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Editorials

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Editorial: The Rise Of The "Cheap" Smartphone Is Finally Here - And That Makes Me Happy

As I sit here in a hip Los Angeles coffee shop across from the seemingly never-ending whooshes and rumbles of LA traffic on a busy boulevard just outside the door, I wonder if $4 is a reasonable price for the latte now sitting in front of me. It does have one of those latte art fern-shaped things on it. Or, at least it looks like a fern to me.

While not a tiny amount of money, it doesn't seem totally unreasonable. (And trust me: $4 for a latte is a respectable price in Los Angeles.) After all, I am availing myself the use of said business's counter, its rather lovely interior inspired by the owner's Taiwanese heritage (well, supposedly), a nice ceramic cup for my beverage, and the generally relaxed atmosphere the place provides.

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A Closer Look At The Design Of Hangouts 4.0

Nearly two months after we first saw the in-progress Hangouts 4.0 update, we were starting to worry it would never make its official appearance on the Play Store. But recently our collective wish was granted and Hangouts got a big update. Google says this is Hangouts' update to material design, but what exactly does that mean for the app? There's more here than just a new FAB, so let's take a closer look at some of the notable design changes in Hangouts 4.0.

The journey to material

Despite what the change log may suggest, Hangouts didn't suddenly arrive at "material" with the 4.0 update.

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A Closer Look At The Design Of YouTube Gaming (Creator Preview)

Yesterday, we took a look at the YouTube Gaming app (at least the creator preview). Navigating through the app, users will see several elements obviously informed by YouTube's existing design - the video player can be minimized and dismissed, the navigation model relies entirely on tabs, and getting users to discover more content is the name of the game. But the app branches off from YouTube's design and UX - and the design of all of Google's Android apps - in some really remarkable and unique ways.

For that reason, I thought it may be fun to take a closer look at the design of YouTube Gaming (Creator Preview).

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Editorial: If OnePlus Will Basically Just Lie With Marketing Slogans, We Have No Reason To Respect Them

OnePlus is easily the world's most controversial smartphone company, and that's for good reason: they actively bring that controversy upon themselves. And they know they do.

Case in point: the OnePlus 2's so dumb I can't believe it but yes I can marketing slogan - "2016 Flagship Killer."

Now, if you ask OnePlus about this phrase, they'll probably claim you're not "getting" their meaning. Their "meaning" is that "specs don't matter." People are tired of specs (OnePlus cofounder Carl Pei literally told me this, by the way). Except the specs OnePlus dutifully teased over the course of weeks and months leading up to their phone's launch.

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Android Auto: A Second Take On Google's In-Car Efforts

When Google announced Android Auto at Google I/O 2014, I was already sold. And by "sold," I mean I fully expected it to be something I'd want [were I in the market to buy a car that had it]. And while I don't actually plan on buying a car with Auto any time soon, after spending a week with it, I do feel pretty OK with that gut feeling. We reviewed Auto earlier this month on a Pioneer head unit, but I figured I'd also share my own thoughts on it.

For a little bit of background, recently Hyundai allowed me to borrow a Sonata sedan (I reviewed it) with Android Auto loaded up.

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Android M Will Never Ask Users For Permission To Use The Internet, And That's Probably Okay

Google's initiative to put privacy and security back into the hands of users through a revised permission system has received generally positive responses. It's no secret that this approach closely matches the way iOS prompts users for access to things like the contacts or location. Aside from the possibility that permission requests could become annoying with too much frequency, this has proven to be a pretty effective approach. However, since the announcement, one sticking point seems to have emerged around access to the Internet. As it turns out, users will never be asked to grant access to the outside world, and it's not even possible to revoke it, even if they wanted to.

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Google Play Books Still Has An Alarming Number Of Scammy Book Listings

A couple of months ago, we published a story about the scam problem in Google Play Books, and we haven't been alone in criticism of the store's issues.

The gist is this: Google's Play Books store was plagued by scammy "guide" books that, for a few dollars, promised access to cracked APKs, but in reality provided nothing but scams and malware.

Two of the publishers we mentioned in the post - Monster Guides Editor Pro and leon Master - were removed from the Play Store, but plenty remain, still distributing links to pirated apps and malicious sites, or outright selling the work of legitimate authors.

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Android's System Bars And Your Interface - Whether And How To Theme

Google updated its design spec recently. The material spec, which Google says is a living document (as evidenced by its ongoing updates), gained further guidance on floating action buttons, dialogs, updates on typography, and a lot more.

One less-advertised update was a change to the section in "Structure" concerning the navigation bar in Android. The "color variants" text is still identical to that from the "status bar" subsection, but an image showing nav bars themed to match your device's hardware was removed. Here's the image in question:

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 1.39.01 AM

Theming according to device color is - as far as this writer knows - not possible on Android at the moment, and neither is theming the nav bar to its "light style" variant also shown in the guidelines, where the nav bar is white and the buttons become gray.

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Editorial: Google's Project Fi May Not Be The Carrier You Want, But I Sure As Hell Do

Let's get it out of the way: American wireless carriers suck. None of them are actually good. When you think about the internet and your connection to it in the context of your home or apartment, none of the crap carriers get away with would fly. And that's why we're constantly trying to figure out who has the best deal, who grandfathers, and how to get a phone that doesn't force you to sign a contract, or a plan that'll bleed your wallet dry.

Some carriers, like T-Mobile, are trying to change that to an extent. But they still play the same game as so many others - soft data caps that don't scale in a linear fashion (unless you opt for the unlimited plan, which still has a soft tethering cap), limited plan choices, carrier-locked phones out of the box, rollover schemes, bloatware, and a boatload of legacy and prepaid products that make it unnecessarily confusing to just choose a plan that meets your needs.

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Editorial: No, Microsoft And Xiaomi Are Not Going To Run Away And Get Married / Build A Dual-Boot Phone

We've heard it a handful of times before, but here we are again: some OEM is announcing that it's experimenting with a dual-boot Windows / Android project, or in this case, a project that will allow users to switch their handset from an Android phone to a Windows phone with a simple tool. Microsoft has teamed up with Xiaomi to test this concept on the Mi 4, but mostly as a way to get market feedback on Windows 10 for smartphones in China.

Microsoft's language makes it pretty clear this is just a one-off experiment.

Microsoft will partner with Xiaomi to offer Windows 10 free downloads to a select group of Xiaomi Mi4 users.

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