Thursday, June 29, 2017

120Hz adaptive displays: the future or just a gimmick?


When we talk about the future of mobile displays, much of the focus has been on the continued transition to OLED, the emergence of bezelless designs, and the possibility of bendable and flexible models on the horizon. However, there’s also a less talked about trend: a drive towards displays with even higher refresh rates, variable refresh rates, and support for high dynamic range content.


Of course, this year’s Galaxy S8 and LG G6 already support some HDR formats, and 60Hz is buttery smooth for UI animations, gaming, and high frame rate video playback. We’ve seen other handsets push the envelope in this regard too, with some of Sharp’s Aquos range boasting 120Hz display capabilities already, and its latest Aquos R doing so with a QHD resolution, HDR10 support, and Snapdragon 835 package in tow. (In case you’re not sure what we’re talking about, refresh rate is the speed that your display updates its picture each second.)


Talk of high refresh rates and the like has cropped up again because Apple has just unveiled its latest iPad Pro with a 120Hz “ProMotion” display. The company is boasting that the move up to 120Hz will enable a more fluid response when zooming in on images or scrolling through text. There are also advantages when it comes to higher refresh rates for gaming and viewing video, as motion appears smoother and more fluid.


While it’s true that 120Hz does make motion look that bit smoother – just ask anyone with a 120 or 144 Hz PC monitor – in the mobile space this interaction is also reliant on having a fast, accurate, and responsive touch element embedded in your display too. The big question is, does this jump make as much sense in the smartphone space?





Uh oh, Apple is about to ‘invent’ augmented reality


July 27, 2016



I’m not one to turn down improved specifications, even if the jump from 60Hz to 120Hz isn’t going to make the world of difference when you’re simply moving in and out of apps or swiping around the UI. 17ms latency is already plenty good enough for that and some apps aren’t running at a consistent 60fps anyway. However, faster is potentially better, and when it comes to a future where we have to consider augmented and virtual reality applications too, the adoption of faster refresh rates has some even more notable benefits.


Boosting the refresh rate to 90Hz or above won’t help with apps that are already running under 60fps, which is sometimes an issue across both Android and iOS.



It’s worth noting that 120Hz frame rates have been supported on the hardware side in the Android space for a while now, with the Snapdragon 8XX series, HiSilicon’s latest Kirin 960, and a selection of MediaTek SoCs from the Helio X10 onwards supporting 120Hz panels at a variety of resolutions. So we’re not going to have to wait for any new SoC innovations for this tech to become a reality.


However, most devices are locked to a 60Hz refresh rate in software in order to ensure consistent performance and avoid screen tearing, even if the display is capable of much higher rates. This was demonstrated when it was discovered that Samsung smartphone panels were used in the Oculus Rift DK2 running at 75Hz, compared to the same panels running at 60Hz on smartphones.


On newer chipsets, we’re also seeing the introduction of adaptive refresh technologies, which matches the exact GPU output with the refresh rate of the display. This eliminates screen tearing and also means that panels can refresh slower, thereby saving on power, when watching lower frame rate videos or running less intensive apps. This technology is already available inside a number of panels thanks to ideas like Nvidia’s G-Sync and the open platform DisplayPort Adaptive-Sync. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 introduced its own version called Q-Sync, which works on the same principle. Adaptive refresh technology was also one of the talking points in the presentation of Apple’s new tablet.





Augmented Reality – Everything you need to know


July 20, 2016




As we mentioned, much of this push is being driven by the demands of virtual reality applications. Faster refresh rates can help in the battle towards lower latency – so long as the processing hardware is fast enough – and less screen tearing can help to prevent nausea, with both combined looking to produce an all-round better experience for the viewer.


Syncing display refresh rate to the GPU output avoids screen tearing and can save on battery life when a high frame rate isn’t required.



Android is a little behind the curve in the frame rate regard though. While the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive tout 90Hz refresh rates, the Gear VR is stuck on 60Hz and Google’s Daydream varies depending on the connected device, but is presumably locked to 60Hz for most handsets.


A higher refresh rate isn’t a cure all for a smooth VR experience though. After all, you need to be able to render a high frame rate output consistently and process sensor data quickly too. The limited power, thermal, and processing budgets in smartphone products make AAA, high frame rate gaming unlikely, but that doesn’t mean that less demanding VR and AR experiences can’t also benefit from smoother frame rates.


Instead, variable refresh rates might be the driving force behind superior mobile VR and AR experiences. By retaining enough processing time for low latency sensors while also syncing refresh rates to avoid any momentary stutters, perception should be smooth enough to avoid most headaches. Not only that, but adaptive refresh rates can help save on energy when displaying static images or low frame rate video, while also enabling a higher peak output on capable devices.



Wrap Up


High and variable refresh rate panels are already a big seller in the PC gaming space and we’re likely to see a drive towards the technology in the mobile space too. Support is already there in existing hardware, so it’s now up to Android and third-party software vendors to implement support. The technology certainly isn’t a gimmick when it comes to virtual reality applications, but whether or not 90Hz, 120Hz, or even higher rates end up becoming a standard for smartphones will likely depend on the future market penetration and success of VR – an issue that’s still very much an unanswered question.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Twitch mobile apps updated to add live video and redesigned navigation


Twitch may have started out as a way for gaming pros and enthusiasts to share their experience with a wider audience, but over the last couple years it has been expanding its reach to become one of the top live video platforms on the planet. Back in 2015 the company launched Twitch Creative, a new venture that gave those with artistic talent an outlet to showcase and even make money off their creative process. This has remained quite popular for some time. And with Instagram and YouTube bursting onto the scene to allow for live social interaction, Twitch reacted with Twitch IRL, a section of the website dedicated to live-streaming non-gaming related tasks.


Twitch IRL has been quite a hit since launch, but the areas you could stream were previously limited to wherever your computer was. This caused a bit of an issue, because it only allowed for streaming in places you were connected to a Wi-Fi network – mainly your house or a coffee shop. In a recent update by the company, Twitch decided that it wants you to be able to live-stream your daily life a little more naturally, and what better platform to do that from but your phone?


The update is coming to both Android and iOS devices, and allows users to start a live stream directly from the Twitch app on their mobile device. In this way, professional gamers and personalities alike will have one centralized place where they can share their experience with fans, instead of hopping over to something else like Instagram or Facebook.


The update also brings a UI revamp, adding a new navigation bar and interface options, along with dedicated mobile streaming options. Twitch’s product director Tom Robertson says that the mobile app has been an extremely strong part up the service, with more than 83 million installs across platforms.


The change can likely be attributed in part to Joaquim Vergès, ex-Twitter Android developer who originally created the third-party app Falcon Pro. After spending some time helping Twitter improve their own app, Joaquim took a job with Twitch to work on the Android app back in March of this year. With a revamp this large and aggressive, we can only assume he had a part to play in the process.


Now we want to hear from you! Do you use Twitch, and if so, do you use the mobile app? I personally used in quite a few years ago, but dropped it after it began using copious amounts of background data. That’s likely been fixed by now, so maybe i’ll give it another shot.

TouchWiz Home update takes care of lag on Galaxy S8


Some users have been complaining about lag and UI fluidity problems on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. It looks like the company is aware of the issues, as it has released an update for its TouchWiz Home launcher.


According to the changelog, the update takes care of the lag experienced when swiping up and down to switch between to the home and app screen. It also improves the visibility of app names when the wallpaper on the device is white.





Samsung Galaxy S8 nav bar update adds new ‘full screen’ button


2 weeks ago



Users who have downloaded the update report that it does solve the problem for the most part, as the lag isn’t as noticeable as it was before. If you own the Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, try it out for yourself by updating the TouchWiz Home launcher via the Galaxy Apps or Play Store.


Also, feel free to let us know in the comments if you notice a major difference after updating the launcher.

InFocus is still around; launches InFocus Turbo 5 budget smartphone in India


In a press event in New Delhi today, InFocus announced the launch of their new budget smartphone in India, the Turbo 5. The smartphone business of InFocus, the American OEM – as they repeatedly assert, took shape a couple of years ago in a strategic partnership with Foxconn.


The highlight of the smartphone of course is its big 5,000 mAh battery. The company claims that the phone offers up to 23 hours of talk time and a standby time of 816 hours. The smartphone comes in two memory variants that vary in terms of RAM and internal storage.


InFocus Turbo 5 Specifications


  • Operating System: Android 7.0 Nougat

  • Display: 5.2-inch (1280 x 720 pixels) HD IPS | 2.5D NEG curved glass

  • Processor: 1.3 GHz Quad-core MediaTek MT6737 64-bit Processor | Mali T720 MP1 GPU

  • RAM: 2/3 GB

  • Internal Storage: 16/32 GB; expandable up to 32 GB with microSD card

  • Rear Camera: 13 MP autofocus | LED Flash | F2.2 aperture

  • Front Camera: 5 MP | F2.2 aperture

  • Battery: 5,000 mAh

  • Dimensions: 74 x 150 x 9.0 mm

  • Weight: 163g

At the launch, the company shared that is has now 326 service centres across the country. As part of the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, Turbo 5 will be manufactured in India.


The Dual SIM InFocus Turbo 5 comes in two color variants – Pure Gold and Mocha Gold – and will be exclusively available on Amazon starting July 4. The 2 GB + 16 GB variant is priced at ₹6,999 ($109) while the 3 GB + 32 GB variant is priced at ₹7,999 ($124).


What are your thoughts on the InFocus Turbo 5? Do you think it can make a dent in the crowded budget smartphone market in India? Tell us in the comments!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

10 best office apps for Android

Microsoft Office best office apps for android
Office apps have been a valuable center of productivity for many years. We use them for a variety of purposes, including drafting documents, creating spreadsheets and presentations, and keep track of what’s going on. No productivity suite is complete without them and virtually everybody uses them, even kids. The office suite atmosphere has changed very little the last few years. However, the apps themselves are better than they used to be. Here are the current best office apps for Android!







Chrome Remote Desktop


Price: Free


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


There’s a chance that none of the office apps on this list work for you. If that’s the case, you may want to pick up something like Chrome Remote Desktop. This app allows you to remote into your computer and use your computer like you normally would, except on your phone. It probably works best with tablets and with things like a Bluetooth keyboard, but you can access your office apps on your PC from your Android device, potentially bypassing the need for an office suite at all. It’s completely free to use. Teamviewer is another good app to do this. It doesn’t require Google Chrome to use.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Chrome Remote Desktop







Docs to Go Free Office Suite


Price: Free / Up to $14.99


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Docs to Go is an older app that’s been around for quite some time. However, it’s still receiving new features and updates. It has the basics, such as word processing, spreadsheet editing, and presentation editing. It does an excellent job of letting you do these things without too much of a setup. The paid version unlocks password-locked files, saving to (and loading from) cloud storage sites, and file syncing with your desktop. It’s not great in every situation, but it’s one of the more solid office apps.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











Google Drive


Price: Free with in-app purchases


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Google Drive is a favorite among our readers and many others. It has a whole suite of office apps, including a PDF Viewer, Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides, and, of course, Google Drive. Drive services as the hub. It’s really just a cloud storage app where you can view your files or make new ones. Opening any document in your Google Drive will automatically open the appropriate app. It’s all completely free unless you need to expand your Google Drive space. All the apps are also quite simple to use. It’s a good all-in-one solution for most people.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











Microsoft Office


Price: Free / $6.99 or $9.99 per month subscription


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Microsoft took its sweet time publishing its office apps to mobile. They instantly became among the best once they were. You can download Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for free. Most of their functionality is available without paying a dime. You’ll be able to open and save files, use most of the editing tools, and, more. Those files can by synced to your desktop via OneDrive. You can get an Office 365 subscription which will unlock some additional features. However, it’s not necessary for the basics.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











OfficeSuite: Free Office + PDF Editor


Price: Free / $29.99+


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


OfficeSuite is a long time favorite for many people. The app has changed a lot from its early days. Currently, the developers seem to be transitioning the suite into something closer to Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. The idea is to have a cloud storage hub from which to work. Most of the basic features are available in the free version and that’s good news. The paid version allows for PDF scanning, a font pack that’s compatible with Microsoft, a spell checker, and additional document support. It’s one of the better run-of-the-mill office apps. It is also among the most expensive.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY













Polaris Office


Price: Free / $3.99 per month / $5.99 per month


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Polaris Office is a lot like OfficeSuite. It used to be a good, simple office suite. The app isn’t simple or small anymore. It does have a ton of features, including the basics along with note taking, document searching, encrypted files, and support for various formats. That includes PDF and Microsoft documents. The free version is serviceable. You can also get $3.99 and $5.99 per month subscriptions. That gives you additional features like the ability to use it on more than three devices along with extra cloud storage. The subscription models aren’t great, but the free version is still decent. It’s still one of the better office apps.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











Quip


Price: Free


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Quip is one of the newer office apps on the list. It’s also one of the few free ones. It has a small, but decent set of features. That includes the ability to collaborate on documents with other people. It comes in the form of a chat that you can use to talk to people while editing documents. You’ll also get a support for spreadsheets, cross-device syncing, offline support, and various exporting options. It also has cloud storage support. Quip hasn’t been around as long as other office apps, but it’s better than many of them.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Quip







Smart Office 2


Price: Free


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Smart Office 2 is another one of the rare free office apps. The app used to cost money. However, at some point, they decided to let it go for free. It comes with all of the basic features as you’d expect, including support for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations. It also comes with support for Microsoft Office documents from 2013 and back. You can also use it to view (and save) PDF files, some image files, and WMF and EMF file types. The interface is clean and simple. It’s a good option for those who don’t need much.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











Softmaker Office


Price: Free / $3.99 / $5.49


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Softmaker has a lot of office apps. That includes a suite of free office apps. They also have a suite of paid office apps. Both of them are pretty good. There are three apps in the suite, including TextMaker, PlanMaker, and Presentations which are just funny names for word processor, spreadsheet, and, well, presentations. Unlike most, the apps are completely free. Their features include PDF support, TrueType and OpenType fonts, and support for (most) Microsoft file types. You’ll have to buy the paid versions of the apps separately. On the plus side, you can only buy what you need. On the negative side, all three apps costs about $15.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Softmaker Office







WPS Office and PDF


Price: Free


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


WPS Office was once called Kingsoft Office. Despite the name change, it remains one of the most popular office apps on Android. With it, you can view and convert PDFs, do the basic stuff (documents, spreadsheets, presentations), and more. It also comes with support for wireless printing, support for Microsoft file types, and support for 46 languages. The app does have ads. There is no way to pay your way out of seeing those adverts. That is unfortunate. Otherwise, it’s a solid app.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











If we missed any of the best office apps for Android, tell us about them in the comments!You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

10 best Philips Hue apps for Android

featured image - best Philips Hue apps for Android
Philips Hue was one of the first truly mainstream smart lights. You can find them in a variety of styles, including bulbs and light strips. There are competitors in the space that may or may not do a better job. That’s usually up to personal interpretation. As it turns out, there are plenty of options when it comes to Philips Hue apps. Philips has left their stuff open for third party developers to play with. Here are the best Philips Hue apps for Android! Note, some of these also come with support for Lifx lights as well, one of Philips Hue’s larger competitors.







AutoHue (Tasker Plug-in)


Price: $1.29


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Task can do basically everything. It can also control your Philips Hue lights with this plug-in. Tasker has a bit of a learning curve. That means this isn’t the best option for those who need something simple and easy. However, the customization is top notch. You can control brightness, color, blinks of various lengths, color loops, and custom JSON scripts. You’ll have to learn how to use Tasker. However, it otherwise works very well. It’s definitely one of the better Philips Hue apps.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











Hue Disco


Price: $3.99


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Hue Disco is one of the better Philips Hue apps for parties. It taps into Hue’s ability to change depending on sound. You just play loud music with the app running. The lights will then change color, get dimmer, or get brighter. It’ll all depend on the music you’re listening to. There are a variety of features and customization options. It’ll even let you know if your music has hit the threshold of your lighting set up and can’t go any further. You will need a Philips Hue Controller in order to make this app work.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











hueManic


Price: Free / $2.99


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


hueManis is one of many Philips Hue apps that makes your lights more dynamic. By that, we mean that it’ll change the colors more frequently. It has about a dozen scenes that you can use. The colors will change and keep pace with things like music, your mood, etc. It works really well on its own. However, there are some additional features for the super tech savvy like ADB commands. You can try this one for free if you’d like. The full version costs $2.99.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











Hue Pro


Price: $1.99


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Hue Pro is one of the better basic Philips Hue apps. It comes with a lot of the same features as the stock app. That includes lighting presets, dimming and brightness toggles, a widget, music integration, and more. You can even control your lights away from home once you set it up right. Unlike most, the developers have a list of devices that they used to test this app. It should still work on devices that aren’t on the list. However, it’ll almost certainly work better on the apps that do. There’s no free version of this one. You’ll have to buy it and test it inside of the refund time to make sure you like it.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Hue Pro







Hue Switcher


Price: Free / $3.99


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Hue Switcher is another one of the replacement Philips Hue apps for the stock app. It has one of the most robust sets of features of any app on the list. It features over 40 lava-lamp style changing scenes. You can also control the lights through your phone. That includes color, brightness, and the usual on/off. It also has support for the Hue Tap, Dimmer Switch, and Motion Sensor products. It should work for pretty much whatever you need it to work for. You can download this one and try it for free. The pro version will run you $3.99.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY













Lumio (for Philips Hue)


Price: Free with in-app purchases


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Lumio is one of the newer Philips Hue apps for Android. It is also one of the simpler options. You can do the basic stuff. That includes turning the lights on and off, changing the color, and changing the brightness. It also boasts the ability to change the color with fewer taps than the stock app. It doesn’t compete with the other Philips Hue apps in terms of features. At least, it doesn’t yet. However, the interface is really nice and it does the basics pretty well. It may be a bit buggy, though.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Lumio (for Philips Hue)







MediaVibe


Price: Up to $2.99


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


MediaVibe is a developer on Google Play. They have released several decent Philips Hue apps. Their apps include Philips Hue profiles for a variety of events. They have one for Halloween, one for fireworks, and even Christmas. They also have unique ones like an app with profiles for the World Cup or Twister (the game). Each app is a little bit different. However, they all perform more or less the same function. They load in color profiles that match the event in their name. The prices vary, but none of them are more expensive than $2.99.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


MediaVibe







OnSwitch


Price: Free / Up to $9.99


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


OnSwitch is one of the more interesting Philips Hue apps. That’s because it also comes with direct support for LIFX lights as well. Most of the features work for both sets of smart lights. That includes 30 light scenes, the ability to manage groups of bulbs, and the ability to control independent bulbs. It doesn’t really have any more features than the stock app for those lights. However, this is still a great option for people who happened to have both types of bulbs and want one app to at least mostly control all of them. You can download it for free to see if it works. The pro version will cost money.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


OnSwitch







Philips Hue app


Price: Free


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


The official Philips Hue app really isn’t as bad as its horrible Google Play rating would indicate. A lot of people use the Google Play Store to complain about all kinds of Philips Hue issues. Thus, a lot of the criticism isn’t with the app, but issues with the entire product line whenever they have an issue with something. In any case, the app is actually pretty decent. It can do the basics like change colors, scenes, and brightness. They also have a very basic, but functional automation system to do things like change scenes or turn the lights on/off at a certain time. It also has support for Philips Hue accessories. It’s not perfect and it is fairly clunky. We’re not saying it’s a five star app. However, it is better than its current 2.9 rating would suggest.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Philips Hue app







Scott Dodson apps


Price: Up to $2.99


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY


Scott Dodson is a developer on Google Play. His works are similar to MediaVibe. He has released several Philips Hue apps that have specific themes. Some of the themes include Firestorm, Thunderstorm, and Soundstorm. They work in a fun manner. For the Thunderstorm version, it’ll emulate a thunderstorm by having bright flashes of light to simulate lightning. These apps also come with various customizations, settings, and even sound options. They’re fun for what they are. The apps are around $2.99. There are also LIFX versions of these apps if you have those.


DOWNLOAD ON GOOGLE PLAY











If we missed any great Philips Hue apps, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest app and game lists!

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