Google Switching to OpenJDK in Android N

Subject: Mobile | December 30, 2015 - 11:09 PM |
Tagged: Android, oracle, google, Java, openjdk

The Android ecosystem was built atop a Java-like framework, although a native development kit was added later. Oracle, current owner of the Java copyrights and trademarks, was not too happy with this. The two companies, Google and Oracle, were in a legal battle for the last three-and-a-half years. The courts have not ruled overwhelmingly in favor of either side.

OpenJDK_logo.png

Google is now replacing their implementation with one that is derived from OpenJDK. Officially, this is so Google has more say in how the language evolves. This would also circumvent all legal issues, because OpenJDK is supported by Oracle, but Google is not commenting on that advantage. They are in an ongoing legal battle, so that is not surprising. It wouldn't immunize them from damages that are ruled for existing products. Changing now only limits the number of products that infringe, if it is eventually ruled illegal, and remove an awkward gap where nothing is legal until a fix is implemented.

From a performance and feature standpoint, the two JDKs are supposedly equivalent nowadays.

Source: VentureBeat

Mozilla Abandons Firefox OS Smartphones

Subject: Editorial, Mobile, Shows and Expos | December 9, 2015 - 07:04 AM |
Tagged: yahoo, mozilla, google, Firefox OS, Android

Author's Disclosure: I volunteer for Mozilla, unpaid. I've been to one of their events in 2013, but otherwise have no financial ties with them. They actually weren't aware that I was a journalist. Still, our readers should know my background when reading my editorial.

Mozilla has announced that, while Firefox OS will still be developed for “many connected devices,” the organization will stop developing and selling smartphones through carriers. Mozilla claims that the reason is because they “weren't able to offer the best user experience possible.” While the statement is generic enough to apply in a lot of contexts, I'm not sure how close to the center of that region it is.

This all occurred at the “Mozlando” conference in Florida.

firefoxos.jpg

Firefox OS was born when stakeholders asked Mozilla to get involved in the iOS and Android duopoly. Unlike Windows, Blackberry, and other competitors, Mozilla has a history of leveraging Web standards to topple industry giants. Rather than trying to fight the industry leaders with a better platform, and hoping that developers create enough apps to draw users over, they expanded what Web could do to dig the ground out of their competitors.

This makes sense. Mobile apps were still in their infancy themselves, so Firefox OS wouldn't need to defeat decades of lock-in or orders of magnitude performance deltas. JavaScript is getting quite fast anyway, especially when transpiled from an unmanaged language like C, so apps could exist to show developers that the phones are just as capable as their competitors.

ilovetheweb.png

The issue is that being able to achieve high performance is different from actually achieving it. The Web, as a platform, is getting panned as slow and “memory hungry” (even though free memory doesn't make a system faster -- it's all about the overhead required to manage it). Likewise, the first few phones landed at the low end, due in part to Mozilla, the non-profit organization remember, wanting to use Firefox OS to bring computing to new areas of the world. A few hiccups here and there added another coat of paint to the Web's perception of low performance.

Granted, they couldn't compete on the high end without a successful app ecosystem if they tried. Only the most hardcore of fans would purchase a several-hundred dollar smartphone, and intend to put up with just Web apps. Likewise, when I've told people that phones run on the Web, they didn't realize we mean “primarily localhost” until it's explicitly stated. People are afraid for their data caps, even though offline experiences are actually offline and stored locally.

The Dinosaur in the Room

Then there's the last question that I have. I am a bit concerned about the organization as a whole. They seem to be trying to shed several products lately, and narrow their focus. Granted, all of these announcements occur because of the event, so there's plenty of room for coincidence. They have announced that they will drop ad tiles, which I've heard praised.

Mozilla_Foundation_201x_logo.png

The problem is, why would they do that? Was it for good will, aligning with their non-profit values? (Update: Fixed double-negative typo) Or was it bringing in much less money than projected? If it's the latter, then how far do they need to shrink their influence, and how? Did they already over-extend, and will they need to compensate for that? Looking at their other decisions, they've downsized Firefox OS, they are thinking about spinning out Thunderbird again, and they have quietly shuttered several internal projects, like their division for skunkworks projects, called “Mozilla Labs.” Mozilla also has a division called "Mozilla Research," although that is going strong. They are continually hiring for projects like "Servo," a potential new browser engine, and "Rust," a programming language that is used for Servo and other projects.

While Mozilla is definitely stable enough, financially, to thrive in their core products, I'm concerned about how much they can do beyond that. I'm genuinely concerned that Mozilla is trying to restructure while looking like a warrior for both human rights and platforms of free expression. We will not see the books until a few months from now, so we can only speculate until then. The organization is pulling inward, though. I don't know how much of this is refocusing on the problems they can solve, or the problems they can afford. We will see.

Source: Techcrunch

The other Android, a look at the OnePlus 2

Subject: Mobile | December 8, 2015 - 06:05 PM |
Tagged: USB 3 Type-C, OxygenOS, oneplus 2, Android

OnePlus is not likely the first source you would think of when purchasing an Android phone but perhaps this review over at Techgage might just change that.  As you can see below the phones are rather attractive and OxygenOS is an interesting flavour of Lollipop 5.1.1.  The charge cable is also an interesting feature, it is USB Type-C, however the cable it ships with is specific to this phone and you should not be charging other USB devices with it as it is out of spec.  While there are advantages to a custom USB cable, there is also some danger associated with it so make sure to keep it separate from your other cables if you intend on picking this phone up.

The hardware includes an 8-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 and Adreno 430 GPU powering a 5.5" 1080p IPS screen.  Depending on the model you choose you will either have 16GB local storage and 3GB of DDR4 or 64GB and 4GB.  Techgage liked the phone a lot, with a few caveats; check them out in the full review.

OnePlus-2-Smartphone-Group-Shot-680x432.jpg

"When a smartphone vendor comes along and offers its latest option as a “flagship killer”, it doesn’t exactly leave much room for leeway: it’s either going to be accurate, or off the mark. On paper, the OnePlus 2’s case seems to be solid, so let’s take a hard look at it and see if its promises are lived up to."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: Techgage

Blackberry exposes its Privs and the world ... likes it?

Subject: Mobile | November 20, 2015 - 06:23 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, Priv, Android

Could it truly be enough to add a little Android to your Blackberry to bring them back to some form of popularity?  From what this contributor at The Register has to say it could very well be what the company once known as RIM needed.  The Priv is described as the least irritating Android phone they've ever used, which translates to high praise when you are talking about a Blackberry device.  The sliding keyboard is actually useful, the BlackBerry DTek security app is decent but requires a Google account to be linked to the phone, as do many other apps.  Check out the review to see if this is a berry flavoured Lollipop you might actually want a few licks at.

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"Other than that, none of which really counts, I think this might be my least disliked Android phone so far. It’s at least as good as the best Android phones I have used, because it’s the same as all other Androids, just minus the garbage often layered on top. And it’s better, because the BlackBerry stuff layered on top is very far from being garbage."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: The Register

NVIDIA Re-Releases SHIELD Tablet as K1 - Cuts Price to $199

Subject: Mobile | November 18, 2015 - 06:41 PM |
Tagged: tegra k1, tablet, shield tablet k1, shield controller, shield, nvidia, gaming tablet, Android

NVIDIA has released their updated version of the SHIELD tablet with a new name, but very little has changed other than the name (now the SHIELD tablet K1) and the price - now $100 less expensive at $199.99.

SHIELD_tablet_K1_and_SHIELD_controller.jpg

The SHIELD tablet K1 (pictured case and controller are not included)

Under the hood the 8-inch Android-powered tablet is identical to its predecessor, with the quad-core Tegra K1 processor with its 192 CUDA core GPU powering the gaming action on the 1920x1200 display. The controller is still a separate $59.99 purchase, but of course this is not required to use the tablet.

Here are full specs from NVIDIA:

  • Processor: NVIDIA Tegra K1 192 core Kepler GPU (2.2 GHz ARM Cortex A15 CPU with 2 GB RAM)
  • Display: 8-inch 1920x1200 multi-touch full-HD display
  • Audio: Front-facing stereo speakers with built-in microphone
  • Storage: 16 GB
  • Wireless: 802.11n 2x2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.0 LE, GPS/GLONASS
  • I/O: Mini-HDMI output, Micro-USB 2.0, MicroSD slot, 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack with microphone support
  • Motion Sensors: 3-axis gyro, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis compass
  • Cameras: Front, 5MP HDR; Back, 5MP auto-focus HDR
  • Battery: 19.75 Watt Hours
  • Dimensions: Weight, 12.6 oz (356 g); H x W x D: 8.8 in (221 mm) x 5.0 in (126 mm) x 0.36 in (9.2 mm)
  • Operating System: Android Lollipop
  • Gaming Features: SHIELD controller compatible, GeForce NOW cloud gaming service, Console Mode, NVIDIA ShadowPlay
  • Included Apps: Google Play, NVIDIA SHIELD Hub, Fallout Shelter, NVIDIA Dabbler, Squid, Twitch

NVIDIA_SHIELD_tablet_K1.jpg

This update really comes down to price, as NVIDIA is being more aggressive about the adoption of their gaming tablet with the new MSRP. This doesn't come without some concessions, however, as the SHIELD tablet K1 ships without any accessories (no USB cable or charger). It's a move remienscent of Nintendo with the "New 3DS XL", which also shipped without a charger, and the standard micro-USB connection should be readily at hand for most of the target audience.

The question of course must be, is this now a more compelling product at $199? It does make the controller seem a bit more affordable considering the bundle will now run $260 - $40 below the previous tablet-only price. Time will tell (and of course you can let us know in the comments below!).

NVIDIA is selling the SHIELD tablet K1 directly from their web store, and it's already on Amazon for the same $199.99 price.

Source: NVIDIA

Google to merge Chrome and Android into their One True OS

Subject: General Tech | October 30, 2015 - 01:25 PM |
Tagged: chrome, Android, google

It has been long suspected that eventually Google would merge their two operating systems into one and we now have a rumoured date, 2017.  An Android runtime for the Chrome OS already exists and almost any Android app can be modified to run on a Chrome powered device but we now have confirmation that the two will finally merge under the Android brand.  The new OS will remain open sourced and programmers may be enticed into programming more applications as they would only need to make one application instead of needing to write two versions.  Pop by The Inquirer for more speculation.

chrome-os-logo.jpg

"ALPHABET SUBSIDIARY Google (still sounds weird, right?), is reportedly planning to merge Chrome OS and Android into a single platform."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Android to iPhone Day 31: Battery Life and Closing

Subject: Mobile | October 29, 2015 - 09:46 AM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android, A9

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:

iphonestorysmall.jpg

It has been too long since my last update to this story, and I promised a final answer when it comes to our view of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in terms of battery life. If you remember back to some of our previous posts, the iPhone 6s actually has a smaller battery in it than the previous iPhone 6 did; the same is true for the Plus model as well.

Model Battery Size
iPhone 6 1810 mAh
iPhone 6s 1715 mAh
iPhone 6 Plus 2910 mAh
iPhone 6s Plus 2750 mAh

Clearly Apple knew that would be a contentious specification change from year to year, but the company has clearly done a lot to make sure it doesn't affect the battery life and usability of the iPhone. First, the new Apple A9 SoC is built on a smaller process technology; both Samsung and TSMC are making chips for the phones at 16nm and 14nm, and along with that process technology change comes an inherent power efficiency gain. Changing process nodes does not always magically make an existing architecture better performing or more efficient, but Apple's engineers are more than capable of being able to achieve that. After all, when you have unlimited funds and an edict never make a misstep, it helps.

The other change that came with the iPhone 6s and Plus is the move to iOS 9, which promises to improve battery and processing efficiency along the way. In the past, we have all heard rumors or had experiences with users of older phone models seeing decreased performance or decreased battery life when upgrading to the latest version of iOS. That may be the true, and I am not going to attempt to validate those claims here today, but it does make some sense that the latest OS would be tuned for the latest hardware.

If you're Apple, you don't want to have to make the battery in the new phones smaller than the old phones. It's a line item in a review that stands out to the general consumer - "WHAT? This year's model has a SMALLER battery??" - and could have a dramatic impact on sales and perception. But Apple also couldn't make the new phone any thicker as the same immediate response would take place. In order to add in support for the new 3D Touch and Taptic Engine technology the phones had to sacrifice a bit of space behind the screen. The result is a slightly thinner, and smaller capacity, battery.

battery.jpg

Image source: iFixit iPhone 6s Teardown

But let's talk about usability. In several instances in this series of editorials I have mentioned my extremely positive impressions from battery life in my normal use. The phone just seems to last longer than my Motorola Droid Turbo did, even with the Droid Turbo's much larger (3000 mAh) battery. Apple's control over the operating system, and to some extent the amount of interaction and capability that third party applications have, allows them to do more with less. And as a result you can drastically improve surrounding experiences: phone size, weight, design, included hardware features, etc.

There have definitely been days where my iPhone 6s would have been dead before I made it to my bed had I not had an external battery with me. But those were always extreme cases and include little to no service at a camp ground with the family, a wedding where I took hundreds of photos and videos, a 7am to 2am day where we had a site maintenance issue and I was on the phone (yes, talking!) for several hours in total. I don't think there is a scenario of use where the Android devices I have had would ever surpass the battery life of the iPhone 6s. And that's an impressive feat all things considered.

But like many of you reading this, I like hard numbers. Data, graphs and empirical results. To get some numbers I ran the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus through our standard PC Perspective Wi-Fi Battery testing process. We have a custom site that allows us to cycle through legit, real websites in a cycle of 20, pausing and scrolling on each to closely simulate how a user would surf.

battery-browsing.png

The biggest winner here is the iPhone 6s Plus, pulling in nearly 9 hours of continuous use in our web browsing test. The OnePlus 2, with a battery size of 3,300 mAh, can't keep up with the flagship iPhone product of the class of form factor, able to muster only 7.5 hours of use, a full 20% less than the 6s Plus. The iPhone 6s, using the same Apple A9 processor, pulls in than 6.6 hours of battery life in our Wi-Fi test, more than 1.5 hours more than the LG G4, one of the flagship Android phones of this past summer.

It's not exhaustive, but I think the results speak clearly about where the iPhone 6s stands in the current smartphone ecosystem. It has outstanding battery life, though there are plenty of rival Android phones on market currently that could match it. The key difference is that Apple is able to do it with less physical battery, and thus make a sleeker device. Seeing the added battery life of the iPhone 6s Plus does make me wonder if I would be willing to sacrifice my pockets for the extra security it offers. What I really want though is an iPhone 6s that is a bit thicker, offering up the same level of battery capacity as the larger phone. I know many users would be willing to swap the cache of sexy iPhone industrial design for the ability to make last call without a wall plug completely reliably.

Wrapping up the Experiment

It's been just over 30 days now in my Android to iPhone experiment, so the big question needs to be answered: will I be sticking with the iPhone 6s or going back to one of the newer Android devices like the refresh Nexus phones?

The Apple iPhone 6s will stay in my pocket.

Honestly, the answer surprises me - I did not expect this result when I placed the order button on Apple.com those many weeks ago. I have always been a proponent of the openness of Android, the flexibility that offered in terms of applications and OS access, but at the end of the day, I'm just a person using a phone. I have had only one instance of a crash/lock up on the iPhone 6s in my usage and it is reliably fast and responsive, something that eventually faded on the Droid Turbo. The camera takes fantastic photos, the application ecosystem offers more range than the Google Play Store and the global integration of Touch ID makes using LastPass less frustrating, accessing my eTrade bank accounts quicker and much more. Those are just some of the reasons for the switch for me.

I don't propose that everyone should make the same move. If you are a power user that likes to root your phones and change Android ROMs, you won't really find the same level of support for that on iPhones. If you welcome side-loading applications easily to your device (which is something I do miss) for development or experimenting purposes, Android is still the way to go. But it's hard to see the majority of the consumer base of smartphones in this country using both devices for extended periods and not see Apple as the more polished and friendly experience. That's what happened to me.

I look forward to trying out the upcoming Android phones in the near term and I won't ever say that I won't be switching back. Google continues to push the OS development further and offers features sometimes years of ahead of Apple. I'm working on getting both a 6P and 5X Nexus phone to try out; I'm curious to see how the implementation of the fingerprint sensor and improve cameras might shift my view.

And who knows, maybe in early 2016 we'll see a revamped editorial series going back to Android, or even Windows Phone? Easy now, don't get crazy Ryan.

Android to iPhone Day 17: SoC Performance

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 12, 2015 - 11:08 AM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android, A9

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:

iphonestorysmall.jpg

My iPhone experiment continues, running into the start of the third full week of only carrying and using the new iPhone 6s. Today I am going to focus a bit more on metrics that can be measured in graph form – and that means benchmarks and battery life results. But before I dive into those specifics I need to touch on some other areas.

The most surprising result of this experiment to me, even as I cross into day 17, is that I honestly don’t MISS anything from the previous ecosystem. I theorized at the beginning of this series that I would find applications or use cases that I had adopted with Android that would not be able to be matched on iOS without some significant sacrifices. That isn’t the case – anything that I want to do on the iPhone 6s, I can. Have I needed to find new apps for taking care of my alarms or to monitor my rewards card library? Yes, but the alternatives for iOS are at least as good and often times I find there are more (and often better) solutions. I think it is fair to assume that same feeling of equality would be prevalent for users going in other direction, iPhone to Android, but I can’t be sure without another move back to Android sometime in the future. It may come to that.

sleepapp.jpg

My previous alarm app was replaced with Sleep Cycle

In my Day 3 post I mentioned my worry about the lack of Quick Charging support. Well I don’t know why Apple doesn’t talk it up more but the charging rate for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus is impressive, and even more so when you pair them with the higher amperage charger that ships with iPads. Though purely non-scientific thus far, my through the day testing showed that I was able to charge the iPhone 6s Plus to 82% (from being dead after a battery test) in the span of 1.5 hours while the OnePlus 2 was only at 35%. I realize the battery on the OnePlus 2 is larger, but based purely on how much use time you get for your charging time wait, the iPhones appear to be just as fast as any Android phone I have used.

Photo taking with the iPhones 6s still impresses me – more so with the speed than the quality. Image quality is fantastic, and we’ll do more analytical testing in the near future, but while attending events over weekend including a Bengals football game (5-0!) and a wedding, the startup process for the camera was snappy and the shutter speed never felt slow. I never thought “Damn, I missed the shot I wanted” and that’s a feeling I’ve had many times over the last several years of phone use.

emmaline.jpg

You don't want to miss photos like this!

There were a couple of annoyances that cropped up, including what I think is a decrease in accuracy of the fingerprint reader on the home button. In the last 4 days I have had more bouncing “try again” notices on the phone than in the entirety of use before that. It’s possible that the button has additional oils from my hands on it or maybe that I am getting lazier about placement of my fingers on the Touch ID, but it’s hard to tell.

Continue reading day 17 of my Android to iPhone editorial!!

Podcast #370 - Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming G1, New Microsoft Surface products, NVIDIA Pascal Rumors and more!

Subject: General Tech | October 8, 2015 - 03:57 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, gigabyte, z170x gaming g1, Skylake, microsoft, surface pro 4, surface book, Android, ios, iphone 6s, Samsung, 840 evo, msata, dell, UP3216Q, nvidia, pascal

PC Perspective Podcast #370 - 10/08/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming G1, New Microsoft Surface products, NVIDIA Pascal Rumors and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

  • iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the iTunes Store
  • RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
  • MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Jeremy Hellstrom, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:31:05

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:30:00 This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Audible, the world's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 180,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature including fiction, nonfiction, and periodicals. For your free audiobook, go to audible.com/pcper
  3. News item of interest:
  4. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week:
    1. Ryan: iPhone 6s Stallion
  5. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Ars Technica Reviews Android 6.0 (Marshmellow)

Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: google, android 6.0, Android

Android 6.0 was launched yesterday, and Ars Technica has, so far, been the only outlet to give it a formal review. That said, it is a twelve-page review with a table of contents -- so that totally counts for five or so.

google-2015-android-m-googleio.jpg

The main complaint that the reviewer has is the operating system's inability to be directly updated. There is a large chain of rubber stamps between Google's engineers and the world at large. Carriers and phone manufacturers can delay (or not even attempt to certify) patches for their many handsets. It is not like Windows, where Microsoft controls the centralized update service. In the beginning, this wasn't too big of an issue as updates were typically for features. Sucker, buy a new phone if you want WebGL.

Now it's about security. Granted, it has always been about security, even on the iPhone, we just care more now. If you think about it, every time a phone gets jailbroken, a method exists to steal admin privileges away from Apple and give them to... the user. Some were fairly sophisticated processes involving USB tethering to PCs, while others involved browsing to a malicious website with a payload that the user (but not Apple) wanted to install. Hence why no-one cared: the security was being exploited by the user for the user. It was only a matter of time before either the companies sufficiently crush the bugs, or it started to be tasty for the wolves.

And Google is getting bit.

Otherwise, Ars Technica mostly praised the OS. Be sure to read their review to get a full sense of their opinion. As far as I can tell, they only tested it on the Nexus 5.

Source: Ars Technica