An unexpected treat came zooming out of Google HQ today as Android 4.4.4 OTAs and factory images have started rolling out for Nexus devices. The changes have already been posted to AOSP and Al Sutton quickly followed up with a list of the changes that make up the latest update. Since 4.4.3 is only 2 weeks old, and I/O is merely a week away, we had a feeling this was just a security update, and it looks like that's all it is.
It looks like Google is putting the last nail in Dalvik's coffin, and the new Android Runtime (ART) is about to take the throne. A pair of commits turned up last night in the master branch of the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository that spell certain doom for the Android runtime we've known
and loved for all these years. The first of the two changes completely wipes the /libdvm (Dalvik Virtual Machine) folder from AOSP, and the second takes care of changing all of the relevant configuration files and startup scripts to call on the ART runtime.
Jeff Bezos took to the stage earlier today to announce Amazon's first entrant into the highly competitive smartphone industry, the Fire Phone. Not only was the presentation loaded with some of the shiny new features of the handset and Fire OS, all meant for the press to disseminate to potential buyers, but there were also a few unusually blunt efforts to attract developers. In the midst of demonstrating Firefly and Dynamic Perspective, portions of the presentation were focused on explaining that developers would be able to extend these platform features in their own apps.
When Gmail hit 1 billion downloads early last month, it was a pretty safe bet some of the other Google apps would follow closely behind. The next entrant to the exclusive club came only a few weeks later, and this time it's Maps taking the spotlight. Even if it occasionally sends us through winding mountain roads and quiet neighborhoods during cross-country trips, we should give a round of applause for the app that always got us where we needed to go!
We always talk about the customizability of Android, but most of us never really put it to the test. Sure, we might change the theme on our keyboards or replace some homescreen icons, but when is the last time you changed your system font? If you're running CyanogenMod and feel like trying something a little different, treat your eyes to any of the six brand new fonts that have been packaged up for use in the CM Theme Engine.
Pebble fans have been faithfully following each step of the breakout smartwatch since it set almost every Kickstarter record ever. While most of the big news has died down, that doesn't mean the development team is on a break. To speed up the process of getting new features and bug fixes out to eager users, Pebble is opening up an official beta channel through the Play Store. These betas are technically for the Pebble companion app, but since the app also installs firmware updates on the watch, it's likely that you'll be able to get in on all of the new features.
Samsung Galaxy Mega owners have probably felt a little bit ignored while they've watched one Samsung phone after another getting updates. After all, they only made it to Android 4.2.2 at the end of November, a month after KitKat was announced. They can finally say that they're running the latest version of Android (if we pretend that 4.4.3 didn't just come out). Starting today, an update to Android 4.4.2 will begin rolling out to the Galaxy Mega on AT&T.
The latest version of the Play Store hit the scene a little over a week ago and introduced a tweak to the way permissions are displayed at install time, and it left some people feeling a little...uncertain. Gone is the ugly wall of poorly spaced, semi-specific permissions. The replacement is a short set of simplified categories, each with crisp-looking icons and buttons that reveal a brief description when tapped. Google filtered through roughly 145 permissions and narrowed them down to a dozen groups, plus one bucket for anything that remains.
If you used to play around with CyanogenMod Nightlies, but switched to the more stable M-series releases, it has probably felt like forever since M6 hit the scene. Well, M7 is hot off the compilers, just in time to fill that insatiable need to flash your phone or tablet. Don't forget, the M-series has officially taken the place of Release Candidates and Stable builds, so this is considered the most reliable version of CyanogenMod available.
Aside from Windows Media Player, there is probably no single video player more widely installed on computers than VLC. It may not have the prettiest interface (or icon), but everybody eventually turns to that huge orange traffic cone, especially for file types that simply can't play in anything else. While VLC provides a mostly full compliment of features, there is one request that has gone unanswered for a while: Chromecast support.