XDA Recap: This Week In Android (May 31 – Jun 6)
Another week, another recap. The Sunday tradition marches on this week with a fresh no-nonsense look at big-picture news. Here in the digital XDA writers’ room, 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, let’s dive into a slimmed-down version of this week’s news that’s the perfect size for easy Sunday afternoon consumption!
Notable Links & Announcements
- Last week’s Google I/O roundup, or click here for the bookmark-able archive page of our regularly scheduled news recaps.
- This week’s app roundup, or click here for the bookmark-able archive page.
- XDA articles – original reporting and in-depth analysis. This week, we take a look back at the Ouya to understand the flop, then return to the present with an overview of Material Design changes this year, a first look at Android M’s theming framework called the PRO Theme Engine, and a review of the OnePlus Bamboo Styleswap Cover. On the more editorial side, Mario Serrafero argues that I/O didn’t go far enough to safeguard Android Wear’s future, and opens the floor up to debate on Google’s (lack of) AOSP focus.
For The Community, By The Community
- The Path of Curiosity (Voices of XDA) – Start your journey into the depths of the XDA Forums with this beginner-focused primer that’s an excellent read for all community members. Voices of XDA is an ongoing series of features from forum members like you! Find out how to bring your voice to the portal’s front page here.
- Forum Member Opinions on I/O and Android M (XDA News) – I/O brought a little something for everyone, but reactions are often colored by our areas of expertise. This feature brings a sampling of reactions from around the forums into the spotlight.
- Extreme Battery Life Guide (XDA Forums) – This week’s featured forum thread guides you through improving battery life on any device, and is well worth the read.
- AMA with Android Developer MohammedAG (Reddit) – Noted Xposed developer MohammedAG answered dozens of questions about his apps and coding process over on Reddit. Join the conversation!
This Week in XDA TV
XDA covers more than just news, and nowhere is that more apparent than Jordan Keyes’ weekly posts to XDA TV. Here’s the latest round of ROM updates and phone tweaks mixed with a dose of current events; enjoy!
Full annotations for this video can be found in the main XDA TV post from Friday. For more from the TV team, Monday’s recap of last weekend highlights noteworthy community announcements that didn’t make it to the Friday feature. However, if you’re already two deep into these YouTube videos, you might as well settle in with some popcorn and fire up the complete archive (found here).
For all the news and only the news, read on.
Lollipop Marches Onward & Upward
Sony announced this week that 21 of their devices will make the jump to 5.1 during July, including those on the previously announced 5.0 roll out list being pushed to the likes of T-Mobile’s Z3 as we speak.
Samsung’s 5.1.1 update is still a little ways off as well, but a preview firmware for the S6 and S6 Edge has surfaced at SamMobile, complete with multi user support and new camera modes – video and writeup available here. In related news, the same update is expected to land on the Note 4 in late July.
Motorola’s smartwatch is conspicuously absent from the update list this time around, even though 5.1.1 was promised to the Moto 360 more than a month ago. However, a recent tweet points to performance issues as the root cause of the delay, and hopefully the end product will be worth the wait.
For the most up-to-the-minute news about these and all other devices, be sure to subscribe to the relevant general thread within the XDA Forums proper.
Modular Watches & Android Cars
Zenwatch 2 – the latest square Asus watch leans heavily on style, and comes in two sizes to fit a range of wrist types. Both models feature 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla Glass 3, AMOLED displays, and Qualcomm chips, but very little is known about the internal specs. Check out our feature post for pictures, videos, and the complete rundown.
Tag Hauer Carrera Wearable 01 – Swiss watchmaker Tag Hauer’s upcoming Wear watch is set to be available in October or November for an astounding $1,400. For that price, CEO Jean-Claude Biver plans to fashion a truly upgradable watch from his company’s partnership with Intel, though what that means is anyone’s guess. Read up on the full story here.
Blocks Modular Smartwatch – Speaking of upgradability, the Blocks smartwatch adds components like batteries, sensors, and screens into the watch band links themselves, treating the device like an Ara prototype you can strap to your wrist. This Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 powered watch will be available in seven to eight months, but you can browse our early analysis here.
Two Indian Cars Gain Android Auto – Mahindra and Mahindra, the Indian automotive manufacturer behind the Mahindra XUV500 and Scorpio, has signed on to the Open Automotive Alliance and announced its intentions to include Android Auto. Read more.
Google Privacy & Security Hub – take a privacy checkup, change which apps can access your account, and alter your ad preferences from a newly unified account page. Google’s revamped settings hub places familiar tools in a more manageable context, and attempts to allay concerns about data collection; learn more!
ARM and Samsung Sign Agreement for Mali GPUs – Thanks to a new partnership, Mali GPUs from ARM will make their way into Samsung phones at all price points. Learn more!
Windows 10 – Microsoft’s newest OS is set to release on July 29 for the low low price of “free.” Retail copies will run from $119 to $199 for the desktop and tablet versions, but upgrades from Windows 7 or 8.1 within the first year will come at no charge. Once on Windows 10, reinstalling the OS and receiving updates will remain free for the lifetime of your hardware, though Microsoft has yet to nail down the meaning of that language. The operating system itself offers a number of multi-tasking improvements such as virtual desktops, along with more intuitive switching between tablet and desktop modes, and Microsoft’s Cortana virtual assistant. Expect deeper coverage to follow, but here’s a quick peek at what Windows has to offer.
New & Upcoming Device Launches
Orderes Open Now
Elephone S2 and S2 Plus – The Chinese bit-player Elephone is back with two devices now up for pre-order. Both the Elephone S2 and S2 Plus sandwich 2 GB of RAM and a MediaTek 6735 processor between two sleek panes of glass, and feature Android 5.1 out of the box. You can pre-order the 5” HD version for $159.99 direct from elephone.hk, or the 5.5” model from the same site coming in at reasonable $10 markup.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (Emerald Green) – Shoppers in India finally have the option to buy Samsung’s latest flagship in Emerald Green for Rs. 58,900. Only the 32GB model comes in this trim color so far, and the Blue Topaz version is still MIA, but expanded purchasing options are always welcome. Buy now, if this strikes your fancy.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Active – AT&T is now hinting at the release of a new S6 variant that earlier popped up in support pages with a 5.1” 2560 x 1440 super AMOLED display and a 2550 mAh battery. Unfortunately, very few specifics are known about the device so far, aside from the usual expectations of a rugged frame and comparable specs to its namesake S6. Read our full coverage here for more.
HTC “Hero Product” – October could see another HTC flagship launch in a bid to make up for the tepid response to this year’s M9. No specifics were given alongside this revelation during the annual general meeting, but HTC CEO and Chairwoman Cher Wang appears confident that the new strategy will put the company back on track. Learn more!
Market Share Stats
App development runs on numbers, and the latest batch of usage statistics is now up for grabs.
Google’s worldwide metrics on phones pinging the Play Store show that Lollipop has now reached 12.4% of all Android phones – up 2.7% over last month. KitKat and Jelly Bean unsurprisingly still take the lion’s share at 39.2% and 37.4% respectively, but it’s nice to see incremental losses across the board for older versions. Screen size and density breakdowns remain largely unchanged, and the OpenGL standards in use likewise saw little improvement – normal HDPI and XHDPI phones with OpenGL 2.0 and 3.0 are the norm. Read the full story here!
Comscore also released April numbers, but with a focus on OEMs in the US market over the last quarter. Android maintains its slim majority lead over iOS by a nine point margin, down slightly over last quarter’s nearly twelve percent lead in the States. While Apple is the sole purveyor of iOS and thus controls 43% of the device market, the rest is split among Samsung (28.6%), LG (8.4%), Motorola (4.9%), and HTC (3.7%), most of which comes from Android. You can check out the full story here, including a breakdown of the top 15 apps that shows Snapchat and Pinterest each installed on one in five phones.
Android Nanodegree Q&A
Knowing the lay of the land is one thing, but breaking into the world of Android app development is another. In an effort to help out, Google launched a new development course at I/O through a partnership with Udacity, and now the team is back with a 45 minute Q&A session on YouTube to explain the course basics. Check it out here if you’re still on the fence about dedicating the next 9-12 months and up to $2,400 to the program.
What’s New in Development Tools
Are you still working through the backlog of recorded talks from I/O? The folks over at RoboVM have compiled a handy written summary of the dev tools section to speed up the process. Bone up on the improved Gradle plugin and build system, enhanced emulation suite, and host of new additions to Android Studio including C/C++ support, profiling tools, annotations, and more over on the full site.
Android Studio 1.3 Preview 1
Speaking of development tools, Android Studio has reached version 1.3 in the canary channel. Among the new features are SDK update notifications, an allocation tracker, additional code inspections, live code templates, and the usual round of bug fixes. Read more and grab your copy here.
Chrome for Android Adds App Install Prompts
Chrome has allowed users to create website shortcuts on their homescreens for a while, but version 44 now brings similar functionality to websites with native Android app counterparts. Assuming a few site conditions are met, the familiar “add to Home screen” menu item can now walk users through the app installation process, complete with permissions screens and opening prompts. News of this feature first broke last month, but somehow it slipped through the cracks. To find out how to upgrade your own site, check out the Google Developers Blog here.
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!