XDA Recap: This Week In Android (Apr 18 – 25)
Here in the digital XDA newsroom, we spend our days pouring over an average of 2,500 news items and forum threads every 24 hours. Only the most timely and interesting bits survive the editing process, but the portal’s front page still sees weekly counts in excess of 100 posts. This is a glut of content to absorb, especially if following the news cycle isn’t your full-time job. However, the tech world is vast, and the information must flow. With this in mind, please welcome the newest addition to our weekly lineup: This Week In Android, the XDA news roundup!
The weekly news roundup joins with Saturday’s Best Apps of the Week to form the new summary of all things Android. For your bookmarking convenience, here are links to both recurring features.
- Saturday – XDA Picks: Best Apps of the Week (archive)
- Sunday – XDA Recap: This Week In Android (archive)
In other site news, new contributor Mike McCrary is already stirring up controversy after joining the team earlier this week! Check out his inaugural post about The Nexus Compromise, and his thoughts on devices of all stripes in the team’s fireside chat about personal tech.
And now, back to our newly scheduled program.
Android News Roundup
Google becomes a mobile carrier and opens sign-ups: Project Fi will offer $20/month unlimited call and text plans using T-Mobile, Sprint, and Wi-Fi to extend the coverage area. Data weighs in at $10/GB, but only the megabytes you use each month will count towards your final bill. Unfortunately, the service is limited to Nexus 6 owners at launch. Invites will go out on a first come, first served basis over the next few weeks, so check out our full coverage to see how and if you should sign up.
Samsung is building a round watch, and devs are invited to help: The cat is finally out of the bag – Samsung is about to join Motorola and LG in producing round-faced Wear watches. This week, the company announced a new SDK for Gear developers that prominently features a circular dial.rounded watch dial. For more on how to become a developer partner, check out the full post from Samsung.
Wear sees a major update: Owners of all seven Wear watches will see a host of new features this month, including persistent apps with dimming faces, emoji drawing, a revamped launcher, and the ability to expand cards with a flick of the wrist. However, the standout addition is phone-less connectivity through Wi-Fi. The feature appears to be limited to the Moto 360, Sony SmartWatch 3, and LG Watch Urbane, but should usher in a new level of device independence. On the software side, the Wear app itself gained support for multiple watches and cloud sync over Wi-Fi in advance of the firmware update. The new app version is on APK mirror now if you’re impatient, but it’s likely that Google Play already has you covered. As for the firmware features, check them out in all their animated glory on Google’s blog.
Computers can now send directions (and other fun info) to linked phones: Gone are the days when transferring travel directions from desktop to mobile meant re-typing the search on the new device. As of this week, directions, notes, alarms, and reminders can all be sent to the phone straight from the google.com search box. To start, simply search for phrases like “send a note to my phone,” “send directions to my phone,” “set an alarm,” etc. to see the relevant communication box appear. In practice, this feature is almost identical to PushBullet (but without the troublesome plugin). The “find my phone” query was spotted back on the 15th, but this week’s announcement takes the idea to the next level. Learn More!
LG launches a spiffy new watch and gears up for the G4: The LG Watch Urbane, which debuted at Mobile World Congress as the G Watch R’s upscale cousin, is the first Wear watch to receive Google’s latest version of Android. South Korean stores have both the Wi-Fi and LTE models in stock right now, but the rest of the world will have to wait for the global release later this month. Pricing is expected to be just north of that for the G Watch R. The next high-profile LG launch is this coming Tuesday’s announcement of the LG G4. In preparation, teaser videos showing off the improved low-light camera and UX features (part 1 and part 2) have hit the net.
OnePlus partners with Maxis in Malaysia, and removes invite restrictions from the One: To paraphrase Reddit user chosen1sp, the OnePlus One has gone invite-free just in time for no one to care. Why the apathy? All eyes are currently pointed towards the mysterious OnePlus Two. For context, each time an announcement seemed imminent, OnePlus has treated the tech community to a drone-shaped anti-climax, or incremental update to the One.
Acer launches Android tablets, 15″ Chromebooks, and dozens of other gadgets at New York event: None of the 40+ products unveiled by Acer are industry leading game changers, but each is an effectively targeted attack on a specific niche. The Iconia series features 8 and 10 inch tablets running Android 5.0 and starting at $149, both of which are equipped with “Acer Accurate” stylus support. The larger of the two also comes as a $299 Educational edition with 2GB RAM, 64GB ROM, and classroom quality build. In addition to tablets, several variations of 15″ Chromebooks are on display ahead of their $200+ July release. Learn More!
India’s Smartphone Scene Heats Up: New phones from Asus and Xiaomi seek to take on the incumbent Moto G in India, as all three devices retail for Rs. 12,999 (or roughly $205). On paper, the Xiaomi Mi4i is the clear winner in this budget race due to a higher screen resolution (1080p) and smaller screen size (5″) than the 5.5″ 720p ZenFone 2. However, two additional ZenFone models bump the specs (and price) to competitive levels. Which device will prove to be the dominant force in the region is anyone’s guess, but the ensuing arms race will be an exciting one to watch. You can read more about these phones and their 13 / 5 MP cameras on the portal: Xiaomi Mi4i, and ZenFone 2.
Miscellaneous Devices launch, including the Xperia Z4: Were you expecting the fanfare, pomp, and circumstance that usually accompany a Sony launch? Well, prepare for a future of disappointment. The incremental Xperia refresh slipped onto the scene in Japan without so much as a peep to western press outlets. However, there really isn’t much about which to write home when compared to last year’s Z3 – the biggest upgrades are an improved front-facing camera, a troubled Snapdragon 810, and minor software tweaks. You can find our full coverage here, but could this be the beginning of the end for Sony? Next up, rising Chinese bit player Elephone may produce a fingerprint scanning 2k flagship for June release, with the notable feature of dual-booting Android & Windows! More here. Google has spoken out against this practice in the past, so this will be an interesting launch to watch. Finally, the future phone rumors. Nokia, fresh on the heels of its merger with Alcatel-Lucent, may return to the smartphone game by licensing its designs as early as next year. Read more!
Product launches and device updates make for head turning headlines, but it’s often what goes on behind the scenes that sets Android and the XDA community apart. Here’s a look at the developer-focused happenings of the past week.
New code samples cover Android Wear, Android for Work, NFC, and Screen capturing: Google maintains an excellent code sample repository on GitHub, but the latest additions are some of the more elaborate snippets on display. Example code walking through NFC beam & provisioning, screen capture, and the DevicePolicyManager is included, but the marquee attraction is a full-service tourist app with Wear companion code. This is the perfect test bed for learning how location-aware apps and Android Wear are supposed to function, so check it out today! As always, snippets can be downloaded in Android Studio using the built-in Import Samples feature, or the Samples Browser. Learn more over on the Android Developers Blog.
Android Support Library 22.1 eases the burden of writing backwards compatible code, among many other improvements.
Android urinates on Apple in Pakistan: These images are plastered all over the internet by now, so there’s no use in pretending they did not happen. We might as well add some context and commentary to the fray.
Just in case you ever wanted to know what happens when someone uses Google’s map editor to create inappropriate pixel art, we now have the answer. In short, the tech news cycle suspends operations in order to speculate on the “Easter Egg,” resulting in two separate fan communities being whipped into a tizzy. The real story is how lax (or automated) review policies can have unintended consequences, but this is something developers learned long ago from Google’s overzealous ban-hammer. Enjoy the humor and this Sunday’s posts, but please remember to map responsibly. Original story here, but it’s exactly what you might expect.
That is it for this week, but we will be back next Sunday for another round of recaps. After all, the news never sleeps, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your own rest to stay informed!