• Commentary and Analysis

    by Published on 08-14-2018 03:15 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps

    By now you've probably seen some version of the AP exclusive about Google and your location history. In a nutshell, Google services continue to track your whereabouts, whether you want them to or not. And to be perfectly clear, this happens on both Android and iOS.

    Among smartphone users I can picture a spectrum of reactions, from a dismissive shrug to a tinfoil hat:

    "Who cares? I've got nothing to hide."

    I can't say that I 100% agree with this; to paraphrase Ed Snowden, dismissing privacy because you've got nothing to hide is like dismissing free speech because you've got nothing to say.

    But it does remind me of a chat I once had with a so-called security expert, who at the time insisted that his clients refrain from using any of Google's products. "Wouldn't that make you more suspicious?" I asked him, and he eventually came to agree with me that security through obscurity is a defensible strategy to protect one's privacy.

    "Granting Google access to some of my personal data in order to use their services is a fair exchange."

    This is where I currently find myself on this particular issue. Not only do I keep my location history turned on, but I share it with the girlfriend on an ongoing basis. That way both her and Google know if I stop in at Dairy Queen when I'm not supposed to.

    That said, if you do opt out of location tracking then it's a reasonable expectation that you shouldn't be tracked.

    "Of course Google is spying on you. Don't you know they're funded by the CIA? Wake up, sheeple!"

    That's certainly possible, but... I dunno.

    What mostly concerns me about surveillance in this part of the world is that it's not at all transparent. Everybody knows that WeChat shares user data with the Chinese government, yet it takes a Snowden to reveal it here. I'm not saying that China is better, only that North America seems to be about as bad.

    So that's my two cents. What do you make of this latest revelation about Google and location tracking?

    Source: Associated Press

    by Published on 08-01-2018 06:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    A new report from IDC claims that Huawei has surpassed Apple in global smartphone shipments, and is now second only to market leader Samsung.

    The bad news is a 1.8% decline in overall sales compared to the same period last year, the third consecutive decline for the global smartphone market in as many quarters. The good news for Q2 2018, however, is all Huawei—here are some numbers to help you make sense of the chart above:

    Samsung - 20.9% market share
    2017 Q2 shipments: 79.8 million
    2018 Q2 shipments: 71.5 million
    Year-over-year change: -10.4%

    Huawei - 15.8% market share
    2017 Q2 shipments: 38.5 million
    2018 Q2 shipments: 54.2 million
    Year-over-year change: 40.9%

    Apple - 12.1% market share
    2017 Q2 shipments: 41 million
    2018 Q2 shipments: 41.3 million
    Year-over-year change: 0.7%

    For further insights into the current state of the global smartphone market, see the links immediately below.

    Source: IDC via The Next Web

    by Published on 07-23-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    Ars Technica's Ron Amadeo has written an in-depth post about Google's iron grip on Android. Despite its open source nature the world's dominant operating system isn't at all the same beast if you strip out the proprietary Google bits, as the screenshot above illustrates.

    Oh, and I should probably mention, the article is actually from 2013. So why republish it now, five years later? From Ars:

    In light of the $5 billion EU antitrust ruling against Google this week, we started noticing a certain classic Ars story circulating around social media. Google's methods of controlling the open source Android code and discouraging Android forks is exactly the kind of behavior the EU has a problem with, and many of the techniques outlined in this 2013 article are still in use today.
    Over the ensuing five years Google became a Platinum Member of The Linux Foundation, but has also pulled Android even further away from AOSP. Some examples:

    1. The camera app for Pixel phones uses proprietary algorithms for its enviable results;
    2. Gboard has built-in search, GIF support and the ability to toggle language inputs;
    3. Google's recommended solution for SMS has gone from Hangouts to Allo to Android Messages with RCS.

    In fairness, there is one wildly-successful fork of Android out there. Last spring Xiaomi announced carrier partnerships in Europe and the UK, but Mi-powered devices sold outside of mainland China tend to also ship with Google services on-board.

    Sources: Ars Technica, Engadget, TechCrunch

    by Published on 07-19-2018 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers

    OpenSignal has just published another report on mobile network speeds in the USA. Here's the brief:

    The U.S. mobile industry has gotten a jolt of bandwidth in the past year, causing average 4G download speeds among all four operators to climb. T-Mobile and Verizon have now crossed the 20 Mbps threshold for average 4G download speeds in our measurements—a milestone that seemed quite distant a year ago.
    And here are the numbers, from over 8 million measurements on almost four hundred thousand devices, collected between mid-March and mid-June:

    4G Download Speed
    T-Mobile - 21.57 Mbps
    Verizon - 20.56 Mbps
    AT&T - 15.08 Mbps
    Sprint - 14.46 Mbps

    3G Download Speed
    T-Mobile - 3.64 Mbps
    AT&T - 2.77 Mbps
    Sprint - 0.98 Mbps
    Verizon - 0.85 Mbps

    Overall Download Speed
    T-Mobile - 20.57 Mbps
    Verizon - 19.23 Mbps
    AT&T - 13.69 Mbps
    Sprint - 12.57 Mbps

    4G Upload Speed
    T-Mobile - 7.45 Mbps
    Verizon - 6.94 Mbps
    AT&T - 4.51 Mbps
    Sprint - 2.52 Mbps

    4G Latency
    AT&T - 54.05 ms
    T-Mobile - 56.42 ms
    Verizon - 61.92 ms
    Sprint - 64.29 ms

    3G Latency
    T-Mobile - 85.05 ms
    AT&T - 98.46 ms
    Sprint - 131.01 ms
    Verizon - 139.6 ms

    4G Availability
    T-Mobile - 93.67%
    Verizon - 93.67%
    AT&T - 88.43%
    Sprint - 87.74%

    Note that these numbers are national averages; for regional results, consult the link below. And don't forget to add your device to the test pool with the OpenSignal app for Android or iOS.

    Source: OpenSignal

    by Published on 07-18-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    Blancco Technology Group, apparent specialists in mobile device diagnostics, have released a report naming and shaming the least reliable smartphones and smartphone brands. The report includes both Android and Apple devices, and all results are based on data collected during the last quarter of 2017.

    Top 10 Android Models by Failure Rate

    Xiaomi Redmi 4 (9%)
    Moto G5 Plus (6%)
    Lenovo K8 Note (5%)
    Nokia 6 (4%)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 (3%)
    Samsung Galaxy S8+ (3%)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Active (3%)
    Xiaomi Redmi Y1 (2%)
    Samsung Galaxy S6 (2%)
    Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2%)

    Top 10 Android OEMs by Failure Rate

    Samsung (34%)
    Xiaomi (13%)
    Motorola (9%)
    LG (7%)
    Lenovo (6%)
    InFocus (4%)
    Nokia (4%)
    Huawei (4%)
    OnePlus (3%)
    ZTE (2%)

    Keep in mind that the top two offenders also have the lion's share of the global Android market.

    Top 5 Android Issues Worldwide

    Performance (27%)
    Camera (5%)
    Microphone (4%)
    Headset (4%)
    Speaker (3%)

    Top 10 iPhone Models by Failure Rate

    iPhone 6 (26%)
    iPhone 6S (14%)
    iPhone 6S Plus (9%)
    iPhone 7 Plus (9%)
    iPhone 6 Plus (9%)
    iPhone 7 (8%)
    iPhone 5s (6%)
    iPhone SE (6%)
    iPhone 8 Plus (2%)
    iPhone 5 (2%)

    It's unclear from the report whether Apple's failure rates are compared against just other iPhones, or all devices tested.

    Top 5 iOS Issues Worldwide

    Bluetooth (3%)
    WiFi (3%)
    Headset (2%)
    Mobile Data (2%)
    Reception (1%)

    Failure Rates by Market

    Apple (26%)
    Android (21%)

    Android (40%)
    Apple (36%)

    North America
    Apple (12%)
    Android (9%)

    Feel free to add your own anecdotal observations below!

    Source: Blancco PDF via TechSpot

    by Published on 06-20-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    As of this morning Google has no less than four Android apps for music, podcasts and video, with more than a few redundancies between them. The most confounding of the lot has to be YouTube Music, but its existence is more easily understood if you know your recent Internet history. Here's a quick and dirty refresher.

    Google Play Music

    GPM was launched in late 2011, and was part of the reason behind the Android Market's re-branding as Google Play. Google's app store (now Google Play Apps) was joined by an ebook store (Google Play Books) a video store (Google Play Movies) and GPM, likely an answer to the growing popularity of Spotify.

    Like Spotify, GPM users could pay for a premium subscription to stream specific albums and tracks on-demand, or listen for free and endure the occasional ad. Unlike Spotify, GPM users could also upload tracks from their own music collection. In 2016 GPM added podcast support, presumably to lure users (and their listening habits) away from the more popular Pocket Casts app.


    Wait a minute, YouTube isn't a music player... It is, however, the key to understanding YouTube Music. Open for uploads in 2005, YouTube predates GPM by 6 years, and during that time it became a popular practice for YouTubers to upload playlists or entire albums (legal or not) as video files, with high quality audio tracks and either a static graphic or simple animation for visuals.

    In many markets and demographics YouTube is far more popular as a music platform than Google Play Music. This, along with the added pressure of rights holders angry over pirated music streams, inevitably let to the creation of—you guessed it...

    YouTube Music

    At Google, everything is supposedly driven by user data; in that context it makes perfect sense to apply their video brand to a music streaming service. But if the goal is to replace GPM (and it should be) Google's still got some work to do. Tracks uploaded to GPM are not yet available on YouTube Music. Even worse, unless you have a paid subscription the YTM stream on your phone will immediately stop the moment your screen goes dark.


    Instead of focusing their efforts on a better YTM experience Google has decided instead to release a standalone podcast app. Again, if the goal is to migrate users away from GPM (and again, it should be) this makes sense. But with the current state of YTM no one is going to stop using GPM anytime soon, so a dedicated podcast app is a bit premature.

    And that, in a nutshell, is Google's current music (and podcast) mess, and how I believe it came to be.

    by Published on 06-14-2018 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    One of the new features coming to iOS 12 is USB Restricted Mode, designed specifically to lock out attackers with physical access to a phone or tablet. It will be enabled by default, requiring the user's passcode when anything is connected to the device's charging and data port, starting one hour after it was last locked. For convenience sake the phone or tablet will still charge; any other accessory will require a passcode to work.

    Not everyone is thrilled with this new feature. From The New York Times:

    Such a change would hinder law enforcement officials, who have typically been opening locked iPhones by connecting another device running special software to the port, often days or even months after the smartphone was last unlocked. News of Apple’s planned software update has begun spreading through security blogs and law enforcement circles—and many in investigative agencies are infuriated.
    Police say they need access to phones to catch criminals; Apple argues that vulnerabilities can be exploited by good and bad actors alike.

    Currently law enforcement has two paths to access an Apple device: they can ship it off to Israeli forensics firm Cellebrite, or purchase a $15-30,000 box from a U.S. startup called Grayshift and access the device in-house. One police force boasts that they've been able to crack 96 phones with a Grayshift box.

    I myself am not entirely convinced that USB Restricted Mode is going to be a success. It might just prompt an attacker (police or otherwise) to change their target, either to a user's iCloud account or even data directly from their carrier. But even if not 100% foolproof, protecting a user's privacy is never a bad idea.

    Source: New York Times via iPhone in Canada

    by Published on 06-12-2018 07:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    Could the insane lens array of the Light L16 Camera be making its way to a future generation of smartphones? If the arms race for multiple phone cameras continues, it certainly seems possible.

    With the P20 Pro Huawei has made triple smartphone cameras a thing, and rumours suggest that at least one model of this year's iPhone 9 series will also have a three-lens camera system on board. But why stop at three? In an interview with Android Headlines DxOMark is convinced that quadruple-cam smartphones are inevitable.

    On the one hand, multiple lenses are an ingenious use of a large but relatively thin surface area. The Light Camera, for example, uses its 16 lenses simultaneously to capture a massive 52 megapixel image with post-capture depth of field controls. On the other hand, Google's Pixels seem to do pretty well with only a single lens.

    I guess my biggest concern is copycat Android OEMs adding a whack of cheap cameras to their phones' backsides instead of one or two decent ones. That, and not being able to hold a device without smudging up multiple lenses.

    Source: Android Headlines

    by Published on 05-17-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    The OnePlus 6 was officially revealed yesterday. There's a video from Michael Fisher—aka Mr. Mobile—in yesterday's news round-up, along with some other links. Basically we're looking at an incremental upgrade from late 2017's OnePlus 5T. Major specs are as follows:

    Snapdragon 845 processor
    6.28 AMOLED display (with notch)
    6 or 8 GB of RAM / 64, 128 or 256 GB of storage
    16 MP OIS and 20 MP rear cameras
    16 MP selfie cam with EIS
    3,300 mAh battery with Dash Charge
    3.5 mm audio jack (!)
    OxygenOS (Android Oreo 8.1)
    Colours: Midnight Black, Mirror Black and Silk White
    Starting Price: $529 USD / $699 CAD

    Now if you'll indulge this current OnePlus user for a few moments, I'd like to offer my perspective on the latest from Carl Pei and company.

    The Price

    I certainly agree with Michael Fisher that OnePlus isn't the bargain that it used to be. Here in Canada a fully-loaded 6 will set you back a whopping $839 CAD, perilously close to the current $899 sticker price of a Pixel 2 from Google. You lose the tall screen and headphone jack, but you gain what everybody seems to agree is the best smartphone camera currently on the market.

    I think a better comparison would be against the iPhone X. With a similar 256 GB of storage one of those would set you back an egregious $1,529 CAD, making the OnePlus 6 seem a bit more reasonable.

    The Notch

    2018's biggest fad will be yesterday's news as soon as OEMs figure out how to put fingerprint sensors underneath their displays. Had OnePlus gone the route of Samsung the 6 would age far more gracefully, I think, but at least its notch can be hidden with a software toggle. I'm not sure how well that's going to work, but given the AMOLED screen at least the pixels won't be lit.

    The Camera

    The return of optical image stabilization is most welcome, but what's up with that other lens on the back? Carl Pei barely mentioned it in his presentation, and I can't help but think there would have been significant cost savings with one decent camera rather than two mediocre ones.

    Should You Upgrade?

    At this point I think the smartphone market has matured enough that everyone has found an OEM to call their own. If you're on Team Samsung or Team Pixel then OnePlus has really only its low cost of entry to lure you away. If, however, you're thinking of upgrading from an earlier OnePlus phone I believe I can offer some advice...

    I'm currently using a 5T and don't see enough reasons to upgrade. If the 6's glass back supported fast wireless charging it might be a different story, but I'm perfectly happy with my current phone. But if you're coming from a OnePlus 5 or below then I'd say the 6 is a worthy upgrade—it's tall screen, especially with gesture navigation enabled, makes any 16:9 smartphone seem ancient by comparison.

    ... Or you could just hold out another six months for the inevitable OnePlus 6T

    Here are the OnePlus 6 online stores for Canada and the USA.

    by Published on 05-14-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    This Canadian won't pretend for a moment to be an expert on U.S. politics, yet I feel obliged to report on the latest bizarre twist in the story of the growing American ban on Chinese smartphones.

    A quick refresher: This past January, AT&T abruptly pulled out of an agreement to be the exclusive American carrier for the Huawei Mate 10 Pro; Verizon also announced that it would no longer carry Huawei products. In February, the heads of six U.S. intelligence agencies expressed "deep concerns" about Chinese-made telecom products to the Senate. In March, Best Buy halted all sales and any future orders of Huawei hardware. In April, the Department of Commerce banned U.S. companies from exporting components to ZTE for seven years. As a result, ZTE ceased its main business operations earlier this month.

    And then yesterday, President Trump suddenly and unexpectedly tweeted that he was working President Xi Jinping of China to get ZTE "back in business". But why?

    I believe the answer lies within the nature of the ZTE ban. First there are the specifics: the ban was initiated because ZTE failed to punish employees who violated trade controls against other nations. Second are the political stakes: The New York Times reports that China is acting as an intermediary in talks between North Korea and the USA. Reversing policy on ZTE might help secure China's continued involvement.

    But here's what's most telling to me: According to Reuters, ZTE paid over $2 billion to U.S. exporters last year, including $100 million each to Qualcomm, Broadcom, Intel and Texas Instruments. So banning ZTE would adversely affect not only Chinese jobs, but jobs in the USA as well. Huawei, on the other hand, has its own Kirin chipsets, and is therefore far less reliant on Qualcomm, at least.

    Which makes me wonder whether this whole China scare is less about security and more about trade. What do you think?

    Sources: New York Times, President Trump on Twitter, Reuters

    by Published on 05-09-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. News,
    3. Commentary and Analysis

    And in their current form I can't say that I'm a fan.

    If you thought the display notch was the big smartphone innovation of 2017 you'd be sadly mistaken; the best thing about the iPhone X was the gesture navigation that they lifted from the Palm Pre's card-based interface. A year later it seems that where iPhone goes so does the rest of the industry; notches are popping up on Android phones everywhere, and at the Google I/O keynote yesterday gesture support was announced for the first public beta of Android P.

    I've been enjoying the OnePlus interpretation of gestures on an Open Beta of their OxygenOS, and if I had the choice I'd never go back to the clunky navigation bar again. Moreover, I think OnePlus has come up with a more elegant gesture-based UI; no "pill" is required, you only need to remember three moves—swipe up from the centre to go home, swipe up from the centre and hold for your app menu and swipe up from either left or right to go back. For me it became second nature in minutes.

    Google's implementation of gestures has a pill similar to the iPhone X; unlike the iPhone, however, the pill seems to stay visible at the bottom of your screen at all times. Since dropping the navigation bar frees up real estate at the bottom of your screen, having an always-on pill doesn't exactly seem like a win. One good thing is that it doubles as a slider when you're in your app menu, which admittedly is a neat trick. I'll also admit that having a contextual back button can sometimes be handy; if I'm using the software keyboard on my OnePlus I can't really use the back gesture without inadvertently typing some random characters.

    Still, I do prefer gestures the OnePlus way. I hope they keep it.

    Source: Android Police

    by Published on 05-04-2018 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    If you were curious about Paytm, specifically the Canadian offering from the Indian m-commerce giant, here are my observations after using it for almost a year. Spoiler alert: I uninstalled it from my phone yesterday.

    I first came to understand Paytm as a competitor to Plastiq, a service that lets you use your credit card to pay bills that typically don't accept credit cards—mortgage payments, car insurance, that sort of thing. That's no longer a fair fight, as VISA card payments have been suspended from the Paytm platform. You can, however, connect your chequing account and use it to pay your credit card bills. For this you are rewarded with Paytm points, one point per dollar up to a maximum of a thousand points per payment.

    So what can you redeem this points for? This is where things start to unravel...

    Here's a screen grab of a popular reward on Paytm. If you're confused, what's actually being offered here is $4 cash back if you purchase a $100 Amazon gift card and redeem 1,000 points. The $4 goes into your Paytm balance, which can then be applied against your next transaction. In this way Paytm keeps you perpetually locked into using the service.

    And for credit card payments the service isn't great. Paytm seems to need an extra 5 business days to process that specific type of transaction, so you'll have to remember to pay at least a week earlier than usual. It might be worth the hassle for better rewards; even one or two percent cash back would be fantastic on a transaction where you'd otherwise get nothing. But using the same example above I could extract more value out of that same gift card by buying it with an AMEX Cobalt at a supermarket.

    If you use a MasterCard and/or need to send money to someone in India, Paytm is worth looking in to. For me, though, the numbers just don't add up.

    Still interested? Here are the app store links for Android and iOS.

    by Published on 05-01-2018 07:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    An article I saw on XDA recently got me pretty excited; apparently a new beta of the popular chat platform WhatsApp includes data portability, in order to comply with the European Union's General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect later this month. From within the app users can request an archive of their personal data, which will be made available for download in about a day or so.

    There's just one problem: actual messages from this messaging platform aren't included in the archive.

    The GDPR is crystal clear on data portability. Here's an excerpt from a PDF on the matter:

    The data subject shall have the right to receive the personal data concerning him or
    her, which he or she has provided to a controller, in a structured, commonly used and
    machine-readable format and have the right to transmit those data to another
    controller without hindrance from the controller to which the data have been provided [...]
    I would say that messages most certainly fall under the definition of personal data. The privacy part gets a bit tricky here; in order to be useful a messaging archive would also have to include the messages of other users. But WhatsApp already has a function to export specific message threads via email, so they might as well make your entire message database exportable by other means.

    And to be perfectly clear, this current data portability solution is only being tested in a beta of the app. Hopefully the release version will be fully compliant when the GDPR goes into effect on May 25th.

    Source: XDA

    by Published on 04-26-2018 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Carriers

    The CRTC wants affordable data-only plans for Canadians, and now have proposals in-hand from this country's Big Three carriers. Here are the numbers, courtesy of Mobile Syrup:

    Rogers: $25/400MB
    No extended domestic coverage
    No Roam Like Home

    Bell: $30/500MB
    Available through Virgin Mobile for postpaid and prepaid (BYOD)

    Telus: $30/500MB
    Available through Koodo for postpaid (BYOD and Tab Small)
    Available through Public Mobile for prepaid (BYOD)

    This is some kind of joke, right?

    I mean, the pricing is not entirely unreasonable—that is if you put aside the connection fees that are fast becoming the new norm for getting wireless service in Canada. But for the life of me I can't fathom how 400-500 megabytes of data per month would be useful for anyone who doesn't already have a broadband connection at home.

    The plans make even less sense when you compare them to what Bell, Rogers and Telus already offer through their deep discount brands. Again, from Mobile Syrup, you can get a gigabyte of 3G data from Chatr or Lucky Mobile for only $10 more per month.

    Instead of responding to what I thought was the spirit of the CRTC mandate—to get more Canadians connected for less—it seems to me that the Big Three are just trolling them at this point. And us.

    Links: Mobile Syrup (1) (2) (3)

    by Published on 04-13-2018 06:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    If you needed another reason to be angry at your Android device maker, here it is. According to a new feature in WIRED some OEMs have been flat-out lying about their security patches. The table above is a summary of missing patches found in Android builds across thirteen manufactures. Google and Samsung, as one would hope, are fairly honest; on the other end is TCL and ZTE, each with more than four patches missing from their "updated" devices.

    For the past two years the German security firm SRL have been reverse-engineering software on hundreds on Android phones, investigating what they call "patch gap". The research will be presented today at a conference in Amsterdam.

    With so many Android hardware makers there's no single reason for missing security patches. Sometimes it's an honest mistake and, to quote someone from SRL, sometimes not so much:

    "Sometimes these guys just change the date without installing any patches. Probably for marketing reasons, they just set the patch level to almost an arbitrary date, whatever looks best."
    Whenever a security firm presents bad news like this there's often a solution being peddled to address it. And sure enough, SRL has SnoopStitch, which runs a local test on your device and supposedly informs you of any missing patches. I tried it on my OnePlus phone but the results were inconclusive, possibly because I'm on a beta channel of the software for that device.

    Read more about SRL and patch gap at the links directly below.

    Source: WIRED via XDA

    by Published on 04-06-2018 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Apps

    There's already mounting evidence that we've reached peak smartphone growth—see Exhibit A here and Exhibit B here; now we have our first indication that smartphone app growth has also peaked. The analytics company appfigures makes its case in this chart:

    According to their research, the number of titles in Apple's App Store declined for the first time in 2017. So how do you explain the continuing growth of Google's Android equivalent? Well, there's a chart for that, too:

    As most Android users already know, the majority of apps are developed for iOS first, then ported to Android later. So while the number of titles published in Google Play saw continued growth last year, a similar contraction is likely to occur at some point.

    What does all this mean? Less apps, obviously, but hopefully better ones.

    Source: appfigures via Android Police, TechCrunch

    by Published on 04-05-2018 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis,
    3. Reviews and Hands-on

    David Ruddock, the managing editor of Android Police, has just completed a two-week test drive of Android P Developer Preview 1. I've already covered the visual overhaul of the UI in a previous post; today I present to you a quick summary of David's thoughts on other aspects of this first test build.

    1. Theming is Hard

    ... Especially without user-selectable controls. On other Android devices, like ones from OnePlus and Samsung, theming is actually pretty easy. But for some reason Google will only give you a dark theme if you select a dark wallpaper, and even then your notification cards and Google Feed will remain their regular garish white.

    2. Smart Rotate is Neat

    If you find auto-rotate annoying and keep your phone locked in portrait mode then you'll surely appreciate this new feature. When you rotate your phone to landscape a button will magically appear in your navigation bar so that you can rotate your screen manually to match. Smart!

    3. Screenshot Editors are Handy

    Android P now has a native screenshot editor. There's nothing especially groundbreaking here; Android ROMs from other OEMs—again, like OnePlus and Samsung—have offered this functionality for quite some time.

    Indeed, nothing I'm seeing in this Android Police report has me terribly excited about Android P. Not so long ago a new version of Android meant new features and commits to AOSP that every device builder could use; nowadays it seems like Google is just playing catch-up to other OEMs.

    Source: Android Police

    by Published on 03-21-2018 08:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. Commentary and Analysis,
    4. Apps

    It's been almost a week since Google officially rebranded Android Wear to Wear OS, and tech blogs are unimpressed. Today I'll highlight two recent editorials on the subject, one with helpful but misguided suggestions for Google, and the other with some shade-throwing that, quite by accident, pretty much nails what I believe to be Mountain View's master plan.

    Android Central: Android Wear needs way more than just a Wear OS rebrand

    AC's editorial has two recommendations for Google: overhaul Google Fit and make a Pixel watch.

    While it's probably true that Google Fit is somewhat lacking for the hardcore fitness enthusiast, the article conveniently ignores the existence of third-party apps like Endomondo, Runkeeper, Strava and many more—all of which work with Wear OS. Google Fit is perfectly fine for the fitness dilettante, like myself.

    As for a Pixel watch, that would be almost certainly be a gift from the heavens for Pixel zealots, and of no consequence to the wider addressable audience for wearables. Remember that Nokia-powered Android phones, barely available in North America, outsold their Pixel counterparts last year. Would a Pixel-branded smartwatch do any better? I don't see how.

    Gizmodo: Google's Smartwatch Program Is a Mess, and a Name Change Won't Fix That

    Gizmodo's anti-Ware OS screed spends a lot of time looking down its nose at Fossil Group and other traditional watch OEMs:

    Almost all of the big Android Wear device makers such as Motorola, LG, and Asus have given up on the platform, leaving Android Wear in the hands of fashion brands that neither have the vision nor the technological know-how to advance smartwatch tech.
    Well, there's certainly one thing that fashion brands know how to do: design a timepiece that doesn't look like a gadget. Looks are entirely subjective, of course, but put any of the aforementioned Asus, LG or Motorola smartwatches beside anything from a traditional watchmaker and you can immediately see which one was designed by an electronics company.

    I've said this before and I'll say it here again: the future of Wear OS is under the hood of a Casio, Fossil, TAG Heuer or whatever your favourite watch brand happens to be. For the present, it arms these watchmakers with an alternative to the Apple Watch; for the future, it gives every watch-wearer to ability to see notifications on their wrist. The Wear OS rebranding is ultimately just marketing, and that's fine with me. It's a less-geeky way to pitch the tech under that pretty watchface.

    Links: Android Central, Gizmodo, Wareable

    by Published on 03-08-2018 07:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Commentary and Analysis

    This isn't a screenshot of Android P, but it might as well be. The image is actually from the Play Store listing for the Flux White Substratum Theme. I was a big fan of the original Flux for Cyanogen not so long ago, and Google could certainly do worse than to copy this particular designer's fine efforts.

    Feel free to compare what you see above with some screenshots of the actual developer preview from Android Police. The resemblance is uncanny, isn't it? It's also perhaps a little bit ironic, because according to XDA custom overlays—including Substratum themes—can no longer be used with Android P, at least in its current state.

    The last time I had checked on Substratum it required root, but apparently there is also a rootless variant. It doesn't ultimately matter because root access to your device won't help you anyway, thanks to changes Google has made to a file called framework.jar

    Custom ROMs will likely be able to patch this file, and there might soon be a Magisk module that does the same. But if you're running a stock ROM that doesn't already support theming, prepare to be blinded by Android P.

    Sources: Android Police, reddit, XDA

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