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2 years ago

Jelly Bean feature: A more functional notification drop-down [video]

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Google took its first steps towards redesigning the Android notification tray in Ice Cream Sandwich, and in the latest version, 4.1 Jelly Bean, it's taken things a step further, creating truly informative and interactive notification entries that border on widget-like levels of interactivity. In addition to the standard icon-and-label combo we're used to from earlier Android versions, many Jelly Bean-compatible notifications can be expanded by dragging down with a two-finger gesture. For example, if you've got an IM notification, you can swipe down with two fingers to view the first few lines of the message.

In addition, you'll find that notifications from many Google apps now feature buttons that allow you to perform certain tasks without entering the app. Google Calendar events, for instance, include a button to snooze the event (you can still swipe it away to dismiss it). And after capturing a screenshot, there's a handy "Share" button that you can use to send it via social networks, or any other sharing app you have installed.

Gmail is where I find this feature most useful, though. Swiping down on a Gmail notifications in Jelly Bean allows you to view a list of subject lines and senders, assuming you've got multiple messages waiting. Or alternatively, if there's just one, you can view the sender, subject line, and the first several lines of the message -- more than enough to work out if it's worth jumping into the app to respond. It's a great way to take advantage of the extra visual real estate offered by the Nexus 7, and looks good on the Galaxy Nexus too, assuming you're not already drowning in notifications.

We've got a brief video showing of all these features after the break. Also be sure to check out the rest of our Jelly Bean feature articles.

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2 years ago

How to use Pop up play on the Samsung Galaxy S3

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Pop up play might just be the “killer” feature you use to show off your new Samsung Galaxy S III (S3) and make iPhone users green with envy.

Multitasking is not just a nice feature to have on a new smartphone – it is required in order to play in the same league with the big boys and girls.  Our busy lives demand that we be able to do more than one thing at a time and not lose our place in one app to interact with another. 

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2 years ago

Jelly Bean feature: Camera app tweaks for easier photo management

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Android 4.1 Jelly Bean introduces a couple of new features in the stock camera app, with the aim of making it easier to sort through and prune all those photos you've been shooting with zero shutter lag. Currently only available on the Galaxy Nexus (the Nexus 7 doesn't have a rear camera), the Jelly Bean camera app adds a new animation when photos are being taken, which acts as a visual hint at a new swipe gesture that's been added. Flick to the left at any time, and you'll be able to scroll through all the photos you've taken. From there, you can crop, rotate or share, just like in the gallery app. Alternatively, pinch to zoom out, and there's an expanded view from which you can swipe upwards to discard unwanted photos. And at the front of this photo stream is the live feed from your camera, which can be tapped to go back to shooting stills.

We're not going to pretend the Galaxy Nexus has the best smartphone camera out there -- indeed, that 5MP sensor is looking a little long in the tooth when compared to the latest HTC and Samsung offerings. But nevertheless, it's good to see Google addressing one of the main problems caused by shooting images in rapid succession -- the sheer volume of photos you can quickly find yourself with. Check out our video above for a walkthrough of all these new features, or hit the link below to check out our other Jelly Bean feature articles.

More: Check out more Jelly Bean features

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2 years ago

Jelly Bean feature: Sending photos and videos over Android Beam

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In Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Android Beam -- that's the NFC-based device-to-device transfer service -- has been augmented to support sending photo and video content. This is done from within the Gallery app, and can be activated by holding two NFC (Near-Field Communication)-supporting Jelly Bean devices back-to-back while one has an image or video open. Then, when prompted, tap the screen to send, just like earlier Android Beam incarnations. File transfers themselves are handled by Bluetooth, so depending on your device's Bluetooth version support, your transfer speeds may vary. However, it is nice to see the hassle associated with Bluetooth file transfers all but eliminated thanks to NFC and Android Beam.

Android Beam's latest upgrade also means it can support transferring multiple files. Simply long press on a photo or video in the Gallery app, select as many items as you like, then hold the devices back-to-back to send. Like we said, though, the fact that Bluetooth is used for all the heavy lifting means that you probably won't want to send too much stuff over Android Beam if you can help it. In our experience, though, it's worked out pretty well for smaller stuff.

We should note, however, that while the new Android Beam shares a lot in common with the Samsung Galaxy S III's S Beam, the two technologies aren't compatible. Samsung's uses Wifi Direct for file transfers after an NFC connection has been established, compared to Android Beam's Bluetooth. So sending photos from a Jelly Bean-equipped Galaxy Nexus to an ICS-running Galaxy S III won't be possible. (And actually, this may present something of a technical headache when the S III eventually gets Jelly Bean.)

In any case, if you want to check out how this all works in more detail, you can find out hands-on video of photo and video transfers over Android Beam after the break.

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2 years ago

How to get a refund on an app from Google Play beyond the 15 minute time window

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See, sometimes there is method to my madness! After being a little lot stupid and buying a crappy $200 Vuvuzela app from the Google Play store on Sunday (see video above), I thought I kissed that money goodbye. I failed to remember you can easily get refunds out of the Googe Play store within 15 minutes of purchase just by going back to the app and tapping the Refund button. D'oh! By the time Phil reminded me about this later in the day, hours had already passed, so we both assumed I was out of luck.

Turns out that's not the case though. While the 15 minute refund is a no-hassle, no-questions asked refund policy, you can actually request an app refund beyond the 15 minute time window. As I type this it's almost 30 hours after I bought the Vuvuzela app, and I just requested the refund and was issued it within minutes. I'm sure many of you out there are familiar with this process already, but for those who are not keep reading for the details!

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2 years ago

From the Android Forums: What is Kies?

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delldude405 asks in the Samsung Galaxy S III forums,

Being new to the Samsung community, I notice that Samsung is doing their updates through Kies.

Could someone explain what this is, is it safe, and all that other jazz. I'm not one who can root because of security concerns but, is this like the Motorola feedback community (soak testers)?

Kies is a lot of things. It's a way to sync and backup your contacts and device data, it's a front end for transferring media like music and video between your computer and your phone, and as you've noticed, it's a method to update the device firmware on Samsung phones.

Using it is pretty easy. Install it on your computer (Windows or Mac), then plug your phone in with the provided USB data cable. Kies will find it, and present you with a fairly simple user interface full of things you can do with it. On Windows computers, Kies includes a set of universal device drivers so you don't have to fool with that, and it will automatically recognize your phone in case you have more than one. 

Most power users only use Kies for firmware updates, and even then only when it's required. Because all the features are available without Samsung's fancy front end, there's no real reason to install yet another software suite to your computer if you don't mind doing things the manual way. We're just glad users have a choice to use it or not to use it.

For an in-depth look at Kies, hit the break for a video from Samsung.

Have a question you need answered? (Preferably about Android, but we're flexible.) Hit up our Contact Page to get in touch!

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2 years ago

Top 10 things you need to know about your Galaxy S3

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2 years ago

Samsung Galaxy S III USB host video walkthrough

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​How to connect flash drives, hard drives, keyboards and mice to the Samsung Galaxy S III using USB host

Here's a lesser-known feature of the new Galaxy S III -- the ability to connect all manner of USB peripherals to Samsung's latest flagship phone, from mass storage to input devices. You'll need a USB OTG (on-the-go) cable to be able to connect all this stuff into the Galaxy S III or any other USB host-supporting phone.

Like the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note before it, the S III supports full USB host capabilities, meaning if you've got the right connector you can go completely nuts and plug all sorts of stuff into the phone. In our video, we tried USB memory sticks, full-sized SD card readers, USB hubs, hard drives, keyboards and mice. All of them worked. At one point we even had a hub plugged into the S III, allowing keyboard and mouse support simultaneously.

While we don't imagine many people will be using this feature every day, it's certainly impressive to see a smartphone able to handle such a wide range of USB gadgets, including full-sized desktop peripherals. Check out our video demo of USB host on the Samsung Galaxy S III above, and be sure to share your own experiences down in the comments if you've tinkered with this sort of thing yourself.

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2 years ago

How to disable the water droplet sound on the Samsung Galaxy S3

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Samsung's marketing campaign for the new Samsung Galaxy S III (S3) focuses heavily on how the visuals and sounds in its software are "inspired by nature." But one of the less welcome results of this is the water droplet sound that plays every time you press an on-screen button, menu or widget. Thankfully there's an easy way to make this quieter -- or completely silence it -- if it's not your cup of tea. Check out the video above for a quick walkthrough.

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: Multitasking

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Multitasking is a word you'll hear a lot around here and at other places on the Internet that talk about smartphones or other tech. It doesn't mean what it used to, back when dinosaurs with long beards first dreamed up computers, but it still makes a very big difference for some folks and can be the deciding factor when picking a smartphone operating system. Let's have a look and see what the fuss is all about, and how it relates to Android.

A long time ago, in a laboratory far, far away, some Jedi masters decided that computers should do more than one thing at a time. They really already were doing plenty of things behind the scenes, but to the user it was a case of entering a command, and waiting for it to finish. Using threads and schedulers, and probably a little magic and a lot of luck, engineers were able to work up an operating system that could run more than one user command at a time, and multitasking was born. When you switch to a new VT (virtual terminal) on a Unix box with no GUI, you're multitasking. When you have more than one window open on your Windows or Mac or other computer that does have a GUI, you're multitasking. You're doing more than one thing at a time, and the computer is running more than one user task at a time. You can now read Android Central while your completely legal torrents are downloading in the background.

On a smartphone, multitasking is a bit different. We don't have the luxury of a 20-inch monitor, so showing more than one "thing" running at a time isn't a big deal. Samsung is testing the waters and trying it with the Galaxy S III with the Pop-Up Play feature, but for the most part whatever we're doing takes the whole screen to do it. We also don't have tons of RAM and video memory available and have to watch the power usage. This means smartphone multitasking has to be a bit, well, smarter. 

Smartphones have been multitasking for a long time. All the mobile operating systems do it a bit differently -- some suspending all other apps in the background, some saving the state and closing the app itself, and others just letting everything run. The way Android does it is to let threads and processes run depending on their priority. If you're using Google Play Music, the processes that make the sound come out of the speaker have a high enough priority to stay running when you switch away from the app. Not all of it is running in the background, but enough of it is to keep the tunes playing. Other apps can be killed if they aren't being used, and some apps get "frozen" (for lack of a better word) and restore themselves when brought back to the foreground. What's important, and prioritized, is decided when the application is written and compiled so the end user doesn't have to worry about it. It's not perfect, but it follows the very strong multitasking model from Linux and tweaks it for Android. It's all open-source, so manufacturers and ROM builders can (and have) tweaked things to allocate memory the way they want it allocated. Sometimes the tweaks are great, sometimes not so much

In the end, remember the next time you open an app and start up where you left off that you're seeing multitasking at work. 

Check out the complete Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: LG's L-series smartphones

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This time on Android A to Z we're going to be talking about LG's L-series phones. They made a big splash earlier this year at Mobile World Congress, and a few carriers in Canada jumped at the chance to sell them, but then they seem to have fallen off the map. I'll admit, even I have to look and see what we're talking about when we have potential news about the L3, L5, or L7. Let's have a refresh.

Imagine LG's Prada phone, but remade for folks who don't buy Prada. The L-series phones are all stylish (and really resemble LG's iconic Prada phones -- check out our look at them in Barcelona) and have an emphasis on good looks. The entry-level L3 competes with phones like HTC's One V and Samsung's entry-level Galaxy phones. It's running Gingerbread on a 3.2-inch display, but it looks nice doing it. Compared to something like the Motorola Defy Mini, you get good looks along with your dirt-cheap pricing. The L5 takes things up a notch to Ice Cream Sandwich and a 4-inch screen, placing it in the middle of the road where most people look first when buying a new smartphone. They'll see the L5, and notice the build materials and design. Finally, the L7 looks to compete with the big dogs of the Android world, with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a high-end smartphone, in a damn fine looking external shell. All three are eye-grabbing, and getting people to notice is the first hurdle. We're really not sure why we don't hear more and see more about them, but we're guessing a saturated market has something to do with it. 

Maybe we'll see the L-series phones make their way into the spotlight, maybe we won't. But at least now we all know what we're talking about when we see them mentioned.

Check out the complete Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

CrackBerry Kevin World Tour: What accessories do I need for my Android phone?

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While sounding off about my HTC One X experiences during Thursday's Android Central Podcast, I brought up the topic of accessories. When it comes to BlackBerry, I have my list of favorites, and usually go on a shopping spree after I upgrade to a new phone. A pair of charging stands (need for both nightstand and office desk), a case or skin or screen protector, car mount, spare batteries, extra chargers (I tend to leave them in hotels)... you get the picture, I'm a bit of an accessory junkie. For some items I prefer going OEM while for other items I prefer going third party.

This is the first time I'm really going all-in on an Android phone, and it's a fresh start for me on the accessory front. I took a stroll through ShopAndroid.com today and loaded some items up into the cart, but figured before checking out I should check in with the Android Central community and get their input. I could tell from the comments to my Mobile Nations World Tour post that there are a lot of smart people on this site with a lot of strong opinions. So help me out here. What are the must-have accessories that will help me get the most out of the Android experience?

Don't be shy. Let me know in the comments. I lucked in by already owning a matching pair of Beats for my One X, but that's all I've got.

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: Jellybean!

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Jellybean is the name of a delicious hard-shelled confectionery with a soft, even more delicious inside. Made mostly of sugar and Unicorn sweat, they are a favorite of Android bloggers and ex-presidents, and probably are really good for you. Especially the black ones. Or the green ones. Sometimes the white ones, too.

It's also the rumored nickname of the next version of Android.

Since version 1.5, Android has had code names based on sweets and treats. We've seen Cupcake (v. 1.5), Donut (v. 1.6), Eclair (v. 2.0.1 and 2.1), Froyo (v. 2.2), Gingerbread (v. 2.3), Honeycomb (v. 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2), and Ice Cream Sandwich (v. 4.0) so far. We're pretty sure that the next version will have a similar delicious name. What we're not sure of is exactly what version it will be, or exactly what name it will carry. The general speculation is that we'll see Android 4.1 with the code name Jellybean sometime this year. But until we hear it from Google, that's all just a series of educated guesses.

What's not just a guess is that it will get everyone excited, bring new features (and bugs) to the table, and we'll be all over it as soon as it appears. That's what we do -- eat jelly beans and talk Android 24/7. Life is good.

Check out the complete Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

Pro tip: Avoid unsightly contextless crotch shots on the Google+ app with better descriptions

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No, Google+ app. Not "this." Because "this," being a comic-drawn crotch shot, is not what I wanted folks to focus their attention on when I linked to Peter Ha's TechCrunch piece debunking the Bloomberg story that Microsoft had "shut out" HTC from manufacturing Windows 8 devices. My only comment -- "This."

(BTW, Bloomberg's is a fairly ridiculous story, led by the all-too-familiar "people with knowledge of the matter." If you didn't bite on it, kudos.)

But if you'd seen my post from the Google+ app, all you'd know is that apparently I like cartoon pr0n. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, I suppose.)

This all stems, of course, from Google's recent redesign of the Google+ app. And for the most part, it's a beautiful redesign. Images are large. Posts are easy to follow -- so long as you don't actually link to anything. It's something I noted at the outset but apparently forgot because I'm using G+ on the desktop side most of the time. It's also a step backward. The app used to have this problem, then it got fixed in April. Now? It's gone again, at least in the stream view.  (Tap into the post and things look better, with headlines and summaries.)

I've learned my lesson. This'll put an end to the one-liners. I'll use 20 words when only one is needed. Or Google could just add back a little beta of metadata.

Regardless, learn from my mistake. Only you can prevent inadvertent contextless Google+ crotch shots.

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: What is an IMEI?

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The IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) number is a unique set of 15 digits used on GSM phones to identify them. Because the SIM card is associated with the user and can  be swapped from phone to phone, a method is needed to keep track of the hardware itself, and that's why the IMEI was developed. Math nerds will enjoy the way they are calculated -- the first 14 digits are decided by the GSM association, and the final check digit is computed using what's called the Luhn Formula -- crazy base-8 math that mere mortals like most of us don't understand, nor want to understand. You can see the IMEI of your Android phone by looking in settings > About phone if you're curious. (Or on the box if you still have it. Or under the battery or on the phone itself.

What is this number used for? That's the real question, isn't it. Like the MEID number on CDMA phones (think Sprint and Verizon), the IMEI is used for network control. It's not very common, but your mobile operator can block a phone based on it's IMEI in cases where it's been reported stolen or someone didn't pay the bill. Because it's not easy to change the IMEI of your phone (and maybe even illegal -- check your local laws) it's also used to keep track of phones that were involved in criminal activity, and the UK in particular has a handy database of phones used for these purposes. The IMEI number is also used to specify a phone for wiretapping by federal governments worldwide.

On a lighter note, Android apps can also use your IMEI number. The app will declare that it has access to your personal information, and the IMEI can be used to keep track of the device in a remote database. This sounds pretty scary, but it's an easy way (though not necessarily the best way) for app developers to keep a settings database online for your phone, in their app. Let's say you mark a bunch of favorites in a wallpaper app. Those favorites are kept in a small database file online, and when you reconnect to the app it reads your IMEI number to find your preferences. Not an ideal method, but it's easy.

One last thing -- now that we know a little more about IMEI numbers, they will soon be changing to IMEISV numbers. The use-case scenarios are the same, but the data structure and method of calculation is different. An IMEISV gets rid of the check digit (and its complicated Luhn formulated calculation) in favor of two digits used for software version numbering. Like everything else in the mobile space, network identification changes rapidly.

Check out the complete Android Dictionary

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