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5 months ago

Plex has acquired newscast aggregator Watchup because people are watching news again

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Plex has acquired a new app that helps people stream traditional news broadcasts.

Plex, the well-known U.S.-based consolidator of all things media, has acquired newscast aggregator Watchup, which brings together video from news channels around the world in an Android (and iOS) app, for an undisclosed amount.

Watchup was launched in 2012 on the iPad but later spread to Android and various set-top boxes, including Amazon Fire TV, Xbox and PS4, as Americans cut cords and began to find most of their news online. The company has aggregation deals with many of the top U.S. media companies, including CBS, PBS, CNN, Fox News and WSJ, as well as international sources like Euronews, Sky, Financial Times and others.

Plex plans to make Watchup part of its media portal, which is increasingly relying on external streaming sources rather than its more traditional focus on local media consolidation. Plex says that the Watchup deal is perfectly timed given the resurgence of video news as part of people's daily routines.

Watchup makes watching news easy by using suggested categories and themes to learn what people want to watch and, like Stitcher in the audio space, creates a continuous playlist of content that people can peruse during a commute, meal or workout.

Download Watchup (free)

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5 months ago

How to save what you're reading on your phone for later

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Sometimes, there is no time to finish that article. Stow it away for later with these helpful apps and services.

Smartphones are mobile, so naturally, you're using your mobile device to get a bulk of your reading done throughout the day. I know I do — even if my tablet is nearby, I'm still reading the news, perusing Twitter, and delving into articles with the device that's already in my hand.

But you can't stay glued to the screen all day, which is where those "read it later" apps come in handy. Here's what I like to use to keep track of what's interesting on the internet, even when I don't have time to digest it.

Pocket

I'd argue that this is one of the most suggested apps for saving articles to read later. It's called Pocket (it used to be called Read It Later) and I've been using it for so long that my reading list is essentially an archive of what used to get me riled up. You can use Pocket to file away those articles you'll merely skim through or longer narratives that require an afternoon accompanied by a cup of tea.

I like Pocket because you can easily use Android's built-in sharing functionality to file articles for later. You can then go into the app and tag articles to organize them by categories of your choice. After you've been reading for a while, Pocket will start to email you a weekly summary of other worthy reads based on what you've already stored away. There's also a social networking element to the app where you can follow friends with their own Pocket accounts to see what they're reading when they can get to it.

Download Pocket (Free)


Instapaper

Instapaper is the other popular app for reading stuff later. I don't use it daily, but that's because Instapaper is more focused on the interface environment you're reading around rather than the content. Its layout is simplistic and designed to appear newspaper-esque. Whereas Pocket is a fan of embedding images and media, Instapaper will keep those hidden so that you can more easily digest the diction.

Instapaper also offers myriad settings for customizing themes, fonts, and text size to your liking. And like Pocket, it offers a bookmarklet for pinning articles from Google Chrome.

Download Instapaper (Free)


Facebook Save

I see you scrolling through your Facebook feed during work hours. I get it: I don't want to miss out on what my friends and family are talking about it either. I've curated my social network so that I want to engage in daily dialogue with my pals and a few others who enjoy the banter. But I also have a bad habit of getting into it when I should be working. (Sorry, editors!) Thankfully, there's a feature that lets me save articles for later. I just tap on the more button of the post I'm interested in and select Save link. The article is then archived to my Facebook account, where only I can see the articles I've deemed worth reading later.

Go to your Facebook Reading List


Save to Inbox

Did you know that you can save links to your Gmail account? It's true, and I'm glad for it considering I'm constantly emailing links to my best friend on the other side of the country.

If you're already an Inbox user, you can file away links you read in your email or on Google Chrome to read later by using Android's built-in sharing mechanism. You'll immediately get a notification that there's an email waiting for you — that's the article you filed away! And the best part is that if you find the article you've read worth sharing with the world, you can easily forward it on with a few taps.

Download Inbox


Watch it later

I love watching YouTube and catching up on web shows, but I try to avoid going anywhere near that site during work hours. Unfortunately, that's a difficult dance, but I've figured out a way to save the videos without getting sucked into watching them. When a pal forwards a video link with a persuasive headline, I'll open it up on my phone and queue it up for later by adding it to my Watch it Later playlist. Simple as that!

Go to your WatchLater playlist


How do you save?

Do you use an app to save your reading for later? Which one do you use and why do you love or hate it? Let us know in the comments below.

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5 months ago

Best Messaging Apps for Android

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Which apps are worth using to stay in touch? We've got the scoop.

Best Overall

WhatsApp

See at Google Play

There is almost no contest. WhatsApp is an all-inclusive messaging app that's all you need for staying in touch, no matter where you are in the world. WhatsApp merely relies on whether your phone has an Internet connection — whether that's through cellular or Wi-Fi — so it's great if you're frequently traveling between regions. You can use WhatsApp to send and receive photos, videos, documents, and voice messages. It also supports group chats and voice calls.

Bottom Line: If you're looking for a formidable, all-in-one messaging that's packed with more features than some of Google's offerings, WhatsApp is the second most-popular messaging app available.

One More Thing: Both parties have to be using the WhatsApp app to communicate, though all it requires to register is your phone number.

Why WhatsApp is the best

Google has yet to settle on the one best messaging app. As a result, Android users have had to resign themselves to simply switching off between applications when necessary. It's not the most user-friendly solution, but it's the reality until Google lands on a cohesive messaging strategy.

WhatsApp is worth adding to your arsenal — and possibly switching over to for primary communication. In addition to being able to send and receive photos, videos, documents, and voice messages, WhatsApp lets you place free VoIP calls as long as you're on a strong Wi-Fi signal. That's especially helpful when you're traveling overseas.

Additionally, WhatsApp works well on 2G networks, which is fantastic if you're roaming the countryside with the faintest signal available, and it offers end-to-end encrypted messaging. And since it was the first messaging app of its kind, there were so many early adopters that you'd be hard pressed not to find your friends already have an account. (Even I was surprised at how many of my friends and family members were already users!)

Best for Google users

Google Hangouts

See at Google Play

Text messages, video chat, group chats — it's all there in Google Hangouts. We still don't know where Google is taking its once heralded messaging app, but for now, we're still using it to chat. Use it to easily multitask between conversations with your friends, family, and colleagues between your different Google accounts. You can even use Hangouts to make phone calls with your Google Voice number or download the Hangouts Dialer to make free Wi-Fi calls.

Bottom line: For now, Hangouts is basically a required app if you're planning to stay connected in the Google-verse. We're not sure where Google is taking it (some are expecting it to see it become the next prized messaging app of the enterprise), but there are definitely more people using it than Allo or Duo.

One more thing: Why isn't this Google's primary messaging app again?

Best for texting

Messenger from Google

See at Google Play

You're already a Google user, so you might as well stay with the family when it comes to text messaging. Messenger from Google lets you receive SMS and MMS messages — simple as that! Messenger supports RCS messaging, audio messaging, emoji, location sharing, colored text threads, and message archiving. It even comes with its own batch of stickers!

Bottom Line: Messenger from Google is the messenger for your Google phone.

One More Thing: If you're thinking I really don't want anymore Google, Textra is the next best text messaging app. It doesn't support RCS, but it does have Giphy integration, and offers full compatibility with Pushbullet, MightyText, Android Wear, and Android Auto for enhanced notifications and quick replies.

Best "everyone is using it"

Facebook Messenger

See at Google Play

Chances are, you've got an overwhelming list of friends and family who've become suddenly available on Facebook. Keep up with them all by downloading Facebook Messenger. The app supports messaging from both your Facebook account and phone number. You don't have to use the SMS feature if you don't want to, but it could be helpful if you find yourself constantly jumping between apps.

Facebook Messenger is one of the more dynamic messaging apps. It offers a hefty number of sticker packs, not to mention stellar video chat functionality. The app also supports group chats — including group voice chats — audio messaging, read receipts, and location sharing services. You can even use Facebook Messenger to swap cash with friends.

Bottom line: You've come this far at accepting Facebook as a part of your life. You might as well adopt the feature-filled Messenger app into your life, too.

One more thing: Not only are there stickers, but you can play games with your Facebook friends from Messenger, too!

Best Overall

WhatsApp

See at Google Play

There is almost no contest. WhatsApp is an all-inclusive messaging app that's all you need for staying in touch, no matter where you are in the world. WhatsApp merely relies on whether your phone has an Internet connection — whether that's through cellular or Wi-Fi — so it's great if you're frequently traveling between regions. You can use WhatsApp to send and receive photos, videos, documents, and voice messages. It also supports group chats and voice calls.

Bottom Line: If you're looking for a formidable, all-in-one messaging that's packed with more features than some of Google's offerings, WhatsApp is the second most-popular messaging app available.

One More Thing: Both parties have to be using the WhatsApp app to communicate, though all it requires to register is your phone number.

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5 months ago

Best icon packs for Android

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Without icon packs, we are left with chaos.

App icons are different shapes, different sizes, different color schemes and follow different design guidelines. Samsung's icons look different than Google's icons, which look different from Microsoft's icons, which look different from every other developer's icons. They are messy. They are awkward. They need to be brought under control. And that's where icon packs come in.

Icon packs bring control. Icon packs bring consistency. Icon packs bring class. Even if you're not into big involved themes, you should use an icon pack. A good icon pack can help you find your apps more quickly, can help make your phone look and feel less cluttered, and they just look better. And whether you want an icon pack that stands out or blends in, we have the best icon packs right here for your pleasure and consideration.

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5 months ago

Your smartphone is the key to democracy

Get involved and stay informed. The device that's already in your pocket is all you need.

Here's the deal: You won't enact change by simply posting news articles to Facebook and arguing with people on Twitter. That's a waste of time. Instead, your best bet is to stay informed and encourage others to do the same. That's incredibly easy to do with the smartphone you're already equipped with.

It doesn't matter which way you lean. The technology in your hand is constantly connected, so unless you're living life in Airplane Mode, get yourself set up with the apps mentioned here and start paying attention to what's happening to the world you live in.

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5 months ago

Swype gets its biggest update in a long time but it's still not as good as Gboard

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It may not have the influence it once did, but Swype's new update brings it back into focus.

In the early days of Android, Swype was basically unparalleled when it came to gesture keyboards. It was fast, reliable and intelligent. But its dominance was slowly eroded by competitors like SwiftKey and Google's own first-party Google Keyboard, which is now known as Gboard, and the company behind the app, Nuance, slowed its development to a crawl.

The app has come out of hibernation for now with version 3.0, offering a number of new features, some improvements to the text engine, and emoji predictions, which seems to be table stakes for an Android keyboard these days.

There's also an optional number row available for people who don't want to switch to a secondary panel, along with support for the following:

  • Handwriting Improvements
  • Chinese Handwriting Multiple Character Recognition
  • Uyghur keyboard
  • Kashmiri Devanagari predictive language database
  • Russian KDB for Russian and Kirghyz languages
  • Improvements to Thai, Lao, Khmer

The trial version offers a full experience for 30 days, after which it forces you to buy the full version, on sale for $0.99 — a great deal for a very good keyboard. It's still not as good as Gboard, nor as versatile as SwiftKey, but it's close — and for someone who exclusively uses gesture typing over pecking at the screen, it could very well be preferred.

The best Android keyboards

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5 months ago

Is sideloading APK files considered piracy?

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Is sideloading an Android app considered piracy? Yes. No. Maybe. It depends.

Recently, we got a question from someone new to Android about sideloading apps. For the most part, this isn't something you do (or can do) on iOS and seeing people in the comments of articles here and elsewhere about getting APK files online and sideloading them was a little confusing. Along with some confirmation about the hows and the whys, the meat of the question centered around piracy.

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5 months ago

Best UK transport apps for Android

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Google Maps offers the best all around experience when you are looking for easy ways to get around the UK. With plenty of options on route and mode, it can help you to get where you need to be as efficiently as possible.

Best overall

Google Maps

See at Play Store

Google Maps is pretty much the undisputed master of getting from point A to point B, no matter where you are. Google Maps can show you the easiest way to get around by walking, driving, or finding public transit. There are options to add stops on your journey, as well as avoiding highways or tolls along the way.

You can also access nearby places by checking out the Explore tab. This will show you nearby restaurants, gas stations, and more with top rated recommendations. Google Maps has up-to-date traffic conditions, which means that you'll know before you hit a problem spot when navigating in the car.

If you're on a longer trip, it's also easy to program in stops along your way. This lets you ensure that you get back on track as quickly as possible.

Bottom line: Google Maps gives you a great overall experience whether you're traveling by car, truck or train, and easily lets you find great local places to find a bite to eat.

One more thing: If you're concerned about having data, you can also download areas that can be perused offline.

Why Google Maps is the best

Google Maps delivers you a little bit of everything, making it easy to get around even if you have no clue where you are.

There are dozens of apps that can help you get around, but none of them are quite as accurate or as all-encompassing as Google Maps has become. It covers just about every mode of transportation, and will also show you the different routes that you can take along the way. Absolutely free, it may even come preloaded on your phone, making it hassle free to use.

Google Maps also has tons of features that you can choose to use. You can save the locations of favorite restaurants, or your friends houses. If you use Google Calendar it will also show you the locations of upcoming events in your calendar. If you need to find food, you can see local restaurants and their reviews from customers.

One of the greatest features that Google Maps offers, though, is the ability to adjust your route. You can choose to avoid tolls and highways, as well as add stops on your trip. You can also see up to date traffic conditions while driving, which means that it's easy to avoid accidents a few miles down the road.

The best for cities

Citymapper

CityMapper

See at Play Store

If you spend a lot of time in the city, then Citymapper goes above and beyond what Google Maps has to offer. You can easily get wherever you need to go, so long as it is within one of the app's supported cities, like Manchester or Birmingham. There are detailed routes for public transit, as well as integration with Uber and even rain-safe routes to keep you dry during a downpour.

Citymapper even offers Android Wear support, so that you don't need to keep an eye on your phone to keep from getting lost. Their Uber integration is also well done, letting you know if prices are surging. The biggest problem with the app is that it isn't available for every city, but the list is always expanding.

Bottom line: Citymapper can make getting around in the city a breeze, you'll just want to make sure you're in a supported city before downloading and installing it.

One more thing: The SmartCommute feature can help you find the fastest and most cost effective routes for your commute.

Best for the Tube

Tube Map London Underground

Tube Map London Underground

See at Play Store

While having access to all public transit might be good, having a dedicated app to help you navigate the Tube is a good call. Tube Map London Underground is officially licensed by TfL and it is jam packed with just about anything you need to know. You get access to a zoomable map of the rail network, complete with every station. Tapping a station will get you more info, like departures, service info, and Wi-Fi coverage.

You can also use the route planner, which is especially handy for anyone not familiar with the city. This includes choosing between a fast route, or an easy one. You can also see how long it will take to walk between stations if there is a backup. You can even check out disruptions, and social media to help plan your trip.

Bottom line: Tube Map London Underground is the best aid to keep you up to date and getting where you need to go using the Tube.

One more thing: The basic app is free, but to get access to every feature you'll need to upgrade to the Pro version.

Best ride share

Uber

Uber

See at Play Store

Whether you're visiting the UK, or you're just trying to get to work, driving yourself isn't always an option. If you're looking for a ride share to use while in the city, then you can trust Uber. While they aren't accessible from anywhere, you can check coverage before you download the app.

Once you've signed it, and set up a payment method, you're good to go. Uber is super convenient when staying in the city, and is often a lot cheaper and easier than using a taxi or public transit. You just want to keep an eye on choosing the correct level of service for your ride, and make sure that you are aware of any surge pricing before requesting a ride.

Bottom line: Uber is an accessible, easy, and often cheap way of getting around while in supported cities.

One more thing: Using Uber is a great way to go out for drinks, and not have to worry about a designated driver at the end of the night.

Best for driving

Waze

Waze

See at Play Store

If you're getting from point A to point B, then having an app to keep you on course is a solid choice. Waze is particularly handy for avoiding congestion and traffic spots before you hit them. While information from Waze is included in Google Maps, the standalone app is well worth downloading.

On top of knowing about accidents and traffic, you'll also be able to see fuel prices, and the presence of police. All information displayed within Waze is added by users, meaning that you'll get real time updates as you head wherever you're going. This is especially handy if you're heading towards traffic, because you'll see drivers reporting as it gets better — or worse.

Bottom line: Waze uses community reporting to deliver real-time up to date traffic conditions, as well as the presence of police, and local fuel prices.

One more thing: As you travel while using Waze, you'll slowly unlock the various different reporting features.

Conclusion

While Google Maps can't do absolutely everything, it does its level best to try. From exploring the area around you to navigating your way across the country, Google has you covered. It's easy to save locations, add stops, and even avoid highways or tolls. Google Maps even delivers up to date traffic conditions as you drive to ensure that you get where you're going with as few complications as possible.

Best overall

Google Maps

See at Play Store

Google Maps is pretty much the undisputed master of getting from point A to point B, no matter where you are. Google Maps can show you the easiest way to get around by walking, driving, or finding public transit. There are options to add stops on your journey, as well as avoiding highways or tolls along the way.

You can also access nearby places by checking out the Explore tab. This will show you nearby restaurants, gas stations, and more with top rated recommendations. Google Maps has up-to-date traffic conditions, which means that you'll know before you hit a problem spot when navigating in the car.

If you're on a longer trip, it's also easy to program in stops along your way. This lets you ensure that you get back on track as quickly as possible.

Bottom line: Google Maps gives you a great overall experience whether you're traveling by car, truck or train, and easily lets you find great local places to find a bite to eat.

One more thing: If you're concerned about having data, you can also download areas that can be perused offline.

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5 months ago

What those scary app permissions mean

Knowing when to be concerned over application permissions and when not to be is tricky. And important.

We've all heard stories about bad apps that want to steal your valuable data and ship it off overseas, and those discussions always end with one thing -- someone says you need to read an app's permissions before you install it. Well, that's fine, but there is a small problem -- how do you know what the heck those permissions mean? Something like System tools: automatically start at boot is easy enough to decipher and understand but plenty of others aren't so easy. The problem is that apps may have a good reason to use them because several different things can be covered by one permission and there's no good place to see exactly what they all mean.

Let's take a look at some common permissions that sound really scary. Hopefully, This will help you have a better grasp on why a developer might want a certain permission or why they shouldn't be asking for it.

Services that cost you money — directly call phone numbers

When you warn me that something is going to cost me money, and you have my attention.This permission means an app can automatically make a phone call. Every app can launch the default dialer and even fill in the number, but unless this permission is granted you have to press the call button. Things like Dialer replacements, Google Voice, or anything tied to your phone dialer needs to have this permission. If an application asks for this but should have nothing to do with making calls, find out why from the folks who put in in Google Play before you install it.

Sometimes it's not obvious why an app needs permission to do something that is useful and safe.

Services that cost you money — receive and send SMS or MMS

Again with the costing me money. Subscription SMS services are an easy way for a crook to make money, so this is one to keep an eye on. Your favorite SMS apps will need this (that makes sense) but so will an app that allows you to edit or take a picture and send it to a friend. Apps that can share any media will probably have this setting, It's needed to use the intent to share anything through an SMS or MMS message. If an app can't send anything to anyone, you should check why the developers need this.

Your personal information — read/write your contacts

An email client or any type of messenger uses this permission to do exactly what it says — read your contacts. But so will something like a home screen widget that can hold a shortcut to a person. Or Twitter or Facebook — they want to be able to find friends of yours who also use their service or make it easy for you to spam the ones who don't. "Contacts" is a broad term because so much information can be stored for an individual contact. We see this one on games that have leaderboards a lot, too. Anything that can put you in touch with anyone else will probably need this permission.

Permission to write to your contacts follows the same logic — if an app can add a friend it might need this permission to do it. In this case "write" means modify or add to your contacts list, not write a message to a contact.

Your personal information — read/write calendar events

This one is pretty simple. It only does one thing — read your default calendar. Some apps will need to have access to your calendar. Besides obvious reasons to need this one, apps that can do things like reminding you when it's time to take medicine or automatically tell you about an upcoming trip might do that by reading your calendar. If an app needs to do something at any point in the future reading the calendar is a valid permission request. If it doesn't, find out what it wants to do before you install.

Writing calendar events is a common thing to need for an app that has a legitimate reason to read them. If it's not obvious why an app needs these permissions, the description in the Play Store should tell you more. If you're still not sure, ask the developer.

Phone calls — read phone status and identity

This is the most abused and least understood permission of them all. You need to understand that this permission covers two different things that shouldn't be lumped together. There are a lot of good reasons to need to read your phone state. A game is a great example. You might be doing your thing and playing a game when all the sudden your phone rings. The game needs to step back and let the incoming call notification have control of your screen. The call request can take control (and does) but the game needs to know that so it can stop the action in the background until you get back to it. It can do this when the phone status changes.

It's important to know which ID an app is asking for.

There are a couple different things your phone can do to provide a unique identity. Every phone has a device identifier that's different from every other one and it can be exposed without sharing any private information. When you see how many people are using a particular version of Android in a chart from Google, they are using this device ID to help get those numbers. When you go to Google Play you get counted and since every number is different you only get counted once. This number is also the best way for an app that can store settings or favorites in the cloud to tie them to you and only you. This is the ID we want to share because it can only tell what phone you have and what software is on it so none of your data is exposed.

This permission is also required for an app to read a different unique ID — your IMEI number. Your IMEI number is how your phone company connects your phone to you — your address, your name and everything else you would need to provide to buy a phone that can prove who you are. That data is hard to get — there is a minimum of three different secure and encrypted database servers between it and any of your account data, but it's not impossible to get. Because we've all seen stories about big telco companies exposing random user data from time to time, this is not something you want to be sharing for no good reason.

Since you have no way of knowing which ID an app asking for this will grab, say no when you see this one unless you know why they want it and what they're doing with it.

Your precise location — GPS and network-based location

If an app needs to know where you are it needs to ask for your location. A rough location through something like a Wi-Fi AP database works well enough for a lot of things but sometimes you need to get precise and that's a second permission request.

The need for your precise location can be determined by a little guesstimation. Does this app need to know what is within 50 yards of me? If the answer is yes, it needs a precise location. An app that tells someone who is wheelchair bound where the mall elevators or bathrooms are (those exist, and kudos to the people who make them happen) needs your precise location. An app that tells you what's on sale at Target when you get in the parking lot doesn't. Of course, any app with a map or that gives you directions needs to pinpoint your location, too.

And sometimes apps with ads in them need this just for the ad company. It's up to you to decide if you need those apps bad enough.

Your personal information — Modify/delete SD card contents

This is the permission that allows an app to read or write to your phone's external storage. This used to give an application free run to look at your data, change that data, delete that data and add more data anywhere on your SD card. This is a little confusing because they don't necessarily mean the little SD card that you can take out of the phone. In Android, your phone storage is referred to as an SD card in the file system. The little SD card is external storage. This was needed to support storing system-wide data on your removable memory card back when it was first developed. It hasn't changed because changing the name would break a lot of apps.

How apps can read from your storage changes as Google tries to balance convenience with security.

Google has done a lot to make this permission harmless. With each version, they refine the ways an application can get access to only the information it needs. But there are still people out there running older versions that may mean this permission is a little more serious. If you're one of them, make sure you trust the app before you install it.

There's a second reason why I'm listing this one. Any application that was written for API level 4 (Android 1.6 Donut) or lower gets this permission by default. There aren't very many of those apps around. But it's a way for an app that didn't come from Google Play to get access it shouldn't have if your phone is running an older version of Android. What harm can come from this depends on what type of data you have on your phone's storage.

Phones running Android 7 Nougat and apps built for phones running Android 7 use scoped directory access and this one is finally laid to rest.

Network communication — full network access

This permission means exactly what it says. An app wants to be able to send requests and get a response through the network (Wi-Fi or your phone's data connection). Besides apps that use the internet for something obvious, apps with ads in them need this one.

While this is a fairly harmless permission when it comes to your personal information, it can use your data allotment without you realizing it. We hate paying for extra data as much as you do. Use airplane mode when you're low on data and if you find an app that should work offline but doesn't, uninstall it. There are too many good apps to fool with ones that don't follow the best practices.

There are many other, less suspicious permissions too. An app that takes pictures needs to control your hardware. Netflix needs to keep your screen awake for the 90 minutes you're not touching the screen. A ringer profile widget needs access to your settings. When you come across a permission that seems out of place, usually a bit of deductive reasoning can figure out why an app is requesting it. If not, read comments in Google Play, and ask questions in the forums. Don't just install anything you feel uneasy about, and don't automatically assume the worst.

Most apps in Google Play aren't out to steal your data or your money.

Remember, most of the people writing apps just want to make a little money or are doing it because it's fun. Apps that exist to farm your data are few and far between. And sometimes developers will make a mistake — it's not hard to get Android to ask for a permission an app isn't using and it's easy to overlook those errors when you're building them.

Android is getting a lot better than it used to be when it comes to permissions. There's a good chance you can deny any of these after you install an app through your phone's settings and some of the most common "scary sounding" permissions are going away altogether. But with so many different phones having so many different versions of Android this information can mean more to some people than others.

We'll keep this updated as things change.

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5 months ago

Five must-have games for your Oculus Rift

Consider this your Oculus Rift starter kit.

There's a lot going on in the Oculus Store, which is the primary place you get games for your Rift headset. Titles range wildly when it comes to price and description, due in no small part to Oculus pulling content that was originally made for the Samsung Gear VR into the store so you can experience it in a higher resolution. It's a lot to take in, and that's only going to get more interesting when you start playing games for your Oculus Rift that come from Steam instead of the Oculus Store.

To help you get started with your Oculus Rift, we've put together a quick lift of titles everyone should have in their library in order to fully appreciate this incredible VR experience.

Read More at VR Heads!

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5 months ago

LineageOS already supports almost 70 builds with SU options

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They're back, and they're running strong.

It may feel good for a handful of knuckleheads to stand up and talk about how they "totally called" the epic collapse of Cyanogen, Inc. but as usual there's a far more interesting story here. The open source, community-run program that so many people around the world have used for years, lives on. The shift from CyanogenMod to LineageOS is significant, returning a team of people working on an alternative version of Android to a place free of criticism regarding corporate influence and making it abundantly clear that the core philosophy is supporting as many phones as possible with as similar a feature set as possible.

If you weren't excited about LineageOS as an alternative to the aging version of Android running on your older phone, it may be time to take another look. As of today the downloads page is offering nearly 70 options to download across 13 hardware manufacturers, and it's only going to get bigger from here.

It'll be a while before LineageOS is built up to the level of its predecessor, but as a first week what is already available astounds.

LineageOS downloads have reached what they call "nightly" build status, a step above "experimental" in terms of stability. Don't let the name fool you, though, the LineageOS team isn't pumping out a new build for each phone every night just yet. Some builds are already several days old, but the volume of available options for phones is significant. Also on the LineageOS downloads page is a list of options for adding or removing Super User from your build, which means you can set your phone up as a solid experimentation phone or set up as a daily driver without the obvious hole in security caused by SU access.

It'll be a while before LineageOS is built up to the level of its predecessor, but as a first week what is already available astounds. Be sure to check out the downloads page for yourself if you're thinking about giving this particular flavor of Android a try.

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5 months ago

How to produce beautiful, artistic photos on Android

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Here's how to edit photos when you're on the road with just your smartphone (or tablet!).

Going somewhere? Packing is tough enough. The last thing you want to do is have to worry about whether you have all the proper hardware to produce well composed, vibrant photography for sharing online. When I travel, I like to reflect on the photos I've snapped every few days. It's my way of appreciating the fact that we live on such a beautiful planet, but I don't want to have to bust out my laptop to do this.

Enter your smartphone (or tablet!). With displays becoming higher resolution and better able to reproduce colors than your standard wide-screen monitor, there's really no reason to carry all that hardware with you just to put out a pretty photo. With a couple of adapters and helpful applications, you can edit your photos just as easily on the go.

Figure out your methodology

First thing's first: how will you shoot your masterpieces? For my vacation in New Zealand, I brought two smartphones: the Galaxy S7 Edge and the Pixel XL. That was really all I needed! Sometimes, I'll bring my trust little entry-level DSLR or borrow my husband's professional-grade kit. Regardless of what you have in tow, you'll want to equip yourself with the proper arsenal of apps.

Shooting with a smartphone

You can shoot with any smartphone, really, but be realistic about the quality of the photos you'll be posting if you're shooting with something low-end to mid-range—like the Honor 6X, for instance. If you're wielding a flagship like the aforementioned devices, however, you can tweak a couple of settings to get the most out of that fixed rear lens.

If you're serious about adjusting the various hues of a photo, you'll want to turn on RAW capture if your smartphone allows it. This means every photo will be shot as a DNG file rather than a JPEG. The advantage is that the file type retains more information than the compressed JPEG would, though you'll have to actively process the photo yourself before it's shareable with the Internet.

On a device like the Galaxy S7 edge, Samsung saves both the RAW and JPEG file to the device so that you can instantly share one photo and then edit it more thoroughly later on. For the purpose of this column, however, you'll be able to edit those DNG files with the right Android app.

If you're serious about adjusting the various hues of a photo, you'll want to turn on RAW capture.

Be forewarned that on most devices, you'll have to enter "Pro mode" before you can select the option to shoot in RAW. This requires that you manually adjust elements like the exposure and shutter speed before you can snap a picture. Also, consider investing in a worthy smartphone tripod if you're headed this route. I did, and though it adds a bit of bulk to packing, landscape shots taken with my smartphone have never looked better.

Shooting with a DSLR

If you're planning to edit photos taken with your DSLR, check to see if your phone or tablet supports USB On-The-Go (OTG) first by downloading this app. If it turns out your device is compatible, grab a USB-connected card reader from a place like Amazon. You can choose between adapters that are compatible with your device's charging port or adapters that allow you to connect any USB flash drive or card reader.

Thanks to Android's "sharing" mechanism, you can open those photos directly in the editing app of your choice.

We've also got a helpful primer on how to properly connect USB flash storage to your Android device. The same steps apply to a USB card reader, too. When you're ready to edit, you can plug in the SD card into your phone and browse through the files like you would on a regular computer. And thanks to Android's "sharing" mechanism, you can open those photos directly in the editing app of your choice.

See at Amazon

Choose your applications

Adobe Lightroom

If you've used the desktop app, you know that Adobe Lightroom is one of the primo titles for making your smartphone photos look their absolute best. Lightroom mobile boasts much of the same functionality as the full suite, including the ability to individually adjust hue, saturation, contrast, brightness, white balance, sharpness, and tone. There are also helpful filters to choose from if you're feeling creative, including filters that correspond directly to the type of smartphone you're shooting with.

Lightroom mobile also lets you sign in to your Adobe account, so if you're already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can log in to access your archived albums and all the metadata. And if your smartphone doesn't employ a "Pro mode," Lightroom mobile comes with the ability to shoot DNG files baked into the camera mode.

Download Adobe Lightroom (Free)

Snapseed

You're an Android user, so you're already entrenched in the Google life. Stick with the family by downloading Snapseed, Google's photo editing suite. The app comes with 25 different tools and filters, including a healing brush and HDR tuner. What's more: Any time you apply a filter, you can tap an icon in the upper right-hand corner to toggle between the before and after. Snapseed also supports DNG files.

When you're finished editing, you can easily share to any of your favorite social networks. For a little more flair, choose between the different frames or add a bit of context with a stylized text caption.

Download Snapseed (Free)

Pixlr

Pixlr claims it offers over 2 million combinations of free effects, overlays, and filters. I can't personally confirm that, but I can say that, anecdotally, I'm sometimes overwhelmed by Pixlr precisely because of its breadth of features. In addition to the standard filters and adjustments, Pixlr lets you do things like create collages, layer multiple photos, and stylize your images. There's also a favorites button in case you get into an editing groove and you don't want to have to recall your steps each time.

When you're finished editing, you can share externally or save the photo to your device at maximum resolution.

Download Pixlr (Free)

Accept the limitations

For those of you who are new to the concept of editing photos with your smartphone, be aware of the limitations. For one, you can only work on one image at a time, and you're likely doing so with a sensitive setup — one wrong flick of the SD card adapter and every edit could disappear before you even have the chance to export. Transferring and editing RAW files also drains your battery, so if you're in the editing process while in transit, for instance, be sure you're tethered to a high capacity battery pack.

But you're likely not reading this article if you're a professional photographer because there's nothing mentioned here that you don't already know. Well, I'd ask you to please consider leaving a comment and letting us know of any other tips you might have for editing photos on the go!

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5 months ago

Google's 'new and improved' Contributor program is accepting early sign-ups

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Welcome back, Contributor. Sort of.

As Google promised when the original Contributor program was entirely erased earlier this month, a replacement is on the way. There aren't many details yet, and it's not clear if this will look anything like the original service that killed ads in exchange for a monthly fee from users, but at least we know it's not dead forever right?

Instead of a dead page, Google's Contributor site now includes a link to a Google Form where you can ask to be a part of early trials for the "new and improved" Contributor. Amazingly, the URL for this sign up page includes the words "sign up disabled" but the link on the page clearly works. No one outside of Mountain View knows what that means yet, but as long as the core idea remains there's a good chance this will be perfect for those who can't stand ads but also want to support the sites they love.

Go forth and sign up for that early access, and be sure to drop us a line if you get to try anything cool before we do!

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6 months ago

Android Nougat: Everything you need to know

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With Android Nougat, Google is refining the experience instead of reinventing it.

Android Nougat is Google's way of refining what we already have and adding some essential features to an operating system they were already happy with.

The past two years have shown us how Google was shifting its design language on the phones it sells itself and the apps and services that come on your phone. Android itself has followed this trend, and with Marshmallow, we saw a flat but bold design that tied everything together.

Android Nougat doesn't make major changes to the way your phone looks or the way it "feels", but what Google has done under the hood brings some new features — and much-needed polish — to our favorite smartphone operating system.

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6 months ago

Master Python with this in-depth training bundle, now over 90% off

Just about everything relies on some type of code nowadays. Cars are computerized; we use computers all day long, and we're glued to our smartphones from sunup to sundown. Python is a major coding language for apps and it's an excellent tool if you're wanting to enter the field of software development, especially if you want to build apps for a living.

But you can't just learn to code with Python overnight. You need training, and Python may not be offered at your college of choice. Or, you already have a full-time job and don't have the time to attend classes, day or night. You need online courses and you need to be able to take them at your leisure — even if that means it takes a couple years.

The Python Power Coder Bonus Bundle is a great way for you to get started and to learn to build apps from scratch and learn web programming, as well as other applicable skills that you can use to forge your career as an app developer or programmer. You'll get lifetime access to eight courses, totaling roughly 70 hours of content, and you'll build 17 apps during your studies.

Were you to go anywhere else for these courses, you'd end up paying $1075. But right now through Android Central Digital Offers, you'll only pay $44 for the whole bundle. That's eight courses, over 600 lessons, and about 70 hours of content for over 95% off.

Master Python for much less! Learn More

It's a great time to get into the world of app development and programming for the web, but you first need the tools to get a foot in the door. Python is one of the biggest coding languages when it comes to apps and learning to use it and use it well is an invaluable asset right now. But don't pay over $1000 for courses. Get the Python Power Coder Bonus Bundle for only $44 through Android Central Digital Offers.

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