All posts in “Mobile”

Nomad’s new wireless charging hub is a traveler’s best friend


If you spend any meaningful amount of time in hotels, you’ll know that many of them are still living in the age of the 30-pin adapter, even though most of us have already moved on to Lightning, wireless charging and USB-C. So it’s essential to pack charging equipment to handle any need that might arise — and usually that means a lot of dongles. Nomad’s new wireless USB hub really cuts down on clutter, and makes it easy to charge what you need to charge, when you need to charge it.

The hub looks a bit like a sleek bag burger designed by someone who makes luxury car interiors for a living. It sounds like a weird description, but it’s not a bad thing — the black puck is basically at home in any decor, so it’s a good bedside companion for home as well as away. On top, the hub has a wireless charging pad with a 7.5W max output (the max supported input the iPhone X, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus can accept).

Inside, however, there’s plenty more in the way of charging options, including one USB-C port capable of 3A output, a high-speed 2.4A USB-A port for charging up an iPad or the like and two 1A USB outputs for stuff like AirPods. Each has its own LED indicator (which are faint enough that they won’t disturb even the most sensitive sleeper), and there’s built-in cable management to keep obvious desktop clutter to a minimum.

A single 1.2 meter power cable is included and connects to the wall plug to give the hub its combined 30W max output, and rubberized footing gives it a stable stickiness on almost any surface. There’s a matte rubber ring on top, too, which is great for the iPhone X and 8, which can slide gradually off even other non-stick surfaces, even if they’re seemingly lying perfectly flat.

In terms of how it works in practice, I used the Nomad Wireless Charging Hub all throughout my recent trip to Las Vegas for the annual CES gigantic crazy consumer tech shitshow and it performed very, very well — in fact, after a colleague took off with my only Lightning cable, it was the only way I could reliably make sure my iPhone was topped up for the next grueling day of slogging through gadget booths.

You can definitely get sleeker, smaller wireless chargers, but at $80, Nomad’s option is only really twice as expensive as a lot of the good options out there, and yet it also packs a lot of additional charging versatility for when you need it. If you’re looking for an all-in-one travel charging companion, this is definitely a top choice.

How to root Android phones or tablets (and unroot them) in 2018

Do you want unlimited control over your phone? Android rooting opens up a world of possibility, but it can also void your warranty, leave you with a broken smartphone, or worse. It isn’t for the faint of heart.

Manufacturers and carriers have a vested interest in dissuading you from rooting — if done incorrectly, it can irreparably damage your phone. Even so, the potential benefits are well worth it. With a rooted phone, you can remove bloatware, speed up your processor, and customize every element of your phone software’s appearance.

This guide on how to root Android devices will walk you through the necessary steps to root your phone. Some devices can be rooted in minutes. Others take a little research. But one thing is clear: Rooting your phone is one of the best ways to tap into your Android device’s true potential.

What is rooting?

Rooting an Android phone or tablet is akin to jailbreaking an iPhone — basically, it allows you to dive deeper into a phone’s sub-system. It will allow you to access the entirety of the operating system to customize just about anything on your Android device. With root access, you can also get around any restrictions that your manufacturer or carrier may have applied.

Rooting is best undertaken with caution. You will want to back up your phone’s software before you install — or “flash,” in rooting terms — a custom ROM (modified version of Android).

Why would you root?

sony unlock how to root android

One of the biggest incentives to root your Android device is to rid yourself of bloatware that’s impossible to uninstall otherwise (although you can sometimes disable it — check out our guide on disabling bloatware). On some devices, rooting will enable previously disabled settings, like wireless tethering. Additional benefits include the ability to install specialized tools and flash custom ROMs, each of which can add extra features and improve your phone or tablet’s performance.

There’s no overabundance of must-have root apps, but there are enough to make it worthwhile. Some apps, for example, let you to automatically back up all of your apps and data to the cloud, block web and in-app advertisements, create secure tunnels to the internet, overclock your processor, and make your device a wireless hot spot. Here is a list of some of the best apps for rooted devices.

Why wouldn’t you root?

There are essentially four potential cons to rooting your Android.

  • Voiding your warranty: Some manufacturers or carriers will void your warranty if you root your device, so it is worth keeping in mind that you can always unroot. If you need to send the device back for repair, simply flash the software backup you made and it’ll be good as new.
  • Bricking your phone: If something goes wrong during the rooting process, you run the risk of bricking — i.e., corrupting — your device. The easiest way to prevent that from happening is to follow the instructions carefully. Make sure the guide you are following is up to date and that the custom ROM you flash is specifically for it. If you do your research, you won’t have to worry about bricking your smartphone.
  • Security risks: Rooting introduces some security risks. Depending on what services or apps you use on your device, it could create a security vulnerability. And certain malware takes advantage of rooted status to steal data, install additional malware, or target other devices with harmful web traffic.
  • Disabled apps: Some security-conscious apps and services do not work on rooted devices — financial platforms like Google’s Android Pay and Barclays Mobile Banking do not support them. Apps that serve copyrighted TV shows and movies, like Sky Go and Virgin TV Anywhere, will not start on rooted devices, either.

Android Oreo only on 0.7 percent of active devices, Nougat jumps to 26 percent

According to the Android Developer Dashboard, Nougat devices now account for 26.3 percent of active Android devices. Marshmallow is still the reigning king with an API level at about 28.6 percent, with Lollipop still trailing close behind at 25.1 percent. Following the release of Oreo in August, the latest operating system is only on 0.7 percent of devices.

In contrast, Apple’s iOS 11, which was released in the middle of September, was installed on 59 percent of devices as of December 4.

Although Marshmallow’s 28-percent market share may sound like a small percentage, it accounts for a lot of phones, especially considering there have been well over 1.4 billion Android devices activated since September 2015. And it highlights one of Android’s biggest problems — fragmentation. Google issues monthly security updates and rolls out version updates to all of its supported Pixel, Nexus, and Android Go devices, but these are not always released in a timely manner by manufacturers and carriers for other devices.

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that Google’s survey doesn’t account for the millions of Android smartphones in China, as the search giant only collects data from devices that access the Google Play Store. The Play Store is not available in China.

Version

Code Name

API

Distribution*

2.3.3 – 2.3.7 Gingerbread 10 0.4 percent
4.0.3 – 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich 15 0.5 percent
4.1.x Jelly Bean 16 1.9 percent
4.2.x 17 2.9 percent
4.3 18 0.8 percent
4.4 KitKat 19 12.8 percent
5.0 Lollipop 21 5.7 percent
5.1 22 19.4 percent
6.0 Marshmallow 23 28.6 percent
7.0 Nougat 24 21.1 percent
7.1 25 5.2 percent
8.0 Oreo 26 0.5 percent
8.1  27 0.2 percent

*The data above is from Google. It was collected during a seven-day period ending on January 8. Any versions with less than 0.1 percent distribution are not shown.

Android 7.0/7.1 Nougat saw some gains this month and other Android versions decreased in share, while Marshmallow stayed relatively steady at 28.6 percent. Android 8.0 Oreo, on the other hand, only saw a 0.2 percent increase since last month.

Android’s notoriously bad fragmentation was the catalyst for Project Treble, a system-level change in Android O that bypasses much of the testing currently required by manufacturers, chipmakers, and carriers. But it isn’t backward-compatible — older Android devices are stuck on the old upgrade cycle.

We will continue to update this post as Google updates its Android distribution figures.

Update: Android Nougat 7.0 and 7.1 are currently installed on 26.3 percent of devices. Android Oreo is installed on 0.7 percent of devices.

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Learn how to use Google Maps with these handy tips and tricks

One of the early signs that Google might expand beyond search in all sorts of interesting and unexpected directions was the Google Maps release in 2005. Borne out of a series of acquisitions, the Google Maps project has grown over the years to encompass satellite imagery, millions of points of interest, street views, turn-by-turn navigation, traffic conditions, public transportation, and a good deal more.

Google Maps boasts more than 1 billion active users today, making it the most popular navigation software in the world. It gets millions of us where we need to go every day, but are you sure you’re getting the most out of it? It’s easy to miss new features or hidden options. That’s why we’ve compiled this guide on how to use Google Maps. It’s time to take your first step on the road to mastery with our Google Maps tips and tricks.

Keep your device in place and in view while you navigate with one of the best iPhone car mounts, and don’t forget to snag a great car charger. If you don’t like using your phone for directions, then check out the best in-car GPS devices.

How to save your home and work addresses

One of the first things you should do with Google Maps is save your home and work addresses. To do this, open up Google Maps, tap the menu button — represented by the three vertical lines in the top-left corner — and tap Your places. You’ll see entries for Home and Work. Put your addresses in. You can now ask Google Maps to navigate to Home or Work instead of having to enter the address. You can also enter searches like “restaurants near work,” and get a list of viable suggestions.

How to get directions quickly

Most of us are familiar with the Google Maps Navigation feature that offers voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions, but did you know that there’s a nifty shortcut to start it? You can search for a place or touch it on the map, then touch and hold the blue Directions button at the bottom right, and Google Maps will choose the best route and launch straight into Navigation mode. If you want to tweak the route or change your mode of transport, then just tap it once, make your changes, then tap Start.

How to share a location

Just tap and hold on any location to drop a pin. Tap the address section at the bottom of the screen to expand it, then tap Share. You’ll see a pop-up list of apps that you can share your location through. If someone is having trouble finding your location, then a photo view of the front of the actual building can help. Check the next tip for how to share Street Views directly.

How to see Street View on mobile

If you want to see a photo of your location, then you need Street View. Touch and hold on the map to drop a pin on your chosen location, then tap at the bottom where it says Dropped pin (or the address) to bring the information up. You should see an image of the location near the bottom of your screen. Tap that, and you’ll launch into Street View at your chosen location. You can share that Street View by tapping the menu in the top-right corner and tapping Share.

How to find things nearby

Let’s face it, you don’t always know what you’re looking for. Maybe you want some gas, you’re looking for a bite to eat, or you need to mail a package. Thankfully, if you tap the Explore option at the bottom left in Google Maps, you’ll see a list of nearby points of interest. If you scroll down, then you can narrow your search by choosing one of the categories. There are restaurants, hospitals, ATMs, gas stations, and a host of other establishments. You can also search for whatever you need by typing in the search bar at the top, or do a voice search by tapping the microphone icon at the top right.

Choose whatever it is you’re looking for, and you’ll be presented with a list of nearby options with their respective distances. You’ll also see review scores — if available — and you can often call businesses or visit the website directly from the info panel. If you slide the information panel down, then you’ll see that they’re even marked on your map.

How to zoom one-handed

Everyone is used to pinching in order to zoom in and out, but you can also zoom one-handed in Google Maps. A double tap will zoom partially, but there’s another option. Tap twice on the map, leaving your finger or thumb on it the second time, and you’ll find that you can swipe down to zoom in and swipe up to zoom out.

How to view maps offline

A lot of users complain that one of the major weaknesses of Google Maps is the fact that you need to be online to use it. Actually, you can download and view maps offline with a little planning. If you’re going to New York, for example, you would open up the app, search for “New York,” and tap the bar at the bottom where it says “New York.” Then, you’d select the button marked Download.

New York is enormous, however, so you’ll be prompted to select an area. After doing so, you can name your map and save it. Your saved maps will be listed in the Google Maps menu, which is accessible by tapping the three horizontal lines in the top left when you first launch the app. Take a look under Your places, and scroll along to the Maps tab to find your offline maps. They expire in 30 days, so you’ll need to update them if you don’t want them to expire.

Offline maps are pretty limited, unfortunately. You can’t get turn-by-turn directions, or search maps while you’re offline.

How to save favorite locations

You’ll see recent searches come up when you tap on the search bar, but you can also save locations quite easily, and it can be a real time-saver in the future when you look for a place again. In order to do it, simply tap on the place you want to save on the map, expand the information by tapping on the address at the bottom, and then tap Save. You can choose to save it as a favorite place with the heart icon, mark it as a place you want to go, or add it to your starred places list. When a location has been saved, the Save option will switch to Saved with the relevant icon. Go into the menu and you’ll find Saved places listed under Your places.

How to check bus and train timetables

You can also use Google Maps to check up on bus and train times to any location. Simply enter the location you want to travel to in the search bar, tap on Directions and tap on the icon of the train at the top. You’ll see a list of options based on the current time.

If you want to check when a later train is available or see when the last train leaves, then tap where it says Depart at and enter a specific time, or you can tap on Last to find your latest option. You can also filter the results by type of transport (bus, train, underground), and set preferences in terms of fewer transfers or less walking via Options in the top-right corner.

How to see where you’ve been

Google Maps

Google Maps keeps a record of your travels and you can review it via your browser. Go to this Google link and, provided you’re signed into your Google account, you’ll see a map of where you’ve visited in the last day. You can use the calendar located in the top-left corner to select specific dates, or date ranges to see weeks and months.

Beneath the calendar you’ll also see options to Delete history from this time period and Delete all history. You can also turn this tracking off by opening the Google Settings app, and tapping Location > Google Location History. Toggle it off completely, or choose specific devices that you want it turned off for. Bear in mind that, if you don’t have GPS on and High accuracy mode set under Location in your Settings all the time, then you may see some approximate locations that are way off where you really were.

Siri’s podcast-promoting ‘Give me the News’ feature is now out of beta


A few weeks back, Apple added “Give me the news” to Siri’s repertoire of tricks in the latest beta version of iOS. The feature comes as the company is readying its smart assistant for the imminent arrival of the HomePod, the company’s first smart assistant-driven device.

The feature is now out of beta here in the States and the U.K. Asking Siri for the news will default to NPR in the U.S. and the BBC in the U.K. If you’re so inclined, you can also switch to Fox News, CNN, and The Washington Post or Sky News and LBC, respectively — because where you get your information is a particularly hot button top in the age of the Fake News Awards.

The functionality depends on how you invoke it. Talking to Siri directly though the phone will bring up print articles. Triggering it through a non-visual interface like AirPods, on the other hand, will bring of a podcast news briefing — similar to the sort of flash briefings currently available on Google Home and Amazon Echo.

Those news briefings are really cornerstones of their respective smart speaker experience. Having tested them both at some length, the ability to get a quick news update first thing in the morning is arguable one of the strongest selling points for introducing them into your daily routine.

Like Google Assistant, Apple’s clearly aiming to make Siri the most well-rounded assistant for a given task. Given the fact that the first version of the HomePod is lacking a touchscreen interface, this kind of feature certainly makes sense.

But while the feature is beating HomePod to market (the exact ETA of the smart speaker is still TBD), it’s potentially useful in other scenarios, like the car, where a quick audio news briefing hits the spot. HomePod will arrive to a crowded market when it finally does drop, following a CES that was utterly dominated by assistant-powered devices.