Living in Europe and being able to easily buy a Nexus device have traditionally been mutually exclusive. With the possible exception of a couple of countries, getting your hands on a Nexus in Europe usually meant having to jump through a million hoops and deal with a very limited availability. Compounded with the fact that basically every other Nexus launch to date has been a fiasco in one way or another, you could count yourself lucky if you managed to grab one in time for Christmas.
Fortunately, Nexus manufacturers and Google have learned from their mistakes, and things have improved greatly compared to previous years. As a whole, preorders in the US went swimmingly, and today — barely a month after the US launch — the Nexus 5X is available to order in Europe.
Due to a smaller installer base, the specialized version of the Play Store that comes on Android TV gets a lot less attention that the version on phones and tablets. Even so, we keep an eye on all the various flavors of Android - check the sign over the door - so we're happy to report that the Android TV version has received a notable update. The latest release (5.10.30-leanback) makes some big changes to the user interface, chopping off some of the less necessary corners to focus on the core experience.
Nick Butcher (Developer Advocate at Google) recently published the source code for Plaid, an app meant to showcase material design on Android with playful animations, impeccable typography, and a simple, bold aesthetic. The code will provide useful examples for developers, but the app itself is worth keeping installed too - Plaid pulls stories from Designer News, Dribbble, and Product Hunt to serve up design news and inspiration, catered to your preferences.
Besides more standard material elements, the app has a few unique tricks. Specifically, the toolbar is behind the content rather than lying on top of it, making the scrolling action on the main grid a little more elegant.
Since the launch of YouTube Red, there have already been a couple of minor updates to fix little bugs and make further tweaks to the interface. The most recent upgrade, version 10.43, just started rolling out this morning and it appears to share the same purpose. However, a teardown also reveals YouTube is preparing to introduce a feature many of us have been dying to see: fast forward and rewind.
Google likes to tinker with the UI of the mobile version of Chrome's user interface in the Dev and Beta versions of the app. Not every change we spot in these versions makes it into the standard, stable version of Chrome, but the changes to the New Tab page that we saw back in August seem to have made their way to the front. We're getting tips and reports from dozens of Chrome users that the UI change, which swaps out six website thumbnails for eight site icons instead, is now live.
T-Mobile users with the latest devices (and sometimes with the latest software updates) appreciate the inclusion of Wi-Fi calling for those areas where the network doesn't reach or can't penetrate indoors. Of course, the fact that Wi-Fi calling is available is a good reason to abstain from flashing custom ROMs, even on multi-carrier devices like the latest batch of Nexus phones. Apparently that won't be a problem for much longer, at least if you're a fan of the CyanogenMod ROM.
Cyanogen Inc. employee (and former leader of the AOKP ROM team) Roman Birg posted the screenshot above to Google+, clearly showing T-Mobile Wi-Fi calling on an AOSP-style software build.
Compared to the early days of Android and iOS, it's amazing how good virtual keyboards have become... but that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement. Long email and street addresses in particular are a pain to type in, especially outside of the browser where saved user information isn't available. If you're tired of typing out your thirty-character company email address, Texpand can help: it allows you to create customized shortcodes for longer strings of text and use them in any text field.
Even though they're technically "backgrounds," wallpapers are an intricate part of our smartphone and a unique way for us to show our personality. They adorn our homescreens, greet us each time we unlock our phones, and try to stay hidden while still being enjoyable. Some of us like nothing but a black screen full of widgets and apps, others prefer a gradient or pattern to add a touch of color, and some like simple graphics while others use photographs. The least we could say is that wallpaper choice is a very personal one.
Searching for the perfect wallpaper can be a daunting task, especially if you don't know where to start.
If you've been modding your Android devices for any amount of time, you're probably familiar with Chainfire, developer of the extremely popular SuperSU root permissions manager and various other mods and apps. His latest work attempts to solve an annoyance that has bothered Android power users for years, but has become particularly annoying since the introduction of Android 5.0. Chainfire's new experimental method for rooting Android phones, tablets, and other gadgets does so without modifying any of the files on the /system portion of the device's storage, instead using a modified boot image.
That's a big deal, because after Android 5.0 any modifications to files in /system (even without a permanent root solution) cause over-the-air and sideloaded updates to fail, forcing rooted users to stay on older versions of Android or re-flash the stock build, then root again.
There have been fewer and fewer new Google apps as the company expands into every conceivable web and mobile market, but they still manage to surprise us every now and then. The latest Google app is called Who's Down, and it's a strangely specific social tool. Basically it's an all-purpose "available" button. Slide the toggle from on to off, and anyone you've connected with can tell that you're available for... whatever. You can select specific activities you'd like to take part in, see which friends are also "down," and chat with them in an integrated message service.