• Apps

    by Published on 01-19-2018 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    This past Christmas I spent pretty much the entire morning trying to fix the girlfriend's OnePlus 5. Its native version of Android, OxygenOS, had just gotten a big upgrade to Oreo, and as we were shortly going on holiday I thought it prudent to get her phone up to date before we left.

    Bad idea.

    The upgrade itself wasn't the problem; what stymied me for several hours was applying root and getting a custom recovery to stick. I still couldn't tell you what the technical issue was, but I've a sneaking suspicion that it's the result of Google's increasing hostility towards Android modders.

    I knew that the only real solution would be a regression to Android Nougat, but then my better half would have to deal with the constant nagging notification for an update that would once again break superuser access to her phone.

    And here's where FreedomOS comes in. It's a custom ROM built on the Nougat version of Oxygen, but with a modified kernel and additional options. Chief among them is the Aroma installer; it gives you the choice of flashing Magisk or SuperSU for root, and also allows you to debloat your device by skipping over any Google or OnePlus apps you don't want. It's definitely not for noobs, though, as its possible flash a broken system image onto your phone if you don't pay attention to what you're doing.

    The lead developer recently returned from a holiday break, so an Oreo version of FOS—for the OnePlus 5, at least—could be on the way. In the meantime, I've been impressed enough with the Nougat version that I flashed the 5T version onto my own phone. You can check out the ROM for yourself at the XDA links immediately below.

    Links: FreedomOS for OnePlus 5 / OnePlus 5T on XDA

    by Published on 01-18-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Carriers,
    3. Apps

    Researchers at Northeastern University have developed an app that can tell you which services are being throttled by your wireless carrier, and by how much. It's called Wehe, and it's only available for Android. Find out why below.

    How it works is fairly ingenious. Using YouTube as an example, Wehe spoofs that app for a random download, then repeats the download but with different metadata, fooling your carrier into thinking it's from another source. By comparing speeds you can determine if and by how much your YouTube videos are being throttled. In the case of BingeOn it's been shown that T-Mobile indiscriminately throttles all video to 1.5 Mbps, and with YouTube specifically limits video resolution to 360p.

    Wehe is currently able to test the following services via their apps:

    NBC Sports

    And what about iOS? Well, according to Motherboard Apple won't approve it. An App Store reviewer told the developers that Wehe "has no direct benefits to the user". Because carriers, I guess...

    Hopefully Wehe will find its way to APKMirror and/or F-Droid should Google ever come to a similar determination; in the meantime you can grab it on Google Play at the first link directly below.

    Links: Google Play, Motherboard, Wehe

    by Published on 12-11-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    Last spring I wrote about how the Netflix app wouldn't run on rooted Android hardware. That unfortunate fact led me to investigate Magisk; its "root hide" and SafetyNet bypass features enables Android modders to enjoy not only Netflix but Pokémon GO and Android Pay as well.

    Over the weekend, however, another issue with Netflix for Android has surfaced: according to XDA some high-powered devices, like the OnePlus 5T and ZTE Axon M, are unable to stream Netflix video in HD.

    The reason for this has to do with the logo at the top of this post. Widevine is one of the oldest and most-used DRM solutions for digital content. It's widely used for video games, Blu-Ray systems, Amazon Prime Video and—you guessed it—Netflix. There are actually different certification levels for Widevine-protected content; only Level 1 certification will permit playback of content in HD and above. Google's Pixels and Samsung Galaxy class flagships have L1 certification; OnePlus is currently only certified at Level 3.

    Oh, and did I mention that Google acquired Widevine in 2010?

    Blame for this mess can be thrown in all directions, Google, Netflix, OnePlus... But it might be easier to just agree that DRM in general is terrible for users. Net neutrality is not the only threat to an open Internet; DRM-encumbered services are another means by which the Internet of tomorrow might end up looking much more like the cable television of today.

    Source: XDA

    by Published on 12-06-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    TechCrunch reports that a software update has brought over 60 new apps and watchfaces to Fitbit's first proper smartwatch, the Ionic. I can't for the life of me find a definitive listing anywhere—whereas, for example, the Pebble App and Watchface store can still be perused online from any desktop computer, Fitbit offers no such convenience.

    Anyway, here are 14 highlights from a blog post on Fitbit.com:

    British Airways
    New York Times
    Philips Hue Lights
    United Airlines

    In addition there are a bunch of new watchfaces (many recycled from Pebble) and also a native app for the streaming music service Deezer, coming in 2018.

    Something that also might be of interest to Fitbit users is news of more banks supporting Fitbit Pay. Here's a list of North American partners so far:

    American Express
    Bank of America
    Boeing Employees Credit Union
    Capital One
    First Tech Federal Credit Union
    Security Service Federal Credit Union
    U.S. Bank

    None yet (sounds about right)

    Sources: Fitbit (1) (2) via TechCrunch

    by Published on 11-27-2017 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    What we're looking at here is the logo for the εxodus privacy auditing program, a French nonprofit which, with help from the Yale Privacy Lab, has published a database of trackers found in popular Android apps. And there are a lot more of them than you'd expect.

    Most people would understand that an app like Uber would need to track you in order to ascertain your location when you request a car. And since the Uber app is downloaded from the Google Play Store it's not much of a reach to imagine that Google too is tracking downloads of that app, and likely taking stock of the other apps installed on your Android device as well. But what you might not expect is that Uber is also very much in the business of reselling your location history and other data via third party trackers.

    Some of the offenders mentioned by name in The Intercept's coverage of this project include AccuWeather, Lyft, Microsoft Outlook, Skype, Spotify, Tinder, Uber and The Weather Channel.

    Any iPhone users reading this should resist any urge to feel smug; as Cory Doctorow reports, these same trackers almost certainly exist in the iOS versions of the same apps, but it's illegal to break Apple's DRM to prove it.

    Links: εxodus, Cory Doctorow, The Intercept

    by Published on 11-24-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Tips,
    4. Carriers,
    5. Apps

    Too late for the midnight stampedes, but I'm hoping this will at least serve as a starting point for your mobile-centric Black Friday shopping. It's not exhaustive by any means; you'll notice that Android Police and Mobile Syrup are responsible for a few links each. Kudos to them for doing the grunt work so that I didn't have to.


    Amazon Canada’s Black Friday tech deals are now live!

    Best Buy VIP Black Friday sale now live with discounts on smartphones, tablets, smart home devices

    Freedom Mobile offers up to $450 in MyTab savings for Black Friday

    Here are Canadian carriers' 2017 Black Friday deals

    Rogers and Fido launch Black Friday iPhone deals


    2017 Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals roundup [Updated continuously]

    Deal: Get 3 months of unlimited data for $99 from Rok Mobile

    Fossil smartwatch Black Friday sale: 30% reduction on Android Wear

    Free iPhone 8: The Best Black Friday Deal Is From T-Mobile

    Here are Google Play's Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals

    Feel free to add any deals not mentioned above, for the benefit of anyone else reading this. Happy bargain hunting, and stay safe out there!

    by Published on 11-20-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    Android Police has just done another of their famous APK teardowns, this one for a new version of Google's official SMS app, Messages. This new version (2.7) not only has more streamlined code—the size of the apk itself is down 30% from the version before it—but some new features as well, including new message indicators, calling integration with Google Duo and RCS support for dual-SIM phones.

    You'll recall that the Rich Communications Services (RCS) protocol is a joint venture by carriers, Google and the GSMA to bring text messaging into the 21st century. Think of it like iMessage, but for everyone. The code in Messages 2.7 shows support for standard RCS features such as sending messages over WiFi and the ability to see your friends type replies, but also suggests that users will be able to toggle RCS support for separate SIM cards if they have them.

    If you live in Asia, India or even parts of Europe there's a very good chance that you're using a dual-SIM phone; the only reason why they're so scarce in North America is that carriers here have a vested interest in not selling you one. Cheap calls on one SIM and a cheap data plan meant for tablets on the other? Yeah, not so much...

    For me it has become a must-have feature, and I had to dump Google's default messaging client for third party solutions (first Textra, then Pulse) because those apps support two SIMs. With this new update I might have to give Messages another look.

    Source: Android Police

    by Published on 11-17-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    I caught the end of the livestreamed OnePlus 5T launch event yesterday, and for me the best thing about it had nothing to do with the phone itself. What set my geek heart all aflutter was when OnePlus co-founder (and Steve Jobs wannabe) Carl Pei took to the stage to announce that all ticket sales from the event were being donated to F-Droid, the open source app store for Android.

    Tickets for the launch were priced at $40 USD but it's not clear how many tickets were actually sold, as there were a lot of tech bloggers and YouTubers there who I'm guessing didn't pay. But honestly, it doesn't even matter; at the very least the project got some free press. Here, as a reminder, is but a sample of what F-Droid has to offer:

    AdAway - kill ads system-wide on your rooted phone or tablet;
    K-9 Mail - an excellent IMAP mail client;
    NewPipe - watch YouTube videos with no pre-roll ads;
    OS Monitor - find spyware on your Android device.

    FOSS software and the Android modding community are equally important to OnePlus. You'll recall that 2013's OnePlus One shipped with the first commercial version of CyanogenMod; the latter ended up going nowhere but the former is thriving, thanks in this part of the world to its sizable geek cred. Most of the Linux podcasters I listen to own a OnePlus device, and these people are unabashed freedom beards who would never even go near a Galaxy or Pixel.

    As a company OnePlus is certainly guilty of sometimes lazy, sometimes shady practices, but they do serve their community well. And it's great to see them giving back, even if it's ultimately a token gesture.

    Links: XDA

    by Published on 11-15-2017 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps

    More bad news for OnePlus... on the eve of a new product announcement they've been accused of backdooring their devices, allowing an attacker with physical access to gain root access without having to unlock any bootloaders— which we all know would wipe any and all sensitive data from your phone, right? Anyone? Bueller...?

    Anyway, as privacy scares go, this one has been blown out of proportion just a bit. It's still bad, but nowhere near as bad as the data that OnePlus was caught harvesting last month.

    The "backdoor" here is actually a Qualcomm testing app called EngineerMode. With the correct password (which has already been reverse-engineered) it will indeed grant root access via the Android Debug Bridge (ADB). What it won't do is allow malicious software with root privileges to be installed on your device. In fact, XDA has put their own spin on this vulnerability, citing it as a great new way for modders to root their OnePlus device.

    OnePlus absolutely should have removed this app before shipping out hardware to their customers. As to why they didn't, signs point to laziness rather than something more nefarious. Oh, and by the way, some ASUS and Xiaomi phones were also sold with the same Qualcomm testing app on board.

    Sources: Android Police, OnePlus Forums, XDA

    by Published on 11-14-2017 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Tips,
    3. Apps

    Short answer: it's an open source replacement for Google Play Services, useful for Android modders who run custom ROMs without flashing Google's proprietary apps and APIs.

    Long answer: from the official project page, it's these five components:

    • Service Core (GmsCore) is a library app, providing the functionality required to run apps that use Google Play Services or Google Maps Android API (v2).
    • Services Framework Proxy (GsfProxy) is a small helper utility to allow apps developed for Google Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) to use the compatible Google Cloud Messaging service included with GmsCore.
    • Unified Network Location Provider (UnifiedNlp) is a library that provides WiFi and cell-tower-based geo-location to applications that use Google’s network location provider. It is included in GmsCore but can also run independently on most Android systems.
    • Maps API (mapsv1) is a system library, providing the same functionality as now deprecated Google Maps API (v1).
    • Store (Phonesky) is a front-end application providing access to the Google Play Store to download and update applications. Development is in early stages and there is no usable application yet.

    If an open source interface for Google's app store seems somewhat contradictory, consider the promising YouTube replacement NewPipe, which offers access to the same videos but removes the annoying pre-roll ads.

    The microG project was first announced on XDA over two years ago, but just got a lot easier to install; there is now an unofficial build of LineageOS with microG services built-in. Device support is impressive to say the least—I'm guessing that the builds are automated from the official Lineage device tree.

    With their completely unnecessary vendor image Google has already ruined their phone hardware for me; should the day ever come for me to wean myself off of Gmail and the like my fallback position would most likely be the F-Droid app store and an Android custom ROM. I've never actually tried it, though, and I honestly hadn't considered just how deeply integrated Google Mobile Services were in a typical Android device.

    Love Android but hate Google? microG is here to help.

    Links: microG, XDA (1) (2)

    by Published on 11-06-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    Canada's public broadcaster has used the 10th anniversary of the iPhone as an impetus to take a deep dive into the distraction—even addiction—of the modern smartphone app. It's published an entire half-hour episode of its popular Marketplace series on YouTube, and a feature piece on CBC News as well.

    The TL;DR is that the modern smartphone app is addictive by design. One example provided is a popular technique called variable reinforcement. It involves three steps: (1) a trigger, like a notification on your phone, (2) an action, as in tapping on the notification to open the app and (3) the reward—a "like" or share of something you've previously posted. Because the reward itself isn't predictable, the action of seeking the reward becomes compulsive.

    For the purpose of this CBC investigation it does seem that "app" is rather narrowly defined as a smartphone portal to a messaging service or social media network. It also seems that teens are especially vulnerable to this addictive behaviour.

    As a Generation Xer (Nirvana rules!) I myself am not a digital native, and therefore have no trouble putting my smartphone down and immersing myself in some other leisurely pursuit for extended periods of time. And though I'm also a childless monster I can't help but wonder if using messaging apps is fundamentally any different for teenagers than tying up a landline phone for hours on end in those dark ages before smartphones, or even the Internet, existed.

    Any parents care to weigh in on this...?

    Link: CBC News

    by Published on 10-03-2017 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    I imagine that most people think of commercial VPN services as a tool used to pirate content—to spoof one's IP address and avoid nasty emails from HBO lawyers, for example. When, on a whim, I got a deal on a two-year subscription to Private Internet Access little did I know that it would end up coming to my rescue in South Asia.

    Here's how that went down.

    My way home consisted of two flights—one reward flight from Colombo to Hong Kong and then a connecting flight that I paid for (a different ticket) back to Canada. When I tried to check-in online from Sri Lanka for that second flight here's the message I got from Air Canada's website:

    It seems that Air Canada will only let you check in online from a country they actually fly to. Normally this would make perfect sense, but for my specific flight plan it simply wouldn't do.

    I downloaded the Android app and set it up to spoof an IP address in Canada—you can tell that the app is working by that key icon in the status bar. And just like that... it still didn't work. Then I remembered that I had granted the Android Chrome browser location permissions. So I switched to Firefox, and...

    Huzzah! I was able to check in without issue for my Hong Kong-to-Vancouver flight. In retrospect, it might have been Chrome's location address that stymied me, rather than Air Canada itself. But with a mobile VPN I was covered either way. If you're interested in that two-year subscription deal, see the link directly below.

    Links: Mobile Syrup Deals, PIA on Google Play

    by Published on 09-26-2017 08:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    Having issues with text message notifications? You're not alone.

    The good news is that there's nothing wrong with your phone; the bad news is that something is definitely up with Google's SMS app. Android Police reported on the issue yesterday, specifically that the app may, at some point, stop showing notifications for new messages. The bug is affecting enough users that there are two separate posts about it on r/Android—the older one indicating issues with the app going as far back as July.

    For a critical messaging app that seeks to be the Android equivalent to Apple's iMessage, this isn't good.

    Google has yet to even acknowledge the bug, let alone provide a fix for it. For now the best remedy is to switch to another texting app. I'm currently using Pulse, but have enjoyed using Textra previously; the latter seems to be the app of choice for the r/Android crowd.

    Are you having notification issues with Android Messages? Let us know...

    Sources: Android Police, reddit (1) (2)

    by Published on 08-29-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps

    As a Pebbler I'm supposed to hate Fitbit with a passion, despite the fact that they've mostly made good on their promise to keep Pebble servers up and running through the end of 2017. But I'm also a big fan of mobile tap-and-pay solutions, especially if they actually work in Canada. And it turns out that Fitbit's new Ionic smartwatch, made official yesterday, supports NFC-based payments from your wrist.

    What's a hard done by smartwatch enthusiast to do?

    This feature is almost certainly a result of Fitbit acquiring Coin last May, and by all reports will work exactly like you see in the photo above. Fitbit will only say that AMEX, MasterCard and VISA cards are supported; I dug around a little bit and found an unverified list of launch partners:

    Banco Santander
    Bank of America
    Capital One
    KBC Bank Ireland
    Royal Bank of Canada
    US Bank

    For some perspective on this, Apple Pay already enables wrist-based payments with an Apple Watch, and any Android Wear device with NFC should have the same functionality. The biggest hurdle for Fitbit Pay will inevitably be the ugliness of its first proper smartwatch—it's every bit as hideous as the leak we saw earlier this month.

    Source: Mobile Syrup, TechRadar, The Verge

    by Published on 08-21-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Rumors,
    3. Apps

    I'm having a hard time believing that this is in any way official artwork for the next version of Android, but I can't fault the source—Evan Blass rarely, if ever, get's this stuff wrong. If he's right, expect Android Oreo to be made official by the end of the day.

    It would be the first confectionery co-branding since Android KitKat, almost four years ago. That version of the platform introduced the Android Runtime as a technology preview which would eventually replace the Dalvik Virtual Machine; Oreo's most welcome feature will likely end up being Project Treble, a reworking of the OS as a modular base to enable more efficient OEM customizations and (hopefully) faster software updates for end users.

    Google has scheduled a web event to coincide with the solar eclipse rolling across the USA later today. Their livestream will start broadcasting at 2:40pm Eastern Time, so we won't be in the dark about the next version of Android for much longer...

    Sources: @android, @evleaks

    by Published on 08-09-2017 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Apps

    Welcome back to your Pebble appreciation station. Today I'm here to tell you about a limited edition soft cover book showcasing the work of premier watchface designer Albert Salamon, who sells his work in the Pebble app store under the TTMM brand.

    Watchface design, particularly on a 144 by 168 pixel canvas, can be a very subjective thing, but this designer has actually won awards for his work. His book, available through eBay, features 100 TTMM faces—including some that haven't even been released yet! As a bonus, you'll receive a customized KiezelPay code that will unlock everything you see in the book.

    These are the two TTMM faces that I have installed on my own Pebble Time Steel. FEELTTMM (left) shows you the current temperature via a colour panel which changes from blue to yellow to green to red depending on how cold or hot it is outside. TTMMBRN is a funky LCD-style face paying tribute to the Jason Bourne movies (which I've never seen). Yes, my step counter is at zero, but I just woke up. Gimme a break, here...

    Mr. Salamon's book is limited to 100 copies and ships from his native Poland for less than $20 USD.

    Links: eBay via reddit

    by Published on 08-04-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps

    ... But only on Verizon, at least for the moment—an unlocked version is coming soon to Amazon. In Canada it's already available unlocked from Canada Computers and Memory Express.

    If you didn't know, "AR" stands for augmented reality; the ZenFone AR is the world's second-ever production handset to support Google's Project Tango, preceded only by the gargantuan (and also underpowered) Lenovo Phab Pro 2. Apps that support Project Tango are few and far between. Current showpieces include Lowe's Vision, which lets you preview Lowe's appliances and furniture in your own home, and Hot Wheels Track Builder, where you can lay out orange tracks to your heart's content in an entirely virtual space. The ZenFone AR also supports Daydream (Google's VR), and there are many more available titles which you can use with that.

    The phone's notable specs are as follows:

    Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor
    5.7 inch Super AMOLED QHD display
    23 megapixel rear camera
    Four-axis OIS and three-axis video stabilization
    4K video recording
    8 megapixel selfie cam
    6 or 8 GB of RAM
    64 or 128 GB of storage
    3,300 mAh battery
    Android 7.0 Nougat

    There are actually three variants of the ZenFone AR: one with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage for $599 USD ($899 CAD), another with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage for $699 USD and also a Verizon-exclusive version with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage for $649 USD.

    CNET has an in-depth preview of the phone with video and a gallery of photos; for links to that along with current buying options see directly below.

    Links: Canada Computers, CNET, Memory Express, Verizon

    by Published on 07-27-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Tips,
    3. Apps

    iMessage is the one thing that Apple fans can rightly gloat about—nothing beats the convenience of having your SMS reach you on whatever iDevice you happen to be using. With its Chrome browser extension Pulse SMS can give Android users the same convenience, along with AirDroid, MightyText, Pushbullet, etc. But for those Chrome users seeking native SMS support there is some potentially good news on the way.

    Chrome Unboxed received a screenshot from a reader with a Samsung Chromebook Plus, showing a new field in the Settings menu called Connected Devices, and a toggle labeled SMS Connect. It doesn't actually do anything at the moment, but you can supposedly see the menu item on your own Chromebook by enabling developer mode and searching
    for the following:

    Enable multidevice features Chrome OS
    Enables UI for controlling multidevice features. #multidevice
    Remember that enabling developer mode will wipe all local data from your machine—which is why I'm unable to test this for you on my girlfriend's Chromebook.

    Hopefully an update is on the way that will activate this feature, at least so that users in the developer channel can test it. Perhaps one day soon all Android users will be able to enjoy native SMS functionality through their Chrome desktop browsers—and that iMessage envy won't be quite so bad.

    Source: Chrome Unboxed via Android Police

    by Published on 07-26-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Tips,
    3. Apps

    Last week I wrote about issues that some Pebble users are having with their Android app, hammering Pebble's servers and in so doing killing their phone's battery. Fitbit has promised to support Pebblers only through to the end of 2017, but with their own proper smartwatch on the way it seems inevitable that Pebble servers will one day be powered down.

    Fortunately, if you're an Android user, there's an app for that: it's called Gadgetbridge. Available via F-Droid, it also supports Mi Band and Zeblaze fitness trackers. For Pebble it will give your watch 85% of the functionality it had with the companion Pebble app, and zero dependence on Pebble's servers.

    Let's have a look!

    This is the app's control center, where you'll see all your connected devices (I just have the one). The grey icons along the bottom row are, from left to right, your watch's battery level, a screenshot utility, your installed apps and watchfaces, your fitness data (stored locally on your phone) and another utility to buzz your watch if you've lost it.

    Here's a list of the watchfaces I have installed on my Pebble. Gadgetbridge has no direct connection to Pebble's app store, but you can use any web browser to download your desired face (or app) to your phone, and then install it locally from there. Just follow the instructions on the Gadgetbridge wiki here.

    So here's something I didn't know; the configuration page for watchface settings are actually remote web pages maintained by developers—GitHub in the example above. To protect you from malicious sites Gadgetbridge will show you the URL of the configuration site rather than taking you there directly.

    Once you've configured your watchface Gadgetbridge will show you a preview of your settings before sending them on to your watch, presumably to protect you from malicious code. I don't have a problem with this.

    Pebble and its community have done a fantastic job of making software available for the now-unsupported hardware. If and when the app store goes offline, no matter; someone on reddit is sharing their entire download of it. Likewise, there's no need to worry if your Pebble goes down; you can reinstall your watch firmware via Gadgetbridge, and links to the latest versions are available on their wiki.

    In terms of functionality it's easier to tell you what doesn't work rather than what still does. Switching to Gadgetbridge will basically remove the option of using your voice with your Pebble. You won't be able to initiate text messages but you can reply to them from your watch with your own canned responses, entered via the phone app. Gadgetbridge is very serious about protecting you, and as a policy will not allow any app or watchface to connect to the Internet directly; as a result apps like TripAdvisor and Yelp will be quite useless. If you use a watchface with a weather complication there is a fairly ugly hack that works for only a few faces, but will at least provide weather data for the native weather app on Pebble OS.

    For me the choice was obvious: have the official Pebble Android app continue to murder my phone's battery or give up some features and use Gadgetbridge instead. I should point out that I also own three Android Wear watches, and yet even with the reduced functionality it's still the Pebble that most often ends up on my wrist!

    Links: F-Droid, Gadgetbridge

    by Published on 07-20-2017 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Apps

    Yup, my Pebble's connected... but not for long.

    Shortly after grabbing this screen from my phone I uninstalled the Pebble app for Android and powered down my Pebble Time Steel. Again. Just to explain what's going on here, it's the notification panel of my phone, with a frame from an excellent Android utility called OS Monitor, showing that the Pebble companion app is using almost 30% of my CPU. That translates to a battery drain of about 10% per hour. Where I often go to bed before midnight with a half-full battery, since firing up my Pebble again my phone has never even made it to dinner on a full charge.

    So what's going on here? According to a user on the Pebble Forums the app is hammering the Pebble servers for some unknown reason. And the only reliable fix for afflicted devices is to force them into offline mode—that is, sever any connection beyond the Bluetooth link between phone and watch. Unfortunately this kills much of the functionality that made Pebble so great: weather data, speech-to-text, Pebble Health... The watch faces I depended on when I was a full-time Pebbler all had weather complications; without them a big part of Pebble's appeal is lost.

    But wait, there's more!

    Pebblers have also reported that thumbnails for their watch faces and apps are disappearing from the phone app, like you can see above (it happened to me as well). This one can at least be fixed. The problem, as described on r/pebble, is a faulty certificate—the thumbnails actually aren't local to your phone, but live instead on Pebble servers for some reason. Running an Android app called Packet Capture can fix the connection and restore your thumbnails, at least temporarily.

    Of course that still may leave you with a watch that murders your phone battery. What I thought would be a fun couple of days getting re-acquainted with my Pebble turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Maybe Fitbit should just shut down their Pebble servers altogether and be done with it.

    Sources: Pebble Forums, reddit

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