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Samsung Cutting Bloat, Trimming TouchWiz

Posted by wicked January - 29 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

BLOAT

Reports keep iterating over the rumors that Samsung has been trimming down TouchWiz for its upcoming devices. After years of customer complaints, particularly from power users, Samsung seems to finally have taken initiative towards cracking down the stutters that often plague some of its devices, particularly older ones or those that see a long life without clean-ups. But even handsets like the Galaxy S5 managed to be outperformed by low range devices. Android enthusiasts as a whole took disdain in Samsung’s software over this and more, and while these make a tiny subset of Samsung’s sales, everyone hates slow phones.

The latest report from Sammobile, the reputable whistle-blower for all things Samsung, indicates that Samsung will be trimming TouchWiz out of “bloatware”, in an effort to keep the device slim and functioning as efficiently as it can. Given that Samsung flagships launch with the best hardware available in the market, users expect top notch performance, but the memory hogging of pre-installed apps hurt the stability of the system. Not only do they soak up RAM and CPU cycles, but many of them like Kids Mode (pictured to the right – yes, that’s real) can’t be disabled nor uninstalled. Users are often left pondering why Samsung insists their applications bog down the UI when their use cases are limited, their use frequency low, and there’s usually much better featured and optimized – not to mention prettier – alternatives in the Google Playstore.

While it isn’t exactly specified whether all of the “optional” applications will be absent from Samsung’s software, we can expect those that do to be available for download and installation. Integrated functions like Smart Stay or Air View will most likely remain present, as they touch on lower-level assets that communicate with the hardware. And applications like S-Health are also deeply integrated (due to sensors) but also very popular, so you can expect those to make the cut too. As for S-Translator and the rest of clone apps, we expect them to pack their bags.

Samsung’s bloat has inflicted the rage of many users ever since their overbloated (yet successful) Galaxy S3. Bloat is not exclusive to Samsung, and many Korean offerings (like LG’s) practice this trend as well. In 2014, South Korea ruled that bloatware must be made removable in smartphone devices, claiming that it caused “inconveniences” for users and it was a “unfair” for competitors. This last bit is debatable, but the former is almost a tautological certainty. This ruling hasn’t seen a paradigm leak into western nations, however, and in the rest of the world, Samsung phones still come packed with applications that will annoy you until you root your phone to eradicate them.

The most interesting bit about this news is the fact that, once again, we get a report that Samsung is doing as much as it can to offer a fast user experience. Earlier this month, we got reports that they set the bar high by aiming to match the Nexus family in terms of performance. At one point in smartphone history, the Nexus devices were unequivocally the fastest of the bunch. Nowadays, many manufacturers like Motorola have adopted stock Android and dramatically improved their user experiences in terms of smoothness and speed. And even those that choose to skin their version can attain similar or better performance, as proved by HTC with their HTC M8, an ultra-fast phone. Samsung seems to be taking some cues from these OEMs when it comes to Motorola’s bloatware trashing and HTC’s meticulous optimizing.

But performance is also based on hardware, and recent news have suggested that Samsung might be dropping the Snapdragon 810 in their phones due to performance and over-heating issues, and adopting an in-house Exynos chip instead. While this was considered a terrible move by those who love Qualcomm’s speedy chips, leaks quickly proved everyone wrong when they showed that the Geekbench 3 benchmarks for Samsung’s latest Exynos processor far surpass Qualcomm’s flagship in almost every specification. This could also mean that Samsung could be dropping Qualcomm’s chip not because of the overheating issues that were constantly reported, but because their own chip would be a better option for an enhanced user experience.

As of now, we don’t have the answers. But earlier today, Qualcomm reportedly specified that a big customer has dropped the Snapdragon 810 from their upcoming flagship device. This could be a continuation on the reality that the rumors and speculation have suggested, and if this really is the case, then we can expect an all-new Samsung offering, from internals to software.

What is certain, however, is that the latest Lollipop builds for Galaxy devices show a big improvement in performance and optimization, as detailed in our analysis of the Lollipop leak for the Galaxy Note 3. In there you see that the build tested does in fact match the Nexus 5 in performance, and has seen significant improvements in every performance aspect from real-world speed to benchmarks. Since that build, I’ve been flashing more leaked and official firmware releases, and on the final version of the ROM the performance is seamless and stellar.

All we can do now is wait, but every fact, leak, report, analysis and rumor point towards a strong emphasis in having TouchWiz deliver the user experience that today’s hardware merits having. I am more than content with my current Lollipop build’s performance, as everything is instant and smooth. But what I still have my doubts on, and anxiously hope is true, is the bloatware trimming. I have already disabled, tortured and gotten rid of Kids Mode on my phone, and I hope I never have to again.

Do you think Samsung finally took the memo? What do you expect from the Galaxy S6’s performance, given the latest buzz? Leave us your opinion in the comments!

The post Samsung Cutting Bloat, Trimming TouchWiz appeared first on xda-developers.

Wearables – Past, Present, and… Future?

Posted by egzthunder1 January - 22 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

centuri1

If you are a child of the 80’s, you will undoubtedly recognize the title image for this article. The Centurions were a great motivation for anyone who’s ever thought about wearing technology on their body to do things that they could not normally do, without knowing how to operate heavy equipment. While the idea of teleporting pieces onto your body to enable you to fly is still (more than) a few years away, the thought of using technology on ourselves is very much here. No one can deny that the current level of technology is evolving, but the future and what it holds for wearables is something that not too many can yet envision.

Wearables – The Past

game-watch

Back in the yester-years of mobile technology, we already had a glimpse of what it was like to wear tech items on your body. Granted that these primitive wearables were nowhere near as advanced or functional as their present counterparts, but they were a step in the right direction. For instance, the predecessor to the smartwatch actually did a few things–but only one at a time. I personally owned a video game watch, which was basically a side-scrolling shooter. Others had calculator watches with itsy bitsy tiny buttons, not really designed for adults with regular sized fingers. There were even some that came with an IR transmitter and universal remote control functionality. After all, nothing beats the adrenaline rush that you get after secretly changing the channel that everyone is watching in a crowded bar. As you can tell (sans practical jokes), wearables were already poised to become something more powerful and useful that could potentially help people. Yet somehow, this tech died down.

Cell phones, while a very expensive reality back in the day, were here to do one thing and that was to allow the user to communicate while away from home (and without pocket change to use a public phone). Pioneers like Motorola, Nokia, and a few others like Ericsson were perfecting the devices with usability and longevity in mind. Better batteries that would last a few days on a single charge, bodies that would be able to take punishment (and lots of it), and improvements in areas that mattered such as antenna technology (after all, they were called “phones” for a reason) were paramount ideas behind their development. However, all this changed sometime at the beginning of the turn of the 21st century. PDAs, which were very popular tools among business people, somehow found their way into the cell phone business. Portable technology was catapulted almost immediately into a different realm. Yes, humanity was on the highway towards being able to fly a la Ace McCould (or were we?).

Wearables – The Present

With the foundation being set for the next 20 years, technology companies started noticing the immense success of the marriage between portable computing and cellular technology, thus shifting all of their efforts into attempting to perfect the technology that would allow a professional to take their office with them no matter where they were in the world. At this point in time, wearable technology development was limited to pretty much perfecting Bluetooth headphones to allow people to do away with cables. As for the evolution of cell phones and smartphones, well that is a story for a different article, but for those young ones out there… no, it did not start with Apple and the iPhone (albeit, if you are reading this, you came to xda knowing this already). One of the greatest innovations of this time for personal wearable tech would have to be exercise watches, which are capable of reading your heart rate and pulse.

apollo1The efforts on tech changed into cramming as much horse power in our pockets as possible. Why? Because now human interests have changed from a productivity stand point into an entertainment one. Think about it for a second. The current norm for a cell phone is to have a high definition screen (at least 1080p), anywhere between 4 and 8 cores bordering 3 GHz and enough storage to put more pictures and movies than we will ever see in a lifetime. If it were still meant as a productivity tool, do you think that you would need more computing power than the one they used to fly people to the moon?

But wait! Rejoice people. Your dreams and prayers for James Bond type of wearables are still on the table. Ultra techy gadgets known as smartwatches have now made a reappearance, making the old watch calculator look like a relic. Many unknown brands make watches capable of making calls even (albeit not widely known). Most of the big players have dedicated efforts into watches and special glasses that look like they were inspired by Dragon Ball Z’s Sayan scouters. We might just live long enough be able to call a space station for our armor after all…. that is, so as long as humanity can remain focused on the goal of making technology something that humanity can use for their own betterment. We can do that, right?

Wearables – The Future?

To answer the question I just asked, I will begin by quoting one of my favorite movies of all time – Idiocracy

“Most science fiction of the day predicted a future that was more civilized and more intelligent. But as time went on, things seemed to be heading in the opposite direction. A dumbing down.”

When the movie came out a few years ago, I thought it was a gross over-exaggeration of the kind that only Mike Judge can conceive. However, for the past 3 years or so, we can see a trend in which the amazing advances in technology are used to do things that would have the greatest minds of the 20th century rolling in their graves. Want a good example? The selfie. The amount of effort that companies are putting towards perfecting this is absolutely and positively ridiculous. Both Sony and HTC, for instance, have released phones and tech with dedicated cameras to perfect selfies… every time. Some might say “well, the cameras do have other uses.” True, but to that I counter with the extendable pole that you see everyone having in Disney World, simply taking pictures of themselves with the background as second in importance. Someone (because there is always someone) will counter this by saying “family memories are important and it beats handing your phone to a stranger”. True again, but to this I counter with my ace…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

The Selfie Brush… When I saw this, part of me died. Not because of the article as it was quite entertaining (kudos for the piece to Daniel Cooper at Engadget), but for the idea and what it represented. This was the end of my dreams of ever owning wearables that I could use to save humanity (or wearables to do something useful for that matter). The current trends are no longer focused on doing interesting stuff but rather to accomplish menial tasks. I am no longer expecting manufacturers to create personal flying suits at this point, but I am simply hoping that they stop catering to the entire world with things that are meant for 16 year old girls with self-confidence issues, and convincing them that they are must-have’s (not that the selfie brush will get this kind of take… at least I hope it doesn’t).

Wearables like the no-longer-available-for-sale Google Glass are so far out of reach for most folk out there that it is simply far too unappealing (after all I do not have $1500 to spare on one of these things and neither do most people I know). But even if it were, what good is it? Or rather, what can you do with it (other than going on a trapeze, sky diving, or singing happy birthday to your grandma, which is what the promotional video of Glass kinda suggests you can do with it). Much like it is the case with the Selfie Brush, this has no practical purpose (at least the other one can be used to brush your hair). It is not geared as an improvement to human life but rather as a tool to separate you from reality and drown you into a world where nothing matters and where the future is bleak at best.

What do you believe about the future of wearables? Do you think that someone will come up with useful wearable tech that will make humanity better? Please share your thoughts about this. Personally, I guess I will not be screaming “Power Extreme” anytime soon…

The post Wearables – Past, Present, and… Future? appeared first on xda-developers.

Is Freemium Truly Premium?

Posted by wicked January - 21 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

clash-of-clans-goblin-commercial

Technology is changing at a rapid pace, and this evolution is essentially always paired with changes in business practices. A few years ago, the distribution of games and apps was pretty straightforward. Commercial apps were primarily distributed as paid-only (usually paid once per license), while other applications were distributed as freeware, shareware, or trial. Our favorite open-source mobile operating system, Android, is no exception. A few years ago, Google decided to implement a new method of app distribution. Since 2011, the freemium distribution model has dominated the market. Every day, “free” apps and games bring Google (and the third party app developers) quite a bit of revenue.

I pay more, so I’m better

What exactly is freemium? Imagine the situation where you and your friend are playing the same game. Both of you started playing at the same time and your friend is a few levels ahead of you. You spent a similar amount of time playing, so what’s going on? Is he or she better than you at the game? Not necessarily! He or she could have spent real money to speed up the game or get cooler items, weapons, etc. But technically, you didn’t have to pay a cent to download or play the game. This is how freemium works; it’s “free” to use, but in practice free ends up being in quotation marks. Freemium applications and games generate up to 98% of overall monetary revenue that Google and app developers receive (in 30/70 proportion). Apps and games that follow the freemium model allow free users to use most of the available functions or game modes. Paid content then often extends to features such as automation, ad removal, or simply the ability to use the app or game longer. In-app purchases are registered to your user account with the Google Play Store, so you don’t have to pay twice for the same function when you change ROMs or wipe your device.

Free + Premium≠ Freemium

Let’s stop for a while and learn more about freemium. The true etymology of the word isn’t clear. American businessman Fred Wilson, who is believed to have uses this term for the first time in 2006, described it as something actually in between free and premium. While this definition is quite accurate, we should also take in mind that there is the latin word mium, which means “not really.” In practice, both definitions are correct in their own way, and describe the nature of the model quite accurately.

freemium-not-reallyFreemium made its way to mobile operating systems a few years ago. It was initially introduced alongside Apple’s iOS 3.0 in 2oo9. Google needed two additional years to add it to Android. With this model, users can spend a small amount of money to get gems, gold, or new items in games. Such micro-payments also allow you to unlock apps and make them ad-free. It’s a psychologically sound approach. Smaller fees are easier to accept, as one dollar is not $10, $20 or $50–even when the overall amount spent ends up being the same over time. It’s a somewhat worrying trend that was recently highlighted in the TV show South Park. While South Park highlighted the problem in quite a humorous way, it’s highlighting the real social problem: users spent large amounts of money without realizing it at the start.

Closer Look

2015-01-16 14.12.54I decided to take a closer look to see if this “problem” really exists. I took a look at twenty of the top grossing games from the Google Play Store. The result is really quite intriguing. The first eighteen top apps are available to download for free and contain in-app purchases. Some of them are explicitly titled as “Free.” In the top fifty games, only three are distributed as paid only. This shows an interesting trend. Apps available for free generate much more money than their “paid only” equivalents.

Freemium is a big business, which has made many developers quite wealthy. One of the most popular game studios, Supercell, is estimated to be worth a whopping $3 billion. The studio earned $654.000 daily, and that was back in February 2013. This only shows how much potential lies in freemium. Supercell’s developers are not the only ones to use this distribution model. In fact, we’ve seen it become much more popular every day, with many of our site’s own developers adopting this distribution scheme.

Controversies

Freemium is has been under scrutiny by the European Commission for some time. Google and Apple have been forced to inform their users about applications with in-app purchases. This isn’t as effective as it could be, however, as most people don’t care about any kind of warnings. That said, it’s still nice to see that politicians acknowledge the problem and are trying to do something about this.

As a consumer, I personally dislike freemium. However, I would be lying if I said that I never bought an in-game item. In the end, the best way to avoid hefty bills is using your head. The option to spend a few dollars here and there to unlock new features and game items is sometimes quite tempting, but you can often have fun playing without paying a cent. What do you think about freemium? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

The post Is Freemium Truly Premium? appeared first on xda-developers.

Is Google the Only One to Blame for Missing Security Fixes?

Posted by wicked January - 14 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

Google-Now-for-iPhone-and-iPad-Logo-Analie-Cruz-Tech-Editor-Divas-and-Dorks

You’ve all heard the recent “breaking news” that caused a storm: Google refuses to release security updates for millions of devices. Wow. That sounds really bad. But is it really as shocking as it first seems to be? Continue reading for a more differentiated look at what is happening here.

First, let’s recap what exactly started this debate in the first place. On December 29 2014, Pakistani security consultant Rafay Baloch published an article about an unpatched vulnerability in older versions of Google’s Android Webview component. To be exact, the proof-of-concept exploit worked on Android versions older than 4.4 Kitkat. Two weeks later, on January 12 2015, Security researcher Tod Beardsley published an article unveiling that Google’s security department does not intend to develop a fix for the recently found vulnerability. Generally speaking, they claimed that the affected Webview version is simply too old to fix the issue on their own and instead they insisted on a having the reporter create a patch, so they can push it to the AOSP upstream sources.

Google’s Justification

So what is the official reasoning behind this rather incomprehensible move? According to Beardsley, Google no longer certifies new devices which include the Android Browser (you know, the old one, not Chrome for Android). In Android 4.4 Kitkat, Google switched to a newer, chromium based Webview and got rid of the old vulnerable code. This perfectly falls in line with a policy that leaked about a year ago that details approval windows for Google Mobile service certification for new devices.

In short, this policy requires OEMs to use the latest Android version or its direct predecessor (for a timeframe of about nine months after a new version is released), but won’t allow them to ship anything older on new devices. According to the leak, the approval window for any Jellybean based release ended on July 31, 2014, which means that you won’t see any new device with Google services on Jellybean and therefore no new devices with the old browser and Webview component.

Ok, but what about existing devices? The leaked policy obviously doesn’t restrict updates to devices already existing in the market and that’s exactly where the problems start to emerge. When security issues are found in AOSP code, Google routinely fixes them so the OEMs can incorporate the fix in their source and push an update to their devices sooner or later. Now what happens if the upstream fix from Google fails to appear? Are the devices necessarily left unprotected forever? Of course not. Google isn’t the only one capable of fixing these issues, but the OEMs can as well.

This obviously requires intervention from the manufacturer, but Google did also state that they are going to notify their partners (read the OEMs) about the security issue. So in fact, the people in charge are aware of the problem and can initiate a custom fix for the vulnerability. Now, for just a moment, let’s assume Google does provide a patch, what would this mean? What needs to happen after resolving the problem in the AOSP code?

The Update Process

First of all, Google needs to notify the OEMs that a new security patch is available and link them to the change set. After incorporating the fix into the device specific code base, the manufacturer also needs to create an update package which needs to undergo QA testing. If it’s a carrier branded device, the finished update needs carrier approval which includes more development and more testing.

Quite complicated, isn’t it? And that’s exactly the reason why you don’t see many system updates for old devices. So even if there are security related bug fixes, there’s no guarantee that the OEMs will actually push the fix in an update to your device, the entire process is just too complicated and time-consuming for them to be profitable.

Solving the Issue

Google is fully aware of the problem and their inability to push timely security updates to critical system components such as the Webview. That’s why one of the numerous important changes in Android 5.0 Lollipop is the unbundling of the Webview code into a separate package. Users won’t see a difference but for Google, this means that they can update this part independently from any other system component. In fact, they can push updates via the Play Store, completely bypassing any OEM or carrier certification. So yes, Google does care for the design flaw in older Android versions concerning quick security updates and tries to improve it with every major Android release.

Wrapping Things Up

So let’s summarize this: Is Google to blame here for not providing a patch? Yes, absolutely, after all they are responsible for the security of their users. Is Google the only one to blame? No, definitely not, as OEMs have an equal amount of responsibility to keep their devices up-to-date and secure. Even if there is no input from Google, the manufacturer can still develop a custom fix if the security of  the users is at risk. And let’s face it, with today’s update policies for older Android devices, how big is the chance that most of them will get a security update anyway?

The post Is Google the Only One to Blame for Missing Security Fixes? appeared first on xda-developers.

XDA Partners With YU On Official Device Forum

Posted by wicked January - 12 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

YUREKA+2

Here at XDA we understand that the members of the mobile community can influence the success of an OEM, for better or worse. This is based largely on how seriously the OEM takes the community and how well they engage it, or in the case of some who languish – how well they don’t. There are many ways on XDA to engage the community, from competitions to working with developers to answering questions and issues that users have right on XDA.

Recently we talked about a new OEM in India, YU Televentures, and their partnership with Cyanogen to begin selling devices in India. We’re also pleased to announce that XDA will be hosting the Official Device Forum for the brand and their first device, the YUREKA.

YU is a brand that has a vision to redefine the way people think about technology and engage with the community. YU helps create the extraordinary, invent newer ways, discover beyond the obvious and play limitless. The YUREKA is going on sale the 13th of January exclusively via Amazon.in, and they will provide kernel sources and build tree on Day 1 of the phone release. They also have plans to provide tutorials on how to build kernels and such for their device(s) via their Official Support Forum.

We are excited to see a new OEM enter the scene and from the start be committed to working with the community.

YUREKA+1

The post XDA Partners With YU On Official Device Forum appeared first on xda-developers.

5 Tweaks for a Less Annoying Android

Posted by wicked January - 10 - 2015 - Saturday Comments Off

nexus5_1-100067343-orig

If you are here it is because you probably have a liking for Android, perhaps a little more than the average smartphone user. And while Android is a great platform, and offers infinite possibilities for users and developers to do just about anything, sometimes what we want to do is conditioned by Android itself. Because the OS is certainly not perfect, and sometimes the deliberate design decisions or the obnoxious little bugs or glitches can ruin part of the amazing experience that our phones and tablets otherwise provide us.

Sometimes the OS doesn’t want to do what it should do. Sometimes it was not designed to do what it should do. Sometimes Google itself didn’t know how to make it do what it should do. Luckily, because of the previously mentioned “infinite possibilities”, the great developer community of Android has set out to fix Google’s mistakes and shortcomings in the form of various types of mods or tweaks. Some require rooting, some require flashing, and some just simply require you to download an app. Here we’ll take a look at 5 things you can do to fix today’s problems and make them a thing of the past.

 

PlayPermissionsExposed

PERMISSIONS1One of the biggest Playstore updates brought with it one of the biggest Android headaches: Permissions were now categorized vaguely in the message displayed when you set out to install an application. This isn’t just a mere nuisance, though, as it can effectively render you clueless in front of possible rogue apps, like we covered in this article. To make things worse, 42 permissions are also hidden from the list and unknown permissions defined by apps are hidden in both screens.

This module fixes that by making the Playstore show all of the apps’ permissions, and have you manually update the apps with new permissions. If you care about your data’s security or your system’s integrity, you might want to have this on your side to be extra careful for malware is on the rise.

Credit to GermainZ

 

Push Notifications Fixer

heartbeatI love this app. Now that we got that out of the way, let me just add that thanks to this mod I’ve solved this problem on several ROMs across three devices, something that often pops up and can seriously infuriate you: delayed notifications. Like we previously covered, the app fixes the delay by changing the periodic heartbeat of Android: Apps that use Google’s push service use one TCP connection to connect your phone’s to Google’s servers. The heartbeat keeps the connection alive and prevents it from timing out. By default, it occurs every 15 minutes on wi-fi and 27 minutes on mobile data. But most Wi-Fi routers and carriers automatically terminate the connection after a short period of inactivity; but your phone is not aware that the connection was closed, so it prevents you from getting notifications until the next heartbeat.

With this app you can change the heartbeat interval, to ensure all your notifications arrive instantly. It has no effect on battery life and it does not run in the background.

Credit to andQlimax

 

Xposed Media Scanner Optimizer

mediscannerWith this module you can customize how your media scanner works on your device. The main annoyance you can solve is that on each reboot the media scanner starts running and eating battery, as the device stays awake for as long as it is running. This can be particularly annoying to those developers who need to reboot their devices often. The media scanner executes on every boot, and it can take anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes to be completed. It creates an entry in the Android Media store for each file and directory it finds, and for special file types it also scans meta data. This all uses processing cycles and prevents your phone from entering deep sleep, thus consuming battery life.

This module optimizes the media scanner by making it a foreground service so that the user can monitor it. A notification will also present the user with how long the scan took once it is over. You can also tell the scanner to only scan specific file types, or have it run on a mode where only certain directories are scanned. Finally, you can also prevent it from scanning automatically and you can trigger it whenever you want.

Credit to thomashofmann

 

ActivityForceNewTask

activity new taskAnother really useful fix for a deliberate Google annoyance, this time for the way the ROM works. On Android, apps can launch other apps’ activities inside their task, but that makes it impossible to switch back and forth between the two as the new app which had its activity launched is not present in the recents menu. An example would be opening a URL from Hangouts, and have that URL start StackExchange. Without the module, you can go back to Hangouts but that will close the StackExchange instance, not allowing you to go back to it.

With this module, a separate instance is created for the launched activity’s app. It seems like the more logical approach, but it was not the way Google designed it to be. The module features a quick toggle that will make the changes effective immediately, and there is also a blacklist and whitelist to filter activities.

Credit to GermainZ

 

NoMapTips

location accuracy tipsThis is one of those fixes that just makes your experience all that sweeter. It doesn’t fix broken functionality, nor does it correct a taxing background algorithm. It just gets rid of a very annoying message you’ve probably seen many times. It’s one of those “quality of life” tweaks that you desperately miss once you lose Xposed (I’m speaking from personal experience here). For some reason, Google wants to pester you with a “tip”, suggesting you to improve your location accuracy by turning wi-fi on, every time you want to go somewhere – when your wi-fi could naturally be offline, as you are likely to be outside when using navigation. This proves immensely frustrating when you are driving somewhere with your smartphone mounted and you have to reach to it for that last final tap to finally begin smooth sailing.

Not only does this module help you get rid of that (and possibly prevent a nasty car crash), but the way the module is made makes it immune to breaking with subsequent Maps updates. So you can activate it and forget it’s there, and you most likely will. This is definitely one of my most missed modules and another tweak added to the list of reasons for considering downgrading back to Kitkat.

Credit to Kevin M

 

That’s it for this week folks! Hopefully some of these tweaks will help you fix problems you have, or get rid of unnecessary annoyances. And if they don’t help you today, I suggest you keep them in the back of your head for the day they might become useful (particularly the Push Notification Fixer app).

The post 5 Tweaks for a Less Annoying Android appeared first on xda-developers.

Signing Tool for Kindle Fire HDX Exploits Bootloader

Posted by wicked January - 9 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

HDX 7

What happens when an Android-related vulnerability is published on a website like the CodeAurora Forum? You got it! Security enthusiasts and Android developers around the world try to take advantage of the newly found problem to create an exploit, which can be used to gain advanced access to your device (such as root access or the ability to flash custom images).

This is exactly what happened to CVE-2014-0973, a vulnerability in an Android Bootloader dubbed “Little Kernel (LK)”. We will talk about the specifics of the exploit a bit later, but for now let’s take a look at what the developers have come up with.

XDA Forum Member vortox has managed to implement an exploit based on CVE-2014-0973 and published a tool for the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX series, that can sign custom boot images if you are using an older bootloader version. The key point here is that you don’t need any kind of unlocking or other trickery to make it work – the exploit allows the tool to sign images in a way that they pass the verification stage in the bootloader with flying colors.

The next part of this article will focus on how the exploit works and why it’s quite sad to see this special vulnerability in a piece of modern software, so if you just want to get your hands on the tool as quickly as possible, head over to the original post and sign away.

The Details

800px-RSA_Security_logo.rect_Ok, so let’s check out the details of CVE-2014-0973. The issue is all about RSA, an encryption standard also used to sign Android boot images. Put shortly, RSA is a public-key cryptosystem where you have two keys, a private key and a public key. Usually the public key (which can be shared with anyone) is used to encrypt a message which then can only be decrypted again with the private key (which is kept private, hence the name). That way two parties can communicate without ever disclosing their private keys, which are required to decrypt.

However, RSA can also be used to verify the contents of a message (or in our world, to “sign” something). In this case, the message gets encrypted with the private key and can then be shared with the receiver. The public key can then be used to decrypt the message and if the decryption works properly, the receiver can be sure that the encrypted contents originate from the original author and aren’t tempered with in any way.

Speaking of tampering, signature verification is a very important feature for all Android OEMs, as it’s essential to verify that a piece of software is indeed from the OEM and not some third party (for example from an XDA developer). So for example, when trying to flash a new boot image on your device, the following happens: the bootloader will look at the digital RSA signature of the image, decrypt it with its public key and therefore make sure that the image was signed by the intended author (the OEM, which is the only one with the matching private key).

The decrypted signature contains a hash value of the boot image data, which then can be used to compare against the actual data that is about to be flashed. So at this point, the bootloader calculates the hash value of the boot image and compares it against the hash it found in the RSA signature. If these two hashes match each other, it is fairly certain (enough for it to be secure by today’s standards) that the contents are not tampered with and that the owner of the private key signed the image. Which basically means that it’s stock software from the OEM that is fine to be flashed.

That part was probably a little bit harder to grasp, so make sure you understood it before continuing.

The Vulnerability

Now what about the vulnerability, why does it allow us to sign boot images despite the lack of the private key (which only the OEM has)? Well, it turns out that the implementation of the RSA signature verification in the Little Kernel bootloader is flawed. The issue here is that the decryption algorithm doesn’t verify the length of the data it is handling. While this may sound rather innocent, security concerned readers will immediately see the problem. Cryptosystems always need to validate their input data the best way possible, simply assuming the data is “right” makes the whole process wide open to various attacks.

And that’s exactly what happened here. The missing length check enables exploiters to forge a valid signature by adding custom data to the signature which, in turn, makes it look valid to the verification check in the bootloader. Explaining this in detail would go beyond the scope of this article, but at the end are a few links for further reading about the topic.

If you look at the website that published the vulnerability, it first appears that the issue has been made public rather recently, on June 13, 2014, but upon further research you will quickly discover that it’s a bit older. Way older in fact. The original issue dates back as far as 2006, where Daniel Bleichenbacher talked about it on stage of the International Cryptology Conference. Obviously, he wasn’t talking about an Android bootloader there, but he discovered that many RSA signature implementations had the potentially disastrous flaw. Today, almost nine years later, we can still profit from the very old vulnerability as it enables Amazon Fire HDX owners to sign custom boot images which can be used to root the device or flash a custom recovery.

If you want to have a more detailed picture of what is happening behind the scenes, make sure to check out these links:

The post Signing Tool for Kindle Fire HDX Exploits Bootloader appeared first on xda-developers.

The History of Flagships: Part II – Samsung

Posted by wicked January - 9 - 2015 - Friday Comments Off

samsung-galaxy-Android-5

Recently, we started the History of Flagships series here at XDA. In the first chapter, we took a look at Sony’s mobile history and their struggle to carve a niche in the Android world. Sony is just one of the many OEMs battling for a spot in your heart, pocket, and wallet. Today, we would like to walk you through some of the flagships produced by Android’s most powerful player: Samsung.

Despite growing competition around the globe, Samsung remained the clear leader in worldwide smartphone sales for Q3 2014, netting over 23 percent of the overall smartphone market share. The Korean OEM’s success is built on the Galaxy brand, with over 50 unique devices including smartphones, phablets, tablets, watches, cameras, and whatever else you can imagine. Samsung is everywhere and sees every person on the planet as a potential customer. Despite a somewhat rocky start, Samsung’s recent flagship devices have been labeled as some of the best devices currently available on the market. One subset of the Galaxy family is the more productivity-oriented Note series, which as we all know has proven to be extremely popular and well received.

Rough Beginnings

samsung-i7500-pressEverything begun back in June 2009, when the first Samsung Galaxy device was released to the public. Samsung took over a year to launch its device, which ended up competing with devices of the era such as the HTC Dream and the Motorola Droid. The I7500 was a “3.5G” smarphone, offering quad band GSM and tri-band HSDPA. The phone featured a 3.2-inch 320×480 touchscreen display based on AMOLED technology. It was powered by a 528 MHz ARM11 CPU with a 256 MHz DSP 256 chip, and it featured 128 MB of RAM. The device offered 8 GB of internal storage, and featured microSD expanadbility. The I7500 had a 5 Megapixel camera with flash, which produced great shots for the day. In addition to mobile data, users could also connect using Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS. And in addition to its touch screen, the device featured five physical buttons to control such functions as calls and some aspects of UI navigation.

The Samsung Galaxy GT-I7500 shipped with Android 1.5 Cupcake, and it was later updated to Android 1.6. Samsung was widely criticized for not providing updates for its first Android flagship device–a valid concern as well as a rather poor start in conquering the Android ecosystem. Luckily, Samsung learned what should be avoided while launching the device. While this Korean OEM still struggles at long term support, their current devices have received much better update support.

S is for Success!

The second Galaxy offering saw a much greater degree of market success. In March 2010, Samsung announced it’s first truly successful flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy S. The device was distributed in over 20 regional and carrier variants, including the Samsung Captivate, Samsung Vibrant and Samsung Epic 4G. The international version (codenamed GT-I9000) featured a Samsung Exynos 3 SoC with a 1 GHz single-core ARM CPU and a 200 MHz PowerVR SGX 540 GPU. Samsung decided to put 512 MB RAM and either 8 or 16 GB of internal storage. One particularly impressive feature was its 4-inch 480×800 Super AMOLED panel. Moreover, the Galaxy S was just 9.9 mm in thickness, making it the thinnest smartphone on the market at launch. The phone had three hardware buttons designed to make navigation as easy as possible.

The Samsung Galaxy S launched with Android 2.1 and TouchWiz 3.0. Samsung issued two major Android updates: Android 2.2 Froyo and 2.3 Gingerbread. TouchWiz allowed users to play with up to seven homescreens and provided many user experience enhancements. Due to the UI layer’s heaviness, Samsung decided not to provide an update to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. However, the South Korean variant of the SGS received a “value pack,” which contained some features backported from TouchWiz 4.0 such as face unlock. At the time of release, the original Galaxy S was a compelling alternative to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, HTC Desire, Google Nexus One, and even the Apple iPhone and HTC HD2 Samsung sold over 25 million units, which places the Samsung Galaxy S eleventh on the list of best selling smarphones of all time.

Success v2

The successor to the Samsung Galaxy Swas released in May 2011. Unsurprisingly, it was named the Samsung Galaxy S II. This phone featured a 1.2 GHz dual core Samsung Exynos 4 SoC (and ARM Mali-400 GPU). Some other variants were powered by either the Texas Instruments OMAP4430 or the Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 APQ8060 SoCs. In addition to the nice SoC, Samsung loaded the device with 1 GB of RAM, a 4.3” Super AMOLED Plus panel, and an 8 megapixel rear camera. The phone featured 16 GB of internal storage, expandable to 64 GB with a microSD card. It was one of the first devices to offer Mobile High-Definition Link. USB on-the-go was also supported. The powerful specs, impressive connectivity, and stunning display made the device one of the most anticipated smartphones of the day. On 9 May 2011, Samsung announced that they had received pre-orders for 3 million units, demonstrating an impressive sales start. Samsung improved upon the original SGS in all the right ways, and made the device greater than ever.

Tspecification_imghe Galaxy S II launched with Android 2.3 featuring the TouchWiz 4.0 user interface layer. It was updated to Android 2.3.6 in December of that year, and Android 4.0.3 a few months later in March 2012. The last update for this phone was Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean back in 2013. The iteration of TouchWiz for the device featured tons of modifications atop AOSP such as hardware acceleration for various 2D UI elements (a feature later incorporated into Android 3.0 Honeycomb and beyond), gesture-based interaction, and more. The Jelly Bean update brought some enhancements from the Samsung Galaxy S II’s successors such as Direct Call, Pop-up Play, Smart Stay, and Easy Mode.

Samsung also released plenty of similar variants such as the Samsung Galaxy R, which features the Nvidia Tegra 2 SoC instead the Exynos processor. As was the case with its predecessor, the SII was also available in numerous carrier and regional variants released in over 120 countries. The list of spin-off devices is quite long and includes phones such as the Samsung Galaxy W, Galaxy Ace Plus, and even the somewhat-related Samsung Nexus S and Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

The Samsung Galaxy SII was named “SmartPhone of the Year” at the 2012 Mobile World Congress’s Global Mobile Awards. Critical reception was pretty great, and the Samsung Galaxy SII is considered to be one of thebest smartphones ever released. With over 40 million sold units, the SII is ranked as 10th most popular smartphone of all time.

Happy Marriage with Google

While discussing the first two S phones, we can’t forget about the first Samsung-produced Nexus device, the Google Nexus S. This device was co-developed by Google and Samsung, and manufactured by Samsung Electronics for release in December 2010. The Samsung Nexus S was the first device to ship with Android 2.3, and it was also the first device to support Near Field Communication (NFC) in both hardware and software. This was the fourth time Google decided to work with an external manufacturer to create a handset. The Nexus S had 16 GB of NAND memory, Google-Galaxy-Nexus-and-Nexus-Spartitioned as 1 GB of internal storage and 15 GB of USB storage. The device lacked a microSD card, but it featured a slightly curved glass touchscreen. Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S, the Nexus S was updated to Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean.

On 17 November 2011 , Samsung created yet another Nexus smartphone for Google. The Galaxy Nexus featured the dual-core 1.2 GHz TI OMAP 4460 SoC, featuring two ARM Cortex A9 cores and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. It also rocked 1 GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of internal storage (without microSD card slot), a 4.65″ 1280×720 HD Super AMOLED panel (PenTile), and a 5 megapixel camera. The Galaxy Nexus had no physical buttons on its front face, as they were replaced by software navigation keys. The popular GNex was the first device to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and it was updated to Android 4.1, 4.2, and 4.3. Unfortunately, the device failed to receive an update to KitKat, likely due to a lack of adequate driver binaries, following TI’s exit from the mobile SoC market. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus was released in a few variants specified to work with American, Australian or Korean carriers.

Samsung Galaxy S III: The iPhone Killer

“Designed for Humans (Inspired by Nature)” was the slogan for one of the most successful Android devices of all time. The Samsung Galaxt S III was released on 29 May 2012. This phone was a powerful device with what some would consider to be a cheap-looking industrial design. The phone featured a 4.8” 1280×720 HD Super AMOLED touchscreen covered with Gorilla Glass II. Like the previous models, the S III was released in two main variants: one with the Samsung Exynos 4, and another with the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960. The Exynos version featured a 1.4 GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU and Mali-400 MP4 GPU, whereas the Qualcomm Smartphone Galaxy S3edition had “just” two cores clocked at 1.5 GHz. Samsung put only 1 GB of RAM in the international version of the device, which later proved problematic in trying to deliver KitKat to its users. The Korean variant with LTE had 2 GB of RAM, and as such, it was given official KitKat love. The phone was available in various storage sizes (16, 32 or 64 GB). To round out the hardware specs, it also offered an 8 megapixel camera.

In terms of software, Samsung based the original release on Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with TouchWiz Nature UX. “Nature” as seem in the S III featured a more “organic” feel than previous versions, with more interactive elements such as a water ripple effect on the lock screen. Samsung has also added S-Voice, which served as their answer to Apple’s Siri. This software was able to recognize eight languages including English, Italian, French, and Korean. The device’s firmware contained so called “smart” features to facilitate improved human-device interactivity. To that end, the phone “knew” when a user wanted to pick up a call. Since its release, the S3’s Android version has been updated to 4.3 Jelly Bean. Due to TouchWiz’s memory demands, Samsung only managed to deliver a KitKat update to the Korean 2 GB version described above.

The hardware design of the SGS3 was similar to the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The user could select multiple color variants including white, blue-grey, red, black, brown and gray. The “Garnet Red” model was available only on AT&T. The design of the device was considered by many to be underwhelming, but despite all the critics, the Samsung Galaxy S III was one of the most popular devices with over 60 millions of units sold.

Here Come Eight Cores!

The next Samsung Galaxy S came less than a year after the S3’s release. On 14 March 2013, Samsung upgraded the S3’s hardware and software and created the Galaxy S4. While the device featured a very similar design aesthetic to its predecessor, the OEM added various new features such as eye tracking and hover finger detection. The Samsung Galaxy S4img_kv_01_phone was released on a whooping 327 carriers in 155 countries just one month later.

Once again, Samsung decided to release its phone with both Exynos and Qualcomm systems-on-a-chips, depending on carriers and countries. This time, Samsung chose the Samsung Exynos 5 Octa-core 5410 (featuring the tri-core PowerVR SGX544 GPU) and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 (and its Adreno 320 GPU), depending on region. All Qualcomm variants have LTE support, while the support on Exynos devices varies based on region. The SGS 4 had 2 GB of RAM and 16 or 32 GB of internal storage. The S4 gained a bit of size compared to its predecessor, featuring a 5″ 1080p touchscreen covered by Gorilla Glass. The camera also increased in resolution to make sure that shots taken look great on the new screen.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 was released with Android 4.2.2 and TouchWiz Nature UX, which is based on the previous version of the interface. Samsung added even more eye tracking capabilities such as Smart Scroll. Samsung issued two updates to the device, bringing Android 4.3 and 4.4 to this not-so-old smartphone. Just a few weeks ago, the Android 5.0 update started to roll-out.

Like many of its predecessors, the S4 was released in many variants. To prevent grey market reselling, models of the S4 manufactured after July 2013 implemented a regional lockout system in certain regions. Among the many regional variants, Samsung released a Google Play edition. This variant contained a stock AOSP ROM, and it was directly supported by Google. The S4’s reception was quite warm, although some journalists criticized Samsung for cramming in too many applications and features. This phone is the best commercial Android device sold by Samsung, with a whooping 80 million sold.

Building on the Success of its Predecessor

The most recent Samsung Galaxy S phone is the S5. This time, the Korean engineers aimed to improve the device’s build quality with a new textured back, as well as give it IP67 water and dust resistanceSM-G900FZKAXEO-53-0. The S5 featured several new security features such as a fingerprint reader on the home button and private mode, as well as expanded health features (such as a built-in heart rate monitor), and an updated camera. The Samsung Galaxy S5 was unveiled at Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona.

This 5.1” Full HD device features the Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5422 (with Mali T628MP6 GPU) or Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 (featuring the Adreno 330 GPU) for the LTE version, or the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 in the LTE-Advanced version. Samsung used 2 GB of RAM and gave its users 16 or 32 GB of internal storage. The storage can be expanded by up to 128 GB through a microSD card. The S5 includes a 16 megapixel rear camera. Unlike other models, the LTE-A version also upgrades the display to a quad HD, 1440p panel.

The phone was released with Android 4.4 KitKat with TouchWiz Nature UX 3.0 software. The interface was re-designed with a flatter and more geometric look. These changes were due in part to a licensing deal with Google, in which the Mountain View company required Samsung to follow a more Android-inspired design. The settings menu was updated with a new grid-based layout. A “kid mode” was also been included. An interesting feature that was also introduced is the new “download booster,” which allows users to combine Wi-Fi and LTE to get higher download speeds. Recently, the Galaxy S5 received its update to Android 5.0 Lollipop.

All Galaxy S phones starting with the Galaxy S3 contain KNOX security software. Samsung added it to make devices safer and more business friendly. For power users like ourselves, KNOX is somewhat of a curse that we have to live with. Flashing a custom ROM likely trips the KNOX flag, leading to a potential warranty issue. Users have to decide whether they prefer to take the risk and flash a custom ROM or kernel, or stick with the stock firmware so that they can rely on Samsung’s service if something goes wrong.

A Notable Success

The Galaxy brand isn’t limited to just the Galaxy S line. During the past several years, Samsung also released several incredibly successful phablets, notable tablets, and novel watches that can be considered flagships as well. Samsung took a stab at productivity-minded clients with its Galaxy Note line. The Samsung Galaxy Note includes both phablets and tablets. Here’s a short history of the line, which started back in Samsung_N7000_1 late 2011.

The first phablet (portmanteau of the words phone and tablet) was released at IFA Berlin 2011. The original Samsung Galaxy Note featured an incredibly large (for the era) 5.3” HD Super AMOLED screen and a Wacom-powered S Pen stylus to greatly enhance the phone’s productivity potential. Just like the Galaxy S line, the original Note was released in two major variants with Exynos and Qualcomm SoCs. The Exynos 4210 version contained a dual core 1.4 GHz CPU and Mali 400 MP GPU, while the Qualcomm variant features a dual core 1.5 GHz Scorpion CPU and Adreno 220 GPU. This device features LTE connectivity, 1 GB RAM, and 16/32 GB storage expandable with microSD card. The phablet shipped with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and TouchWiz, and it was later updated to Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich and Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Samsung added tons of features to maximize the stylus experience, including a handwriting mode. This phablet quickly turned out to be quite successful, and Samsung celebrated 10 million of sales in 2012.

The second attempt at the Galaxy note was Galaxy-Note-II-N7100even more successful. Unveiled on August 29, 2012 and released a few months later, the Galaxy Note II was the successor to the original Galaxy Note. This time, Samsung used a larger 5.5” screen, as well as an updated hardware design based on that of the Galaxy S III. The Note 2 features an Exynos 4 (4412) SoC with a quad-core 1.6 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 CPU and Mali-400 MP4 GPU. The phablet’s RAM was doubled, and the phone was made available in three variants featuring 16, 32 and 64 GB internal storage. The S Pen was also upgraded to allow for a new hoverbox feature. The Note 2 was released with Android 4.1.2, and it received updates to Android 4.4.2. Samsung is planning to update it to Lollipop, which should be available very soon. Like any other Galaxy Device, the Note 2’s firmware features the TouchWiz interface. The Note II is undoubtedly one of the Korean OEM’s most successful devices, shipping nearly 40 million units worldwide.

samsung_galaxy_note3_note3neoThe Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was released in late 2013, and was the first smartphone to feature 3GB of RAM. With the Note 3, Samsung made the jump to Full HD displays for its phablets. The Note 3 features a larger 5.7” 1080p Super AMOLED panel, but it retains the slim profile of its predecessors. It offers a 13-megapixel camera with an improved flash, and of course improved S Pen functionality. Like its predecessors, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was available in a few variants. The N9005 utilized the 2.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 SoC, while the international N9000 featured the octa-core Exynos 5420, consisting of four 1.9 GHz Cortex-A15 cores and four 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 cores in a big.LITTLE arrangement. The Galaxy Note 3 is also the first smartphone to include support for faster USB 3.0 data transfers and charging when connected to a compatible port. The Note 3 shipped Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and TouchWiz Nature UX 2.5. Currently, the device is in the process of receiving its Android 5.0 Lollipop update.

Samsung also released a more budget-friendly variant of the Note 3 named the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo. This phablet sports a smaller screen (5.5″ Super AMOLED), 2 GB of RAM, and either 16 or 32 GB of storage. The Note 3 Neo is available in two variants: a hexa-core 1.7 GHz Cortex-A15 and 1.3 GHz Cortex-A7 Exynos 5260 with LTE support and the ARM Mali T624MP6 GPU, or a quad-core 1.6 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon with the Adreno 305 GPU. The device is scheduled to receive its Lollipop update quite soon.

Samsung-Galaxy-Note-4The latest premium phablet by Samsung is the Galaxy Note 4. It was released in September 2014, and it offers a 5.7-inch 1440 x 2560-pixel (Quad HD) display, 3GB of RAM, 32 GB of storage, 16 MP rear camera, and a powerful Exynos or Snapdragon SoC. As before, there are different variants for different regions, including one with the Exynos 5433 SoC with eight cores running at up to 1.9GHz and the Mali T760 GPU, as well as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 with a quad 2.7 GHz CPU and Adreno 420 GPU. The Note 4 is also the first in the Note series to get optical image stabilization for its main camera. The Note 4 shipped with Android 4.4 KitKat OS with TouchWiz Nature UX 3.0, and is expecting Lollipop very shortly

 

Other Samsung Flagships

Phones and phablets aren’t the only premium devices Samsung has to offer. In February 2013, the Korean OEM announced two new tablets: the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. Both are powered by the Samsung Samsung-Galaxy-Note-10.1-2014-Edition-vs-Galaxy-Note-10.1-2012-versionExynos 4412 quad-core SoC. The 10.1 version uses a slightly underclocked 1.4 GHz CPU, while 8.0 is powered by a 1.6 GHz part. Otherwise, the specifications are very similar. Both devices feature 2 GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of storage, a 5 megapixel camera, and WXGA (800×1280) displays. The tablets shipped with Android 4.1.2, and are upgradable to Android 4.4.2 KitKat.

In 2014 Samsung announced another premium tablet, the redesigned Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition). The tablet features the 1.9 GHz octa-core Samsung Exynos 5420 SoC processor (for Wi-Fi/3G & Wi-Fi variants), or the 2.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 SoC processor (for 4G/LTE). Samsung gave the device 3 GB of RAM, as well as three choices in internal storage: 16, 32 and 64 GB. The tablet features a 10.1″ WQXGA (2560×1600) Super Clear PLS TFT display with excellent image quality. It was released with Android 4.3 and TouchWiz Nature UX 2.5, and the Android 5.0 Lollipop update is on its way.

The OEM also announced another true beast of a device in early 2014. The monstrous Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 features powerful hardware such as its 12.2″ 2560×1600 WQXGA PLS display, highly useful S Pen, and high end processor. Depending on connectivity option selected, the Note Pro 12.2 features either the Samsung Exynos 5420 SoC processor (Wi-Fi) or 2.3 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 SoC processor (4G/LTE). These devices utilize the ARM Mali-T628MP6 and Adreno 330 GPUs, respectively. The tablet comes with 3 GB of RAM and two storage options (32 and 64 GB). Everything is powered by a humongous 9.500 mAh battery, giving the device impressive longevity. The tablet was released with Android 4.4.2 and TouchWiz Nature UX 3.0, but it’s quite clear that it will soon be updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop.

That’s All Folks!

As you can see, Samsung had a little bit of a bumpy ride to the top. However, the OEM quickly learned its lessons early, and became one of the most dominant OEMs in the Android ecosystem. They are also one of the most recognizable brands in Android, and there is a fair chance that you’ve used (or are using) one of their devices. This series will continue, and next time, we will take a look at Motorola. See you again next time and thanks for reading!

The post The History of Flagships: Part II – Samsung appeared first on xda-developers.

IntoCircuit Power Castle 11,200 mAh Power Bank Review

Posted by wicked January - 8 - 2015 - Thursday Comments Off

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Currently, used batteries last for no longer than a couple of days. Processors, graphical units, and the Android OS itself require lots of juice. Simple loading using the AC charger may be not enough, especially while you’re traveling.

A few years ago, you could have simply swapped the battery and continued to enjoy your phone. However, many current handsets, especially high-end ones, have built-in batteries, so all you can do while traveling is use a portable power bank battery charger. While this may sound a little odd, the power bank technology has come a long way and if you haven’t already got one, you may want to consider looking into them.

There is a variety of different power banks and they all range in price. You can get the cheapest, least capacitive models for just a few bucks or spend some more to get a model able to charge your phone a few times. Recently, I received a test unit of the IntoCircuit Power Castle 11200 mAh, which you can find for around $24 on Amazon. I would like to share my opinion about this model and hopefully help you make up your mind while looking for a power bank.

When unboxing the IntoCircuit Power Castle, you find a cigarette pack-sized power bank with a brushed aluminum shell, a quite long (~15”) microUSB cable, and a good looking soft carry case. The device is quite heavy, and features high quality Samsung Grade A Lithium-ion cells. You’ll also find a short manual and warranty card in the package. 71zuOrUcu0L._SL1500_

One of the biggest gripes I have with the majority of currently distributed power banks is that they use a four-LED system to show the remaining capacity. This system just simply doesn’t cut it. It’s extremely hard to judge exactly how much power you have left in your charger, which may lead you to rather unpleasant surprises when you run out of juice. IntoCircuit Power Castle, however, uses a nice looking and accurate LED display. A small screen shows the exact percentage of how much battery is left and indicates which of the two available ports is currently in use. The screen has a blue backlight that disables itself after a few seconds of use to stop consuming the precious juice inside. Double tapping on the power button will activate the built-in LED flashlight, that can help you out with finding the microUSB port in your device. The charging process starts automatically after the device is connected. It’s also automatically disabled when you plug out the cable.

Another great feature of this power bank is that it supports passthrough charging. You can connect your phone or tablet to one of two USB ports (2.1A or 1.0A) and charge it, while the power bank itself is being charged with external AC charger. This certainly makes the process of charging of both devices much more convenient.

The available capacity should allow you to charge your phone at least two times before needing to plug the bank into a power supply. This only applies to high-end phones with larger batteries such as the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, or OnePlus One. Phones with smaller batteries can be charged up to five times, which is pretty impressive considering the low price of the power bank.

To wrap things up, I would definitely recommend getting this gadget. It’s fast, reliable, filled with features, and pretty good looking. It does make some noise when charging, but this is certainly not a deal breaker. If you are looking for an affordable power bank that’s built with quality, the IntoCircuit Power Castle 11,200 mAh may be the right choice.

Thanks to XDA Junior Member consifu for sending me the test unit.

The post IntoCircuit Power Castle 11,200 mAh Power Bank Review appeared first on xda-developers.

Forums Added: LG G Flex 2, Asus ZenFone 2, Much More!

Posted by Will Verduzco January - 7 - 2015 - Wednesday Comments Off

lg_g_flex_2_leaked_press_release_image_via_phonearena

Here at XDA-Developers, we continually strive to do everything we can to encourage mobile development. Much of this revolves around providing tools for the third-party developers who call XDA home. To that end, we frequently add forums for new and exciting devices in the hopes of spurring aftermarket development. Today, we’re happy to announce the creation of six new device forums here at XDA!

First and foremost, we have the LG G Flex 2, which comes as the successor to last year’s highly successful LG G Flex. This device, which we talked about two days ago, was officially unveiled at this year’s CES. It features a 64-bit, double quad-core (big.LITTLE) Snapdragon 810; laser auto focus and optical image stabilization for the camera; a 5.5″ 1080p P-OLED panel; and the same self-healing back as last year’s design. All of this is housed in an enclosure that’s actually slimmer and sleeker than the original G Flex. In other words, this powerhouse is a slimmer, faster, and sexier update to last year’s model.

Next, we have two devices from Taiwanese OEM Asus: the Asus ZenFone 2 and the Asus ZenFone Zoom. The former is Asus’s attempt at the phablet market currently dominated by the Samsung Galaxy Note lineup, while the latter lives up to the name by offering a powerful, 10-element 3x optical zoom camera lens. Finally, we also created forums for the midrange HTC Desire 616, as well as the budget-friendly Blu Studio 5 and the incredibly thin Blu Vivo Air.

Are you looking at picking up any of these new devices in the coming months? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to head over to the newly created forums below!

The post Forums Added: LG G Flex 2, Asus ZenFone 2, Much More! appeared first on xda-developers.

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