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What’s New in Material Design – I/O ’15 Edition

Posted by wicked June - 2 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

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Design at Google has grown exponentially in the past few years, with three major styles prevalent in that short time. The initial black, green and orange combination gave way to the gray, white and blue style dubbed ‘Holo’, and while most people deemed it a vast improvement, few realized that the Holo design concepts were but a stepping stone, a way to bring users up to speed with the latest underlying trends, and once that was achieved after persisting across three major Android releases, Holo eventually gave way and opened the floodgates that displayed the true potential of the Google Design team.
Material Design, when it was launched at Google I/O 2014 alongside Android L, gave off the impression of a beautifully polished product, but just like any other product out there, it hadn’t undergone real-world testing and there was still a lot to learn. When Android 5.0 and 5.1 were announced in October and April respectively, Google pushed minor updates to the Material Spec, but the best was yet to come. Last week at Google I/O, VP of Design at Google, Matias Duarte, took to the stage in his Material Now session and gave a rundown of what the team had learned in one year of testing and what changes were coming to the Material Spec, in addition to numerous smaller announcements. Let’s take a look at what’s new in the Material Design Spec, May 2015 edition:

Adaptive UIlayout_adaptive_breakpoints_01

One of the primary objectives of Material Design was to bring visual and experience consistency across a large number of platforms, but up until now there was no specific guidelines regarding how content containers would look and scale across form factors. The addition of the Adaptive UI section brings responsive layout guidance, grids, breakpoints, and patterns to the spec, simplifying the task of developing for a multi-screen world

 

patterns_emptystates_doEmpty States

Content serving apps often find themselves in a state where there’s no content to show, and as a result, users are often left looking at blank screens, which can prove to be an unsettling experience. The Empty States section addresses this very need, and contains guidance for states when regular content can’t be shown.

 

 

 

Launch Screenspatterns-launch-screens-01

In what is possibly the most visible effect of the Material Spec’s learning curve, the Launch Screens section brings guidelines for branding and placeholder content, which is essentially a splash screen that shows up when an app is launched. This addition to the spec was met with mixed reactions, given that Google has been strongly advocating against the use of splash screens for years now, however, the real-world data and loading limitations gave way to a solution that is the lesser of two evils

 

Navigationpatterns_navigation_onelevel_drawer2

Designers are often faced with the navigation conundrum, and with the variety of choices Android offers, they’re often left perplexed, unable to choose one over the other, and sometimes ending up making the wrong choice. The Navigation section breaks down multiple use cases, and addresses them one-by-one, suggesting the best option for each case and greatly simplifying the designer’s job.

 

Elevation and Shadows and Authentic Motion

Both these sections have been around since the initial launch of the Material Spec, but the May 2015 update saw both receive minor content updates. Elevation and Shadows has been renamed to Objects in 3D space, and has new details on elevation changes. Authentic Motion addresses animation in design, and now describes easing animations in greater detail

The past twelve months have been huge for the design community, and Google has no intention of taking their foot off the pedal. In addition to the Spec update, the Design Support Library, and a new typeface, Roboto Mono, made an appearance at I/O ’15, fortifying Material’s presence and simplifying its implementation. The Google Design website has also been updated with a host of new content, such as behind-the-scenes videos, expert articles, a jobs section and more. What change are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments section below!

The post What’s New in Material Design – I/O ’15 Edition appeared first on xda-developers.

XDA Recap: This Week At Google IO (May 24 – 30)

Posted by wicked May - 31 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

XDA News Roundup

Another week, another recap, right? Not so fast; this week was home to Google’s annual developer conference, and announcements ran wild! We have a lot of line-items to cover, including the deluge of features in Android M, a suite of assorted Google product updates, Android Pay, stereoscopic 3D virtual reality, and more. Without further ado, let’s get down to business and see what goodies Google brought the developer community this year.

Notable Links & Announcements

Highlighted Guides

This Week in XDA TV

This has been a very busy week in the tech world, and not all of of the news came from Google. However, only so many line-items will fit in one roundup, and I/O is the largest and most densely packed story of the year. To fill in the gaps, here is a quick summary of developments in the wider Android ecosystem provided by Jordan Keyes.

Annotations for this video can be found in the main XDA TV post from Friday. Now, let’s get on with the main event: Google’s yearly two day developer conference, Google I/O.

This Week at Google I/O

Read more about the XDA TV feature on its dedicated and annotated page.

The full Google I/O keynote can be found here, but it’s two hours long and you surely have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon. With this in mind, here’s the rundown of everything Google announced.

Android M Preview

Android M, codenamed Macadamia Nut Cookie in internal repos, is finally here! System images have been posted for the latest preview build (links below), so let’s unpack what the newest Android version is all about.

Fingerprint Support – Android now comes with API hooks to support a variety of fingerprint sensor tech. The move comes as part of the larger push for Android Pay, but also allows for device unlocks and Play Store purchases thanks to integration with open authentication APIs. Learn more!

Android PayAndroid Pay – Google’s latest mobile payments rebrand is its most compelling version to date. Android Pay has the backing of major US carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile, works across more than 700,000 stores, and can be used for in-app purchases including Lyft rides and GrubHub meals. In terms of security, credit card numbers never change hands during transactions, and fingerprint authentication is finally along for the ride – two features previously holding back Wallet in comparison to other payment solutions. Learn more!

App Permissions – grant (and revoke) permissions on demand in Android M. Starting with this preview build, Android will no longer ask about permissions when installing or updating apps. Instead, permission popups will appear as each service is needed, and decisions about each can be changed through system settings after the fact. This approach may finally smooth out the app update process and give users the granular control for which we have spent years pleading. Is this the Xprivacy killer, or just a neat extension of App Ops? Learn more!

App Link Enhancements – As it stands now, links to Twitter.com and other websites with app counterparts are handled by the cumbersome “App Chooser” dialog through a system of intents. Starting with M, developers can choose to bypass this dialog by using a string of code to “verify” that certain links should redirect to specific apps. Details on precisely how this will work are still a bit fuzzy, and this is a topic that deserves further scrutiny, but a good place to start is reading our primer found here.

DozeDoze – eke out up to twice the standby time on your Android M devices through an intelligent “deep sleep” mode called Doze. The feature uses your onboard gyroscope to identify periods of inactivity, then shuts down nonessential systems without affecting notifications and other high priority alerts. Learn more!

Custom Chrome Tabs. WebView works well enough for now, but sometimes apps need a more fully featured browser to handle links – a browser they can control and brand. This is where Custom Chrome Tabs come in. The new feature allows for a range of tweaks to make the Chrome experience look and feel like a native part of your app, complete with colored toolbar, custom address bar button, injected settings in teh overflow menu, and enter/exit animations. The icing on the cake, however, is that content in these tabs can be pre-loaded into memory, speeding up the opening process. You can find Custom Tabs on the Chrome dev channel now, with wide scale release scheduled for the third quarter of this year. Read more on the Chrome Developer blog.

Multi-Window Mode (Experimental) – Google stayed silent on the topic of this highly anticipated feature, but Android M appears to ship with a rudimentary multi-window mode. The current version pales in comparison to the more elegant solutions from Samsung, LG, and others, but we are excited to watch the feature progress on our own handsets. You can try out multi-window for yourself by installing M and modifying your build.prop file, so follow the link to take this buggy multi-tasker for a spin today.

Now On Tap – context-aware searching on any screen. Are you reading an email that mentions a film? Hold the home button for a card that shows everything you need to know. Have you come across a word you can’t pronounce? Google knows which words are on-screen while you are fumbling through asking for a definition, and can better interpret your gibberish. Some may rightly argue that having this level of access to the contents of your screen is a serious privacy concern – stay tuned for an upcoming analysis – but it’s hard to deny the utility of Google Now showing up when and where it is needed. Learn more!

M app drawerNew app drawer design – the system app drawer may see a lot more white space in M, thanks to an alphabetically grouped, vertically scrolling layout. We aren’t fond of the three-column approach here at the office, but having a search button within easy reach is a marked improvement. Check out the new look here!

Automatic Backup of App Data – Google has backed up data for some time, but Android M will finally add app data to the mix (for better or worse). Currently, users rely on third party solutions like Titanium Backup to safeguard game saves, user dictionaries, and other local information, but now that Google is getting involved it is time to revisit the security concerns implicit in handing over information to the search giant. For more, check out Pulser’s words of caution, here.

Settings toggles can be rearranged! Not much more to say about this one, other than “good job, Google,” and perhaps the obligatory sigh of “finally” heard ’round the world.

Dialer has been replaced with Voice Search on the lock screen. Lollipop’s lockscreen introduced two swipe gestures – swipe left to take a picture, and right to make a phone call. Apparently no one ever swipes right.

SD cards are treated as internal storage. The KitKat microSD crackdown is finally at an end.

Text selection now jumps by word and adds a floating toolbar.

Volume Controls add media and alarm sliders.

Dark theme! Unfortunately the theme only covers Google’s settings menu for the time being, but watch this space for future developments.

For more information about Android M, keep an eye on the XDA Portal over the coming weeks as we work our way through the preview build and the finer points of I/O. If you would like to get a jump start on the process and dive straight into the features outlined above (and more) here are the links to get you started:

M will officially launch later this year, and OEMs are already pledging support for their current lineups. First up, HTC’s Senior Global Online Communications Manager took to Twitter to share that the One M9 and One M9+ will make the jump. No timeline has yet been given. Expect other manufacturers to follow suit in the near future.

 

Other I/O News

Check out Google’s video streams for the full I/O experience, but here’s the brief rundown:

android-shield-tv-710x441NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV – The Nexus Player, Razer Forge, and a handful of smart TVs do exist as 10-foot Android experiences, but this week’s announcement of the SHIELD console sets a new bar. Onboard, you will find an NVIDIA Maxwell 256-core GPU capable of DX-12 and the latest OpenGL standards, an 8-core 64-bit ARM CPU, 3GB RAM, 16GB flash ROM (or 500GB HDD), two USB 3.0 ports, and microSD expansion. As for video playback, the unit can output H.265 video at 4K, 60Hz or 1080p, 120Hz. This machine is a beast. You can pick one up for $199 (or $299 for the pro package) via NVIDIA, Amazon, or BestBuy. Find out more about the SHIELD TV and its accessories here!

Two Google apps saw significant updates as well – Google Photos and Inbox by Gmail. The former ups the resolution of pictures stored for free, and puts a machine-learning spin on finding faces, places, and things through search, while the latter comes out of Beta and is available to all. Check them out in the companion article: XDA Picks: Best Apps of the Week (May 15 – 30).

Brillo is Google’s software contribution to the Internet of Things. Projects Brillo and Weave function as scaled down operating systems and communications schemas (respectively) based on the Android kernel. Through these systems, smart home devices like thermostats, security cameras, refrigerators, and remote sensors can talk to one another and to Android itself using a shared Hardware Abstraction Layer, and suit of communications standards. Learn more!

Android Auto comes to the Hyundai Sonata – The 2015 Sonata becomes the first car to run Google’s automotive infotainment system. Learn more!

Project Tango – Pick up a dev edition of the 3D mapping Tango tablet for $512 here.

Google Jump RigCardboard v2.0, DIY 360-Degree Stereoscopic VR Rigs, & more – last year’s conference brought us the original cardboard VR viewer, and this year’s update now fits larger devices, works with older phones, and runs on iOS as well as Android. However, the new viewer was not the star of this year’s show. After showing off Cardboard and the new educational VR program called Google Expeditions, Google unveiled an open source rig on which 16 cameras can capture video to be stitched into the most immersive VR experience to date. The real kicker? Google will do the background 3D processing for you, and the resulting video works with YouTube. GoPro will launch a commercial version of the video rig in the coming months, but industrious builders can make an ad-hoc version from almost anything, including cardboard. Learn more!

Android Developer Nanodegree – Aspiring developers have a new resource for getting up to speed with Android. Udacity and Google collaboratively launched the Android Developer Nanodegree at Google I/O, and the flexible 9-12 month course covers everything a novice programmer with some Java background will need in order to build an Android app. Enrollment ends on June 8, so check out the course page now if you’re thinking about signing up. Fees will run $200 per month while enrolled, but the end result is an official certification from Google.

New account management page for Google accounts. The new manager divides content into sign-in & security, personal info & privacy, and account preferences to simplify navigation. All of the usual features and data logging toggles are included, though we’re still sifting through the menus to compare the old with the new. Check it out!

Google Maps Works Offline – we will have to wait for the switch to be flipped on this one, but voice search, place search, and navigation will all work without a data connection in the near future.

flat_youtube_wallpaper_by_oscagapotes-d6o637wYouTube works offline without a music key – the key feature of YouTube Music Key for Play Music All Access was the ability to download tunes for offline listening. Now, offline music and video playback comes to the whole community with no key required.

Projects Soli and Jacquard – new and intuitive input methods anywhere you need them, courtesy of the advanced research group (ATAP). Soli is a miniature radar device small enough to fit inside a smartwatch, and can interpret any finger gesture imaginable in thin air. Jacquard, on the other hand, is a smart fabric that can be made in any color, sewn into any pattern, and function as a clothing-size touchscreen. The position of your hand, as well as distance away from the fabric, are tracked, so Jacquard is a truly 3D touch input device… that you wear. In other words, Google is working with Levi’s to make your clothes smart.

Project Abacus – enhanced password-less security through analysis of webcam footage, typing patterns, and other factors. The best part? Abacus could be enabled through a simple software update. Like all projects coming out of the advanced research group, this one is a little ways off, but has on the edge of our seats.

Project Ara, now with hot swapping demos.

The world is coming online fast; here’s how Google is preparing to bring the next Billion people online and into the Android ecosystem. The strategy? Polymer 1.0 to make the web more material, a consistent API chain to ease the development burdon, Cloud Test Lab to automate app testing, developer pages on Play to market your brand, family friendly filters to target different age groups, and more. This topic is too expansive to cover in just one blurb, so read on for more in-depth coverage.

 

That is it for this week, but you haven’t heard the last of the Google news. Stay tuned to the XDA portal as we unpack the Android M preview and learn more about each service listed above, then come back next Sunday for another round of recaps. It’s an exciting time to be part of an Android development community, and we’re here to deliver the action right to your front door.

The post XDA Recap: This Week At Google IO (May 24 – 30) appeared first on xda-developers.

Sunday Debate: Is Google Focusing Enough on AOSP?

Posted by wicked May - 31 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

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Join us in a fun Sunday Debate on phone cameras. Come with your opinions and feel free to read some of our thoughts, then pick your side or play devil’s advocate to get your voice heard and engage in friendly discussion. You can read our food-for-thought or jump straight into the fray below!

 

 

It’s fair to say that Android is the platform of choice in this site, at least when it comes to mobile technology. And the name “Google” is a word that is seemingly inseparable from the little green robot… yet despite this, many Android fans feel that the company has been abandoning their creation – the actual platform – in some ways. Most of these complaints come from Google’s focus their services, but it doesn’t stop there.

 

Play Services are, indeed, a huge aspect of commercial Android, and plenty of users consider them inseparable from the Android experience. Those who don’t can easily find many alternatives to the missing apps, but things like Google Now or the Play Store offer invaluable tools when it comes to making your life easier. However, living without GApps and Play Services altogether is more complicated for technical reasons. So far there is no personal assistant like Google Now, and this remains one of the strongest points for consumers. And with the upcoming improvements, it is only bound to get smarter and more useful.

 

So, without considering things such as privacy concerns, is Google’s change of focus as clear as some other people make it out to be? Where can we expect the platform to head towards if they do focus more on their proprietary services than their open platform? What do you personally want Google to do? Feel free to read some of our thoughts below, or jump straight to the comments to start discussing!

 

The Platform

 

The main reason that we at XDA like the focus to be on Android and not Play Services is clear to many of you: we can easily modify AOSP, but not their proprietary and closed source services as effortlessly (and parts are logically off-grounds altogether); modifying and creating upon the platform is at the core of our site. While Android had a huge update last year, throughout 2015 Google has aimed to improve their feature repertoire. Google I/O 2015 did not show as many Android features as previously expected, and while the conference is called Google I/O (and thus, they have a right to focus on Google), their focus on Play Services was all too clear. Among the big improvements we know Android M is bringing fingerprint support and changes to power management and permissions. Other than that, the meat of their annual keynote was aimed at Google Now on Tap, the Play Store, their Photos app and their VR projects – hardly the kind of things that will matter most to AOSP.

 

All of these developments are complex and take away resources that would otherwise be spent on improving the platform. As it is, Android smartphones exist amongst Android smartwatches, cars, TV sets, and more. Maintaining and updating every branch is an increasingly complicated task, and it would be so for any company. And more importantly to some, we don’t have full control of their services, which can be detrimental in many ways – from privacy to performance. The latter is a common annoyance for many users, as Play Services are known to go on a battery murder spree every now and then, further adding to the inconsistencies that we dislike so much about our beloved platform.

 

Their Services

 

What is perhaps the biggest reason one would encourage Google to improve their services, apart from personal satisfaction, is the fact that they are a huge part of Android’s commercial success, and a significant factor in its expansion across several markets. If Android is what it is today, shipping nearly 80% of yearly smartphone units, it is in great part due to Google’s concentrated efforts to bring good features to the commercial product. On an UX standpoint, their services are a doubled edged sword: while you can get a faulty update every now and then, updates are frequent, regular and bypass OEMs and carriers, bringing you the latest features without having to wait nearly as much. A huge percentage of users (particularly in the West) rely on these services, and they allow for the revenue that then gets poured up into further projects that all users can enjoy.

 

The company does also open up some of their other apps and products. as seen with their latest announcements for Android’s Chrome. But at this point in the race, they must keep up with the competition in the service space, as it is furiously picking up. Apple keeps growing and expanding in both hardware and software, but their biggest worry should be Microsoft, who’s been releasing more Android apps than we can keep track of, some being surprisingly good at that. Knowing that this company is backing up Cyanogen and making lots of deals with OEMs, Google needs to make sure that they can muster polished and original functionality to keep up and keep a tight hold on their platform to not let it slip – whether that is good or bad is up to you.

 

Debating

 

On one hand, Google’s services are a core part of the Android experience to many users around the globe, and a huge part as to why Android is what it is today. They also must be kept strong in order to compete and sustain the future of the platform in smartphones and other devices. On the other hand, much of Google’s latest developments are not on the Android platform itself, and thus we can’t modify it the way we can AOSP. It also brings freedom and privacy into the question, but a more direct downside is that it leaves developers having to pick up Google’s slack when it comes to features and polish. Living without Gapps gets harder every day for many of us, but plenty do try to make it easier.

 

So we ask you:

Do you think Google is focusing on Android enough?
Are their current developments good for the Android open source platform?
After these changes, what do you think about Google as a company?

Do you live without Google Apps or Services?

The post Sunday Debate: Is Google Focusing Enough on AOSP? appeared first on xda-developers.

A Look Back at the Ouya: A Tale of Failure

Posted by wicked May - 31 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

Ouya_Logo

The NVIDIA SHIELD console, Razer Forge TV, and Nexus Player, all running on the Android TV platform, represent the latest efforts by Google and its OEM partners to morph Android into a competent and complete living room entertainment experience. Android TV can be seen as Google’s first serious attempt at incorporating console-quality gaming into the idea of a living room device. Other companies, however, explored their own ideas as to how to produce a gaming console powered by Android. The most notable and most infamous of these devices is known as the Ouya.

The Ouya. A product that, when mentioned today, often leads to either quieted laughter or angry thoughts of failed potential and promise. A product that did ten things wrong for every one thing it did right. A product with failed leadership, lead by clueless executives and an even worse marketing team. A product that game developers ended up ignoring, and consumers mostly rejected. A product that lead to this hilarious unboxing .gif:

gif-consoles-ouya-unboxing-732136

But it was also a product that lead to some really neat, albeit niche, use cases, and a product that became important to the idea that Android has no bounds and can run on anything. With the recent news that CEO Julie Uhrman is looking to put the company up for sale after failing to restructure its debt, it’s time to take a look back at the history of the Ouya, as well as list some of the more useful and interesting ways to tinker with, exploit, and use the hardware to its greatest potential.

I: History of the Ouya

Ouya_console

The announcement and pre-release era of the Ouya wasn’t seen as a joke, as it garnered a lot of consumer and market interest. It was announced on July 3rd, 2012, and a Kickstarter campaign launched on July 10th. The date is notable, as Google had just gotten done revealing the Nexus 7 2012 tablet at Google I/O the week prior, and the Ouya shared very similar specs with Google’s latest, creating a lot of buzz within the Android community. Furthermore, the company advertised that the Ouya was going to be “hacker friendly” by being easy to root (and not voiding any warranties in the process), as well as employing a design that made the hardware itself easy to open and tinker around with. The gaming community was also intrigued by the promises of the device to bridge mobile and console-style gaming, as game developers were starting to shift away from the high costs and burden of making console games in favor of mobile, leaving anything other than the most casual gamer frustrated with the quality of newer titles.

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

The marketing thus far had worked wonders, as the Ouya became a record-breaking project on Kickstarter, raising nearly $8,600,000 dollars when it ended on August 9th, and holding the record for the best first day performance of any Kickstarter project. Indie game developers and major publishers alike flocked to make announcements of their games being made available on the platform. In October, announcements of the physical hardware being produced, as well as the SDK being released, had consumers and project backers hopeful that a release wasn’t too far off. This is the point in time when things started to turn sour for the company.

While developer units started starting shipping on December 28th, units to Kickstarter backers did not start shipping until the end of March 2013. Reports had started to flood the internet of shipping errors and delays on these units, with some users stating that they had not received their devices until after it went on-sale to the general public, a full 3 months later. These pre-release Kickstarter units received by the tech press were not reviewed well, either. Problems with the wireless controller design, including buttons that got stuck underneath the aluminum plating and input lag that made playing games impossible, were reported by just about everybody. The TV interface was slow, confusing, and ugly, and serious concerns about the viability of the platform were starting to become apparent.

After a delay to re-work the controller, the Ouya was released to the general public on June 25th, 2013, costing $99. Availability had continued to be limited, with not much in the way of actual product able to be shipped out to retailers. Early adopters had quickly figured out that this device could have used more time in the oven. The controller, while improved physically from the Kickstarter units, still exhibited a tremendous amount of input lag and connection problems to the device. The WiFi connection was so terrible that a user’s wireless router needed to be placed in the same room. The UI was hideous and slow, with some poor decisions being made in regards to organization of both the store and the user’s installed applications. Many users returned their devices, and the early woes of the launch caused some of the launch partners to scale back or cancel their plans for Ouya support. Many of these issues needed to be resolved by hardware revisions, as the aluminum plating of both the device and controller interfered with wireless signals, and while the software had gotten better with numerous system updates, the UI remains confusing and unorganized to this day.

Months after launch, consumer and developer complaints alike continued. The propriety Ouya store remained barren, outside of a handful of key game releases from the likes of Sega and Square Enix. The hit indie game Towerfall was first released on Ouya as a 6-month exclusive, but was later re-worked and ported to the more popular game consoles. The store had become littered with low-quality games, and the platform had stopped attracting high-quality developers, mostly due to lack of consumer interest. Developers also scoffed at ridiculous policies, such as the requirement to release a “free-to-play’ component to each and every game found on the store, a policy that was later reversed with little to no impact. An ill-thought marketing scheme entitled the “Free the Games Fund”, where the company would match the Kickstarter funds for any Ouya exclusive title being developed, was abused by scammers and further damaged the integrity of the company and its relationship to consumers.

Furthermore, some users had felt that the company was backtracking on the “truly open” philosophy that was detailed on the company’s Kickstarter page. Root access on later software revisions became hit-and-miss, as OS updates which ran automatically acted to strip root away, requiring exploits in order to restore it. While SU access is available out-of-the-box on early units, doing anything useful with it requires workarounds to install SuperSU and busybox. Side-loading .apk packages, while the ability is there, is cumbersome and time-consuming, and there is no guarantee of app compatibility. ADB and fastboot access is granted natively, however the bootloader remains locked. And since there is little consumer or developer interest in the device, the Android community at large is vastly uninterested in finding new exploits.

By the time the device was released and major bugs worked out, the internals were completely obsolete. The entire company structure from top to bottom was seen as incompetent at best, and consumer trust nosedived. In the end, the company decided to allow the Ouya experience be embedded onto other Android devices, such as the Mad Catz M.O.J.O console, and into televisions sold in the East. And now, we’re left with news stories regarding the financial collapse of the company. Claiming that the Ouya was a disastrous failure is not a far-reaching or untrue statement to make.

II. Get the Most Out of your Ouya

While the device can no longer be recommended for purchase (if it can even be found for sale, as it has been removed from most retailer shelves), there are some neat things you can still do if you happen to own one.

Notes/Warnings: Some of these use cases require the use of root access and a custom recovery. Most of the root and recovery installation guides and software out there are out-of-date and were written for earlier versions of the firmware. If your console has not been updated in a while, turning it on with an active internet connection might trigger the automatic download and installation of the recent firmware images, which can remove previous root access and/or make it impossible to regain root in the future. The legality of software emulators and ROM images for classic console games varies by country, so please consult your local laws before obtaining such software. You assume all responsibility of your device moving forward.

Natively, while the Ouya platform itself offers very little compelling games, the store does contain some useful stuff. Emulators for classic consoles are plentiful, and most run fairly well on the platform. You’ll find both free and paid emulators, including Super GNES, FPse, NES.emu, Mupen64, MAME4droid, and reicast, among others. The app Nostalgia serves as a unification hub that merges all of your emulators together into a single app. While the paltry built-in storage won’t hold much in the way of ROM images, external USB storage is supported by most, and some will even access them over cloud storage accounts such as Dropbox. It is also recommended to use a USB controller to get around the input lag issue if you own the first revision of the device. Also found on the store are media applications such as XBMC, Plex, VLC, TwitchTV, Vimeo, TuneIn Radio, and Pandora. FilePwn is great if you need a basic file manager app.

You can also natively side-load, install, and execute .apk files to your Ouya with varied results. Going to Make->Upload allows you to remotely upload an .apk file from your computer’s web browser, but I’ve yet to get this feature to work reliably. You can also transfer via ADB command, or load the .apk file onto a USB storage device and install from there. A helpful trick is to install the Dropbox app via this method and use the cloud storage platform to transfer .apk files with little hassle.

On the more advanced side, there does seem to be a bit of developer activity on-going in the form of custom recoveries, mods, and ports of popular Android ROMs. Our XDA sub-forums for the Ouya, while not listed on the forum’s main page, contain some recent activity, and can be found by visiting these direct links:

Ouya General 
Ouya Q&A, Help, & Troubleshooting 

Ouya Android Development 

A couple of good threads to get you started:

[HOWTO] adb / sideloading / superuser access

[HOWTO] Installing Superuser/busybox for Mac

Included in the Development sub-forum are a myriad of different hacks and ROM ports in varying states of completion. Most recent of these is a work-in-progress ROM port by XDA Senior Member werty100 of the popular OmniROM, based on Android 5.1.1. You can follow the progress of this port here: [5.1.1][LMY47X] OmniRom UNOFFICIAL

There is also a great community to follow all things Ouya at the Unofficial Ouya Forums

You can also visit the official Ouya site


Are you an Ouya owner, or do you develop for the Ouya platform? Do you know of any other cool tweaks, hacks, or mods that aren’t listed here? Is your console currently being used, or is it collecting dust at the bottom of a closet? Please let us know in the comments below!

The post A Look Back at the Ouya: A Tale of Failure appeared first on xda-developers.

XDA Picks: Best Apps of the Week (May 15 – 30)

Posted by wicked May - 30 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

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Apps are at the front and center of any smartphone experience, and with over a million apps on the Google Play Store and new apps being submitted to our forums every day, staying up to date on the latest apps and games can be a hassle. At XDA we don’t discriminate apps – if it’s interesting, innovative, original or useful, we mention them. The XDA Portal Team loves apps too, and here are our top picks for this week.

 

 

 

Inbox by Gmail [FREE FOR ALL USERS]

 

inboxInbox is perhaps one of the most innovate and organized e-mail clients out there, and while it was previously limited to those who received invitations from other testers, Google has now made it available for all users. What does Inbox provide over a run-of-the-mill client? You can undo sending an email within the first few seconds of sending it, you can see your Keep and Now reminders, your e-mails are neatly organized in categories that get updated and bumped to the top of your feed, you can snooze e-mail notifications, and much more. We love this app, and so should you!

 

Hotline Miami [PAID]

 

hotlinemiami2The PC sleeper hit now gets an Android port to bring all of its high-octane action to your pocket screen. This is a game with pixel graphics that depict raw brutality in an unforgiving and challenging world. If you like games with good mechanics and fun gunplay, this will keep you entertained for a while. Sadly, it requires a game controller (it would be pretty hard to play this on a touchscreen anyway), but that way you can make every bullet count. If for some reason you missed this surreal gem on PC, here’s your chance to give it a go. Read some reviews and you won’t be disappointed!

 

Earth Roads [FREE]

 

earthroadsEarth Roads brings an interesting twist to the Endless Runner genre, featuring speedy maneuvering in a blocky universe. Like others of its kind, this game features a lot of replayability. Where it differs is that the game adds extra layers of dimension to the “running”, as it has you jumping around different layers to grab coins and evade obstacles, and there is not always a single correct way of clearing an obstacle course. Moreover, the game features peaceful music and different vehicles to unlock. All of you “toilet gamers” should give its trailer a look.

 

Google Spotlight Stories [FREE]

 

google spotlight storiesMotorola used to have the exclusive spotlight stories in their devices, which added a neat little touch to their products. Now, Google is releasing the same functionality for everyone else (well, sort of, some devices are incompatible even if the Play Store allows the download to go through). These are 360° spherical cinema-quality videos that take you through stories which unfold all around you. Since we are approaching the Age of VR, we thought it was appropriate to mention this new app so that everyone who missed the experience when it was exclusive can experience it!

 

Office Lens [FREE]

 

lensMicrosoft is killing it when it comes to Android apps, and while we sometimes feel this could be part of a subversive strategy, their resources allow for applications that are of very high quality. Office Lens allows you to scan and crop not just paper documents, but also whiteboards and posters. The app automatically detects the angle and then analyzes the contents to transcribe them into a very legible and clean format. This is very much like Samsung’s exclusive S-Note implementation. Office workers might want to give it a try!

Honorable Mentions:

  • Twitter’s Periscope allows you to livestream video to your followers, and the app also tells you which people you follow use the application as well, making for quick and easy entertainment… for twitterheads, of course.
  • Roadie App is a neighbor-to-neighbor shipping network: kind of like Uber, but for deliveries; “carpooling for cargo”. No bidding, no bartering. We still can’t comment on its effectiveness, but the concept deserves a mention.

Notable Updates:

  • Google Photos received a major update. Read our summary on the new features here, or check it out for yourself. It’s free!
  • Netflix for Android TV now supports 4K shows and Dolby Digital pass-through for those that pay the premium $12-a-month plan. The latest version of the regular app also introduces Smart Lock support.
  • Dashlane password manager already works with the new Android M fingerprint security system. As always, remember to be cautious.

That is it for this week. We hope that you might have found some of these apps as interesting, useful or entertaining as we did. Whether you are a student, a developer, a designer or a gamer, Android has you covered. We will try to reflect that each week with a variety of picks to spark your interest, and If you see (or publish!) any new apps that you think are worthy of a feature, be sure to send us a tip and we’ll give it a look. Until next time!

The post XDA Picks: Best Apps of the Week (May 15 – 30) appeared first on xda-developers.

Google No Longer Sending Calendar SMS Notifications

Posted by wicked May - 29 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

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In a not entirely surprising move, Google announced that it’s putting an end to SMS notifications for Google calendar as of June 27th. They stated earlier, “SMS notifications for Google Calendar launched before smartphones were available. Now in a world with smartphones and notifications, you can get richer, more reliable experience on your mobile device, even offline”.

Google Drive for Work, Google Apps for Work (paid edition), Education and Government customers will not be affected by these changes and can continue using the feature as normal. For the rest of us it is highly recommended that you install and configure the calendar app of your choice to continue to receive notifications.

While we imagine that this will not have a significant impact on many smartphone users, it is nice to see Google paying attention to some of their older features, even if it just for a ‘spring clean’.
Do you still use SMS notifications? Leave a comment below!

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I/O Summary: Google Cardboard Virtual Reality

Posted by wicked May - 29 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

Google Cardboard

One year ago, Google introduced cardboard. Amazingly enough, that was all it took to fire up the Virtual Reality scene on Android, and what began as an open design concept exploded into thousands of apps and dozens of headsets from big and small vendors alike. Now, there are more than 1 million cardboard viewers/handsets – a Google-quoted number that might not even be accurate given the ease with which headsets can be rigged through off-the-shelf equipment. This year, cardboard returned to steal the show once again, but this time the updated peripheral is not alone.

The new Cardboard design mercifully supports screens up to six inches in diagonal, such as that on last fall’s Nexus 6, and the upgraded control button works with even the oldest of handsets. In short, nearly every smartphone on the market can run Cardboard, including  Did I say any phone? That’s right, the Cardboard SDK for Unity now runs on iOS as well as Android.

Google ExpeditionEarlier in the year, Google partnered with toymaker Mattel to reboot the ViewMaster franchise as an educational tour guide to locales such as the great barrier reef and Alcatraz. Now, it seems the same magical treatment is coming to the classroom. Google Expeditions are prepackaged sets of Cardboard viewers and a teacher-side companion app for controlling the experience.

 

Google Jump RigCamera rigs for 360 degree videography are expensive. To Google, this is a market opportunity. In the same way that Cardboard jump started a chain of innovation last year, Project Jump looks to democratize wraparound video making with open source 3D printed plans and a software backend for processing the resulting video. Ordinarily this would be enough for one day, and such a move would fit right in line with YouTube’s earlier support for 360 degree video, but Jump takes things a step farther with stereoscopic 3D. Now, any creator can capture truly immersive VR video. The gear’s main innovations are in the camera geometry, the assembler, and the player. Jump features sixteen camera modules, and Google is making an effort in opening up the camera geometry to make it available to anyone this summer. This means that anyone can build a JUMP-ready camera.

Google Jump VideosThe assembler is where the “Google Magic” begins. This software recreates the scene as viewed from thousands of viewpoints to synthesize stereoscopic VR image for each frame. First, raw camera data is taken in for rough alignment. Following this, global color correction and 3D alignment are applied to interpolate between the touted thousands of viewpoints. Google claims that this process is a fundamentally different and more advanced approach than anything they’ve seen so far allowing for not just an image suited for VR but also one showcasing depth of field.

The company has built a set of these cameras and sent them across the world to begin a YouTube video collection in stereoscopic 3D, allowing users to explore places like never before. The full experience is coming to a screen near you this summer, but non-stereoscopic versions will land on YouTube sometime this week; stay tuned to the XDA portal for links as soon as they are up.

We will no doubt eventually see stereoscopic 3D pop up in Google’s other services soon (like street view), so treat this announcement as the beginning of a much larger story. It may not be the rumored Android VR we were expecting, but it’s impressive none the less.

For more Cardboard news, check out the 16 minute keynote clip below, and remember that I/O is an ongoing event full of techies – we likely haven’t heard the last of VR this week.

Do you use Google Cardboard? Will you buy (or build) a VR camera rig? Leave a comment below!

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I/O Summary: How Android M Handles Power And Charging

Posted by wicked May - 29 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

Doze

In the spirit of improving the core Android experience, Google is changing Android M to be smarter about managing power. Their new Doze feature comprises of two primary roles which allow Android to use motion detection in order to predict activity, and go into deep sleep at the right time based on accelerometer readings.

 

In order to extend your screen off battery life, Android M will now monitor your activity levels and if it detects that your device has not moved in a while will start to “doze”, this means that the device will then wait longer to wake up for scheduled repeating events, whilst not affecting GCM and alarms. When your device is moved, used or plugged in the device will wake up and normal usage will resume.

The second power saving method they have implemented is app-standby whereby if an app is not used for a significant length of time the app will be put into a lower powered state and lose network access until it is used again or your device is plugged in, rather optimistically the length of time they stated during the “What’s new in Android” talk before apps enter standby was measured in days.

power

 

They are happy to say that devices running M can last up to two times longer on standby than those running Lollipop. It is important to note that Doze only benefits phones that remain motionless. USB Type C will bring faster charging (according to Google, anywhere from 3 to 5 times as much). And they are, of course flippable and reversible. You can also use your device to charge whatever is plugged in as well.

Doze

Hopefully this will see a large increase in the battery life of devices with less screen on time and could have huge ramifications for battery life in tablets which may see much less time being carried around than phones whilst remaining on.
What do you think to the new Doze feature? Leave a comment below!

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I/O Summary: Google Photos App

Posted by wicked May - 29 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

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At I/O 2015, Google tackled the information problem in mobile once more, this time through pictures: “how incredible is it that we all have a camera in our pockets at any moment? (…) These moments tell your story (…)[but] taking more pictures and videos makes it harder to relieve memories due to the sheer volume”. This is why they are revamping Google Photos and centering it around 3 big ideas:

 

  1. Creating a home for all photos and videos that is fast intuitive and beautiful.
  2. A system to help your organize.
  3. A system to help you share your life moments.

 

Google photo automatically backs up and syncs all photos and videos with Google Drive, and it understands their time and context to arrange them in a timeline that allows you scroll back as far as possible (depending on earliest file) in time. Google wants to make every interaction feel fast, and by swiping to the right you can access your collections which include montage movies that you have saved.

 

 

The app also helps you organize and bring moments to life. Using machine learning, it understands what’s truly important and organizes pictures by people, places, and everything that matters in your life. You can select a person and go all the way back to the first picture you took or saved of said person – and from what was shown, even when they were babies (if that part was automated, we should be pretty scared). Easy video editing is included as well, and it is easy to change the theme, soundtrack and reorder clips.

 

There are new gestures for multi-picture selection. Google also wants to make it easy to share what matters, “no strings attached”. You just tap “get a link”, and in less than a second you get a link to all selected items. You can also share it anywhere without worrying about the recipient having a particular app. This ultimately means you are sharing high quality content without needing to login or download any app. And on top of that, Google Photos will offer unlimited online storage for free, at a resolution of 16MP for pictures and 1080p for video. However, the pictures might still get compressed on unlimited storage, as their support page states that they “Save high-quality photos and videos while reducing size”.

The new Google Photos begins rolling out today, but you can grab the APK here. We will review the application in-depth in the following days.

 

What do you think about Google’s new gallery and its design and technology? Let us know below!

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I/O Summary: Development, Play Store, The Next Billion

Posted by wicked May - 29 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

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VP of Engineering Jen Fitzpatrick began talking about what Google is doing to help “the next billion” come online. More and more people are getting their first smartphone, and for many people this first phone will be their first computer.

 

The majority of the next billion will be Android users and they “want to remove the barriers of smartphone adoption”. While there are huge displays of phones on sale, not all are able to run the latest and greatest apps for an affordable price.This is why Google has been working with hardware partners to bring high quality devices for affordable prices, such as Chromebooks and Android One. Sadly, they did not tease about a new Nexus like we wish they would have.

 

“We are taking many of our core products and making them far better in a world where speed size and connectivity are central concerns”, Jen said. Chrome, for example, is being optimized to load pages 5 times faster, use 80% fewer bytes, and have an 80mb reduction in memory use. They also are coming up with a superior network quality estimator, which adapts the fidelity of the webpage according to the speed of your current connection. Finally, they are bringing support to save pages for later and access them offline. With upcoming offline maps you won’t need to suck down expensive data or have data reliability either. Place search will work offline as well.

Now that mobile has evolved, Google is turning its attention to cross-platform developments with a renewed emphasis on Polymer. This push for cohesion takes the form of a consistent API chain across platforms, which aims to ease the burden on developers. Google’s aim is to help you find ways to develop, engage and earn through Google itself. They are attempting to do this by giving developers the tools to quickly develop across platforms. Today they are sharing the Android Studio v 1.3 Preview with faster grade build speeds and a new memory profiler, but the biggest feature is full editing support for C/C++. They also announced Polymer 1.0, with elements that make it easier to drop toolbars and services like maps. They had supported iOS libraries before, but are starting to bring them together cohesively via Cocoapods. We will cover these developments in-depth in the coming days.

They are also building a Cloud Test Lab to automate the testing of mobile apps. All you need to do is upload the app and Google will run it across top selling devices, and you’ll get in-depth details and crash reports, etc. Firebase also makes it easy and quick to build an app, but after development, the next step is to get users and keep them coming back.

 

Many developers want to start marketing their apps but do not have specialized teams for the task. Google will try and take care of this: you set their service up to pay for users and they will set up ad campaigns through Admob and other services. Through Google analytics you can then track the state of apps. Google claims that developers love the Google Play developer console, and they want to make it a better tool to make it easy to attract users. Now you can look at how many people are looking at your listing. and you can easily use collected data to make your listing even better. You can run experiments on your listing by testing different styles of graphics and text, and Google will do all the number crunching for you. You can also create your own Google Play homepage to explain what your company is all about. When it comes to earning, Google wants to integrate Analytics with Admob for smarter monetization.

Ellie Powers, Product Manager of Google Play then took the stage to talk about the Play Store. She stated that Google Play has delivered 50 billion app installs in the past 12 months alone, with 1 billion active users. This number is growing twice as quickly in many developing markets. With more than a billion users on Play, the ecosystem is extremely diverse, and Google claims that personalized listings doubles the likelihood that people will install an app. Google will finally make searching for apps smarter and more efficient. One of the ways Google is doing this is by grouping apps into more categories and organizing the results better (“fashion”, “coupons”, etc). Another focus for Google is finding the right content for families, which is why they are introducing the new family discovery experience on Google Play.

In this new Family feature of the Play Store, you can browse by age  and the search will filter out apps that are not designed for families or do not have family-appropriate content. You can also browse through popular characters in case your children have an affinity for certain cartoon or movie protagonists or villains.

 
Finally, Google is teaming up with Udacity to introduce the Android Nanodegree, a 6 month course for 200 dollars each month where the entire core process of Android development is covered.

 

Are you excited for the new developments surrounding Android apps? Sound off below!

 

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