Otherwise engaged

It’s been difficult to find the time to update this site recently as real life and other commitments have got in the way. Hopefully I will start updating this soon, or will archive it somehow.

One Android-related thing I’ve done recently is update my LG G Pad 8.3 to Lollipop. There is an official update available but only to Korean users; it has been available for quite a while now so I don’t know why it has not been officially released in the UK. The good news though is that the Korean version works fine – there are instructions on the XDA forum showing how to achieve this. It may take a little bit of digging around afterwards to change the language back to English from Korean, and some of the system sounds have Korean filenames, but everything else works fine and the G Pad feels much smoother using Lollipop!

Android-related April Fools jokes

Yep, it’s that time of year again, when manufacturers compete to produce the best April Fools gag. There have been plenty of good examples this year:

  • Motorola have come up with the Moto Selfie Stick, which is assembled by hand and comes in wood or leather variants.

  • Google have introduced #ChromeSelfie, which lets you take a picture of yourself reacting to a website and then share it with friends. They’ve also introduced the com.google search engine which I think is pretty clever.
  • Samsung have introduced the Galaxy BLADE edge, which is the ‘ultimate cooking companion’ – a smart knife with smartphone capabilities! It also comes with a stylus that doubles as a wireless meat thermometer!

Samsung Galaxy BLADE edge

LIMBO on offer for Android devices

The brilliant game LIMBO is currently on sale on the Google Play Store for the bargain price of 71p! This is a superb game, and has had many rave reviews. It is a puzzle-platform game that tells the story of a boy searching for his sister. It’s relatively short but for 71p you really cannot complain. I bought and completed this game when it was released on the Xbox 360, and also own a copy on Steam. Take a look at the trailer video below for an idea of the game:

P.S. If you do buy and play this game, be prepared to die. A lot!

Lollipop thoughts

I’ve been using Lollipop on my Moto G (2014) for around a month now, and so far I really like it. The interface seems much cleaner, especially the notification area (and I do like having a torch in there rather than having a standalone app). The phone does seem a bit quicker and smoother too. I’ve read that other users have problems with 5.0 which should be fixed in 5.1, but I’ve not really had any problems at all.

Apart from this though, there is no real obvious difference when using the phone. I haven’t really noticed any changes to battery life, but I charge it every night anyway and only really drain it after long gaming sessions. I wouldn’t want to go back to KitKat but I would still have been quite happy if Lollipop had not been released, the changes whilst pleasing on the eye are not essential.

Lollipop now available over the air for Moto G 2nd generation in the UK

My second generation Moto G now has an update available for Lollipop! To check, go to Settings, then About phone, then System updates. Hopefully now or at some point in the near future it will show a screen like this:

Lollipop for Moto G

The Lollipop update promises a lot of improvements, as listed on the Motorola website. As well as featuring a Material design, notifications will be improved, a flashlight built into the Quick settings, multiple user accounts on the phone, the ability to pin an app (perfect for stopping children getting access to other parts of the phone), a new battery saver mode and more. I’ll write another post once I’ve had a chance to try out Lollipop properly.

Moto G (2014) impressions

Last week the screen on my Samsung Galaxy S3 started going green and stripy – it was still just about usable but clearly on its last legs. Some research showed that the only solution was a replacement screen, which is about £65 – and as the phone is a bit old anyway, I took the decision to get a replacement. The ‘upgrades’ offered by my network were derisory, so I decided to stick with my SIM-only plan and get an unlocked handset. This meant going for a cheaper model, and in the end I went for the second generation Moto G.

My main consideration was the camera – there are plenty of handsets at this price range with poor 5MP cameras. (I’m aware the number of megapixels is not the only thing to look at). The original Moto G was renowned for having a poor camera, but the second version is 8MP and reviews suggested it was slightly better. It’s also nice to have almost vanilla Android on the handset – it’s currently running KitKat but a Lollipop update is imminent.

Here’s a picture showing the Moto G next to my old Samsung Galaxy S3 (the picture is taken with my tablet, hence the poor quality and the reflection of my hand!) As you can see, the Moto G is only marginally bigger than the S3, but features a 5″ screen. I’ve also bought the official Motorola flip case for the phone which automatically turns the screen on and off.

Moto G with S3

Performance wise, the Moto G is not blisteringly fast, but I never expected it to be competing with the high-end Galaxy Notes, etc. Indeed, it’s probably on a par if not only slightly faster than the S3, which I’ve refreshed with a stock Jellybean ROM and is now pretty quick. I’ve not had any slowdown, stuttering or pauses though which I would frequently get with the S3 in the last few months, and it’s been much less frustrating.

For anyone looking for an Android handset which just works and doesn’t need a top-end handset, I’d highly recommend the 2014 Moto G – at £150 it’s great value.

Dolphin Browser brings Flash support to Lollipop devices

Adobe have not supported their Flash Player for Android devices for a long time, and thankfully the majority of sites have moved on to other media players and libraries. However, you still occasionally see the odd site which won’t work without it, and if you’re running a newer Android device it means you can’t see it. Help is now at hand however from the latest version of the Dolphin Browser.

Dolphin Flash Support

As well as offering Flash support, Dolphin also offers a wealth of other features for mobile users such as gestures, voice search, one-tap sharing and more. It’s free so it’s well worth having a look to see how it compares to your device’s current browser.

Acer Iconia A1-810 impressions

I’ve been tasked with getting a cheap Android tablet for a relative, and the best value for money that I could find in the price range was an Acer Iconia A1-810 with 7.9″ screen. The tablet is going to be used for web-browsing and iPlayer so a bigger screen is better.

The tablet was bought as a refurbished model from Argos’ eBay outlet. I can’t see anything obviously wrong with it, there are no marks on the case or screen and everything seems to be working perfectly, so that saved at least £20! The first noticeable thing is that the screen is 4:3 rather than 16:9, it looks more like an iPad mini than an Android tablet. It is slightly thicker than my LG G Pad 8.3, here is a poor quality picture showing them side by side:

Acer Iconia A1-810 vs LG G Pad 8.3

The Acer is wider but the LG is taller. The wider screen does make it easier to view the BBC homepage, but the screen is inferior to the G Pad, with only a 1024×768 resolution compared to the G Pad’s 1920×1200. However, this is reflected in the price, as well as the difference in CPU, memory, storage, etc.

The screen seems responsive enough and whilst the picture image is not as good as the G Pad it will be perfectly suitable for what it will be used for. It runs Android 4.2.2 out of the box, I don’t know if it will ever get KitKat or Lollipop but I wouldn’t hold my breath! It runs adequately and for the money presents good value.

ArchiKernel updated to version 1.6.3

I am still using my Samsung Galaxy S3 – I can’t really afford or justify an upgrade at the moment, and I’d prefer to wait until some better phones become available on upgrade rather than choosing from what is available currently. The S3 is starting to show its age – it is 2 and a half years old now, a very long time in smartphone terms, and the 1GB of RAM limits how well it can perform.

I’ve installed a custom ROM, ArchiDroid, which has made a world of difference – whilst based on the original Samsung code (so the camera and Bluetooth work correctly), everything has been streamlined and improved. You can even change the DPI of the screen! However, even this has struggled recently and I’ve had several delays between doing something on the phone and it responding.

However, the latest release of ArchiKernel has made a big difference so far to the performance of my S3. It was released two days ago, and can be downloaded from GitHub. You need to make sure you get the right version – as I’m using the Samsung-based ArchiDroid ROM rather than the AOSP-based one, I use the SAMSUNG zip file. All I had to do was copy the file to my phone’s internal memory, boot to recovery, flash the zip and restart.

The phone already feels much quicker and I’m indebted to JustArchi for his work on keeping the S3 up-to-date. I would definitely be using the newer version of ArchiDroid if I could be sure my Bluetooth headset would work with it!

Marvel Puzzle Quest changes

Whilst not strictly Android-related, all of my Android gaming at the moment is spent with Marvel Puzzle Quest. The more time I spend playing it, the more addicted I get to it. Recently, they’ve made a few tweaks to the game, some behind the scenes (with some improvements to PvP matchmaking promised) and some more obvious (all alliances can now have 20 members).

I was originally in a 7 member alliance, but have left that and switched to one with 20 members. I was a bit fed up of being the one putting in all the effort in the old alliance, and never getting any benefits from it. Now though I am mid-level in the alliance, and am accruing the benefits of the extra ISO and alliance ranking prizes in events.

I’ve succumbed to paying for some Hero Coins (although only with credit earned from doing Google Opinion surveys) to expand my roster, but there will always be some covers I have to throw away. My main block right now is a lack of ISO to level up, I’ve got Storm 2* up to 94 and several other 2*s (Daken, Wolverine and Black Widow) on the way, but all of them are lower than they could be because of a lack of ISO. I could really do with another double ISO event like they had at the anniversary!