Sep 14

Add some royal flair to your phone with these castle wallpapers

Whether you’re stuck in the city or the suburbs, we all want to escape.

Some want to escape to the beach, some want to escape to the mountains, but you know where you should really want to escape? A castle. Castles are majestic, they’re powerful, and they’re well-fortified against revolutionary uprisings or zombie apocalypses. Okay, your mileage may vary on that one, but nevertheless, castles are for more than pretty princesses, and we’ve got some castle wallpapers for every kind of aspiring royal.

Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most picturesque castles in the world, nestled in the mountains of Germany. A poster of it hung above my bed in college, and probably hangs on a lot of walls because it is a beautiful castle — it was even the inspiration behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland. While most pictures show the castle draped in snow or summer splendor, this image of the castle surrounded by ruby red foilage is a certain kind of badass. Like a giant blood-red cape draped around the castles shoulders.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Who says castles have to be western, with lots of turrets and towers? Shimabara Castle in Japan is a breathtaking sight in its own right. It’s simple lines and symmetry instill peace and balance within visitors and viewers alike. Just imagine walking these grounds when the cherry blossoms are blooming!

Shimabara Castle

Castles in America may be a little harder to come by, but smaller castles like Boldt Castle are intimate and enchanting in their own right. Situated on an island in the middle of the Saint Lawrence River, this structure alongside the main castle was built by George Boldt as a present to his wife, but when she died, he stopped construction and never returned. Decades later, the island and the castle were purchased and restored for tourists from both Canada and New York to treasure.

Boldt Castle

If there isn’t some sort of fairytale romance film filmed at Peles Castle at some point, I might cry. Look at it. This Romanian beauty looks like it jumped straight off the page of an old Hans Christian Andersen fable! You have to wonder what majesty and mystery this castle has hosted over the years…

Peles Castle

You didn’t really think I’d have a castle roundup without a Disney castle, did you? Silly. The newest castle in the Disney Parks collection is the positively massive Enchanted Storybook Castle at Disneyland Shanghai, which is as beautiful as it is big. Visible miles from the park, Enchanted Storybook Castle hosts not one but two attractions, a fabulous restaurant, a beautiful Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, and a stunning stage. Day or night, rain or shine, Enchanted Storybook captivates all who visit, and while I may never have the chance, this wallpaper gives me a bit of that magic to keep in my pocket.

Enchanted Storybook Castle

Aug 31

Moto Z Play is official: 5.5-inch AMOLED display, 3,510mAh battery, headphone jack, compatible w/ MotoMods

Lenovo’s Moto Z Play is now official, bridging the gap between affordable and high-end. It’s compatible with all the MotoMod accessories as its bigger (more expensive brothers), only it boasts the best battery life of the bunch. At around $400, it’s definitely enticing.

Aug 27

Android and chill

Settle in and get comfy. This is how we’re gonna do Saturdays — talking about stuff.

Hey there!

I’m Jerry. I’m a former Electrical Engineer who ended up writing software (like many an EE) and then ended up with a cushy job that lets me work from home and do cool stuff. I’m also a Linux Professional (I love saying that for some reason) which is a fancy term for a masochist. I’ve been here a while, and the people in charge were wise (read: brave?) enough to tell me I can write words about stuff every Saturday. Mostly Android stuff, but there’s a big world out there. I’m also pretty laid back (or I like to think so) about most things. I started writing for Android Central in 2010, and this is my full-time job. Some may recognize my name here, and I’ve even met some of you in real life, which is a hoot.

Long time readers probably have noticed we’ve made a few changes here. Phil Nickinson, the long-time Editor-in-Chief and an awesome SOB that I truly love, has moved on to things that need more Phil added to them. For real. I only know half of what he’s doing, and already love it. He’s still here at Mobile Nations, and we’ll rope him into writing a few words or saying a few things here and there, but now this is our gig. And that’s cool, we got this Phil.

“We” means Dan Bader, the man who has to steer this boat and an all around Rock Star, Alex Dobie (Executive editor for the EU, licensed to thrill and dapperAF), Andrew Martonik (Executive editor for the U.S. and the best damn proofreader in the universe) and me. I’m in charge of touching things until they break, trying to figure stuff out, and talking about Android as a platform instead of just talking about the phones that use it. We’re supported by awesome people, too. All of our writers and contributors work hard to put out quality material, and they make the place better just by being here. It’s turning out to be a great mix of people, and I think we have one of the best teams out there when it comes to Android websites. We’re all doing what we’re good at, and what we enjoy. I love this job. Being surrounded by stuff that needs a battery and people with the same love for their work is part of it, but you are part of it, too. Hell, I’m one of you and I don’t want it any other way.

Now that a few details are out of the way, welcome to Saturday time with Jerry. Let’s talk about stuff.

  • Android 7.0 finally showed up. It’s a big deal for the platform with fundamental changes to the way Android works on the inside, but also polishes some of the details. I like the direction Google is taking Android, and I like the way they seem more serious about improving the experience for all the people who use it. That’s tough because Android isn’t a stand-alone product, and there are all sorts of partners with different ideas. All of it needs to be unified in some ways while letting it be very different in others. Forget about which phone is best or which company has better ideas for software features for a minute — third-party apps from Google Play and certain core Android features need to be great on all of them. Nougat is a step in that direction.
  • Android 7.0 is also just the beginning. There are rumors flying around and we have things we’re bursting to be able to talk about (soon, Alex). If even half of them are true we’ll see Android itself move forward in a different way than we’re used to and Google caring more about its own customers than ever before. Both awesome things that fit well with the tightening of Android itself.
  • The best part is you don’t have to worry about any of it if you like what you have now and how it works. Platform updates on Android are for hardcore enthusiasts and developers for the first six months, and by the time you get an update on your phone or are ready to move on to a new one, it will be ready for you. Letting people who want to be guinea pigs and beta testers do it while you keep on doing what you do is never a bad decision.
  • Why did I not know about this? Ordered.
  • The Note 7 has been around just long enough to gauge some early response from people who buy phones instead of review them. Samsung killed it. Absolutely murdered it. Sure, there are some issues when you dig into the forums where people like to talk about issues, but nothing with a screen has ever been produced that is 100% perfect. Watch all the lag test videos, read all the benchmark scores and discuss them to death, but also know that the Note 7 in your hands is one of the best Android phones you’ll be able to buy in 2016. Yeah, the price is stupid high. But for a lot of folks, it’s going to be worth every penny.
  • I love what The Wirecutter is doing here. Using mAh (milliamp hours) to measure how long a battery will last just doesn’t work well with battery packs or power supplies. I’m going to urge the powers that be to make it so across Mobile Nations.
  • Are you ready for the LG V20? I am. So are my headphones. A head to head between the HTC 10 (my pick of 2016 so far for audio quality) and the V20 is going to happen as soon as I wrap my filthy mitts around one. If LG’s take on Android 7.0 doesn’t turn me off, it could be my daily. Carrying three phones sucks 50% more than carrying two.
  • This is scary. Apple’s response was excellent, but a reminder that world governments have resources we couldn’t imagine and they aren’t afraid to spend them so they can hack a cell phone is always jarring. I hate to think about what the United States is doing. Or England. Or Germany. Hell, it’s all scary.
  • Remember, alt-right, PC culture, establishment and a host of other buzzwords are just that: words. Don’t let the media and their agenda (which is making money at any cost) define you or influence you no matter which side of any issue you’re on. Everything sucks. Everything always sucked. And it always will. I’ve seen presidents get caught spying and covering it up, get shot, get impeached over a blowjob and be tricked into going to war. The one thing I’ve learned from it all is that both sides will do anything to distract you, and the media circus flourishes because of it. You be you and do what you think is right.

We’ll talk again next week. In the meantime, remember we’re all in this together and kindness feels good both ways. Adios.

Aug 20

Xbox Live already tips off a free game for the next month

Earthlock: Festival of Magic premieres for free on the console

Continue reading…

Aug 10

Canadian court ruling on SMS privacy means you shouldn’t be using SMS

Having nothing to hide doesn’t mean you should ignore your privacy. Especially when keeping messages secure and private is so easy.

An Ontario Court of Appeals has ruled that your SMS messages are not private and once “sent to the ether” are no longer under your control. Vice has a full write up about the decision that interested parties should read, but the short version is this: SMS messages are like email and not subject to the same protection that voice calls have. They aren’t a private conversation, and you shouldn’t keep thinking they are private.

An Ontario Court of Appeals has ruled that your SMS messages are not private and once “sent to the ether” are no longer under your control.

This has some far-reaching implications for some folks, while others won’t care because they “have nothing to hide” or don’t care what happens in a Canadian court. But we all should be concerned, and now is a perfect time for you and the people you talk with to switch to something else. Preferably something that’s cross-platform and offers encryption. I’ve got nothing to hide either, but I still expect and demand a little bit of privacy.

We don’t have the perfect suggestion for a messenger app. Different people will want different things, after all. But we do know there are more than a handful of cross-platform (iOS and Android, sometimes Windows as well) messenger apps that can be used to keep private conversations private regardless of what a judge thinks. WhatsApp comes to mind, as does Signal or Telegram.

We should all be concerned about this ruling, and now is a perfect time for you and the people you talk with to switch to another form of messaging.

If you’re the go-to person for all things tech in your circle of family and friends, have a look and see what you like and would recommend. If you’re not, point them here.

Stay safe. And stay private.

Jul 30

Pokémon GO update fixes the ‘footprints’ glitch, by removing the feature altogether

Niantic Labs has pushed an update to Pokémon GO which “fixes” the three-footprint glitch by removing the feature altogether. The update also brings more than just a few new features along with it.

Jul 24

JBL Charge 3 and Clip 2 prove there’s still innovation in Bluetooth speakers

You can find Bluetooth speakers anywhere — but JBL’s latest stand out.

No matter your needs, there’s a Bluetooth speaker out there to match — and you don’t have to look hard to find one, either. For most people, their only real need is “the cheapest price possible” — but many will pay a bit for better features, quality and sound. And that’s where JBL comes in, with the latest iterations of two of its Bluetooth speakers — the Charge 3 and Clip 2.

JBL isn’t in the race to the bottom. It’s hoping to stay on the higher end with high quality materials and of course sound, with some great features that can help turn a Bluetooth speaker experience from an “every once and a while” thing to an every-day useful accessory. Let’s take a look at the JBL Charge 3 and Clip 2 speakers.

JBL Charge 3

The JBL Charge 3 is designed to be the center of the party or fill a room with sound, and that’s immediately apparent with its size — larger than your average reusable water bottle, and weighing in at about 1.75 pounds. That weight comes from a sturdy, IPX7 waterproof enclosure that protects dual 10W speakers along with huge passive radiators on the ends that drive up the bass level.

With this much output you shouldn’t be surprised that the Charge 3 has a 6000 mAh battery inside, which can offer you 20 hours of playback over Bluetooth. You probably aren’t going to use it for that long (or heck, even half that long) between charges, so JBL also gives you the option of tapping into that power with a full-sized USB port on the back that can be used to charge your phone at 2A from 5V, which is a typical rate for a non-Fast Charge AC adapter.

It’s extremely handy if you’ve been streaming music from your phone to the speaker, but also nice to have for anyone else who’s with you that needs a quick top-up. The speaker gives you a visual indication of its charge state with a set of LEDs in the base, and charges itself over Micro-USB with a cable and 5V/2.3A wall plug in the box if you need one.

Because of its size and weight you aren’t likely to be carrying the Charge 3 around much — it’s mostly going to stay put on a coffee table or brought out to the pool or picnic table when you need music for a group. I actually mostly kept it at my desk for daily music listening, both from my computer over a 3.5mm cable and my phone over Bluetooth — and it performed far better than my set of Logitech computer speakers, at a fraction of the size and complexity. Indoors there was no reason to ever get it above about 50% volume, and I rarely needed to max it out to get the music loud enough outside, even for a big group of people.

It sounds as good as you’d expect at $150, and has a bunch of extra features.

At $150 this isn’t exactly an impulse purchase (nor is it JBL’s most expensive Bluetooth speaker), but if there’s one thing that companies like JBL, Jawbone, Bose and countless others have shown us it’s that people are willing to pay a pretty penny for a really good, loud wireless speaker with some extra features. That’s exactly what you get with the Charge 3. Not only does it produce full sound with lots of bass out of a relatively small package (compared to big wired speakers), it’s also tough and completely waterproof so you never have to worry about what happens to it. It also goes above and beyond to let you tap into its battery to charge your phone, which can prove pivotal in keeping the tunes going late into the night.

It won’t be worth the money to everyone, but it’s hard to argue that JBL isn’t giving you plenty for your money here if you’re looking for a big wireless speaker. (And if you want to save a bit, maybe consider the last-gen Charge 2+ for about $99.)

See at Amazon

JBL Clip 2

For as cool as the Charge 3 speaker is, I’m a bigger fan of the small JBL Clip 2 and I think it’ll be one that more people will actually consider buying and using on a regular basis.

This little $60 speaker is roughly the size of a hockey puck but still offers some great sound from its single 3W speaker — even up to high volumes without distorting. It connects over Bluetooth, of course, and offers easy-to-press buttons around the edges for play/pause and volume control — you can also use a built-in microphone for calls via your connected phone. Better yet, there’s also a built-in foot-long 3.5mm cable to plug in — that neatly wraps around and stores in the speaker — which is super useful when you’re passing the speaker around at a get-together and or don’t want to deal with Bluetooth pairing.

The speaker is built to take a beating, and feels like you could drive a nail with it if you needed to (but seriously, don’t do that). It’s also fully IPX7 waterproof, with a robust rubber door over the Micro-USB charging port, allowing it to handle dirt and even full submersion in water. Its rugged abilities are exemplified by the carabiner that’s attached to the side of the Clip 2 (the name makes more sense now, huh?) that lets you hook it on things wherever you go.

When a speaker is built this well, it goes with you and you use it more.

I clipped it on the outside of my messenger bag or backpack to carry it places, not being worried about it getting bumped and knocked around. I clipped it to my pants pocket so I could listen to music around the house as I took care of some chores, and found it particularly useful to hook on the shower curtain in the morning for podcast listening in the shower.

JBL claims eight hours of music playback, and I found that to be perfect for a week’s worth of casual listening off and on around the house. It also powered through several hours of Bluetooth music streaming for my Fourth of July party with battery to spare — and again, I never had to worry about it getting bumped or dropped.

I found the rugged Clip 2 to be infinitely more useful than other standard Bluetooth speakers that are more fragile and don’t have a clip, and because of its design elements I carried it around and used it more than any other speaker I’ve had. It’s more expensive than the dime-a-dozen Bluetooth speakers online, but you get something for it — and with how much more you’re likely to use it, it’s worth it.

See at Amazon

Jul 10

‘Side-loading’ Pokémon Go onto your Android device may bring malware along for the ride

Security firm explains how to identify and remove the infection

Continue reading…

Jul 06

What you need to know about HummingBad

It’s called HummingBad? Seriously?

Researchers at Check Point have published a blog detailing their report on a new bit of nastiness stealing data from Android phones and translating to hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for a Chinese group called Yingmob. The revenue comes from delivering ads, creating false clicks on those ads by making the buttons bigger than they look, and using those clicks to install one of over 200 apps the group has for keeping users connected to this network.

Are you in danger? How can you tell? Are your friends having data stolen and handed over to this group without their knowledge? Is there a worse name they could have used? It turns out there’s a very low likelihood that this was ever a problem for you, but here’s what you need to know about HummingBad and how to stay safe from this group.

What is HummingBad?

A lot of things, actually. HummingBad refers to malware that tries to establish a foothold on your Android. Once it is successful, Whatever you have that is running HummingBad can create false clicks for the ads being produced by the Chinese company hosting the malware. This generates a lot of money for that company, but the Malware also tries to install additional apps to pull more of your personal data from the version of Android you are using. The installation attempts include attempting to see if your phone can be rooted, which would lead to Yingmob having significantly more control over your phone. If the root attempt fails, app installation attempts are made through the normal Android sideload mechanism, which gives the user a pop-up asking if they’re sure they want to install the app.

Researchers are currently aware of 10 million devices globally that have been infected with HummingBad at one point or another, but Check Point also offers information that suggests HummingBad’s infection rate is dropping sharply.

How do I know if I have HummingBad on my phone?

There are a couple of apps you can use that will scan your system for HummingBad, but before you use them it’s important to understand the infection process. If you’ve never had the “Unknown sources” box on your phone checked, and you’ve never installed an app from somewhere other than the Google Play Store, it’s nearly impossible for HummingBad to have infected your phone.

If you’re using a phone with the Google Play Store for apps, and you regularly use it to install apps, Google’s app scanning service will detect apps on your phone that are misbehaving and advise you to uninstall them. This includes HummingBad apps, so if you’ve seen one of those messages and dismissed it in the past, act on it right now.

Check Point, the company that published the report on HummingBad, says since the tools to detect HummingBad are publicly available, any security app will do. None of the apps we checked in the Play Store announce the ability to detect HummingBad as a feature yet, but Kaspersky or Avast should be able to help if you feel the need to check.

How do I get rid of HummingBad?

Those security apps may help you detect HummingBad, but they can’t guarantee the Malware has been removed from your phone. No app you can install from the Google Play Store can make that guarantee, no matter what they claim.

To fully get rid of HummingBad, you need to perform a factory reset on your phone. This will totally erase all of the data you’ve previously installed on your phone, forcing you to start over. Make better decisions this time, don’t install things from places that aren’t the Google Play Store.

Am I really safe from HummingBad?

As long as you stick to the Google Play Store, yes. Google knows companies will use fake buttons to try and get you to click OK for security related things. The Android Security Team won’t allow apps that use these tactics in Google Play, and haven’t done so for a while. Keep that “Unknown sources” box unchecked and only install apps you trust from Google Play. As long as you do this, you’re safe from HummingBad.

Jun 29

Leaked cases confirm Galaxy Note 7 will have curved display

The folks at MobileFun have already received cases for the Note 7. As the rumors suggests, it looks like it will indeed have a curved display.

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