Not all watch faces are created equal in the world of Android Wear, and that becomes apparent when you take a look at Illustration Watch Faces by VA. Many Watch Faces trade their aesthetics for giving you all the bells and whistles, but these faces go the opposite direction. If you're looking for beautifully designed faces with a few easy ways to customize, then look no further. We've got the full break down below on this fantastic set of watch faces.
When it comes to strapping a camera to something and doing something crazy, GoPro is usually the first gadget that comes to mind nowadays. The company has worked hard to put its hardware in the hands of some of the most extreme activities mankind has dreamed up, including Google's new Jump program, and as a result its the new Qi charger product offers nearly first-person view of what it's like to do those things from the safety of your couch.
As cool as it is to watch those videos, GoPro cameras can be used for a whole lot more than diving off of something or spinning around someone in spectacular fashion. The sheer number of options you have available to you with one of these little cameras is impressive, but accessing those settings from the camera itself is more than a little obnoxious. If you're in an environment where it is convenient, the GoPro app for Android is a much better idea.
Support for paid content within Google Play Newsstand has been expanded to Android users in the Philippines, Poland, Taiwan, and Ukraine. Customers in these areas will now be able to purchase magazines and newspapers from their Android phones and tablets. Currently, only 22 countries have access to the paid content, while the free content is available everywhere.
Classic rocker Neil Young doesn't like how his songs sound on streaming services like Spotify, Google Play Music and others. That's the reason why he has made the decision to remove his song library from those services.
With no Google Play edition variants from HTC or Samsung this year, users who crave the unique hardware experiences offered by these companies are once again left wondering what the best way to make their phone feel more like a Nexus could be. One big thing HTC and Samsung have in common this generation is their new theme engines. While the theme systems deployed by HTC and Samsung aren't exactly the same, there's been no shortage of theme creators trying their hand at releasing Material Design themes into both stores.
How do these themes stand up to the real thing? Glad you asked. Let's take a look.
The Nexus Experience
Google's Nexus hardware gets updated with all the latest goodies before everything else, which includes the guidelines for Google's shiny new design language. Material Design is all about adding depth and life to the user experience, which means cards and layers and clean, crisp fonts and icons. It's a clutter-free experience that tucks menu items off to the left and right, with the Roboto font sitting front and center.
Google's guidelines for Material Design couldn't be more clear, and it's the language we'll eventually see across all of Google's web and mobile experiences, which is why the company is working so hard to make sure developers have the tools necessary to offer similar experiences in their own apps and services.
We also know that Google is, at the very least, playing with the notion that offering a dark theme in the next version of Android is a good idea. There are a lot of folks out there who aren't huge fans of the flat white look to a lot of the Material experience right now, and a dark theme would help with that quite a bit. We'll most likely see more on this when Android M reaches an official release, but in the meantime it's a fun thing to play with if you're still on the first build of the Developer Preview. (The theming was pulled in the first update.)
Material Design is simple, clean, and everything you need to implement this experience, right down to the font, is out there for you to take advantage of, for free.
Material themes in the HTC store
One of the coolest things about the new HTC theme engine is how modular and flexible the experience is. Anyone can publish a theme to the HTC store, and can even charge money if they so choose. We live in the golden age of icon packs and themes for third party variants of Android, but surprisingly few themes in the HTC store dubbed "Material" offer something that looks similar to the Nexus experience. The above theme, which is called Material Flat in the HTC Store, includes a neat looking Material-ish wallpaper, and that's about the only thing you can say is Material about the experience. The icons, while cool looking, aren't anything like the Nexus Material icons.
This next theme wasn't clearly labeled Material Design, but it managed to be closer than most. This is the AOSP Dark theme, and it features icons that are similar to the Nexus icon pack, as well as a nice wallpaper and a reasonable color palette given how dark this is supposed to be. While all HTC themes are going to offer the elements of Sense UI you expect to find in an HTC phone, this is a nice blend of Material and Sense. It's probably as close as you can get to a dark theme that looks almost like it could be on a Nexus at first glance.
As you can see, these are pretty far from what you see on a Nexus device. In most cases, the so-called Material themes in the HTC store are little more than a nice wallpaper. In fact, in our browsing, there were two that seemed to offer the Nexus 5 default wallpaper as the "Material" offering to the theme. A lot more can be done here, especially with the flexibility HTC offers, so maybe we'll see more (and better) options in the future.
Samsung's Material-ish offerings
Samsung's theme engine isn't nearly as flexible or user-guided as HTC's, but the tradeoff is you get a significantly less chaotic browsing experience with more complete themes and a generally more professional feel to the ecosystem. Samsung has approves several themes that call themselves Material, and like the one above you can see the biggest changes are the wallpaper and the icons. There's an honest attempt to make the folders more Material-ish with a shaded circle in the background to offer depth, but it doesn't always show. You'll also notice the Quick Settings panel is a little different, but given the current design for TouchWiz there's not much more to be done here.
The next best offering in the Samsung theme store is the Material Dark theme. As the name suggests it is a whole lot of dark, even in places where a splash of color really wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. While the Android M dark theme is far from complete, this color palette is probably a lot closer to what most folks who say they want a dark theme have in mind. This isn't the most popular Material theme on the Samsung store right now, but it's also relatively new compared to some of the others. It's not exactly what most would call Material, but the designer clearly deserves points for trying.
Samsung places a lot of limitations on the things that can be themed, so it's unlikely we'll ever see Material themes that offer much more than what you see here. If these are enough to scratch that Nexus itch for you, it's likely these will be your default theme for quite a while.
WifiMapper is a new Android app from the OpenSignal team that will help you quickly and easily find the nearest free Wi-Fi hotspot. The app will show the best free hotspots, from local coffee shops to cafes and libraries. The OpenSignal team is using its own algorithm to recommend locations to users, and corrections can be made if the signal is no good, or you think the coffee is terrible.
Pushbullet, the popular app which allows easy communication between your phone an computer, has brought a full SMS experience to the desktop. Previously, users could access single messages and send replies, but now they can view all the conversations from their phone. With this, you can now easily have full conversations with multiple contacts from your computer, and pick up right where you left off on your phone when you leave.
Evernote for Android Wear — as in the Android Wear companion to the Evernote mobile app — has been around for just over a year now. You really can't understate just how handy this app can be for helping to keep your life organized, all with a swipe or a voice command.
Yes, even on a watch. So let's take a look at just how much help it can really be.
Dashlane, a popular password manager, can now be unlocked using your a fingerprint on Samsung phones. With this addition, people who use Dashlane on their Samsung devices that have a fingerprint scanner, like the Galaxy S5 or Galaxy S6, will be able to unlock and access their stored passwords and accounts using their fingerprint.
Red Bull has launched Red Bull Alert, a new alarm clock app for both Android phones and Android Wear smartwatches that hopes to get you out of bed and moving. Alert features competitive leaderboards to motivate you to get out of bed faster, and a number sports themes with which you can customize the app.
Google will once again allow outside contributors to edit features on Google Maps in the near future with the reopening of its Google Map Maker service. The company will open the service on a limited basis sometime in early August, in order to find reliable community members that can take on some of the reviews of user-generated map edits.
Nokia has rolled out a new beta version of its HERE mapping service that introduces a new interface. The app now features a contextual menu that is activated by a long press anywhere on the map. Doing so brings up a menu with location information, along with options to share, get directions or start navigation to that location.
Uber has announced that it is once again accepting credit card payments in India, stating that its Android app now conforms to the two-factor authentication guidelines set forth by India's banking regulatory body, the Reserve Bank of India.
Custom launchers — apps that replace the home screens, app drawers and (sometimes) widgets on our Android phones and tablets — have long been popular amongst the Android faithful. I use one. Phil uses one. Heck, I think all of us here at AC are either using one right now, or will be on our next phone. There's good reason for this. Chances are you can find a launcher with exactly the features you want to make your Android look and act just the way you want it to look and act. Google shares the code for a good, albeit basic, launcher with everyone. The big names in the business, companies like Samsung or LG or HTC, can use what they want and add to it, or replace any part to make something they think is better. And so can the third-party developers out there, as well as "hobbyist" developers. And there are plenty of smart folks who are doing it.
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