Xiaomi Mi A1 review: Best of both worlds

The Mi A1 is Xiaomi’s best budget phone yet.

Of the hundreds of phones sold in the budget segment every year, a mere handful of devices stand out: the Moto G series, for instance, along with the likes of Xiaomi’s Redmi Note phones, Lenovo’s K series, and Honor’s budget devices.

In 2017, that list is dominated by Xiaomi’s phones. The Redmi Note 4 continues to be one of the best devices in the sub-₹15,000 segment seven months after its launch, and the Redmi 4 and Redmi 4A offer excellent bang for your buck in the sub-₹10,000 tier. Then there’s the Mi Max 2, which for ₹16,999 offers a large 6.44-inch display backed by a gorgeous aluminum unibody design.

Xiaomi’s aggressive positioning in the budget segment allowed the brand to catapult up the rankings, with the manufacturer now the second-largest phone vendor in India. The Redmi Note 4 and Redmi 4 are two of the best-selling phones in the country this year, and with its latest phone, Xiaomi is set to consolidate its position in this category.

The Mi A1 is a great phone in its own right, but Xiaomi’s decision to partner with Google to deliver stock Android makes it a much more compelling option. A small but vocal minority of Xiaomi fans have been clamoring for a device with clean Android for some time now, and with the Mi A1, the brand has delivered just that.

Read on to find out why the Mi A1 is the best budget phone you can currently buy in India.

Xiaomi Mi A1 review

About this review

I (Harish Jonnalagadda) am writing this review after using the Mi A1 for two weeks in Hyderabad, India on Airtel’s 4G network. The phone runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat out of the box along with the August 1, 2017 security patch. The unit was provided to Android Central for review by Xiaomi India.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Specs

Category Spec
Operating System Android 7.1.2 Nougat
Display 5.5-inch IPS LCD 1920 x 1080 (403ppi)
Gorilla Glass, 2.5D curved glass
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
2.0GHz octa-core Cortex A53
14nm FinFET
GPU Adreno 506
RAM 4GB
Storage 64GB
Expandable Yes, up to 128GB
Battery 3080mAh
Charging USB-C
Rear Camera 1 12MP wide-angle (OmniVision OV12A10) f/2.2, 1.25-micron pixels
Dual tone flash, PDAF
4K@30FPS
Rear Camera 2 12MP telephoto (OmniVision OV13880) f/2.6, 1.1-micron pixels
Front Camera 5MP
1080p video
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.2
IR blaster, 3.5mm jack
GPS/AGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou
Audio 3.5mm headphone jack
Dedicated amplifier
Security One-touch fingerprint sensor at the back
SIM Dual SIM slot (hybrid slot)
Dimensions 155.4 x 75.8 x 7.3mm
165g
Colors Black, Gold, Rose Gold

Xiaomi Mi A1 review

Xiaomi Mi A1 Hardware

The Mi A1 is a rebranded variant of the Mi 5X, which sports an all-metal chassis with antenna lines at the top and bottom. There’s a clear difference in the design language between the Redmi series and phones in the Mi lineup, with the latter featuring a more refined aesthetic. As a result, the Mi A1 makes recent devices like the Redmi Note 4 look outdated.

The clean lines combined with the aluminum chassis gives the Mi A1 a premium look, and the build quality is outstanding. The phone comes with a 3.5mm jack, and unlike the Redmi Note 4, there’s a USB-C charging port at the bottom. The power and volume buttons at the back provide a decent amount of tactile feedback, and there’s an IR blaster located up top.

The back of the device is where things get interesting, with the Mi A1 sporting a dual camera setup. The configuration is the same as that of the Mi 6 — a primary sensor augmented by a secondary telephoto lens — but Xiaomi is using different imaging sensors.

The positioning of the dual camera to the top left corner coupled with Xiaomi’s decision to tuck the antenna bands at the top and bottom of the device means the Mi A1 has more than a passing resemblance to the OnePlus 5. There is a Mi logo and Android One signage at the bottom of the phone to inform the world that it isn’t in fact a OnePlus 5, and the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor also makes that abundantly clear.

The Mi A1 is Xiaomi’s best-looking phone in the budget segment thus far.

The fingerprint sensor is conveniently located such that your finger automatically rests on it, and it had no issues authenticating my fingerprints.

Switching over to the front, the first thing you notice is the bezels at the top and bottom, and if you’re picking up the gold color option, you’ll get a white front plate. The side bezels are narrow, which makes it easier to hold the phone, and the back button is in the wrong position for a phone running stock Android.

Xiaomi has a long history of offering decent LCD panels in its phones, and the situation is no different with the Mi A1. The 5.5-inch Full HD screen is one of the best in this segment, with excellent colors and viewing angles. The panel gets sufficiently bright that it isn’t an issue to view the contents on the screen under harsh sunlight.

Coming over to the hardware side of things, the Snapdragon 625 paired with stock Android makes the Mi A1 absolutely fly. You’re not going to notice any slowdowns or lags in everyday usage. It’s astonishing just how fluid the phone is at day-to-day tasks, whether it’s switching between apps, quickly launching the camera, or playing visually intensive games.

Xiaomi Mi A1 review

Battery life

Battery life on the Mi A1 is excellent. I was initially worried that the 3080mAh battery wouldn’t last a day, but I consistently got a day and a half’s worth of usage out of the battery.

Even on days when I was on cellular data throughout, I managed to get up to four hours of screen-on-time and overall battery life exceeding 20 hours. To put that into context, that’s nearly double what I averaged on the Pixel XL in similar conditions.

The one downside is the lack of a fast charging option. The Mi A1 tops out at 5V/2A, and it takes nearly two hours to fully charge the phone.

Xiaomi Mi A1 Nougat

Software

The software is what sets the Mi A1 apart from every other Xiaomi phone in the market today. The Chinese manufacturer teamed up with Google to offer the Mi A1 as a part of the Android One initiative, which means that for the first time, we’re getting to see a Xiaomi phone with stock Android.

Google’s first attempt with Android One failed miserably due to a combination of several factors. The phones were underwhelming and didn’t stand out in the entry-level segment where they were positioned, and Google didn’t do enough to advertize them to the masses. By partnering with Xiaomi, it is addressing those setbacks: the Mi A1 is one of the best-looking phones in the budget segment, and Xiaomi utterly dominates the mind share in markets like India, which ensures the phone gets plenty of visibility.

The software experience on the Mi A1 is on par with the Pixels and Nexus devices.

As for the software experience itself, it is in line with what you’d get on a Pixel or Nexus device. There’s a swipe up gesture to access the app drawer, Google Now occupies the left-most pane, and all interface elements are unchanged from stock Android.

The phone runs Android 7.1.2 Nougat out of the box, and has the August 1, 2017 security patch. You get all the features built into Nougat, including split-screen multitasking, in-line notification replies, app shortcuts, granular controls for Do Not Disturb, and more. Then there’s the ability to pull down the notification shade by swiping down on the fingerprint sensor, à la Pixel. There’s also a gesture to quickly launch the camera by double pressing the power button.

Overall, it’s a refreshing change to use a Xiaomi phone with stock Android. MIUI certainly has a lot to offer, but purists looking for an uncluttered experience finally have a device they can call their own.

Xiaomi Mi A1 review

Software updates

The only unknown when it comes to the software side of things is the update situation. Previous Android One devices have received updates directly from Google, but that will not be the case with the Mi A1. As the phone features a dual camera setup, Xiaomi has bundled its own Mi camera app instead of Google Camera. Xiaomi also pre-installed the Mi Remote app, which lets you use the IR blaster to control your TV, air con, or set-top box.

As a result of these additions, Xiaomi will be in charge of software updates for the Mi A1. The brand is committing to quick updates, and Google has stated that the phone will receive Oreo before the end of the year. Furthermore, the Mi A1 will be one of the first devices to pick up the Android P update next year.

Xiaomi Mi A1 review

Camera

The Mi A1 has two 12MP cameras at the back: the first is a wide-angle lens with 1.25-micron pixels and f/2.2, and the latter is a telephoto f/2.6 lens with 1.1-micron pixels that offers 2x optical zoom. The tagline for the Mi A1 is, “Flagship dual camera,” with Xiaomi alluding to the fact that the phone has the same camera configuration as the Mi 6.

Although Xiaomi is using different imaging sensors, the image quality you get with the Mi A1 is on par with that of the Mi 6, at least in daylight conditions.

Xiaomi Mi 6 cameraXiaomi Mi A1 camera

Mi 6 on the left, Mi A1 to the right.

Xiaomi Mi 6 cameraXiaomi Mi A1 camera

Xiaomi Mi 6 cameraXiaomi Mi A1 camera

Xiaomi Mi 6 cameraXiaomi Mi A1 camera

The Mi A1 managed to hold its own next to the Mi 6, and the phone outdid its costlier sibling in a few scenarios. That said, the Mi 6 is currently on a beta MIUI build whereas the Mi A1 is running a stable version of Android 7.1.2 Nougat.

The camera app itself should be immediately familiar if you’ve used a Xiaomi phone in the past. You get toggles for filters and easy access to various shooting modes, which include panorama, tilt shift, a square mode for Instagram, and others. There’s also a toggle for enabling the watermark, with resulting images featuring a “Shot on Mi A1” watermark in the bottom left corner.

Other options include the ability to switch between the primary imaging sensor and the telephoto lens via the 2x button, toggles for HDR, flash, portrait mode, switching between photo and video modes and the front and rear cameras. And yes, it still tries to guess your gender and age when you’re taking selfies.

Portrait Mode works in a similar fashion to what we’ve seen on the Mi 6, with the camera blurring out the background to put the subject in focus. The mode needs plenty of lighting to work, and while the camera does a decent job in terms of blurring the background, it has a tough time delineating the edges.

Photos shot in daylight have plenty of detail, but those taken in low-light conditions tend to be very noisy. The 5MP front shooter is similarly decent for taking selfies. The camera on the Mi A1 isn’t groundbreaking, but it is plenty capable considering the price point the device is targeting.

Xiaomi Mi A1 review

Xiaomi Mi A1 Bottom line

Xiaomi seems particularly intent on building out market share, and to that effect the brand has priced the Mi A1 very aggressively. The ₹14,999 price is astounding when you consider what’s on offer with the device: sleek design, great display, clean software experience, dual cameras, and all-day battery life.

The software experience in particular is the standout feature of the Mi A1. One of the main reasons for Motorola’s success in this segment was because of its reliance on an uncluttered user interface, and by teaming up with Google, Xiaomi is able to offer a similar experience to its customers.

Should you buy it? Without a doubt

The Mi A1 is the most uncompromising phone in the budget segment today. We’ve seen some great devices debuting in the market this year, notably the Redmi Note 4 and the Moto G5 Plus, and as an overall package, the Mi A1 handily beats both devices. For ₹14,999 you’ll be hard-pressed to find a phone that offers quite as much for your money.

Xiaomi is once again leveraging its flash sales model for the Mi A1, which means that you won’t be able to go to Mi.com and purchase the device whenever you want. The sale kicks off every Tuesday at 12 p.m., but if you don’t want to wait, you always have the option of going to a Mi Home store and purchasing the device. Xiaomi is also making the phone available at over 600 partner stores.

It isn’t the easiest process to get a hold of the Mi A1, but the device itself is well worth it.

The Doogee S60 is ‘the one who reinvents rugged phone’

There are a few rugged smartphones on the market, like the Galaxy Active series or the LG X Venture. But maybe those aren’t tough enough for you. Do you need a phone that will survive “fields, underwater and other outdoor environments”? What about one that is “manly, strong, and special in market”? If so, the Doogee S60 might be for you.

The S60 (no, not that S60) has a super durable design made of “a special material” and is covered in a gold finish, because who says tough phones have to be ugly? The front has a 5.2″ HD display with Gorilla Glass 5. The S60 is powered by a MediaTek Helio P25, which “features a powerful performance” and is “rarely found in a professional rugged phone.” After all, everyone knows that the Galaxy Active phones would be much better with a MediaTek chip. Doogee does what Samsundon’t.

Doogee really wants you to know this phone is perfect for outdoor use. In fact, the multitude of built-in sensors include a compass, gyroscope, baroreceptor, and coulomb meter. All of these “helps when you are exploring the fields.”

If you aren’t already rushing to grab your wallet, you should know that Doogee is making a “Game of Throne Edition” of the S60. No, I’m not kidding, and I’m pretty sure HBO doesn’t know about it. You can win one from the contest on Doogee’s website, and each unit has a GoT quote embedded on the back. One of them says “Hordor.”

I highly recommend reading the Engrish mess of a press release below. You can buy the S60 from AliExpress right now for $299-$339.

STOCKHOLM–(BUSINESS WIRE)–What should a rugged phone be? With more and more people getting interested in outdoor exploration and outdoor sports, the needs for a powerful rugged smartphone is increasing. DOOGEE, the professional smartphone manufacturer, has been marching into the promising market and recently, their new rugged phone S60 was unveiled.

Design: manly, strong, special, with IP68
As a rugged phone, Doogee S60 had achieved IP68 protection, and the body is designed with special material and enhanced craftsmanship for drop and shock resistance as well. S60 is covered by a gold finish with black plastic cushion around the corners. Almost the whole back cover is made of aluminum alloy, a highly intensive aerospace grade material which is much stronger than other materials.

In the display aspect, S60 narrow down the bezels and get a unique 5.2” FHD display. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Overall, S60 is manly, strong, and special in market.

Most powerful ever
The rugged phone features a powerful performance with octa-core MTK Helio P25, which we rarely found in a professional rugged phone. And the 6GB of RAM is worth being mentioned, too. It runs on Android 7.0 Nougat out of box, and 64GB/128GB of internal storage.

5580mAh battery is definitely a killing part of S60. The massive battery can sustain for a moderate use of three days in this phone. Moreover, the advanced fast charging technology up to 12V-2A is applied to S60, which gives 30% power in 10 minutes charging. Wireless charging and OTG are supported, making S60 a backup power bank.

S60 is using the Sony® IMX 230 sensor with an incredibly big 1/2.4 inch of CMOS size, a popular camera sensor which were applied in Huawei, Xiaomi flagships. The camera supports PDAF and OIS technology, which are working together to improve focus speed by 100% and create crystal-clear photos.

As a rugged phone, S60 is designed to work in fields, underwater and other outdoor environments. So the GPS and GLONASS navigating system are essential. There are many useful sensors built-in, such as compass, gyroscope, coulomb-meter, baroceptor, which helps when you are exploring the fields. Moreover, NFC is supported, just as a physical PTT (Push to Talk) button and SOS button are put in the side of S60.

DOOGEE S60 has launched in the official page now: http://www.doogee.cc/sale/s60/

Huawei Maimang 6 (Mate 10 Lite) is now official with 4 cameras

Earlier this week news of a new Huawei smartphone hit the ground running after leaked images of an alleged Huawei Mate 10 Lite popped up online. Accompanying the leaked photos were some interesting hardware details, most notably the phone’s 4 — count them — 4 cameras.

It sounds excessive, but they’re basically using the same dual camera setup you find on the back of most devices these days, along with a similar setup on the front probably used to achieve a portrait like, shallow depth of field effect. After leaking in photos — and video — that phone is now being made official in China, where it’s launching under the name Huawei Maimang 6.

The Maimang 6 — which will likely launch outside of China as the Mate 10 Lite — comes equipped with dual 16MP/2MP cameras on rear, and a 13MP/2MP on the front of the device. The phone’s display will have an 18:9 aspect ratio and inside there’s 4GB of RAM, a 3,340mAh battery, and it’ll come running Android 7.0 Nougat + EMUI 5.1. Here’s the full spec sheet for those interested:

Huawei Maimang 6 specs

  • 5.9-inch (2160 x 1080 pixels) Full HD+ 2.5D curved glass display
  • Octa-Core Kirin 659 processor (4 xA53 at 2.36GHz + 4 x A53 at 1.7GHz) with MaliT830-MP2 GPU
  • 4GB RAM, 64GB internal memory, expandable memory up to 256GB with microSD
  • Android 7.0 (Nougat) with EMUI 5.1
  • Hybrid Dual SIM (nano+nano/microSD)
  • 16MP rear camera with dual-tone LED flash, secondary 2MP camera
  • 13MP front-facing camera with soft LED flash, secondary 2MP camera
  • Fingerprint sensor
  • Dimensions: 156.2 × 75.2 × 7.5mm; Weight: 164g
  • 4G VoLTE, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS / Glonass, NFC
  • 3340mAh battery (typical) / 3240mAh (minimum) battery

Pre-orders for the Maimang 6 kick off today, with the phone officially launching on September 30th for 2399 yuan (around $365). The Maimang 6 will come in black, gold, and blue color options. Expect the phone to launch globally later this year as the Huawei Mate 10 Lite, alongside the Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro.

Weibo | via Fone Arena

2017, what smartphones have you given us so far?

There are 10 sorts of people: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

What do you think?

BlackBerry

After the return of BlackBerry with the Priv, which was launched in 2016, this year we got another taste of what BlackBerry can still do with the BlackBerry KeyOne. It looks like BlackBerry is still holding on to its identity and the productivity that comes with a full physical keyboard. A 4.5-inch display and a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 microprocessor aren’t the highest level specs you might find in a device focused on the premium business market, but they’re features that add some definite value to the device like reduced consumption and together with a 3505 mAh battery, the KeyOne lasts 9 hours and 25 minutes in the PCMark test from 100% to 20%. With intense daily use, this could mean up to a day and a half without having to plug it in.

AndroidPIT blackberry Keyone 7586
BlackBerry KeyOne with its physical keyboard. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: BlackBerry KEYone


Best price

HTC

HTC has been dealing with a pretty rough situation lately, and although it’s been able to overcome it, it has had to completely overhaul its design due to the amount of criticism that befell its devices in 2016. The HTC U Ultra comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, a 5.7-inch display with QHD resolution and an additional 2-inch display for notifications, all powered by a 3000 mAh battery. Keeping in mind that it was launched in January 2017, the older processor model can be forgiven, but the LCD display and 3000 mAh battery may not be enough for this device to keep its head above water. HTC’s smaller flagship of 2017, the HTC U11 was launched in May. Although this device still has the 3000 mAh battery, the display was downsized to 5.5 inches and the second screen was removed, giving it much better battery life. On top of that, it having a Snapdragon 835 chip set makes it a really great device.

AndroidPIT HTC U 11 4677
HTC U11 with 835. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: HTC U11


Best price

Huawei

Five years ago, this Chinese manufacture was completely unknown and now it’s rubbing elbows with the likes of Samsung. In February 2017, it presented the Huawei P10 and P10 Plus. Both are great devices, but we do see a trend that has become custom for brands that have left Asia and moved to the West: they have a line that is similar, not to say a mirror image, to the iPhone. Compared to its predecessors, the small change of only a tenth of an inch doesn’t make a huge difference. It comes with a Kirin 960 chip, a 20 MP camera and a battery that is 200 mAh more powerful than the predecessor (which has, inexplicably, reduced its autonomy on the PCMark test). What’s weird is that its USB Type-C is a camouflaged Micro USB, which means it only supports USB 2.0 and not 3.1, which the standard dictates nowadays.

Huawei also has its Honor range, which launched its Honor 9 phone in mid-2017. Honor is Huawei’s flagship killer. It basically comes with the same specs as its older cousin the P10, and it’s a tough choice between the two.

Lowest price: Honor 9


Best price

LG

In 2017, the LG G6 pleasantly surprised us with a display-surface ratio of almost 85%, and although it stepped away from the modular concept of its predecessor, the new design made us forget all about it. Its main disadvantage is that it comes with the same processor that its rivals were using last year. More recently, LG has also surprised us with the LG V30. It got rid of the second display, which has been its call sign in the past, but it embraces the entire six inches of display to simulate that second screen. It’s also able to shrink the bezel, which allows it to reach dimensions of almost 1 cm less. I think this is a great device, besides the controversy over its f/1.699 aperture, I would have liked a better battery that didn’t lose its autonomy over time.

AndroidPIT LG V30 0524
LG V30, ear-candy. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: LG V30


Best price

OnePlus

There isn’t much to say about the Oneplus 5 that you don’t already know, but it’s by far the biggest flagship killer out there. It comes in two different versions, 8 GB RAM and 128 GB internal memory in its beefier version or 6 GB RAM with 64 GB in its simpler one. Its Snapdragon 835 chip has seen a price increase recently, so it’s had to break away from the direction it was been headed for five years ago, just like Google did after the Nexus 5. There’s no MicroSD slot. It has a FullHD display and connection plug which, just like Huawei, isn’t a real USB Type-C but rather an adapted micro USB with a USB Type-C plug on the other end.

AndroidPIT oneplus 5 soft gold 7077
OnePlus 5 in three colors / © AndroidPIT

Moto by Lenovo

The fireproof Moto from the Moto G to the Moto Z in 2017: better price balance, services, and an affordable Nexus experience. It overcame the hand-off from Google to Lenovo since the latter knew that its success lies in its identity and so, it kept it. It could be said that it is one of the last devices that still has that Google feel about it and it makes it a balanced model, with a clean and fluid interface.

The Moto G5 is the missing link between the medium and premium ranges. It comes with 3 GB of RAM and 32 of storage, which can be increased with a MicroSD. Everything mentioned above plus an aluminum body makes this device better than average.

The only thing really worth mentioning about the Moto Z2 Force is its shatterproof 5.5-inch display. It’s basically an indestructible AMOLED flexible display. Currently, it’s also the only manufacturer to keep its modular design with the different mods on the back. This modularity can be used to increase the battery life, add some speakers or even a gamepad. Both the Moto Mods and the terminal jack the price up. Although it doesn’t quite reach the $700 or so mark in the high/premium range, it’s a competitive market where either you offer something different from the competition and enjoy a warm welcome or you’ll be eaten up along the way.

AndroidPIT motorola moto z2 force 8090
Moto Z2 Force with an unbreakable screen. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: Moto G5


Best price

Nokia

Nokia returned in full glory in the hands of HMD Global, aside from its nostalgic trip into yesterday with the remastered Nokia 3310, which it presented at the 2017 Mobile World Congress. Hopefully, it can get it out of the jam that Microsoft put it in for trying to launch a mobile OS that never happened. Both Microsoft and Nokia arrived late on the smartphone market. Nokia, because it was hanging onto its famous and, at the time, all-powerful Symbian. Microsoft, because it showed an OS that didn’t work on mobile devices, so it had to shut it down.

This time it looks like it’s stomping around, trying to get its hands on everything. It’s gone for the entry-level range with its Nokia 3 while the Nokia 5 and Nokia 6 are presented as its medium and medium-premium range. Last but not least, it has the incredible Nokia 8. It was unveiled mid-August but hasn’t hit the market yet, but it looks very promising. If Nokia can keep its promises of pure Android updates, it could be stiff competition for Lenovo’s Moto range, and the Nokia 8 would become the true flagship killer of 2017.

AndroidPIT Nokia 8 Colours 1
All the different Nokia 8 variants. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: Nokia 8


Best price

Samsung

Samsung presented its Galaxy S8 and S8+ line in March. Although we can say that design is one of the most subjective aspects of any phone, Samsung has definitely broken away from the iPhone line and created its own identity thanks to the display’s edge, which gives it a unique appearance. Both these devices should be carefully considered when talking about the top devices in their respective ranges.

Last week, Samsung presented its highly-anticipated Note 8. Although it doesn’t deceive the biggest fans of the series, It really doesn’t bring much more to the table than its smaller cousin, the Samsung Galaxy S8+. What does set it apart though is its stylus, which adds both personality and productivity to the Note. It also comes with a display that’s a tenth of an inch bigger and 2 GB more of RAM. On the other hand, it has a battery that is 200 mAh less powerful than the S8+ (probably in an attempt to avoid any mishaps like its predecessor) and it’s almost 0.5 mm thicker. Lastly, it comes with the long-awaited Android 7.1.1 operating system, which its predecessors have been dying in anticipation for.

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LG G6, Note 8 and S8. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: Samsung Galaxy S8+


Best price

Sony

In February, Sony presented its Xperia XZ Premium, which was the juiced-up brother of the 2016 range-topper, the Xperia XZ. We have to tip our hats to its ultraslow 960fps camera, the only one of its kind on the smartphone market. Sony also increased the battery from 2900 to 3230 mAh – in addition to its 5.46-inch display, its considerable step up from FullHD to QHD won’t make a big difference in battery life. On the other hand, it increased its RAM by 1 GB and updated the SoC to a Snapdragon 835. This phone is putting up a good fight against the competition in 2017. So much so that with the XZ1 device, which was presented recently, its biggest update is that it will be the first device sold running Oreo 8.0. It’s only been seven months since the Premium released in February and not much has changed. Sony, with its “new” device, shows that it won’t break away from its look no matter how much ommibalance has been amortized and now, fans of the series can pay more for fewer specs.

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The last one from Sony XZ1. / © AndroidPIT

Lowest price: Sony Xperia XZ Premium


Best price

Xiaomi

I’ve been going back and forth as to whether I should include Xiaomi in this article, but honestly, the Xiaomi Mi 6 is a great device. For some unknown reason, it doesn’t want to launch in the West because it has decided not to include the 800 Mhz band for 4G. Could it be that Chinese export companies continue padding their wallets or maybe it’s because modifying it for the Western market and getting all the certificates would increase the price and make it less competitive? I’m not really sure. Whatever the reason, until Xiaomi includes that frequency band, it won’t land on my radar of devices to consider owning.  

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Xiaomi Mi6. / © AndroidPIT

Does 2017 still have something in store for us with terminals that haven’t been launched yet like the Mate 10 or the Pixel 2, or should we just start thinking about 2018 models already?

Paranoid Android 7.3.0 Brings New Camera App and More

It was just around 4 months ago that Paranoid Android came back once again to shake up the custom ROM world with polished and feature-packed Android 7.1.2 Nougat builds. Now, after one major update (7.2), some minor ones, and Android 8.0 Oreo starting to bring the heat for ROM developers, the PA folks are back with a new release yet again. This update based on Android 7.1.2, bumps up the PA version number to 7.3.0 and brings even more improvements to the table.

While this release isn’t as feature packed as the previous major update, it still brings some key improvements that you’ll indeed notice right away, like the new camera app, for example. It also includes key security improvements as well as additional launcher customization features, and a lot more.

As it’s the norm with all Paranoid Android releases, the team has been looking closely for bugs and user complaints, so you should find this release to be a lot more polished than 7.2.3. If you do find something, be sure to report it accordingly on the official Google+ community or other platforms!


New 7.3.0 Features

Global Improvements

  • New, reworked camera app (Paranoid Camera)
  • New Launcher features, customizations and improvements
  • Experimental support for simultaneous use of Color Engine and Substratum
  • New security patches (September 2017)
  • Various performance improvements
  • Various stability fixes and minor improvements
  • Fixed GPS issues with Waze and other apps
  • Fixed Trusted Face
  • Fixed possible Immersive Mode force close
  • Fixed Bluetooth connectivity issues
  • Fixed various theming issues
  • Fixed data integrity issues
  • Fixed multiple frameworks resource and memory leaks

Fixes for Google Nexus 5:

  • Fix for major power consumption in some cases

Fixes for Google Nexus 5X:

  • Patched BlueBorne kernel vulnerability
  • Fixed WiFi display

Fixes for Google Nexus 6:

  • Merged latest September security patch
  • Patched BlueBorne kernel vulnerability
  • Fixed WiFi display

Fixes for Google Nexus 6P:

  • Merged latest September security patch
  • Patched BlueBorne kernel vulnerability

Fixes for Google Pixel / Pixel XL:

  • Merged latest schedutil upstream changes
  • Patched BlueBorne kernel vulnerability

Fixes for Le Eco Le Pro 3:

  • Updated proprietary vendor files from 23S and OB20
  • Switched to new radio stack
  • Added dynamic boosting support via QPerformance
  • Updated Kernel as per latest CAF’s tag
  • General smoothness and touch boosting enhancements
  • Included workaround for F2FS GC which makes F2FS usable without concerns again
  • Patched BlueBorne kernel vulnerability
  • Various power improvements
  • Miscellaneous audio fixes and tuning

Fixes for OnePlus 3/3T:

  • Optimized thermal setup
  • Major power/battery improvements
  • Various performance enhancements
  • Improvements to touch latency
  • Improved WI-FI connectivity
  • Updated and improved F2FS support
  • Included workaround for F2FS GC which makes F2FS usable without concerns again
  • Ship firmware from internal 082917
  • Updated SRGB calibration from OnePlus
  • Added haptic intensity control (to be used by kernel apps)
  • Patched BlueBorne kernel vulnerability

Fixes for OnePlus X:

  • Fix for major power consumption in some cases
  • Fixed battery percentage getting stuck

Fixes for Nextbit Robin:

  • Optimized thermal setup
  • Patched BlueBorne kernel vulnerability
  • Other minor enhancements

Fixes for Xiaomi Mi5:

  • Updated to MIUI 7.9.7 Global dev blobs
  • Fixed lag for some users
  • Added dynamic boosting support via QPerformance
  • Patched BlueBorne kernel vulnerability

Paranoid Camera

Paranoid Android, since its initial 2017 re-release, has been known to be a step ahead of other ROMs in the camera department, be it on quality or features, and that’s especially true for OnePlus devices, which have been known to feature a pretty average camera quality when using custom ROMs.

But with this release, the PA team is introducing a new camera app called Paranoid Camera, which will be the default camera for all supported devices from now on. The new camera app has been redesigned from the ground up in order to achieve a new, much more friendly interface, with the help of designer Espen Flagtvedt Olsen as well as developer Grarak. Furthermore, it also brings some substantial fixes and improvements.


Launcher Customizations

One of the greatest things about third-party launchers – namely Nova Launcher, Action Launcher – is the ability to customize more than just the shortcuts on your homescreen. This new Paranoid Android release further expands on the launcher customization capabilities added on 7.2.3, also adding the following features:

  • Hidden app support – Hide apps from the app drawer and homescreen
  • Round icon support – Use round icons for all apps supporting it
  • Custom Icon Search – Search for specific icons by app
  • Dock color personalization – Choose between default, transparent, accent or wallpaper color

BlueBorne Fixes

Earlier this month, a massive security vulnerability was found to affect pretty much every single Android device with Bluetooth, from Android 1.0 to the latest Android 8.0. While this was actually patched in the September security patch, and the issue was publicly revealed after Google’s security bulletin was released, over 99% of Android phones are still in danger. The Paranoid team is making sure users running their software are safe from this flaw.

7.3.0, aside from merging the latest Android security patches, also merges the required device-specific fixes in order to fix this security vulnerability successfully on PA phones.


Space Oddity

As PA grows bigger, so does its device roster and, eventually, it will get to the point where it will reach their server capacity. The team is taking into account many device requests, and they want to officially support as many devices as possible. As such, in order to continue supporting more devices, the PA team is turning to users for help, by asking for donations.

The goal is to eventually expand their server infrastructure in order to officially support an even wider device range and user audience without server issues. If you want to help out, you can support them financially or, if you have access to a build server, they’re also looking for build slaves. Either option you choose, you’ll need to contact them directly.


Android Oreo

Android 8.0 Oreo has been officially out for roughly a month now, and some other custom ROM teams, like the LineageOS team, have already begun work on their Oreo versions. As such, this will be the last major Nougat update for Paranoid Android, as the team will instead focus all their workforce to getting Android Oreo working on their supported devices. If there’s a critical fix available for Nougat, though, then a minor update will be pushed out with this critical fix.

There’s currently no ETA on when the Oreo flavor for PA will be released, and it’s pretty hard to speculate since PA release dates have varied wildly in the past. So it’s just a matter of waiting and watching patiently.


Paranoid Android 7.3.0 is mostly polishing some of the rougher edges from older releases and bringing a better, more secure experience for users. And taking into the mix the massive bug fixes and security improvements with this release, as well as some of the new features, we can say for sure that 7.3.0 is a fairly big jump from 7.2.3. As always, you can check out the downloads page to find builds for your device. If you are interested about PA and wish to know more, you can also check out the official post, their gerrit and github, their crowdin and the friendly Paranoid Android Google+ Community.

How to force Picture-in-Picture mode on Oreo for YouTube, Google Maps, Duo, and others

One of Android Oreo’s best features is Picture-in-Picture mode for phones and tablets. When you press the home button while playing media (on an app that supports PiP), the video collapses to a floating window that you can move around the screen. YouTube is one of the few apps that support this feature already, but it’s only enabled if you pay for YouTube Red. Thankfully, there is a way to force PiP mode for any app that supports it, including YouTube and Google Maps.

This guide is slightly long because everything is explained in detail, not because it’s hard. This should take less than 10 minutes for everyone, and once you finish it, you won’t have to do it again (unless you re-install the Custom Navigation Bar app).

Prerequisites

Before getting started, let’s go over what you need. Your phone or tablet has to be running Android 8.0 or higher, and you’ll need a USB cable to connect your phone/tablet to your computer. If you don’t already have the ADB command-line utility installed on your computer, you’ll have to download that first.

Even though Google now offers ADB downloads from its website, you still have to manually add it to your system path. For that reason, I still recommend using a 3rd-party ADB installer, like this one for Windows. If you’re using Mac or Ubuntu Linux, you can try the installer I made.

You’ll also need to turn on ADB Debugging, if you haven’t already. On Android Oreo, open the Settings app, tap System near the bottom, tap About Phone, and keep tapping the Build Number at the bottom until you get a popup saying you’re a developer. Once you do that, press Back, tap the new Developer Options item, and set ‘USB debugging’ to On.

If your device is rooted, you can skip installing ADB.

Installing Custom Navigation Bar

The next step is to download Custom Navigation Bar from the Play Store, or from APKMirror. This app was made to give Android 7.0/7.1 users the customizable navigation bar that the Android O Previews had, but we’ll use it to add a Picture-in-Picture button to our device.

Once it’s installed on your phone or tablet, open it and start going through the setup process. At some point, you’ll be asked to run an ADB command on your computer (if you have root, you can just give the app root permissions and skip this section). Go ahead and plug your device into your computer, if it wasn’t connected already.

On Windows, press the Windows key and R at the same time, type “cmd” in the text box (without the quotes), and press Enter. On Mac, search for Terminal with Spotlight and open it. If you’re on Linux, you probably already know where the terminal app is.

The screenshots in this post will be from Windows, but the ADB commands work exactly the same across all operating systems.

Now that you have the Command Prompt/Terminal open with your Android device connected, type “adb devices” (without the quotes) and press Enter. This will search for connected Android devices. If you get an alert on your phone/tablet about allowing USB debugging, press ‘Always allow from this computer’ and tap OK.

If you see anything under ‘List of devices attached,’ it means you’re on the right track. In the above screenshot, you can see my Google Pixel is properly connected. Now you just have to give the Custom Navigation Bar app the proper permissions it needs. Type in “adb shell” (without the quotes) and press Enter. Then type “pm grant xyz.paphonb.systemuituner android.permission.WRITE_SECURE_SETTINGS” (without the quotes) and press Enter. Now you should be able to complete the app setup on your phone or tablet.

Adding the Picture-in-Picture button

Now it’s time to add a Picture-in-Picture toggle to the navigation bar. Open the Custom Navigation Bar app and press ‘Navigation Bar.’ Under ‘Extra right button’ (or ‘Extra left button’, if you want the button on the left), tap ‘Type’ and select ‘Keycode.’ Then tap on ‘Keycode,’ and pick ‘Window’ from the long list of options. It should be near the bottom.

  

If you want to set an Icon for the PiP button, you can tap ‘Icon’ and choose whatever you like. If you don’t set an icon, you’ll just have to tap the empty space on the right (or left, if you chose left) side of the navigation bar to toggle PiP.

Now it’s time to try out your new PiP button. Open a video in the YouTube app, and press the PiP button to collapse the video into a floating window. If it works, pat yourself on the back, because you’re done! This also works for any app with a PiP mode, like Google Maps and Duo.

Three features I’d steal from iOS 11 for the next Android update

iOS 11 is officially out, and there’s nothing wrong with a little feature envy.

The latest update to iOS is out of beta and rolling out to iPhones as of Tuesday this week, and it’s got our friends over at iMore pretty excited. If you need to catch up on what’s new, you can check out Rene Ritchie’s full review:

While it’s all Android, all the time over here, it’s always worth keeping up with what’s going on with iOS. Apple does a lot of things really well and they deserve full credit for that… and if Google can bring some of the more ingenious features over to Android, well, all the better!

Here are a few of the new iOS features that I would love to see ported over to Android.

Augmented Reality baked into the OS

Since releasing its ARKit for developers back in June, it’s clear that Apple is eyeing Augmented Reality as an important piece in its mobile strategy moving forward as we saw at its latest iPhone launch event. Some highlights from the event included a demo of an AR multiplayer game called The Machines and more practical examples of Augmented Reality such as using your phone to get real-time stats and player information at an MLB game or using a star-gazing app to point out constellations and planets. The aim was to showcase the processing power of the new line of iPhones while also cementing augmented reality as “the next big thing” in the minds of the mainstream public.

Apple’s newfound focus on Augmented Reality and its inclusion as a core feature in iOS 11 should lead to companies and brands incorporating AR features into more apps as the technology reaches mainstream status.

Now I know what you’re probably saying — Google has been dabbling with its own AR platform for Android developers, Tango, for several years now, and even announced their answer to Apple’s software-based ARKit with AR Core in late August. Oh, and then there’s this little game — don’t know if you’ve heard of it — called Pokémon Go that sort of took the world by storm a year ago, so augmented reality on phones isn’t as earth-shattering an idea as Apple would have us think.

Apple focusing on augmented reality should trigger companies and brands to get on the AR bandwagon as it achieves mainstream status.

When Apple’s Phil Schiller took to the stage and said the new iPhones were the first smartphones created for Augmented Reality, he was conveniently ignoring the ASUS ZenFone AR and Lenovo Phab 2 Pro. Of course, it’s hard to blame Schiller for that, as both Tango-ready phones are pretty forgettable — a shame because the experience using Tango is pretty awesome.

But that kind of speaks to the larger issue here. Google’s been working on Augmented Reality via Tango for so long now, yet it still feels like something stuck in beta. The number of Tango-ready phones is embarrassingly small — and Google has yet to release a Tango-ready phone of their own. AR Core shows a ton of promise and eliminates the need to buy a phone with specific hardware for implementing AR features, but there’s still a ton of questions surrounding Google’s future plans for both Tango and AR Core.

Might some of those questions be answered on October 4th? I guess we’ll learn soon enough.

Apple Pay in iMessage

We’re living in an increasingly cashless society and that trend will only continue to grow as more people start using fantastic mobile payment options such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. Apple first introduced Apple Pay in 2014 with the iOS 8.1, and with iOS 11 they’re implementing new functionality that lets you send Apple Pay money transfers to friends or family right from within iMessage.

Now, this peer-to-peer payment service from within iMessage isn’t rolling out with the official iOS 11 release, but it is coming and it’s a feature that sure looks enticing to those of us on the Android side of the fence. Sure, it’s still incredibly convenient for me to open my banking app and wire my friends some money that I owe them or whatnot, but there’s just something so elegant about responding to a friend’s reminder text that you that you owe them $20, and then immediately sending it to them within the conversation as a reply.

I’d love to be able to send and receive money transfers as easy as a text — but no new messaging apps, Google!

It’s a feature that I’d love to see Google bake into Android, but Google would first need to decide which messaging app to build it into. Allo? Android Messages? Hangouts?

Beyond that, there’s also the issue of phone makers getting on board, too. So many Android phones ship with their own OEM-specific messaging apps set as default, along with popular third-party messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and more — it’s just that much easier for Apple to implement this feature into iMessage as but another great feature for the benefit of all iOS users.

Just please, Google, for our own sanity, please don’t release another messaging app just for sending money to friends.

Do Not Disturb turns on automatically when you’re driving

Distracted driving is an issue that, sadly, doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. With younger generations getting smartphones in their hands before reaching the driving age, it’s all too easy to get into the habit of instinctively checking new notifications as soon as they pop up. Younger drivers can build self-confidence in their ability to multi-task, which may ultimately lead to tragic consequences.

With iOS 11, Apple has introduced a feature that will automatically turn on Do Not Disturb if it detects that you’re in a moving vehicle or if you connect to your car’s Bluetooth. Once enabled, all notifications are turned off, and there’s even an option to automatically notify anyone trying to message you that you’re currently behind the wheel. It can also be toggled manually, too, for the times when you’re a passenger in a car.

This is just a really smart feature that should probably be implemented across all smartphones. Distracted driving is a major public safety issue, and the first step towards correcting it is removing the temptation to check your phone. Here’s hoping iOS users make use of this new feature, and Google adds it to its list of features to include in the next major Android update.

What iOS features would you steal?

These are my top three picks for features I’d like to see Google steal for Android P, but what about you? Let us know in the comments!

Google’s second generation Pixel: more for the fans

Google’s second generation Pixel phones are about to be launched. Expectations are high. But ultimately, Google doesn’t have to do too much to inspire fans. However, to be more broadly successful, it needs to do something else, something extra. Google really needs to devote itself to updates and developing a soul of its own.

There are 10 sorts of people: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

What do you think?

Updates: Google can finally lead by example

Let’s take a quick look back at the contentious topic of system updates: In September 2013, Apple presented the iPhone 5S. In a few days’ time, this iPhone 5S will receive an update to iOS 11. Likely it won’t get all the features, but at least it will get some semblance of an update. In comparison, the Nexus 5, which was launched in October 2013 received its latest official Android M security update in November 2015 and October 2016. No (official) trace of Android Nougat or Oreo.

androidpit nexus5 problems 14
The Nexus 5 was one of the few affordable Google smartphones. / © AndroidPIT

So much has already been written about the reasons behind the update misery at Android (and I’m guilty of contributing to this plethora of complaining). However, the situation has changed in recent months: Project Treble can make a difference. Together with other manufacturers and suppliers, Google has created an interface (called vendor interface) that enables Android to access system drivers such as Qualcomm’s. The purpose of this is that for a large Android update, the chipset manufacturer (e.g. Qualcomm) does not need to release a driver update separately.

Project Treble can’t help in certain situations, like that encountered with Android Nougat, which excludes all smartphones that don’t support OpenGL-ES-3.0. However, such situations are rare, so the vendor interface can ensure that Android updates are possible without requiring help from the chip manufacturer. Google should be using this development.

google android update flowchart
Project Treble is designed to simplify the updating process. / © Google

With the second generation of Pixel phones, Google has to drive a more ambitious update strategy. Users are already a bit bitter that the Pixels are extortionately priced (even Nexus phones) compared to iPhones. With long-term support with two huge version leaps, they barely even cause a stir in the Android world (although the speed of delivery is a big plus). As of now, the expensive first generation Pixels will also stop getting updates shortly after Android P is released, so it will be yet another phone thrown into the abyss of yesteryear.

Opinion by Hans-Georg Kluge

Google has to extend the update period of its smartphones

What do you think?

If Google really wants to solve problems in the Android world through its Pixel smartphones, there is no alternative: longer update periods are required. By the way, the argument that the performance of old smartphones is no longer sufficient may be valid for some entry-level smartphones from 2014, but a Nexus 5 would still be able to perform all tasks in everyday life today with a more recent operating system. There is no recent Android feature the requires the power/performance of a Snapdragon 835. Granting smartphones longer update support cycles means an environmentally friendly product policy.

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Google Pixel: The phone needs more soul. / © AndroidPIT

Nexus becomes Pixel

A few years ago, Google had to act: Patent wars were in full swing and Google was left almost empty-handed. So the mobile phone division of Motorola was quickly acquired, patents were acquired and sold to another buyer. Did Google have any real interest in rebuilding Motorola’s mobile phone division? Looking back, I think it’s fair to say the answer was no.

Times are changing and we have seen some hardware projects from Google stemming from various different veins: Chromecast was a surprise hit among the streaming sticks, Google Home brings the Assistant to your Smart Home and then, of course, there are the Pixel smartphones. Google itself carried out the hardware design and all construction steps and merely used HTC as a manufacturing partner. it’s also worth noting that the software has always been a bit more Google-heavy than stock Android since the Nexus 5.

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Four Nexus phone, four Google beacons. / © ANDROIDPIT

Google will continue to follow this path with the second generation of Pixels. And once again, Google will have to deliver some exclusive features. Otherwise, David Ruddock of AndroidPolice’s assessment of the upcoming pixel smartphones will prove to be true.

Google will increasingly rely on its own hardware

So what should the next generation of Pixels do to become relevant for a broader market? Apart from longer support, which I’ve already mentioned, there are two things that are urgently needed: Google must hire real designers and give the smartphones a less simple look. Pitched against the Samsung Galaxy S8 or the LG V30, Google Pixel clearly wins the poor design award with its old-fashioned appearance and huge bezels.

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Google’s smartphone competition has more to offer visually-speaking. / © AndroidPIT
Opinion by Hans-Georg Kluge

The Google Pixel 2 phone needs to look nicer than its predecessor

What do you think?

Google also really needs to implement features that turn the monotony of Android into a smartphone with its own soul and character. LG and Samsung have succeeded, many other stock Android manufacturers have not yet.

Together with HTC, Google will apparently provide the new Pixels with edge-sense technology, which would at least mean one more sophisticated feature. In general, Google seems to want to intensify its cooperation with HTC. Rumors have been circulating for some time now that Google wants to take over HTC. Google is primarily interested in the design team. Keeping the old brand alive is only likely to be of interest for a transitional period. Instead, it might boil down to a matter of breathing soul into its hardware and HTC can certainly help with that.

androidpit google pixel xl 2017 android police
A promising render of the Pixel 2 XL. / © Android Police

Google will own its hardware, but it will not become Apple

The fact that Google owning its hardware is so relevant in the first place isn’t so much just for smartphones, even though control of hardware and software is very important. Rather, the growing network has led to a hen-egg conundrum. The Google Assistant and Google Cloud connect all sorts of devices, not only smartphones and tablets, but also TVs, smart speakers and other smart home equipment. Only with hardware like Google Home or Chromecast can Google build a platform that is attractive enough for developers of other devices. Smartphones, on the other hand, are an important control unit and provide a lot of valuable usage data.

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Google Home: The smartphone takes on a minor role. / © AndroidPIT

Without its own hardware, Google cannot make any reasonable progress with its own platform and will quickly be pushed into second place (i.e. loser). The tough manner in which the race for digital assistants is being fought is evident from the way that Google’s rival Amazon is pushing its Alexa onto the market – it too has a dual strategy whereby it has its own hardware and partnerships.

However, Google will certainly not do one thing: It will not become Apple. Apple is now developing its own chips, such as the A11 in iPhone X, and even its own radio modules. It would take years to catch up this lead with a chip of its own. I guess it’s better to work with Qualcomm. and make itself independent of its driver development (thus coming full circle to Project Treble).

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Google will not become Apple. / © Apple

Google will present its future this Fall

I was already smiling when I heard the announcement last year: The Pixel event will be more important than any other Android event in the last decade. It certainly turned out to be different. The beta assistant was not yet overwhelming, the Pixels were ugly and boring. But at least a first step was taken. In its second attempt, Google can do a lot better and recent renders of the Pixel 2 XL are pointing in the right direction.

It may take a few months or years to realize how significant a change Google made last year. The Assistant, its own hardware and this later, perhaps even great design. Perhaps 2016 will have been a year of setting the course for Google.

Opinion by Hans-Georg Kluge

Google has undergone an enormous change

What do you think?

In summary: Longer update support is a must for loyal Google fans, more soul and character is a must for broader success.

What do you expect from Google’s Pixel event on October 4? Which innovations are you especially looking forward to? Share your thoughts in the comment below!

Opinion by Hans-Georg Kluge

Google has to extend the update period of its smartphones

What do you think?

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Opinion by Hans-Georg Kluge

The Google Pixel 2 phone needs to look nicer than its predecessor

What do you think?

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Opinion by Hans-Georg Kluge

Google has undergone an enormous change

What do you think?

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There are 10 sorts of people: those who understand binary and those who don’t.

What do you think?

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[Humor] The Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8 Violate Android’s Compatibility Requirements

Over the years, hundreds of Android devices have been released. Among the dozens of manufacturers building Android phones, Samsung is one of the more prolific of the bunch. But Samsung is best known their two flagship smartphone series: the Samsung Galaxy S and the Galaxy Note line. The latest flagship offerings from Samsung include the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. These devices launched with Android 7.0 Nougat and 7.1 Nougat respectively, but while these smartphones are claimed to be Android Certified, they actually violate a key prerequisite of what allows them to pre-install Google apps on their devices: the Android Compatibility Definition Document.

The following post is meant to be humerous. Don’t take this seriously. Just enjoy the ride.


The Necessity of Android Compatibility

With every new release of an Android version, Google publishes a set of requirements that devices must meet in order to be considered compatible with that version of Android.

This document enumerates the requirements that must be met in order for devices to be compatible with the latest version of Android. To be considered compatible with Android, device implementations MUST meet the requirements presented in this Compatibility Definition, including any documents incorporated via reference.

The above lines preface all links to the Android Compatibility Definition Document, and clearly state that, while the Document does not include every requirement needed for a device to be considered Android-compatible, it does state that manufacturers must stay within the guidelines of the document. Furthermore, meeting these requirements is a prerequisite for any manufacturer to license Google Mobile Services (GMS).

After building an Android compatible device, consider licensing Google Mobile Services (GMS), Google’s proprietary suite of apps (Google Play, YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, and more ) that run on top of Android. GMS is not part of the Android Open Source Project and is available only through a license with Google.

This is a huge incentive to make Android device manufacturers follow Google’s strict requirements listed in their Compatibility program. Without meeting Google’s requirements, a manufacturer cannot pre-install the Google Play Store (among many other Google applications).

Amazon is one of the few manufacturers that intentionally does not license GMS as they favor their own app ecosystem, but for every other manufacturer it’s crucial to ensure that their customers have access to the millions of apps on the Google Play Store. Hence, you can understand why it’s so important for Samsung to meet the requirements in the CDD so they can license out Google Mobile Services.


Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8 – Are they Truly Android Certified?

At XDA, we’ve been digging into the Compatibility Definition Document with every new release of the document. We poured through the document released for Android 6.0 Marshmallow and Android 7.0 Nougat, though we skipped the document for 7.1 as the changes were so minute that they weren’t worth mentioning.

For Android 8.0 Oreo, we’ve already talked about some of the changes introduced in the latest update to the Compatibility Definition Document. Some of the things we found include requirements on implementing Android Oreo’s background app limitations, optional WiFi Passpoint support, required Data Saver support, and consistent dumpsys command behavior.

Daydream View VR Headset

Daydream View VR Headset by Google

But there was one change we noticed that, at the time, didn’t seem very significant. It was a change regarding Android’s requirements to support high-performance virtual reality mode. Adding support for this feature is a requirement in order for a device to support Google’s Daydream VR. It’s actually possible to force Daydream VR compatibility on any rooted Android device if you add a few lines in the right place.

In order for a device to support Daydream VR officially, though, they have to meet the requirements laid out in the Virtual Reality section of the CDD. With the release of Android 8.0’s CDD, Google updated the document to allow for larger (up to 6.3″ screen size diagonally) devices to support high-performance VR in Android.

Source: PhoneArena’s Size Comparison Tool.

We were wondering why Google made this change, and why they went with 6.3″ specifically as their upper limit. We linked this CDD change with the recent Daydream View 2017 leak, but then something more obvious, and hilarious, came up.

We realized that the Samsung Galaxy S8+ with its 6.2″ screen and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 with its 6.3″ screen perfectly explain why Google decided to up the screen size limit in the Android 8.0 Compatibility Definition Document. Perhaps they didn’t anticipate any smartphones from their major partners to get that large initially, but the might of Samsung forced their hand so they updated the document to accommodate their biggest partner.

But there’s a problem with the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 supporting VR high performance mode (and yes, we verified that it does by pulling /system/etc/permissions/android.hardware.vr.high_performance.xml from the phones). While the Galaxy Note 8 launched with Daydream VR support on board, it took a software update to bring compatibility to the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+. However, both devices did not launch with Android 8.0 Oreo.

Instead, they must meet the requirements listed in Android 7.0/7.1 Nougat’s Compatibility Definition Document in order to be considered compatible with Android and thus license Google Mobile Services (GMS). But the requirement listed in the previous release of the CDD explicitly states that the display MUST measure between 4.7″ and 6.0″ diagonal. Clearly, the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 are outside of these bounds, and thus they violate the terms of the CDD!


What should be done about this?

As these two devices violate the CDD, they cannot ship with the Google Play Store pre-installed. Google should protect the integrity of their Compatibility program by stripping the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and Galaxy Note 8 of all Google apps. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is cool though. You should have bought that one if you wanted to have a truly Android Certified device. Don’t blame me for your poor choice.

AllCall Rio comes with dual camera, Android Nougat and 3 days’ battery

Sometimes it’s not just about having the biggest brand smartphone in your pocket. You’d be surprised at what you can get your hands on if you cast your net a little wider. The big brands of today had to start somewhere, and many of them started off with some amazing specs at a fraction of the price of more well-known brands. Like OnePlus. Or like the AllCall Rio, which we bring you today.

While you might not have heard of this brand yet, it’s worth checking it out for the sheer amount of impressive specs, design and features it brings at a jaw-droppingly low price of about $55! Check out the video below to discover more about this phone or head over to the AllCall Rio website.

Here’s a little more about what you could be investing your hard-earned dollar on…

Design and display

The AllCall Rio comes jam-packed with an eye-catching array of specs: it boasts 3D curved screen technology, which is somewhat reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S8, melding nicely into a sleek metal frame. The frame and housing is made with utmost care to maximize high durability of the device, while ensuring a smooth design and elegant appearance. 

allcall rio front back red
The AllCall Rio looks sleek and elegant, with its curved screen. / © AllCall

Its ergonomics won’t let you down either – it sits nicely in your hand, however, should the phone slip from your hand, it’ll likely hold its own thanks to a 1.8 mm thick glass, which is thicker than many other phones nowadays, ensuring its sturdiness and robustness.

Camera

You guessed it – this latest phone from AllCall comes with a dual camera (8 MP Sony IMX149 sensor) with an aperture of f / 2.2, in addition to a front camera for selfies. AllCall isn’t messing around with its photography technology – you can expect exquisite clarity and vivid colors as well as the bokeh portrait effect. You also get all the usual camera features like color filters, panorama shots and video shooting.

Performance and battery

The AllCall Rio comes with Android 7.0 Nougat, which has some useful features like split-screen mode and notification direct reply – these all make your user experience much friendlier than ever before. Packing a 2,700 mAh battery, the phone should hold its own for 3 days or 16 hours calling time.

So what are you waiting for? Check out this phone with some fantastic specs at a quite literally unbeatable price – it could be the next big hit in the near future! AllCall will also be at the Asia Expo for Mobile Electronics in Hong Kong from October 18 to 21 – so if you’re around, you should head over check them out!