If you've never heard of Stack Exchange, you're missing out on some of the best Q&A-style sites on the Internet. Each site is a community built to encourage people to ask and answer questions. Reputation and badges can be earned by giving good answers and comments. With over 120 communities (and growing), there are sites dedicated to programming, server management, gaming, travel, and even anime. The one thing that has been missing was a good mobile application.
Shortly after the new Android Runtime made its grand entrance, I ran a pretty exhaustive (and exhausting) series of performance benchmarks that showed ART wasn't really ready to blow us away. At the time, I opted to avoid the topic of battery life because it is so difficult to test accurately and with unbiased, meaningful results. As it turns out, that was dumb. Yup, so many of you have asked, I finally had no choice but to dive in and run a battery of tests on...well, the battery.
If you're an audio perfectionist, you've surely stumbled onto flac, an audio compression format designed to deliver lossless recordings. The file sizes are considerably larger than your average MP3, but the sound quality is unparalleled by lossy compression algorithms. It's not hard to see why audiophiles drift towards flac as their preferred storage medium. Now imagine the latest version of Android is causing stuttering, cracks, pops, and static in the otherwise perfect playback of flac.
One of the worst things about managing music playlists is adding new songs when we hear them. Sure, once we've identified them, we can always track the song down by name, but that can turn into a lot of manual labor. If we've learned anything from the popularity of music subscription services, it's that we want things to be quick, simple, and convenient. Rdio and Shazam agree, and they are doing something about it.
When it comes to toys you can control from your smartphone, few are quite as fun or inspiring as Sphero. Orbotix blew onto the scene a little over a year ago with an awesome choreographed display in Union Square. The company followed up on the original with an upgraded v2.0 of the robotic ball which began shipping in September, but that wasn't to be the end of the line. Orbotix is at it again with a completely redesigned robot, dubbed Sphero 2B.
If you like to mod your Nexus devices but you're also a fan of tight security, you probably already know BootUnlocker. It's a simple app that allows rooted devices to lock and unlock the bootloader without wiping user data. The developer, segv11, is back with v1.5.1 of this handy little utility. The latest update adds support for the WiFi (flo) and LTE (deb) variants of the 2013 Nexus 7 and the ability to set the tamper flag on the Nexus 4 (mako) and Nexus 5 (hammerhead).
The Bluetooth experience on Android has always been a rocky road. For the first few years Android relied on BlueZ, a "protocol stack" originally developed by Qualcomm for the Linux operating system. Despite many limitations and missing features, BlueZ served admirably until Android 4.2 launched with a new stack dubbed Bluedroid, a project built jointly by Google and Broadcom. Like any young project, the bugs were plentiful, but most of the critical issues were solved in the first few weeks.
Amazon definitely knows how to get into the Christmas spirit. To celebrate the world's biggest gift-giving holiday, the Appstore is giving away over $40 in paid apps for free. There are 11 apps and games in the list, including a few big names like Sonic The Hedgehog 2 and Angry Birds Star Wars II. It shouldn't be hard to find something for everybody.