Android Wear: iOS Music Controls

XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG has been working on pairing Android Wear with iOS for some time now. He recently implemented notification mirroring, battery notifications, and music playback control, allowing you to to control iOS music playback from your Android watch!

iOS Handling Code Found in Android 4.4 for Wear

XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG, popularly known in the forums for his wide variety of Xposed Modules, found an iOS handling code on Android Wear 4.4W. While the developer has not yet checked for this in recent Wear releases, we can speculate that Google is indeed working on iOS support for Android Wear.

Fix Untinted Recent Panels on Lollipop

Panels in the redesigned recent apps screens are tinted based on the app’s colors, but many don’t use this feature yet. XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG wrote Tinted Recent Panels to fix untinted panels by extracting the color from apps’ icons. Check it out!

Watches: Luxurious Frivolity vs. Humble Practicality

Smartwatches still have a lot of growing up to do. Not too long ago the latest Canalys figures revealed a rather disappointing outcome for 2014, something we covered with the ultimate conclusion that, once again, smartwatches had no year. The direction of smartwatches is unclear to even the biggest OEMs, and with every new option there seems to be polarizing dissonances from what people and OEMs want and what they both think they want. We’ve documented many of the reasons as to why Wear hasn’t had the traction it should have had, but Wear isn’t alone.

The core of the matter is that there’s no absolutely compelling package just yet. They all lack something, and with smartwatches the faults intensify. Bad build quality would wear out the constantly-exposed gadget rather fast, and poor battery life would just add further unnecessary constraints. Then things like a slow processor can further detract from the experience in a bigger magnitude than it does with smartphones: if smartwatch interactions are meant to be short 5 second sessions, a 1 second stutter would hurt you more than it would on the longer smartphone uses. Lastly, it is also clear that a bad design would not benefit anyone, given the thing will be strapped to your wrist throughout the day for everyone – and yourself – to see, unlike the pocket-hidden smartphones.

Smartwatch or a smarter watch?

All these features need to come together, and as far as I know, nobody has gotten it right just yet. This week we saw two very, very enticing additions to the smartwatch game: the Pebble Time and the LG Watch Urbane. It is kind of ironic (but understandable, given MWC’s proximity) that these two would be unveiled so closely, as they are the polar opposites of smartwatch paradigms. Let’s look at the LG Watch Urbane – what does it bring that’s new? Well, it is clear to everyone that it is simply just a prettier G Watch R. A good-looking, well-built metal G Watch R, and nothing more; at least nothing more that matters. Everything Wear does, and everything Wear will do, this does and will do too. Its only differentiation is its appearance. Then we have the Pebble Time, and rather than appearance it focuses on the user experience with a revamped interface on a revamped operating system. That is its differentiation, but in doing so it didn’t pay much attention to what the Watch Urbane focused on so fervently.

These two paradigms are not entirely conflicting, but they are unquestionably fragmenting the smartwatch customer base. The Watch Urbane’s appeal comes solely from its luxurious look, but from what we know and expect there will be nothing else to talk about it. If you look at its product video, you’ll notice it shows zero software features. Hell, if you didn’t know it was a Wear smartwatch beforehand, you would probably end up a little confused as it only shows watchfaces, all but one being analogue. It just looks like a watch, which is fine – but they didn’t even try to make it look like a smartwatch (it’s more of a smartwatch, I’d say). In this regard, I feel like manufacturers like LG are simply, or at the very least increasingly, trying to cater to those who want something pretty on their wrist that additionally acts as a notification center. While this sector of the market is definitely one to look after, solely catering to these consumers kind of drabs Wear innovation in a way.

But then you’ve got Pebble. From the very start, their goal was to make a smartwatch, and they succeeded. Their original kickstarter was a rotund success in 2013, having gathered over 10 million dollars (10 times more than they had set the goal for), and selling over 1 million devices since it hit the market that year. Their formula for success was focusing on usability and reach: Pebble doesn’t discriminate as much as Wear does, and it doesn’t need awesome tweaking to get it to work on iOS. This would understandably increase their number of possible customers, and dramatically so given that it is the only worthwhile smartwatch option on iOS for the time being.  Pebble’s humble design and e-ink display do wonders at keeping the price low and the battery alive, but nevertheless the sector that wants a smartwatch mostly see it as unworthy of their wrist. The Pebble Steel did alleviate that with a more elegant design, but when you’ve got options like the Moto 360 roaming, it’s a hard sell for those that want something more stylish.

Paradigms

Why do they adopt these different strategies? For one, I think that Google’s tight control on Wear hurts innovation. While I originally loved the idea of fast, homogeneous updates, I am personally starting to reconsider my stance: manufacturers like Motorola and LG have amazing amounts of resources that they could pour onto the software aspect, to help innovate smartwatches as a whole; by having Google carefully dominate the future of Wear, their deviating ideas can’t bring original new features to the platform – because the option isn’t there, so they don’t have much of a reason to develop them themselves and we aren’t aware of any incentives for collaboration either. Take Samsung, for example: their Tizen offering on their latest smartwatches, like the Gear S, is actually very fleshed out and has some great additional functionality not seen on Wear, such as calling (speakers included), built-in web-browsing and HERE navigation which is a promising real-time tracking alternative for GPS. None of this is present on Wear, for some good or bad reasons. And while Wear is all about short interactions, some of the additional functionality is rather practical and pushes the capabilities of the platform – something Wear severely lacks.

So much like the Android forks often presented new great features that eventually made it to AOSP, some Wear forks could achieve the same. But the heart of the matter is that we don’t even need Wear OS forks, just OEM software. The freedom for them to release new services as stand-alone modules or applications is there, but they don’t exploit it. If each OEM would dedicate fractions of time of their software divisions to smartwatches, we would see a lot of additional innovation and diversity without necessarily having the downsides that full-blown forks would entail. Instead, the Wear OEM wagon focuses on the hardware, and the software feels like an afterthought that they flash at the end of the assembly line. They built the hardware around the appearance rather than the user experience – and that’s fine. But even after getting the latest Wear update on my Gear Live, I can’t help but feel that Wear is incredibly dull, and knowing that the dullness permeates throughout every single Wear device is kind of discouraging me from future investments into the platform.

My perception on Wear was further rectified when I saw the new Pebble Time kickstarter, which was anything but dull on the software side. The new “Timeline” is colorful and charming, and while the animations run at 30 frames-per-second on what looks like a Gameboy Color screen, I am completely sold on the concept. What’s to love the most about this product, however, is its focus on the user experience, and how the hardware is built around that. Rather than forcefully cram in all the components on a beautiful chassis like the Moto 360 did, they focused on the guts and what the guts did. The phone is a battery-filled little square and that’s good enough for a smartwatch. Where as the design of the Moto 360 was so intricately gorgeous that it took funds from the battery (bad endurance), screen (bad density) and processor (bad performance and drain), this one seemingly has no compromises to the experience it tries to deliver.

But this is not to say it doesn’t have compromises: the design is hideously cheap-looking. It is not horrible, mind you, but it looks like something you’d find at a bargain bin at a cheap bazaar. Whereas Wear OEMs are trying to pull out increasingly gorgeous designs, I think this is a step backwards for Pebble, given the improvements (shown on the left) they had going for them with the Pebble steel. Now, the software itself doesn’t look bad, which is a major plus, but the black bezels around it, with further uninspired metal ones surrounding that as well make for something that is clearly outclassed by most other options as far as aesthetics go. But there is something really amazing that should be discussed a little more about this watch’s aesthetics: its always on color e-paper screen. We tackled the issue of dimmed screens for Wear previously, based on the idea that the black-and-white ambient mode hurt the otherwise great aesthetic of wear devices. This watch employs the kind of alternative solutions we had discussed in that article to deliver readable, beautiful, colorful and expressive watchfaces at all times, which I find a big plus as a Wear owner.

For Better or Worse

I think that these paradigms have their pros and cons. On one side, Pebble’s approach allows the tech-savvy to get a great deal of a watch (function) and a great deal out of said watch (function). The new timeline features look intuitive, well designed and the inspiration they took from Wear’s vertical alignment of information is super obvious. The fact that they are also casting away the emphasis from the app-based system of the original Pebble also reminds me of Wear’s approach. In this sense, I feel like Pebble is doing what Google can’t or refuses to do – and that is providing dramatic improvements and optimizations to the system. The fact that Pebble also has mic support for notification responses as well as all the physical buttons can make navigation and practicality all that it can be.

But the Wear OEMs are offering us something that is probably more attractive to the mainstream public, given that Wear has been doing pretty well despite its little pragmatic incentive. It is also obvious that those looking for a wearable Android have a big bias for design: despite the Moto 360’s failure of a launch, the controversy surrounding its battery life and performance, and the many build quality complaints, the device still managed to become the staple of smartwatches and the best-selling Wear watch of 2014. It is just beautiful, and no time-line or 7-day battery life will top that for some people. But with Wear’s evolution crawling slowly and Pebble suddenly re-inventing itself with what looks to be the smartest watch yet, are we going to take more notice on what Wear needs?

The capabilities of smartwatches are severely limited. Personally, I only use my watch for notifications and the occasional voice note, reminder and alarm. The hundreds of flappy bird clones or calculator apps mean little to me in this regard. Watchfaces, however, are important as in the end it is a smartwatch, and half the appeal of regular watches come from the diverse and expressive aesthetics. LG’s pretentiously champagne-y commercial could entice those that want a new trendy tech wearable that looks classy, but at the end of the day Pebble nailed the smartwatch better than what Wear has accomplished, and now it’s going for more. LG might surprise us with an undisclosed OS for their LTE Urbane variant, but until we have further details we can’t speculate on that. I see both paradigms as being so polarizing that it may hurt the development of what we want and need on wearables.  And finding the right balance is not just hard, but expensive, and would most likely result in expensive watches. Manufacturers are constrained by these expenses, and every dollar that goes into design adds a fraction of a a dollar to the price. Same goes for specifications and software. Evening them out must be a hard task, but when you see a new watch that entirely focuses on a new design rather than the innovation the platform deeply needs, at the expense of a ridiculous price point, you know they aren’t trying hard enough, or listening.

I don’t want a smartwatch or a smartwatch. I want a smartwatch and I’m sure the market does too. Until someone comes through and gives us just that, I don’t think we’ll be ready for mass adoption.

 

AcDisplay and HeadsUp: Better Notification Handling

We’ve featured both HeadsUp and AcDisplay by XDA Recognized Developer AChep in the past. Both have been constantly improved since they were released, and with the recent updates for better Lollipop support and material design, we figured it would be a good time for a double feature.

The two apps are excellent for handling your notifications, each in their own and distinct manner.

AcDisplay

AcDisplay informs you of new notifications you receive while your screen is off, by showing you a minimal overview allowing you to view, clear or action the notification.

Many customization options are provided: you can set the minimum and maximum priority of notifications to be shown (this is useful so that your screen doesn’t wake up for weather updates, for example) or even configure AcDisplay on a per app basis, choosing a custom wallpaper (or dynamically picking the notification’s icon/artwork), using the system font (as opposed to Roboto) and more. Inactive hours can also be defined to disable AcDisplay entirely during your sleep.

Two additional modes are also available, giving you the choice to use AcDisplay as your lockscreen, or automatically activating it when you pick your device up. Both of these options can also be dynamically disabled when no notifications are available.

HeadsUp

HeadsUp, on the other hand, is more comparable to the feature introduced in Lollipop, though it adds many needed features and customization options to it.

When it comes to looks, you can select from two themes (dark and light). That’s not all, though: you also have the option to configure the heads up’s position, having it show at the top or bottom of the screen, and optionally overlaying the status bar. Emoji can also be enabled, as well as using the system font (mostly useful for non AOSP ROMs).

Swiping to the right or left can either dismiss the notification or hide the heads up — this is configurable by the user. Swiping up always hides all heads up notifications. Naturally, you can disable or enable HeadsUp for each app individually. A neat addition over the stock heads up system is that multiple notifications can be displayed at once, instead of replacing the previous one.

(If you’re on Lollipop and your ROM doesn’t allow you to disable the stock heads up system, you may want to try the Restore notification ticker on Lollipop Xposed module by XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG.)

Both are compatible with all devices running Android 4.1 or later, though 4.3+ is recommended as it introduces notification listeners (giving third-party apps the ability to clear notifications and letting them know when one is cleared).

What’s New?

Versions 3.x have been out for a few weeks (with the latest releases coming out just yesterday), with bugs being squashed along the way and some features making it in. They should be fully usable now, with many changes since the 2.x releases.

For those who haven’t been following their development, here’s what’s new in 3.x for AcDisplay:

  • Material design!
  • Basic JellyBean (4.1&4.2) support.
  • Options to show emoji instead of text smileys, for overriding system fonts and better privacy features when Android’s secure lock is enabled.
  • Many other improvements, bug fixes and translation updates.

… and for HeadsUp:

  • Material design!
  • Options to make heads up overlap the status bar, show at the bottom of the screen or on the lockscreen, and to disable the timeout entirely. The behavior when swiping to the left or right can also be customized.
  • Users can swipe up to hide all heads up.
  • Many other improvements, bug fixes and translation updates.

(You can view the full changelog for HeadsUp here, and for AcDisplay here.)

 

 

 

Get Them Now!

AcDisplay and HeadsUp are both open source and published under the GPLv2+. You’re welcome to check them out or contribute: HeadsUp GitHub repo, AcDisplay GitHub repo.

Interested? Make sure to visit the HeadsUp forum thread and AcDisplay forum thread for more info, downloads and support!

Xposed Modules to Install Right Now on Lollipop

Unless you’ve been bootlooping during all of yesterday, you probably heard about Xposed gaining Lollipop support at long last. This was no easy task for super-star XDA Senior Recognized Developer rovo89, and ever since the release of the newest Android version we’ve had little information regarding development, which prompted many to believe it might never make it to our newest Android, or that we wouldn’t see anything like it soon. But rovo89 proved good things don’t have to end, and he surprised us all with a teaser last week that has now materialised into a new breakthrough in Android development history.

PSA: Xposed for Lollipop is still in its infancy. As such, it is likely you might find a problem here or there. If you do, please read the forums before posting a complaint or a question that might easily be answered by reading the appointed threads. If you have doubts regarding your device’s or ROM’s compatibility, a quick search should inform you, and this thread is being updated with compatibility information. Let’s try to keep the forums clean and work together to make the adoption process efficient for everyone!

To those uninformed, Xposed is a framework that acts as a base system to download and install modules (as if they were apps) that can inject new behavior into parts of your system or other applications. This procedure requires root to be installed, and as of now the Lollipop support is only available on ARM v7 devices; so if you’ve got one of the rare 64-bit chips with ARMv8-A instruction sets (like the Exynos 5433 found in the Exynos Note 4 variant), you will have to pass. Those with Samsung Lollipop ROMs (TouchWiz) will also have to sit and wait as rovo encountered an issue with a file format that causes bootloops.

What can Xposed do for me? Well, many of you probably already know this, but to those that don’t: the possibilities are too many to list. It can remove annoyances from applications, fix errors or prevent tooltip messages, it can change UIs of both the system and its apps, it can yield you new navigation methods, it can let you theme almost anything in sight, and it can potentially give you better battery or performance through certain modifications (bless you, Amplify and DFVS disabler), and much more. All of this assuming somebody wrote a module for it, and that your device is compatible with said module. But for the most part, the big modules like Gravity Box offer support for many devices and ROMs, even if not the full repertoire of features. However, a lot of things have changed under-the-hood in Lollipop, that rendered many modules (especially those that modify the system) broken. Some, however, still work either completely fine or partially.

This is a thread where XDA users report their testing of “old” modules to see which ones work and which ones don’t, and under what conditions. Here are some of the picks that we think would make your Lollipop experience much sweeter, today.

That’s it for this list. There are many other modules that might also work. We suggest you to check the thread for updates and more testimonies, and there’s also a spreadsheet that gets periodically updated with more resources. If you encounter error messages such as ones saying that the framework is not installed, the module might work regardless. If you have any doubts, search the previously linked thread as many people have been reporting quick fixes to harmless errors. Keep in mind, however, that this is still an Alpha release and the modules are not guaranteed to work. All the ones listed above have only a handful of testimonies claiming they work, and as such, we advise you to proceed with caution and care.

We hope you enjoy this new offering and support the future of Xposed and XDA through feedback or development!

What modules are you running right now? Tell us down below!

Tint System Bars with Flat Style Colored Bars!

Custom ROMs and mods allowing you to tint system bars have always been popular. This has been especially true with the previous hype surrounding KitKat’s leaked images, as well as the upcoming changes in Lollipop allowing developers to easily set the status bar’s color.

Over the years, we’ve seen different implementations for this in various ROMs such as AOSPA, ThinkingBridge‘s Chameleon Engine and OmniROM. Flashing one of these custom ROM may not be feasible for all users, though. Luckily, the Xposed Framework allowed this feature to be made in a more portable manner. We’ve already seen Tinted Status Bar by XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG and Tinted Translucent StatusBar by XDA Forum Member Woalk. Now, a new Xposed module joins the club, with a different implementation to tint system bars that may suit you better.

Flat Style Colored Bars by XDA Senior Member ibocharov tries to detect colors using different methods, drawing inspiration from AOSPA’s Dynamic System Bars (and iOS for its preferences screen):

The module is still at an early stage and more features are planned for the future, such as overlay styles (similar to the KitKat gradient or Lollipop’s darker shade) for paid users. Most ROMs running 4.3 or higher should be supported, including some manufacturer ROMs such as HTC or LG. If you’d like to give it a try, visit the Flat Style Colored Bars forum thread now to get started!

Merge Your Battery Indicator and Home Button into One!

The status and navigation bars are probably the most commonly used areas of your device (that is, assuming you have a navigation bar), and they’re definitely two of the more heavily customizable parts using Xposed modules. Android 5.0 Lollipop will also bring refreshed navigation and status bars, with new, streamlined shapes for the icons.

A new Xposed module by XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG aims to make your navigation bar even more useful, while also cleaning your status bar some more. Battery Home Icon replaces the normal home button in your navigation bar with a Lollipop-styled version, which also shows you the current battery level. The result is a battery indicator that looks like the well known circle battery indicator that many of you have seen in custom ROMs (there are also several Xposed modules that allow you to change the style of your battery indicator if your ROM doesn’t support this feature, such as XBatteryThemer). In true L spirit, Battery Home Indicator also comes with pretty animations for your pleasure.

The module is fully customizable, and allows you to toggle the charging animation or the battery percentage text, or change the padding of the icon or the circle’s thickness. You also have the option to hide the battery icon from your status bar, in order to avoid duplicity.

The module is currently compatible with most AOSP based and manufacturer ROMs (with a few exceptions, such as LG ROMs; patches welcome!). If this idea sounds interesting, simply visit the Battery Home Icon forum thread to install the module and try it out!

Great XDA Mods for Your Sony Xperia Z2 – XDA Developer TV

The Sony Xperia Z2 has been out for a while, and if you own this device, you’ve probably gone through the various phases inherent to getting a new device. You’ve watched reviews on the device, you’ve purchased it, and you’ve even rooted it. So what do you do next?

In this video, XDA Developer TV Producer TK presents some applications and Xposed mods that he’s installed on his Sony Xperia Z2. Check out these mods to give you an answer to the question of “what to do now.” These suggestions include OK Google for Third Party Launchers, GEM Xperia Launcher Tweaks, Advanced Power Menu, and 20MP Superior Auto. Check this video out.

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XDA Xposed Tuesday: Heads Up Notifications – XDA Developer TV

Easter Eggs: we all love them and finding them is always a thrill. Whether it be added features or just random silliness, finding treats in a program is invigorating, so imagine how many Android enthusiasts are excited about the heads up notifications feature hidden deep inside KitKat.

In this episode of XDA Xposed Tuesday, XDA Developer TV Producer TK reviews an Xposed Module that lets you activate the pop up notification panel feature in KitKat. XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG created the Heads Up Notifications module. TK shows off the modules and gives his thoughts, so check out this Xposed Tuesday video.

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Try Heads Up Notifications on Your Device with Xposed

A couple of days ago, we talked about GravityBox receiving an update. One of the new features introduced in the update was “Heads Up mode,” which was discovered hidden somewhere in KitKat’s code. It’s a neat way of showing the notification in a floating window, implemented recently into CyanogenMod’s nightlies.

But if all you want to do is try out “Heads Up mode” on your device, you don’t have to install the GravityBox or pay for an in-app purchase. If you prefer a module with a single purpose instead, you might be interested in trying a module made by XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG. This module is very simple and does its job superbly. If you want to test it out on your device, simply install the module, restart your device, and you can enjoy the new, floating notifications–simple as that.

The list of requirements is short. Your device must be rooted in order to use the Xposed Framework, and you must be a KitKat user, since this module uses the discovered code. The project is fully open-sourced, so you can verify the code, improve it, or compile it to learn something new and maybe incorporate it into your personal project.

Are you excited to try out new notification method on your device? If so, don’t wait to visit the module thread and give it a shot.

XDA Xposed Tuesday: Knock Code for AOSP and Sense ROMs – XDA Developer TV

LG’s KnockOn has been very popular on recent LG devices. This feature was then expanded on their latest device, the LG G3. Originally introduced on the G3, Knock Code then allows you to unlock with a knock pattern. But here at XDA, we don’t like features being device-specific, so we work on replicating the idea on other devices.

In this episode of XDA Xposed Tuesday, XDA Developer TV Producer TK reviews an Xposed Module that lets you unlock your device with a Knock Code. XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG created the Knock Code module. TK shows off the modules and gives his thoughts, so check out this Xposed Tuesday video.

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XDA Xposed Tuesday: ‘Ok Google’ for 3rd Party Launchers – XDA Developer TV

“Ok Google, write my article for me.” Well I guess it was worth a try. Users on the Google Experience Launcher have now gotten used to being able to say “OK Google” to launch Google Voice Search. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this functionality on third party launchers?

In this episode of XDA Xposed Tuesday, XDA Developer TV Producer TK reviews an Xposed Module that lets you launch Google Search with ‘Ok Google’ from your home screen on third party launchers. XDA Recognized Developer MohammadAG created the OK Google for Third Party Launchers module. TK shows off the modules and gives his thoughts, so check out this Xposed Tuesday video.

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