• Devices

    by Published on 03-03-2015 08:16 AM
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    As Mobile World Congress continues on in Barcelona, I thought I'd take a quick pause to celebrate, in video, what have to be the undisputed stars of the show: Samsung's Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and HTC's One M9.

    Below you'll see the official product announcements from HTC and Samsung, along with some notable first impressions from Marques Brownlee, The Verge, Android Authority and Pocketnow.

    Enjoy! ...
    by Published on 03-02-2015 10:15 AM
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    Alcatel OneTouch will be selling the unlocked Cyanogen OS powered Hero 2+, direct via their website.

    It will be $299 USD (~370CAN) beginning in Q2 2015. It will be available in the US and Canada

    Here are the specs:

    • 6", 1920 x 1080 TFT
    • built-in stylus
    • LTE
    • 2Ghz octa-core Mediatek MT6592 SoC
    • 2GB RAM
    • 16GB storage
    • MicroSD
    • 13 MP rear-facing camera
    • 5MP front-facing camera
    • 3100mAh battery
    • Cyanogen OS 11 with Android 4.4.4
    • 160.5mm x 81.6mm x 7.9mm


    The 6" 1920x1080 display will be plenty sharp and 2GB of RAM should be enough for everyone.

    16GB of storage is also a plus and if that isn't enough, there's a MicroSD.

    Actually, the guts sound pretty similar to the Idol X+ I reviewed last year. The performance of the MT6592 octa-core SoC slots in between a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 and 600 so it should be sufficient for most users.

    What do you think? ...
    by Published on 03-02-2015 07:53 AM
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    With the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC M9 officially official, I've been pouring through some other news from Mobile World Congress, happening right now in Barcelona. And as news goes this is pretty big: Cyanogen, Inc. and Qualcomm have inked a deal wherein Cyanogen will provide the software for upcoming Qualcomm Reference Devices.

    This does not mean that the Qualcomm equivalent of a Nexus is going on sale anytime soon. Rather than paraphrase I'll let Android Central explain:

    Qualcomm makes special devices with each of its chipset launches called Qualcomm Reference Devices, or QRDs. Think of it like a whitebox program, where Qualcomm provides everything necessary for a company to slap its branding on the side and call it their own. There are hundreds of these devices in the world today, made by dozens of different manufacturers. Qualcomm's program makes it so these manufacturers can "make" and sell a device in as little as 60 days, instead of the months and months a from-scratch hardware launch takes. Most of these devices aren't particularly fun to use, due in many cases to the software.
    So in other words, a lot of those dreary low and mid-range Android devices are about to get a lot better! ...
    by Published on 03-01-2015 06:58 PM
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    HTC just announced the new HTC One M9 - or is it the newer HTC One M9. There's a quick chart comparing last year's M8 and the M9 after the jump.



    No doubt, the M9 will also compete with the just announced Samsung Galaxy S6. While the GS6 has the bigger 'specs'; 5.1 vs 5.0" screen, DDR4, HD display vs Quad HD, blah blah blah, to me, the M9's are more sensible.

    The GS6 has to push almost 2x as many pixels which will have an affect on graphics performance and battery life. Also, on a 5-ish inch display, most people will find that 1920x1080 and 2560x1440 are just as sharp as each other.

    Don't forget, that the GS6 also has a smaller battery (2550 or 2600 vs 2840mAh) that's no longer removable plus it has to run a power sucking Super AMOLED display. I don't care what Samsung says about AMOLED display using less power, my experience is that they are more power hungry because they usually have to be turned up.

    Still, it's much easier to market a 2560x1440 display over a 1920x1080.

    The M9 also comes with a MicroSD slot and a generous 32GB of storage. With the S6 you'll have to pick whether you want 32/64/128GB and be stuck with that.

    Both have metal bodies. The GS6 does come with some extras like a fingerprint reader (pretty useful), a heart rate monitor (not really useful), while the M9 has stereo speakers which if they're anything like the M8, should be excellent. It should be interesting to see which phone is better. ...
    by Published on 03-01-2015 02:07 PM
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    Samsung just announced successors to the Galaxy S5, the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge. They're almost identical but the 6 Edge's screen curves down on the sides. After the jump is a quick comparison of the GS5, GS6 and GS6 Edge.



    The big difference is that Samsung has ditched the plastic body for metal. The screen is higher resolution though I doubt it looks any sharper than the GS5's - they're just keeping up with the competition in this regard. 3GB of RAM is a nice upgrade plus it's faster DDR4 RAM instead of DDR3. The camera now has optical image stabilization while the front-facing camera has been bumped to 5 megapixels.

    One of Samsung's calling cards is that their phones come with memory card slots. So I was surprised that Samsung has followed Apple's strategy and ditched the memory card slot. You can get the GS6/6 Edge with 32/64 or 128GB of UFS 2.0 (a faster type of built-in storage). Fortunately, the base 32GB model is already a good size unlike the 16GB iPhone 6 and 6 Plus which are way too small and should never have been introduced to the market.

    Another big change is that the battery is now built-in. In fact, while the GS5 comes with a 2800mAh battery, the GS6 comes only comes with a 2550 while 6 Edge, a 2600mAh battery. I'm guessing that since the battery will probably last the day, that's enough for Samsung.

    Finally, unlike the GS5, the GS6 and 6 Edge aren't water resistant. This is a real shame, I'm guessing Samsung will make a GS6 Active later that is water resistant - this actually makes more sense as it was kind of hard to describe the difference between the GS5 and GS5 Active.

    All, in all, except for the removal of removable battery, storage and to a lesser extent, the smaller battery there aren't any real big surprises. I guess the lack of a Qualcomm SoC is a bit of a surprise but this isn't something a user is going to notice. ...
    by Published on 02-27-2015 12:02 PM
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    2014 was supposed to be the year of the wearable. While 2014 did see a whole slew of wearables hit the market and to a lesser degree, gain some mainstream acceptance, wearables didn’t take off like many thought they would.

    One reason is that even though there’s a lot of momentum in the category - for many people, they just found that the trade offs of having a wearable didn’t outweigh the benefit having one would bring to their daily lives.

    Here’s the Samsung Gear S, one of the first wearables from a mainstream manufacturer that has a built-in SIM card slot which allows it to get a data connection even when your phone isn’t around.

    Is built in wireless the killer feature that wearables have been waiting for? Let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 02-24-2015 07:58 AM
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    If you squint just a bit you can see the capacitive buttons on my OnePlus One, when I first unboxed it last July. I never thought I'd actually be using them, as I've grown quite accustomed to the on-screen buttons present on every Nexus since the Galaxy. But thanks to some clever innovations on my latest custom ROM—and, unfortunately, a key shortcoming—I'm now living, and loving, the capacitive life.

    The ROM in question is SlimKat, which I've written about before. The bad news is that I can't completely disable the capacitive buttons even if I wanted to. I can easily turn off the backlight but if I press anywhere on the chin the corresponding button press will still register. There is a high-level workaround that would involve putting a custom script into my /system/etc/init.d folder. Sounds sketchy.

    The good news is that I can do a lot more with the capacitive buttons than I would have thought! ...
    by Published on 02-20-2015 07:46 AM
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    Android Authority pumps out YouTube videos like nobody's business. The content is sometimes a bit iffy but the quality of the videos uploaded by each member of their team look uniformly slick.

    This past week they outdid themselves, with a superb retrospective of Nexus phones and tablets narrated by new presenter Ash Tailor. If you're a Nexus fan and can spare the 26 minutes or so to watch it I highly recommend that you do. ...
    by Published on 02-19-2015 12:35 PM
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    Right now if I had to choose, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 would be my pick for favorite Android phone. You can imagine how pumped I was when I found out that the Samsung Galaxy Edge was coming here to North America.

    It’s just like the Note 4 but the display has been swapped out for a curved, slightly higher resolution display that spills over the right side of the phone. If you’ve never seen one before, the effect is quite striking. Let’s check it out:
    ...
    by Published on 02-19-2015 07:50 AM
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    I just finished reading this fantastic book by Rod Canion, former CEO of Compaq Computers. I had no idea that Compaq was directly responsible for the rise of PC clones—what the author calls "industry standard" computers—due to their successful reverse-engineering of PC-DOS from the original IBM PC. They were so successful that they ended up licensing their reverse-engineered DOS back to Microsoft, who redistributed it via updates to their own MS-DOS.

    In the book's epilogue, Canion turns to smartphones and tablets, crediting Apple with further iterating on the iPod and iTunes Music Store to deliver the first modern smartphone and app ecosystem. No argument there. With regard to Android, however, I was a bit surprised to read this:

    Google was trying to create an industry standard much like the PC industry standard, no doubt hoping for the same powerful results.
    With a current global marketshare of 76% (vs. 19% for iOS devices), it seems fairly obvious that Android has, in fact, done just that. ...
    by Published on 02-13-2015 07:58 AM
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    What's that saying, "with great power comes great responsibility"...?

    If, like me, you've rooted your OnePlus One, you may experience issues with the latest over-the-air software update from Cyanogen. To be honest the last two updates, for whatever reason, haven't gone well for me. So as a public service I'm posting the steps I took to return my OPO to a state where it would accept an OTA.

    If, like me, you tried flashing the update manually and that didn't work either, then I'm afraid I've some bad news: you're likely going to have to (1) factory reset your phone, and if that doesn't work (2) re-flash the factory image from Cyanogen. The good news? By the end of this lengthy process you'll have backed up pretty much everything on your device, which you should do from time to time anyway.

    This guide will assume that you've figured out how to get your computer and OPO to talk to each other via adb and fastboot. The process for doing so is different for Windows, Mac and Linux computers but I believe the command prompts that you'll see below are the same. I use Linux because Linux is awesome.

    Ready? Let's do this! ...
    by Published on 02-11-2015 09:05 AM
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    Up until this week the only way to experience Ubuntu on a mobile phone or tablet was to flash it yourself, a fairly non-trivial process—or so Ubuntu would have you believe. But thanks to a particularly clever person over at XDA, Nexus and some other lucky Android users have a much easier way to install and use Ubuntu, all without affecting the primary ROM on their sidearm of choice.

    It's an app called MultiROM, and just like the name suggests, it allows you to run multiple ROMs on a single Android device. I used it this morning to install Ubuntu on my Nexus 5; here's how it went. ...
    by Published on 02-10-2015 07:36 AM
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    ... For Europe and Asia only.

    It's no Ubuntu Edge, that's for sure. The specs, as you'll shortly see, are pretty much what you'd expect for a €170 phone, nothing more. I thought Meizu would be the first OEM to bring an Ubuntu phone to market; according to GizChina their handset will be revealed at this year's Mobile World Congress. Hopefully it'll be a little upmarket of what we have here.

    If you're not familiar with the Ubuntu brand, it's the brainchild of South African billionaire Mark Shuttleworth, a very popular Linux distribution for desktop computers and (to a lesser extent) servers. A touch-friendly version of Ubuntu for phones and tablets has been in the works for quite some time. And as of today, it's finally shipping on this, the Aquaris E 4.5 Ubuntu Edition. ...
    by Published on 02-09-2015 06:43 AM
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    This isn't going to be terribly convenient for those of us in the Eastern Time Zone but it's still good news, I think. On the heels of an r/OnePlus rumour comes official confirmation from the OnePlus Blog: starting this week (I think?) the OnePlus One will be available for purchase every Tuesday, no invite required.

    The open sales window will start, as per the image above, at midnight if you live on the West Coast, 3am on the East Coast. If the latter is too early (or late) for you, you can still use an invite the other six days of the week. ...
    by Published on 02-06-2015 07:30 AM
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    Finishing off the week with a public service announcement: You can pre-order the Saygus V² at a special price until tomorrow night at 11:59pm Mountain Standard Time. What on earth is the Saygus V²? Right, I should probably explain that!

    Let's start with the company itself... Utah-based Saygus has been manufacturing Android-powered phones since at least 2009. Their claim to fame, according to their website, is that they are "the only smartphone startup to ever receive certification from a US carrier". That carrier would be Verizon and the device in question would be the Saygus VPhone V1. I can't find any evidence that it actually ever made it onto Verizon store shelves.

    Anyway, six years later Saygus is back with what they're calling the V². Set to ship in 6 to 8 weeks, it shares a number of features with my favourite Android devices, adding some notable improvements to the mix. ...
    by Published on 02-05-2015 11:10 AM
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    Short answer: It's big.
    Long answer: Let me show you just how big...

    I get a lot of inspiration for what I write here from listening to podcasts. Rain or shine, I try to put aside an hour or so somewhere in my day to take a long walk and listen to someone else talk about tech for a change. These days it's snow that I have to contend with, but thankfully I've an ingenious and near-disposable solution to keep the wet stuff off of my phone.

    Behold, the humble sandwich bag! It's today's visual aid. ...
    by Published on 02-04-2015 07:34 AM
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    Last week I caught a thread on reddit wherein a user conducted a survey of the r/Android community in an attempt to figure out the most popular screen size for an Android-powered phone. Though the results could apply to any smartphone the survey was carried out on a subreddit specific to Android, so I should probably follow suit and post this in the Android forum here.

    In the original r/Android post u/ThingsThatMakeMeMad posed the following four questions:

    1. What is the smallest screen size that you would find acceptable in a phone that you wish to purchase?
    2. What is the largest screen size that you would find acceptable in a phone?
    3. What is the ideal screen size for you?
    4. What is your ideal screen resolution, keeping in mind that greater screen resolution = greater battery consumption?


    18,158 redditors responded to the survey; you can view the results right here in Google Docs. ...
    by Published on 02-03-2015 08:15 AM
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    As my first week with Android 5.0 "Lollipop" continues there's so far not much to report. The KitKat versions of many apps have already been updated to conform with the new material design standard. To be honest there's really only one issue I'm having with this latest incarnation of stock Android:

    Everything is so blindingly bright!

    I realize this is personal preference so speaking personally, I can't stand the white background that seems to be all over this Nexus 6. In some places it makes sense; reading large blocks of text—in a web browser, for example—works with dark text on a light background because it's a better approximation of ink on paper. But in other places—like menus and settings—it just doesn't work at all. At least not for me.

    Fortunately I'm running a custom ROM, so there's an easy fix—today in the form of CyanogenMod's theming engine. ...
    by Published on 02-02-2015 07:50 AM
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    Huh, that's new...

    Unless I'm mistaken, the Nexus 6 is still the only Android phone currently shipping with Android 5.0 "Lollipop". Similarly, the N6, along with the Nexus 9 tablet, is one of only a few available devices with an unlockable bootloader, allowing the user to realize the full potential of the Android platform if they so choose.

    Well, I indeed so choose, and today I'm here with a brief report of what to expect when rooting an Android L phone. ...
    by Published on 01-30-2015 08:43 AM
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    No, of course I didn't buy one... are you high?

    Howard was kind enough to let me borrow his unlocked, 32 GB space grey—sorry, "Midnight Blue" Nexus 6, to see if it really is as despicable as I've made it out to be. This former Nexus fan has made no secret of his strong dislike for 2015's hackable, "pure Google" phone experience. But despite what you might think, I'm open to having my mind changed. And to neutralize my scorn I picked up a few accessories at the Dollar Store on my way home from meeting up with Howard.

    Intrigued? Read on! ...
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