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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

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Base model Samsung Galaxy Note 7 may have 64GB of storage

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 02:39 PM PDT

The minimum amount of storage included in flagship smartphones has been growing, albeit very slowly. Sixteen gigabyte models were banished by high-end Android smartphone manufacturers quite a while ago, making 32GB the standard. But with photos and apps that are getting ever large, 32GB may not be enough for many. It's hard to believe that iPhones still have 16GB of memory without external storage.

Rumors say that the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 7 will feature a base model with 64GB of storage, and an image showing the Korean Telecom version of the Note 7 in 64GB  supports this. Samsung previously launched a Note device with 32GB of memory while its Galaxy S counterpart had 16GB, so this isn't unlikely.

However, storage options have not always been the same across markets. There have been times when devices would launch in the U.S. with less storage than other markets, so we still might get a 32GB model. We'll have to see, but with rumors of a microSD/UFS combo slot and adoptable storage, fast storage should be no problem for consumers.


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Meizu announces new MX6

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 02:39 PM PDT

Meizu is known for making some fantastic devices at low prices in the Chinese market, and now the company has announced a new device called the MX6.

Spec-wise, it's very impressive. The MX6 has a 5.5-inch 1080p display, a 2.3GHz MediaTek Helio X20 deca-core processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 12MP rear camera, a 5MP front camera, a 3,060mAh battery, and Android 6.0 with Meizu's Flyme 5.2 skin.

The device also features nice things like a fingerprint sensor,  dual SIM slots (something popular outside of the U.S.), a USB Type-C port, and 24W fast charging. It's a step below the Meizu Pro 6, but at $299, it's also substantially cheaper.

The MX6 launches in China on July 30, but we almost asssuredly won't see it here in North America. But for that price, I know many of us would love to own the all-metal MX6.


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Android 7.0 keeps track of the origin of your apps

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 02:39 PM PDT

When it comes to downloading apps to your Android device, you're free to get them anywhere. The Play Store is the most popular source and likely the safest, but you can use any store or even download APKs and install them directly.

However, downloading apps from outside of the Play Store presents risks. Many APKs can be tampered with, so getting malware is a real possibility. With Android 7.0 Nougat, you can see exactly where your apps came from.

Under App Info, you will now see where your app has come from. It uses the getInstallerPackageName method, which works with the Play Store and Amazon Appstore. If the app was downloaded outside of those two stores (or other stores that fill out that string), you'll just see "Package Installer."

This will be a good way to diagnose problems with someone's smartphone. You can now see if your grandma has been downloading Candy Crush from shady websites rather than the Play Store. Will Google use this for evil? Will it track where we download our apps? Leave your thoughts in the comments!


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Strictly Enforced Verified Boot with Error Correction

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 01:55 PM PDT

Posted by Sami Tolvanen, Software Engineer

Overview

Android uses multiple layers of protection to keep users safe. One of these layers is verified boot, which improves security by using cryptographic integrity checking to detect changes to the operating system. Android has alerted about system integrity since Marshmallow, but starting with devices first shipping with Android 7.0, we require verified boot to be strictly enforcing. This means that a device with a corrupt boot image or verified partition will not boot or will boot in a limited capacity with user consent. Such strict checking, though, means that non-malicious data corruption, which previously would be less visible, could now start affecting process functionality more.

By default, Android verifies large partitions using the dm-verity kernel driver, which divides the partition into 4 KiB blocks and verifies each block when read, against a signed hash tree. A detected single byte corruption will therefore result in an entire block becoming inaccessible when dm-verity is in enforcing mode, leading to the kernel returning EIO errors to userspace on verified partition data access.

This post describes our work in improving dm-verity robustness by introducing forward error correction (FEC), and explains how this allowed us to make the operating system more resistant to data corruption. These improvements are available to any device running Android 7.0 and this post reflects the default implementation in AOSP that we ship on our Nexus devices.

Error-correcting codes

Using forward error correction, we can detect and correct errors in source data by shipping redundant encoding data generated using an error-correcting code. The exact number of errors that can be corrected depends on the code used and the amount of space allocated for the encoding data.

Reed-Solomon is one of the most commonly used error-correcting code families, and is readily available in the Linux kernel, which makes it an obvious candidate for dm-verity. These codes can correct up to ⌊t/2⌋ unknown errors and up to t known errors, also called erasures, when t encoding symbols are added.

A typical RS(255, 223) code that generates 32 bytes of encoding data for every 223 bytes of source data can correct up to 16 unknown errors in each 255 byte block. However, using this code results in ~15% space overhead, which is unacceptable for mobile devices with limited storage. We can decrease the space overhead by sacrificing error correction capabilities. An RS(255, 253) code can correct only one unknown error, but also has an overhead of only 0.8%.

An additional complication is that block-based storage corruption often occurs for an entire block and sometimes spans multiple consecutive blocks. Because Reed-Solomon is only able to recover from a limited number of corrupted bytes within relatively short encoded blocks, a naive implementation is not going to be very effective without a huge space overhead.

Recovering from consecutive corrupted blocks

In the changes we made to dm-verity for Android 7.0, we used a technique called interleaving to allow us to recover not only from a loss of an entire 4 KiB source block, but several consecutive blocks, while significantly reducing the space overhead required to achieve usable error correction capabilities compared to the naive implementation.

Efficient interleaving means mapping each byte in a block to a separate Reed-Solomon code, with each code covering N bytes across the corresponding N source blocks. A trivial interleaving where each code covers a consecutive sequence of N blocks already makes it possible for us to recover from the corruption of up to (255 - N) / 2 blocks, which for RS(255, 223) would mean 64 KiB, for example.

An even better solution is to maximize the distance between the bytes covered by the same code by spreading each code over the entire partition, thereby increasing the maximum number of consecutive corrupted blocks an RS(255, N) code can handle on a partition consisting of T blocks to ⌈T/N⌉ × (255 - N) / 2.

Interleaving with distance D and block size B.

An additional benefit of interleaving, when combined with the integrity verification already performed by dm-verity, is that we can tell exactly where the errors are in each code. Because each byte of the code covers a different source block—and we can verify the integrity of each block using the existing dm-verity metadata—we know which of the bytes contain errors. Being able to pinpoint erasure locations allows us to effectively double our error correction performance to at most ⌈T/N⌉ × (255 - N) consecutive blocks.

For a ~2 GiB partition with 524256 4 KiB blocks and RS(255, 253), the maximum distance between the bytes of a single code is 2073 blocks. Because each code can recover from two erasures, using this method of interleaving allows us to recover from up to 4146 consecutive corrupted blocks (~16 MiB). Of course, if the encoding data itself gets corrupted or we lose more than two of the blocks covered by any single code, we cannot recover anymore.

While making error correction feasible for block-based storage, interleaving does have the side effect of making decoding slower, because instead of reading a single block, we need to read multiple blocks spread across the partition to recover from an error. Fortunately, this is not a huge issue when combined with dm-verity and solid-state storage as we only need to resort to decoding if a block is actually corrupted, which still is rather rare, and random access reads are relatively fast even if we have to correct errors.

Conclusion

Strictly enforced verified boot improves security, but can also reduce reliability by increasing the impact of disk corruption that may occur on devices due to software bugs or hardware issues.

The new error correction feature we developed for dm-verity makes it possible for devices to recover from the loss of up to 16-24 MiB of consecutive blocks anywhere on a typical 2-3 GiB system partition with only 0.8% space overhead and no performance impact unless corruption is detected. This improves the security and reliability of devices running Android 7.0.


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Samsung updates Gear S2 with a bunch of new features

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 01:40 PM PDT

Samsung was rumored to be prepping a big update to the Gear S2, and now it's finally out. This update is huge and brings a lot of new features, including updates to a many stock apps.

S Health has been updated with sleep tracking, and you'll be able to share your exercise results to Facebook. Contacts is now both an app and a widget. The Schedule app now shows green dots under days with events, weather now shows a UV index, and the World Clock shows sunrise and sunset times along with a new look and time differences between regions. There are several new features for watch faces, too, like the ability to use your own photos for watch faces, more color options for the default watch face, the option to download watch faces, and support for recommending apps directly from the watch rather than from your phone.

As you can see, this is quite a large update. Head over to the app to update your smartwatch now and let us know when you get it!


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Google Photos v1.24 added an improved cropping tool and sorting for albums [APK Download]

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 01:18 PM PDT

photos

An update to Google Photos hit late yesterday, taking the version up to 1.24. This update doesn't make any major changes, but there are a couple of notable improvements. The cropping tool has been redesigned and upgraded in a few good ways and albums can now be sorted. As usual, there's a download link at the bottom of the post if you'd like to pick up the apk before Google rolls it out to everybody.

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Google Photos v1.24 added an improved cropping tool and sorting for albums [APK Download] was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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You can now use Bitmoji on Snapchat

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 12:34 PM PDT

Screenshot from 2016-07-19 15-16-58

You can use a photo of yourself across the web, but if you want to have some fun and maintain a semblance of anonymity on the web, you can use a cartoony avatar instead. You could dig up your old Yahoo one, but chances are you've moved on. You're using a Bitmoji and creating comic strips about your friends.

Then you move your hilarity over into Snapchat. You're sending texts, dropping images, recording clips, and maybe even making the occasional reference to your comics.

Read More

You can now use Bitmoji on Snapchat was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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Twitter rolls out an application process to get an account verified

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 12:09 PM PDT

Anyone that has seen a blue badge next to a Twitter handle knows the account is "Verified," meaning there's some public interest there. Typically the accounts are verified when they're used by a public figure, whether that's tied to government work, TV, film, fashion, and other areas of public interest.

Now Twitter has officially announced a brand new online application process for an account to get verified. With it, Twitter determine if your account is indeed of public interest and whether or not it deserves to get a blue badge.

"We want to make it even easier for people to find creators and influencers on Twitter so it makes sense for us to let people apply for verification," said Tina Bhatnagar, Twitter's vice president of User Services. "We hope opening up this application process results in more people finding great, high-quality accounts to follow, and for these creators and influencers to connect with a broader audience."

Twitter notes in the official announcement that the Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, was one of the first accounts to get verified, which you can find at @CDCgov. Oprah (@Oprah), Tony Hawk (@TonyHawk), and Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian) were a few of the other first accounts to be verified, as well.

Twitter confirmed that the online application begins to rollout today and that a global availability will go live later this week.


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T-Mobile rumored to offer Galaxy Note 7 with Buy One, Get One deal

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 12:09 PM PDT

Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 isn't official just yet, but that should be changing soon, and if a new rumor is any indication, T-Mobile will have a pretty sweet deal in place to welcome the new device.

According to a tweet sent out by Evan Blass (@evleaks), T-Mobile plans on offering a Buy One, Get One (BOGO) deal with the Galaxy Note 7 when it launches later this year. Specifically, the tweet reads: "TMO PROMO: GN7 BOGO." Unfortunately the tweet doesn't include any additional details, so if there are any caveats T-Mobile will have in place, those aren't known right now.

We also don't know when the promo will launch, which may have given us a date to circle for the launch of the Galaxy Note 7.

This type of promotion isn't a random occurrence for T-Mobile, of course. When the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge launched, T-Mobile ran a BOGO offer for both handsets, letting customers get a free device after they purchased a first one as long as they added an additional line to get that other handset. It would be easy to imagine that T-Mobile's rumored BOGO for the Galaxy Note 7 will be similar.

Do you plan on picking up the Galaxy Note 7 when it launches?


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Judge in Brazil orders WhatsApp blocked once again

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 11:51 AM PDT

brazil-whatsapp-ban

WhatsApp is hugely popular in Brazil where mobile subscribers pay high rates for cellular calls and messaging. WhatsApp isn't getting as much use today as a Brazilian judge has ordered the countries five wireless providers to block access to the service. Unlike past blackouts, this one does not include an end date—it's intended to continue until WhatsApp complies with a court order to turn over information. However, it says the requested information doesn't exist.

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Judge in Brazil orders WhatsApp blocked once again was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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Google Arts & Culture app gets a dramatic overhaul with Cardboard support

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 11:51 AM PDT

2016-07-19 18.20.56Hey, remember that Google Arts & Culture tool that the company talked about for exactly one day? No? Well now it's back. The hub for all things historically and artistically relevant has been give a fresh coat of paint, so to speak. Both the web portal and the app (which was previously little more than a web wrapper anyway) have been overhauled with a new interface, including a more contextual search bar that allows users to hunt for specific articles or pieces.

Read More

Google Arts & Culture app gets a dramatic overhaul with Cardboard support was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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Dials Calendar is a clock-based approach to your events and meetings with a cloned iOS interface

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 10:19 AM PDT

dials-calendar

Calendar apps often have the same design approach: a mix of to-do view, day view, month view, and sometimes a 3-day view to give you a bit of a glimpse into the future without masking too many details about the current day. Dials Calendar takes a more unique approach: forget calendars and think about events and organization like they're meant to be approached: round-the-clock time occupations... Clock... and hence dials.

In Dials, your daily events, meetings, and other time-sensitive to-dos are shown on a round 12h or 24h clock evolution.

Read More

Dials Calendar is a clock-based approach to your events and meetings with a cloned iOS interface was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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Alcatel Idol 4 arrives with bundled VR goggles for Cricket Wireless on August 5

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 10:08 AM PDT

Cricket Wireless has officially announced that it's launching a new Alcatel-branded smartphone next month, and it's including virtual reality goggles for good measure.

The new phone is the Idol 4, and it boasts a 5.2-inch HD display along with an octa-core processor under the hood. On the back there's a 13-megapixel camera, while a 8-megapixel front-facing shooter is outfitted on the other side. The Idol 4 features 16GB of built-in storage with a microSD card slot that can support cards up to 512GB, the battery is measured in at 2610mAh, it's running Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box.

Alcatel is also including a free pair of VR goggles, too, which will allow for some enhanced entertainment and gaming experiences.

The Idol 4 with its bundled VR goggles launches on Friday, August 5, for $199.99 on a Cricket Wireless smartphone plan.


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[Update: Open beta test] Sunshine, The Popular iOS Weather App, Is Currently In Beta Testing For Android

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 09:34 AM PDT

  • While the app was previously limited to a beta test that required you follow a special link and accept to join, it's now directly accessible in the Play Store without

Screenshot (May 30, 2016 11:07:01 PM)
Sunshine, a popular and unique weather app for iOS, is making its way to Android. The app specializes in providing useful, rather than detailed, information while crowdsourcing for more accurate weather data. While there hasn't been an official announcement from the developers, the app is now open for beta testing.

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[Update: Open beta test] Sunshine, The Popular iOS Weather App, Is Currently In Beta Testing For Android was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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[Root access optional] Philips Sonicare's smart toothbrush app sinks its teeth into the Play Store

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 08:49 AM PDT

philips-sonicare-app

Never has the expression "put your money where your mouth is" been more accurate as it is with the Philips Sonicare Flexcare Platinum toothbrush. This mouthful of a name designates a smart toothbrush made by Philips that is electric, with sonic technology for up to 31000 strokes per minute, and Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone, and which costs a mouth-foaming, jaw-dropping, tongue-biting, teeth-gritting, $180. Unless you're born with a silver spoon in your mouth, this is a bitter pill to swallow, but you can grab it for $160 on Amazon now, with an additional $20 off from a coupon clip that applies at checkout — you should know the drill by now.

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[Root access optional] Philips Sonicare's smart toothbrush app sinks its teeth into the Play Store was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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Google Camera v4.1 from Nougat dev preview 5 includes UI tweaks, new animations, and more

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 08:33 AM PDT

ap_resizeGoogle rolled out the fifth and final Nougat developer preview yesterday, and it includes a new version of the Google Camera app. It's v4.1, a significant jump over the current Play Store version. There are a fair number of changes to the UI, some new animations, and better control over buttons.

Here's everything we've found so far.

  • New flattened settings layout.
  • New zoom animation when tapping a photo to view it from the view finder.
Read More

Google Camera v4.1 from Nougat dev preview 5 includes UI tweaks, new animations, and more was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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New Kindle Singles Classics provide timeless articles, stories, and essays for 99 cents

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 08:19 AM PDT

Screenshot from 2016-07-19 11-03-50

For better or worse, Amazon dominates the e-book lanscape. After buying Audible, it commands audiobooks as well. In 2011, the retailer introduced a way to attract readers with content from magazines and periodicals. Alongside digital magazine subscriptions, the company began selling articles and other long-form content between 5,000 and 30,000 words.

Amazon called these stories and essays Kindle Singles. Now it's expanding on the category with timeless well-known stories. It's calling these Kindle Singles Classics.

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New Kindle Singles Classics provide timeless articles, stories, and essays for 99 cents was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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[Super Deal Alert] Dreamy puzzler Lost Journey is heavily discounted worldwide to 10 cents and less (Bonus: Noisly app discount)

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 05:48 AM PDT

lost-journey

10 cents can go a long way these days on the Play Store. In recent times, you've been able to grab some cool games and apps for this sum — maybe a bit more or a bit less depending on your country — but the discounts have been heavily skewing toward select regions: UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, Russia, and sometimes the US and Canada and a few other countries joined in on the fun.

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[Super Deal Alert] Dreamy puzzler Lost Journey is heavily discounted worldwide to 10 cents and less (Bonus: Noisly app discount) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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BBC releases BBC+, an app for all your news and TV needs

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 04:33 AM PDT

BBCPlusHero

You don't get much more British than the BBC. It's like a cup of tea or chocolate digestive biscuits. Presumably because the BBC has realised it is losing market share to other news websites and TV services like Netflix or Amazon Prime, it has released a new app, BBC+, in an attempt to combat this. Provided the user has a BBC iD, they can pick what they're interested in and then see in a magazine-like format.

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BBC releases BBC+, an app for all your news and TV needs was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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Music streaming service Deezer launches today in the US

Posted: 19 Jul 2016 03:33 AM PDT

deezer-logo

While it may not be known in the US, Deezer is a very popular music service that has amassed plenty of fans worldwide. The French company offers a huge catalogue of songs, over 40M to be accurate, which puts it ahead of Spotify, Google Play Music, and Apple Music, and includes international releases as well as local music from different parts of the world. Its real tour de force though: quasi-worldwide presence.

Read More

Music streaming service Deezer launches today in the US was written by the awesome team at Android Police.


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31 new and notable (and 1 WTF) Android games from the last 2 weeks (7/5/16 - 7/18/16)

Posted: 18 Jul 2016 07:48 PM PDT

Leaked photos of new Sony phone show unique design

Posted: 18 Jul 2016 05:38 PM PDT

Sony's design has been entirely square for a long time now, though it seems that's finally going to change. These new leaked photos of a Sony device show a new design, and it's looking pretty good.

The photos are of the Sony F8331, and instead of the square edges we're used to seeing, the edges are round. There's also a USB Type-C port on the bottom, which is a first for Sony. Thankfully, there's still a headphone jack. The display is said to be 1080p, though it's reportedly a flagship.

Though it's a good looking device, it may not come to the US. Sony is planning on focusing less on the US, so we may be left out. Hopefully we'll hear more about this device soon.

Sony F8331 5 Sony F8331 4 Sony F8331 3 Sony F8331 1
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