Android Nougat released – how to get it right now if you have a Nexus device

Google have released the final version of the Android Nougat operating system for Nexus devices – but you might still have to wait even if you have a current supported Nexus device such as the 5X, 6P or 9 as Google releases the update in stages. However, there is an easy way to get the update immediately.

All you need to do is sign up for the Android beta programme and enrol for your specific device. The notification to install the Nougat update will then appear on your device shortly afterwards (it appeared almost instantly on my Nexus 5X). You will see warnings about your phone being wiped if installing a beta update, but you can safely ignore this as this is not a beta update. Once the update has been downloaded and installed to your phone, you should then unenrol your device at the same beta programme link so that you don’t receive the next beta update.

Nougat downloading on my Nexus 5X

Nougat promises some great new features such as multi-window support, quick switching between apps, new emoji, a new Vulkan API for faster graphics, improved battery life, improved bundling of notifications and more. I look forward to trying out Nougat – it’s nice to have a Nexus device and get the update straight away without waiting months for manufacturers!

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Android N to be known as Nougat

Continuing the Android platform’s tradition of sweet nicknames, the next update to the mobile operating system will be known as Nougat. The new name was revealed via Google’s Snapchat account:

Android Nougat announcement via Snapchat

Android Nougat announcement via Snapchat

The name was also revealed on Twitter:

Android Nougat is due to be released later this summer. Expected features include an improved notification shade, split-screen multitasking and improvements to the Doze battery-saving feature.

Belong – a new way to earn rewards

Belong is a new app promising users a range of rewards in return for displaying branded wallpapers on their devices. The app (formerly known as QuiltLife) is planned for launch in September 2016 – users can sign up now for early bird access on the website.

By installing the app and leaving a wallpaper displayed on their device, users can earn rewards on a “ladder” – the longer you leave the wallpaper there, the better the reward! The image from the Belong website gives an idea of what will be available:

Belong reward ladder

This seems like it will be great for both users and advertisers and is well worth checking out -I’d advise signing up as an early bird so that when the app is launched you can start earning rewards as soon as possible!

Nexus 5X update

So I’ve had the 5X for a couple of months now and I thought I’d post an update on my usage of the phone. I’m still really happy with it – the only negative is possibly the battery life but that’s only if I spend all day playing Marvel Puzzle Quest on it. There’s no lag when using the phone, things happen quickly and smoothly and it’s an absolute pleasure to use compared to previous phones.

The fingerprint scanner is a big plus. It’s very quick to unlock the phone and helps add an extra layer of security (and stops the kids playing games behind my back!) It also helps with my banking app and LastPass, I can just login with my fingerprint rather than having to mess about with passwords.

The absolute highlight is the camera. Two presses of the power button and the camera loads, and pictures can be taken so quickly. The quality is excellent too. I can easily take three or four high quality pictures in the time my wife’s older phone can take one. It makes such a difference when wanting to take quick pictures – at a gig on Saturday I could whip my phone out, hold it in the air for five seconds and have taken three or four decent pictures, even if some don’t come out it doesn’t matter because one is bound to work. With my previous phone I wouldn’t even have had the camera app open in that time!

I’m really pleased I chose this phone and look forward to what Android N brings. I hope to use this phone for a long time yet (it cost me a fair amount after all) but it’s definitely convinced me that Nexus devices are the way to go. Just watch and see Google discontinue the Nexus program now!

Nexus 5X

I took the plunge and bought a Nexus 5X – in the end it was having vanilla Android that won out over the Xperia Z5 Compact, I know for sure that the Nexus 5X will always be updated quickly.

The box for my Nexus 5X

So far I am loving the phone – it is a massive upgrade from the Moto G (2014). Everything is smooth, I’ve not experienced any lag yet, and everything loads quickly and works as you’d expect it to. The phone only has 2GB of RAM but I’ve not come across any performance issues related to this, and it’s double what is in the Moto G.

I got the version with 32GB of storage – as the phone doesn’t have additional microSD storage I felt it was important to get as much as possible. This is obviously a massive improvement over the 8GB that the Moto G has, and I’m nowhere near filling it up. Being able to update apps without having to clear cache and delete things first is much better!

Having used the fingerprint reader on this phone I can’t now imagine having one without it – it makes life so much easier, both with unlocking the phone and for verifying my identity (LastPass uses it instead of a master password). I don’t need to set a PIN now to prevent the kids from using it!

The camera is also another massive improvement – I can finally take photos in low light conditions and expect the results to be usable. I also like that you can bring the camera up quickly when the phone is locked – just push the power button quickly twice and it brings up the camera. You can then use the volume buttons to take a photo. The panorama and photo sphere features are also very good.

To protect the phone I bought a screen protector and a case. I went for the PThink screen protector which is tempered glass rather than the usual cheap plastic cover. It costs a bit more but it is so much better than what I’ve used before – I was able to apply it first time with no dust getting underneath and the bubbles were small and easy to get rid of. So far it is holding up well and I’ve not got any scratches or marks on it yet.

I went for the SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle case which has a transparent back that shows off the Nexus logo. It fits well, although one thing to note is that the hole for the headphone socket is a little small – my headphones fit in but my car adapter is too thick to fit in – I’ll have to buy an extender to get it to fit.

So far I am very pleased with the Nexus 5X and would happily recommend it to anyone looking for a new phone.

New phone time?

The Moto G 2014 is getting a bit long in the tooth, and I still haven’t got the Marshmallow updated which would help with the endless storage issues (I’m never getting a phone with so little storage again!)   So I’ve started looking at potential replacements.

I prefer paying for the phone up front rather than tieing myself to an expensive contract, so I won’t be getting anything cutting edge. I’ve done some research and so far it looks to be between the Nexus 5X and the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. The Nexus is a bit bigger and would get updates very quickly, but the Z5 has a better battery and expandable storage. Both would be a step up from the Moto G, something it may come down to price. Both are around the £300 mark so I’ll keep my eyes open for any deals.

I’ve looked at other phones like the OnePlus 2 and Nextbit Robin but there’s always something missing. I’d quite like a fingerprint scanner and NFC to be a bit more future proof. I’ll do a bit more research and will get something by the end of the month.

Marshmallow update rolling out for Moto G 2nd Gen (2014)

The Android 6.0 update, codenamed Marshmallow, is finally available over-the-air to owners of the second generation Moto G (2014). The update is being rolled out in batches and unfortunately mine has not yet received it. I’m patient enough to wait (I’ve been waiting this long already) but for those who want to go ahead and install it, this XDA thread is what you need. The thread includes downloads for the update and scripts to install it via Fastboot.

The Marshmallow updates promises improved performance and battery life. The biggest improvement for Moto G owners though will be the ability to use the microSD card storage as internal storage – Marshmallow can combine internal storage and a microSD card into one virtual volume. Given how frequently I have to clear cache and uninstall apps just to use Google Play’s update facility, this will be a godsend!

Using my IPEGA gamepad with Mupen64Plus Android Edition

I’ve been enjoying using my IPEGA 9021 gamepad to play games on my Android tablet, but I wanted to try and get it working with an N64 emulator so that I can play Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, which is the only main Zelda game I’ve not played. I’ve previously used Mupen64Plus Android Edition on an Xperia Play phone so decided to try it with my LG G Pad 8.3

The emulator can be downloaded from the Google Play store but it requires a donation; however, the exact same APK can be downloaded for free from the developer’s site (I have previously donated for the Xperia Play version). Downloading and installing it is easy, and not much setup was required either. I connected the gamepad via Bluetooth in native mode and loaded Mupen64Plus. The gamepad was recognised straight away without issue; the only thing I had to change was the key mapping, but this was straightforward. I then had a quick test of Super Mario 64, which worked perfectly:

Super Mario 64 on my LG G Pad

I look forward to seeing if Majora’s Mask works and playing it, as I’ve heard so many good things about it!

 

 

IPEGA 9021 Gamepad for Android devices

I’ve been after a gamepad to use with my phone and tablet for a while now, and after my birthday I had some money to spend so splashed out on one from Amazon. I say splashed out but it was less than £15!

IPEGA 9021 gamepad

The gamepad is very similar to the Xbox 360 controller, but of course features the clip in the middle which you can use to attach your phone. So far I’ve not utilised this – my phone is a Moto G (2014) and not the quickest, so I’ve not got many games installed on there. However, I have been using it with my LG G Pad 8.3 tablet – so far I’ve only tested it in GamePad mode (it also works in Keyboard or iCade modes) but it works flawlessly. My tablet is running Lollipop and it’s straightforward to pair the gamepad to the tablet and use it to play. So far I’ve used it to play SNES9X and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It makes such a difference playing KOTOR – whilst it has been optimised for touch screen play (and it did a reasonably good job of that, to be fair), playing it with a gamepad is just like the original (which I enjoyed immensely) – you can even swing your lightsabers about whilst running around!

The joysticks and buttons all work well, but the gamepad doesn’t feel quite right to me – it correctly registers button presses in all directions and hasn’t gone wrong for me, but I’m not sure if I’d want to use it to play something like Street Fighter II. I look forward to playing some old gems on this – Final Fantasy III is definitely on the list. It’d also be good to see which proper Android games can use it – I might try one of the GTA games.

Android Development – Starting Over

I’ve tried several times to start developing Android apps, and I usually get a little past the “Hello, world!” stage and then get distracted by other things. I’ve long wanted to create an Android app counterpart to my Sam Smiths Challenge website, but that itself is in dire need of an overhaul, so then I start thinking about that and forget about Android again. Then a new Android version comes out and everything changes!

I’m definitely going to start developing properly soon though, so will need to find a suitable tutorial and set up the development environment on my PC – perhaps I’ll sort out upgrading it to Windows 10 first. Perhaps I can utilise my microserver too. So many things to consider, not enough time 🙂