Android 5.1 Launches On Nexus Devices

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Android 5.1 Lollipop Arrives

This week on the Official Android Blog, Android Lollipop 5.1 was announced with some minor, but well deserved modifications to Lollipop 5.0.

Dum_Dums_Lollipops

 

A small list of some of the changes:

  • Voice-Over-LTE (Currently supported on T-Mobile and Verizon)
  • HD Voice (Currently supported on T-Mobile and Verizon)
  • Device Protection (Remote locking similar to iCloud lock on iOS products)
  • Better Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Quick-toggles
  • Support for Multi-SIM devices

Android 5.1 is currently being pushed to Nexus 5, 6, 7, 10. If you want this latest firmware the best place to download it is from HERE

Source from Official Android Blog

A couple things i have noticed with android 5.1 are that it runs much smoother on my Nexus 6. Apps and browser windows load quicker which I really like. It also seems like the encryption on the Nexus 6 kind of slowed down the device but with Android 5.1 it is working normal again even with the encryption.  There are also a lot of little animations that make it a much nicer experience.

Samsung “Next Is Now” S6/Edge

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Samsung Galaxy S6 and Edge

Plastic.

Band-Aid.

Cheap.

Just some words that many have used to describe Samsung’s Galaxy line of phones in the past. This year, Samsung has changed that notion and flipped the tables on its design philosophy.

 

The Samsung Galaxy S6 in the flesh.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 in the flesh.

 

 

The Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge are made out of metal and gorilla glass 4, which wraps the front and back sides of the devices, with the metal around the sides where one would hold the phone. Obviously to most, the name isn’t the only difference between Samsung’s flagship variants, but two curved edges come with the S6 edge. Unlike the recent Galaxy Note Edge which was slanted on one side and took away button real-estate, the S6 edge also is only partway skewed, giving the user room on the sides to hold the device comfortably along the metal sides.

It’s not just the outside that changed though; Samsung has opted for their own silicon this time around using an 2.1 Ghz 14nm Exynos Octa-core processor (64 Bit of course). They’ve also become the first smartphone to include DDR4 memory and UFS 2.0 storage. Without getting nitty gritty in the nerd speak here, this means insanely fast storage with speeds never before seen in a smartphone’s flash memory, faster operations, and much improved battery usage overall.

Samsung has stuck with a 16MP shooter, but are now using Optical Image Stabilitzation (OIS) for un-shaking those photos and an F1.9 lens. Again, not getting down and dirty with specs, the low light quality on this should be insane, and the camera a noticeable improvement over the Galaxy S5. The same lens is also on the 5MP front facing wide-angle camera.

Real life battery usage will take time to see. The Galaxy S6 rocks a 2550 mAh battery while the S6 Edge a 2600 mAh, only a trivial  50 mAh difference. The big change this time around, Samsung has built in a competitor to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge technology. They are claiming 4 Hours of battery life in only 10 minutes on the charger, quite a claim to make! Another inclusion is Wireless Charging and not just one, but two technology are inside. What this means for the end user, is any wireless charging station is going to work just fine, and no more worrying about what a “Qi” is.

Some other additions are Samsung Pay, a serious competitor to Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Not only does it support NFC payments, Samsung Pay supports MagStripe Transfer. Any place that accepts sliding a credit card, will accept Samsung Pay. This is amazing news, with many locations blocking NFC payments for nefarious or unknown reasons. The other addition a new fingerprint scanner, now touch based rather than swiping. This is a key part of Samsung Pay, since it encrypts everything with your fingerprint stored locally on your device, never going to some untrustworthy server.

Overall, Samsung has made some serious strides, but as you may have noticed they have discontinued external storage, water resistance, and removable battery support. This may seem like a deal-breaker to some, but with new charging methods and 3 storage options the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge seem like the phone to want, as of today.

 

 

Specs List:

2.1 Ghz Octa-core Exynos Processer (14nm Process).
16MP F1 w/ OIS back facing. 5MP F1 front facing.
3GB DDR4 memory.
UFS 2.0 storage in 32GB/64GB/128GB configurations.
Wireless charging and NFC.
2550 S6/2600 edge mAh battery.
5.1″ 1440p SuperAMOLED display.
Fingerprint scanner (touch based).
Colors: White Pearl, Black Sapphire, Gold Platinum, Blue Topaz.

The Galaxy S6 and S6 edge are planned to launch April 10th, 2015 in 20 countries initially.

Samsung and HTC MWC Events – Where To Watch

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March 1st is the beginning of smartphone announcement season! We’re all very excited at RootJunky and there’s been plenty of rumors floating around getting everyone salivating with anticipation.  Both Samsung and HTC have events tomorrow morning at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain and both will be live-streaming their events!

Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2015

9:30AM Pacific/11:30AM Central/12:30PM Eastern 3-1-15

Link to YouTube LiveStream

HTC Utopia in Progress

7:00AM Pacific/9:00AM Central/10:00AM Eastern 3-1-15

Link to YouTube LiveStream

T-Mobile’s Latest Uncarrier Move: Data Stash!

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Uncarrier 8.0 is the latest in a line of T-Mobile’s brand of trying to fix the wireless industry for all consumers, not just their own. CEO John Legere spoke with David Progue of Yahoo Tech today for this latest event, which you can find here.

Keeping in mind, that on T-Mobile’s tiered post-paid data if you run out of data you are never charged an overage; instead, you’d be slowed to lower speeds for the rest of the month.

This latest move, is rollover data! “Data Stash.” It seems as if you’re on a 2 GB for example, and use 1 GB in a month, the rest would rollover to your “data stash” of extra high-speed data so next month you’d essentially be on a 3GB plan, and so on and so on.

When you pay extra for data you should keep it! All Lines 3GB and above get Data Stash, only from @tmobile. Also 10GB free data to start.

T-Mobile will be giving 10 GB free for new customers in their “data stash.”

Source: T-Mobile Newsroom

Sony Xperia Z3 – Does it live up to its promises?

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Sony’s Xperia Z3 (along with its Xperia Z3v) is their latest attempt at breaking into the mainstream US smartphone market. They make a lot of promises with the device, but does it really live up to its 2-Day battery, 20.7 MP camera, immersive front-facing speakers, and fun gaming sessions with Playstation 4 Remote Play? Let’s find out.

Battery

Quite possibly the biggest claim of their Z3 flagship is the 2-Day battery life. Unfortunately for the time had with this device, it quite simply is not the case. Being quite blunt, this battery does not even last 1-Day for a power user. Besides Display killing battery as per norm on most devices, on the Z3 there is something that has to be wrong with Bluetooth. More explained later about that; Android Wear is heavily draining the battery on the Z3 and eating up CPU cycles for seemingly no reason at all. In this case a Moto 360 is connected and is also being used for trusted Bluetooth device unlock, a feature that hopefully isn’t causing this issue for how convenient it is to not have to enter a passcode or PIN lock when you’re Bluetooth device is nearby. For example, just this morning by 11AM the Z3 had 28% of its battery life taken from Android Wear. Resetting the Moto 360 and re-installing the Android Wear app seems to not do anything to alleviate the problem. It’s evident from other users on XDA-Developers.com that not everyone is having the same problems with their Z3, so to each their own.

Camera

Megapixels aren’t everything when it comes to a smartphone camera. Although, with the Xperia Z3 that is definitely the case! Sony has decided to go with an Auto camera mode that takes a few 20.7 MP images and down-samples them into a 8 MP image. In theory this is a good thing, it makes better wide-screen ratio’d images and saves memory on the device, but what if you have a large microSD slot and want to take full advantage of the 20.7 MP shooter? This camera doesn’t disappoint and it probably the strongest feature of the Z3 (when you use Manual mode to set the higher resolution!). Pictures are worth a thousand words of course, so below are some samples of some festive scenes and the San Diego Zoo Safari park that were taken with the Manual setting. As well, you will find a 4K Tiger and a 720p Time-Shift video of a waterfall.

Audio Quality

Normally, headphones are included with modern day smartphones, but not in the T-Mobile variant of the Sony Xperia Z3. So for better or for worse, the dual-front facing speakers were used for this review. Music videos that take advantage of stereo in quiet environment sound great. However, the speaker settings are not calibrated at all. 0-80% is near silent, 90% is OK in quiet places… and 100% is extremely loud. Not just extremely loud though, but it sounds horribly blown out and distorted at 100%. The same goes for in-call quality! A choice must be made between loud and tingy or too low of a volume for normal humans to hear. Most of the phone calls were over HD Voice, but as soon as it went to standard voice quality it makes the user strain to understand anyone on the phone call. Its a darn shame that some smartphone manufacturers ignore the phone part and just focus on the smart.

Remote Play

Disappointment is an understatement, Remote Play can be described by one word unplayable. Sony’s Hero feature for this device was its compatibility with PS4 Remote Play. For their credit, they did turn it on before their original November date it was slated to be released, but its downhill from there. A bit about the test environment: A Playstation 4 hard-wired by ethernet connection to an AC router, a Z3 connected via said AC router, a DualShock 4 controller connected video Bluetooth, and a frustrated Destiny gamer. When using the Remote Play app’s on-screen control buttons there is little to no noticeable input lag… that is NOT the case when using the DualShock 4 gamepad from Sony. 1 second of input lag with a gamepad makes Destiny a horrible experience and anyone playing in such an environment would be quickly overrun by enemy Fallen, Hive, Vex, and Guardians in the Crucible alike. On top of the terrible input lag, the Z3’s WiFi range is also just plain terrible. Even 10 feet from the AC router there were disconnects from the Playstation 4. In comparison, this same environment and router was used for an Nvidia SHIELD streaming which is also 720p@60FPS and there was no input lag or disconnect issues. Sony needs to step up their game when it comes to Remote Play and its unacceptable to advertise it as the Xperia Z3’s saving grace.

Software

Every OEM like to put their own skin on Android, Motorola absent, and Sony is no different. However, their skin is mostly just a UI change and everything runs silky smooth. There is one major thing that Sony should really advertise some more and that is Xperia Themes. Any user can go into the Play Store and download themes that can change a ton of the look and feel of the device, no root and sometimes no cost needed! A great example is the Android L theme that can be purchased for the pro version here or given a test run with the free version here. It changes the soft-keys along the bottom to look just like Android Lollipop’s shapes and when combined with the Google Now Launcher, 8SMS, and the Google Keyboard give a very smooth and stock Android-like experience without having to root or unlock any bootloaders. Speaking of rooting and bootloaders, you won’t be doing anything on the T-Mobile version of the Z3 or the Z3v as of the time of this review. The current version of Android on both is 4.4.4 Kitkat, and Sony claims to be updating the Z3 to Lollipop in late first quarter 2015. Compare this to Samsung’s claim of December and you’ll see that’s a very slow update turnaround if even the masters of UI overhauls and bloat can get it done by the new year!

Screen

Sony, like Motorola with the Moto X 2014, thankfully did not fall for the trap of 1440p smartphone displays. The Z3 has a 5.2″ @ 1080p screen that brings a dpi of 423 (keep in mind, Apple considers Retina on a smartphone 300 dpi and above, and they aren’t wrong!). Anything past 400 dpi is honestly not worth the horsepower required to keep up with it. For example, the DROID Turbo with the Snapdragon 805 @ 1440p could last even longer and run even faster with 1080p. Instead of going with the same 423 dpi if they had a 1080p display like the Z3, they went for a dpi of 564. Its quite wasteful and I hope this doesn’t become the norm from now on. As for the quality of the screen, coming from the Samsung Galaxy S 5’s Super AMOLED display, the Xperia Z3’s IPS LCD screen is bland and the white’s appear quite grey.

Body & Buttons

With a 5.2″ screen and large bezels on the top and bottom, the Z3 is almost impossible to use one handed. Thankfully, Sony decided to put the power, volume, and dedicated camera key on the middle of the right-side of the phone so its not difficult to reach them. Also, a fun feature they don’t really advertise is Double-Tap to turn on the display, a feature borrowed from LG and stock Android L, but definitely a welcome one! User beware! The back of the Xperia Z3 is made of a glass material and is quite slippery. Get a case for this one or be at risk of it slipping out of the hands when trying to snap a pic or when taking out of a pocket. The material looks nice, but its definitely not worth the risk of cracking one of the two pieces of glass the phone is made out of. Water resistance is a requirement these days, and its no surprise that the Xperia Z3 is advertised heavily as such. There was no water resistance test done for this review, but that’s mainly since this is a personal pre-order device and not a review unit.

Bottom Line

Should a consumer looking for a smartphone in November 2014 purchase a Sony Xperia Z3? I’ll leave that choice up to the user. The review experience turned from positive initially into a fairly negative one, and this phone will be turned ASAP and be replaced soon by a Nexus 6.

 

Picture and Video Samples

 

Evening Macro shot of a rose.
Pumpkin Test Image
Low lighting macro’s with flash works quite well.
Taken in direct sunlight.
Evening scene with a spooky Hello Kitty!
Entrance to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Check out the 4K Video Test by clicking the Tiger.
Don’t zoom in! The Xperia Z3’s kryptonite. Zoomed 1/2
Paw-In-Mouth. Embarrassing photo. Zoomed 2/2

 

The Moto 360 & Android Wear: After a week

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Reposted from my Google+ page.

So here’s my first weeks impression with the Moto 360, but also Android Wear in general:

Things that I loved:
Seeing all my notifications come to my watch, so I didn’t have to dig around for my phone in my pocket, unlock it with the passcode, etc.

Replying to messages! (when it works). Google Now’s voice recognition is absolutely great on the Moto 360. It’s at least just as good than as a phone or tablet, if not even better. Of course, nothing is perfect. Sometimes it can get words wrong in a noisy place, but that’s to be expected.

Customizing a watchface. I was referred to Facer for Android Wear (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jeremysteckling.facerrel) and fell in love with its easy to use interface for making a totally unique watchface that works the way you want it to. You can very easily download and share watchfaces within the app and on the Reddit sub-section for Facer. The Developer is very receptive to suggestions and is always looking for ways to improve. Personally, I prefer a digital watchface and I wasn’t a fan of what the watch came with for those choices. I realize I’m probably in the minority for getting the circular watch and only using digital watchfaces though!

My personal watchface of choice. Great on battery consumption!
My personal watchface of choice. Great on battery consumption!

Battery. Yes, the battery is fine! I use the watch with Ambient turned OFF. This is key. The watch is basically sleeping with the screen off until you flick your wrist up to check the time, tap on the screen, or get a notification. Some folks may prefer Ambient with the screen always on, but I’d rather it last all day…and it has! I’ve not had it die on me in any of the days using it, and I’ve not given up anything other than Ambient. I’ve used it as a GPS companion, controlling music, replying to many messages, receiving them, and all with getting 10-30% by the end of the day. The 10% day was cutting it close, but from 8am to 1am I consider that pretty good!

Things I didn’t love as much:
Notifications get cut off sometimes by the not-so-360 screen of Moto 360. Traffic times and address locations especially. It almost seems like they designed Android Wear specifically for square displays and changed it at the last minute to work on circular ones. Which is probably the case.

The first day I had a major charging issue. It resolved itself by charging overnight, but stressed me out and made me think my new watch was defective. Thankfully, it wasn’t. Motorola was very quick to offer help in the case it didn’t get fixed by an overnight charge which was wonderful to hear. They don’t let ya down!

 

The battery charging issue had the watch going from dead to 8% to dead, repeating almost hourly.

For development, having USB access would have been wonderful. You can use ADB over Bluetooth, but without USB access you cannot get any files flashed with Fastboot mode, which means even if a root exploit came out for the Moto 360/Android Wear, you’d be S.O.L. if you screwed something up and couldn’t flash back the stock firmware.

It’s hard to find still! People can’t seem to find them in stock in their Best Buy’s as much as they try. This is technically a good thing for Motorola and Android Wear in general that they are so popular, but at least for now it makes it harder to get into the hands of other folks who want them.

The stock texting app for the Samsung Galaxy S 5 cannot use the Reply function on the Moto 360. I’m sure I could find another app that can, and this is probably just an issue on Samsung’s end, but its sad that it doesn’t work.

Android Wear devices are all lacking Speakers. Coming from a Galaxy Gear with one, it feels like Android Wear is running on mute all the time, and its sorely missed.

My last not-so-favorite thing is that the Trusted Device unlock method seems to only work for the Moto X (2nd Gen). This is something I grew to love with my Samsung Galaxy Gear + Samsung Galaxy S 5. Not having to enter a passcode and still be secure is incredibly useful and time-saving.

Would I recommend the Moto 360?
I’ve gotten this question a lot and to be honest there is no clear cut answer for this one. Do you want a companion to your Android smartphone for more easily accessible notifications? Do you want Google Now on your wrist? Are you OK with only a single day battery life? Are you OK with spending $249 on it? If yes is the answer to all those questions, go for it (if you can find one!). If not, hold off for a second generation product. The Moto 360 is a great product, but certainly not a Must-Buy for everyone out there.

I hope my experiences with the Moto 360 can help someone out there make a decision for themselves on the watch and other devices out there. Thanks for reading and feel free to comment below on your thoughts and feelings about the Moto 360 and Android Wear!

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