May 20, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
We all have our own unique tastes. We favor certain styles of music, prefer certain foods, and enjoy making decisions about what products to buy. Because of this, something that we as consumers unanimously value is the freedom of choice. In the world of mobile devices, this freedom can be manifest in several ways: choice of installed applications, choice of wallpaper, choice of storage capacity, and above all, choice of device. Actually, we can go ahead and scratch that last one for iOS users looking to switch to Android.
Not too long ago, former Lifehacker Editor-in-Chief Adam Pash decided to make the jump from iOS to Android. Soon after the switch, he noticed that he wasn’t receiving text messages from his iPhone-toting contacts. Pash then determined that this was because his phone number was still associated with Apple’s iMessage system, even though he was no longer connected to the service. In order to try and restore text messaging, Adam then tried various proposed fixes such as removing the iDevice from his support profile, logging out of iMessage on all devices, and turning off iMessage in the iPhone’s Settings app. All of this was of course to no avail.
After attempting the above, Adam then contacted Apple support. This was met with resistance rather quickly, thanks to a $20 paywall demanded by Apple for non-customer support. But after a difficult workaround, Pash was able to get Apple to dissociate his phone number from his Apple ID. But even after all of this, text messages were still stuck in iMessage purgatory.
Looking around the Web, it turns out that Adam Pash is far from the only user suffering from such an issue after switching to a non-iOS device. In fact, there are so many users experiencing similar problems after switching to Android from iOS that a class-action lawsuit has been launched against Apple for holding users’ phones hostage on iOS.
Needless to say, this is technically a software glitch on Apple’s end—but it’s a glitch that clearly benefits the Cupertino company by making it more difficult to switch to a competing platform. Moreover, non-tech savvy users will likely attribute such a flaw to the new device being “unable to receive texts,” rather than correctly blaming Apple’s iMessage. Because of this, we can’t imagine that a fix is too high up Apple’s resource hierarchy.
Apple, we understand that being relegated to a small sliver of the smartphone pie is painful–especially after helping define modern smartphone interaction with the original iPhone. However, locking users down to your platform through convenient software glitches is not the way–nor is excessive litigation, for that matter. Here’s an idea: Think Different, and get back to the same level of innovation that made your company great so many times in the past.
Up until a couple of device generations ago, Apple’s iOS held a distinct advantage over Android with regards to both application quality and quantity. But recently, Android apps have caught up, and in many ways surpassed what’s available or even possible on iOS. Much of this is due to Android now commanding the vast majority of smartphone market share, which in turn piques third party developer interest. However, a good deal is due to Android giving third party developers significantly more freedom than what is allowed by iOS.
Despite the increase in application quality and quantity, it’s not uncommon for a some relatively significant programs to be platform-specific. For example, if you have plenty of iOS-toting friends, you’ve undoubtedly found yourself feeling a bit left out without the ability to communicate via iMessage or FaceTime. This is where projects like Cider come into play.
Developed by members of the Department of Computer Science at Columbia University, Cider is an OS compatibility architecture that is capable of running iOS applications on Android. Rather than using a strict virtual machine, this is done with a novel approach including compile-time code adaptation, as well as diplomatic functions. The former allows for existing application source code to be adapted without modification for use on the new architecture, whereas the latter allows foreign apps to hook into host device libraries, including those for proprietary software and hardware interfaces such as 3D acceleration hardware.
A video of the Cider proof-of-concept can be found below. As can be seen in the video, general UI performance is what one would expect without 2D hardware UI rendering. However, the demo also includes a clip of Passmark running a 3D benchmark at a good frame rate and with full access to the host hardware’s rendering capabilities.
Although there are many legal and technical hurdles that stand in the way of a project like this ever reaching fruition, it’s exciting to see that such a project is even possible on Android. After all, this just serves as further proof of Android’s potential.
Hopefully, this project’s source code will be released at some point and other developers can build upon and enhance this development. Until then, this is still quite noteworthy. You can learn more by visiting the project page and reading the team’s full research paper (PDF warning).
What would you do to be able to run iOS apps and games on your Android device? Let us know in the comments below.
[Many thanks to XDA Senior Moderator efrant for the tip!]
July 20, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
So you’ve got an Android device running ICS or greater and it supports USB host mode. However, your car only has an iPod connector, but you want to listen to some tunes. Now, you could always replace your car’s built-in head unit for one with an auxiliary input jack. However, that requires quite a bit of effort. You could also use an FM transmitter, but you actually intend on listening to your music, rather than fighting the static and bad sound quality.
What if instead of fighting the power, you made it work for you? Well, that’s exactly what XDA Senior Member spadival wants to help you accomplish with PodMode. As its name alludes, PodMode allows users to use many iPod accessories with your Android device. Impressively, root access is not required to use PodMode, and the app automatically launches in the appropriate remote mode once the cable is connected. However, as one would expect, you have to create a custom cable to use the app. Don’t worry, though, as spadival details exactly how to create the custom adapter with readily available components.
A nascent compatibility list is being assembled on spadival’s website, but thus far the system is verified to work on the Galaxy S III, Galaxy S 4, Xperia Sola, and several iPod docks and car connectors. While the supported devices list is currently small, we would expect this to work on practically all ICS+ devices with functional USB host mode and almost all iPod accessories that use the dock port’s analog audio leads rather than its digital audio output. Concievably, one could also add an ADC to the custom-made cable to allow accessories that make use the dock connector’s digital output to work as well, so long as the bitrate and sampling rate are supported by the receiving DAC.
For those who recently made the switch from the dark side to Android’s greener pastures but still have quite a few iPod accessories, this could be quite the life saver. Head over to the original thread to get started.
To the standard end user, this year’s Google I/O left much to be desired. The disappointment was mainly in the fact that Google failed to release the highly anticipated Android update, Key Lime Pie. Instead, the annual developers conference, which was held the week of May 15, focused on developer tools and a rebuild of Google Maps. The “new Google Maps,” as the Mountain View company calls it, is a major update that integrates Google Earth to create three-dimensional tours of user surroundings. According to Google, the application highlights the things that matter most to you, wherever you go and whatever you are doing.
On July 10, two months after Google’s announcement of the exciting new update, the company finally introduced the mapping application for Android smartphones and tablets. Google Maps v7.0.0 is gradually rolling out global updates to Android 4.0.3+ devices through the Google Play store, and soon through the App Store for iOS devices. For those of you who cannot wait for the update, leaked APKs are already being seen in the wild. Updates are specific to Android versions, so if you can’t wait for it to be officially rolled to your device, make sure you are following the correct download. For quick access to Android 4.1+ updates, see Android Police’s compiled list of mirrors.
As a Nexus 4 user, I followed this thread created by XDA Senior Member gear.h34d.2012, during my test drive (get it? “test drive,” “Google Maps,” bahahaha) of the app. Unfortunately, the original link is unavailable do to increased traffic on his Dropbox account. However, a mirror was posted directing traffic to grab the file at Dev-Host.
Google has continued with the simplistic and modern Holo user interface aesthetic seen in the rest of its recent app updates, but has deviated a bit in certain design choices. Keeping in form with the rest of the Gapps package, they have also replaced the old fashioned drop down menu with a hidden swipe-to-access gestures. Unfortunately, the drop down menu isn’t the only thing missing from this update. Latitude and check-ins, offline mode , and My Maps have also been removed. If you are steering clear of the update for this reason, you will only have until August 9 before Latitude and check-ins are retired for good. In the meantime, those who want to continue to stalk their friends and family can do so via the location sharing and check-in features on G+.
For those of you who tend to travel in low-signal areas and require offline maps, you still have the option to cache portions of your map by zooming into the map and typing “OK Maps” into the search box. Lastly, although My Maps is not available in this release, it will return in future versions of the app. Google recommended using Maps Engine Lite on desktop for those who absolutely cannot live without custom maps.
So what exactly does the new Google Maps bring to the table? For one thing, the entire map is interactive. Clicking on any of the nearby location marks will give you instant reviews, business information, street view pictures, and a navigation option that displays how long it will take to arrive at that destination. You can also save locations and share them right from the main maps screen. These options are not new by any means, but the new design shaves a few steps in the process.
Navigation also became a lot simpler with quick access to recent locations, and the ability to easily choose whether you are traveling by car, bus, bicycle, foot, or boat (okay maybe not by boat, but the other four options should get you where you need to be). One thing I found handy is the ability to easily choose to navigate from either your current location or a completely different starting point.
For those of you who like to explore, Google has made it possible to quickly uncover local favorites, including places to eat, shop, play, and more. And for those who are unable to find the “Explore” option, it seems to be location-based and may not be available if you live in a less populated area. Try searching for the closest city near you, such as Sacramento, CA, and then check to see if “Explore” appears. With the built in five-star rating and reviews system, you can easily decide the places that best fit your needs. Who really needs a Chamber of Commerce when you have Google Maps and detailed reviews?
Lastly, the latest Google Maps will not only help get you to your destination efficiently, it will also get you their as quickly as possible by “outsmarting traffic jams,” as the company puts it. Through dynamic rerouting and live incident reporting, Google Maps will help get you to your destination on time, and without delay.
June 11, 2013 By: Pulser_G2
In case you are someone like I am who doesn’t follow the annual “update” of iOS, this is where they make it more like Android and make use of some features Android has had for years (i.e. notification pull-down), and announce a few changes and “new” things the rest of the world has done for years.
Before I go any further, the previous sentence is intended as a joke, let’s not turn this into an iOS vs whatever war. This is about something that all platforms need to unite on: user data security.
Apple yesterday announced a new feature, whereby your passwords will be synced between all your devices, using their iCloud service. On the face of it, this ought to encourage users to use stronger passwords, as they do not need to remember each password. Unfortunately, this “user friendly” system appears to have a few fundamental flaws. This is called iCloud Keychain.
Firstly, Apple encourages password re-use. Not in the strict sense of using the one password across different sites, rather in the sense of using one password for secure and nonsecure tasks—an iPhone user must enter his/her Apple Account/iCloud password to install or update an app. They must also enter this same iCloud password to restore their cloud device backup to a new phone. And, no doubt, will use this iCloud password to unlock the iCloud Keychain.
At this point, the security-inclined among us will be boiling up in a nerdrage, at the thought of using the same password for a routine, insecure environment task (installing an app a friend recommends), and then re-using that same password to unlock your entire digital life of passwords and credit card details. To quote from Apple, this service will store website logins, credit card numbers, WiFi networks, and account information. Asides from the fact I sincerely doubt it is storing WiFi networks, and rather stores WiFi passwords, this seems rather unsafe.
I know 3 of my friends’ iCloud passwords. Not through some devious social engineering scam, or through some super-sneaky shoulder surfing. No… They each volunteered it to me. For whatever reason they were showing me something on their phone, and Apple decided it was time to ask for their iCloud password again. I was showing one how to update their apps, and before I could hand the phone back to them to log in on, they had told me their iCloud password. AAARGH… Don’t Apple teach security to their users?
I am more than certain that plenty of iPhone (and other Apple product users) are not aware of the need to keep secure their iCloud password, as Apple shields them from the technical nuances to avoid spoiling their marketing of everything being sleek and safe. Having a red warning “IF ANYONE FINDS OUT THIS PASSWORD, THEY WILL OWN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE FOREVER MORE” would be justifiable, but there is no such warning.
Unfortunately, the product launch also introduced some technical words. “Oh, but it protects them with robust AES 256-bit encryption”, I hear you say, quoting from the announcement. And indeed, that is correct. But AES-256 encryption is not quite so robust when a legitimate user can obtain the key through simply knowing their iCloud password. Or when someone just resets your iCloud password. Do you really think Apple will design this system securely, so if a user forgets his/her password, they forever lose access? Or will they build in a user-friendly backdoor to allow the user back into his/her account once they call support? I’ll let you figure that out… Unfortunately Apple are in a predicament here: They need users to use super-strong, hyper-complex passwords for their iCloud account. And understand the technical reasons they must keep this password secure. The problem is, like most Apple products, they are designed for ease of use, and therefore the majority of users will pick a simple password.
Which means it will be nice and short so it is convenient for them to type in every time they install or update an app.
Which means it’s not secure.
Expect attacks on iCloud accounts to rise in volume and risk, particularly against less technical users. I anticipate a lot of phishing attacks attempting to tell Apple device users their account just needs a “little upgrade”, and to just click this link so one of their geniuses will sort it all out automatically. While the friendly-friendly approach works to a point, it doesn’t work whatsoever when it comes to the harsh realities of security. This is not secure encryption, as it depends on a user who is constantly shielded from the technical intricacies of the process.