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Posts tagged ‘Android’

30
Aug

Google wants your help to improve its automatic translations


Google’s ability to interpret and translate handwriting isn’t perfect. Sometimes you’ll scribble a word or take a photo of a restaurant menu on holiday, only to have a garbled mess thrown back at you. To help its “smart” assistants and services, Google has released a new app on the Play Store called Crowdsource. It’s a bare-bones affair, asking you to transcribe digital squiggles and photographed road signs. There are no discernible rewards, only the occasional message (“you’re great!”) and meaningless ‘milestone’ when you’ve completed a certain number of tasks. In short, you’ll need to really love Google to open the app more than once.

The app, of course, is still hugely beneficial to Google. Any submissions — no matter how few — can be fed into its algorithms and used as a foundation for better, more accurate translations and analysis. The subsequent improvements should trickle down into Maps, Translate, Photos and conversational services such as Google Assistant. It’s just a shame the company hasn’t integrated some form of reward system — something similar to Google Opinion Rewards or the Google Maps Local Guides program would go a long way to incentivizing contributions.

Via: Android Police, TechCrunch

30
Aug

Niantic is reversing bans on some ‘Pokémon Go’ accounts


Pokémon Go players who felt they were wrongly banned might get a reprieve. That’s because developer Niantic has said that in its quest to block bots and data scrapers, some people who used third-party map apps to locate the virtual critters were wrongly blocked.

“Each end-user app can be used as a collection tool by the app creator, invisibly collecting and forwarding data to the app creator without the knowledge of the end user,” Niantic writes. “These apps can have an effect similar to DDoS attacks on our servers.”

The company says it’s rearranged of few things in its back-end and can reverse bans on a “small subset” of accounts. That won’t apply to accounts doing nothing but remotely accessing and capturing Pokemon, taking part in gym battles or grabbing supplies from Pokéstops. In fact, it sounds like bans for those terms-of-service-violating activities will become even more strict.

“Our main priority is to provide a fair, fun and legitimate experience for all players, so, aggressive banning will continue to occur for players who engage in these kinds of activities.”

Source: Pokemon Go Live

30
Aug

Android 7.0 Nougat review: All about getting things done faster


After a surprise debut and months of previews, Android 7.0 Nougat is ready for primetime. The broad strokes haven’t changed since we first met Nougat back in March (when it was just “Android N”), which means it’s still not the game-changer of an update some people have been hoping for. Instead, what we got was a smattering of big (and overdue) features mixed with lower-level changes that make Android more elegant. That might not make for the most viscerally exciting update, but that doesn’t make Nougat any less valuable or useful.

The caveat

Before we go any further, let’s get on the same page about a few things. Yes, it might be a while before you get your OTA Nougat update. Yes, that wait will stretch out even longer if you’re not using Nexus hardware. Carriers and OEMs are keeping mum about their specific Nougat update plans, but if you do have a Nexus device, you can enroll it in the Android Beta program and install a full-fledged Android 7.0 build.

The first taste

I hope you weren’t looking of a dramatic revamp of Android’s stock look and feel — that definitely wasn’t in the cards for this first release. (Bigger interface changes might come with the launch of Google’s new Nexus devices, which will probably sport a sleek new launcher.) In fact, once you’re dumped onto your homescreen, you might notice anything new at all. That changes very quickly as you start to swipe around.

For all that Google has added to the Android formula in this release, there are two features that fundamentally changed how I used my Nexus. The first, dull as it might seem, is an improved take on notifications. In prior versions of Android, notifications would fill up the pull-down shade and just sort of sit there until you interacted with them. Then, pfft — they’d disappear. Nougat, however, does a much better job of bundling them up by app and let you get things done.

In the midst of writing this paragraph, two new emails popped up in my inbox. On a Marshmallow device, all I could do is tap on the notification to jump into Gmail and see what people were asking me. Fine. Under Nougat, though, I can expand that notification to see the full sender names and subject lines of a handful of my recent emails. Another tap lets me see the first few sentences of the email and (more importantly) archive or reply without ever jumping into another app. Google’s own apps all play nice with these expanded notifications, and other apps crucial for my life — like Slack, mostly — do the same. Even better, you can manage notifications for individual apps just by long-pressing one of their notifications. Your mileage may vary, but these changes have become crucial to me.

Then there’s split-screen multitasking, a feature that’s a big deal for big phones and gives Android tablets an extra edge. Here’s how it works: if you’re in a compatible app, you can long-press the Recent or Overview key (also known as “that square one”) to squeeze it into the top half of your display. The bottom half is taken up by the usual view of recent apps, and tapping one finagles it into the remaining free space. (If you’re working on a tablet, replace “top” and “bottom” with “left” and “right”.) In my experience, most apps worked in their diminutive forms pretty well. Sometimes they will make a fuss and proclaim they “might not work” properly running in a reduced size, but they’re usually fine — you’ll just notice some kludginess while apps try to figure out how to operate with such limited room.

Just for giggles, I ran Shazam in one window and Spotify in another, and wouldn’t you know it? The former could easily tell the latter was pumping out some Jacques Loussier. It’s a silly example, certainly, but it worked despite Shazam struggling to render all its interface bits in the right places. In time developers will (hopefully) smooth out the rough edges. The thing is, it can be tricky to work with both windows at the same time. I tried copying a bit of text from a Chrome window to a Hangouts window on the Nexus 6P for instance, and more often than not the necessary pop-up menus never appeared. Check this process out: I made Chrome full-screen, copied the text, went back to the split-screen view and then tried to paste into Hangouts. I didn’t get the pop-up option to do so, though, so I had to make Hangouts full-screen and finally pasted the text.

Of course, some apps don’t even try to adapt to smaller sub-displays. Games that take over the screen and obscure Android’s navigation keys certainly don’t and neither does image-heavy Instagram. When you try to force one of them into split-screen mode, they just sort of balk and refuse. Now, it’s understandable why the examples above don’t allow themselves to be contained in half a window: if they did, the experience would downright suck. What’s more puzzling is why Google didn’t extend this split-screen functionality to its own search app. You can have two Chrome windows working next to each other just fine, but you’re out of luck if you want to glance at info gleaned from Google’s search bar. It’s silly, arbitrary and more than a little annoying.

Thankfully, there are a few subtle features that help mobile multitasking work better. There’s an option to change the display size, for one, which scales everything on-screen up or down. For the people with lousy eyesight, display size can be cranked up three levels. For the folks who want maximum screen real estate, though, there’s a “small” setting below default size that neatly shrinks text, icons and more.

I always hated how big app icons were rendered on the Nexus 6P (one of the actual reasons I stopped using the phone), and this feature just fixed it all for me.

There’s also an option to clear all running apps when you’re sifting through the familiar stack of app cards (just like most other Android skins in recent years). Perhaps the single most useful Nougat addition falls under this category too — you can double-tap the Recents key to jump straight back into the app you were using last. It took maybe an hour for this to become second nature, and as far as I’m concerned, there’s no going back.

Diving deeper

Still other handy — though less exciting — features become apparent once you start digging around a little more. Nougat still offers the option of customizing your quick settings options, for instance. They’re arrayed in a 3×3 grid, with extra icons shunted onto another page. For even quicker access to your five most used settings, look to a new bar at the top of the notifications shade. It’s useful enough, especially when you’re in a rush to turn that flashlight or get that WiFi going.

For whatever reason, everyone finds themselves in their device’s settings eventually. Luckily for them, Google finally overhauled it a bit. While the old settings layout was basically just a list of categories you could dive into, the new one peppers the list with really helpful bits of context like remaining battery life, current ringer volume and how many apps were blocked from sending notifications. Settings sections like Display and Battery offer most of the same options, but now you can bring up a navigation sub-menu that lets you jump between those sections. Handy, but easy to miss. The main settings menu also offers suggestions that aren’t really all that helpful. It can tell you about setting up a fingerprint (on compatible devices) and change your wallpaper, but did we really need this? Most of the time Nougat just suggested I add another email account. Thanks, but no thanks.

The revamped Settings page, by the way, is where you’ll find more of Google’s new handiwork. Consider Data Saver, for instance: the feature lets you define which apps can use your data plan without limits and which ones can’t, which is all too handy if you haven’t migrated onto one of those unlimited data plans carriers have started talking up lately. And if you’re one of those fortunate polyglots, Nougat added support for 100 new languages. Maybe more important is how you can now also have multiple languages enabled at the same time, creating what Google calls a “multi-locale” — when Google searching, for instance, you’ll get results back in whatever enabled language you typed your query in.

Then there’s all the other stuff — the smaller changes that help Nougat feel more thoughtful and polished. At long last, you can set different lockscreen and homescreen wallpapers in stock Android. How it took this long to implement, I’ll never understand. There are 72 new emoji here because of course there are! (They’re part of the Unicode 9.0 standard). You can display emergency info like your name, blood type and allergies on your phone’s lockscreen, too, and Android Nougat also allows you to block calls and text messages from specific phone numbers. Oh, and the best part? Those numbers stay blocked across different apps.

Meanwhile, not everything Google planned for Nougat made the final cut. Remember that Night mode that showed up in the first developer preview? Well, it’s gone — sorry, folks. Google apparently chalked its excision up to poorer-than-expected performance, though you can re-enable it pretty easily if the thought of Dark Android does it for you.

Under the wrapper

Just as important in Nougat is all of the stuff you can’t “see”, strictly speaking. These foundational changes aren’t as eye-catching as some of Nougat’s other new features, but they’re more important — and more useful — than you might think. The most obvious of these low-level changes is Doze on the Go, which builds off of a similarly named feature that debuted in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Think of it as a light sleep — when the device is locked but in motion, a set of rules kicks in that limit what apps can do and restrict their network access. Then, when the device can tell it’s staying put for a while, the original Doze rules from the Marshmallow update kick in, leading to still more restrictions meant to preserve battery life even further. The one-two punch of Doze and Doze on the Go might not blow your mind, but it should still move the needle — my Nexus 6P seemed to gain about an hour or two of standby battery life.

This year’s Android updates also folds in support for Khronos’ Vulkan API, which should make for some seriously good-looking mobile gaming. There’s a dearth of compatible games right now, though; here’s hoping more developers get to pushing performance and graphical limits soon. You might also notice apps installing and launching a little faster than usual, depending on what kind of hardware you’re working with. That’s thanks to Nougat’s just-in-time compiler, which works with existing systems to determine when to compile an app’s code.

The arcane stuff goes on. Encryption has been moved to the file level, which — among other things — means your secured device can boot up and compatible apps can do their thing before you even unlock your gear. It should also mean lower-end phones can be partially encrypted (and run a little better) since full-disk encryption can really screw with performance sometimes. Alas, I didn’t get to try this out on a low-end phone because who knows when Nougat will make it beyond the Nexus playground.

The value of other features won’t be apparent for a while, either. Consider the case of seamless updates: Nougat can support two system partitions, one for handling your day-to-day work and another that can install big software updates that quietly download in the background. Once those updates are installed, you’ll be told that Android will update itself next time it restarts, at which point the device starts using that updated partition (complete with all your stuff). It’s possible that some phone makers will never embrace this feature and existing devices like the Nexus 5X or 6P don’t play nice with it either. But we can at least assume it’ll pop up in this year’s new batch of Nexuses.

Those Nexuses, by the way, are likely to be the first devices to fully embrace features Google revealed at its 2016 I/O developer conference. Nougat ships with a VR mode, for instance, a sort of high-performance system that drives down the time gap between your head’s motion and the image on-screen updating. Neat, certainly, but we’ll get a better sense of the benefits VR mode brings to the table when Google’s Daydream virtual reality platform launches this fall. Meanwhile, we know that Google’s new intelligent Assistant will be baked into the company’s Allo messaging app and the Amazon Echo-like Google Home speaker, but recent evidence suggests it’ll also be made part of Android thanks to an upcoming maintenance release.

Wrap-up

After playing with Nougat for a week, one thing has become abundantly clear: Android is smoother, smarter and more elegant than ever. That doesn’t mean it’s completely issue-free — split-screen multitasking isn’t nearly as elegant as it could be and it kind of sucks that seamless software updates won’t happen on older hardware — but the platform’s foundation is in great shape. It’s a good thing, too. The version of Nougat you’re playing with now is just the first step, and you can bet the features we’re really looking forward too, like Daydream and Assistant, will build off of what was wrought in this update. Yes, chances are you’ll have to wait for a taste of Nougat, and yes, that blows. Just know that the improvements here, subtle though they may be, are worth the wait.

28
Aug

Facebook will show bigger vertical videos in your News Feed


Facebook’s News Feed for mobile will become much friendlier to vertical videos in the near future, according to Marketing Land. It won’t exactly be optimized for the orientation the way Snapchat is, but it will apparently stop cropping and showing them as tiny squares. The publication says when the update rolls out for Android and iOS, you’ll start seeing vertical videos with a 2:3 aspect ratio (as opposed to 1:1) on your News Feed without having to expand them. “We know that people enjoy more immersive experiences on Facebook, so we’re starting to display a larger portion of each vertical video in News Feed on mobile,” a spokesperson told Marketing Land.

Thanks to the popularity of apps like Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat, more and more people have learned to embrace the format. Daily Mail North America’s CEO Jon Steinberg once said that the publication’s vertical video ads have nine times more completed views than ones shot in horizontal view. By showing a larger part of vertical videos than before, people too lazy to view them in full screen — and, let’s face it, it’s a hassle navigating away from the News Feed sometimes — are more likely to watch them till the end. Facebook didn’t reveal when the feature will go live, but Mashable said the update’s going out in the coming weeks.

Via: Mashable

Source: Marketing Land

26
Aug

The Engadget Podcast Ep 3: Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)


Editors Nathan Ingraham and Devindra Hardawar join host Terrence O’Brien to talk about Android Nougat, PlayStation 4 rumors and why Amazon would create an Echo-exclusive music service. Then the panel addresses the endless harassment faced by Leslie Jones, and use the word “garbage”… a lot.

Oh, and as promised, here are your Flame Wars leaderboards:

Wins

Loses

Winning %

Chris Velazco
3
1
.750
Devindra Hardawar
4
3
.571
Nathan Ingraham
3
4
.429
Cherlynn Low
1
3
.250

Relevant links:

  • The slim PS4 is looking realer every day
  • Amazon could launch an Echo-exclusive music service
  • Android 7.0 Nougat arrives today
  • Hackers target Leslie Jones, post nude photos to her site
  • Twitter permanently bans one of its most offensive users
  • Twitter is letting all users filter out trolls from their notifications
  • Gawker.com will shut down as part of Univision buyout

You can check out every episode on The Engadget Podcast page in audio, video and text form for the hearing impaired.

Watch on YouTube

Subscribe on Google Play Music

Subscribe on iTunes

Subscribe on Stitcher

Subscribe on Pocket Casts

26
Aug

Google is killing off the Device Assist app on Nexus handsets


Google is killing off its homegrown Device Assist app that helps navigate the ins and outs of certain phones. That means tools like speed tests, settings for battery saving and live tech support are going away in favor of website with tips and tricks. Affected fpolks with Android One, Google Play Edition or Nexus handsets will notice a “detected issue” card within the app, according to Android Police, with a link for Google Support when they try to use the application. It has already been removed from the Play Store, and 9to5Google writes that the app is still semi-functional and that no new tool tips will be added.

Via: 9to5Google

Source: Android Police

26
Aug

HTC breaks its promise to update the One A9 ‘within 15 days’


When HTC launched the One A9, it promised to roll out new versions of Android “within 15 days” of their release. Pretty sweet, right? Well, it would be — but that’s not happening with Android 7.0. In a tweet, HTC said the new software will be hitting the HTC 10 in the fourth quarter of 2016, followed by the unlocked One M9, the unlocked One A9 and their carrier counterparts. The timeline suggests that the company will be breaking its promise with the One A9 — Google released Nougat on August 22nd, meaning the phone would need to receive it by September 6th.

We reached out to HTC, and a spokesperson told us: “With the excitement around Android Nougat, we’re aligning engineering resources around our most popular flagship products where the most customers will benefit.” It’s a shame, because the One A9 is a decent little phone. Admittedly, it’s not a top-tier powerhouse like the HTC 10, but it’s still capable. Throw in a five-inch display (an increasingly rare smartphone spec) and a light, reserved take on Android, and you’ve got a solid if unadventurous device.

The move is a head-scratcher, because HTC is struggling to sell phones as it is. The least it can do is support the people who are still buying them.

Via: XDA Developers

Source: HTC (Twitter)

25
Aug

Google links Project Fi-approved WiFi hotspots to Nexus phones


The WiFi Assistant feature from Google’s Project Fi wireless network turned out to be one of Nicole’s favorite parts of the service, and now more people will have access to it. Google announced today that it’s bringing the ability to “automatically and securely connect” to over a million hotspots to Nexus owners in the US, Canada, Mexico and Nordic countries. WiFi Assistant identifies open, unprotected hotspots with good connections, and if you don’t want your network on the list then you may want to take a look at these instructions (or, just make sure it has any password protection at all).

Since it’s operating on open wireless networks by nature, WiFi Assistant uses a Google VPN to try and secure the connection. Ideally, it just makes sure you have an internet connection that you can trust, wherever you are, without the need to do anything manually. The FAQ should do a lot to explain exactly how the feature works and give you some time to get used to it as the feature rolls out “over the next few weeks.”

Source: Nexus (Google+), WiFi Assistant FAQ

24
Aug

The Power Egg is unlike any drone you’ve ever flown before


Normally, when you think “quadcopter”, you think of the standard block-shaped mass of propellers, struts and landing gear. But nothing says they have to look that way. In fact, one drone company from China is taking a radically different approach with a UAV that looks like something from the labs of Capsule Corp.

The Power Egg is the latest autonomous flyer from Beijing-based Power Vision and marks the company’s first foray into consumer UAVs. The Egg weighs 4.6 pounds and is roughly the size of a rugby ball. Its body is comprised of high density plastic. Despite its namesake, this device appears surprisingly sturdy.

Both its landing gear and propeller struts retract back into the housing for easy transportation but flick out for flight. Well, technically the landing gear automatically extends — you’ll have to manually lock the propeller struts in place. The bottom tip of the Egg pops off to reveal a 4K UHD camera mounted on a stabilized 360 degree gimbal. Conversely, the top tip houses the drone’s 6,400 mAh battery.

The Power Egg is capable of flying both indoors and out. When outside, the UAV’s onboard GPS keeps track of where it is relative to the operator. When flying inside, the Power Egg switches over to sonar and ground pattern recognition to understand its orientation.

But the Power Egg’s shape isn’t its only unique feature. Users can control the UAV with either a standard two-axis controller or with a Nintendo Wii-like gesture remote. This secondary controller is designed specifically for people who are new to flying and may be hesitant to give it a go. Therefore, PowerVision made it super simple to use. Wave the remote up to have the Power Egg climb or sweep to the left and right to have it pan. Users will have to hold an activation trigger when gesturing, just to ensure they actually mean to move the Egg and aren’t just waving their hands around. And if that’s too much for your tech-phobic relatives to handle, the wand remote also includes an analog thumbstick.

PowerEgg: First Look

Both remotes offer single-button landing and both rely on your iOS and Android mobile device for processing power. Interestingly, Power Vision offloaded the 2.4GHz antenna that are normally affixed to the back of the remote and made it into a standalone “base station”. That is, your mobile device will still communicate to the Egg through this station, but it won’t be attached to the controller itself. That allows for both remote control options without having to cram unwieldy antennas onto each one. Even with the base station setup, the Power Egg boasts an impressive maximum communications range of 5 km — assuming you can get it that far with the drone’s 23 minute battery life and 13 m/s maximum airspeed.

The Power Egg is also able to think for itself, to a degree, and offers a number of autonomous features. You can command it to travel between pre-selected waypoints while you control the camera, have it circle a specific location — you can even have it perpetually train its camera on the operator in Selfie Mode.

Despite the robust specs, the Power Egg is geared more towards casual users than the “prosumers” who’d otherwise be looking at high-end drones, such as the DJI Phantom 4. Company reps told me at a recent demonstration that, while there will likely be some overlap with some professional services like Real Estate marketing, they expect the Power Egg to be used primarily for snapping pictures and video of yourself and your loved ones. And, while conventional quadcopters are typically stored out of sight when they’re not in use, the Power Egg has been designed to take center stage on your living room coffee table as a piece of functional modern art with an included storage stand.

The Power Egg is currently available on preorder from the PowerVision website. For $1,288 you’ll get the Egg itself, both controllers, the 2.4 GhZ base station, the battery, necessary charging cables and a stylish backpack in which to carry them all. The company expects the first models to ship 8-10 weeks after preorder ends, so you’re looking at Mid-October for deliveries to start.

24
Aug

Google’s Daydream VR could debut in the next few weeks


With the release of Android Nougat this week, Google’s mobile VR platform Daydream couldn’t be far behind. And that indeed seems to be the case, as Bloomberg reports that Daydream will launch in the “coming weeks.” You can also expect some brand new VR media from the likes of Hulu and YouTube stars like Justine Ezarik and the Dolan twins to accompany the platform.

At this point, the search giant is dabbling in different types of VR content to see what sticks, according to Bloomberg. It’s shelling out in the “high six figures” for video game-related VR experiences, and in the “low five figures to low six figures” for projects involving filmmakers. Facebook, in comparison, has poured millions into producing VR media for its Oculus platform. That’s also one of the biggest strengths of Samsung’s Gear VR, which was built in partnership with Oculus.

While Daydream seems like a far more ambitious VR initiative than Google Cardboard, there’s still plenty we don’t know about it. For one, we’ve only seen a sketch of a prototype headset design, which looks very similar to Samsung’s Gear VR. It’s also unclear what, exactly, Google will demand of its hardware partners. All we know is that Daydream compatible phones will require “key components” like “specific sensors and screens.” (Based on conversations with people in the VR industry, I’d bet that OLED displays will play a major role.) The company has at least managed to get Samsung, LG, Xiaomi and HTC onboard with building Daydream-compatible phones.

Source: Bloomberg

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