All posts in “Android”

Next version of Android might finally get a dark theme

Android is about to get... darker.
Android is about to get… darker.

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

Programmers, night owls and dark lords have been asking for a system-wide dark theme on Android since forever, and it seems Google has finally listened. 

Android Q, which is currently in the very early stages, has a built-in dark theme — and several other interesting new features — according to XDA Developers.

According to the report, the early Android Q variant that XDA managed to run on the Google Pixel 3 XL has a “fully functional system-wide dark mode,” which can be enabled in the Display Settings by choosing “Set Dark Mode.” Once enabled, it turns all the menus in Android to a pleasant white-text-on-dark-grey-surface color scheme.

This includes Settings, Launcher, Files, the volume panel and third-party notifications (note that some of Google’s apps, such as YouTube, already have a dark theme). There also seems to be an option that appears to enable dark mode for apps that don’t have this option, turning pretty much everything dark (even Facebook, though that particular app does not respond too well to this and looks wonky in certain places). 

This is what the "dark theme" looks like on Huawei's Mate 20 Pro. Android Q's idea of dark theme is a bit lighter, though.

This is what the “dark theme” looks like on Huawei’s Mate 20 Pro. Android Q’s idea of dark theme is a bit lighter, though.

Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

Some Android makers have their own version of this — for example, Huawei’s Mate 20 pro has a similar feature, and I love it. And even if you don’t care about the visuals, note that dark mode saves your battery, as it takes a lot less light to show dark grey than white on an LCD screen. 

Other new features spotted in Android Q include restricting certain permissions, such as location, to work only when the app is in use, as well as a desktop mode, perhaps similar to Samsung’s DeX

Android Q is still in its early stages and it’s quite possible that some (or all) of these features won’t make it to the final version, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they do. 

For a detailed overview of the new features in Android Q, check out XDA’s post over here

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Twitter’s de-algorithmizing ‘sparkle button’ rolls out on Android

After launching on iOS, Twitter is giving Android users the ability to easily switch between seeing the reverse-chronological “latest tweets” and the algorithmic “top tweets” feeds on their home page. The company announced the rollout at a media event in New York.

The “sparkle button” is a way for Twitter to appease long-time power tweeters while also shifting more of its user base to the algorithmic feed, which the company says has served to increase the number of conversations happening on the platform.

You can read more about the company’s algorithmic feed thinking here:

OnePlus’s big year ahead could help it finally leapfrog the Android world

A reckoning is coming in the phone world in 2019.

The established players — namely Apple and Samsung — will face their fiercest competition yet from Chinese phone makers like Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo, which are all speedily racing to launch premium-quality phones with true all-screen designs that costs well below $1,000.

However, my crystal ball’s telling me there’s one particular Chinese phone maker that could finally leapfrog everyone and become a global powerhouse, and that’s OnePlus.

OnePlus’s rise to household name has been a long, winding journey years in the making. I’ve used and reviewed every single one of the company’s phones since the OnePlus 2, even buying a few for myself and for my parents along the way.

In the last few years, I’ve had the chance to speak with OnePlus co-founders Carl Pei and Pete Lau and the company’s many officers to get a more intimate picture of the people behind the products. This might sound like a love letter, but OnePlus is a genuine company that cares about its customers and that’s so rare in the Android world.

OnePlus’s small size (for now), guided by Pei and Lau’s humble attitude towards not looking down at its fans, but making them a part of the hardware and software process (to a certain extent) has earned it the kind of loyalty struggling phone makers such as LG, HTC, and Sony would kill for.

Looking back at 2018, it’s crystal clear it was a pivotal year for OnePlus. The company launched the OnePlus 6, OnePlus 6T, and the 6T McLaren Edition, all of which earned critical acclaim from reviewers (Mashable included) and fans alike.

No doubt, the phones lack some features found on the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones (wireless charging and official IP water and dust-resistance are the two that jump out), but it’s hard to beat OnePlus phones on bang for your buck. On performance, design, and battery life, OnePlus’s phones stomp all over even Google’s Pixel 3

Moreover, OnePlus finally took serious steps towards making Americans notice its devices through an official retail partnership with T-Mobile and Verizon compatibility. And if you want to really heap praise on OnePlus, the company’s expansion into high quality, but affordable wireless and wired headphones and versatile backpacks have further grown the company’s ecosystem beyond phones.

For these reasons, the OnePlus 6 and 6T were our favorite Android phones of 2018, despite Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 packing in more features and the Pixel 3’s Night Sight camera mode crushing the competition. These big strategic moves also position the company to drift into first place in 2019.

Projecting forward with what we know, 2019 could be an even more monumental year for OnePlus. The company’s already committed to launching a 5G phone sometime this year. Last year it successfully sent a tweet over a 5G signal. 

OnePlus will be one of the first phone makers to release a device with Qualcomm’s next-gen Snapdragon 855 chip. The new mobile chip will bring a slew of improvements including faster processing, better power efficiency, improved photo and video capabilities including portrait mode for video, and more robust AI support, to name a couple of standout features.

Most interesting is the latest leak for a purported next-gen OnePlus (7?) device. 

Serial phone leaker and concept artist Benjamin Geskin has created several concepts of what the next OnePlus phone could look like based on the purported leaks:

The leaked images suggest OnePlus’s next phone could remove the tear drop-shaped notch on the OnePlus 6T and go full edge-to-edge screen using a sliding phone design similar to what we’ve seen on Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 and Huawei’s Honor Magic2, which you can see in action below.

A true full-screen phone design could give OnePlus the competitive edge over Apple, which is likely to stick with a sizable notch for its 2019 iPhone(s) in order to accommodate the TrueDepth camera system that’s required for Face ID as well as Samsung’s Galaxy S10 and its expected “hole-punch” camera cutout design. 

In addition to a display design that would give OnePlus’s next phone a much higher (and highly coveted) screen-to-body ratio, the company could finally include wireless charging as well. Sister company Oppo, which OnePlus leverages for supply chains and production, recently joined the Wireless Power Consortium, hinting the company is interested in Qi-based wireless charging found in many competing phones like the iPhone XS and Galaxy S9.

And let’s not forget OnePlus is planning to make some kind of smart TV

With so many major cards to play, OnePlus’s global presence will only continue to grow. Sooner or later, its phones will command the kind of premium prices it’s frowning on right now, but there’s still quite a bit of runway to go before it gets there. 

OnePlus’s best bet is to not grow too quickly. Expansion is always welcome and a sign of success, but doing so at the expense of customer satisfaction and the product experience will do more damage than can be undone later. 

Pei previously told me the OnePlus 2 and its overheating chipset as well as the company trying to chase the budget market with the OnePlus X were major lessons that taught him and the company to not bite off more than they could chew. Let’s hope Pei and OnePlus remember these learnings in 2019.

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Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 7 is significantly cheaper than other phones with a 48-megapixel camera

Xiaomi’s new sub-brand, Redmi, has launched its first phone: The Redmi Note 7. 

As expected, Xiaomi has once again pushed the boundaries of just how much phone you can get for your money. The Redmi Note 7 has a 48-megapixel rear camera, all-around decent specs, and starts at just 999 CNY or $147. 

The Redmi Note 7 has a 6.3-inch LCD screen with a tiny, “water drop” notch. It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 and starts with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage. It’s got a 48-megapixel rear camera, coupled with a 5-megapixel depth sensor, as well as a 13-megapixel selfie camera. 

Image: Xiaomi

Also on-board: a 4,000mAh battery, fast charging (the fast charger is an extra option that costs only 10 CNY ($1.5)), an IR blaster, a fingerprint scanner on the back, a USB-C connector and (mercifully) a headphone jack. 

The phone is launching in China first, starting at 999 CNY ($147) for the 3GB/32GB model. The variant with 4GB/64GB costs 1,199 CNY ($177), while the 6GB/64GB costs 1,399 CNY ($206). Depending on the variant you choose, the phone is available in four colors: Blue, red, black and a purplish “twilight” gradient. 

Image: Xiaomi

The Redmi Note 7 is not the first phone with a 48-megapixel camera; Huawei Nova 4 and Honor View 20 beat it to the punch. But those phones are far more expensive, with starting price tags of $493 and $436, respectively. With a mid-range processor and lack of some fancy options such as the in-display fingerprint sensor, the Redmi Note 7 makes some compromises in terms of specs, but its price — for either variant — still sounds like an absolute steal. 

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