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21
Aug

Android 7.0: Better and more interactive notifications


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Android N makes notifications more interactive and meaningful — and they can be backward compatible.

Getting notifications on your phone isn’t something new or something that started with Android. Whether we’re talking about annoying pop-up boxes or that addictive red blinking light, our phones have always been able to tell us it wants our attention.

But with Android 7.0, things are going to get a lot better, largely because developers now have more control over the way notifications are displayed.

Let’s talk about the changes and new features.

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  • Direct Replies are something you might have already seen on your phone with some apps. The Hangouts app is an example. If someone sends you a message in Hangouts, and you have no other pending notifications, you get a single message view that you can reply to right from the notifications shade. Since this has been possible since the original Nexus 6 launched, a good number of apps have coded it in.

These kinds of actionable notifications have been further refined in Android 7.0, and the developers can decide to add more context to the notification (think a multi-line chat history in that Hangout’s notification, for example) and keep the notification active after you reply if a return response is anticipated. You could have a running Hangouts chat, complete with history, right in your notification shade. And because it’s a native view of an app that’s already active, it’s light on resources.

  • Bundled Notifications are the improved version of the “stacks” we’ve seen since Lollipop — using Nougat’s new visual styling features. This is why they may feel familiar to you — app developers have been able to implement a form of them for well over a year.

Simply, when multiple notifications for a single app are received, they can be bundled together into a single group. This group can be expanded to see the individual messages. Changes in Android N allow developers to “progressively” expand the notification stack so that they can add context to the group or each notification. That means in our Hangouts example, you could expand a notification bundle showing 3 unread messages and see the chat history for one or all of them — and with the Direct Reply feature, you could act on them.

Developers can use these new features in their apps and still be compatible with older versions of Android

These changes may feel familiar to anyone using an Android with Lollipop or higher because the behavior is built on changes made in Android 5.0 (API 21). They are also what we already use on Android Wear watches with a new visual style. Because of this, Bundled Notifications and inline Direct Replies are backward compatible with any application built for Lollipop or higher. All the developer really needs to do is check that they meet the new best practices. Even if they don’t bother, the existing API functions seamlessly call on the newer versions. This is important because the reality is that many apps we use every day rarely get updated.

Even better news is that using existing support libraries, developers can implement these changes and still have an app that works as intended for versions of Android as old as Honeycomb (Android 3.0). That’s 98.2% of all Android devices still in use.

  • Notification Peeking brings back the old pop-up display for an incoming notification, but makes them smarter. A developer can use the peeking window to display the latest incoming notification of a bundled group. Our Hangouts notification is now collapsible and expandable to see content as we like, we can reply to each individual message thread and we could (if implemented by the developer) set things up so a reply can “peek” on our screen for a moment or two — and allow us to directly reply from the peeking window.

  • Custom Views and Message Styles let a developer change how the notifications look for a particular app. This can be very important when you are creating bundles and peeking, and can help us as users get the right information at a glance. Message Styles allow customization of a notification’s labels, and now our Hangouts notification has a title — “Chat with Dad” or “Bad Jokes” — and if there are multiple participants, each reply could be labeled or colored.

Wrapping it all up, Custom Views allow a developer to define the artwork of a notification bundle (the icon) or define an icon for an individual notification, then use everything else without building their own user interface. A great app can have a unique notification style without worrying about how to handle replies, bundle multiple notifications into a stack and define the individual labels for each view without doing any of the heavy lifting themselves.

So far, these changes appear subtle, and that’s because we’ve only seen Google’s take on their implementation. Nobody making Android phones has to keep things low-key and mostly white, and developers now have some tools to make notifications for their apps stand out. We won’t like them all, but the next great idea can be built using these tools.

Make notifications great again.

Android Nougat

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Android Nougat is the 12th nicknamed version of Android and will be released to the public in the fall of 2016. Here’s everything you need to know so far!

  • What’s new in Android Nougat
  • Will my phone get Android Nougat?
  • All Android Nougat news
  • Should you use the Android N Dev Preview?
  • Join the Discussion

21
Aug

North Face’s Access Pack was made for obsessive gadget lovers


A lot of backpacks and messenger bags now come standard with padded laptop sleeves. Whether that’s due to most people taking a notebook or tablet with them, I don’t know, but laptop bags are a thing, with an increasingly wide range of prices, shapes and styles. The North Face Access Pack caught my attention for a couple of reasons. First, it’s an established bag and apparel maker that’s made something for people like me. The company already has several backpack designs with laptop sleeves — and even battery packs — built-in.) Then there’s the fact that it’s been sold out for a while (despite the $235 asking price) on the company’s retail site. It’s in demand. So I demanded to try one.

The bag has a rigid shell that makes it look like it’s constantly filled to the brim. It isn’t. The Access Pack is constructed from a stylish mix of grey and black nylon panels, with the padded straps making it surprisingly comfortable to carry around all day. There’s also a clasp that goes across your chest, keeping the bag high on your back. It all looks looks cooler than it has any right to — at least for a brand that many of us associate with brightly colored windbreakers and navy fleeces. All told, the rigid shape and understated (perhaps too understated) colors make for a stylish work backpack.

The backpack’s primary compartment shuts with a satisfyingly meaty latch that’s quick to operate and quicker than drawstring toggle or a zip. It folds out to reveal a surprisingly wide opening, making it easy to dip your hand in and reach around. The laptop sleeve itself is entirely separate, in a padded water-resistant, zippable pocket along the back of the bag.

This is also where you’ll find one of the Access Pack’s notable features: pull tags for the pockets. When it comes to laptops up to 15 inches big, a hardy nylon handle at the top of the sleeve pulls at the base of bag, gently drawing your laptop toward you. It’s not entirely effortless — you’ll need both hands — but the handle means the laptop smoothly slides out without having to grasp deep into the sleeve for the machine. There’s also an extra zipped compartment in the back specifically for glasses or sunglasses, with a solid enclosure to help avoid any accidents.

The bag’s structured shape comes with a cost: It weighs around 4 pounds. I otherwise haven’t paid attention to how much backpacks weigh, but when empty the Access Pack is noticeably heavier than softer backpacks I’ve owned, which might not make it not ideal for, say, a quick coffee break.

It was fortunate, then, that I was auditioning this bag as a possible new work backpack. With laptops, adapters, chargers, cameras and miscellaneous technology to test, I need a lot of pockets just to make some semblance of order from a nest of cables. Inside the main part of the bag are two phone-size pockets (spare phone, battery pack), pen holders that I didn’t trust — pens leak on me — as well as a deep internal pouch that’s good for magazines and bigger tablet models. (My iPad Mini got lost in there, if that’s any indication of what can fit inside.)

As with the laptop sleeve, North Face added pull tabs to the two phone compartments and the tablet pouch. They’re lighter, rubberized tabs that have some elasticated give. The things you’ll put in here will weigh less, obviously, but I’m cautious about how much abuse these pull tabs could take, day after day. Two weeks of daily use didn’t break anything yet. Do you need these tags? No. But the laptop assistance, in particular, helps when you’re trying to get to work in a tightly packed cafe or even on a train or plane. (I’ll admit I didn’t fly during my time with the Access Pack. Apologies.) The smaller internal tags make retrieving what’s in them just as easy as if they were in the main bag compartment; the less effort I have to make, the more organized my bag will be.

There’s also a stretchy pouch just underneath the aforementioned latch that serves as an excellent pocket shrapnel and gum receptacle. Yes, I’m running out of synonyms for space, but we’re almost done. There’s also a pair of zipped pockets at the front. They’re both relatively narrow but deep, and while they overlap with one another, they’re completely separate: good for cables, maps and other slim items.

The hard thing about assessing backpacks is that how you use it (and when, where) inform what you look for in a bag. Everyone’s different. There’s no built-in battery pack for charging your phone, although there are plenty of pouches to store one, and the shell means it seems to bump into things and people moreso than other bags I’ve used. Those smartphone pockets are a little too tight for phones around the size of a Galaxy Note 7, and there’s no way of securing the main compartment; at least if there were zips, you could lock them together. (Yes, you can do that for the laptop part.)

The Access Pack is classy-looking bag whose design is centered around gadget storage and removal. However, you have to consider whether these convenient features — and modern looks — warrant a $235 upgrade. They don’t quite cut it for me.

Source: The North Face

21
Aug

‘Outreach’ is a space adventure game set in the Cold War


A renewed interest in spaceflight has sparked a wave of video games looking at the harsh realities of living in space. We’ve had Adrift, a near-future survival epic similar to the film Gravity, and soon Tacoma, a story-driven exploration game set inside a space station in 2088. Now, you can add another title to that list: Outreach, the first game from independent developer Pixel Spill. Whereas Adrift and Tacoma are set in the distant future, Outreach looks to the past, exploring the tail-end of the pivotal “space race” that took place between the US and the Soviet Union.

Presented from a first-person perspective, you play as a lone cosmonaut that’s been sent into space to investigate a military station. Russian officials have lost contact with the people on board, so it’s unclear if the crew is alive or how much of the craft is still intact. If you think that sounds like the opening of Dead Space, a horror-centric game from 2008, you’re absolutely right. But the two games are vastly different, both in their scope and subject matter. In Outreach, you have to quietly float inside and outside the space station, looking for objects and conducting repairs set out by ground control.

Look closer and you’ll see evidence of a mission that doesn’t jive with what the Russian government has been telling you. Audio logs, written documents and personal items will shed light on the different crew members and their experiences on board the ship. Pixel Spill says it’s a political game about propaganda and how technological innovation was presented near the end of the Cold War. You’ll begin to question the orders given by your superiors, and have to decide which account — the official line, or the fragmented one being told by the environment — is correct.

“In that way, we’re hoping to emulate the kind of political and broadcast environment that was present in the 1980s on Earth, during the Cold War,” Pixel Spill’s Christopher Bingham told me at Gamescom. “We’re creating a microcosm of that media frenzy when you weren’t really sure what was true and what wasn’t, and what either side were working on.”

The small, British developer says the game is a little like Gone Home, the critically acclaimed walking simulator by Fullbright. Bingham said there’s also “a bit of L.A. Noire” in its DNA, because you’ll be acting as a detective and asking questions as you spend more time in space. I would also compare it to Bioshock, because the story encourages the player to doubt their mission and the person they’re constantly communicating with.

“At the end of the game you’ll be asked to make a decision that has consequences,” Bingham hinted. “If we’ve done our jobs correctly, that decision is going to be different for different players. It will be emotional and entirely removed from gameplay — it won’t be a decision about winning or losing or unlocking some new mode. It will be a decision that you’ve reached as an individual based on what and how much you’ve discovered while you’ve been on the station, as well as which characters you believe.”

The team has spent countless hours striving for historical authenticity. The story is mostly fictional — it builds on a few conspiracy theories about “lost” missions that were never disclosed by the USSR — but it’s rooted in the technology and politics of the time. Pixel Spill’s artists have looked at the suits and spacecraft designs of the 1980s, and replicated them with just a dash of creative license. Unlike most space games, which feature fantastical technology, Pixel Spill wants everything to feel real and rudimentary. Storage panels creak and transmitters frequently fall offline. You’re always one small break or technical fault away from death.

The time period and its technological shortcomings are exposed during space walks too. If you lose your grip or jump in a peculiar direction, you’ll die instantly — there are no chords or thrusters to save you. Handles will glow when they’re close enough to grab and you’ll need to judge when to push off and drift to another part of the space station. The astronaut will float in a straight line with zero opportunity for course correction. To survive, you’ll need to execute each jump with expert precision.

There’s no oxygen supply to worry about, however, and no hands to show what you’re holding onto. Both omissions, while disappointing, are realities of the game’s budget and the size of Pixel Spill’s team. With only 10 employees — a bunch of which are part-timers — it’s decided to focus on the atmosphere and story instead. Bingham said: “A technique like that, it looks great but it doesn’t necessarily add anything to the gameplay, and we have to weigh up as a small team whether it’s going to be feasible.”

If Outreach was set in modern times, it would feel pretty uninspired. Pixel Spill has been smart to choose an era largely unexplored in video games, and focus on a nation that is often ignored or conveyed as the villain in pop culture. The Soviet Union played an integral part in the space race — it put the first human in space and conducted the first space walk, after all. These achievements were conducted above a fragile and ever-changing political landscape, one filled with dangerous and distrusting nations. Presenting that tension through the eyes of an astronaut could, if done correctly, provide a fascinating story and perspective for the player. I can’t wait.

We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany for Gamescom 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

Source: Outreach

21
Aug

‘Resident Evil 7’ took just 15 minutes to creep me out


Resident Evil 6 was a bad video game, and Capcom knows it. To save its zombie franchise, the publisher has taken a radically different approach for Resident Evil 7, throwing out the loud explosions and over the top combat for smaller, more atmospheric scares. First shown at E3, the game is unusual because it takes place from a first-person perspective — most of the core Resident Evil games are third-person — and is compatible with PlayStation VR. The tone is radically different too, with a new set of characters to discover and a rundown plantation as its setting.

At Gamescom, I was able to play a short demo taken from the game. (To clarify, this wasn’t the “Beginning Hour” demo available at E3.) It took place in an old, dilapidated house with smashed windows and broken floorboards. A frightening woman chased me inside the building, and there was little to do but desperately search for an escape route. I would throw myself through doors and frantically look in each room, hunting for something — anything — that could serve as a weapon. Before long my pursuer would draw near however, spewing threats in a ghoulish voice.

Just when I thought I had found a hiding place — a makeshift tunnel underneath the house — the woman caught me, ending the chase on a fittingly gruesome note. Capcom told me that this new “Lantern” demo will be an optional sequence inside the main campaign, which you’ll trigger by watching an old VHS tape. It’s one of many playable flashbacks that will be relevant to what’s happening with the main characters in the “present day” timeline. Was it scary? Heck yes. It’s still too early to make a judgement call on Resident Evil 7, but I like the direction Capcom is heading in.

We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany for Gamescom 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

21
Aug

The Big Android Dev Interview: Jolanda Verhoef


From the Big Android BBQ Europe: Blendle dev Jolanda Verhoef on getting into Android development, current challenges, and where it’s all going.

The Big Android BBQ Europe, held in Amsterdam, Netherlands recently, brings together some of Europe’s top Android developers, enthusiasts and other community members in a celebration of Android, code and cooked meat. A spin-off from the U.S.-based Big Android BBQ, the European event is now in its second year.

In addition to the actual BBQ part, it’s also host to two days of talks from Android developers, and this year’s keynote was presented by Blendle’s Jolanda Verhoef. We caught up with Jolanda during the event to talk Android, mobile development, the past and the future.

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Who are you and what are you doing here at the Big Android BBQ Europe?

My name is Jolanda Verhoef and I’ve been developing for Android for six years, focusing mainly on architecture. [At the Big Android BBQ] I gave a talk on architecture together with RxJava. So, how can RxJava help you create a nice clean architecture. I work at a company called Blendle, which is a startup in the Netherlands, and before that I worked at companies like Philips, Dutch railway stations, Enexis, stuff like that. And I built my own app for geocaching as well.

How did you get started in the world of Android development?

I taught myself, did a few tutorials online, and ported the app to Android. And the basics of that app is still running in production today.

Well that’s actually a pretty nice story, and I’m gonna tell the long version because I feel like talking. Originally I was studying Computer Science, I’d just started [studying], and I had a summer holiday. And then my dad who is an iOS developer said, “well, I’ve got this nice iOS app, do you feel like porting it to Android?”

I was like “uh, what is Android?” because it was in the starting times of the smartphone business. And I was like “yeah, well, I don’t have anything to do anyway, I’ve just learned how to code, so why not.” So I didn’t know any Android at that moment, but I taught myself, did a few tutorials online, and basically ported the app to Android. And the basics of that app is still running in production today, so that’s pretty cool.

It’s called Geocaching Buddy, so it helps you with geocaching, viewing multicaches…

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What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about working with Android?

My favorite things are, I guess, that you really get to build something that you actually see on-screen. Of course, that’s basically from app development, but I really like that with mobile it’s very touchable, very sensable what you’re building, and you directly see the results.

Also, I like the vibrant community around it, so you see that there’s a lot of people thinking outside the box, creating cool stuff like RxJava, but also like Jake Wharton creating all kinds of different libraries, and I really love that.

With mobile it’s very touchable, very sensable what you’re building, and you directly see the results.

The things I like less are that, in my opinion, the official Android guidelines kinda don’t help people create a nice architecture. So whenever you get, for example, into enterprise Java programming, then you will learn about design patterns and layered architecture patterns and stuff, and that is, like, core to enterprise software. But then if you go and build mobile apps they just have no idea. So thank god for the vibrant community.

Another thing [that I don’t really like] might be turning the screen, kinda, is very, very annoying. (Laughs) So, it’s just the landscape/portrait thing. It’s always messing around with things.

What’s the most important piece of advice you could give to someone starting out in Android development today?

Starting out, I would say that: Don’t assume that what the official documentation says is right. So read a lot of blog posts and ask for advice from everyone. Look further than just the basic documentation.

Where do you see Android development, or Android in general, headed in the next few years?

I expect Kotlin to take over, basically. So new developers will just learn Kotlin and stop Java development completely. And I expect… I hope that Google will get more into the whole architecture thing and that they will start giving advice on how to do that.

Jolanda Verhoef is the Android Master at Blendle. Follow her on Twitter at @Lojanda.

21
Aug

2016 Nexus phones: What we want to see from Google and HTC


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Android Central editors sound off on what we want from the new Nexus hardware.

We’re quickly approaching that time of year when Google is poised to release new Nexus phones, and that means a few leaks fuel the fires for everyone to think about exactly what they want to see in the new phone (or, in this case, phones). We know the new hardware from Google is already finished and just waiting for some final touches before being released, so we’re really just daydreaming here, but that’s still fun to do!

So as we bide our time waiting for the real deal to be announced, here are a few thoughts we have on what we want to see from the new Nexuses — hardware, software, sales tactics, you name it. Read on.

Alex Dobie

The Nexus 6P was as close as we’ve yet come to a compromise-free Nexus phone — a device that isn’t just good for phone nerds who care about having the latest Google bits before everyone else, but a fantastic all-round handset. (By comparison the 5X took way too long to work out its software kinks.)

The Nexus 6P was as close as we’ve come to a compromise-free Nexus

Much of the hardware weirdness with the 6P — the huge physical size, the passable but not exceptional battery life, even with a large battery capacity, and the tendency to put out rather a lot of heat — should be solved automatically with newer, more efficient chips from Qualcomm. (Early 64-bit SoCs from the chipmaker just weren’t that great.) So from a refreshed pair of Nexus phones, I’m hoping to see similar screen sizes in more hand-friendly form factors. Something less overtly slabbish, even with a screen around the 5.5 to 5.7-inch mark would be nice.

A new generation of Nexus phones should also benefit from brighter screens with better daylight visibility. The 6P’s 2K display isn’t horrible, but the difference compared to Samsung or Apple in daylight is, well, night and day.

Next, that camera. I’m actually fine with the 6P’s image quality overall. It’s gotten better with updates over the past few months, and actually outperforms many 2016 models in low light, leaning heavily on Google’s HDR+ mode. The problem is it’s so painfully slow — slow to load, slow to capture, slow to pan, slow to everything. This is one area that desperately needs attention.

Andrew Martonik

Nearly a year on with the Nexus 6P and 5X, I’m still extremely happy with the experiences — though of course the 5X took quite a bit longer to come into its own. I really just hope that Google — and presumably HTC — have continued that formula rather than changing things dramatically. Compared to those previous Nexus phones, I just want a few subtle changes that will take the experience up that extra couple of notches.

The 6P and 5X are solid; they just need a few little tweaks to finish the experience

In terms of the bigger Nexus, a successor to the 6P, I think we deserve a better screen. With the wonderful hardware in the 6P, the one letdown was the display compared to what you’ve been able to get in other phones at the $400 and higher price point. I’d also like to see better battery life, as the 6P was pretty good but not fantastic for me. Here’s one more feature that’d really complete things: how about complete waterproofing, which has really won over consumers as a top feature.

For the smaller and cheaper companion Nexus, I want Google to keep the price down and offer great value like the Nexus 5X does — not necessarily try to kill it with bundles of specs. If we can step away from a cheap plastic build while keeping that price low — about $299, I hope — it’d be a killer option to have out there.

And one last thing that’s amazingly important for both devices: Google absolutely has to up its game in terms of camera speed — the Nexus 6P and 5X take amazing photos, but they do it at a glacial pace and it kills the experience.

Daniel Bader

I suspect that my dream Nexus is coming this quarter, since the HTC 10 is one of my favorite phones of 2016 so far. But more specifically, were I to take the Nexus 6P and lop off half an inch from the top and bottom, give it a less temperamental chip (the Snapdragon 810 was notoriously inconsistent in performance and battery life) and a faster camera, I’d be very happy.

I suspect that my dream Nexus is coming this year

Be it a Snapdragon 820 or 821, I am confident the next high-end Nexus will be extremely capable, and should the rumors of an HTC build be true, I’m sure it will have a great camera experience, too. I only hope that those other rumors — that of an overhauled, faster, less-reliant-on-HDR+ camera app — are also true.

As for the Nexus 5X, the faster we move on from that travesty the better. It’s pretty inexcusable that between LG and Google, who together build the very capable Nexus 5, left the Nexus 5X to languish with buggy software for as long as it did. Something tells me that even if LG makes this year’s lower-cost Nexus — which is unlikely, since HTC is expected to be building both — they won’t make that mistake again.

Finally, after using the Developer Preview of Android 7.0 Nougat on the Nexus 6P, I am confident that this upcoming version will be welcomed by the small number of early adopters who look forward to Nexus phones every year. It’s not a dramatic overhaul, but between more efficient Doze, improved notifications, and true multi-window support, Nougat will be considerably tastier than its edible counterpart.

Jerry Hildenbrand

  • More gold.
  • Free pizza on Tuesdays.

Seriously, Google, you just need to keep doing what you did in 2015. You know where the 6P and the budget-minded 5X weren’t perfect because you use them. Make those parts better without assing up what you got right.

Do whatever’s necessary to speed up the camera experience

Do whatever you need to do to the camera so the people who won’t install another app don’t have to wait while it opens or processes. Maybe even add OIS (though I’d love an option to turn it off) because apparently, it needs it, and use the same camera parts you used last time. If you’re sticking with AMOLED for the screens, be sure to stick with Samsung, too. Though I wouldn’t complain about LG’s Quantum Dots. Two versions mean you don’t even have to fiddle with the size(s) very much.

One thing you do need to change — make sure the “lesser” model is right at launch. The 5X will always have a bad name because it was pretty poor at launch and you took almost eight months to fix it. Only the people who stuck with it know that on the Android N Developer Preview it’s like a Corvette.

My list is small. That means it should be doable. Make the 2016 launch even better than 2015 was.

Russell Holly

I’m mostly here for a HTC 10 that isn’t just “Powered by Android” with the Nexus 6P camera that supports Google Daydream.

This is the first year since the Nexus line has been around, even way back in the Developer Phone days, where I haven’t felt a need to jump to a new phone after a year. The Nexus 6P is still a great phone at a great price. It’s still the phone I grab when I’m taking pictures in low light, and it’s still the phone I go to when I’m tired of the Android-based offerings from Samsung and HTC and LG.

If what we’ve seen from all the Marlin leaks are true, this next Nexus is going to address my only real complaints about the Nexus 6P. It’s going to have a slightly smaller overall body, and it’s not going to be quite as slippery. I like the feel of HTC’s metal over Huawei’s, and I like smaller phones. Everything else for me is small stuff. The Snapdragon 821 isn’t going to feel appreciably faster than the Snapdragon 810 in the 6P for 95% of the things we do on phones.

I want to see Google repeat the Nexus 5X formula, with a few tweaks

The only real reason I care about the Snapdragon 821 is Google Daydream. We’re going to see Google kick smartphone-based VR into high gear with Daydream on Marlin, and that’s going to be exciting even for folks who don’t care about VR. A big part of the Daydream spec is better sensors and better displays than anything we’ve seen in a Nexus before, which is going to be awesome.

For the smaller, “budget” Nexus I’d like to see Google repeat what they did with the Nexus 5X. Smaller, somewhat less capable, but still amazing. The 5X camera is unparalleled for its price, and a full year later there still isn’t a great competitor to that phone for anyone looking to buy unlocked. If Google can deliver that experience with something other than a cheap-ish plastic body, even better. I’m not convinced that’s a requirement though.

The only thing I’d like to see Google do differently this year is get the software right the first time. Out of the box, the Nexus 5X was a disaster. It’s amazing now, but it took way too long for those updates to come out. I’d like to see Google nail the “budget” Nexus software out of the gate and really drive home what an incredible experience you can get at such a reasonable price.

Ara Wagoner

I was never really blown away by the Nexus 5X, and while it did get better as the year went on — kind of — having a decently-sized (at least to my lithe hands) Nexus that works well from the get-go again would be wonderful. The 5X’s screen left a lot to be desired, especially outdoors, and the phone felt too light in the hand and more importantly in the pocket, leading me to sit down on it more than once because I simply forgot it was back there.

I don’t need much to change, but how about an SD card slot?

I’d like for both phones to get the same camera sensor again this year, preferably a sensor with OIS. I was happy both phones got the same Sony sensor last year, but the 5X camera was sluggish, and when I’m taking pictures on vacation, sluggish means missing that perfect shot of Mickey Mouse in front of Cinderella Castle during Festival of Fantasy.

Overall, the only real feature I want to come to the next Nexus phones is one we already know isn’t: microSD card support. Barring that, the only features I miss while I’m on Nexus phones are the IR sensors on the Moto X (which remains the most underrated feature I’ve ever encountered) and a front-facing fingerprint sensor. Yes, I prefer the front-facing sensor because I use my phone a lot while it’s propped up on my desk/in a mug/in a dock/lying on my pillow in bed and I prefer to simply place my finger on the front of the phone rather than pick it up and use the rear sensor. Or, y’know, use my backup pattern.

What do you think?

These are our ideas for what we want to see from future Nexus phones, but we value your opinions as well — sound off in the comments and let us know what you’re expecting!

21
Aug

Best car mounts for the Moto G4


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What are the best car mounts that work with the Moto G4?

There’s no good reason to be driving with your Moto G4 in hand. Distracted driving is a hazard to the public and whether or not it’s illegal to text and drive in your state or local jurisdiction, you just shouldn’t do it.

Having said that, using your phone in your car is also incredibly convenient; we our phones for turn-by-turn directions or to play music and podcasts while driving. The common compromise is to use a car mount, so your phone is accessible for a quick tap or swipe when you’re stopped at a red light.

And there are no shortage of car-mounting options that will work with the Moto G4, all with their own unique features and methods of keeping your phone accessible and secure. Here are some of our favourites!

  • iOttie Easy One Touch XL Car Mount Holder
  • Affordable Universal 360-degree Rotating Car Mount
  • Koomus CD-Eco Universal CD Slot Smartphone Car Mount
  • WizGear Universal Air Vent Magnetic Car Mount
  • DigitlMobile High Grade Seat Bold Car Mount

iOttie Easy One Touch XL Car Mount Holder

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If you’re looking for a standard dash car mount to hold your phone, you can’t go wrong with the iOttie Easy One Touch XL. Designed with a quick, one-touch lock and release system, you won’t be left struggling to secure your phone every time you jump in your car.

With 360-degree rotation available for either portrait or landscape orientation, this car mount ensures your Moto G4’s charging port and headphone jack are both accessible. It mounts easily with a strong suction cup coupled with a sticky gel for a secure, confident hold. If it’s time to switch cars, simply give the suction pad a quick rinse in warm water, then allow it to air dry — the suction will return to near-mint condition. Priced under $20, this is a great, if not slightly pedestrian, option for mounting your Moto G4 in your car.

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Affordable Universal 360-degree Rotating Car Mount

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With the ability to hold phones up to 6-inches, the Affordable Universal 360-degree Rotating Car Mount will easily handle your Moto G4.

Securing your Moto G4 is as easy as pinching the clip in the back and placing your phone between the two rubber grips that will hold your phone in place. This mount attaches to your dash or windshield using a suction cup, with a quick push locking mechanism to ensure a secure hold. A 360-degree swivelling ball mount gives you the flexibility to adjust and rotate your phone as you see fit no matter where you decide to mount it in your car.

If you were wondering why this product is called Affordable, it’s available to buy for $10. Sweet deal.

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Koomus CD-Eco Universal CD Slot Smartphone Car Mount

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If you’re car CD changer has been collecting dust, get new life out of it with the Koomus CD-Eco Universa CD Slot Smartphone Car Mount. This mount ingeniously uses your car CD changer to secure the mount, letting you mount your phone just above all your radio and center console controls.

With a stretch clamp that can hold a phone up to 3.5-inches, and a full 360-degree rotatable ball mount, your Moto G4 will be held securely, with a full range of customization for positioning it just the way you want it. There’s no tools or suction cups needed for installation. All you do is insert the flat end into your CD drive and you’re good to go. Because, let’s be real, once you’ve got your mp3-loaded or music streaming phone mounted in your car, who needs CDs anyways?

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WizGear Universal Air Vent Magnetic Car Mount

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If your top priority in a car mount is the ability to quickly mount and release your phone with no muss, no fuss, the WizGear Universal Air Vent Magnetic Mount is right for you.

Your first step will be to mount the metal plate onto the back of your phone. It comes with both a magnetic metal plate for placing between your phone and a case, or a coin-sized adhesive magnetic metal pad that adds no bulk to your phone. The mounting bracket simply clips onto one of your car’s air vents, and allows for a full range adjustments. Once you’ve added the plate to your phone, all you have to do is bring the phone near the mount and let the magnet do all the work. You get a secure hold that won’t obstruct your dash or windshield, and your air conditioning will keep your phone cool when driving under the hot summer sun as an added bonus.

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DigitlMobile High Grade Seat Bold Car Mount

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Saving perhaps the most interesting car mount for last, the High Grade Seat Bolt Car Mount from DigitlMobile features a fully-adjustable gooseneck arm you attach down by the floor of your car.

This one won’t be for everyone, and you’ll definitely want to confirm that you’ve got the mounting bracket required in your car before purchasing — but man does this thing look cool. It comes with an expandable clamp that should easily hold your Moto G4, whether or not you have it in a case. Installation is a bit more involved, as you’ll either attach it to the passenger seat track bolt, or drill it directly into the interior floor of your car for a more permanent fix. Once installed, you’ll be able to adjust the arm to exactly how you want near your car’s center console. An ideal option to avoid cluttering up your dash and field-of-vision, while also providing flexibility (literally) to let your passenger be your navigator or in-car DJ.

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How do you mount your Moto G4?

Which mount do you like best? Have any experience with the one’s we’ve suggested? We’d love to know what you think, so let us know in the comments!

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