Android, XDA & Me — Mathew’s Setup, Powered by XDA
The first part of new a series exploring how the staff members of XDA get the most out of their devices
Working for XDA, my life almost revolves around Android. A few times a day I’ll make small changes to my daily driver or a big change to one of my test devices, and these generally are based on what comes through the office via the forums or what I find based on my current requirements. So without any further ado here are my devices, accessories and SIMs:
- Mi Note – Xiaomi (Yes, I know many of you guys hate them but hear me out)
- Note 2 – Samsung
- Z1 – ZUK
- Speed 7 – ZOPO (inactive – awaiting source)
- Speed 7 Plus – ZOPO (inactive – awaiting source)
- Moto360 I – Motorola
- 2 x 9000 mAh power banks – A Dece Oasis
- Mini Bluetooth speaker – A Dece Oasis
- Mi Band – Xiaomi
- USB OTG
- Various OEM quick chargers
- SIM – o2, $30 a month, unlimited minutes and texts, 2GB data
- SIM – o2, free, 2GB of data a month
- SIM – China Unicom, $2.17 a month
On the subject of choice
I’ll start by explaining my choice of daily driver, when I first started here at XDA one of the first pieces of news to cross my desk was a sales report for Xiaomi, the company had sold over 61 million devices in 2014. Needless to say, considering back the company was less than 5 years old, I was impressed. They had barely expanded to other countries and they were already selling more than most companies. Asking around the office, most people had heard of them but none of us had ever seen a device by Xiaomi, first-hand. Originally intending to continue using my trusty Note 2 after having tested the cheapest Xiaomi phone I could get imported, I took a look online and found that the Mi Note was being released imminently, and so a few weeks later I placed my order. It arrived, I checked its build quality and ran some benchmarks, didn’t like MIUI but did appreciate the toggle switch for root.
It went into a drawer awaiting a rainy day, over the coming months 2 things occurred which brought it up again to become my daily driver. The first being Xiaomi finally got around to releasing sources and the second being that a fully functioning albeit unofficial version of TWRP and a ROM very close to AOSP were both created for the device. Taking the stance that delays do occur and even Motorola has been known to be lag behind on source releases, I was grateful that they got around to it, let the matter drop and fell in love with the device.
As for how I have it set up, I have several apps on the go designed to make getting to what I need as fast as possible. Long pressing the menu hardware button pins the currently open app to the side (below, left) meaning I can quickly switch between several apps, this is achieved through the app Pintasking. A pie menu opened by swiping in from the right bezel opens up a customizable selection of my most used apps, this can be opened anytime. Finally, I have long since discarded my app drawer in favour of App Swap, a fully customizable app drawer that includes a search function that can be configured to also show contacts. Like the pie menu this can be brought up anytime simply by dragging up from the bottom of the screen. My 2 home screens are fairly simple preferring to keep them clean, on my primary screen I have just a Timely widget, to the right I have various media controls, a Wi-Fi calls toggle and the soundhound widget.
As a heavy user I initially had difficulties getting a full day’s battery out of my phone, it rarely dropped into Deep Sleep and wake locks were a major issue. Using Amplify to severely limit my wakelocks went a significant way towards helping this issue. Following this up with Power Nap to stop specific apps wakelocks, services and alarms whilst the phone was in standby went the rest of the way to getting optimal battery life. At this point my screen off battery drain was just 0.2% per hour and at the same time I am still able to receive emails, calls and messages, and certain other notifications.
Rule #32 – Enjoy the Little Things
I have heard talk recently on a subject that surfaces each time a new version of Android is inbound, that root is going to be unnecessary soon. That may be the case for users who are not major power users but instead have rooted because it’s deemed cool or they have just one app to run that requires it. For myself it is an integral part of my phone, I have numerous Xposed modules all geared towards making life just a little faster and easier. Of these the most noteworthy are:
- Awesome Pop-up Video, meaning I can watch videos in a pop-up whilst I get on with other tasks,
- Wi-Fi Password, sharing complex passwords is never exactly fun, this allows me to view them in WI-FI settings.
- XClip, this adds an exceptional and customizable clipboard to my text selection menu
- XGPM, a recent addition, this allows you to access your Google Play Music playlist from your notification shade.
- Gravity Box, this makes hundreds of tiny tweaks to the system, far too many to list here.
- Other modules include: Xposed Torch, Statusbar download progress, True Silent Mode and the aforementioned Amplify and Power Nap
As part of my job here at XDA, I have several social media accounts to control, I have started altering many of my devices to accommodate these. I run the app RSS 4 Wear with a 5 minute refresh rate for the portal feed (http://xda-developers.com/feed) and a second that monitors new content submissions on Reddit that originate XDA. When the app finds a new entry in either feed, it sends a notification to my Moto360. In both cases the app allows me to read the content on my watch and then open it on my phone if I need to react quickly. As anyone who uses Instagram will be aware, using multiple accounts is quite difficult, without logging out and back in each time.
To rectify this issue, I installed Instwogram by forum member Me-Nex S. This app is almost identical to Instagram however by changing the meta data it allows you to run 2 separate versions, in this case one for each of the XDA accounts: Kickass_home_screens and Awesome_mobile_quotes. The first which showcases the best of our Post your Phone Home Screen thread and the latter which highlights the best quotes from our features. Coupled with the ability to use ARC Welder on Chrome OS to emulate these two apps and install them as extensions, managing them becomes a lot easier.
From there on I’m sure my device is like many others, I change my wallpaper frequently between photos I have taken and images from 500px found via Quickpic. My devices are an integral part of both my day to day activities and my career and I am constantly on the lookout for opportunities to make tweaks and improvements to my UX.
Do you have any questions about my set-up? Leave a comment below!
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