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Device Review: OnePlus One

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

oneplusone1

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

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

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

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

OnePlus One

Display

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

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

Hardware

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

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

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

Battery

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

Never Settle

Camera

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

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

Speakers

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

OnePlus One Hacking

Software

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

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

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

Hackability

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

Victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Android L SD Card

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

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

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

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

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

My concerns:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Android Platform Stats

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

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

julyplatformstats2

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

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

 platformstats3

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

[Source: Android Developer Dashboard]

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

Rovo89 Speaks up Regarding ART and Android L Support

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

xposed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Android L Developer Preview SDK

Android L Developer Preview SDK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DX5KPsl

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

[Via Daniel Velazco]

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

android wear tv auto

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

Android’s Early Beginnings

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

Increased Platform Unity

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

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

Questions Remain

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

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

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

[Source: GoogleArs]

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

First Impressions with Android L Developer Preview

Posted by Will Verduzco June - 26 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Android L on the Google Nexus 5

Android L on the Google Nexus 5It’s now been several hours since the release of the Android L Developer Preview Images. Undoubtedly, many of you reading this have already loaded the preview firmware onto your Nexus 5 or Nexus 7 (2013). However, not everyone is lucky enough to own one of these devices–and even if you have an N5 or N7 by your side, you may not be willing to wipe your data in order to flash test images.

In the time since release, we’ve been poking and prodding at the Android L Developer Preview firmware on a Nexus 5 to see how far Google has come with L and where there’s still room for improvement. Head past the break to see our initial impressions.

Material Design

The very first thing you’ll notice when you fire up Android L is its new UI paradigm, Material Design. As we mentioned in our coverage yesterday, this new UI is radically different from anything we’ve seen in Android thus far, and it manifests itself practically everywhere in Android.

From text entry fields to buttons to scrollable lists and the default keyboard, a good deal of the UI has received a much needed facelift with L. There are also animations aplenty. And yes, they all run incredibly smoothly–at least on the Nexus 5. Perhaps the most significant of the UI changes involve the notification shade, settings menu, lock screen, navigation bar, and Recents.

Quick Settings
Lock Screen Quick Toggles
settings
Lock Screen Hidden Notification
Lock Screen Notification
Recents3

Your lock screen now displays multiple, actionable notifications, which can be expanded with a two-finger drag. In addition, the notification bar and quick settings menu have been merged into a single dropdown. To access the toggles, you now simply pull down a second time. And on the topic of toggles, they now work as one would expect (i.e. tapping a toggle changes your setting rather than dumping you into a particular page in the Settings app).

Unfortunately, several L features that were explicitly mentioned in the Keynote are not present in the developer preview. This includes the highly anticipated tab differentiation feature within the new Recents menu, which would have enabled users to manage tabs directly from their multitasking menu. In addition, there are quite a few UI inconsistencies within the Settings menu, which can be seen below:

Screenshot_2014-06-26-18-55-24
Screenshot_2014-06-26-18-55-27
Screenshot_2014-06-26-18-55-33

On the plus side, the settings menu does look a lot cleaner overall. And to make things easier for new users, there’s even a search button, which can be seen in the screenshots above.

Despite Material Design’s far reaching effects, not every visual change that’s slated for Android L has made its way into the developer preview. For example, the updated Android Design guidelines showed a new documents UI, a new Gallery interface, refreshed inbox and so on. Unfortunately, none of these changes found their way into the developer preview. In fact, Gallery isn’t even present in the Developer Preview, but we’ll go into that later.

In short, all of the UI changes look great. And despite their incomplete status at this time, the overall look has been much improved. That said, we’re certainly looking forward to the rest of what’s in store for Android L’s visual makeover.

Do Not Disturb

Stock Android finally offers DND functionality, and it works quite well. This can be enabled right from your notification bar quick toggles. This is accomplished through the notifications tile, which when tapped takes you to a do not disturb menu that can be enabled indefinitely or for a predefined amount of time.

DND Notification
DND Mode2

You can also set exceptions that limit DND’s effect to either calls or messages, as well as make it so that certain groups of contacts are exempt. Finally, you can even configure DND mode to automatically turn on and off at a predefined time–useful for those who work in quiet environments or long for undisturbed sleep.

Screenshot_2014-06-26-17-44-09

Project Volta

Project Volta is here, albeit in somewhat limited form. Google’s looking to improve battery life on Android devices, and Volta is the first real step towards making this happen. Volta is comprised of several new features, namely Battery Saver mode as well as the new Battery Historian UI.

Battery Saver mode works exactly as you would expect. It allows you to reduce device performance and screen brightness when enabled. This has the immediately noticeable effect of reducing the UI’s frame rate, severely limiting animations, and lowering screen brightness.

Battery Saver mode can be configured to automatically turn itself on when you reach a certain battery level–either 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, or always on. And as you would expect, plugging in your device temporarily disables Battery Saver mode. Unfortunately, however, the Battery Historian UI is not yet available at this time.

Applications

Android L Preview introduces a few changes to the bundled apps–at least on the Nexus 5. Of note, the stock Gallery app has finally been removed in favor of Google+ Photos. You also have an all new dialer, and a reworked calculator.

Screenshot_2014-06-26-18-19-36
Screenshot_2014-06-26-18-19-54
Screenshot_2014-06-26-18-19-50
Screenshot_2014-06-26-18-19-59
Screenshot_2014-06-26-18-20-02

But on the topic of applications, we also have to mention third party applications. The majority of third party apps should work fine, without a hitch, but there are of course many that don’t. For example, the popular puzzle game Dots doesn’t work on L developer preview, even though it ran perfectly on KitKat (even with ART enabled). Hopefully as we approach L’s formal release, app compatibility will increase.

Easter Egg and Developer Settings

Android wouldn’t exactly be “Android” without an Easter Egg, right? Luckily, even in the Developer Preview, we have an L-themed surprise. And just as before, it can be accessed by spastically pressing your Android version. And for those of you wondering: Yes, you can still get into Developer Settings by tapping the build number seven times in a row.

EasterEgg2
EasterEgg1
About
Developer Options

 

This is the new face of Android, and it sure is beautiful. What are your thoughts on all of Android L’s main changes? Are you a fan of Material Design and all of L’s new features, or are you reserving judgement for when the OS has matured a little more? Have you already tried L on your own device(s)? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

The post First Impressions with Android L Developer Preview appeared first on xda-developers.

Google I/O 2014 Keynote Highlights

Posted by Will Verduzco June - 26 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Google I/O 2014 Keynote

Google I/O 2014 KeynoteThe first day of Google I/O 2014 has come and gone, and just as we were expecting, Google used the opening keynote to shed some light on the future of Android, Chrome, Android Wear, Android Auto, Android TV, Google Cloud Platform, and Google Play. While the keynote was available for live stream viewing from the comfort of your own home, we’ve boiled down the nearly three hour keynote to its most important highlights for those who lack the time to watch the entire presentation.

Android Platform Momentum

Like I/O events of yore, yesterday’s keynote began by discussing the momentum seen in Android. As expected, Google’s mobile OS has seen drastic usage increases in one year’s time.

In terms of 30-day active users, Android went from 220 million in 2012 to 550 million last year. This figure is up to 1 billion users now. Users are also using their devices more, as there are 20 billion text messages sent every day, as well as 93 million “selfies.” In addition, users are checking their phones 100 billion times daily, with an average of 125 phone checks per person, per day.

In addition to smartphones, Android tablets are also on the rise. Android’s tablet share has gone from 39% in 2012 to 46% in 2013 and 62% now. This obviously doesn’t include forked Android platforms such as Kindle. Judging by YouTube usage, Android tablets saw 28% in 2013 and 42% now.

androidone - micromaxAndroid One

Despite the massive success Android has enjoyed to date, Google is looking to expand further. For the future, Google wants to focus on the “next five billion users,” namely by targeting emerging markets. Android One accomplishes this through a set of hardware reference platforms with a high emphasis on quality. Google will pre-qualify vendors and have turnkey solutions ready for OEMs to build devices easily, with minimal strife.

Software on Android One devices will be stock Android. OEMs and integrators may choose to add Google Play auto install apps, but these may be uninstalled by the user. There are already three main device OEMs on the bandwagon: Spice, Karbonn, and Micromax, with the last one aiming at a sub-$100 price point.

polymer2Android L Preview

We’ve already talked at length about the new user-facing features in Android L, as well as some of the underlying changes that will improve the overall user experience. So if you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out our coverage of the new significant features in L, as well as our closer look at L’s new UI paradigm, Material Design. But for those looking for a short, ten-second summary, L’s greatest changes come in the form of Material Design UI, upgraded notifications, a new Recent Apps UI, Improved CPU and GPU performance, improved battery life, and better permissions handling.

wearAndroid Wear

Wearables are THE hot topic for 2014, and I/O went on to further demonstrate this. One of the main goals of Android Wear is to reduce the number of times you are forced to check your smartphone every day, which averages 125 checks per day across users. Wear will accomplish this by letting you stay engaged in your current activity and understanding the context of what you care about.

The Wear UI was demonstrated in great detail. Swiping up and down takes you through the stream of cards, all of which feature Material Design UI stylings, just like Android L. There is also full phone integration, where you can swipe to reject calls or swipe up to reply via a predefined SMS. There’s also a do not disturb mode, which can be activated with a single downward swipe, and heart rate monitor support on certain devices. And of course, Wear supports voice commands with new ones on the way such as “OK Google, call me a car” integration with Lyft.

android autoAndroid Auto

It is estimated that a quarter of all automobile accidents are caused by mobile device usage. Android Auto hopes to change all this with a redesigned Android UI tailored specifically to the tasks that users are likely to do in the car. This includes bringing navigation, communication, and music front and center. Android Auto is also contextual and voice enabled, allowing you to use many of the same voice commands that you’re familiar with on your smartphone or tablet.

Android Auto offers a full suite of APIs for audio (e.g. music, streaming radio, podcasts, etc) and messaging (e.g. incoming messages, voice responses) apps. Android Auto has support from the Open Automotive Alliance, with over 40 partners and over 25 car manufacturers bringing Auto-enabled cars soon. The first cars with Android Auto will be arriving by the year’s end.

androidtvAndroid TV and Google Cast

Next, we have Google’s latest efforts to conquer your living room. Android TV aims to continue where the Chromecast left off by making your next (or current) TV smarter. Android TV will provide contextual content information for actors and show information, all of which is interrelated. And thanks to the power of Google Voice Search and Knowledge Graph, you’re able to query Android TV for content such as the “Oscar-nominated movies for 2002,” or to find out “who played Katniss in the Hunger Games.” Also key to Android TV is a new leanback experience, with building blocks present for developers to customize, while keeping with the same overall UI paradigms.

In addition to content, Android TV is also about gaming. You’re able to game on Android TV with multiplayer support across platforms. In other words, you can play on Android TV while your friend plays on his Android tablet. And just like a Chromecast, you’re able to cast content directly to Android TV. Developers looking to get into Android TV should head over to Google’s site to sign up for the ADT1 dev kit.

androidmirrorcastFinally, since we “only” average 5 hours of television viewing per day, Google wanted to make better use of the TV for the remaining 19 hours. This is done thanks to the new Google Cast ambient experience backdrop. With this, you can customize the pictures that show up on your Chromecast with either your own personal photos from Google+ albums, places with geospatial images, or curated art from around the world with user-selectable topics. You’ll also be able to find out what exactly is playing on your Chromecast at any given time thanks to a new synchronized card with relevant information and actions. These additions will make their way out to consumer Chromecast devices some time later this summer.

Last but certainly not least for Google Cast and the Chromecast, users are now able to mirror their Android device screens directly to the Chromecast. This is done with low latency thanks to custom data compression.

chromebookChromebooks

Despite their inherent limitations, Chromebooks have seen great success–both in terms of sales and user satisfaction. This is largely due to the platform’s focus on speed, simplicity, and security. According to Amazon, all 10 of the highest rated laptops are Chromebooks. There has also been a 6x growth in educational adoption.

Coming soon, Chromebooks and Android smartphones are going to play a lot nicer together. For example, you’ll be able to connect them to see your Android notifications on your Chromebook, as well as unlock your Chromebook by simply approaching it with your Android device in hand. In addition, Android apps will be able to run natively on Chrome OS for an even more connected experience.

gone googleEnterprise and Productivity

In order to save enterprise users from needing to carry around two phones, Android L allows you to more easily manage personal and corporate apps into a single phone. This is done through underlying data separation, which received contribution from Samsung Knox technology.

Next, we have Google Drive and its productivity suite, which is up to 190 million 30-day active users. Google has updated its office suite to natively handle Microsoft Office files (e.g. docx, xlsx, and pptx). This is done natively, without the need to first convert the file into Google Docs format.

Finally for enterprise, we have Google Cloud Platform. As always, Google Cloud Platform offers tools for compute, data storage, and analysis. The capabilities extend to features such as cloud tracing to tell you whether parts of your code takes too long.

playdevelopertoolsGoogle Play and Play Games

The keynote then finished off by talking about Google Play, its developer tools, and Play Games. There are various tools available to developers such as Appurify, which enables devs to simulate mobile networks and their issues while developing apps. And despite being acquired by Google, Appurify will remain cross-platform going forward.

Play Games has now become the fastest growing mobile gaming network all time. There are 100 million new users in past 6 months, and the service is able to connect game a concentrated network of people via achievements, leaderboards, save games, multiplayer gaming, gifts, and so on. And as we covered earlier, Play Services 5 brings various new features to Play Games such as a new game profile with save game progress and screenshots, as well as new quests.

googlefitGoogle Fit

Finally, we have Google Fit. Fit aims to create a complete picture of a user’s fitness using a variety of sensors and data sources from various devices. This then interfaces with your smartphone and other devices via a single set of developer APIs. The end user is then able to give explicit permission about what data to send and with whom the data should be shared.

 

What was the most exciting part of the I/O 2014 keynote for you? What are you most looking forward to? Is Android Wear the future for you, or is Android L all that you can think about? With all of these fantastic announcements, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

The post Google I/O 2014 Keynote Highlights appeared first on xda-developers.

A Closer Look at the User Interface Changes in Android L

Posted by wicked June - 25 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Android L Material Design

materialdesign-goals-landingimage_large_mdpiWith the curtain raised on Android L at Google I/O, we thought it was a good time to take a look at what we know about Android L, given the significant user interface changes we are all expecting and have seen. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what changes in Android L that we have uncovered by digging in the updated Android design documentation.

New Notification Bar Style

Android L Title Bar Style

First up, it seems there’s a new style of notification bar in Android L. The new icons seem more rounded and fluid, as opposed to the current ones with delineated signal strength indicators.

The colour of the bar also appears to adapt to the highlight colour of the application header, albeit with slightly darker shading to highlight the separation of application and navigation bar. The spacing between the icons also appears larger, although this may be an optical illusion.

 

New System Icons

Android L System Icons

Next up are the system icons–out with the old and in with the new. The new icons are, for me personally, a much better indication of what they do, and seem clearer and more friendly. While icons are often subjective, these do seem fairly nice to look at, and look to fit in well with the new style of Android L.

 

New Google Keyboard

Android L Keyboard

The new Google Keyboard appears to make a number of fairly significant changes. First, the separation between keys has been removed, favouring a much more unified approach. Whether or not that’s a good thing is an entirely different question. We also see the new back, recents, and home buttons for the first time in this screenshot. The home key however, is now the “circle” key, and the recents key is the “square”. As such, with the back button as the “triangle”, we’re not far from having a full PlayStation controller here!

 

New Selections Interface

components-menus-behavior-menus-p-03a_large_xhdpi
components-menus-behavior-menus-p-04b_large_xhdpi

The UI response hints when making a selection also appear to have changed in Android L. The visual feedback of a touch event appears to be a visible on-screen circle, with the currently selected option in pop-out menus a light grey.

 

Undo via “Snackbar”

Android L Undo

Here, we can see the new snackbar style (hopefully) consistent undo option, which allows you to quickly reverse a change you accidentally made, without fumbling for controls.

 

Simplified App Settings Interface

App UI

The App Settings interface appears to have been updated significantly, with a much clearer and more linear sectioned interface, bringing together information about data usage, as well as storage usage, into one logical place, rather than being scattered throughout the interface as it is currently.

 

New Documents UI

Android L Documents UI

Android L’s documents UI also appears to be significantly updated, with more options to make it easier to create new content, rather than just access and modify existing content.

 

Clearer Save vs. Don’t Save

Close and save

Close and save

Close without saving

Close without saving

 

A common criticism from new Android users is the difficulty in determining if closing a window will save your changes or not – Android UI guidelines stated that changes should always be saved automatically, but this wasn’t always the case when backing out of a menu if the change had not been completed. In Android L, it appears Google has set about resolving this, by adding a new close icon to dialogs which can be closed, which indicates if changes will be saved or not.

 

New Gallery Interface

Android L Gallery?

A new photo gallery interface also appears to be entering with Android L. While it’s unclear if this is the stock Gallery application, or one of Google’s own proprietary applications, it certainly looks quite different from the current gallery.

 

New Contacts Interface

Android L Contacts

The contacts interface also appears to have had a fair re-work, with a lot more emphasis on the use of Google’s Hangouts service (with it being the default secondary option next to phone numbers within the app).

 

New Contacts Selection

Android L Contacts Selection

An updated contact selection dropdown interface also looks set to make an appearance in Android L

 

Email – Slide to Delete

Android L - Swipe to delete

The Android L email application also appears to improve upon the currently available swipe-to-archive/delete function with a nicer interface, as well as a new kind of floating action button, here used to allow the user to compose a new email.

 

New Google Keep Interface

Google Keep

Google’s note-taking and organisation app, Google Keep, also looks set to get an interesting interface update with Android L.

 

New Google Hangouts Interface

Google Hangouts Contacts

Google Hangouts Settings

Google’s Hangouts application also looks set to get an interface update, which shows a new checkbox design, a less-busy contacts selection interface, and sleeker settings menu.

Have Your Say

What do you think of the user interface changes we suspect will be appearing in Android L? Did we miss anything interesting that you managed to spot here? Let us know in the comments below.

[A massive "thanks" is owed to XDA Senior Recognized Developer XpLoDWilD for his considerable efforts in bringing this together so quickly.]

The post A Closer Look at the User Interface Changes in Android L appeared first on xda-developers.