Let me just start by stating that I am a combination of a Chemist, and obviously a tech enthusiast as I write for AndroidGuys. I don’t find shows like The
Overview While a lot of current music listening options nowadays revolve around streaming your content from a certain provider, free or otherwise (Google Play Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, etc.), many
U.S. Cellular has announced a new promotion that can score you up to $300 for making the switch and trading in your current phone, even if it has a cracked display. Often times when carriers offer promotional credits for trade ins, the phones have to be in good working order, but U.S. Cellular is opening it up to more people. In addition to the $300 credit, the carrier is offering an unlimited buy-out of your current contract after you submit your final bill, which is an awesome value.
Full details about the new promotion from U.S. Cellular can be found below.
U.S. CELLULAR OFFERING $300 CREDIT FOR SWITCHERS, INCLUDING THOSE WITH CRACKED SMARTPHONE SCREENS
CHICAGO (March 10, 2016) – Consumers and businesses looking to take advantage of switching offers by upgrading wireless carriers now have one less hurdle to worry about. U.S. Cellular is exclusively offering a $300 credit for customers who port their number in and trade in their device – even if that device has a cracked screen. On top of that, U.S. Cellular is offering an unlimited buy-out of customers’ current contracts after they submit their final bill from their carrier.
“We know that there are people who are looking to change wireless carriers, but they have broken screens that have no trade-in value, and therefore can’t afford to make the switch,” said Joe Settimi, vice president of marketing for U.S. Cellular. “We wanted to remove that barrier for people and give them an easy way to upgrade to the high-quality U.S. Cellular network and get a better wireless value than Verizon and AT&T.”
U.S. Cellular is also offering all of its home solution products for a penny, along with the first two months of service for free. This includes the Home Phone, Router + Home Phone, Hot Spot and Modem devices that normally are $20 to $30 per month each. In addition, if a current customer refers a friend to U.S. Cellular, and the friend chooses to activate a smartphone on a Shared Connect plan, they both will receive $50.
Android N — the next major release of the Android operating system — is in its infancy. This is our living document of what’s new. There will be updates. Many updates.
The yearly cycle of Android upgrades has started early in 2016, with the first Android N Developer Preview dropping a full month and a half ahead of the annual Google I/O developer conference. That change in and of itself should be an indicator that big things are at work here, even if they’re not entirely apparent at first.
And because this is Android we’re talking about, it gets a little complicated. There are lots of things that go into a major new release. Open-source code drops. Device factory images. New APIs for developers. Minute features for a small subset of Android devices that, while important, will change once the mass market starts seeing updates many months from now.
There’s an awful lot to take in here. This is our living document explaining it all. It will be updated as we get new releases ahead of the “final” (nothing is ever “final”) public release of Android N.
Let’s get to it.
What is Android N?
Every major release of Android gets a version number and a nickname. Android 6.x is “Marshmallow.” Android 5.x is “Lollipop.” Android 4.4 is “KitKat.” And so on and so forth. (You can check out the full rundown of Android versions here.)
Android N Developer Preview
The Android N Developer Preview is just that — a developer preview. It is not intended for daily use. That doesn’t mean it’s not cool, and that you shouldn’t poke around. But know that things will break. Tread carefully. (And have fun!)
- What’s new in Android N
- All Android N news
- About the Android Beta Program
- Download system images
- Android N easter egg
- Join the Discussion
Alphabetically, “N” is next. We don’t yet know what version number Android N will be — Android 7.x is a pretty good guess, but not certain, as Google is only predictable in its unpredictability.
And we also don’t yet know what the nickname will be. Google chief Hiroshi Lockheimer teased that “We’re nut tellin’ you yet.” Maybe that’s leaning toward “Nutella” – which pretty much is the most tasty treat ever to be tasted — or maybe it’s some other sort of “nut.” Or a red herring. Point is, we don’t have any idea just yet.
We do, however, have a fairly good idea for when we’ll actually see Android N be released. We’ve been told to expect five preview builds in total, with the final public release (including the code push to the Android Open Source Project) to come in Q3 2016. That lines up with previous releases, between October and the end of the year.
That’s all ancillary. What is Android N? It’s a whole lot of change, from the looks of it.
Android Developer Beta
Until Android N, Developer Previews were a decidedly nerdy affair. They still are, in many respects, but they’ve also become much more accessible to a lot of people.
Android developer previews really have one goal: To give app developers (and to a different extent, hardware partners) an early look at upcoming features, and the code that powers them.
Google still keeps these previews relatively close to the vest. You have to have one of Google’s “Nexus” devices to run the Developer Preview. Generally those have been limited to a scant handful of devices. This year, with Android N, we’ve got six. The Nexus 5X, Nexus 6, Nexus 6P phones all can run the N preview, as can the Nexus 9 and Pixel C tablets. The aging Nexus Player — Google’s Intel-powered media player from 2015 — also can run the N preview and is important for a few media-specific (TV-specific, actually) reasons.
The Android Developer Beta makes it far easier to play, however. Previously you’d have to manually flash factory restore images to the supported devices. That generally involves some command-line work and SDK-type stuff — not really anything a casual user wants or needs to get involved in. But the Android Developer Program allows anyone with a supported device to opt in and receive over-the-air updates for the Android N Developer Preview. All your app data remains as it was (unless and until you opt out, in which case you’ll receive a downgrade over-the-air “update” and end up with a clean device.
That’s good and bad. It makes it easier for anyone with a Nexus device (and for these purposes the Pixel C fits that bill) to enter the Android Developer Beta.
- Click here to join the Android Developer Beta
Android N could make updates easier on everyone
We’ve been peeking inside the factory images for the Android N developer preview and have noticed what appears to be a pretty major sea change for Android. The code appears to now be arranged to make it easier for device manufacturers to update their own features and settings without disturbing the core Android parts. (At least not nearly as badly.) We’re doing a bit of educated guesswork here, but that means a few things.
It would mean less development overhead for manufacturers. That means less time and money getting updated code to your phone. It also means that regular security updates — an increasingly important part of this whole ecosystem — theoretically will be easier to apply, which means you might actually get them if you’re on something other than a Nexus device.
- Read more on how this might work
So what’s new in Android N?
If you had to boil what a major release of Android (or any operating system) means to just a single acronym, it’d be this: APIs. That’s short for Application Program Interface, and it’s what allows apps to do, well, anything. There are a ton of new ones coming in Android N, and we’ve only gotten a small taste thus far. More should be announced as we get new preview builds.
Some, however, are more anticipated than others.
This is the big one we’ve been waiting for. Multi-window support — that is, two apps running side by side on the same display — was hidden deep within the first Android M preview in 2015, before being unceremoniously removed in a subsequent build. It was never really meant for public consumption, nor was it ever really publicly mentioned.
That is, until Google released the Pixel C tablet in late 2015. It’s a bit of an odd product with an odd 1√2 aspect ratio — the same as a standard sheet of paper. That lets you fold it in half and have the same aspect ratio — perfect for running apps side by side.
Only, the Pixel C launched without that feature. So it was pretty clear then that we’d probably see multi-window with the N release in 2016. And we now have it. And not just on tablets — it works on phones as well. This is going to be one feature that developers need to take a look at very quickly.
- More: Multi-window is amazing on the Pixel C
Direct reply notifications and bundled notifications
We’ve been able to interact with notifications for a good long while now. Not every app supports this, but look at Gmail as an early example. Pull down the notification, and archive an email without actually having to open it. Brilliant.
Google Hangouts took this a step further, allowing you to reply to messages right from the notification try, without having to open the app, or the message itself. It’s slick.
You’ll now be able to have bundled notifications. Or, rather, better bundled notifications. Think off it as more information in one place. Have a half-dozen emails come in through Gmail? You’ll be able to see more subject lines at one time in the notification area.
- Read more on Notifications in N
Projects Doze and Svelte
Two major features from the past year are Doze and Svelte. The former has to do with all but shutting down your phone when it’s not in use, allowing minimal communications to come through and maximizing battery life when the phone was at rest and not plugged. In Android N, it gets smarter, saving even more battery when the screen is merely off. That’s a big deal.
Also a big deal is even better memory management and power consumption as part of Project Svelte. The short version here is that apps shouldn’t wake up as often when a change in network connectivity occurs. If you’ve got a lot of apps that use the particular broadcast receiver in question (and you almost certainly do), then this will help a lot. The catch here is that the app has to be updated for these Android N features for them to work.
More widespread is that Google is reining in how apps interact with the camera. Instead of every app that hooks into the camera waking up any time the camera fires off for a picture or video, they’ll stay dormant. That’s a good fix, and it applies to any application, not just one that targets Android N.
- Read more on Doze and Svelte in Android N
New accessibility features
Android N includes a new screen zoom feature as part of the accessibility suite. It appears to be pretty straightforward, making everything on the screen larger and easier to see. There are some behind the scenes things added in N to help with this.
Equally important is that you’ll see accessibility features — specifically magnification gesture, font size, display size and TalkBack — available during the initial setup process. That’s a really good change.
- Read more on the new accessibility features
Android For Work
There are a lot of changes coming to Android For Work in Android N. This is Google’s system for allowing a company to have some control over your work phone.
One big change is that companies will be able to provision phones for Android for Work by simply scanning a QR code. Here’s a quick rundown of other new Android for Work features that may be coming to a work device near you:
- You might see a security challenge when trying to open a work-controlled application.
- New rules for password policies — different required password lengths, for example.
- Apps can be temporarily suspended. (We warned you that you were spending too much time on Facebook.)
- A work profile could force a VPN connection, which would fire up when the device boots.
- Better integration of work and personal contacts, if permitted.
- Devices can be remotely rebooted — useful if you have, say, a tablet tucked in some sort of kiosk housing where the power button isn’t accessible.
- Better device activity logging to keep an eye out for nefarious actors. Like Stephen Dorff.
- Disabling of location functions for work apps while still allowing them for personal apps.
- Custom lock screen messages. “Think different.” Or something like that.
- And other little things like locking down the wallpaper and user icon.
So, a lot of stuff that you might or might not ever see. But it’s still cool to have available for businesses.
- Read more on the changes to Android for Work
Not everybody wants to churn through their data plan just as fast as possible. Android N adds a new tool in settings to help with this. When you turn the Data Saver feature on in settings, “the system blocks background data usage and signals apps to use less data in the foreground wherever possible.” You’ll be able to whitelist any apps you want to ignore the Data Saver setting.
But Data Saver only kicks in when you’re on a “metered” connection, and your Android device generally is smart enough to tell when this is. A mobile network is the obvious example here, but there can be metered Wi-Fi networks as well (as set by the DHCP lease).
In addition to living the in settings, Data Saver gets a notification icon and can be toggled in quick-settings.
- Read more on Data Saver
This splits things into two groups when you first power up your phone. One group is able to do things before you unlock the device. Apps like SMS messages and alarm clocks and accessibility features may need to use this.
Anything else gets siloed off in a separate storage area until the device is unlocked. That’s a very cool preview feature.
- More on Direct Boot
Language and locale
This one gets to be a little confusing for those of use who only do English, but Android N is making languages and locations a good bit smarter, particularly for app developers. Say your device is set to the Swiss version of French, but an app only contains a different regionalization of French. Previously it would fail over to, say, an English default — without actually knowing (or caring) if the user understands English.
Now it’ll be smarter about things and look for similar regionalization before running back to the default language.
- More on language and locale
Scoped directories tighten access to storage
This is pretty cool. Previously if an application needed access to a storage folder beyond its own data folder, you’d have to grant it a pretty sweeping permission — reading or writing to all of external storage.
Scoped directories tightens things up both from a security standpoint as well as a matter of organization. If an app always (and only) needs access to your pictures, this new API makes it so the app only gets access to the Pictures folder and not the whole smash. It’s neater, and it’s safer.
- More on scoped directories
Picture-in-picture and TV recording
Android TV is getting smarter. If you’ve got a Nexus Player (or eventually something like a NVIDIA Shield TV) you’ll be able to watch video picture-in-picture as you use other applications. So you can watch Hungry Shark Evolution videos while you’re playing Hungry Shark Evolution, for example. (That’s pretty hard-core.)
The PIP window opens at 240×135 in a corner of the screen determined by the system. (It’ll be smart about what else is drawn on the screen.) Users will have access to a menu (via holding down the Home button) that allows the PIP video to be expanded to full screen, or closed. If another video starts playing on the main display, the PIP window will close.
Android TV also is gaining some proper TV recording features. (This will be good if you have a television with Android TV baked in.) You already can pause and rewind channel playback. But in N you’ll be able to save more than one session. That allows you to schedule recordings or hit record as you start watching — basic DVR functionality, really.
- More on picture-in-picture
- More on TV recording
Edging toward Java 8
With Android N, Google is bringing support for new Java 8 features to Android. Using the open-source Java Android Compiler Kit — JACK for short — Google allows developers to use native Java features while building applications.
This means developers won’t need to write as much support code — known as “boilerplate” code — when they want to do things like create events that listen for input. Some of the features will be supported back to Gingerbread when using JACK, while others are going to be strictly Android N and above.
Maybe the best news is that Google says they are going to monitor the evolution of Java more closely and support new features while doing everything they can to maintain backwards-compatibility. These are things that the folks building the apps that make Android great love to hear.
Keeping a Developer Preview in context
We’re going through a lot of features as we see them on Nexus devices running the Android N Developer Preview. And while this is important (and fun!) if you’re dabbling in the Developer Preview, it’s also important to keep things in context.
We can’t say this enough: Developer previews are for developers, and not for use as daily drivers.
The first thing to know is that things are going to change. Developer Previews are like that. None of this is final yet.
Second is that we need to remember that the public release of Android N is still a long ways off. Months. August at the earliest, most likely.
Third is that just because Android N code becomes public doesn’t meant that you’re going to see an update any time soon. Unless you’re on a Nexus device, that is. For everyone else, the usual rules still apply. Manufacturers do their thing to the code, carriers sign off on it, and updates eventually trickle out. As we pointed out, Android N very much appears to be laying the foundation to streamline this process. But that’s still a good ways off in the future, and your device will still have to be updated to N first.
And we still have absolutely no idea what Android N features the manufacturers will be required to use. Some — Motorola, for example, and HTC more recently — keep their user interface more in line with Google’s vision and what you’ll find on Nexus devices. Others — Samsung, LG, Sony, etc. — do more custom work on their own, for better or worse.
The point is that any examples of Android N features that you see on Nexus devices might well not look or behave the same on your device when it eventually gets Android N.
In other words, we all need patience here. It’s exciting, but this is not end-user stuff. The Android N Developer Preview is for developers.
Cool Nexus stuff you need to know
All those disclaimers aside, there’s a lot of fun and exciting stuff to be found on Android N on Nexus devices. And we’re working our way through them. This updated list rounds things up nicely.
- Major changes to the notification shade
- Android N’s Recent apps key has grown a bunch of awesome new features
- Android N adds a potentially life-saving feature
- How Multi-Window works on the Pixel C
- Waiting on the Android N easter egg
And that’s it, folks. The Android N Developer Preview process is a long one. It’s just starting, and we’ve got months to go still.
Ready to expand the storage on your new Samsung Galaxy S7? So are we.
Although the option to add a microSD card to the Galaxy S6 was absent, Samsung listened to consumers this time around and added the feature back with the new Galaxy S7. This means more room to save photos, record HD video to, and upload your extensive library of music. There are many sizes and speeds to sort through when it comes to choosing a microSD card for the Galaxy S7, but we’ll be sticking with mostly 64GB options as a good starter card — shedding light on some of the best ones worth considering.
SanDisk Ultra 200GB microSDXC Card
Perfect for the Galaxy S7 owner after serious storage space, this 200GB microSDXC card from SanDisk provides transfer speeds of up to 90MB per second and can record full HD video. Announced just last year, this beefy card is ideal for video recording or for storing plenty of movies and music on your Galaxy S7. We’ve seen the prices drop as low as $79 on these cards at Amazon.
See at Amazon
Samsung EVO Plus 64GB microSDXC Card
Last up is Samsung’s EVO Plus 64GB microSDXC card, which can transfer data up to 80MB per second, record full HD video, and comes with its own SD adapter. This Class 10 storage card is built to handle high temperatures and is currently priced at $28.
See at Amazon
PNY U3 Turbo 64GB microSDXC Card
This UHS-1 (Ultra High Speed) U3 microSDXC card from PNY is capable of 90MB/sec transfer speeds, making it ideal for continuous full HD video recording, even in 4K. It’s built with durability in mind, providing a waterproof design that can handle high temperatures and accidental drops. This PNY microSD card is backed by a lifetime limited warranty and its largest 64GB option goes for just $24.99.
See at Amazon
SanDisk Extreme PLUS 64GB microSDXC Card
SanDisk’s Extreme Plus UHS-1/U3 microSDXC card boasts transfer speeds of 95MB per second, capable of full HD and 4K video recording. This card comes with its own SD adapter to use with laptops and notebooks, and is capable of reading and writing to microSD, microSDHC, and microSDXC cards. You snag the 64GB Extreme Plus microSDXC card for around $50.
See at Amazon
Kingston Digital 64GB microSDXC Card
This Class 10, UHS-I microSDXC card from Kingston features a 64GB capacity and advertises a read speed of 90MB per second and write speed of 45MB per second. Included is an SD adapter which the microSDXC card slides into when using on a computer or other standard SD device. The Kingston Digital 64GB microSDXC card is currently available for $35.
See at Amazon
How much storage will you add to the Galaxy S7?
While 64GB will add a good chunk of storage space to your Galaxy S7, there are always smaller and larger options to roll with depending on your needs. If you’re planning on upgrading to the S7, what size microSD card are you after? Let us know in the comments or join this forum discussion.
Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge
- Galaxy S7 review
- Galaxy S7 edge review
- Galaxy S7 edge with Exynos: A Canadian perspective
- Here are all four Galaxy S7 colors
- Details on the Galaxy S7’s camera
- The SD card is back on the GS7
- Join our Galaxy S7 forums
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Wikipedia announced on Thursday that it is collaborating with researchers from Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology to develop an open, crowdsourced speech engine that will make the online encyclopedia more accessible to people with reading or visual impairments. Wikipedia estimates that 25 percent of its user base — approximately 125 million people monthly — will benefit from the new service. And while the engine will be optimized for use on Wikipedia itself, any site running MediaWiki software will be able to integrate it as well.
“Initially, our focus will be on the Swedish language, where we will make use of our own language resources,” KTH speech technology professor Joakim Gustafson, said in a statement. “Then we will do a basic English voice, which we expect to be quite good, given the large amount of open source linguistic resources. And finally, we will do a rudimentary Arabic voice that will be more a proof of concept.” Wikipedia plans to have English, Swedish and Arabic ready by the end of the year before moving on to the other 280 languages its site supports.
Unlike many technology products, an Internet of Things (IoT) device continues to develop and improve as time goes on, rather than aging into insignificance. The beauty of today’s IoT products is that software plays an ever increasing role, meaning connected devices such as tado° can be updated remotely, providing continuous new features for you. Here are five ways to get the most out of tado°.
If This Then That allows you to connect your tado° Smart Thermostat or Smart AC Control to other smart appliances and devices. IFTTT makes the internet work for you, allowing you to create simple connections between the products and web services you use every day. Through our IFTTT channels you can combine selected triggers and actions and mix them into your own individual recipes.
This means tado° features can be used for purposes other than heating and cooling. Take the tado° geolocation feature for example, when the last tado° user leaves the house, not only will the heating automatically go to savings mode, but simultaneously the lights and electric home appliances like the coffee machine or TV switch off, the alarm system activates and the front door locks.
Hot water control
Hot water production can account for around 20% of your total heating bill. tado° users with an Extension Kit can control their boiler’s hot water production through a range of features and interfaces. Through the tado° mobile or web app you can manually control your hot water from wherever you are as well as being able to set hot water schedules to fit your day. This also works well with tado°’s geolocation feature. Using your phone’s location, tado° can automatically turn down the hot water when the last person leaves home and turn it up again when it detects someone returning – should your schedule request hot water at that time.
Having smart control of individual zones or rooms can make a real impact on savings. When you come home late from work or at irregular times, perhaps you just want tado°’s geolocation feature to pre-heat a certain room, such as your bedroom. With tado°’s Additional Smart Thermostats, you can take control of separate zones for more control and comfort – perfect for those with underfloor heating.
O2 and AT&T
tado° recently announced a partnership with O2 and AT&T to integrate its smart heating into the telecom companies’ smart home ecosystems.
With 10s of millions of customers, these new partnerships allow for exciting new features (similar to IFTTT), such as turning on the lights, disabling the alarm system, or calling the elevator through tado°’s geolocation feature as well as many other feature integrations. The tado° solutions via O2 and AT&T will be brought to market this summer.
HomeKit is Apple’s home automation standard that lets you control connected thermostats, lights, locks, alarms, sensors and other smart devices through your iPhone and its voice commands. Through tado° HomeKit you will be able to talk to your Smart Thermostat or Smart AC Control and give it commands from the comfort of your sofa or from wherever you are.
Imagine being able to set multiple smart home devices with a single command. HomeKit lets you create scenes to connect and control appliance settings in different combinations. For example, you can create a scene named ‘coming home’ that turns on the lights, unlocks your doors, and turns up your tado° Smart Thermostat. Sounds cool huh? This integration is coming to the Smart Thermostat and Smart AC Control later this year to make 2016 a great time to get smart with tado°.
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Headquartered in Munich, tado°, the European market leader in intelligent home climate control solutions, was founded in 2011. With its Smart Thermostat and Smart AC Control, tado° revolutionises the way energy is consumed at home. Through the use of a geo-aware app, tado° automatically adjusts the temperature based on the residents’ locations, enabling households to save up to 31% on energy costs while reaching a higher level of comfort.
Sonos is looking to introduce voice control as a main part of its next-generation music streaming hardware.
Citing Amazon’s Alexa and Echo speakers, Sonos CEO John MacFarlane applauds products that have already brought voice control to music systems in the home and admits that it is an area that intrigues his company.
Writing in a blog on the Sonos website, he explained that Amazon “found a sweet spot in the home” with its Echo speaker, claiming that it impacts “how we navigate music”.
However, Sonos will not expedite voice control just because rivals are doing it. It will take its time to find the best platform: “Sonos is taking the long view in how best to bring voice-enabled music experiences into the home. Voice is a big change for us, so we’ll invest what’s required to bring it to market in a wonderful way,” he wrote in the blog.
The revelation was accompanied by sadder news that the company is to make redundancies in the Sonos team, with a transitional period for the manufacturer leading to cuts being made in certain areas.
READ: Sonos: What is it and what are the alternatives?
It will continue to invest in new products though, said MacFarlane, with a change in the ecosystem to better serve members of streaming services than the original customers who streamed their own, ripped music libraries.
“Now that music fans can finally play anything anywhere, we’re going to focus on building incredibly rich experiences that were all but unimaginable when we started the company, and will be at the vanguard of what it means to listen to music at home. This is a significant long-term development effort against which we’re committing significant resources,” he added.
Apple has begun sending out invites for an event it will hold on 21 March 2016. The iPhone SE and iPad Air 3 are expected to be unveiled.
Apple is expected to reveal a new iPhone with the same sized screen as the iPhone 5, at 4-inches, but in a more modern form factor. This is expected to be called the iPhone SE or iPhone 5SE. Expect the phone to feature TouchID, a metal build and more RAM plus larger battery than the iPhone 5 did.
Also expected at the event is a new iPad Air 3. This is rumoured to be largely a refresh to the Air 2 but should pull in some features from the iPad Pro. Leaks suggest a keyboard friendly port, four speakers and an upgraded camera.
The invite from Apple features the words, “Let us loop you in”. That could refer to the company’s new headquarters at Infinite Loop, so perhaps the event will be held there. Although this seems a bit corporate for such a consumer-focused event so there may be more to it.
Check back for the full coverage of the event from the launch location covered live on 21 March.
READ: Apple iPad Air 3: What’s the story so far?
READ: Apple iPhone SE/5SE: What’s the story so far?
Researcher Ravi Netravali tells Motherboard that ultimately his team wants to open-source Polaris. That would hopefully lead to browser extensions featuring the tech and perhaps even working with the likes of Google or Mozilla to make it a native part of the browser.