Posts Tagged android

Best Android apps for working from home in 2020

A lot of people are forced to work from home recently due to the Coronavirus outbreak and while working from home entirely might be a big change for many people and could also be a tough challenge to overcome.

Fortunately, you could make this process much simpler with the help of technology as there are so many useful Android apps available that have the potential to make the process of working from home easier and even more productive than working from an office environment.

Here are some of the best apps in different categories that you could make use of as you are working from home during this pandemic.

Best Android apps for working from home in 2020

Communication apps

Communication is the main thing for any kind of job and as you are working from home some of you might even need to be in constant communication with your co-workers or employees. Thankfully there are many apps out there with advanced features like video conferencing, image, video, and file sharing and even communicating with several people simultaneously by creating a group.

Skype

skype work from home

If your job primarily involves a lot of meetings or needs you to be in constant communication, then your best bet would be to use Skype. Skype supports both audio and video calls and works across all major platforms making it easy to stay in constant touch with your colleagues. Skype also has the option to share your screen, send messages and even share images, and documents.

Play Store Link: Skype – free IM & video calls

Whatsapp

With over 2 billion monthly users, almost everyone you know is using Whatsapp which makes it very easy to get in touch with anyone instantly and the app also comes with other features like free audio and video calls, sharing of files, and creating group chats. So, if you are working with people around the world and need a way to get instantly in touch with them then Whatsapp is a great way to do that.

Whatsapp working from home

Play Store Link: WhatsApp Messenger

Slack

The Slack messenger helps you to communicate and collaborate with your team members, work on different projects, share messages and files, and also to privately message or call anyone in the team. Slack also comes with an option to integrate your workflow with third-party applications like Google Drive, and Asana to better manage your projects and teams.

Slack working from home

Play Store Link: Slack

Zoom

Zoom is a popular video conferencing application and if your job requires you to host or join a lot of meetings, you can use the Zoom app to organize cloud meetings with your colleagues. You can also use Zoom to send messages, and share your screen with others. You can easily invite people to join a meeting even if they are not using Zoom as it is supported by all major platforms including Windows, Mac, and iOS.

Zoom working from home

Play Store Link: ZOOM Cloud Meetings

Note-taking apps

Using your smartphone to take notes is one of the most convenient ways to keep track of your daily activities and with the help of cloud-supported note apps, your notes would be synchronized across all your devices. Here are some of the popular note-taking apps for your Android device which also supports features like collaborative notes, cross-platform support, adding images, files, and more.

Evernote

Evernote is one of the most popular note-taking apps out there and it is available across all major platforms. The app helps you to organize your daily tasks, meeting minutes, your ideas and anything that’s on your mind with individual notebooks, categories, and tags. You can share your notes with anyone, create reminders and even add files, webpages, and images to them. The app also supports handwritten notes if you have a stylus or an S-pen.

Evernote

Play Store Link: Evernote – Notes Organizer & Daily Planner

OneNote

If you are an avid user of the Microsoft Suite of products, then you might find the OneNote app more useful as it integrates with MS Office apps like Word and Excel. The interface of the app is similar to the MS word application so you might already be familiar with the app, it also has features like allowing you to embed videos to your notes, use your voice or stylus to take notes and even save web pages to your notes.

OneNote

Play Store Link: Microsoft OneNote: Save Ideas and Organize Notes

Google Keep

Google Keep is for people who just want a simple and straightforward note-taking app to jot down their thoughts without any complications, create lists, and set reminders. The app also has a web interface making it easier to access it from any device. You can also organize your notes by giving them different colors, labels and saving them in separate folders to drastically increase your productivity and workflow.

Google Keep

Play Store Link: Google Keep – Notes and Lists

Cloud storage apps

Even though you are working from home you can still access all your important work-related files from anywhere, thanks to the cloud technology. No matter what cloud service provider you use, there is an Android app to help you to easily access, and edit your files from anywhere.

Google Drive

Google Drive is one of the most popular cloud storage apps available out there and with almost everyone having a Gmail account, it is easier to store and organize your files using the Google Drive app and share it with anyone you want. Google Drive comes with a default storage limit of 15GB which would be plenty to store and access your documents, spreadsheets, and other important files.

Google Drive

Play Store Link: Google Drive

Microsoft OneDrive

If you are a Windows user and you primarily use Microsoft Office products like Word, PowerPoint, or Excel to create and edit your files, then Microsoft OneDrive app would be the best option to store and manage your files. You can use the app to scan files, access them and share them with your colleagues. All your files stored in OneDrive are encrypted and Microsoft also offers Ransomware protection so you don’t have to worry about the safety and the privacy of your important files.

Microsoft OneDrive

Play Store Link: Microsoft OneDrive

To-do list and reminder apps

There might be a lot of distractions when you are working from home and a good to-do list and reminder app would help you to stay on track of your daily tasks and remind you to complete all your activities for the day.

TickTick

TickTick is a popular to-do list app for Android which also supports creating reminders, notes, and accessing your calendar. You can use the app to quickly create and manage tasks and reminders and also add notes to your tasks to help you organize your workflow and increase your productivity. The app syncs across all your devices helping you to easily manage your tasks and allows you to create recurring tasks to be reminded every day automatically.

TickTick

Play Store Link: TickTick: ToDo List Planner, Reminder & Calendar

Todoist

Todoist is another powerful to-do list and reminder application which also has a chrome extension allowing you to create and track your tasks and reminders from any device and stay on top of your day. You can also collaborate with others by assigning tasks to them from within the app. The app also has options to prioritize your tasks, integrate with Gmail, Slack, Alexa, and more.

Todoist

Play Store Link: Todoist: To-Do List, Tasks & Reminders

Productivity apps

Being as productive as possible while doing your work might be a difficult task, especially when you are working from home with so many distractions around. However, with the help of these unique productive apps, you can significantly increase your daily productivity and get more things done in less time.

Focus To-Do: Pomodoro Timer & To-Do List

The Pomodoro timer app uses the Pomodoro technique to help you to be more focussed and productive when you are working on a task. The technique is to break down your work into 25 minutes intervals separated by short breaks in between. You just need to start the timer and work on a task and after 25 minutes the timer will run out and your 3-5 minute break will start. This method has been scientifically proven to increase your productivity. The app also has options to create a to-do list and even whitelist your apps to stop yourself from getting distracted.

Focus To-Do: Pomodoro Timer & To-Do List

Play Store Link: Focus To-Do: Pomodoro Timer & To Do List

Forest

Forest is a unique application that helps you to focus on the task at hand instead of wasting time on your phone browsing social media or watching videos. The idea is to plant a virtual seed in the Forest app, and the seed will grow continuously into a tree as long as you are not using your phone, and will wither and die if you use it. This concept gives you a sense of responsibility and achievement and helps you to overcome your phone addiction. The pro version of the app plants trees in real life as well based on your achievements which is just an added bonus for being productive.

working from home Forest

Play Store Link: Forest: Stay focused

Office apps

One of the main things involved in lot of people’s works is creating and editing different types of documents including text, excel sheets, presentations or pdfs. Fortunately, the Android ecosystem offers powerful and feature-rich applications that would help you to achieve all this from your Android device.

Google Suite

The Google Suite of word processing applications includes Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and PDF viewer. You can perform all kinds of tasks like creating, editing, and sharing your documents using this suite of applications.  You can also collaborate with your team members and edit documents together and since all your documents are stored in the cloud, you can access and edit them from any of your devices.

working from home Google Suite

Play Store Link: Google Suite

Microsoft Office Suite

The Microsoft Office Suite has almost all the mobile versions of applications that you might find on a Windows machine including MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, and more. You can use this app to create and edit your documents, sign pdf files and share them with your colleagues and even scan physical documents and edit them as well. The app also allows you to export pdf files of your Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files and share them with anyone.

working from home Microsoft Office Suite

Play Store Link: Microsoft Office: Word, Excel, PowerPoint & More

White noise apps

White noise applications help you to focus and concentrate on your work by generating soothing and calming sounds like rain or a beach, especially you are working from a noisy environment.

Noizio

Noizio is a popular white noise application which helps you to focus on your work by generating various high-quality nature sounds like a waterfall in a forest, sound of the beach waves or rain during a thunderstorm. You can choose any sound you like from the list of options and there is also an automatic timer that will pause or stop the sounds after the set time.

working from home Noizio 

Play Store Link: Noizio — nature sounds for focus, relax or sleep

Noise Generator

Noise Generator is an advanced white noise generating application that has several options to create, customize and generate noise according to your preferences. Apart from white noises, the app also has options to select from brown, pink, blue, and violet noises and you can even combine them to create a unique combination that matches your taste. The app will help you to focus and improve your productivity at work by reducing all other outside distractions.

working from home Noise Generator

Play Store Link: Noise Generator

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11 new features added to Android 11 Developer Preview 2

Android 11 is the upcoming version of Google’s mobile OS and it is all set to officially launch this May. Google released the first developer preview of Android 11 a few weeks back for the developers and Android users to test it and give their feedback.

The second developer preview of Android 11 is now released and you can download and install it on all your Pixel smartphone, except for the first generation ones released back in 2016. Click here to download the relevant system image file for your Pixel device.

While the first developer preview of Android 11 included a few visual changes and interesting features like the native screen recorder, message bubbles, and improved permissions, this release of the developer preview focusses more on polishing the previous version and improving the overall privacy and security of the OS.

Here are the top 11 new features and changes that were added to the Android 11 developer preview.

11 new features added to Android 11 Developer Preview 2

Notification history

There is a new option added to the bottom left corner of the notification panel called ‘History’, which is the option to access the Notification history where all the notifications you have received on your device, including the ones you accidentally dismissed are saved.

The notifications are ordered according to the time you received them and you can also view which app sent the notification.

developer preview 2

Wireless debugging

Android developers while already had an option to wirelessly connect their Android device to a PC for debugging purpose, it was a bit complicated and most of them primarily used the USB debugging option.

Google has finally added a convenient way in the developer preview 2 of Android 11 to initiate an ADB connection using your Android device wirelessly to a PC. Developers will now be able to perform tasks like sideloading APKs and testing their apps on Android devices wirelessly making the whole process more convenient.

‘Requires eyes to be open’ option for Face unlock feature

Many users have reported that they are able to unlock their Pixel 4 devices using the Face unlock feature even with their eyes closed which was not how it was supposed to work and it raised several controversies and privacy concerns.

Google announced that it will be fixing this issue soon, and an option to Require your eyes to be open to unlock your phone has now been added in the Face unlock settings page in the Android 11 developer preview 2.

developer preview 2

Lockscreen customization options

A new option to customize how the clock is displayed on the lock screen has also appeared in the developer preview 2 of Android 11. While this option is already present in Android versions of other OEMs like Samsung’s One UI and OnePlus’s Oxygen OS, this is the first time this feature has made its way to the stock version of Android 11.

There are not many customization options available at the moment except the default one, however, more options could be added in the final stable release of Android 11.

developer preview 2

Redesigned wallpaper picker

The wallpaper picker in the Pixel line of devices has also been redesigned in this developer preview 2 to give a more polished and sleek look. The new design could be accessed by long pressing on the home screen and then selecting the ‘Styles and wallpaper’ option.

Basically the thumbnails of the wallpapers have been made larger and you can now swipe up to access wallpapers from different categories. The wallpaper picker page also has options to customize the accent colors and fonts of your device.

Android 11

Screen recorder UI

A native screen recorder option was added to the Developer Preview 1 of Android 11 and in this version, the feature also gets a UI added to it. The native screen recorder UI included a short warning informing the user that sensitive information like passwords and payment details could be recorded while using this feature, and also has options to record audio and show touches on the screen while recording.

Android 11

Separated notifications section

Another minor design change introduced in this developer preview 2 is that the different notification sections in the notification panel of your devices such as the conversations, alerts, and silent notifications are now separated with a clearly noticeable white space making it a bit easier to distinguish between them.

5G state API

This is more of a developer focussed feature where the developer would be able to determine whether a user of their app is on a 5G new radio or a non-standalone network. This would help them to provide better 5G experience to their users like improved speed and latency.

Call screening improvements

Google introduced the call screening feature back in 2018 with Pixel 3 and Android 9 which is a feature that allows your Google assistant to attend the call for you and asking questions on your behalf in an attempt to avoid spam and robocalls.

This feature is now getting a few improvements in the developer preview 2 of Android 11. The new feature can now report a reason for rejecting a call, and the users will now be shown a screen after the call has been rejected with options to either mark the call as spam or add the number to their contacts.

Variable refresh rate support

With more phones being released with high refresh rate displays like 90Hz and even 120Hz, developers will now an option to set a preferred refresh rate for their apps or games in Android 11.

This means that if your phone is set to a default refresh rate of 60Hz but your device has the 120Hz option and a developer thinks that his game would be better run in a higher refresh rate then he would have the option to choose the best refresh rate on your device for his app or game.

Resume on reboot

The new resume on reboot feature in Android 11 slightly changes the way how your Android device acts after an overnight system update has been performed. Previously once a new update is installed, your device would automatically reboot and your apps won’t start functioning and you won’t receive any notifications or alerts until you unlock your device.

This might be inconvenient if you leave your device unattended for a few hours but still want your notifications to be received. With Android 11’s resume on reboot feature all your apps will perform normally and will send notifications after a system reboot following an update without needing to unlock your device first.

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YouTube replaces Trending tab in Mobile app with Explore tab

The trending tab in the YouTube Android and the iOS app found in the bottom navigation pane has finally been replaced by a new Explore tab, after almost a year of testing and development. The Explore tab is like an advanced version of the trending page where you can not just see the latest trending videos on YouTube but also browse videos from popular categories like Music, Gaming, News, Fashion and others.

YouTube explore tab

Google has mentioned in the official support page for YouTube that the new change is mainly focussed on giving easy access to YouTube users to the destination pages of their choice. In this way, users would be able to access videos of different categories like Music, News, Learning, Fashion, Movies or Gaming based on their preferences in a timely manner.

YouTube
explore tab
explore tab
YouTube

This will also help in filtering and categorizing the videos so the users can easily consume the content that is of interest to them while avoiding the ones they do not like. This change also makes sure that independent creators and artists on YouTube would be more prominently displayed to the users by adding tags like creator or artist on the rise tags to their videos and displaying them before the other general trending videos on YouTube.

While the new explore tab is already visible for a lot of Android and iOS users in the YouTube app and it has replaced the trending tab, it will take a while before the change is reflected on the YouTube app of all the smartphones out there. The new update also seems to be a server-side one, so it might not appear on your YouTube app even if you update it to the latest version.

You can find out more information about the new changes and how the trending tab in YouTube works and how YouTube decides what goes in the trending and explore pages in the official YouTube support page over here.

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Top 11 Android 11 new features and updates

Google officially released the first developer preview of Android 11, the upcoming version of Android on Wednesday, 19th February. This was an unexpected early release as Google usually releases developer previews of upcoming versions of Android somewhere in March. However, this early release gives developers more time to get used to the newer version of Android, provide their feedback and suggestions for the upcoming beta releases and the final official stable release of Android 11.

Similar to the previous version of Android, Android 10, Android 11 also does not come with a lot of major visual or UI changes, and most of the updates and improvements that are made in Android 11 are behind the screens, API level updates. However, there are also quite a bit of new features that are introduced in Android 11, and here are the top 11 Android 11 new features and updates found in the first developer preview.

Top 11 Android 11 new features and updates

Conversations section in the notification panel

A majority of the notifications that most of us get on our phones are from messaging or social media apps. Android 11 has decided to highlight the notifications of messages and emails that you might get on your phone from different apps into a separate section on the notification panel called ‘Conversations’. This way all your messages would be grouped together and easily accessible from your notification panel and would be separated from other less important notifications that do not need your immediate attention.

Message Bubbles

The Message bubbles feature was introduced in the earlier versions of Android 10 and it was supposed to make its way through to the final version. However, it was scrapped due to some reason but it has not made its way back again to the first developer preview of Android 11. If you are a frequent user of the Facebook Messenger app you might already be familiar with the message bubbles feature. It is an option where all your conversations would be accessible from anywhere on your phone by clicking on a floating bubble at the corner of your screen. You can read and reply to messages and then minimize the bubbles to access at any time.

Android 11

Better and more focussed permissions

Android 11 has included three new options whenever an app is requesting permission to access something like your location, storage, or your camera. The options include Only this time, While using the app and never. So, based on your choice the app will either be allowed to access whatever it is requesting either for just that once or only while you are using that app or never. This gives you more control over what your apps have access to and also makes sure that apps that are running in the background or the ones you are not even using do not have access to your data.

Android 11

Native Screen Recorder

Just like the Message bubbles feature, the screen recorder feature was also supposed to be included in the final version of Android 10 but was not for some reason. The feature could be found in the first developer preview of Android 11, However, it is too early to determine whether it would make its way into the final stable release. While screen recording in Android has been possible for a long time with the help of third-party apps, it is good to know that we might finally get this feature natively without having to rely on third-party apps.

Better Do Not Disturb settings

The Do Not Disturb settings page in the DP1 of Android 11 has been slightly revamped to make it more organized into different kinds of notifications and alerts you get on your phone such calls, apps, alarms, and reminders. You can individually modify the do not disturb settings for each of these alerts like allowing notifications only from certain contacts or apps and so on. You can also schedule the do not disturb mode or restrict all notifications no matter whom or where they are from.

Auto dark mode

The ability to automatically enable dark mode on your device based on the time of the day or based on your preferred schedule is finally introduced to Android 11. You can enable this option to activate dark mode at sunset and automatically deactivate at sunrise or even at specific times during the day. This feature is already available in the older Android versions of Samsung and other OEMs but it is the first time it has been added to stock Android.

Scrolling screenshot

The scrolling screenshot feature is also available in the older versions of Android in other OEMs, but this time it seems like it might be added to the stock Android as well from Android 11. This is one of the most requested features and while it is not found in the DP1 of Android 11 explicitly, some of the people at XDA Developers have managed to enable it manually. However, it still doesn’t work completely and hopefully, it will be fixed and a more stable version would be released with the future Android 11 developer previews.

Pinning apps in the share sheet

If you are someone with a ton of apps installed on your phone, you might find this feature particularly useful. The ability to pin your favorite apps to the top of the share sheet whenever you want to share something quickly was a feature introduced back in Android 7, however it has been removed since only to be introduced back again the DP1 of Android 11. You can pin your favourite apps to the top of the share sheet so that you don’t need to scroll through all the supported apps to find them.

Support for foldable phones, flip phones, notched and edge displays

Google has introduced a new API to Android 11 that will allow the app developers to specify the interactable area of an app this will make sure that the elements of the app that the user needs to interact with are not hindered by the placement of the notch in some displays and that the UI elements do not extend over to the edge of the screens on devices with edge to edge displays. Android 11 will also be designed in a way that it works seamlessly and is compatible with all kinds of devices including the ones with foldable and flip screens.

Android 11

Muting notifications during video recording

Android 11 also introduces a new API which will allow app developers to mute and restrict vibrations of notifications whenever the device’s camera is in use. So, next time you are recording a video using your phone and you are receiving notification in Android 11, your phone will mute it in the background and won’t let it disrupt your recording.

Increased touch sensitivity

Android 11 comes with a new setting called ‘Increase touch sensitivity’ under the display settings page in the settings app. This setting will likely be useful if you are using a thick screen protector or are wearing gloves, helping you to register the touches on the screen more accurately.

These are the top 11 new features and updates that are found in the official developer preview of Android 11 and there are more changes done in the background that will help in improving the overall experience of Android 11. Let us know in the comments below which one of these features is your favourite and what are you most looking forward to in the upcoming version of Android 11.

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BlackBerry Key2 LE Review: The Budget Throwback We Could Have Skipped

BlackBerry has found new life over the last 2 years under the close partnership with hardware maker TCL. During that time, we’ve seen two fan-favorite devices that return BlackBerry smartphones to its roots with full QWERTY keyboards: The KeyOne and the latest Key2. While they’ve both been well received, they were not exactly budget-friendly, but BlackBerry and TCL have set out to fix this with the BlackBerry Key2 LE.

Unfortunately, they may have missed the mark with the LE model. Let’s deep dive into the nitty-gritty in our official review.

Hardware

Hardware can be overrated at times, but it has a lasting impact on how a phone is perceived. This is the main knock I have against the Key2 LE. The internals are OK. You’ll find a Snapdragon 630, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage with expansion microSD.

The screen is the same 1620×1080 IPS panel found in the KeyOne and Key2. Around the right side, you still have volume rockers and the power key. One thing the company did move is the dedicated “Convenience Key” that can be mapped to launch a specific app or function via the Settings.

On the top, you have a 3.5mm headphone jack and the bottom is flanked be speaker grills and the USB-C port. The basic design layout is almost identical to that of the Key2.

They are all par for the course with the Key series lineup from BlackBerry. However, the overall feel of the phone isn’t great. Holding the Key2 LE doesn’t have the same results as the Key2 or the KeyOne. Those phones were tanks that scream premium materials.

The Key2 LE feels like a cheap toy. It’s super light in the hand and almost feels like a demo unit with no internals. BlackBerry has traditionally made superior hardware over the years, even on budget models, and the Key2 LE doesn’t match up. Especially, with the keyboard.

Keyboard

I’d wager that if you’re reading this review, it’s most likely because the Key2 LE has a physical keyboard design. Well, sorry. This keyboard is terrible. Really, BlackBerry should be ashamed of it.

The overall travel and feedback are extremely mushy. The plastics echo the same cheap feel of the rest of the phone. I also struggled to consistently type on it with keypresses not registering on a regular basis. As mentioned before, the main draw to these devices is the keyboard and the LE simply fails to make this compelling.

Speaking of compelling. One of the most unique features of the keyboards found on the KeyOne and Key2 didn’t even make the cut to be included on the LE and that’s bonkers! The other models offer a touch-enabled keyboard that allows you to use gestures on the actual keys to maneuver around fields much like a traditional trackpad on a laptop. It’s a really cool feature and a great selling point that I don’t understand being nixed on the Key2 LE.

BlackBerry is already intentionally hitting a niche market. By doing so, they should lean on the keyboard to lure customers. Removing the touch portion of the keys on the Key2 LE was a corner that shouldn’t have been cut. It’s an iconic feature of the lineup that deserves to be there. Even on the budget version.

One positive addition is that of the “Speed Key.” You activate it by hitting the circle-grid in the bottom right plus the letter you assigned to a specific app. So, from anywhere in the operating system you can launch into your favorite apps with just two key presses. Having a dedicated key to add more keyboard shortcuts is a nice feature that I found myself using on the regular.

Performance

I was pleasantly surprised by the day to day performance of the Key2 LE. The Snapdragon 630 with 4GB of RAM is just enough juice to not show many hiccups while using the device. Transitions are good and apps launched as expected.

If you push the device with heavy apps like graphics intensive games, you may see it stutter, but most of the time, the Key2 LE performed admirably. The market that the price point is looking for will be more than happy with the daily usage.

Camera

Let’s just say that it has one. The Key2 LE takes very average photos for 2018. Images come out dull and washed out with little detail. You can take decent shots at times in really good lighting, but as soon as the illumination lowers the results struggle. It’s another corner that we often see cut on most budget phones and the Key2 LE fall in line with this trend.

Software

The software on the Key2 LE could use some work. While I commend BlackBerry for trying to implement its app suite and the Hub, its just overkill on Android Oreo. The original Hub for BlackBerry 10 was awesome. It was the central notification center of the system and really had some new ideas like having Twitter and Facebook built into the Hub where you could respond without leaving the notification area.

Unfortunately, most of that integration is no longer there on the Android version, and honestly, it’s done better already in the default Android notification shade. The Hub just seems like a redundancy that’s no longer needed with Android. It duplicates the entire notification system again inside BlackBerry’s Hub. I would recommend that TCL and BlackBerry simply drop this development for what’s already available in the operating system.

I’m also over manufacturers making duplicate general apps. If I’m buying an Android phone, chances are that I’m already using Google Calendar and Contacts. I really don’t need another option on the Key2 LE. While it may be nice for the limited number of BlackBerry holdouts, I don’t think the average Android user is looking for another duplicate app suite to Google’s offerings.

Battery Life

This is one strong point for the BlackBerry Key2 LE. I have not had any issues going through my normal day with above average battery life. I even had a weekend where I made it through a second day until having the charge up. The combination of Snapdragon 630 with the 3000mAh battery makes for a powerhouse of a phone for users.

Conclusion

I think BlackBerry is correct in that they need a phone hitting the price point below the $700 Key2 proper. However, I don’t know if the Key2 LE is that device. The keyboard and overall build materials make me feel the Key2 model needs to stay at the premium level. At $450 unlocked, I’d be more pressed to point a buyer towards a more polished product from Motorola or Nokia. They have much better hardware at even cheaper prices. If you can afford another $100, I’d also totally recommend the OnePlus 6T.

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How to turn on Smart Lock on Chrome OS

Google’s Chrome OS and Android are becoming more and more alike with each update. With that, certain features are also being shared across the two operating systems. One of the newest additions to this is Smart Lock coming to Chromebooks.

What’s it do?

Smart Lock allows for your Chromebook to be unlocked without a passcode while it’s linked to your Android phone. When the two devices are paired, you simply click your account photo or hit the enter key to log in.

How to turn it on?

Turning on Smart Lock takes a few steps on both your phone and Chrome device to work properly. But don’t worry, we are going to walk you through it now.

  • Open up the Settings app in Chrome OS.
  • Find and select “Screen lock and sign in.”
  • Enter your current password to allow this option to be edited.
  • Find the line titled Smart Lock and click “Set up.”
  • You’ll be dropped into the lock screen and have to enter your current password again.
  • Now you’ll need to find and pair your Android phone.
  • Click “Use this phone” when prompted.
  • You can now “Try Smart Lock” and see if it works.
  • Once you see the green unlocked icon next to your password bar, Smart Lock should allow for clicking your account photo or pressing enter to sign into Chrome OS.

Success

Once you see the green unlocked icon next to your password bar, Smart Lock should allow for clicking your account photo or pressing enter to sign into Chrome OS. From then on, you should have a slightly easier way to log into your Chromebook as long as your smartphone is nearby. Speaking of proximity, you may have to play around with the “Distance needed for the phone to unlock this Chromebook” drop-down in settings. I’ve found that in order for this to consistently work I needed it to be on the “far” option.

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Enable Google Assistant on most Chromebooks

Google Assistant is a huge part of the company’s current portfolio of services. So are Chromebooks. However, for now, the Pixelbook is the only Chromebook with access to Assistant on Chrome OS. Fortunately, the latest Google Canary builds show that a fix for other Chromebooks is around the corner.

What’s it do?

This tweak will allow for older Chromebooks other than the Google Pixelbook to have access to Google Assistant. We do offer a word of advice on the following instructions to always take in account that this requires two things we do not recommend for average users: manual enabling Chrome flags and updating to the Chrome Canary testing channel.

How to turn it on?

Again this is two-fold and we’ll start with changing your Chromebook to the Canary channel.

  • Hit the key combination of CTRL+ALT+T to enter the built-in command line for Chrome OS.
  • Type this command without the quotations: “live_in_a_coal_mine”.
  • Hit “y” for yes when prompted.
  • Once the command completes, open the Settings app.
  • Click hamburger menu in the top left and select “About Chrome OS”.
  • Click “Check for Updates”.
  • Chromebook will then update and ask you to restart.

Welcome to the dark side of Chrome OS and you should now be running the Canary builds.

Part Deuce

Now we are ready for the second step of this tutorial of enabling the Assistant flag in Chrome’s hidden menu.

  • Paste this URL into the browser address bar: chrome://flags/#enable-native-google-assistant
  • Change the setting to “Enabled”.
  • Restart your Chromebook.

You should now have Google Assistant on your Chromebook. Again, we don’t condone some of the steps here for a stable Chrome OS experience. We honestly don’t even know what’s powering this version of Assistant. The Pixelbook is running a modified version of the Android app, but enablement via the flags page suggests this option may be a web variant.

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How to set up a Guest account on your Android phone

Most of us love to show off our new phones in front of our friends or family. But we’re a bit more reluctant when it comes to borrowing our gadgets.

After all, we all have messages, images or video who we don’t want other people to see. Once you hand over your phone to a friend or family member, who knows where their fingers might go!

Fortunately, there is a simple solution you can use to solve this problem. It’s called Guest Mode.

What is Guest Mode?

Guest Mode has been around ever since Android 5.0 and is a handy tool for keeping your personal info hidden when you have to share your device. Using this mode, a guest will be able to access all of the default apps, but won’t be able to see any other data.

Basically, you’ll be handing over a device that looks like it’s been restored to factory settings. And with a few taps, you’ll quickly be able to get your universe back.

How to set up a Guest account on your phone

The steps vary depending on which phone you own. For the purpose of this tutorial, we used a OnePlus 6.

  1. From the home screen, swipe down to unhide the notification panel and expand the menu.
  2. Tap on the subtle icon of a human head (look for it next to the pencil icon and gear icon).
  3. Simply tap on the Guest account option to switch to Guest Mode.
  4. Or you can tap the blue “Add user” button instead. This allows a secondary user to set up their own space on your device. The process is similar to the one when you’re setting up a new device. You’ll be asked to sign in with a Google account, add your fingerprint and such. However, the phone’s owner is allowed to uninstall any apps the secondary user might have installed or even remove the space.
  5. In both cases, switching to the secondary account will take a few seconds.

When your friend or family member is done, you can easily switch to your own account or simply delete the account. Here’s how.

How to switch back to the main account

  1. From the home screen, swipe down to unhide the notification panel and expand the menu.
  2. Tap on the subtle icon of a human head (look for it next to the pencil icon and gear icon).
  3. Tap on your account to switch over.

Had enough of your guest? Delete their account with a few simple steps.

How to delete a Guest/New account

  1. From the home screen, swipe down to unhide the notification panel and expand the menu.
  2. Tap on the subtle icon of a human head (look for it next to the pencil icon and gear icon).
  3. Tap on Settings at the bottom.
  4. Find the Guest account you want to delete.
  5. Tap the Gear Icon next to it.
  6. Tap Remove user.

Here in Settings, there are a few other options you can take a look at. For example, the OnePlus 6 allows you to Add users from the lock screen. Simply toggle the option on if you want to do that.

You also have the option to allow the Guest accounts to make phone calls and send SMS from your device.

Now if you own a Samsung phone, adding a Guest account might be a little bit different.

  1. From the home screen, swipe down to show the notification panel.
  2. Tap on the Gear icon to open Settings.
  3. Scroll down until you find Users & accounts
  4. Tap on Guest to create a new user.

While Guest Mode is a pretty useful thing to have, there’s nothing that could stop a curious friend from accessing your own Account if they wanted to.

Fortunately, some phones like the OnePlus 6 have additional privacy features like Hidden Space. On the Galaxy Note 9, it’s called Secure Folder.

Swipe left from the App drawer and you will have access to a personal space where you can add the apps you want to hide from view.

Yes indeed, not all phones have this option, but if yours does, you might as well take advantage of it. But even if you’re Android doesn’t offer such a tool, there are plenty of apps you can download from the Play Store that let you do just that. A good example is Gallery Vault.

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Google announces Android is getting on board with foldable displays

Samsung’s upcoming foldable smartphone was finally revealed during its Developer Conference yesterday.

Well soon afterwards, Google also issued a press statement to announce that Android has added native platform support for a new class of devices called “foldables”. Actually, Samsung and Google have been working together when creating the new One UI for Samsung’s phones. So it’s no surprise Google is adding support to this novel form factor.

The idea is that Android will strive to offer a smooth transition from the folded screen state to the unfolded one. To that end, Android developers have already started tackling the problem of fluid two-screen/one-screen software experience, as you can see in the .gif below.

While the foldable phone category is pretty limited at the moment, that won’t be the case for long. Android OEMs like Huawei, LG and Xiaomi are all experimenting with curved displays of their own, so expect more of these devices to make an appearance soon.

Currently, customers interested in trying the flexible form factor out have only one choice at their disposal. Offered by obscure startup Royole, the FlexiPai smartphone is available for pre-order for those willing to spend a small fortune.

Unlike Samsung, the company is using a single folding display outside of the device. In contrast, the Korean tech giant’s phone will use two separate displays to create the foldable phone, one on the inside and a smaller one on the outside.

More details about Samsung’s foldable phone have been revealed

The big display stretches to 7.3-inch in size and features 1536 x 2152 resolution (4:2:3 aspect ratio). When it folds it reveals a secondary 4.58-inch screen with 840 x 1960 resolution (21:9).

The Infinity Flex Display has been a true challenge for Samsung who had to invent new materials to make the phone pliable. The flexible screen uses a polymer that has been described as being flexible, but though. This means the panel can retain its strength even when folded and unfolded for hundreds of thousands of times.

Mobile devices have looked the same ever since their dawn, but now that’s all about to change. Excited about what’s coming? Let us know in the comment section below.

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TCL missed the boat with Palm by going small instead of big

Something happened recently that was just kind of sad for a longtime fan of mobile technology. A new Palm phone came out. And it looks like a joke. Maybe it’s the phone you’ve been waiting for, but I highly doubt it. The new Palm phone is a tiny 3.3-inch “companion” phone that doesn’t even work without another active phone on Verizon.

What Should It Have Been?

I think with a revival of Palm you should have gone back to the beginning. Imagine a new Palm Pilot running Android. Yep. A Pilot running Google’s amazing software. Give me the full effect too. I want a massive phone, built like a brick, huge battery, and great stylus integration.

Sound familiar? It should. The Galaxy Note 9 is a beast that checks all those boxes and has almost zero competition. When it comes to stylus first Android productivity monsters, Samsung is sitting all alone. I’d had much rather Palm make a niche device that makes sense like the Note than to have some oversized smartwatch device.

Nostalgia will only get you so far. Palm would have to really bring it to take on the juggernaut of Samsung’s Note line. It couldn’t be a me too phone. The TCL owned company would have to be committed to making this a flagship from the start. Which would mean specs galore just like the Note.

Let’s follow this workshop idea all the way through. The “Pilot” would have to have 8GB of RAM, at least 128GB of storage with expansion, massive screen, and a ballpark 4500mAh battery. That puts it on parity with the Note for the most part. Oh, and throw in wireless charging for Qi pads.

The new Palm Pilot can’t just be all hardware though. It has to have great software to match. I’d have loved to see them really work with Google and offer an Android One device to match what Samsung is doing. Bring Google’s office suite of Docs, Sheets, and Slides to the forefront of the experience. Let me take notes from the lock screen integrated with Google Keep. Have the stylus move me within presentations screens inside Slides.

It would also be cool if Palm could work their old Foleo idea into a DeX alternative. Give me a sweet docking experience that launches me into Chrome OS when hooked up to peripherals. With the recent amalgamation between Google’s operating systems, this one has to be on the roadmap. How great for a nerd like me to see Palm bring it to the market!

Would it work?

Short answer…maybe. The Note is pretty cemented in the market for this kind of device, but it also doesn’t have an equal to give it a run for its money. The road wouldn’t be easy and TLC would have its work cut out for it to succeed. However, the company has done a decent job of accepting the similar resurgence of BlackBerry as a niche product line that necessarily doesn’t have to move multi-million numbers.

Regardless, I know the Palm that we now have doesn’t do its heritage justice. Palm was a true pioneer that deserves a better return to the smartphone world than this.

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