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1 month ago

How to set up Plex Media Server on your NVIDIA Shield TV

19

Turn your Shield TV into a Plex Server is both easy and convenient!

When it comes to the centralization of your media in one place, nothing does it better than Plex. It's a very versatile and user-friendly application that lets you stream all your media to any device with the Plex app installed.

Best of all, it comes preinstalled on all NVIDIA Shield TVs, making the Shield a natural choice to set up as your Plex Media Server.

Why the Shield is a natural fit as your Plex Media Server

The NVIDIA Shield is an incredibly powerful Android TV box with support for 4K Ultra HD resolution, hardware acceleration for the top media codecs, and features a great user interface. The Shield Pro, in particular, is an ideal candidate for the Plex Media Server what with the 500GB of onboard storage for all your music, movies, TV shows and photos.

Plex has included the software for setting up a Plex Media Server on your NVIDIA Shield right out of the box and as with pretty much everything involving Plex, setup is intuitive and user-friendly.

See NVIDIA Shield Pro TV on Amazon

Creating an account with Plex

If you've never used Plex before, the first thing you'll need to do is create an account on the Plex website. It's free to set up an account and get the basic functionality from Plex, but you might want to consider going premium for some valuable features including Cloud Sync, which lets you sync your library to a supported cloud storage service so you're able to enjoy all your content even when your Shield is turned off or disconnected from the internet.

Setting up a Plex Media Server on your NVIDIA Shield

First thing you'll need to do is link your Plex account to the Plex app on your Shield. To do so, simply open the Plex app on your NVIDIA Shield and sign into your account. To do so, you simply have to enter the provided code at the Plex Account Link in a web browser. Once you've got your account linked on your Shield, it will instantly start searching for your Plex Media Server — and won't be able to find one unless you've previously set one up on another device.

Don't sweat it, because on the next screen you'll see the option for setting up the Plex Media Server. Setup is a breeze — simply keep tapping Next to enable Plex Media Server, create default libraries for your Media Server, and accept the permissions that Plex requires to do its thing. It will take some time for the Plex Media Server to set up at first, so you'll have to be patient. Once it's set up, you'll be able to view your server's settings by logging into your account at Plex.tv.

The NVIDIA Shield TV Pro has 500GB of internal storage, which makes it the ideal candidate to be your Plex Media Server.

Next, you'll want to load up your Shield with all your favorite media. This is where having the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro comes in real handy, because you'll have 500GB of internal storage to use compared to the 16GB of space on the basic model. The easiest way to transfer files to your Shield is over your local network. Go into your Shield Settings > Storage & reset, and toggle on Over local network under Shield storage access.

It will give you a username and password to connect to your Shield on your computer. Then, simply hop onto your PC or Mac, find your Shield in the shared devices, and start dragging and dropping into the appropriate folder in your Shield's file system.

If you've opted for the 16GB Shield, or simply don't have the space on your Shield to accommodate all the media you want to add, you can always connect a USB drive filled with your media to one of the USB ports on the back of the Shield, or set up a network storage device. Once you've got your media added, you'll want to go to Plex Media Server settings in a web browser and add your media folders as libraries, whether they're stored internally, on a USB, or connected via your network storage device.

Access your media on the go!

Once you've set up your NVIDIA Shield TV as your Plex Media Server, you're able to access all of your media by logging into your Plex account on any other device you own that has the Plex app installed. Your NVIDIA Shield will need to be up and running for remote access, so if you want your file accessible all the time, you'll want to go into the Screensaver settings and set it so your Shield never goes to sleep.

And that's all it takes! You'll probably want to bookmark the Plex Media Server settings so you can quickly add or remove content as needed.

Questions? Thoughts?

Let us know what you think about Plex as a media storage companion on your Shield, and perhaps how it compares to Kodi in your opinion.

NVIDIA Shield Android TV

Amazon

img { width: 100%; height: auto; } .devicebox ul { display: table; margin: 0 0 10px; width: 100%; } .devicebox ul li { background: #f7f7f7; margin: 2px 0; padding: 4px 15px; } .devicebox ul li:hover { background: #fff; } .devicebox ul li:before { display: none; } .devicebox p ~ p { line-height: 1.25; } .devicebox p:first-of-type + p { padding: 15px; } .devicebox a.buy-link { border-radius: 5px; display: inline-block; font: 14px/31px "Proxima Nova Extrabld",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; text-align: center; } .devicebox a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:link, .devicebox a.buy-link:active, .devicebox a.buy-link:visited { background: #37B5D7; color: #FFF; } .devicebox a.buy-link:hover { background: #2694B2; text-decoration: none; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { content: "\e61e"; font: 40px/0 "ac_iconset" !important; margin: 0 3px 0 -8px; vertical-align: middle; } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { /* div:not(.columns-3) excludes help menu content */ .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p img, .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .article-body-wrap > div:not(.columns-3) > *:first-child:not(.sticky-wrapper) .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 660px) { .devicebox h3 { text-align: center; } .devicebox ul, .devicebox p { display: block; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 660px) { .devicebox { padding: 20px 0 25px; } .devicebox .video { float: left; margin: 0 30px 0 0; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox h3 + p { bottom: 37px; display: block; overflow: hidden; position: absolute; top: 60px; width: calc(100% - 375px); } .devicebox p img, .devicebox p > img { position: absolute; top: 50%; transform: translateY(-50%); } .devicebox p:nth-child(n+3), .devicebox ul { box-sizing: border-box; margin-left: calc(100% - 345px); width: 340px; } .devicebox p.list-head { margin-top: -5px; } } @media all and (min-width: 1025px), all and (max-width: 800px) and (min-width: 661px), all and (max-width: 500px) { /* 2x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(even) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:last-of-type:nth-of-type(odd) { width: 100%; } } @media all and (max-width: 1024px) and (min-width: 801px), all and (max-width: 659px) and (min-width: 501px) { /* 3x buy buttons */ .devicebox a.buy-link { width: calc(100%/3 - 10px/3); margin: 0 5px 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-of-type(3n):not(:nth-last-of-type(2)) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:only-child { width: 100%; margin: 0 0 5px 0; } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1), .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link { width: calc(50% - 2.5px); } .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(2):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link, .devicebox a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(4):nth-of-type(3n+1) ~ a.buy-link:nth-last-of-type(odd) { margin: 0 0 5px 0; } } @media all and (max-width: 800px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } } @media all and (max-width: 500px) { .devicebox { margin: 0 0 30px; max-width: none; width: auto; } .devicebox a.buy-link:before { display: none; } } .page-admin .devicebox {max-width: 350px;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe {position: relative; height: 0; padding-bottom: 56.9%;} .page-admin .devicebox .video_iframe iframe {width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;} /*-->*/ /*-->*/ /*-->*/

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1 month ago

One Button Nav on the Moto G5 is an exciting new way to interact with your phone

26

The Moto G5 puts the fingerprint sensor to good use.

One of the more interesting features in the Moto G5 and G5 Plus is a new Moto Action called One Button Nav. The feature made its debut on the 5.0-inch Lenovo Z2 Plus last year, and after seeing positive feedback from its user community, Motorola included it in the G5 and G5 Plus.

The feature eschews the on-screen navigation buttons, instead relying on the fingerprint sensor of the G5 and G5 Plus to navigate. A single tap on the sensor takes you to the home screen, a right-to-left swipe takes you back within an app's interface, and a left-to-right swipe reveals the multitasking pane.

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1 month ago

How to fix LG G6 battery life problems

33
How to improve LG G6 battery life

There are several ways to make sure your battery goes the full day, every day.

No matter how good battery life is on a phone, we always want more. The LG G6 manages to do pretty well with its 3300mAh battery, getting most of us through a full day of typical use — but of course, not every day is typical.

Whether it's turning into a regular occurrence for your phone to hit 50% before lunch, or just a here-and-there situation of needing to be sure that you'll have enough battery for well into the night, there are a handful of things you can do to make the most of your LG G6's battery. And now that LG's leading device no longer offers a replaceable battery, these tips may be even more important to know.

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1 month ago

How to manually update your Nexus or Pixel

164
How to manually update your Nexus or Pixel

Get the latest version of Android on your phone on your own terms.

Nexus, the line of Android phones and tablets developed in partnership between Google and various hardware manufacturers, was a program that helps developers to get their hands on a 100% stock Android experience. It can help to develop applications for the platform quicker and easier than using a device with a manufacturer skin onboard, and that's a good thing. Google has discontinued the Nexus line in October 2016 in favor of the Pixel.

The Pixel is Google's attempt at being a company that sells phones and has more control over whats inside them. Think of them as the continuation of the Nexus line in terms of offering a clean software experience handled directly by Google.

These phones aren't just bought by developers. If there's a single reason for consumers to buy a Nexus or Pixel device, it's this: the newest software first. Period.

When Google works on major updates to Android, it's also building them to work specifically on their own devices. This means when Google releases an update to the Android code itself, it will come quickly to these phones first, if not immediately.

And Pixel or Nexus phones actually are among the few that have several ways of receiving updates. Some are easier, some are faster, but all are available to you. Here's how to manually update yours.

This post was last updated in March 2017.

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1 month ago

Google's #MyAndroid Taste Test gives bad results. Here's how to make them better

9

Had a taste of Android theming with the #myAndroid Taste Test?

Android has always been a bastion of customization, but it hasn't exactly been well-advertised, by Google or by the various manufacturers that ship it on their devices. Google is now looking to highlight that flexibility and creativity with its new #myAndroid campaign, looking to showcase how diverse and delightful our home screens can be when we add our own uniqueness to them.

Google has even devised a simple — dare I say cute — Taste Test to help you find some customizations you might like. But how do you use what the quiz spits out?

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1 month ago

Mint SIM vs. Cricket Wireless: Which is better for you?

49

How does Mint SIM stack up against Cricket Wireless? Here's our comparison!

Mint SIM and Cricket Wireless are mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs for short. At the end of the day, they're "alternative carriers", meaning that they're not the Big Four (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint).

Switching to an MVNO can save you money because they simply lease coverage from one of the larger networks and resell it to customers. Plans are often prepaid, so you don't have to worry about overages.

Let's take a look at two major players — Mint SIM and Cricket Wireless — and see how they compare to one another.

Mint SIM background

Who owns it? Ultra Mobile

Which network does it use? T-Mobile 4G LTE

How long has it been around? Since 2016

Tethering allowed? No

Cheapest plan: $35 for 1 month: 2GB 4G LTE, unlimited nationwide talk, text, and 2G data

Cricket Wireless background

Who owns it? AT&T

Which network does it use? AT&T 4G LTE

How long has it been around? Since 1999

Tethering allowed? Yes, $10/month

Cheapest plan: $30/month: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited talk, text, and 2G data


Mint SIM plans

Mint SIM doesn't operate with traditional contracts. You pay upfront for your term, which can be 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months, with "buying in bulk" saving you more money in the long run. All plans include unlimited nationwide talk, text, and data, though you only get so much 4G LTE per month. Unlimited international texting is included in all plans.

Duration Small (2GB LTE) Medium (5GB LTE) Large (10GB LTE) 1 month $35 $50 $60 3 months $23/month ($69 upfront) $33/month ($99 upfront) $39.67/month ($119 upfront) 6 months $19.83/month ($119 upfront) $28.17/month ($169 upfront) $34.83/month ($209 upfront) 12 months $16.58/month ($199 upfront) $24.92/month ($299 upfront) $33.25/month ($399 upfront)

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Add-ons

As far as add-ons are concerned, Mint SIM's selection is very slim:

Extra data:

  • 1GB/month: $10
  • 3GB/month: $20

International credit:

Mint SIM's plans contain no international calling, though unlimited international texting is included. You can add international calling credit to your account in $5, $10, or $20 increments.

You can see a list of international rates here.

Cricket plans

All Cricket Wireless plans include unlimited talk, text, and data, but your 4G LTE access is metered and you can choose how much you want, per month. There are no annual contracts with Cricket; you pay on a month-to-month basis.

1GB Basic (3GB LTE) Smart (8GB LTE) Unlimited (22GB LTE) Price (monthly) $30 $40 $50 $60 With Auto Pay $25 $35 $45 $55 Extras Eligible for Group Save Discount International texting, roaming in Canada and Mexico, eligible for Group Save Discount International texting, roaming in Canada and Mexico, eligible for Group Save Discount

Add-ons

1GB of 4G LTE data:

$10/month. All remaining data expires at the end of your monthly plan cycle.

Tethering: N/A

Turn your phone into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot for $10/month. Uses data from your monthly high-speed allowance. Not all phones are compatible, so double-check first.

Cricket Protect:

For $7/month, Cricket protect covers you if your phone is lost, stolen, accidentally damaged physically or by liquid. You're also covered for in-warranty exchanges and out-of-warranty mechanical/electrical problems. Deductibles vary from $10 to $250, depending on your phone model.

Click here for more info.

Deezer free trial:

Get a free trial to the music streaming service. Length of free trial is at least 15 days and depends on when you sign up and when your next monthly bill date falls. After the free trial, it's $6/month.

Terms and conditions

Group Save Discount: Cricket gives you a monthly discount for each line you add to your account. Each line must have a plan of at least $40 a month. Lines with the $30 per month plan are ineligible.

  • 2 lines: $10 monthly discount
  • 3 lines: $20 monthly discount
  • 4 lines: $30 monthly discount
  • 5 lines: $40 monthly discount
  • Up to $100 in total monthly savings

International texting: This only covered text messages to select countries and does not cover picture or video messaging.

Mexico and Canada roaming: Calling and texting while in Mexico and Canada are included, as well as calling between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. Usage in Canada and Mexico cannot exceed 50% for texts, voice minutes, and data usage sent, received, or used. For example, if you send 100 texts in a month, no more than 50 can be sent to or received from Mexico and Canada.

Best phones available from Cricket Wireless

You can bring an unlocked phone to Cricket Wireless; just check compatibility first. If you don't have a phone to bring, we recommend the following:

  • Samsung Galaxy S7: $649.99
  • iPhone 7 32GB: $649.99
  • iPhone 7 128GB: $749.99
  • iPhone 7 Plus 32GB: $769.99
  • iPhone 7 Plus: 128GB: $869.99
  • Samsung Galaxy S6: $499.99

Which should I go with? Mint SIM

From a purely price-conscious perspective, Mint SIM is the better option, especially if you have an unlocked phone of your own. T-Mobile's network is solid and Mint SIM's plans are straightforward. So long as you sign up for 3 months or longer at a time, you get a lot more data for your money.

If discounted phones and roaming in Canada and Mexico are important to you, then you'll have to go with Cricket (if you're choosing between the two). It just sucks that Cricket charges $10 a month for tethering, though Mint SIM doesn't offer it at all.

Alternative carriers (MVNOS)

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1 month ago

How to get Android O on your Pixel or Nexus (and how to roll back to Nougat)

9

Here's how to get the Android O Developer Preview on your Nexus or Pixel device.

The Android O Developer Preview is here, and if you're one such developer (or just a person who doesn't listen to good advice!) here's how to install it onto your phone or tablet.

Which devices support the Android O Developer Preview?

The preview is supported on the following phones and tablets:

  • Pixel
  • Pixel XL
  • Pixel C
  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus 5X
  • Nexus Player

What you need to know beforehand

The Android O Developer Preview is being released only as a factory image, which means you can't just go to Android's beta page and get the update as an over-the-air release. This is because O, in its current form, is very early, and isn't intended to be installed by the general population — just by developers.

In order to update a phone or tablet to Android O, you need to first unlock your bootloader.

Before we go into these steps, it is strongly recommended that you have previous knowledge of working with the Android SDK (software development kit) and Terminal (OS X or Linux) or Command Prompt (Windows), as it is possible to harm your device if something were to go wrong in the following process.

You'll need to download an updated Android SDK that has the latest Android O tools and images, and you can grab it from the Android Development website and follow their instructions on how to install it correctly. For the following process all you will need is the adb and fastboot files which are located in the Platform Tools folder.

Additionally, all the following commands are written as they would be in Terminal on a Linux or OS X platform. If you are following this guide and using a Windows machine, you will not need to use the "./" seen in the guide.

Enable developer settings and USB debugging

Before you begin, you'll need to have a compatible Nexus or Pixel device running Android 7.x Nougat.

  1. Go to your Settings and scroll down to About Phone/Tablet
  2. Tap on the Build number seven times until the dialog box says you are now a developer
  3. Go back to the Settings menu and you should find a new option called Developer options. Click into the Developer options
  4. Make sure that the developer options are turned on and that USB debugging is checked on
  5. Make sure Enable OEM unlock is checked.
  6. Plug your device into your computer and click "OK" on the dialog box asking you to Allow USB debugging while connected to the computer. You can also select to always allow access on that computer

If done correctly, this will be everything you will need to do on your phone or tablet for the moment.

Unlocking your bootloader

Nexus devices and Pixel phones bought from Google directly have a bootloader you can unlock. If you want to manually flash software, you'll need to do this.

To do this you must first boot into your bootloader. You can either manually turn off your phone or tablet and hold down the power button and the volume down button to enter your device's Bootloader Menu or you can enter the following commands into your terminal or command prompt.

Run the following command to make sure your device is properly connected to your computer. If it returns a string of characters it means that you are all set to start updating your device.

./adb devices

Now to enter into the Bootloader menu just run the following command.

./adb reboot bootloader

At the bottom of the screen there will be several things listed including the lock state of the device. This should say locked unless you have unlocked your bootloader in the past and never went back and locked it again.

To unlock your bootloader, which is required only when flashing a stock firmware image (not sideloading and update, which we'll get to soon), you must enter the following commands. Remember that when unlocking your Nexus' bootloader it will factory reset your device, so you will lose everything stored on it. If you have not yet backed up anything important on your device you can hit the power button while Start is highlighted in the Bootloader menu and this will boot you back into your device like normal. Now back to unlocking your bootloader.

Use the command:

./fastboot flashing unlock

A dialog will appear on the device asking if you are sure about unlocking. Again this will factory reset your device, so if you want to back out of the process you just need to select no with the power button. If you are ready to unlock your bootloader you press the volume up button and then the power button to confirm that you wish to unlock your bootloader.

./fastboot reboot-bootloader

It is recommended to reboot the bootloader just to give itself a check to make sure everything is working correctly before moving onto the next step.

Flashing the stock firmware image

Now that your bootloader is unlocked, it's time to flash the Android O image. To find the system images, head on over to the Factory Images page, find your device, and download the latest factory image available. It is easiest to then uncompress the file in the Platform Tools folder where the adb and fastboot files are so that you don't have to type the path to the different files when flashing the firmware. (Or if you know that you can drag a file into a terminal window to copy the path, just do that.)

To begin, make sure you are still in the bootloader menu on your device and double check that your bootloader is in fact unlocked.

First, make sure that your computer is communicating correctly with your phone or tablet. As long as your device's serial number comes back as a connected device you are ready to begin updating your device.

./fastboot devices

Now it is time to flash the updated bootloader with the following command.

./fastboot flash bootloader [bootloader file].img

You will not see anything on the screen of your device but there should be a dialog in your terminal or command prompt. When it is done flashing the bootloader you should reboot back into the bootloader as to make sure everything is still working correctly.

./fastboot reboot-bootloader

Next you flash the updated radios. This step is only necessary if you are updating the firmware of a phone or tablet that has cellular radios built into it.

./fastboot flash radio [radio file].img

./fastboot reboot-bootloader

Finally, it's time to flash the actual system image to your phone or tablet.

Warning: The following line of code will wipe your device. If you do **not* want your device to be wiped, remove the "-w" from the command. The update should still take just fine, and it will not wipe your user data.

./fastboot -w update [image file].zip

When this is done, your phone will restart itself and boot up normally. As this process clears all data from your device, it will take slightly longer for your device to boot up into Android O for the first time. Once you have been greeted with the device setup walkthrough process, you know you have successfully flashed a new version of the firmware.

If you do not want to enter the commands manually there are scripts included inside the compressed folder containing the system image that will do most but not all of the heavy lifting for you. The flash-all script files will automate the flashing of the bootloader, radios (if needed), and the system image. The problem with this process is that you must first make sure that your phone is in the bootloader menu and its bootloader must be unlocked before starting the script. Of course if these are not already done the script will fail to run and nothing will happen.

How to revert back to Nougat from the Android O Developer Preview

So you ignored our advice (or you're a developer who needs his or her phone or tablet back) and need to re-install Nougat. That's pretty easy! All you need to do is find the right system image compatible with your handset or slate and run the same procedures as above but with the Android Nougat image.

When finding your Nougat image, make sure you are downloading the correct one that corresponds with your device. If you're running a Verizon or Rogers Pixel, for instance, you'll have to make sure you download the right one.

Problems? Confused?

If you're having issues or want to ask a question, come join us in our forums for all the tips, tricks and advice you can handle!

Android O

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1 month ago

Android O isn't available in the Android Beta Program yet, will likely join in mid-May

3

Everyone with a Pixel or modern Nexus will get their opportunity to use Android O soon.

With Android O entering Developer Preview status, this is our first opportunity to download and run a preview version of the latest OS. Unfortunately for those who became accustomed to simply enrolling in the Android Beta Program and getting builds over-the-air, this first Developer Preview of Android O isn't available in the Beta Program.

If you want Android O right now, your only way to get it will be through manually flashing an image of the Developer Preview.

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1 month ago

Should you install Android O developer preview on your Pixel or Nexus?

5

Android O is now available to download as a developer preview. But that doesn't mean you should do it.

The day that Google releases a new version of Android is one of the most exciting of the year, especially for early adopters like us who want to play with all the new features and see what's in store for the final release.

But unlike last year, when Google released its Android N preview alongside an easy-to-install beta program, the company is going decidedly old school with this one, reverting back to the tried-and-true method of factory images that require an unlocked bootloader and some knowledge of terminal commands. This isn't a surprise — Google has been doing this for both developer previews and final releases for years — but delaying an easy-for-consumers-to-install Android O version until later in the year speaks to the early nature of Android O right now. In other words...

You shouldn't install the Android O developer preview on any phone you need to use on a daily basis.

Things are going to be broken

We say this every year, but things are definitely going to be broken with the Android O developer preview. There are going to be lots and lots of bugs, and core features of the phone, from making calls to connecting to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, may be incomplete or completely not working.

Moreover, many of Google's own apps will not have been updated to take advantage of the new system APIs — things like Font Resources, Adaptive Icons, and Picture-in-Picture — potentially limiting its usefulness.

Third-party apps are not going to be compatible

Google doesn't usually allow developers to release public versions of their apps with support for the latest Android APIs until a few weeks before the final public release. In this case, that means we'll likely have to wait until late August or even into September — months after Google I/O — for anything resembling an interesting set of user interactions.

In the meantime, the Android O dev preview will likely have been updated at least three times with new versions that fix bugs and overcome some of the more core functionality issues we're seeing in the initial release. For something like Picture-in-Picture, for instance, you're not going to see a working version of YouTube — probably the most important app to support the feature — until close to the final release.

It's a pain in the butt to install

Finally, it's not easy to install the Android O developer preview, especially if you're not familiar with the commands that require you to unlock your bootloader and flash a system image.

Worse, even if you get there, you will have to factory reset your phone at some point in the process — when you unlock your bootloader in the first place, or when you flash your phone back to Nougat.

But we're not going to stop you

Obviously, if you want to install Android O on your phone or tablet, we can't stop you. So if you're going to do it, at least read up on the procedure, and know what you're getting yourself into.

How to get Android O on your Pixel or Nexus

There's lots more to come

Google promises that it will talk lots more about Android O at Google I/O in May, and that there will eventually be an easy-to-install beta, just like there was with the Android N beta in 2016. This is good news — the updates will likely come fast and furious — and we'd recommend waiting until then to install Android O on any phone or tablet you actually want to use on a daily basis.

Android O

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1 month ago

8 Important Considerations When Switching To An MVNO

36

Before you make the switch you need to think about a few things.

Having good cellular service has become an important thing for most people. We use our phones for everything from keeping in touch to keeping entertained when we have a few quiet moments. It's pretty great that we have such powerful machines in our pockets and nobody is happy when their service lets them down. That's why it's worth taking your time and checking out a few things before you switch carriers.

This can be especially important when switching to a prepaid alternative carrier, also known as an MVNO. Because they aren't the ones installing new facilities and building out the physical networks they operate on, they sometimes have to do things a little differently. These differences usually mean the service is cheaper every month, but it can also pose a few problems if you haven't done your homework before you made the switch.

What is an alternative carrier?

That's what we're here for! Android phones and the service that powers them is our job and our hobby. We love to get in the mix and try things like switching away from the Big Four as much as we like writing about it. With that in mind, here are some things you need to think about when you're ready to switch to an MVNO as your new carrier.

Picking the carrier that works where you need it to

This needs to be the first thing you look at. MVNOs have the luxury of using the networks the Big Four have rolled out, and we all know that not everyone has equal coverage on every carrier.

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One of the best things you can do is talk to people you know and see what service they are using. If you hear a lot of praise for one particular carrier and complaints about another, you have a good starting point when it comes to picking the right MVNO. You can also check out the carrier coverage maps.

You need to make sure you know what you're looking at here. Nobody is trying to deceive you but they all want their map to look as good as it can. On each of the coverage map sites, you'll find some controls to filter the different types of coverage that are being shown. Make sure to have a look and compare the voice calling maps to the data connection maps, and make sure you are filtering to see the high-speed data coverage. And definitely make sure you're not looking at "partner" or roaming maps, as many MVNO carriers don't support that part of their parent carrier's coverage.

Finally, be cautious if you need to use your phone in areas on the fringe or edge of coverage maps. The maps are never exact, and if the map tells you service will degrade just a few blocks from where you need to be covered, you might not get service at all. These maps should be considered as a good estimate rather than any sort of exact science.

Mint SIM

Match your phone with the right network

One of the best parts about using an MVNO is that you can save even more money by using the phone you already paid for. As long as your phone works on at least one of the Big Four carriers in the U.S. there's an MVNO that offers great service for you.

It's not that difficult to make sure the MVNO you want to use supports the phone you already have. If you're up on all the technical jargon you can check the radio bands on your phone against the radio bands listed on every alternative carrier's website. You'll usually find these on the FAQ portion and if they match you're in business.

If you don't want to get bogged down in frequency numbers and all the different network bands, sites like WillMyPhoneWork can tell you if your phone is compatible with most any network worldwide.

We've built a list of popular MVNO carriers and which networks they operate on that can answer many of your questions right away!

How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier

You might need to get your phone unlocked

Most phones will need to be SIM unlocked before they can be used on another carrier. This has nothing to do with your phone's security (that's a different type of unlocking) and only lets your phone accept programming for a new network. Carriers have their phones SIM locked as a way to cut down on equipment loss — a locked phone only works on the carrier who locked it, and only as long as you're making the payments.

SIM unlocking won't affect your phones security.

In the U.S. carriers are required to unlock a phone once it's paid for. Most will also unlock a phone after you've been a customer for a while as a show of good faith. You can get your phone unlocked by the carrier by making a phone call or going into a store. Customer service will be happy to help you provided you've met any obligations they require. Because of some rules for using the frequency Verizon uses for 4G service, they are required to sell all their phones unlocked.

Getting your phone SIM unlocked is easy

There are also third-party unlocking services that will send you a code to unlock your phone. If you go this route, be sure to do a quick web search on the company to make sure they have decent customer feedback. Getting your phone unlocked by a third party is exactly the same as having a carrier do it; once the code is entered you're good and can use a phone on any compatible network.

Know how much data you need

Most of us don't need unlimited data. The Big Four have brought back unlimited plans for the people who do need them, and we think that's great! But if you're not someone who needs a ton of data every month you're probably overpaying if you sign up for one of them.

You can check how much data you've used recently pretty easily. Your phone has a setting in the Wireless and networks section that tells you how much you have used in the past 30 days, but it's a good idea to get a bigger sample size here. At your carrier's website you should find a statement for the past few months that will show how much data each phone number on the account used. Get an average for the past couple of months, then add 1GB to it for a "just in case" bumper.

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Take this number and look at the MVNO you're considering. Chances are there is a plan that will cover what you need. The best part? You don't have a contract and can adjust things next month if you need to!

Android Nougat gives you a great way to keep your data usage in check

What happens if you use all of your data for the month?

Life isn't static. Even with careful planning you might have a month where you had to use more data than you budgeted. It's important to know what happens and how you can add more data on a temporary basis.

Most every MVNO will sell "extra" data in 1GB increments. It's usually a little more than it would be if it were bundled into a pre-packged plan, but it won't be outrageous. Most companies charge about $10 per GB.

Buying extra data is always easy, but make sure you know how to do it before you need it.

What you need to do is check how you can add it right from your phone, so when you're close to using your allotted amount you can tap a few buttons and fill up your data bucket. You'll find this information on the company's website along with any other services they offer, such as international roaming or auto-refilling.

This is important because MVNOs aren't like the Big Four, and won't keep you connected then charge you overage fees (the good part) and instead usually cut you off completely once you've used all you have paid for (the bad part). Don't get stuck with no data and no way to buy more!

Some things cost extra or are not available

Wireless carriers can be strict about what they allow on their networks, and MVNOs are no different. Their business model — buy wireless service in bulk and resell with no frills — means they will have some restrictions on what you can and can't do, like tethering your phone or using your phone to call and text with someone outside of the U.S.

Chances are none of us are planning to run a server from our phone, but if you want to tether a laptop or tablet through your phone once in a while or call and text relatives in Mexico, you need to know the rules so you know what to expect. Many MVNOs will have simple and cost effective add-ons you can apply if you need more than just the basic service.

Just take the time to read the terms and see what you can and can't do while using the service. If you're unsure of anything you see, call or chat with a sales rep through the website and get squared away.

Advanced features may not work

Many of us have phones that support things like HD voice calls (VoLTE) or Wi-Fi calling. They're nice features if you use them regularly, but most of the time they are very phone and network specific. An MVNO may not have them at all, or you may need phones designed to run on a specific carrier to use them.

Advanced calling features require very specific phones.

This works the same way for the Big Four. If you want Verizon's HD Voice, for example, you'll need to have a phone that says Verizon on the back because it was built to the carrier's specs to use the service. Because most MVNOs don't sell phones under their own brand, you'll have to investigate if any of the features they offer need a specific brand of phone.

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Mint SIM offers Wi-Fi calling, and it works really well — as long as you have a phone that supports T-Mobile's Wi-Fi calling feature. Verizon offers its own Wi-Fi calling but it's not supported on Mint SIM. Most phones that support Wi-Fi calling are built to work on both networks so you're OK with either a Verizon or T-Mobile phone, but not a Sprint or an AT&T phone. It can be a little confusing even to smartphone veterans!

You don't need any of these extras to have good, cheap cellular service. That's the best part. But if you see something you don't understand, you can drop a question in the comments and someone can help give you an answer.

Photo courtesy National Park Service.

Prioritization is a thing

Prioritization means a carrier like T-Mobile identifies which phones using the network are doing it through an MVNO and gives priority to their direct customers. Only a certain number of phones can be connected to a cell tower at a time, and we're always switching on and off to make sure everyone has a turn. We've all probably been somewhere that a lot of people were using their phones and the service got really slow — that's because the lines to get your turn were long and you noticed the wait time.

When things get extreme, MVNO customers can experience even slower service because direct customers are given priority. I use MVNO carriers almost exclusively because I love the value they offer. But I do get to see prioritization in action every year on The Mall in Washington, D.C. during the annual July Fourth celebration. There are three-quarters of a million people jammed into a four block area, and we're all on our phones. Folks who pay AT&T (for example) directly for service have very poor service. People like me using an MVNO have practically no service.

There's nothing you can do about this, and no secret hack you see on the internet is going to work. It just happens when there are way too many people using just a few towers. The rest of the year I get the same service I would have from one of the Big Four at a much lower price.

Bonus number 9 thing!

You're going to have extra money every month. You'll have the service you are used to in most every way, but it costs a lot less and you only have to pay for the amount you'll need. Some MVNOs only charge you for the exact amount you use!

Saving enough for a nice night on the town because you switched phone companies is a great feeling. You'll love it.

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1 month ago

Moto G5 Plus vs. Moto G4 Plus: What's changed and which offers more value?

45

The Moto G5 Plus offers a lot of value, but there are tradeoffs.

The Moto G5 Plus is all set to make its debut in the U.S. shortly, featuring several key upgrades over its predecessor. Motorola has announced that the variant with 2GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage will retail for $229, $20 less than what the Moto G4 Plus debuted at last year. The model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB storage will cost $299.

With the G5 Plus, Motorola finally switched to a metal design, and the internal hardware has also been upgraded. The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 625 SoC, which is significantly better than the Snapdragon 617 in the G4 Plus. The base storage also gets a welcome boost to 32GB, and the camera on the G5 Plus has the potential to be one of the best in this segment. Although the megapixel count has reduced from 16MP to 12MP, the f/1.7 aperture and 1.4 micron pixels make the G5 Plus stand out in this category.

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1 month ago

USB-C needs to get smarter before it gets better [Updated]

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Woke up to a dead phone this morning, because my smartphone did something really dumb.

Update, March 20: This article was updated with quotes offering more detailed explanations.

A few nights ago I was away from home and didn't have my power cord with me, so I had to rely on a battery backup to charge my USB C-based phone for the night. This battery had been stuffed down in the bottom of my backpack for a few days, after having been used to power something else for several hours, so it didn't have a lot of juice left to begin with. If I had to guess, there was just about enough to get my phone to about 70%, which was more than enough to get me to a power outlet the next morning.

I plugged in my phone, confirmed it had charged to 10% before I closed my eyes, and didn't think about it again until the morning. When I woke up late because my alarm didn't go off, I realized it was because my phone was dead. What's worse, my battery backup actually had more power in it than it did before I'd plugged it in to my phone.

My phone and was dead and my battery pack was recharged — the opposite of what I wanted!

What happened here sounds bizarre, but it's actually all of the individual pieces of this charging system working as designed. The battery backup charged my phone until it was drained, and then started pulling power back from the phone because it was drained. USB-C is designed to allow simple power sharing, so anything can charge anything else. In theory it's amazing, and has seriously come in handy when I needed 20 more minutes of juice on my Chromebook for work and only had a phone nearby. In this situation, though, it didn't work out the way I wanted it to.

This isn't a failing on any one particular phone manufacturer, OS, or battery backup designer, either. This is, largely, how USB-C was designed to function when these things were made. Some handle this worse than others; for example, many Anker USB-C batteries have the Type-C port set to draw power by default, with a key press required in order to reverse direction, but in general this is a small problem lacking a standard solution for all devices. And the solution, at least to my specific problem, probably lies in software.

In my opinion, our phones shouldn't be allowed to give power to other things without our express permission. In much the same way that Android offers USB selection modes for file sharing that require a manual selection from me, power management should offer a similar option. That way, if my phone is sharing power with something, it's no accident and doesn't interrupt the ability to use the phone. This is something Google would need to implement at the OS level, but it seems like the best possible solution for this kind of problem.

But it's not as simple as all that, as I learned after publishing this. Google's public-facing USB-C rockstar, Benson Leung, schooled me a little over on Google+.

The battery pack, if it was implemented with USB Power Delivery and is connected to a USB-PD phone like the Pixel, could identify that the other party is a dual-role device with a small battery like a phone and not a fixed power source like a wall charger and hold-off on draining from the phone.

If i were to design the pack, i'd allow the battery pack to just draw enough power to boot itself up until it can recognize the other device is a dual-role device without its own external power source using PD, and then stop charging. That way neither phone or the battery pack charge.

We could make the phone behave in the way you want... such that it only ever acts as a power sink until you explicitly ask to turn on power source and host mode, but that would mean that if you wanted to plug in a USB thumb drive, or a USB accessory like, oh I don't know... USB-C digital headphones, they WOULDN'T work unless you explicitly change some setting first. You'd not even get any notification when you plugged in your USB-C headset because the port is fixed in sink-only mode, and it needs to supply power to the headset before the OS can even identify it as a headset.

It may be a fringe issue in the grand scheme of things, and with any luck this USB-PD feature will become a global standard over time. Unfortunately, that's not going to happen overnight, and in the mean time there are a huge number of these battery packs being sold on a regular basis. Even if you spend the extra cash to grab a battery pack with USB-PD enabled, if you already have a phone with a Type C port and it doesn't support USB-PD you'll need to upgrade before this all works like it should.

Frankly, we're beyond the point of shrugging off Type C related concerns as "early adopter" problems. It'd be nice for Google to take the lead on addressing this issue beyond strongly recommending the use of USB-PD in its documentation, instead of waiting for another big company to implement USB-C and show everyone how it's done.

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1 month ago

How to take a screenshot on the Google Pixel

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How do I take a screenshot on the Google Pixel?

The Google Pixel runs Android 7.1, which is pretty special. There are a whole bunch of new features, and there are rounded icons — for better or worse. If you're using the new phone, you're likely going to want to show off some of its awesome looks in the form of screenshots.

It's easy to take a screen on the google Pixel. Here's how.

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1 month ago

What do the LG G6's 16:9, 16.7:9 and 18:9 app scaling settings do?

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LG G6 app scaling settings

In an ideal world, every Android app would work flawlessly on every phone — unfortunately, we're not there yet.

The 18:9 aspect ratio display on the LG G6 gives you extra screen without making the phone wider, but that also means the display is a different shape than some apps expect it to be. While Android's design guidelines let apps automatically resize to a wide range of aspect ratios, there are some issues that can arise — and LG's "app scaling" settings are where you want to go if you run into issues.

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1 month ago

These Beauty and the Beast themes will bring some magic to your Android phone

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Theme as old as time… true as it can be…

Beauty and the Beast is coming back to theaters with a big, bold, live-action telling of our favorite bookworm princess. As a diehard Disney fan, this means breaking out the Nova Launcher and the KWGT to get my theme on. There's a lot of iconic characters to cover in Beauty and the Beast, and without further ado, here they are!

We invite you to relax, pull up a chair, as Android Central proudly presents… your themes.

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