Tuesday, March 17 / No Comments
Sunday, December 7 / No Comments
The holidays are coming and you know what this means — everyone who came home is helping to hog the home Wi-Fi. It is also the time of the year when we are treated with plenty of online content which can zap your data plan faster than you can say "What’s for dinner?".
Despite the availability of 3G and 4G cellular communication technologies which allow us to have access to the Internet wherever we are, it doesn’t hurt to get a bit of a boost when it comes to getting a faster Internet connection.
Here are 5 Android apps that can help boost speeds to tolerable levels, and help you survive the long holiday gatherings. Note that some of them only work with rooted devices.
Internet Booster & Optimizer
Internet Booster & Optimizer is an Android app thatcomes with a series of commands that prioritizes the browser among the other applications that are using the Internet. This means that one can dig out more speed from the available Internet connection. It usuallypauses the secondary apps that are using Internet, cleans RAM & cache memory and flushes the DNS to make sure that most of the Internet speed is utilized by browser only. [DOWNLOAD]
Faster Internet 2X
Faster Internet 2X provides a convenient way to get more speed from 3G and 4G cellular networks. The app is designed using special programming scripts that will boost the Internet speed to approximately twice of what’s available. This provides a better Internet user experience.It works fine with both rooted and non-rooted Android phones. The app displays ads that can be disabled.
Internet Speed Booster
Internet Speed Booster isan easy-to-use app with a sleek and minimal design. It uses a unique algorithm that can increase the Internet Speed of your Android device with a single tap of your finger. Internet Speed Booster app is designed in a way that has it working impeccably with rooted as well as non-rooted Android devices.
Internet Booster (Root)
Internet Booster (Root) uses a different method for getting more out of the available Internet connection. It basicallychanges the configurations of system ROM to increase the Internet speed to 40% to 70% higher than before. Internet Booster (Root) only works with Rooted Android Devices which means one shouldallow the Super User privileges to run this application properly.
Free Internet Speed Booster
Free Internet Speed Booster is another Android app which could possibly help you get rid of the slow Internet speed. It increases the Internet speed from 40% to 80% more than usual byimproving the Ping latency, halting the unnecessary background apps and managing a balance between parallel connections. Free Internet Speed Booster does not require a rooted Android device.
You read that right: Final Fantasy VII is coming exclusively to PlayStation 4 next spring. But instead of being the full-on HD remaster than many had likely hoped for, it's a port of the PC version. Essentially, it's an upscaled version of the game's original graphics.
But, if the PS4 port retains all of the PC game's features, it'll come with cloud saves (har har), achievements and a "character booster" mode, too. We're just hoping that pricing stay in line with its computer-based counterpart ($12), all of the above considered.
Friday, December 5 / No Comments
Today, we get to enjoy the company of the most junior representative of the Samsung's metal-clad A team - the Samsung Galaxy A3. Just like the Alpha smartphone, the A3 offers an aluminum frame, which highlights a lightweight design, built around a Super AMOLED display. And let us tell you, this baby does look as nice as it sounds.
Samsung has been known for churning all-plastic smartphones across its entire portoflio. Pressured to evolve its product design, the company came up with the Galaxy Alpha, a super slim smartphone with an angular metal frame. But Samsung surely likes to spread its design concepts across the entire portfolio and thus the Galaxy A3 and the Galaxy A5 were born.
The plastic panels didn't stop millions of users worldwide to choose Samsung's phones over the competitors. It's debatable whether that's due to Samsung's almost exclusive Super AMOLED screens, their R&D hardware advancements or their aggressive approach towards adding new features to Android OS. It's a fact nonetheless. And as you can imagine, you can't go wrong with adding metal to their already winning recipe mix.
What we have today here is the most junior member of the lineup, the Galaxy A3. Yet to be released to the market, a pre-production Galaxy A3 is paying us a visit and we're more than happy to welcome it. Here's the cheat sheet of its specs.
Samsung Galaxy A3 Features:
- General: GSM/GPRS/EDGE/UMTS/HSPA/LTE connectivity;
- Dimensions: 130.1 x 65.5 x 6.9 mm, 110 g;
- Display: 4.5" qHD Super AMOLED touchscreen, 245ppi pixel density;
- Chipset: Snapdragon 410 chipset, quad-core 1.2 GHz Cortex-A53, Adreno 306 GPU, 1.5GB RAM
- OS: Android 4.4.4 KitKat with TouchWiz;
- Memory: 16GB storage, microSD card slot (up to 64GB);
- Camera: 8MP auto-focus camera, LED flash;
- Video camera: 1080p video recording;
- Front camera: 5MP front-facing camera;
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 (ANT+), NFC, microUSB 2.0 port, GPS/GLONASS receiver, 3.5mm audio jack, digital compass, ambient light sensor, secondary mic for ambient noise cancellation;
- Battery: 1,900mAh Li-Ion non-removable battery;
It's obvious that with a chipset like that, the Galaxy A3 won't top any performance charts. But it doesn't need to. It's a mid-ranger with a proper quad-core chip, an AMOLED screen and an adequate camera. And that about sums it up.
On a positive note, it has a 64-bit processor and a microSD expansion slot, two things the original Galaxy Alpha is short on. Indeed, Android and its app ecosystem is yet to make proper use of 64-bit processors, but we're sure it's only a matter of time. And when the time comes, the Galaxy A3 will be able to benefit from any 64-bit optimizations that come up.
So, the Samsung Galaxy A3 is all unpacked and ready for a spin. We are definitely eager to check it out. Follow us after the jump for an in-depth hardware tour.
Tuesday, November 25 / No Comments
HTC Desire Eye is the most capable member of the company's mid-range family of smartphones to date. Announced in early October, the smartphone features a rather peculiar camera setup, which consists of a duo of 13MP sensors, each flanked by a two-tone LED flash.
HTC Desire Eye surely looks like a member of the Taiwanese manufacturer's mid-range lineup, though its hardware specifications tell an entirely different story. With a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC, 5.2" 1080p display, IPX7 certification, and BoomSound stereo speakers to go with the unique camera setup, the newcomer is as well-equipped as some of today's Android flagship devices.
HTC Desire Eye features
- 5.2" 1080p IPS display with 424ppi
- 2.3 GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU; Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset; 2GB of RAM
- 13MP f/2.2 front-facing camera with two-tone, dual-LED flash; 1080p @30fps video recording
- 13MP f/2.0 main camera with two-tone, dual-LED flash; 1080p @30fps video recording; dedicated camera button
- 16GB of built-in memory; microSD card slot
- Cat. 4 LTE connectivity (150Mbps DL)
- Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX; NFC; GPS/GLONASS
- BoomSound front-facing stereo speakers
- IPX7 water and dust resistance certification (up to 1m of depth for 30 min)
- Android 4.4.4 KitKat with HTC Sense 6.0 UI
- 2,400mAh battery
HTC Desire Eye disadvantages:
- The battery is not user-replaceable
- No 4K video recording or OIS
- No IR port
A quick glance at its key features reveals that the Desire Eye is actually better equipped than the still-standing company's flagship smartphone, the HTC One (M8). Only its plastic body prevents the handset from topping the company's Android family.
The 13MP front-facing camera is a clear nod towards the rapidly growing, selfie-loving crowd - it makes the HTC Desire Eye stand out among its competitors. The 13MP unit on the back is a welcome sight too. We are all but certain that it will take better photos than the underwhelming UltraPixel unit of the One (M8).
The relatively modest 2,400mAh battery seems to be the biggest question mark in the HTC Desire Eye. It is smaller in capacity than the unit found in HTC One (M8), yet it has a bigger display to light up. We will surely keep a close eye on its performance in our battery test.
So, is HTC Desire Eye a capable mid-ranger, or is it the company's flagship in disguise? Read on to find out! As always, we will kick the review off with unboxing, followed by design and hardware inspection.
Wednesday, November 19 / No Comments
A bit over a year after selling its mobile phone business to Microsoft, Nokia just jumped back to the consumer market at the main stage of Slush 2014 in Helsinki, Finland and the first device coming out from the new Nokia is running Android.
Nokia N1 is a 7.9” tablet retailing for 249€ before taxes. This is the first consumer devices Nokia has announced after selling their Windows Mobile -focused mobile phone unit to Microsoft earlier this year. The N1 has 2.3 GHz 64-bit Intel Atom processor, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage and it’s 7,9” screen shows it’s content on 2048×1536 resolution. Operating system is Android Lollipop, that features the Nokia Z Launcher as its default user interface.
After a successful pilot launch during the summer, Nokia Z Launcher is also made available as a separate download to all Android devices starting from today.
Nokia’s Head of Product Business Sebastian Nyström was describing the company’s journey after the mobile business was sold, and emphasised that big change also brings big opportunities. As they were determined to stay in the consumer business, switching to Android now associates them with 84,7% of the world’s mobile consumers, up from 2,5% it was with Windows Mobile (IDC Q2/2014).
According to Nyström, Nokia was and still is great tech, was and still is great in engineering and was and still is great in design. The impressive Android tablet and a competitive push to a crowded market shows that Nyström has basis in his claims. And Nokia is not anymore in business for sales & manufacturing, they are launching the N1 together with (currently unnamed) Chinese partner, first launching it for the lunar new year in China, and then rolling out to the rest of the world.
Saturday, November 15 / No Comments
Google has been on a mission to redefine itself as a design-focused company for some years now. With the release of Android 5.0 Lollipop on the new Nexus 6 phone and Nexus 9 tablet, that mission has reached an apotheosis. It's a sudden, jarring change from the Android we've known, now combined with a torrent of tweaks and features. It's easily the most important update to the world's most-used mobile OS in several years. It's a big deal.
It's hard not to get metaphysical when talking about the design for Lollipop. That's because the philosophy behind the new look is based on something Google calls "Material Design”." You also can't talk about the design changes in Lollipop without comparing it to the equally bold design changes Apple made with iOS 7 last year. Both attempt to remake nearly every corner of the OS, both make heavy use of layers, and both have high-concept ideas about how those layers interact with each other.
Jony Ive’s mission at Apple was to get rid of skeuomorphism, where digital things imitate real-world objects. In doing so, he created a beautiful but cold crystal palace of colorless, translucent planes. Android designer Matias Duarte at Google, on the other hand, has built the Emerald City. Lollipop has more skeuomorphism than ever before, except the reality being imitated here isn't real at all. It's like waking up in Kansas and discovering that everything is still in color and your slippers are still very much a deep shade of ruby red.
Like I said, it's hard not to get metaphysical. Let's channel Dorothy and stay pragmatic as we go down the Yellow Brick Road. (Let's also studiously avoid "Lollipop Guild" puns, no matter how apropos they may be to Android and Google's culture.)
This is Google’s vision for the future of computing.
Those fuzzy concepts about how an OS should look and feel do have practical effects. Android 5.0 looks virtually nothing like the Android that you're familiar with. All the shades, tinted glass, and neon effects have been replaced with subtly textured whites and bright (sometimes too bright) colors. Previously incoherent and random animations have turned into a simple suite of rules for the way things move and relate to each other on the screen.
If you've used Android before, you don't need to worry about being lost. The core elements of an app panel, a notification shade, a lock screen, and a home screen for widgets and Google Now are still here and still work essentially the same way. But for newcomers, the list of UI concepts and their relation to one another can be daunting. Lollipop's main job is to make them less so, and it works.
The best part might be the animations, which are so fluid and prevalent that they're practically a middle finger to the Android of a few versions ago. Transitioning from the Overview (formerly known as the recent apps switcher, or multitasking) to the home screen to the app pane to the notification shade isn't exactly a symphony of movement, but it is at the very least more harmonious than it's ever been.
THE BEST PART MIGHT BE THE ANIMATIONS
It's also, at times, garish. Just like Apple overreacted to its old design on the iPhone, Google has decided the colors should be splashed in lots of different places. App menu headers are bold reds and blues greens, but there's no logic to the system of colors to match the logic of animation. Even those animations can get a little overbearing. It's great when you first start using Lollipop, but once you get your bearings, you kind of wish they'd go a little faster.
Actually, that’s part of one more similarity between iOS 7 and Lollipop: various failures to address some of the details. As David Pogue pointed out a couple weeks ago, there are lots of places where it's hard to tell what's happening. For example, in settings, text can be a number of things: a button to take you deeper into a menu, a heading that does nothing, a button that toggles a switch off to the right, or a button that activates a pop-up menu.
I am mortified to find that Android still seems to offer different interfaces for text selection and cut/copy/paste in different corners of the OS — to say nothing of the fact that the icons are still vague and the widgets for selecting text are frustratingly small (oh, and vary in color depending on the app).
But those are mostly minor, solvable quibbles. Lollipop is ambitious; it's easily the most ambitious update Android has seen in several years. The fact that the new design works as well as it does even in this first iteration is a very good sign.
Along with the new design, there are a lot of new features to talk about. They can be more or less sorted into a few categories, but the set of improvements that makes the biggest difference comes around notifications. Android was already the leader among modern operating systems for notifications: on an Android device, you can use the notification shade as a kind of virtual homescreen, triaging messages and directly acting on emails.
ANDROID STILL DOES NOTIFICATIONS BETTER THAN ANYBODY
With Lollipop, you can now do all that right on the lockscreen. But putting those notifications front and center means they need a few more controls — so Google is providing them. You can set apps to be private, so they won't show their content on the lock screen, and you can more easily disable notifications altogether for any given app. Both options are accessible deep in Android's settings or via a simple long press on an active notification. Incoming calls don't take over the whole screen anymore, appearing instead as a small alert at the top.
The biggest change is a "Priority Mode," which you can quickly toggle anytime you hit the volume buttons. It's essentially the same thing as Do Not Disturb on iOS, but with an emphasis on making it easier for you to choose which notifications can still come through. There's also a simple "None" mode, which shuts everything down, including alarms. Both modes have convenient buttons for setting a time-out so you don't leave your phone bereft of Twitter replies because you forgot to change your settings.
Alongside the improved notifications is a new attempt to make a coherent Quick Settings panel. Google messes with these toggles in every iteration of Android, usually to middling effect. It's the same story here. Instead of just giving us the option to customize the settings ourselves, Google says that it automatically tries to guess which settings you want to flip and shows you those. What I want is "Mobile Hotspot." What I get instead is "Invert Colors," with no way to manually change it. Maddening. The same "we'll reorder it for you" philosophy applies to the sharing menu, but there at least it seems to work better.
In the same way that Lollipop took Android's notification strength and made it stronger, so too has it done quite a bit with multiple user accounts. They're available on phones now too, but the real innovation is "Guest Mode." You can toggle it on at any time, and your guest can do pretty much whatever they want — including signing in to their own Google accounts — before burning that guest account in a puff of digital smoke. It’s a private browsing mode for your phone, and if you've ever had to lend a phone or tablet to somebody for more than five minutes, it's a godsend.
You can also turn on a "Pin" feature for apps, which prevents a user from exiting the active app without a passcode. iOS has had a similar "Guided Access" feature for awhile now, but on Android the giant "Pin" icon is much more intuitive, and it’s perfect for handing your tablet to a kid who just wants to play a quick round of Cut The Rope.
The pin appears in the "Overview" stack, which replaces the tiny multitasking thumbnails with bigger screenshots in an infinite vertical stack. It's very pretty and usually very fast, but, more importantly, some apps can make better use of it. Gmail can put in a new card when you hit "Compose," for example, so that you can toggle between an email you're writing and an email you're referencing. Chrome can put multiple tabs in there as well (though only on phones, not on tablets, oddly).
It's an idea that is great in theory but can be hard to think through in execution, especially when it comes to keeping track of your Chrome tabs. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I'll say that Duarte did a better job at Palm with this idea way back in 2009 with webOS, where you could spatially arrange your apps and group them.
Various apps have seen updates: Gmail now works with any email address, not just Gmail. (There’s inexplicably still an icon for Email, but it just tells you to go to Gmail.) Google brought back the "Messages" SMS app for those who don't want it integrated with Hangouts. Calendar has some very pretty new views. Many of Google’s new apps have been given tablet-optimized views that work great on the Nexus 9 but don't show up in landscape on the Nexus 6 despite its generous size, which is disappointing.
The list of clever and helpful features goes on. Some were seemingly lifted straight from Motorola or HTC: smart lock lets you set a Bluetooth device as trusted so your phone stays unlocked. Ambient Display shows notifications on an AMOLED display (currently only the Nexus 6 is supported) without turning the whole screen on. You can say "Ok Google" and have the command work even with the screen off. The Nexus 9 lets you double tap the screen to wake it up, while the Nexus 6 activates its screen based on small accelerometer movements.
One new feature that's pure Google: if you use Face Unlock, it now just works in the background while you're messing about with notifications on your lock screen. Unfortunately, in my testing, it's not any more reliable than it used to be — which is to say, not much.
GOOGLE HAS BORROWED A TON OF IDEAS FROM ITS PARTNERS
Google is also touting "Tap and Go," which uses NFC to transfer account information from one phone to another. It works, but in my tests, all is actually does is transfer over your Google accounts and a list of apps to install. If you don't use it, there is a new setup process that lets you pick and choose which apps you'll install during setup. It's much better than before, which involved a crapshoot of wondering which apps would appear, but it's still nowhere near the phone-replacement experience on iOS. I had been hoping that default full-device encryption (another Lollipop feature) would mean we'd get full phone backups and restores: accounts, logins, and all. Nope.
Last (for this rundown, anyway) but certainly not least, Google has also borrowed the idea of a Battery Saver mode from its manufacturers, which limits background data when you start running low on power. It turns the menu bar and button bar into an aggressive shade of orange and can be set to turn on automatically when you run low on power.
Google has also made back-end improvements, most of which will be invisible to the end user. They promise better performance and battery life, but it's much too early to say for sure. We haven't been able to do side-by-side comparisons on identical hardware, and the versions we've been using so far aren't final. I will say that on both the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9, the performance story is mixed. Moments of pure speed and smoothness are interrupted by inexplicable pauses. Battery life is very difficult to pin down, too. Android 5.0 is very much a "Dot Oh" update — and that means bugs.
Unfortunately, a new version of Android is always accompanied with questions: will existing devices get an update? When will new devices begin shipping with the new OS? As ever, there aren't clear answers, and as they do become clear, they probably won't be what you want to hear. It's possible that this year could be better than usual, as several manufacturers have already announced immediate plans to update their flagship phones.
For the past few years, my advice to people agitating to get the update was to chill out because the changes were really rather minor. This year, my advice is the same, but for a different reason: the changes are huge, but there are still some bugs that need to get ironed out. I'm also hopeful that app developers will push out Material Design-inspired updates quickly, but we'll see.
Either way, soon millions of Android devices are going to look like this, and I think that's great. Grab your little dog and a basket, and be ready to stare wide-eyed at the bright colors. Because as soon as Google finds a way to fend off some of those flying monkeys, this land of Oz is going to be a wonderful place to live.