With new devices popping up left and right, more and more people now have access to the latest Android operating system (OS) and its technologies. From artificial intelligence (AI)-powered cameras to smoother, simpler designs to the user interface, Android has been looking to attract more users to its platform over the past few years.
However, there are consumers who own or wish to buy cheaper devices that still unfortunately use the older versions of Android, and wonder if they get to experience the new updates for themselves — only for them to realize that it’s the end of the line for their gadgets.
Updates arrive slower, mostly in small parts, and sometimes the entire OS cannot be upgraded any further. The questions Android developers have been facing from consumers within the last few years are these: Why do updates arrive so late, and what is Google doing about it?
The Android way
The Android operating system is one big, open-source platform for developers and manufacturers. This means that they are given the liberty to modify such software to introduce and improve their products. Android smartphone companies are able to set themselves apart from the others mostly because of this approach towards the unique interfaces.
According to Google’s Android Developers website, 63.2 percent of Android devices in the market run on older Android systems than Android 7.0 Nougat; manufacturers opt to sell their devices with much older software due to their insistence of applying their own Android “skins” or their own version of the OS.
Companies such as Xiaomi, Samsung, Huawei, and ASUS customize the Android operating systems to give users a unique experience when using their devices. Xiaomi’s MIUI 10 and Samsung’s Experience bring new features for AI and major redesigns for their latest smartphones. ASUS’ ZenUI offers features that support the gaming capabilities of their smartphones, while Huawei’s EMUI allows you to sync your LinkedIn account to your address book.
Implementing such skins either limits the number of updates the device receives, or it makes the gadget no longer upgradeable. This is how Android fragmentation works, and unfortunately, is also the reason you can’t get your older Android device to upgrade to the latest software easily.
People were excited when several companies announced which smartphones would receive an upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo over the past few months. However, only about six percent of devices have the update ready for users either due to delays in the rollout or because of bugs that affected the device’s performance.
Android fragmentation has become a problem for third-party developers, especially those who were hoping to use the newer and more updated software to create better games and utility apps for people. Because of fragmentation, developers are limited to the older and less secure versions of Android, as well as the codes and programs that come with it.
The applications these developers make are not guaranteed to work without encountering problems along the way. The late arrival of updates hampers the developers’ ability to make any changes to their applications, and even put the user’s safety at risk.
Google’s plan of action
At present, the developers at Google did a number of projects for updates to arrive faster and all at once for third-party developers and phone manufacturers.
They came up with pure Android software known as Android One, and they encouraged device manufacturers to create smartphones using the Android One OS. Android One became Google’s standard for manufacturers and developers to use in their new devices and applications. With smartphones incorporating Android One, updates become more regular and can be streamlined across multiple devices all at once.
Android One was already available on a few devices since its initial launch in 2014, from the Cherry Mobile G1 to the Xiaomi Mi A1. However, the pure Android OS disappeared for a while because the software itself gave no freedom for manufactures to differentiate themselves. Eventually, Android One found itself back in the market with Nokia spearheading the effort to reintroduce it with the likes of the well-received Nokia 7 Plus.
Don’t confuse Android One with Android Go, Google’s cut-down version of its Android OS, however. While Android One is the standard Android software Google wants to apply across all devices, Android Go is designed for entry-level devices. Devices running Android Go will be able to maximize storage options and mobile data management for you, so you will be able to do many things with your phone without worrying about space and data consumption.
The latest experiment: Project Treble
Another project undertaken by Google to address the fragmentation issue is Project Treble. Project Treble is a service offered to users to help streamline the process of updating their software to the latest version from Android, and is currently offered to devices that have Android Oreo installed out of the box.
What Project Treble does is that it allows manufacturers to deliver the updates themselves, without having to go through long and expensive processes to deliver them. This also allows developers themselves to create applications using new codes and programs provided by the Android software.
Following Project Treble was the release of the beta version for Android P. Like in previous iterations, Google did this so developers can already work on their own software-specific applications and technologies that fit the profile Android P brings to the table. Of course, the beta version is still only available to a select number of companies working on new devices, but it will be available across all devices once a final version is released.
Initially, Project Treble and Android P Beta were only available on Google’s Pixel phones, but they’ve now branched out to non-Pixel phones, as well. Treble is available for all new devices that have Android Oreo pre-installed, so developers can experience Android P Beta and work around the new software. A list of devices that already support Android P Beta can be found here and on Android’s Developer website.
What’s next for Android?
With Project Treble and Android continuously bringing updates to the platform faster to consumers, Google is hoping to have just one centralized operating system in the future. Over the past year, Google has been working on Fuchsia, designed to be the central operating system that is potentially going to replace both Chrome OS and Android in the near future. Fuchsia is expected to further streamline updates as a way of fighting Android fragmentation.
Android P is still in its beta version as of writing, meaning that Google is getting feedback from companies that have devices already powered or tested using the latest Android software over the past few months. Google is constantly working on better and faster ways for software updates to reach Android devices, provided that such devices have the necessary hardware to accommodate the upgrades.
For third-party developers, Google has even made their services more accessible to older Android devices. Recently, it gave older devices access to the company’s virtual assistant service, Google Assistant, as long as these devices were running at least an Android 5.0 Lollipop system.
With all these developments for Android, it’s safe to say that Google has done what it can to address the issue on updates arriving so late, so don’t worry if your phone is still running on an older Android OS, because Google hasn’t forgotten you.
ChatGPT Explained: Should we be scared of AI?
Will the talking robot take over the world?
Back in the earlier days of the internet, an emerging but short-lived trend involved chatbots who could generate conversation with whomever it talked to. Does this sound familiar? Today, a similar phenomenon is creating a lot of waves online, headed by the infamous ChatGPT. The exceedingly popular ChatGPT is turning heads out of fear that the technology will eventually upend society and eradicate a lot of jobs.
But what exactly is ChatGPT? How is it different from language programs in the past? Is the world right to worry about them?
On the rise of language learning
ChatGPT is hardly the first software to inexplicably generate comprehensible dialogue without human intervention. Decades ago, the internet hosted rudimentary versions of today’s chatbot technology. The concept is somewhat similar, though. The early versions relied on a database of responses from human users. If you asked about coffee, for example, the answer you get will likely come from the logs of another user who talked about coffee in the past.
Because the system was imperfect in its infancy, part of the appeal was trying to get the software to fumble a conversation. However, if it did mess up, you can count on it asking you what it should have said. The next time someone asks the same question, the software might mirror what you said, creating a learning process between the software and the user.
Today, chatbots — meaning those usually used by businesses today — operate in the same way. If a customer comes with a query, the software will rely on a set of responses to most appropriately address the user’s problem. If the software can’t come up with a solution, the ball usually gets passed on to a human consultant.
Is ChatGPT just another chatbot?
Though the label certainly gets thrown around, ChatGPT isn’t strictly a chatbot. Instead, the software uses GPT-3.5, a specific language model created by OpenAI. Whereas early and more rudimentary versions of the same technology can already store an unbelievable amount of information in its memory, ChatGPT can analyze billions of words and the relationship between them.
Further, OpenAI extensively trains the software, ensuring that comprehension and grammar can live up to today’s standards. The learning is supervised. In fact, the company even has a makeshift reward system to ensure that the software puts out the most appropriate response. With users also contributing to the software’s learning process, ChatGPT is quickly emerging as a powerhouse for the technology.
The results speak for themselves. While users can generate simple conversations with the software, ChatGPT can just as easily answer more extensive queries with lengthier responses. If you ask it to create an essay about Christopher Columbus, for example, it can write a lengthy piece that can easily fool a casual reader. It can even handle more speculative queries. In a sample published by the developer, ChatGPT can answer what would happen if Columbus discovered America in 2015.
What’s it good for?
Based solely on what the software can do, ChatGPT can find its purpose in today’s world. The software can improve voice assistants and chatbots all over the internet. It can make big strides in the world of automation, enabling a more responsive interface between user and software.
On a more human aspect, the software can also handle more professional jobs with simpler prompts such as those involving simple marketing copy. It can help with more ephemeral research efforts, allowing users to get simple answers for otherwise complex questions.
And, on a more technical side, ChatGPT can reportedly analyze and detect what’s wrong with a piece of coding. With the software, developers can use ChatGPT to potentially repair code without having to pore over every single line. Allowing a powerful tool to inspect code speaks volumes for a lot of applications all over the world including smart vehicles and technical machinery.
However, as with every piece of technology, users will always find a way to use something beyond what it was originally designed for. ChatGPT is now changing the world of education as students are using the software to do their homework for them. Though a lot of the sample texts look like they can fool only lower levels of education, a Wharton business school professor (via Business Insider) recently stated that he would have been fooled by a ChatGPT essay, grading a sample with a passable grade of B or B-.
Should we be scared of ChatGPT?
ChatGPT is undoubtedly rocking the world of education. While some schools have banned the technology outright, others are debating on the software’s impact on how schools are taught. Since ChatGPT deals out more factual information, could education reinvent itself to teach more personal, tailored learning, rather than just the ability to spit out memorized facts. (“Factual” might even be an exaggeration. CNET, which recently experimented with AI-written articles, discovered a plethora of errors from using the software.)
Now, education isn’t the only world in peril. The creative industry is facing an extreme challenge wherein ChatGPT can potentially cause workers their jobs. Though the danger certainly seems real, the limitations of technology are also real. ChatGPT can create comprehensible text that can fool a human, but it will likely stumble with conceptualization.
A piece of software is just software. Even if it can write an essay about existentialism, it cannot think of the concept metaphysically. In the same way, even if it can show you a photo of a parrot, it cannot think of that photo as anything but a pattern of pixels. To a language learning software, words don’t mean anything else besides their relationship with each other. It’s the same thought process as a dog learning to run to its human when its name is called. The dog doesn’t know that you just said its name (or even the mere concept of a name); it just knows to do a certain action after hearing a specific sound.
Can ChatGPT change the world? Overall, the jury is still out, but it’s unlikely that a piece of learning software can do much to replace human-centric work. Regardless, it’s important to think of how ChatGPT can improve (or detriment) humanity.
Like with other supposedly dangerous technology, the world of technology is a Pandora’s box. We can never put the genie back into the bottle. Once it’s out, it’s out. Instead of worrying about how technology can destroy the world, the more appropriate response is to figure out how it can better humanity without sacrificing anyone’s wellbeing in the process.
RAM Explained: The Unsung Hero of Smartphones
There’s more than just the chipset
When you’re looking to buy a new device, which specs should you pay attention to? Which upgrades should you consider?
In this video instead of reviewing the latest new smartphone, we’re going to talk about its unsung hero: RAM.
We partnered with @MicronTech to help you understand all the magical things that you get to do on your smartphone thanks to internal memory and storage.
Should you be excited for Apple’s satellite connectivity?
Fad or future?
If you watched the latest Far Out event from Apple, you might have noticed the debut of a new technology coming to smartphones: satellite connectivity. Though Apple has made the biggest deal of the new feature, the technology has existed even before Apple’s announcement. In fact, various smartphone makers are also announcing their own takes to go along with Apple’s satellites.
But what exactly is satellite connectivity? Before the world gets more of the new feature, let’s take a look at this emerging technology.
Look at the sky
The night sky is filled with satellites. Though you might not see any of them with the naked eye, they are all there in low Earth orbit (LEO). As you might imagine, their uses are aplenty. Most attribute LEO satellites to imaging, navigating, and measuring data. However, one emerging use is the improvement of connectivity for consumer devices.
Now, the biggest proponent of satellite internet is Starlink, a project of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. With over 300,000 satellites, the company’s satellite constellation provides internet to several countries including areas with low coverage. In fact, the company’s services are already somewhat in the Philippines.
Satellite internet does have its benefits. While the service isn’t the fastest, it offers connectivity that regular towers can’t normally reach. Imagine being out on a hike but you suddenly remember, oh my God, you left your stove running at home. Satellite internet will allow you to connect to the internet and notify a neighbor to check if your apartment has any wayward burn marks running up its walls.
Quite a feat, isn’t it? But is this what Apple just launched?
SOS, please someone help me
Contrary to what you might think, Apple’s new satellite connectivity doesn’t offer internet. It’s also not Starlink. Instead, it’s a simple SOS messaging service through the Globalstar satellite constellation. It won’t solve your faulty 5G service. However, it’ll help you in a pinch if you find yourself lost in the middle of nowhere.
Once again, imagine you’re out hiking. Suddenly, you fall down an unseen slope and break your ankle. You find yourself miles and miles away from civilization, and no one knows where you are. Apple’s satellite connectivity can help you send an SOS message to the authorities.
Here’s how it works. When you’re in a predicament, fire up the feature and point your phone towards the satellite nearest you. (Don’t worry; the phone will tell you where it is).
Now, it might take a few seconds to a minute before the phone can connect to a satellite — especially if the skies aren’t clear or if you’re underneath a canopy of trees. It might not even connect if the skies are completely obstructed. Regardless, while it tries to connect, the phone will ask a series of questions including who needs help and if anyone was harmed. This helps the phone craft and compress the necessary information for your message.
Because the service is only for emergencies, you can’t write an essay. Apple says that it will squeeze messages three time as small to ease transmission. It’s a wide-reaching 911 call for when you can’t actually call 911.
After compressing the message, the satellite will then beam the message to a nearby relay station on the ground, which will alert authorities for you.
Who can use it?
Naturally, only Apple users who have the latest devices will have the feature for now. Also, because it’s so new, it’s only coming to the United States and Canada with the upcoming iOS 16 update later this year. Of course, it might arrive to other territories soon after the initial launch.
China, however, is a no-go. Huawei launched its own satellite connectivity, packing the feature in the new Mate 50 series. If you’re in mainland China, you’ll have to use Huawei’s services.
Interestingly, Apple made it a point to say that the feature is free for the next two years. The implication seems clear: Users might have to fork over cash to keep the feature once the two years are up. Now, if you’re celebrating the coming of this arguably essential feature, the possibility of a paywall might leave a sour taste in your mouth. Should companies gatekeep who gets to send emergency messages in their time of need?
Passing fad or the future?
If you’re not a regular hiker, satellite connectivity might not appeal to you. However, it’s still interesting to wonder if the technology will make an impact outside of Apple. And it does seem that way.
It’s no coincidence that a few brands, including Apple and Huawei, have suddenly launched their own satellite connectivity features within a short span. Companies are putting a lot of money into the future of satellites. Very likely, Apple won’t be the last company to adopt the new feature.
Emergency satellite services are essential. Even if you don’t hike, you’ll never know when you might get into a precarious situation without cell coverage. Satellite connectivity mitigates that risk.
Now, how will the technology evolve beyond emergency services? Coupled with the efforts of Starlink, the early stages of satellite connectivity proves the concept of a satellite-laden future. Currently, a lot of services still struggle with the lack of towers in certain locations. The aid of satellites creates a future that won’t need towers everywhere. Though speed might be an issue, connectivity won’t.
That future is quite a possibility. However, it will also come with a host of questions. With space limited to only a handful of providers, will companies launch more satellites to address the potential need? How will space look like then? Will it just be a wasteland of used satellites? How much will everything cost? Though it’s coming, the future still has much to clarify.
Illustrations by Garel Perpetua.
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