Features

Nougat is Android’s best, but there’s still room for improvement

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It’s been nearly two months since Google officially named the seventh version of its Android operating system, and we’re now seeing Nexus devices receiving Android 7.0 Nougat through direct, over-the-air downloads. It’s a given that this is the most mature and jam-packed iteration of any Google-powered OS to date, but how far has it come along?

Having spent a substantial amount of time on both the beta phase and the stable build we have now, we must say that Nougat is, by far, the most efficient Android version to ever grace a handset. It’s obvious how Google took some inspiration from manufacturers. Software features that have been present on Samsung, HTC, and Sony smartphones, among others, have become part of Android’s most basic interface.

Everything is simply better

Android 7.0 Nougat - Features Overview

Multitasking, for one, is a headline feature of Nougat. Google took a page out of Samsung’s book and applied split-screen multitasking as a standard function. But unlike Samsung’s limited take on the feature, Nougat’s implementation is compatible with far more applications. By opening any app and holding the app overview button (the square to the right of the circular home button), you’re shown a list of recent apps to display on the lower half of the screen. And this isn’t some lame, laggy feature either; for instance, you can watch a full-length video while taking notes on your app of choice.

On the subject of efficiency, tapping the same overview button twice will allow you to switch to the last app you accessed. Think of it as a “Command + Tab” (on a Mac) or “Alt + Tab” (on Windows) shortcut for Android. We found this especially useful for going through multiple chat apps with less touches and swipes.

Another vital improvement is the smarter notifications and settings. In addition to the greater control you have over the notifications you receive, such as instantly sharing or replying from the alert itself, quick settings are available on the first swipe down from the top. Swipe once more, and you’ll see a longer list of settings, all of which can be rearranged or swapped for whatever you find more fitting. As for the main settings menu, you’re greeted with a preview for each option; you can see how much space you have without entering the “Storage” setting, and even preview your data and battery usage without entering the sub-menu.

And these are just some of our favorite new features of Nougat. Expect longer battery life, stronger security, an additional set of 72 emoji to play with, and greater control over the data usage of specific apps, to name a few, once Android 7.0 Nougat enters your gadget.

But all’s not well

Android 7.0 Nougat - Problems

Like any operating system fresh out of the lab, there are growing pains to deal with. Besides a couple of bugs we encountered on our updated Nexus 6P, such as the battery percentage meter constantly disappearing and Google Now sometimes crashing, not all design cues and features work the way they should.

The most glaring issue is app compatibility during split-screen multitasking. While it’s understandable that a large helping of third-party software aren’t ready for the cut-up interface, it’s inexcusable for the built-in apps Google produced themselves. A message that the “App may not work with split-screen” appears on apps like YouTube, and to make matters worse, you’ll see “App doesn’t support split-screen” for the basic Google Search app. Fortunately, time is the cure for this, since this function is now baked into the core of Android.

Interestingly, the “Clear All” button is now back in the app overview, despite Android developers claiming it’s unnecessary because of better memory management since 5.0 Lollipop. The bad news is that it’s found at the very top of the app list, meaning you have to scroll through every open app to reach the option. Nougat is already excellent at keeping programs in a low-power state when not in use, but for clean freaks, having instant access to the clear button would have been glorious.

Lastly – and this has been prevalent for a few Android generations now – you still can’t add widgets or apps to the left of the primary home screen. Everything simply goes to the right, so if you’re a fan of multiple widgets, you have only one direction to swipe for quick access.

Don’t hold your breath, unless you’re a Nexus user

What use is software if you can’t experience it? Unless you own a Nexus device, chances are you’re not receiving a Nougat update anytime soon. Google’s very own devices always get first dibs on major updates, while other users could wait as long as a year for just a hint of good news. Things could be changing, however, with news of the upcoming LG V20 being the first smartphone to come equipped with the latest Android version straight out of the box, and not a next-generation Google Nexus. With this, Google might finally be addressing its most recurring issue: fragmentation.

Android Marshmallow Fragmentation

Source: https://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html

Android’s fragmentation, which refers to the overly diverse range of versions across all smartphones and tablets, is currently at its worst. Looking at the chart above, which hasn’t even been updated to reflect the latest Android version yet, shows how last year’s 6.0 Marshmallow continues to catch up with the wider distribution of older generations, despite Android 7.0 Nougat already being available.

Still, possibly poor market share shouldn’t put down Nougat’s accomplishments. Consider yourself lucky if you’re part of the new minority of Nougat users; it’s as solid as it gets for Android.

Features

OPPO drops the F9, Motorola copy-pastes: Weekend Rewind

Why innovate when you can recreate, right?

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Here are this week’s top stories on GadgetMatch.

1. OPPO F9 (water)drops!

We were getting teasers of this phone two weeks ago and now it’s finally here! The OPPO F9 is official and it comes with a notch that the company is essentially calling a “waterdrop.” That aside, it’s looking like a lean, mean, midrange machine with its 6GB RAM and 64GB of storage, an AI-enhanced 16MP main shooter with a secondary 2MP depth sensor for portraits, and a 3500 mAh battery.

Our hands-on and unboxing is up on YouTube so make sure you watch it!

2. Motorola copy-pastes

Notches and gradients are all the rage in 2019, so we guess it makes sense that Motorola opted to fuse both the iPhone X and the Huawei P20 Pro. The result is the Motorola P30 because Moto probably couldn’t be bothered to think of another name. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 636 chip with 6GB memory. It will come in both a 64GB and a 128GB variant. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery they say. Moto must really want to butter up Apple and Huawei.

3. Poco loco!

Xiaomi’s been cooking something but since this is the Internet and tech leaks are totally a thing, we already know what it is. Coming our way officially next week is the Pocophone F1. A leaked video pretty much already told us a lot of what we want to know: 5.99-inch display, Snapdragon 845, and 6GB of memory.

We’ll have our own video on this soon so definitely stay tuned for it.

4. Pies to go

Google is being generous in handing out pies. Android Go, a less data-hungry version of the mobile operating system, will also get Android Pie. The Go edition of the newest Android OS only needs half the storage space and can run fluidly, even with just a gigabyte of memory.


5. Contraceptive app

Not ready for the responsibility of raising a child? There’s an app for that! The US Food and Drug Administration recently approved Natural Cycles. It’s the very first app to be marketed as a method of contraception. It determines whether a woman is fertile or not then advises which days you should “abstain” or “use protection.”

However, the FDA warns that “no form of contraception works perfectly, so an unplanned pregnancy could still result from correct usage of this device.”


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

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Features

7 best affordable flagship smartphones of 2018

Best specs, lower prices

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Putting the words “affordable” and “flagship” seems like an oxymoron at first, but manufacturers have reached a point wherein this magical combination is actually possible.

Yes, affordable flagships are a thing now, and they’re taking away some of the premium segment’s long-standing thunder. Why wouldn’t you want the best specs and features in a cheaper package?

This year has been kind to us with all the affordable flagships launched thus far. Here are the best ones to date:

OnePlus 6

Let’s begin with the brand that started it all. Originally called the “flagship killer,” the OnePlus line is synonymous with high-end power without the extravagant pricing. The OnePlus 6 is the latest entry, and it’s an absolute stunner from its gorgeous display to the fluid Android interface.

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S

This is the one time Xiaomi likes to go a little more premium, and we support it a hundred percent. The Mi Mix 2S combines a ceramic body with a massive, notch-free display and incredible hardware for the price. Each generation improves on the predecessor — this is no exception.

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Fortnite on Android, Meteor Garden: Now Playing

OPPO and Vivo phones contribute to class divide on Meteor Garden

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This month has been nothing short of crazy for us at GadgetMatch, what with leaks and teasers of upcoming devices, back-to-back smartphone launches, and Android Pie’s release. Here are some of the things that have kept us sane the last few weeks!

Games to play

Fortnite on Android
Chay: You read that right. The highly successful battle royale game is finally coming to Android. At Samsung Unpacked, Epic Games announced that Galaxy devices will get exclusive early access to the game through the Game Launcher app. It’s only a matter of time before it becomes available in even more devices, and if we’re being honest, we can’t wait to see more memes (and dances!) as more people get to play it.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Android
Rodneil: If you’re itching for a Spider-Man game to help tide you over until the release of Marvel’s Spider-Man for the PS4, then this mobile game released back in 2014 should tide you over. It looks good, the controls are simple, and the game also gives you the satisfaction of swinging around New York City as you please.

Movies to see

Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Marvin: It’s tough to believe, but Mission: Impossible is on its sixth installment, and the latest may be the most death-defying one yet. Tom Cruise is once again Ethan Hunt, an agent who needs to track down a terrorist group before they blow the world up. His stunts are jaw-dropping to say the least, and the twists are surprising enough to keep your eyes glued to the screen. My advice: Watch this in a cinema with great seats — it’s a long ride!

TV shows to binge watch

Kim’s Convenience
Kevin: Having been released back in 2016 and now waiting on its third season, Kim’s Convenience is a Canadian TV sitcom that focuses on a Korean family that runs a convenience store in Toronto. The show centers on everyday happenings and mishaps of the family. It presents characters who fit, and at the same time, break certain stereotypes while injecting a hint of moral in different (mostly funny) ways.

Orange is the New Black (Season 6)
Chay: Is there hope for the inmates of Litchfield? Will there ever be justice? These are always the questions you have after watching an entire season of Orange is the New Black. The longer the series goes on, the more invested you become in these women’s stories. This season, the spotlight is even brighter on my all-time favorite OINTB character: Taystee goes on trial to clear her name and fight the injustice she and fellow inmates have been suffering behind bars.

Final Space
Kevin: If you’re into Rick and Morty’s tandem and outer space adventures, Final Space might be something you’d want to check out. The story follows a smart-mouthed prisoner who works on a space station, meets a cute alien life form, and immediately becomes friends with it, not knowing that it’s a valuable entity to the menacing Lord Commander. I’m just a few episodes in but it’s been entertaining and funny — something I would expect from Conan O’Brien producing the show.

Meteor Garden (2018)
Rodneil: If you loved the Taiwanese version that first aired in the early 2000s, then I suggest you give the 2018 version a chance. It’s great to see how the setting has been updated to modern times with some of the bullying part of the story happening in social media. There are cool tidbits too about how transactions are mostly made through QR codes and how the phones of the less privileged are OPPO while the elite F4 carry Vivo phones. It’s a nice glimpse to the current state of technology in China. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the cast actually looks like they’re still students versus the already adult-looking cast of the original adaptation.

Mob Psycho 100
Rodneil: I held out for quite a bit before watching this anime but when I found out that season two is already arriving at the start of 2019, I knew I had to binge the 12-episode first season. From the same creator as One-Punch Man, Mob Psycho 100 features Shigeo Kageyama — a young, overpowered psychic who’s trying his best to live life without taking advantage of his psychic ability. If you loved the over-the-top action and the ridiculously overpowered lead in One-Punch Man, there’s plenty for you to enjoy in Mob Psycho 100.

Terrace House: Opening New Doors (Part 3)
Marvin: It’s been a grueling couple of months, but Part 3 of Terrace House: Opening New Doors is finally available on Netflix outside Japan, and it’s certainly worth the wait. The cast gets a near overhaul, and with the new members come much more drama and the awkward first dates we’ve grown to love. But the real highlight of Part 3 are the commentators, who are able to turn any sad moment into a laughing fit for both the viewers and themselves. Part 4 can’t come soon enough!

Music and podcasts to listen to

Honey by Scandal
Rodneil: My fascination for Asian girl groups continues. Scandal has had plenty of their songs appear on several animé, and this album gives you plenty of those types of tracks. My favorites are “platformsyndrome,” “OVER,” “Koisuru Universe,” and “Short Short.”

“Long Gone” and “Lover Boy” by Phum Viphurit
Kevin: Thai-born, but New Zealand-raised, indie artist Phum Viphurit’s “Long Gone” is a mellow tune with just the right soul to make you groove and nod your head to the rhythm. “Lover Boy,” on the other hand, has more funk to its bass lines which is then overlayed with Viphurit’s smooth vocals — almost reminiscent of how John Legend made “P.D.A.” a chill, sexy track.

“Sana” by I Belong To The Zoo
Rodneil: “Sana” is a gut-wrenching Filipino track that tells the story of a romance that has gone stale. While that sounds like a run-of-the-mill heartbreak song, singer Argee Guerrero delivers each line with so much conviction that it’s hard not to imagine yourself in the shoes of the aggrieved party.

Psychobabble with Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl
Chay: In their first episode back after an eight-month hiatus, #TeamTylerandKorey discusses the top trends of the year, Bernie Mac, and how hotels are homophobic. Korey also reveals he had a vocal box replacement and was on vocal rest during the hiatus. It’s not clear whether that’s the only reason the podcast was MIA for a while, but it’s possible the Fullscreen shut down, which picked up Psychobabble for a video version in early 2017, is also a culprit. That’s bad news for anyone who paid for a subscription on the streaming service, but good news is all episodes are now available on Spotify, as well.

Cities to visit

Plaza Mayor in Madrid, Spain

Madrid
Rodneil: Madrid is a beautiful city filled with mid-rise buildings that feature stunning European architecture. For some street entertainment, check out Plaza del Sol at night. If you’re looking for a place to eat, the cochinillo (suckling pig) in Las Cuevas De Luis Candelas, located just right outside Plaza Mayor is to die for. There’s also the restaurant Mr. Frank which seems like a nice date place. Definitely order the Provoleta con chorizo and Presa Ibérica con frutos rojos. The restaurant is located near the Congreso de los Diputados which is a great backdrop for your touristy photo.


Now Playing is the GadgetMatch team’s favorite games, movies, TV shows, and more each month. If you’re curious to know what we’re into at the moment, this is what you should check out. So grab your popcorn, get some drinks, and enjoy what’s now playing!

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