Archive for the ‘Android’ Category
For many Android owners, the 4.4.3 update has yet to hit (though it is slowly rolling out — when you will receive the update will depend upon your carrier and device). Although the new feature list isn’t epic in length, what it brings to the table will have a lot of users happy… quite happy, actually. This is especially so for users who frequently snap photos with their device and/or record audio.
Aesthetics get little in the way of an upgrade. There is a slight tweak to the Dialer app, but that’s the only change to the UI you’ll readily notice.
The short list of major changes looks something like this:
- A tweaked Dialer app with a colored Action bar (this is the UI change)
- Contact app (sometimes called People) uses placeholder images, similar to those used by Gmail
- Fixed hissing sound while recording videos (Nexus 5) is fixed
- Fix for LTE connection dropping bug
- Wi-Fi improvements
- Microphone and earphone related changes
There are also a lot of other under-the-hood camera, Bluetooth, and other system-related bug fixes.
The cameras (especially those on Motorola devices) will see numerous improvements. Exposure consistency and flash coloring are dramatically improved. A big change for photo enthusiasts is better low-light handling for the front camera.
Speaking of Motorola devices, Moto X and Moto G owners will find a new app called Motorola Alert. This app will send out periodic messages to select contacts.
Probably the biggest upside to this update is the improvements to security, overall stability, and power profile features. One major update is an optimization to ZRAM support. This allows idle background apps to store data in a compressed RAM partition to free up RAM for applications. There’s also a low-RAM API that improves performance on devices with as little as 512 MB of RAM (by using more aggressive memory management). Finally, an experimental Java runtime (called ART) improves application performance over the current Dalvik runtime.
On the downside, at least for Nexus 5 owners, the mm-qcamera-daemon bug (this is a bug that caused the camera to quickly drain the device battery) has not been fixed. The update also does not fix the LED Notification for missed calls (which has been plaguing many devices for some time now).
Android 4.4.3 is primarily a continuation of bug fixing for KitKat. However, don’t let the lack of UI changes fool you… the 4.4.3 update will go a long way to improve the performance and stability of your device. So, when can you expect the rollout to your device?
- GPE versions of the HTC One M7, Galaxy S4, HTC One M8, and the Sony Z Ultra should already have the update
- Sprint users with Nexus 5 devices should be seeing the update soon
- All other devices should see the update in the coming weeks
As with any Android update, predicting when a device will receive the new software is like predicting the weather — it’s hit and miss (and most often wrong). Every supported device should have the update available in the coming weeks. I can tell you that, as of this writing, Verizon HTC and Motorola devices, as well as AT&T Motorola devices, do not have the update available.
Have you received your 4.4.3 update? If so, has your Android device performance and reliability improved? What would you like to see in upcoming Android updates? Share your ideas in the discussion thread below.
If you’re just learning the Android ropes, you might get tangled up in a mistake or two. Here are 10 ways to avoid problems and get the maximum benefit from your Android device.
Android is the most widely used platform on the planet. That means it is being used by a variety of skill levels. If you exist on the newbie end of the scale (or if you have to support a group of newbies running Android), know that there are some common mistakes made with this Google-centric platform. Some mistakes come from the adjustments you have to make when migrating from another platform. But others are a bit more grievous and could even cause some form of data loss. All these mistakes can be easily avoided with just a bit of knowledge. So that’s what I’m going to give to you — in the form of 10 preventable newbie mistakes.
1. Don’t expect it to act like an iPhone
Many users who migrate from the iOS platform expect Android to behave the same way. Sure, fundamentally it does. It will make and receive phone calls, check email, and view web pages. But once you get beyond the basic functionality, the Android and iOS platforms have little in common. If you assume that Android and iPhone smartphones are the same, you are in for a frustrating experience. Each platform approaches tasks differently, and if you assume your Android device is similar to an iPhone, you’ll miss out on a lot of features.
2. Secure it now
You have plenty of data on that smartphone… data you do not want getting into to the hands of other users. To that end, you must secure your smartphone with a password, or a pattern, a fingerprint, or whatever your device offers. No matter how you approach it, don’t leave your data open for all to see. In the case of your Google account, consider two-step authentication. You want your device as secure as possible.
3. Avoid that POP
The single most common question I get is, “Why are emails disappearing from my phone or desktop?” It’s because you set up your email as a POP account and didn’t configure your phone or desktop to retain messages on the server. The best way around this is to avoid configuring your email account as a POP account. With Android you can set up many types of accounts… but just avoid POP as much as you can.
4. Don’t drown yourself in widgets
I’ve seen Android homescreens so dense with launchers and widgets, it looked like the app drawer vomited up breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Unfortunately, the more widgets you have on your homescreen (especially those that display data from online accounts) the more battery you will use. If you really want a few widgets on your homescreen, choose wisely and don’t overdo it.
5. Don’t overlook Gmail
Android and Gmail are like peanut butter and chocolate — they work perfectly together. If you get an Android device and don’t have a Gmail account, create one. Why? You’re missing out on a LOT of features (the Google Play Store, backups, and more). Make sure you create your Gmail account before you set up your phone. It’ll make things far easier in the long run.
6. Be smart about permissions
When you install an app, you’ll be warned about what permissions that app requires for use. Do not ignore those permissions, as they can give you insight into the app’s nature. If you’re installing an app that will serve as a mirror and it requires permission to use your location and your email, don’t install it! There are certain permissions that should be given only to certain apps. Do not ignore the permissions warning. Period. Learn what it means and how it works. Know when to stop installing an app based on the permissions it requires.
7. Red-light that Bluetooth
If you don’t use Bluetooth for anything, why leave it on? It’s only going to drain your battery (and Android does that well enough by itself). Shut off Bluetooth from within the Settings app and you won’t have to worry about added battery drain. The same can be said of shutting off Wi-Fi when it is not in use.
8. Stop hoarding those apps
Open up your app drawer. Do you see a veritable cornucopia of unused apps? If so, uninstall them. Your Android device is not a dumping ground for cutesy apps of the day. If you know you’re done flapping angry birds get rid of the app. Those unused apps take up precious space, and in some cases, they could be helping to drain your battery (even if they’re unused). It’s not that those apps are going to suck your battery dry. But why take the chance that they are even draining it in the slightest? If you don’t use it, lose it.
9. Tap into all that power
One of the biggest differences between Android and iOS is the degree of flexibility and control. You have much more control over what your phone can do on Android — so much so, that many new users are overwhelmed or intimidated by all the bells and whistles. Don’t be. If you turn your back on all the possibilities, you miss out on a lot of features that could make your mobile life far easier. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should just start randomly tapping buttons. Use that power with intelligence and understanding.
10. Don’t neglect updates
There are reasons why you get warnings about updates: because they are often necessary for device security or efficiency. Apple pushes out only major updates and does so as a whole package. But there are instances when Android pieces can be updated. Many times these updates will occur without your assistance. However, you should still go into the Application Manager to find out whether there are updates for certain apps or elements of Android (the Play Store is a good example). Make sure you are updating on a regular basis. And be sure to install (and use) Secure Update Scanner so you don’t fall victim to the pileup flaw.
Reap the benefits, avoid the pitfalls
Android is a powerhouse of a platform and has eclipsed all other mobile platforms in global usage. That means there are a lot of first-time users. Don’t fall prey to any of these beginner mistakes and you’ll enjoy a long and productive life with Android.
Have you made some newbie mistakes on Android? Do you think there are just as many mistakes to be made by iOS novices? Share your thoughts bellow.
Quick, grab all of your devices and check what release of Android they are using. Are they all the same? If so, consider yourself one in a million. The Android platform is plagued with numerous releases on numerous devices — even the same devices from different carriers can suffer from different iterations of Android!
Because of what I do, I have numerous Android devices. The different releases are:
All of the above are on devices ranging from a Samsung Galaxy Tab to an HTC One Max (and just about everything in between). As I work with one of the various devices, I have to bounce back and forth to remember where something is located on a certain release. Although this isn’t a deal breaker for me, imagine having to support hundreds of devices, all with varying releases. Now, we’re talking about the breaking of deals.
But this issue goes deeper than that. It’s common knowledge that certain providers and certain device manufacturers are quicker to update than others. Motorola, for one, has always been at the top of the heap for updates. My Moto X always has the latest version of Android (almost immediately upon release). Samsung devices? Not so much. And if you’re with AT&T — good luck.
At one point, Google created the Android Update Alliance. That failed, but not because of Google. The blame here lies at the feet of the carriers and hardware manufacturers, including:
This update issue isn’t only widespread, it’s also very counter to rolling out new devices. How can Samsung (or any manufacturer) or AT&T (or any carrier) sell a device with an out of date OS? And with KitKat showing off how much more efficient it is at memory management, it’s become imperative that Android devices are released with the latest version.
I know this is a challenge for all involved. The second you release a piece of hardware, it could quickly become out of date. And each manufacturer has a different spin on the UI:
- Motorola Motoblur
- HTC Sense
- Samsung Touchwiz
When a new release of Android hits, each company has to integrate the underlying platform with its UI, so there’s another slowdown.
Here’s my beef with this — I can go to the Google Play Store and install any number of home screen launchers, nearly all of which play well with whatever version of Android I’m using (with a rare exception). In some cases, these home screen launchers are developed by a single person who must constantly keep up with changes made to the kernel and various stacks that make up the Android platform. And they do it with aplomb and efficiency.
So, how is it that a single developer can manage this, yet a large company cannot? It truly baffles the mind.
Well, I’ve come up with some ideas that might help this along. Some of them are unlikely, and some of them just might actually work. Let’s take a look:
- All hardware manufacturers drop their in-house home screen launchers and go with vanilla Android (they can offer their versions on the Google Play Store).
- Google develops a set of standards for all hardware manufacturers to use for developing their home screen.
- Set up an OS upgrade check during the first run wizard? Out of date? Update.
- Carriers stop selling out-of-date Android devices that won’t run any version of Android other than the most recent two major releases.
I know it’s a lose-lose scenario. The carriers, the manufacturers, and Google are not going to see eye-to-eye on this issue. But they need to lose their egos and stranglehold on their devices and come to some sort of unified structure that allows Android updates to roll out in a universal fashion. Having carriers selling devices with out-of-date operating systems does no favors to Android. And users not getting the best possible experience, because a carrier or a manufacturer can’t seem to get the upgrade process refined, does nothing but frustrate users.
KitKat is a substantial improvement over an already solid release. Every Android user should be enjoying the speed and features brought about by the latest iteration of the platform. Every entity involved needs to step up and make this happen… soon!
What do you think? Are you one of those suffering from an out of date release of Android? What do you think needs to be done to resolve this problem? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
The Android ecosystem has become a dominant force in 2012. Here’s how I see it growing in the coming year.
Brace yourselves: 2013 is upon us, and that means a whole new generation of Android devices, rumors, and expectations.
Android will have a strong showing at CES (Consumer Electronics Show), and the next few months will be littered with new smartphones and tablets. Let’s take a look at some of the trends we can expect in the Android space over the coming year.
This article will touch on many trends in the Android ecosystem, including hardware advancements, vendor decisions, and key events of the year. Given the sheer number of players in the space, there will be much to look forward to in the ever-evolving Android landscape. Indeed, much could be said about any one of these aspects of Android, but we will address them here in broader terms.
Screen size will sharpen and grow
Not long ago, most smartphone screens didn’t exceed 4 inches. Up until the HTC Evo 4G, most Android phones were had 3.2-inch and 3.5-inch displays. Now, thanks to popular handsets such as the Galaxy S3 (4.8 inches) and Galaxy Note 2 (5.5 inches), consumers are becoming used to much larger screens. We’ll continue to see all sorts of screen sizes in 2013, but the standard high-end experience will fall in the vicinity of 4.5 inches. Those of us who are moving into our second and third Android device will expect something at least as big as our current model.
Beyond size, resolution will sharpen. HTC had a leg up with the Droid DNA with a 1080p (versus 720p) resolution, but now nearly every handset maker you can think of is reportedly working on their own 5-inch 1080p HD display for their premium products. Whether you place a lot of importance on pixel density or not, expect screen resolution to be a big buzzword in 2013.
Quad-core will multiply
If you listen to companies such as Qualcomm and Nvidia, then you’re well aware of the fact that quad-core is the new spec hotness, and Android is the vanguard of competition among handset makers all vying for your little green Android dollars.
Gone are the days of big dual-core announcements. If you don’t come to the table with at least four cores of mobile prowess, then you’re not really expecting to compete on the high-end. We should anticipate that the big devices of the coming year will have quad-core 1.5GHz processors or higher, with some even hitting 2.0GHz by the year’s end. Of course, the fight for faster processors might only be relevant on paper; real world practicality is a different animal. It’s one thing to tout the impressive clock speeds or point to a benchmark, but showing the benefits to end users is the most important win.
Play a lot of 3D games? You definitely care about who makes your phone’s CPU. Just want to see what this whole Android thing is all about? Jump in wherever you want, you’ll be just fine.
One area where we may see more improvements is in the phone’s memory and storage. If the previous year saw 2GB RAM emerge for the top-of-the-line memory experience, next year may see us inching toward 3GB RAM. Storage capacities for Android phones (and all phones) will creep up in 2013 as well, yielding 32GB as the standard for mid-range and 64GB becoming common among high-end devices. This will be especially true for those manufacturers opting for internal batteries and removal of external storage, and I expect to see the first handset with 128GB internal storage appear before 2013 is out.
Entry-level phones will benefit
You have to appreciate the trickle-down effect of technology as today’s top devices quickly become tomorrow’s mid-range experience. With that in mind, the $50-$100 Android smartphone of 2013 will be quite an impressive piece of hardware.
Dual-core processors should become the norm for your “basic” Android phone as single-core stuff gets pushed aside. The same may be said of the no-contract handsets, as we’ll continually get more for our money.
As every carrier scrambles to build out its next-gen data network, 4G LTE will be commonplace in Android smartphones. Sure, we’ll get the occasional 3G product every once in a while, but that will diminish with time. This is not to say that 2013 will be the end of 3G Android, but the days of touting 4G LTE as a special feature will pass.
There is always a chance that we’ll see a 3D experience in an Android phone or two, but I have the feeling this is one technology that won’t take off. I’ve yet to run into someone who wants or needs 3D graphics in their mobile device. Sure, it’s a cool feature to show off once in a while, but we’re just not ready to adopt this baby. I get the feeling that we’ll see a new surge in NFC-enabled accessories and technologies in the coming wave of tech conferences. The idea of tap-to-play speakers or media players doesn’t seem like much of a stretch for this year’s biggest mobile conferences, CES in January and Mobile World Congress in late February.
Perhaps the biggest issue facing smartphones with large displays and super-fast processors is battery life. Nobody wants to put their phone away to preserve juice; we bought that big screen for a reason.
Looking ahead to the New Year, we expect to see more handsets come with internal and/or higher capacity batteries. The Droid Razr Maxx HD is still the benchmark for long-lasting batteries, but we should see the gap narrow. To that end, we may see less emphasis on “world’s thinnest” or “lightest” claims.
One device around the world
I cannot tell you how pleased I was when I learned that Samsung was going to adopt one singular form factor for the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2 across countries and carriers. I’m sure that a number of accessory makers were quite happy with the decision as well. Samsung will employ the same strategy for the Galaxy S4 and will likely have records sales again in the New Year.
As far as other companies going this route, HTC today seems to be the closest. I wouldn’t be surprised if its next flagship model were to hit multiple carriers with a single design. As nice as it was to have fewer models to choose from in the One series, it was still confusing to keep up with the various suffixes — One X, One X+, Evo 4G LTE. “Does my carrier offer that one? What’s the difference between this and that?” Along those lines, LG also seems to be slowly headed in this direction with the Optimus line.
Android comes to new territories
The Samsung Galaxy Camera wasn’t the first digital camera to utilize Android, but the first to tie into carriers.
Nikon, Polaroid, and other camera-makers will dabble a bit with Android backbones and we’ll see smarter shooters in 2013. Pricing will need to come down for mass adoption; however, we will see carriers selling connected cameras in retail stores and online.
We will also see more kid-centric tablets and devices with Android under the hood in the next year. We might as well get used to the fact that Toys R Us and Walmart are going to offer $99 Android tablets.
Once the price point of a generic, knock-off tablet, the $100-$200 price range now offers a decent experience for most. Come this time next year, it will not be strange to see a house with even more Android tablets for a range of age groups.
Shortly after Android became a recognized term in the mobile space; we saw the platform arriving in various electronic devices including microwaves and washing machines.
I don’t think we’ll find too much of that in 2013, but it would not surprise me to see a refrigerator or appliance with a custom touch interface that runs Android. Not a full-blown experience, mind you, but something that gives hardware-makers more flexibility.
There is a chance that we’ll see more Android in the automobile in 2013, but it’ll have competition from RIM’s QNX OS. This won’t be a replicated tablet-like experience with full-on Google Play support but something a little smarter than what we have today. It is easy to picture a 7-inch display that lets users hop from stereo to diagnostics to Google Maps.
Another area that would work well is embedding a tablet in the back of the driver and passenger seat. With more cars offering Wi-Fi connectivity over time, a connected device just makes sense. Don’t be surprised if someone introduces a backseat experience that includes access to social networks as well as casual games such as checkers for road trips. For added fun, pair your Bluetooth game controller and dive into a 3D shooter.
Google I/O and major releases
If the last few years are any indicator, there will be at least five key moments for Android in 2013, starting with trade shows: CES in early January, the international Mobile World Congress in late February, and CTIA in late May. Samsung is also expected to launch its Galaxy S4 flagship phone at a standalone press event, if we follow 2012’s model.
Android’s background OS will continue to gain speed, and the company will introduce new features that again pull away from iOS to set the industry pace. We don’t know much about Android 5.0 quite yet, but we’ll assuredly discover bits and pieces of upcoming features in the months just before Google I/O — especially if Google releases a new Nexus device or two to go along with the latest software build.
2013 will certainly be an exciting year for Android, with the mobile OS surely maintaining its mobile lead.