In a recent update to the Android operating system, Google made some changes to how external SD cards can be handled by apps within the system. The result, basically, is that applications have been stripped of their former ability and permissions to read and write files on an sd card. With file explorer apps being some of the hardest hit by this change, ES File Explorer has decided to fight back, having launched an update to their app that brings back full SD card read/write access, at least for those that have their phone rooted.
ES File Explorer is a wonderful application, it offers solid file management tools and an ever expanding list of extra features that you may not have expected out of a file explorer. For file management, you can expect much of the same functionality as you would find on any other operating system. Create folders, move/copy/paste your files between folders, rename files and folders, it can even zip and unzip (RAR) compressed folders. This same functionality extends well beyond your local device, as you can access your Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and other cloud storage locations using the same tools. The tabbed interface will also let you get into FTP servers, SMB/Windows shares and Bluetooth shares alike.
The folks behind ES File Explorer have thought about almost any method of file storage and access that you may need, as such, extra features to the app include a download manager, a built-in web browser, the ability to not only access FTP servers, but to turn your device into an FTP server itself to share specified folders, and more. ES File Explorer can even start up its own wifi hotspot for other devices to connect with. In the end, there is little that you cannot do with ES File Explorer when it comes to accessing your files, and once you’ve got them, the app even has built-in photo gallery and media players to put your files to use.
Google’s decision to remove external SD card support has been met with some hostility. Users are not happy about this decision, especially those that have invested hundreds of dollars on buying SD cards and applications which have been incapacitated by this change. ES File Explorer had a history of bypassing the default Android constructs by offering root capabilities, including access to system files. This same spirit is evident in their recent update, version 3.1.2 brings the root-only ability to once again read and write files to an external SD card. Check for the update on your device, or hit the Google Play Store to download a fresh copy.
The update to ES File Explorer will not bring back the required permissions to all of your affected apps. It is still great to see a big player at least create a workaround to an otherwise annoying security upgrade. We hope that Google finds a way to securely return this functionality in the future, or at least to introduce a new level of app permissions to let us users decide if we trust apps with all of our precious files saved on our external SD cards.
Have you been affected by the KitKat external SD card limitation? What is your number one app that you can no longer use as you used to? Are you more willing to root your devices, or find a cloud storage solution for your files? So many questions, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Steve Jobs introduced the original iPad in 2010 by making the case that, in order for a new product category to exist between the smartphone and the laptop it had to be significantly better at certain important things than a smartphone or a laptop. A decade of Tablet PC ruins smote across the market space had made that clear enough. The iPad, case made, went on to achieve phenomenal success. Now, in 2014, the mobile market has grown and various companies are attempting the segment it with even more product categories, including:
Wearables, including smartwatches, below smartphones.
Phablets between phones and tablets, and,
Hybrid… laplets? between tablets and laptops.
Wearables and the iWatch
Apple may one day fill the first category with an iWatch, iBand, or some other form of wearable. There are already fitness bands on the market from Nike, FitBit, Jawbone, and others, as well as watches from Pebble, Samsung, and soon, Motorola and LG. It’s not yet a maturing product category, the kind Apple typically enters right before mainstream adoption explodes, but it’s a complementary one, much like the Apple TV.
With a wearable, Apple could provide several features below the iPhone:
Base functionality for those for whom even an iPhone is too much computer, all or part of the time.
Deployed sensor array that is better positioned to accumulate data on the body than the iPhone is in the pocket, purse, or left away.
Receiver and display platform for data that’s more accessible on the body than the iPhone is in the pocket, purse, or left away.
I elaborated more on some of these functions the other day in iWatch: Five problems I’d like to have solved by an Apple wearable. Similar to how the iPod shuffle and iPod nano — both wearable in some of their incarnations — sat below the iPod touch and iPod classic and provided a subset of functionality in exchange for even greater portability, so too could an iWatch for iOS.
Phablets and an even bigger iPhone
Samsung made the phablet — half phone, half tablet, or would you prefer tablone? — category into a thing with the introduction of the first Galaxy Note. Since then many other Android manufacturers have followed, and Nokia and Windows Phone have gotten into the game as well. A 5.5- to 6-inch iPhone 6 variant — or a device that size marketed as an iPad or with a completely different name — could fill that gap.
I call it a gap because, obviously, Apple isn’t hurting when it comes to current iPhone sales or market share in the premium phone market, which has risen from 65% to 85% by some estimates. However, it’s equally apparent that further growth in that market will require some diversification. With a phablet between an iPhone and iPad, Apple could:
Appeal to those who can only afford or are only willing to carry a phone as their primary computing device but need as much functionality (enabled by size) as possible.
Create the potential for a higher class of software made possible by the larger scale (see iPad).
Grow their addressable market while assaulting the last uncontested segment of their competitors in the premium space.
Yes, if Apple changes the resolution of the iPhone screen, even if they go to a standard like 1920x1080p, it will cause pain for developers but so did going Retina, so did going 16:9, and temporary pain in the present for better future products is never something Apple’s shied away from.
I went over how a larger iPhones will solve problems for Apple back in January. Similar to how the iPad has two screen sizes, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro have two screen sizes, and the iMac has two screen sizes, Apple’s sweet spot for the iPhone should inevitably come to rest on two screen sizes, and one of those might well be the phablet.
Hybrid tablets/laptops and the iPad Pro
Traditional, convertible PCs aside, the idea of something almost as light as a tablet but with a detachable keyboard that makes it as productive as a laptop is something Microsoft has pursued enthusiastically with their Surface line. However, they chose to compromise instead of focus, and none of them have achieved the mainstream success the iPad has. Maybe the category is too niche or maybe, like Tablet PC, no one has yet made the right case.
The existing iPad is already being used with a variety of detachable third-party keyboards that make it, in essence, a convertible. However, the iPads software is geared towards modern, mainstream, multitouch computing and not traditional computing in any way, not even half-way. With an iPad Pro, Apple could:
Provide a large screen size for those for whom productivity is much more important than portability.
Use the additional space to provide additional features like digitizers and higher density cameras.
Explore next-generation interface concepts that enhance functionality without complicating usability.
Just like the iPod eventually spread across multiple sizes, capabilities, and price points, so to could iOS. It’s what happens when times passes and markets mature. It’s how you get more people to buy more devices. Apple has so far cherry picked the prime targets in the mobile space and appealed to an incredibly wide swathe of their customer base. Eventually they may want or need to cherry pick just a few more to appeal to an even wider one.
After Samsung unveiled the latest members of the Gear family at MWC, there seemed to be a large number of folks that genuinely were more interested in the looks and even feature set of the Gear Fit over the Gear 2 or the Gear 2 Neo.
Part of the appeal of the Fit is that it has a much more attractive design than many smartwatches and even quite a few existing fitness bands. The Fit also has a fairly impressive looking display for a smartband-type of device. On the downside, the display did have a major flaw when we first saw it at MWC.
The Fit was meant to be worn on the wrist, but at MWC we learned that the device only displayed content horizontally, making it difficult to read when actually wearing the device. This seemed like a pretty odd design move, and one that could prove bothersome to future Gear Fit owners. The good news is that Samsung has apparently issued an update to the Gear Fit that resolves the issue by adding a portrait orientation, as you can see in the picture above.
Considering the Gear Fit patch was just issued and the device is already about to hit retail stores, we imagine that the vertical viewing mode won’t be available right out of the box. Of course it probably won’t be too difficult to patch the device for those that decide to pick up the watch.
What do you think, interested in picking up the Gear Fit — or does another smartwatch or fitness band catch your eye, instead?
Acer has begun sending invitations to an event in New York on April 29. Just what’s being rolled out isn’t noted, but the announcement says “Please join us for a (their logo) touch more connected”. From there, it seems as though we’ll be getting a myriad of devices, perhaps even wearables.
The invitation does say Acer is rolling out new products, but doesn’t even hint at what they could be. We’d think that with the event title all will be touch capable. From their recent line of Chromebooks, down to the handhelds we saw at MWC this year, touch seems to be something Acer is comfortable with — and pretty good at.
With wearables, we’ve already noted [#protected_0#] with previous reports putting their entry in the second half of 2014. An April announcement would likely serve as a precursor for a late Fall rollout, but does it fit the “touch” theme? A source previously put Acer as entering the wearable market with something alternative to a wrist wearable or headwear. A necklace was mentioned, but any or all could come with some touch capacity. It could be Acer’s foray into Android Wear.
Come late April, we’ll find out for sure. We are subtly looking for a new product here, seeing as how both the Acer logo and “touch” are in green on the invitation. Acer always has really nice products, and they often have the added benefit of being competitively priced.
If you’re curious about trying an Android device then you might be interested to know that you need not abandon your iCloud calendar or reminders for Google based alternatives. With so many great devices on the market these days running Android it’s perfectly reasonable to expect someone to have a mix of both platforms in their lives. Keeping your iCloud calendar running on Android is a piece of cake, and I’ve written about it over on Android Central.
Thanks to an enterprising developer, Marten Gajda, you can import and two-way sync your iCloud calendars to the stock Calendar app on your Android device. With his app, Smoothsync for Cloud Calendar – grab it from the Play Store – it’s as easy as entering your iCloud credentials
It really is that simple. I’ve gone in to a little more detail in the post on Android Central, but for .99 you can use your iCloud calendar just the same as any other calendar on your Android device. As an added bonus, Gajda’s app also has a free add-on that will sync your iCloud reminders to your Android device as well. It all works in the background, and while you have a separate app, Tasks, for reminders, your calendar just works within the stock calendar app on your device. It’s really slick.
Sure, using Apple products together is still much easier, but it’s great to know that if we should want to go cross-platform we can take a little piece of iCloud with us. I love this app – particularly the reminders sync – since I’m very much a cross-platform person. Much of my work is done using an iPhone and a Mac, and it’s so convenient knowing I can flick over to any Android device and still have access to my iCloud reminders.
If this scratches a particular itch for you, grab the app from the Google Play Store at the link below. If you try it out, be sure to let me know how you find it.
Last Friday we reported on an image of an Amazon-branded gaming controller, which many believed was designed to work with a long-rumored Amazon gaming/video set-top box. Now another rumor has popped up giving us a few more details on what to expect from such a set-top box.
According to a new report from TechCrunch, Amazon’s streaming device will actually be less of a box and more of a dongle or HDMI stick, like Google’s Chromecast – at least if the “multiple sources familiar with the device” prove correct. Aside from providing an easy-to-plug in dongle form factor, at least one of the sources suggests the Amazon device could also support streaming of full PC games.
The idea is that the Amazon streamer (and perhaps even Kindle tablets) could offer support for PC games and other graphics-intensive game formats by using streaming technology in a similar way to services like OnLive. In other words, the games would be maintained on remote servers as opposed to the local PC streaming that is offered by Nvidia’s Shield.
Could this work for Amazon?
While services like OnLive have struggled to make a dent in the gaming market, Amazon may be better positioned for such a move. For one thing, Amazon already has a massive server infrastructure that could easily handle the extra stress load that comes with cloud gaming. For another, Amazon could bundle the service into existing Amazon offerings like Amazon Prime in order to drive interest in the service.
While services like OnLive have struggled to make a dent in the PC streaming market, Amazon may be better positioned for such a move
It’s also worth noting that next-gen game consoles like the PS3 are starting to offer cloud streaming capabilities, so the time might simply be right for such a move. So how likely is the idea of an Amazon cloud gaming service? Considering the existence of an Amazon game controller and the company’s recent purchase of Double Helix (the developer’s of Xbox One’s Killer Instinct), it’s certainly possible.
If Amazon’s cloud gaming service could work with all Kindle Fire devices, an Amazon streaming device and partnering products (think select BluRay players, Roku, etc), such a service could potentially do very well. This is especially true if Amazon could provide at least a few “exclusive AAA titles” that you can’t get on PC or a console, something that OnLive has never be able to offer.
For now, we’d take the rumor of an Amazon cloud gaming service and an Amazon set-top box/dongle with a grain of salt, though anything is possible. What do you think, would you be interested in an Amazon cloud gaming service? If the rumor does prove true, can Amazon find success where other companies have struggled?
Welcome back to another edition of the Android Q&A, where we strive to answer as many of your great questions as possible. In today’s show, we’ll be tackling a couple of questions that come up a lot. What can Google do to improve Android, and how to know when your smartphone will get the latest Android update. Let’s get started!
How can Google improve Android?
Make it worker better on older and entry level devices
The smartphone industry has been growing at an exponential rate, especially in emerging markets around the world. The massive worldwide market share enjoyed by Android is a testament to the availability of the OS with smartphones covering the entire range of the price spectrum, starting from the ultra low-cost entry level devices, all the way up to the latest and greatest.
What is important to remember is that the majority of this market share can be attributed more to the mid-range and entry level devices, as opposed to high-end flagships. As smooth as Android is on the high-end Samsung, LG, or HTC device, the user experience is left wanting when it comes to a lot of entry level devices. No one is really expecting to play Asphalt 8 on a sub-0 smartphone, but lag while just swiping between homescreens shouldn’t be an issue any longer.
This issue has somewhat been addressed with Android 4.4 Kitkat and Project Svelte, that will allow the latest OS iteration to work with devices featuring low-end specifications, and should in part, let manufacturers upgrade their older devices to the latest version as well. While expected to make a difference in the long run, OEMs won’t bother updating devices that are more than two years old, and disappointingly, most entry-level and some mid-range devices that are being released now still come with Jelly Bean.
Direct line to Google services
Say you need to set a reminder for an appointment for a meeting so you don’t forget, you first have to wake the device, unlock it, select the app you want to use, and input that data. More often that not, those are the steps, or barriers, that are required before you get to complete the task.
Of course, Google Now is a great attempt to fix that, using voice recognition to help easily complete important activities, and it works really well. But once again, this comes back to the point made above. The full functionality of Google Now is available only with flagship high-end smartphones, and while mid-range devices that run Android Jelly Bean are supposed to get Google Now, devices from local Indian and Chinese manufacturers, that are responsible in the big way for the entry-level smartphone surge, leave out Google Now altogether.
One of the biggest stories to break last year with regards to privacy, or rather, the complete lack thereof. While this has resulted in a slew of “privacy” smartphones being released, this issue still needs to be looked at when it comes to the mainstream. Google does allow us to manage our privacy a little bit, giving you ways to manage your data, and how Google uses that data, but it is limited.
While it’s understandable that Google uses our data for relevant ads, which is a huge part of their revenue stream, it’ll be a whole lot better if we had more control over what data the company can and cannot use, and will also make people a lot more comfortable with using Android.
Fragmentation is a word that is thrown around freely if you’ve ever been a part of, or witnessed, an argument against Android. We’ll talk about fragmentation a little more in the answer to the next question, but it’s important to note that while Google has attempted to quell this issue, in some ways, the company’s own quick OS release cycle is a small contributing factor as well.
While the latest distribution numbers indicate that the majority of Android devices run Jelly bean, it isn’t the latest version of the OS, with only 2.5% of the devices featuring Android 4.4 Kitkat. And by the time that number goes up, we might quite possibly have the next iteration already available. But, at the very least, there is some indication that Google will play a more direct role in stopping OEMs from releasing devices with significantly older versions of Android.
Google Play Gift Cards
While the Google Play gift cards are easily available from some major retailers, it’s still not as readily accessible as say, a prepaid phone card, that you can pick at up any corner store, gas station, or kiosk. Apart from that, the other problem is the these Play Store cards aren’t available in regions with emerging markets, areas where not a lot of people use or have access to credit cards, and will prove to be most useful.
There’s a lot of advantages to having Google Play gift cards easily accessible to the majority of the population. With more people being able to download apps, more developers will make money, and work that much harder to provide users with the best Android experience possible.
How to know when your phone will get the latest Android update?
“When will my phone get the latest version of Android?” is one of the most common questions we get. Before we dive into this question, let’s take a look at where Android distribution lies as of this month.
As you can see from the chart, a vast majority of Android devices are currently running Jelly Bean. What is surprising is that a sizeable population is still using Gingerbread, and a small percentage is still on Froyo. Regardless of which category you fall in, if you aren’t a part of the 2.5% that has Android 4.4 Kitkat, the question you obviously have is when you’ll be getting the update to the latest version of Android.
Many manufacturers and carriers post an Android update calendar, where you can search for your device to find out an estimated schedule for the update cycle. That being said, estimated is the keyword in this instance, as carriers aren’t bound by that schedule. While its practically guaranteed that most flagships will be a part of the update, you might have to dig a little deeper for mid-range devices to find out whether it will even be upgraded.
It does look like things might be changing soon, with Google forcing OEMs to use the latest version of Android with their new devices, but as far as older ones go, we’re still entirely dependent on the whims of the manufacturer and network carriers.
It’s also important to note that while the latest version of Android is always going to be better, Google has taken some other steps to circumvent the fragmentation issue. More core Google apps are now updated directly from the Google Play Store, which means that regardless of which Android version you’re using, at the least, your Google apps will be up to date.
As always, keep sending us your questions in the comments section below, in the comments section of the Youtube video, or on Google+, and we’ll try our best to get you the answers you need!
A really neat and useful feature that has been added to the [#protected_0#] platform is Device Monitor. We saw it emerge in BlackBerry 10.2 but it wasn’t really useful until OS 10.2.1. It allows you to take a deeper look at your usage and monitor which apps are using the most battery life as well as resources. What is great about Device Monitor is that it is built in. No longer do you need a third party app do get this information.
With the release of the Google Now Launcher on the Play Store, most Android users were left jilted. The coolest thing to hit Android this week is only available for Nexus and Google Play Edition devices. If you don’t have one of those, but still want the launcher, fret not. It can be done.
It’s actually pretty easy, too. First, you’ll want to get into your settings and allow apps outside of the Play Store to be loaded. To do that, you go to Settings > Security. From there, you’ll see a heading called “Device Administrators”. Under that, you’ll see “Verify Apps”, which has a tidy little explanation of what it’s about. Enable that one, and you’re halfway there.
The second thing you’ll want to do is make sure you have the most recent version of Google Search enabled on your device, which is version 18.104.22.1689776. If you don’t, go ahead and hit the Play Store and check for an update, but we’re sure you’ll have it already. It’s pretty much Google’s stock and trade — literally.
Third, you’ll want to find an APK file for the new Google Now. They are available via several sources, with DevHost and Android Police being two popular sources. We’ve not heard of any issues just yet with this, so go ahead and give it a shot. It may take a few tries if you use the mirrored APK, but we’ve had success on a few different devices. Once downloaded, pull down the notification tray, and select it. It will run you through the various checkpoints, but we haven’t found reason for alarm yet.
We are hearing issues with some devices, but with various carriers and the like, we’re not prepared to verify which will and won’t work with certainty. For now, we’re not seeing any reason to be alarmed with the downloads above, so give them a shot. A nice, new launcher can be a lot of fun, and the quick access to Google Now is nice.
Expanding its line of rugged devices, Panasonic revealed at MWC 2014 a new 5-inch Toughpad variant. Aimed squarely at workers on the field and on the move, this device combines the portability of a phablet with materials and features built for some serious rough handling.
This new Panasonic Toughpad features both voice and data capabilities, though Panasonic isn’t exactly saying whether it will be through regular cellular networks or via VoIP. Aside from that addition, as well as more hand-friendly size, this Toughpad boasts of all the same features as its older siblings.
Like other Toughpads, this 5-inch model is designed to be used outdoors and in less conventional situations. You have the same rugged build and water and dust protection. The battery is promised to have a long life and, when that life is near its end, quick charging features. The touchscreen display is designed to be readable under bright sunlight and useful even when wearing gloves.
Rather strangely, this Toughpad will be available with two operating options of Android and Windows Embedded 8. The 5-inch Panasonic Toughpad will have a limited launch in Europe in autumn this year and will allow enterprise customers to modify the devices by adding peripherals with screws or via the internal micro USB port.