The Gear VR takes your smartphone's screen and holds it much closer to your eyes than you would ever do yourself. Then with the proper use of sensors, it makes you feel like you're someplace else.
But Samsung doesn't want you to think its weird-looking goggles are a one-trick pony. It has developed a web browser that may not be quite as exciting as riding a helicopter over the Hawaiian islands but still manages to be significantly more immersive than your typical web surfing experience.
Do you hate advertising, and by extension, the vast majority of free content on the planet? Do you spend hours defending your decision to block ads on the Internet, television, video games, apps, and in real life via an intricate system of automatic blinders? Then the ever-growing crop of Android web browsers has a new entry just for you. This one comes from AdBlock Plus, probably the most recognizable name in browser-based advertisement blocking.
Google is continuing to shine a brighter light on Hangouts users who are currently online. A few months ago the company brought back the green dot that used to mark online contacts in the days of Google Talk (which was replaced with a subtle green line in Hangouts). Going forward, the messenger in the web version of Gmail will contain a new tab that puts online contacts at the top. It's still possible to message friends who are offline, they're just tucked at the bottom where they're out of the way.
Many of us have contacts we want to keep at the top of the list regardless of their online status (a significant other, a good friend, maybe even a parent), so Google has also added the ability to pin people there.
It takes a lot for an Android web browser to get our attention. We've got Chrome in all its Googleyness, and we've got Dolphin if you need something more extensible. But the new Atlas browser beta, from NextApp (developers of SystemPanel App), may just warrant your attention. In addition to speedy rendering and surprising responsiveness, Atlas has some advanced features hidden behind a solid user interface. Oh, and did we mention it uses some Material Design cues in its visuals?
From the primary browsing window, you can swipe in from the left edge of the screen to access to a big, finger-friendly tab selector.
If Chrome isn't cutting it for you, or if you're a die-hard Mozilla fan, or if you'd just like the ability to watch Flash videos every once in a while, the Android version of Firefox is your best bet. Mozilla keeps coming with steady updates, and the latest fixes an especially vexing problem: Flash support is back in KitKat. (It's still marked as unresolved in the release notes for Firefox 27, but I've tested it on my own KitKat tablet.) You'll still need an archived version of Flash to make the plugin work.
Elsewhere in Firefox, the team has added translations for Lithuanian, Slovenian, South African English and Thai languages, plus a default Clear Sans font and a few user interface tweaks to the favicon system.
We often take mobile web browsing for granted, but sometimes the simplest of problems can turn it into a miserable experience. One of the early improvements to Android’s built-in web browser was a neat little feature that allowed text to re-wrap based on zoom level. It’s an obvious function, something that seems natural for reading more than a few words on a small screen. Unfortunately, a significant change in Android 4.4 resulted in the loss of this incredibly convenient capability for most web browsers and several applications. Not only does this affect browsers that rely on the built-in layout engine, it also applies to every app that relies on an embedded WebView.
Google has rebuilt Sheets, the spreadsheet-related portion of its online office suite, and is making the new version available immediately. None of these changes directly affect the Android version of the app, but given that this is the desktop browser-based companion to what Google would consider the platform's best spreadsheet editor, it may be time to give the service another go if you aren't already a committed user. The new version of Sheets comes with a range of new features, including offline support. Now users can work offline and have their files automatically update after reconnecting.
The new Google Sheets can handle millions of cells spread across any number of rows and columns.
A new update to the Opera mobile beta web browser is out, and this one is somewhat of a doozy. The new goodies are coming to the beta version, so make sure your kittens are some place safe before you fire it up.
The update brings in a new full screen mode, the ability to put the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen, fraud protection, and battery life improvements. An exit button has been added that can be activated by long-pressing the back button. All of this is coated with the usual assortment of bug fixes and minor improvements.
Opera has been talking up its new browser entry into the Android world for a few months now, with a beta version hitting the scene back in March. That beta has now graduated into a final release, which just landed in the Play Store this morning. The overall appearance and functionality seems to be largely unchanged from the beta, so users who have been testing out the browser should feel right at home with the first stable offering (which is a completely new listing in the Play Store, not an update to the beta).
This is a much-needed leap for Opera, as it forgoes the Presto rendering engine in lieu of Webkit (a la Chrome), which is arguably much faster.