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5 Things to Love and Hate in the Android L Dev Preview

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

It’s been a little more than a month since Google let the cat out of the bag and gave out the developer preview of Android L for developers to test and curious but daring onlookers to try. While the preview wasn’t made for end users to enjoy, it does bare a few markings of what awaits us in the next Android release. So what have we liked so far and what do we hope Google will get to fix before that expected day?

5 Things We Loved

1. Battery Life. The improvements that Project Volta brought is nothing to belittle. On a dosage of mobile data, browsing, and multimedia, the battery lasted longer than a day on the same amount of use when using KitKat. Crossing our fingers that Google has already been working on even making it better by the time Android L rolls out.

2. Do Not Disturb. A much needed feature that adds a bit of smartness to our notifications, now finally built into Android itself. It’s quite basic but for majority of the cases, basic is more than enough. No more need to be jealous of similar OEM features or custom ROMs.

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3. Search in Settings. Yet another OEM idea that has thankfully made its way to the core Android experience. Granted, a vanilla Android on the Nexus doesn’t have much settings to wade through, but it’s still a lifesaver if you don’t know the exact path to a particular seldom tweaked option. The one caveat, it currently doesn’t work well, sometimes not finding settings you already know do exist.

4. Material Design. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but at least in our eyes, Material Design is refreshingly beautiful. As a design language and guiding principle, it seems to be much more consistent and well-thought. The only problem, at least in this developer preview, is that it isn’t yet applied consistently to Android’s core. We expect things to be more seamless later this year.

5. ART. The new Android Runtime. Perhaps it is only subjective, but apps do start faster, run smoother, take up less space. They do install slower though. Most of the promised benefits, and drawbacks of ART. The true litmus test will be when everyone jumps into the pool, whether they like it or not, and there are times when they won’t.

5 Things We Did not Love

1. ART. Yes, ART appears twice. This is more of a growing pains issue and not entirely Google’s fault. App developers will have to work double time to make sure their wares will work once Android L is released, otherwise expect a less than painless transition, with crashes or incompatible apps. Plus the ever looming threat of non-working root apps and methods make us await this new feature with a bit of anxiety.

2. Still no “Clear All” button. It’s 2014 and Google still won’t give us a convenient way to banish all notifications or clear the recent apps list. Perhaps it is a bit more debatable on the Recents view, but in this day and age where users get notifications left and right throughout the day, it boggles the mind why such a feature does not exist by default.

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3. Recents redesign. No doubt it is pretty, but is it the most efficient way to present these recent apps? The app thumbnails take up majority of the screen, instead of being herded to one side in a line, but as far as practical information density goes, nothing has changed. You practically really see only three, at most four, of those most current apps, and can only swipe away those. Perhaps a more compressed tickler visualization would be better. But, still, it really looks nice.

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4. Still no battery percentage in status bar. Maybe it’s considered a power user feature, but is it really? Considering how small the battery indicator is, it is not so easy to determine from a quick glance really how much battery is left. And since that sometimes crucial information takes a few taps to reach, it is quite strange that it wouldn’t be there to greet you, optionally at least if not by default. Not even in the expanded notification panel.

5. Inconsistent Material Design. Again, growing pains. Or to be exact, half-baked pains. The Android L Preview wasn’t really meant for end users anyway, so it’s not surprising that even core pieces of the Android UI don’t adhere to it yet. It should, however, not be an excuse for app developers not to ensure that their apps will be Materialized when the time comes.

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Ready to Jump to L?

Nothing in these two lists are set in stone and things are bound to change, hopefully for the better, by the time Android L, whose real name still remains a mystery, gets released later this year. Google is undoubtedly already working on addressing many of these issues, and might finally be giving into some of the most requested features. Unfortunately, neither developers nor adventurous users will be able to taste those changes like this again, as Google might not be releasing an updated preview image anymore..

Have you tried out Android L for yourself? Is there any feature that stands out to you, either in a good way or not? Let us know your thoughts on the next major Android version in the comments below!

New leaked Sony Xperia Z3 photos show start of production

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

Ah, leaked photos, we love you and hate you at the same time. You ratchet up the anticipation while not giving us much new details as expected. The new photos of what is supposedly Sony’s new flagship phone, the Xperia Z3 does not give us anything new really, except to show that mass production of the anticipated gadget has already started and that it will come in at least one basic color, for now.

The leaked photos seem to be coming from a manufacturing facility where the Z3 is allegedly preparing for mass production or maybe it’s already in the middle of the production process. The photos also show that the white backing of the phone has a glossy finish and looks a lot like the current flagship, the Xperia Z2, with its simplistic and minimalist design. You can even see a cameo from the photographer, but let’s hope it’s not a clear enough look or someone’s getting fired for sure.

Previous leaks earlier this month seemed to confirm some of the speculation with regards to the specs of the Z3. It will most likely run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor at 2.5GHz and an Adreno 330 GPU. It will supposedly have a 5.15-nch full HD screen, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and a main camera with 20MP while the front facing one is at 2.1MP.

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Just like its outward appearance, there seems to be not much difference with the Z2, so Sony should have something different up its sleeve to convince users to upgrade to the new flagship. The Xperia Z3 is expected to be announced at the IFA this coming September 5, although the OEM has not made any announcements to confirm this, or any other detail about the upcoming smartphone.

VIA: NWE

Lithium anodes to bring promise of longer battery lives

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

Samsung’s latest jab at Apple reveals one of the overriding concerns of mobile device users anywhere in the world, that is next to an Internet connection: battery life. Fortunately, Standford University’s researchers might be on the breakthrough of reaching that holy grail of battery engineering, a battery whose anode component is also made up of lithium, which can last two to three times longer than batteries today.

We classify the rechargeable batteries in our smartphones, tablets, and even electric cars as Lithium Ion batteries, but in truth, lithium is used only in one part of the battery, the electrolytes that actually provide the electrons. Engineers hold that if the battery’s anode, the part that discharges those electrons, were also made up of lithium, the extension on battery life will be substantial. Unfortunately, it is the nature of lithium not to be easily used for this purpose. It expands almost indefinitely when charged, is highly reactive, and prone to overheating.

Researchers at Stanford, which include the paper’s first author Guangyuan Zheng and former US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, have resolved this issue using what they call nanospheres. These are basically interconnected carbon domes that shield the lithium, much like a honeycomb contains and constrains honey. Carbon is the perfect material for this purpose since it is chemically stable, strong, and flexible enough to adapt to the expanding and contracting of lithium. This nanosphere is so thin, 20 nanometers to be exact, that it would take 5,000 of them stacked together to even come close to the width of a single human hair strand.

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In practice, this means that not only will batteries be able to last longer on a single charge, it can also have a longer overall lifetime in terms of charge cycles. That said, such a lithium anode battery is still a few steps away from being a commercially viable option. Commercial batteries need to have a coulumbic efficiency, the ratio of lithium given out when discharging compared to what is received when charging, of 99.9 percent. The Standford battery was already able to achieve 99 percent efficiency even after 150 cycles of this discharge and charging process, which means they are quite close, but will still need a bit of time before they can make this ultimate battery dream a reality.

VIA: Engadget, Phys.org

Swipify simplifies switching between apps on Android Wear

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

Smartwatches have definitely made our digital lives more interesting, and maybe at times, simpler. However, it still has many limitations in terms of both hardware and software, so for now, it’s up to app developers to enhance how we’ll be able to use those devices. One such app is Swipify, which makes it easier to launch and switch between apps on the Android Wear platform.

The App Switcher allows you to easily go from one running app to another from anywhere when inside the Android Wear system. Right now, there is no easy way to do so whether through a button or through the built-in settings. With Swipify, all you have to do to switch between apps is to swipe from the right edge of the screen wherever you are on your smartwatch. You can also change your swipe edge position, either just the top edge or full edge if you want.

Meanwhile the App Launcher can start an app, again from anywhere in the system. To start the launcher, all you have to do is swipe from the left edge of the screen and it will show you a tray of the apps installed on your smartwatch. The app also has other functions like you can set it up that your watch screen is always on (if battery drainage is no problem for you). It can also give you quick access to changing some of your settings, like adjusting the watch’s brightness, checking your battery level and showing the RAM usage on your App Switcher screen.

Once you’ve downloaded the Swipify app from the Google Play Store on your Android smartphone, it will automatically install it to the smartwatch connected to your phone. Once installed, you need to launch the app from your smartwatch in order to be able to start using it. Swipify is still in beta version, so expect a few quick updates every now and then from the developer.

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Rovio shows Angry Birds Transformers teaser vid at Comic Con

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

The San Diego Comic Con is usually the territory for big game TV shows, movies and console games – that being said, the mobile gaming developers are usually pretty low key at the SDCC. Rovio is trying to change that, though, and did its job pretty awesomely by showing to the crowd a kick-ass Angry Birds Transformers teaser.

The game has been in development, with Rovio providing teasers as early as June – with the clever tag line “Birds disguised as robots in disguise.” There was no launch date announcement at the Comic Con, but this video is a sure hit with both Angry Birds fans and followers of the Transformers franchise. Take a look at the video below.

Pretty cool, huh? The game is still in the “coming soon” category, what with Rovio just recently updating their most of their Angry Birds platforms like Angry Birds Go and Angry Birds Star Wars. Rovio has even released a new game in Angry Birds Epic, so this Transformers mashup can take its time. There was a cursory mention at the Comic Con, though, of a whole new line of crossover toys. Can you imagine it now? Angry Birds and Transformers?

As with the Star Wars mashup, this would probably get eaten up by casual gamers young and old. The Transformers franchise is a pretty famous and profitable one, as proved by the movies. That is not to say that all things Transformers are always good, as proved by the movies – especially the latest one. But that aside, we will be waiting for this.

Ematic outs dual-core Kitkat tablet at low, low price point

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

How many tablets do you know of that can provide you a good Android 4.4 Kitkat performance for under USD$100? Not a lot, we know. But Ematic is trying to get to this specific market by launching the EGD172, a 7-inch tablet that has specs you’d probably expect from this price range – nothing to write home about, but enough to probably secure a place as a Kitkat tablet for emerging markets.

The specs are pretty straightforward – a 1.1Ghz dual-core processor with 512MB RAM and 8GB internal storage. That last part can be remedied by microSD expansion, but the main internals speak for themselves – this will be a tablet that can run most of your basic apps on Kitkat and then a little bit more. But do not expect buttery-smooth performance with specs like this.

In truth, the tablet probably isn’t intended for users who require high levels of performance from the tablet itself. The EGD172 will not put out sharp HD-quality graphics on an 800×480 resolution (although it can play those HD videos), but it will be able to connect to the internet and allow users to browse and communicate pretty easily using connectivity and communication apps like Skype, WeChat, Viber and the like. The unit has rear and front-facing cams just for this purpose (3MP and 2MP respectively).

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There have been rumors that you can get this tablet for as low as USD$50 after rebates. We understand that this budget tablet is targeted at a very specific market to provide connectivity and entry level tablet usage at a very low price point – so we get that the specs allow you to do pretty much just that.

Thanks for the tip, Jennifer!

LG G Vista officially confirmed for Verizon, AT&T

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

The LG G Vista – if the leaks were to be believed – was supposed to be a “mini” version of one of LG’s higher tier phones, and that’s what it’s actually turning out to be as the confirmations are streaming in. The new LG phone has now been semi-confirmed for Verizon and AT&T via internal product leaks. Let’s see what it looks like.

Verizon’s leak was in the form of an internal (or at least, unreleased) product description document that highlighted some of the product’s specs without going into much specifics. According to the document, the phone will have a pretty large screen at 5.7 inches, but people will be slightly disappointed with the declared qHD resolution (that is, 960 x 540 pixels). An unnamed 1.2GHz quad-core processor is also declared in the slide, and it will most likely be a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 with an Adreno 305 GPU.

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AT&T has also let out an internal user’s manual of what it calls the G Vista (see the source link). The specs are pretty much the same, but the Verizon version has been rumored to pack 1.5GB of RAM rather than the 1GB rumored for the AT&T version. There is a possibility that the companies could put out different models, but there is very little logic in doing that. Both have also confirmed the 3200mAh battery that the phone will come with, a very strong feature that will see users of the LG G Vista last the whole day without charging.

From the looks of it, Verizon and AT&T users may not have long to wait before this new LG mid-tier smartphone is unleashed upon them, with the sources pointing to a very near date in July 31, 2014 as the date of launch. The phone – while not really packing powerful specs – has LG’s innovative UI approach to bank on, and the G Vista is sure to have that rear-key design that’s found on LG’s premium phones, as well as multi-window capabilities for multitasking.

VIA: Pocket Now, My LG Phones

nowPaper 2.0 now has Muzei extension, new wallpapers

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

nowPaper, a wallpaper collection app, has announced the release of version 2.0, which now includes support for live wallpaper app Muzei, and a collection of new designs that have been inspired by the landscapes and cities from Google Now’s backgrounds. Your Android devices can now sport these amazing-looking designs on your home screen, and you can even set them to reflect the time of day.

The wallpapers were created by designer Alex Pasquarella and have been inspired by those lovely images you see when you open Google Now, featuring well-known landscapes and cityscapes from all around North America, like the Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, San Diego, Toronto and many more. Each place has four different papers, representing the different times of the day: dawn, day, dusk and night.

With the addition of a plug-in for Muzei, you’ll now be able to schedule the wallpapers to change depending on the time of day. You need to download both the Muzei and the nowPaper app so they will work together. To switch to the scheduled Google Now inspired wallpapers, you open muzei and then go to the customize menu. Choose the nowPaper extension and then go to the settings, where you can choose which location you want. You will be able to set the wallpapers at the following times: 6AM (dawn), 9AM (day), 6PM (dusk) and 9PM (night).

The designer is also allowing people to download the different design sets on his website. You can download Muzei for free on the Google Play Store, while nowPaper is available for just $0.99 there as well. Not a bad price to pay just to make your Android device look nicer four times a day.

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SOURCE: Alex Pasquarella

TWRP descends on LG G Watch, Samsung Gear Live

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

Android Wear development, both mainstream and on the sidelines, seems to be well under way. After a strong influx of Android Wear apps on Google Play Store, the modding community is also stepping up its game, starting with the availability of TWRP recovery on two of the only Android Wear smartwatches in existence, the G Watch and Gear Live.

Those who are familiar with the whole custom ROM scene will know how a custom recovery such as TWRP is essential for flashing ROMs and other ZIP files, like for gaining root. That said, at the moment, there isn’t much of that for TWRP to do since there is only one custom ROM in existence for the G Watch called Gohma and zero for the Samsung Gear Live. That said, a custom recovery is also required for certain other power user features, like making nandroid backups.

TWRP offers possibly one advantage to CWM, the other popular Android recovery, when it comes to smartwatches. One of TWRP’s signature features is being touch-friendly, throwing out the need to fiddle with volume rocker buttons or capacitive buttons. Considering smartwatches don’t haven any of those and in some instances might not even have a button at all, TWRP’s feature definitely becomes an essential part of the recovery. That said, CWM also has a touch-enabled branch, but its interface is still largely text-based and developer Koushik “koush” Dutta isn’t exactly keen on adding new features to CWM.

Android Wear is still in its infancy, but now we almost have all the needed pieces, including root, ROM, and now recovery, for mucking around with the platform. It will be interesting to see what the Android developer community comes up with in the near future to possibly extend Android Wear beyond the somewhat limited scope that Google has envisioned for it.

VIA: XDA

Samsung officially launches 7-inch Galaxy Tab Q in China

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

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now entering a time of unsurpassed phablet craziness and the push for bigger screens on devices as Samsung officially unveils a 7-inch (!!!) phablet in the Galaxy Tab Q. The device is officially under the “Tab” – which ostensibly pertains to tablets – family, but see here, the Galaxy Tab Q is also a phone! The device was launched in China this weekend.

Samsung is clearly pushing its own definition of what a phablet is – and yes, the company expects you to use this 7-inch beast as a phone. It has an earpiece and a built-in microphone, so we assume that Samsung wants you to bring this up to your face with your hand and make calls the standard way. We’re having doubts if we can.

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This device was initially launched in South Korea as the Galaxy W, and now it’s hitting the stalls of stores in China with its 7-inch 1280×720 high definition TFT screen. Under the hood, it has an unnamed 1.2Ghz quad-core processor and a decent 1.5GB of RAM to push applications and pixels. It has an 8MP shooter and a 2MP front-facing cam. Notably, it has a 3200mAh battery to correctly power that gigantic HD screen.

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More importantly, the Galaxy Tab Q is 4G/LTE capable via a micro SIM card slot, which confirms that fact that it is indeed intended to function as a phone. The device is clothed in the same faux leather as the Galaxy Note 3, and while there is no info on internal storage capacity, the device is expandable to 64GB via microSD. There is also no info on what Android OS it will be carrying, but rumors say it would be Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Having renamed this for the China launch, there might be a possibility that the huge phablet will again be renamed when launched for other markets.

SOURCE: Samsung