Time for a new phone

My LG Nexus 5X is almost two years old and has already had a new motherboard fitted to fix the boot-loop of death. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time until the phone starts boot-looping again, and things are starting to slow down. Most annoyingly, it will appear to take a photo but the photo never gets saved – yesterday this robbed me of a nice photo I’d taken of my son opening his birthday present.

As it’s almost inevitable that the boot-loop will happen again, it makes sense to replace the phone before it happens – that way, I can sell the phone and get more money for a working model. It also means I can transfer everything over to the new phone or backup photos etc. to my PC – it is next to impossible to do this once the boot-loop starts, as I know from painful experience!

I’ve spent a while deciding which new phone to get. I don’t like iOS so an iPhone is out of the question. I was looking at the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel 2, but I can’t bring myself to pay such a premium for them. So I started looking at phones at a lower price point. My considerations were:

  • Camera – I want a decent camera for taking photos, I don’t carry a standalone camera everywhere with me and it’s nice to be able to take photos of my family when we’re out and about. I’ve been spoiled with the Nexus 5X camera I think – obviously the Galaxy S8 and Pixel 2 have the best cameras but they’re also the most expensive.
  • Headphone socket – I have a headphone cable in my car to plug my phone, and one in the kitchen too. Bluetooth has its uses but sometimes I just want to plug my phone in and have it work straight away!
  • USB-C – I’ve become accustomed to using USB-C with the Nexus 5X and I don’t think I can go back to micro USB and having to insert the plug the correct way.
  • RAM – The Nexus 5X only has 2GB of RAM which these days is not brilliant – I’d like a phone with more memory available.
  • Storage – I’d prefer not to use a micro SD card but it’s nice to have the option. The Nexus 5X has 32GB storage which has mostly been enough for my needs.
  • NFC – I like having the option to pay for things with my phone – it comes in handy when out and about in London, for example, as you can use it with Oyster terminals.
  • Fingerprint reader – It’s so quick and easy to unlock with a fingerprint, plus it stops the kids being able to access my phone!

I was initially looking at the Honor 9, which has had some excellent reviews and covers all of the points above. However, when I went to see how much it was on Amazon it was out of stock and wouldn’t be available for shipping for at least a month. Whilst there I noticed that the Honor View 10 was reduced to £380 – only £80 more than the Honor 9, but for that extra money you get more RAM, storage and a better screen. £80 seems a decent premium for these features and it will hopefully future-proof the phone a little more, so I’ve gone for the Honor View 10. Sadly Amazon didn’t have it available for next-day delivery but it should come next week. I could have ordered it from elsewhere but if I buy from Amazon I’ll have a bit more peace of mind when it comes to guarantees, etc.

I look forward to trying out the new phone and will post my thoughts here in the near future.

Allow custom notifications in the Outlook app for Android

I use Gmail for my personal email account but I’ve found that Outlook works better for my work account which has recently switched to using Exchange. There was one minor annoyance however; I was unable to select custom notifications for the app, and I was originally limited to the default selection. Having spent years listening to the same message notification I didn’t really want to change it, but luckily I was able to find a solution.

The problem arises from a change in more recent versions of Android to allow specific permissions for various apps. Outlook does not have access to Storage by default and so it can’t see the custom notification. It’s easy to solve however:

  • Go to your phone’s Settings
  • Go to the Apps section and select Outlook
  • Select Permissions
  • Switch the Storage permission to on/yes

Screenshot showing permissions for Outlook

Now if you go back into Outlook and try to change the notification sound you should be able to see the custom notifications again!

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 Device Manager allows users to locate Android devices

Lost your phone and left it on silent so you can’t ring it to find it? Fear not, for the Android Device Manager is now available. The page allows you to locate your Android device, showing it’s location on a map, as well allowing you to make it ring, even if it was on silent.

It’s even possible for you to remotely factory reset your device, which would be handy if you have any important/sensitive information on your phone that you don’t want anyone else to see. This requires updating a setting on your phone, but the procedure is straightforward and you can even send yourself a notification from the ADM website to help take care of it.

This functionality has long been available from other providers, but now that Google is providing it built-in hopefully even fewer people will suffer because of lost phones.

Duolingo launches Android app

The popular language education website Duolingo has just launched an Android app. The app is completely free and allows users to learn French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portugese or English in bite sized chunks. The app makes use of gamification to allow users to take bite-sized modules and earn points and achievements for completion.

DuolingoI’m a sucker for anything with points and achievements, so I’ll definitely be trying this out. Anyone interested in learning a language and who owns an Android device should head over the Google Play store right now and install this!

Google Keep launched

Google Keep, the search giant’s rival to Evernote, has finally launched. An announcement about the service was announced on Google’s blog yesterday. The service will allow users to make notes, start checklists, and transcribe voice memos.

There is an Android app for Keep, and users will also be able to view/update notes at https://drive.google.com/keep/. A facility to view/update notes directly in Google Drive will also be launched shortly.

This service has been coming for a while, you wonder what took Google so long. But I’m a bit wary of using it – after all, what happens if Google pull the plug on it a la Reader?

Samsung Galaxy S IV to be unveiled on 14th March

The latest in Samsung’s flagship series of mobile phones, the Samsung Galaxy S IV, will be unveiled in Times Square, New York on 14th March. A teaser trailer was released on YouTube which doesn’t give much information away:

However, there are many rumours about the new device. It will seemingly come with Android 4.2.1 Jelly Bean, have a 5″ Super AmoLED screen, an 8 core CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 13 megapixel camera. Whilst these specs would make it very desirable, these rumours should be taken with a pinch of salt until the device is unveiled. No doubt it will be a very desirable device!