It has been nearly a year since Google announced Android Auto, and it's still available almost nowhere. No car companies have built the technology into their 2015 vehicles (though some may get a software update with support later), and only a handful of aftermarket head units have the software. So what's the deal? Is it worth getting excited for? I've finally gotten my hands on one of Pioneer's Android Auto units (the 8100NEX), and here's how I'm feeling about it after a few days.
At this point, there is no real shortage of "smart" launchers in the Android ecosystem. Of course, we have to put "smart" in quotation marks, because there still is a void in terms of truly good products trying to do that. So when I tell you that Bento is a new entrant in this bustling market of context-aware launchers, you shouldn't ask, "do we need another one?" You should ask, "is this the one that will really do a great job?"
Bento is a venture capital-backed project that is in a semi-private beta at the moment. As I go over the app in its current state, it's important to keep in mind that it is not a finished product at this point and is not the kind of wide-release beta that you might be accustomed to.
We all know the perils of using a cell phone while driving. At best it's difficult and at worst it is incredibly dangerous. Still, sometimes we need to perform simple actions on our devices when behind the wheel. This basic problem has driven the development of Android Auto and various company-specific software and hardware to smooth things out. AutoMate is an Android app, now in beta, that is quite a bit easier than buying a new head unit. Rather, it delivers a cleaner, Android Auto-inspired interface designed to make on-the-road use easier.
You will probably notice that it looks a lot like Android Auto.
If there's ever been a persistent comment on Android Police in the last couple of years, it's that powerful smartphones are just too damn big these days. The Nexus 6 is gigantic, and 5.2"+ is quickly becoming standard smartphone size. Finding a good, inexpensive phone that isn't too large isn't impossible, but it's probably not as easy as it should be.
So, that's where Alcatel comes in. Yes, Alcatel has a reputation for making some of the slowest, cheapest, and least likeable prepaid phone fare here in the US, but in China and around the world, Alcatel does offer a pretty large portfolio of handsets.
These days, there are tons of way to store files. Locally, in the cloud, on the network...or any combination of those. Personally, I'm a cloud storage kind of guy - ever since Dropbox and Drive have been a thing, I've relied on them to keep everything in sync across all of my computers and mobile devices. Keeping my most-used files accessible whenever and wherever I want has changed the way I use my gear (for the better).
One area where I haven't had a lot of experience, however, is with network attached storage (NAS). Before the cloud, I loved the idea of being able to grab my data regardless of what device I was on, and I always wanted to build one up, but it's just something that never happened.
Before the release of Android 4.4, stock Android came with a basic SMS app. It served as a simple way to exchange text messages the old-school way, without dealing with data connections or usernames. Then the functionality got merged into Hangouts, and while a new standard Messenger app is returning for 5.0, there are many people with devices that won't see that update for months—if ever.
That leaves plenty of room for a basic texting app, one without a fancy name or a distracting icon, and one that doesn't look out of place compared to Google's first-party offerings. After many months in development, QKSMS could be just the thing.
The Nexus 6 came in for a landing on my doorstep yesterday, and I've been happily exploring Google's new phablet ever since. Because I've had it for just one day, there's no way I could write anything resembling a review, so instead I thought it may be fun to do a very basic "initial impressions" post. There are a few things that immediately strike me about the device, so I'll discuss those here, with more details to come in the full review.
The Form Factor
The Nexus 6, known until recently as Shamu, is a whale. It's really big. That should go without saying since the display is 5.9", but when you see it in person its size is truly striking.
Today, Google officially announced Gmail Blue Inbox, a service we posted about just last night. Previously codenamed Bigtop, Inbox by Gmail is a full reimagining of how an email product should work, and how users should interact with their email.
It is really rare for a product to come out that actually reimagines something rather than just claiming it does, but Inbox is really a fresh take on... the inbox. Though the product is just in its first release (and doesn't handle all your email services as we thought it would - a feature that ended up in Gmail), it already looks promising.
We've already seen about a half-dozen Google apps leaked in a Nexus 6 system dump, but we haven't taken a look at Google Drive yet. The app does have some material design in store though - as with the others - it's still in testing, so anything could change. That said, it's worth taking a look. Google Drive has implemented many of the new material design paradigms that make the app cleaner, leaner, and easier to use.
Let's start with the first-run. Google has majorly improved its treatment of imagery in material design, opting for a textured, colorful, graphical style that isn't as flat as its predecessor yet maintains the fun, airy feel that Google imagery is famous for.
The company has come a long way since then, and I feel like it has been offering especially good value for the money as of late, and the Iconia Tab 8 may be the crown jewel of its collection. The weakest link in most of its predecessors was the display, which Acer has (finally) corrected on this go.