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1 year ago

How to enable the app drawer on the Huawei Mate 9

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Huawei Mate 9 app drawer

By default, all your apps are shown on your home screen on the Huawei Mate 9. But it's easy to enable a more traditional Android app drawer.

Gone are the days when using a phone with Huawei's EMUI software meant having to choose between and iOS-like home screen setup — where all your apps are shown on the home screen — and using a custom launcher. The latest EMUI 5 software, included on the Huawei Mate 9, makes it easy to keep your home screen relatively uncluttered, leaving less-used apps in the app drawer.

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1 year ago

Top eight features of MIUI 8

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Here's what you need to know about MIUI 8.

MIUI 8 is the largest update to Xiaomi's operating system in several years, introducing much-needed visual flair in the form of a bold color palette and a host of new features. The operating system has over 200 million users globally, and with Xiaomi soliciting feedback from its community for new features, it is a continually evolving platform.

This update rolled out earlier this year for several devices, including the Mi 5, Redmi Note 3, Mi Max, and others, and with most Xiaomi phones now making their way to Marshmallow, it's time to take a look at some of the new features on offer.

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1 year ago

How to set up a Google Pixel from an old iPhone or Android

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What's the best way to transfer data from my old phone to my Pixel?

One of the first things you'll want to do when you get your brand new Pixel phone is make sure all the data from your is transferred over from your old phone, and Google has done the work to make sure it's as painless as possible.

Included in the box with your Pixel is a USB-C to USB-A adapter which is used for the quickest and easiest method for transferring your data. We'll walk you through how to transfer your data from either an Android device or an iPhone. The process is mostly the same, with a few differences.

How to transfer your data from another Android phone

  1. If you've just powered up your Pixel for the first time, tap Let's Go to start the setup process.
  2. Tap Copy your data.
  3. Tap to connect to a trusted Wi-Fi network.

  4. Enter the password for your Wi-Fi network and then tap Connect.
  5. Once your phone is connected to the internet, it will automatically check for system updates.
  6. Connect your old Android phone to your Pixel with the USB-A to USB-C adapter and a USB cable as shown in the diagram.

  7. Switch back to your old phone and follow the onscreen instructions to unlock your phone.
  8. Tap Copy on your old phone to start the transfer process.
  9. Switch back over to your Pixel. Swipe up to scroll down and review the data to be transferred.

  10. Back on the Pixel, swipe up to scroll down and review the data to be transferred.
  11. Tap Copy to begin the transfer process. It will likely take a few minutes.
  12. Once your data transfer is complete, tap Next to continue with the setup process.

How to transfer your data from an iPhone

  1. If you've just powered up your Pixel for the first time, tap Let's Go to start the setup process.
  2. Tap Copy your data.
  3. Tap to connect to a trusted Wi-Fi network.

  4. Enter the password for your Wi-Fi network and then tap Connect.
  5. Once your phone is connected to the internet, it will automatically check for system updates.
  6. Connect your iPhone to your Pixel with the USB-A to USB-C adapter and a Lightning cable as shown in the diagram.

  7. Let the Pixel find your iPhone.
  8. Select the data you want to transfer over to the Pixel.
  9. Tap Copy to begin the transfer process. It will likely take a few minutes.
  10. Once your data transfer is complete, tap Next to continue with the setup process.

Questions? Having problems?

Let us know in the comments if you're having issues! With our iPhone, messages and photo attachments were automatically added to the Messages app, while photos were added to the main photos app.

Google Pixel + Pixel XL

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1 year ago

Feel great in 2017: Get fit with MrMobile

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It's that special time of year! The time we all say "heck no, I'm not going to keep all this holiday weight!" and trundle off to the gym... for about a week. But not this year! You know it's going to be different, and you want some apps to help you keep to that goal.

MrMobile and his friends Jon Rettinger of TechnoBuffalo, Serenity Caldwell at iMore, Marques Brownlee at MKBHD, Krystal Key, Joshua Vergara at Android Authority, Safwan Ahmedmia at SuperSaf, and Jaime Rivera at PocketNow suggest their favorite apps to keep you getting healthy this 2017. Let us and them know which ones work for you!

Stay social, my friends

And thanks to all our friends who collaborated on this video:

Jon Rettinger [TechnoBuffalo]

Serenity Caldwell [iMore]

Marques Brownlee [MKBHD]

Krystal Key

Joshua Vergara

Safwan Ahmedmia [SuperSaf]

Jaime Rivera [Pocketnow]

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1 year ago

What to do if you're locked out of your phone after resetting it

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While it's for our own good, Factory Reset Protection can trip you up when you reset your phone. These tips can help.

Getting stuck when trying to reset your phone seems to be a fairly common thing. The reasons for it are good — Google has methods in place to try and cut back on phone theft — but when it's your phone and your data, it can be frustrating if you can't use it. Here are a few pointers that can help if it happens to you, as well as what you can do to prevent it from happening.

Why do I need to know the old account information?

In recent versions of Android, once a phone has been tied to a Google account you need to use the same account and password to "unlock" it if you reset it. It's called FRP (Factory Reset Protection), and it's done to make stolen phones less valuable; if you steal my phone you can't unlock the screen to use it, and if you reset it you need my Google account information to set it up again. If you can't use my phone, you're less likely to steal it. Or if you've found a phone and can't use it you'll be more likely to turn it over to the police. Every company that makes phones with access to Google Play is using this feature and some also have their own version that can do the same thing through their accounts.

Even a great idea seems bad when it keeps you from using your phone.

The problem is that if you reset your own phone, or buy a used phone that still has FRP active you might need to know the account username and password that was last used on the phone to sync with Google's servers. Resetting the phone through the settings should remove the account before it erases the data, but it very often doesn't. Sometimes we forget those details, or if we bought a phone from someone else we might not be able to get them. While people are always looking for exploits to work around the FRP lock, once found they quickly get patched. (Though sometimes those patches take a while to work their way through manufacturers and carriers, so it's always worth a Google search.)

When this happens on your own account and you have access from another phone (or tablet or computer) first instinct is to have the password you forgot reset so you can move forward. But that only locks the phone setup completely for at least 24 hours because another security feature stops you from adding access to your Google account on the phone right after a password change or other "suspicious" activity. On phones running Lollipop, this might be 72 hours — Google changed it in May 2016 and some phones need a software update for it to take effect. Every time you try starts the 24-hour clock new, and we all would keep trying over and over out of frustration.

So what should I do?

There are three ways to get in. The first, using the Google account recovery tool, will only work if you took the time to set up a backup phone (and can swap your SIM card with another phone to get a text) or second email account. We'll go over how to do that in the next section, but if you already did it you can click this link to start the recovery process. Make sure your phone is charged and turned on, and make sure you have access to a phone using the recovery number or the recovery account email. If you're using two-factor authentication, you'll need a way to authorize your account. If that would usually be the phone you're trying to unlock, the recovery tool will walk you through the steps to disable 2FA or use a CAPTCHA code.

The next step is to reset your account password from another device, then wait 24 (or 72 — see above) hours before trying to set it up. You can leave the phone powered on or shut it off, just don't try to do anything with it while you're waiting or you may reset the countdown. Waiting a full day (or three) really sucks, but it's better than not having any access to your account and not being able to use your phone ever again.

If you bought used, you'll need to contact the original owner for some help.

The third option is for advanced users, and may not work on your particular model. You can try to wipe the phone's data and cache partitions through the device recovery. This used to work on some models, never worked on others, and even triggered a dialog asking for the same account details as setup does on others. But if you're into fiddling with things, this is pretty easy to try. The other thing to try is to reflash the operating system. Using whatever tools are needed on a computer (Fastboot, Odin, LG Flash Tool, etc.) and the correct factory image to completely erase the phone and start from scratch. This too isn't 100%. Rooted users can try ADB through recovery and then remove specific files from the settings database — search your particular model for more on this.

If none of these solutions work you can try filling out this form or calling 650-253-0000 to work through the Google Accounts customer service menu. You can also try checking with the company you bought the phone from, as they may have experience solving the issue.

If you aren't the original owner and don't have access to a way to recover the account, you'll need to contact whoever you bought it from.

Account recovery options

Save yourself some headache and set up your account recovery options. Visit your Google account settings page and run the "Security Checkup" you'll find in the left column. You can tell Google how to send you a token to get into your account if you're locked out and select recovery questions as part of the first step. We recommend you provide all the detail you can here. Just because the FRP "issue" hasn't hit you yet doesn't mean it never will.

With password managers and 2FA settings, the days of just remembering a simple account password are over for a lot of us. Don't think that you'll never be locked out of your own phone and your own account! Take a few minutes and make sure Google can help you get in if you need them to.

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1 year ago

How to fix push notifications in MIUI 8

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Not getting push notifications in MIUI 8? Here's how to fix it.

MIUI 8 offers a ton of new features, including a power-saving mode that automatically extends battery life by killing background apps, adjusting system apps' performance, and limiting apps that drain the battery.

However, one of MIUI's most common bugs — one that affects push notifications — is still prevalent in the latest version of the operating system, and it seems to inexplicably affect a few Xiaomi handsets. I had the issue earlier this year on the MIUI 7-based Redmi Note 3 wherein the phone never displayed Gmail or WhatsApp notifications, although enabling priority notifications for both apps fixed the issue. At the same time, the Mi 5 delivered push notifications without me having to tweak any settings.

At least in the case of MIUI 8, the issue seems to be tied to the OS' aggressive battery management, which kills background apps and sync services when your phone is idling. To negate it, you'll have to prioritize notifications and enable autostart for apps that aren't showing notifications.

The problem isn't as exacerbated as before, but if you're unable to receive push notifications on your Xiaomi phone, there are a few things that you can do. Here's how to fix push notifications in MIUI 8.

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1 year ago

How to disable activity reminders on the Gear S3 + S2

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Reminders to "get moving" can be annoying. Here's how to turn them off.

The Samsung Gear S3 — and, when updated to the latest software, the smaller Gear S2 — have a bunch of useful health-related features in Samsung's S Health app. Among these is a feature which buzzes your watch if you've been stationary for an hour or more, as well as pinging you once you've hit a healthy walking pace for 10 minutes or more.

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1 year ago

3 essential privacy tips for your new Android phone

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Your digital life is only as private as you make it.

Android phones are awesome and make for pretty great holiday gifts. They're also different than most other types of phones, and there's a learning curve. It's cool — all great stuff takes a bit of time to master.

If you were gifted an Android and it's your first time using one, or if you've been doing the Android thing a while and just want to do a quick privacy checkup, here are three simple things you should do that help keep all your personal information away from anyone who shouldn't have it.

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1 year ago

How to rearrange the Samsung Gear S3's app drawer and widgets

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Samsung Gear S3

You can easily tame some of the chaos that is the Gear S3's app and widget situation.

With so many apps, services and utilities available on Samsung's Gear S3 smartwatches, it's easy to get carried away while setting things up and all of a sudden be in a stressful situation. Dozens of apps across multiple pages of the app drawer sit beneath a dozen pages of widgets to the right of your watch face — but thankfully you can clean up this situation to make it easier to get just what you want.

While you can't altogether hide or delete most of the pre-installed apps on the Gear S3, you can rearrange them in a way that puts what you want front and center, leaving the rest to the background so it isn't in the way. Here's how to get it done.

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1 year ago

New Android phone, tablet, watch or Chromebook under the tree? We're here to help

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Bugdroid decoration

If you've just received an Android gadget as a gift, we've got all the info you need to get started.

There's nothing quite like unwrapping a new gadget — whether it's that latest flagship phone you've been wishing for, a shiny new tablet, a stylish smartwatch or even a Chromebook. So if you're one of the many new Android owners getting started with your new device today — welcome!

There world of Android is vast and varied. Lots of different types of device run Android, and each has its own quirks. Luckily this is Android Central, and we're here to help you get the most out of your new phone, tablet, watch or laptop.

So here's a quick guide to getting started with your shiny new gadget this holiday season — from the basics to more advanced Android mastery, we cover it all.

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1 year ago

Do these 5 things when you get your Google Pixel

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You just got a Google Pixel, now it's time to get up and running the right way.

You've done your research, you've read the review and you've placed your order. Now your fresh new Google Pixel or Pixel XL is awaiting your setup and customization. Just like any new phone there's a lot to take in with the Pixels, and we're here to point you in the right direction so you can start things off the right way.

Here are the first things you should do with your new Google Pixel.

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1 year ago

How to use Google Home to call an Uber

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How to use Google Home to call an Uber

Google Home is supposed to be a digital assistant, so why not use it to call a car?

One of the first integrations announced with Google Home was Uber, meaning you can use your new smart connected speaker to seamlessly call a car to get you and your friends where you need to go. The problem, as is always the case with voice-activated interfaces, is that you don't know how this all works until you try it — and when it comes to Uber, you don't want to be messing around with calling actual people in actual cars to come pick you up.

That's why we did the work for you. Here's what it's like to call an Uber from your Google Home, and what you need to be ready for when you do it for the first time.

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1 year ago

Adding an OnHub router to your Google Wifi network

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Your Google OnHub is now a bigger Google Wifi node.

Google Wifi is a great product. It's easy to setup and easy to make any adjustments or additions to the wireless network in your house. But it's not the first Wi-Fi router from Google. That'd be the OnHub.

Many were worried that the OnHub would be abandoned when news of Google Wifi was revealed. With good reason — the OnHub is a great product, and we've seen great products wither and die before. Thankfully, that didn't happen. We were told during the initial product briefings that an update was coming that would let the OnHub and Google Wifi work seamlessly. Google later made a similar public announcement when the required software updates started rolling out to OnHub users.

I've been using a network with an OnHub and three Google Wifi node for about a week. "Seamlessly" is a great description of how the two different products now work together and act the same.

What changed for the OnHub

The software. Basically, all of it.

The OnHub now performs exactly like any Google Wifi would, through the same interface in the same Google Wifi app. it is now a bigger Google Wifi mesh node. The unique features are still there: I can still wave my hand over the top of my ASUS OnHub like a Jedi to prioritize a device for an hour. You still have 13 antennas (six for the 5GHz radio, six for the 2.4GHz radio and a signal booster) that aren't designed for a straight line long range signal like many other routers in the price range. But the brains inside are now the same as we see used for Google's mesh network product.

You still have the strong antennas and unique features of your OnHub, but the way they work and how you set them up has changed.

You can use it the same way you would use a Google Wifi node, too. It can be added to an existing network as a Wi-Fi bridge (things worked exactly as expected and setup was easy), added to an existing Google Wifi network as a new node (we'll talk about that in a bit) or as a NAT Gateway router attached to your modem or ethernet service — which is how I recommend using it.

Performance in every configuration was similar to the older software when the OnHub was a stand-alone router. The range seems a little more broad than a Google Wifi unit, but they are very similar and if you're inside the magic bubble (I say the number is 45 feet in any direction) you'll have pain free wireless with any modern wireless interface. Go much further and you'll see things drop off, slowly at first but there is a definite distance where things just quit. That depends on what's between you and the unit, but in general, I've found one OnHub can cover my average-sized home. When added to an existing Google Wifi network, you have one more node that can stretch great wireless to even more corners and crannies in your house. It was shockingly flawless in this configuration and performance was equal to or better than a Google Wifi node would have been.

The setup process

You're basically following the same process as you would for Google Wifi — unbox the product, open the app and follow the simple step by step instructions. After you've read a few hints, though.

The biggest difference is that you'll need a software update. If you've been using your OnHub and have switched to the Google Wifi app, you already have the correct software. If you haven't had it up and running or you just got it, you'll need to take it out of the box and attach it to your modem or ISP gateway and let it download some software. Get it connected and let it sit for about 30 minutes, then open the Google Wifi app and make sure it's showing in the app. You're now good to go.

Once you update the OnHub software, you set it up the same as Google Wifi through the same app.

You can add an OnHub to an existing Google Wifi setup, but I found that the setup process complains about doing it and suggests you try using the OnHub as your NAT Gateway instead of a mesh bridge and sometimes just refuses to start the setup process. Once the setup does commence, the rest is easy and it just works. The good news is that you won't have to be playing with the setup more than once. The bad news is that you might not have any luck the first time. In any case, the setup that it recommends — building your Google Wifi network with the OnHub installed first and as the gateway to the internet — was a breeze and everything worked great the first time. I haven't touched the setup since.

Setting an OnHub up as a bridge on an existing network is similar to adding it to an existing Google Wifi network. You're told that this is not an optimal setup (but not given any real details why) but you can tap your way through anyway. The reason why, by the way, is because it can create what's called a double NAT (Network Address Translation). Most of the time your first router can send data through a bridged router seamlessly, but not all the time. It's something I'm more than happy to discuss in the comments if anyone wants to know more. With that out of the way, once set up and running it works fine. You just have to be careful when changing advanced network settings.

The way I recommend you set things up is to unhook all the things you have on your existing network and build your mesh network around the OnHub. Plug it into the modem and power, let it get its software updated if it needs it, and start the process in the Google Wifi app to build a new wireless network. You won't have the app fussing at you, and you'll have a strong router near the modem that still has a free Ethernet port. That leaves any other Google Wifi nodes as the smaller and easier to place newer units.

An extra Google Wifi unit can be a wonderful thing

This is the most exciting part. OnHub routers can frequently be found on sale and will end up a good bit cheaper than the single Google Wifi unit. It's a great way to add a fourth node to a network and can give you the freedom to be creative.

Google Wifi units (including the OnHub) are wireless other than the power connection. Plug the first one into your modem, and place the rest anywhere within range. But you can use a wired connection between one or all of your nodes. And Ethernet cables can get long.

Wi-Fi in the kid's (or your) treehouse is an entirely different level of awesome that's easy to do if you have an extra Google Wifi node.

A Google Wifi three pack can make for damn near perfect wireless everywhere in an average home. Even the porch and driveway. But many of us have a workshop or pool or other areas around our house where good wireless would be a great addition. A 100-foot, 200-foot or even longer CAT-6 cable can be attached to two Google Wifi units to stretch them far apart. You can even buy long cables that are designed to be buried directly in the ground. It works great, and you don't lose the wireless speeds you would trying to cover 200 feet of distance — Ethernet is fast, too.

I suggest setting the unit up wirelessly first while it's in the range of everything else. Once finished, unplug it from the power and take it out to the deck or treehouse and connect it to the cable you've run. Power it up, give it a minute or two, and enjoy the fast Wi-Fi for your phone or your Chromecast or TV.

It's late December. It's far too cold for me to be outside scratching away at the frozen dirt with a shovel. But I've tested this with a 200-foot cable and a Chromecast audio setup and it works just grand. I'm looking forward to a nice Springtime project that's easy to do and can make a great home improvement.

Google Hardware

Google Wifi:

Google Amazon

Google Home:

Google Best Buy

Chromecast Ultra:

Google Best Buy

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

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1 year ago

How refunds work on Google Play

6

We all have purchases we regret.

We buy apps that aren't as great as we hoped. We buy books and movies we don't like. Our kids buy things we didn't want them to. Co-workers get into your phone while you're in the bathroom and buy dirty movies. Things happen, and if you need a refund on Google Play, there are ways to get one.

But as always, there are caveats and hoops to jump through.

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1 year ago

What is encryption?

23

Encryption can be a very complicated subject, but getting a grasp of the basics isn't difficult.

Recently, we've had a few questions about encryption. We've talked about how Android incorporates encryption and the changes that Nougat brings, and to get the most from those discussions an understanding of the basics is a must. Let's talk about those basics for a bit.

What exactly is encryption?

In its simplest sense, encryption is changing the way information is displayed, so that it is masked, and the only way its true form can be viewed is with a clear set of instructions.

You're using encryption every day and may not know because it can be transparent.

There are plenty of ways to do this, especially when that information is digital and stored on a computer or a phone. If you've ever received a zip file or Microsoft Office document that needed a password to view, it was encrypted. The data you wanted to see was placed inside a container (think of it as a folder on your phone or computer) and the container was password protected. This method can be scaled up, even to include an entire disk or partition. To access anything on the encrypted partition, you need to unlock it with a password.

Another way to encrypt data is to physically alter what is displayed when you view it unless you can decode it. Let's say I built an app that you could type a phrase in, and it would convert all the letters into numbers from 1 to 26. You could type "this is a message" into my app and save it. If you tried to look at what you typed without using my app, it would look like this:

208919 919 1 1351919175

But my app knows that 1 equals a, that no string higher than 26 is valid, and has access to the operating systems dictionary to make sure the letters are correct because 11 could equal aa or k depending on what word it's used in. So if you open that file in my app, it reads normally.

At its core, encryption is designed to make something hard to read unless you know how to look at it.

Now do something like reverse the order, add 13 to numbers between 11 and 15, omit the whitespace and drop random data that won't be read every few letters. The file would be impossible to read without sitting down and trying to figure out how the text was manipulated through trial and error. That's what an encryption algorithm does. It helps a program turn data of any kind into a jumbled mess that can be easily decoded by the algorithm itself but would take a lot of effort and time to crack without it.

Computer algorithms can do things that are far more complicated than my simple example and take a lot less time than it did for me to count on my fingers. This type of encryption is usually referred to as a cipher and the method the algorithm gives to decode it is called a key. If you have ever used PGP or GPG encryption for a message or email attachment, you've used this type of encryption, known as cipher-keypair encryption.

Both types of encryption — container based or cipher-keypair — are common and in use on our Androids. Sometimes both are used and encrypted data is placed inside an encrypted container. Taking our data and encrypting it then making sure the things that we want to have access can decrypt it is extremely complicated. Thankfully, those complicated parts are handled by the hardware and operating system and all we need to do is have the right key in the right place and/or supply a password.

Encryption and Android

Android supports both types of encryption we talked about above in the OS, through the network and on the storage. As an application platform, it can also support encryption methods from third-parties for things like secure folders or encrypted messaging and email.Android also supports hardware backed encryption. That means there is a component inside the SoC (System on Chip — where the CPU and GPU live) that exists to help encrypt and decrypt data on the fly. The actual key to decrypt files is stored on this device and any user interaction — a password, a fingerprint, a trusted device, etc — that is used to access encrypted data is really asking the Secure Element in the hardware to do the job. Since Android 6.0 Marshmallow, all cryptographic function can be done using this Secure Element and the private key (the token used to encrypt and decrypt data) is never exposed to software. This means that without a token to present to the hardware, the data stays encrypted.

Android is built with encryption in mind and your data can be safe and inaccessible to anyone but you.

In your Android settings you might also be able to keep the system encrypted every time it boots up until a password is entered. Having a phone running that's filled with encrypted data is pretty safe, but halting the boot process until a password is entered prevents access to the files and acts as a double-layer of protection. Either way, your login password (or PIN or pattern or fingerprint) still accesses data through the secure element and you don't have a way to get the actual private encryption key, which is the only thing that knows exactly how the data was scrambled and how to put it back together.

Your messages and web browsing can be encrypted, too. You've probably seen many sites in your browser use the HTTPS header instead if HTTP. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and is the protocol (think rules) that is used to send and receive data over the internet. HTTPS stands for HTTP over SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which adds an encryption standard to the protocol. Anything you enter into the web browser is "scrambled" with a public key you downloaded from the website when you got there, and only the private key — which the web server has — can unscramble it.

Whenever you're entering any information you consider private on the web make sure you have a secure HTTPS connection.

Data sent back to you is scrambled in a way that only your unique version of the public key can unscramble. You don't need to do anything except visit a secure page that has the HTTPS header. Your phone makes sure the server is really who it claims to be, using a certificate, and encrypts and decrypts data on its own through the browser app.

Messages that are encrypted usually require an app you need to download from Google Play. The Pixel is the lone exception, as it comes with Allo installed which supports encrypted messages. Another great messenger that does the same is Signal. Signal offers what's called end to end encryption, which means that the app assigns keys for individual contacts or groups and only you can decrypt a message sent to you. BlackBerry Messenger is considered secure by many, but since there is only one global key and every BlackBerry device has it, there's debate about how secure it is. BBM Protected is available for groups who require higher encryption or end to end encryption. Apple's iMessage is also encrypted end to end, but only when everyone is using an iPhone.

You use these apps like you would any other messenger — add a contact and send messages. The only difference is that those messages can be encrypted so only the two parties involved can read them.

Is encryption bad?

Encryption does nothing on its own. It's the user that makes it "dangerous."

Some folks in some governments claim that having encryption technology available to the end user (that'd be you and me) is dangerous because it makes it impossible to monitor communications of "persons of interest". The argument can sound convincing when we're told that terrorists communicated for months using a service like Facebook or WhatsApp. But encryption itself is not a danger to anything and without it, none of our online transactions would be secure, and we would have no guarantee that our chats are private. At the same time, all the private information on our phones would be easily accessible by anyone with the right tools and motivation.

If we give up any right to have encryption, we are giving up our privacy. Privacy is scary to the government because they want to know when we're not being completely law-abiding. The notion that potential criminals can be caught and some crime prevented is great, but it requires that the law-abiding citizens who want to safely buy from Amazon give up that right, too.

Only you can decide if you think encryption should be taken away from the private sector for the greater good, but you do need to know that the technology itself does no harm. Like most things, it can be abused by the user.

This really only scratches the surface of what encryption is and how it works. there are plenty of online resources that go in-depth with all the technical details. But this should give you a basic understanding of it all, and the next time you see someone talking about the merits of end to end encryption or advantages of a particular platform, you'll be able to understand and participate.

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