Tag Archives: Android

pixel 2 verizon unlock

How to Unlock your Verizon Pixel 2’s Bootloader (Yes, really!)

As somebody who has switched over to Android wanting to get the most out of my phone, I was rather disappointed after having figured out that Verizon wanted absolutely none of that on Google’s shiny new flagship phone, the Pixel 2. Thanks to an oversight by the very same phone carrier that disabled this option, you can unlock the bootloader on your phone right now. Continue reading How to Unlock your Verizon Pixel 2’s Bootloader (Yes, really!)

Surprise! WhatsApp Shares Your Data with Facebook

To everybody’s “surprise”, the popular Facebook-owned messenger WhatsApp shares information with the social media giant. To make matters worse, they’re also distributing this information to advertisers for monetary benefit. Continue reading Surprise! WhatsApp Shares Your Data with Facebook

How to fix the HTC One M8 Battery Drain

If there is one thing I hate with modern smartphones, it is phone-breaking bugs. We are in a day and age where the latest flagship phones cost $500, and if you are not with a cellular provider that still honors a 2-year contract, phone expenses can add up. Couple that with the fact that a lot of phone companies stop supporting phones when they become two years old, and you’re left in a dilemma. I personally like keeping my phones for as long as I can just to save money. I’ve had my HTC One M8 for about a year and a half, and I’ve loved every second of it, except when I got a bug that was driving me up a wall.  Continue reading How to fix the HTC One M8 Battery Drain

Weather Timeline Android App Review

Weather applications are really hit or miss. Some people just want the immediate weather, while others want to know the humidity for their hair or chance of rain. Some make the user go through five screens to figure out what the weather is, and some are just downright ugly. Weather Timeline offers everything for the user, making figuring out the weather a chore of the past. Continue reading Weather Timeline Android App Review

Pushbullet Pro – Pricing Scheme Causes A Scare

For thousands of Android and iOS users, Pushbullet is a god send. It lets you “Push” links seamlessly to each other and for Android users it mirrors notifications and lets you send SMS from your PC to your contacts. This in itself has been a blessing for those who work and aren’t allowed to pull out their phone, but also for anyone who doesn’t want to reach for their phone every ten seconds to respond to a text. Continue reading Pushbullet Pro – Pricing Scheme Causes A Scare

Customizing Your Android Experience

One of the main selling points of the Android OS is that you can make it your own. Your phone will become a personality extension of yourself. You can choose to have five home screens filled with widgets, shortcuts, and hidden gestures, or you could have a single home screen with 5 icons; the choice is ultimately yours.

There are many aspects of customizing Android to understand, but I’ll break them down for you. The first is the launcher. A launcher is essentially the desktop that your Android device boots into. Samsung’s default launcher is known as TouchWiz, and HTC’s is known as Sense. App developers have made custom Android launchers that tend to remove some of the frills your phone developer have created and instilled into your phone. Some of the most popular launchers are Nova Launcher and Apex Launcher. There are some lesser known ones that appeal to some niche markets such as WLauncher, and Home UX, but these tend to be the main two launchers.

The UI for both of these applications tend to be the same, but what matters are the ways the user can control his or her Android experience. But what makes these launchers different than the launcher that comes with your phone? You are able to change the grid size and have a brand new app drawer from the get go. Delving in deeper to both of these launchers, you will find that you can change the animations of scrolling in addition to how you want to organize your app drawer. Different gestures and features such as swiping up on an icon to open up a different application are a fraction of the things that these launchers let you do.

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Minus Kid Mode, these are all the launchers on my phone. Sense is the stock HTC Launcher, Apex and Nova are the two most popular and W Launcher and HomeUX are two niche, but fantastic launchers

A thing to note is that these launchers do no change anything with your default launcher. It is basically another application that open up on boot up and ‘replaces’ the older launcher with itself. You can uninstall any launcher the same way you would an app.

The next level of customization begins with the icons. Nova Launcher and Apex, and a bunch of other launchers allow for users to download icon packs and install them into the launcher as long as they are compatible with it. These icon packs are made by members of the Android Community and some of them truly look spectacular. Certain icon packs are made to be minimalistic, others are bright and colorful, some are round and some are square, and others are based on themes such as Pokemon and Game of Thrones. These icon packs can be found in the Google Play Store. Some great icon packs are free and others are paid, but they traditionally only cost a dollar or two. Since Google Play now allows refunds up to two hours after purchase, you can easily buy an icon pack that you think you might like, test it out, and return it if you do not like it.

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A lot are free and quite a few are 99 cents. This becomes a real addiction fast.

Some of my favorites are Click UI, Min, Merus, Cryten and Switch UI. These are all different shapes and sizes, and are just a drop in the huge bucket that are icon packs. If you like a specific icon pack, be sure to check out the dev to see if they have made other icon packs. I remember loving Click UI (I still do), and then found Switch UI and instantly bought that when it was on sale cause it was of a great quality.

You got your brand new launcher, and a pretty icon pack, what left is there? Widgets, that’s what’s left. Widgets are arguably the most important part of customizing your Android phone. As we know, these widgets come in all shapes and sizes, but making them all work together is the real challenge.  One of my favorite apps, and practically a staple in the Android Customization Community is Zooper Widget. Zooper Widget is literally whatever you want it to be. At its core, Zooper lets you create widget templates and then apply them to your desktop. Zooper gives you all the tools to create a template and then you are able to implement it into your desktop to create a layout that you are not only comfortable with, but enjoy using. Creating battery widgets that lead to the battery settings menu or to another application is easy once you understand the interface. People have made all sorts of layouts and configurations thanks to Zooper. Another application worth mentioning is Kustom Live Wallpaper, or KLWP, but that is a completely different beast in itself.

Just to give you an example as to what customizing can do you for your Android experience, lets take a look at HTC’s default launcher, Sense. From what I have used and read, Sense isn’t filled with nearly as much bloat as other stock launchers, but it is still quite cumbersome to use. Once you look at the Sense launcher, you immediately see how things are going to work. There is a lot of space in between the icons, and the clock widget used does not work well with the launcher. The app drawer is also a mess and does not offer much customization. I was able to change grid sizes, but only to a predefined set, I did not have the freedom to change it to 6×9 or 4×7. The launcher as a whole looks very dated and there is very little customization available to the user.

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It’s not the worst, but it’s certainly not my first choice.

Now let’s look at my desktop and break it down step by step. My main home screen is pretty straightforward. There are ten icons (Top row: Play Store, Business Calendar 2, Camera, Google Photos and Relay for Reddit. Bottom Row: Phone, GroupMe, App Drawer, Gmail, and Textra) and an Alarm Pad widget that takes me right to the app. The widget at face value shows me the time, the date, and the time and day of my next alarm. The purpose of using this widget is that it lets me look at my clock at a glance and see everything I need. You can also note the minimal icon pack, Min, a free icon pack, that is used on my home screen. I like it because it doesn’t get in the way a lot, and they’re smaller icons as a whole.

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The center screen is my home screen

Swiping to the right brings me to my music player, GoneMad Music Player, and my Google Tasks. Personally, I could substitute the Google Tasks widget with something else but there isn’t much else that I use. If I ever find an app that I use extremely frequently, then I will switch out Google Tasks in favor of the new app. Behind the two apps is a Zooper Widget that is purely white and is the full height of the screen and almost the full width. In doing this, the apps can appear to be one large piece. My favorite, subtle part of this are the two icons that are under the blank white Zooper Widget. This creates a wipe effect when you’re moving from screen to screen, making you think the white Zooper widget is on top of the home screen page.

Swiping to the left brings my weather and calendar page which I easily use twenty times a day. The widget on top and middle are from Event Flow Widget; the top being a calendar and the bottom an agenda. The bottom widget is from Weather Timeline, a material weather application that has recently been gaining a lot of traction on Reddit. This panel also has the white Zooper widget below it in addition to the icons below that. This panel offers a lot more information to me and lets me see my events day by day and by the week thanks to both of these unique widgets. These are generally common widgets to use on your phone due to the amount of flexibility that you are offered. This may seem like information overload to some, but I personally like this panel and find it really easy and great to use.

Just to show that this is not all that can be done with customizing Android, let’s take a look at this theme.

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This is all I need to work with.

Surprised? There’s three measly dots and a clock, big deal. But for the most part, this home screen does everything the previous one did, except it just has it all one screen. Before I go into detail, it is worth mentioning that this setup is inspired by this Redditor who posted this layout months ago, I simply re-made it based on how I wanted my layout to work. This setup also utilizes an app called Popup Widget 2. This app lets you launch widgets when an icon or space is tapped. These widgets will float on your screen and you can interact with them while they are there. This app, plus Nova Launcher and Zooper Widget lead to some pretty fun combinations.

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The one on the left is the actual home screen, only one screen. The photos following it are what happen when you tap on each circle.

The circle on the left opens my GoneMad Music Widget when it is tapped, but it opens my Weather application when you swipe up on the circle, a function of Nova Launcher. This allows for twice as many physical widgets or apps to be launched. The center circle when tapped opens a Zooper Widget that I made that has a tray of apps. This tray was made strictly through Zooper Widget by using the rectangle shape as well as the icons from Click UI. Zooper lets the user use the icon packs in their widgets in the form of bitmap, giving the user that much more freedom. The circle on the right opens the Event Flow Agenda on tap, and the Event Flow Calendar on Swipe. Since I usually know what day of the week it is and what my week looks like off of the top of my head, I use the agenda more just to figure out where I have to be and at what time.

These are just 2 of limitless options that you have at your disposal as an Android user. There are more apps and widgets to use than I did in these two examples. Popup Widget 2, Zooper Widget, and even KLWP, which was not shown here, but arguably has the most customization of any application on Android. If any of you have any ideas, feel free to comment!

1byone Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker and Smart LED Review

In the past, I have seen Bluetooth LED lamps all over eBay and Amazon and have always been curious about them, although I never knew they had ones with speakers built in to them as well. Thanks to 1byone, I received a review unit of one of these Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker and Smart LED light speakers and was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the product.

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The visible speaker grills on the side are neat in that wavy format

The light was sitting safely inside its box and easily slid out. It’s a little bit bigger than originally thought but it is definitely still shaped to fit in most light fixtures. My dormitory didn’t have any lamp for putting this bulb in, so I borrowed my friend’s from the room over, screwed it in and flipped the switch. The light took a few seconds to turn on but it shined a nice bright LED white which did not bother my eyes too much. Since the light was shining, I opened up my iPhone’s Bluetooth to see if it had been broadcasting a signal. I simply tapped it and caused the speaker to beep notifying me that my phone is connected, allowing me to use it in any of my music applications like TIDAL, Spotify or iOS default Music application. The Android app is no different than the iOS app based on my usage of it.

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Color Palette at its finest

To be completely honest, this was a product on Amazon that had hundreds of versions of, and when there was ‘speaker’ in the title of a product whose main use is to be a light, I laughed. Although, this speaker can generate some pretty good sound and was able to play some music like Foo Fighters, Deadmau5 and Tech N9ne, spanning a range of frequencies that had no problem playing through the speakers. Some of the higher frequency sounds like high-hats and screeching guitars may lack slightly but they still produce some great sound. Since I’m in a dormitory I was not able to test how loud they get, but the speakers in this thing can get pretty damn loud based on my professional experience in accidentally turning it up. My roommate was able to turn the speaker up to really test out the quality of the speaker, and the sound quality got moderately muddy. The music was still identifiable, but the bass and mids sort of swallowed up the high-end and the definition of the music was not of the highest quality. For the given price tag though, the speaker does produce a good sound.

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Sample of the various colors

1byone advertises their product to come alongside with their own application in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, and while a little buggy and basic, it does the functions it’s intended to do. I find that the application takes a bit of time to connect to the lamp over Bluetooth, although once it is connected you will have the ability to switch the light on and off, change the light color to any RGB color using the color picker, set timers, and set the light to ‘Auto’ mode which will cause it to dance with your music from any audio that plays out of it. The one bug I did find quite frustrating was when I played a song through my music app, closed the lightbulb application, and reopen it. The music blasts at full volume and it takes me by surprise every single time. Personally I don’t recommend using the music picker within the app because it is really basic and quite hard to navigate, so just play your music through another music app. The internal music picker should have more options in terms of sorting and organizing by artist at the very least should be an option.

Interestingly enough, just like light, music is meant to surround the area you’re sitting in and this product does just that. The 1byone Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Speaker and Smart LED is a great product that will not only serve your musical purposes, but also brighten your day.

SwiftKey Neural – Reading Your Mind

Yesterday, mobile keyboard app giant SwiftKey release a new rendition of their iconic keyboard through the SwiftKey Greenhouse Project Program, SwiftKey Neural. SK Neural is a stand-alone keyboard app that is still in Alpha, but it revolutionizes the way we as users communicate with others through smartphone devices.  Continue reading SwiftKey Neural – Reading Your Mind

Splitwise – Sharing Expenses Made Easy

I cannot count the amount of times that I have bought food with my roommate, and vice versa, only to not realize how much we spent or how much we owe one another. The Splitwise team makes these uncomfortable conversations and money haggling a thing of the past with their app. Continue reading Splitwise – Sharing Expenses Made Easy