Phandroid » Featured Android Phone News, Rumors, Reviews, Apps, Forums & More! Thu, 27 Nov 2014 13:00:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 12 important tips for the new and improved Android Forums Mon, 24 Nov 2014 20:25:50 +0000 Since 2007, has been the virtual meeting spot for Android fans around the world. It was the world’s first Android Forum and it has just seen the largest upgrade since its inception. Go have a look, check out the much improved design and new features, but wait- before you go, here are some important tips you’ll want to keep in mind.

(1) Members see less ads

We know most people don’t enjoy ads, but they’re the reason we can employ full-time Android enthusiasts to do what they love. We try our best to create an enjoyable and non-intrusive user experience, and one way we accomplish that is by showing less ads to members who are logged in. If you want to see less ads, all you need to do is create a free account. We’ve made it really easy to create accounts by lettings users login using Facebook, Google+, and/or Twitter.


Similar to how users of our Android News App allows users to subscribe monthly/annually in exchange for removing ads, we’ve got an option to do the same on Android Forums, removing ads completely when you sign up for Premium/VIP account.

(2) Quickly find Android Phones, Tablets, and other devices

There are thousands of Android devices and browsing through them all to find something specific can be tedious. In addition to only showing the most popular devices on the homepage (but still offering a  full list of Android Phones and Tablets), we’ve added a “Find a device” widget on the top of the homepage. Simply type into the box and it will auto-complete with the names of matching devices.


Click on the one you want (or press enter) and you’ll be whisked away to your destination. It couldn’t be any easier!

(3) Add your favorites to “My Forums” by starring them

Android Forums has communities for every device, but we know that you only care about the devices YOU have (and maybe a few others). You can single out your favorite forums and devices by clicking the huge yellow star directly to the left of the forum title.


This has a few key benefits:

  • Hovering “My Forums” now lists those favorite forums for one-click access
  • Clicking “unread posts” will show new posts ONLY from your favorite forums
  • You can also hover “New Posts” to see everything new from the entire forum or only favorites


This is a feature that partially existed on the last iteration of Android Forums, but it has been greatly improved on the front and back end. It’s the most popular feature for those that take the time to set it up and use it!

(4) Hover “My Posts” for quick access to your stuff

Nothing is more irritating than starting a new thread or making a post on a forum and not being able to find it. You’ve got to browse around and dig through thousands of posts made each day. Sure, you can subscribe to threads and get alerts via Email, but that’s not always the best option. Now you’ve got another: hover over “My Posts” and you’ll have quick access to your most recent “stuff”.


In this case, “stuff” consists of 3 things:

  • A link to your subscriptions
  • 5 most recent threads that you started (with a link to all your threads)
  • 5 most recent posts that you made (with a link to all your posts)

This feature is brand new and we think it’s one that you’re sure to love and find incredibly useful.

(5) Find – and vote on-  the Best Answers!

Lots and lots of people visit Android Forums for help with something device related. They can’t figure out how to do XYZ, there is an ABC bug that they’re stuck on, the list is a billion things long. Often times, Android Forums has a treasure trove of answers, but finding those answers isn’t always easy. Now it is.

When people post “Support” related questions there is now an option to vote on the Best Answer. You’ll see it at the end of each posted response.


When an answer has enough votes to be considered the “Best” it will be embedded at the bottom of the first post, making it easy for everyone to get the information they’re looking for, even if they’re just visitors landing on Android Forums for the first time.


(6) Search and filters are your friend

We’ve done a lot of work to help you find exactly what you want, when you want, where you want it… but sometimes it’s fun, entertaining, and informative to just browse around and see what people are discussing. Rather than aimlessly browsing, two helpful ways to smartly browse are using search and filters.

There is no shortage of ways to access search:

  • Magnifying glass on the top right of the nav bar
  • Advanced search in the sub navigation
  • The “Search for answers” widget on the homepage

Everyone knows about search… this is just a reminder to use it! But what you might NOT know about are the prefix related filters that help you sort through content. For example, here are the most recent threads from the Galaxy Note 4 Forums:


Hmmm… those “Tips” look interesting, don’t they? Maybe I just want to see all the Tip related threads on the Note 4 forums. All I have to do is click on the “Tips” icon and it will sort the list, showing only threads marked as tips.


This will work with any of the prefixes you see.

(7) Get instant updates with alerts and emails

If you don’t want to be bothered with constantly checking Android Forums to see if someone has responded to your question, you should definitely be using the “Watch Thread” option. When visiting any thread on Android Forums, simply click the “Watch Thread” at the top right:


If you’re creating a new thread, you can make sure instant notification is enabled right from the start. Look below the post box and make sure the option is selected.


If you choose to get notifications but NOT have them delivered by Email, you’ll see them appear as notifications in the “Alerts” section of the website in the top right of the nav bar.

(8) Send private messages through “Start a conversation”

Private messages, Instant Messages, Direct messages, etc… different websites call the one-on-on chat feature different things. On Android Forums they’re called “Conversations”.  You can start a new conversation in two main ways.

You can access conversations by hovering over your user name (top right), clicking on “Conversations”, and then selecting “Start a New Conversation”. One really cool thing about Conversations on the new Android Forums is you can have multiple participants and they can come and go from the convo as you/they please. Much more robust than other forum software.


Of course the other easy and obvious way to initiate a conversation with another member is to click on their user name or avatar and select the “Start a conversation” from their member card.

(9) Enjoy the responsive design on phones and tablets

The old Android Forums had a separate theme for mobile devices that worked but was far from perfect. We’ve implemented responsive design on the new Android Forums to ensure you’re offered the best user experience regardless of your device or screen size. If you’re viewing it in portrait or landscape it still doesn’t matter… should adapt to your screen and orientation, something we think you’ll grow to quickly appreciate.


And oh yeah… if you’d rather download a native application, our Android Forums App still works perfectly.

(10) Optimize your settings and preferences

Similar to getting a new phone and ripping it open for the first time, you’ll be tempted to go full speed ahead and start playing, when in reality spending a few minutes on the initial setup is a good idea. This rings true for Android Forums as well.

Android Forums Settings

Head on over to your Account Preferences to customize everything you can possibly imagine, from your signature and avatar to your Email alerts and contact details.

(11) Don’t forget to upload an avatar

Speaking of avatars, we can’t stress enough how badly we request you upload an avatar. Preferably that avatar would be an actual picture of you. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to make Android Forums a fun, friendly, and accommodating place for users of all ages, backgrounds, and skill levels. Seeing actual pictures of people helps add that friendly touch that our visitors enjoy.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.16.45 PM

The avatar editor can be found on the personal details settings page.

(12) Give us Feedback (and patience)!

Long time Android Forum members will find it takes awhile to get used to the new system and layout. PLEASE be patient. There is a learning curve involved, but we’re confident that once you explore and gain familiarity with the new system, you won’t want to live without it.

Once you have spent some time getting used to things, please visit the Android Forums upgrade thread and give us your feedback. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of members to please, so we can’t please everyone, but we’ll be carefully reading and considering every single morsel of feedback you provide.

Thanks so much for everything you’ve done to help make the first, largest, and best Android Forum on the planet! We’ll continue relentlessly moving forward to make it the greatest community on the planet, so stay tuned for new feature announcements; we’ll post them all to the Site Updates & Announcements section of Android Forums and announce the biggest ones right here on Phandroid.

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7 things I love (and hate) and about the Nexus Player Mon, 24 Nov 2014 16:27:39 +0000 nexus-player-puck

If you read our Nexus Player review, you already know how we feel about the new media streaming device from Google. With a little more time to stew on things, our opinions have only solidified. Here are 7 things we loved (and hated) about Google’s appealing-but-flawed Android TV flagship.

Love: Simplified user interface


For a media box, the Nexus Player is as it should be: a super clean and straightforward interface makes it easy to quickly jump into your favorite movie, TV show, or game; find new content in the Google Play store; or discover recommended media from sources including YouTube. Initial setup, which takes about five minutes, is about as complicated as the Nexus Player and its Android TV interface gets.

Hate: No TV passthrough


We get that this isn’t Google TV. We get that the Nexus Player is designed as a standalone media player operating independently of your television service provider. But there is something frustrating about a lack of an HDMI passthrough. It’s a tiny step to change the input on your TV from your cable box to your Nexus Player, but it’s one step that we wish wasn’t there. Seamless jumping from cable content to internet-streamed media is the sort of integration that should have been a killer feature for the now-dead Google TV platform. If only Google hadn’t abandoned the functionality with Android TV and the Nexus Player.

Love: Gaming experience

We’re just going to say it: gaming on the Nexus Player is better than it should be. That’s not meant as a slight to Android TV at all. Many devices have attempted to bring the Android gaming experience to bigger screens and done so without much success. The Nexus Player achieves perhaps the best version of Android gaming in the living room without even trying that hard. This has a lot to do with Google’s decision to keep a handle on the apps and games that are being approved for Android TV — developers have so far brought their ‘A’ game. There are plenty of quality games that take advantage of only the included remote in addition to a strong selection utilizing the optional gamepad.

Hate: Lack of native apps


The gaming selection at launch is strong if a bit limited, but the Nexus Player simply lacks a number of must-have native apps for content streaming. Standards like Netflix and Hulu Plus are present, but HBO Go is a no-go and Amazon content might never find its way to the Fire TV competitor. Popular music streaming services like Pandora and iHeartRadio are there, but big dog Spotify is notably not. Hopefully the situation will improve as the Android TV ecosystem matures, but its a major shortcoming out of the gate.

Love: Google Cast support

Google Cast is the Nexus Player’s saving grace. Many of the aforementioned missing apps and services can still find their way to Android TV via casting from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. Once Google Cast (the same technology as used in the popular, inexpensive Chromecast) is setup, pushing content to your TV is as easy as tapping a button. Users of the Chrome browser can even share the content of individual tabs, allowing for web-only streaming services not available on Android TV to find their way to bigger screens.

Love: Voice search


Entering search queries via the click pad of the Nexus Player’s included remote can quickly become annoying — good thing Google has baked voice search right into Android TV. Tap the microphone button on the remote, speak your query or command, and skip the hassle of tedious manual text entry. This is the same accurate and responsive voice input we have come to love on Android devices, though it’s especially well-suited for this device.

Hate: No microphone on Gamepad


The optional Nexus Player gamepad doubles as a great means to navigate Android TV’s menus and content. If only it included the same built-in microphone support as the standard Nexus Player remote. We can’t say it’s a major oversight, but we can say it would have been a nice touch to bring all available controls together into one package.


The Nexus Player does what it does really well. It’s what it doesn’t do that makes evaluating the device more troublesome. As is apparent above, however, there is slightly more to love about the Android TV box than there is to hate (at least in our opinion). Remember to check out the full Nexus Player review for even more and be sure to check out our Nexus Player and Android TV watering holes over at the all-new Android Forums.

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5 easy ways to make your AT&T Nexus 6 mostly pure again Fri, 21 Nov 2014 18:23:52 +0000 att-store-logo

So you’ve gotten your AT&T Nexus 6 and the carrier’s extra bit of customization doesn’t sit well with you. If you don’t know, AT&T’s  model comes with their classic logo on the back, an AT&T boot animation and other things Ma Bell decided to put their hands on.

Well, as the development community often reminds us, almost anything is entirely reversible with a bit of root and elbow grease. Below we list a few of the device’s impurities, as well as possible solutions (many courtesy of the fine folks at XDA) should you feel the need to do away with any of it. Let’s go!  (Disclaimer: you may void your warranty by doing any of this, so know that you proceed at your own discretion.)


AT&T bloatware is installed at setup

This one is actually quite simple and straight forward. We touched on it yesterday, but here’s a quick recap: you can avoid having AT&T’s apps pre-installed by first setting your device up without a SIM card, and then inserting the SIM after you have gotten to the home screen. Already have the apps installed? Thankfully they came straight from Google Play, so you can uninstall them just as you would any app if you so wish.

AT&T’s Nexus 6 is SIM locked

Nothing much we can do here, yet. You can request an unlock code from AT&T after your contract expires or device is paid off in full, and they’ll most likely be more than happy to oblige. They probably won’t give you a hand if those conditions aren’t met, though, so you may have to look to a third-party unlock service for your needs (as long as you know you do so at your own discretion).

The AT&T Nexus 6 has the company’s logo on the back

Thankfully Motorola didn’t use any tough paint to slap AT&T’s logo on the back. If, for whatever reason, this visual impurity is affecting your ability to enjoy an otherwise perfectly fine device, we hear you can take it off with the light scraping of a knife, credit card or some other tool with a thin, sturdy and/or sharp edge.

AT&T’s boot animation shows when booting the Nexus 6

If you want to remove the boot animation you’ll need to root your Nexus 6, and download a file manager that can handle root operations. From there, follow these simple instructions:

  1. Open /oem/media
  2. Mount r/w.
  3. Remove or rename the file
  4. Reboot

You can likely replace that animation with a custom one if you so wish, but you’ll need to look around for one that’s suitable for the Nexus 6’s display size and resolution.

Nexus 6 Data tethering requires an AT&T subscription

Edit your build.prop file with the following line:


Reboot the device, and you should now be able to use Lollipop’s built-in data tethering without the need to check for a subscription. This step may require root.


And now you have a mostly pure Nexus 6! Getting carrier-branded phones will almost always come with a few quirks that you’ll have to put up with, but the versatility of Nexus devices makes it easy for you to pretend AT&T never had their grubby paws on the thing. Let us know if you’ll be looking to do any of this to make your Nexus 6 feel “right” again.

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15 Tips & Tricks for Android Lollipop Users Thu, 20 Nov 2014 21:42:53 +0000 Lollipop tips tricks

So you have Android 5.0 Lollipop on your Nexus. You might be feeling a little overwhelmed by all the changes and new features. We don’t blame you; the Lollipop changelog is longer than some short stories. If you’re a new Lollipop user we’ve got a few tips and tricks to help you get started with Google’s sweetest release.

Read More: Top 10 Android Lollipop Features

Screen Pinning


A smartphone is full of personal information and sensitive content. This can make it difficult to let people use your phone without your supervision. “Screen Pinning” is a new feature that lets you lock your phone to one app.

The obvious example for this is when someone asks to use your phone to make a call. You can “pin” the Phone app so the user can’t do anything else. To enable this feature go to Settings > Security > Screen pinning. Then open the app you would like to pin, press the Overview (formerly multitasking) button, scroll up and tap the blue thumb tack icon in the bottom right corner of the most recent app. To unpin an app simply long-press the back and Overview buttons simultaneously.

Customize Notifications


Lollipop gives users control over notifications like never before. Every app installed on your device can be configured to send notifications only when you want to see them. There are three options for each app: block, priority, and sensitive.

Block – Never show notifications from the app.
Priority – Show notifications at the top of the list and let them through when in Priority Mode.
Sensitive – Content is not displayed in the lock screen notification

There are two ways to adjust these settings. You can long-press on any notification and select the (i) icon to go straight to the settings for that app. If you don’t want to wait around for a notification you can go to Settings > Sound & notification > App notifications.

Hide Sensitive Content


Like we mentioned above, you can hide sensitive notification content. With notifications now on the lock screen prying eyes can read them even if you have a password or pattern lock. You can mark apps individually as sensitive, like we talked about above, or you can let Android do it for you.

Go to Settings > Sound & notification > When device is locked. You’ll see three options that boil down to “show all, hide sensitive content, and show none.” Select the second option to hide sensitive content. Now when an app that you’ve marked as “Sensitive” displays a notification on the lock screen you’ll only see the app name and “contents hidden.”

Search for Settings


Android has a lot of settings. That’s a good thing for power users who love to tinker and customize everything. It can be a nightmare for average consumers to navigate. Google has done a lot to make the Settings experience easier, but the best thing they did was add the ability to search.

When you go to the Settings app you’ll see a new magnifying glass search icon in the top right. It appears on most pages within the Settings app. You can use it to find settings without digging in each page. The search results aren’t as robust as we’d like to see, but it does a fair job.

Battery Saver


One of the best new features in Lollipop is battery saver mode. Battery saver can help you squeeze out extra time when you really need it. When enabled it reduces your device’s performance, turns off vibrations, and blocks most background data. Battery saver can be turned on manually or set to automatically kick in when your battery is at 15% or 5%. You’ll know it’s working when the status and nav bars turn orange-red. To set up battery saver go to Settings > Battery > tap the menu button.

Smart Lock


It’s a good idea to have a layer of security on your device. The only problem with using a password or pattern lock is that it ends up slowing you down way more than anyone else. A new feature called “Smart Lock” lets you tell your phone when it’s safe. Right now there are three ways to make your phone trust you.

Trusted devices – Any Bluetooth or NFC device can be added here. When those devices are connected your lock screen security is disabled.
Trusted face – This is Google’s much better implementation of “Face Unlock.” After you scan your face it will look for you every time you unlock your device. If it recognizes you the lock screen security will be disabled.
Trusted places – In this option you’ll see any locations you’ve added to your Google account. You can toggle those on or add a new place manually. When you are in those locations the lock screen security will be disabled.

With these three options you can make it so you don’t have to constantly enter passwords or patterns, but if your device is stolen or left behind it will know to lock others out. These options can be accessed in Settings > Security > Smart Lock.

Choose Who Gets Priority


Earlier we talked about marking apps as “priority.” This puts notifications for those apps at the top of the list, but it also allows those apps to get through when you’re in Priority Mode. You can also choose certain people to get through Priority Mode.

Go to Settings > Sound & notification > Interruptions. Under the section titled “Priority Interruptions” you can choose who gets through Priority Mode. You can choose calls/messages from anyone, starred contacts, or only people in your contacts. This is perfect for those times you don’t want to be bothered, but still want to be reachable.

For those who are unfamiliar, Priority Mode is a way to allow only alarms and specific notifications to bother you. It can be enabled by pressing the volume buttons and choosing PRIORITY.

Next: Part 2

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Nexus 6 Unboxing and First Impressions [Video] Thu, 20 Nov 2014 01:22:03 +0000  


There’s no doubt about it, the latest smartphone from Google, the Motorola built Nexus 6, is a whale of a phone. In the video below, I unbox the Nexus 6 and feast my eyes upon Google’s phablet for the very first time. Coming from a Motorola Moto X 2014 and previously the original Moto X, I can clearly tell how this phone dwarfs my previous daily drivers. While I haven’t been a fan of phablets in the past, I’m willing to give it a try, all in the name of the full Google Experience.

While myself and other Phandroid writers put our brand new Nexus phones through the daily grind, feel free to hit up our official Nexus 6 forums and ask us any questions while we work on our upcoming reviews.

It’s Nexus season fellow Phandroids, and it’s only just begun.


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Nexus Player Review [VIDEO] Wed, 19 Nov 2014 18:29:28 +0000 nexus-player-artsy-2

Google is taking another stab at entering your living room with the introduction of Android TV and its flagship device, the Nexus Player. The new platform promises a simplified, content-driven approach to home entertainment, but will a lack of options ultimately doom the Nexus Player’s chances to get a foothold in the market? How long until Google reinvents its TV strategy again? Read on to find out.

11 Things new Nexus Player owners should know



For Google’s simplified television solution it makes sense that the company would go with a simplified hardware design. The discreet set-top box, which is manufacturer by Asus, has been compared to a hockey puck, and that’s not so far off. It’s more like a regulation hockey puck that has been run over by a truck. It’s thinner but takes up a larger footprint overall. All that is to say, once you have it setup among your home entertainment options, it’s hardly a focal point of the living room. This isn’t the eye-catching design of the short-lived Nexus Q and it’s not as bulky as many of the Google TV devices that came before.

The Nexus Player is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor clocked at 1.8GHz. The Imagination PowerVR Series 6 Graphics 2D/3D Engine makes the Player a more-than-capable gaming device, but some might be disappointed to learn that Google only provides 1GB RAM. The Nexus Player only includes 8GB of on board storage and no options for expansion.

Setup is quick and easy. Connect the Nexus Player with an HDMI cable to your TV and plug in the power supply. Throw some batteries in the remote and you are done. It takes less than five minutes to go from the box to completed setup (not including software).

nexus-player-puck nexus-player-bluetooth-sync-button nexus-player-remote-2 nexus-player-remote


The smooth circle of the Nexus Player is interrupted by a cutout for its various ports. There are only three: HDMI-out, microUSB, and power jack.

There is no ethernet connection (though ethernet is listed as an option under the Nexus Player’s settings menu). There are no outputs for digital or even analog audio to connect to a home theater system. There is no HDMI pass-through (you’ll have to switch television inputs to access Nexus Player content). Oh, and that USB port? Lest you think you will be expanding storage or sideloading apps out of the box, Google says the port exists solely to allow developers to debug their app experiences. [Editor’s Note: While this appears to be Google’s official stance, users have reported that the USB port can indeed support wired peripherals including keyboards and mice in addition to expandable storage, though it is not its intended use and therefore is not as simple as plug-and-play in all cases. MicroUSB-to-ethernet adaptors will also work, apparently. We are working to confirm.]

As for wireless connectivity, WiFi 802.11ac is the only option for networking (remember: no ethernet port). We understand the reasoning behind it. As long as they have a fast, reliable WiFi network it won’t make much of a difference to the average consumer whether the device is connecting to their home network via a wireless or wired connection, and one less port means one less component adding to the cost of the device. Still, it’s a simple addition that would have gone a long way.

The Nexus Player also includes Bluetooth for pairing accessories like the included remote and optional gamepad. A button (the only hardware button on the actual Nexus Player) that initiates the pairing process is centered on the underside of the puck. We appreciate Google going with Bluetooth here. It opens up the possibility of connecting all sorts of controller accessories down the road, but it also means we aren’t dealing with pesky line-of-sight IR sensors. The Nexus Player could be stashed in a drawer and the remote would still work effortlessly.

The Remote

Google didn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel with the Nexus Player remote. It looks similar to the controllers included with devices like Amazon’s Fire TV, the Roku, and, yes, Apple TV.

A large circular D-pad is used to navigate system menus. It’s not capacitive so there is no scrolling simply by running your finger around it; you will have to click. The select button is centered within the circle and below both are Android’s standard navigation controls (home, back) and a play/pause button. Perhaps the best addition to the remote is a voice search button and built-in microphone, but more on that later.

The remote runs on two AAA batteries (included). The construction of the whole thing feels a bit cheap, but we don’t really need much more for a device like the Nexus Player. Alternatively, Android users can download an app that allows remote control from their smartphone.

Software and Experience


Time for a very brief history lesson: Google’s path to the Nexus Player began in 2010 with the launch of Google TV, a smart TV solution based on Android that acted as an intermediary between your television service provider and you. Google TV allowed users to search the internet alongside TV listings, jump from an app to live television, and access services like YouTube and Netflix. It never caught on with consumers and the consensus seems to be that Google TV attempted to do too much. It was feature packed but often clunky and buggy.

Why is this important to the story of the Nexus Player? Because the Nexus Player is the first consumer-ready device based on the Android TV platform, a completely revamped experience from Google TV. It is built off of Android 5.0 Lollipop as part of Google’s effort to unify the Android operating system across devices that now include smart watches, tablets, smartphones, and your television.

Android TV is far simpler than Google TV. Starting up the Nexus Player we are greeted with a main menu. A top row emphasizes recently viewed and suggested content and below are rows for installed apps and games. It’s Google, so of course there is a search bar at the top. Everything Android TV can do is accessible from this menu, which is to say it doesn’t take long to learn the ins and outs of the Nexus Player.

nexus-player-android-tv-voice-search nexus-player-android-tv-google-play-movies nexus-player-android-tv-google-play

Native apps

As the first commercially available Android TV device, the Nexus Player suffers initially from a limited ecosystem when it comes to available apps and games. The Google services are there — YouTube, Play Music, Movies & TV, and the Play Store — though we don’t get the full suite. The included apps are all tailored toward the media experience (and mostly toward Google’s content ecosystem). Don’t expect to find full web access via Chrome or even the ability to check your Gmail.

The decision not to include such Google apps speaks to what Android TV is attempting to accomplish. It also shows when checking out the currently available selection of non-Google apps and games. Android is known for its wild west approach to openness, but here Google is being a bit more choosy about the content available for their television platform. Apps and games must be specifically tailored for Android TV or they don’t make the cut.

We are not faulting Google for wanting a consistent quality across the Android TV experience, but it does mean early adopters won’t be greeted with the widest selection. At worst, Android TV never catches on with developers and a lack of approved apps and games turns into persistent issue (as was the case with Google TV).

So what do users get access to out of the box? The aforementioned Google services are there plus Netflix and Hulu Plus. Users can opt to download from a selection of other streaming providers including Food Network, PBS Kids, Bloomberg TV, TED TV, and more. For music options include Pandora, Vevo, and iHeartRadio. A Plex app is available for local content streaming.

What is almost inexcusable, though, is a lack of certain streaming apps that have become staples of competitors like Apple TV and Roku. Want HBO Go? It’s not available yet. Spotify as a music option? Not here. And forget about Amazon content. Perhaps some of these apps will eventually find their way to Android TV and the Nexus Player, but not having them at launch is disappointing to say the least.

Google Cast

Some of Android TV’s shortcomings in the apps department are addressed with the addition of perhaps the device’s most killer feature: Google Cast. Google Cast allows users to wirelessly beam content from a smartphone, tablet, or computer directly to the TV with the tap of a button (provided the service supports casting). No HBO Go app on the Nexus Player? No problem. HBO’s mobile app supports the ability to cast content to your TV. For apps that don’t support casting directly, the Chrome browser features tab casting, allowing for a quick and easy work around (provided the service can be accessed via the web).

So why isn’t the presence of Google Cast a true saving grace? A completely native app experience still trumps the ability to cast content from your phone or computer. It’s the most accessible option for a shared media device like the Nexus Player. More importantly, though, Google Cast capabilities can be brought to your television for much cheaper with a $30 Chromecast dongle. If beaming content is a suitable solution, there is almost no reason to justify buying the Nexus Player.

Voice search

Like Google Cast, voice search might not be reason enough to run out and buy a Nexus Player, but it is one of the better software features. Typing out search queries using the remote turns into a real chore, but pressing the microphone button on the remote and speaking the same query is a quick and easy task. Voice recognition is fairly good, though not perfect — background noise and others speaking in the room can be an issue — but the responsiveness is what we have come to expect from Google’s voice integration.

Your range of searchable options, like with other aspects of Android TV, is limited. You can’t search for web content, but you can still ask classic questions like “How old is Barack Obama?” and get a result. You can search for a specific movie, search for content by artist, tell your Nexus Player to start playing your favorite artist — it all works and works well.


nexus-player-gamepadAside from streaming content, gaming is a huge part of what Google is hoping to accomplish with the Nexus Player and Android TV. Like with streaming content, options are limited at launch. The games that are available, though, really show off the best of what the Nexus Player can do. There is a range of content, including games designed to work using only the included remote.

There is a taste of console-quality graphics and gameplay with titles like Riptide GP2. We get to see the quirky, indie side of Android with side-scrolling title Badland. Arcade classics like Pac-Man offer familiar fun.

This was perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the Nexus Player. The games felt polished and ready for larger screens. The controls worked. The hardware handled it all without any major hiccups. We hesitate to say the Nexus Player has what it takes to be a serious contender in the console wars, but it provides an excellent gaming experience that is not strictly set on the casual market.


The Nexus Player’s optional gamepad is what allows the device to transcend above being simply a box for playing blown-up mobile games. It’s a full-on Bluetooth wireless gaming controller that most closely resembles that of the Xbox 360. The buttons are all there: two analog stick, one D-pad, four trigger buttons, and four action buttons. Like the remote control, it’s not the most premium-feeling thing in the world, but it gets the job done.

The nice thing is you can use the controller to navigate the entire Android TV system, and we actually almost preferred it over the standard remote if not for the lack of a microphone and voice command support.



The problem with the Nexus Player is that it shows a lot of promise but is in many ways limited by its fledgling Android TV interface. It’s the sort of device where content like available apps and games make a huge difference, and should more become available in the coming months our opinions about the Nexus Player overall could change.

For now, though, it’s hard to say the Nexus Player and Android TV are the answer we were looking for. While Google TV was never the biggest success, it holds some advantages over Android TV. The same can be said the other way around, but neither of Google’s television platforms has gotten it completely right at this point. For $99, we can think of a couple TV streaming devices (Chromecast, Roku 3) we would purchase ahead of the Nexus Player, and it’s hard to recommend the average consumer not do the same.

If your are engrained in the Google content ecosystem it may the device for you, but otherwise you will want to weigh your options.


  • Google Cast expands content source options
  • Responsive voice search
  • Easy to set up and jump into content


  • No TV pass-through
  • Limited app and game selections
  • Lack of hardware ports (ethernet, audio-out) and internal storage

Overall: 3/5

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Top 10 Android Lollipop Features [VIDEO] Tue, 18 Nov 2014 19:54:26 +0000 lollipop

Android 5.0 Lollipop is finally here. Most Nexus users already have Lollipop, but Motorola, LG, and other OEMs aren’t far behind. When you get this shiny new update you’ll probably be wondering what it can do. The short answer: a lot. The Lollipop changelog is massive, but we’ve got you covered. Here is our list of the Top 10 Android Lollipop features. Enjoy!

Prioritize your apps


One of the biggest differences in Lollipop, besides the obvious new design, is the way notifications work. Android notifications have evolved over the years with new tweaks and features, but Lollipop brings some of the biggest changes we’ve seen in a long time.

Android now gives you ways to control when you can get notified, which apps take priority, and when sensitive content should be hidden. You can turn on “Priority Mode” so only alarms and calls from important people get through. Select certain apps as “Sensitive” so prying eyes can’t see the contents of the notification on your lock screen.

With “Priority Mode” you can silence all the noise of constant notifications for a determined period of time. This is perfect for movie theaters, church, or meetings. To adjust an app’s priority you can long-press the notification and select the “info” icon. Top put your phone in “Priority Mode” press the volume buttons.

Lock screen notifications


Speaking of notifications, they have finally been added to the previously bare-bones lock screen. You can swipe them away like in the notification shade, pull down on a notification to see more actions and your full shade, or double tap to open the app.

You can see all of your notifications on the lock screen even if you have a password or pattern lock, but you can hide the contents of certain notifications. To do this go to Settings > Sound & notification > When device is locked > Hide sensitive notification content.

Earn your phone’s trust


Let’s stay on the lock screen for our next feature. Some Android devices have had the ability to choose “trusted devices” that can disable the lock screen when connected. Android Lollipop has that feature now too, and it’s called “Smart Lock.” You can choose Bluetooth and NFC devices as “trusted,” or even certain locations so your phone knows you are nearby or in a safe place.

That’s not even the coolest part about Smart Lock. You can also set up a “trusted face.” Back in the day there was a screen lock option called Face Unlock, but it didn’t work very well most of the time. “Trusted face” is a much better implementation. After you set it up in Settings > Security > Smart Lock your phone will check for your face in the background when you’re on the lock screen. If it recognizes you the password or pattern lock will be disabled.

Do Not Disturb mode


We’ve already talked about “Priority” mode notifications, but Lollipop also added a “Do Not Disturb” mode. This is something that the iPhone has had for a long time (even a dedicated physical button), but Android has lacked. Do Not Disturb is like silent mode on steroids.

When you press the volume buttons you’ll see options for NONE, PRIORITY, and ALL. The NONE option is what we’re calling “Do Not Disturb.” When you’re in this mode you will not be disturbed by anything. Even alarms can’t get through this mode. Like Priority mode you can set it indefinitely or for a few hours.

Device sharing


A smartphone is chock full of personal information and sensitive content. This can make it difficult to let people use your phone without your constant supervision. Android Lollipop has some killer new features that make it easier than ever to hand your phone to even complete stranger.

With “Screen pinning” you can lock your phone to one app so guests can’t go snooping around. To enable this feature go to Settings > Security > Screen pinning. To use screen pinning open the app you would like to pin, then press the square Overview (formerly multitasking) button, scroll up so you can see the blue thumb tack icon in the bottom right corner of the most recent app. To unpin an app simply long-press the back and overview buttons simultaneously.

If you’d like to allow guests a little more freedom you can use the new Guest Mode. In Guest Mode they will be able to make phone calls and sign into apps as if it was their own device. None of your apps or information is accessible, and if they try to switch back into your user account it will ask for a password. Swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers, tap your profile icon, and choose “Guest.”

Battery Saver


Back in July I wrote an article about Windows Phone features that I wish Android had. One of those features was something called “Battery Saver Mode.” My wish has been granted in Android Lollipop, and it’s just as awesome as I hoped.

Battery saver can help you squeeze out extra time when you really need it. When battery saver is enabled it reduces your device’s performance, turns of vibrations, and blocks most background data. Battery saver can be turned on manually or set to automatically kick in when your battery is at 15% or 5%. You’ll know it’s working when the status and nav bars turn orange-red. Go to Settings > Battery > tap the menu button.



The multitasking screen has been renamed to “Overview,” and with the new name comes new features. Android now remembers your recent apps even after you reboot your device, and it stores many more than the 10 or so from KitKat. But apps are not the only thing that show up in Overview.

Google has added the ability to break apps apart so they can have multiple windows in Overview. The easiest way to see this in action is to open multiple tabs in Chrome and tap the Overview button. Gmail also does this when you’re composing a new email. All of this makes apps feel very native to the OS, and we should see more developers implement the features.

Improved Quick Settings


Quick Settings have always been a handy feature of Android, and in Lollipop they’re even better. New controls have been added for Flashlight (finally!), hotspot, screen rotation, and cast screen. The toggles for WiFi, Bluetooth, and Location now work like actual toggles should. Lastly, the brightness slider is finally available right in the quick settings.

Quick Settings are also a little bit easier to access. You can still swipe down with two fingers to go directly to Quick Settings, or simply pull down on the notification shade to reveal the Quick Settings. This is a perfect example of Material Design showing you where something lives.

Setting up a new device

tap and go

One of the coolest features we didn’t expect from Lollipop is called “Tap & Go.” When you’re setting up a Lollipop device for the first time you will see a new option to “Tap & Go” all your Google account info, settings, data, widgets, wallpapers, and apps via a NFC/Bluetooth connection to another device.

There is also a new option during set-up that will allow you to restore the device to a previous backup from any other Android device you’ve used. These new options are incredibly handy and they will change the way people expect to set up a new phone.

Material Design

Google Material Design multiplatform

Last, but absolutely not least, is the main event of Lollipop: Material Design. For the first time Android is finally a consistent and beautiful OS that stands above the competition. iOS is cold and dull, Windows Phone is too flat, and Android is bold, colorful, and just the right amount of fun.

The best part of Material Design might be the animations. Google has designed the animations in a way that helps you understand how the UI is working. For example, we mentioned how Material Design really shows you where the Quick Settings come from. When you pull down on the notifications you can see the Quick Settings come from underneath. Instead of remembering a button combination you know Quick Settings are under the notification shade.

Material Design is still in its infancy, which means it will only get better. As more 3rd-party apps adapt to Material Design we’ll see Android blossom into a cohesive and beautiful mobile operating system.


Lollipop is not just a good Android update. It’s changing the way we use our phones, tablets, watches, and even TVs. There are a lot of great features in this list, but great features are not new to Android. It’s these features along with Material Design that make Lollipop so good. There has never been a better reason to get a stock Android device.

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First 15 things every Nexus 9 owner should do Mon, 17 Nov 2014 21:53:37 +0000 Nexus 9 DSC07273

The Nexus 9 is Google’s newest tablet on the block. The lovechild of both HTC and Google, the 9-inch tablet keeps that familiar Nexus design aesthetic, while looking to appease consumers looking for a iPad-like 4:3 aspect ratio.

Because OEMs and carriers still have their work cutout for them regarding updates to Android 5.0 Lollipop for smartphones, a vast majority of Nexus 9 buyers will find the tablet their introduction to Google’s latest (and biggest) software update ever.

But don’t worry, if our hands-on with the final L Developer Preview wasn’t enough, we’ve gone ahead and compiled a quick list of the very first things you should do upon booting up your Nexus 9 for the first time. Wouldn’t want you to miss out on any of the cool new features. Have a look!

1. Update your tablet

Nexus 9 Screenshot_2014-11-03-15-21-34

There’s a good chance that upon booting up your Nexus 9 for the first time, there will be a system update right out of the box. This “day 1″ update addresses a few bugs and other weirdness some reviewers discovered before the tablet was officially available to the general public.

Updating is simple, and all done right from the Setup Wizard. Simply sign into your WiFi and the Nexus 9 will automatically check for updates. If one is found, it will update, reboot, and you can finish up with the initial setup. It’s actually a pretty useful new feature and on that was barely introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop (in previous Android versions, you’d have to go through the entire setup before getting the chance to update).

Oh, and don’t worry if you get an update and it fails during the installation process. That’s totally normal and we’re sure Google will have everything fixed at some point in the future. Just let it sit, and your tablet will reboot normally.

2. Import apps and data from previous tablet/phone

Nexus 9 Get your apps and data

There’s a lot of new features introduced in Android 5.0 Lollipop, but none as immediately helpful as the ability to restore apps and data from a previous backup. It doesn’t even matter that the Nexus 9 is a tablet and not a smartphone — you can grab the data from any previously owned Android.

After setting up your WiFi and signing into your Google account, you’ll be taken to the “Get your apps & data” page of the Setup Wizard. Select the “Restore from this backup” option and you’ll be presented with a list of every previously owned Android device (the ones that were backed up, anyway). Select one then press “Done” to see the number of apps associated with that backup. To edit the apps you want on your new Nexus 9, select the drop down menu once again and uncheck any apps you don’t want downloaded to the tablet (they will all download from the Google Play Store).

3. Security: Smart Lock & Trusted devices

Nexus 9 security screen lock

As soon as you’re out of the Setup Wizard, the very first thing you’re going to want to do is secure the Nexus 9 with some security. Jump into Settings > Security > Screen lock and choose whichever method you’d like. When choosing PIN, pattern, or password, your device will ask you if you’d like to encrypt everything on the device, requiring a password before the Nexus 9 can even start up. This ensures all your data is protected in the event you ever misplace your device, or it ends up in the wrong hands. Either way, the choice is entirely up to you. For us, we’d rather have the device fully boot up so we can track it via the Android Device Manager (which requires GPS and WiFi to figure out its location). This doesn’t mean the tablet is any less secure, our user profile will still be locked up tight will require a password — even if someone tries to factory reset it.

Nexus 9 Smart Lock

Once secured with a PIN code, pattern lock, or full on password, a new feature in Android 5.0 Lollipop will help alleviate some of the inconvenience that comes with locking down your device. Its called “Smart Lock” and when enabled, allows you to bypass the aforementioned lock screen security when connected to specific (“trusted”) Bluetooth devices. Anything with a Bluetooth connection is game and can be everything from a smartwatch to portable speakers, or even a car stereo. Should you move out of range and drop a connection with one of these “trusted” devices, your tablet will activate its normal lock screen security once again.

Lollipop not only allows for trusted Bluetooth devices, but faces (face unlock) and NFC tags as well. The trusted faces feature actually works in the background as soon as you wake your device and if it recognizes you before you can enter a password, the tablet is unlocked. Trusted NFC tags might be a little more challenging in finding an actual use case, but one example could be sticking one to a car dock in order to keep the tablet unlocked while driving. Hey, options are good.

4. Customize your home screen

Nexus 9 home screen

One of the best parts about owning an Android device is the freedom given to users to customize their home screen however they like. If you’re new to Android, it might seem a bit daunting at first to set up your home screen how you like, but in the end it’s worth it. Because of the Nexus 9’s unique aspect ratio, you can set a total of 6×6 icons or folders (including the dock) on your home screen. That should give you plenty of room to play around and get creative.

Long pressing any blank area on the home screen will show you a zoomed out view of your home screen pages, as well as options to change the wallpaper, add widgets, or customize your Google Now settings. With all the extra screen real estate, you should have no problem squeezing in the right widget and don’t forget that once they been placed, widgets can be resized by long pressing and dropping them again anywhere on the home screen.

If you find you need more than single paged home screen, you can add more by dragging an icon from the app drawer over to the right of the screen where another page will then be added. Oh, and don’t forget about shortcuts. These are also located in the widget section and are usually 1×1 in size (like an icon). Our suggestion? Creating a settings shortcut that takes you to the “Applications” page in your settings where you can easily manage them. Drag and drop the Settings shortcut on your home screen and a menu will pop up asking you what you would like to connect the shortcut to. Select Applications, and you’re in business.

We should also remind you of the countless replacement home screen apps (launchers) on Google Play. If you’d like to add further customizations to your Nexus 9, we’d recommend checking out Nova Launcher which, along with a boat load of options, also supports the thousand or so icon packs found in the Play Store.

5. Delete apps straight from the app drawer


If creating a shortcut on your home screen or always diving into the Settings app is too much work, you can always delete applications from your device straight from the app drawer. Just open the app the drawer and long press an app icon (like you were going to place it on your home screen), then drag it up towards the top of the screen where it says “Uninstall.” When you let it go (LET IT GO), you’ll be asked to confirm and it’ll be gone forever.

6. Disable notifications from specific apps/games straight from the notification shade

Nexus 9 notification disable

There’s no question that app notifications, while mostly helpful, can be a nuisance at times. This is especially true for games and such that constantly remind (pester) you to play them via your notification shade (or new in Lollipop, heads up notifications). No worries, there’s a super easy way to turn off notifications from these bothersome apps/games straight from the notification itself. Simply long press on notification to view the app from which it came from. From there, you can click the gear icon to be taken to the app information and if you look closely, you’ll see the option to uncheck its notifications (or uninstall it) completely.

7. Customize Google Now

Nexus 9 Google Now

Google Now is probably one of the single most useful features found inside our Android devices. During the setup process, you may remember seeing an opt in page for Google Now where, we hope, you selected “Yes, I’m in.” Fist off, Google Now is like your very own automated personal assistant app. Without having to ask it anything, it’ll notify of you traffic on your way home, flight times, packages that have shipped, where you parked, and lots more. Like all good things, it gets even better when you adjust some settings to your liking.

To access Google Now you can either swipe up from the home button, or swipe left on your home screen. Here you’ll find a ton of information, usually relating to your location, items you’ve searched, and things you’ve ordered. If you slide your finger from the left most edge of the display, you’ll find the sidebar menu along with a few options: reminders, customize, and settings.

Reminders are just that, a list of everything you’ve told Google to remind you of, whether it’s picking up the kids from school, or taking the beer out the freezer. Customize is probably the most fun, providing you a list of categories you can tailor to your interests. Sports will allow you to pick your favorite teams to follow, stocks, places for your home and work addresses (traffic), TV & video to receive updates on your favorite shows and movies, and everything else (items Google thinks you might be interested in based on search). You should probably take a minute to add your personal interests in order to make Google Now work for you the best way it can: keeping you up to date with the world around you.

Google Now Voice settings

With that out of the way, we now recommend you dive into the actual settings from the sidebar menu. It’s here you’ll be able to tell Google Now what you’d like it to search for when performing queries (tablet search), manage your accounts and privacy, or — our favorite — configure the Google Now hotword detection. If you’re not the type to worry about Google listening in on your most intimate of conversations (really, they have better things to do), you can even set the hotword to “always on” so that “Ok Google” works even while the Nexus 9 is sleeping.

Once enabled, Google Now will need to “learn” your voice (so that not just anyone can perform voice searches while your tablet is sleeping). The final setting — “When locked” — allows the “Ok Google” hotword to start a voice search/action even if the tablet is secured with a password/PIN/etc.. Unless you don’t mind someone else potentially issuing voice commands that can do everything from making calls, text, or accessing your contacts or other personal information — you might want to leave this one off.

Now that Google Now is all setup exactly how you like it, should something ever pop up that you’re not interested in or find convenient, press the 3-dot menu directly above the Google Now card to tell Google if you’re interested in that specific topic (maybe it was just a 1 or 2-time search), or swipe to the left to turn off research topic updates altogether.

8. Manage interruptions & lock screen notifications

Nexus 9 Interruptions

Android’s notification system is world renown for being the best in the biz. The result of years of fine tuning, it’s only in Android 5.0 Lollipop you can now manage the type of notifications you would like to interrupt you. Located in your Settings app under “Sound and Notification,” the “Interruptions” option will give you a whole new set of options.

The first option, “When notifications arrive,” allows you to set which notifications can come through: all (always interrupt), important ones (only priority interruptions), or none at all (don’t interrupt). Although worded a bit differently, you can also find these settings when using the physical buttons to change volume, located directly beneath the volume slider as none, priority, or all.

When selecting a time duration to turn off notifications, you have a few options: 15 min, 30 min, 45 min, one hour, 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours, or 8 hours. Even when set to only priority interruptions, you can further tweak this by turning on/off events and reminders, or messages. Keep in mind that while alarms are always classified as a priority interruption, they too can be silenced if you set notifications to “none.”

Nexus 9 Interruptions none priority all

Probably the most useful feature of new Interruptions settings is “Downtime.” For downtime, you can specific times and days you would only like priority interruptions to come through. Chances are, you’ll want to set this for the weekdays when you don’t want your tablet notifying you of emails throughout the night should you forget to turn off the volume.

If you ever find an app is bothering you with notifications, you can turn off its notifications completely in the “App notifications setting.” It’s here you can also set an app to “priority,” in the event you’d like to continue receiving notifications from a specific app when interruptions are set to priority only. Neato.

Lollipop also introduces — for the first time ever — notifications right on your lock screen. Sounds great but sometimes you may not want the content of all your conversations appearing on your lock screen. No worries. You can choose how much content notifications actually show when displayed on your lock screen. Want more privacy? Open your Settings > Sound & Notification > When device is locked > Hide sensitive notification content. Or if you don’t want notifications of any kind on you lock screen (to each his own), choose “Don’t show notifications at all.”

9. Enable battery saver mode

Nexus 9 battery saver mode

It’s probably not as helpful as it is on a smartphone, but Lollipop’s all new Battery Saver mode is also fully present on the Nexus 9. When enabled (Settings > Battery > 3-dot menu > Battery saver), performance of your Nexus 9 will drop dramatically, animations will turn off, and “most background data” will be turned off.

The Nexus 9 lets you know it’s in battery saver mode thanks to bright orange notification and nav bars on the top and bottom of the device. There will also be an ongoing notification letting you know battery saver mode is enabled (if you couldn’t tell already), with an easy button to turn it off straight from the notification. Again, it’s probably not as helpful as, say, on your smartphone where a little extra juice can save your life, but it’s a nice (partially hidden) option none-the-less.

10. Setup Users & Profiles

Nexus 9 users

User profiles are really nothing new, but Lollipop handles them a bit differently now. If you’ve ever set up users profiles on your computer, you should be right at home here. First off, there are 2 ways of accessing/creating new profiles: either pull down your notification shade twice to access quick settings and tap on the the blue user profile icon in the top right corner, or jump into Settings > Users.

There are 3 types of profiles: user, restricted, or guest. A creating a regular user account will give that user full access to all apps and settings on the device, only their Google account and photos will be kept entirely separate. It’s like their own personal playground on the Nexus 9.

A restricted account is a lot more work in that it can’t do much and the creator has to manually select exactly which apps — one-by-one — the restricted account can have access to. Some apps, like Photos, cannot be accessed in a restricted account no matter what, making this an incredibly hampered account best for served for the kiddies or if you’re using the tablet in a workplace.

Guest mode will allow a user to sign into their Google account and sync apps, but it’s all (somewhat) temporary. Once signed out of a guest account, all the data still remains meaning anyone can go back and resume that original guest session. That means anyone singing into their Google account under the guest profile will need to make sure they sign out and select the “remove guest” option before handing the tablet back to its owner.

11. Enable screen pinning

Nexus 9 screen pinning settings

Having a Nexus 9 is great. It’s huge 9-inch display is perfect for surfing the web. So perfect, that at some point — be it a significant other or the kiddies — someone is going to want to take a crack at it. That’s where Screen Pinning can take some of the worry out of loved ones or acquaintances stumbling through your stuff. The feature (located in Settings > Security > Screen pinning) lets you lock down tablet use to a specific app (the last app you had open).

Nexus 9 screen pinning

In order to exit the app, the user will first need to press a combination of the back and recents simultaneously to unlock it. If you have a password or PIN set for your lock screen, you can set Screen Pinning to require that before exiting an app instead, much more secure if there’s a lot of “sensitive” data on your device).

Our advice? Download a separate browser from the one you’re currently using (like Dolphin or Chrome Beta) so nobody can access your browsing history.

12. Install battery percent for KitKat/L

Nexus 9 battery percent enabler

We can’t for the life of us figure out why Google makes it so difficult to view the actual percent of battery life left on your device, but nothings really changed in Lollipop. Sure you can always double pull the notification bar to view it, but if that sounds like too much effort, there’s another way. Technically, battery percent in the notification icon is baked into Lollipop, you”ll just need to download an app to enable it. It’s called Battery Percent for KitKat/ L and you can find it on the Google Play Store (for free) right here.

Once installed, the app will require a reboot for the changes to go into effect and once booted up, you’ll be able to view the exact battery percentage straight from the battery icon in the notification bar. Your life will forever be changed.

13. Backup photos and videos to Google+ / Photos

Nexus 9 Photos auto backup

Your Nexus 9 already comes with Photos pre-installed. A replacement for the once great Gallery app, Photos is actually an extension of Google+, allowing you to back up your photos to the cloud where they’ll be stored in your Google+ profile. Upon opening Photos for the first time, you’ll be asked if you’d like to automatically backup your photos/videos and if you oblige, simply click the sign in button to sign in with your Google account. From there, you’ll be taken to the “All” photos tab of the app, where you’ll have to confirm you’d like to back up your photos and videos by pressing the “turn on” button at the top.

Nexus 9 auto backup settings

We recommend selecting the 3-dot menu in the upper right and going into the Photo settings where you can further customize how you’d like back ups to be handled. From there, select “Auto Backup” and you’ll be taken to a new page where you can see the total amount of cloud storage available and decide if you want photos backed up in full resolution, or resized down to 2,048 pixels once uploaded to save on cloud space. And if you’d like, you can always purchase additional cloud storage. Other options include only backing up when your Nexus 9 is connected to a charger (recommended), or backup everything now.

Nexus 9 Auto backup folders

From time to time, you may receive notifications asking if you’d like to backup newly created folders (like your folder for Downloads, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.). To manage the folders you have backed up, open the slide out menu in Photos and select “On device.” Here you’ll find all the folders and the images/videos therein. Above each folder is a tiny cloud icon and when colored blue, indicates it’s a folder being backed up to the cloud. The grey and white cloud icon with a slash through it means it’s not being backed up. Manage however you’d like.

14. Play hidden Lollipop mini game

Nexus 9 Lollipop mini game Easter Egg

With every major Android release, Google has “hidden” an fun little Easter Egg inside the the Android version number (Settings app > About phone > Android version). But for Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google went all out, including a full on Flappy Bird clone baked inside the OS.

To get it up and running, all you have to do is press the version number 5 times to activate phase 1 of the Easter Egg: an image of a Lollipop. But there’s more. Tapping on the lollipop will change its colors while long pressing it fires up the new mini game.

It’s pretty much spot on with the original, only now featuring an Android mascot and Lollipop pipes. We should warn you, all the pull-your-hair-out difficulty of the equal pull-your-hair-out difficulty as the original. It’s not something Google had to do, but we more than appreciate the gesture.

15. Explore the Nexus 9 forums for more!

Nexus 9 DSC07276

Follow all the steps above and you’ll find yourself on your way to becoming a Nexus 9 guru. Of course, the tablet is capable of much more and should you need further tips, tricks, or any other info you can think of, the Nexus 9 forums on will prove a valuable resource. Lurk all you like, but if you’d like to add some input of your own, you can sign up for an account right here.

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11 things new Nexus Player owners should know Thu, 13 Nov 2014 17:57:32 +0000 nexus-player-artsy-1

The Nexus Player is a simple machine — so simple you might have finished setting it up and found yourself asking, “What’s next?” While getting up and going with the set-top box’s Android TV interface is easy, we’ve compiled a list of some of the platform’s less obvious features. With our help, you will never be at a lack for living room entertainment again.

It runs Android apps & games, but not all of them

The Nexus Player is one of the first widely available devices to take advantage of Google’s new “Be together. Not the same.” approach. It runs Android 5.0 in a more specific incarnation known as Android TV, an interface that shares the core mechanics of the Lollipop build coming to phones and tablets but with a drastically different presentation. So it should run all of the same apps, right?

Wrong. While Google is aiming for a unified Android experience across devices, they have (smartly) decided not to sacrifice quality for quantity. Apps and games must be specifically altered to play nice with Android TV and hence the Nexus Player. At launch, the selection is pretty slim, but most of the core apps you would expect for a television streaming companion (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) are there. The current marketplace might not be overflowing with games, either, but there are a handful of excellent titles with graphics and gameplay tailored toward larger screens.

Now, the more adventurous Android TV users out there have already developed ways to install nearly any Android app onto the platform, but we wouldn’t recommend doing so. Installing apps not specifically designed for the Nexus Player or similar devices will result in shoddy performance and wonky user interfaces in most cases.

Pair accessories with the touch of a button


You could pair Bluetooth accessories like the included remote control or optional gamepad the hard way by navigating to the settings menu and selecting “Add accessory,” or you could simply lift your Nexus Player from the shelf and push a button located at the center of the puck-shaped object. OK, neither method is actually that hard.

Just make sure whatever device you are attempting to pair is turned on and in discoverable mode (for the Gamepad, simply turn on before you begin attempting to pair). It might take a few seconds, but once your Nexus Player detects the accessory you want to connect, it only takes a few clicks to get it up and running.

You can use the gamepad in place of the standard remote…


If you purchased the optional Gamepad for Nexus Player ($39 on Google Play) you can use it for more than just games. The basic Nexus Player remote is small and limited, but your gamepad has all the same controls plus more. You can use the directional pad or left analog stick to navigate, the ‘A’ button to select, and the back and home buttons at the center of the controller to move between menus (the ‘B’ button also doubles as a back second back button). You can easily jump from watching a movie to playing your favorite game with no need to switch controllers.

…or play plenty of games with the remote alone

Didn’t buy the separate gamepad? No problem. Google has made it easy to find great games that can be played using only the included remote, highlighting the selections directly in the Google Play Store (access from the Nexus Player home screen). Arcade classics like Pac-Man are available alongside console quality experiences like Sky Force 2014 and Riptide GP2 as well as indie titles like Badland. For a look at some of our favorite selections at launch, see our list of the 7 best Android TV games that you can play using only the Nexus Player remote.

Cast anything, anytime

The Nexus Player does plenty for a media device, but did you know that it also includes Google’s Cast technology? All the functionality of the popular Chromecast is built right in. You can start streaming video, apps, and any other compatible services (including the Chrome browser) from your computer or mobile device directly to your TV.

You can do so at anytime by initiating casting from the secondary device (look for the cast icon and tap it). Playback of the YouTube video, Netflix movie, or whatever else it might be will begin instantly on your television. Here’s a refresher on the basics of Chromecast and Google Cast.

Search for anything with your voice


Google has brought Android’s great voice recognition capabilities to your TV with the Nexus Player. Simply tap the microphone button on the included remote (one advantage it has over the gamepad as an alternate controller) and speak your search or command. To find a movie to watch, play a YouTube video, or stream music from your Google Play library, just ask.

Try speaking some of the following commands:

  • “Find movies starring [actor or actress]“
  • “Play [artist or song]“
  • “Find cat videos on YouTube.”
  • “How old is Barack Obama?”

Note that voice support isn’t as expansive as what you might find on other Android devices. Commands are limited to media-based queries and very limited informational results. You won’t have much luck searching for web content or questions about finding the nearest sub shop. Voice support is also limited to Google’s first-party apps at this time.

Change the screensaver

To prevent screen burn-in and otherwise protect the expensive investment that is a big screen HDTV, Google has included a screensaver function dubbed Daydream as part of Android TV on the Nexus Player. You can configure Daydream’s settings and even change the image displayed or turn it off completely by navigating to the settings menu from the home screen.

Click “Daydream” to select between a screensaver collage of various landscape photographs or a wave of colors. Select “None” to disable Daydream. Pro tip: if you choose this option the display will turn off rather than enter a screensaver mode. Other options under the Daydream menu include choosing the length of inactivity required to enter Daydream mode as well as a timer on how long to display Daydream before shutting off the display entirely and entering sleep mode.

Opt out of ads

Buried in the “About” screen within the settings menu are options to control how Google will feed ads to your Nexus Player. Click “Ads” under the “About” menu. You can opt out of interest-based ads to prevent apps from serving advertising tailored to you based on data collected from your browsing and usage habits. You can also reset your Google advertising ID to rid yourself of any previously associated data used for tailored ads.

Turn on captions

You can enable system-level closed captioning from the “Accessibility” menu under settings. Simply select “Captions” and switch “Display” to “On.” From this menu you can also edit how captions will appear. It is important to note that for most apps (including YouTube and Netflix) you will have to enable captions separately from within the individual app.

Choose how your Google account data syncs with Nexus Player

As a living room device, the Nexus Player will be shared by many different people in your household. If you have your Google account linked to the device you may want to cherry pick which apps and services are synced. Do so by clicking on your account name under the “Personal” header in the settings menu.

From the account sync menu you can choose whether or not to sync your Google Play library of music, movies, and TV shows as well as stored contacts and people details. Certain services like Gmail and Google Drive are already off limits.

Another helpful tip is to make sure you require a password for all Google Play purchases should your credit card be linked to the main account on your Nexus Player. This will prevent children, roommates, and other unauthorized users from running up a bill on games and movies. Upon making your first purchase via your Nexus Player, you should be asked to reconfirm this option.

Unlock a secret Android-themed Flappy Bird clone

Buried within the “About” menu is an awesome Android easter egg: a Lollipop-themed clone of the insanely addictive Flappy Bird. Accessing it requires a very specific process of entering commands on your remote, but in short do the following:

  1. Click the version number at least three times in rapid succession
  2. After a Lollipop appears, use the D-pad on your remote or gamepad to change its size and color several times
  3. When a scrolling background will appear, tap up on the D-pad to start the game

For more in-depth directions, we explain all the details in a post on the matter.

To share your own or discover even more tips and tricks, be sure to check out Android Forums. We have dedicated forums for both the Nexus Player and Android TV.


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Exclusive: Android Wear 5.0 Lollipop features revealed, adds plenty of new goodies for your smartwatch Tue, 11 Nov 2014 21:53:44 +0000 Android_Wear_5.0_Lollippo_Phandroid

With Android 5.0 Lollipop showing up on the Moto X, being announced for the LG G3, and of course Google’s latest round of Nexus devices hitting the Play Store, Android fans have been wondering when the latest sweet treat from Google will hit their wrist computer. Yesterday, we showed you the first part of that update with Material Design changes and features coming to the Android Wear companion app. Today, we’re going to show you the second part of our two part feature: this is an exclusive look into some of the new features coming to the Android Wear 5.0 Lollipop update.

Once your Android Wear smartwatch has been updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop, the Android Wear companion app truly comes to life, adding additional features. The most notable are Watch battery and Watch storage.

Watch Battery & Storage

The Watch battery page resembles what you would find under the battery information on your phone or tablet, displaying a graph with estimated battery life as well as a breakdown of which apps are chewing away at battery juices. The Lollipop update for Android Wear includes a Watch storage monitor through the companion app, allowing you to see which apps are the most storage hungry. With the recent capability of storing music on your wearable, it’s beneficial to know exactly where you stand storage wise.


You’ll also notice that Debugging over Bluetooth is back. Congrats developers!

Watch Face Improvements

Not pictured above but extremely important, you can now change your Watch face directly from the companion app. Beyond the companion app, the developers and general watch face enthusiasts will be quite happy to see an official watch face API launch with Lollipop.

The newly revamped watch face API allows for even further customization thanks to a settings menu existing on the watch face itself. Watch faces on the Lollipop update allow for weather notifications to be displayed directly on the watch face, cutting out the need to swipe through your cards for the Google Now weather card. Some of the new watch faces and weather icons are shown below.


The more watch faces the merrier.

Recovering dismissed cards

If you’ve ever dismissed a notification card on Android Wear to have immediately regretted that decision, you’ll be happy to know that dismissed cards can now be recovered with a simple swipe. Just swipe upwards and you’ll be presented with an undo option. This is probably one of the most sought after features since the launch of the platform and we even mentioned it here, while detailing a few features we’d like to see changed or updated in the future.

Screen Brightness Toggles

Another complaint with Android Wear surrounds screen brightness. For example, while at a movie theater, it’s generally frowned upon to have a bright light emanating from your wrist while others are trying to enjoy the darkness. Oppositely, it’s hard to read your smartwatch while in direct sunlight. While third party applications exist to turn screen brightness up or down (and you can also mute notifications on your phone and on your smartwatch to solve this issue), clearly something a bit more user friendly needs to be done.


Android 5.0 Lollipop will introduce Theater mode and Sunlight mode. These new screen modes can be accessed through revamped options that appear when you swipe down. With Lollipop, swiping down will bring about a new menu. The new menu is then navigated by swiping to the left and includes Theater mode, Sunlight mode, Silence, and Settings. With Theater mode, the screen stays off unless you press the hardware button or double tap the screen.

Improvements for Vision Impairment

Lollipop for Android Wear adds new accessibility features which should make viewing and interacting with your smartwatch easier for those that need a little extra help. The accessibility features included large text, color inversion, and magnification gestures. These can all be enabled and disabled from the Settings menu.


Ok Google

The main action menu which can be launched with a tap on the screen or voicing the launch command ‘ok google’ while the screen is active is partaking in a major update with Lollipop too. The menu now sorts actions based on your most recently used feature. If you’re often launching commands via the touch interface, this is a welcomed changed. The reordering of the menu based on your use habits isn’t new to Google’s wearables either, this feature has been in Google Glass for a while now.


Good stuff with more on the way!

From what we can see, the overall user experience and user interface remains the same for Android Wear 5.0. Many have been expecting a more Material Design take on things, but from the looks of it, that isn’t happening right now. Thankfully Google has addressed a few user pain points with this release and aims to pack in feature tweaks as well. As always, features are subject to change and could be removed or added when the update rolls out to devices. As for a time frame, we’re hearing sometime in early December, which is about a month away.

Are you liking what you see with the Android Wear 5.0 Lollipop update? What features were you hoping for that weren’t mentioned above? Let us know in the comments.

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7 great Android TV games for Nexus Player you can play right now without a gamepad Tue, 11 Nov 2014 17:08:33 +0000 nexus player remote

The Nexus Player is here, and it wants to be more than a streaming box for Netflix and your Google Play downloads. Google has put some serious time into making the Player’s Android TV operating system a viable option when it comes to gaming, even if you didn’t spend the extra $40 up front to purchase an optional gamepad.

With the first Android TV device officially available, the selection of gaming titles available to users will surely grow in the coming months. In the meantime, here are seven of the best games you can download right now and play with only the remote included with the Nexus Player — no gamepad needed



If Flappy Bird had a darker, more developed aesthetic and slightly more forgiving (though no less fun) gameplay, it would be Badlands. The object of the game is simple. Tap and/or hold the action button on the Nexus Player remote to send our strange, flapping protagonist into flight. Just don’t let the edge of the screen catch up to you or your done. The first few levels are easy enough, but things become addictively difficult in the later stages. Shifting sizes, moving obstacles, and narrow passages are only a few of the pitfalls that await. [Google Play]

Riptide GP2


Those with fond memories of Wave Race (particularly the Nintendo 64 edition), the series that arguably established jet ski racers as a genre in itself, will get right into Riptide GP2. It’s a pretty standard take on watercraft racing with a slightly futuristic aesthetic. You can focus on navigating the various courses and hitting those ramps to perform sweet tricks thanks to some really straightforward controls. Tightened graphics and online multiplayer help Riptide GP2 transcend to a truly worthy living room gaming experience. [Riptide GP2]

Red Ball 4


A bouncy red ball takes on a world being overrun by squares. Not the most exciting plot synopsis, but Red Ball 4 brings a healthy dose of classic platform action with a touch of puzzle play to add some perplexity. A simplified control scheme means it’s easy to jump right in, but stringing together bounces and timing them to hit the right platform at the right time to advance through a level is a whole other challenge. [Google Play]

Sky Force 2014

sky force

Sky Force first launched in 2004 and was one of the first titles to put mobile gaming on the map during the pre-smartphone era. The 10th anniversary update lives up the its predecessor with the same classic gameplay but it is boosted with modern graphics and an engrossing upgrades system to help you take down the enemy threat over numerous levels of action. Each level features classic arcade-style gameplay that culminates with a series of increasingly difficult big bosses. Online play pits your skills against other virtual pilots attempting to claim victory. [Google Play]



Perhaps no game is better suited to the limited capabilities of the Nexus Player remote than is Pac-Man. The arcade legend is presented here in its original format. Munch on dots, ghosts, cherries, and more without leaving the couch. In addition to the standard game, a selection of alternate maps is available via in-app purchases. [Google Play]

Going Going Gone: Home Run Classic


Who wants to see some dingers? If the long ball is your thing, then Home Run Classic from ESPN is the game for you. A traditional home run derby-style game with exaggerated graphics inspired by the likes of NFL Blitz, RBI Baseball, and NBA Jam, Going Going Gone adds depth with in-game upgrades. Buy a new bat, up your hitting power, and knock an endless stream of balls right out of the park. [Google Play]



The reliance on simple directional controls makes the infinite runner a genre right at home on the Nexus Player, and there are several options to choose from. For our money, Orborun brings the most interesting take on gameplay. The stakes are slightly higher as your character is not locked on rails (so be careful you don’t go flying over the edge) and a variety of levels add new gameplay possibilities, including puzzles and platform-style action. [Google Play]

Any Android TV gaming favorites of your own? Let us know in the comments below or head over to our Android TV and Nexus Player forums to join the discussion there. Next up we’ll be covering our favorite casual games for the Nexus Player built with the official gamepad in mind.

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Exclusive: Android Wear companion app gets a material design makeover and Google Play Services 6.5.75 leak Tue, 11 Nov 2014 01:21:35 +0000 Android_Wear_Material_Companion_Phandroid

As we inch closer towards the inevitable roll out of Android 5.0 Lollipop from manufacturers across the Android ecosystem, Google and other developers have been slowly updating their apps per Google’s new Material Design guidelines. This past summer at Google IO when Android Wear was launched along side Material Design, it was a little saddening that the Android Wear companion application didn’t launch with Google’s new eye candy. Now months later, the latest app from Google’s suite to take upon the new design language just so happens to be the Android Wear app and as all things #materiyolo, we’re a fan.

Android Wear version gets rid of the black background and adds the familiar white background found in Android 5.0 Lollipop as well as other Material Design applications. Iconography as changed on the status bar as well, removing the application’s icon on the far left and removing the disconnect icon near the middle. The action over flow menu has a few new goodies this time around too, such as the ability to take a screenshot from your wearable, disconnect your connected wearable, forgetting it entirely, or viewing bug reports. The settings found under the gear icon remain mostly the same except for some changed verbiage and Bluetooth debugging being removed altogether.

Android_Wear_companion_1 Android_Wear_companion_2 Android_Wear_companion_3 Android_Wear_companion_4

Next up on the agenda is the latest version of Google Play Services version 6.5.75, which is required to use the updated Android Wear companion app shown above. You’ll notice a new section titled Security down below, which now houses both Verify apps and Android Device Manage settings. Seeing as both features are of the security nature, it makes sense to bundle them together under the same moniker.

Google_Play_Services_2 Google_Play_Services_3 Google_Play_Services_1

We’ve chosen not to share any APKs at this time as the Google Play Services APK that we have in our possession only works on certain devices and the the Android Wear companion application will not work unless you’re running the latest Google Play Services version. Don’t worry though, the goodies don’t stop here. We’ll be back shortly with another Android Wear update.

Thanks Anonymous!

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How to flash the Android 5.0 Lollipop leaked soak test on the Moto X 2014 Sun, 09 Nov 2014 02:33:13 +0000 Moto_X_2014_Lollipop_Phandroid

Android fans around the globe were shocked yesterday when Motorola posted their official Android 5.0 Lollipop release notes for the Moto X 2014 and Moto G 2014 – which they later pulled. And as far as we know, one lucky Moto X Pure Edition owner received an over the air update to Android’s latest offering. The Motorola system build is 22.11.5 and is most likely an internal build that is planned or was planned to be released to Motorola’s Feedback Network. The over the air update file was pulled and is now available for your flashing pleasure.

The update is very responsive, fast, and down right gorgeous. At the time of this writing, I’ve been running the update without issue for about 24 hours. That said, if you’re planning on flashing this update, you’re going to want to proceed with extreme caution as this is not a finished build and bugs are likely to exist. If you’re used to flashing custom ROMs and running nightly builds, this is probably going to be right up your alley. If Android tinkering is not something you’re comfortable with, you might want to hold off just a short while longer until Motorola rolls this bad boy out to the masses.

Please note that there is no guarantee that this build will be updated to the next soak test build or even updated to the final release build. You will need a fully stock, unmodified Moto X 2014 Pure Edition to proceed. If your device has been rooted, do not proceed. Phandroid will not be held responsible if you brick your device.

  1. Download build Blur_Version.21.21.42.victara_tmo.tmo.en.US (652MB) and copy it onto your phone.
  2. Reboot your phone into recovery.
    1. Power your phone off, hold vol down and press power, use vol down to scroll to recovery and press vol up to enter recovery.
    2. Additionally you can use ADB – adb reboot recovery (you must have working ADB).
  3. At the Android in distress logo, press and hold vol up for 5-10 seconds, then press power.
  4. At the menu, use the vol down button to scroll down to ‘apply update from sdcard’, then press power to select that option.
  5. Use the vol down button to scroll down to the directory where you saved the zip file from step 1. Once you find the OTA zip file press power to select it.
  6. Proceed to install the OTA update.

That’s it. It’s honestly that simple. Let us know in the comments what you think of the update.


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Motorola Droid Turbo Review Fri, 07 Nov 2014 16:44:15 +0000 droid-turbo-hero

You can trace the roots of Android back to the first device running it, the HTC G1, but Google’s mobile operating system owes much of its initial success to another phone: the Motorola Droid. Launched in 2009, the Droid was the first in a succession of similarly branded devices tied exclusively to Verizon. The latest is the Motorola DROID Turbo, a phone that has the potential to reestablish Droid as the premier Android smartphone brand. With excellent battery life, powerful processing, and a unique and durable design, Verizon and Motorola have accomplished something great with their latest flagship.


The Droid line has long been known for devices that favor industrial design, especially when we are talking about Motorola’s contributions to the brand. It all started with the original Motorola Droid. This wasn’t the cutesy, round plastic of the iPhone. It was metal, glass, and angled edges. The weight of the phone in hand seemed to communicate the gravitas of the whole thing.

Several years later Motorola is now the exclusive provider of Droid devices for Verizon, and the DNA of their landmark handset lives on in the Droid Turbo. The details are all there: dark blacks and vibrant reds, technologically advanced materials and metal accents, sharper edges, and again, that weight — that gravitas. Close your eyes and pick up the Droid Turbo and it simply feels like a Droid device. Anyone who has ever used one of Verizon’s exclusive Android smartphones will understand.

Motorola’s recent handsets — the Moto X, the Moto G, and even Nexus 6 — have all shared a common design language. The Droid Turbo rightfully feels more like an evolution of last year’s Droid Maxx. It does take some cues from those newer Motorola devices, though the curve of its back is more subtle, the edges less rounded, the whole thing a little more tech-y in build and appearance.


It’s worth noting some of the finer points of the Turbo’s design. Those opposed to Verizon’s often incessant need to plaster their name anywhere and everywhere on their devices will be pleased to know that at least the 64GB version of the device is free of any carrier branding. While the Turbo does feature soft keys for Android shortcuts, the only other breaks in its frame are for a USB port, power button, and volume rocker, the latter of which cleverly doubles as the SIM tray.

The Droid Turbo nails it when it comes to size, measuring 73.3mm wide, 143.5mm tall, and maxing out at 11.2mm along its curved back (about 8mm at the edge). It is most certainly not the lightest phone we have ever encountered, but as a Droid that’s almost expected. Its 176 grams are less heavy in the hand than they are a physical reminder of the Turbo’s solid build.

droid-turbo-rear-hero droid-turbo-rear droid-turbo-moto-display-2

Built for Durability


Motorola’s design team made the interesting choice to offer the Droid Turbo in in two material finish options. What we would consider the “flagship” version of the phone sports a new ballistic nylon insert for the non-removable back panel. Presented here in a 2×2 weave, ballistic nylon is a material most commonly found in luggage and backpacks. It is highly durable and abrasion-resistant.  The ballistic nylon provides a textured finish that adds grip and improves durability.

The second option, something Motorola is calling metalized fiber composite, features a glossier finish and smoother touch. At its core, a fiber weave promises similar durability to ballistic nylon.

Ballistic nylon is the more visually interesting of the two options, for certain. The look is industrial, but there is a certain business-like appeal to it. Buyers wanting a red Droid Turbo will have to go with the metalized fiber composite finish, however, as ballistic nylon is only offered in black.

Beyond the use of premium materials, other factors make for a phone that is as rugged as its looks suggest. The screen uses the latest Gorilla Glass spec for resistance to scratches and cracks. A nano-coating seals the Turbo from the inside out against water damage. It is important to note, however, that the Turbo is only water-repellent, not waterproof.


While the design of the Droid Turbo doesn’t quite mirror the likes of the Moto X and Nexus 6, its internal hardware does borrow quite a bit from those handsets. The Turbo could almost be seen as a compromise between the two; it features the top-tier specs of the Nexus 6 in a form factor that matches the Moto X (for those that find the N6 a little too large). There are still some key differences that make such a comparison a little more tricky (including software, which we will touch on later).



The Droid Turbo features a 5.2-inch AMOLED display, much like the Moto X, but in the Turbo’s case it has been upped to Quad HD resolution. That’s 1440 x 2560 at a pixel density of 565 ppi. It is capable of reproducing some truly great high-resolution content, from video to gaming and beyond. It did no disappoint in this department. Viewing angles were solid and it performed well in most lighting conditions.

The display is a bit on the dim side of things even with brightness set to full blast, and the colors can come off as a bit muted in many cases. They lack a certain vibrancy or pop. This is a mere AMOLED display, after all, not Super AMOLED. That could be a good or bad thing depending on your views on the way Super AMOLED displays (particularly in Samsung devices) tend to artificially enhance the color profile of images, video, and graphics. Perhaps our own views have been tainted by the often excessively bright and colorful displays of recent flagship phones.

Is the Droid Turbo’s display the best we have ever seen on a smartphone or even the best Quad HD display we have seen in recent months? No, but it milks every bit of resolution it can. This display produces crisp and clean imagery, if a bit underwhelming.

Processing Power

One of only a few handsets on the market to feature Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 805 SoC, the Droid Turbo features 2.7GHz quad-core processing and Adreno 420 graphics (600MHz GPU). Combined with 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM with 64-bit support and the Motorola Computing System and its Natural Language Processor and Contextual Computing Processor, we have the makings for a handset that truly lives up to its name.

The heavyweight processing compliment is why it is baffling that the Droid Turbo so often drops the ball when it comes to simple tasks. The Droid Turbo is zippy when it comes to booting up the device, going from lockscreen to homescreen, and navigating system menus. It has no problem tearing through intensive hi-def video or desktop-grade graphics. It’s the small but important things like camera shutter speed, where quite a bit of lag is present, and an overall lack of smoothness when loading apps and handling animations.


The Turbo quite often just feels a bit weighed down in terms of software, something that could be improved in future updates (particularly with Lollipop) and a point we don’t think should detract too much from the overall experience. It’s still on par with or better than the other flagship devices out there when it comes to performance, and it lays the smack down in benchmark tests (take those results as you will). With a name like Droid Turbo, perhaps we were just hoping for a little more.



Power users have always been a key demographic for Verizon’s Droid line, and power users demand more than a measly 16GB of internal storage. Hence, the Droid Turbo in its smallest storage configuration offers 32GB of memory to work with. The fully decked-out 64GB model (ballistic nylon-only) takes it to the next level for a reasonable $50 up charge.

The Droid Turbo does not include microSD support for expandable, portable storage. Users wishing to get more storage plus data portability will have to rely on a cloud service (Verizon provides 5GB via Verizon Cloud free of charge, other options include Dropbox and Google Drive)

Connectivity and Calling

The Droid Turbo is well-rounded when it comes to connectivity, offering everything from Bluetooth 4.0 LE to 802.11a/g/b/n/ac dual-band WiFi. Where it really excels is cellular connectivity, where it sports LTE Cat 4 (Bands 2, 3, 4, 7, 13) and support for Verizon’s next-gen XLTE 4G network Technology within XLTE-compatible phones theoretically allows up to double the bandwidth speed by allowing simultaneous access to Verizon’s 700MHz and AWS spectrums in XLTE-ready cities. Even for those not able to take advantage of XLTE speeds will benefit from carrier aggregation for better connectivity and increased bandwidth.

While the Turbo can simultaneously access multiple LTE networks, it cannot perform another trick that has only recently started to become common on Verizon handsets: simultaneous voice and data. Out of the box, users won’t be able to do both over the cellular network concurrently, but as Verizon rolls out its VoLTE (voice over LTE) features through the end of the year, the feature is expected to extend to the Droid Turbo via an update.

Four microphones positioned around the Turbo aid in improving voice call quality while cutting down on background noise. The CrystalTalk technology developed by Motorola also benefits the device when it comes to voice commands via Google Now and Moto Voice.



As has become standard in the post-Google acquisition Motorola (and transition to Lenovo ownership), Motorola again skews toward stock Android for the Droid Turbo. With the exception of a few app-based enhancements, wide-ranging Moto Voice integration, and Moto Display, the software is pure Android 4.4.4 KitKat out of the box. Users can take advantage of standard Android features like multitasking, actionable notifications, Google Now support, and Google’s suite of mobile apps including Gmail, Maps, Hangouts, and more.

Motorola is promising a timely upgrade to the newly launched Android 5.0 Lollipop update and is already hard at work with both Google and Verizon to make this happen. Their experience with the Lollipop flagship Nexus 6 and the similarities between that phone and the Turbo mean that the update process should be swift; Verizon might be the only roadblock in making this happen as quick as users would prefer.

Moto apps

The look and feel of the Droid Turbo’s software is pure Android and instantly familiar to anyone who has used an Android phone in the past, but Motorola has managed to pack in some pretty nice additional features. The execution is clean, avoiding the software bloat typically associated with manufacturer and carrier features. Enhancements like Moto Actions, Moto Display, and Moto Voice integrate seamlessly without detracting from the hard work Google has done in building a polished Android interface.


Motorola’s experiences are mostly housed in a single “Moto” app. This app acts as a settings pane and interface for controlling and tweaking the way Motorola’s system-wise enhancements work.

Motorola was the first manufacturer to enable anytime, anywhere voice controls (even with the display off), and it is only improved with the Droid Turbo and Moto Voice. Users can set a custom launch phrase and there is an expanded set of commands as well as app integration. Speak the launch phrase plus “What’s up?” to have the phone read a list of recent notifications. “Post to Facebook” can be used to update your status hands-free.

Moto Actions and Moto Display go hand-in-hand. Moto Display provides at a glance info including notifications and the time using a power-friendly display mode. Your screen lights up as notifications come in to give you a quick glance. Paired with Moto Actions, infrared sensors in the front of the Droid Turbo will sense when you are reaching for your phone and automatically flash Moto Display. While this feature is neat and will be nice for some, it can quickly turn annoying, lighting up your display with even the slightest movement of your hand or the phone itself. Moto Display is nice to quickly view and interact with interactions, but Moto Actions took it a bit overboard. Other Moto Actions, like the ability to wave your hand over the Droid Turbo to silence incoming calls or an alarm, were more useful.

A separate app, Moto Assist allows your phone to use contextual information like location and time to automatically adjust your device settings. It can silence your phone during meetings based on your Google Calendar data, speak your incoming calls and texts to you while you are driving, or make sure you don’t miss an important call at night while still allowing you to get some shuteye. Moto Assist doesn’t have the widest range of usage, but for the situations it is built for it really comes in handy.

Click here for more on setting up your Droid Turbo software.

Droid Zap


Droid Zap allows Droid Turbo users to quickly send photos and videos to other Android owners by simply swiping their display. With the flick of a finger, this is about as easy as it gets when it comes to transferring media files. The service is available in a limited form for all Android devices, but Droid owners get certain enhancements like Zap Zone.

Zap Zone creates temporary, location-based photo sharing. Set up a Zap Zone at a party, invite some friends, and all can share to and view pictures from the joint photo stream. Zap to TV lets you quickly share content to any TV utilizing Google’s Chromecast.


A 21MP camera gives the Droid Turbo one of the most competent imaging sensors found on a smartphone. At full resolution (4:3 aspect ratio) its photos feature a 3936 x 5248 resolution. While it’s debatable whether or not more megapixels always means better photos, one benefit is certain: if you don’t frame the shot perfectly the first time, the high resolution means you can crop and zoom quite extensively without sacrificing image quality. In addition, the camera can be switched to a 16:9 aspect ratio at 15.5MP to create a different look while still producing photos of a high resolution (2952 x 5248).

As with most smartphone cameras, low light situations were not the Turbo’s strong suit, but the shooter was an overall solid performer. The camera in many ways is on par with the 2014 edition of the Moto X and is more than capable given proper lighting (a dual LED flash helps when this isn’t the case). Check out some samples below.

droid-turbo-camera-sample-1 droid-turbo-camera-sample-2 droid-turbo-camera-sample-3 droid-turbo-camera-sample-4

Shooting modes include burst mode, auto HDR, and panorama. When shooting video, the Turbo offers 4K at 24fps and 1080p at 30fps. The resolution numbers sound fancy, but as we have seen with previous 4K smartphones, we still have quite a way to go to equal the rich cinematography of true 4K Ultra HD cameras.



Motorola has made a pretty big effort to give the Droid Turbo best-in-class battery life, promising up to 48 hours of use on a single charge of its 3900mAh battery. In our real world tests this wasn’t quite the case, but as always mileage will vary depending on usage.

See the results of our Droid Turbo battery tests

With light use (a little web browsing, checking email, sending messages, perhaps a bit of gaming and media streaming) it is feasible that the Turbo could hit the 48 hour mark. It certainly has standby time for days beyond that, even. But the Turbo is a device built for power users, and power users will certainly be capable of draining the charge on the Turbo dry well ahead of that all important two day estimate.

Manufacturers will always want to promote their best case scenario when it comes to battery life, but we find it is better to speak in more conservative figures. 24 hours of use on a single charge might be a better approximation of battery life, but many users still won’t be able to stretch it that far. But let’s be real: if we can go from sunrise to sunset without having to seek out a charger, that’s a real win. Unless you are traveling off-grid and the Droid Turbo is your only connection to the civilized world, you’ll be fine if your smartphone doesn’t clock 48 hours of up time.

Turbo Charge

Here’s the insane thing: if for whatever reason the Droid Turbo’s 3900mAh battery can’t get you through a whole day without hitting the charger, built-in Turbo Charge technology (using the included Turbo Charger wall charger) will get you up to an additional 8 hours of battery life after only 15 minutes of charging. Think about that. 15 minutes will get you enough charge to make it through a full work day.

The Droid Turbo’s battery is really quite impressive anyway you look at it. Sure, it might not achieve its advertised longevity but any shortcomings in battery life are more than compensated for by the presence of Turbo Charge.



We’ve heard quite a few comparisons when it comes to the Droid Turbo. Some will say it’s a smaller version of the Nexus 6. Others have called it a beefed up Moto X. While neither totally captures the essence of the Turbo, neither is that far off from the truth. We also understand the Droid brand doesn’t hold quite the same level of prestige as it once did. While the past few years have brought us some solid Droid devices, its easy to overlook them in a marketplace that doesn’t always look kindly on carrier-exclusive smartphones.

That is to say, do not overlook the Droid Turbo. The Droid Turbo is just about everything you could ask for in an Android smartphone and more. From its solid and durable build hitting the sweet spot in terms of size to its powerful hardware and massive battery, Motorola has addressed some major customer concerns without sacrifice.

The Droid Turbo is very much a phone that would justify switching from another carrier to Verizon. For Verizon customers looking for their next handset, this one should be at the top of your list.

The Good

  • Solid build quality with industrial design
  • Great battery life (if not 48 hours) with Turbo Charge technology
  • Software experience adds features without feeling overwhelming

The Bad

  • Display is good but doesn’t “wow”
  • Some noticeable software lag despite ample processing power

Overall: 4/5

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7 things I hate about Android Wear Thu, 06 Nov 2014 23:08:49 +0000 Mad Wear

Android Wear has already improved a lot since it was first announced. There is still a lot of room for improvement. Now that the hype and excitement has worn off I can look at my smartwatch more critically. I like Android Wear a lot, but it’s far from perfect. There are several things that really annoy me when I’m using my Android Wear device. Here are 7 things I hate the most about Android Wear.

1. Card/Notification Management

LG G Watch Android Wear DSC06106

The biggest thing I hate about Android Wear is card management. Cards can be notifications from your phone, Google Now cards, or prompts from Wear apps. No matter where the card comes from interacting with them is the same. Swipe from the left to remove it, or swipe from the right to get more options. It’s a rudimentary system that desperately needs more.

Can’t Undo – If you accidentally remove a card there is nothing you can do. It’s gone forever. Sayonara. That’s a major problem. Swiping away cards in the Google Now phone app has had a solution for this problem for a while. A simple toast notification pops up and asks if you want to “undo” removing a card. Android Wear needs something similar.


Viewing Old Cards – Seeing old cards/notifications would also be nice. For example, when using your phone you can open Hangouts to reference an old text message. I should be able to do the same on my watch. It would be nice if there was a sort of “notification center” that showed a history of dismissed notifications.

Card Order – As it is now, the stream of cards is pretty much decided by Google. Most of the time it’s not an issue, but there are certain occasions where I want the control. I wish I could pin certain cards to the top of the stream, or send other cards to the bottom. There are also times where I would like to remove a card from my watch, but keep the notification on my phone.

Cards and notifications management needs to get a lot better.

2. Card “Peek” Size is Inconsistent

One little thing that annoys me is the inconsistent size of cards in their “peek” state. This is what you see when a card is sticking up over the top of your watch face. On some watch faces the card is small and discreet, but on others it takes up half of the display. The  latest Android Wear update made the situation even worse, as you can see in my Google+ post above.

I would love to be able to choose what size is used. Right now it’s determined by the watch face you use, but I think it should be a universal setting in the Android Wear companion app. The best solution right now is to choose “None” in the “Card preview” settings.

3. Launching Apps

lg g watch moto 360 apps_5

This one is tricky. I can recognize that launching apps without your voice is a pain, but I don’t think the current 3rd-party “launchers” are the answer. A launcher just doesn’t feel right on a watch. But still, the process for launching apps needs to be better. It can even be difficult to use your voice if the app you’re trying to open has a strange name (such as IFTTT). What’s the answer to the problem? I’m not sure. I’d like to see more functionality from the hardware button the Moto 360. Maybe a double-click goes straight to the app list?

4. Built-in speaker

wear answers

Speaking of talking to your watch, one thing I really miss is the ability to hear answers aloud. When you perform a voice search with Google Now on a phone you usually get a nice spoken reply. Android Wear devices don’t do this. Granted, this is not so much a problem of the software as it is the hardware, but we haven’t seen any manufacturers add speakers. I’m wondering if that is due to a limitation set by Google or a product of trying to make tiny devices. It would be nice to have the option to hear responses.

5. Can’t Choose Default Messaging Apps

360 defaul apps

The Android Wear companion app allows users to choose default apps for navigation, playing music, setting a timer, taking notes, and much more. One thing that is missing is the ability to choose a default app for sending messages. If you want to send a text message you are stuck with using Hangouts, and if you want to send an email you have even fewer options.

Android allows users to choose a default SMS app, and it uses that app when you use Google Now to send a text with your voice. Why can’t Android Wear do the same thing?

6. Muting Google Maps Navigation mutes it forever


One of the coolest features of an Android Wear device is getting Google Maps navigation instructions right on your wrist. The device will vibrate your list every time a new direction comes up, and you can still hear instructions from your phone if you wish. It’s really cool. However, a few weeks ago I found a really annoying bug.

I was using the awesome Google Navigation instructions on my watch when I decided to pull over to stop for food at McDonald’s. As I’m walking into the building my phone continues to shout at me to make a left turn. I tap the “mute” button from my watch expecting it to silence the navigation until I’m ready to drive again. Little did I know that I was actually adding it to the list of apps that can’t send notifications to the watch. This was very confusing to me when Navigation suddenly stopped appearing on my watch.

7. Content Gets Cut Off on Round Display

wear cut off

When Google announced Android Wear they were very proud that it could work on both square and round displays. It does indeed work on both shapes, but the experience is not the same. I assumed that Android Wear would show content slightly differently to accommodate for less screen real estate on round displays. I was wrong. Some content gets cut off by the round shape of the Moto 360 display. If Google wants OEMs to continue making round displays they need to make the software adjust accordingly.


Overall the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to Android Wear. I’m very happy with my experience, but it would be even better if these things were fixed. What things do you hate about Android Wear? Do you agree with the list I’ve made? Let me know below if these things annoy you too, and share your other complaints about Android Wear as well. Google, are you listening?


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