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    Why Google's Android TV Might Succeed Where Google TV Failed

    Google has built Android into the dominant platform for smartphones and tablets, but other markets have proven more elusive -- none more so than the living room. Google has made multiple attempts to get on the biggest screen in your house, learning a bit more from each try. The just-announced Android TV platform is the culmination of all that success and failure (mostly failure). If Mountain View did things right, it will avoid the missteps of Google TV and leverage the strengths of Chromecast, but the future is still uncertain, and Google has a lot to prove.

    A History of Failure

    Google's first real swing at the living room was Google TV, which was announced way back in 2010 as a Honeycomb-based platform for set-top boxes and smart TVs. There were issues right from the start, due largely to the incomplete state of the software. Google chose to launch the first wave of devices (from OEMs like Logitech and Sony) without the Play Store (still Android Market in those days). Instead, Google TV relied on the browser and a few built-in apps like Netflix.

    The embedded GTV browser was supposed to simply allow users to stream content from Hulu and other streaming platforms, but it turns out content owners didn't much care for that idea. The Google TV user agent was quickly blacklisted by virtually every streaming provider and network. Google should have seen that coming -- these services wanted to sell people premium services for TV streaming. It took almost a year after launch for the Android Market update to come along, but the software was still based on the archaic Honeycomb release of Android, and performance was severely lacking. A later update to Ice Cream Sandwich did nothing to salvage Google's living room hopes.

    Testing: OnePlus One Android Smartphone

    We just posted our OnePlus One phone review, and I wanted to distill some of those thoughts in a post for anyone searching on Google or looking to find more information about the phone. As I said in the video, this is one of the best Android phones I've ever used. It's faster than the HTC One M8 and costs less off-contract than even Google's Nexus 5. And as of today, I'm still using it as my primary phone, as the benefits of its awesome battery life outweighs the disadvantages of its massive size.

    Aside from its price, here are some of my positive take-aways from testing the OnePlus One.

    1080p is lovely for a 5.5-inch screen. I've seen the LG G3 in person, and couldn't tell the difference between icons, text, and photos on that high-density screen and the images on my 5-inch 1080p Nexus 5. Only 1400p video was noticeably better. The OnePlus One also has a 5.5-inch screen, but 1080p suits it just fine. In a blind test (covering up the bezels), text and photos on OnePlus looked indistinguishable from those on the Nexus 5, reinforcing my opinion 1080p is an optimal resolution for smartphones.

    The camera is top-notch. One of the reason's I'm sticking with the OnePlus over the Nexus 5. It has a smartphone camera that I actually want to use on a regular basis. I haven't felt that way about a smartphone camera since switching over to Android from the iPhone 5. The 13MP Sony camera takes great HDR photos in good light conditions. Low light photos tax the shutter, and photos can get blown out if shooting toward the light source. I'm just a little bummed by the heavy JPEG compression, and am looking forward to Android L's RAW support. Also, shooting 4K video actually makes sense on this phone because I can pipe it directly to YouTube, which supports 4K video playback. (These still aren't clips I'm going to sync back to my desktop to edit.)

    Battery life is unbelievably great. The big win for OnePlus. The OnePlus One is the first phone I've used that I haven't been able to fully drain in a day without forcing it. Outside of a video playback test where I was streaming a high-def video over a cellular connection, the OnePlus has never gone below 25% battery in any day I've used it. I'm a pretty heavily phone user, and use several milestones throughout the day to gauge battery depletion--when I get to the office, noon, early afternoon, and leaving work. With my use, the battery on other phones typically dip below 70% by noon, but it takes until 3pm or so to get to that point on the OnePlus. It's been consistently above 35% by the time I reach home at around 7:30pm.

    Tested In-Depth: OnePlus One Android Smartphone

    We test the new high-end Android smartphone from OnePlus that's unique because it comes with Cyanogen built-in, and only costs $300 off-contract. And with a 5.5-inch screen, it's also one of the largest phones we've used. Here's what you need to know about the OnePlus One if you're vying for an invite for buy it.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (June 2014)

    We're in the thick of new phone season right now, which makes it a particularly perilous time to buy anything at all. Whether you're signing on for a two-year ride or doing a payment plan, it's a big commitment, and you don't want to regret it. Just like we do every month, we're going to go over the best devices on each of the big four US carriers and see what you should do.

    The Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 are hitting their stride, but there's new reason to consider a device like the Nexus 5. And what about that LG G3? Let's dig in.

    Photo credit: Flickr user punk17er via Creative Commons.


    Ma Bell is keeping things comparatively easy for us by dragging its feet announcing new devices. We know the G3 is coming to AT&T, but there are no pre-orders yet. That takes it out of the running for our purposes. That leaves us with the continued struggle between the HTC One M8 and the Samsung Galaxy S5. Both are excellent phones -- there's no doubt many people will be perfectly happy with each of them for different reasons. At this point, I think we need to identify the strong points so you know which one works for you.

    Let's start with the Galaxy S5, but first some specs. The Galaxy S5 comes with a Snapdragon 801 processor clocked to 2.5GHz, 2800mAh battery, 2GB of RAM, and a killer 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen. I think the screen in particular is great and fixes many of the long-standing issues with AMOLED tech. The whites are whiter and the colors are more accurate, but still vibrant.

    Around back is another of the Galaxy S5's selling points -- a 16MP camera that takes some of the best images I've ever seen come out of a phone. It has live HDR capture, 4K video recording, and nails the exposure almost every time in good light. It could be better in dim indoor light, but it is otherwise top of class. The thin plastic shell making up the rest of the back is less great, but maybe you can forgive that.

    The Samsung Galaxy S5 is IP67 water and dust resistant so you'll notice less flex in the overall design than some past Samsung devices. It's still a plastic Samsung phone, but it's definitely more solid. It can technically withstand 30 minutes in one meter of water, but I wouldn't put that to the test.

    On the software side of things, Samsung is currently rocking Android 4.4.2 with TouchWiz on the Galaxy S5. That's close enough to the current Nexus build that it's probably safe to say it's up to date. TouchWiz on the GS5 is not ideal, but it's greatly improved compared to some past devices. The colors are more cohesive and most of the stock apps are usable. There's still plenty of carrier bloatware to be killed, though. Features like Ultra Power Saving Mode and Private Mode are cool innovations that make this device more desirable.

    The Galaxy S5 is sure to fall behind in the software department later this year when Android L comes out, but Samsung has been doing a fairly good job getting updates out the door. This device is $200 on contract from AT&T.

    Google Play App Roundup: Cyanogen Gallery, 99 Bricks Wizard Academy, and Blek

    It's time to make your phone better not through hard work and determination, but by installing some apps. That's a lot easier. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we find the best new and newly updated stuff on Android. Hit the links to open the Play Store.

    This week we've got a new gallery app, the anti-Tetris, and a game all about lines.

    Cyanogen Gallery

    Usually apps that start with "Cyanogen" have to do with installing a custom ROM, but not so with the new Cyanogen Gallery app. Well, it's not entirely new. This app was first posted when the OnePlus One began shipping and was exclusive to that phone, but it was recently expanded to all Android devices running 4.2 or higher. Considering some devices don't even have the stock Gallery app included anymore, this could be a worthy replacement.

    The layout of the Cyanogen Gallery app is nothing groundbreaking -- the slide-out nav bar on the left gives you access to an album view, all media, and moments. The moments view is essentially a cleaned up month-by-month layout, which is what the app defaults to. Moments also get split up by location, if you have geotags on your images. Below the view modes are your services, but that's a little misleading. After installing the app you have "internal" in that list, but you can also add cloud services like Google+, Facebook, and Dropbox.

    Once you've dropped more sources into Cyanogen Gallery, you can choose between them, then set your view. it's a nice way to handle your images if you've got a lot of duplicates on various services (ex. if you're using an auto-backup tool). When you open any of the photo groups (however you've decided to sort them) there will be a slideshow button up at the top, which is a nice touch. There's also Chromecast support backed into the app for throwing your images up on a bigger screen.

    Cyanogen Gallery seems to perform very well, even with big files. The cloud images take a moment to populate in the thumbnail view, but the full resolution version loads quickly when you tap. The only thing I'm really missing is a built-in image editor. A lot of gallery apps have some simple tools to crop or brighten a picture, but Cyanogen Gallery directs you to other installed apps when you choose Edit from the menu.

    Overall this is a solid replacement for the stock gallery app on most devices. I'm not sure it will become my go-to, but it's worth checking out.

    In Brief: Early Android L Battery Life Testing

    Ars Technica's battery test of Google's Android L developer preview release is getting a lot of traction in the Android community today, and for good reason. Using the same battery test run on new phones for his reviews, Ron Amadeo was able to squeeze 36% more battery life on a Nexus 5, compared with a fresh 4.4.4 KitKat install. That amounted to about two more hours of runtime, with the screen on, and constantly loading webpages over Wi-Fi. This was also done without enabling Android L's performance throttling battery saver feature, which switches the phone to a low power mode at 15% battery. While I trust Ron's testing, this kind of bump shouldn't be expected across all Android phones--the Nexus 5 used isn't exactly representative of a phone running all the background processes users need for everyday use, and the Nexus 5 is notable for its low battery capacity. Nevertheless, this first battery test is a good sign of the Project Volta initiative in Android L.

    Tested: Google Camera vs. Best Android Camera Apps

    So you've picked up a spiffy new Android phone, but the camera interface isn't to your liking. Even if you don't have any strong feelings either way, you may still wonder if there isn't something better out there. The Play Store has plenty to choose from, but most aren't doing anything particularly impressive. A few might be worth your time, though, and of course Google has thrown its hat into the ring recently with a stand-alone photography app. Let's see how the Google Camera app stacks up against the best third-party camera options.

    Photo credit: Flickr user janitors via Creative Commons

    Google Camera

    If you have a Nexus or Google Play Edition device, this is the stock camera app. For everyone else, it's an alternative downloaded from the Play Store. It's a complete redesign of the old default app from AOSP that fixes many of the issues people have been complaining about in the camera UI for years.

    This is by no means a unique feature among your camera options, but Google's camera app finally shows the full sensor frame. Previously, it would crop the top and bottom of 4:3 images in the viewfinder, making it hard to frame the shot. It now gives you the option if you want to take wide or square shots (the crop depends on the device). This alone makes it a better app for Nexus users.

    Some of the "advanced" features we used to see in the stock camera are gone with this new version, which might make it a deal breaker for some people. There's no timer mode, no white balance, and no color control. The user base for these features is probably smaller than the complaints online would make you think, and you DO still have manual exposure control. The rest of the features will probably trickle back in over time.

    Everything You Need to Know about Android L

    Android has had the same basic aesthetic since Ice Cream Sandwich debuted two and a half years ago. Sure, the colors and layouts have changed a bit, but Holo has been alive and well all this time. KitKat showed the first break from that design when it was announced last year, but Android L is going to be the start of a new era for Android.

    This is the biggest update to the platform since at least 2.0, but the more I see of Android L, the more I think this could be the biggest thing to ever happen to Android. As an Android user there are a few things you need to know about L, so let's dig in.

    Android is about to get pretty

    The design of Android 4.4 was fine, but take the Google Now Launcher out of the equation, and it was very much the same as Jelly Bean with a few color tweaks. Android L (we don't have a name or version number yet) has officially ditched Holo as the interface design language in favor of Material Design.

    The best way to think about Material Design is that it's about layering UI elements while still keeping the design flat and "natively digital." The new Android SDK will allow developers to set an elevation value for different UI elements and have the OS render subtle shadows on the edges to make it look like some parts of an app are floating just above others. The new post button in the updated Google+ app is an example of this technique.

    Google is also doing an about-face on the subject of colors in Android. Material Design on Android L will stress bright colors and eye-catching design. The revamped Calculator and Dialer apps were included in the developer preview of L as an example of what's to come, and they really stand out. It is going to be a little jarring with apps using so many reds, blues, greens, and even some pink. It doesn't makes a lot of sense until you begin to explore Material Design apps and see how the use of bold colors can make even basic apps feel interesting in a way Holo never could.

    The key to Android L's new look and feel will be the way Material Design handles animations. Throughout the system UI, the use of animations for touch interaction is so much more immediate than in older versions. Nothing simply refreshes in a changed state with Material Design -- even buttons and checkboxes have animations attached to them when they are tapped. Some of this feels a bit like Android's design head Matias Duarte is reaching back to his Palm days to bring some webOS flair to Android.

    Google Play App Roundup: Udacity, Wave Wave, and Eliss Infinity

    Google I/O is over for this year, so it's back to the usual Android concerns for the time being, like finding the best new apps. You wouldn't want to miss anything, which is why the Google Play App Roundup exists. This is where you can find the best in new Android apps and games. Hit the links to load up the Play Store directly.

    This week there's a new way to learn to code, a game that you will love/hate, and an abstract puzzler.


    The Android version of Udacity has been a long time coming. The freemium technology education service has a website that anyone can use, but having access to course materials on the go is a big part of actually getting through it all. Udacity on Android offers courses like Intro to Java, Applied Cryptography, and Android development (which is fitting). Best of all, you can take any course for free.

    The app is laid out as a series of scrollable rows in each course category. There are a few dozen courses with more being added on a regular basis. Oddly, there isn't a search function that I could find, but there isn't enough content that it's a must-have, I suppose. You'll have to create a free Udacity account (which can be done entirely in the app) to add a course to your roster. You can always access that with the button in the upper right corner.

    This is the first release of Udacity on Android, and the developers have said up front that there are a few features missing that will be added in short order. For example, the videos that make up the courses are only available when you have an internet connection. Offline caching will be added soon, though. Some of the lessons also consist of quizzes about what you've learned about in the video lessons up to that point. This is another feature not currently working on Android. If you want to do the quizzes,. you'll need to use a browser. Although, the programming courses require the use of desktop software anyway. It's not the end of the world, and the devs are planning to clean this stuff up.

    The videos themselves are well-made with plenty of examples and almost excessively gentle instructors with disembodied hands. The basic courses won't take more than an hour or so to get through if you're just watching the videos. It's a lot more when you incorporate the projects associated with each course. The advanced classes contain several months of coursework.

    You can do all of this for free, but if you need one-on-one help from instructors, in-depth reviews of your work, or a certificate at the end of your training, you have to pay the subscription fee. Most of the intro courses don't have this option, but the more valuable advanced ones do, and it's a bit spendy. Many of them are $150 per month and are expected to take 2-3 months to complete.

    Despite a few missing features, Udacity looks like a cool way to learn a new skill on your Android device. I like that all the classes are available for free, and focusing on this one area of education ensures a high quality experience.

    Tested In-Depth: Pebble Steel Smart Watch

    What's the point of a smart watch, and how does it complement your use of a smartphone? That's what we wanted to figure out in our testing of the Pebble Steel. Will and Norm both use the Pebble for a month and discuss how it changes the way they regularly interact with their iOS and Android phones.

    How To Shop for a New 2014 Android Phone

    There are plenty of Android devices out there to choose from, and it's easy to make general statements about which ones are the "best." This is something we try to do each month, in fact. However, when you're buying a new phone this year, it's worth taking a look at the state of the industry as a whole and consider what's important to you. How important are the internals? What about OS updates? Are there must-have hardware features on today's Android phones?

    Let's dive in and check up on the state of Android in 2014 so you'll know what to look for in a new device.

    The Guts That Matter

    OEMs are fond of saying how many CPU cores a device has and how fast they are, but this is not the aspect you should be looking at when considering ARM chips. The model number tells you much more about what a processor is capable of, and you might have to dig a little to see which one it is.

    Qualcomm is dominant in the mobile device sphere currently, and the Snapdragon 801 is the top-of-the-line for the moment (805 is still in its infancy). It's not that it's much faster in absolute terms than the Snapdragon 800, which is still shipping in a great number of high-end devices. The big improvements in 801 come in the form of additional power-saving features, which is what allows devices like the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5 to implement their super power saving modes. It's a slightly more efficient chip in general, but yes, it's also very fast.

    Google Play App Roundup: Reddit Offline, Warhammer 40k: Carnage, and Fluid SE

    It's time again to delve into the depths of Google Play in search of the best new apps and games to make your Android device better. It's the same thing we do every week in the Google Play App Roundup. Just hit the links to go right to the Play Store.

    This week we've got a new way to Reddit, a game for Warhammer fans, and a racing game with a twist.

    Reddit Offline

    Yet another Reddit app? Yes, but this one has a specific reason to exist. You can probably guess what Reddit Offline does from the name -- it downloads the sub-Reddits of your choice so you can browse without a network connection. This app can pull down comments, posts, and even images on a schedule so you can kill time even when you're offline.

    Reddit Offline is not a particularly attractive app, but it's not going to make your eyes bleed either. It's just a little stark and utilitarian. The app consists of a scrollable list of Reddit posts and a drop-down selector up at the top with your chosen subs. There is no account login to deal with. Instead, you simply pick your favorites sections of Reddit manually and add them to the queue.

    Up at the top of the app is a button to download the current sub immediately, but the list popup can be used to grab more than one at the same time. There's a handy little bar graph next to each sub in this list that shows you how much of it has been downloaded and read. The full list of posts for each sub will have all the comments self posts and images associated with them. The only thing you don't get is an offline version of a webpage link, which is less common on Reddit than you might think.

    The main settings also have options to control how much storage space is taken up with cached Reddit data. A single sub could eat up most of that limit if there are some big Imgur albums, so you can even choose how many images are pulled from large albums.

    There are other apps with some limited offline caching abilities, but Reddit Offline also includes a scheduling feature to download your preferred subs automatically in the background. For example, if you work in a building that acts like a faraday cage and lacks WiFi, you can have content pulled each morning before you're out the door.

    Reddit Offline is a cool app, and it's free without any ads whatsoever.

    Google Play App Roundup: 1Password, Kiwanuka, and Great Little War Game 2

    The Play Store waits for no man -- the flow of new apps and games does not abate, not even for a moment. How are you supposed to find anything with all that stuff to dig through? You don't have to, thanks to the Google Play App Roundup. This is where you can come to find out about the best new and newly updates stuff in Google Play. Hit the links to grab the apps.

    This week there's a new way to manage your passwords, a game about human towers, and a great little war game.


    If you're doing what you're supposed to with regard to passwords, they're supposed to be complicated. It helps to have something to help you remember all those logins, which is where 1Password comes in. It's a secure password database that you can access and sync across devices, and there's a new Android app that you can try for free until August 1st.

    This isn't the first 1Password app, actually. There was an older version, but it was incredibly out of date. Rather than try to fix that one, 1Password developed a new one from the ground up. Unlike Lastpass (the other big name in password management), 1Password gives you the option of managing your own password vault locally or on a private server (syncing is up to you). The keychain file is yours to do with as you like, but there is built-in support for Dropbox syncing.

    Despite the name, 1Password isn't only for passwords. You can use it to securely save text notes, credit card info, software licenses, and a ton more. You can add new entries in your database with the plus button in the action bar. The app can also be used to generate new passwords of varying lengths and strengths. The app requires your master password each time it's launched to unlock the keychain file, and it also prevents screenshots of the app's UI (hence the Play Store screenshots).

    You can tap on any of the passwords to see the full data set along with any notes, but the app also has a built-in browser to paste the passwords into fields automatically. The browser is intentionally stripped down and keeps no cache. That's not convenient if you happen across a website that needs a login with your regular browser, but 1Password can be used to copy the password to the clipboard (with auto-clear) as well.

    How To Customize an Awesome Android Home Screen with Nova Launcher

    There are plenty of alternative launchers in the Play Store, most of which are based on the AOSP version of the stock Android launcher. Even Google is getting into the game with the Google Now Launcher, though it's only available for a few devices so far. So you're probably looking at one of the third-party options if you need to change things up on your device. More often than not, Nova Launcher will be the one you settle on. This launcher has an insane number of features and options, and the developer has just pushed some big updates.

    Let's dive deep into Nova and see if we can't create the perfect Android experience for the user who needs everything at hand, as well as those who like a more stripped down experience.

    Google Play App Roundup: PowerDirector, Hitman GO, and Prime World: Defenders

    It's time once again to peer in the depths of Google Play and see what there is to download. This is the weekly Google Play App Roundup, your source for the newest apps and games on Android. Just hit the links below to open the Play Store and try things for yourself.

    This week we've got a video editor optimized for tablets, a new take on stealth action, and a tower defense card game.


    Android has been seriously lacking in robust video editing apps for basically its entire history. Oh, Google took a swing at that with the problem with the release of Android 3.0 Honeycomb, but it didn't go well. Movie Studio was demoed a few times, saw a few updates, and was even preinstalled on devices up through Android 4.0.However, Google lost interest and canned the app in 2013. Now there's a new high-end video editing option on Android tablets, PowerDirector from CyberLink.

    PowerDirector can work with a variety of modern codecs including VP8, H.263/264, and MPEG-4. Basically almost any video you take or come across online should plug into PowerDirector just fine. It also handles images and audio in almost any format. Your content will be listed in the box on the upper left for addition to the timeline. Simply long-press and drag it where you want it.

    The PowerDirector interface is split up into three section, the first being the aforementioned content area. There are tabs that list all your videos, images, and audio. Then the next three tabs contain the built-in assortment of filters, text effects, and transitions. Toward the top right is the preview thumbnail, which is where you can see your creation simulated before output. It won't be as smooth as the final product if you've added a lot of effects and such, but it seems reasonably accurate.

    The bottom section of the app is where all the action happens. There are three segments of the timeline -- video, text, and audio. It only takes a few minutes to understand the gist of how PowerDirector works. Drag the video you want to work with into the video area and scrub around to see how it looks. If you need to chop it up, just use the button at the bottom to make cuts and drag the segments around or delete them as needed. You can also stretch or compress segments to change the time scale.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (May 2014)

    We've hit most of the high points for flagship phones in 2014 now, but some questions remain unanswered. What about the Moto X+1, and is the LG G3 going to be any good when it finally hits shelves? Well, in lieu of answers, the best we can do is help you find the best phone available for purchase right now on the big four US carriers. Samsung and HTC continue to duke it out, but there are a few wild cards that might also grab your attention.


    AT&T isn't particularly kind to modders and software developers who want unlocked bootloaders, but Ma Bell does have a nice selection of Android phones, plus compatibility for more if you're willing to go outside the official lineup of phones. Starting in house, we've still got the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8, but there are a few new considerations.

    The Galaxy S5 packs some of the best hardware you'll find in a modern smartphone including a Snapdragon 801 processor clocked to 2.5GHz, 2800mAh, 2GB of RAM, and a lovely 5.1-inch Super AMOLED screen. I don't consider myself unduly fond of AMOLEDs, but this is a fantastic display. The colors are bright, but not too saturated and the whites are actually pretty close to white. It also has a killer 16MP camera.

    Samsung's flagship device doesn't radically change the design aesthetic, but it's more solid than past devices from the Korean OEM. The GS5 is made of plastic, but the device has a strong mid-frame that most of the components are mounted to. This helps with the water resistant aspect of the device. It's IP67 rated, which means it can be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

    Circling around the the software, Samsung has done a lot to make the GS5 better. It's running Android 4.4.2 right now, which is still the current Nexus build. The TouchWiz UI layer is actually almost completely inoffensive now. I'm not a fan of the insistence on hiding the status bar in most of the stock apps, but the color palette and overall design language is much more mature. It also seems more than fast enough, and hasn't slowed down for me in the last month or so. Sadly, you don't get download booster mode on the AT&T variant.

    At $199 on contract it's a solid purchase, but you can, grab the newly announced Galaxy S5 Active. It's got the water and dust resistance credentials, but it also ruggedized and can withstand drops of four feet without trouble. It's also $199 on contact.

    Google Play App Roundup: Sunrise Calendar, Worms 3, and Nun Attack Origins: Yuki

    We're once again hanging over the abyss, ready to dive in and seek out the best new and newly updated content in the Google Play App Roundup. Just hit the links to head right to the Play Store to pick up these apps yourself.

    This week there's a new calendar in town, the Worms are back, and nuns attack.

    Sunrise Calendar

    One of main selling points of Android way back at the beginning was integration with Google's services, like Gmail, Maps, and of course, Calendar. The Calendar app has been tweaked over the years, but it's still very plain and doesn't lead when it comes to features. So a third-party alternative? There are some good ones, but top iOS app Sunrise Calendar has just come to town. Maybe it'll be your new Google replacement.

    If you've ever used Cal or Fantastical, there are some elements of Sunrise that will look familiar. The main screen is split into two parts -- the agenda view at the bottom and the calendar at the top. The top section only shows two weeks by default, but expands to four when you scroll. You can also scroll through the bottom of the UI with the agenda to slip seamlessly between days. it also includes weather forecasts in the agenda.

    Sunrise has a cool way of helping you keep your bearings as you swipe and scroll around. Navigate away from the current time in the agenda, and a small arrow button pops up in the corner. It rotates to point the way toward the here and now, essentially spinning to straight up and down if you go more than a few lines. At any time you can tap that arrow to get back to the present.

    The second screen in Sunrise Calendar is a more traditional 3-day agenda view. You can get to this screen by dragging to the right (or hit the view button in the action bar). You can slide around every which way here and that nifty arrow still appears to help you find your way back home.

    The overall design language is very clean and mature. The developers also went out of their way to adopt an Android vibe for this app -- it's not just a port of the iOS app. There are some card views in the event details screen and it makes proper use of expandable notifications with action buttons. Additionally, there's a widget, and it's really good. Sunrise works great with Google Calendar, properly receiving invitations and pushing notifications, but there's also iCloud and Facebook support.

    The only pain point for me right now is an apparent lack of search functionality. Some people might have an issue with the lack of Exchange support as well. Otherwise, Sunrise Calendar is a fine addition to Android, and it's free.

    In Brief: Rise of the 1440p Smartphone

    LG has just announced the the G3 Android smartphone, their flagship for 2014. This comes less than a year after the August unveiling of their previous flagship, the G2--which Android fans will know as the basis for Google's awesome Nexus 5 phone. The G2, which sold below LG's expectations (at least when compared to rival Samsung's flagship Galaxy GS4), was given new life as the Nexus 5, though sold basically at cost. Though Google boasted Nexus 5 sales, it likely didn't do bonkers for LG's bottom line. I'd be surprised if LG is projecting the same path for the G3, though, which is one of the first phones to use a 2560x1440 display (on a 5.5" screen). That resolution and pixel density sounds ridiculous and will likely come at the cost of battery life (the G3 has the same 3000mAh battery as the G2), but I'm impressed that LG was able to fit that screen into a chassis that's not that much larger than the G2. They've done a good job at keeping their phone bezels thin. Anand has some early impressions of the G3, and good news for potential users is that it'll be coming to all four of the major US carriers this summer. Just don't expect it to cost $350 like the Nexus 5.

    Norman 3
    Google Play App Roundup: Peek, OTTTD, and Blazin' Aces

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

    This week a custom ROM feature comes to all devices, tower defense goes over-the-top, and the skies are not safe.


    It's not often that one of the headlining features of a popular ROM is ported in its entirety to unrooted devices, but that's exactly what just happened with the Peek feature from Paranoid Android. This is a way to manage your notifications without unlocking your device simply by picking it up. The feature comes to all Android 4.4 devices thanks to the hard work of original creator Jesús David Gulfo Agudelo and noted dev Francisco Franco.

    The basic gist of Peek is that when your phone gets a notification, you can pick it up and the screen will automatically turn on. The specialized display shows you a series of small icons representing your notifications with the most recent one on a larger slider. Just drag it to the left to dismiss, and to the left to unlock the device. tapping on the active icon will unlock the device to that notification.

    Keeping the sensors running to detect movement all the time would be messy and kill battery life. Peek gets around that by only activating the motion sensors when a new notification comes in. When that happens, you get about 10 seconds of wake time when you can scoop the device up and have the screen flip on. After that, it's back to deep sleep. I've been watching battery life since installing Peek, and so far there haven't been any unusual wakelock issues.

    The current settings are a bit limited. You can choose which apps will trigger Peek, and that's about it. The developers plan to add a lot more to it, including background options. Currently, you just see a blurred version of your desktop background, which does actually look rather nice. An all-black option might be better for devices with AMOLED screens. Likewise, I'd really like to see the option to have custom screen timeouts.

    Peek is not without its bugs right now. you'll want to reboot your device after installing, and that should take care of most of the issues. I find that it fails to initialize occasionally on the Nexus 5, but that's far from the norm. I suppose the best reason to go with this version of Peek and not one of the other apps built from the open source code is that it comes from the original developer and the app is sure to get a lot of attention from two well-known developers. It's $4 in the Play Store, but it is a neat way to make your phone more useful.