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    by Published on 02-13-2017 08:30 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. Apps



    Last week Android Authority proclaimed that OnePlus was the new Nexus. Granted, they were only talking about one device (the OnePlus One) and only one custom ROM (Lineage OS). This XDA blog post uses a broader data set—traffic on its own forums—to further the claim. When combined, the OnePlus 3 and 3T together make up the most active community on XDA.

    So for any fellow OnePlus 3/3T modders reading this, here's a quick look at four of the most popular custom ROMs available for these devices.

    FreedomOS (Nougat)

    As its name would suggest, this ROM uses the AROMA Installer to let the user choose which Google apps they want on their device during installation. AdAway and a hosts file are also included by default, along with root access via SuperSU.

    XDA Threads: OnePlus 3 / OnePlus 3T

    Lineage OS (Nougat)

    Lineage OS is the new moniker for what was once CyanogenMod, the granddaddy of all custom ROMs. As such there are current available builds for the OnePlus 3T, OnePlus 3, OnePlus X, OnePlus 2 and OnePlus One.

    XDA Threads: OnePlus 3 / OnePlus 3T

    Resurrection Remix (Marshmallow / Nougat)

    Resurrection builds on the work of CM, Omni and Slim. The standout feature of this ROM would have to be the extensive configurations menu. Note that the Marshmallow-based ROM for the OP3 seems to have been discontinued; hopefully a Nougat-based ROM like the one for the 3T will be available soon.

    XDA Threads: OnePlus 3 / OnePlus 3T

    "Sultan's ROM" - Unified CM 13.0 with custom 3.18.20 kernel (Marshmallow)

    This, as you may know, is the ROM that I'm currently running on my own OnePlus 3, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Its main selling point is stellar battery life; added bonuses include not forcing encryption and supporting my favourite CyanogenMod Theme.

    XDA Threads: OnePlus 3 / OnePlus 3T

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    by Published on 02-03-2017 08:00 AM
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    On my flight home from Bermuda the WestJet app I had installed on my phone came in unexpectedly handy; I got it for the sole purpose of checking in online without a computer, but once on-board I found out the app was to also serve as my infotainment hub for the ride back to Toronto.

    It wasn't my first experience with in-flight connectivity—I can thank Icelandair last summer for that—but it was the first time I did so via an app. Here's what it was like. ...
    by Published on 01-17-2017 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps



    I'm very late to the game here, but I finally got around to watching the new season of Black Mirror on Netflix last night. If you've never seen Black Mirror, it's basically Twilight Zone meets the Internet. "Nosedive", the first episode of the show's third season, is set in a dystopian near-future where everyone is constantly being rated by their peers, with very real implications for the goods, services and even people they are able to access.

    If you find such a premise to be a bit far-fetched, you might be surprised to find out that a similar rating system is in use right now in mainland China.

    The Chinese government is calling it "social credit"; as The Washington Post reports, the reasons behind it are fairly pragmatic:

    At the heart of the social credit system is an attempt to control China’s vast, anarchic and poorly-regulated market economy, to punish companies selling poisoned food or phony medicine, to expose doctors taking bribes and uncover con men preying on the vulnerable.
    Here's the scary part: social credit is being expanded from businesses and professionals to the rest of the population. Enrollment in the social credit system could be mandatory as early as 2020.

    One initiative to get China's 700 million Internet users to embrace the idea is Sesame Credit, a joint venture between Alibaba, Tencent and, of course, the Chinese government. I found an excellent analysis of Sesame Credit on, of all places, a YouTube gaming channel:



    If you thought social media was already bad, gamifying obedience will surely make it much, much worse.

    Source: Washington Post

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    by Published on 01-03-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps



    Most Android users turn to custom ROMs when their device is no longer updated by the manufacturer. I've done things a little differently, flashing a ROM on my OnePlus 3 to avoid an update. That ROM is Sultanxda's spin of CyanogenMod 13, and so far it's pretty great.

    OnePlus promised owners of its 3 and 3T models an update to Android 7 (Nougat) before the end of 2016 and, to their credit, a notification of said update appeared on my phone late last week. The only problem is, I'm not especially thrilled about Nougat—I tried the stock Android 7 ROM on my Nexus 9 tablet last September and was surprised to find that I couldn't change the hosts file with AdAway. That issue might well have been fixed by now, or it could have been a one-off problem specific to that installation; even so, I don't currently desire any of the features that Nougat has to offer.

    I could have just stuck it out with the Marshmallow version of Oxygen, which for the past six months has served me very well. But instead I took the opportunity to flash Sultan's ROM, and I'm glad that I did.

    For starters, the ROM seems somehow quicker than Oxygen OS, and Oxygen is certainly no slouch when it comes to performance. Then there's the added value of CyanogenMod extras—a file manager, screen recorder, audio equalizer... and what I've missed more than anything else: The CyanogenMod Theme Engine. Oxygen's dark mode is better than nothing, but it's no match for the ability to theme select apps and your system's UI. To get you started, the ROM includes Cyanogen's HexoLibre Theme, pictured above.

    There are, of course, a few minor headaches associated with the installation of any custom ROM. You'll have to flash a Google apps package separately, which will include at least a few AOSP packages that you're likely to never use (they can at least be "frozen" with Titanium Backup). In the case of Sultan's ROM I also had to flash a custom firmware before the actual ROM would take.

    Even with all that, plus the added annoyance of having to reset two Android Wear smartwatches, it was worth it. I now hold in my hands what feels like an entirely new phone, along with a reminder of just how powerful and flexible Android can be. If you're interested in this excellent custom ROM, links from XDA are immediately below.

    Links: Sultan's ROM for the OnePlus 3 / OnePlus 3T

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    by Published on 12-21-2016 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps



    Here's Michael Fisher with his video review of Samsung's Gear S3, Frontier Edition. If my YouTube feed is any indication, this is the most sought-after smartwatch of the holiday season. It's also a great time to buy, with both Amazon.com and Best Buy Canada currently selling the Frontier Edition of the watch at discounted prices—$299 USD and $400 CAD, respectively.

    A standout among the Gear S3's tricks (and there are a lot of them) is the ability to tap and pay with your watch, even when paired to a non-Samsung phone and even at an olde-tyme magnetic stripe terminal. And here's where I've got some bad news for you: If you're in Canada and want to use a Gear S3 for wrist-based payments you'd better have one of the select few CIBC credit cards currently supported by Samsung Pay.

    Samsung phone owners with root will already know that Samsung Pay doesn't work anywhere—at least that's what I gather from this Change.org petition. What's not so clear to me is whether or not Samsung Pay will work on a Samsung watch that's paired to a rooted phone; I guess it would depend if the Samsung Gear Manager app has the ability to detect root.

    Are there any Gear owners with rooted phones able to weigh in on this?

    Links: Amazon.com, Best Buy Canada, Change.org, Samsung Canada

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    by Published on 12-19-2016 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps



    If you've about twenty minutes to spare and can stand subtitles, this documentary by a Dutch film school student is very much worth your time.

    It's called Find my Phone but the star of the story is not, as you might think, the built-in phone-finding apps on Android and iOS—but rather a more stealthy third-party root app for Android called Cerberus, which I've written about on these forums before. With the app installed, the filmmaker was able to spy on a phone theif for a full two weeks, remotely capturing photos, video, SMS Messages, and even topping up phone credits for fear of the device going offline.

    Two things you can learn from watching the documentary: (1) It can be comically difficult to have your phone stolen in The Netherlands—the film student's rooted HTC One doesn't get nicked until six-and-a-half minutes in. And (2) the kid makes the very bad decision to seek out the phone thief in person—and immediately regrets it.

    If nothing else, Find my Phone is an effective endorsement for Cerberus, which you can download from the Play Store here. For redditors' thoughts on the film, see the source link directly below.

    Source: reddit

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    by Published on 12-15-2016 08:00 AM
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    2. Apps



    Yesterday what is arguably the best Android launcher on the market celebrated its 5th birthday with a major update—appropriately enough, to version 5.0

    I myself marked the event with a return to the app. Since last summer I've been using Nokia's Z Launcher, an innovative and intuitive take on the traditional Android launcher. But to find what I'm looking for, fast, nothing beats Nova; at this point I have too many years of muscle memory invested in it.

    Here's a quick list of new features in the update, from the developer's Google+ page:

    • Swipe to open drawer (ŕ la Pixel Launcher)
    • New Pixel style search bar
    • New search view, with tabs for Frequent, Recent and New/Updated apps
    • New "Timeout" screen lock method
    • New double-tap-swipe gestures
    • Android 7.1 launcher shortcuts
    • Dock backgrounds to draw under navbar
    • Quick start to easily change major settings (Nova Settings > Backup > Quick start)


    If you haven't yet had the pleasure of experiencing Nova Launcher you can download the app here and, if you'd like, upgrade to the Prime version here.

    Source: Google+

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    by Published on 12-12-2016 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Tips,
    3. Apps



    Do you know someone who regularly overshares personal information on social media? If so, you might want to direct them to this post.

    Russian Art School Student Egor Tsvetkov completed a project earlier this year; he called it "Your Face Is Big Data". For the project, he took 100 photographs of random people who happened to sit across from him on the subway. Then he used an Android app called Find Face to see if he could match the strangers with their accounts on Russia's version of Facebook, VKontakte.

    The result? He was easily able to identify about 70% of his subjects, even if their morning commute face bore little resemblance to their staged profile pic. As for the purpose of this privacy invasion, here's Tsvetkov himself to justify what he did:

    “My project is a clear illustration of the future that awaits us if we continue to disclose as much about ourselves on the Internet as we do now.”
    For a gallery of Egor's subway and social media matches, check out the first link directly below. The second link has more information about Tsvetkov and his project.

    Sources: Imgur, PC World

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    by Published on 11-25-2016 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps



    I'll be honest, I've been collecting links from reputable sources since I got back from vacation last Friday, and I still feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of what's available. So consider this post a Black Friday starter pack rather than a definitive guide. We'll start with Michael Fisher—aka Mr. Mobile—and end with some deals for Canadians, who celebrated their Thanksgiving back in October.Ż\_(ツ)_/Ż

    Phones

    All Black Friday 2016 phone and tablet deals from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Amazon, Apple, BestBuy

    Amazon’s Black Friday deals include huge smartphone discounts

    2016 Online Black Friday Prepaid and Unlocked Phone Deal Tracker

    2016 Black Friday Brick and Mortar Prepaid and Unlocked Phone Deal Tracker

    Apps

    Black Friday app and game sales roundup [Updated Continuously]

    Check Out These Black Friday Deals On The App Store's Best Games [Updating]

    Canadian Deals

    Here are the Canadian carriers’ Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals

    2016 Canadian Black Friday Apple Deals and More: Roundup [Sticky]

    If you've a link or specific deal that you'd like to add to this list, by all means do so below. And if you're venturing out for door-crasher specials, please be excellent to each other... Happy hunting!

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    by Published on 10-24-2016 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Reviews and Hands-on,
    3. Apps



    Marques Brownlee—aka MKBHD on YouTube—did a thing, a side by side comparison of Siri on the iPhone 7 Plus vs. Google Assistant on the Pixel XL.

    Having not used iOS that much I was struck by how visually striking Siri's results could be, even if Google was more accurate overall. Let's face it, though, only a marketing person for Apple or Google would dare to call either of them "AI". I don't think we have to worry about the singularity anytime soon.

    BONUS VIDEO! ...
    by Published on 09-21-2016 08:30 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps
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    Sometime overnight Allo, Google's mobile-first messaging app, went live. Available for both Android and iOS, it may or may not be ready for download in your country or to your specific device—but Android users can at least grab the officiall package from Android Police's APK Mirror.

    Reading through the feature list on the official website I can already tell that this app is not for me; it's meant for a user whose primary—possibly only—connection to the Internet is through their smartphone. There's currently no desktop client for it, nor do there seem to be any data portability options. You register for Allo with a Google account and a phone number, though the Google hook-up is only necessary if you want to interact with Google's chatbot, @google.

    Out of the gate Allo faces some stiff competition from more established players in the rich messaging racket, including Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and a slew of alternatives whose popularity will depend on what part of the world you call home. So why even bother? ...
    by Published on 09-12-2016 08:30 AM
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    XDA was the bearer of bad news for Pokémon GO players over the weekend; the latest update to the game locks out Android users with root, and jailbroken iPhones as well. The official line from Niantic Labs is as follows:

    "We continue to focus on eliminating bots and scrapers from Pokémon GO. Rooted or jailbroken devices are not supported by Pokémon GO. Remember to download Pokémon GO from the official Google Play Store or iTunes App Store only."

    Okay, fair enough... Niantic wants only to keep an even playing field for everyone participating, right? It's a noble idea, but there are at least three problems with the way they've chosen to implement it. First, the game's root-block can be bypassed—I wouldn't call it easy but for someone hell-bent on being a Pokémon cheat it's certainly doable. Second, there's the rather insulting presumption that a user who has taken full control of their Android or iOS device has done so only to punk the game. And third, there is the continuing, if unspoken, narrative by software companies that rooted or jailbroken phones are somehow unsafe. If you've rooted or jailbroken your own device then this is just not true.

    So now, if you're a Pokémon player with root, your only choices are to give it up or bypass the root/jailbreak checks. The game itself is almost certainly compromised already and will continue to be; Niantic has really accomplished nothing here. ...
    by Published on 08-29-2016 08:00 AM
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    Don't believe posts like this; WhatsApp will soon be sharing user data with Facebook, and there's nothing you can do about it—except, of course, delete your account and move to another messaging platform.

    It's an abrupt about-face from what the company said when Facebook acquired it for $19 billion in 2014. Back then one of WhatsApp's co-founders reiterated that user privacy was "coded into our DNA". Now WhatsApp will disclose users' phone numbers and usage data to Facebook. Even worse, it will allow advertisers to contact users directly through the app.

    WhatsApp says it's all about avoiding spam and making stronger, deeper connections with friends. And while they say you can opt-out of sharing data with Facebook, it doesn't ultimately make any difference. Here's the last paragraph of the company's FAQ on the subject:

    The Facebook family of companies will still receive and use this information for other purposes such as improving infrastructure and delivery systems, understanding how our services or theirs are used, securing systems, and fighting spam, abuse, or infringement activities.
    Facebook reportedly uses some 98 data points to track you, whether you've an account with them or not. If you continue to use WhatsApp, they'll soon have your phone number as well. ...
    by Published on 08-03-2016 08:30 AM
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    2. Apps
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    You all know how I feel about Pebble. The price is right, it has the most intuitive UI and, perhaps most importantly, its users have figured out the real killer app for smartwatches—customizable bands and watchfaces.

    It must be conceded, though, that the one area where Pebble falls flat is paid apps. There's no shortage of useful apps and attractive watchfaces in the Pebble store, but there is a lot of software that was developed for the original monochrome OS and then never updated. Why do developers abandon the platform? Possibly because there is no native system for commercial (ie. paid) listings in the store.

    But there is at least a kludge. And that's what today's post is about, the unofficial and rather inelegant solution for paid apps on Pebble.

    I had been enjoying a particularly attractive watchface called FEELTTMM for about 24 hours when my Pebble screen was suddenly taken over by the message you see above. kzl.io redirects to a service called KiezelPay—"a simple and secure way for developers to accept payments for Pebble apps and watchfaces". ...
    by Published on 07-15-2016 08:00 AM
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    Cyanogen, Inc. did something unexpected this week, releasing what I would consider the "crown jewels" of their custom ROM as a separate, flashable zip.

    Android Police tipped me to the existence of C-Apps, a bundle of five proprietary applications that can be flashed to any Android ROM with an unlocked bootloader and custom recovery. Those apps are: AudioFX, Cyanogen Account, Gallery, Theme Chooser and Truecaller Integrated Dialer.

    Why would an Android user want this? For starters, Cyanogen's Music Player has enjoyed a very good reputation among modders for a few years now. Their newer theming engine is also very popular and, in my opinion, much more polished than the Layers alternative. Finally, these applications—together with an alternative app store like F-Droid—would be a godsend for a user seeking an Android experience without Google on-board. ...
    by Published on 07-14-2016 07:30 AM
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    Having not actually played with the Android N preview yet I didn't know that one of its many new features is a themable keyboard. You can change the colour to match your wallpaper and/or CM/Layers theme and select whether or not you want a border around your keys.

    The keyboard, v5.1, has been available as a standalone download on APK Mirror since May, but according to Android Police the app is now rolling out to Play Store users around the world. ...
    by Published on 07-11-2016 08:20 AM
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    2. Commentary and Analysis,
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    I think it's safe to say that Pokémon GO has become the most successful augmented reality game ever, for the simple fact that it's already much more popular than the only other AR game I can think of, Ingress. For its follow-up to that title the same company, Niantic Labs, has partnered with Nintendo of America to release what appears to be a runaway hit.

    Though officially only available for download in Australia, New Zealand and the USA Pokémon GO can already boast tens of millions of players, and is so much of a strain on Niantic's servers that a wider rollout of the game to other markets has been put on pause.

    So what's the big deal about this title? How do you play it? And is there a way to get it if it's not yet available in your country? Read onwards, and I'll try to answer each of these questions as best I can. ...
    by Published on 06-30-2016 07:55 AM
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    2. How-To,
    3. Apps
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    A thoughtful person who goes by the handle Kitze has taken it upon himself to create an online directory of over 150 Google Now voice commands and their more than a thousand variations. His site, ok-google.io, must have had a lot of traffic yesterday as word of it got out on reddit; I wasn't even able to connect to it until this morning.

    I already knew at least one particularly useful command, the one where you can save a list to Google Keep and then say:

    "Ok Google, add [item] to [list]."

    And now, thanks to this guide, I also know that I can also use Google Now for device control—I can increase/decrease the screen brightness, toggle Bluetooth, even take a selfie. The site has many other categories of commands, including messaging, navigation, travel, weather, web browsing and others. ...
    by Published on 06-28-2016 07:35 AM
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    What we're looking at here is a comparison GIF of old vs. new satellite imagery for Tokyo's Haneda Airport—the area just left of centre in the lower half of the frame. In the older image you can barely make out Runway D (built on reclaimed land in 2010), but in the new image it's as clear as day.

    This is the new Google Maps, with 700 trillion pixels of new satellite data. As of this week that data will be available to users on desktop and mobile, and users of Google Earth as well.

    According to The Atlantic there are two big reasons why the satellite imagery looks so much better: an actual new satellite and improved cloud computing infrastructure that, somewhat ironically, is able to generate cloudless maps. ...
    by Published on 06-16-2016 08:00 AM
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    While CyanogenMod remains, for the moment, the godsend for Android modders, Cyanogen OS—which first became widely known on the original OnePlus One—is becoming more and more integrated with a variety of Microsoft services.

    It started back in April of 2015, when Cyanogen, Inc. announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft:

    "Under the partnership, Cyanogen will integrate and distribute Microsoft’s consumer apps and services across core categories, including productivity, messaging, utilities, and cloud-based services. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS, enabling a powerful new class of experiences."

    In February of this year, Cyanogen announced their MOD platform—nothing to do whatsoever with the open source CyanogenMod, but instead a means for developers to hook their wares into Cyanogen OS. Now, a new version of CM OS has just been released, and Microsoft products and services are all over it. ...
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