Monday, August 21, 2017

Report: Google to announce smaller Google Home and new Chromebook Pixel

At this point, we fully expect Google to announce the successors to 2016’s Pixel and Pixel XL. However, there is now word that not only will the search giant also announce a smaller Google Home, but a new Chromebook Pixel as well.

Starting with the smaller Google Home, Android Police did not provide exact measurements or what the device will include as far as features are concerned. Even so, it is similar to what Amazon is doing with the Echo Dot, a smaller and more affordable version of the larger Echo. In other words, a smaller Google Home would allow Google Assistant to be in more places around the home without breaking the bank.

As for the new Chromebook Pixel, there is speculation it could be Google’s Project Bison, though the report couldn’t confirm this for sure. This is notable because Project Bison is rumored to run Andromeda OS, which reportedly bakes Chrome OS features into Android to give devices more flexibility when it comes to usage.

As for Project Bison itself, it was rumored to feature a 12.3-inch display, 32 GB or 128 GB of built-in storage, 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM, and a Wacom stylus that folks can pick up separately to use on the display. Because Bison was designed to have a slim profile, it will reportedly feature a “tablet” mode, which makes the device more of a 2-in-1 than your standard laptop.

We have to stress that there is no confirmation that the alleged new Chromebook Pixel is Bison, since they could be two separate projects. Given the amount of time since the last Chromebook Pixel, however, it would make sense if this was the case.

We will have to wait and see until Google launches the new Pixel phones to see whether the smaller Google Home and new Chromebook Pixel will be unveiled alongside them. Even so, would you be interested in either of the rumored devices? Let us know in the comments and we’ll be sure to keep our ears on the ground for any more specifics.

14 Common Madden 18 Problems & How to Fix Them

Madden 18 is finally here and with it new Madden 18 features that will change how you play. We are also seeing Madden 18 problems that frustrate gamers who want to enjoy a competitive game of football on the PS4 or Xbox One.

Here are the most common Madden 18 problems and how you can fix them on your own. Keep in mind there are some Madden 18 server problems that will prevent you from playing against friends, and for those you will just have to wait it out. There are also going to be some Madden 18 problems and Madden 18 bugs that you cannot fix. The good news is that the first Madden 18 update is planned for soon after release, so you can count on fixes coming through that in early September.

With new Madden 18 game modes, play styles and changes across the board, there are bound to be some bugs and issues once the game rolls out to millions of players. The aggressive catch is toned down even more this year and there is a new passing mode that you may have trouble adapting to.

Gamers typically complain about a variety of Madden 18 problems including missing MUT packs, slow downloads, Madden 18 EA Access problems and of course server problems and online party issues.

This is what you need to know about these Madden problems and how to fix them if you can do it without waiting for EA.

How to Fix EA Access Madden 18 Problems

What to do if you run into EA Access Madden 18 problems .
What to do if you run into EA Access Madden 18 problems .

The EA Access Madden 18 trial starts on August 17th. That’s confirmed by EA, even if EA Help on Twitter has no clue about it. You can start playing on the 17th. We don’t know the exact time, so if you don’t see a download available, you may need to wait a little while longer.

That said, if other players are able to download the EA Access Madden 18 trial and you don’t see it you can refresh the Madden 18 Store page by pressing LT + RT + Y multiple times until you see the trial.

If you start the download and you cannot play the EA Access Madden 18 trial, you may need to wait for the full game to download. EA recommends a complete download before you play.

You cannot get more time if your Madden 18 EA Access trial ends early. This is a 10 hour limit, and if you leave Madden 18 open, your time may expire. To prevent this, make sure you quit Madden 18 and if you want to be sure, open another game before you turn off your Xbox One.

If you cannot find the PS4 EA Access Madden 18 trial, your only problem is that Sony doesn’t want EA Access, so you cannot play Madden 18 early on the PS4.

Madden 18 G.O.A.T. Pre-Order Shows as Standard

Most Madden 18 pre-order issues are related to Amazon not stocking the G.O.A.T. edition on the PS4 in disk form, but if you pre-ordered Madden 18 G.O.A.T. from the ad inside of Madden 17 with the 10% off discount you may only see that you pre-ordered the standard edition.

EA is aware of the issue and is working on the problem. That means you don’t need to do anything at this time. It is likely that EA will fix this before the release date arrives on August 22nd. If you see this, you are not alone, but there is no need to be concerned about missing out on your Elite G.O.A.T. player yet. You can send @EAHelp a message about it, but for the time being just wait a little longer.

How to Fix Madden 18 Download Problems

How to fix Madden 18 download problems.
How to fix Madden 18 download problems.

No matter what edition of Madden 18 you buy, you may run into problems downloading the game. This is especially true with the EA Access trial that requires you to download the full game, even if you plan to buy the game on disk. The Madden 18 download size is 36.49 GB, which means you will need to wait a while and you may see some slow downloads.

If your Madden 18 download is slow or it looks like your download stops the best thing to do is pause it and restart. If you have a network cable, you may see better download speeds using a wired connection.

On the PS4 this is super easy.  Go to downloads and press X to pause the download. Wait a second and then restart. On the Xbox One, go to the Games & Apps and then choose Queue. After that select the Madden 18 tile and choose pause installation. Wait a little bit and then re-install.

How to Fix Madden 18 Installation Problems

How to fix Madden 18 install problems.
How to fix Madden 18 install problems.

We expect to see some Madden 18 installation problems. Most often this is not a problem with your Xbox or PS4, or even with your network. When this happens you may see the Madden 18 Xbox One install stuck at 0% for a long time. If that happens you need to change some settings on your system. That said, make sure you have enough storage on your console or on an external hard drive.

You’ll need to clear your Xbox One local save games. As long as you store the saves on Xbox Live, you son’t lose any progress. Go to Settings -> All Settings -> System -> Storage -> Clear local saved games. Once this is done, go to Settings -> All Settings -> Network -> Network Settings -> Go offline. Now restart your Xbox One by holding the power button for 10 seconds. Put Madden 18 back in and install the game again before you go online again.

On the PS4, you may need to clear your PS4 cache to fix Madden 18 installation problems. Turn your PS4 off, unplug it for a full minute and then plug it back in. If that doesn’t work, delete Madden 18 from your PS4 and start the installation over.

How to Fix Cannot Choose Most Madden 18 Game Modes

If you get the alert that you can start playing Madden 18, but then you cannot choose all of the Madden 18 game modes, the game is not likely completely downloaded or installed. Often you can play parts of a game while the rest downloads and installs. If you can’t choose all the options, you will need to wait and try again when the download completes.

How to Fix Missing Madden 18 MUT Codes

How to fix Madden 18 MUT Codes problems.
How to fix Madden 18 MUT Codes problems.

Both of the Madden 18 editions include MUT codes that allow you to unlock MUT packs so you can build up your Madden Ultimate Team. You may see this code on your receipt or it may be bundled in the game. Either way, you may run into problems redeeming your MUT codes in Madden 18, at least during the first week.

Any missing pre-order bonus needs to be taken up with your retailer directly. Try customer service online or on social media, as many stores may not be able to generate the code needed. If you ordered online, check your SPAM folder.

How to Fix Missing Madden 18 G.O.A.T. Content

EA offers the following fix for missing G.O.A.T. edition content. “If you bought the G.O.A.T. Edition but you don’t have the content you’re supposed to get, try backing out of MUT, then go back in and check your unopened packs. You should see the G.O.A.T. Edition content now.”

If that fails, try restarting Madden 18 or restarting your console. If you bought Madden 18 G.O.A.T. and there was no code in the game box or the code did not work, you need to try it a second time. If that fails, contact EA support.

How to Fix This item has already been removed from your collection error in Madden 18

If you go to open a pack in Madden 18 and you see the error, “This item has already been removed from your collection,” you should still have the content, it’s just hiding in your binder.

EA says, “If you get this error when you open a Pack, you should still have gotten the items from it. Check your Item Binder. All unopened Packs can be found on your Packs screen.”

How to Fix Madden 18 Online Problems

Madden 18 online problems and Madden 18 server problems can stop you from enjoying the game. If you cannot play online, you should check to see if there are any Madden 18 server problems or an outage. You should see a Madden 18 server status page appear here in the near future.

The first thing to do is restart your console. This can help fix many problems, and you should also check your local internet connection. From there, you can check to see if your console sees the Internet and online gaming services.

How to fix Madden 18 online problems and check server status.
How to fix Madden 18 online problems and check server status.

On PS4 – Go to Settings -> Network -> Test Internet Connection.

On Xbox One – Go to Settings – All Settings -> Network -> Network Settings -> Test network connection.

From there, check out basic connection troubleshooting including clearing the cache, disabling firewalls and restarting your network and console. If you still have Madden 18 connection problems, you may need to add exceptions for ports that Madden 18 uses. Here are the UDP and TCP ports that you need to adjust for Xbox One, and PS4. These should remain unchanged for Madden 18.

How to Fix Madden 18 Framerate & Audio Problems

When you see odd framerate and audio glitches in Madden 18, it’s time to restart your console. We haven’t seen this one yet, but it was a common issue in Madden 17, and you should know how to fix it if you run into any of these issues.

If you see any kind of lag in graphics or glitches, restart your console and see if that fixes it. In most cases, this will solve the problem without the need to make any other changes.

How to Fix Cannot See the Ball in MUT Squads

While playing MUT Squads there may be times when you cannot see the ball. This is by design as the camera is focused on the controlled player. So if there is a throw or run to the other side of the screen, you may miss out on it.

You can press up or down on the d pad to change the camera to one that shows you more of the field.

How to Fix Not Being Able to Play Modes and Features in MUT

EA changed up MUT in Madden 18, and you may find that you cannot play some modes or use some features in Madden Ultimate Team right off the bat. If this happens to you, it is because you are not leveled up enough. You need to play some challenges to level up more. You gain XP by completing objectives and playing games.

How to Fix Cannot Get EA Account Verification Codes in Madden 18

Some users cannot get an EA Account Verification Code in Madden 18 when signing in on a device that isn’t trusted yet. There is a workaround for this. EA offers the following steps:

  1. Log in to your EA Account on
    • If your computer is not a trusted device already, you’ll get a code sent to you. Use that code on your Xbox to verify your account and get signed in.

  2. If your computer is already a trusted device, go in to your EA Account and Billing Settings.

  3. Click on the Security tab.

  4. Click View next to your Backup Codes.

  5. You’ll get a code sent to you to use to view your Backup Codes. Use that code on your Xbox to verify your account and get signed in.
    • If you haven’t written down your Backup Codes and put them in a safe place yet, now’s a good time to do that. You can always use a Backup Code to get signed in to your account when you’re in a pinch like this.

How to Fix Annoying Madden 18 Problems

If you still cannot fix your Madden 18 problems, you may need to uninstall Madden 18 from your console and re-install. This can be a lengthy process if you bought the game digitally, but it often fixes stubborn problems. Other than that, the next best thing is to restart your console.

We expect a fast Madden 18 update that will address bugs and other problems that pop up in the first two weeks of Madden 18 gaming, so once that arrives you will need to install it to fix some Madden 18 problems.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Latest Action Launcher update brings weather widget, more robust theming options

Action Launcher has been one of our favorite launcher apps for years now, and that’s mainly due to the fact that the app’s developer, Chris Lacy, is constantly introducing new and useful features. Just a few weeks ago the launcher gained Google Now integration (yes!), and today the whole experience is getting even better with Action Launcher version 27.

Action Launcher 27 brings an inbuilt weather widget for devices running Android 6.0 Marshmallow or later. The new widget resembles the one you’d find on the Pixel Launcher, but this one allows you to change the temperature units, update frequency, and geofence radius.

The stars of the show here are the new customization options, however. You can now change the transparency of the All Apps page, Quickbar, folders, shutters, and more via Action Launcher’s Quicktheme menu. App Shortcuts and Notification Dots can now be set to match the color of your wallpaper or app icon, which is certainly a nice touch.

What’s more, you can now use the Quickbar (Google Search bar) as a standalone widget, meaning you can move it around to anywhere on your device’s home screen.

In addition to all the changes listed above, there are a few other tidbits included in version 27 that you might want to check out:

  • NEW: Adjust the color of the App Shortcuts panels via Quicktheme.

  • NEW: App Shortcuts, Shutters and Covers can be tinted with the highlight color of the controlling icon via Quicktheme. Allows for Twitter’s App Shortcuts panel to by light blue, WhatsApp’s to be green, etc.

  • NEW: Revamped Quickbar icon picker, and the number of icons available for Quickbar customization has increased from ~200 to ~950.

  • NEW: Option to disable widget padding (Settings -> Desktop -> Advanced -> Widget padding).

  • IMPROVEMENT: Fixed a nasty memory leak related to the animated clock icon that was causing excessive battery drain and general performance issues.

  • FIX: Misc. stability fixes.

Action Launcher version 27 is rolling out now in the Play Store, so head to the link below to check it out for yourself.

'Mass Effect: Andromeda' won't get more single-player content

The company will talk about multiplayer add-ons, support and N7 Day (November 7th)in the “coming weeks.”

While the decision against DLC wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment choice (EA previously shot down a rumor that it had cancelled extra content), the halt to single-player patches says a lot about the state of Andromeda. BioWare and EA aren’t happy with the game, and they aren’t about to sink more time into the solo side of it. That doesn’t mean Mass Effect on its way out, though. While BioWare is shy about what will happen next (it only “hope[s] to see you again in the Mass Effect universe), the franchise’s Casey Hudson is returning. That, to us, suggests that BioWare wants to do whatever it takes to restore the series’ good name.

Android O incoming – Google hosting live stream on Monday (Update: even more Oreo trolling)

Update 2: The suspicious among us don’t trust much of what comes out of a Googler’s social media accounts just prior to a new version launch, and few Googlers troll quite as hard as Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP of Android. Last year Lockheimer pushed Nutella on us repeatedly before Android N became Nougat, and this year Android Oreo has cropped up in his feed again and again.

Nevertheless, now the tables have turned, as no one’s buying Lockheimer’s follow-up tweet after a video file with the name GoogleOreo_Teaser was picked up on Google+ (see Update 1 below). As funny as it would be that Lockheimer had been telling the truth this whole time, he is officially the boy who cried wolf. Or should that be Oreo?

Update 1: We already suggested there’s still a possibility all of this eclipse stuff is actually part of the trolling for the name — which could be Oreo after all. Again, we know we could be flat wrong. That said, Google may have leaked the name unintentionally on Google+. A now deleted tweet — courtesy of Android Police — refers to a video file “GoogleOreo_Teaser_0817_noDroids (1).mp4”.

Is this an actual leak, or just another Google troll? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. 

It’s been nearly one hundred years since we’ve seen a solar eclipse at the same scale as the one that sweeps across the US on Monday. In other words, it’s a pretty big deal. Google thinks so too, and that’s why it is using the eclipse as a launching point for Android O.

That’s right, Google has once again proven how unpredictable it can be by announcing it will show off Android O, and celebrate the eclipse, at 2:40PM ET at an event in New York City. Even better, it will be livestreamed. As you’d expect, Google is pretty mum on things like Android O’s name, when we might expect the Pixel 2, and so forth.

Previous rumors floating around have suggested Google may move away from its sweet treat naming convention with O, though it is worth noting that the Eclipse page on Google’s website does say “Android O is touching down to earth with the total solar eclipse, bringing some super (sweet) new powers!” So take that to mean whatever you will.

Whether they are actually releasing O, saying its final name, or both? We don’t know just yet. But we’re certainly excited. Also, we have to point out that the Sun under an eclipse looks a bit like a giant oreo in the sky. Just saying. Are you looking forward to Android O? What do you think it’ll be named, what features are you hoping to see? Let us know in the comments.

Global Bixby updates rolling out ahead of Galaxy Note 8 launch

After months of waiting, Galaxy S8 owners across the globe might just receive Bixby Voice in advance of the Galaxy Note 8 launch next Wednesday, with multiple app updates rolling out as of yesterday. While Samsung has yet to enable Bixby Voice functionality across the board, the code should now be in place for when the time comes. Some users in Germany (although not me) are reporting the ability to use dictation with Bixby already and at least one user was told Voice would be enabled on August 22.

With Bixby a core feature of the upcoming Galaxy Note 8, which is due to be unveiled on August 23 with pre-orders starting the next day, getting Bixby Voice out globally before then seems critical. Bixby suffered enough slings and arrows for not being fully functional on the Galaxy S, but Samsung’s support channels don’t exactly inspire confidence that Bixby Voice will be operational everywhere by the time the Note 8 is announced.

Sam Mobile

The suite of app updates including Bixby, Bixby Global Action, Bixby Dictation, Bixby Wakeup and Bixby PLM have rolled out in several markets around the world, including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Argentina, South Africa, Afghanistan, Iran, the UAE, Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, the Netherlands and several Nordic countries. So with any luck we’ll have Bixby Voice live in a few more regions outside the US and South Korea by the time the Galaxy Note 8 starts shipping.

What do you think of Samsung’s handling of the Bixby Voice rollout? Should it have just waited?

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Pixel is a real testament to good software

For years now the importance of smartphone software has taken a back seat in the arms race known as the specs war. How often have we lamented a beautiful piece of hardware – take most Huawei phones prior to the EMUI 5 update or Xiaomi phones to this date – ‘ruined’ by a bad software experience? But with the first Google Pixel, those poles were reversed, and largely horrible hardware was miraculously saved by superior software.

I know there are plenty of fans of the Pixel hardware out there – our own Joe Hindy is one of them, and we’ve debated the merits of the Pixel’s nuts and bolts at length. And while I’m not straight-up calling the Pixel’s hardware a dumpster fire, I would definitely call it dumpster fire adjacent. Defend the Pixe’s build quality if you will, but you can’t tell me it’s on the same level as the Galaxy S8, LG G6 or even the OnePlus 5. But there’s a good reason for why this is so…

Ron Amadeo at Ars Technica did a superb piece of sleuthing when the Pixel was launched to back up his convincing claim that the Google Pixel was simply a gutted HTC mid-ranger. Google’s original hardware partner, Huawei, reportedly backed out at the last minute over a branding dispute, resulting in HTC offering up a sacrifice of one of its children to the Google gods.

I’ve acknowledged elsewhere that what Google achieved in such an incredibly short timeframe was nothing short of a miracle and it should be applauded for the result. But again, that sentiment relates primarily to the software and camera, not the hardware generally (even if the chipset, RAM and so on naturally contribute to the software experience). Then, as now, I find the Pixel – as an object – to be uninspiring and infinitely forgettable.

Then, as now, I find the Pixel – as an object – to be uninspiring and infinitely forgettable.

The Pixel feels cheap, the glass on the front and back scratches incredibly easily, the ‘paint’ rubs off on the edges where it gets the most action and if you ever drop the thing, it fails to even vaguely hide dents and scrapes. If this phone had appeared under HTC’s banner it would’ve been mocked for what it is: a nondescript mid-range chassis that looks and feels like one. But add that Google logo – and again, that software and image processing – and suddenly perspectives change.

The Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 will take ‘bezelless’ to a whole new level

Bezelless is one of those ill-fitting words we’ve been using for far too long regarding phones that are sort of bezelless, but not really. So what do we call the next generation of truly bezelless (or at least, more bezelless) phones on the horizon? Well, for starters, we can call the first one the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2.

The original Mi MIX was the harbinger of the age of bezelless devices, so it’s only fitting that its successor will almost completely shave off the chin still found on the likes of the Galaxy S8, LG G6 and even the Essential Phone. In a concept video shared by its returning designer, French designer Philippe Starck, there’s barely an outline of bezel on the top three sides with a bottom bezel that looks about half as wide as that found on the Galaxy S8.

Of course, concept videos are to reality what fanboy expectations are to supply chains. But when a concept video comes from the actual designer of a product, in a product line he has already had experience working with, the distance between concept and reality is significantly reduced. We already know the Mi MIX 2 will arrive this year, and when it does – if it looks anything at all like this video – then Xiaomi is going to throw the Android design world into a tailspin. Again.

If you’re wondering where the front-facing camera is, take a close look at the video and you’ll see it hiding in the bottom right of the bottom bezel, bizarrely in the same spot as with the last Mi MIX. Regardless, at least it’s still present and bodes very well for anyone not a particular fan of the camera ‘indent’ in phones like the Essential Phone or upcoming iPhone. Don’t ask us what newfangled solution Xiaomi might have come up with for the earpiece this time around (last time it was baaaadd).

Thoughts on camera placement and earpiece speaker? Would you buy this?

Nest's sub-$200 thermostat might swap metal for plastic

The Nest thermostat’s premium looks match its pretty hefty price tag, but if you’re cool with a simpler version that can still do the job, you may want to wait it out. Evan Blass, a notable gadget leaker known as evleaks, has tweeted an image of what looks like an unadorned version of the Nest thermostat. Based on its no-frills appearance, it seems to be the sub-$200 version Bloomberg said the Google-owned company is working on. Mark Gurman, the journalist who wrote the piece, even confirmed that it’s the cheaper Nest he reported in March.

Using the first Android smartphone I owned in 2017

Advances in the smartphone space have occurred at an almost exponential rate, but with seemingly small changes happening every six months to a year, it might be hard for some of us to appreciate how far we’ve actually come in a short amount of time. To truly highlight this, I thought it would be cool to revisit the very first Android smartphone that I ever owned, and see if it was still usable in 2017.

The very first Android phone, and also the first smartphone, that I ever owned was the MyTouch 3G Slide. The MyTouch series was a T-Mobile exclusive, and giving this device its name was a full, physical QWERTY keyboard that would slide out. You’d be hard pressed to find this with any current generation device, but this was actually a pretty common form factor back in 2010 when this phone was first available.

I used the MyTouch 3G slide for several days as my daily driver (struggling to make a full week), and while I admit that there was some nostalgia associated with using my first ever Android smartphone again, those feelings quickly wore off after using it for just a few hours.

The first thing I had to do to get started was to pop in a SIM card, but even that simple task proved to be a slight hurdle, because while most, if not all, smartphones use nano SIM cards nowadays, a full sized SIM was required back in 2010. I had to first plug my nano SIM into a micro SIM adapter, and then plug that into a full sized SIM adapter just to be able to use it with this phone.

Everything was good to go after that, but for some reason, I was unable to get anything faster than Edge data speeds, even thought this is a 3G-capable smartphone. Of course, that doesn’t really matter in 2017 where even 3G is comparatively slow, but this phone was released back when 4G was still in its nascent stages and T-Mobile themselves adopted the technology pretty late in the game.

As mentioned, going back to an Android phone that is seven years old really makes you appreciate how far our devices have come, and unsurprisingly, this phone shows its age in pretty much every aspect of the smartphone experience.

As far as the design of the phone is concerned, it is really thick and chunky because of the keyboard, but the overall footprint of the 3G Slide is actually really small. You can comfortably reach every inch of the screen with just your thumb and the entire phone practically fits in the palm of your hand, which is not something you can say about most Android phones anymore.

Back when I originally owned the phone, I thoroughly enjoyed using the keyboard, and while I prefer on-screen keyboards now, it didn’t take me too long to re-adjust to physical keys once again. It wasn’t the most spacious keyboard but it was fairly easy to use. The keys are nicely spaced out, there’s a good amount of travel to them, and it is also back-lit, which made it easy to use in the dark. The phone is made entirely of plastic, which was perfectly standard back in 2010, but it does now feel rather cheap in the hand when compared to the current crop of metal or glass phones.

There’s no point talking about the specifications as it’s all very outdated, but if you must know, it had a blazing fast 600 MHz processor, half a gigabyte of RAM, and a whopping 512 MB of internal storage. There is a microSD card slot available though, with support of up to an additional 16 GB of storage. With only half a GB of storage, I was only able to install a few apps and one game before receiving the low memory warning, so having a microSD card was basically a must on this phone for it to be even remotely usable.

The 3G Slide was actually considered a mid-range smartphone back in 2010, because flagship devices typically featured a 1 GHz processor. Of course, even that sounds pretty laughable by today’s standards, given that our smartwatches are technically more powerful than a mid-range or flagship phone from seven years ago.

Not surprisingly, the performance is extremely laggy, frames are dropped constantly, apps are slow to load, and you can forget about trying to play any sort of game on this phone, with everything way too choppy to be playable. Another part of the phone that has not aged well is the screen. It has a 3.4-inch display that is extremely low resolution, so it is pretty easy to see pixels, and there is also a very noticeable air gap between the glass and the actual display itself.

The phone is running the very old Android 2.2 Froyo with 2010’s version of HTC Sense on top, which was slightly modified for the MyTouch line, but provided mostly the same experience that you got on other HTC phones of the time like the Evo 4G or Thunderbolt. Before I could even download an app, I had to manually update the Android Market to the Google Play Store, but doing this was almost not worth the effort to be honest, because not only is the app selection extremely limited, but the versions of the apps you can even download are very old.

Back then, Android phones had four navigation buttons instead of the three that we are used to now, which were the Home, Menu, Back, and Search keys. For the MyTouch line however, the Search key was replaced with what was called the Genius button. This button would let you make a call, send a text, perform a search, or launch an app with just your voice, so this could be considered an AI Assistant of sorts long before they were ever a thing on smartphones, even if it is obviously nowhere near as advanced as what we have today.

This phone also pre-dated the selfie era, so there was no front-facing camera and if you wanted to take a selfie, you had to do it the old school way and flip the phone around to use the 5 MP rear shooter. Compared to current phones, the camera of the 3G Slide obviously doesn’t hold up. At all. It’s slow and clunky and the quality is quite bad. It does come with a physical shutter button though, which is something else that we don’t see a lot of anymore.

A few other things that have gone by the wayside or are seemingly headed that way are the headphone jack, a removable battery, and a trackpad. Also, considering how old this phone is, it’s not surprising that you don’t get a lot of features that we are now starting to take for granted like a fingerprint scanner, wireless charging, fast charging, or dust and water resistance.

The big question to be answered by this admittedly silly endeavor was “Is this phone usable in 2017?” and technically, the answer is yes. However, because it is so outdated, it was incredibly difficult to use as a daily driver. I had to still carry another phone around simply because this one couldn’t do everything that I needed it to do. The sluggish performance and lack of functionality is something I can deal with, but what it really came down to was app selection.

Most of the apps I use and depend on, like Slack for communicating with my colleagues, Lifx and Philips Hue for controlling my smart lights, and many other apps and games that I use on a daily basis just aren’t compatible with the 3G Slide. It is basically akin to using a flip phone as a daily driver. You can certainly get by with it, but with my life revolving around staying connected and relying on my phone to get work done, the 3G Slide is just no longer a viable solution.

What was the first Android smartphone that you ever used, and is it still a phone that you think you could use in 2017? Do share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Friday, August 18, 2017

What’s New in Android O: Everything You Need to Know

This is what’s new in Android O for those enjoying the beta, and what you need to know when Android 8.0 Oreo is released on August 21st. The fourth beta arrived in July, and now Google has confirmed they’ll unveil the latest software on Monday, just minutes after the solar eclipse.

There are lots of new Android O features that you can use to do more with your phone and tablet. Users will enjoy bundled notifications that are easier to manage or the new picture-in-picture mode for video. There are changes to the icons, an easy text selection tool, and auto-fill in apps like Google Chrome. Not to mention faster performance and changes to make your battery last longer.

Read: How to Install the Android O Beta Right Now

Many other changes are behind the scenes that you won’t see right away but will make a big difference. We expect Google to unveil some more exciting new features on August 21st. Until then, users are able to download and install the 4th developer preview, which was released on July 24th.

As long as you have a Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel, Pixel XL or the Pixel C tablet and Nexus Player, you can try Android O today.

What’s New in Android O

Below is a breakdown on new additions specific to Android O for all smartphones, tablets, and some for Android TV. Not to mention you’ll enjoy new features soon from Google Assistant and the new Google Lens app.

  • System Optimizations: Google worked hard across the board to make apps run faster and smoother. System optimizations will enable phones to reboot twice as fast, and potentially deliver twice the performance for apps and games.

  • Background Limits: A power saving feature in addition to “Doze” that will restrict app battery usage while in the background based on priority. In Android O this will limit how often apps check your location, scan WiFi or access data. (Some apps may need to reload when you re-open them) More info here.

  • Smart Text Selection: Android O will recognize an address, URL, telephone number, and email addresses. Double-tap and copy/paste will highlight the entire line, then offer apps you’ll need next. In addition to the usual copy, paste, or copy all commands.

  • Notification Dots: The notification system on Android is powerful, but it is getting even better. Small colored dot can extend notifications and app activity to a visual level. Being visible right on icons and viewed by long-pressing any icon with a dot.

  • Picture-in-Picture Mode: Android TV has PIP mode with Nougat, and now all Android will have it with Android O. This is picture-in-picture video. Imagine watching Netflix and YouTube at the same time. Or a YouTube video while looking up project instructions in Chrome. There is also support for multi-displays. So watch something on a phone and cast another stream to your TV.

Android O picture-in-picture mode, and Notification Dots
  • Auto-Fill: Just like how our web browsers on desktops and mobile auto-fill information like email or physical addresses, we will now be able to do this in apps. Android O brings auto-fill in a more advanced method to the entire OS.

  • Adaptive Icons & Badges: At-a-glance notification number bubbles or information right on home screen app icon badges. Similar to iOS. Not to mention adaptive icons. Imagine the clock icon always showing the right time, the calendar showing the date, etc. Not to mention neat animations.

  • Notification Channels: The notification system is changing a little bit, again. Bundled notifications thanks to a new API will let developers have more control over what we see, and how often. We could see cross-device sync later too. More details here. There will also be an option to snooze notifications.

  • Wide-gamut color for apps: Android developers can now take advantage of new devices that have a wide-gamut color capable display. Like the Galaxy S8. Apps will be more colorful and amazing.

  • Keyboard Navigation: We already have this to some extent in Android Nougat, and it will be better in O. Allowing swipes and gestures to navigate with the keyboard and text while typing.

  • Audio Improvements: New low-latency audio, Bluetooth aptX, and other things.

  • New Android O Emoji: The blob and robot-style Android emoji are dead. Google redesigned every emoji for Android O. In addition to being the first vendor to fully offer Emoji 5.0 support. Including the vomit face, dinosaurs, more hearts, and more faces.

Rounder emoji throughout Android O.
  • Android O Vitals: A big talking point for Google is Vitals. This project will improve battery life, startup time, graphic rendering time, and device stability.

  • Downloadable Fonts and XML: Developers and manufacturers will have more control over the font and color they provide on devices or in apps. Each app can easily have its own font that won’t interrupt our devices.

  • Fluid Experiences: This allows users to do more with Android. These experiences consist of picture-in-picture mode, notification dots, and adaptive icons.

  • Project Treble: A new project to make the base of Android modular. The goal is to make Android updates easier for manufacturers and carriers, by keeping the base the same and working across all devices and software versions.

  • Android Go: Similar to Android One, Android Go is a new initiative for budget devices. The entire operating system, Google Apps, and Play Store have been rebuilt for devices with 1GB of RAM or less. Bringing premium Android to every budget smartphone.

  • More Fingerprint Gestures (Moves): Google will be adding more moves and accessibility features to Android O.

Above is an image provided by Google that teases a few more feature that didn’t make the developer preview changelog. Some include a split screen launcher, Instant Apps in the app tray, new screen animations and auto brightness improvements, work profiles, and much more. Many of these are not in the beta but will arrive with the final software when it’s released in August or September.

We did notice a few small visual changes with the 4th developer preview, but nothing substantial changed. We’re assuming Google is holding any big new features for when the software makes its official debut around the globe.

Android O Release Date & Updates

So when will you get Android O? Google released the fourth developer preview on July 24th. It is available for most new Nexus or Pixel devices. The fourth beta is very stable, has hundreds of bug fixes and stabilization, and the final API’s for developers to build apps for Android 8.0.

This week Google confirmed Android 8.0 “O” will get announced on Monday, August 21st, just moments after the solar eclipse ends. Google titled the teaser video “Oreo” so most likely that’s the official name. Get excited.

Google promises Android O will arrive in Q3 2017, and it sounds like they’ll be right on time. Additionally, this also suggests the LG V30 and upcoming Google Pixel 2 will both launch with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Read: 9 Things to Know About the Google Pixel Android O Update

It’s important to remember that these early builds of Android O are for developers to use as they prepare for the release date. Some of these features are subject to change, get better over time, or removed at any moment. Not to mention missing from early beta software. Google claims the 4th preview is stable and a “release candidate of O, but users could still run into problems. At this point, we recommend just waiting for the official software come Monday.

This is what we know about Android O so far, and we’ll update as we learn more in the coming days.


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