Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Android 5.0 Lollipop in Nexus 4 Hands on Review – It’s awesome

Hello everyone!! Like other Android fans, I was also waiting for the update after Google IO and the wait is over; Google has released the official factory images. I did not wait for OTA since it used to take weeks to months and updated manually.


I felt my Nexus 4 is reborn after the upgrade. I was scared to update initially after reading some posts about WIFI connectivity issue and battery issues. I am running from yesterday and did not find any lag or issues.


Checking Lollipop version - also you can play game using this 

Here are the features / changes in lollipop

1) Faster

I felt significant improvement in the performance compared to 4.4. Apps are starting faster. Lollipop is running in ART (Android run time) instead of Dalvik and may be one of the reasons for performance

2) Fresh

There are animations everywhere and it is done beautifully. Let it be alarm, tool tips, Google now – all these apps are using the power of animation and material design. The color and font is mild and pleasing.

3) Lock Screen

Lock screen is looking great with new gestures and notifications. It will show estimated time to fully charge. I was using dynamic notifications in 4.4 for notification summary and it is not required in 5.0.

Charging indicator in lock screen

Notifications in lock screen

4) Pull down notification panel

This is one of the best features. More options are available in notification panel to enable wifi, mobile data, flash light etc.

Pull down notification; last set of ugly icons are coming from Notification toggle app

Notification from whatsapp

5) Battery Saver mode

This mode will stop most of the background running apps to improve the battery. Apps like WhatsApp, Facebook won’t notify me for every update and it will be refreshed only after opening them. Also most of the animations will be automatically disabled

Enabling battery saver mode


Orange shade for status bar

Battery saver mode indicator in Lock Screen


I felt 15-20% improvement while running in this mode. Your notification and action panel will appear in orange in this mode. It is similar to using apps like Greenify to hibernate resource hungry apps

6) Recent Tabs

It is highly inspired from Chrome. Recent apps will appear as tabs instead of stack. Looks beautiful and easy to switch recent apps

Recent apps in Chrome style tabs


Multi-user support

This is not a new feature for Android since Android used to support multi users from 4.1. But this was available for Nexus tabs and some other custom ROMs like Cyanogenmod. It was not made available out of the box since phone was considered as personal device and it was not supposed to be shared with others.

Switching users
Things have changed… Line between tablet and phone is getting thinner and people started using phablets.

I can add guest user and allow them to use the phone. Guest will not be able to access any apps or personal data (including gallery). This becomes handy if your kid wants to play some games or colleague wants to make some urgent phone call

7) Screen Pinning

Another useful feature and it is an abstract version of multi user. I can pin one of the app and give the phone to someone. He/she will be able to use only the pinned app

Go to Settings à Security à Screen pinning

Enabling screen-pin option


You will be able to see pin button in recent tabs. Pin any one of the app and it is the only app user will be able to use. Click on back and recent button to un-pin. You can add additional security feature using lock pattern or pin. User will be redirected to lock screen if they tried to unpin and they have to know the pattern to view home screen.

Dialer pinned
8) Dialer

Dialer interface and gesture animations are good

Dialer with quick search and dial pad

Right gesture to view recent contacts

9) Google Chrome

Chrome works differently in 5.0. Add new tab button is moved to menu and switch tab was missing. Later found that chrome tabs are also listed along with recent apps. It was bit annoying in the start and now I’m used to it

10) Gallery

I am disappointed to see that there is no gallery app and only Google photos app is available. It is difficult to view the folders since the way it is organized is not so user friendly. I was expecting a redesigned Gallery

11) Camera

No improvements in camera even after upgrading. The same camera app used in 4.4 is available in 5.0 as well

12) Battery

I did not find any major improvement in battery life compared to 4.4. I was expecting huge improvement since I read about Project Volta – a project to improve the battery.

Quick recharge - Nexus 6 supports fast charging - charge for 15 minutes and use for 6 hours. Looks like it is not a feature of 5.0

13) Other issues

Most of the apps used in 4.4 works without issues. MX Player did not work and hopefully they will update the app soon. 
- MX Player issue was resolved after an update and it works as expected.

Summary

So that was my quick review after using for 2 days. It looks stable and smooth and it is sweet as a Lollipop.

I have not explored other enhanced features – Face-unlock, Android beam, Tap and Pay, Encryption, Screen Cast etc. May be I need to play around for few more weeks.

Have you also upgraded to latest version? You will be lucky to get an update if you run stock version of Android. You can download custom ROM

Great job Google and Android team!! You have redefined Android!!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Useful android apps - Google apps, App backup and restore and Greenify

Most of my friends are having Android phone with Jellybean and above. Still I felt that some of them are not using the power of in built android apps. Some of these apps are really productive. Today my attempt is to create awareness of the apps available in your phone.

1) Google Now

Those who have 4.1 and above can enjoy this app. This is upgraded version of Google search and known as Google Now. As the name indicates, it shows the right information at the right time. Here are few of them


Time to commute – it shows time to office and time to home based on your location with real time traffic. You just need to set home and office address in the settings.


Football (Soccer) / Cricket updates – Add your favorite soccer or and cricket teams and receive updates about match schedule and live scores



Parking location – This works if you have selected “driving” as mode of commute. Map of your last parked location will be shown



Track your purchase or Flight – Your flight details and time to reach the airport will be there at the right time. Also you will get notification about your purchase once it is out for delivery.

Related news – You will receive news update about the topics that you have searched using Google.



Weather updates, Currency updates (if you travel to different time zone) etc



OK Google – Google Now can also act as your assistant. Just say “OK Google” and it will be in listening mode. You can dial contacts, message them, write emails, navigate to location, create reminder etc. Also it can understand Indian accent (even my accent) and works like a charm. Have a look at the voice commands – http://trendblog.net/list-of-google-now-voice-commands-infographic/

All notifications are customizable through settings




2) Google Drive

This is cloud storage offered by Google: - 5 GB initially and it may increase based on usage (I have 15 GB now). You can store your file and share with friends.
So what!! There are plenty of apps with same capability – Drop box, Box etc. There are few other unique features of Google Drive. Let’s check out

New Doc, Spreadsheet and Slides – You can create a new doc, excel or PowerPoint without even installing Microsoft Office (Google bought QuickOffice and it is available inbuilt in most of Android phones). Multiple people can edit and review the document at the same time.



Convert to PDF – Saving document as PDF is available in for latest versions of Microsoft Word. But I can do the same by just copying the doc file to my Google Drive and clicking link “share and export”.



This feature helped my cousin who was doing a project. She had a doc with Sanskrit font created in some other PC and she wanted urgent copy. But I am using Word 2002 and junk characters were shown instead of Sanskrit. I tried to download the font and it they were asking for money. Finally I used the trick… Copy to Drive and export to PDF!!!

Open using MS Word 2002



Open using Google Drive



Scan documents – Let’s say you want to save copy of a bill as reference or send driving license soft copy to someone. You can use Google Drive without going to DTP center or downloading “Scanning” apps.

Click on Scan button and take a picture of the object and it will be saved as PDF (Note that this document can be searched based on the content)




3) Google Photos

This is another inbuilt app in phones with stock android and it can act as your Gallery. You may have used picasa to upload and share photos and it is not available anymore. Photo sharing functionalities are merged into Google+ and now it is available as a separate app. It is not just gallery. You can also create photo collage, video or animated GIF from the photos





Photo stories

A small photo album will be created from the photos uploaded in Google+. It will be arranged beautifully based on location and date with small narration. You can share these stories through number of media – SMS, WhatsApp, Google+, and Hangouts etc




4) Google Keep

This is handy if you use sticky notes every day. Interface is very simple and will give the same feel. You can create quick note, detailed list and set reminders against each note.



Let’s say you want to purchase grocery in the evening. Just add the list of items that needed to buy and set reminder. It can remind you based on time or location (It will remind exactly when you reach the store)




5) Google Chrome

I have written detailed review about Chrome desktop version in 2012. Almost all of them apply to the mobile version also. Have a look – http://negative-gravity.blogspot.in/2012/12/why-google-chrome-is-better-than-ie.html


6) App Backup and Restore

Internet is costly in India and you will be wasting your bandwidth if you have to download the app from Play Store every time you change your phone. Instead, you can save all your apps as .APK file and save to external memory or laptop.

This app will help you to backup your apps and restore them back. Also you can share the app with your friends via Bluetooth since android has no restriction like iPhone J






7) Greenify

This app is for users who have SUPERUSER permission (rooted devices). This will help you to hibernate resource hungry apps – Facebook, Whatsapp, Dropbox etc and save battery. I am getting 30% more battery life in Nexus 4 after using Greenify. This is very useful for phones with less RAM since social networking apps will always run in the background and use your RAM.





Summary 
Sometimes our phone is much useful than our laptop since we don’t receive updates from manufacturer without paying them. But android phone will get automatic updates no matter of the price or specification of the phone.  

That was quick tips about some of the Android apps. Hope these tips have helped you to know them better. If you like some other feature please let me know. Don’t hesitate to comment or click +1 button. It always helps!!!

Thanks for reading…. Take care!!

Monday, 3 November 2014

New Google Inbox Review - Hands on

OMG ….This is my 1st article for 2014. I am happy and it is for reviewing Google’s product – the company I always look for something new


So what is the Inbox is all about? It is still running in experimental mode and hence Google is using invite model. Also the invite says it is from GMail. This raises the eyebrows.. Are they gonna stop GMail? Not really … Not for now

History

When GMail was started 10 years ago, it redefined the email concept. Till then inbox size was limited and we used to delete mails everyday to keep it going. Also the interface was un-interesting and slow (we were using dial-up connection those days remember). GMail gave unlimited storage (1GB in the start) and very simple design and it was faster than others. It started getting attention and soon became the most reliable email client.

Some users were concerned that Google is reading their emails. The mails are automatically scanned and used for context sensitive ads and filter spam. If you are worried about that, I will suggest you look for some other email service.

Tabbed Inbox
Google introduced various tabs for inbox in mid 2013. The mails will be categorized into different tabs – Primary, Social, Updates, Promotions, Forums based on the content. This is very useful since we get bunch of promo mails and we will miss important mails from friends or work.

“Google Now” updates from GMail
Another step… we will receive notification about flight, delivery of package in “Google Now” based on the email content. Track package link will be available in “Google Now”



New Inbox

The new Inbox from GMail is the combination of above features and few other Google+ tools. It has used concept of tabs, Google Now updates, Google+ reminders and more importantly “Material Design”.

The material design makes it fresh and cooler than GMail. As of now GMail and Inbox works together and long term one can fade away. Now let’s see how it looks

This is how my desktop version looks



Similar to GMail tabs, emails are categorized based on the content. On clicking any tab, I will be able to see the emails. Colors used are very mild and pleasing to eyes. Different actions are displayed as we move the mouse over the email.




Instead of “move to trash” or delete Inbox has used word “mark as done” – with tick mark.  These mails will be moved to “Done” inbox. Also we can snooze an email for some duration (say you want to pay the bill after 2 days and till then you don’t want to see the mail). Also on moving the mouse on icon, it changes to checkbox for selecting multiple mails (Small but beautiful feature)



Also Inbox uses images wherever possible – purchase update, map links etc to make it more dynamic.

Search email

Search is made simpler with wide text box at the top and the way results displayed

GMail



Inbox



Compose

GMail has “compose” button to start a new email thread. Inbox shows various options on hovering mouse



We can create reminders directly from Inbox (it was part of Google+ before) and find recent contacts as well.



Also Invite button is available to send the Inbox invite to other friends.

The End
I am using the new Inbox (Desktop and Android version) from 2 weeks and it looks refreshing. Google is applying material design everywhere and Inbox looks cooler than GMail. But sometimes I get confused which mail is latest since Inbox reorders based on the action. It’s a matter of practice I guess

Have you tried the new Inbox from GMail? Do you feel it is as good as GMail? Please feel free to comment.

Play Store Link - Inbox

Take care!!

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Android 4.4 KitKat Hands On Review

Android KitKat was one of the most anticipated versions for 2013 due to the marketing strategy and other expected features.
Finally it was released in 1st week of November along with Nexus 5 release.

All Nexus 4 users, including me were waiting for the update since we heard about the new Google Now integrated launcher and ‘Okay Google’ stuff. But compared to other OTA updates, we had to wait for few weeks to get the Android 4.4 update. As usual, Indian users need to wait longer period and hence updated my device using Factory Image from Google Developer Site



Experience

What did I see after upgrade? UI was more or less the same with 4.2 launcher. But, the size of the apps are reduced significantly and also the RAM usage.

My battery was draining faster and it became better after rooting and installing Greenify. I have seen many complaints from user about the opaque notification bar and big icons are missing in Nexus 4.



There are links available to download ‘Google Experience Launcher’ or GEL which will give the Nexus 5 experience –
Swipe left to get Google Now
Google Search bar with ‘Okay Google’ option
Transparent status bar
Big icons

I also tried GEL and felt it was consuming lot of battery may be microphone will be listening all the time to hear ‘Okay Google’. Apart from that, no customization was possible including the desktop margins or changing the icons.



Then I heard about KitKat launcher, which gives similar UI with more customization –Icons can be changed (with same Nova/Apex icon packs), remove the search bar in the home screen, disable left swipe for Google Now and reduce the icon size.




What’s new in KitKat?

As far as I know, Google has made architectural changes in 4.4 to target devices with less RAM (even 512 MB). This will reduce the fragmentation issues since Android runs in both low end and high end devices. Ironically Google released few many versions of KitKat for various reasons

4.4 - 1st Factory Image - krt16o – 2nd week of November
4.4 - 2nd Factory Image - krt16s – November 3rd week – OTA version
4.4.1 – Patch – KOT49E - December
4.4.2 – Patch - KOT49E - December

Too many versions so far and it becomes difficult for other partners to start the rollout.

Now, let me move on to the features

1) Dialer – This is a significant improvement – UI looks clean, search and favorite contacts in 1 page. Also search is integrated with Google database to list the local yellow page (I don’t need to view the number in Chrome and copy paste, instead directly type ‘Taxi’ and view local vendors)



2) Hangout SMS – Hangout app will become the default SMS application and we can replace it with another SMS app. This is a nice feature since I don’t need to switch between 2 apps to send MMS and SMS



3) Setting default Home screen – minor change in the Settings screen to change the default launcher



4) ART – this is experimental stuff and may be running in beta or something; an option to switch the runtime between Dalvik and new Android Run Time. I did not find major difference in the performance since no graphic intensive apps are not installed in my phone.

ART Compatibility – All of my apps were compatible with ART except WhatsApp and it was resolved after updating 4.4.2

List of apps and status of compatibility - http://www.androidruntime.com/list

5) RAM – I was amazed to see the RAM usage after the upgrade; Nexus 4 has 2 GB RAM and only 400-450 MB was used by the background process. I have seen my friend’s Galaxy S3 that uses approx 1GB RAM and un-used Samsung process running in the background. I love Stock Android!!



6) Location preference – We can see the apps that use Google location data and can switch based on need – Device only / Battery Saving / High Accuracy (Navigation works with this option alone)



7) Lock Screen

Music widgets (Google Play Music, Tune-In Radio etc) in the lock screen looks great in the full screen view



8) Immersive mode

A new immersive mode is added in the library to view apps in the full screen without status bar and navigation bars. Only few apps like Google Play books have utilized the feature as of now.

Issues

I was lucky that I did not face the issues like – Google Dialer crashing / hanging and drastic battery drain (may be since I did not update via OTA)

Some of the minor issues faced are listed below

1) Media Server process – this process was running and battery was draining fast;

Followed below steps mentioned in Google Product Support Forums and I did not see the process again
A) Remove unwanted sync options – Currents, Google Play Music, Play Books, and TV etc

B) Stop the Google Currents process

C) Remove the dial and touchpad sound

2) Wi-Fi process – This process was running though I did not switch on Wi-Fi; switch off the “Scanning always available” option in the advanced Wi-Fi settings



3) Rooting

I was aware that after each update, root access of the phone will be lost due to the firmware changes. But, after updating 2nd factory image, I was getting error while opening superuser. Tried flashing zip file multiple times using Clockwordmod recovery and result was same. Finally found solution from Google+ to try TWRP recovery to flash the zip and issue was solved

Below is the superuser versions used in various KitKat versions

Version 1.65 - Sup...erSU-v1.65.zip –4.4 - Factory Image - krt16o
Version 1.75 - UPDATE-SuperSU-v1.75.zip – 4.4 - Factory Image - krt16s
Version 1.80 - UPDATE-SuperSU-v1.80.zip – 4.4.1 and 4.4.2

Conclusion

Overall it is a great experience to use KitKat; Nexus 4 became smoother and faster; Battery life got improved. I did not feel any change in the Camera app or quality of the pictures though I read it happened in Nexus 5.

So that was my hands on review about Android 4.4. Hope you enjoyed it. Please leave valuable comments and share with your friends. Happy New Year!!