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Editorials

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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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[Ermahgerd] Verizon Apps Spotted On The Nexus 6's System Partition After The Android 5.1 Update, Rustled Jimmies Ensue

The Internet is in the midst of having a mini hemorrhage over something that, basically, doesn't matter. Shocking, right? It appears that a few people on XDA have noticed that their Nexus 6 had a couple of Verizon-specific APKs installed on the system partition after updating to Android 5.1. There are two issues at play here:

  • First, there are two APKs that are clearly identified as Verizon-specific. One is VZ Backup Assistant and the other is called VZWAPN.
  • Second, if you go to Settings | Accounts, which is probably the least visited place in the history of the Android settings app, you can add an account called "Backup."

vzw_nexus_6_screenshot

Firstly, let's explain what these apps actually do.

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Yes, Your Brand Can Survive A Material Redesign

Google's material design, which I've written about a number of times, has generally been received well by designers, developers, and press alike. We've seen numerous apps adopt it, developers explain and evangelize it, and users react positively to it.

Still, there have been nagging questions about the new design philosophy. A big one, and one that could potentially be a stumbling block for adoption, is the question of branding. Some voice concerns that material design may overshadow existing brands if implemented to Google's spec, or that it's too difficult to brand a "material design app."

Someone recently asked me what I thought about the relationship between branding opportunities and material design, and while I was able to come up with a short version of the answer, there are a few different things packed into this issue that are worth exploring.

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Don't Trust Case Manufacturers For Device Leaks: HTC One M9 Edition

We are rapidly approaching that fun time of year when the largest Android smartphone manufacturers unveil their newest flagships. That means we're already in the silly season of rumors and leaks. Isn't it interesting to follow all the developments on, say, the HTC One M9? The M7 was great, the M8 was better...it's understandably hard to wait for official information about the 2015 iteration. However, whatever you do, do not look at product images from case manufacturers like Spigen to learn what the next phone will look like.

Remember when famous tipster @evleaks posted these supposed renders of the M9?

nexus2cee_HTCOneM9rendersleak

The supposed M9 is on the left.

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Editorial: The FCC's New "Net Neutrality" Rules Will Change Very Little About Wireless Carriers In America

Today, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled a working set of principles for his proposed plans to regulate ISPs (including mobile ones) under Title II of the 1996 Telecom Act. These providers would be overseen more like a utility, such as landline phones, granting the FCC much broader authority over companies that operate in this space.

Wheeler wants to enact a pretty narrow version of net neutrality under this (proposed) newfound authority, banning "paid prioritization," paid "fast lanes," and arbitrary throttling and blocking not part of reasonable network management. These new provisions are not trivial, and are definitely ensconced in the larger net neutrality "vision" of groups like the EFF and FSF.

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