Monthly Archives: June 2019

Android

Google Messages testing business verification and SMS reminders

The hidden features discovered in Google’s latest Messages release confirm if texts from businesses are verified, and enables reminders for received SMS texts. Just like Google‘s Chrome browser and its flags for enabling hidden features and improvements in testing, many of the company’s other apps harbour similar possibilities, just harder to access. Well a dive […]

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Android

OnePlus leaked user emails through ‘Shot On OnePlus’ photo sharing app

The Oppo spinoff’s latest in a long line of blunders involves the leaking of hundreds of user emails through the insecure servers of their photo sharing app. OnePlus has a long history of being caught up in lies, deceits, and other needless controversies; from confusingly pointless and offensive schemes such as ‘Ladies First’ awarding the […]

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Android

Kick-ass gadgets from Western Digital, Adonit, iOttie, myCharge, and more

We’re back with another roundup of cool gadgets worth checking out. While we tend to focus our reviews on mobile phones and accessories, sometimes we get the chance to try things that fall just a bit outside of that space. Nevertheless, we think they’re the sort of things that our readers might enjoy learning about.

For this edition we take a look at a solid state drive for a laptop, portable charger, dashboard mount, phone stand, and sound machine. Cool, right? We like ’em all enough to recommend them so that’s exactly what we’re doing.


Western Digital Blue SN500 NVMe SSD

It wasn’t all that long ago that having a terabyte of hard drive space was considered overkill or at least future-proof. This was, of course, in the days before 4G LTE, 4K video, and incredibly massive files. Sending, receiving, and storing data has changed dramatically in the last decade and our needs have evolved.

That we simply have a large hard drive isn’t enough any longer. Files are so big now that they must also be fast and stable. Nobody wants to sit around waiting for things to copy or save.

When it comes to efficiency and value, Western Digital has a compelling option for laptops. Its Blue SN500 is a NVMe SSD which delivers fast write speeds on a budget. Available in 250GB and 500GB capacities, it’s a great way to step up your laptop’s performance without breaking the bank.

We’re an Android and mobile-related site and hard drive benchmarks and performance tests are not what you’d expect from us. We use laptops as part of our daily lives in personal and professional settings. To that end, we can appreciate the differences in a traditional, platter-based hard drive and the solid state stuff that’s so much better.

What makes NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) so awesome is that its read times are incredible fast, to the tune of 1700MB/s. Even write speeds are up to 1450MB/s, or exponentially faster than the drive currently in your laptop. The bus protocol is so much better than what we’ve seen over the last few years. For what it’s worth, SATA tops out around 550MB/s.

Western Digital offers a 30-day money back guarantee and a five-year warranty on its Blue SN500 NVMe SSD hard drives. The Western Digital solution runs about $53 for the 250GB and $70 for the 500GB, both a fraction of what we would have spent a generation or two back. And, when you consider it’s more reliable and efficient technology, it becomes a better bargain. $50 (250GB), $65 (500GB) at Amazon

Adonit PhotoGrip Qi

We get a lot of interesting hardware sent our way at AndroidGuys. Some of it good, and many more often that not are just gimmicks. We weren’t sure where the PhotoGrip Qi landed in that spectrum when it initially arrived in our mailbox.

Surprisingly, we found the PhotoGrip Qi to be an awesome little addition to my bag. It’s also super simple to use. After a quick pairing session over Bluetooth, you are ready to roll with this camera accessory. Does it add anything to the camera module on your phone? No, but it’s not meant to be that at all.

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What is does do is offer a stabilizing cradle for you to better hold the phone while taking photos. Either when you are physically holding the device, or using it on a table as a stand, we found that it increased the quality of our photos by stabilizing the shot. The PhotoGrip Qi does what its name intends and just allows you a more consistent grip on the phone being used to snap pictures.

It also adds a Qi wireless power bank inside the PhotoGrip for you to continue to take photos beyond your phones internal battery. Add that with the removable shutter switch and you have a unique accessory to add to your travel bag on your next trip. $60 at Adonit

iOttie iTap 2 Wireless Dashboad Mount

Many of today’s top phones have wireless charging capabilities and that means less cables around the home. It’s much more convenient to place your handset on a platter or dock to pick up a charge than it is to fuss with a cable. Why not get that same experience in the car?

 

The concept of a magnetic dashboard mount isn’t new but it’s starting to become a little bit more mainstream. They’re stronger, smarter, and more flexible. The iOttie iTap 2 line is not just a great magnetic phone holder, but it charges up Qi-enabled wireless handsets, too.

Place it on the dashboard and rest easy knowing the iTap 2 is designed to hold your phone in place, in a convenient location. What’s more, it allows for users to change the orientation from portrait to landscape, which makes for better navigation. That’s convenience and flexibility.

Included in the box are two magnetic pad which means you and your spouse can reap the benefits of the wireless charge. Not to worry, though, as the power cord used for the mount has a USB plug in it, too. Those who don’t have Qi wireless charging, or those looking to charge a portable battery or Nintendo Switch can still juice up.

It takes all of a few minutes to set things up, and iOttie does a great job of walking you through the process. A metal plate placement guide helps line up the exact spot you’ll want to put on the adhesive and super-strong magnet. $55 at iOttie

myCharge HubPlus Universal

We’ve long appreciated the myCharge brand of portable chargers as it does an excellent job of creating solid, dependable products. The myCharge HubPlus Universal is one of its latest devices and we love it.

We really appreciate the Hub series in general because of the all-in-one flexibility. Not only do the various models include built-in chargers, but they’ve also got a pair of integrated cables, too.

As for the HubPlus Universal, there’s one cable for USB C and one (Lightning) for iPhone. Not only that, but a USB port at the top means you can plug in any cable you need or want. That’s up to three devices being charged at one time. More importantly, it’s any plug you need.

A 6700mAh is tucked inside this portable unit and allows for about two full charges of a recent flagship phone. For older handsets or those which don’t have a massive battery it could be upwards of three charges. Alternatively, myCharge has a HubMax Universal which squeezes in 10,050mAh worth of power, or 50% more. $80 at myCharge

Douni Sleep Sound Machine

There’s an app for everything, right? Well, sometimes software isn’t as good as hardware. You could go with a free app for white noise and ambient sounds, sure, but how good does it really sound on your phone?

The Douni Sleep Sound Machine is a pint-sized unit that delivers up to two dozen sounds over three different categories. Enjoy seven types of white noise, ocean and nature sounds, ticking clocks, metronome, campfire, and others.

Small enough to sit anywhere in your bedroom or den, it puts out a surprising amount of sound. The wood grain finish and grey fabric fit pretty much any environment and don’t distract.

Set timers for 30, 60, and 90 minutes and fall asleep knowing the sound machine won’t drain a phone battery. Weighing less than one pound, this is a great accessory to toss in your bag for travel. Worried about disturbing others with the sound of a train slogging along on the tracks? Plug in some headphones and drift off to sleep.

If there’s one thing we’d like to see changed here, it would be that the buttons had some sort of backlight to them. As it is, there aren’t many to deal with and once you figure them out, you’ll be good. Nevertheless, we would appreciate being able to see the functions without flipping on a light or breaking out the phone. $36 at Amazon

Android

Ads galore: Google starts to push the “Photo book store” in Google Photos

Google is, at its heart, an advertising company. They have their hands in many, many different projects, products, and services, but fundamentally they’re all different ways to serve up ads to users. That’s not a bad or nefarious thing, either; it allows Google to craft up some remarkable products and let the whole world use […]

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Android

Samsung finally delivers on bringing Night Mode to the Galaxy S9’s camera

Samsung launched their new Night Mode on the Galaxy S10, which is something many considered part of the One UI update. But it really wasn’t, since the enhanced low light photography modes never made their way back to the Galaxy S9, even though One UI came with Android Pie to older devices. And sure, the […]

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Android

Verizon now offering Moto Z4, Samsung Galaxy A50

Verizon is hitting the summer season in full stride, this week adding a whole bunch of fun things to its portfolio. Now available from the carrier are two new phones and a “smart locator”.

Motorola Moto Z4

First up is the Motorola Moto Z4, the latest edition of the flexible phone with Moto Mod support. A close partner with Motorola over the past decade, it’s no surprise to see Verizon offering up the solid Android device.

The Moto Z4 can be had for $20.83 per month over with 24 payments or a full retail price of $500. For a limited time, Verizon is dropping the phone’s price to just $10 per month over two years, putting it at just $240 all in. This promotional rate is restricted to new customers or those adding a line of service.

Existing Verizon customers can upgrade to the Moto Z4 and save $200 for a limited time. Subscribers can add the 5G Moto Mod for just $50 provided they have a Moto Z3, Moto Z4, or add one to the shopping cart at time of purchase.

As a reminder, those who want to take advantage of the 5G service must live in one of the markets where it’s offered. What’s more, they must sign up for the Verizon Above Unlimited or Beyond Unlimited plans. Verizon is currently throwing in the 5G Ultra Wideband feature at no additional cost.

Samsung Galaxy A50

Announced this week, the mid-tier phone packs a whole bunch of hardware into a budget-friendly price. Features include a 6.4-inch display, 64GB internal storage, and a 4,000mAh battery. The Samsung Galaxy A50 is priced $14.58 per month over to 24 months, or $350 outright.

Smart Locator

Rounding things out, Verizon’s Smart Locator is an LTE-enabled tracking device for use with bags, pets, accessories, and other possessions. Attach to your bike, for instance, and you can see its location using an app on your phone. It’s real-time tracking with a battery that lasts up to four days per charge.

Priced $100, customers get one year of service at no additional cost. After the 12 month period is up the service is $3 per month and gets added to your bill.

Android

Doogee S90 review

What constitutes a flagship phone experience in your eyes? We can ask that question to ten people and get ten answers. Everyone has their own preferences and ideas and there’s no magic pill for the entire industry.

Generally speaking, when we think of a “flagship”, our mind goes to the best of what’s available in its particular space. For phone consumers in the US this conversation is often centered around the Samsung Galaxy S, Galaxy Note, Apple’s iPhone, and the Google Pixel.


While these may be the big names and some of the best in the industry, we’ve also got products from LG, Motorola, and other brands. Each of them has a flagship device, even if it doesn’t compete in the larger landscape.

Chinese manufacturer Doogee has a new phone which looks to wrestle its way into the conversation. It’s big and powerful, rugged, modular, and runs a semi-current version of Android. Indeed, the Doogee S90 reads like one of the most powerful devices on the market but at a fraction of the price of the “big boys”.

What is the Doogee S90?

Powered by Android 8.1 Oreo, the Doogee S90 has a 6.18-inch display with a cutout notch and a 16-megapixel/8-megapixel rear camera combination. Around front is an 8-megapixel camera.

Internally there’s a MediaTek Helio P60 processor (up to 2GHz) with 6GB RAM and 128GB storage capacity. Need more room for media? Add in a microSD card up to 256GB for photos, videos, games, and more.


The whole thing is wrapped in an IP69K protective coating and meets US military standard MIL-STD-810G rating. It’s not going to withstand water and dust, but also extreme temperatures, shock, humidity, vibration, mold, and even steam.

With rubber flaps and a strong shell, there’s no mistaking this one for a premium device that can be dropped. Gorilla Glass 4 keeps its screen from scratches and scuffs. In other words, it’s designed to go anywhere you do and take a beating in the process.

What about battery, you ask? How does a 5,050mAh power source suit you? It’s bigger than pretty much anything else in the space and offers 10W wireless charging, too.

How about adding in another 5,000mAh worth of battery? Yep, this is a modular phone, similar to the Moto Z line, and it comes with a second battery that can snap on in a moment’s notice. Once on, you’ve got more than 10,000mAh of power, or nearly three times what you’ll get from your more familiar brands.


What is it like to use the S90?

Make no mistake, this is not the phone you carry if you’re hoping to impress people with your taste. Aesthetically, the Doogee S90 is chunky, clunky, and feels like it’s designed for utility workers, contractors, and plumbers.

The phone is thick, even by itself. Snap on that magnetic battery or any other module and it gets doubly wonky. Then again, it’s not really any worse than carrying a 5,000mAh portable charger with you. It’s actually better because it won’t go anywhere and you don’t have to worry about cables.

There’s a certain charm to the phone, thanks to the textured rubber and orange accent colors. It doesn’t go a long way to make the phone feel sexy or anything, but it does give it personality. At least as much as one might expect in a phone built for blizzards and dust bowls.

It’s a hefty phone, to be sure. In an age of uber-thin handsets with tapered edges and premium materials, the Doogee S90 is anything but those things.

We can appreciate the rubber and plastic shell that houses the phone, and even the idea of the flaps to cover ports. In practice, though, it can get a bit aggravating to fuss with the USB C cover or the SIM slot. To be fair, there’s more room to plug in the charging cable than we’ve seen in other rugged devices.

The rear dual-lens camera is an interesting design choice if only because of how far it appears to just out from the phone. We can easily imagine this getting scuffed and scratched over time.

A dedicated button on the left lets users define its usage. Choose whether you want to launch an app, flashlight, or something else in single, double, and long-press actions.

Doogee makes a few assumptions as to the target user base and installs some apps it thinks one might find helpful. A “Toolbag”, for instance, acts as a folder of sorts, and reveals tools such as compass, height measure, protractor, barometer, plumb bob, and more.

Aesthetics-wise, we can’t say we love the color palette and “feel” of the experience. The system itself uses grays, blacks, and golds with a specific, skeuomorphic iconography but everything else gets its own app icons and widgets. To say that they clash with each other is an understatement. What’s more, none of the actual apps match the design.

The software is okay, if not ugly, but we’ve seen far worse in the area of pre-loaded apps and games. There’s overlap with browsers and galleries and other small stuff but a custom launcher could fix all of this.

How does the Doogee S90 perform?

A few years back the general trend in rugged phones was to focus on the outside as opposed to the inside. In other words, specifications would often be a generation behind the higher end models.

Things have changed over the years and the Doogee S90 not only keeps pace with other models, but its specs put it on the upper end of the spectrum. It’s refreshing to have a phone that has this much power in it with such a level of durability.


We’re at a point in phones where everything new feels snappy and responsive out of the box. With that said, we added a couple of accounts to the phone, threw a few games at it, and pushed it about as much as we would any other review unit.

It generally takes a few weeks or so to really settle into a groove with phones, and to be fair, we didn’t use this as a “daily driver”. For our tastes it’s just too big and heavy, but that’s only personal preference.

The MediaTek Helio P60 processor (octa-core 2GHz) is plenty fast and the 6GB RAM goes a long way to helping with a fluid experience. When we consider the target demographic (plumbers, contractors, utility workers, etc.) we can’t imagine them asking for more.

Our review model came with the extended battery and a second box with a night-vision camera. These proved to be easy to snap on and they largely stay in place without problem.

Battery life was incredible, of course. The 5050mAh main source was enough to get us into two or more days of casual usage. Snapping on the secondary battery essentially doubles this, stretching things out to nearly a week’s worth of use. Real world results will vary based on the user, but a carpenter ought not worry about running out of juice halfway through his week.

The phone we were sent had some (literal) rough edges around the area where the module goes on. It was not present until after removing the protective film but it is sharp and unsightly. Were this one we purchased, we would have immediately returned it.

The first time this thing falls to the ground it will pick up a scuff, but we just prefer to put our own character on our products. Nevertheless, you don’t see it if/when a module is on the phone.

Is the Doogee S90 worth buying?

We really like the overall package of the S90 but it’s not without a few issues. It’s easy to pick at the seams and find hangups, but that’s not exclusive to this phone. Taken as a whole, there’s a lot to admire in the handset — and we’re not the demographic Doogee has in mind.

The Doogee S90 is a phone that’s tougher than nails and built to perform, two things that are stronger than the sum of its parts. It also helps that it’s cheaper than one might expect.

The concept of modular phones is an interesting, if not potentially worrying one. Motorola has found a way to keep its Moto Mods going through four generations now, but Doogee is a different brand.

Will Doogee keep things in house for future models or might it open the door to other companies? What happens if this phone doesn’t sell as well as it hopes? Does it shutter the line unceremoniously? These are the sort of questions one might ask if considering the Doogee S90 because of its modular capabilities.


The Doogee S90 picks up where the Samsung Galaxy Active line ended and competes against other rough and tumble models like those from Kyocera or CAT.

US buyers might proceed with caution as network compatibility isn’t guaranteed for your carrier. While it does support many 4G bands, it may not provide you with all of those offered by your current provider.

Availability

You can learn more about the Doogee S90 at the Doogee website where it’s available for $300. For your money you’ll receive the phone and the extra battery. Opt for the $400 bundle and you’ll also get night vision camera, extra battery, walkie talkie module, and a carrying case.

Android

Exclusion Zone

Andrew Martonik, Russell Holly, and Jerry Hildenbrand look at the latest Pixel 4 leaks, including Google’s decision to share a render of the phone months before release. They also talk about the current state of Galaxy Fold and whether or not it is likely to be released anytime soon. On the other hand, the Galaxy fit smartwatch is out now and pretty good for $99.

People at E3 are finally getting excited about mobile gaming. Finally, Jerry and Russell shame Andrew about Android Q gestures.

Show Notes and Links:

Sponsors:

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Android

This $25 bundle will teach you to build tower defense, Mario style games, and more

Having a vision is one thing, but execution is another. Ideas are nothing if not implemented. We’re willing to bet you’ve had an idea for a game on your phone or game console somewhere along the line.

Are you full of great ideas for mobile games? Ever played something and thought you could design a better one? That sure-fire, million-dollar game idea is terrific but what do you do with it? Hire a software developer or farm it out to someone and hope for the best?

Why not try to design and develop the game yourself. People do it all the time and you’re smarter than them, right?

READ: A lifetime unlimited mobile backups can be yours for just $19.99

If building a game from scratch is something you’ve ever considered, you’ll want to check out the Zero to Hero HTML5 Game Developer Bundle in the AndroidGuys Deals Store. It’s currently discounted some ridiculous 97 percent and is just $25.

Whether it’s instituting a scoring system, creating maps, building an authentication tool, or something else, this is an affordable way to master the skill sets that come with HTML5, Java, and more. There’s 24 hours worth of education spread over 220+ lessons.

What will you build? A Flappy Bird clone? A tower defense game? A Mario-style platformer?

A lifetime membership for the Zero to Hero HTML5 Game Developer Bundle is valued at nearly $1,200 but, for a limited time, it can be yours for only $25. Deals such as these don’t come around all that often so take advantage of this one before it’s too late.

Save even more!

In addition to the savings above, when you buy through AndroidGuys Deals, for every $25 spent, you get $1 credit added to your account. What’s more, should you refer the deal via social media or an email that results in a purchase, you’ll earn $10 credit in your account.

If this is your first time buying, then you are also eligible for a further 10% discount when you subscribe for email updates.

How about a freebie?

Not looking to spend any money today? That’s alright, we understand. Why not visit the AndroidGuys section for freebies and take something anyhow? Go ahead, grab two!

Android

For better or worse, gestures are the new Android skin

Longtime Android faithful will surely recall the early days of Android UI and “skins”. Every company had its own take on what Android should look like and did their best to create a custom, signature experience. Moto had MotoBlur while Samsung came out swinging with it’s iOS-inspired TouchWiz, and HTC had Sense.

In these first generations of Android we found the UI to be heavy, in-your-face stuff that devoured system resources. In 2019 these skins are heavily understated, or completely removed, in the latest software offerings from the mobile giants.

As much as the old phones relied on the look, today’s are more about the feel and interaction. A new UI element seems to be taking the place of skins. Now, everyone seems to have a different take on how a gesture-based navigation interface should work.

Stock Android has Changed

Let’s start with the Google mother ship and the vanilla, or stock, experience. The Mountain View giant revealed its take on gestures with Android Pie, marking a stark reset of the traditional geometric navigation buttons Android had for years.

While it’s debatable on how well Google did with its rendition, you’d have thought they’d make it a de facto option of the base OS, but no. Manufacturers have been allowed to spin this in several directions.

Google’s default is a swipe up to launch Overview multi-tasking and persistent “pill” home button. You also have a contextual back button that is present when back is an option within an app. Scrolling through open apps can be accomplished by sliding the pill while in Overview and you can instantly go back to the most recent apps with a quick swipe left on the pill.

Other Players

After Google, the current stable of popular remixes come from Motorola, Samsung, and OnePlus. Each OEM has a unique way they go about gestures. They all fundamentally replace the Back, Home, and Recent buttons of old, but they all are slight variations of Google’s.

The problem is that none of them have adopted the same, consistent way. Much like past days with skins, a user is presented with stark differences on gestures between Android phones. This presents an issue of while the base OS is the same, the final products vastly differ, leaving users confused if they decide to swap brands for their next phone purchase.

That Damn Fragmentation

I know it’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s also another way Android has fragmentation that just seems unnecessary. Now you have OEMs forcing users to conform to a different UX depending on what phone they buy.

I’d love to see the Android ecosystem get to the point where we decide on a standard API and have all the major phone makers use the same style of gestures.

The flip of that same coin, much like Linux on the desktop, is that Android’s ethos revolve around choice. I love that you can tweak so many levels of the UI. From home launchers to widgets to icon packs, Android has always been much more open than iOS. Are gestures just the next evolution of that heritage?

Many would argue the answer is yes. While some, including myself, see it as an unnecessary measure by the OEM, others will debate that it offers choice in the market. You don’t like the way Google does gestures? Great, here’s all the other phones that do it differently.

I started this piece thinking that I wanted Google to provide an iron fist of oversight on gestures and clean this mess up. However, the more I’ve pondered it, the more I see why the situation is what it is. You still truly have multiple options on both software and hardware. While I may prefer one way, that doesn’t mean that someone else will feel the same way.

Gestures are the next Android skin, but I think it’s a good thing. Right?