In just a couple of weeks, we could have our first official look at Google’s renamed flagship phones, so brace yourself for leaks and unofficial revelations. Take for instance, these images posted by Android Police. They apparently show the Pixel and the Pixel XL, and they do look like the computer render of the phone that leaked earlier, as well as the device Nest used in a new commercial.
If legit, then the big G’s latest devices resemble the phones its staunchest rival is known for. Before anyone starts hurling copycat accusations, though, take note that HTC developed the Pixels, and the Taiwanese manufacturer has been using a similar design for its previous models. When it comes to Apple and HTC, there’s been a lot of discussion about who copied whom over the years.
In the photo of the phones’ backside above, you can see a fingerprint sensor in the middle of the shinier, glass-like section. You can also see a snapshot of the phones’ screens with their thick bezels below. As always, take these leaked images with a grain of salt — you’ll only have to wait a bit more before the actual reveal anyway.
[Image credit: Anonymous Alligator/Android Police]
Via: Droid Life
Source: Android Police
Why wait for Google’s rumored Pixel / not-Nexus phones, when you could use some of their software right now? The latest release of Action Launcher has arrived, and it cribs some of the features noted in Android Police’s leak of the software Google is apparently preparing for its Android devices. According to its developer Chris Lacy, the new release is entirely inspired by the leaks. The reason? As soon as Google makes a change, many of his users request similar features in Action Launcher, but this time, he’s getting out ahead of the curve.
I’ve been trying out the latest version of the app and honestly, I still think the QuickBar widget that brought apps to the search bar is more useful than the Google Search button / weather widget / swipe up dock combo. There are also “Nougat-inspired” outlined folder presets, and the folders themselves can get backgrounds that match your wallpaper. Lacy figures Google will eventually move on from this UI too (remember when it pushed Lollipop tweaks to older devices via the Google Now launcher?), but at least this way you can give it an early shot.
Along with the other new tweaks, it’s available now in the Play Store, but unlocking everything takes a $5 in-app purchase.
Source: The Blerg, Action Launcher (Google Play)
The answer to the question of what Google will call its next Nexus phones may turn out to be not Nexus at all. Android Central first reported a name change last week, while tonight Android Police notes sources saying there will be two devices, one 5-inch phone called the Pixel and a 5.5-inch phone called the Pixel XL. More importantly, it also has a date (seconding a previous report by Droid-Life) for their debut: October 4th.
The rest of the rumor concerns other hardware, including an upgraded Chromecast ready for 4K video called the Chromecast Plus or Ultra, and a new Daydream VR headset that Google announced during I/O 2016. Finally, it’s also expecting the company to fully detail its Google Home efforts, although other details on prices or release dates are still unknown. Google has not yet commented on these reports or confirmed a date, but we’ll keep our calendars open all the same.
Source: Android Police
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Source: Android Police
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
If there was any doubt that HTC is working on at least one Nexus phone this year, the FCC (and a handful of leaks) just erased it. The regulator has received an HTC filing for smartphones that will be explicitly branded as a Nexus — a letter says you’ll find the user manual on Google’s Nexus page. The entries don’t really show the devices or say exactly what they can do, but the hardware should have full network support for all major North American carriers and beyond. Not that there’s much mystery as to what one of those devices looks like, as you’ll soon see.
Leaks from both Android Police and @Usbfl on Twitter show photos of what’s believed to be the 5-inch Marlin, the smaller of two Nexus devices that HTC is reportedly making this year (the other is the 5.5-inch Sailfish). They line up with a previous render AP made based on a source’s description, and support earlier rumors that both HTC Nexus devices would have a metal-and-glass design, not just the larger one like last year.
Assuming the images are accurate, they also suggest that earlier spec leaks are on the mark. Whether you choose Marlin or Sailfish may depend entirely on your preferred screen size. Both would have a higher-end Snapdragon processor (most likely the 820 or 821), 4GB of RAM, a 12-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front shooter and at least 32GB of built-in storage. Logically, 2015-era perks like a rear fingerprint reader and USB-C would carry over. There’s still no definitive release window for either Nexus, but they won’t necessarily launch at the same time as the Android Nougat upgrade arrives. Most likely, you’ll have to wait until sometime after LG unveils the first Nougat phone on September 6th.
The 2016 HTC Nexus looks like a cross between the Nexus 4 & iPhone with glass and fingerprint scanner on the back. pic.twitter.com/7pm9fhszki
— nexus (@usbfl) August 14, 2016
Via: The Next Web
Source: FCCID.io, Android Police, Usbfl (Twitter)
While we’ve had early looks at Android Nougat for months, it appears Google may be saving other software tweaks for its next Nexus devices. Android Police has screenshots that it says show “in progress” evidence of the new software, with a replacement for the Google Search bar widget at the top, a new way to open up the app drawer and space for potentially revamped navigation buttons.
As some commenters mention, the slide-up app drawer shown in the pictures brings to mind the Android experience of we started with on the T-Mobile G1. Up top, the slide-out G button for searching and calendar widget look well-positioned for a focus on the new Google Assistant AI. As the calendar keeps turning, we’re getting closer and closer to seeing the new Nexus lineup, but even these leaks could change by then — stay tuned.
Source: Android Police
The FCC gets more complaints over spam calls than anything else, and recently told telecom companies to block them for free. Until that happens, Google has made it easier for Nexus or AndroidOne device owners to see if a call is spam and block it, thanks to an update to its phone app. If you have caller ID enabled on those devices, spam or robo-calls will pop up with a red screen and warning that says “suspected spam caller.” After taking or rejecting the call, you can either block the number or report that it’s legit if Google flagged it in error.
Even if Google doesn’t mark a call as spam, you can report it as such from the “recent calls” screen and block it. Nexus devices already have caller ID that shows companies using Google My Business listings, and references directories to show caller info from work or school accounts. For those features to work, Google notes that “your phone may need to send information about your calls to Google,” presumably it can add the info to a database.
Google is actually late to this game, as Samsung’s Galaxy S7 has offered caller ID and spam protection since February thanks to an alliance with Whitepages. However, spammers are nothing if not determined, and can still get through using tricks like call spoofing. Until telcos start blocking them at the source as the FCC has requested, you’re still going to get spammed, even with Google and Samsung’s help. The update should roll out to your Nexus or AndroidOne device soon, or you can sideload the APK here, provided you have Android 6.0 or greater.
Source: Nexus (Google+)
You might not have to wait long to see whether or not rumors of Google having more say over phone designs are true. Sources speaking to the Telegraph claim that Google will release a smartphone with tighter controls over “design, manufacturing and software” before the end of the year. The details of the phone aren’t available, but this wouldn’t be a Nexus from the sound of it — those are shaped more by third parties that maintain at least some of their influence. The Pixel C tablet might (might) offer an inkling of what to expect.
Google didn’t comment on the rumor for the newspaper. With that said, its leadership hasn’t been shy about wanting to take the reins. CEO Sundar Pichai recently said that Google would be more “opinionated” about designs. The issue may simply be a matter of how far Mountain View wants to go. Is it willing to risk alienating Android’s hardware partners with a phone designed largely in-house, or would this be more about making a bigger mark on the Nexus program? One thing’s certain: if the rumor is at all accurate, Google’s hardware strategy will never be the same.
Source: The Telegraph