Android goes to 7, Apple goes to the repair kit, and Tesla goes for maximum speed.

Android 7.0 Nougat is finally here! … if you have a Nexus phone. If using a modern Nexus phone, it might be a while before you get the update — or never. But does that really matter?

Apple found itself in sticky security waters following the disclosure and prompt patching of a trio of particularly nasty zero-day exploits. What’s more terrifying than these sort of “fix it immediately” exploits is who is making them: private malware firms that cater to governmental desires for ever-more-prying eyes. Thankfully, Apple did the right thing and moved fast to patch their products.

The long-awaited HP Elite x3 is finally here. Kind of. Almost. But Windows Central got one and went hands-on with the latest and greatest Windows Phone anyway. It’s the first Windows Phone to tout both a fingerprint scanner and an iris scanner, and all sorts of high-powered bits.

The Tesla Model 3 is set to start at $35,000. Tesla’s newest Model S option, the P100D, starts at $134,500. It’s just a small difference. But that P100D is the quickest production car on the planet, making it to 60mph in a dizzying 2.5 seconds. If you can afford it… and the inevitable speeding tickets.

So you’re interested in getting into VR, but which headset should you be donning? VRHeads sits down and looks at the desktop-class options to figure out which is better: HTC Vive or Oculus Rift?. It’s a tough call with how many variables are at play here, but rest assured that both are pretty damn cool.

Android Central — New-gat software

Though we’ve had months of Developer previews to play with, Android 7.0 Nougat was finally made official this week. Updates started hitting Nexus devices, and we got to dig into the headline features of the final release version. The Developer Preview track is sticking around, too, and we’re in line for a new version by the end of the year.

If you’re wondering why phones like the Nexus 5 and Xperia Z3 Compact won’t be getting Nougat, Jerry has a great explainer for you. It basically comes down the Snapdragon 800 not offering the right specs for the software, and that’s unfortunate.

Further on in Nougat land, we got a couple more teases of the upcoming LG V20, which will be the first phone to ship with Android 7.0. Google teased it with the launch of Nougat, and a later leak showed off what seems to be another “second” display ticker like the V10.

CrackBerry — DTEKing around the globe

BlackBerry’s rollout of the DTEK50 continued this week. Multiple Canadian carriers have made the device available in-store and across their online store-fronts. Additionally, BlackBerry has now added the device to the BlackBerry Beta Zone which offers up beta versions of BlackBerry’s applications and upcoming OS releases. In other news, BlackBerry’s software business continues to gain momentum with new customers in Australia and New Zealand.

iMore — The age of the zero-day

Both Apple and the iMore staff are getting busier and busier as event season nears, and this week was no exception. The company disclosed and patched three nasty zero-day exploits, released two new betas (one as a result of the aforementioned patch), and had another headphone jack-less rumor come to the forefront. Over on our side, we released our Back to School Gift Guide, took a look at the Logitech Create for the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and dug into the hidden history of educational gaming on the Mac. And on the Network, special guest Jason Snell of Six Colors wonders if betas and leaks have spoiled the magic mystery of Apple events — but if so, it’s probably going to be okay.

Tesla Central — P100D

While everybody might be anxiously waiting for the relatively affordable Tesla Model 3, Tesla’s not stopping work on their much more expensive Model S and Model X electric cars with the introduction of the P100D option. The new 100kWh battery pack makes the Model S now the fastest-accelerating production car ever, with a 0-60 time of a mind-numbing 2.5 seconds.

At the same time, it’s also the longest range production EV ever, with 315 miles on a charge. There’s just one catch: it starts at $134,500. Of course, it’s worth noting that Tesla is using the P100D battery as a testbed for some of the new advanced battery tech that will find its way into the Model 3, so it’s not bad that Tesla’s still tinkering on the high end.

VR Heads — Tripping the Rift

Choosing between the two big Desktop-class VR headsets is no small decision, for several reasons. Arguably the most important of those reasons is that we’re not really at the beginning point for “New VR” yet. Developers are still figuring out what works, and hardware manufacturers are still tweaking to service everyone. It’s an exciting time, which is what makes the choice so hard.

Windows Central — The Elite-ist

Windows 10 Redstone 2 is only beginning but what it packs for features is slowly starting to come into focus. Our exclusive report this week highlighted the return of OneClip – a cross platform copy, paste functionality – as one productivity-focused tool destined for Windows 10.

Our Jez Corden sat down with Xbox marketing chief Aaron Greenberg to discuss the new One S, Beam, and more.

There were no new Fast Ring releases this week, but we did see a Release Preview for a new cumulative update appear.

Finally, the HP Elite x3 superphone with a Snapdragon 820, front-facing speakers, and every bit of technology jammed into is starting to hit store shelves. We did a quick unboxing and compared its fingerprint and iris scanners for performance.

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Everyone wants better support for the phones we’re buying, and not getting it is holding Android itself back.

Here’s a simple truth we all probably know in the back of our minds — you don’t need to get a new version of Android because not much will seem different. The home screen or app drawer may have a tweak or two, and there will be one feature we would like to have, but the apps we use are going to look and function the exact same. The things we do, like messaging or Facebook, won’t use any of the new features developers have available for a while, and apps that do include the latest cool developer feature will be few and far between for quite a while.

That sucks.

Yeah. That really sucks. But there’s nothing most of us can do about it since we’re not building phone operating systems or apps ourselves. And we can’t get mad at the developers who make the apps, because of another simple truth: phones not getting fast updates are hurting the Android platform.

Android only exists to run apps. Poor support for phones limits the people making them.

It’s not hurting us a bit. As mentioned, there’s not as much to look forward to as it sounds on paper, and you don’t have to have the latest version to get maintenance updates. In fact, unless you’re using a phone you bought from Google, the updates from the folks who built it usually bring more to the table than a whole new Android version. What Note 5 user doesn’t want to new interface from the Note 7? Compare that to the number of folks excited about Scoped Directory Access in Android 7.0. (Though Scoped Directory Access is pretty sweet and will make apps safer and run better.) We want things we can see. We want application-focused things like Svelte or Bundled Notifications. We’re getting neither.

All one has to do is look at the number of phones running the last version at the Android Developer Dashboard to see why. When less than 20 or 30 percent of your potential users would be able to benefit from anything new, it’s a much better idea to build your apps for the other 70-plus percent of the market. It will still work for phones on the newer version, and gives you time to make changes and be ready when the cycle repeats for the next big update. There is no rocket science needed on this. But feel free to rocket science the hell out of it if you can because rocket science is cool.

This is the real story of Android fragmentation. Phones with older versions aren’t the issue — it’s the phones with the newer version that are. Crazy. Building apps for different screen sizes and different processors was a lot easier than people made it out to be, and it didn’t even turn out to be the mess that was predicted. Working around all the different versions turned out to be simpler, too. Pick the one with the most users and ignore what’s new. Google has tools to make it easy to stay compatible with the older versions (which will come in handy six months later when it’s finally time to update) and phones with the latest software will still get the same experience as everyone else. And I’m on your side, developers. This is exactly what you should be doing. Work with your market, not against.

The fix is simple and impossible all at the same time. Phones that are going to get updated need to be updated faster. Phones need to be supported longer by the people who took your money. Google has to plan carefully to not exclude any phones unless they absolutely have to.

Google, as the torch-bearer of Android and maintainer, does some of this well. The update cycle has been stretched to one per calendar year, manufacturers and big names in the app space get early access to code changes and new APIs. The vanilla framework and system are regularly updated and patched. All these should make it easier to update the operating system on a phone. The department-of-making-phones, though, is a bit sketchy on the support side and sometimes the reasoning behind it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. They can do better, and they should be doing better. But they are doing something.

Fragmentation works the opposite way we think it should. The updated phones are the ones left out.

And the companies who make the phones we are buying in gigantic numbers aren’t sitting on their laurels all day every day, either. Samsung, LG, and HTC have shown that they can pump out an update fairly quickly while others like Huawei and Sony even show us the progress and let us join the fun through beta programs. But nothing is done consistently. Some models get some things, others get none, and the ones in the middle seem to be in perpetual limbo. Releasing a $90 phone running Lollipop and locking it to that version is fine as long as critical issues are addressed, but the most expensive models need supported longer and updated faster to change things. And for God’s sake please stop making so many different middle-of-the-road models so you have the resources to support the ones you do make. If it’s not on this list, stop making it and instead make one that will be on that list next year. Done. No charge for that market insight.

Nobody can force anyone to change things, nor should anyone be able to. Android is already the most closed open-source project since WebKit. Yeah, I know, being mobile-focused is the reasoning but I’m still allowed to not like it. Only the people making the phones and writing the software for the phones can change any of this, and even then only for their own models. The market research they tout so often to support things like thinner phones with small batteries or that only users outside of North America want dual-SIM models will have to show that what we really want is better support for what we’re buying.

Yes, only enthusiasts are worried about getting the latest update quickly, but everyone wants to have apps with the best features and a phone that doesn’t need to be replaced every 18 months to get them.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |

Android and chill

28 August 2016

Settle in and get comfy. This is how we’re gonna do Saturdays — talking about stuff.

Hey there!

I’m Jerry. I’m a former Electrical Engineer who ended up writing software (like many an EE) and then ended up with a cushy job that lets me work from home and do cool stuff. I’m also a Linux Professional (I love saying that for some reason) which is a fancy term for a masochist. I’ve been here a while, and the people in charge were wise (read: brave?) enough to tell me I can write words about stuff every Saturday. Mostly Android stuff, but there’s a big world out there. I’m also pretty laid back (or I like to think so) about most things. I started writing for Android Central in 2010, and this is my full-time job. Some may recognize my name here, and I’ve even met some of you in real life, which is a hoot.

Long time readers probably have noticed we’ve made a few changes here. Phil Nickinson, the long-time Editor-in-Chief and an awesome SOB that I truly love, has moved on to things that need more Phil added to them. For real. I only know half of what he’s doing, and already love it. He’s still here at Mobile Nations, and we’ll rope him into writing a few words or saying a few things here and there, but now this is our gig. And that’s cool, we got this Phil.

“We” means Dan Bader, the man who has to steer this boat and an all around Rock Star, Alex Dobie (Executive editor for the EU, licensed to thrill and dapperAF), Andrew Martonik (Executive editor for the U.S. and the best damn proofreader in the universe) and me. I’m in charge of touching things until they break, trying to figure stuff out, and talking about Android as a platform instead of just talking about the phones that use it. We’re supported by awesome people, too. All of our writers and contributors work hard to put out quality material, and they make the place better just by being here. It’s turning out to be a great mix of people, and I think we have one of the best teams out there when it comes to Android websites. We’re all doing what we’re good at, and what we enjoy. I love this job. Being surrounded by stuff that needs a battery and people with the same love for their work is part of it, but you are part of it, too. Hell, I’m one of you and I don’t want it any other way.

Now that a few details are out of the way, welcome to Saturday time with Jerry. Let’s talk about stuff.

  • Android 7.0 finally showed up. It’s a big deal for the platform with fundamental changes to the way Android works on the inside, but also polishes some of the details. I like the direction Google is taking Android, and I like the way they seem more serious about improving the experience for all the people who use it. That’s tough because Android isn’t a stand-alone product, and there are all sorts of partners with different ideas. All of it needs to be unified in some ways while letting it be very different in others. Forget about which phone is best or which company has better ideas for software features for a minute — third-party apps from Google Play and certain core Android features need to be great on all of them. Nougat is a step in that direction.
  • Android 7.0 is also just the beginning. There are rumors flying around and we have things we’re bursting to be able to talk about (soon, Alex). If even half of them are true we’ll see Android itself move forward in a different way than we’re used to and Google caring more about its own customers than ever before. Both awesome things that fit well with the tightening of Android itself.
  • The best part is you don’t have to worry about any of it if you like what you have now and how it works. Platform updates on Android are for hardcore enthusiasts and developers for the first six months, and by the time you get an update on your phone or are ready to move on to a new one, it will be ready for you. Letting people who want to be guinea pigs and beta testers do it while you keep on doing what you do is never a bad decision.
  • Why did I not know about this? Ordered.
  • The Note 7 has been around just long enough to gauge some early response from people who buy phones instead of review them. Samsung killed it. Absolutely murdered it. Sure, there are some issues when you dig into the forums where people like to talk about issues, but nothing with a screen has ever been produced that is 100% perfect. Watch all the lag test videos, read all the benchmark scores and discuss them to death, but also know that the Note 7 in your hands is one of the best Android phones you’ll be able to buy in 2016. Yeah, the price is stupid high. But for a lot of folks, it’s going to be worth every penny.
  • I love what The Wirecutter is doing here. Using mAh (milliamp hours) to measure how long a battery will last just doesn’t work well with battery packs or power supplies. I’m going to urge the powers that be to make it so across Mobile Nations.
  • Are you ready for the LG V20? I am. So are my headphones. A head to head between the HTC 10 (my pick of 2016 so far for audio quality) and the V20 is going to happen as soon as I wrap my filthy mitts around one. If LG’s take on Android 7.0 doesn’t turn me off, it could be my daily. Carrying three phones sucks 50% more than carrying two.
  • This is scary. Apple’s response was excellent, but a reminder that world governments have resources we couldn’t imagine and they aren’t afraid to spend them so they can hack a cell phone is always jarring. I hate to think about what the United States is doing. Or England. Or Germany. Hell, it’s all scary.
  • Remember, alt-right, PC culture, establishment and a host of other buzzwords are just that: words. Don’t let the media and their agenda (which is making money at any cost) define you or influence you no matter which side of any issue you’re on. Everything sucks. Everything always sucked. And it always will. I’ve seen presidents get caught spying and covering it up, get shot, get impeached over a blowjob and be tricked into going to war. The one thing I’ve learned from it all is that both sides will do anything to distract you, and the media circus flourishes because of it. You be you and do what you think is right.

We’ll talk again next week. In the meantime, remember we’re all in this together and kindness feels good both ways. Adios.

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 | Posted by | Categories: Android |