1 week ago

Weekend fun: 5 great Android icon packs

Android icon packs

If you're going to take the time to get creative with your home screens, you'll probably want to finish things off with a set of custom icons. They give things that little bit of extra in the looks department, and with so many custom icon choices available in Google Play, you're sure to find the right ones. We're going to get the party started with a few favorites.

Remember, you'll probably need to install a custom Launcher that allows you to edit icons, either via a theme or individually. Or both. Something like Nova Launcher will do the trick, but there are other great options out there as well. If you can't decide, dive into the forums and see what some of those verified homescreen wizards have to say.

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1 week ago

Never wonder about who you're listening to with Shazam on Android Wear


Ever had that moment when you hear a song but can't for the life of you remember who sings it, or what it's called? Yes, you could grab a hunk of lyrics and look it up on Google, but you could also go ahead and use an app made for just that. Shazam, the music recognizing app has been around for some time now, but you might not know that it works with Android Wear So check it out, and see what you've been missing.

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1 week ago

Why Action Launcher is the only launcher I use ...

Action Launcher 3.5

The launcher is the most important part of any smartphone user interface. And the best one comes from Australia.

I don't recall exactly when I got fed up with every launcher that wasn't Action Launcher. But I do remember why. I'm not all that adventurous when it comes to my home screens. I know what apps I want out front, and I know where I want them. And what I don't want is for the spacing to be all jacked up between the only widget I use and any apps or folders. And maybe between the Google Search Bar, which might or might not have its own spacing issues of its own, depending on whether it's permanently embedded in the home screen, or overlaid as a widget.

And to be fair, this was some time ago. Nexus phones handled things just fine. And I'm pretty sure Motorola did (and still does), too. But way back when I took the plunge on Action Launcher, which did away with the typical app drawer full of icons and moved things to a side-sliding list. Those of you who came from the early days of Windows Phone will note that this sounds familiar. And I wasn't exactly a stranger to that sort of thing either, having been a longtime user of the precursor to Windows Phone, the Microsoft Zune HD. Long live the list.

But really, I was here for the adjustable spacing.

Fast forward to mid-2015. Action Launcher 3.5 is fresh on my phones (for whatever reason I still don't use a different launcher on my tablets). And it's still the only launcher I'll use.

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1 week ago

Inatek MercuryBox Waterproof Speaker review


Bluetooth speakers are great for gatherings and even better when they're water-friendly.

The Inatek MercuryBox is compact enough to easily fit in your backpack or pocket, measuring 6.5-inches in length and nearly 2.5-inches in height. Most of its construction is made of an anodized aluminum that features a unique perforated design on the front. Inside are two 5W drivers that provide impressive full-range sound for all your mobile music, regardless of genre.

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1 week ago

OnePlus 2 launch event app now available in Google Play, reservation list opens


With the official OnePlus 2 announcement coming on July 27, through virtual reality, OnePlus has released its OnePlus 2 Launch app in Google Play. In addition to releasing its new app, the OnePlus team is now opened its reservation list for invites. The app itself is very basic, its essentially just a launcher for the stream, where the new phone will be announced. You can watch the announcement from within Google Cardboard, or without it.

The reservation list holds you a spot for an invite. OnePlus has said that it has 30 to 50 times the stock on hand this year that it did last year, so hopefully supply constraint won't be as big of an issue. If you are interested in the OnePlus 2, you will want to get on the reservation list as soon as possible, and be sure to download the launch app to be prepared. In case you've missed it, here's everything we know about the OnePlus 2 so far.

Reserve your spot for a OnePlus 2 invite

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1 week ago

OnePlus 2: Ahead of Monday's event, what we know so far


Few smartphones generated as much buzz among Android enthusiasts in 2014 as the OnePlus One. While that buzz often emerged from a series of controversies spawned from a series of misguided attempts to drum up even more hype for something the company lacked sufficient inventory to sell in the first place, to go from being a company no one has ever heard of to something it seemed like half the Internet was talking about is significant. The phone itself wasn't too bad either, though it hardly lives up to the "Flagship Killer" title so frequently associated with its marketing.

The time has nearly come for OnePlus to unveil their sophomore effort, and like last year the company has kept the world on a slow morphine drip of information with the promise of a grand reveal on July 27. Here's a quick look at what we know so far, and what you should expect when it comes time to decide if requesting an invite is worth your time.

The '2016 Flagship Killer'

OnePlus 2

We all know that a smartphone is much more than a spec sheet, but OnePlus has done a masterful job ensuring that aspect of the phone is out in the world for everyone to talk about. The company has confirmed a hardware sheet just a hair above the top performing devices out there today, including 4GB of RAM and a 3,300mAh battery. These are significant because 3GB of RAM is the current standard for a high end smartphone, and at 3,300mAh the OnePlus 2 will have greater capacity than the LG G4, which is currently the only "flagship" without some sort of major battery life concern.

OnePlus is all too aware of its core audience and the interest in new technology.

We also know the phone will be running the controversial Snapdragon 810 processor, and although OnePlus made sure to point out it was the "cool" running variant of the chip we've since learned that most 810s on the market are this same version. The Snapdragon 810 has suffered from a significant amount of bad press, due largely to evidence that the 64-bit processor gets too hot to run all four of the faster cores in its big.LITTLE configuration for particularly long. In many cases, this chip struggles to run as well as the Snapdragon 800 and 801. While that doesn't mean there's any great need to be concerned about performance it does suggest this phone, like many other 810-based phones, isn't likely to perform processor-heavy tasks any better than its predecessor.

Chinese regulator TENAA revealed photos of the front and rear of the OnePlus 2 during its certification process, and included in those photos is a Samsung-esque physical button on the bottom of the phone and an LG-esque laser focus on the back. It's believed this physical button will include fingerprint scanning capabilities, and like the OnePlus One there's expected to be software that lets you choose between software buttons on the screen and soft buttons on either side of this physical button.

Something worth being excited about if you're into future-proof devices and shiny new things is the inclusion of a USB-C port on the phone. Assuming the phone ships shortly after launch, this will be the first consumer phone in the U.S. that includes this port. It also means you're going to need to buy all new cables for charging the phone, but it's a fun addition to the device all the same. OnePlus is all too aware of its core audience and the interest in new technology, and being future-forward consumers has always been a staple of the Android ecosystem, so this is something well worth being excited about.

Big promises from the camera

OnePlus Cardboard

2015 has already been a huge year for cameras in Android phones. The Galaxy S6 and LG G4 have proven to be incredibly capable both in the front and rear cameras, and OnePlus has not been at all shy about comparing their not-yet-released smartphone to these heavyweights.

Several of the weekly teases from OnePlus since their slow drip began have included side-by-side image comparisons with Samsung and LG's best, and if the results are to be believed it looks like these cameras all have quite a bit in common. The data from these photos reveals a 13-megapixel sensor shooting in 4:3, and the laser on the back of the OnePlus 2 likely behaves similarly to that of the G4. What it appears this phone is lacking in the camera department is Optical Image Stabilization, which could prove problematic when capturing photos while moving or in dark environments. (And in any case we'll do our own testing, thank you very much.)

OnePlus has not been at all shy about comparing their not-yet-released smartphone to current heavyweights.

The camera was one of the biggest disappointments from the OnePlus One, so it's no surprise the company has worked hard to offer a noticeably better solution this year. Capturing and processing a photo is most of the work here, but providing a decent user experience in the process is also important. While it has been made clear that he's using a pre-production device with unfinished hardware and software, the brief glimpse into the camera UI offered by MKBHD is his video on the OnePlus 2 was more than a little underwhelming. It's not a huge deal if the end result is great pictures, but visually the experience seems a little plain.

Goodbye Cyanogen, Hello Oxygen


If you had become comfortable with the software included in your OnePlus One, get ready for a big change when you upgrade to this new phone. OnePlus has developed its own version of Android in-house, thanks to some important Android developer hires. Many of the talented names behind the popular Paranoid Android ROM now work for OnePlus, and their efforts have come together to create OxygenOS.

Since this is OnePlus, you can expect the phone to be easy to unlock and flash out of the box.

Unlike Cyanogen OS, which was created as a branded effort through the popular community project CyanogenMod, OxygenOS focuses on a clean, fast experience with few UI features that differ from Nexus-style Android. In theory, combining a lightweight version of Android with all of the power expected to be under the hood in the OnePlus 2 is a great thing, but optimizing Android for a single hardware experience with no roadmap isn't something this team has a ton of experience with. A quick look at the most successful Paranoid Android builds reveals mostly Nexus experiences, where the Android Open Source Project has all of the heavy lifting spelled out already. We'll need to put hands on before passing judgement on anything, but this team had several unique challenges ahead of them in building software for the OnePlus 2 and it'll be interesting to see how they do.

Since this is OnePlus, and their audience demands a certain level of flexibility, you can expect the phone to be easy to unlock and flash out of the box. It'll take the ROM community a little bit to prepare something worth using if OxygenOS ends up not being your thing, but there's going to be plenty of options. On the other hand, it sounds like Oxygen could be exactly what people want, so there may not be any great desire to replace the OS.

One step forward

OnePlus Invites

So far there's nothing about the OnePlus 2 as a phone that we don't like. It's looking like a worthy successor to the One, and while there's plenty about the user experience we don't know about yet it's clear the company is focusing on improving where they were weak last year.

With any luck, this launch will continue the stellar year we've had so far with shiny new Android phones.

The only thing that hasn't changed in any measurable way is the invite system. OnePlus promises more units available at launch and a greater production scale, but the success of the phone last year and the promise of a less-than-$450 price tag is going to increase demand over last year. It took the company months to get the phone out to folks who wanted them at launch, and there's little to suggest the same problems won't follow the OnePlus 2 release. For some users, the notion that this phone is a "2016 Flagship Killer" could point to when they will be able to get their hands on the OnePlus 2

We're going to be right there with you at the launch of this phone on July 27, and like most of you we're looking forward to getting answers to the questions that remain for the OnePlus 2. With any luck, this launch will continue the stellar year we've had so far with shiny new Android phones and we'll have newfound respect for this crazy little company.

Discuss your expectations for the OnePlus 2 in the forums!

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1 week ago

Android Central 246: Kids and VR with Dr. Joe Cohen


Audio-only stream below

This is a must-listen for you nerd parents out there! We're shaking things up a bit this week as Russell and Jerry continue the discussion about virtual reality, bringing in "techie pediatrician" Dr. Joe Cohen of Austin, Texas, to help answer some burning questions about VR and our children. Is it safe? How much is too much? And what's the right age to let a child try VR?

You can hit up Dr. Cohen on Google+, and find more at KiddoEMR.

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1 week ago

Celebrate Chromecast's second birthday with a free movie rental


Google is celebrating the Chromecast's second birthday with a free movie rental offer for owners. Whether you currently own a Chromecast, or are looking to purchase one, you have until December 31, 2015 to redeem the offer.

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1 week ago

Fallout Shelter is coming to Android on August 13


Bethesda has announced that they will be bringing Fallout Shelter to Android devices on August 13, 2015. The company announced that it was working on an Android version of the game just last month.

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1 week ago

FCC approves AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV


The FCC has voted to approve AT&T's acquisition of DirecTV, just a few days after FCC chairman Tom Wheeler recommended the commission do just that. In its approval statement, however, the FCC has outlined some conditions to which AT&T had to agree in order to receive approval. From the FCC:

As part of the merger, AT&T-DIRECTV will be required to expand its deployment of high-speed, fiber optic broadband Internet access service to 12.5 million customer locations as well as to E-rate eligible schools and libraries. In addition, AT&T-DIRECTV is prohibited from using discriminatory practices to disadvantage online video distribution services and will submit its Internet interconnection agreements for Commission review. Finally, AT&T-DIRECTV will offer broadband services to low-income consumers at discounted rates.

The document goes on to mention that the conditions are intended to curb any potential harm that could come from a massive deal that will see an already influential AT&T merging with the nation's largest satellite TV provider.

It will definitely be interesting to see what comes out of this deal, which has been in the works since early 2014. Presumably, we could start to see some interesting mobile video offerings from AT&T, along with an expansion of the company's current internet and television service offerings.

Source: FCC

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1 week ago

Goal Zero Venture 30 waterproof battery pack review


This summer I went camping with the Goal Zero Venture 30 7,800 mAh backup battery. My grand ambitions of getting a tan from something other than a computer screen led me to find a battery that could handle all sorts of treacherous terrain, and the Venture 30 is built for the job. Not only does it have a grippy, rubberized rim for impact protection while stomping around in the woods, it is waterproof without needing extra gaskets to cover up the plugs.

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1 week ago

ASUS Chromebook Flip (C100) review

ASUS Chromebook Flip

This isn't the Chromebook for everyone, but it offers enough to be a compelling option for those who need ultimate portability.

The quick take

The Chromebook Flip is pushing the envelope of what we consider a "standard" Chromebook, with extreme portability, good components and the option to convert into a pseudo-tablet. At 10.1 inches and less than two pounds it's easily the smallest Chromebook we've used, and that has positives but also makes it tough to work with when compared to a "full-sized" laptop. The internals offer solid performance while also keeping battery life long and heat to a minimum despite not having fans, and the LED backlit display looks great while also packing good multitouch capability.

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1 week ago

Monument Valley, Goat Simulator, and more games discounted by up to 90 percent on Google Play


Google Play is currently hosting a big sale, in which it is offering a variety of games for up to 90 percent off. With prices varying from as low as $0.10 up to $0.99, these are some deals you won't want to miss. The sales are running now through July 27, so you will want to act quickly. Some of these deals include:

For a full list of savings, and to grab even more great apps, be sure to hit the link below.

Save up to 90 percent on some great Android games

Thanks for the tip, Jay Lee!

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1 week ago

Moto G 2015 gets revealed yet again, this time in real form


The Moto G 2015 has been the center of quite a few leaks already, and with an official Motorola event right around the corner, its not all that surprising. We have already seen the various customization options that Motorola may offer with the phone, as well as the specs, but what we had yet to see was a fully functional model, in clear pictures.

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1 week ago

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge in green emerald now available from Vodafone UK


Vodafone UK has announced that customers are now able to purchase the green emerald variant of the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge. The green variant was announced for general release in the UK at the beginning of July, though Vodafone has only just now announced that it can be purchased. Internally, the phone is identical, featuring the double-rounded display; the only difference here is the color.

Plans start at £39 per month on a 24-month contract with 1 GB of data, and a £29 upfront payment for the 32GB model. For the 64GB model, you are looking at £44 per month on a 24-month contract with 1 GB of data, and a £119 upfront payment.

Purchase the green emerald Samsung Galaxy S6 edge from Vodafone UK

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