Automated Approach

Google AlertsOkay, so searching is old-hat – this is XDA, after all, and we thrive on performing short-term work to (ideally) save in the long run. Rolling a custom update-checking RSS feed is one such task that makes staying on top of new apps a breeze, and the first stop is a service like Google Alerts. The new Alerts site layout makes a few concessions in terms of advanced functions, but most of the core features (including delivering all results to RSS) are available after opening the options pull-down, so plug, play, and get on with your life!

Once you have generated the RSS feed, it’s ready for import into your feed reader of choice, such as the Google Reader successor, Feedly. This is perfect for those who enjoy actively browsing new apps as part of a daily workflow, slipping them in among the breaking news headlines and cat photos we already rabidly consume.

Custom URLs – As Needed Check-Ins

Despite the convenience of a daily RSS feed, the semi-automatic route has its advantages as well. First and foremost, Google Alerts don’t cover things that have already happened, and they have a spotty track record of delivering every result in the right order going forward. Custom searches are the obvious ad-hock answer, allowing you to check in whenever you feel like browsing for new apps. This is the domain of custom URLs and their URL parameters, which include sort options and a more exhaustive list of time filters than you can type into the regular search box. Feel free to browse those last two links if you feel like taking your search skills to the next level, but Google also has two certification courses (yes, really) to walk you through the basics. Here’s the abridged list of things you can tack on in the address bar for a supercharged one-stop app link.

  • &tbs=qdr:1 – real-time results
  • &tbs=qdr:s – past second
  • &tbs=qdr:n – past minute
  • &tbs=qdr:h – past hour
  • &tbs=qdr:d – past day
  • &tbs=qdr:w – past week
  • &tbs=qdr:m – past month
  • &tbs=qdr:y – past year
  • &filter=0 – include the typically omitted “similar” results, which are actually unique entries in the case of the search for “Recommended” lists, above. Remember those pesky robot.txt troublemakers? This is their contribution.

As a bonus, each date operator can include a comma followed by sbd:1 to sort by date, which is typically ideal.

Putting it all together, this is how your custom URLs should look for lists from the past month/year, sorted by date, and including omitted results where appropriate.

Google’s latest addition this Friday of haptic feedback enabled games floats right to the top of the first search – success! Not even Google Alerts will sort past results like this. Unfortunately, note that the “Recommended” search returns a slew of links, but that robots.txt files prevent descriptions from displaying. Also, Google has chosen not to index upload dates for these listings, making the feed nearly impossible to use as an RSS source. Don’t worry – it’s still valuable for one-off glances into Google’s most used lists like the 3rd Birthday Promotion in multiple languages.

For those who prefer to wait until there is a problem worth tackling before looking for an app-shaped solution, having these custom links at the ready prevents tailor-made listical solutions from slipping by unseen.

Other App Lists

Google Play and blog sites are hardly the only sources for app recommendations, as many of you pointed out in the comment section of our discussion of Android subreddits.

Reddit

XDA

Developers here on the XDA Forums produce a wealth of content, and the Android Apps & Games section is one of the most active hubs. If you’re looking for new additions to your phone, try browsing the newest posts, or subscribe to this convenient RSS feed to have the latest entries delivered right to your feed reader of choice.

How Does XDA News Find New Apps?

Each Android enthusiast expects something different from the platform, and we all go about the task of discovering new apps in our own unique way. The writing staff for the XDA news portal is no exception, so here are a few of the diverse answers to the question of our app discovery practices.

I go on Reddit app recommendation threads, /r/AndroidWear, /r/AndroidGaming, and once a week I go through new XDA apps & games entries. I also read “weekly app roundups” from various sites every couple of weeks. I don’t really use apps too much, though, because all of my needs are already figured out on the phone. I do the check ups to stay updated, not to update my apps. I really don’t like trying out new apps, and am conservative with my phone. It’s an invaluable tool to me and I keep it to the basics (plus my work tools). I am passionate about the technology and love to see what developers do with it, but not so much in a pragmatic sense. Similarly, I love writing about chipsets, but to be frank a Snapdragon 800 is good enough for me. That being said, if I see a better app, I change it. – Mario Serrafero

I generally find apps though social interactions or from articles online, but I also have the XDA app thread as an RSS. In addition, I get a fairly steady stream of pm’s from XDA members asking me to write a feature, etc.Mathew Bloomer

I don’t look for new apps unless I need something. Then, I search the stores and go to XDA or Reddit. That being said, sometimes I come upon interesting apps that I end up installing. – Germain Z.

Like everyone else here, I keep up to date by reading and commenting in the /r/Android APPreciation threads, following /r/MaterialDesign, /r/AndroidWear, and /r/AndroidGaming for topic-specific apps, and browsing XDA’s App and Game RSS as part of my news feed. Beyond that, a few subreddits and Google+ communities dealing with photography, futurology, productivity tools, and Android/web development provide my fix for other app-related interests. When I need to solve a new problem, Google is there to serve up review sites. Sometimes my search needs the gentile nudge of a “vs” keyword to stir up controversy, but usually a time-limited query with a few keywords separated by “OR” does the trick.Chris Gilliam

How do you find new apps? Do you actively browse the app feeds in search of your next score, or step back from the fray and search only for what you need? Let us know how your habits stack up against our own in the comments below!

The post Find The Best Apps With Google’s Picks & Other Tricks appeared first on xda-developers.

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