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Posts tagged ‘Android’


Chromebooks now have an easy time running Android apps

You no longer have to be an early adopter to run Android apps on a Chromebook. Google has released a stable version of Chrome OS that includes Google Play Store access in beta, giving you the opportunity to run mobile apps on top of your usual web access. You’ll have to own an Acer Chromebook R11 or an ASUS Chromebook Flip to give this update a shot, but it beats having to run a Chrome OS beta just to see what all the fuss is about.

It’s not certain which systems are coming next, although we’d expect the late Chromebook Pixel 2 to be next in line given that it’s the only one listed as supporting Android apps in beta Chrome OS releases. Almost all other compatible devices (including machines from HP, Lenovo and Samsung) are still waiting for their turn. But hey, it’s a step in the right direction — you’re that much closer to running your favorite phone apps from the comfort of your PC.

Via: Android Police

Source: Chrome Releases, The Chromium Projects


Google Hangouts adds emoticon shortcuts for easy table-flipping

The latest version of Google Hangouts for Android adds something clever to your chatting experience: 20 new hidden emoticon shortcuts so you can properly express all those shruggie feelings and table-flipping rage moments. Less exciting than a quick way to add “deal with it” guy to your chat logs, the v13 update also adds an in-app browser for web links.

Regarding those emoticons, the lineup is pretty impressive: typing things like “/shrug”, “/facepalm” or “/tableflip” into the chatbox will automatically change to (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻.

Here’s the full list of commands (and don’t forget the forward slash at the front):

  • algebraic
  • dealwithit
  • disapprove
  • facepalm
  • flowerbeam
  • happy
  • lgtm
  • lit
  • octodisco
  • puppyparty
  • shame
  • shrug
  • success
  • sunglasses
  • tableback
  • tableflip
  • that
  • this
  • wizard
  • yuno

Finally, if you really hate switching apps to open links in a chat, that in-app browser can be accessed by flipping the “Browr in Hangouts” button in the settings tab. According to Android Police, however, this option doesn’t show up on every Android device. Sorry, Nexus 5 owners, guess you’ll have to /dealwithit.

Via: The Next Web

Source: Android Police


Stream Android apps on Facebook Live with Bluestacks

Streaming your favorite smartphone apps on Twitch is pretty hard. Through Facebook? Even harder. To simplify the process, Bluestacks is adding a Facebook Live option to its desktop Android emulator. So whether you’re using a PC or Mac, you can now grab your favorite games from the Play store, launch them and stream using the same interface. Bluestacks added a similar Twitch-streaming option just a few month ago — while Amazon’s platform is known for gaming, Facebook clearly has similar ambitions. (You can already broadcast Blizzard titles on the social network, for instance.) With so many eyeballs, its influence is growing fast.

Bluestacks isn’t perfect, however. Portions of the app look a little rough and browsing Android can feel unintuitive with a mouse and keyboard. Some players will, inevitably, always prefer an authentic mobile experience too. Even if you have a Windows laptop with a touch screen, it’ll never be quite the same as using a real smartphone or tablet. Slower-paced games translate pretty well, but anything fast and swipe-heavy can be hard to control. Of course, Bluestacks can tackle other types of applications too. If you want to explain how a new feature works in Instagram, for instance, or react to a movie trailer on YouTube, this could be a solid option.

Source: Bluestacks


The CoWatch brings Amazon’s Alexa to your wrist starting today

Amazon hasn’t dared to make a smartwatch of its own yet, but it might not have to when companies like iMCO have shoehorned Alexa into a wearable themselves. See, iMCO and the ex-Googlers working on the Cronologics OS have successfully turned what could’ve been another bit of crowdfunded vaporware into an actual product — the CoWatch — complete with blessings from Amazon. At last, you’ll be able to order multiple pairs of shoes straight from your wrist. Isn’t the future grand?

The CoWatch goes on sale on Amazon today with prices starting at $279, but we got to put a near-final model through its paces ahead of the company’s big day. Spoiler alert: having Alexa with you everywhere you go can be very cool, but the CoWatch definitely isn’t for everyone.

In fact, that becomes clear almost right off the bat. The CoWatch team managed to squeeze a lot into this stainless steel body: there’s an Ingenic dual-core chipset, 1GB of RAM, a screen running at 400×400 and 8GB of storage, the most I’ve ever seen in a wearable. While the whole thing is lighter than it looks, the watch’s thick body and high lug placement make things feel a little cumbersome. Even so, there’s enough horsepower here to keep things moving at a pretty reasonable clip — swiping through long notifications and launching apps to monitor your heart rate proved to be no problem for this chipset I’ve never heard of. The screen’s pretty bright too, though there doesn’t seem to be a raise-to-wake option; you’ll have to hit the crown button to do anything beyond glancing at the time. We need to spend more time with the watch to pass any serious judgments, but the hardware seems adequate so far.

The software loaded onto the CoWatch holds more promise. Instead of embracing the rigidity of Android Wear, iMCO went with an upstart Android-based OS from an outfit called Cronologics. Navigating it is simple enough: swiping down on the clock screen reveals your notifications, and swiping up brings up quick actions like toggling airplane mode and a battery meter. There’s technically a separate page for your apps, but you’re not going to use it much — Cronologics designed the interface so app shortcuts appear as complications on the watch face itself. Easy, no?

The Cronologics OS is actually built on top of Android Lollipop, and that’s where the extra flexibility comes from. The watch can technically run any standard Android app, though there doesn’t appear to be away to sideload them. (That’s probably for the best since most Android apps obviously aren’t meant to run on screens this small.) It works just fine with both iOS and Android devices, too. The real magic lies in how the OS can connect to web-based services like IFTTT for one-touch actions and yes, Amazon’s Alexa.

Using Alexa on your wrist is about as straightforward as you’d expect — you invoke her either by holding down the crown button or tapping an Alexa complication on the screen. From there, the usual hijinks apply: the watch was able to tell me how old Jeff Bezos is and the distance from the earth to the moon, and it helped me order some socks too. The process felt far from instantaneous, though. In general it took a while for the watch to interpret my questions, pass it along to the Alexa web service and give me the appropriate response. Setting the feature up can also be a little tricky since it requires the watch to be tethered to your phone — a no-go on old, grandfathered unlimited data plans like the one attached to my iPhone.

Once I paired the CoWatch with another Android phone though, it only took a few moments to get acquainted with Alexa — not bad, especially since I don’t have an Amazon Echo at home. Then again, I’m already well known among by colleagues for having poor impulse control, so the ability to buy just about anything from Amazon without even having to look at a screen seems troubling for my bank account. It appears the age of the always-connected shopping assistant is upon us, though: the Omate Rise is getting Alexa support as well.

While we’re not ready to deliver a verdict on the CoWatch just yet, the level of promise here is tough to ignore. I could personally take or leave the hardware, but if Cronologics pushes to get developers onboard and keeps hooking the OS into web services we all use anyway, the CoWatch just might become a contender. Alexa is just the tip of the iceberg, friends — there’s still plenty of smartwatch envelope-pushing to be done


Google Maps’ shining blue beam guides Android users’ travels

Google has replaced the tiny Maps arrow on Android with something that can better represent the way you’re facing. When you fire up the updated app, you’ll now see a blue beam that shines towards your destination like a flashlight. This directional beam can also indicate whether your phone’s compass is malfunctioning and directions aren’t as accurate as they should be. All you have to keep in mind is that the narrower the beam, the more accurate it is. If you see it widen up, then your phone is having issues.

Don’t worry, though — Google says it’s likely just a temporary problem brought about by something as ordinary as charging or passing by a metal beam. You can easily recalibrate your phone by holding it in your hand and drawing the figure 8 in the air. The animation below should give you a pretty good idea how to do that. You might look funny doing it in public for a bit, but if you can endure people looking at you for a minute or two, Google says it will fix things right up.

Source: Google


Google’s Android search may drop the ‘Now on Tap’ name

Google signaled that its Google Now branding was on the way out when it unveiled Assistant in May, and it now looks like the company is determined to erase whatever traces were left. The team at 9to5Google has discovered that Google’s latest search app beta kicks the Now naming scheme to the curb. Now on Tap is just “screen search,” while Now cards are your “feed.”

The only significant addition in the beta at this point is the option of creating a shortcut for searching within your apps.

Yes, it would just be a name change (assuming Google doesn’t reverse course before the final release). However, it’d both influence the way Google talks about Android and reflect its overall strategy. Google Assistant and the search box are the real stars of the show — those additional features are just icing on the cake.

Source: 9to5Google


Transit’s app now tells you when to hurry for the bus

Sure, your existing phone apps can tell you when to catch the bus and when to hop off, but public transportation fans know that’s only half the story. What if the driver is quicker than you expected, or a delay ruins your subway connection? Transit might just save the day. It’s updating its Android and iOS apps with a Go routing feature that could take some of the uncertainty out of commuting. You’ll get on-screen and voice notifications when it’s time to head out or disembark, but it gets truly interesting when things go haywire. Transit will tell you to hurry up if your departure time suddenly skips ahead, create a new itinerary if you miss a ride and warn you if a bus takes a surprise detour.

The upgrade also answers a longstanding request for real-time position data while you’re planning a trip. You should know which routes will actually get you to your destination on time, not just the ones that work in theory. The updates are still too new to see how well they work in practice. However, this could be the ticket if you’re tired of double- or triple-checking your phone on a long journey across town.

Source: App Store, Google Play, Transit (Medium)


Firefox adds a ‘Narrate’ mode to take your eyes off the screen

Mozilla’s latest Firefox adds a couple new and refined features intended to improve the time you spend reading online. While Firefox released an ad-stripping, layout-simplifying Reader Mode way back in 2012, the newest release brings a new “Narrate” feature and additional tweaks for a better reading (or listening) experience.

Mozilla might be a little late to the game compared to Apple’s robotic VoiceOver, but Firefox’s new text-to-speech feature helpfully narrates articles so you can step away from the screen or swap to another tab and listen at your leisure. Reader mode is also getting some additional customization options that allow users to tweak the text, font size or reader voice, as well as new light and dark themes for daylight or nighttime reading that’s easier on the eyes.

If you’re on an Android device, Firefox now helpfully stores some previously viewed pages and data so you can interact with pages you’ve already visited, even if you hop on a plane or your data connection drops out. Finally, the latest update also brings better multiprocess support, which should translate to a much more responsive and much less crash-y web experience. Mozilla says it has improved overall responsiveness by a whopping 400% for users who forego browser add-ons, and the plan is to add support for compatible add-ons by 2017. At that point, Firefox will also flip the switch on Flash, which should do wonders for browser responsiveness.


HTC’s Desire 10 phones make mid-range power feel more premium

The last time we saw a new Desire phone, HTC had basically speckled it with paint in the name of fashion. We can’t blame them — the effect was pretty damned cool — but now the company is trying something a little different with the new Desire 10 Lifestyle and Pro. HTC’s midrange work is getting wrapped up in a classy new look, and (spoiler alert) it’s a pretty impressive change. The Lifestyle is set to hit certain markets this month, ahead of the more expensive Pro model in November, and we got to take a closer look at both of them just a little while ago.

As you’ve easily deduced, the Pro is the more powerful of the Desire 10 twins. That’s mostly thanks to the octa-core MediaTek Helio P10, assisted by either 3GB or 4GB of RAM; the former model comes with 32GB of storage, down from the latter’s 64GB. Plenty of power to render things on the 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen and keep it all moving at a respectable clip, too. It’s always a little tricky to get a sense of what a phone’s capable of pre-launch, but poking around in the lightly skinned build of Android 6.0 Marshmallow felt more than adequately snappy. Anyway, just above that screen is a 13-megapixel camera (with a software-powered wide-angle selfie trick to boot), while a 20-megapixel camera sits on the opposite side. And below that? A rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, a nice touch that doesn’t often wind up in mid-range devices.

All of that (plus a 3,000mAh battery) is packed into a really handsome frame, with a matte body that gets criss-crossed with gold-ish antenna bands. This change is a far cry from the youthful Desire 530 — the Desire 10 Pro isn’t as exuberant as it is elegant. The tight tolerances and sturdy feel definitely give the 10 Pro a more premium air, and HTC’s color choices don’t hurt either. (The phone will be available in black, white, navy blue and a light blue the company’s calling “Valentine Lux”.)

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Desire 10 Lifestyle is just another barely-touched variant. After all, that’s definitely the impression HTC is trying to give off — the Lifestyle looks basically identical to its more expensive sibling despite its more modest spec sheet. There are some tell-tale signs, though, like the lack of a fingerprint sensor and a smaller flash setup under its main 13-megapixel camera. Once the Desire 10 Lifestyle is on, the phone’s lower-end ambitions are confirmed by the 5.5-inch 720p Super LCD screen — it’s still decently bright and vivid, if not the crispest out there. The rest of the differences are under the hood: there’s a slightly pokier Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 chipset clocked at 1.6GHz, either 2GB or 3GB of RAM, 2700mAh batteries, and 32 or 64GB of storage.

There is one other big deviation from the Pro, however: the Desire 10 Lifestyle packs support for 24-bit high-res audio like the full-blown 10. Sure, you’ll lose out on a crisper screen and biometric unlocking, but the lure of improved audio is still pretty tantalizing. That’s also the sort of feature that rarely pops up in lower-end smartphones, so here’s hoping that trend keeps up for a while. And beyond that, HTC’s build quality impresses even when it comes to less expensive hardware (think around £249 in the UK). From a distance, there aren’t any discernible, physical differences between the Pro and the Lifestyle.

As usual, HTC is leaving most of the pricing and availability details up to the carriers and retailers themselves, but if you’re in the US, you can just put your wallet away. It’ll be a least a little while before either version of the Desire 10 winds up around these parts, and probably longer still if the Desires turn out to be hits and supplies get constrained. After just a little bit of time spent with HTC’s new devices, it was pretty clear that the line that represents “good enough” smartphone performance has gotten pretty high. Then again, it’s not like the best phones are guaranteed successes: the 10 was the best device HTC had cooked up in ages, and even its tremendous quality and performance couldn’t drive huge demand for it.


Google’s likely Pixel phone event is happening October 4th

Hot on the heels of rumors and whispers aplenty, Google is sending out invites to an October 4th event that’s expected to reveal, in full, new flagship Android phones, likely tagged with its Pixel branding. We’re sure the company has more than a new phone or two. Unfortunately those aforementioned rumors also suggest they may not be as handily priced as their Nexus forefathers. We’ll be there to tell you all the important stuff. That said, the teaser video (below) doesn’t show us much of anything. Maybe it’s a new vertical search box? Be still, my beating heart.

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