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4
Jul

OnePlus 3 tips and tricks: Master your 2016 flagship killer


OnePlus’ latest phone is is comfortably the best phone in its class. And while its hardware is admirable for a £300 phone, the software does its bit to ensure the experience of using it is both smooth and unique. While it looks very much like standard Android OS, it does have a number of customisation options, the kind you don’t normally get unless you download a third party launcher from the Play Store. 

This is our in-depth guide on all the options you can play with, and how to get the most from your OnePlus 3. 

OnePlus 3 home screen tips

Add widgets to Shelf: Shelf is a custom screen that sits the the left of your main home screen. By default it has your weather, most-used apps and contacts, but you can add practically any other widget you want to it by tapping the floating action button in the bottom right corner, then choosing your desired widget.

Customise Shelf widgets: The Shelf screen has its own settings menu which you access by tapping the sidebar menu button in the top left corner. Here you can disable the default weather information card, or choose to have Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Disable Shelf: For whatever reason, you might just decide you don’t want the Shelf. To disable it, head to your regular home screen, then tap and hold the wallpaper. Choose “customise” then switch the “Enable Shelf” toggle to the off position.

Swipe up for search: In the same customise screen – underneath the Enable Shelf option – is a toggle for Quick Search. If enabled, this will let you swipe up from anywhere on the home screen and go straight to the Google search app.

Swipe down for notifications: In the same gesture options list is a toggle which enables quick notifications. When enabled, you can access your drop down notifications by swiping downwards anywhere on the home screen, you don’t have to swipe from the top.

Customise Google search bar: In the same customisation screen, if you swipe from right to left you’ll get to the next customisation card. This screen lets you choose what kind of search bar you want on the top of your home screen. You can have the modern white bar with a colourful Google logo, or have a transparent grey one with white logo, or just have none at all.

Change app icon size: The next customisation card lets you choose between three app icon sizes. Choose between small, standard or large to alter how much space your app icons take up on the home screen.

Change battery icon: With OxygenOS you can choose what battery information you want to see in the status bar. Swipe down from your home screen to reveal the quick settings/notification panel and then tap the battery icon. This takes you to the main battery settings menu.

From here, tap the battery icon in between the refresh and three dots/settings button. The drop down menu allows you to choose between the standard battery bar icon, a circle icon, no icon at all and whether you want the percentage showing or not.

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OnePlus 3 buttons tips

Capacitive or virtual buttons: As has been the case with every OnePlus phone since the beginning, you can choose whether or not you want to use onscreen software buttons, or use the built-in capacitive buttons. By default, the capacitive buttons are in use, but if you want software buttons simply head to Settings, then Buttons and toggle “on-screen navigation bar”. 

Custom actions: In Oxygen OS you can assign secondary functions to all three of the capacitive keys on the OnePlus 3. Each button can have two secondary functions, launched by either a long-press or quick double-tap. There are seven options in total, which include opening recent apps, launching search assistant, turning off the screen, opening the camera, voice search, opening the last used app and opening Shelf. You’ll find the options in the same settings menu under the Buttons category.

Backlight on/off: Both the capacitive buttons have a backlight, which light up when any of the buttons (including the home key) are touched. You can switch this off if you don’t want it on just by tapping the Backlight toggle in Settings>Buttons.

Swap recent/back order: By default, the left capacitive button is the back button, and the right button is the recent apps button. If you’re more accustomed to having them the other way around, you can switch those. Just toggle the “Swap buttons” option in the same settings Buttons menu.

Alert slider: The one other button on the OnePlus 3 is the three-position alert slider on the left edge. Sliding down is regular, show me all the notifications mode. In the middle is priority mode which restricts most apps from sending you notifications. The top position is total silence, which practically silences everything. 

You can customise these Do Not Disturb options to only allow specific apps to notify you in each mode. In Priority mode, you can chose to enable or disable alarms, media, reminders and events. You can even choose between being alerted of phone calls or SMS messages from only starred contacts, from any contacts, anyone or no alerts at all. There’s also an option to let calls through if the same person tries to call you twice within 15 minutes. 

OnePlus 3 display tips

Adjust colour temperature: How good the colours on screen look to an individual can often be a point of debate. A perfect balance to some is too cool (blue) or too warm (yellow) for others. Thankfully, OnePlus includes the option to manually adjust the colour temperature. Head to Settings>Display and you’ll find a colour balance slider. Sliding right makes the screen warmer, sliding left makes it cooler.

Proximity wake: With the OnePlus 3 you can have the screen wake up just by waving your hand over it. To activate this feature, simply tap the toggle in the display settings.

Ambient display: You can set your OnePlus to wake up whenever you receive a notification. Activating it is very simple. Like the proximity wake option, just switch on the toggle in the settings menu. Rather than have a fully active screen, Ambient display mode is a black screen with white text/notifications.

Night mode: As with most phones with the feature, night mode strips the blue tint from the screen, making it warmer, more yellow and easier on your eyes at night time. Just like the colour balance option, there’s a slider to adjust how deep you want the yellow tint to be.

Change font size: Near the bottom of the main display settings screen is the option to change the font size. Here you can choose between small, medium, large and huge.

OnePlus 3 camera tips

Double tap power button to launch: By default, the OnePlus 3 camera can be launched by quickly double-tapping the power button on the right edge. If yours doesn’t have the feature switched on, or you want to switch it off, head to Settings>Display and then hit the toggle next to “Press power button twice for camera”.

HD Mode: When you launch the camera you’ll notice HD and HDR in the top right corner. HD Mode is a new technology from OnePlus 3 which sharpens details. Switch it on by simply taping the HD. In practice, however, we haven’t found that it makes too much difference to the image quality. Plus, it disables the ability to shoot with HDR, which is a big negative. So maybe leave that one alone.  

Manual controls: In the top left corner is three lines, tapping them gives access to a sidebar menu/list of all the different camera modes. Manual model is in that list and selecting it enables you to manually control a number of important settings. Tapping on ISO will then let you change the brightness/gain, the next one along lets you set the white balance to counteract any artificial (or natural) lighting. You can also manually set the shutter speed to take long exposures up to 30 seconds, and manually focus.

Adjusting each of these settings is pretty easy. Once the manual mode has been selected, you just need to press on whichever setting you’d like to change, then you get a semicircle control on-screen. Adjust the ISO, shutter speed, or focus by rotating this onscreen “wheel” clockwise or anticlockwise.

Save RAW photos: In the same sidebar menu mentioned above, in the right corner is a settings cog. Tap on this and you’ll see a toggle switch which enables RAW format images to be saved. This basically means you’ll get the highest quality image possible, rather than JPEG which isn’t full quality.

OnePlus 3 other tips

Dual SIM options: Just like the OnePlus 2, there’s a dual SIM tray which means you can have two SIM cards in the phone at once. If you have a work and personal line, or have a SIM for two different carriers, it can be an invaluable especially if you know one network in your area is better for data speeds than another.

Heading into Settings then SIM cards, you can choose which SIM is the preferred option for mobile data, calls or text messages. So if one SIM has a higher data allowance, you could set that as your main data SIM.

Reorder quick tiles: In Android N, Google is introducing the ability to move around quick settings tiles in the drop down settings panel, but OnePlus already has that feature in Oxygen OS. Drop down the panel as usual, then tap the little pencil in the top right corner. Then you can reorder the tiles on the screen to suit your preferences.

OnePlus 3 gestures: Like many modern Android phones, you can enable a number of gestures for launching apps or functions from the lock screen. Head to Settings>Gestures and then you can enable each gesture individually.

With each enabled, you can launch the camera by drawing an “O”, switch on the flashlight by drawing a “V”, pause music with a two-finger swipe, skip track backwards or forwards by drawing < or > and – as usual – double tap the screen to wake up the phone.

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4
Jul

‘Top Gear’ host Chris Evans bails after poor comeback ratings


After a single season at the helm, Chris Evans is stepping down from Top Gear. The presenter, which took over from Jeremy Clarkson and his fellow partners in crime, James May and Richard Hammond, said on Twitter: “(I) gave it my best show but sometimes that’s not enough. The team are beyond brilliant, I wish them all the best.” The latest series of Top Gear, which wrapped up last night in the UK, has been battered by low audience figures and scathing reviews, both from critics and fans. Replicating the success of the Clarkson era was always going to be difficult, however, when so much of the show’s appeal was attributed to the old presenters.

Still, the BBC has been trying its best. Top Gear is one of its most popular and lucrative shows, with a huge following both domestically and overseas. Simply cancelling the programme was never an option. The team had hoped that Chris Evans’ energy would fill some of the void left behind by his predecessors; as a fail-safe, it brought in Friends actor Matt LeBlanc to give the show some much-needed star power. Then, in a deviation from previous seasons, the BBC hired a large cast of supporting presenters: motorsport pundit Eddie Jordan, professional racing driver Sabine Schmitz, and two younger faces, Chris Harris and Rory Reid, who also present the Top Gear spin-off show Extra Gear on BBC iPlayer.

Some of these presenters have worked better than others. Another problem is, arguably, the format of the show — it’s almost unchanged from the Clarkson years, focusing on short documentaries and celebrity laps. They’re shot and scripted in a similar fashion to previous seasons, which, while visually impressive, often feel like hollow imitations. “I have never worked with a more committed and driven team than the team I have worked with over the last 12 months,” Evans said in a statement. “I feel like my standing aside is the single best thing I can now do to help the cause.”

The BBC is left with a huge role to fill for the next season. In the meantime, Clarkson and co are gearing up to launch their new show, The Grand Tour, on Amazon Prime Video. The exact premiere date is unknown, but it’s due to kick off this fall — fans of the troublesome trio will be hoping their attempt is better than what the BBC has shown over the last six weeks.

Source: BBC

4
Jul

Google offers four free months of Play Music for July 4th


Google Play Music is a competent streaming service, but it’s always sat in the shadow of larger, more aggressive competitors such as Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music. Google has tried everything to make it more popular — the occasional exclusive, free trials with Chromecast devices — heck, it’s even free with YouTube Red now. To celebrate July 4th in the US, the company has a new deal — four months of free music streaming, no questions asked. Or rather, almost no questions asked. As MacRumors notes, you’ll need to be in the US and a first-time Play Music listener.

Will this push the needle for Google and its streaming service? Probably not. The offer is only running this weekend, after all. But if you’re throwing a party on Independence Day and need some tunes to keep everyone entertained, this seems an easy and wallet-friendly way to do it.

Via: MacRumors

Source: Google

4
Jul

Second Man Behind Phishing of Celebrity iCloud Accounts Pleads Guilty


Edward Majerczyk, a 28-year-old Chicago man who played a role in the phishing of celebrity iCloud accounts in 2014, has signed a plea agreement and agreed to plead guilty to a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to court documents made public on Friday.

Majerczyk was charged in a Los Angeles, California district court, but will enter his guilty plea in the Northern District of Illinois. He faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison. Ryan Collins, a 36-year-old Pennsylvania man who was also involved in the iCloud attack known as “Celebgate,” likewise entered into a plea agreement in March with a recommended sentence of 18 months in prison.

Between November 2013 and September 2014, Majerczyk and Collins engaged in a phishing scheme to obtain the iCloud and Gmail usernames and passwords of over 300 victims, including female celebrities, according to court documents. The perpetrators sent their victims emails that appeared to be from Apple and Google, asking them to provide their usernames and passwords.

Majerczyk and Collins used the credentials to illegally access accounts and extract private information, which included nude photographs and videos. In September 2014, hundreds of nude photos of celebrities were then leaked on online image board 4chan before spreading to multiple internet sites, but investigators have not yet been able to find any evidence that either of the men were directly behind the leak.

Shortly after the breach occurred, Apple conducted an investigation that revealed the accounts were compromised by weak passwords — a Find My iPhone flaw may have also played a role. Apple then strengthened security by adding email alerts when iCloud accounts are accessed on the web, allowing app-specific passwords for third-party apps accessing iCloud, and enabling two-factor authentication on iCloud.com.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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4
Jul

Marantz SR5011 Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


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Marantz

As Marantz’s “cheapest” full-size SR receiver, the SR5011 fits most of the features you’d want into its distinctive tapering enclosure.

The $899 Marantz SR5011 is a 7 x 100-watt receiver which offers the latest sound and video technologies with the gentlemanly design ethic the company is known for. If you’re paying this amount of money you wouldn’t want to miss out on Dolby Atmos, and the SR5011 surely includes it as well as the tag-along DTS:X.

Of increasing interest to buyers of new televisions is the Marantz’s support for video technologies you’ll see more of in the coming years: HDR and 4K. The receiver offers HDMI 2.0a and HDCP 2.2 support on each of its eight HDMI inputs. It also offers dual HDMI outputs.

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Marantz

The receiver includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming with support for AirPlay, internet radio, Pandora, SiriusXM, and Spotify Connect. The model also offers playback of AIFF, FLAC and WAV lossless files at up to 24-bit/192-kHz, plus ALAC/Apple Lossless at up to 96kHz/24-bit, as well as SACD-quality DSD2.8MHz and ‘Double DSD’ 5.6MHz.

The receiver features compatibility with the new Marantz 2016 AVR Remote App which the company says has been built from the ground up. It’s available for iOS, Kindle Fire and Android.

The SR5011 will be available in the US for $899 in July while pricing and availability for Australia and the UK are yet to be announced. We’d plug the US price into the exchange rate website of your choice, but we all know how futile that is for now, given the volatility of both countries’ currency in the past few weeks.

4
Jul

OxygenOS 3.2.0 now available for the OnePlus 3 with RAM management fixes and more


OnePlus has announced that the OxygenOS 3.2.0 update for the OnePlus 3 will begin rolling out now. The update brings a number of big fixes to the phone, like sRGB mode in developer options, enhanced RAM management, camera quality fixes and more. Plans for the update were previously revealed following some drama surrounding how OnePlus was managing the 6GB of RAM inside the phone.

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Highlights from the update include:

  • Enabled sRGB mode in developer options.
  • Improved RAM management.
  • Improved GPS performance.
  • Enhanced audio playback quality.
  • Updated custom icon packs.
  • Fixed some issues with notifications.
  • Improved camera quality/functionality.
  • Fixed some issues in Gallery.
  • Implemented latest Google security patches.
  • Fixed bugs in Clock/Music apps.

The update will begin rolling out now, and OnePlus anticipates all OnePlus 3 owners will see the update within 48 hours. Have you received the update yet? Let us know how it is working out for you in the comments!

OnePlus 3

  • OnePlus 3 review: Finally, all grown up
  • OnePlus 3 specs
  • OnePlus 3 vs. the flagship competition
  • Latest OnePlus 3 news
  • Discuss OnePlus 3 in the forums

OnePlus

4
Jul

The best phone to use with Android Auto


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An updated list of what works with Android Auto.

Android Auto

A lot of phones cross my path every month. OK, often every week. Occasionally more than one a day. And that means they also at some point end up in my car. And in my car I have a head unit that supports Android Auto, which undeniably has made me a safer driver. (And Android Auto has the added bonus of having a much better user interface than the dumpster fire that came with my deck.)

But here’s the thing: If there’s a weak link for Android Auto, it comes when you actually plug the phone in. Because the various Android manufacturers do all sorts of nonsense to their phones, including what happens when you plug one in. And on occasion, Android Auto might not work at all. So let’s chat about that. These are the phones I absolutely recommend with Android Auto.

Any recent Nexus phone

This should come as no surprise, but Google’s phones work best with Google’s automotive initiative. I have never had an issue with the Nexus 6P. Or the Nexus 5X. Or the Nexus 6, back when I used it. (I can’t remember if I tried the original Nexus 5.) If I had to recommend just one phone to use with Android Auto, it’d be one of those.

The problem comes when a manufacturer does pretty much anything that interferes with the connection process. Some phones (and these are a blessed few) turn into app installers once you plug in. Others just do something … different … and Android Auto isn’t smart enough to compensate. (We’d argue that it shouldn’t have to, but that’s another thing for another day.

So if you want a phone that absolutely will work with Android Auto, get a Nexus. (Double points if you get a gold Nexus.

If not Nexus, look for something ‘stock-ish’

This one’s sort of a crapshoot. But we’ve generally found that phones that keep things as close to “stock” as possible do pretty well. That’s usually meant Motorola’s phones. (There have been exceptions though.) HTC has done pretty well, too. Beyond that it’s been a little hit and miss.

And just because something looks “stock” doesn’t mean there won’t be some wonkiness going on under the hood. But at the same time, we’ve had phones like the Huawei P9 — something you can’t even buy in the United States — work great. Go figure.

If you’re just dying to know whether a phone works with Android Auto, you should check out our AA forums. I post every phone I test in there, and if I haven’t tried it there’s a chance someone else has.

What about Samsung’s Galaxy phones?

Samsung sells more Android phones than anyone. They’re also more customized than just about anything out there. There’s good and bad news here. Take the Galaxy S7, for example. There are folks who have used it without issue. And then there are those of us who have never gotten the GS7 to work. Maybe it’s a software issue. Maybe there’s something inherent about the GS7 that doesn’t like the cable I’m using. I don’t know.

But I do know that there are 31 separate versions of the Galaxy S7 (worldwide). Some work. And some don’t. Again, I’ll point you to the forums.

We’ll update this post if and when something new and exciting comes our way. Stay tuned!

All About Android Auto

  • Getting started with Android Auto
  • List of compatible phones and cars
  • Android Auto news
  • Apps that work with Android Auto
  • Join the Android Auto discussion!

4
Jul

Bloodhound’s land speed record attempt set for October 2017


The team behind the Bloodhound SSC, a supersonic car designed to beat the land speed record, has some good news and some bad news to share. First and foremost, it’s secured new funding, meaning the crew can reform (some engineers were forced to take short-term contracts elsewhere) and start preparing for the action in South Africa. The bad news is that the entire timeline for beating the record — currently 763MPH, set by the Thrust SSC in 1997 — has slipped yet again. A slow-speed test run will now take place in the UK next June, rather than later this year. The actual record attempt will be in October, not the April-May window stated before.

Engadget was able to see the Bloodhound car — or what had been built so far, at least — at London’s Canary Wharf last September. It’s a ferocious machine, measuring 13.4 meters in length and weighing roughly seven and a half tonnes. Most of that weight can be attributed to the car’s three-pronged power system: a Rolls-Royce EJ2000 jet engine, sourced from an RAF Eurofighter Typhoon, a cluster of Nammo hybrid rockets and a supercharged Jaguar V8 engine, which drives the rocket oxidiser pump. Together, they produce a whopping 135,000 brake horsepower.

The Bloodhound will be driven by RAF Wing Commander Andy Green, who set the previous record in the Thrust SSC. He’ll take on the title twice — the first, at 800MPH, will cement the car and its team as the new land speed record holders. A second attempt will be held later — sometime in 2018, according to the BBC — to see if the car can breach 1000MPH.

Before then, however, the team has some work to do. It wants to disassemble the car and create a “user manual” that can be referenced by its mechanics out in the desert. The crew will then rebuild and, where necessary, modify the vehicle before sending it to Cornwall for a 220MPH test run. “We’ve come through this difficult stage wiser, leaner and fitter,” Bloodhound project director Richard Noble said. “This is probably the biggest moment in the project’s history. Before, we could only see financially a few months ahead, but now we can put our foot down.”

Source: Bloodhound

4
Jul

Android Auto explored: Taking Google on the road


Android Auto has been around for a number of years. Announced in 2014, Android Auto first made its appearance in third-party head units, such as some from Pioneer, with a number of car manufacturers confirming they would be offering it in the future.

The car market moves a lot slower than the smartphone market and since Android Auto’s inception, you’ve probably got through several phones, without ever seeing Android Auto in action. But those cars are starting to hit the road and as the old cliché goes, the future is now.

We spent some time diving a little deeper into Android Auto on the new Audi A3 to see how it all fits together.

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What is Android Auto?

Audi has updated the A3, its best-selling model in the UK, bringing with it Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support through its MMI infotainment system.

Android Auto (and Apple CarPlay) on the A3 means it’s going to be available to a lot of people – as will be the case when Ford Sync 3.0 lands in the UK later in 2016 – when these services are really going to hit the big time. 

The idea behind Android Auto is to seamlessly bring Android into the infotainment system of your car with minimal hassle. It’s basically a bespoke mirrored experience, drawing from your phone an interface that’s suitable for driving. This is different from some Android-based in-car systems, as Android Auto is actually running on your phone, just displayed and controlled using your car’s hardware.

In most cases, you simply have to connect via USB and you’re done. For the Audi A3, we connected the HTC 10 to the USB port hidden in the (optional) “phone box” hiding under the central armrest. The phone box also offers Qi wireless charging, so if you dump your Samsung Galaxy S7 in it, for example, it will charge, but if you’re hooking up to USB to use Android Auto, you’ll be charging anyway.

Android Auto: The app

You can download the Android Auto app for your device from Google Play. If you don’t have the app and you connect to a compatible car, you’ll be prompted to download it, but there’s nothing to stop you installing it in advance.

Once you have it installed and you connect to the car, there’s a whole range of things to agree too, the normal legal disclaimers and so on, as well as granting the app permission to access a range of things on your phone. 

The app will handle establishing a Bluetooth connection to the car and for the Audi A3, that means you’ll then have all your contacts available to use with the car’s phone support, becoming completely integrated with both Android Auto and Audi’s existing MMI system without having to pair Bluetooth devices via the traditional method.

One feature of the app that we really like is that it remembers its last location when it was connected. That means that when you park, you can see at a glance where you left your car. Although Google Now has offered the feature for some time, it doesn’t always seem to know when you’re parked and when you’re not.

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Android Auto: User interface and features

Android Auto has the capacity to make your dumb car smarter, or bring familiarity to your already smart car.

It’s simple, it offers basic functions and it’s designed to stop you fiddling with your phone when driving. In some ways it replicates “car mode” that some phones offer, but without having to dock your phone as an additional display. With a central main home page, you then have the option of moving between a number of major functions: navigation, calling and music.

In the Audi A3, Android Auto sits as a layer on top of the existing system as soon as you plug it in, so as we’ve said, you still get access to both systems. The final option from Android Auto’s home screen is to return to the native Audi MMI interface. One can’t replace the other, because things like car controls or the radio will still live in the car’s systems and you’re not sacrificing one because of the other.

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Android Auto: Audi controls

For the Audi A3, which doesn’t have a touchscreen, control is through MMI’s existing controls, namely that four-way click wheel on the transmission tunnel. It only takes a few minutes to become familiar, essentially clicking left to open side menus, rotating the dial to move through options, clicking up and down to move around, and so on.

On car systems that offer touch, you’ll be able to hit the display to control Android Auto instead. For those familiar with the Audi MMI controls, it feels logical and seamless, with no need to look down at the controller, so it’s easy to use on the road with minimal distraction.

There’s very little cross-over to steering wheel controls in the Audi, as many of these are used to control the driver’s display. Things like skipping tracks and voice control does work through the same controls however, but more on that later. 

It’s also worth noting that at the same time, your phone is essentially disabled. It shows “Android Auto” on the display, you can swipe to see notifications, but the idea is that when you’re in the car, you leave it alone.

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Android Auto: Notifications

The central home screen of Android Auto gives you card-style notifications, in major categories, very much like a Google Now experience. It gives you the time it will take to drive home – a Google Now favourite – with the option to click through and start that navigation.

You can sit on that home screen with an overview of navigation instructions or playing music, without being in that specific section. 

It will also serve up messaging notifications, with the offer to read them out to you, which is really handy. You then get the option to speak the reply, which is a little like the Android Wear voice experience, i.e., sometimes a bit hit and miss, but as it’s Google, you probably already know what works.

Voice is fully integrated across the experience as you’d expect. Audi also offers voice control in its cars and you can still get to both systems. A short press on the steering wheel voice button uses Audi’s own system. A long press gets you to Ok Google. 

The Google offering extends far beyond what you can see, because you can ask questions of Google and get a useful response – such as asking what’s in your calendar – at which point you’ll be told just how busy you are. Just like Android Wear, you can issue voice instructions that your phone will attempt to respond to and action. We suspect that with the advent of Google Assistant, the voice options will become increasingly sophisticated.

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Android Auto: Google Maps Navigation

One of the attractive things for those using Android Auto, is that you can use Google’s navigations and maps. Depending on what car you have and how the options are arranged, there’s the potential to save yourself money, using Android Auto rather than an expensive satnav upgrade from your car manufacturer – certainly something to weigh-up on the options list when buying a new car.

The Google Maps driving experience is very much as you get when you have your Android phone in navigation mode. There are things like traffic, all the information you need, but the real strength is finding locations through search. Although Google’s route planning and guidance isn’t as sophisticated as that of TomTom’s dedicated devices, it is very convenient and in many cases it performs better than some car’s expensive satnav options.

However, for the Audi A3 with the virtual cockpit – offering full widescreen mapping right in front of your eyes – it’s unlikely you’ll better the experience. With the virtual cockpit letting you shrink the dials for a bigger view, and nice clear instructions, Audi’s system is one of our favourites. However, you can’t use both at the same time, it’s either or – and there’s no Android Auto mapping on the driver’s display, only on the central display. 

In that sense, Audi’s own system has plenty of appeal particularly for those speccing the virtual cockpit. However, if you’re sticking to traditional dials, then Android Auto’s offering holds more appeal.

One final thing to note is that if you’re navigating on one system and you start planning a route on the other, the existing guidance will stop.

Pocket-lint

Android Auto: Music

Entertainment is obviously one of the big things that Android Auto offers. Although this isn’t a huge step over using Bluetooth audio – and Audi and others have offered this for years – it does mean that you have a nice clear interface in Android Auto, as well as the choice of the music service you use. 

The default or preferred option is Play Music as you’d expect. If you have lots of music in Google’s music service, or a subscription, then you’ll be well served. 

But as a Spotify subscriber, we were drawn to support for that service. It works really well, with full playlist support, so you can just fire up Spotify and listen as you would anywhere else. There’s a wide range of supported apps on Google Play, from radio apps to podcasts. Just remember that unless you have something saved locally on your device, you might be using up a lot of data playing all that music as you drive.

Never at any point do you have to touch your phone, as all the volume and track skipping works with the Audi’s existing controls.

Pocket-lint

Android Auto: Calling

Calling is perhaps the least revolutionary aspect of Android Auto, because it’s so well established through existing Bluetooth connections in cars. If you have nothing in your car, then great, you’re now connected; but with Bluetooth phone connections coming as standard on most new cars, you might find you never need Android Auto’s option. 

Except, of course, that everything is displayed in an Androidy way, so it feels closer to your phone than your car’s interpretation of it.

In the Audi A3, calling is well handled by the default systems. Once you’re hooked up to Bluetooth, the car has full access to your contacts and they are accessible from the steering wheel controls, and viewed in the central display. In this case, it’s very easy to scroll to a contact and hit the call button, with very little effort.

Whichever you choose, it works well enough, but we suspect it will be of most interest to upgraders, rather than those with a brand new car.

Pocket-lint

Final thoughts

One of the most attractive things about Android Auto is that it’s run by your phone, not the car. Sure, in this case there’s a lot of integration and cross-over with Audi’s existing offering, but taking the normal environment of your phone – the phone that knows what you’re doing and everything about you – has its advantages. For those who use multiple cars, it’s good to know that your phone is keeping track of everything, so you can plug in and go.

The Audi A3 is a well connected car, offering a wide-range of options and in some cases, Android Auto might seem unnecessary, especially as Audi’s existing offering is very strong. With that in mind, it might have more appeal in cars with weaker systems, or give you the option to save money, by letting Google do the work rather than your car.

As it’s drawing on apps from your phone, you’ll have the latest features, without having to wait for your car to be updated, which is another immediate advantage.

If you’re an Android user, then speccing your car with Android Auto certainly makes sense, with the potential to make your car smarter, more personalised and more familiar, and all with very little effort.

4
Jul

Bluetooth Star Trek Communicator now available to pre-order


The company behind remote controls shaped like Harry Potter’s wand, The Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver and a Star Trek Phaser has again turned its attention to the latter, but this time for an extension to your mobile phone rather than a TV controller.

The Star Trek: Original Series Bluetooth Communicator from The Wand Company has been crafted by 3D scanning the only remaining Communicator prop from the TV show. It has exactly the same dimensions, therefore, as the ones used by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and the rest of the original cast.

However, it isn’t just a replica dummy. It can also be used to make and receive phone calls wirelessly, by pairing it with a smartphone.

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It also has a whole raft of authentic sound effects and voices from Star Trek, to make you feel like you really are on board the Enterprise or part of an away team – just don’t wear a red shirt.

In spec terms, as well as Bluetooth, there is a MEMS microphone on board for clear voice calls. The speaker can also be used to listen to music.

A foam-lined transit case is included.

You can now pre-order the Star Trek: Original Series Bluetooth Communicator from Firebox in the UK. It costs £119.95 and would go down a treat while you’re watching the entire run of Star Trek, from the first episodes through to Enterprise on Netflix.

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