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XIAO MI 5

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SUPERPHON of Android reve

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LG

VS

HUAWEI

VS

XIAOMI HUAWEI MATE 8

Flagship specs at a great price point

VOICE CONTROL

How to get more from “Ok Google” functions

QUADCORE PHONES

Which one gives you the most bang for your buck?

3D TOUCH

Get Apple-style pressur sensitivity on your scre

ISSUE 063

TAKE PRO CONTROL OF ROMS Expert ways for you to t eak your Android experience


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Welcome To issue 63

«

MEET THE TEAM Which new superphone are you most looking forward to?

April Madden Editor I admit it – I’m a sucker for the slimline metal unibody of a Huawei flagship and the P9 is no exception. At the time of going to press it hasn’t launched yet, so I can’t wait.

Adam Markiewicz Senior Designer

Welcome They’re here: the latest superphones have started to hit the shelves. From Samsung’s super Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge to the modular design of the LG G5 and its Friends, the latest Android devices are packed with impressive tech specs and bold new innovations. But which one will be your latest droid? Head over to p12 for all the details so far on the latest superphones, so you can pick your favourite. Once you’ve got your hands on your new phone, you’ll probably want to configure it to run exactly the way that you want it to. The good news is that you don’t have to be restrained by stock Android or by the likes of TouchWiz – our feature on the latest and greatest forks (p20) and our complete guide to custom ROMs in the Hacker Zone (p46) rounds up a plethora of Android versions that you can use to completely

The LG G5, because of its modular structure, 5.3-inch screen (bigger than the S7’s), extremely wide camera lens, QHD screen resolution, metal body, great specs and shape.

The fork is strong with this one – find out which is the best Android fork on p20

customise your phone. Want an app drawer? Don’t want an app drawer? The choice is yours. On p26 we also take a look at voice control. “Ok Google” is packed with voice-activated functionality to help you do more: we explain the essential tips, tricks and hidden options that let you get the most from it. Speaking of getting the most from things, in our tutorials section this issue there’s a wealth of advice, including how to get free apps on Amazon Underground and how to use commands in new social network Peach. Enjoy t

Rachel Terzian Production Editor The Samsung Galaxy S7 looks ace – with such an incredible display and amazing camera quality, it’s everything I could ever want in a phone. I’d better start saving!

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Contents Inside issue 63 Âť

www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk

CONTENTS Launcher Previews, news and speculation from the world of Android

06 At home with the Internet of Things What do Samsung and co have in store for your home?

12

The latest and greatest smartphones from Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and more

08 10 things you need to know about taking photos with your phone Take better photos on your Android with these tips

10 Back up while charging MEEM lets you back up your data while you charge

4

20

VOICE CONTROL MASTERCLASS

It’s not all about Google. Which Android is the best?

26

Your voice is all you need to control your device


HackerZone This month’s top mods and tweaks

Visit the Android Magazine online shop at

for back issues and books

46 Take expert control of ROMs

Tutorials

Give your phone a new lease of life with these custom ROM tips

52 Hacking Tips & Tricks

Get more from your Android device

Essential hacking advice, including how to reveal Android’s secrets

54 Customise adoptable storage

26 Masterclass: Use voice control

In Android Marshmallow, microSD cards are usable again

Your voice is all that you need to control your device

56 Measure your heart rate Monitor your heart rate with any Android smartphone’s camera

30 Tutorials

57 Lock a stolen Android device Locate your misplaced phone or send a device into lockdown

58 Replicate 3D Touch on your Android device Add iPhone’s 3D and Force Touch functionality to your screen

68

52

Hacking Tips & Tricks

Reviews

Samsung Galaxy S7

Latest tech tested

74 Huawei Mate 8

60 Great value quadcore phones 68 Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge 72 Xiaomi Mi 5 74 Huawei Mate 8

30 Use Bluetooth to boost your GPS data 32 Sync and play music on Android Wear 34 Transfer iPhone data to Android 36 Install and use Amazon Underground 37 Share content in Direct Share 38 Record music from online radio stations 40 Get multi-room sound with Chromecast Audio groups 42 Master commands in Peach 43 Use Defumblr Smart Lock Screen

92 Droid Support

Readers’ questions answered

32

Play music on Android Wear

76 Accessories A backpack and a smartphone Steadicam

88 Buyer’s Guide Our official top 10 lists

Apps Your complete guide to Google Play 78 App reviews The latest apps

84 Space Grunts

82 Head-to-head Adobe Photoshop Express vs PicsArt Photo Studio

84 Game reviews The best new games reviewed

30+ APPS Check our website daily for even more news

»www.littlegreenro

5


All the latest from the world of Android devices

At home with the Internet of Things The era of people talking to their home appliances and those appliances answering back may be on the horizon, as Samsung unveiled a new smart refrigerator at this year’s Consumer Electronics Showcase (CES) in Las Vegas. Samsung’s Family Hub fridge, which should retail for around $5,000 (approximately £3,465), will open up a whole new world when checking the contents of your fridge remotely, thanks to three

6

cameras mounted inside the Family Hub’s door frame. These cameras automatically snap a photo of your groceries every time you open and close the fridge doors. You can then check these photos while you’re out and about, via an app that you install on your Android or iOS device. Being able to check your fridge’s contents remotely is pretty compelling – especially if you’re the kind of person who regularly finds themselves

Samsung debuts a connected refrigerator that lets you order groceries direct from your fridge door wondering if you need to pick up some more milk on the way home. With the Family Hub and accompanying app, you can just pull out your smartphone and see exactly what’s in your fridge. In addition to a trio of cameras, the Family Hub boasts another impressive piece of hardware – a 21.5 inch, full HD LCD resolution touchscreen located on the fridge’s upper-right door. This Gorilla Glass-covered screen will go to sleep when you


leave the kitchen, and wake up automatically when its built-in proximity sensors detect that you’ve walked back into the room. The Family Hub’s touchscreen will use Samsung’s Tizen OS to enable you to browse the web, look up recipes, or use Screen Mirroring to catch up on your favourite movies and TV shows while you’re busy in the kitchen. You’ll also be able to send photos from your mobile device directly to the Family Hub’s screen, in a high-tech alternative to randomly pinning your favourite photos to your fridge with magnets. The screen is also equipped with numerous calendars, with Samsung reportedly planning to integrate Family Hub with Android and iOS calendars via a new Sticki app. While none of these features are essential (or probably top of your list when you’re shopping for a new fridge), if you’re a tech enthusiast or simply someone who wants to get something a little bit more out of their home appliances, then these features are nice added extras. Samsung also uses the Family Hub’s web connectivity and touchscreen to let you order groceries direct from the fridge door, via a partnership with MasterCard. At launch, Groceries by MasterCard will only support orders placed through ShopRite and FreshDirect, although l t m r t res

Will this be the year of the smart appliance? The Family Hub refrigerator isn’t the only smart appliance Samsung will be launching in 2016. At CES Samsung also announced a new range of Wi-Fi-enabled ovens, plus an accompanying app for Android and iOS. This app aims to finally put an end to that niggling doubt – did I leave the oven on? You’ll also be able to use the app to preheat your Samsung oven and adjust cooking temperatures while you’re out of the house. We can also expect to see a new addition to Samsung’s laundry line-up, with the launch of Samsung’s Front Load Washer with AddWash.

This unit aims to solve that age-old problem – pressing the start button on your washing machine, only to immediately spot a stray sock lying on the floor. AddWash lets you add items to the load after the cycle has started, by pausing the machine without you needing to drain the unit first. And as you’d expect, AddWash also comes with a companion app for Android and iOS that lets you monitor a cleaning cycle from your smartphone or tablet, and receive notifications just before the unit starts a new washing cycle.

According to reports, Samsung also plans to add Amazon Alexa to the smart fridge at some point, which could mean the Family Hub will become a voice-activated fridge. So could we be about to see a new wave of connected home appliances that let us monitor every room in the house direct from our smartphones? Maybe, but it’s worth noting that this isn’t the first smart fridge we’ve seen, or even the first smart fridge that Samsung has released. The Korean company took its first stab at the smart fridge market way back in 2011, with a model that featured an 8-inch, internet-connected LCD. Samsung wasn’t the only manufacturer showing off a smart fridge at CES this year, as Whirlpool also took the opportunity to announce its Smart French Door Refrigerator. Although lacking a touchscreen, the Whirlpool model does boast compatibility with

the Nest Learning Thermostat. The Whirlpool model also comes with a smartphone app that lets you monitor your fridge’s temperature and receive notifications about any power outages remotely. Where available, the app will also enable your Whirlpool appliance to connect to the Smart Grid, so it can automatically detect times of the day when energy prices are cheaper, and then perform energy-intensive tasks during these off-peak hours in an attempt to save you money – all without you having to get up in the middle of the night to defrost your fridge on the cheap! These up-and-coming smart fridges do boast an impressive range of features, some of which seem to offer real benefits to the consumer. However, the real test will be whether smart home appliances manage to attract a mainstream audience – and not just capture the interest of early adopters.

What next for our phones?

Our phones could soon be controlling every aspect of our smart homes

A recent survey by UK retailer Carphone Warehouse has revealed that more of us are thinking seriously about the Internet of Things than ever before. Previously dismissed as a gimmick or as something that would only be found in the smart homes of the seriously wealthy, more and more people are now adopting technologies that just a few years ago were still considered part of the realm of science fiction – although judging by the data, it seems that all is not yet perfect in the home of the future. 70 per cent of those surveyed said that they wanted their handsets to integrate seamlessly with other technology, revealing that the effortless ease promised by the smart home is still experiencing some teething problems. 21 per cent said that they were looking for a better experience when it comes to other connected

devices in the home, including smart meters, security systems, stereos and thermostats, revealing that they’re not yet as intuitive or easy to use as they should be. The data also revealed that as we use our phones for everything from shopping to housekeeping to home entertainment, the strain on our batteries is becoming ever more severe. Over half of those polled in the survey said that their device ran out of charge at least once a day. And despite the increasing prevalence of charging points (for example, on public transport), wired charging is now no longer enough – 22 per cent of respondents want to be able to charge their phone wirelessly, cutting the ties between their phone and the plug socket. What do you want from the home and phone of the future? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter at @lgrobot.

7


things you need to know about...

taking photo with your Android pho

8

Stay focused

Choose your orienta

Sure, it’s pretty easy to point and snap with your phone camera, but how many times has a photo you’ve taken ended up disappointingly fuzzy and distorted? One of the key things to remember when taking a photo is ensuring that the lens is focused on what you’re trying to capture. On most Android phones this is as simple as tapping on what you want to focus on. A square should appear, and your camera will re-focus on it.

Whether you’re taking a selfie or t photograph a landscape, you’ll n think carefully about what it is yo trying to capture, and where it’s to be positioned in the final pho For example, a mountain imag might have more scope in landscape, but in portrait you better sense of the hill’s size Don’t be afraid to experimen

filter or not


Speedy snapping

Get to know your devic

There are a number of ways you can speed up snapping photos. Some apps will let you lose the gap between pushing the button to take a photo and the digital shutter closing. This usually does away with the previous focal action, so you need to make sure you’ve got the focus just right first. If there’s no option to do this in your app and you’ve got a rooted device, there are Xposed Modules that will strip out the shutter lag.

Each Android d i to have a sl way of takin Third-party d have their ow app, and othe include gestur that let you tak turn on your ca without touchin screen. It’s wort checking online t out any secrets a your phone. For ex the Cubot X17 we u some of the shots take a selfie if you p gesture in front of th

What on Earth is HDR?

Go manual

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a method of photo stitching. Essentially your device takes three images, one after the other, before melding them together to create a whole picture. It means that different lighting conditions can be merged together – grab an image of the sky and it’ll probably be overexposed when compared to the foreground. That’s where HDR comes in. It’s important to remain still when taking an HDR photo. Some phones take them automatically, while others need you to select the option.

If you want to take you some of the manual se phone is one way to go. device to device, but mo the white balance and IS taking. Apps like Camera ore control, opening up option usually reserved for DSLR photographers. If you want to create amazing smartphone photos, that’s a good place to start.

When to use flash Swift access Sometimes you want to get to your camera as quickly as possible, and adding a link from your lockscreen is a great way to do just that. Each phone may have a different process for doing so, and some will let you quickly access the camera by tapping one of the physical buttons. A few devices even open the camera if you can shake them just right. If you can’t find a way to add a quick-link, then consider adding a lockscreen widget.

Look around you when at a concert or sporting event and you’re guaranteed to see multiple flashes going off, but here’s the kicker – they’re pretty much useless at that distance. A flash the size of the one on you ’t going to light much for more than you. High-end came actually have good low-light capabilitie it is, so you should only be using your flash when it’s re dark. If the outco isn’t brilliant (wh is likely), try adjusting the exposure valu and ISO on yo phone’s cam app settings

Keep it steady A lot of camera apps now have built-in anti-shake technology to ensure that your photos are as crisp as they can be. It takes a bit more processing power to do and will use your battery up, but it’s worth looking into if you’re ending up with blurry photos. If you can, it’s a good idea to rest your arms on something solid when you’re taking a photo too, to ensure there’s no unnecessary movement when you’re trying to snap.

9


NEW TECH MEEM phone charger

Back up whil charging Android phones are like mini-computers, holding lots of precious data. Yet it’s fair to say many of us still fail to back up our contacts, calendar entries, messages, photos, videos and music regularly enough, meaning that losing your handset, having it stolen or dropping it beneath the wheels of a passing lorry is likely to cause you pain in more ways than one. MEEM seeks to take the hassle out of backing up. As long as you have Android 4.1.2 and above, you can make use of the accompanying free app and see data whizz across to the device in just six minutes, locally storing your data without the need for you to even think about it. The maker promises that your data will be protected by built-in security and the use of an authentication code. We’re also told that version 2.0 of the app is pencilled in for June and will be compatible with tablets, work with documents, allow you to partition the device and let you store data that you don’t want on the phone.

Backed-up As well as backing up the internal memory of MEEM, the device will also send data from a removable memory card down the wire too. This part of the connector is also flexible, and it’s hard-wearing too

USB connector The other end of the MEEM is a USB connector so it can be connected to a plug, car charger or a USB computer port

Safe and secure Beneath the aluminium JQWUKPI YJKEJ KU Ć’PKUJGF in satin, is the actual hardware that securely stores your data. It uses the Advanced Encryption Standard with a 256-bit symmetric encryption algorithm for security

At a glance Âť Product name MEEM Âť Available from meemmemory.com Âť Price ÂŁ49.99 A wired charger that automatically backs up the personal data on your Android phone when you plug it in

Q&A Kelly Sumner, CEO of MEEM What gave you the idea of placing a back-up system within a phone charging cable? Anil Goel founded MEEM with a product that he originally got working on Symbian phones around seven years ago. He came up with the idea to try and create something that is seamless, useful and doesn’t require users to remember any more than they have to already.

A

Was it difďŹ cult to produce?

A 10

Technically, it’s not an easy thing to create. MEEM is not a simple pen drive,

put it that way, because it takes whatever data is in your phone and converts it into its own language, converting it back when needed. It’s secure and safe and it can be used with different types of phones.

Doesn’t the cloud perform the functions of MEEM just as well? The problem with the cloud is that there are people who don’t quite understand it, so there are lots of people who don’t and so aren’t backing up regularly. There’s also the cost of storage with many companies charging for larger amounts of memory, and there’s a growing number of people worried about who has access to their data: are providers or a government agency watching? There are also 2.6 billion phones out there and not everyone has the opportunity to back up to the cloud.

A

What happens if you lose the charger – could anyone ever access the information on it? We have 256 levels of security and we’ve conducted research that has found that MEEM will either stay in the kitchen or a bedside table, which is where most people charge their phone. Since we see MEEM largely used at home, it should be protected from loss.

A

Is there any difference between the Android and iOS chargers? Android is open architecture and Apple is closed architecture. We can give people a more fulďŹ lling experience with MEEM on an Android phone, which is why it can back up more categories than the Apple chargers can.

A


1

2

3

GALLERY OF... TAXI APPS

4 1 Uber

5 2 Hailo – The

Taxi App

6

3 Gett

(GetTaxi)

4 Lyft

5 Kabbee

6 Minicabit

Unlike most taxi apps, Uber relies mainly on unlicensed drivers to transport you. Simply choose your location and destination and get a fare quote, then pay at the journey’s end. There are various extra options, ranging from car sharing to a luxury limo.

Hailo will hail you a nearby licensed cab, which can be tracked on a map – no need to wait at a taxi rank. The fare is conveniently payable via the app, too. It only operates in major UK cities, plus Ireland, Spain and Singapore.

Gett’s standout feature is flat pricing, unlike some rival services that raise fares during peak periods. There’s also no minimum fare. Like Hailo, it relies on licensed cab drivers. Londoners can even use it to courier parcels.

Currently only available in the USA, Lyft operates a similar business model to Uber, relying on unlicensed drivers who are rated by their passengers. It’s simple: just pick a destination and request a car. Again, you can pay fares via the app.

As the name implies, this service is only available in London, enabling you to hail a minicab and save up to 65 per cent on the cost of a black cab, choosing from a number of quotes. Unlike Uber, you can even book trips in advance, too.

As seen on the BBC’s Dragon’s Den, minicabit covers 40 cities and towns across the UK. Enter your trip details, choose a quote and book a minicab. Each journey is carbon-balanced with the World Land Trust, keeping the Earth’s sustainability in mind.

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11


Feature Âť Top 5 superphones

12


Feature Top 5 superphones «

TOP 5 SUPERPHONES Top superphones revealed, plus new midrange devices from the major players

It's that time of year again. Anticipation fills the air as we start to get a glimpse at what are certain to be some of the most exciting devices of the upcoming few months. It looks like 2016 is certainly not set to disappoint, thanks to some big announcements from some of the leading, as well as emerging, phone manufacturers from around the world.

We’ve come to expect some truly special devices from the likes of Samsung, LG and HTC, but lesser-known manufacturers such as Huawei and Xiaomi are also taking their place in the spotlight this year with their own big and bold superphones, offering high-end devices at bargain-basement price tags. This is all good news for us Android users – never have our

choices been this varied, and we certainly aren't complaining about it! The following pages are packed full of the biggest devices that are competing to become your next faithful companion in 2016. While many of you will instantly be drawn to the big hitters, we implore you to really consider shaking things up and trying something new.

13


F »

the G4 was devices we’ve nd we certainly has undoubtedly 5 offering this plete reinvention of new to the emerging de clear with the the device. There’s hat is near enough he G4, but also xel wide-angle eld, which has ne photography w way to snap t our eyes on

As you d expect from a flagship, the G5 doesn t skimp on its specifications either. It’s the first to pack in the uber-quick Snapdragon 820 processor and has 4GB of RAM at its side to keep things ticking over nicely. LG has already done well with keeping battery life at a premium in its devices, and with the launch of its new modular design (more info on the left), we expect the G5 to be no different. Out of the main flagships we’ve seen already this year, LG is definitely taking the biggest risk with the G5. A new camera arrangement, modular design and ground-breaking processing speeds are all signs of LG’s commitment to continuously improving every aspect of the end user’s smartphone experience. Will it be able to outsell Samsung? It’s unlikely. But could it kick-start a new way for us to think about the way we use our smartphones? Most definitely.


Feature Top 5 superphones «

Samsung Galaxy S7 The return of some much-loved features makes this device an impressive offering Chances are you already know a great deal about the Galaxy S7, either through TV advertisements, billboards or a whole number of other avenues. To say it’s the most publicised device of the new wave of smartphones to hit this year would be a big understatement; it’s arguably the most heavily advertised device of all time. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as in the past few years Samsung has taken the quality of its

device. Making a reappearance is th coating offering protection even if t device is submerged into a metre o but even more importantly, the mic slot is also making a return. We us devices for storing and watching me more than ever before, so using up storage is the norm. Samsung has one of the few manufacturers that h

“Samsung has clearly listened to its customers and used their feedback to c several aspects of the device” devices to the next level, providing a new form factor mixed in with some of the most featurepacked devices that have ever been released. At the focus of its campaign is the elegant new design implemented into the S7. Plastic is nowhere to be seen and users are instead greeted with a sleek metal build that simply oozes class. At first glance, there may appear to be very little difference between the S6 and the S7 in certain departments, with the S7 just offering a little extra refinement in places. While we would normally criticise a move like this from Samsung, there was little in the S6 that actually warranted a change. If the S7 is a refined version of a near-perfect phone, that certainly isn't something to complain about. But what pleases us most about the S7 is that Samsung has clearly listened to its customers and used their feedback to craft several aspects of the

S7 Edge

A curved display customisable to your personal preferences

The dual-curved display of the S7 Edge is heavily customisable, with a selection of apps and PQVKƒECVKQPU GPCDNGF for use on each side of the display

gone against the grain by not includ expandable storage, so it's a welco return to form for the brand to inclu a feature in the S7. There’s no removable battery fea that can compare with the modular offering from the LG G5, but it’s the a good thing from Samsung. We exp see a revised version of the S7 to be available later this year with remova battery capabilities to compete aga what LG has managed to include in upcoming device. The Samsung Galaxy S7 will undo sell in its millions around the world, can see if it’s worth splashing out o checking out our in-depth review lat p68 of this issue.

There’s always been one key difference between the standard Galaxy series and the Edge, and that’s the curved display. For the most part

There’s everything from getting the latest sports updates sent to the edge of the display, to using the Apps Edge option uick shortcuts to your most widely used aded apps. Ultimately, Samsung has up the curved displays of the S7 Edge to omised from top to bottom, and it'll be your personal preference as to which s you wish to include. we especially like about the new Edge is lows users to tinker with their exact nce. Want to make the curve look smaller? lem. How about making it transparent? o issue. The S7 Edge puts the control o the user's hand and goes beyond being e gimmick. Its larger form factor does take etting used to, but if you're used to g bigger devices, making the transition o the S7 Edge will not be a difficult task.

15


Feature » Top 5 superphones

Xiaomi Mi 5 If we've learnt anything over the past 12 months, it's that China is fast becoming a hub for Android manufacturing. We’re not talking about rip-off copycat devices, but rather fully featured alternatives to the traditional flagship devices. Xiaomi is at the centre of this development, with its fantastic Mi range turning a lot of heads outside of China. Its latest device, the Mi 5, ticks all the boxes you could want from a flagship smartphone. It’s got an ultra-fast processor, a pixel-perfect screen and a sultry design to boot. But its trump card, and it’s a big one, is that it’s able to completely trounce the competition on price. Feature-wise, the Mi 5 is comparable to most of the new flagships we’ve featured here, but for half the price. That’s right, half the price. Of course, stock is far more limited and production of the devices is done in vastly smaller quantities. Those more familiar with the

Will this be the device to take Xiaomi to the top?

Xiaomi brand will be familiar with the woes of trying to get their hands on one of its earlier devices when an invite-only system was employed. What Xiaomi is proving with the Mi 5 is that you really don’t need to break the bank to get your hands on a high-end smartphone. While Xiaomi is still a relative minnow when it comes to exposure outside of China, there’s a very strong chance that we won’t be saying the same thing this time next year.

Killer features of the Xiaomi Mi 5

16

Xiaomi has altered the design and look of its leading Mi series. A thinner form factor on the Mi 5 makes it easier for you to handle for prolonged periods of time

The price tag may be insanely low, but that doesn't mean that the Xiaomi Mi 5 doesn't deliver when it comes to features

Nano SIMS

Four-axis stabilisation

Alternative Android

App management

Dual SIMs are fairly common in most modern smartphones, but the Mi5 is one of the few that offers dual-nano SIM slots for its users. It does mean that you’ll probably need to get a new SIM card, however.

The camera includes a helpful stabilisation setup, to make every photo or video you take as shake-free as possible. It’s not perfect, but it certainly does help with limiting the amount of motion blur you capture.

Instead of stock Android, the Mi 5 is equipped with the MIUI skin. There are plenty of similarities between the two, but MIUI is more suited for those who really like to customise each area of their device without being restricted by the manufacturer.

The Mi 5 uses a granular app management system, so users can pinpoint which apps work where. For example, it’s possible to choose the apps that work in the background at different times of the day.


Feature Top 5 superphones ÂŤ

Huawei P9

Killer features of the Huawei P9

Size is everything when it comes to Huawei’s new line Huawei has had mixed fortunes when it has delved into manufacturing Android devices. While there’s been some noticeable highs in its history, partially due to the Nexus 6P, Huawei has also had some major ops. Their new P9 range is a refreshing approach to its manufacturing regime, ditching the one-off devices Huawei is recognisable for and instead attempting to create an established brand. From the early reports that have been covering the development of the P9 series, it's likely we'll see new additions to the lineup over the next few years. To adhere to this, the P9 range caters for different budgets and tastes, but there’s an underlying similarity between all three on offer – an important factor when trying to market the devices in a similar style. The one that’s going to get all the tails wagging is the monster P9 Max, which true to its name offers a gigantic 6.2-inch display for its giant-handed users. Of course a device this size isn’t unheard of, but they’ve often led to a number of ergonomic issues regarding their use. But if there’s one thing you can rely on Huawei s

consumers. For such a large device, the P9 Max will be one of the thinnest on the market, but still manage to include a multi-day battery to keep your device going. Plus for a device of its size, it's going to have a processor to match and while we're unsure on its exact conďŹ guration of the processor at the time of writing, it's all but assured that it'll be one powerful device. For those seeking something a bit more ďŹ nger-friendly, the standard P9 will be your weapon of choice, while those tightening the purse strings should look towards the P9 Lite. Despite the cheaper price point and the smaller size, it's important to note that Huawei isn't one for skimping on the features it includes. Expect a fantastic camera and customisable options aplenty when using either of these devices. It's all about personal choice when it comes down to Huawei's all-new P9 range, and no matter your tastes or budget, there's certainly a device available for you to try. We're unsure how well these devices will compete with some of the amazing offerings also appearing this year, but hopefully Huawei can pull off something big with this new ran e.

Fingerprint scanner For a simpler unlocking system, Huawei has implemented a rear ďŹ ngerprint scanner that takes away the fuss of employing a lockscreen or password. It can be heavily customised to perform different actions.

Dual lenses Akin to the camera offering with the LG G5, the P9 is using a dual camera setup to help pick out that extra detail in your snaps. New shooting modes are split between both cameras for the end user’s beneďŹ t.

Monster storage The beneďŹ ts of owning a larger device, such as the 6.2-inch Max, are that you can usually expect plenty of onboard storage. With 64GB available, there’s plenty of room available for your entire media library.

Processing power We’ve become accustomed to Huawei packing its devices with monster processors, and the trend continues with the P9. A Kirin octa-core processor will power through anything that you throw at it.

The Huawei P8 (seen here) provides the foundation for Huawei's latest superphone. At the time of going to press the P9 JCF PQV DGGP QHĆ’EKCNN[ NCWPEJGF although leaked renders showed a similar design GVJQU VQ VJG 2 YKVJ VJG addition of an extra ECOGTC

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Feature » Top 5 superphones

HTC One M10 One of the great things about HTC is that you never truly know what to expect from it at product events. While it bypassed MWC this year, anyone remotely interested in the smartphone industry knew about HTC's aim to bring the M10 to market. This time last year we were excited about the prospect of the M9, and it turned out to be one of the best devices of 2015, surpassed by only a very small number of phones. Are there any massive changes between the M9 and M10? Well, no. That doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t things worth getting excited about, however. Similar to what LG is attempting with the

A pixel perfect camera leads the charge for the M10

G5, HTC is pinning a lot of its hopes on its camera technology to win potential consumers over. We won’t be seeing the re-emergence of the ultrapixel fad – thankfully – but instead HTC is venturing on packing more pixels into its camera than anyone on the market. At around 23-megapixels, clarity is the aim of the game with the M10's camera and it alone could be enough to appeal to those who take their photography seriously. As well as the updates to the camera itself, substantial changes have also been made to HTC's camera app. Tweaks to various shooting modes and some new additions to how the app is

“HTC is venturing on packing more pixels into its camera than anyone on the market” The Desire 530 will be walletfriendly, but don't expect it to wow you with ground-breaking features. For a budget device, it does exactly what you'd expect it to

Should you buy the HTC Vive? Aside from its new smartphones, HTC has been busily getting things ready for its first foray into virtual reality, the HTC Vive. With strong competition from both Oculus and Sony, the Vive may initially struggle, but it is without doubt one of the more promising headsets to hit the market. Early gameplay shows a vastly more complete VR

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experience than the comp sensor-based features will using the headset in confin track down a unit, make su It may have a hefty price tag, but the HTC Vive looks set to provide a stunning VR experience that may outshine its rivals Samsung and LG

used to shoot video lead the changes here, sure to excite the determined smartphone photographers among us. But it wouldn’t be a HTC phone if wasn’t at the pinnacle of blistering speeds. An octa-core processor, multi-GB RAM offering and a 3000+ mAh battery show just how serious HTC is when it comes to taking on Samsung and LG this year for smartphone dominance. Thanks to HTC's revised strategy when it comes to releasing smartphones, (i.e. releasing less devices per year) the overall finished products it does release are now always of the utmost quality.

All-new Desire A new range of cheaper HTC devices is soon to hit the shelves While they don't tend to garner the headlines that some of the flagship devices we always get excited about do, the market for budgetorientated devices has never been bigger. HTC has long been at the helm of producing said budget devices, with a new addition having been announced recently. The new, all-plastic Desire 530 ticks all the necessary boxes when it comes to budget phones. It has a decent display, good audio and okay battery life, without doing anything that makes it really stand out from the crowd. Perhaps its biggest inclusion is the new paint splatter effect used to colourfully make each and every Desire 530 truly unique. While the 2200mAh battery may initially look poor on paper, it'll be more than enough for the vastly smaller processor we're likely to see included. Expect the same from the camera too, as although the M10 is promising something special with its camera, the Desire 530 is left with a rather paltry 8-megapixel rear snapper instead. But while it may seem like we're ripping the 530 to shreds before we've even given it a thorough review, the Desire range already has a massive following. They tend to be well-made


Feature Top 5 superphones «

Sony Xperia X Pe

Next-level smartphone photography Sony’s new smartphone camera is a culmination of its previous efforts

Bigger, be stand out

Despite a stron year’s MWC eve to come from it Xperia branding devices. Sure, t to it, but it lacks the Xperia rang In a similar ve going all out to extensive librar noticeable flags expect it to laun the end of 2016 recognisable of flagship materia It’s one of the market – a big b for prolonged p so when you co provide super-s another device on its camera o 23-megapixel c Partnered with Predictive Hybr to help capture downfall of mo the images we’ breath of fresh beyond being th expecting it to b Sony’s usual device in the se risky one but it also helps it to pick up a lot of

Sony has a rich history in producing studioquality lenses for its smartphones, partially due to its involvement in the digital camera market, and the development of its Exmor sensors that have appeared time and time again. Where the X Performance shines is that its 23-megapixel camera is capable of predicting movement – as crazy as that might sound. It uses a specialised Predictive Autofocus feature to instantly keep any signs of movement in focus, enabling seamless snaps to be taken at no cost to the quality. It should also be on record that this is Sony’s fastest camera yet; going from standby to capture in just 0.6 seconds. Capturing at lightning speeds and having equally quick processing times means you’ll never miss a special moment again. Oh, and for those of you worried about your Instagram game, don’t panic; there’s also a front-facing 13-megapixel camera built for low light conditions that’s on hand when you feel the need for a selfie or ten.

little too safe for many people o t the e

A revamped camera on the Performance promises an unbelievable photography experience. We're keen to see how well it can capture action shots

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Feature » The Fork Awakens

It’s not all about Google. Which alternative version of Android is the best? Be together, not the same. That’s Android’s ad slogan, and it couldn’t be more appropriate here. Rarely do you find two Android devices that offer an identical experience. We’re used to seeing manufacturers adding their own apps and making UI tweaks, such as Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay, but some go a whole lot further, creating what amounts to their own unique version of Android — their own fork.

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A fork is when a developer takes a piece of software, such as the Android operating system, and works on it independently to produce something that is no longer reliant on the original source. It’s more than just a skin, of the kind that Samsung and LG use on their devices, and most custom ROMs aren’t forks, since they’re normally just customised versions of existing software. A fork starts with the original source code before

heading off in its own direction. The most famous examples are Amazon’s Fire OS, which eschewed Google in favour of Amazon’s own apps. They’re common in China, too, where Google has limited presence. Forks are also used on devices by companies like Huawei and OnePlus, while a handful of custom ROMS — most notably CyanogenMod — are innovative enough to be regarded as forks in their own right.


Feature The Fork Awakens «

On a Galaxy far, far away…

Where the fork did all these custom versions of Android come from?

The history of Android forks is the history of Android itself. Android is open source software — AOSP, or the Android Open Source Project — which is maintained by Google but is freely available for anyone to download and use however they please. This means that anyone can build their own version of Android. The official version combines AOSP with Google apps and is used on the overwhelming majority of Android devices, but there are many others out there for you to explore. Custom ROMs have been available since the original Android phone, the T-Mobile G1. CyanogenMod — the most famous — expanded from a tweaked AOSP ROM by a single developer in 2009 to the full Cyanogen OS owned by a multimillion-dollar business today. In 2010, the Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi produced MIUI, a heavily-customised OS with no Google Services support, and this is the biggest selling fork in the world. In 2011, Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet brought the idea of Google-less forks to the West. There have been many more along the way. ROMs like Paranoid Android or AOKP relied on the enthusiast community and have fallen by the wayside, while smaller manufacturers like OnePlus have brought forks to the mainstream, first with Cyanogen OS and now with OxygenOS. It’s now quite rare for even a mainstream device to ship with stock, vanilla Android – most brands will make at least some visible changes to the OS, even if it’s only to prioritise their apps over rival Google or third-party ones, but a true fork does much more.

Which fork or ROM is the best rival to stock Android? We take a look at some of the most popular out there and explain the key information you need to know

Amazon Fire OS Seen primarily on Amazon’s Fire tablets (as well as the company’s ill-fated phone), Fire OS is a true fork. It has no Google apps or services, and is based around Amazon’s content stores. It’s a great option for Amazon Prime users.

Cyanogen OS Cyanogen OS, and its communityled ROM CyanogenMod, are based on AOSP and have the full Google apps suite. However, they also have a large number of additional features that give the ROM its own identity. The number one choice for users new to custom ROMs.

MIUI Owned by Xiaomi, MIUI is a distinctly iOS-inspired operating system. It’s all Android underneath, and you do get the Play Store, but there’s no app drawer — something we hope to be seeing in Android 7 later this year.

OxygenOS

Compatible vs non-compatible forks Do you need Google-compatible software? Compatible

Forks and custom ROMs

Non-compatible

You get full access to the Google Play Store, with 1.5 million apps. New apps are released here sooner than other stores as well.

You need a third-party software store, and none are as well stocked as Google’s. Some however, like Amazon’s Underground, offer a selection of paid apps for free.

The full suite of Google apps includes many that are regarded as an integral part of Android, such as Chrome, Maps and the YouTube app.

If you’re using a custom ROM you may be able to install Google apps separately. If you’re using an official fork (such as Amazon’s), Google is off limits.

The new features and innovations in Android come to the official version of the OS first — although your device may not be updated quite so quickly.

There are good third-party alternatives to most Google apps, but not all. YouTube in particular is something you might miss on a Google-less device.

You need to have a Google account, alongside the pros and cons associated with it. The pros include innovations like Google Now; the cons, ads and data mining.

ROMs tend to get regular updates, so there are always new features on the way. However, they will potentially be slower to get updates to newer base versions of Android.

OxygenOS replaced Cyanogen OS on the OnePlus devices, and is very similar in both style and features. There’s no custom ROM version for you to try on other devices, though. A clean, well-optimised offering.

Emotion UI Owned by Huawei and also known as EMUI, this fork shares similarities to MIUI, including the lack of an app drawer. It is highly customisable, with support for themes, and comes packed with Google apps and Huawei’s own additions.

OmniROM After CyanogenMod went in a more corporate direction, some of the team decided to produce their own ROM – OmniROM. As such the philosophy is the same, with lots of extra features, wide device support and regular updates. Google apps are available but need to be installed separately.

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Feature » The Fork Awakens

yanogen Available in two flavours, yanogen can be ri nced on most

The Cyanogen-based operating systems are available in two versions. Cyanogen OS is the commercial version, and used on devices from smaller manufacturers such as Wileyfox. CyanogenMod, on the other hand, is the community-built custom ROM that is available in one form or another for pretty much every Android device. Cyanogen operating systems are based on AOSP and come with the full Google apps and services (although you need to flash them manually on CyanogenMod). It takes a while for the new version of Android to filter through to the Cyanogen

builds — version 12, the current version at the time of writing, is based on Android 5, and version 13, in development, is based on Android 6.0. These forks are crammed with unique features, including comprehensive theme support that enable you to change the look of your phone, the powerful AudioFX equaliser tool that enhances the sound quality from your device, and a series of intelligent privacy and security features — including the very clever PIN Scramble that jumbles up the keypad on the lockscreen so that no-one peeking over your shoulder can identify your code.

CyanogenMod vs Cyanogen OS What’s the difference between the two Cyanogens? CyanogenMod

tablets, as products. Fire OS we’ve explored, as presence whatso Google apps have including a browse Appstore is reaso impressive select completely redes homescreens tha categories of cont — movies, music it does feel like a s anything, but even shopper you can s iOS-style system f

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Cyanogen OS

A custom ROM that needs to be flashed to replace the stock firmware on your device. Wide compatibility, with official and unofficial builds for most devices.

Stock firmware on devices from some of the newer, budget-minded Android manufacturers. Phones include the Wileyfox Swift and BQ Aquaris M5.

Google apps and services are available, but not installed by default. They also need to be flashed, although this is now considered a standard part of the setup process.

Unlike CyanogenMod, Cyanogen OS is not fully open source as it contains proprietary back-end features from various hardware manufacturers. A major deal also means Microsoft apps are set to be bundled.

Updated regularly with experimental “nightly” builds, although installing these is entirely optional (and not recommended for many users due to the likelihood of them containing bugs).

As an official firmware, Cyanogen OS must pass Google’s certification to get the apps suite. As a result, development on the platform is a lot slower and less experimental than CyanogenMod.

Pre-rooted on installation, opening up the device to a whole world of hacks and tweaks. It may also leave some security-reliant applications

Not rooted by default. Whether Cyanogen OS devices can be rooted depends on the policies of individual handset manufactures who may choose to lock


Feature The Fork Awakens «

OxygenOS

MIUI Xiaomi’s own Android for available as a custom RO large number of phones

t OxygenOS to replace S on the international ts phones

For MIUI – pronounced Me You I – comparisons with iOS are unavoidable. There’s no app drawer and all the icons are squares with rounded corners. If it weren’t for the ability to add widgets to the homescreen you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. That said, it does support themes, which are available in huge varieties ranging from the smart and classy to the decidedly gaudy. The most recent version, MIUI 7, promises great performance improvements but doesn’t pull back on the animations and visual flourishes. The stock firmware on MIUI devices comes with the Play Store and Google services, along with alternatives to the standard apps, including a calendar, mail app and media players. In China, MIUI is Google-free. The fork is also available as a custom ROM and can be flashed onto more than 300 devices, although the Google apps aren’t included as standard if you do this.

ally launched with the business e two companies OxygenOS as its se, then, that the h App Permission dio sound app, wo of Cyanogen ures. The SwiftKey as is a camera ideo. Like S supports o the same r has a massive can completely one, the latter is e basics like colou icon packs. s available on the wo and OnePlus fault firmware.

Emotion

Some forks of Android are only available on devices from a certain brand, while others can be flashed onto most rooted Android devices.

Emotion UI is the stock firmware on Huawei’s range of Android smartphones

Emotion UI, or EMUI, is owned by Huawei and powers the company’s increasingly impressive range of smartphones. It’s another iOS-inspired e-like flourishes such as the gesture to perform a search. ith the Play Store and full services, and has many al features, of varying degrees ness. The camera app is sma ll designed, and rewards the e creative photographer who nts to play with manual contro ere’s built-in storage and ermissions managers, along ith a keyword filter for text essages and a virus scanner. e ROM is enhanced further by uawei’s own take on the core ps, with media players, email d messaging apps. Less usefu the configurable gestures tha le you to perform certain tasks ipe or knuckle press. As with ks, it’s a generation behind —

mniROM

eveloped to compe ogen products OM is the only Android fork in this hat you cannot get as the stock re on any phone. It’s a custom ROM n only be flashed to phones, but is e for devices from all major cturers including Samsung, Sony OmniROM is pitched as a -basics ROM with a heavy focus on ss and the developer community, s built in response to the rcial ambitions of CyanogenMod. A s a ROM best suited to those that reamlined software rather than of features. It’s based on AOSP, Android 6 version in development, Google apps are available for it. in innovations in OmniROM revolve user interface enhancements, wit -wake option, multi-window suppo sorted swiping gestures to aid y. Nightlies are also a big part of the OM experience, with users ged to download them and provid

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Feature » The Fork Awakens

Head 2 Head COMPATIBILITY

N WI

USER INTERFACE

N WI

Stock Android, pretty much. The wide support for themes enables very user to make their phone unique to them

UPDATES

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MIUI

Emotion UI

OmniROM

Only available on Amazon’s range of tablets, as well as extras like the Fire TV. Doesn’t work with Google apps, or the Chromecast

Only available on the three devices from OnePlus, and for the OnePlus One it needs to be flashed as a ROM

Available for 340 devices via custom ROM, and also as the stock firmware on smartphones by Xiaomi

Only available as a stock firmware installed on smartphones and tablets from Huawei, including the forthcoming Huawei P9

Available only as a custom ROM, and there are builds for all major devices from the last couple of years

Full integration with Amazon’s growing suite of services, including its physical and content stores, plus cloud services and apps

Audio quality and a permissions manager are the two main big features that help separate OxygenOS from stock Android.

MIUI is big on aesthetics, with theming a major focus. The fork includes lot of core apps, but not many truly unique features

Several security and privacy apps — although the virus scanner may not be welcome — plus redesigned versions of the core apps stand out

Simplicity is the key to OmniROM. It’s a customised version of AOSP with added usability tweaks to make system navigation simple and easy

Without home screen or widget, Fire OS revolves around tabbed panels of apps and other digital content. The least Android of all forks

Stock Android, like Cyanogen. OxygenOS allows you to tweak colours and icons but lacks the theme support seen on other platforms

A very iOS-style interface. There’s no app drawer, but widgets are supported. Heavy support for themes helps to keep it fresh

Another iOS-inspired fork. No app drawer again, but the UI is enhanced by gestures that can be useful, if you want to take the time to learn them

Another stock Android fork. Various gestures help you to find your way around quickly, but this is as vanilla as forks get

Updates tend to coincide with new device models, and are not tied too closely to updates from the Android source

Updates happen on a fairly consistent basis, although only stable releases. The OS launched with Android 5, with updates to Android 6 happening this year

Updates range from Stable (rolled out to devices with the software pre-installed) to Experimental (nightly builds for ROM users).

Not the most frequent updates, and EMUI does not get updated to the latest version of Android as quickly as some other forks do

Nightlies are available for all users to test and provide feedback on. Updates to Android are slower, though an Android 6 version is in testing now

Cyanogen

AW DR

And the winner is...

OxygenOS

AW DR

AW DR

Updates range from slow (Cyanogen OS) to every night (CyanogenMod’s experimental builds). What you get depends hether you’re flashing or buying

Fire OS

AW DR

Security and privacy are a major selling point for the ROM. It also has great edia performance and many themes

AW DR

Cyanogen OS is available on a handful of budget devices; CyanogenMod has builds for all major phones and tablets of the last few years

FEATURES

Cyanogen

There’s a difference between the OS and Mod versions of Cyanogen, but in both cases the conformity to the stock Android interface coupled with intelligent and useful extras makes it the winner


Install a fork How to test out an Android fork on your phone One of things we love most about Android is the ease in which you can test out any version of the OS at any time. Three of the forks in this guide are available as ROMs that you can flash onto many devices. Even when they aren’t available officially, lots of devices have unofficial builds of these ROMs, created by individual developers. To test out CyanogenMod on your phone you’ll need to have an

recovery 1 Launch To begin you need to boot into Recovery

unlocked bootloader and for your device to be rooted. This process is different for every phone, so check xda-developers.com for a guide for your device. Also, download the CyanogenMod build for your device and save it to internal storage. Rooting should also involve installing a custom recovery, called TWRP, which is where we’ll begin. Follow along to get CyanogenMod on your phone.

a backup 2 Create The most important step in flashing a ROM

the data 3 Wipe Once the backup is done — and it will take

is creating a Nandroid backup first. You use this to restore your device to its previous state, along with all your data, apps and operating system version. Navigate to Backup and select at least Data and System.

a few minutes — you’re ready to start flashing the ROM. First, you will need to wipe your data. Navigate to Wipe and select System, data and Cache. Do not wipe Internal Storage, as you will lose all your saved files and photos.

the ROM 4 Flash In TWRP go to Install, then locate the

5 Reboot The flashing process takes a few minutes,

6 Restore To revert back to your previous ROM and

CyanogenMod ROM that you downloaded and saved to your internal storage. Select it, then swipe the screen when prompted to initiate the download. It’s a good idea to keep your phone plugged in while doing this.

as does the first boot while the OS and its apps initialise. Don’t touch the phone while it’s happening. When done you will need to go through the Android setup screen again, adding your Wi-Fi network and Google account details to get started.

data, boot into TWRP and tap the Restore button. Now select your Nandroid backup from the screen that opens. Again, the process takes a good few minutes to complete, so keep your phone charged and wait until before your restart your phone.

mode. How you do this depends on what device you are using, but it normally requires you to hold down one of the volume buttons and the power button at the same time. Follow any onscreen instructions to complete the boot.

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Masterclass

Use voice control Forget bashing away at a touchscreen keyboard – your voice is all that you need to control your device It may seem ironic that the more smartphones are used, the less we're actually talking. Numerous surveys have found that we tend to use our fingers and thumbs far more than our mouths, sending text messages, catching up with social media, browsing the internet and reading emails. And yet, on Android devices, using your voice can actually get things done more efficiently. By enabling always-on voice commands, your device can sit in the background and listen out for the moment you say “Ok Google” before acting on any demands you place upon it. And while this has led to some

concern that Google could potentially be listening in on our conversations, the good news is that you can decide if and when you want it on and exactly how you want to use it. Over these four pages, we'll look at tweaking the settings and addressing a few ways of minimising security concerns. We also look at how voice commands not only work with the device itself but also thirdparty apps. Most of all, though, we'll show how handy it is to be able to get access to a great many features on your device without having to use your fingers. Now that's something worth talking about.

Hidden voice control secrets

Some handy info that you should know about the clever voice control function

Google's good at learning

See your voice activity

Retrain your voice

If you forget to mention the name of a program when giving a command, your device will ask you which one you had intended to use and then will remember your selection if you forget repeatedly.

Everything you ask Google is stored at history. google.com/history/audio. That may sound a little creepy, especially since you can play back each recording. Thankfully, you can delete them.

If your voice isn't recognised, tap the Google app, go to the Menu>Settings>Voice>”Ok Google” detection. Tap Retrain voice model and say 'Ok Google' three times.

Five tips for better voice control 1. Consider alternatives There are other apps around besides Google's offering, perhaps the most significant rival being Samsung S Voice. Some of us here like Bing Torque, which lets you activate voice commands by shaking your phone. It can launch Skype and works with Outlook.

2. Turn on Location Some voice command searches work better when location is used. So go to the Settings apps, select Location and turn it on. This will make it possible to tap into all of the navigation options – useful when you're looking for something in your local area.

3. Ask follow-ups Don't think you can only ask one question. Even when you receive an answer, you can follow it up. Google should pick up on the previous question and work out that your next query is related to it.

4. Watch your words For those with an Android Watch, voice commands are not just useful but essential. A recent update now allows you to specify which app you want to use for messages. You can even make calls through your Watch, too.

5. Double up? For those who use a service such as S Voice to turn on their handset, using Google's voice commands with the 'From any screen' option activated can cause a clash.

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Before you start commanding your device to do anything, it's worth delving into the voice settings to configure them to suit your preferences. With a variety of options available, there are certainly lots of elements to consider. So open the Google app, tap the Menu icon and then select Settings>Voice.

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Configure voice You can optimise the voice control experience search settings on Android

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There are a few ways you can bring some of the most important functions of your device under voice control

Toggle hardware controls easily

Say “OK Google” and ask it to “turn off Bluetooth” or “turn off Wi-Fi”. Your device will now toggle both of these options. Likewise, you can ask to turn them on again.

1

Google detection 1 OK Tap "OK Google" detection and ensure

on Tap 2 Now Introduced in Marshmallow, Now on Tap

From the Google app is on. Swipe Always on to allow Android to detect voice commands from outside the Google app even when the screen is turned off.

lets you say “OK Google” in an app and ask questions about what you are looking at on screen. It's a magical service that you switch on within Voice settings using a simple swipe.

If you're fumbling around in the dark, having instant access to the flashlight is a blessing. This falls under voice control too. Just say “Ok Google, turn on flashlight”.

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speech output 3 Toggle Want your Android device to talk to you when you're issuing commands? If so, ensure Speech Output it turned on; otherwise tap on Hands-free only – your device will then only speak to you when you're unable to look at the screen.

offensive words 4 Block By blocking any offensive words when searching, any cusses will be replaced by asterisks in the search box, so consider leaving this option on. The final search option allows you to use your voice over a connected Bluetooth headset.

You can't directly alter settings such as brightness or volume via voice, but ask Google to turn either of them up or down and Settings will open to allow physical tweaking.

3

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Masterclass Learn how to unicate effectively Discover what Android voice control will let you achieve

particular uestions. It give the splay the ersions.

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There are more than 100 voice commands e to you. They let you make a ee call, text without looking or send il, complete with subject and ge. They also allow you to search the nd information within Gmail and music, movies and novels. hough Android has a great keyboard, g able to verbalise a search is usually far cumbersome than typing too (unless, of

course, it completely misunderstands you, in which case just tell it, “No, I said” and repeat the phrase again). Here we will look at some of the most common themes that show the great diversity of tasks that Android’s voice control is capable of carrying out. Before you do any of these, though, ask your device to “do a barrel roll” or say “beam me up, Scotty”. You may be surprised by what you see and hear.

files on Drive 1 Find Although uttering “Search for [name of a

and fly 2 Navigate You can quickly discover flight information

file] on Drive” can erroneously point you in the direction of some web results in Chrome, in most cases it will open the Drive app and show you the relevant documents relating to your search term.

(“when does [flight number] land/depart?”), find your way around (“navigate to [location]”), convert currencies, get translations and find directions to a hotel (if the confirmation is in your Gmail account).

photos and videos 4 Take If you want to quickly open the camera app to snap an image or record a video, you can do so without any fiddly taps. Just say, “Take a picture” or “Record a video” and the app will immediately open, ready to shoot.

reminders 5 Set If you need to set an alarm, just say “set alarm for [time]”. If you want to count down, say “set a timer for [X minutes]”. You can ask for reminders to be set for specific times, discover your schedule and even track package deliveries.


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Voice control third-party apps Third-party apps are also starting to integrate a host of voice commands

a message 1 Send You can use messaging services such as WhatsApp, NextPlus and Viber rather than a text message via voice control. Simply say, “Ok Google, Send a [app name] message to [name of person]”. Voice control works with Twitter and Facebook too.

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Got a top tip for using voice control? Let us know!

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Message us!

Google wants voice actions to become a key part of Android, which is why it has opened the door to third-party developers. This has made “Ok Google” a key part of a growing number of apps, widening the scope of what you're able to do in Android without having to touch the screen. Google has given developers a set of fairly wide-ranging powers, letting their apps set alarms and timers, initiate phone calls, play music, take pictures, record video and take you through fitness regimes. In doing so, it has begun to turn “Ok Google” into a platform rather than a feature. In some cases, it just requires you to rethink your approach to certain functions you want to carry out.

to-do lists 2 Create Usually, you say, “remind me to” when asking to memorise a key event. But if you want to use apps such as Evernote, Catch and OneNote, simply adapt your language. Say “make a note to” and a list of possible to-do apps appear.

custom commands 3 Use Google isn't currently taking custom command requests but it has already worked with some third-party apps so that, for instance, you can ask for nearby restaurants in TripAdvisor, scan receipts from Walmart, Shazam a song and more.

Use voice control offline You don't need to have a data connection in order to use voice control on your phone

Switch to US

First things first, you may find that if you are using the UK version of English on your phone, you cannot make use of offline voice control. If you keep being told that Android cannot reach Google, then change the language to the US version.

2

Check language

In the Google app, go to Settings>Voice>Offline speech recognition and ensure the English (US) language is there. You should now be able to say “OK Google” and issue a command, although only a limited number will work.

3

Offline commands

Google gives a list of commands you will be able to use in offline mode. They include turning on Wi-Fi and airplane mode, playing music, sending a text, dimming the screen and opening apps. Play around to see how far it will go.

4

Make a call

You can make phone calls using voice commands when you are disconnected from the internet. It will simply ask whom you want to call and then attempt to put you in contact, which is very handy when you're out and about.

29


Tutorials Use Bluetooth to boost your GPS data App used

» Bluetooth GPS Works with » Varies with device

Improve the accuracy of location-based apps by nnecting to an external

It may be the case that you’ve simply lost trust in your mobile’s GPS after it failed to take to you to where you wanted and instead almost had you drown in a nearby lake. But we’d encourage you not to dismiss your phone’s GPS. The GPS receivers in mobile devices have become increasingly te. Moreover, their integration with e Maps and other apps that use location makes smartphones convenient tools for

for devices 1 Scan Before you can receive location data from

Get th 3 To access data from the e

al GPS receiver you will need to install a third-party app from the Play Store. For this tutorial we used Bluetooth GPS. It’s free, has an easy-to-use interface and is compatible with GPS units that conform to NMEA standards.

30

determining where you are or where you’re going. Yet, most phones cannot match a dedicated GPS receiver for speed and reliability, especially in remote areas where you might not get a wireless signal. Thankfully, you can get the best of both worlds by pairing a Bluetooth GPS unit with your Android phone. Then, whether you’re driving or on foot, you can give your apps access to accurate location data anywhere.

them up 2 Pair Tap your GPS receiver’s name under

an external Bluetooth GPS receiver, you need to pair it with your phone or tablet. Go to your Settings app, activate Bluetooth and tap Scan. If your mobile device discovers the GPS receiver’s signal, it will appear under Available devices.

Available devices. Some Bluetooth devices require you to enter a numerical code to confirm pairing. If you get this prompt, enter the code that came with your GPS or 0000 if it doesn’t have one. This should pair and connect your two devices.

hidden features 4 Reveal Your location-based apps can’t access

Allow mock locations 5 Once you have unlocked Developer mode,

data channelled through Bluetooth GPS until you override your phone’s internal GPS receiver. Go back to Settings and tap About device. Then look for Build number and tap it repeatedly. This should unlock your device’s concealed Developer mode.

it should appear in the Settings app. Tapping on it will open up a new list of options that have tick boxes next to them. Ignore those that refer to debugging and look for Allow mock locations. Tap on its tick box to approve this setting.


Advice that will keep you on track if you need GPS data

tips

1 Meet the standard

Use GPS apps and receivers that meet NMEA standards to always ensure compatibility

2 The right direction

Accurate GPS data needs a reliable mapping app so pick one that’s up to date.

3 Stay on track

Use your GPS with an app that saves tracks so you’ll know a way home.

4 Power up

Bluetooth drains your phone’s battery so bring some means to restore it on your travels.

5 Accuracy vs precision

These are not the same. The former is generally more important for most location-based apps.

Marshmallow’s new min location mode

guide

Android 6.0 has a built-in option for getting better GPS accuracy over Bluetooth. Here’s how to use it

your receiver 6 Find Exit the Settings app and launch Bluetooth GPS. It will open to a screen titled Main where location data will be shown after you connect to your GPS receiver. Tap on the dropdown list beside the Connect button to see all your paired Bluetooth devices. Select your GPS unit.

1 Locate your settings

over Bluetooth 7 Connect With your GPS receiver selected, look

You will find settings for location tracking in Marshmallow in the same place as they are in Lollipop. They should be under Settings, but some mobile device brands might have them under Connections while others could have them under Personal.

2 Check the mode

Under your phone’s location settings, check that the switch that activates the internal GPS is set to On. This ensures that your position is tracked by your mobile device. Immediately beneath that is the Mode setting. If this says anything other than High accuracy, tap on it.

below the dropdown box and select Enable Mock GPS Provider. This confirms that you want location-based apps to receive data from Bluetooth GPS. Tap the Connect button to begin receiving positioning data.

in the sky 8 Eyes You can tweak settings in Bluetooth GPS from a menu that can be accessed by tapping the three dots in the top-right corner. If you swipe rightto-left, you can also get a graphical display of satellite strength and accuracy. These indicate how reliable the GPS data is.

or power? 3 Accuracy In Location mode (it may be titled slightly differently on your device), you can set whether to only use your device’s GPS for location tracking or whether to enhance it with wireless signals. Bear in mind, the more signals you use, the quicker they drain your battery.

is best 4 Bluetooth In Marshmallow the descriptions for each location mode are almost exactly the same as Lollipop with one notable difference: selecting High accuracy now grants permission for your device to use GPS, Wi-Fi, mobile networks and Bluetooth devices.

31


Tutorials Sync and play music on Android Wear Apps used

» Android Wear

Works with

» Android 4.3 and up

Storage space At the top of the screen, you can see how much space your downloaded tracks are taking up on your watch. Try to keep only a reasonable amount downloaded to your watch so as not to overload all of the available space

Easily play music on your watch, no phone required. Android Wear is a system that is almost wholly dependant on being wirelessly connected to a phone. The reasons for this are varied, but the main one is that the watches do not have a direct connection to the internet so notifications and messages need to travel via the phone for them to appear on your wrist. Music, however, is a different story: you can move downloaded tracks to the watch and then play them anywhere through Bluetooth headphones without the need for a phone to be present. It may not sound like a groundbreaking feature, and technically it isn’t, but it does mean that you can enjoy your music when running or undertaking other activities without any pesky wires or the need to carry any extra objects with you. This tutorial details how to download tracks to your phone, how to move them to your watch and then how to manage them once they are playing. It’s a simple process, so you should be up and running in minutes.

Listen on the go In the Android Wear app, these handy icons let you know which tracks are downloaded and which ones are stored on your watch. A single tap will change the state of each set of tracks in an instant. It could not be easier to manage

Monitor your music

Android Wear watches naturally have a limited amount of free space and it is important to monitor this number carefully. Chances are that your downloaded music will take up more space than any other type of media on your watch

Check your tracks You can easily check to see which tracks are stored on your Android Wear watch. It may be that you need to swap them around from time to time, and this can all be done from within this simply designed screen

“You can move downloaded tracks to the watch and then play them anywhere without the need for a phone to be present ”

Online music 1 When you first open the Play Music app, it can be difficult to see which songs are stored online and which ones have been downloaded to your device. You need to first have the tracks downloaded to your phone in order to be able to play them on your watch.

32

a download 2 Start Tap the three dots next to any album, playlist or track and a new menu will appear. Now tap Download and the process will immediately begin to download the selected songs to your phone. Wait for all of the tracks to download before continuing.

Wear options 3 Android Go to the Play Music settings and scroll down the screen until you see Download to Android Wear. Make sure that this option is enabled and then tap Manage Wear downloads to see further information on the available tracks. It’s very easy to miss this option.


Things to expect when dealing with mobile music

tips

1 A slight lag

If you use Bluetooth headphones, you may experience a slight lag from time to time.

2 Use the audio effects

Play Music includes an Audio effects option that can greatly improve sound quality.

3 Cache to stream

Always enable the ‘Cache music while streaming’ option to speed up music playback.

4 External music storage

In Play Music settings, select External as the storage location to save internal memory.

5 Use what works

Only play music on Android Wear when it is the best and most obvious choice.

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Will music playback affect my battery life?

the tracks 4 See Tap Manage Wear downloads to see which tracks have been downloaded to your phone. The ones with an orange icon will be present and you can tap any listing to grey it out and remove the download. It takes some getting used to, but the system is fairly intuitive.

to sync 5 Charge Your watch will need to be charging or hold a high current charge level for the downloaded tracks to start syncing. Now it’s time to be patient and wait for all the tracks to move over to the watch. It may take a good few minutes, but the wait will be worth it.

Yes indeed, but not to the extent you may expect. It is true that the batteries in Android Wear watches are small and that they are designed for moderate use, but playing music for up to an hour a day should be fine. Please bear in mind, however, that the Bluetooth headphones will need extra power.

Is it possible to stream music on Android Wear? Not at this time, but this is a feature that is likely to appear in the future. Currently, it would require even more battery power and so the tracks have to reside on the watch itself. This does, however, offer the advantage of being able to play music when your Android phone is not close to you.

or Wear 6 Phone When you scroll to the Play Music app on

headphones 7 Bluetooth Very few Android Wear watches include a

your watch, you will be given two choices: to play the music on your phone or your watch. Tap Play on Wear and the music will immediately start playing on your connected headphones, provided they have been set up correctly.

headphone jack, so you will need to connect a Bluetooth pair of headphones to the watch to play audio natively. This screen prompt will appear if you have not done this and attempt to play music directly on the watch.

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the music 8 Enjoy It is now time to play the music that has

music controls 9 Simple Swipe when a track is playing to see a

been downloaded to your Android Wear watch. A large play/pause button ensures that managing your playing tracks on the go is as easy as can be. Complexity has been kept to a minimum throughout for easy listening on the go.

selection of simple music controls. You get forward, backwards and volume up/down, all of which are easy to tap at any point. It won’t take long to become completely familiar with how music works on Android Wear.

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33


Tutorials Transfer iPhone data Android App used

» Various Works with » Varies by device

Ensure your important information stays with you when you move from iOS

It’s fair to say that we all make mistakes, so ever gone and bought yourself an on’t beat yourself up too much. hat you’re now looking to move to is a step in the right direction, and d news is you don’t have to leave vast s of iOS-stored data behind. ous tools and tricks exist to allow you e your most critical data across. You ansfer your contacts, music, photos,

your iPhone contacts 1 Grab The easiest way to move your contacts across is to head over to icloud.com on a computer web browser. Log in, click on the Contacts icon and when your contacts appear, select the cog in the bottom left-hand corner and go to Select All. Now click Export vCard.

s file loud.com and then click erge duplicates’. This will integrate y tacts, tidy things up a bit and prevent any crossovers. Now when you go to the Contacts app on your Android phone, you’ll find everyone there.

34

your emails 4 Transfer This part is easy if you’re looking to move your Gmail account over – sign into the Gmail app on Android and everything will appear. If it’s iCloud email you want to move, though, download Microsoft Outlook for Android – it lets you easily set up iCloud using just an email and password.

email, calendar information and text messages, making for an easier transition between operating systems. But there will be a few circumstances – particularly with iOS apps that don’t have a direct Android equivalent – where you may have a few issues. In these cases, simply look for the closest alternative. There are more apps on Google Play than on the App Store these days, so you won’t be short on choice.

Gmail contacts 2 Open Save the VCF file, head to gmail.com and select Contacts from the top-left dropdown. Select More and click Leave The Contacts Preview if the option is available (you can’t import files via the preview so you need to do it via the old contacts screen). Select More and choose Import.

Move your calendar 5 By allowing your iPhone calendar to sync with Gmail, data will automatically appear in Android. Go to Settings>Mail, Contacts, Calendars and ensure your Google account is added. For iCloud-based calendars, the Android app SmoothSync for Cloud Calendar will do the job perfectly for you.


Third-party apps let you seamlessly move between different mobile platforms

tips

1 Use Kindle for books

Proprietary apps such as iBooks are restrictive whereas purchases within cross-platform apps are transferable.

2 Create to-dos in Evernote

Want your lists to be with you regardless of device? Organise yourself into downloading Evernote.

3 Tune in to Spotify

Don’t lock yourself into Google Music or Apple Music. Spotify works across Android and iOS.

4 Try Zinio for magazines

You can’t transfer magazines bought via Newsstand, so check if your favourites are on Zinio. We are!

5 Text with Whatsapp

Even when you port your messages over, they won’t sync. Whatsapp is much more flexible.

Transfer your iOS min texts to Android

guide

With a bit of preparation, moving texts over to Android is rather quick and easy

your photos over 6 Transfer Your photos are not stuck in iOS – connect your iPhone to a PC to export the images then drag them to an Android device. You can also download the Google Photos app on your iPhone that has the bonus of cloud backup. Open the app and select Back up & sync.

1 Find the message file

photos in Android 7 Open Choose high-quality backups rather than

Connect and back up your phone; open iTunes. Look for ‘3d0d7e5fb2ce28881330 6e4d4636395e047a3d28’ in ‘C://[Users]/ [Username]/AppData/Roaming/Apple Computer/ Mobile Sync’ (PC) or ‘~/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/’ (Mac).

2 Convert the messages

Copy that file to your Android phone and store it either on the device itself or on an SD card. Head to Google Play and download the app iSMS2droid (iPhone SMS Import) and tap Select iPhone SMS Database. Look for the file you’ve copied and it will convert it to messages.

the original versions if you want the benefits of unlimited cloud storage. Once Google Photos has synced with the cloud – which can take a while – open the Photos app in Android and your images will be sitting there for you.

your music 8 Copy You don’t have to skip a beat when it comes to porting music from iOS to Android. Sync the iPhone to iTunes and install Google Play Music Manager on your computer. This will take your iTunes files and put them in the cloud, ready for use in Google Play Music.

to Android 3 Restore Now that you have the converted message file available, you need a way for Android to be able to use them. The app SMS Backup & Restore will let you select the backup file. You can use them all or decide how far back you want the messages to go.

and enjoy them 4 Read Now when you go to the Messenger app on Android you should see all of the messages that you have copied and imported. You can now read individual messages and reply to threads, just as you would have done when they were on your iPhone.

35


Tutorials Install and use Amazon Underground App used

» Amazon Underground Works with » Android 4.03 and up

Learn why you don’t have to dig down far to find paid apps for free

For owners of most Android devices, the obvious place to head to when you’re shopping for apps is Google Play. It’s not the only place to go however, as users of Amazon’s Fire devices know well. Amazon’s app store is stocked with many of the apps you’ll find on Google Play. Moreover, the online retailer introduced a service last year called Amazon Underground, which offers selected paid Android apps and in-app purchases for free. Amazon claims that this saves you large amounts of money, as you won’t have to keep paying to play games that charge for additional content. The service even has its own app that makes it simple to use Underground on Android devices not produced by Amazon. Unsurprisingly, you won’t find this app in Google’s Play Store. Follow our guide, though, and you’ll find out how easy it is for you to get free apps from Amazon Underground.

Access the store

This screen shows the Amazon Underground app store home page. To get to it, download and install the Underground app as described below. Then open it, tap the three lines in the top-right corner and select Underground Apps in the drop-down menu

Expand your options +H [QW ECPŦV ƒPF YJCV [QWŦTG looking for among the Underground apps, you can access Amazon’s regular app offerings from the Underground store’s home page by tapping All Apps & Games. Many of the apps under this heading aren’t free, but you’ll have more choice

“Underground offers selected paid Android apps for free ”

Have a browse The store’s front page is divided into sections to help [QW ƒPF VQR CRRU KP FKHHGTGPV categories. The most popular are shown under the highlights reel at the top and if you swipe down, you can browse other sections such as Games, Kids, Utilities and Productivity

Get Amazon Underground deals anywhere Install from the internet to gain access to ‘actually free’ apps from anywhere

If it’s Underground, it’s free

36

Sideload the app

Into the unknown

Amazon has made it easy to sideload the Underground app directly from the internet. Go to amazon.com/ underground on your device and tap Download Amazon Underground. When it has finished, find it in your Downloads folder and tap on it.

By default, Android blocks the installation of apps downloaded from anywhere other than Google Play. Therefore, if you get an Install Blocked notification when you try to install Underground, tap the Settings option and allow installations from unknown sources.

Change your country settings If you’re in a country where Amazon doesn’t offer the Underground service, tap the menu icon in the top left of the Underground app, scroll down to Change Country, and select United Kingdom so you can download free apps.

You’ll know you’re in the Underground app store when you see the ‘actually free’ logo everywhere. Any paid app labelled with it is free to download. So, too, are all in-app purchases offered by these apps and what would be freemium apps in the Google Play store

Get an app

To download an app, tap on it. This will bring up a page showing screenshots, a description, customer reviews and the icons of several related apps. Everything should look familiar if you’ve used Google Play, and the app installation process is exactly the same


Apps used

» Native Android Works with » Android 6.0 and up

Share content i Direct Share See how Android Marshmallow’s new feature reduces the number of taps it takes to share With every new version of Android, Google tries to make it even easier to access the activities we do most often on our mobile devices. Sharing is among the most popular: we send files, photos, web links or other data to friends and colleagues every day.

rm your version 1 Confi Open your Settings app and find About

Making this process quicker is a sure-fire way t enhance our mobile lives. That’s why Google ha added Direct Share to Android 6.0. This sweet feature at the heart of Marshmallow lets you sha content to your favourite contacts with fewer taps the time of writing, Direct Share is only available some of Google’s stock Android apps and a few third-party apps such as WhatsApp and Pushbulle As Android 6.0 hits more devices however, other app are sure to find ways to make the most of this featur in the near future.

compatible apps 2 Install To find apps that implement Direct Share,

3 Update Direct Share c

Phone. If Android Version shows anything older than 6.0, tap System Updates and check for an update. If one isn’t available yet, you’ll need to wait or consider installing a custom ROM.

search for the term in a web browser and Google Play. For the next few steps in this tutorial, we’ll use Pushbullet, a free app that allows you to share links, files and notifications with your contacts.

you share with most o p like Pushbullet. Once yo ndroid 6.0, update to the latest versions of these apps and use them so Direct Share can learn your favourite contacts.

to share 4 Prepare Open Pushbullet, tap the menu icon in the

the word 5 Spread To directly share an item from a Channel

direct approach 6 The To send the notification to a contact, tap

top left and select Channels. Channels are push notifications that you can subscribe to and share. Pick something, tap the menu icon again and select Pushing. Then open the Following tab.

that you’ve subscribed to, tap its name and choose one of its notifications. Then tap the Share icon immediately to its right to bring up the Share With options. This will show your most-used contacts.

their avatar in the Share With window. Each avatar is associated with a tiny icon showing the app you usually use to communicate with that person. Your message will open in that app, ready to send.

37


Tutorials Record music from online radio station Apps used

» Audials Radio Player Recorder Works with » Varies with device

This easy-to-use app lets you listen to and share music from a vast variety of stations. Do you remember a time when the only music you ever listened to was on the radio? When you’d sit by the stereo recording tracks on a cassette tape to listen to again? Well, Audials offers something similar for the digital age. It’s an app that lets you listen to a vast number of radio stations from your Android device, and you can record them too – there’s no sitting around waiting for programmes to start here. With a few taps, you can book in a recording to make sure you don’t miss your favourite radio shows ever again. There’s a lot more to the service too, including a pretty impressive personal recommendation to suggest what to listen to. We’re going to cover the basics in this tutorial, so get downloading; the tips here are based on the free version of the app, but if you like what you see, we recommend to consider upgrading to the fully-featured pro version.

38

Menu options The menu button in the top right of the screen lets you access the various options that the app has to offer

Stations aplenty This is the main page you’ll see once you’ve downloaded the app. It shows a list of the most popular stations you can listen to, music you already have and some podcasts you can feast your ears on too

Even more content Tapping on the large coloured buttons on the front page takes you to an even bigger list of content to choose from. While the popular stations might be enough for some, it’s here that the real meat of the app can be found

Get the app 1 First you’ll need to grab the app from the

familiar 2 Get Once the app has loaded, it’ll take a few

Play Store. There’s a pro version available but we’d suggest picking up the free version first to see if it works for you. There are a few differences, but if you find yourself using the app frequently then an upgrade is a good idea.

seconds to populate the front page with content. Be patient, it’ll all depend on the strength of your internet connection. When it’s finished, you’ll see this screen, showing some of the most popular radio stations and podcasts on the platform.

Sign in The button at the bottom of the screen lets you sign in to your Audials account. This is important if you want to use the service on multiple devices. You don’t just have to install it on your Android phone or tablet, you can add it to your desktop, too

an account 3 Create First off, it’s worth taking a minute to sign in to the app. The account you create here will let you transfer files to your PC. You’ll need to download and install the Audials program on your computer for it to work. Add your details before moving on.


Get even more out of Audials with these quick tips

tips

1 Get the PC version too

If you become a hard-core fan of Audials, it’s worth installing it on your computer, too.

2 Save your favourites

You can store your favourite stations in the radio menu to jump to them quickly.

3 Find some more

Long press a recording to search for other stations that are playing the same artist.

4 Change the look

You can go for a lighter look, and even change the icons the stations display.

5 Go to sleep

You can set a timer to turn off the music if you’re listening to it before going to sleep.

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So what about podcasts? Is it the same deal there?

it yours 4 Make Head back to the main menu and tap on

to genres 5 Go Tap on the genres button. Here you’ll get a

the radio tab. It’s time to start finding some of the stations that you really want to listen to. There’s an incredible array out there, so the next few steps show you the various ways you can filter the stations that are available on the app.

list of the genres that the stations are divided into. It might look a little thin, but don’t fret. Tap on one of them and then scroll down. You’ll see that each of them is broken down further into even smaller sub-genres and categories.

Pretty much, yeah. Again there are loads to wade through, but they’re helpfully broken down into genres and sub-genres. There isn’t the same zapping feature, but you don’t need it quite so much here. Tap on a podcast and you’ll be taken to a list of all the available episodes.

How do I share music to my PC? Once you’ve recorded a segment and you’re signed in to your account, you can press on the recording to share it with your PC or store on your SD card. These are options that are only available if you’ve got an Audials account.

a listen 6 Have Tap on any of the stations to start listening. If you want to start recording straight away, swipe to the right to the recording option. Just tap the big red button to start capturing the music. It’ll save to the recordings section on the main page. Perfect for capturing your favourite shows.

to explore 7 More There are other options when you’re listening to a station: Similar recommends other radio stations, News displays the news feed of a station and Zap lets you quickly jump to other stations that the app thinks you might like to listen to based on your previous listening activity.

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a recording 8 Set If you want to record a station at a specific time, you can. Open the station, tap on the menu button in the top right and select Schedule a recording. Choose when you want the recording to start, how long it should last, and then tick the check box.

the settings 9 Change In the options menu you’ll be able to change a variety of settings. You can change the stream quality, choose whether you want to listen over Wi-Fi or data, add your own stations, and even set up an alarm clock so you get woken up by your favourite smooth jazz.

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39


Tutorials Getmulti-room sound with Chromecast Audio groups App used

» Chromecast Works with » Android 4.0.3 and up

Combine Google’s audio streamers to spread the sound of music around ur home

Google’s Chromecast has been a great addition to a range of media streaming devices because of its low cost, small size and ease of use. Moreover, the Chromecast Audio dongle has given previously outdated stereo equipment a new lease of life, thanks to its ability to produce great sound using oldfashioned analogue inputs. In combination with the Google Cast app, Chromecast Audio devices can also de to work together: all those isolated s sitting in different rooms in

your house can now be connected wirelessly in groups. You can combine all your speakers into a single group or create multiple groups to cast tunes to different areas of your home. Thus, with this feature you can bathe one room in surround sound or hear your music uninterrupted as you go from downstairs to upstairs. Like everything else with Chromecast, groups are harmoniously simple to set up. Follow our step-by-step guide and there will be nowhere in your house where you won’t be able to get your groove on.

takes two (or more) 1 It To cast audio to more than one room, you

More on the menu 3 When you have just one Chromecast Audio device, the card menu for that device in the Google Cast app will show only Device settings and Guest Mode. Add more dongles and Create group will appear on that list. Tap on that to open the settings window for your audio group.

40

the connections 2 Check If you are installing additional

need to configure at least two Chromecast Audio devices. If you have multiple dongles, each one can be in more than one group. Then, for example, you could choose whether to play music upstairs, downstairs or all over the house.

Chromecasts, make sure they are all on the same Wi-Fi network. You can check which network existing dongles are on using the Google Cast app. Tap the three dots in the top left of a dongle’s card, select Device settings and look under Wi-Fi.

your group 4 Name By default, your first group is called Home

link? 5 Missing The Create group window also lists all of

Group. You can change this by tapping on the line under Group name and entering something different. If you plan to have more than one group, it helps to use descriptive names that tell you where your music will play.

your Chromecast Audio devices. If one is missing, check its Wi-Fi connection as described in Step 2, or reboot it by disconnecting the power for 30 seconds. If that doesn’t work, do a Factory reset from the submenu under Device settings.


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Can Chromecast video devices be added to groups?

Chromecasts 6 Combine To add a Chromecast Audio device to your

the card 7 Find Your new group will have a card under the

group in the Create group window, tap its tick box: there is no limit to how many devices a group can include. Then tap Save to return to the Devices tab. A notification should appear confirming that the group has been created.

Devices tab just like your individual Chromecast Audio devices. Swipe down below their cards and you should see it. If it isn’t shown, wait a few seconds for it to appear. It will be indicated by a graphic showing multiple speakers.

not clicking? 8 Group You might get an error message saying that your group couldn’t be created or some speakers aren’t working properly. Try recreating the group or repeat Step 5. If the group’s card is shown under Devices, check under Speakers in Group to see which dongles are missing.

harmony 11 Restore Tap Group delay correction to bring up another window showing a slider. Tweak this control to adjust the delay and bring your lagging speaker into sync with the rest of the group. For the best results, stand where you can hear music from all of the speakers you are comparing.

to cast 9 Time Once you’ve successfully created a group, test it. Head to a Chromecast-compatible music app, find a song and tap the casting symbol. The Cast to box should appear showing your devices and groups. Pick your group and tap Play. You should hear music playing in multiple rooms.

No, neither Chromecast nor Android TV video devices can be added to multi-room groups. However, Google is promising to make it possible to add speakers with in-built Google Cast capability to groups during 2016. This would allow groups to include both Chromecast Audio devices as well as Google Cast speakers.

there’s a delay... 10 If Ideally, the music coming from each speaker in your group will be synced. If there is a delay between speakers however, go to Device settings for the dongle attached to the speaker that is lagging behind. Scroll down to Advanced and find the Group delay correction setting.

final gig 12 The If you change your speaker setup and want

line-up changes 13 Make Editing groups is done in the same way as

to delete a group, open the Chromecast app and find the card under Devices for the group you want to remove. Tap the card’s menu and choose Delete group. A confirmation message will pop up. Tap Delete to erase the group’s settings.

creating them. Tap Edit group in a group’s card menu to bring up a screen identical to the Create group window from Step 6. Here you can remove or add speakers to make music play wherever you want to hear it.

41


Tutorials Master commands in Peach App used

Âť Peach Works with Âť Android 4.4 and up

5GCTEJ HQT HTKGPFU 1PEG [QWĹŚTG CNN UGV WR KVĹŚU VKOG VQ NQQM HQT [QWT HTKGPFU 6JG 5GCTEJ DQZ KU VJG RNCEG VQ UVCTV JGTG DWV KH [QW ECPĹŚV Ć’PF CP[QPG [QW MPQY UETQNN FQYP VQ (KPF 2JQPG %QPVCEVU ;QW ECP CNUQ IGV UWIIGUVKQPU QP 9JQ VQ (QNNQY

New social networking app Peach lets you share what you’re up to instantly Feel like you’ve hit your peak with Facebook but still want to stay in touch with your social circle? Simply had enough of Twitter yet still want to share your opinions with the world? Launched amid a urry of success at the beginning of 2016, Peach might just be the answer. A brand new smartphone-based social networking and messaging app, Peach’s key strength is the ease with which you can send a message to your followers. Thanks to a collection of shortcodes – brief commands that you enter into the messaging box – it’s quick and easy to send your location, what you’re listening to, links, photos and even GIFs to your connections. Various commands are available and they do take a bit of time to learn. But don’t worry, we’re here to take a gander at some of the more useful ones.

'FKV [QWT RTQĆ’NG Getting started with Peach OGCPU UGVVKPI WR C RTQĆ’NG CFFKPI C RJQVQ CPF VGNNKPI VJG YQTNF C NKVVNG DKV CDQWV [QWTUGNH 6JKU ECP DG CNVGTGF CV CP[ VKOG D[ VCRRKPI VJG RTQĆ’NG DCT YJGTG [QW ECP CNUQ UVCTV UJCTKPI WRFCVGU D[ WUKPI VJG RNGVJQTC QH command shortcuts

“It’s quick and easy to share links, photos and GIFs�

4GCF WRFCVGU HTQO [QWT HTKGPFU

5YKVEJ XKGYU

9KVJ HTKGPFU CFFGF CPF RGQRNG VQ HQNNQY UQOG interesting names are in VJGTG UWEJ CU 4QNNKPI 5VQPG OCIC\KPG  [QWĹŚNN UGG VJGKT NCVGUV WRFCVGU QP VJG OCKP UETGGP 5KORN[ VCR VQ TGCF CPF UETQNN FQYP VJG RCIG VQ TGCF QT YCVEJ GCTNKGT WRFCVGU

#NQPI YKVJ VJG OCKP *QOG XKGY [QW ECP UYKRG CETQUU the screen to view the PGVYQTM QH 2GCEJ WUGTU YJQ CTG CNUQ HQNNQYKPI VJG UCOG RGQRNG [QW CTG 6JKU (TKGPFU QH (TKGPFU NKUV NGVU [QW UGG YJCV QVJGTU CTG UJCTKPI CPF OCMG GXGP OQTG EQPPGEVKQPU

Get Peach commands right To get the most out of Peach, you need to know which commands to use in which situation. Let’s look at some popular ones

5JCTG [QWT WRFCVG

your location 1 Share To tell people where you are in the world, type “here�, enter your location and then press Post. Similarly, type “weather� to prompt the weather button, and tap to display the current conditions.

42

awesome GIFs 2 Share A large collection of GIFs for any occasion are available, and you can search for them by simply entering “gifâ€?. Scroll through the list to ďŹ nd what you want, and when you’re happy, tap Post to share.

what’s on 3 Share What do you think about the show you’re watching? Time to let everyone know! Simply enter “TV� and tap the box to enter the name of the programme. Use the “rate� command to share your opinion.

6Q IGV UVCTVGF YKVJ [QWT QYP WRFCVGU VCR VJG TGF DWVVQP CPF UVCTV YTKVKPI 4GOGODGT Peach uses some interesting EQOOCPFU VQ MGGR [QWT WRFCVGU UJQTV[GVKPVGTGUVKPI UVTGCONKPKPI [QWT CDKNKV[ VQ UJCTG )+(U YJCV VJG YGCVJGT KU NKMG CPF OQTG 5GG VJG DQZ QP VJG NGHV HQT OQTG FGVCKNU


Apps used

» Defumblr Works with » Android 4.2 and up

Use Defumblr Smart Lock Scree Get useful information and apps at your fingertips, without ever unlocking your phone Are you often wasting time fumbling around with your smartphone to find the information you need? Do not despair, as this is where Defumblr, available free from Google Play, is here to help. Unlike other lockscreens, where you have the option of selecting which information appears when

your phone is locked, Defumblr learns which data and details are important to you based on your phone usage. This means that calendar notifications, instant messages, emails, your to-do list, latest news of interest and much more can be quickly accessed with a single swipe. Setting up the app is straightforward, and using it is a doddle. The only concern is providing access to so much potentially important data from your lockscreen, but as long as you have a PIN or passcod set up in the app, this should not be a problem.

started with Defumblr 1 Get Click through the setup wizard to access

the weather 2 Check Defumblr makes it easy to simply glance at

the Notification screen, ensure the app is selected and click OK to confirm that you wish to enable Defumblr. You will need to follow the wizard to disable your built-in lockscreen.

the information on your smartphone lockscreen and find out what you need to know. For example, the widget can display the weather conditions and temperature for quick and easy access.

Defumblr 4 Customise Tap the gear icon to view Settings. Here you can manage password options (a PIN or pattern lock are available), specify the number of lockscreen widgets, and configure how information is displayed, such as the weather.

your phone secure 5 Keep As your new lockscreen, you need to ensure that Defumblr is capable of keeping your smartphone secure. Setting a PIN or pattern lock will prevent access to personal apps and accounts such as your browser, Twitter and email.

not disturb mode 3 Do Easily disable lockscreen notification alerts by tapping the Defumblr icon, which should be labelled Notification On by default. In the resulting screen, select Do Not Disturb. Eventually, the app learns when your quiet times are.

Defumblr adapt 6 Watch With regular use, the Defumblr lockscreen adapts based on the latest information arriving on your phone. As information arrives, specific widgets are resized and prioritised. This helps you to quickly find what you’re looking for.

43


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Top mods and tweaks for your rooted device

Hacker Zøne

Jargon Buster Get up to speed with all the terms you will need to know when it comes to hacking your phone

OS Short for operating system. Often the Android ROM will be referred to as the OS – this just means the system files on the Android device that make up your user experience, and is similar to Windows, Mac OS X or Ubuntu on a desktop computer.

ROM Stands for read-only memory. In the context of Android, the ROM refers to all the files that make up the operating system that is installed on your device. Gaining root privileges allows for replacement of the standard ROM with a custom one.

54

CUSTOMISE ADOPTABLE STORAGE

Root Rooting your phone gives apps access to parts of the OS that are normally hidden from consumers. This enables you to run more powerful software and install custom ROMs on your phone.

ROM Manager An app available from the Android Market that enables you to install a whole new version of your OS with a single click. It requires a rooted phone to use and is ideal for those new on the scene.

57

Titanium Backup This app from Google Play enables you to back up everything on your phone – apps, data, settings and all. It means that you can restore your phone to how it was, even after you’ve updated or changed the ROM.

Unrevoked Available from unrevoked.com, this is a one-click tool that can be used for rooting many popular HTC smartphones.

LOCK A STOLEN DEVICE

46

EXPERT CONTROL OF ROMS

ADB Stands for Android Debug Bridge. ADB is mainly used for software development, but it also has some uses for hacking your phone. It can be used to push files onto the system folder, for instance.

Nandroid You might come across the phrase ‘perform a Nandroid backup’. This means using a custom recovery tool to make a back-up image of everything currently on your phone: OS, apps, data etc. It’s very useful should you wish to restore your phone to its previous state later.

Radio ‘Radio’ refers to the software on your Android device that deals with making phone calls and data connections. Updating your radio version can bring better battery life and signal strength to your device. Some ROMs require the latest radio.

Flash The storage in your device comprises flash memory, which is a type of solid-state storage. The terms to flash or flashing mean installing some new software onto your device’s storage.

46 Take expert control of ROMs

Give your phone a new lease of life with these custom ROM tips

52 Hacking Tips & Tricks Essential hacking advice, including how to manage apps effectively

54 Customise your adoptable storage

57 Lock a stolen Android device Locate your misplaced phone or send a stolen device into lockdown by using Google Device Manager

58 Replicate 3D Touch on your Android device Add the iPhone’s 3D and Force Touch functionality to your screen

In Android Marshmallow, microSD cards are usable again. Find out how

56 Measure your heart rate

Monitor your heart rate with any Android device’s camera

52

TIPS & TRICKS


Hacker Zøne

Take expert control s f the best things about Android pared to other ‘lesser’ operating systems is ability to flash custom ROMs. If there’s mething that you aren’t happy with about ur device, or perhaps the manufacturer has ecided not to release further updates for your beloved phone, the wonderful Android community probably has something to suit. Such is the popularity of Android nowadays that choosing the right custom ROM for your needs can be tricky… and often many interesting custom ROMs can slip under the radar. We are here to help! We’ve looked at some of the lesser known custom ROM options available for a number of different devices to help you discover new and interesting alternatives. There are a huge number of custom ROMs available out there made by individual developers, but the number available for a device is generally proportional to the popularity of that device. If you own a super-popular phone such as a Samsung Galaxy or a Nexus, you’ll be set, but if your device isn’t as well supported your choices may be more limited. Most devices have some degree of support however. There’s even the option of making your own custom ROM if you’re using an Honor 5X.

Ask your own question online at littlegreenrobot.co.uk

Can a custom ROM really make my device better? Yes! Aside from potentially achieving a new version of the Android operating system, custom ROMs are generally more frequently updated, more aligned to the needs of an enthusiast user (rather than the manufacturer) and offer greater customisability (as options that might confuse beginners are less likely to be hidden).

Five top tips 1. Back up your data Custom ROMs are usually signed with different certificates to the manufacturer ROM, which means you will need to wipe your data on installation. Ensure you have backed up all of your important data before you start flashing your device.

2. Unlock your bootloader

Bootloader unlock basics Enable OEM unlocking In the latest Android releases, permission to OEM unlock the device has to be granted from the booted device – a nice security addition. In the Developer menu, where you also find USB debugging, turn on the OEM Unlock option.

Unlocking your bootloader is easy… when you know how

Request your unlock code The first place to check to obtain your unlock code is the website of the manufacturer of your device. Note that an unlock code is not required for Nexus devices. Some third party alternatives are also available, such as the DC-Unlocker app, though these are not free.

Unlock your device Once you have your unlock code, you need to apply it to the device – you do this using Fastboot, which is part of the Android SDK. From a command line, do ‘fastboot oem unlock [code]’. Remember, this will wipe your device!

46

Most devices ship with locked bootloaders now to protect the security of your data. Before you can start flashing ROMs, you’ll need to unlock your bootloader. The process varies dependent on the device, but it is generally free via the manufacturer website.

3. Custom recovery In order to flash a custom ROM, you’ll need to have installed a custom recovery, such as TWRP. TWRP is available for most devices, and provides a good way to backup both your data and the device’s stock ROM.

4. Stock ROM Although there are lots of great custom ROMs, there’s a good chance that you will want to return to the stock ROM at some point, either for yourself or to sell your device on. Before you start, check you have a rollback plan!

5. The downsides Custom ROMs always improve as they are developed but don’t be surprised if, early in a device’s life cycle, some features don’t work fully, particularly advanced features such as fingerprint recognition. Devices with Qualcomm chips are generally the best supported.


CyanogenMod Nightlies CyanogenMod releases nightly updates frequently One of the more popular custom ROMs is CyanogenMod, which supports a vast range of Android devices. What you may not know is that as well as its major releases, CyanogenMod’s automated servers prepare nightly builds to warm the heart of even the most dedicated ROM flasher!

2

minutes guide

An alternative to a full custom ROM is a custom kernel, which is at the heart of your Android device

Use custom kernels

To locate a custom kernel, head over to xda-developers.com and check the development forums for your device. Popular phones will have several options available.

1

CyanogenMod 1 Flash Before starting with nightlies, it’s a good idea to flash a regular version of CyanogenMod to your device (assuming there is such a build). You can then use this as your baseline, taking note of which elements work and which do not after the initial flash.

the nightly builds 2 Find Nightly builds for all CyanogenModcompatible devices can be downloaded from get. cm/?type=nightly. They are flashed in the same way as a regular build, and will automatically backup and restore your GApps files. A .dex file rebuild will take place, which may take a while.

Custom kernels are flashed using a custom recovery, just like ROMs – the difference is they only generally flash or patch the boot image.

2

a delta flasher 3 Use Rather than downloading the full ROM every night, it is a good idea to use a delta flasher such as CyanDelta from the Play Store. This will automatically generate and download a patch file containing just the differences between two nightly versions, saving lots of time and bandwidth.

ready to roll back 4 Be Unsurprisingly, nightly builds can have issues. These are generally picked up by developers and fixed in the next build, but they can quite often be show-stopping problems. For this reason, always keep your last good nightly zip available to flash in case of a problem!

Many custom kernels come with a companion app that allows you to configure a number of options. Check your kernel’s release notes and the Play Store.

3

47


Hacker Zøne

nightlies niROM is a custom ROM that actively encourages mmunity participation in its development niROM was originally created by a mber of developers that were previously rking on other projects, including anogenMod. It is primarily designed to n on Nexus devices, but also supports a mber of phones from Oppo and OnePlus. OmniROM has a specific anti-commercial ance – the team’s mantra is that ‘the goal of mni is to experiment with Android evelopment because we enjoy it’. The evelopers listen to the comments and uggestions of the community in order to ultivate a friendly environment in which

Download OmniROM 1 The OmniROM zip file installs can be downloaded from dl.omnirom.org. The builds are sorted by version and date; scroll to the bottom of the list and grab the most recent build. As with CyanogenMod, you will need to also flash GApps.

Root a n OmniROM, so after installation (or update), you’ll need to manually root. In order to do so, download Chainfire’s most recent Systemless SU zip, which is the preferred rooting method for Marshmallow.

48

Updates 4 Security Google has now committed to monthly security updates and the OmniROM team aims to integrate these within 24-36 hours of them being released to AOSP. Security isn’t always prioritised in custom ROMs, so this is refreshing!

their ROM can grow, encouraging users and other developers to get involved and continue to upgrade the ROM. And they’ve done a good job to date! It’s a very inclusive setting – regardless of whether you are an absolute beginner or a seasoned developer, you will be welcomed as part of the ever-growing OmniROM community. The Omni team has recently updated its ROM to Marshmallow, which includes a number of signature Omni features, and is being developed and improved all the time, with new builds released regularly.

with OpenDelta 2 Update OmniROM includes its own update system, called OpenDelta. The system is integrated into the update menu of OmniROM and can be configured to only check for updates on particular networks. It’s open source with contributions welcomed.

ROM feedback 5 Provide OmniROM actively encourages participation and feedback. Omni has a dedicated forum at xda-developers.com, a Gerrit instance for code management and even a number of IRC channels. You can talk to the developers and share your ideas.


MIUI-based ROMs can give your device the look and feel of a Xiaomi Mi phone

In the last few issues of Android Magazine you are likely to have seen reviews of devices from Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi. Its latest phones, the Redmi 3 and the Redmi Note 3 Pro, have been very well received despite having a hugely overhauled version of Android called MIUI. Aside from importing a Xiaomi device from China, there are also two other ways to partake in the Xiaomi experience – the fi rst

device support 1 Check You will first need to check whether your

MIUI features 2 Explore After installing MIUI, you’ll immediately see

MIUI-based ROMs

device is supported, and then download the appropriate zip package at en.miui.com/ thread-151469-1-1.html (you will need to be logged in with a Mi account in order to view the topic).

that almost everything is a tweaked version of stock Android. Although jarring at first, give it a chance and you’ll soon see lots of improvements particularly in areas of permission control and power management.

is to download the MIUI launcher onto your phone, which is known as MIUI Express/ MIUI Lite and can be downloaded from mdc. gd/miuilite. The second is to flash a MIUI ROM port onto your current phone, which is where this guide comes in handy! As always, ensure that you back up your device’s data before doing so. At the time of writing, the MIUI ROM has been ported to 69 non-Xiaomi devices!

about PatchROM 3 Learn If your device isn’t supported and you’re quite handy yourself when it comes to development, check out PatchROM – a set of tools designed to help you port MIUI to your own device. For more details, see micode.net/forum-55-1.html.

2 Android Revolution HD for HTC

minutes guide

ARHD for HTC devices is one of the longest established HTC custom ROMs, along with the LeeDroid ROM

ARHD 1 Download Android Revolution HD is a ROM designed for HTC flagship devices, with ongoing support for the One M9, M8 and M7. The ROM is available from android-revolution-hd. blogspot.co.uk and has very active XDA-Developers support topics.

2 Customise with AROMA The ARHD zip, flashed from a custom recovery as normal, uses the AROMA installer method. This displays a menu after you have started the zip flash, where you can choose which elements of the ROM are included.

Toolbox 3 Sense ARHD uses the Sense Toolbox customisation utility to tweak the installed ROM. Broken down by category, the toolbox (which utilises the Xposed framework) provides a huge amount of tweaks and improvements to the base ROM.

stock 4 Custom ROMs ROMs such as CyanogenMod are based on AOSP and are thus re-built from the ground up. ROMs like ARHD are based on manufacturer ROMs, which limits OS updates but means they are typically more stable.

49


Hacker Zøne

Makeyourown Honor 5XcustomROM Making your own custom ROM is very easy if you are using Honor’s new 5X.Here’s how to get started

Historically, custom ROMs are created by developers as a way to customise their device to suit their own requirements. The process isn’t generally for beginners, but how difficult is it to actually create a basic custom ROM? For the Honor 5X, not too tricky. A script available at MoDaCo.com allows you to make the customisations you want,

TWRP 1 InInstall order to create your custom ROM, you’ll need to install TWRP (after unlocking the bootloader of course). This will let you revert back to stock, as well as giving you the ADB access you need to save your ROM changes ready for distributions.

50

Back up the stock ROM 2 After installing and launching TWRP, use the Backup option in the menu to back up all of the available partitions. We recommend that you back up to microSD and copy the files to somewhere safe, so you always have a way to undo any changes!

Run the scripts 4 When you’re happy with your ROM, you

the zip 5 Prepare When you have the two new files, you

need to run the scripts to save your changes. The details can be found at mdc.gd/5xcustom. These launch from recovery mode to create two files that you’ll then need to add to the template custom ROM zip.

simply need to copy them from your device (using adb pull or perhaps using an external SD card) and add them to the main template ROM zip. Test flash your own ROM to check it all works as it should!

then run some simple commands to package the ROM for distribution. If you want to create a simple custom ROM, with updated apps or with added root access, this is a great place to start. It will also allow you to remove some of Honor’s EMUI customisations should you choose, such as custom icons and themes.

Customisation time 3 Now you need to make your customisations. If this is your first custom ROM, start simple. You can use root access to remove any files you don’t want. You can also adjust the build.prop to show your ROM version and name. Only /system changes will be saved.

your work 6 Distribute That’s it, you are now ready to share your own first custom ROM with others! Specialist Android forums such as xda-developers.com or MoDaCo.com are good places to post your work: be ready for lots of feedback or requests from forum members.


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Hacker Zøne status update Which devices are best for the hacking scene?

Moto G 2015 Rooted?: Yes Active development: QQQMedium Recently rooted and with many custom apps, there’s a lot going on in the Moto G world, including popular ROM options like BlissPop and AOKP.

Tips & Tricks options first if you haven’t already, which can be done by going to Settings>About and tapping Build number seven times. In Developer options, scroll past the half-way point and find Window animation scale, Transition animation scale and Animator duration scale, tapping each in turn and altering the setting from 1x to .5x. While this doesn’t actually speed up the phone, it will make things feel faster, which is almost as important.

Samsung Gear S2 Watch Rooted?: Yes Active development: QQQMedium No, it doesn’t run Android (Tizen, rather) but Samsung’s smart watch can be unlocked using the usual tool Odin, making it a popular option.

Manage annoying app notifications

OnePlus One Rooted?: Yes Active development: QQQHigh Virtually designed for hackers, the OnePlus One has an impressive selection of ROMs available, in various flavours of Lollipop, Marshmallow, Cyanogen and more available.

Nexus 5 (2013) Rooted?: Yes Active development: QQQHigh Still usable three years after release, the ‘pure’ Google device remains a big hit with hackers and developers with many tweaks, hacks and ROMs available.

q

Use animation scale settings to make Android appear faster

Reduce lag with animation scales Lower spec Android phones can feel sluggish at times, especially if they’re running a manufacturer ROM. Performance issues can often be traced to a poor processor and/or a low amount of system RAM, and one example of how a feeling of slowness can perpetuate is with the Nexus 5X, with its 2GB RAM. A good option is to change the Window animation scale setting, found in Settings>Developer options. You’ll need to enable Developer

We need app notifications to keep us up to date with what information is coming and going from our phones and tablets, but from time to time they can start to prove a bit annoying, can’t they? Making matters worse, it can be a little difficult to trace just which app is displaying a notification, but a way around this is to long tap on the notification. In Android Marshmallow, this will result in the notification changing colour, and the name of the app being displayed. We can take this further, however, by tapping the ‘i’ icon, which displays the notification settings for the app in question. You can then opt to Block all, Treat as priority, or Allow peeking – each treating the notifications in a slightly different

Configure notification settings for each app on your phone

way, which should suit pretty much all preferences.

Unlock quickly with Smart Lock Unlocking your phone quickly can be tricky, especially if you have a long password to enter. While added security might be an advantage when you’re out and about, it might be less useful at home, particularly if you live alone. You’ll find the Smart Lock option in Settings>Security (Android Lollipop and later) and once enabled it makes unlocking your phone a lot easier, based upon rules that you can configure. If you can’t find Smart

hacks

Find hidden games in Android

It isn’t just menus and diagnostic tools that lurk beneath the smooth UI of Android. Easter Eggs and games are hidden away, awaiting discovery. The following is for Marshmallow, but similar steps are available for older versions.

52

Find the Easter Egg 1 Open Settings>About phone (or About tablet) and look for the Android version. In some recent Android versions, look for Settings>More to find the About phone screen. Tap Android version quickly five times.

Open the Easter Egg 2 With the Easter Egg revealed, it’s time to open it. In Marshmallow, you should see the material design logo; in Jelly Bean, meanwhile, you’ll see some… well, jelly beans. Long tap the logo to unlock a game.

Play your free game! 3 Not all Android versions hide a game, but in the case of Marshmallow, you’ll find a Flappy Bird clone with the aim being to guide a droid between some forked marshmallows.


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Unlock Android’s secret menus If you’ve read this far, you might have noticed that Android has quite a few secrets, menus and settings tucked away out of sight. The reason for this is quite simple – if misused, these settings can cause problems with security and stability. But what else is hiding in Android, other than Developer options and Smart Lock? Various developer and diagnostic tools can be reached using the dialler, such as

*#*#4636#*#* for the Testing screen, and *#*#1234#*#* to display the current firmware version. Various other codes are available, but their use depends on your phone model and Android version. For instance, those above work on the 2013 LG Nexus 5, but many others that have worked on older devices are no longer valid. This might be due to a lack of support from manufacturers, or because these screens are no longer needed. Fortunately, Android devices are just full of secrets...

Hidden menus in Android reveal diagnostic tools

Automatically unlock Android with Smart Lock settings

Use Facebook in your mobile browser to reduce battery loss

Lock, try Settings>Security>Trust agents, and enable the Smart Lock menu item from here. For instance, you can set your phone to unlock without a code when you’re at home (or another Trusted place) thanks to the device’s GPS. Similarly, when connected to a particular device such as a smartwatch or your car, Smart Lock comes into play and saves you time and needless fumbling around. As well as the Trusted devices and Trusted places options, you can also configure Smart Lock with facial recognition to set up a Trusted face, with voice recognition for the Trusted voice option, and even On-body detection. This final option uses the accelerometer to learn your method of walking, thereby unlocking the phone when it is being carried by someone with your unique gait.

Stop Facebook killing your battery

Hacking the easy way

As the notification sounds, you know it’s just one of those invitations to yet another Facebook game you have no intention of playing. But in the background, something else is also happening. Facebook has a dirty secret. The official Facebook and Facebook Messenger apps are, right now, chomping on your battery at an alarming rate. Sitting in the background, they might keep you in touch with your friends and family but these apps are using Wi-Fi, wasting RAM and draining your battery. To prevent this from happening, you should uninstall – if you want to access Facebook on your phone, use your mobile browser!

Get great new features without getting your hands (too) dirty

Lollipop Screen Recorder Price: Free From: Play Store Need root? No Need to share Android tips, tricks and tweaks with your friends? Use this app to record all of the steps (with finger taps) and then upload the results to YouTube.

MD5 Checker Price: Free From: Play Store Need root? No Is the ROM you’ve downloaded a perfect version? To check for anomalies you’ll need to verify the integrity, which is where MD5 Checker comes in – it’s simple to use, just copy and paste the file name over. Check our website daily for even more tips & tricks

Kernel Manager (ROOT) Price: Free From: Play Store Need root? Yes Adjust CPU frequencies and governor, vibrator strength, undervolt, overvolt, volume settings and much more, but you will need to have root access and BusyBox already installed.

»www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk

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Hacker Zøne Works with

» Android 6.0 Marshmallow Difficulty » Advanced

Customise adoptable s ge In Android Marshmallow, microSD cards are usable again thanks to adoptable storage

You could be easily forgiven for thinking that, in recent years, Google has had a war on microSD cards for Android. Nexus devices never include removable storage now and we’ve also seen the feature being removed by other manufacturers, notably Samsung in the Galaxy S6 range – although pily it returns in the S7 and S7 While removable storage ess of a concern if you’re ser or if you have a high device, if you have a phone with or 8GB card to usic ital.

via Settings 1 IfEnable you own a device (e.g. the HTC A9) with official adoptable storage support, you can simply insert the microSD card and format when prompted. You can also format the card via the Settings menu, although you’ll only be given an all-or-nothing partitioning option, so you may prefer our advanced guide.

ung pansion finally rolls more phones, age is becoming a wider range of ne such device is the he Honor is a particularly ample because adoptable e is not available through the ice’s menu and can only be activated manually using ADB. In this tutorial we’ll look at enabling support and customising exactly how it works. If you find you’re running short of space, enabling this feature is certainly well worth doing.

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setup 6 Advanced For more advanced partitioning, for example a 50:50 split between adopted and conventional storage, you should list disks in the same way as for a basic setup, but use the command sm partition disk:179:160 mixed 50: the key parts being ‘mixed’ for a hybrid setup and ‘50’ for 50 per cent assigned as adopted.


up ADB 2 Set To manually configure adopted storage we’ll use the ‘sm’ command to access Android’s internal storage manager. You’ll need ADB on your device, which is part of the Android SDK. Remember to enable USB debugging from the hidden developer menu and to accept the security prompt.

your card 7 Eject with care When your card is being used as adopted storage, you should be careful not to pull the card out of the phone without ejecting it first – this can cause data corruption. An eject option is available in the Settings menu, or you can simply turn your phone off before removal.

the right 3 Use kind of card Although a low speed card might be okay for general photo use, if you are going to be offloading your apps to the card (which is the beauty of adoptable storage), you should buy the fastest one available. The Samsung Evo+ range is known to be particularly rapid.

8 If you need to reformat After a card has been partitioned for adoptable storage, you should reformat it before using it in a different device. This can be achieved using the Settings menu or the sm partition disk:179:160 public command. Reformatting a card will wipe your data.

4 Decide on partitioning The typical way of setting up adopted storage is to assign the whole card over. This gives the most space, but means that you won’t be able to access the card’s data from a PC. An advanced setup allows you to set a custom split between adopted and regular storage.

card 9 Multiple support When you remove an adopted microSD card from your Android device, the applications you have installed on the card will no longer be available. Android is actually smart enough to be able to remember multiple cards, so you could have different apps on each.

setup 5 Basic In order to assign the SD card fully to adoptable storage, use the command sm list-disks from an ADB shell to show available cards. After noting down the number (e.g. disk:179:160 here), simply use the command sm partition disk:179:160 private to carry out the partitioning. This will wipe the card.

and move 10 Install your apps After enabling adopted storage, apps that indicate microSD support with the android:installLocation attribute will automatically be installed to the device with the most free space. Via the application detail however, you can also manually change where an app is stored.

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Hacker Zøne Works with

» Varies by device Difficulty » Easy

Measure your heart rate Monitor your heart rate with any Android smartphone or tablet, using your device’s camera

One of the big hardware innovations that Samsung included in its Galaxy S5 was an integrated Heart Rate Monitor, which lets you monitor your beats per minute before, after, or during a workout. But did you know that you can check your pulse with any Android smartphone or tablet? Instant Heart Rate is an interesting app that uses your Android device’s built-in camera to track colour

1 Getting started

Download the Instant Heart Rate app from Google Play. Launch the app and tap Get Started. When your device’s light comes on, place your finger over the camera lens so that it completely covers the lens, and hold still. After a moment, the app should register your pulse.

4 Add a note

Add a note to your reading, explaining what that reading represents, and then save it by tapping OK. At this point, you may be asked to create an account if you haven’t already. Tap ‘Create a new account’, and then either sign in with your email address or through Facebook.

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changes within your fingertips that are directly linked to your pulse. So, all you need to do is place your index finger over your camera lens and wait for Instant Heart Rate to convert this information into a heart rate reading. The app can sometimes be a bit temperamental and it may take several attempts for it to get a lock on your pulse, but overall it’s so uncomplicated and easy to use you can’t complain.

2 Start the countdown

The app’s pulse detection can be a bit tricky, so if it doesn’t register your pulse then try moving your finger around a bit, or switching fingers. If this doesn’t work, try cleaning your camera lens as dirt can interfere with readings. It shouldn’t take long for the countdown to start.

5 Monitor your readings

You can view a timeline of all your Heart Rate Monitor readings by tapping the Timeline icon towards the bottom-right of the screen. In the timeline, you can also add comments or tags to your previous readings by simply giving them a tap.

3 Get your reading

Keep your finger still until the countdown hits zero and the app presents you with a heart rate reading. If the countdown gets stuck halfway through, this means you’re not holding your finger steady or you’re pressing down too hard. If this occurs, exit the app and try again.

6 Try longer time frames

By default, the app only measures your heart rate for a maximum of 15 seconds. To scrap this limit, tap the Settings icon in the bottom right corner and deselect ‘Autostop after 15 seconds’. Here you can also choose to share your heart rate readings with Google Fit.


Works with

» Android 2.3 and up » Difficulty Easy

Lock a stolen Android device Locate your misplaced phone or send a stolen device into lockdown with Device Manager

We’ve all experienced that moment of dread when you reach for your phone and find that your pocket or bag is empty (although hopefully you just misplaced your phone, and it wasn’t stolen!). The Android Device Manager app aims to take some of the panic out of a missing device. Once you’ve installed the app, you can log into your account from any computer and see your device’s exact whereabouts via Google Maps.

1 Set up the app

Download Android Device Manager from the Google Play store. Launch the app, read the disclaimer and then tap Accept. At this point, you’ll need to enter your Gmail address and password, and then tap Sign in. You’ll then be taken to the main Device Manager screen.

4 Lock your device

Device Manager can also lock down a missing device to ensure no-one has access to your personal information. To lock your device from the Device Manager website, click Lock and set a password that will need to be entered to unlock your device.

You can also use this service to lock your device, while providing a message and telephone number that will appear on your device’s lockscreen; if someone finds your phone they can touch base with you. And, if it really does look like you won’t ever be seeing your phone again, you can wipe it remotely so you can be confident that no-one’s getting their hands on your personal information. This clever function will help you to feel more safe and secure.

2 Log in to the website

You can check your device’s whereabouts at any time from any computer or device. Head to google.com/android/ devicemanager and login to your Gmail account. The Device Manager website will display your device’s current location via Google Maps.

a message 5 Send Suspect your phone might have been misplaced rather than stolen? You can lock your device while also displaying a message and telephone number. To do this, select Lock, but make sure you complete the Recovery Message and Phone Number fields before finishing.

3 Find a misplaced device

If you’ve misplaced your device around the house, then Device Manager can help you locate it by ringing your device at full volume for up to five minutes. Click the Ring button and, once you’ve tracked down your device, stop it from ringing by pressing its Power button.

6 Remotely wipe data

If you’ve accepted that your device may be gone for good, you can use Device Manager to remotely perform a factory reset. There’s no way to undo this action, but if you’re sure, select the Erase button, read the disclaimer, and then click Erase again.

57


Hacker Zøne Works with

» Varies with device Difficulty » Advanced

Replicate 3D Touch on your Androiddevice Add iPhone’s 3D and Force Touch functionality to your smartphone or tablet screen

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Your typical Android device registers several touch events, including taps, presses, longpresses and swipes. However, est iPhone S cycle takes tep further, with the ion of 3D Touch. ch measures the pressure of uch event, and performs nt levels of action depending firmly you press. If this pretty similar to Apple’s ouch, it’s because it is – 3D s just designed to have more f pressure sensitivity than ouch. e apps are starting to bring functionality to Android users, otably Instagram’s Android hich allows users to zoom in on image by long pressing its humbnail. But if you want to mplement this pressureensitivity across your entire droid device, you now can anks to a new Xposed module. The Force Touch module lets ou add several new types of ouch event to your Android vice, from pressing the pad of our thumb against the screen, to ong pressing and then wiggling your finger. You then assign tasks o each of these new touch events, m launching a particular app to rning your device’s volume up, or lling a favourite contact. In true ple style, you can also specify the essure you need to apply to the reen in order to trigger each of ese new touch events. It can act as n easy way of accessing your evice’s most-used functions.

or 1 Lollipop Marshmallow? If you’re on Lollipop or Marshmallow, go to bit.ly/1DLOwEr, download the Xposed Installer and correct xposed-v*-sdk*-*.zip for your device. Boot into recovery and flash the xposed-v*-sdk zip. Reboot your device. Navigate to Downloads and follow the instructions to install.

a threshold 6 Set Choose from Tools, Apps, or Shortcuts: for example, you could relaunch the last app whenever your press your thumb against the screen. After selecting an action, tap Threshold and use the grey areas to test different levels of force you’ll need to apply before your device registers a Force Touch.


earlier 2 For versions

the 3 Install module

If you’re running an earlier version of Android, go to repo.xposed.info/ module/de.robv.android.xposed. installer and download the Xposed Installer. Use a file browser to navigate to the downloaded file, tap it and follow the on-screen instructions to install. Reboot.

Open Xposed Installer, tap Download and then Force Touch Detector. Swipe to the Versions tab and download the latest version. Tap Install followed by Open. Read the disclaimer and then tap the ‘Permit drawing…’ slider so that it’s in the On position.

Force Touch 7 Test Alternatively, you can set the

Touch 8 Knuckle There are several additional

pressure threshold directly. After setting this threshold completely close the app, as having it open prevents your device from registering Force Touch events. Press your thumb flat against the screen. Your device should register this as a Force Touch and react accordingly.

touch events you can add through Force Touch. Knuckle Touch is where you lightly rap your knuckle against the screen. To start using this touch event, tap Knuckle Touch followed by Master Switch. Set Tap and then choose which action you want to perform.

4 Enable the module Relaunch Xposed Installer. Open the Modules section, then tap to enable Force Touch Detector. Reboot your device and then open the Force Touch Detector app. In the main menu, you can enable the different Touch options and assign actions to them.

Touch 9 Wiggle Return to the main Force Touch Detector menu and tap Wiggle Touch. This kind of touch event occurs when you press your finger against the screen and then move it around without releasing. To start using Wiggle Touch, tap Master Switch and then choose the action you want to perform.

Force 5 Enable Touch Tap Force Touch and enable it by tapping Master Switch. A Force Touch is where you firmly press your thumb flat against the screen. Tell the app which action it should perform when it detects a Force Touch, by selecting Tap and then choosing from the menu.

10 Recover your device While experimenting with different actions you may lose the ability to perform normal touch events, making navigation difficult. If this happens, tap the permanent Force Touch notification. This launches the app, so change your settings and make your device usable again.

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Group test Âť Quadcore phones

ALUE RE

Four powerful contenders that offer genuine value for money

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Group test Quadcore phones «

There’s never been a better time to buy an Android smartphone. The 2016 range of flagship phones are some of the finest we’ve ever seen, but the real movement is currently at the bottom of the market. For a long time, if you wanted to grab yourself a cheap smartphone you would have to accept a plastic design and bottom-of-the-range specs. Fortunately, Google’s Nexus came along and really shook things up. Nexus handsets were cutting edge, but cost effectively half the price of other leading brands. In the years that followed, startups, respected manufacturers and rising brands have tried to copy that template. The outcome is a market saturated with great phones at impulse-buying prices. In this group test we’ve got our hands on four smartphones that offer amazing value for money: the majority of the phones here will set you back less than £180. Each phone is a bargain in its own right, but who will come out on top? Is budget trailblazer Moto still the number-one choice for bargain hunters or has a new face on the scene such as Wileyfox or BQ stolen its thunder? And how about Huawei, the giant from the Far East – can it muscle in and take the crown? Let’s find out.

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Group test » Quadcore phones

Wileyfox Swift

Light as a feather Build quality is very good, and having been made predominately from plastic means that the Wileyfox Swift is really light at just 135g. Its textured back feels great to hold, too

information

Flash camera The Swift’s rear 13-MP ECOGTC KU OCFG HTQO ƒXG lenses and includes a dual flash to help you get better quality images in low-light conditions. Images will please most users

Price £129/$185

»More information wileyfox.com »Supplied by Wileyfox

technical specs » Operating system........Cyanogen 12.1 (Android 5.1.1)

» Processor...........................Quadcore Qualcomm Snapdragon 410

» Memory ...............................2GB RAM, 16GB storage » Dimensions.......................71 x 141.5 x 9.37mm » Weight...................................135g » Display size .......................5-inch » Display resolution........1280 x 720 (294ppi) » Connectivity.....................Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 » Camera ................................Main: 13MP Front: 5MP

»head-to-head Design

Quality speakers The two downward-facing speakers produce good sound that can reach pretty high levels. Output is warm, and certainly not the usual tinny sounds generally dished up at this price

Removable battery

It’s pretty middle of the road, but not in a bad way. Wileyfox hasn’t pushed the boat out design-wise and the result is a good-looking, curved black slab with a nice grippy backplate.

The 2,500mAh Li-ion battery is removable. It easily lasts a full day’s use in our tests, but then it doesn’t have a huge amount of pixels to power and the OS is light and well optimised

Specifications Not mind-blowing by any stretch, but the Swift has plenty in its tank. The processor and memory combination work well to power everything and the Cyanogen OS is well optimised.

Display It’s the first thing you notice when you turn the Swift on and it’s a reassuring presence when using it. Colour reproduction is bright and natural, if a tiny bit washed out.

Performance The Swift performs more than adequately in everyday use. The Cyanogen OS integrates well with the hardware inside, and navigating around pure Android is slick and smooth.

Verdict »Wileyfox hasn’t made any compromises here. The Swift is a smartphone that makes a mockery of its price tag and we can’t recommend it highly enough

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Wileyfox Swift

A new startup company with big plans for the budget market Wileyfox announced itself on the Android scene last year by releasing two smartphones, both of which shipped for under £180. This new startup with a great marketing strategy impressed us greatly, and our fondness only grew after testing the phones themselves. We’re featuring the Swift here, which retails at just £129, and what you get for your money is pretty incredible. Let’s start with the design. From the front it looks like a Nexus 5: it’s black, nicely curved around the corners and the back casing is a nice textured plastic. It’s very pleasing to the eye, but it does look like almost any other Android phone. When you launch it, the bright and crisp screen hits you straight away. Don’t let that price tag fool you; the Swift has a cracking five-inch 1280 x 720 HD screen with 294 ppi. It never reaches Samsung’s screen quality, but it’s more than adequate for anything we threw at it. Reading was never a strain and watching video was nice and sharp, and even the sound quality is decent.

The screen is even protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 tech too – Wileyfox hasn’t scrimped on virtually anything. The processor is the 64-bit budget chip of choice for most, the Snapdragon 410 Qualcomm offering. Clocked at 1.2GHz it efficiently powers everything for general use, although app opening times were a bit slow. There’s 2GB RAM for support too, while storage sits at 16GB and is expandable to 32GB. Nothing out of the ordinary then. Wileyfox has differentiated itself from the crowd by releasing both its handsets with the open source Android ROM Cyanogen 12.1 as its operating system. Based on pure Android 5.1.1, Cyanogen allows for complete customisation and provides great security. It’s a refreshing risk, but one we’d much prefer to see over an outdated OS. The 13-MP main camera easily outperforms most budget handsets too. Detail in images may not be perfect but colour reproduction is simply exceptional.


Group test Quadcore phones « Lollipop skinned Emotion UI is skinned over the top, and it lacks a bit of polish in our opinion. It’s not a game-changer and it doesn’t combine well with the premium design and specs

Huawei P8 Quick shooter The P8 lets you snap a photograph even when the phone is locked. Double-tap the downward volume button and you’ll instantly take a photo in about one second

information Price £354/$510

»More information consumer.huawei.com »Supplied by Huawei

technical specs » Operating system........Android 5.0 » Processor...........................Quadcore 2.0GHz, quadcore 1.5GHz

» Memory ...............................3GB RAM, 16/64GB storage

Wake up Huawei has included a Voice Wake Up feature that enables you to wake your P8 from sleep with a predetermined phrase. Setup is easy (repeat three times) and it functions well

Knuckle tap Huawei’s Knuckle Sense technology differentiates DGVYGGP [QWT ƒPIGT CPF knuckle. Double tap with your knuckle to take a screenshot, or draw a circle to cut out a part of the screen

» Dimensions.......................144.9 x 72.1 x 6.4mm » Weight...................................144g » Display size .......................5.2-inch » Display resolution........1080 x 1920 (424 ppi) » Connectivity.....................Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC » Camera ................................Main: 13MP with Optical Image Stabilisation Front: 8MP

»head-to-head Design The empty space at the bottom withstanding, the P8 uses the finest materials to create a handset that oozes class. The unibody aluminium casing is much more pleasant than plastic to hold.

Specifications Not one, but two quadcore engines help the P8 chug along very nicely. It’s paired with 3GB RAM for easy multitasking, and has enough about it to please even serious power users.

Huawei P8

Display

The Chinese manufacturer is undercutting the big boys and making a real statement at the same time Huawei has quickly become one of the biggest players in the Android market. Its P8 handset might stick out like a sore thumb in this test price-wise, but that’s not to say it doesn’t represent incredible value for money. It’s actually a pretty disruptive price considering Huawei is taking aim at the likes of Samsung, Sony and LG rather than Motorola, Wileyfox or BQ. It may not be fair that we’re featuring it in this test, but it’s a prime example of nabbing a high-end phone and still saving yourself more than a couple of hundred pounds. The P8 is made from a single piece of unibody aluminium, which screams premium as soon as you take it out of the box. Those white antenna bands are ugly, and we did feel it needed some smoother curves to add some real class. Our white-and-champagne test unit will obviously divide opinion, but it at least helps it to stand out in this group test. At just 6.4mm thin it’s lighter than the Samsung S7 and slips easily

into a pocket. Your on/off button, volume rockers and, surprisingly, two SIM ports (one acts as a microSD slot, up to 128GB) live on the right-hand side. The screen’s 424 ppi pixel density immediately puts it in a league with the big boys. It’s 5.2-inches, 1080 x 1920 and it’s a real beauty. There’s barely any bezel on either side of the screen, and it could’ve been even better if it wasn’t for the wasted space at the bottom. Everything is powered by two – yes, two – quad-core processors. One is clocked at 2.0GHz, the other at 1.5GHz. Chuck in 3GB RAM and you’ve got a package that even power users won’t be able to find any faults with. Smartphone camera fans will have a lot of fun with the P8. There’s Optical Image Stabilisation onboard and a DSLR-quality Image Signal Processor inside the 13-MP shooter. It leads to lovely images, with bright and natural colours. The Auto mode was great, and even low-light performance was impressive.

Crisp colours and nice viewing angles highlight this 5.2-inch, 1920 x 1080p screen. We really like the lack of side bezels, tricking the eye into thinking you’ve got a bigger screen.

Performance The Emotion UI does frustrate us slightly, but it doesn’t take anything away from the P8’s overall performance. It’s lightning quick to navigate around and it can handle a lot of use.

»Verdict

The P8 is one of the market’s most disruptive phones. It goes to show what you can get if you look outside the ‘big five’ for your next phone

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Group test » Quadcore phones

BQ Aquaris X5

Solid storage Some budget phones will cut cost on the storage side of things. You can upgrade your storage to 32GB via the SD card, which will actually please most average users

information

13MP camera

Price £179.90/$260

$3 JCU ƒVVGF VJG : YKVJ the same camera sensor setup as the OnePlus One. The apps (there’s a BQ and Cyanogen one) aren’t great, but results are sharp and snappy

»More information bq.com »Supplied by BQ

technical specs » Operating system........Android 5.1 » Processor...........................Quadcore 1.4GHz Snapdragon 412

» Memory ...............................2/3GB RAM, 16/32GB storage

» Dimensions.......................144.4 x 70.5 x 7.5mm » Weight...................................148g » Display size .......................5-inch » Display resolution........1280 x 720 (294 ppi) » Connectivity.....................Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 » Camera ................................Main: 13MP, dual-LED flash Front: 5MP

»head-to-head Design

Cupertino inspired It is a bit of an iPhone copycat, there’s no denying it, but that works in its favour. BQ has used quality materials, giving the impression that this phone should be a lot more expensive!

Big battery

Our favourite phone in this test when it comes to simple aesthetics. It borrows heavily from the iPhone, but we really like the black and dark grey combo and aluminium sides.

The Aquaris can last for a full two days of use, which is no mean feat. It might not have to power a huge amount, but the 2900mAh battery cell is among the strongest out there

Specifications BQ has used a slightly better Snapdragon chip than its rivals, and with 2GB RAM onboard to help, you are getting a lot of phone for your money.

Display The Color+ calibration technology left the X5 display a little too saturated for our eyes. It is a bright and deeply colourful display though, and viewing angles were also excellent.

Performance Cyanogen is skinned over Android 5.1, but it works really nicely here. Specifications are definitely not budget quality, and we had no worries giving the X5 the power user experience.

Verdict »It may be a brand new name but BQ is punching well above its weight. The Aquaris X5 marries best-intest design with excellent everyday performance

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BQ Aquaris X5

The small Spanish manufacturer looking to make waves in the budget market There are a lot of similarities between BQ and Wileyfox. A year ago, no one had ever heard of them. Now, between them, they arguably have the two best value devices in the world. No mean feat. The similarities, design wise, between the BQ Aquaris X5 and the iPhone 6 are plain to see. Not that it’s a problem in the slightest. For the price, you don’t expect to see a lovely dark grey aluminium side and an overall aesthetic that is our favourite in this group test. The plastic backing picked up fingerprints galore, but that didn’t bother us too much. At 7.5mm thick, it only helps you think you’ve got a quality product in your hand, especially as the build quality is sturdy too. There’s no flex on offer here. The screen takes cues from Samsung in that it goes for the oversaturated look, operating with a Color+ calibration. It’s a five-inch, LCD display that offers the usual 1280 x 720 HD screen. It’s not high-end by any stretch, but it’s more than adequate for normal users. Our overriding thought is that it

doesn’t look natural, but that will simply be a matter of personal choice. The Aquaris X5 is the second phone in this test to skin Android with the Cyanogen OS – an OS you may not be familiar with, but check out this issue’s feature on page 20 to find out about its pros and cons. It’s certainly nothing to be worried about, even if you’ve never got involved with or understood the development/hacking side of Android. It offers a fresh twist on the normal Android OS features. The vertical app drawer for example, only available to Marshmallow users, is a personal preference of ours. There’s even a battery optimisation feature, which can get you two days’ worth of use. It runs smoothly too, with a generous 2GB RAM helping you multitask a variety of apps. There’s enough power from the quadcore Snapdragon 412 chip. It’s clocked at 1.4GHz which was enough for some gaming and speedy web browsing. We chucked a lot at the Aquaris X5 and it handled it with aplomb.


Group test Quadcore phones « It’s slower than before Lollipop is slower than Kit Kat, that’s common knowledge, but the Moto G doesn’t seem to manage the software very well. But there’s only 1GB RAM after all...

Good battery The non-removable (boooo!) 2390mAh battery lasts a day of normal use. Obviously, abuse it with constant video-watching and you’ll need a late-afternoon juice-up

Moto G 4G (2nd gen)

information Price £139.99/$200 »More information motorola.com »Supplied by Moto

technical specs » Operating system........Android 5.0.2 » Processor...........................Quadcore 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400

Familiar shell Moto thought the original Moto G was so well designed that it built a replica over a year later. We can question the inspiration, but we certainly can’t question the excellent quality

Lack of bloat Motorola skins the G very lightly – who knows what performance would be like if it didn’t. There are some useful add-on apps too, like Migrate to move data to a new phone

» Memory ...............................1GB RAM, 8GB storage » Dimensions.......................141.5 x 70.7 x 11mm » Weight...................................155g » Display size .......................5-inch » Display resolution........1280 x 720 (294 ppi) » Connectivity.....................Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 » Camera ................................Main: 8MP Front: 2MP

»head-to-head Design This second generation of Moto does look a bit outdated given its larger waist. Some sort of innovation would’ve been nice, but it’s still a smart looker.

Specifications

Moto G 4G (2nd gen) Has the original budget trailblazer lost its place at the top of the best-value list? Motorola was the first company to make the budget Android market cool. It was previously a series of virtually unusable handsets running a ridiculously outdated operating system, and then came along the original Moto G. It showed you could get good specifications and a nice experience for very little outlay. As the budget leader, Moto now has a lot of competition. It’s remained a firm fan favourite, but is it still doing enough? On paper, it’s now got some catching up to do. This is not a bad phone, but there are better options for your money. The design now feels a bit outdated, where it once set a good standard. Most phones have got slimmer and slimmer, but at 11mm thick the Moto G is now pretty hefty. It does feel sturdy as a result, and that might actually appeal to some older users. Moto has stayed faithful to its original design, but we would’ve liked some more innovation.

The main problem lies under the hood. There’s only 1GB RAM, which is now the bare minimum. It doesn’t help the processor out like the others in this test, and that shows in normal use. Apps take that little bit longer to load and menus more time to appear. You only get 8GB of storage out of the box, which verges on comical, especially when you consider it uses nearly half of that on the OS. You’ll need to order an SD card separately for sure. On the plus side, the display is still something to be proud of. It feels natural, especially when you compare it to the BQ handset. There’s Corning Gorilla Glass 3 to offer protection too, which shows that Motorola hasn’t actually scrimped on every element. The phone markets itself as 4G compatible, but that’s nothing really to shout about nowadays. Don’t settle for the 3G-only model though – it’s now extremely out of date.

It falls short in this aspect. The processor is acceptable but there’s only 1GB RAM to help, and a measly 8GB of built-in storage, which equates to 4GB in real terms.

Display A real redeeming feature. It’s an impressive five-inch canvas that gives lovely natural colours and reminds us why we fell in love with the original model.

Performance Because the specifications are outdated, performance is notably worse than its group test rivals. It doesn’t seem to handle even a lightly-skinned Lollipop OS.

»Verdict

The next generation of Moto G is arguably its most important. Others have now shown it the way, and Moto needs to lift its game to stop being left behind

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Group test » Quadcore phones

The Winner... Huawei P8 It’s all change in the budget market. Previous champion Motorola has slipped behind the times and been overtaken by a pair of new startup firms. Wileyfox and BQ GROUP have attacked the budget market with real venom, TEST WINNER bringing out smartphones that have no right to retail for the price they are. A cheap Android phone used to mean real cost-cutting along the way from the manufacturer. What makes the Wileyfox Swift and BQ Aquaris X5 stand out for us is that there’s no sign of any compromise. It makes you think: do flagship phones need to be so scandalously priced? The real value lies in these two phones, for certain. It was perhaps unfair to put the Huawei P8 in this group test. It originally retailed for closer to £350, but shop around and you’ll find close to £200 knocked off the price. What you get in return is an Android smartphone that was meant to be a flagship killer, let alone a Moto G rival. You get not one, but two quadcore processors and a whopping 3GB RAM. It all helps to power a gorgeous full HD screen, with very little in the way of bezels. Performance is suitably impressive, and the unibody aluminium design screams premium too. All in all, it’s a clear winner. The truth is, the budget market is only just starting to hot up. There’s never been a better time to buy an Android phone, no matter what your budget or needs. Consumer choice has never been greater, and long may that continue.

Wileyfox Swift

Huawei P8

BQ Aquaris X5

Moto G 4G (2nd gen)

OS

Cyanogen 12.1 (Android 5.1.1)

Android 5.0

Android 5.1/Cyanogen

Android 5.0.2

Processor

Quadcore Qualcomm Snapdragon 410

Quadcore 2.0GHz, quadcore 1.5GHz

Quadcore 1.4GHz Snapdragon 412

Quadcore 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400

Memory

2GB RAM, 16GB storage

3GB RAM, 16/64GB storage

2/3GB RAM, 16/32GB storage

1GB RAM, 8GB storage

Dimensions

71 x 141.5 x 9.37mm

144.9 x 72.1 x 6.4mm

144.4 x 70.5 x 7.5mm

141.5 x 70.7 x 11mm

Weight

135g

144g

148g

155g

Display size

5-inch

5.2-inch

5-inch

5-inch

Display resolution

1280 x 720 (294 ppi)

1080 x 1920 (424 ppi)

1280 x 720 (294 ppi)

1280 x 720 (294 ppi)

Connectivity

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Camera

Main: 13MP, Front: 5MP

Main: 13MP with Optical Image Stabilisation, Front: 8MP

Main: 13MP, dual-LED flash Front: 5MP

Main: 8MP Front: 2MP

Overall score

66


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Reviews Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge

Is Samsung’s evolution rather than revolution approach enough?

Being in the business of making successful Android flagship devices is no easy feat. Just ask Sony. Or HTC. Or LG. Arguably the only company that managed to really triumph with its flagship last year was Samsung, with the acclaimed (albeit not perfect) S6 and S6 Edge, which were shortly followed by the S6 Edge + and the Note 5. Highly capable mid-range devices have continued to erode the need for ultra high-spec devices over the last year, and with companies such as Xiaomi entering the fray with the competitively priced and highly capable Mi5, there has never been more pressure to deliver a truly exceptional experience with top of the range products. In 2015, Samsung took a brave step with the S6 range: it removed features that long-standing Samsung fans demanded from Galaxy S products, such as removable batteries and expandable memory. In addition, it shifted focus to design excellence, producing well-made, thin devices – at the expense of battery life.

Sharp display The Super AMOLED screen provides incredible sharpness, contrast and perfect blacks, at the expense of truly faithful colour reproduction

Always on The S7 models feature an Always On display, which uses minimal battery but provides time and selected PQVKƒECVKQPU at a glance

“Better battery life, the return of a microSD expansion, waterproofing and a refined in-hand feel” Despite this, the devices were still successful. Outstanding cameras, pared-down software customisations and that pure desirability meant that the Galaxy S6 and its derivatives were without a doubt the finest Android phones released to date. With the new Galaxy S7 range, Samsung looks to have done exactly what it needed in order to build on this success – it’s retained the same design language and instead focused its efforts on tweaking the formula to address the issues with the S6, looking to win back the Galaxy S faithful in the process. It’s also looking to make money on its flagships, with the S7 starting at a slightly eye-watering £569 SIM-free. If, as an S6 owner, you wrote down a list of improvements you’d like to see in a future model, it’s quite feasible that you’d ask for better battery life, the return of a microSD expansion, waterproofing and perhaps a slightly refined in-hand feel. All due credit to Samsung, it clearly

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No intruders 6JG ƒPIGTRTKPV UGPUQT KU QP VJG front of the device and is still a physical home button. Recognition is blissfully quick and accurate

EDITOR’S CHOICE


Review knows this– because that’s exactly what you get with these new models. The S7 and its S7 Edge sibling both gain bigger batteries. The S6 included a 2550mAh cell, which has grown to 3000mAh in the S7. That’s an increase of around 17.5 per cent, so it’s reasonable to expect a similar increase in stamina. Removable storage is indeed back, with the SIM tray on the top of the device now including a microSD slot too. With the price of 128GB microSD cards having fallen precipitously in recent months, it’s now incredibly cheap to achieve a massive amount of storage capacity in your phone. The SIM tray has a rubber seal, part of the new waterproofing and dustproofing IP68 rating, which means you can drop your phone into a litre of fresh water for 30 minutes with no ill effects. The fact that Samsung has included this level of protection without negatively

impacting the form factor is particularly impressive. The bigger battery means that the device has filled out a little, coming in at 7.9mm versus 6.8mm on the S6. The S6, S6 Edge and S6 Edge + all included a squared-off edge on the back, a design feature that Samsung departed from with the release of the Note 5. The updated Note introduced a curve on the sides of the back panel, which has now graduated to both S7 devices. The result is a much more comfortable feel in the hand, particularly for the S7 Edge with its thinner sides. As well as these improvements, the S7 includes the specification bumps under the hood that you would expect of a new model. The Exynos 7420 octa-core processor, sourced from Samsung’s own processor unit, is upgraded to an Exynos 8890 octa-core, this time featuring four custom Mongoose cores. The graphics

Discreet camera

Flashy features

The camera module protrudes from the back of the device far less than before, aided by a slight increase in device thickness

The combined camera flash / heart rate module typical of recent Samsung devices remains on the S7. The flash is not dual-tone

processor is also upgraded to a Mali-T880. The net result? Some of the highest benchmark scores ever seen. The processor is additionally paired with 4GB RAM. As is often the case at the high end, the spec increases don’t lead to a hugely variant performance – the S6 was already a speedy device. A full complement of wireless connectivity is included, with speedy Category 9 LTE, dual band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac MIMO Wi-Fi, the latest Bluetooth 4.2 LE standard and NFC, which is limited in utility at the moment but is vital for forthcoming mobile payment products such as Android Pay. The S7 includes a microSD port, with Samsung choosing not to migrate to the USB Type C standard for this generation. Although this may mean that the device doesn’t include the ‘latest and greatest’, the reality is that Type C is actually something of an inconvenience when you’re likely to have a host of microUSB devices around the house. Maybe we’ll see it in the S8? Fast Charge Wireless is included in the S7 devices, as previously seen on the S6 Edge + and Note 5. On the S6, wireless charging always felt like something of a compromise (it was very slow), but thankfully this is no longer the case. A Fast Charge compatible charger is included in the box, which can charge an S7 from flat in 90 minutes or an S7 Edge in 100 minutes. If there was one feature that defined the S6 range, it was undoubtedly the camera. After years of playing second fiddle to a certain rival device, there finally came along an Android phone that delivered. The S6 camera didn’t only deliver excellent pictures (particularly in good light), it was also extremely fast and with an impressive camera app, easily launched directly from the physical home button. For the S7, Samsung’s focus is on improving the former device’s average low-light performance, with a reduction in megapixels but highly improved light capture with larger pixels and an increased aperture. The camera app itself remains mostly unchanged, exhibiting the same excellent performance, intuitive design and a wealth of camera modes.

Fits in your hand The sharp edge on the back of the S6 is replaced by a Note 5-like curve, which feels more comfortable to hold

The S7 family is available in gold and black in the UK, with two further colours (white and silver) available globally

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Reviews “The S7 is likely to have everything you’d ever need in a camera for the majority of buyers ” The result is a camera that is massively improved compared to its predecessor when taking pictures in challenging light conditions. The reduction in raw megapixels does result in a loss of detail when zooming in, but it’s no question a price worth paying for the improved low-light performance. Focusing using the dual pixel phase detection system, previously only seen on a few high-end digital SLRs, is incredibly fast. The saying goes that the best camera is the one you have with you, but with the S7, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s the best camera you own anyway – lack of optical zoom aside, the S7 is likely to have everything you’d ever need in a camera for the majority of buyers. Paired with the new waterproofing addition, it’s a great holiday camera too! Samsung flagships exclusively use Super AMOLED screens and the S7 is no exception. Next to the S6 there is no noticeable difference between the displays, but this isn’t necessarily a weakness – the panel on the S6 was exceptional and it is outstanding in this device too. Compared to LCD displays, the use of AMOLED

means that blacks are truly dark and that colours are saturated and really pop, even if they aren’t necessarily true-to-life representations. Brightness is excellent, outdoor visibility is very good (traditionally an AMOLED weakness) courtesy of an automatic sunlight mode, and the auto brightness does a great job. A nice feature – albeit one that is hidden by default but can be activated by using Density Menu from the Play Store – is the ability to switch between standard and condensed mode, which shrinks UI elements to make better use of the screen’s real estate. Since the launch of the original Galaxy S, Samsung has taken a lot of criticism for TouchWiz, its custom skin on top of stock Android. While the TouchWiz branding itself has long been consigned to history, Samsung devices still feature a heavily modified version of Android, even if it becomes slightly more pared down with each successive release. Samsung has made concerted efforts to reduce the annoying sounds that plagued devices like the S5, and navigating the device’s menus is now more intuitive than ever with increased use of text labels (although

The new camera

The S7’s camera will not disappoint photography fans The megapixel race is over – while rivals such as Sony tout 23-megapixel cameras (but don’t necessarily deliver on image quality), the Galaxy S7 features a 12-megapixel sensor, reduced from 16 megapixels on the S6. With OIS, an f1/7 aperture, 1.44-micron pixels and dual pixel

phase detection auto focus, the S7 takes excellent pictures, particularly in low light – the camera can capture 95 per cent more light than before. The improvement in image quality in ideal conditions is actually marginal compared to the Galaxy S6, however.

The S7 models have full compatibility with the Gear VR system, powered by Oculus. Far more immersive than Google Cardboard, Gear VR is a great introduction to virtual reality

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slightly over the top in some places). Additionally, while there is still no shortage of Samsung add-on features, they are less intrusive now and are mostly all valuable additions. A partnership with Microsoft means that some additional software is preinstalled on the device, such as Word, Excel and OneNote. Some annoyances remain, such as the renaming of the Calendar app to S-Planner, which is sure to cause confusion for new Samsung users looking for the application in their launcher menu. Upon picking up an S7 device, you can’t fail to be immediately impressed. The glass front and back, metal edge and impeccable fit and finish really make it feel like a well-engineered product. It’s neither too heavy nor too light, and it sits well in the hand thanks to that curved back. The power button on the right hand side falls naturally to the hand and the volume buttons are separate on the left of the device. Samsung persists with its multi-tasking Home>Back capacitive key layout, in contradiction to the Back>Home multi-tasking Android standard seen on-screen on Nexus devices, but this doesn’t take long to get used to. The device setup wizard includes a huge number of initial steps, but it does offer the ability to copy data from another device using the USB adaptor that is included in the box. With Android Marshmallow on board, the S7 is much better at restoring applications and data from backup, an area in which Android has always lagged behind. The process is far from perfect, but it is getting there. During the setup, the user is presented with the option to use Easy Mode. The S7 offers an optional iPhone-like homescreen experience, which dispenses with the traditional app drawer and just dumps all apps on the home screens. We’re not big fans of this approach. As you’d expect, the performance of the device is very good, no matter how intensive the app or game you throw at it. 4K video recording, virtual reality, complex 3D gaming – everything is


Review

Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 Edge £569 / £699 (S7), £639 / $799 (S7 Edge) »More information samsung.com »Supplied by Samsung UK

Technical specs

»Operating system............. Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 »Processor ................................ Samsung Exynos 8890, quadThe camera is key to the S7 experience and it can be accessed quickly by double tapping the home key – one of the device’s best features managed with aplomb and without significantly heating up the device, courtesy of heat pipe cooling. Heat is a genuine concern with today’s flagship devices, but it looks like manufacturers have the issue in hand for 2016. One slight oddity that lives on from the S6 is an excessive keenness to shut down applications in the background, despite the huge 4GB of RAM. We wouldn’t mind seeing Samsung improve this behaviour in future. One question you might ask is whether the S7 is a worthwhile upgrade if you are a current S6 owner. If you own an S6 or S6 Edge, the vastly improved battery life alone is a compelling reason to do so. Together with the other incremental improvements is clearly a better device. I currently using an S6 Edge less clear – that model ha larger battery already and

bigger 5.7-inch screen. Again however, improvements such as waterproofing and a microSD slot are undoubtedly valuable. Samsung has drawn a formidable line in the sand for other manufacturers. Put simply, the S7 and the S7 Edge are by some margin the best devices available in the Android world today. Yes, there is still room for improvement next time round – particularly in the area of software refinement and of course, a further battery life boost will always be welcome – but Samsung has certainly succeeded in producing an exceptional device that is suitable for all, albeit at a hefty price.

» » » » » » » » »

core 2.3 GHz Mongoose + quad-core 1.6 GHz Cortex-A53 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 in some markets) Memory..................................... 32GB ROM / 4GB RAM Dimensions............................ 142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm (S7), 150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm (S7 Edge) Weight......................................... 152g (S7), 157g (S7 Edge) Display size ............................ 5.1-inches (S7), 5.5-inches (S7 Edge) Display resolution............. 2560x1440, 577 PPI (S7), 534PPI (S7 Edge) Front camera........................ 12 MP / f1.7 Rear camera.......................... 5 MP / f1.7 Connectivity .......................... 4G LTE CAT 9, WiFi 802.11 a/b/ g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2 LE, ANT+, USB 2.0, NFC Expansion slot..................... microSD up to 200GB

Battery life The S7 packs a 3000mAh battery and reaps the benefits with incredible battery life

Good for Keen photographers While the camera isn’t always a massive improvement on the S6, it’s still exceptionally good, particularly in low light

Challenging conditions Samsung’s waterproofing and dustproofing adds no bulk, no port covers and no inconvenience. Incredibly useful!

S7 Edge

A larger screen and longer battery life sets the Edge apart from the S7 – but is it worth it? The S7 range has changed for this generation – the Edge + product has been dropped and the regular Edge device has grown in size from 5.1-inches to 5.5-inches (down from 5.7-inches on the S6 Edge +). From a specification perspective, the S7 and S7 Edge are identical, barring the screen and the fact that the Edge version has an even larger 3600mAh battery. As well as providing more separation from the 5.7-inch Note 5,

the revised line-up makes the decision whether to buy a regular S7 or an Edge more straightforward. Looking for a slightly cheaper, more compact device and not fussed about the Edge features? The S7 is for you. Looking for a bigger, fancier screen and larger battery? Pick up the Edge! The utility of the Edge screen itself is still very much up for debate – as with the original, the benefit concerns aesthetics and wow

factor rather than functionality, and we found that in daily use, clicking elements at the side of the screen can become a chore due to the curve. It looks stunning though! From a design perspective, the Edge enjoys the same changes as the regular S7, including the curved edges of the back. The benefit is more pronounced on the S7, however; with the Edge screen necessitating thinner sides to the device, sharpness is reduced.

Bad for

AOSP fans Samsung continues to refine its customised Android interface, but it still won’t appeal to stock Android fans

Cleanliness obsessives

The S7 is a fingerprint magnet – you’ll be forever cleaning it! The white model is marginally less susceptible

Verdict The Galaxy S7 is quite simply the best Android phone you can buy today. Outstanding.

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Reviews Xiaomi Mi 5 If you’re looking for a phone with Qualcomm’s new flagship Snapdragon 820 CPU, there’s a less than obvious choice – the Mi 5 We’ve covered a number of Xiaomi devices within the pages of Android Magazine and waxed lyrical about how they deliver over and above consumers’ expectations for their mid-range price point. The 5.5-inch Redmi Note 3 and ďŹ ve-inch Redmi 3 have both impressed us recently, with Qualcomm chipsets, great battery life and decent cameras. It’s been nearly two years however since Xiaomi’s last foray into the high-end segment of the market with the Mi 4 – a device that gained a large following and has been well supported, even receiving a Windows Mobile 10 ROM recently. The timing of the Mi 5 announcement and release has been largely dictated by the availability of the processor that sits at its heart: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820. Successor to the much-maligned 810, the CPU is slowly starting to appear in phones – including the US version of the Samsung Galaxy S7 – and seems to have rectiďŹ ed the heat and power

“The phone is incredible value for money and refreshingly compact in a world of huge phones, without any real compromiseâ€? consumption issues of its predecessor. The wait for Qualcomm’s latest should have allowed Xiaomi to get the rest of the device absolutely right. But has it? A agship phone needs a agship spec sheet and the Mi 5 delivers. A number of slightly different variants of the device are available, but even if you go for the entry-level 32GB version, you get the CPU clocked to 1.8GHz and 3GB of ultra-fast memory. Buy the 128GB agship and the processor speed is cranked up and RAM is boosted to 4GB. Throw in a full complement of connectivity, including – unusually for a Chinese device – NFC, USB Type-C, cutting edge Wi-Fi and even an IR blaster and you won’t be left wanting for anything. The Mi 5 looks and feels stunning. It’s light, well-made and has a metal frame that curves on

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Dual SIM support The Mi 5 has a SIM tray on the left of the device that can accept two nano SIMs. As is typical, only one of the slots operates in 4G LTE mode; the second is limited to 2G. There is no microSD expansion

Glass or ceramic The 32GB and 64GB Mi 5 OQFGNU JCXG C INCUU DCEM CPF CTG CXCKNCDNG KP DNCEM YJKVG CPF IQNF 6JG )$ XGTUKQP KU QPN[ CXCKNCDNG KP DNCEM CPF JCU C EGTCOKE DCEM YJKEJ CFFU VGP ITCOU VQ VJG QXGTCNN YGKIJV QH the device

Fingerprint home button 6JG /K  KU VJG Ć’TUV :KCQOK device to include a physical home button and the EQORCP[ĹŚU Ć’TUV FGXKEG VQ HGCVWTG VJG Ć’PIGTRTKPV TGCFGT on the front. The home function can be used by either RJ[UKECNN[ FGRTGUUKPI VJG button or by simply touchinI KV


Review the back, owing perfectly into the rear panel. The look of the device is ultra minimalist and it’s interesting to see the camera and dual-tone ash in the top corner of the device rather than in the middle, which is more common on Android phones. There’s no camera bump at all, either. The front of the device has Xiaomi’s usual capacitive buttons for recants, this time marked by illuminated dots which look very neat, and a physical home button containing the ďŹ ngerprint reader. The power and volume buttons have a well-deďŹ ned click and everything feels suitably premium, even on the glass-backed model. At the device’s launch, Xiaomi made quite a fanfare about the device’s camera. Despite being so neatly mounted in the device, it uses an impressive Sony IMX298 16-megapixel sensor, an f/2.0 aperture, four-axis Optical Image Stabilisation and is protected by sapphire glass. On the software side Xiaomi’s usual camera app is present, but we ďŹ nally see Auto HDR included – a notable omission from previous devices. 4K video recording is supported, as is slow motion,

and the quality of captured images is excellent. Photos do lose a little sharpness compared to the best of the best phone cameras, but you will not be disappointed with pictures you take on the Mi 5 in all kinds of conditions. The Mi 5 runs Android Marshmallow out of the box with, of course, Xiaomi’s custom MIUI software layer on board, now up to version 7.2. The software becomes more reďŹ ned with each release but doesn’t get any closer to pure stock Android, so it’s an altogether different experience. If you give it a chance, we have a feeling you might be pleasantly surprised. Everything runs with incredible uidity; there is no lag of any sort. So the Mi 5 is a deeply impressive phone, but are there any drawbacks? Aside from the fact you need to import it yourself and UK LTE bands are only partially supported, it’s hard to ďŹ nd any. The phone is incredible value for money and refreshingly compact in a world of huge phones, without any real compromise. Please, please Xiaomi, let us buy it ofďŹ cially in Europe soon!

7NVTC2KZGN UGNĆ’GU

Minimal bezels

The curved back

The front-facing camera on the Mi 5 is an UltraPixel, as seen on previously on HTC devices. Despite its relatively low resolution (four megapixels), it has excellent low-light performance. The software includes a beauty shot mode

Xiaomi has done a fantastic job of slimming down the bezels on the Mi 5. They are black, so invisible when the screen is off, but frame it smartly when the display is on. This helps contribute to the device’s impressive compactness

The Mi 5 features a curved back, rather like the Galaxy Note 5 and the new Galaxy S7 devices. Don’t be fooled though, Xiaomi included this feature on its Mi Note phone announced in January 2015, pre-dating Samsung’s change!

Xiaomi Mi 5

ÂŁ300/$419.99 (32GB)

ÂťMore information aliexpress.com/store/342812 ÂťSupplied by Top One Trading

Technical specs ÂťOperating system............. Android 6.0 with MIUI 7.2 ÂťProcessor ................................ Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 at Âť Âť Âť Âť Âť Âť Âť Âť Âť

1.8GHz (32GB model) / 2.15GHz (64GB/128GB models) Memory..................................... 32GB / 3GB, 64GB / 3GB, 128GB / 4GB Dimensions............................ ZÇžZÇžOOÇž Weight......................................... I )$OQFGN I )$ model) Display size ............................ 5.15-inches Display resolution............. ZRKZGNU RRK Front camera........................ Ultrapixel (4MP), f/2.0 Rear camera.......................... 16MP, f/2.0 with four-axis OIS Connectivity .......................... Dual SIM, 4G LTE B1/3/7, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi with MU-MIMO, Bluetooth v4.2, NFC Expansion slot..................... N/A

Battery life The 3000mAh battery can’t quite match the 4000mAh cell in the Redmi 3, but it’ll get you through a full day easily

Good for Ultimate performance The Snapdragon 820 processor is incredibly fast even if you opt for the 32GB model, demolishing benchmarks

A little different You’re not likely to casually come across somebody else with a Mi 5. It’s a very unique proposition, and we like that

Bad for Expandable storage Unfortunately there’s no microSD expansion, but you can at least buy the device with up to 128GB on board

UK band support Current versions of the Mi 5 are missing band 20, meaning they won’t get a 4G signal on O2 or Vodafone in the UK

Verdict Xiaomi has taken its time bringing the Mi 5 to market, but the wait has been worthwhile. It’s yet another excellent Mi phone

73


Reviews Huawei Mate 8 The Huawei Mate 8 is a super-sized Android phone with CJWIGUETGGPJWIGDCVVGT[CPFJWIGURGEKĆ’ECVKQPU The Huawei Mate 7, released in October 2014, was a critically acclaimed six-inch device that largely slipped under the radar of most buyers. Why was it acclaimed? It had great performance, an excellent screen, all the connectivity options you could shake a stick at and a large battery. For those who wanted an Android device to work hard all day long, it was the ideal phone. Now Huawei is back with the predictably named Mate 8, which takes the formula of its predecessor and updates it for 2016. The Mate 8 is almost exactly the same size and weight as the old model and it still has an excellent six-inch Full HD panel on board. Almost all of the other specs have been refreshed. With much smaller devices switching to QHD screens, it might seem concerning that the Mate 8 sticks with Full HD at a larger size. The reality is that the 368 ppi resolution looks absolutely ďŹ ne, the screen itself is gorgeous and the beneďŹ t of a lower resolution panel is greatly improved performance and less battery drain courtesy of reduced load on the CPU and GPU. The Mate 7 used the Kirin 925 processor, in keeping with Huawei’s trend of using CPUs that are developed in-house. The Mate 8 is the ďŹ rst device to feature the Kirin 950, designed to bring

Dual SIM slots Dual SIM slots are on board, the primary slot working in LTE mode and the secondary slot only in 2G mode. The second slot is shared with the microSD expansion option – so it’s one or the other, not both

Screen to body ratio The Mate 8 has a six-inch 1080P IPS-NEO screen, housed in a body 7.9mm thick. An impressive 83% screen to body ratio means the device is no taller than the 5.5-inch screened iPhone 6S Plus

“The battery, super-responsive ďŹ ngerprint reader, dual SIM support and raft of connectivity options are perfect for the business travellerâ€? HiSilicon’s processor development up to a level competitive with Qualcomm and Samsung’s Exynos line. It’s impressive that it has achieved this goal – performance is outstanding and the company has made particularly large reductions (around 30 per cent) in the area of power consumption, a traditional Kirin weakness. Coupled with 3GB RAM, the Mate 8 feels incredibly smooth in operation. The phone feels like a business device with its understated looks and packed spec sheet. The battery, super-responsive ďŹ ngerprint reader, dual SIM support and raft of connectivity options are perfect for the business traveller, but that’s not to say that the phone won’t be well-suited for personal users too.

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Kirin 950 Processor The 64-bit Kirin 950 processor is manufactured by HiSilicon, a Huawei subsidiary. It’s constructed using a 16nm FinFET+ process and has eight cores (including four power GHƒEKGPV # EQTGU  CPF KU accompanied by an i5 dedicated co-processor


Review Particular highlights are the very capable rear camera and the high-resolution front-facing camera, complete with beauty shot mode, in typical Huawei fashion. Devices from Huawei (and its sub-brand Honor) typically use a customised Android UI skin called EMUI (formerly Emotion UI), and the Mate 8 is no exception. Custom Android always has its detractors, but EMUI seems to elicit more responses than most. EMUI 4.0 as found on the Mate 8 is a very thorough re-work of Android Marshmallow, leaving almost no visual stone unturned, which can seem jarring at first to new users. Quirks such as the complete lack of an app drawer don’t help. With that said, EMUI does include a lot of additional functionality, particularly in the areas of privacy and battery management. These changes bring an initial administrative overhead as the user can choose which apps they want to run in the background, which apps can access specific types of data

and even which apps can start on boot if desired – but the effort is worth the reward, the net result being an unusually efficiently-tuned device. Although the Mate 8 demonstrates Huawei’s ability to efficiently design a device, it’s surprisingly compact given the size of its screen. Aside from the fact it might be too big for some users’ pockets, it can also be uncomfortable for smaller hands to grip for longer periods. True to the phablet mantra though, the Mate 8 can conceivably replace a tablet – with such an impressive screen, it’s a great device to read or watch video content on. The Mate 8 can be purchased from the Huawei vMall store in the UK and is very competitively priced, but it’s not available to buy from any carriers as of yet – which is unfortunate as it would likely do well with a specific type of consumer. The phone looks destined to remain one of Android’s best-kept secrets.

One-handed mode

High-end imaging

The Huawei Mate 8 has a huge number of software customisations and TGƒPGOGPVU 1PG QH VJGUG KU a useful mode that shrinks the UI down to a portion of the screen in order to make it more manageable with one hand

The Mate 8 uses the 16-megapixel Sony IMX298 sensor, which has an f/2.0 aperture and 1/2.8-inch sensor size. A new dedicated ISP and 1RVKECN +OCIG 5VCDKNKUCVKQP JGNR produce great quality photos using the Camera app, which includes a Pro mode

Support for quick-charging Likely due to its unibody metal construction, the Mate 8 doesn’t support wireless charging – but it does include support for Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 protocol, charging to 80% in just over an hour using a 9V/2A (18W) adaptor

Huawei Mate 8

£429/$579

»More information vmall.eu »Supplied by Huawei UK

Technical specs »Operating system............. Android 6.0 with EMUI 4.0 »Processor ................................ Huawei Kirin 950 octa-core (4 x » » » » » » » » »

2.3 GHz A72+ 4 x 1.8 GHz A53) + i5 co-processor Memory..................................... 32GB / 3GB Dimensions............................ 157.1 x 80.6 x 7.9 mm Weight......................................... 185g Display size ............................ 6-inch Display resolution............. 1920 x 1080 (368 ppi) Front camera........................ 16MP, f/2.0 Rear camera.......................... 8MP, f/2.4 Connectivity .......................... 4G LTE / WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ ac, Bluetooth v4.2 LE, NFC Expansion slot..................... microSD

Battery life With a 4000mAh battery and the EMUI power-saving tweaks, it’s the longest-lasting device we have ever tested

Good for Epic battery life The Mate 8 is an incredibly versatile companion and the huge battery will keep you working for days.

Excellent overall performance There is no lag when using the Mate 8 and memory management is excellent.

Bad for EMUI software layer The EMUI software additions include a number of useful functions, but overall it remains too overpowering.

Sheer physical size The physical size of the Mate 8 will be too large for some, despite the small bezels.

Verdict The Mate 8 excels as the ultimate business tool, but is a great personal device too

75


Reviews Numinous London 901 Backpack Keep your devices secure on the move Transporting a tablet can be a troublesome task. By their very nature, we’re drawn to them because they’re bigger than a phone; but on the other hand, it’s rather annoying that they don’t just ďŹ t in your pocket. Any theft victim will tell you that it’s safer to put valuables in your front pockets rather than your back pockets, and for this reason, the idea of a backpack seems like a nonsensical thing to put your gadgets in should you be on the move or standing on the Tube. The Numinous 901 is different, however; it’s so secure that it locks to your ďŹ ngerprint, comes with puncture-resistant zips and is made of anti-slash material. It probably couldn’t be more secure if it tried. There are three main compartments to the backpack, with two also located on the sides.

The top handle is sturdy and heavyweight and there is extra padding for your laptop or tablet inside, but more ingeniously, it comes with a charger. This allows you to keep your devices charged on the go and means that it’s a fantastic product for commuters and those who love to travel. The price tag may put you off, but if you’re looking for the best, it’s a great investment. After all, if you spend a lot of money on your gadgets, you’ll want to keep them secure.

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Âť Price ÂŁ256/$370 Âť More information numinouslondon.com

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Robust material The rucksack is mostly constructed from nylon and NGCVJGT OCMKPI KV UVTQPI UVWTF[ CPF GZVTGOGN[ FKHĆ’EWNV to break into

EDITOR’S CHOICE

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Accessories Phone stand The stand makes it easy to attach your phone and is simple to unlock with a quick release mechanism. It’s also compatible with your GoPro camera

Adjust the balance Use the red knobs on either side of the device’s attaching plate to adjust the balance and tip the camera either horizontally or vertically, like a spirit level

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SteadicamSmoothee Shake-free shooting for your smartphone

Smartphone users are starting to see their phones as potential replacements for more expensive pieces of photography equipment. After all, now that we have selďŹ e sticks, who needs to use anything else, right? The truth is that smartphones have been capable of top quality photography for a while now, and the introduction of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and its ilk results in yet another camera upgrade in your pocket. The Steadicam Smoothee boasts that it’s the ultimate aid in handheld video shooting for your smartphone. Simply attach your phone at the top for smooth, uid, shake-free motion in your photography or video. The Smoothee comes with a quick release clip and is also compatible with GoPro cameras. This nifty gadget is actually surprisingly effective. It needs to be held by the handle located beneath the phone itself and it relies on its own balance mechanism to create a shake-free ďŹ nish. It’s fantastically simple and brilliantly effective; though it isn’t the most portable of equipment and it does come with a hefty price tag. If you’re a smartphone videographer who wants to get a little more serious with your shooting though, the Steadicam Smoothee is a great buy. You won’t ďŹ nd many tripods this steady, let alone handheld devices.

Âť Price ÂŁ140/$150 Âť More information tiffen.com/steadicamsmoothee

Hold on Hold the Steadicam with the sturdy, easy to grip handle which is suitable for either right- or left-handed users. Use the balance of the device in order to keep it steady

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Apps Vyke

Extra mobile numbers for your phone

While many of us might well find it useful to have separate mobile numbers for different purposes – work, home, dating, etc – it’s a pain to carry two phones around wherever we go. While dual-SIM phones may solve this issue, they’re still relatively rare (in the UK at least). Vyke’s ingenious alternative solution is as simple as downloading its brand new app to your phone, purchasing some credit and adding up to four extra numbers – not just from the UK, but also from Canada, the Netherlands, Poland or the USA. The first additional number is free for UK users, while others cost 99p/$1.49 each per month (or £6.99/$10.99 per year). Although b the app as ‘profiles’,

Add extra mobile numbers to your phone – even for overseas

which anyone can dial from a standard phone. Naturally, you can also use them to make calls to any phone number in the world. Well, there are a few exceptions: you can’t use one to call emergency services and, unlike dual-SIM phones, you can’t receive calls on another number during a call. The extra profiles appear at the base of the screen, complete with text description and optional avatar, enabling quick switching between them and your SIM’s number. Tap one and it moves to the centre of the screen to show it’s active for outgoing calls/texts, surrounded by several icon options: a standard dialling keypad, contacts, SMS, voicemail, recent calls, and settings. Helpfully, each contact page shows the cost to call or text (free to other Vyke users). And it’s usually a lot

The call and SMS rates for contacts are competitive and clear

cheaper than standard phone rates; instance, you can send an SMS to y phone in the world for a flat 25p/5¢. So, how does it all work? Well, yke is a VoIP service, like Skype, hat routes calls via the internet. So ou need a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection to use it. Annoyingly, this is still the case if you connect using the Local Access option that routes calls via your SIM’s mobile network and uses your call plan minutes, since a small data packet needs to be sent to initiate the call. This is also the case for the Callback option which involves Vyke calling you back to connect you to your contact – slightly more expensive, but useful in countries where Local Access is unavailable. While the app worked well during testing, with good call clarity, we did experience one or two issues. For some reason, a Vyke-using contact still showed up with the standard rates: it turns out that the free call and chat options only appear when using your own SIM number as the active profile. Overall, however, Vyke is not only a hugely convenient application, but also a money-saver.

»like this? try this! 78

Chat for free with other Vyke users, when using your SIM number at least

2 hour wonder Want your money back? You’ve got 120 mins to decide! ! 40 120 80 ! 40 120 80 ! 40 120 80

»0-40 minutes

Adding and switching between numbers is easy

»40-80 minutes

Call costs are low and very transparent

»80-120 minutes

Free calls/chat only work when using SIM number

keep

refund

» specification Price Free + IAPs Designed for: Phone Requires Android: 2.3.3 and up

» verdict Performance Design Value A good way to add extra mobile numbers and make free or cheap calls

FLYP » Add up to six US numbers to your phone, and call or text US numbers for free


Draw My Story A picture is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes, and Draw My Story is a storytelling tool that enables you to communicate ideas through animated drawings. The first thing to note here is that this isn’t an animation app where you painstakingly create individual frames one by one. Instead, it simply records your drawing actions and then replays them in the form of a movie. To make it more interesting for the viewer, you can add optional photos, emojis, music and a voiceover, so the app can be used to create video presentations or animated stories. Starting a new project from the main menu, you get to name it and choose from three dimensions: portrait, landscape or Instagram (square). You’re presented with a blank canvas and a few options, which can be expanded by tapping

Flyperlink

advanced features like different brush types and layers. In addition, once you’ve placed an object such as a photo or emoji, you can’t reposition it later. Once you’ve completed your first drawing/scene, you can preview it and record an optional voiceover or

add background music. You can then move onto a new blank scene to follow on from the first, after an optional pause interval. When you’re happy with your creation, it can be exported as a movie and saved or shared via the usual channels.

» specification Price Free + IAPs Designed for: Phone and tablet Requires Android: 4.1 and up

» verdict A bit limited, but fine for creating simple and fun animated presentations

Add an optional voiceover and music to your hand-drawn movie

the bottom-right hamburger icon, allowing you to alter the brush size or background colour/image, and insert images/emojis/text. Even so, these are fairly rudimentary tools and it’s missing basics like colour fill, lines/ shapes and an eraser, never mind

Floating hyperlinks

Whenever you click on a weblink, Flyperlink brings up a floating bubble which you tap to view the content – either in fullscreen mode or, if you upgrade via IAP (£0.77/$0.99), a resizable floating window. The latter feature is the highlight, although it’s impossible to show more than one floating pop-up window at a time. Quick sharing is made easy by dragging browser bubbles to a sharing button. Flyperlink supposedly supports media playback such as videos, although in our tests YouTube only had audio while BBC iPlayer came up with an error, so it’s just as well that you can set which apps open special links. Other settings include bubble size, battery saving mode and lockscreen visibility, although the last of these didn’t work for us. We also experienced crashes, so the app still needs vast improvement.

» Price Free » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 4.0 and up Upgrading enables you to use resizable pop-up windows for weblinks

»best alternative

Share simple animated drawings

CONTACTS+ WIDGET » This home screen widget gives quick access to contacts, arranged in groups with editable actions

» like this? try this! Photos can be imported for the backdrop and insets, and various stickers added

Dysh Foodie photo sharing Formerly known as Toast, Dysh is a specialist photo-sharing app for foodies. After logging in via email, Facebook or Twitter, you get to browse a news feed with photos of yummy-looking dishes, with ratings out of 100 and the restaurant where they were served. You can like, share and comment on dishes, as well as following and ‘trusting’ other users who can be viewed in the People tab. Naturally, you can also take your own food snaps, add a rating and dish details (eg spicy or salty), then post.

» Price Free » Designed for Phone » Requires Android 4.4 and up

SketchBook A more sophisticated art app that can create an animation of your drawing process

Wild Weather Beautiful, whatever the weather Wild Weather combines hand-drawn illustrations with accurate forecasting. The visuals are really charming, mainly featuring rural scenes and wild animals complete with animated snow and rain effects. Swiping up reveals a simple five-day forecast and basic info without any interactive options, which is a bit disappointing. On the plus side, you can add multiple locations to switch between.

» Price £1.46/$1.78 » Designed for Phone » Requires Android 4.0

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Apps Guides by Lonely Planet Tourist guides and tips Lonely Planet’s new app enables you to download travel guides for cities that you can refer to offline if needed. Upon first launching it, however, we were disappointed by the relatively small selection of destinations on offer – while there are cities from every continent, there are only 37 in total, compared to the vast selection featured on the Lonely Planet website. Even top tourist destinations like Las Vegas, Florence and Kuala Lumpur are missing. Hopefully more will be added at some point, because the content that is present is top-notch. After downloading a guide, you can explore the map view or browse any of six categories: See, Eat, Sleep, Shop, Drink and Play. These bring up a list of attractions that can be filtered by price range, proximity and subcategory (such as ‘historic site’). When an attraction is selected, you’re given a description, map location and essential info. Overall, a highly polished, well-designed all-round package.

iStaging Aimed at helping you to plan the interior design of your house or flat, iStaging features both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. It’s the latter that really catches the eye, as we haven’t seen this kind of thing in an interior design app before and, in theory at least, it allows you to preview items of furniture in your own rooms. Tapping the Products tab on the main screen brings up a wide range of furniture categories – in addition to expected ones like various chairs, tables, beds and wardrobes, there are also lights and paintings. The content isn’t

Arrange virtual furniture

quite as plentiful as it first seems, however, as some of the categories contain very few items – a couple only have one. Tapping an item of furniture presents you with a choice of AR or standard 3D view, plus a Buy button – while the feature wasn’t available at the time of writing, you’ll soon be able to purchase items featured in the app. It takes a little while to download the item you want to view. When using AR mode for the first time, you need to enter your own height. You then point the camera at some empty floor space and, after a few seconds, the virtual item of furniture appears there; it can then be dragged around and rotated.

Drag your virtual furniture into place to see how it looks in your room

Choose from numerous categories, although some don’t have many items

Sadly, the AR tracking doesn’t work too well and the item tends to jitter unless you keep perfectly still. It can ever disappear completely. The standard 360-degree panoramas of rooms work much better, particularly when using Google Cardboard for stereoscopic virtual viewing. Even here, though, there’s an issue with full-screen mode that results in the back button being mostly off screen, so it’s hard to escape. It also crashed on us a few times.

used to PublicSpeakingforCardboard Get an audience

View attractions on a map, choose a category or browse highlights

» Price Free » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 4.1

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Most people will experience a few jitters when having to do any kind of public speaking. One of the key ways to conquer pre-speech nerves is to practise, but finding a test audience and similar venue isn’t exactly easy. This is where VirtualSpeech’s ingenious app comes in handy. By donning your Google Cardboard headset, you can immerse yourself in one of two virtual environments: a 300-seat conference hall or company boardroom. The developer also plans to add two extra venues in future, with 25- and 50-member audiences. Each location features an animated audience, although they don’t seem

very attentive – particularly the apathetic-looking folks in the boardroom! There’s a timer (to avoid over-running) and a presentation screen, to which you can add your own JPG slides. Clever stuff.

» Price Free » Designed for Phone » Requires Android 4.1 Once you don your headset, you’ll feel like you’re in a conference hall


quickhits top apps for...

Google Cardboard

Cardboard Camera Free Google’s official app makes it easy to create stereoscopic scenes to use with a Cardboard VR headset. Just rotate slowly through 360 degrees and the app does the rest, even adding a depth-of-field effect.

» specification Price Free Designed for Phone and tablet Requires Android 4.1 and up

» verdict Performance Design Value A lot of potential, but the AR tracking didn’t work particularly well for us

2 hour wonder Want your money back? You’ve got 2 hours to decide! ! 40 120 80 ! 40 120 80 ! 40 120 80

»0-40 minutes

360-degree room panoramas work well enough

»40-80 minutes The

Will a king-size bed take up too much space in this room? iStaging can help you find out.

augmented reality is a bit jittery when in use

»80-120 minutes There’s a limited selection of AR furniture available

keep

refund

» like this? try this!

Roundme Free + IAP Explore 360-degree picturesque panoramas from around the world, made all the more immersive when using a Cardboard headset. Another similar virtual tourist app to check out is Orbulus.

Home Design 3D Replicate your real rooms on a 2D plan, then design their interiors in 3D

VR Roller Coaster Free

Tribe

Quick video messaging

Want to join the Tribe? Since its user base is growing so rapidly, it’s likely some of your friends already have. What’s refreshing about this new messaging service is that it’s so easy to use. The main screen features a grid of coloured squares populated by added contacts. Just tap one to send a selfie or long press to record and send a short video message of up to 15 seconds. Received messages are indicated by a red number bubble on a contact; just tap to view one or more photos/ videos, which are then automatically All of your contacts are in one place in an easy-to-navigate homescreen

»like this? try this!

deleted. In this respect, it’s reminiscent of Snapchat, but more spontaneous, just like messaging should be. In addition, there’s no facility to make content public – you can only send messages to friends, or user-created groups of them. Each message features the sender’s location, distance, weather and relative EDITOR’S CHOICE sending time.

» Price Free » Designed for Phone » Requires Android 4.2 and up

SNAPCHAT » It offers more options for customising photos and videos, but as a result is less spontaneous

Check our website daily for even more app reviews

An obvious use for Cardboard, it takes the classic ‘sitting on a roller coaster’ movie to a new level. You can look around you while riding two different coasters, making it all the more convincing. Great fun.

Dive Deep Free Take a dive into the deep blue ocean to swim with sharks, whales and dolphins. There’s not really anything to do, but it offers a chilled-out experience – even the sharks seems pretty friendly.

Proton Pulse £1.27/$1.99 In this 3D Breakout-style game, you look where you want your paddle to move in order to hit the ball. It’s fun, although the psychedelic graphics and pounding techno music might give you a headache!

»www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk

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head tohead to In a clash of image editors, PicsArt takes on Photoshop Express

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP vs

» specification Price Free + IAP Designed for: Phone and tablet Requires Android: 4.0.3 and up

While Adobe’s Photoshop has dominated the image-editing arena for years on PC, its stripped-down Express mobile app faces a stiffer challenge. Numerous rivals include PicsArt Photo Studio, which has 250 million downloads to its name. But which is best for image editing?

Adobe Photoshop Express A simple landing screen offers a choice of sources for an image to edit, including Adobe’s Creative Cloud service. There are no extra features on offer. While 23 free filters are supplied, 20 more can be unlocked. The standout feature is My Looks, letting you save edits as custom filters for convenience. A range of 11 image adjustment options includes a nifty sharpen tool. There’s also a basic blemish retoucher that lacks enough precision to be useful. There aren’t many options for being creative here other than a selection of vignette effects, edges and frames. It lacks most standard Photoshop tools. Saving an image to the gallery stores it as a JPG file. Along with standard sharing options, you can export the image to Adobe’s Creative Cloud for further editing.

» specification Price Free + IAP Designed for: Phone and tablet Requires Android: Varies with device

PicsArt Photo Studio

APP FEATURES

The attractive main menu inspires you with images created by other users. There are also handy quick links to Effects, Collage, Draw, Edit and Camera modes.

FILTERS

There’s a huge range of highly adjustable filters and effects, which can be painted onto selected areas of the image for precise control of their application.

IMAGECORRECTION

Along with the usual adjustment sliders, options include RGB curves, perspective and stretch. It also includes precise teeth whitening and suntan tools.

CREATIVE TOOLS

PicsArt wins hands down with its full set of drawing and editing tools, collage layouts and free-cropping for cut-outs. There’s also a large array of frames and clip art.

IMAGE EXPORT

A choice of PNG or JPG is offered when saving. Sharing options include uploading to the PicsArt social network. A fun animated GIF export records your editing process.

And the winner is... Unless all you want is standard image adjustment and a few filters,

PICSART PHOTO there really is no contest. With a sophisticated set of drawing/editing tools and multiple image layers, plus a collage mode and stacks of clip STUDIO art, PicsArt Photo Studio offers many more creative possibilities.

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Games Space Grunts While this space-themed roguelike features the usual turn-based, procedurally generated areas – in this case, rooms in a moon base rather than dungeons – it manages to achieve the fast-paced feel of a real-time action game. This is partly thanks to some intense combat and screen-shaking explosions, but it’s also due to the way you can quickly move your character around by holding a direction on the on-screen d-pad. This enables you to speed through empty areas and corridors, while still taking your time to think about tactical combat whenever enemies are encountered. At the start of a game, yo choose from one of three c members, each with different ratings in Strength (weapon power), Tech (item usage) and Luck (item finding). The selected character is then dropped off at the pixel-art base, viewed from above. On-screen

Dodge the flames that appear or you’ll get more than your fingers burnt

what we’ve been playing The Room Three £3.99/$4.99 The anticipated third instalment in this addictive series is the best yet: more expansive and with some amazing puzzles. We’re still totally hooked.

Blown Away: First Try Free + IAP You certainly won’t be completing most levels on your first try in this innovative platformer. Instead of jumping, your character teleports ahead, and you have to manage limited batteries.

Recommend a game…

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»twitter @lgrobot

Turn-based arcade action

The red circles in front of the hero show the range of the current weapon

arrows are tapped to move around the grid-like environment, while a fire button unleashes a shot from one of three starting weapons: a gun, rocket launcher and laser. Helpfully, a line of circles in front of the character shows the range of the equipped weapon. This is just as well, since you don’t want to be wasting precious ammo: managing this limited resource is one of the key aspects of the game. Shooting crates may reveal extra ammo, weapon power-ups and other useful items to add to your inventory.

When enemies are encountered, which make a move every time you do, it’s mainly just a matter of lining up a shot before they fire or reach you – including some pesky worms that decide to hang onto your back. The scenery can often be used to your advantage by blasting items such as barrels to unleash explosions or radiation. While you can get away with mistakes early on, later stages require good tactical play. Permadeath means instant game-over when your damage meter

hits zero, but at least progress is saved after each level, so you can quit a session and continue later. With secret passages to discover and special items transporting you to different areas, there are numerous routes through the game that help to keep things interesting and give you good value for your cash. There’s also a competitive daily run mode.

» Price £2.99/$3.99 » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 2.3 and up

A Short Tale An old-fashioned room escape puzzler In this room-escape title, everything takes place in a single area – a child’s bedroom, in which you’ve been miniaturised – but it’s crammed with puzzles, along with the clues needed to help you solve them. After climbing up the ladder of a toy fire engine, it’s time for the first puzzle: copying sequences on a Simon game. This gives you the first clue needed to access the next puzzle, and so on. A really helpful feature is the in-game camera that is used for photographing clues, so you can

The in-game camera enables you to take shots of clues to refer to later

refer to them later, even mid-puzzle. Unlike The Room series however, there are no hints to show you where to place items, so it can prove frustrating at times. The graphics and basic navigation are also a bit old-fashioned. Still, the puzzles are

varied enough and there’s plenty to keep you busy.

» Price £2.87/$3.47 » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 2.3.3 and up


quickhits Dub Dash

Don’t miss out Tap to the endless beat

This music-themed endless racer is billed as ‘the hardest game you have ever played’, and it certainly offers old-school difficulty to match its old-school techno soundtrack. Your little wheel spins along a 3D scrolling course and you need to tap or hold the left or right corner of the screen to jump sideways and avoid hazards. Crashing sends you right back to the start of the stage, so be prepared for frustration! Undergoing practice mode can help you learn each level pattern, enabling you to restart from the last portal checkpoint after crashing. Even so, it’s pretty tricky to do it for real, never mind complete the bonus challenge of collecting all three musical notes

Tap or hold at the arrows to jump and avoid crashing into the obstacles

in a stage. As if that weren’t enough, Flappy Bird-style horizontally scrolling sections require precision manoeuvring. Other 3D rolling sections include mazes and races, although the multiplayer mode of the desktop version is sadly missing. Dub Dash is polished and good

fun, although it may make you want to bang your head against a wall – in time to the music, of course!

» Price Free + IAP » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 4.2 and up

Game Dev Story creator Kairosoft serves up an ace strategic simulation based in a tennis club. As well as training players and managing match tactics, there are some fun mini-games.

Free + IAP Not one for youngsters, but it’s a very polished sniper game. The main targeting works well, with zoom and slow motion options. There are also mini-games where you use pistols, bombs and fists.

Does it all add up?

» Price Free + IAP » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 4.0.3 and up

£3.44/$4.99

Lonewolf (17+)

Merged! The concept is hardly original – placing pieces on a grid with the aim of matching three or more adjacent ones to make bigger items – evoking memories of Triple Town. In this case, coloured dominostyle pieces appear at random and can be rotated before placing, with the occasional single number thrown in to help. Matching three of a number turns them into one tile of the next digit up, so three 4s become a 5. It starts off easy enough but becomes trickier as the grid becomes more cluttered – as you would expect, filling it results in gameover. Fortunately, merging three M tiles (created from 6s) causes an explosion to clear the surrounding tiles. It works well enough and requires careful strategy, plus a little luck. Coins can be used to trash an unwanted random piece; while easy enough to earn, they’re also available via IAP, along with a Merging three M tiles causes an explosion to clear part of the grid permanent coin doubler.

Tennis Club Story

Deul Free + IAP This simple duelling game involves waiting for the opponent to draw their weapon before shooting them. It’s very basic, but features amusing ragdoll physics. There’s also a local multiplayer mode. Power-ups include a glove that can be used to throw bombs over hedges

BombingBastards: Touch! It won’t cost you a bomb

Excuse our language – we have no idea how the original version of this Bomberman-style action game ever made it onto the Nintendo Wii U without being censored! This addictive little game works pretty well on the touchscreen, as you tap a spot for your little man to move to, although an on-screen stick method is available for purists. In each maze-like stage, you need to drop or throw bombs to kill all the critters, which are deadly to the touch – as is getting caught in your own bomb blast. A multitude of power-ups help you gain the upper hand, but it’s still pretty challenging. The big drawback is that there’s no multiplayer mode, which was always by far the best part of the old Bomberman games.

» Price Free » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 4.0 and up

Check our website for even more game reviews

Punch Club £2.53/$4.99 Nostalgia fans will love this Rocky-style strategic simulation. You get to train up an MMA fighter and plan fights, while trying to keep them happy. It’s surprisingly complex and addictive.

Final Fantasy IX £15.99/$20.99 While it’s pricey for an Android app, you are getting a remastered version of the classic Square Enix RPG with new touchscreen controls. It’s still a great game after all these years.

GTA Liberty City Stories £4.99/$6.99 Featuring streamlined missions to suit shorter sessions of mobile play, it retains the freedom of an open world, complete with side activities. The touch controls can prove frustrating at times, which is a downside.

»www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk

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Games Alto’s Adventure Ceaseless scenic snowboarding Drive your car around the isometric area to paint it, but watch your fuel level

SplashCars Paint the town This clever mash-up combines elements of Pako Car Chase Simulator, Dawn of the Plow and Splatoon to good effect. Driving your car around an isometric neighbourhood, the aim is to repaint areas that have lost their colour. Making the task trickier are monochrome vehicles whose dull exhaust fumes remove colour from the area; you can either run them off the road, or pass close by to paint them so they’ll help rather than hinder. In addition, any nearby police patrol cars will give chase and cause damage. The main obstruction to success, however, is limited fuel, which requires you to plan your painting routes carefully and make efficient use of the collectible gas canisters for maximum fuel replenishment, and any other unlocked power-ups that are scattered about. Simple controls – left/right steering with auto-acceleration – help to make this little game a lot of fun and relatively addictive. On the downside, a freemium energy system limits the number of attempts to six until you wait to recharge batteries – although you can use in-game coins (also available in IAP bundles and used to buy better vehicles) for this purpose. Bar the annoying energy recharge system (which is par for the course in many freemium games), this fun little game is definitely worth a play.

» Price Free + IAP » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 4.0 and up

»like this? try this!

DAWN OF THE PLOW » This game sees you ploughing routes through snow to rescue stranded cars

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With its 2D horizontal scrolling perspective and one-touch control method, this endless racer reminds us of Dragon Hills and, most notably, Ski Safari, as your tiny snowboarder slides down a perilous mountain course, making jumps and collecting coins. What it may lack in originality, however, it more than makes up for in both aesthetic charm and well-balanced gameplay. The minimalist visuals are stunning, complete with dramatic weather effects and

alternating times of day. An original soundtrack adds to the ambience, particularly when using headphones. On each of the 60 stages, you are set three goals to accomplish to unlock the next level. Tasks include travelling a target distance, capturing escaped llamas and landing a trick combo. While the earlier ones are relatively easy to accomplish, the ability to spend collected coins to skip goals helps to prevent frustration. Although it’s all too easy to hit an unseen rock as you hurtle down the mountainside, instantly ending your run, at least you’re given

Taking a leap into the dark as night falls, you can admire the moon and stars

Alto is chased through a forest by an elder – leap a large chasm to shake him off

the option of watching a video to continue. The other main hazard is crash-landing after an attempted backflip; it’s well worth attempting them though, to build up the extra speed required to jump large chasms, which also sees off any angry elders chasing you. By landing on bunting or rooftops, you can grind them and build up trick combos for extra points. It’s a lot of fun and the good news is that the only IAP is for the purely optional Coin Doubler. Other items in the shop are bought using in-game coins, including a jetpack-like wingsuit needed for later challenges. Five other snowboarders are unlocked along the way, each with their own unique strengths. So, along with the ultra-addictive action, there’s plenty to keep you racing down that snowy mountain.

Blocky Rugby Endless rugger? Following Blocky Football and Blocky Raider, developer Full Fat takes its 3D pixel-art onto the rugby field. Rather than attempt to simulate the complex rules and various phases of the sport, it takes an arcade endless-runner approach that’s very similar to Blocky Football. Receiving the ball from the kick-off, you need to guide your player up the field, swiping left/right to dodge tackles from opposing players (and your own teammates, who just get in the way) to score a try. Kicking a conversion involves stopping a swinging meter in the sweet spot, earning you a key – these can be used to play a

mini-game to unlock new characters, ranging from a policeman to a garden gnome (also available individually via IAP). You can also compete with your friends to see who can achieve the highest score . We did have an issue when attempting to watch a video to earn an extra key caused our device to crash, requiring a reboot. This setback aside, it’s a fairly fun, easy-to-play casual game with simple controls, and some amusing, colourful graphics.

» Price Free + IAPs » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 4.0.3 Swipe sideways to avoid other players, including your own teammates


quickhits top games for...

Comic fans

Marvel Future Fight Free + IAP An open-world fighting game where you assemble a squad from a vast roster of your favourite Marvel superheroes? What’s not to like? Well, there is the freemium aspect, of course, but IAPs aren’t essential.

» specification Price Free + IAP Designed for Phone and tablet Requires Android 2.3 and up

» verdict Performance Design Value A compelling endless racer that’s also a visual feast for the eyes

2 hour wonder Want your money back? You’ve got 2 hours to decide! ! 40 120 80 ! 40 120 80 ! 40 120 80

The arty alpine visuals are utterly charming

»40-80 minutes

At first sight, this puzzler doesn’t look particularly amazing. And when we first started playing it, we weren’t excited by the basic premise of creating chains of coloured tiles. The more you play, however, the more its true brilliance is revealed. We found it hard to put down to write this review! On each stage, multiple ‘requests’ appear at the top, comprising of colour swatches with numbers beneath. These are fulfilled by swiping chains of that colour in the grid below. Each tile in the chain doubles the value, so swiping four will gain you 16 points, automatically assigned to requests. The key

Free + IAP String together tricks such as backflips and grinds for extra points

Addictive action with one-touch control

»80-120 minutes

» like this? try this!

Lots of stages and snowboarders to unlock

keep

twofold inc.

Walking Dead: Road to Survival

»0-40 minutes

refund

Doubling up with amusement

Spider-Man Unlimited Free+IAP Gameloft’s enjoyable endless runner sees Spidey sprinting, jumping and swinging along, dodging hazards and bashing baddies. There are occasional battles with supervillains, plus a bunch of new suits to collect.

EDITOR’S CHOICE

complication is that you must swipe a route through all the tiles in a connected same-coloured group. This means some groups can’t be swiped, appearing duller. To rectify this, you can rearrange the grid by scrolling its rows and columns to create swipeable chains. You have limited swipes/moves for requests before you start losing lives. As you play on, spare tiles of each colour are amassed at the bottom, which often prove a lifesaver. It’s all very tactical and astonishingly addictive.

»like this? try this!

Ski Safari 2 A similar concept, but with cutesy cartoon graphics and a bunch of crazy characters

Beginning at the battle for the prison in the comic series, this is arguably the best Walking Dead game yet. It’s a combination of story-affecting decisions, engaging action sequences and RPG-style team upgrading.

Batman Arkham Origins Free + IAP The Dark Knight battles through Gotham’s toughest districts in this simplified mobile version. The combat gets a bit repetitive, but collectables include new suits to give him a different look. Swipe colour chains to clear the requests up top, and fill spare tiles below

» Price £2.99/$3.99 » Designed for Phone and tablet » Requires Android 4.0 and up

THREES! » The original tile-sliding puzzler involves smashing numbers together to double them

Check our website daily for even more app reviews

Framed £1.74/$2.15 While not based on a comic, this ingenious puzzle adventure involves rearranging the panels of a comic book to change the outcome of the story. There’s lots of sneaking around and action-shifting espionage.

»www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk

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BUYER’S GUIDE Discover the best smartphones, tablets and accessories yo b i t t h t

For the most up-to-date reviews, head to www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk THE LATEST ONLINE INCLUDE... MOTO 360 2015 » VECTOR LUNA » ASUS CHROMEBIT CS10

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Buyer’s Guide TOP 10 SUPER SMARTPHONES

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

THE BEST FLAGSHIP AND MID-RANGE ANDROID PHONES ON THE MARKET

msung Galaxy S7

alaxy S7 (or S7 Edge, it’s very much a matter of personal preference) is quite simply the best id phone that you can buy today. Ticking all the boxes that S6 owners would ask for, it adds proofing, a microSD slot and better battery life to its refined design. The camera has been ed in megapixels but improved in performance, especially in low light conditions. Altogether this absolutely outstanding phone that should be high on your wishlist.

Nexus 6P Finally, we have a Nexus that is truly a device without compromise – a worthy flagship for Android heading into 2016. The camera is one of the best in the business, while the beautiful screen could truly see the end of your tablet use. Even the 64GB model represents a real bargain.

LG G4 The LG G4 is a close second for the phone of the year behind the Galaxy S6 with a distinctive leather-back case and superior camera. Its unique Quantum IPS screen will amaze with bright and crisp images that offer vivid colours, while its 200GB microSD port offers lots of extra storage.

Sony Xperia Z5 It’s another device that prioritises evolution over revolution, but that’s not to say Sony’s fifthgeneration Xperia handset is a dull affair. The cameras are arguably the best we’ve ever seen, while it ticks every specification wishlist. It’s waterproof and dustproof too, but it does come at a price.

Moto X Style Although it isn’t a direct replacement for the second-generation Moto X, the Style is a step up in terms of specifications (bigger battery, more RAM, better screen resolution and a hexa-core processor). The screen really is a sight to behold and the design is cool and edgy. It’s superb value for money too.

Huawei Mate S Stunning, in every sense of the word. Huawei’s best-ever device could be your next droid. The build quality can’t fail to impress, the design is beautiful and the option to go either dual-SIM or to add a storage upgrade via a microSD slot offers an excellent degree of customisation.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium The Z5 Premium is a very good phone, but it’s just too expensive and the 4K screen adds little value. Nonetheless it’s the first instance of a phone with a 4K screen, so we’ll be interested to see whether other manufacturers follow Sony’s latest innovation.

Huawei Mate 8 The Mate 8 excels as the ultimate business tool, but is a great personal device too. The battery, super-responsive fingerprint reader, dual SIM support and raft of connectivity options are perfect. Particular highlights are the very capable rear camera and high-res front facing camera.

HTC One M9 We marked the M9 down for only being a very minor update on the M8, but it is undeniably a superb phone. Underneath its elegant silver and gold chrome shell, it houses a superfast Snapdragon 810 processor, 20MP camera, 3GB RAM, 32GB memory and some clever customisation tools.

Xiaomi Mi 5 Xiaomi has taken its time bringing the Mi 5 to market, but the wait has been worthwhile. It’s yet another excellent Mi phone. A flagship phone needs a flagship spec sheet and the Mi 5 delivers with its Snapdragon 820 processor, well-made metal frame and great connectivity.

£569 NEW ENTRY See issue 63

£449 See issue 58

£372 See issue 52

£549 See issue 57

£399 See issue 57

£469 See issue 59

£629 See issue 59

£429 NEW ENTRY See issue 63

£579.99 See issue 50

£300 NEW ENTRY See issue 63

In case you missed it... The toughest smartphones Read more in issue 62 WINNER

RugGear RG730 » Price €549

» Website ruggear.co.uk It’s as tough as it looks. A real Swiss Army knife of an Android phone, and one that has specifications that aren’t matched in our group test.

Cat S50

Samsung Xcover 3

Cat S40

» Price £336 » Website catphones.com Another device that goes all out on the toughness front and pays little attention to tech specs. Its specs are nowhere near bleeding edge. You wouldn’t mess with it, though.

» Price £180 » Website samsung.com Samsung is punching above its weight. General specs are average, but an IP67 certificate makes the Xcover a genuine contender. Battery life isn’t great but it’s decent for the price.

» Price £329.99 » Website catphones.com We had high hopes fo the S40, but CAT has taken one step forwa in the rugged stakes and two steps back in the smartphone stake We really like the des and build quality, but the rest is lacklustre.

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Buyer’s Guide TOP 10 BUDGET BUYS

1

IF YOU’RE SHOPPING FOR A SMARTPHONE ON A SHOESTRING, CHECK OUT THESE LOW-COST MOBILE MUST-HAVES

Vodafone Smart ultra 6

Our newly crowned best budget phone in the world marries excellent specs and a smooth user experience to topple the ZTE Blade S6 back into second place. We love this phone’s octa-core processor, 1080p screen and 2GB RAM – specs you’d expect to see in a premium handset. Throw in the fact it looks good and the cameras work brilliantly, and you’ve got a serious bargain.

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

ZTE Blade S6 While its price puts it at the top end of what we would call a budget phone, the Blade S6 is the best ZTE Blade in years. It runs Android Lollipop, has a 64-bit Snapdragon processor, 2GB RAM and the exact same IMX214 camera as the Sony Xperia Z3 – which costs around three times as much!

Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 The Redmi Note 3 has set a new high standard for budget devices, provided that you can live with MIUI 7 running over Lollipop and you’re not averse to importing your phone. The fantastic battery life is a particular highlight, as is the surprisingly loud speaker.

Wileyfox Swift The Wileyfox Swift is excellent value for money and good fun too. It matches its rivals in the market with a 5-inch HD screen, 2GB RAM and a five-lens camera enclosure, perfect for taking photos in low light. Cyanogen 12.1 proves to be an authentic alternative to stock Android.

Moto G (2015) The newly updated third-gen Moto G (2015) model doesn’t offer the same metallic finish as the ZTE Blade S6 or Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, but you can personalise its design before you buy, like you can the much more expensive Moto X. It is also waterproof, offers 4G and has a dual-flash 13MP camera.

Moto G 4G (2015) Now that the regular Moto G and Moto E have been updated and both offer LTE, this handset doesn’t offer much except that it’s slightly cheaper than the Moto G (2015). It also looks very similar with a 5-inch screen, booming dual speakers and vanilla Android 5.0.2, but it only offers an 8MP camera.

Moto E (2015) The second-gen Moto E is nipping at the heels of the Moto G for the title of Motorola’s ultimate no-strings-attached smartphone. It also offers 4G and has Android Lollipop built in, with the added promise of an all-day battery. But its 5MP camera, bulky size and poor display reflect its budget price.

Asus ZenFone 5 While it is one of the most expensive phones in our budget buys chart, the ZenFone 5 offers an awful lot for less than most mid-range phones. A stylish metal design is available in a range of colours, it has a sharp 5-inch screen, powerful Intel Atom processor and an 8MP shooter with a range of modes.

Honor 4X The biggest and best of the mid-range Honor phones, the 5.5-inch Honor 4X has a lot going for it, including a 13MP camera, off-brand octa-core processor and 4G connectivity. However, you pay for the high specs at a low cost in other areas: it only runs Android 4.4 KitKat and has a mediocre screen.

Sony Xperia M2 Aqua Just like Sony’s flagship Xperia Z5, this mid-range marvel is waterproof up to at least 1.5 metres. Sony’s other top feature is here as well with an 8MP rear camera and a suite of photography tools. The only downside is that after you factor in all the preloaded apps, it only has 4GB of storage.

£115 See issue 56

£149.95 See issue 50

£150 See issue 61

£129 See issue 56

£159 See issue 55

£139.99 See issue 51

£109 See issue 54

£149.99 See issue 48

£148.86 See issue 53

£150 See issue 48

In case you missed it… Apps for movie makers Read more in issue 61 WINNER

FxGuru: Movie FX Director

» Price Free + IAP Want to shoot more exciting mobile movies? This amazing app lets you add all sorts of Hollywood-style special effects – sci-fi, horror, disasters etc – cleverly matched to the camera’s motion. Shoot your own blockbuster!

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Sun Seeker

Digital Clapper

LightMeter Free

» Price £5.75/$7.49

» Price Free + IAP Serious filmmakers will want a digital clapperboard to capture exact timings on set for syncing sound and video. This free app does the job well and will make you feel like a pro. Now you just need your actors on set – lights, camera, action!

» Price Free

When planning an exterior shooting schedule, you’ll need to know where the sun is going to be throughout the day. Sun Seeker includes a detailed augmented reality view to show its path so you can line up perfectly lit outdoor shots.

While designed mainly for still photography, this free light meter app will help you get the exposure settings just right on a dedicated video camera. There’s nothing worse than blown-out footage, so make sure that yours is perfectly balanced every time.


Buyer’s Guide TOP 10 BEST TABLETS

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

WHETHER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A SEVEN OR TEN-INCH DISPLAY, THESE ARE THE TOP TABLETS AVAILABLE ON ANDROID

Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet

Sony’s lightest and brightest tablet ever, the Z4 has made us fall back in love with the ten-inch tablet when the Nexus 10 left us cold. With a clip-on keyboard and Microsoft apps bundled in, it is a top tablet for when you want to set up a mobile office. But all work and no play makes for a dull device, so the Z4 also supports PlayStation Remote Play and has a crisp 2K display screen, a Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB RAM to ensure it can keep up with console-quality frame rates.

£505

Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

£269

If the Xperia Z4 is an iPad killer, the 8-inch Z3 has the iPad mini in its sights. Weighing just 270g, it’s slim and stylish like its bigger brother, with 3GB RAM and a Triluminos display to boot. It also integrates with the PS4 so the only real difference between the Z3 Compact and the Z4 is its size and price tag.

Google Nexus 9 A mighty Nvidia Tegra K1 processor and 2GB RAM mean that even running the most graphic-heavy games won’t slow this 64-bit tablet down. The built-in BoomSound speakers also offer great sound quality, making Google’s new tablet an all-round media consumption device.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 Ultra thin and ultra bright, colours look vibrant and details distinct on this powerful Super Amoled screen. Samsung’s iPad slayer also puts many other Android tablets to shame with a multiwindow mode to display several apps at once and octa-core processor ensuring lightning-fast performance.

Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet Arguably one of the most portable 10-inch tablets available, the Xperia Z2 Tablet is waterproof and can support a SIM card for 4G use. It is also surprisingly thin and light to carry, and includes power-saving modes to ensure longer battery life. Reasonably high-spec, it has a whopping 3GB RAM.

Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Pro As far as tablet and projector combinations go, this is by far the best on the market today. This unique feature gives the Lenovo Tab 3 Pro automatic entry into the top ten, but it should be noted that it’s somewhat lacking in other areas.

Samsung Galaxy TabPRO (8.4, Wi-Fi) The smallest tablet in Samsung’s collection, the TabPRO 8.4 proves that good things do come in small packages. A stunning 359ppi screen puts the Nexus 7 to shame, though we’d prefer higher-quality speakers. However, an 8MP camera and an intuitive interface are good compensation.

Vodafone Tab Prime 6 Vodafone’s 4G tablet is the network’s best own-brand device yet, shipping with Android Lollipop built in, a Snapdragon 410 processor and 32GB microSD. Obviously it also requires a Vodafone contract so we recommend buying it outright for £150 and getting the pay as you go deal with 6GB data.

Amazon Fire A solid effort from Amazon who have priced it correctly for new and seasoned Android users alike. The £50 price means that this will be the go-to Android tablet for many new users, although that low price point is reflected in its build quality and design.

Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 We praise Lenovo for trying to be different. The outstanding points easily outweigh the usual cutbacks. The kickstand, excellent speakers and rotational camera are all surprisingly excellent features that make this budget-tablet offering a serious challenge to the big boys.

See issue 54

See issue 46

£299 See issue 45

£349 See issue 43

£309.95 See issue 39

£399 See issue 61

£199 See issue 38

£70 See issue 53

£50 See issue 59

£149.99 See issue 60

In case you missed it... Apps for text messaging Read more in issue 62 EvolveSMS WINNER

» Price Free + IAP One of the best third-party alternatives to the stock Android Messaging app, EvolveSMS features a slick interface that enables swiping between conversations. Advanced features include batch deletion and the ability to use custom notifications.

Textra SMS

chomp SMS

QKSMS

» Price Free + IAP

» Price Free + IAP One of the first third-party SMS apps, it’s still one of the best. Alongside customisation options, features include group messaging, dual SIM and support for Android Wear. This makes it one of the quickest and easiest to use on the move.

» Price Free + IAP

Another slick and highly customisable app, Textra comes with over 100 themes, plus support for Pushbullet, MightyText and Android Wear. Notable options include delayed sending of messages, which is a handy feature.

While lacking a few advanced options, QKSMS achieves its twin aims of looking stylish and being easy to use. There are plenty of appearance settings for customising it just how you want, making it the text client you can truly customise to your heart’s content.

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DroidSupport »troubleshooting advice »hints and tips an expert »Gotemail an Androidrelated problem that you need solving? Let us know!

qa@littlegreenrobot.co.uk Share your tips & tricks Join us on Facebook and Twitter to share and receive some great tips and advice

»facebook /littlegreenrobot

Like us on Facebook and join in our Android community

»twitter @lgrobot

Follow us on Twitter to send your thoughts and questions

Gmail will not sync for me? “Gmail synchronisation has been inconsistent for me over the past year, but recently it stopped working altogether. When I open the app, new emails appear as normal, but they do not appear in the background. Any ideas as to what could be causing this?” Gary Flesk Hi Gary. There could be a number of reasons why your Gmail synchronisation is not working as it should, but we will start with why it has stopped completely. Have you recently installed a task manager that attempts to save battery life by closing apps when not in use? If this is the case, it is likely that this is interfering with the background sync; many of these apps are inept at understanding what you want to run, and will quite happily close anything at inconvenient times in order to improve system performance. Our advice is to scrap this kind of app, because the benefits th offer are usually outweighed b the disadvantages – uninstall will hopefully see your email sync as they should. As for th intermittent performance, go the settings in the Gmail app and tap your account name. scroll down and untick the S Gmail option. Tick it again a then tap Manage labels to ensure the email folders you equire are covered by the yncing process. You can al

A

Did you know? You can view a list of your recent destinations in Google Maps by tapping Settings and then selecting Maps history. Tap any location on the list to immediately start navigating to it. You will never need to enter an address twice in Google M

re are many settings in Gmail tha syncing

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going to Accounts in the main settings and then selecting Google Tap the name to ensure

The sync process will need to be running in order to sync emails

Make sure that it’s backed up first, then add it again as you would when setting up the device. This should ultimately and


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Get help from our Facebook community

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Android Wear is killing my phone battery!

DroidSupport

Ask your questions Got a problem with your Android phone or tablet? Send it to us and we’ll find the solution

“Since I bought an Asus ZenWatch, I have noticed that the battery life on my phone has taken a nosedive. Also, the watch was recently updated and the battery is just getting worse! Anything I can do to improve things?” Martin Clover Hi Martin. There are certain things in life that we just have to accept, and diminished battery life on an Android phone that is constantly connected to an Android Wear watch is unfortunately one of them. As you know, Bluetooth is used as the main connection technology, and it needs to be active for notifications to appear on the watch as well as the phone. This means that more power will be used, but potentially you could save phone battery life if you are using the watch to view your notifications. You will be turning

A

your phone on less, so try to concentrate on using the watch to achieve battery benefits. Also, in the Android Wear app, you can block notifications for certain apps, and this will have a big impact on battery performance if you choose to block the most active ones or ones that you don’t feel are necessary on a daily basis. Finally, consider activating Aeroplane mode on the watch when you do not need the activations and use it as a standard timepiece instead. There are many things you can do, some with Settings and

Enabling Aeroplane mode on an Android Wear watch will prolong battery life

others with behavioural changes, but you should be ab to reach a point where both yo phone and watch are getting y through a full day without needing an extra charge. We can only hope to see upgraded Android Wear watches in the near future that offer multiple days of usage from one charge but until then, you will need t accept the limitations and jus do what you can to prolong charging intervals.

You can block certain app notifications in Android Wear

hints&tips Manage contacts, brightness levels and malfunctioning apps Deal with duplicate contacts

The perfect display setting lmost all Android phones and tablets offer n automatic brightness setting, which is esigned to offer the best balance between rmance and clarity. We have found that the ult setting offers the best battery benefits.

When apps go wrong...

3

If you find that an app misbehaves after an update, you can go to Settings>Apps and tap on the app in question. Tap the Uninstall Updates option which will take it back to the stable state you previously enjoyed.

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DroidSupport How can I protect my battery? A friend has told me that I should not leave my phone charging overnight as it can damage the battery. Is he right, and does it mean that I will need to change the battery sooner?

Jamie Marks Hi Jamie. There really isn’t a perfect way to charge a modern mobile battery, because they are designed to cope with how the individual wants to work with them. Whether you charge overnight, or only charge when

A

Encryption has slowed my phone down? I decided to encrypt my Moto G a now it has slowed down dramati It could be pure coincidence, but the two days since I set up encryption, many tasks seem to much longer than normal. Should emove it and see if the phone speeds back up again?

Clive Moore Hi Clive. We shall d with the bad news fi It’s highly likely that encryption has caused the l f performance on your Mot and it may continue for a lit while, but there is some goo news on the horizon. When et up encryption, you will a warning message advisin hat the initial process can ause slow-downs while it ctivating, but we have see his performance impact la or extended periods on m devices. In some cases it c ast for a few days (althoug his is not normal) before uddenly jumps to life aga and you should see increa peed in comparison to h your phone worked befor ncryption was enabled. ct is that encryption is emely beneficial if you w eep your data as safe as

A

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“There are many factors that can cause Wi-Fi instabilities”

the battery is very low and then pull the cord is entirely up to you, because the eventual difference in how long the battery will last should prove to be minimal. Our advice is to use your phone the way you want to and not worry about fiddling with such things, but there are some aspects to be aware of. Only ever use an official charging cable, and never put the phone under clothes or pillows when charging. You can also use a battery saver app from Google Play, but choose carefully, as some are designed to merely close power-hungry apps.

How can I fix my Wi-Fi?

The pros of encryption usually outweigh the cons

possible and Android has been

Hi. I am finding that my Android phone is suffering more and more with either slow Wi-Fi or random disconnections. Most of my other devices work fine, but I would specifically like to know why rebooting it fixes the arily, and if I ate where it it should? It’s Jenny Collins

A

enny. It’s hard ay why a oot works in n as there are s that can instabilities, e put together a tips for you help to solve ction problems deed, you er need to ause there are ys to achieve olution and hanges you can tentially solve m once and for not offer a 100 arantee of a fix many factors such as your other devices nnected to it nvironmental ut we do hope nd a solution is incredibly for any mobile losing it can he entire . Wi-Fi on Android less experience


Did you know? Boot Animations root is a simple app that lets you add custom animations to the boot process of your device without the need for complex programming. You have to be rooted of course, but the end results are a bit of fun that will add extra enjoyment to your device. Imagine Publishing Ltd Richmond House, 33 Richmond Hill Bournemouth, Dorset, BH2 6EZ  +44 (0) 1202 586200 Web: www.imagine-publishing.co.uk www.greatdigitalmags.com www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk

Magazine team Editor April Madden

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Production Editor Rachel Terzian Senior Designer Adam Markiewicz Photographer James Sheppard Senior Art Editor Andy Downes Editor in Chief Dan Hutchinson Publishing Director Aaron Asadi Head of Design Ross Andrews

Contributors

reboot every time 1 Don’t If you have problems connecting to Wi-Fi,

on Wi-Fi 2 Always Go to Settings>Wi-Fi and tap on the menu

try going into Aeroplane mode by sliding the notification bar from the top and accessing Settings. This should do the same job because it will break the connection to your router, which is the device most likely to be causing the problem.

icon to see more options. Now tap Advanced Wi-Fi and look for the ‘Keep Wi-Fi on during sleep’ option. Tap it and then select Always to keep it connected as often as possible. This should lessen the chance of random disconnections.

Andy Betts, Christian Cawley, David Crookes, Oliver Hill, Philip King, Shaun McGill, Philip Morris, Paul O’Brien, Michael Simpson, Harry Slater, Jessica Thornsby and Mark White

Advertising Digital or printed media packs are available on request. Head of Sales Hang Deretz  01202 586442 hang.deretz@imagine-publishing.co.uk Account Manager Simon Hall  01202 586415 simon.hall@imagine-publishing.co.uk

FileSilo.co.uk Assets and resource files for this magazine can be found on this website.

Support filesilohelp@imagine-publishing.co.uk

International Android Magazine is available for licensing. Contact the International department to discuss partnership opportunities. Head of International Licensing Cathy Blackman  +44 (0) 1202 586401 licensing@imagine-publishing.co.uk

Subscriptions For all subscriptions enquiries  0844 245 6963 (UK)  +44 (0) 1795 414 972 (Overseas) Email: android@servicehelpline.co.uk 13 issue subscription (UK) – £51.90 (CC) 13 issue subscription (Europe) – £65 13 issue subscription (ROW) – £75

Circulation Head of Circulation Darren Pearce  01202 586200

admin screen 3 Router On a PC connected to your router, go to bthomehub.home (or the specific URL for your router) and log in to the admin screen. The options available may look perplexing at first, but this is the best place to go to tweak your router for the best Android performance.

the channel 4 Change In Wireless settings, move to another channel to see if it improves the performance. The option to do this may be hidden under Advanced settings, but the process simply involves clicking and choosing a new channel. If you are using the 2.4GHz band, try to avoid channels 12 and 13.

Production Production Director Jane Hawkins  01202 586200

Finance Finance Director Marco Peroni

Founder Group Managing Director Damian Butt

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The publisher cannot accept responsibility for any unsolicited material lost or damaged in the post. All text and layout is the copyright of Imagine Publishing Ltd. Nothing in this magazine may be reproduced in whole or part without the written permission of the publisher. All copyrights are recognised and used specifically for the purpose of criticism and review. Although the magazine has endeavoured to ensure all information is correct at time of print, prices and availability may change. This magazine is fully independent and not affiliated in any way with the companies mentioned herein. If you submit material to Imagine Publishing via post, email, social network or any other means, you automatically grant Imagine Publishing an irrevocable, perpetual, royalty-free license to use the material across its entire portfolio, in print, online and digital, and to deliver the material to existing and future clients, including but not limited to international licensees for reproduction in international, licensed editions of Imagine products. Any material you submit is sent at your risk and, although every care is taken, neither Imagine Publishing nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for the loss or damage.

off mobile data 5 Turn Although unlikely, it is possible that your mobile data connection is interfering with your Wi-Fi if the signal is inconsistent. If you are likely to be using Wi-Fi for most of the day, try turning off mobile data to see if it makes a difference in your overall Wi-Fi reliability.

an app 6 Try There is an app available on Google Play

Android is a trademark of Google Inc.

© Imagine Publishing Ltd 2016 ISSN 2047-1580

called Wifi Fixer that attempts to spot potential Wi-Fi connection problems, in order to minimise disconnections and recover the connection quickly if lost. It is not a solution as such, but it can help if no other trick works for you. Check our website daily for even more tips & tricks

»www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk

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Resources YOUR FREE RESOURCES Log in to www.filesilo.co.uk/android and download the latest smartphone software, video tutorials and free wallpapers

10 free wallpaper

collection of designs

OUR BONUS ESOURCES ON OUR BRAND-NEW FILESILO THIS ISSUE YOU WILL FIND AN UNMISSABLE COLLECTION OF ANDROID RESOURCES

» Exclusive hands-on videos of the latest hardware

» Videos to guide you through some of the magazine’s best tutorials

» Wallpapers for your phone

Unboxing videos

St

Hands-on with the latest devices

i

d kt

ll

1 Expert video guides www.filesilo.co.uk/android

TOTAL NUMBER OF FREE RESOURCES

96

Walking you through the new OS


FileSilo »FILESILO – THE HOME OF PRO RESOURCES DISCOVER YOUR FREE ONLINE ASSETS A rapidly growing library Updated continually with cool resources Lets you keep your downloads organised Browse and access your content from anywhere No more torn disc pages to ruin your magazines

No more broken discs Print subscribers get all the content Digital magazine owners get all the content too! Each issue’s content is free with your magazine Secure online access to your free resources This is the new FileSilo site that replaces your disc. You’ll find it by visiting the link on the following page The first time you use FileSilo you’ll need to register. After that, you can use the email address and password you provided to log in

The most popular downloads are shown in the carousel here, so check out what your fellow Android Magazine readers are enjoying! If you’re looking for a particular type of content like brushes or fonts, use the filters here to refine your search Can’t find the resource you’re looking for in these filters? Click on More Options to specify exactly what kind of resource you want Green open padlocks show the issues you have accessed. Red closed padlocks indicate the ones you need to buy or unlock Top Downloads are listed here, so you can get an instant look at the most popular downloaded content Check out the Highest Rated list to see the resources that other readers have voted for as the best!

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Resources How to use Everything you need to know about accessing your new digital repository

To access FileSilo, please visit www.filesilo.co.uk/android

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Follow the instructions on screen to create an account with our secure FileSilo system. Log in and unlock the issue by answering a simple question about the magazine. You can access the content for free with your issue.

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If you’re a print subscriber, unlock all the content by entering your unique Web ID. Your Web ID is the eight-digit alphanumeric code that is printed above your address details on the mailing label of your subscription copies. It can also be found on any renewal letters.

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You can access FileSilo on any computer, tablet or smartphone device using any popular browser (such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari). However, we recommend that you use a computer to download content, as you may not be able to download files to your phone or tablet.

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If you have any problems with accessing content on FileSilo, or with the registration process, take a look at the FAQs online or email filesilohelp@ imagine-publishing.co.uk.

GET IN TOUCH WITH ANDROID MAGAZINE Head over to www.littlegreenrobot.co.uk for all the hottest news and reviews, quick tips and handy tutorials and much more. We’re on Facebook and Twitter too – follow @lgrobot and like us at www.facebook.com/littlegreenrobot to find amazing competitions and giveaways for apps and hardware. We’d love to hear from you – don’t be shy!

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Turn on your

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Android magazine issue 63 2016  

You’re one connection away from award winning TV sound • Sits under or in front of TV, transforming sound with powerful 2.1 stereo and sur...

Android magazine issue 63 2016  

You’re one connection away from award winning TV sound • Sits under or in front of TV, transforming sound with powerful 2.1 stereo and sur...

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