Force your Nexus device to use 3G in low network coverage area

One of the most irritating things about Nexus devices is how they don’t stick to the network you choose. Say you’ve got 3G data to use and network coverage is weak, your device will quickly switch back to EDGE (or whatever has good coverage).

Funny thing is, AOSP has built-in feature to ‘force’ an Android device to use a network (even if coverage is nil) – but it is kind of hidden. Read on.

Screenshot_2014-01-17-11-20-50

To access the feature, open Phone/Dialer app, type *#*#4636#*#*. Tap on Phone information. Scroll down and you’ll find a drop down menu where you can choose between different network modes. Choose ‘WCDMA only’.

That’s all. Now your device will stick to 3G regardless of network coverage.

If you want a quicker way to access the setting, then get this little app called ‘Network’. It’ll directly launch the Phone information page and you can then change the network mode.

5 Announcements to Expect at Google I/O 2013

It is that time of the year again, when Google will be hosting developers at a 3-day conference. It is called Google I/O and as most presentations are available and streamed live on YouTube, it gives Google a massive audience to make new announcements.

Last year, they announced Google Glass, Android Jellybean, Nexus 7 and a few more announcements. This year should not be any different and here are five announcements, I expect from Google. Google IO takes place on 15-17 May, 2013.

Google_IO_2013

1. A New Android Version (Jellybean or Key Lime Pie)

Android Jellybean started off as Android 4.1 version. When 4.2 was released, it was still named Jellybean. This prompted the argument that Key Lime Pie will be version 5.0.

So will Google be pushing out a new version of Android? Absolutely yes. There is no way Google will host a conference with developers and not announce a new version. But this might not be the Key Lime Pie version but another updated version of Jellybean. So chances are that we will get to see Android 4.3 rather than Android 5.0 in May.

2. Google Glass Apps and partnerships

Google Glass alpha versions are out for developers to try out. I am sure that during Google IO, it will announce more apps and partnerships for its Glass project. I am sure this I/O conference will see a host of announcements and guidelines for developers to work with Google Glass. We might just see a better roadmap on how Google will be making Glass available for the general public in 2014.

3. Nexus 4 LTE and Nexus tablets

The Nexus brand will keep growing with more announcements likely. Nexus 7 tablet will in all probability see an upgraded model with better specs. Also expected is the announcement of Nexus 4 LTE phone. The current Nexus 4 phone does not support LTE but is supposed to have a inactive LTE chip on it.

4. Babel (Unified Messaging service)

Google is working on a unified messaging service that integrated your SMS from your Android phone, your emails and your chat messages on Gmail and Google+. This is on the lines of Apple’s iMessage and should work across platforms. Google will probably integrate this service into Android and Chrome initially.

5. Google Now on Chrome and web

Last week, I wrote about how Google is trying to gets its Google Now feature from Android onto Chrome and the Google homepage. This might serve as a handy replacement for iGoogle initially but more importantly it means reminders and updates will be synced and displayed on your browser and also your phone.

Things we might not see:

Google will probably not announce a Nexus 5 phones – as Nexus 4 was announced only towards the end of last year. It might just announce a new phone often called ‘Google X’. But the best rumours about Google X are sketchy at best.

There were rumours of Google announcing opening of physical stores (like Apple Stores) but that also seems unlikely as Google IO probably is not the best place for that announcement.

What do you expect to see this Google IO? Do drop in your comments.

Stock Android: It’s almost perfect, except for a few quirks

Android during the Gingerbread phase was considered to be slow, laggy and badly designed. Ice Cream Sandwich changed that. All of that. Then came Jellybean, blowing everyone’s mind with Google Now.

Now here’s the thing, though the actual or stock versions of ICS and Jellybean are good, the skinned versions like Touchwiz, Sense or Motoblur are just inferior. Recently, I’ve got a Galaxy Nexus for myself, which is now running 4.1.1 and here’s how the software experience compares to the skinned versions of Android.

stock-android

Interface

Until ICS, Google never cared much about interface in Android. With ICS, they have introduced Roboto – a clean new typeface, new UI concepts like Holo, UI transitions and all.

Jellybean, on the other hand, was about polishing ICS rather than making a whole new version of Android.

To add to this, there are an increasing number of apps on Playstore which stick to Android’s design guidelines. Quora, TED, Pocket and many others – the list is just too big. All this make up to an OS with a unified interface – you’ll understand why this is important if you’ve ever used iOS or WP.

Pretty much all the skinned versions of Android change the look and feel of the OS and most often, they make it ugly. Or else, I’ll put it like this – the Metro and Desktop UI in Windows 8 never mix and the switch is never smooth. Likewise, in skinned Android, the Touchwiz/Sense over Holo UI looks totally out of place.

Faster & Smoother

In Jellybean, you can see that, Project butter and triple buffering did make a difference in smoothness of OS.

Here I’m not saying Touchwiz is laggy on Galaxy S3 or that Sense is slow on One X. They are indeed snappy, but that’s only on the high-end phones. Use any of the mid-range Android devices, be it the Xperia, Galaxy or other smartphone series and you’ll know how degraded the user experience is.

Nexus S, on the other hand, has hardware on par with many mid-range Android devices and is very responsive. That’s simply because there is no extra UI layer in Nexus S, it’s just pure Android.

OS Updates

Almost an year back, Samsung announced that there will be no ICS update for Galaxy S, one of their flagship phones at that time. Their explanation was that, Galaxy S doesn’t have enough RAM to run ICS along with Touchwiz.

Android 4.2 is going to release on November 14th and less than 3% of Android devices run the current version i.e. Jellybean.

Nexus handsets are the only exception for this problem – Nexus One for example had support till Gingerbread (starting with Eclair). Nexus S is still supported by Google and I won’t be surprised if it gets the 4.2 update too.

Ultimately, if you really can’t wait for OS updates, Nexus series is your best bet.

Bloatware

I had a HTC One V previously, which had a paltry 4GB internal memory. It had insane amount of preinstalled apps including 7Digital, SoundHound, Flickr, Facebook for HTC Sense and much more. Because it was running ICS, I could just disable these apps. Still, that doesn’t remove them from memory, anyway.

Touchwiz phones are no exception, sometimes the situation is more awkward – for example, Galaxy S3 running Jellybean will have two voice assistants – Google Now and S Voice.

It’s not all gold, anyway

While there are many advantages with stock Android, there are a few cons too.

Firstly, Android itself isn’t a ‘complete’ OS. It lacks a few basic things – a ‘Notes’ app for example. That’s something very basic. I myself use 3rd party apps for notes, but there is an obvious need for an inbuilt notes app.

There is no FM radio app. Or even a file manager. Or smart dialling. This is not a problem for someone like me who mostly relies on alternatives, but ideally, they should built-in.

Skinned versions of Android generally fix most of these issues. But, from what I can say, Google will look into these in the coming iterations of Android (Love how they’re bringing quick settings in 4.2 borrowing from Touchwiz).

Do you own a Nexus? Or are you sporting an AOSP ROM? Tell us what you think about it.

Google Cancels its Android Event

A few days ago, Google had started sending out invites for a special Android event, scheduled for the 29th of October. The event was to be held in New York. According to confirmation by Marketing Land, Google has cancelled the 29th October Android event. The event was cancelled because of Hurricane Sandy. The storm is supposed to hit New York over the next day.

Google at the moment has not yet announced a new date or venue for the event.

Google Cancels Android Event

The event was supposed to show case a LG Nexus 4 phone and a 10 inch tablet called Nexus 10 by Samsung. There were rumour about a new variant of Nexus 7 with 32GB memory and 3G compatibility.

Also the most important part of this event would have been the announcement of Android 4.2 (possibly called Key Lime Pie). Here is a list of the expected features of Android 4.2.

Nexus 7: New Tablet by Google! [Rumour]

It is that time of the year again, when rumours of new tablets and gadgets are abound. Google I/O Developer Conference is only days away and everyone expects it to roll out a new Nexus Tablet. According to Gizmodo Australia, the name, specs and price range for Google’s tablet offering have been leaked.

The 7-inch tablet is expected to be called Nexus 7 and some of the rumoured specs are as follows.

  • The tablet built by Asus will ship with a 1.3Ghz quad-core Tegra 3 processor, GeForce 12-core GPU
  • It will have 1GB RAM
  • The data storage limits are expected to be in two options 8GB and 16GB.
  • The screen will support resolution of 1280 X 800 and have a 1.2 megapixel front facing camera.
  • The battery should last about 9 hours.
  • The price of the tablet is expected to be $199/- for 8GB and $249 for 16GB.
  • The tablet will ship with Android Jellybeans as an OS.

Who is Google possibly targeting with Nexus 7?

Even though whenever someone comes up with a new tablet, the usual comparisons are with Apple iPad. Google is not exactly positioning Nexus-7 as a alternative to iPad but more so as an alternative to the cheaper, yet highly customized Kindle Fire by Amazon. Also looking at the price and specs, it seems Google is setting a standard for other tablet manufacturers making tablets.

With Microsoft announcing ‘Surface’ tablets, we can expect a lot of competition in this niche, which is always a good outcome for customers like you and me. Over the next few days, we will know if the Nexus 7 rumours are true or not.

Do drop in your comments.