It's easier to unlock your Nexus 5 bootloader than it is to decide if you want to do it
If you're receiving your shiny new Nexus 5 in the near future, you'll want to think about unlocking the boot loader. It's a bigger undertaking than the folks on the Internet make it out to be, and doing it later is a huge pain in the kiester, so it's worth talking about.
First things first. Since it's a Nexus device, it was designed to be easily unlocked. There is no extra encryption layer, no signing your life and warranty away at the website of the people who made your phone, and no software hacks to try to bust your way around things. You only need the SDK and be able to use the command line — which are things you need to know about before you ever decide to unlock your phone anyway.
The new API 19 SDK tools include an easy way to record what happens on your Android's screen
Ever wanted to record exactly what's happening on your Android screen? Anyone who writes about Android for a living sure does, and now that KitKat is in the wild we see it will be easy to do with the latest version of Android.
You'll need the SDK installed, which is a little barrier for some, but there are plenty of folks in the forums to help make that happen for any computer, be it Windows, Mac or Linux.
That's also where you'll find Phil's mini How-To on screen recording, complete with examples. If you have you Nexus 5 already, or have put some flavor of KitKat on your current phone, jump in and give it a look. It's easier than you think!
A little bit of work and a lot of Google magic lead to wonderful results
The latest version of the Google+ app brings with it another new app on your device: Photos. That's Google+ Photos to be exact, and it's an app that gives you access to all of your pictures and videos, both on-device and online, in a single place. Along with providing a system for managing your pictures, the latest version of this app also provides an interesting way to display your art, called "Auto Awesome Videos."
Incredibly similar to HTC's "Video Highlights," Auto Awesome Videos combine your pictures and videos into an artistic short film, adding filters, cuts and some background music to an otherwise run-of-the-mill set of pics. The end result is quite impressive as well — stick around after the break and see how it's done.
KitKat makes it easier to swap or uninstall custom launchers
Many of us enjoy using custom home screen launchers on our Android phones, but the process of switching between them has never been entirely foolproof. That's changed in the latest Android 4.4 KitKat, which introduces a new top-level menu in the Settings app allowing you to select your default launcher. That means you don't have to traipse into the Apps menu, find your custom launcher, then clear its defaults to change back. The new Home menu also gives you an easy way to uninstall custom launchers, by pressing the trash icon next to it.
Check out our video above for a quick walkthrough on the Nexus 5.
The launcher — the app that controls how your home screens look and act — arguably is the most important part of an Android smartphone. And from the earliest devices, we've seen manufacturers and app developers diverge from Google's solution and roll their own interpretations. (To varying degrees of success, for sure.)
In Android 4.4 KitKat, Google changed things up once more adding a couple of simple but much-needed features — the ability to add home screens, and the ability to rearrange your home screens.
Oh, Google Now is still attached to the far left — that's not going anywhere anytime soon, probably. But these new additions are welcomed, and easy to get used to.
Pre-installed apps can sleep with the fishes if you know where to look to do it
Recent versions of the Android platform have enabled a pretty powerful little trick — the ability to put just about any app to sleep. It's one of those thing folks who rooted their phones have been able to do, but now anyone can, thanks to Android's built-in application manager.
If you're new to all this (and we're seeing plenty of new faces every day) you'll need to know how before you dive in. You could probably find a short and incomplete explanation in the user manual that came with your phone, but we've a better idea. AC Ambassador Haalcyon has written up a complete primer that will show you how to put any app into a coma, as he calls it. Take a few minutes to read through it, and you'll be ready to say goodbye to those apps you never wanted to begin with.
You've got a powerful little box in your hands. We're always here to help you learn how to effectively use it. Jump into the forums and have a look.
Google Now on your home screen is a good thing — but you can turn it off if you wish
It was a couple years ago when some seer of an Android editor predicted that we'd one day find Google Now serving as our home screen. And in Android 4.4 KitKat, that has come true. Google Now is on the far left home screen. It's not just a widget. It's not some separate app. It is, for all intents an purposes, an integral part of the launcher and is a home screen.
But what if you want to get Google Now off your home screen?
There are a couple ways to do it — and one of them is going to cost you a fair amount of functionality.
Get a quick introduction to Google's note, list and voice memo app
Google Keep has been available for some time now, and is even a default app on new devices since its introduction. Even so, not many of us take advantage of its potential as a note, list, voice memo and general brain dump kind of app. Taking to our "Ambassador Guides, Tips and How-To's" forum, forums ambassador Golfdriver97 has written up a nice introduction to the service.
With step-by-step picture tutorials, you can get a quick introduction to the basic features of Keep that could get you to start considering this service. Take a look at the forums post at the link below.
Can't reach across the Galaxy Note 3's enormous screen? Samsung's got a software trick to help you out
We may live in a world of 6.3 to 6.4-inch smartphones, but the Samsung Galaxy Note 3's 5.7-incher is still pretty big. And getting around it using only your thumb can be a challenge. Samsung has always offered "one-handed mode" software tricks on the Note series — for example, letting you shrink and rearrange the keyboard, dialer, and other areas for easier thumbing.
On the Galaxy Note 3, though, it's taken this to an all-new level. The new "Use for all screens" option, found under "Settings > Controls > One-handed operation," lets you shrink the entire display in to a moveable, resizable window a fraction of the screen's true size. Crazy!
Google makes remotely managing and wiping your device easy and effective
Back at the beginning of August Google unveiled a new service called "Android Device Manager" that let you locate and remotely wipe your phones and tablets, and now the service is getting a some much-needed refinement. Today Google updated ADM to include options to apply and change lock screen PINs and passwords, adding to the nuclear option of remote wiping the device completely.
Just as we covered when the service launched, enabling ADM is extremely easy. To get started, go to google.com/android/devicemanager on your computer and go through your list of devices that are connected to your Google account. Once there, you can send a notification to the device you want to enable remote password application and wiping on, and you'll be just a few steps away from a much more secure phone.
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