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2 days ago

The problem with Android permissions is too much information and not enough information all at once

25

People freaking out over an Android app's permissions again was overdue.

It's a regular happening in the tech press. An app has questionable permissions and people freak out about it. Sometimes it's warranted, but most of the time it's because the people freaking out don't understand the Android permission model or haven't taken the time to see what reasons an app might have to need those seemingly sketchy permissions. And it's Google's fault. Sorry, Google, we love you, but this is all yours.

There are two ways to handle letting the user (that's you and me) know what an app needs to do or needs to see in order to function. One way is to plainly state everything up front before that user installs it so they know exactly what can be done and seen. In other words, the Android way (mostly). Another way is to carefully screen each and every app and have the user trust your screening process and know that the app isn't doing anything out of the ordinary. This is the Apple way. Both are good in some ways and bad in some ways.

It's Serenity and crew's job at iMore to tackle iOS issues on this front if it needs tackling— they're more knowledgeable about them than I am — but we really need to talk about Android permissions here and why they need some attention from big G.

I'm going to pick on our own Android Central app here because I can look through the code or build it myself and know exactly what it does, what it can do, and why. Let's start with what makes people freak out because there is a good example right in the picture above — prevent device from sleeping.

Why in the hell does an app to read a blog need to keep your phone locked awake? I don't blame you at all if this is the first thing you think. In fact, I want it to be the first thing everyone thinks because we all need to be a little skeptical when it comes to software that we install on our phones. But our app has no intention of keeping your phone running all the time, and unless there's a bug somewhere it doesn't. We need that permission so that the screen doesn't shut off while you're reading this.

Tell us what those permissions mean and we'll freak out less.

There are two very big issues here that Google can fix. One is hard but the other is easy, Like delicious pie easy. The hard one is to continue building out the APIs until we have one that can only keep the screen on. Let background data and everything else sleep until it's used and keep the CPU idling unless it needs to ramp up for something else a user is doing. That's all we're using the prevent device from sleeping permission for anyway. If Google makes that API, we'll switch to it. Until then, we need permission to keep your whole phone up and running even when we're not doing anything in the background.

The second and easier thing that needs to be done is to give more information here. Once you decide that you're going to give the user all the info about which permissions an app needs, you need to go a step further when you list them. What we have right now is either too much information or not enough information.

I am a nerd. I don't even try to hide it. Plenty of the people reading this will also be nerds. What we see now on Google Play when permissions are shown was written by nerds for nerds. I understand it, my fellow nerds understand it, but a normal person who just wants to install a cool new app might not. Consider this:

  • Prevent your device from sleeping. This application needs to keep your phone from going into a sleep state. This can only happen while the app is running and shown on your screen and may not be processor intensive. If you have any questions you should ask the developer using the contact information at the bottom of the page.

That took me like 30 seconds to bang out on my keyboard. (And 20 more to fix the typos because I think I can type really fast without looking at my keyboard but I actually can't.) It's not the greatest explanation of what this permission might mean, but it's a metric shitload better that what we have now. The people at Google are way smarter about Android than I am (but I challenge any and all comers to test my knowledge on Dunmer lore) and could do this even better. If they did, it would help people who actually bother to read the permissions when they see Twitter melting about an app needing GPS data because it's a free ad-driven app that needs GPS to show you those "relevant" Target ads when you're in the Target parking lot.

The Android permission model needs to be refined and explained. And not by nerds.

This isn't a new problem. Since Android became popular people have seen too much information about needed permissions without enough information about those permissions and what they mean. Then they (rightfully) freak out about it. I enjoy those freakouts. I get to sit back and watch people actually care about mobile security and their precious personal data for a day or two. But the app developers surely aren't very happy when it happens to them, and they are the reason Android is as popular as it is.

So how 'bout it Google? Can you make a change to give us everything we need to know when we actually look at an app's permissions without going to the Android Developer site and reading a bunch of documentation about them? We'll love you more.

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2 days ago

Meitu — What you need to know about privacy and the filtering app

15

[record scratch] [freeze frame] [shot of Phil in Meitu app]

Yep, that's me. You're probably wondering how I ended up here ...

Every now and then we get hit with an app that seems to just take over. The latest — and god help me, I'm about to talk about selfies — is called Meitu. There's almost no way that you haven't seen it — or at least the results from it — in the past week or so.

It's one of those apps that takes your pictures and filters the hell out of them until you get something that looks like you, but not you. ln this case, you get a sort of China doll thing. It's available for iOS (in the App Store) and Android (on Google Play), and there's a good chance you've already seen it being shared all over Facebook and Instagram.

But you might want to think twice before you install it.

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So here's the gist. You take a picture either with the Meitu app, or use one you've already snapped. The app then makeups the hell out of you in a LOT of different ways. The kids love this stuff. The cool new feature everyone's talking about, though, is the "hand-drawn" filter. It'll take a shot of you — or someone else — and change you up.

And that's great. It's a lot of fun. I feel pretty already.

But there's also a reason why you might not want to install Meitu.

Apps that are loaded up with tracking code — analytics — aren't anything new. Pretty much every single app (or website) you've ever used has had some sort of analytics tracking built in. Developers need to know how their products are being used. But questions have been raised about the way they're implemented in Meitu, and rightly so. Particularly because it harvests your phone's unique IMEI number. There are better and less-sensitive ways to identify a device.

For its part, Meitu has said that the red flags are because the app originally was coded for use in China, which has to do things behind a government-controlled firewall. Fair enough. But that doesn't mean that's the right way to code things for the rest of the world. Ultimately, you're giving access to a lot of your data just slap some makeup on your mug. Choose wisely, and stay vigilant.

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2 days ago

Best Chromebook apps

22

Make the most of your Chromebook with these apps.

Your Chromebook is a safe, inexpensive, and simple portal the internet but it can do so much more. Whether you want to get productive, have a little fun or keep in touch you'll find an app to help do it in the Chrome Web Store. Here's the short — and ever-changing — list of ones we think you have to try.

Polarr Photo Editor

One area where Chromebooks have traditionally been lacking is media creation tools. Photoshop for Chrome is a real thing, but it requires you to have an Adobe education license for Creative Cloud and live in North America. If you meet these qualifications you should definitely have a look, but for the rest of us, there is Polarr Photo Editor.

Polarr is beautifully done, filled with features and is extremely lightweight. It's an offline app so you can work without an internet connection and it's the best way to edit photographs on your Chromebook. Whether you need to turn RAW files into great photos or just touch up something before you share it on Facebook, Polarr Photo Editor can handle the job.

See at the Chrome Web Store

Skype

We're cheating a little bit here, but access to Skype is important enough to allow it.

Skype on the web now supports text chat and phones calls using standard internet communication protocols — that means it works on your Chromebook.

There are many different communication apps available — including Google's own Hangouts — but for many Skype is the de facto standard. Using your Skype account and Microsoft's official website, all you need to do is log and start Skyping.

For those who want it, there are also several launchers at the Chrome Web Store that let you launch the Skype site in its own window through an icon, but we think a bookmark is just as good.

Skype Online

Any.do

Any.do is one of the best ways to stay organized. It's a task manager, reminder list, calendar, and organizer all in one and it syncs across all your devices. It's also quite the looker!

Using the Any.do app for Chrome gives you the same tools and features as the client for your phone (Android and iOS) does plus the ability to drag and drop attachments, notes, and tasks using your Chromebook's trackpad. Any.do is scalable and great for keeping track of a few reminders or as a complete organization tool for your entire team.

See at the Chrome Web Store

Office Online

Your Chromebook gives you access to everything Google Docs has to offer. While that's more than enough productivity for some of us, if you work in a Microsoft environment Office Online is a must-have.

Using the same subscription you hold for the full version of Office for Windows or Mac, you get access to all the tools and features using your Microsoft account. You can view, edit and create files in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and Sway right from your Chromebook and synchronization with your OneDrive account means they are accessible anywhere. You can also work locally when you're not connected to the internet.

If you're a Microsoft Office user, Office Online is a no-brainer.

See at the Chrome Web Store

StreamDor

No list of great Chrome apps would be complete without StreamDor.

The internet is huge, and it's filled with awesome content if you know where to find it. StreamDor is a list of 20,000 movies that you can stream for free. Everything is legal and above the board, and there's no funny stuff going on.

The list is refreshed daily and you'll find old favorites as well as recent hits at high quality from sites like YouTube or Vimeo. While StreamDor doesn't serve any content themselves, the app is the perfect way to find it all in one place. It's free and a great way to relax during some down time.

See at the Chrome Web Store

Mighty Text

If you're still waiting for Android apps on your Chromebook, or you just don't want to install everything from Google Play, Mighty Text is a great way to get all your notifications.

Don't let the name fool you. Might Text is awesome and lets you read, reply and send SMS messages using your regular phone number. But it can also forward any notification from your phone right to your Chromebook screen. Folks who use an app like this will tell you how cool this is, and once you try it you'll be doing the same. It's one of those apps you'll wish you had tried earlier.

See at the Chrome Web Store

Your best?

Everyone has favorites. Jump in the comments and tell us what your best Chrome apps are! Sometimes jewels are easy to overlook when you have so many choices so you're helping everyone when you tell us what apps we need to check out.

This post was updated in January 2017 to stay current and list the best Chrome apps.

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2 days ago

Best accessories for Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic

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Best accessories for Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic

You've got the watch, now it's time to accessorize!

Your Samsung Gear S2 deserves some stellar accessories. From unique bands to carrying cases, we've found the essential accessories that you're going to want to get your hands on.

Watch bands

One watch band is never enough. Get one for every occasion or try out as many different materials as you can. Just keep in mind that watch bands are made to fit either the Samsung Gear S2 or the Samsung Gear S2 Classic.

Samsung Gear S2 bands

V-MORO rubber watch band

V-MORO rubber watch band

To give your Samsung Gear S2 a sporty look and feel, have a look at the bands from V-MORO. With seven solid colors and patterns to choose from, there's a band to match every look and mood.

The elastomer rubber is softer and more pliable than standard silicone bands and won't irritate or rub uncomfortably on your wrist. Wear it to the gym or with your favorite casual clothes for a fun look any day.

See at Amazon

Casetify

Casetify Woodland Camoflag band

For band patterns you won't find anywhere else, look no further than Casetify. Known for their original artwork, the brand has crafted five bands for the Samsung Gear S2 that are sporty, fun, and stand out from the crowd. Pictured here is the Woodland Camouflage pattern.

You can order your bands in small or large sizes, so pay attention to the sizing chart that accompanies each pattern before your make a purchase. They ship for free worldwide and make a fantastic gift for a friend or a treat for yourself.

See at Casetify

Samsung Gear S2 Classic bands

eLander stainless steel band

eLander stainless steel band

The classic look of stainless steel links pairs perfectly with the Samsung Gear S2 Classic and this band from eLander is a standout example. It's available in silver, but the stainless steel black is equally beautiful.

It comes with a toolkit for removing extra links and fits virtually any wrist. The clasp locks securely so your watch won't jostle around on your wrist and it's an excellent dressed-up alternative to the standard leather band, at a reasonable price.

See at Amazon

Casetify

Casetify diamond pattern band

Coming soon to Casetify's online store is the collection of bands for the Samsung Gear S2 Classic. Samsung's official site has been teasing them for some time now and it looks like they're going to be worth the wait.

The patterns are fun, unique, and tailored specifically for the Gear S2 Classic. Five vibrant patterns are on deck; pictured here is the Diamond White pattern. Get on their mailing list for a notification when the bands are ready to order.

See at Casetify

If these don't catch your fancy, check out more of our favorites in our roundup of the best watch bands for the Samsung Gear S2 Classic.

Screen protectors

You didn't spend your hard-earned money on your Samsung Gear S2 or Gear S2 Classic to get the face all scratched up. Put a screen protector on it!

Spigen tempered glass screen protector

Spigen tempered glass protector

Spigen is known for creating products that fit well and protect your gear. Their tempered glass screen protector fits both the Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic and helps to stop your watch face from scratching, cracking, and overexposure to the elements.

It comes with easy-to-install wings so that you don't get gunk or fingerprints on the underside of the screen protector. The edges won't lift up on you and the tempered glass is incredibly thin, maintaining the touch sensitivity of the screen.

See at Amazon

Skinomi TechSkin screen protector

Skinomi screen protector

An alternative to tempered glass comes from Skinomi SkinTech. It still protects against incidental scratches and daily wear but is thinner than tempered glass and designed to be replaced if or when necessary, which is OK, since you'll receive six for the price of one.

The edges of the screen protector won't roll up and the TPU is UV-resitant, which means won't yellow over time. It remains virtually invisible to keep the original clarity of the screen as it should be.

See at Amazon

Charging docks

Get something nice to hold your watch while it charges. A charging dock keeps in in sight and displayed for bragging purposes, and wireless charging docks mean there's no need to tediously plug in your Gear S2 or Gear S2 Classic every night.

Samsung Wireless Charger Dock

Samsung charging dock

Samsung offers their own white or black charger dock for the Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic. If you're feeling brand-loyal and want to stick to the product line, it's a well-reviewed charger for the price.

The cradle holds the watch securely on any flat surface, like your office desk, coffee table, or nightstand and it doesn't obstruct your view of the watch face, allowing you to show off the band you're currently using.

See at Amazon

Henoda charging cradle

Henoda charging dock

Take your pick of five colors when you buy a charging cradle from Henoda. It's small, lightweight, and made of soft rubber that will be easy on your Samsung Gear S2 or Gear S2 Classic.

The non-slip base will keep the charger in place on any flat surface, and if you already have a charger or cradle that you use at home, the Henoda is a great alternative for travel or to keep at your desk.

See at Amazon

Bluetooth headphones

On your morning commute, your daily jog, or just around the house, Bluetooth headphones come in awfully handy when you're wearing your Samsung Gear S2 or Gear S2 Classic.

Samsung Level U Pro Bluetooth headphones

Samsung Level U Pro headphones

Treat yourself to the Level U Pro headphones from Samsung. Available in black, blue, purple or bronze, they are well-designed and pair perfectly with the Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic.

The joints are flexible and the headphones is lightweight and comfortable, as well as sweat and water-resistant, so a long run or a quick dash out into the rain won't do any harm. The battery life has up to nine hours of talk or play time, which is more than enough to get you through the day with vivid, concert-quality sound.

See at Amazon

SoundPEATS QY7 Bluetooth headphones

SoundPEATS Bluetooth headphones

Choose from 10 color combinations with headphones from SoundPEATS. Designed for active users, they fit snugly but comfortably in-ear and won't move, no matter how much you do.

Eight hours of talk or play time means you won't be searching for a way to charge them throughout your work day or your workout and the sweat-resistant material won't get sticky or uncomfortable. No matter how active you get, the Bluetooth connection won't waver.

See at Amazon

Carrying case

Your watch won't always be on your wrist. A carrying case will give you a safe place to put it when you're not wearing it.

BSI black leather case

BSI leather case

Compact and lightweight, this leather case from BSI will protect your Samsung Gear S2 or Gear S2 Classic when you need a safe place to store it. The outer case is a hard shell that can handle being tossed into your gym bag, carry-on, or suitcase.

The inner case is lined with soft fabric, so your watch won't be damaged when you're on the go and there's even room in the middle of the case to coil up and store a charging cable, so you don't have to rummage around the bottom of a bag to find it when you need it.

See at Amazon

CASEBUDi watch travel case

CASEBUDi travel case

How about a case made of ballistic nylon? They exist, they're inexpensive, and they do the job well. CASEBUDi makes travel cases for watches of all sizes and the Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic will fit nicely.

The soft interior cushions your watch when the case gets tossed around in your bag, and the zipper and case come with a one-year warranty, so if the case is damaged in the process of protecting your watch, you can get a replacement easily.

See at Amazon

Found your favorites?

Have you come across some excellent accessories for the Samsung Gear S2 or Gear S2 Classic? Let us know in the comments below and tell us why they're the best of the best!

Samsung Gear S2

Samsung Amazon AT&T Verizon Best Buy

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3 days ago

Best legal add-ons for Kodi

38

Kodi has a ton of quality — and legal — content available.

Kodi is one of the easiest ways to cut the cord and say adios to your monthly cable bill. Formerly XMBC, Kodi is a front end that streams media. It's also super easy to install on just about anything that runs Android. Even if it's Android in name only, like Fire OS on the Amazon Fire TV stick. If it can install and run Android apps, you can install Kodi.

Installing Kodi is only the first step, though. A media streamer doesn't do much without media to stream. Setting up your own storage space and connecting it to your Kodi install is easy, but there's a whole internet out there filled with media to stream. You just have to know where to start.

YouTube

Of course, YouTube is on our best list. YouTube is a free service where anyone can upload media. That means some of it is the worst media you can imagine, but there are also plenty of gems you can stream to your TV using the YouTube Addon. And installing it is simple.

  • Open the settings and click the icon labeled Add-ons.
  • Depending on the version of Kodi you're running, you'll see an icon that says Install from repository or Get add-ons. Click it.
  • Choose the Kodi Add-on repository
  • Under Video Add-ons you'll see YouTube listed. Click it to install.

Twitch

I love Twitch. I don't know why, but watching interesting people stream interesting games or other non-gaming content is almost as fun as playing them. And the Twitch add-on for Kodi is a great way to watch them.

It's easy to navigate and use, even with a remote if you don't have a keyboard. It also supports your account login and you can chat and spam Kappa just like you can from a PC. Though you might want a keyboard for that. But seriously, check out Paul and the gang from Windows Central on Twitch and tell them kappa sent you!

Installing Twitch is done the same way as the YouTube add-on above, Just search Twitch instead of YouTube.

The list

Instead of writing out hundreds of great add-ons through the official Kodi repository, I'll direct you to the master list. You'll find names you know like Hulu and Netflix as well as networks and programming you have never heard of. Every one of these add-ons is also 100% legal and above the board — nobody from your ISP is going to be sending you a nastygram.

You'll install any of them the same way, right through the settings app on your Kodi box.

Official Kodi Video Add-ons

Our next three add-ons either aren't listed in the official Kodi repository or are updated so often it's better to get them from another source that's quicker to add the new content. We'll be using SuperRepo to install them.

Not everything at SuperRepo can make our legal list, but these are fine.

SuperRepo has tons of add-ons for Kodi. Some, like these, are completely on the level. Others fall into that gray murky area where ownership and copyright aren't clear. That means you need to be careful and not just install every add-on that catches your eye if you want to comply with rules and laws.

And you really should comply with laws. Following even stupid laws you hate is a great way to stay out of trouble. But if you do dive in where words like legal don't apply, use a VPN. Comcast or Time Warner or whoever you get your internet from is watching you.

To install the SuperRepo repository:

  • In the System category, open the File Manager.
  • Click the Add source icon.
  • Click the list (it might say "none") to open a text box where you can add a new source.
  • Type http://srp.nu in the text box, and give it the name SuperRepo. Click Done.

Now you'll see Super Repo in your file manager. The files you see will all install an add-on just by clicking on them.

USTVNow

This is the first one to find in your new SuperRepo source. USTVNow is an online version of the cable channels you'll find through your cable company. CNN, NBC, Cartoon Network and a ton more are available and you'll always be able to find something to watch. You'll also find USTVNow in the official Kodi repository, but for faster updates and all-around better service, we recommend using the SuperRepo source.

USTVNow (the name is a clue) is for people in the U.S. only and requires an account. You can set that up, as well as stream to your computer, at USTVNow.com.

FilmOn TV

FilmOn TV is a service that offers both free and premium content. Good, current content. Whether you're looking for UFC matches, catch up on your favorite cable show or watch a-list movies you'll find them at FilmOn TV. You can also watch over 600 live TV channels or set up a recording to watch a show at your leisure. Paired with USTVNow, FilmON TV makes cord-cutting easy.

You will need to set up an account at FilmOn.com.

Dbmc (Dropbox)

Dbmc isn't a full Dropbox client. It's a way to view or listen to stuff in your Dropbox. You can be boring and productive while looking at TPS reports or you can watch any video you have collected and uploaded into Dropbox. It's also a great way to build a slideshow of your photos on the big screen.

Dbmc is also available through the official Kodi repository, but we've found the SuperRepo version to be quicker on the updates.

Of course, you need a Dropbox account.

If you're using Kodi and have a favorite of your own that's not on our list, shout out in the comments so everyone can check it out!

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3 days ago

How to fix voice search problems on Gear VR

How do I enable voice search for my Gear VR?

When it comes to browsing the web in VR, Samsung has made it easier than most with the Samsung Internet app for Gear VR. The ability to surf the web and watching anything you come across is generally pretty easy, though reading isn't always the best experience.

A key part of this experience is voice search, making it so you don't have to type every character out by pointing your face at a key on a virtual keyboard. On occasion, this feature can become interrupted by other apps on your phone. Thankfully it's an easy fix, and one that can be handled in just a few minutes.

Read more at VR Heads!

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3 days ago

Best apps for learning a language

11

Rosetta Stone delivers a solid foundation for learning a new language.

Best overall

Learn languages: Rosetta Stone

See at Store

Rosetta Stone is already well known as a great way to begin learning a new language, but you may not have realized that it was available on your phone. With access to 28 different languages, a slow and steady pace that is great for building up your confidence, and optional live-tutoring, there is a reason that Rosetta Stone is king when it comes to language learning apps. Whether you're aiming to learn for fun, or you want to become fluent, this is a great place to start. This program will let you learn how to speak, write and read in a new language, with an emphasis on building confidence in pronunciation and the ability to sync progress across your desktop or mobile device.

Bottom line: Rosetta Stone delivers an excellent foundation for learning a new language with a program that focuses on practical conversational skills. With the addition of teaching you how to read, write, and listen for a rounded experience.

One more thing: While you do have to pay for the full version, you can access the first module of any language for free to try it out.

Why Rosetta Stone is the best

Rosetta Stone makes sure that the fundamentals are pounded into your head and offers features that make sure you're confident about what you're hearing, saying, and writing.

When it comes to language apps, Rosetta Stone may already be the first software you think of. There's good reason for that too. For years Rosetta Stone has dominated language learning on PC and it's mobile version is just as solid. While getting access to the full program is a bit pricy, if you'll motivated to really learn a new language it's worth the hit to your wallet in the long run.

Jill Duffy of PCMag gave it high marks for a foundation in a new language.

"Rosetta Stone is a wonderful, polished, and technically competent language-learning program, especially for beginners who are looking to build a foundation of knowledge on their own time."

While Rosetta Stone does have it's limitations, for those without a background in the language they're trying to learn, this is the most solid all around program. While it can be repetitive, that's to make sure that your new vocabulary sticks in your brain. At higher levels you'll also be able to read to the program while it listens to your pronunciation. Additionally it employs games likes bingo to help your association between individual words and their meanings.

One of the biggest perks to Rosetta Stone is how they introduce everything. Immersion is the key to learning with Rosetta Stone, combined with deductive reasoning. At time you'll need to guess a new word, but it's made easier by giving you choices of other words that you've already learned.

Best free

Duolingo

See at Store

While price isn't an option for some people, if you're looking for the best way to begin learning a new language on a budget then Duolingo is definitely the best bet. This free app has access to 20 different languages to learn from Vietnamese and Irish to Spanish and German. Unlike most other programs, Duolingo employs XP and leaderboards so that you can learn with your friends and turns language into a game to be played.

Each language is a little bit different, and the more popular languages do have access to far more module lessons. Each one starts out the same though. You'll deal with the basics before moving on to phrases and language specific lessons. The leaderboards will show you which friends on facebook use the app and will let you compete against each other. By completing modules you'll also earn EXP and Lingots which you can use to purchase extra modules. If you're learning with friends, you can also start clubs which allows you to turn learning a language into a group activity.

Bottom line: Duolingo makes learning a language fun, and with it's social aspects it's easy to learn a language with friends. Absolutely free, you never need to pay a penny in order to learn everything it has to offer.

One more thing: Duolingo also allows people coming back to a language to test past the basics and jump right back into learning new content.

Best for the rest

Babbel

See at Store

If you're looking for a solid middle of the road option for learning a new language, then Babbel ought to be your go to. It offers a subscription for access to the full catalog, but it isn't nearly as expensive as picking up a copy of Rosetta Stone. Each language is made up of a variety of courses from beginning vocabulary to grammar and writing in the language you are learning.

Each lesson must be downloaded to your phone, but they only take a moment or two and then you can properly jump in. Those lessons are also fairly short, making them easy to rock through when you're sitting on the train during your commute. There are currently 14 languages in the Babbel arsenal, from Spanish to Brazilian Portugese.

Bottom line: Babbel offers an affordable middle of the road option for learning a new language. There are 14 different languages available, with plenty of courses to get you working towards fluency in a new language.

One more thing: Each language must be downloaded as a different app, which can be a bit bulky if you download more than one at a time.

Best overall

Learn languages: Rosetta Stone

See at Store

Rosetta Stone is already well known as a great way to begin learning a new language, but you may not have realized that it was available on your phone. With access to 28 different languages, a slow and steady pace that is great for building up your confidence, and optional live-tutoring, there is a reason that Rosetta Stone is king when it comes to language learning apps. Whether you're aiming to learn for fun, or you want to become fluent, this is a great place to start. This program will let you learn how to speak, write and read in a new language, with an emphasis on building confidence in pronunciation and the ability to sync progress across your desktop or mobile device.

Bottom line: Rosetta Stone delivers an excellent foundation for learning a new language with a program that focuses on practical conversational skills. With the addition of teaching you how to read, write, and listen for a rounded experience.

One more thing: While you do have to pay for the full version, you can access the first module of any language for free to try it out.

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3 days ago

Here are the best deals from Amazon's Great Indian Sale

1

Amazon India kicks off first major sale of 2017.

It's day two of Amazon's Great Indian Sale, and the retailer is discounting several Fitbit fitness trackers along with phones, accessories, and much more.

Before we get to the deals, if you're not a Prime member yet, you should consider signing up right away. Amazon is running a sale exclusive to Prime members later today that'll see an additional 10% discount on Fitbit's fitness trackers. Prime in India costs just ₹499 for the first year, and you get a lot of value in the form of free two-day shipping options and access to Prime Video.

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3 days ago

Google aims to make Android the safest mobile platform in the world

53

Safer apps make for a safer phone.

Google's new Security for Android Developers page has a pretty bold statement as it's tagline:

Our goal is to make Android the safest mobile platform in the world. That's why we consistently invest in technologies that bolster the security of the platform, its applications, and the global Android ecosystem.

Google is pretty transparent when it comes to Android security, and the past year or so has seen media outlets pick up more and more of what they are doing. It's important and interesting to know what's going on when it comes to things that threaten your privacy and finances through your phone. It's equally important and interesting to read about the things being done to keep us safer from them.

One place where Google is being more visible is best security practices for the people who build the apps we love to use. The new Security for Android Developers page is a great example.

Making essential information more visible is a key step to more secure apps.

It's a portal for developers to read everything they need to know and how to do those things in order to make their apps as safe as they can be. Google has always had this information available at the Android Developers site, but the new landing page is friendly and shows you exactly what you would be looking for when writing a secure Android app. The resources available are a great way for anyone in the business to understand the how and why when it comes to mobile security, and then gives examples of how to incorporate the best practices. This means better apps, and making it easy for developers is a great move.

Things that threaten our privacy and data aren't ever going to go away. In fact, many analysts feel that we're going to be seeing even more of it done in sneakier ways. Anything a big tech company can do to assist developers in fighting them is welcomed.

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3 days ago

Our forums are about to get super awesome, but we need YOUR help!

20

A new forum is coming!

It's been quite awhile since our forums got a refresh, and they're starting to look a little outdated. And sometimes, as many of you have mentioned in the past, they can load a bit on the slow side, too. We've heard all your feedback and definitely appreciate hearing from you about how we can make the site better for everyone! Over the last several months our tech and design teams have been working SUPER hard to create a new forum for Android Central readers that is both functional AND visually pleasing. As you can imagine, redesigning everything was a pretty massive undertaking, and not something we wanted to rush. The good news is we are now ready to test out the new design, but we NEED YOUR HELP.

If you're interested in helping us test the new design, please head on over to this forum thread to get started. Your feedback is crucial to this process, because we want the redesign to be something YOU are happy to use! And who knows, maybe your feedback will earn you a t-shirt from your favorite Mobile Nations site!

Again, hit up this link to learn how you can easily activate the new design right now. We'll talk with you in the forums!!

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3 days ago

Here's a neat Chrome + multi-window trick you probably didn't know about

18
Chrome multiwindow

It's easy to open links in the opposite window, or juggle Chrome tabs between both viewports.

Android 7.0's multi-window feature is great, letting you split your display between two full screen apps. But it comes with a few caveats, including the fact that you generally can't run different instances of the same app in both windows.

Google Chrome, however, is smart enough to juggle tabs between windows, letting you view different pages in each half of the screen. It's a neat trick that you might not be aware of, so here's how you do it.

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3 days ago

Android Central 321: U, Mi and Huawei

6

Audio-only stream below

We're back with the best Android podcast on the planet!

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3 days ago

How to clear your Google Play search history

2

We all have searches we'd rather forget.

We all go on app kicks that could skew our future search results. We may need to cover our tracks after searching for certain kinds of apps) on Google Play. We need to clean things up after our stupid friend/coworker/kid brother searches for apps on our phone as a joke. And when it comes to cleaning our Google Play search history, things are blissfully simple.

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3 days ago

Star Wars: Force Arena review: The best and worst of mobile gaming, plus Star Wars

1

Bringing Star Wars action to mobile like you've never before.

Star Wars: Force Arena is a mobile game that's brimming with potential, combining the most popular trends in mobile gaming — collectable cards, tower defence, and mobile online battle arena (MOBA) — into one cohesive strategy game that's addictive as hell and a blast to play. Star Wars fans will love it, especially if they enjoyed the latest film in the franchise, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, as the game allows for hypothetical recreations of intense battles between heroes from the Rebel Alliance and the Imperial Empire.

Essentially a marriage of the gameplay from Clash Royale and Vainglory, South Korean game developers Netmarble have done a great job of combining the troop card casting fun of Clash Royale with the smooth MOBA-style fun of Vainglory, throwing you into the boots of your favorite Star Wars characters in action-packed battles. Win and your rank increases, helping you to reach higher tiers that feature better cards in your card packs and pitting you against similarly ranked opponents.

READ: Beginner's Guide to Star Wars: Force Arena

But before I go too much further praising this game, let's discuss the most glaring weakness — strip everything away and this is but another card collecting game, where the actual goal outside of the thrilling three minute online skirmishes is to unlock more card packs and upgrade your troop cards using credits you've either earned in battle, or purchased via in-app purchases. This tried and tested mobile formula is fantastic for padding the pockets of game developers, but is a constant point of frustration for many mobile gamers. If you're the type that justifies investing your own money into the game to make progress smoother, the in-game Shop will help you reach your goals. If you hate this gameplay model all together, you're not going to like it here.

Strip everything away and this is but another card collecting game... If you hate this gameplay model all together, you're not going to like it here.

For the rest of us, Star Wars: Force Arena offers tightly refined gaming that really brings out the "war" side of Star Wars like you've never experienced. But before heading into battle, you must first build your battle deck around a Legendary card — heroes from the original Star Wars trilogy as well as newer characters to the Star Wars franchise from Rogue One are currently available. This is the character you will be controlling on the battlefield. The remaining seven card slots are filled with troop or support cards which you summon into battle by spending regenerating energy points.

Each hero has special abilities and skills that offer advantages and disadvantages in the battle arena, and it takes some amount of experimenting to learn how to properly play with each character. Fortunately, you're able to trade in a Legendary card for a new, random hero if you don't like your current stock of heros. As you progress, you will eventually unlock Unique cards, which are super-charged troop cards that are linked to a specific hero. As you advance to the higher tiers, you may find yourself hamstrung in battle if you don't play a hero with its associated Unique card, as they have the potential to really swing the momentum in the heat of the battle.

There are 10 Legendary cards available for both the Rebels and the Empire, each paired with their Unique troop, along with 20 other support and troop cards for both sides, which opens up seemingly limitless deck combinations and allowed for a great mix of strategies.

Battles take place in a number of iconic locales from the film franchise, and configured in the same two-lane tower defence formation as you find in Clash Royale for 1 vs. 1 battles, and an expanded three-lane arena available for 2 vs. 2 battles. Matchmaking is typically quick and I've experienced few connectivity issues during battles. Teaming up for a 2 vs. 2 battle is especially well-executed here, as the bigger arena allows for truly epic battles to unfold. There's also a guild system included, which allows you to chat, play friendly battles against fellow guild members, and team up to battle other guilds in 2 vs. 2 battles (feel free to join the AndroidCentral guild!).

Nailing the look and feel of Star Wars is important for fans, and this is easily the best-executed I've seen and heard on mobile.

The music and overall presentation here is on point, with sweeping cinematic scores really setting the tone under the familiar sounds of laser blasts, lightsaber hums, and the screeching squalls of Tie Fighters overhead. Nailing the look and feel of Star Wars is important for fans, and this is easily the best-executed I've seen and heard on mobile.

Adding to the replayability are missions, which help you to unlock new Legendary cards and earn credits by completing goals such as earning victories for the Empire, or updating cards. It's an extra layer of support that rewards committed players and helps to ease the grinding nature of upgrading cards and levelling up.

Finally, as with any online game, the issue of keeping things balanced is something that will make or break the experience for the average gamer. As of the writing of this review, Netmarble is preparing to release its first game balance update based on in-game data and community feedback gleaned from the early days since its global release. You can read more about the changes being introduced on the Star Wars: Force Arena forums, which are also a great place to provide your own direct feedback to the game developers. It's early in this game's cycle, and given the hype surrounding the Star Wars franchise as a whole, this game should be well-supported throughout 2017.

If you're a Star Wars fan, there's a good chance you've already checked out Force Arena. If you haven't, you really owe it to yourself to give it a try. Despite the familiar free-to-play catchings of the card collecting mechanics at its core, the strategy and action it delivers in battle is as good as it gets on Android, all while staying fairly true to the source material.

Download: Star Wars: Force Arena (Free w/ IAPs)

Android Gaming

Best action games for Android

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3 days ago

How to watch 360-degree and 3D YouTube on PlayStation VR

How do I watch 360 YouTube on PlayStation VR?

A big update to YouTube in the PlayStation Store has enabled a PlayStation VR mode, and that means the ability to watch 360-degree videos through your PSVR has arrived! 360-degree YouTube videos let you totally immerse yourself in the recorded content, but unlike most of your VR apps and games, you can't really move around in these videos. YouTube for PSVR is best used sitting down, and if your goal is to watch as much 360-degree video as possible, here's a quick guide for you!

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