Google really wants the apps you use to take the context of where you are into account. Thus Nearby, a feature that uses Bluetooth and your device’s GPS to deliver you apps based on where you are. The post on Google’s official Android blog gives a few examples of how this might work: printing photos directly from your phone when you’re in a CVS Pharmacy or using the Mobile Passport app to duck the customs line at certain airports.
The feature is baked into an update to Google Play Services that’s rolling out now and works on devices running KitKat and up; all you really need to do here to use Nearby is have Bluetooth and GPS activated. Much like physical web beacons, you’ll receive a notification when you’re in proximity to one of the Nearby apps and if you’d rather not check it out, you don’t have to.
Source: Official Android Blog
The latest version of Android just hit a big, big milestone. Google’s early June developer stats have revealed that Marshmallow is now on just over 10 percent of Android devices, representing a huge jump from just 2.3 percent in March. Notably, only some of that surge can be credited to people upgrading from Lollipop. While the not-quite-current version’s adoption did go down (to 35.4 percent), the biggest declines in usage were for Jelly Bean and KitKat. In essence: many of those moving to Marshmallow may well have been replacing devices that were 3 or more years old.
The timing isn’t coincidental, as you might have gathered. In the three months since we last looked back, numerous smartphone makers have delivered Marshmallow phones in force. The Galaxy S7 is the big kahuna, but you can also point to phones like the HTC 10, LG G5 and Sony’s newer Xperias as factors. If you bought a brand new device this spring, especially if it was reasonably high-end, it might have been hard to avoid Marshmallow.
To us, the big unknown is how well Marshmallow will fare by the time its successor rolls around in a few months, around Marshmallow’s first anniversary. Lollipop took a year and a half to become the dominant Android flavor. Although Marshmallow isn’t necessarily going to repeat history, its year-one figures should give you a good idea as to whether or not it’s doing as well as its predecessor.
Source: Android Developers
Walmart is known for its heavily discounted goods, and in another display of price-slashing has just announced that it will sell two Android smartphones for $10 each. Prior to this offer, the cheapest smartphone on the market was the $35 Firefox OS phone. Wondering what you get for $10? Well, not a whole lot. Both TracFone LG handsets (the Sunrise L15G and Lucky LG16) offer low-grade specs and old software, running Android 4.4 KitKat, the version released two years ago. However for that price, you shouldn’t expect them to run Marshmallow. You also get WiFi, but no 4G and no front-facing camera which means it’s going to be a lot harder to take a selfie. On the plus side, the phones support a microSD card which means you can ramp up the measly 4GB of storage. With all that said, there’s no clear difference between the two models as all the specs and software are the same. However, if you want a bare-bones yet functional smartphone for less than the price of dinner, we’re sure you know where to find a Walmart.
[Image credit: LG]
Source: Ars Technica
Google Glass was, by all accounts, a spectacular flop in the eyes of potential consumers. Now, another company hopes to succeed where Google has failed by incorporating an AR display into a device people are far more familiar with: over-ear headphones.
They’re called the Ora-X and are the first product from Optivent, which is launching a $150,000 Indiegogo campaign today. The Ora-X, which initially debuted as a concept piece at CES last January, is essentially a wearable tablet. The device is powered by Android 4.4 (Kitkat) and is capable of both running standalone apps or streaming media from a Bluetooth-enabled device. Like Glass, the Ora-X is controlled via a touchscreen mounted on the right ear cup, though the screen can be flipped over for left-handers as well. Its full-color AR screen offers a 22 degree field of view, which is the equivalent of looking at a 70 inch display from 15 feet away. Additionally, the Ora-X mounts an autofocusing, forward-facing video camera on the screen arm, which will allow users to capture POV video.
The early prototype that Optivent showed me during a recent demo at the Engadget San Francisco office was still pretty rough and only offered limited functionality but the concept seems well-founded at least. The image quality of the screen won’t be overtaking your Mac’s Retina display anytime soon but the version I saw played music videos from YouTube with surprising clarity and minimal flicker. Also neat is the fact that you don’t have to break your natural line of sight to use the screen, as you would with Google Glass. Since the screen is completely transparent, you can overlay whatever you’re watching directly in front of whatever you’re looking at (note: driving, riding or even running with these things on is a very bad idea).
The headphones themselves are powered by 50 mm drivers. Perhaps the coolest feature is that the entire headset can run independently of other devices, which means that it’s not simply an extension of your phone like the Apple Watch but a fully-functional complimentary device. Once the company opens its API to third party developers (assuming it gets funded, of course) I’m excited to see what sort of novel uses people find for it.
Source: Optivent (Indiegogo)
Android Lollipop is enjoying its last, shining moment in the sun before Marshmallow arrives in earnest. Google’s not-quite-current operating system now accounts for 23.5 percent of active Android users, a healthy 2.5-point boost from what you saw just one month ago. That’s still trailing behind Jelly Bean (30.2 percent) and KitKat (38.9 percent), but it’s clear that all those new devices and upgrades are starting to add up. The real question is whether or not that momentum will last. Marshmallow is arriving relatively quickly, and shouldn’t suffer from the early performance and battery life woes that kept some people from upgrading last year. If the newer release catches on quickly, Lollipop might not reach the lofty adoption rates of its predecessors.
Via: Android Community
Source: Android Developers
Android 4.4 KitKat was and still is the most widely distributed version of Google’s mobile operating system worldwide. The gap, however, is closing as Lollipop is on the rise and that trend should remain with the introduction of Marshmallow. Unfortunately, Lollipop isn’t even in second place because three versions of Jelly Bean are standing tall. Both KitKat and Jelly Bean are very popular among low-end and mid-range devices. And somehow devices with Froyo, a version released in May 2010, are operating today.
Changes from last month:
- Froyo: 0%
- Gingerbread: -0.3%
- Ice Cream Sandwich: -0.3%
- Jelly Bean: -1.6%
- KitKat: -0.3%
- Lollipop: +2.5%
Source: Android Developers
Come comment on this article: October’s Android distribution numbers show little change from last month
With Android Marshmallow coming sometime within the next month or so, the Android Developers Blog has shared the current OS breakdown. These numbers space across any devices running Android 2.2 or higher, due to the fact that the latest Google Play Store app is compatible all the way back to Froyo.
Leading the pack is still Android 4.4 KitKat, with just over 39%, however Lollipop is slowly creeping up on that number. Currently, Lollipop is sitting at 21% combined between Android 5.0 and Android 5.1. These aren’t really that surprising considering the slow roll out that has surrounded Lollipop, and that there are still some relevant devices that have yet to receive the update from KitKat.
Wedged in between KitKat and Lollipop is Jelly Bean, accounting for 31.8% of the pie. That’s a little surprising considering that it’s been a couple of years since Jelly Bean was relevant. But maybe it’s those lower end devices that can’t be upgraded to KitKat/Lollipop.
Hopefully, once Android Marshmallow is released, the roll out won’t be as painstaking as the Lollipop roll out was. Only time will tell, however, if previous experiences are anything to look it, the horizon is looking grim. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a Nexus device, then everything should be peachy.
Drop us a line and let us know what’s the oldest Android OS that can be found on any of your devices.
Source: Android Developers Blog
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Each month, Google organizes the distribution of Android into a very simple pie chart. The data shows which the versions of Android that are still active on device’s today. On Monday, Google finished collecting data for September 2015. Things are how you’d expect them to be: Lollipop is still growing while KitKat is the most popular version of Android.
Despite being released in 2012 and 2013, respectively, Jelly Bean (31.8%) and KitKat (39.2%) remain at the forefront of Android distribution (71% combined). Lollipop, which debuted in late 2014, has grown a few percentage points to 21%. Companies are getting on top of updating their devices at a better pace, but it seems that the many low-end and mid-range devices with KitKat are weighing down better growth for Lollipop.
Next month could be the first time we see Android 6.0 Marshmallow appear on the pie chart.
Source: Android Developers
Come comment on this article: Android distribution numbers for September show more growth for Lollipop
With IFA 2015 still happening, it seems that the majority of the major announcements have died down. Now the manufacturers are filling in the holes such as pricing and availability, compatibility, and other questions that may pop up about these new devices.
Speaking of developing information, Samsung is starting to reveal a bit more about the Gear S2. The first bit of news is pretty surprising and awesome at the same time. Those who were intrigued by Samsung’s previous wearable devices, were stuck without, unless they already owned a compatible Samsung device. With the release of the Gear S2, Android users across the board will be able to jump on the Gear S2 bus.
This compatibility breakthrough for Samsung doesn’t come without a cost. The Gear S2 will ONLY be compatible with devices running Android KitKat 4.4 or higher, and your device MUST have at least 1.5 GB of RAM. Sorry if you’re on one of those older devices still, but maybe it’s time to look into the plethora of new devices and upgrade.
Let us know whether this development from Samsung will influence your decision for purchasing your next smartwatch.
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ZTE ups the Spro line in all the right ways
It’s always fun to play with a niche device. With regard to Android in general, we default to smartphones. But we shouldn’t forget that the flexibility of the platform allows for some interesting products. I was fortunately able to review such product, the ZTE Spro2 smart projector
I’m sure most of us knew about portable projectors by now, most certainly if you’ve walked by a Brookstone store in a mall. However, we’re not talking about child’s play here. The Spro line of projectors are meant to be robust, functional, and capable of keeping up with your demands, whether for work or play.
The Spro’s 2nd iteration takes ZTE’s first crack at a portable Android projector and makes improvements all across the board. It also adds 4G LTE and Mobile Hotspot capability. Let’s take a look at what you get.
When I took the Spro2 out of the box, I couldn’t help but think “high-end”. The material, construction, and heft worked in unison to straight-away justify the price tag.
Now, this isn’t a slim or light device, it comes in roughly 1″ thick and weighs about a pound. But I don’t think you want to look at it like you do a smartphone. I welcome its robust feel. I want it to stay put when I place it down. I want a great grip when handling it. Kudos to ZTE, I always love to see a well-built device.
I must mention that while promo images of the Spro2 make it appear like it has a metal build (such as those chamfered edges), it is in fact plastic. Although, it’s not a cheap plastic. I don’t get a feeling of cheapness whatsoever.
On the top of the projector, we’re greeted with modest 5″ LCD screen. There’s a single button under the screen, which I initially thought was a home button. It’s actually the power button. It has an illuminated ring on it, which is a nice touch. For software navigation, there are KitKat-style capacitive buttons under the display (Back, Home, and Menu).
On the left side, we have round volume buttons. These actually appear to be metal, and have chamfered edges as well. They shine with a high-end look.
On the right side, there is nothing but an airflow vent to keep the projector’s heat at bay when it’s fully running.
The front side contains all of the I/O. We’ll run through all the specs later. You can see that the SIM tray and microSD tray are accessible via SIM removal tool. The power input is on the left.
The bottom of the device is fairly standard. We have more ventilation, rubber feet at each corner to keep the device put, a screw hole for mounting on a tripod, and a kickstand to prop the projection up. The external speaker outputs through the bottom.
Lastly, the projector lamp is located at the rear of the device. Next to it is a sensor (more on that later), and a ZTE logo on the opposite end. These components sit behind a glass panel. Fortunately, ZTE thought to seat the glass inward slightly, in which the chassis serves as a lip to keep the glass from getting scratched.
The Spro2 comes well equipped, with smartphone-level of specs. Here’s a breakdown:
You may be thinking that these specs are yesteryear, but again, the Spro2 isn’t meant to compete with smartphones. It has the specs it needs for its purpose.
The projector itself is capable of a 720p projection. This is really the only spec that’s a bit bothersome to me. We know that the Snapdragon 800 is capable of 1080p from its past uses in smartphones. Also, the projection can reach a massive 120″ screen size (recommended max), and spreading the smaller pixel count over that larger area is not ideal.
ZTE has done a great job to provide the user options to get their content passed through. While Spro2 has its own storage and ability to stream content, you also have a HDMI port to hook up an external device. There is also a full-sized USB port to use a flash drive as a source.
Furthermore, support for Miracast is on-board, if you want to project your smartphone/tablet. And ZTE threw in wireless control of projector via an Android app.
This particular version of the Spro2 is made to be used with Verizon’s network. Access to Verizon’s 4G LTE data speeds bolsters the usefulness of the device when you’re out and about. In addition, the Spro2 can serve as a Mobile Hotspot for your other devices.
The Spro2 navigates without a hitch. It’s as fluid as you would want for basic Android navigation. Apps open and close in a snap. Web browsing and scrolling is smooth. I have no complaints on the choice of SoC or software optimization.
The projector lamp turns on quickly. There’s a permanent projector widget on the front homepage, which lets you turn the turn the bulb on/off on the fly, adjust the brightness, and turn on/off the auto-focus.
My only complaint is that the auto-focus can be finicky at times. There were a couple times it refused to focus and I had to move the device for it to try again. I don’t know what throws it off sometimes, maybe it’s the environment’s lighting. But this only happened a handful of times. Most of the time it focused spot-on, within a couple seconds.
Display and Projection Quality
The display quality is fine and dandy. 720p resolution is okay for a 5″ screen. No, it’s not the clearest and best ppi, but I don’t look at the screen and resent it. It works.
The same can be said for the screen quality. The colors are decent, they match what I would expect from an average LCD panel. Viewing angles could be better. The image slightly dims when you look at it from an angle, but I can still see what’s on the screen clearly.
The projector uses DLP technology. It is rated at 200 Lumens of brightness. Although, an important factor to keep in mind is that you cannot maximize the projector’s brightness output unless it’s plugged into the AC adapter. The max the battery is allowed to push out is medium brightness.
If you recall that sensor I skipped over in the hardware tour, that is actually to counter “keystoning”. If you’ve ever played around with a projector, at an angle the rectangular image can distort into a trapezoid (the keystone effect). The sensor makes corrections as you move the projector and keeps the projection rectangular. This is pretty neat if you’re projecting on a ceiling and want to change the angle.
You won’t find a focusing dial on the Spro2, as it has the ability to auto-focus. But if for some reason you prefer to manually control it, you can within the projector settings.
Despite being a 720p projection, I was satisfied with the image quality. Of course, you’ll have to mind the size of the projection and find a good balance. The farther you pull the projector back (larger you make the screen), the more blurry the image becomes. Brightness is also affected proportionally.
On a well-lit room, I struggled to see the image (matching the size to my 70″ TV) on the Medium brightness. Although, using the projector in a dark area is more practical. I was merely testing the limits. Switching to the High brightness, I was impressed how visible the image was.
Moving to a darker space for the real test, I got some satisfactory results. I set the projector across my room, which is about 12 feet from the opposing wall. This gave me about a 97″ image. The Medium brightness setting worked fine in this situation. The Low brightness was not ideal. I could navigate and web browse well enough, but I wouldn’t recommend it for movie-watching. The area would have to be close to pitch black for Low brightness to be a viable option.
I played a movie and the quality met my expectations. Mind you, it’s not going to blow you away with a crystal clear picture and vivid colors. But if you’ve ever seen a DLP projection before, this is on par. I could tell a bit of fuzzyness due to the stretched pixels, but not too bad. The colors with projections are on the dull side, but I at least didn’t get any discoloration or uneven imaging.
Although the Spro2 packs a hefty 6,300mAh battery, projectors take a lot of power. Therefore, ZTE rates the running battery life at 2.5 hours. However, I’m wondering if that’s at the Low or Medium brightness setting (remember that you can’t use High brightness on battery power). Regardless, I put it to the test.
I picked a lengthy movie (LOTR: Fellowship of the Ring) and set the projector on the Medium brightness setting. I tried two test runs: 1) Downloading the movie onto the device and playing until it died and 2) Streaming the movie (through Google Play) over WiFi until it died.
1) Medium brightness, no streaming:
Based on ZTE’s battery rating, I wasn’t expecting that I would have to restart the movie. I got close to 4 hours before it quit. Excellent!
2) Medium brightness, streaming over WiFi:
I got an impressive result here as well (relative to the rated battery life). ZTE may have been conservative with the 2.5 hour rating, my guess is because of the extra power LTE can pull if you’re streaming over Verizon’s network (which would also depend on the strength of the signal). And of course if you’re doing other things (such as utilizing the Mobile Hotspot feature), I can see your battery life going south pretty quickly. 3-4 hours doesn’t leave much room in the grand scheme of things.
Bear in mind that these results were with the Medium brightness setting. If Low brightness could work for you, that would stretch the battery life even further.
It is always a bummer when a new device doesn’t have the latest version of Android. But then again, a projector isn’t going to see hardcore use. Android 4.4 serves well to provide fluent, basic functionality.
ZTE of course has their own software tweaks. This is expected so that the niche features of the projector are taken advantage of. Upon powering on the Spro2, we’re greeted with a tile-style layout (not unlike the look of Windows Phones). The tiles represent apps, folders, or widgets.
Instead of Android panels, we scroll left and right through categories/tabs. The default tabs are: Home, Media, Office, Settings, and Apps. With the exception of Home and Settings, you’re able to delete/add more tabs. It can get crowded quickly, so ZTE only lets you add two additional tabs (for a total of 7).
You’re able to move tiles around to your preference, and create folders and add apps to different tabs. The exceptions are the Projector and Google Search widgets in the Home tab and the anything in the Settings tab.
The App drawer navigation functions the same as on the stock OS. The notification pull-down has added projector functions. And we have KitKat-style Recent Apps when we hold down the Menu capacitive key.
I was impressed with my time with the ZTE Spro2. It is a well-built effort for folks who have a need for a projector on-the-go. It is suitable both for work and play and doubles-up as a Mobile Hotspot when your other devices need connectivity.
However, it isn’t cheap. This Verizon variant of the Spro2 would set you back $599 (there is an AT&T version that is $100 less off-contract, at $499). But this is typically the story with niche devices. There aren’t many portable projectors out there that are this smart. Therefore, having a well-thought-out rarity such as the Spro2 can be justification enough to cough up the money, if your lifestyle begs for it.
Oh, and how else can you use Android on the side of your house?
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