Category Archives: Android

Pioneer Brings CarPlay and Android Auto to the After-Market



Pioneer logoPioneer is a brand for well-known for its in-car audio and entertainment systems so it comes as no surprise that the company is bringing a range of after-market units with Apple CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto. Todd and Marlo get a demo of the latest product with Ted Cardenas from Pioneer.

On show here is the freshly-announced Pioneer AVH-4200-NEX, which is one of three products which incorporate both CarPlay and Android Auto. As a result, the display and user interface will take on the persona of the connected device. The in-dash receiver connects to the smartphone using a wired connection as the phones contribute heavily to the running of apps. Plugging in the phones avoids issues with data speeds and keeps the battery charged, though Bluetooth is used in Android Auto for calls.

Voice is heavily used by both the driver to control the NEX and for the system to respond. Voice can be used to compose and listen to text messages, to navigate and to talk to Siri or Google Now. This keeps the need to look at the screen to a minimum and enhances safety.

If your current vehicle’s in-car entertainment system doesn’t support CarPlay or Android Auto, the Pioneer NEX range offers a great way to upgrade to the latest auto technology. Priced at around $700, the AVH-4200-NEX will be available in March.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com and Marlo Anderson rounds up the latest technology news at The Tech Ranch.

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Casio Smart Outdoor Watch



casio logoTo be honest, I’ve been completely underwhelmed by the smartwatches to date but this new Casio WSD-F10 has definitely piqued my interest. In some ways it’s obvious – don’t try to be a smartwatch that looks like an analogue watch. Embrace the digital watch and pump it up to eleven. That’s the way to go. Anyway, enough of my musings, here’s the Casio Smart Outdoor Watch WSD-F10.

WSD-F10 Hero

Casio America, Inc has announced that it will release the WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch, a toughened Android Wear wrist device with 50m water resistance. Well-known for the G-Shock range, Casio has continued to develop wrist devices from digital watches to PDAs and phones.

The new WSD-F10 is designed for the outdoors, boasting water resistance for use in rain and around water (as an aside, 50m is a kind of a notional depth: it’s not actually waterproof to 50m. If you wanted to dive to 50m, you’d need a watch rated to 200m).  Incorporating Casio’s tough performance and sensor technologies, the WSD-F10 delivers a polished experience as a wearable information device.

The WSD-F10 offers a wealth of useful original Casio applications for outdoor activities such as trekking, cycling and fishing. Among these are dedicated apps designed to measure changes in the natural environment and track activity levels. The device is powered by Android Wear, and users can also load their own apps to expand the feature set for diverse outdoor activities.

Mono Dial WSD-F10The watch face features a dual layer display with monochrome and color LCDs. Users can display measurement data and apps in colour, or they can extend the device’s life to more than one month by selecting to a Timepiece Mode that displays only watch data in monochrome. That is such a great idea!

The WSD-F10 also offers the ultimate in ease of use as an everyday watch, making the most of Casio’s years of experience in the timepiece business. The operating buttons are large and feature a slip-free finish so they can easily be operated with gloves on, and they are concentrated on the right side of the case. The wristband is made from soft urethane plastic that conforms to the wrist and can be comfortably worn for extended periods. There are four juicy colours in the range.

WSD-F10 Range

No confirmation as yet on price, but it’s expected to be around US$500 and available in late spring 2016. I want!


Bevel 3D Smartphone Camera Attachment at CES 2016



c2c19d4a2dcda42f24831c2918091871_originalMatter and Form is bringing their newest smartphone photography accessory– the Bevel 3D camera attachment– to CES 2016.

While most other 3D attachments merely create a 3-dimensional illusion by enhancing the depth of a photograph without actually creating a usable file, Bevel allows you to capture real 3D photographs using any smartphone or tablet.

Bevel works by plugging in to your phone or tablet and capturing a panoramic view of the person, place, or object you want to photograph. Bevel’s eye-safe laser light and your device’s camera work in tandem to scan the object and create a stunning 3D image that you can use in countless ways. You can even use Bevel for 3D printing!

Bevel comes in multiple color options (white, orange, green, blue, and black) and is compatible with both IOS and Android smartphones and tablets. It’s currently available for pre-order for $79 here, and is scheduled to begin shipping in early 2016.

Bevel will be at CES 2016  at LVCC, South Hall 2- 26530 in the Augmented Reality Marketplace.

 


The Mobile App Gap



The history of mobile applications dates back to simple games such as Snake, Pong, Tetris, and Tic-Tac-Toe included with candy bar phones.

As phones became “smarter,” Windows Mobile phones of the mid-2000’s and others included the ability to install third-party software, both paid and free.

Next came the era of the high noise level platform app stores that we know and love/hate today. There are tons of both free and paid apps. Some apps are useful to accomplish very specific, pointed tasks with high efficiency. Others apps are arguably less than useless. The good and the bad, the useful and the useless are packaged together in a cacophony of brightly-colored graphics and flowery sales language, all on equal footing and demanding attention. App discovery is often painful, unpleasant and risks device app bloat.

Mobile device ownership and management requires a learning curve. In phase one, the mobile device novice is at high risk of downloading seemingly every app encountered, while actually making use of very little of that which has been installed.

Phase two of the learning curve is typically marked by out of storage memory errors.

Phase three requires the user to decide which useless apps should be deleted so that the mobile device can continue to be updated and/or functional. When deleting apps, there is a tendency for the user to hang on to installed apps if there’s even the most remote of chances that the user might conceivably use the app.

The key test to determine whether a particular app should simply be deleted is to ask yourself whether or not you would reinstall it after a factory reset.

It should be noted that apps that the user has paid for will tend to have a higher psychological value placed on them, regardless of whether they are actually useful or not.

In this noisy mobile app jungle, where crap is right alongside cream, people are trying to squeeze the most out of their mobile devices, to extract the maximum productivity.

Mobile devices make great content consumption devices. Proof is all around us. At any given moment when people are around, how many of those people are absorbed with their mobile devices?

As mobile devices become ever more powerful, the next step in the evolution of the mobile device usage learning curve is revolving around increasing demand to accomplish real-world productivity tasks. While some productivity tasks can be accomplished, others are difficult or impossible – not because of computing power limitations – after all, today’s mobile devices often have quite powerful processors – no, because of software limitations.

Mobile device operating systems have grown larger and more sophisticated along with the more powerful processors. However, there is a problem plaguing both iOS and Android in the form of an app gap. Apps are wannabe pretenders when it comes to genuine software sophistication. No mobile device apps can compare on equal footing with desktop computer software. Both major platforms – iOS and Android – suffer from this problem.

There is nothing stopping software vendors from developing highly sophisticated mobile software, other than the fact that it’s typically just not worth it. For whatever reason, mobile device owners have a pervasive “it has to be free or very low cost” mentality. We are willing to spend upwards of a thousand dollars or even more for a high end mobile device, but balk at the idea of having to pay more than a few dollars for single apps.

If you have ever tried to push a mobile device to better take advantage of its powerful processing capabilities, you quickly run into a problem. Go beyond a certain level of task sophistication, and the apps typically fall flat very quickly. The ultimate test for mobile apps is to take a mobile device and plug it in to a 1080p or higher monitor. Attach a keyboard and if it’s an Android device, attach a mouse or trackpad. Try to use the mobile device and the installed apps like you would a full computer. For example, try to push the experience to its limits by editing a long, complex video and see how well it goes. The mobile software will play back high resolution videos without any trouble at all, but try to do something really productive and things quickly fall apart. The problem isn’t the processor, but the software.

The mobile app gap situation doesn’t look as if it will improve anytime soon. In the meantime, as mobile device owners and users there are a lot of questions we should be asking ourselves.

How much are you willing to pay for mobile device apps? What has been your experience? Have you ever paid for an app and then realized later that it was a waste of money? What is the most you have ever paid for a mobile app and why?

Why are people willing to pay sometimes hundreds of dollars for sophisticated commercial desktop class software without batting an eye, yet close their wallets when it comes to paid apps for mobile devices? Do people perceive mobile devices to have as big of a potential payoff as a desktop or laptop? If mobile computing devices don’t have the same payoff potential as a desktop or laptop, then why not? What is the difference between the two systems? What can be done to increase the potential payoff value of mobile computing devices?


OnePlus X Smartphone



OnePlus LogoOnePlus are back in the limelight with a new phone, the OnePlus X. The first device in a new product line, the X isn’t an out-and-out powerhouse but focuses on high quality materials and great design.

The OnePlus X comes in two variants, the Onyx and the Ceramic. The Onyx consists of jet black glass with a darkened silver aluminum frame and a slightly curved screen. The Ceramic has the same design but is composed of zirconium dioxide ceramic that has been moulded and baked in a 25-day process. As the press release says, “It’s a material that very few have attempted to use in a consumer device and even less have mastered.”

OnePlus X

Specwise the OnePlus X is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 2.3 GHz processor with 3 GB RAM and an Adreno 330 GPU driving a 5″ 1080p AMOLED screen. There’s 16 GB of storage plus a microSD slot. Unlike the OnePlus 2, the X sticks with micro-USB rather than moving to USB C.

As usual with OnePlus, there’s an invite system to order the phone but in a change to the process, this will last for only a month before the X goes on general sale. Invites will be pushed out from 5 November (depending on region) and pricing appears to be US$249, GB£199 or 269€, but there’s an extra premium to pay for the limited edition Ceramic version.

Not sure if X is the letter or 10 in Roman numerals but either way it’s a sweet looking phone at a great price. With luck, GNC will get some hands-on time in the not-too-distant future.


Barriers To Productivity



logosIt’s been just a few days since purchasing a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 256 gigabyte tablet with the type cover. I am finding that I really enjoy the experience. Microsoft really has struck a chord I find myself responding to.

I believe this is the computing experience I have been seeking for a while now. Over the years I’ve had multiple desktop and laptop machines, both Mac and Windows. Certainly over the years I’ve had my fair share of problems with Windows, and to be honest fewer problems with Macs. I’ve also gone through the modern capacitive touchscreen experience with both iPads and Android tablets. The iPad media consumption experience is superior, but newer Android devices have mostly caught up and offer tremendous value for money when compared to over-priced iPads.

As I’ve noted in prior articles, over time I hoped to somehow transform the tablet experience from being perhaps the best media consumption devices developed to date into genuine productivity devices. The sheer portability of a tablet is dramatic when compared to laptops, the necessary bulky laptop bags, and the sheer weight of their accumulated accessories.

After trying three separate Bluetooth keyboards on two different iPad models, I found typing on an undersized netbook-sized keyboard was a notably unpleasant experience. Posting articles to the web from a tablet can be done but it’s not the most pleasant experience without the aid of a mouse.

Laptop computers have shrunk in size in recent years, but a laptop is still a laptop and does not offer the same portability and overall ease of use of a modern tablet. The non-touch, laptops I still bring with me have ended up not being used nearly as much as they once did.

Now that I’ve experienced the sheer portability and convenience of a tablet with a real keyboard and touchpad, I find myself being a lot more productive.

I believe there has been a subtle psychological barrier that has developed over the past few years that has limited my overall computing productivity. The sheer ease of use of touchscreen phones and tablets contrasted with the much more clunky experience of non-touch conventional laptop computing ended up making it easy for me to justify in my own mind being less productive. I would have ideas for articles to write or videos or other media to compile that would necessitate me digging a laptop out of its bag, plugging it in so I wouldn’t run down the battery, booting it up, etc. and this psychological inertia made it easier to just procrastinate instead.

My Windows 10 experience so far has been exemplary. It takes the Surface Pro 3 less than 5 seconds to boot up completely from a cold state. That encourages me to simply turn it off when I’m not using it. I can turn it on and immediately start using it. That’s a far cry from machines of old running off of hard drives. I find it amazing that I have a full, powerful PC that can run real productivity software in a tablet form factor.

The Surface line of computers running the Intel version of Windows is a genuine game changer. I can already hear the howls and catcalls from some quarters, but the combination of Windows 10 and the surface has brought me back actively to the Windows platform.

 


OnePlus 2 Open Sale



OnePlus LogoIf you’ve been thinking about a OnePlus 2 but you’ve been put off by the invite queue, there’s an opportunity to grab the new phone in a series of open sales on Monday 12 October. Spread across four timezones, each sale will be open for only an hour.

OnePlus Open Sale

Asia: 12:00-13:00 HKT
Inda: 12:00-1:00 pm IST (via amazon.in)
Europe: 12:00-13:00 CEST
North America: 12:00-1:00 pm PDT​

I’m currently rocking a OnePlus 2, which I bought with my own money, and I like it. The phone itself is beautifully made, the camera is great and the fingerprint scanner works well. While there have been issues with OxygenOS, OnePlus’ Android fork, the company has regularly rolled out updates (three since launch) which have steadily eliminated problems. Set your alarms for 12 noon!


Coming Full Circle



Surface Pro 3
Surface Pro 3

Over the years I’ve made use of most every personal computing device as it came along. I’ve have been through a long succession of desktop and laptop computers (both Windows and OS/X), along with expensive but rather limited use PDA type devices, and in more recent years smartphones and tablets (both iOS and Android).The capacitive glass touchscreen smartphone era was ushered in by the iPhone. Next came the capacitive glass touchscreen tablet, a device that ate into laptop usage. In the past couple of years larger screen smartphones have taken a bite out of both tablet and laptop usage.

Admit it, it’s happened to you. You are sitting there in front of your desktop or laptop computer with a keyboard and mouse, and you find yourself reaching up and touching the monitor screen trying to pinch and zoom. You are in good company — it’s happened to virtually everyone that’s gotten used to using a capacitive touchscreen phone or tablet.

When I first got an iPad, I realized pretty quickly it was quite good at being a media consumption device. Naturally over time, I found myself trying to figure out ways of doing more with it. It was a bit frustrating, because I almost wanted it to be more of a laptop with real productivity software (not limited “apps”) that I could use a mouse with (specifically forbidden by Apple for use on the iPad).

I have to admit to never using Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. Windows Vista had been such a frustrating experience that around 2006 I jumped over to Apple machines in a big way — three Mac Minis, two Macbooks, one original Apple TV, two iPod Classics, one iPod Touch 4th gen, and two iPads.

Microsoft has to be given credit for trying to blend the capacitive touchscreen interface with the traditional computer interface. Of course, their first attempt at it — Windows 8 and 8.1 — was badly bungled.

With Windows 10, Microsoft has really nailed the blending of the capacitive touchscreen experience with the traditional mouse interface.

Lately I’ve found myself getting excited by the idea of being able to have a high-performance tablet device that could also run real software applications — not just very limited “apps” — that could also function as a desktop class computer. Importantly, real productivity software demands the option of being able to use a mouse instead of fingers if need be. Editing audio or video, for example, demands the precision of a nimble pointing device that can’t be matched by fingers on capacitive glass obscuring the image.

All that being said, I’ve come full circle. I want a high performance tablet that has a great screen, fantastic performance, plenty of storage and a real computer operating system that when attached to a keyboard essentially turns into a high performance laptop computer.

One of the things that has driven me a bit insane about the world of Apple and OS/X (along with iOS) is their penchant for routinely taking valuable things away. I became fairly proficient with Final Cut Express, and Apple arbitrarily decided to stop developing it. For years I used a podcast recording application for OS/X called Ubercaster that pretty much stopped working with OS/X Lion, and the developer stopped developing it. My choice was to stop upgrading OS/X or stop using Ubercaster with no one piece of software that could directly replace it.

My Macbook Pro 17″ from 2007 still works, except the moust button is stuck in the “on” position, rendering it useless. I could get it fixed, but the machine is at least 8 years old and has a high-hour LCD — probably not worth spending any money on at all.

I am not very loyal when it comes to brands or technology. Though I started out with DOS and Windows and mostly moved over to OS/X about 9 years ago, I can easily move back to Windows.

Two days ago I purchased a Microsoft Surface 3 Pro tablet and keyboard with a 256 gigabyte SSD. So far, the experience has been great. The Microsoft keyboard offers a great typing experience. Unlike the cramped and compromised netbook sized keyboards, the optional Surface Pro 3 keyboard works as well as any laptop keybaord I’ve ever used.

To Microsoft’s credit, much vintage/legacy software works just fine on Windows 10. Adobe Audition 1.5, which is at least 10 years old at this point, loaded and functions on Windows 10.

I now have a 12″ high resolution tablet that offers incredible performance. It can turn completely on and off in seconds. I can use it either as a tablet or as a laptop. I have a capacitive touchscreen that I can pinch and zoom if I want, but I’ve also got a touchpad and mouse cursor, completely my choice — whatever I reach for without having to think about it.

I don’t know about anyone else, but the two-in-one experience — a tablet that can function as a high performance laptop — is the new next step in the ongoing story of my usage of computing devices.

 


Android 6 Marshmallow – Meh!



Marshmallow LogoGoogle’s new motto might be “Do the Right Thing” but after loading Marshmallow on my Nexus 9 tablet last night I’m wondering if Google did anything at all. With a 700MB download I was expecting something new and fresh from Google but I can’t tell the difference between the previous version Lollipop and Marshmallow.

Both Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and Lollipop (5.0) introduced a new look at the same time as the upgrade but with Marshmallow (6.0) the only difference I can see is that the app drawer scrolls vertically instead of paging horizontally. It’s still Material Design and that scrolling comes as part of the launcher, not the OS itself.

Google has improved the volume controls and Google on Tap is interesting but it’s not a killer feature and needs work. Too often it picks up on the wrong thing. I’m sure it’ll get better over time but right now it’s uninspiring.

Overall, Marshmallow is to Lollipop what Jelly Bean and KitKat were to Ice Cream Sandwich. There’s not enough to Marshmallow to justify a full version number upgrade and there would be no beef if Marshmallow was 5.2 rather than 6.0. It’s a fine incremental update though labelling it as 6.0 sets unrealistic expectations as to what it delivers. Meh!

If you’ve got Marshmallow on your Nexus, what do you think?

For reference, here are the Android versions with monikers and year of release. It’s come a long way in five years.
2.2 Froyo (2010)
2.3 Gingerbread (2011)
4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (2011)
4.1, 4.2 & 4.3 Jelly Bean (2012-2013)
4.4 KitKat (2013)
5.0 & 5.1 Lollipop (2014-2015)
6.0 Marshmallow (2015)


Google, There’s Something Wrong With My Nexus



Google LogoThis morning I discovered Google has changed the way the app drawer works on Nexus devices without any warning. Instead of scrolling horizontally in pages, the drawer now scrolls vertically in a single large page. Yesterday it worked the old way, today it works the new way. Google sneaked this in via the Play Store’s auto-update feature.

Note the scroll bar now on the right rather than the dots at the bottom.

New Google Drawer

Seriously, Google, what were you thinking? This is a key part of the user interface and you just changed it. There’s no “Excuse me, here’s a new feature you might want to try out” or apparently any option to change back. It doesn’t matter if it’s better or not, you should have asked. That’s arrogance Apple would be proud of.

It’s the Google Now launcher that’s changed so let’s check what’s waiting in Google Play on another device. Here’s some Google stuff waiting but it’s not the Now Launcher. Checking anyway… nope, no mention of the change there.

Screenshot_2015-09-26-11-39-59  Screenshot_2015-09-26-11-40-30

Google, if you want people to have auto-update turned on in the Play Store, you have to be trusted not to do something stupid and push an unwanted update that materially impacts on the way they use the device.

If anyone wants a new launcher, check out Nova Launcher. It’s much better…