Android 7 – Nougat Coming to HTC Flagships

If you have a top of the line HTC phone, you might want to take a look at this…

nougatGoogle recently announced the release of Android 7, code named Nougat, to the general public. If you have a recent Nexus device, going back to the Nexus 9, you can download and install Nougat right now. Google is supporting the following Nexus devices under Android 7 Nougat:

  • Nexus 6P
  • Nexus 6
  • Nexus 5X
  • Nexus 9
  • Nexus 9 LTE
  • Nexus Player

These are also the devices that are going to run PURE Android… meaning that you’re going to get Android without a lot of the crapware that comes from other device manufacturers or carriers. If however, you don’t have a Nexus device, and like me, you have HTC Android devices, take heart. Well… sort of…

HTC has pledged support for Android Nougat, but as of this writing, Nougat is only pledged for specific phones:

According to RedmondPie, HTC is going to release it for a “slew of other unspecified devices;” but God knows what that means.

If you’re wondering when you can get Android 7.0 for your supported HTC flagship phone, according to Android Authority, if HTC holds to the same schedule as it did with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, you can expect to see Nougat arriving on supported devices about two months from now (or sometime during October 2016).

If you have a supported Nexus device and have already installed Android 7.0 on it, I’d love to hear from you. Give me all the details on how the upgrade went for you. If you plan to upgrade your supported HTC device or supported Sony, LG, Samsung, etc. device to Android 7.0, I’d love to hear from you as well. The best way to do this is to leave a comment in the Discussion area, below. I will get back to you ASAP.

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Upgrading an HTC One (M8) to Android 6.0 Marshmallow

Why Verizon makes life so difficult is beyond me…

android marshmallow

About 12 years ago, I wrote a couple of reviews for pocketnow  related to very early PocketPC phones – the Samsung i700 and the hands free kit that went with it.  The i700 itself was about $500 – $600 depending on the length of the contract that your got with the phone. The hands free kit (read: car it), which in today’s much more advanced Bluetooth enabled world would be handled by your car radio and some kind of universal mounting kit, made it safe and easy to make and place calls on the go. It was $200. (I paid a combined total of $700, which translates to $987 in today’s dollars when you factor in inflation.)

The point in heading down memory lane is that back in the day, when anyone at Verizon Wireless saw a PocketPC phone coming, the store associates ran the other way. None of them understood it, and knew that their company made working with the devices very difficult.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t changed much…

If you remember, I spent a great deal of time with the HTC One (M8) about two years ago.  Thankfully, I was able to keep the M8 on an “extended loan;” and I’ve been covering Android using this device ever since.  If you’re interested, you can see the unboxing video I did of the device, here.

The M8 came with Kit Kat (Android 4.4.2). It got an upgrade to Lollipop (Android 5.0 and Android 5.0.1) in 2015.  The upgrade for Marshmallow (Android 6.0) for the M8 was announced in late 2015. It was actually expected in December 2015, but was (obviously) delayed.  The device finally got its upgrade on 2016-03-07; and in order for me to get it on this device, I had to jump through some pretty big and complicated hoops.

In the process, I learned some very interesting things about Verizon.  I’ll get to all of them as I run through this; but suffice it to say… I’m very glad they are no longer my carrier of choice.  If I had to do crap like this for every smartphone OS update, I’d probably dump them all over again.

Anyway, here’s what I learned:

  1. There’s no direct download for the upgrade
    The upgrade for Marshmallow for this phone is OTA (over the air) only. You used to be able to download device updates to a PC and then flip a couple of settings on the phone, connect it to your PC via USB cable and then push the device to the phone.  Not so much anymore…
  2. You MUST have an Active SIM
    The HTC One (M8), unlike many traditional Verizon Wireless devices, actually has a SIM card.  However, that SIM card is tied to one number and one number ONLY (it can’t be recycled like AT&T or T-Mobile SIM’s can after 3-6 months of inactivity), and its tied to ONE specific device. Period.Over and above that, I found that if you want any kind of device update from VzW, you have to have an active SIM card, which means that you have to have an active account, with that device on that account; or have to have had an active account, and a SIM card that is still able to communicate with VzW Towers as a “valid” SIM card.If your SIM card/ device has been out of service for more than 3 months, you’re kinda hosed. An active Wi-Fi connection and internet access is not enough to pull down the upgrade to the device.

Given these restrictions, the only way I was able to upgrade my M8 to Android 6.0 Marshmallow is to try to activate the device.

Long story short, I opened and closed a VzW account for that phone over a 24 hour period.  After getting the SIM recognized by the local Verizon towers, the upgrade and its associated pre-requisites were quickly installed on my M8.

Please note that I had three updates waiting for me after my device was back on the VzW network. One of them was an Android 5.01 related update.  It should have been installed months ago and didn’t due to my SIM card going inactive.

I’ll have a write up on Android 6.0 Marshmallow next month. At this point, I’m still playing with the device, trying to figure out the ins and outs of the update (and I’m also still arguing with Verizon about getting the $84 bill vacated for less than 24 hours of active service without ANY data, TXT or voice call usage).

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Verizon and T-Mobile Rolling out Marshmallow to HTC One M8 Users

I’ve been looking for it since December…

verizon and t-mobile

Back in December of last year (2015), HTC released Android 6.0 Marshmallow for its One M9 and M8 products. I began looking for it to hit my Verizon powered One M8 in January (as originally promised) but up to now, it hasn’t hit. I began to think that may have something to do with the fact that the VzW SIM I have in my One M8 is expired.

Thankfully, this doesn’t seem to be the case.

On Thursday,2016-03-03, Mo Versi, HTC’s VP of Product Management, announced that Marshmallow would be coming to M8 owners on the Verizon and T-Mobile networks on 2016-03-07.

HTC’s 2014 flagship the HTC One (M8) will begin its OTA rollout Monday 07, March 2016. Most OTA upgrades are staggered and delivered in waves, so while this update is limited to both the largest and third largest mobile carrier in the US, don’t be surprised if it takes a week or two for your device to actually receive the update notification and bits.

For those that get this or any other major OS update – REGARDLESS of platform – the best thing you can do for yourself is to blow the device and reinstall the new OS from scratch.

Most device upgrades – despite the extensive testing done by both the OEM and the mobile carrier – don’t always go well. Nine times out of ten, it leaves legacy information and configuration files on the device that negatively impact or effect how well the device functions, post upgrade. The only way to insure that you have everything working right – AFTER – the initial upgrade finishes, is to insure that everything is backed up and then perform a factory (or hard) reset on the device, and then do NOT restore that backup, but instead set the device up as a new device (or as if you had just gotten it from your carrier as brand new).

While some may see this as a defeat of the purpose of the backup you took just before the upgrade – and in some ways it is – what you’re really doing is making certain that your devices runs the new OS without any misconfigurations.

In short, don’t fear the hard reset.

Back in the days of Windows Mobile in the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s I found myself doing that all the time. Really more often than I wanted to because, well, Windows Mobile was a total piece of crap. The thing never worked right, and often would function differently each and every time you either upgraded or rebuilt your device from the ground up. While things aren’t that drastic now a days – mobile device OS’ are much more sophisticated and better engineered in the 15-20 years since I started all of this stuff – being able to rebuild everything without worrying about or getting too attached to anything, is the best way to go.

Most devices have some level of configuration backup – what apps you installed, a cloud driven file system for all your data – email contacts and calendar all synchronized, etc. – so getting back to where you were BEFORE the hard reset is much easier than it used to be.

After I get the update, and have performed my hard reset, I will post a brief article on how the Marshmallow implementation looks and functions on my Verizon powered HTC One M8.

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Convert videos for your Mac or favorite iDevice with MacX Video Converter Pro

Convert videos for your Mac or favorite iDevice with MacX Video Converter Pro

MVCP-01

One of the greatest things about modern computing is that the tools to create, transport and convert video – the kind that are of the quality that used to be available only to professionals – are now available to just about everyone. This is largely due to the fact that most of the hardware that common computer users now have access to, is professional grade. With that being the case, tools like MacX Video Converter Pro are a huge asset, as it provides professional processing with consumer level ease of use.

MacX Video Converter Pro is a general purpose Mac video converter that can convert video to any format. It supports MP4, H.264, MPEG, AVI, FLV, MOV, WMV, MP3, AAC, among others. It can also transfer supported HD video formats (AVCHD, M2TS, MKV) with flawless video quality. The app will also download YouTube videos. It will also record your screen, edit videos and allow you to make photo slideshows

The app supports a wide variety of formats and devices. You can convert video to and from iPhone 6/6 Plus, iPad Air 2/Air, iPad Mini 3/Mini with Retina, and Apple TV 3. The app supports files from iTunes and iMovie; and it will also support conversions to and from the HTC Desire 816, Galaxy S5 mini/S5, Galaxy Note 4/Edge, Galaxy Tab S, Amazon Kindle Fire HDX8.9, Google new Nexus 7, Surface Pro 3 as well as the Xperia Z1/ Z2/ Z3, and PS4.

MacX video Converter Pro is a decent desktop converter. Its interface is a bit disappointing to be honest, but its more than made of by the file formats and the the mobile devices it supports. The app works well with consumer based hardware, but is even better with high end hardware. The price is a bit on the high side for today’s desktop app market, but its performance is top notch. If you’re looking for a decent app that will not only download and convert YouTube video, but will also convert video to and from most of the popular mobile devices and video formats, you really will have a hard time finding a better app.

 

Download

 

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A Month or More with the iPhone 6

I’ve had the iPhone 6 since its original ship date back in September 2014. Let’s take a look at how things have gone so far…

Introduction

The release of the iPhone 6 is probably the biggest iDevice release in Apple’s history aside from the releases of both the original iPhone in 2007 and the original iPad in 2010. The iPhone 6 and its bigger cousin the iPhone 6 Plus are both evolutionary and revolutionary in the smartphone and phablet categories as they have brought both their 4.7″ and 5.5″ form factor sizes into the main stream, in my opinion. Before the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, smartphones around 5″ or larger were exclusively an Android thing… and something that Apple enthusiasts could only dream about.

No… I’m not saying that Apple defined, redefined or was the first one to the market with these larger phablet sized devices. That honor is definitely in the Android side of the world; and I think HTC or Samsung was the first to this party back in like 2008 or so. There was an Android device on the Sprint network (I forget the device name); but at the time, everyone thought it was WAY too big.

Now with the iPhone in the larger screen category, everyone is interested in how the phone looks, works and functions with a larger display, as well as with some of its newer functionality and hardware. I’ve had an iPhone 6 since the day it was originally released to the public in late September of 2014. I did an unboxing the day it arrived, and you can watch it on my site, iTechGear at your convenience. However, let’s take a look at the iPhone 6 as it compares to the iPhone 5/5s and a couple of other phones in my current device stable and see how it stacks up again not only the competition, but past iterations of itself.

Form Factor & Display

Next to the conclusion in this article, I’ve chosen to write this section last. I’m telling you this because, well… you’d think that with the size of the device and its display being one of the bigger differentiators with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+ that I’d be rushing to talk about the device’s form factor and display.

No… not really; and there are a few, specific reasons as to why…

Device Size

First and foremost, I didn’t want the entire world to think that I’m too much of a fanboi. Yes… I *AM* a full Windows to Mac convert at home. I really DO prefer OS X to Windows for what I do at home, for me… which amounts to mostly multimedia consumption (audio and video) via iTunes as well as digital photography (at least, once you get past all of the writing and such…)

Secondly, the change in device size is perhaps the most noticeable thing about the device. Once people see that you’re running iOS on your smartphone, AND they see the size of the device, they almost always ask you

  1. If you’re using the iPhone 6 or 6+ (without the context of the OTHER device, most people are surprised at how big either device really is. It’s not until you have both new iDevices side by side that you realize just how big they are.)
  2. If they can compare the size of my device to the size of theirs

In the case of the iPhone 4/4s or iPhone 5/5s, both the iPhone 6 and 6+ are dramatically and noticeably bigger. The iPhone 6 makes the iPhone 4/4s look like a growth stunted, pigmy of a device. It’s clearly much larger, and as such, the device loses its classic and Apple-touted one handed usability, that is, unless you’re someone with hands like LeBron James. I don’t think he – or people of similar size and stature – would have trouble stretching their hands to any corner of the device. However, in most cases, having a 4.7″ or 5.5″ diagonal screen means that you’re going to need both hands to operate it in most settings and occasions. However, Apple has tried to compensate for that somewhat, and has included a double-tap action for the Touch-ID sensor that will bring the top of the screen down to the middle of the display, making it easier to get to items at the top.

I will say that I love the new size of the screen. It’s much nicer to have a larger screen, though I wouldn’t like to go (much) bigger than the 4.7″ of the iPhone 6. I have also got an HTC One (M8), and that has a 5.0″ display. You can see the difference in the extra 0.3″; but I don’t want to get any bigger than that.

The iPhone 6+, for example, is just too big for me. The extra 0.8″ larger display than the iPhone 6 and half inch (0.5″) larger display than the HTC One (M8) is just TOO big for me. I honestly wanted the iPhone 6+ after seeing the announcing keynote during WWDC; but after I put my hands on it in an AT&T Store…

Yeah, no. It’s just too big for me. It’s like holding a mini iPad Mini up to your head, and I don’t know that I’d be able to do that without a tin foil hat or something… (too much radiation from too large of a device).

So for me, the size is just right.

Device Profile

Oh my goodness the device is THIN!

In fact, it’s almost too thin. The iPhone 6 is 6.9mm thick. The iPhone 6+ is 7.1mm thick. Compared to the iPhone 5/5s at 7.6mm, you can really see and feel that the iPhone has “lost weight” and has a much thinner profile than before.

The biggest problem I have is not necessarily “bend gate.” I know that the device isn’t going to bend in my pocket. It’s just that I’m afraid that it will. I know… it’s completely irrational once you get beyond the conspiracy theory. So, I’ve got my iPhone 6 is a huge, ugly Otterbox Defender Series case. It’s nice, but it really more than doubles the thickness of the device. I like this case. It does a good job of protecting the device; but its ugly as sin, and really makes the device almost too big in and of itself. I’m looking for a thinner profile case that offers some decent protection, but I haven’t found one that doesn’t cost more than the $50 USD that I paid for the Otterbox Defender I got on iPhone 6 Day.

I love the profile of the iPhone 6. I truly do, but I’m afraid that I’m going to drop it; and that if I do, that I will break or fracture the screen without the right case around it.

Yes… it may be irrational, but have you seen photos of the device or have seen one up close? It’s totally beautiful. Speaking of pictures, I have the full 360, below.

Device Photos – The Full 360˚

Here, you’re going to see my iPhone 6 beside an iPhone 5, the HTC One (M8) (an Android 4.4.x device) and the iPhone 5.

DSC_1864

DSC_1866

DSC_1877

DSC_1869

DSC_1875

DSC_1870

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Preorders of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Set New Record

Its been an interesting morning here at the Spera house…

6plus_buy_largeApple began preorders of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus at 12:01am Pacific Time (1:01am Mountain, 2:01am Central, 3:01am Eastern) on 2014-09-12. The preorders have set a new overnight record for new, preordered iPhones.

Apple issues a statement to re/code in which it stated that preorders of the larger iPhone 6 Plus sold out and that response to the [overall iPhone 6 family] has been incredible.”

Carrier partner AT&T also had a banner morning, with CEO Ralph de la Vega releasing a statement to Fierce Wireless. According to de la Vega, AT&T took hundreds of thousands of preorders for the new iPhone. He also indicated that the number of orders topped the launches of the iPhone 5s and 5c.

Customers from the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan who placed successful preorders should have units in their hands next week on Friday 2014-09-19. While Apple failed to say exactly how many devices were actually sold/ ordered, they did say that this release set a new record. Last year, they sold over 9 million 5s and 5c devices in the first weekend of availability. So, they’ve at least sold more than that.

For me, it was a difficult night. I had trouble staying awake until 2am Central Time, here in suburban Chicago. After I was able to make it to the noted time, problems began.

I had both Safari and Chrome open on my Mac with Safari pointed to the Apple site, and Chrome pointed to AT&T, as they are my carrier. The Apple Store site, never became available. Placing an order there was never an option for me, or for others I know that tried to order online via the Apple Store.

Placing the order via AT&T wasn’t easy, either. I’ve got an outstanding network pipe coming into the house. Its as least 100Mbps down, 50Mbps up, so its very fast. It took me over 90 minutes to place orders for three 64G, iPhone 6’s. They are supposed to arrive on 2014-09-19; but I was very lucky to be able to get the orders in at all. The site was pretty bogged down and I got many different error pages before I was successful with each order. It took persistence and a bit of tenacity to get past the overloaded site traffic; but then again, I started refreshing the site at about 1:55am Central in order to insure that I had a decent chance of getting my orders in.

Thankfully, I was successful. My iPhone 6’s (2 space gray and one silver) will arrive on 2014-09-19 according to the order confirmations I have from AT&T. Once I have them, I will of course, do an unboxing video for everyone as well as a full blown review with comparison photos of the three smartphones I have (the iPhone 5, HTC One (M8) and Nokia 520).

I will also try to find a vendor who accepts payments via NFC in my area and will film myself making a purchase via Apple Pay.

If there’s something that you’d like me to specifically cover in the review, please leave a comment and let me know. I’d be happy to address your questions and concerns in the coming days and weeks.

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Smartphone 101 – Receiving a Call

There are a couple-three different scenarios here, believe it or not. Some or all of them may present you with different screens and buttons when they occur.

  • Receiving a Call with the Phone in Standby/ Screen Locked
  • Receiving a call while using the Phone/ Screen Unlocked
  • Receiving a call while on Another Call (Did you know your Phone (likely) has Call Waiting, free of charge?)

Receiving a Call with the Phone in Standby/ Screen Locked

This is probably the most common scenario, unless you’re on your phone, literally, all the time.   Let’s assume that your smartphone is charged, and on a desk, or in a bag

    1. From a screen off position, your phone rings.
      RECV-ios-01 RECV-and-01 RECV-WP-01
      iOS Android Windows Phone
    2. Unlock the phone and answer the call. For iOS, slide the bar to the right. For Android, tap the green call button. For Windows Phone, slide the screen up.
      RECV-ios-01 RECV-and-02 RECV-WP-02
      iOS Android Windows Phone
  1. Conduct your call.
    RECV-ios-02 RECV-and-03 RECV-WP-03
    iOS Android Windows Phone
  2. When you’re done, press the End Call button to terminate the call.
RECV-ios-02 RECV-and-04 RECV-WP-03
iOS Android Windows Phone

 

Receiving a Call while the Device is in Use

This is probably the next most common scenario.   Let’s assume that your smartphone is charged, on and you’re using an app.

 

    1. While the phone is in use, you receive a phone call.
      USE-ios-01 RECV-and-01 RECV-WP-01
      iOS Android Windows Phone
    2. Answer the call. For iOS, tap the green call button. For Android, tap the green call button. For Windows Phone, tap the blue answer button.
      USE-ios-01 RECV-and-02 USE-WP-02
      iOS Android Windows Phone

 

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HTC One (M8) – Wrapping it all Up

My time with the HTC One (M8) is almost up. Here are my parting thoughts on the device.

Introduction

My time with the HTC One (M8) is nearly over; and I’ve had one heck of a time with the device. There are some things I really liked; and there are some things that I really didn’t care for at all.

I’ve published a number of blogs here on Soft32. You can search for all of them if you like, or you can simply click through and check out the links below:
HTC One (M8) Unboxing
HTC One (M8) – Initial Impressions
HTC One (M8) – Performance at a Premium
HTC One (M8) – Duo Camera
HTC One (M8) – Is Retro Good Enough?: The Dot View Case

I wanted to take a few moments and give the device the proper treatment before I box it up and send it back, so here are the core essentials of a proper review.

The Specs
The device has some really nice hardware specs from a device perspective. The camera, as you can see in my review of it, leaves a great deal to be desired. It does OK, but if you’re used to 8MP or better on your phone, I think you’re going to be greatly disappointed. However, I also have a decent DSLR and take some (semi-professional quality) pictures. Honestly, I don’t want to be a camera snob at all, but I would definitely NOT buy the HTC One (M8) for its camera. I’m not even certain I would rely on it as a smartphone camera. My iPhone 5 takes much better pictures, and by today’s standards, its 8MP sensor with f2.2 lens is about average. There are smartphones (some Android, some not…) out there with much, MUCH better lenses. If you’re wanting to double up smartphone and camera needs, this is not the phone to look at, in my opinion.

However, as I said, the rest of the specs are quite respectable, and I think, worth the premium price. The camera would have made this a home run, and instead, it unfortunately makes the HTC One (M8) just a mediocre phone.

Quad-core 2.3gHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
32GB Solid State Storage
2GB DDR3 RAM
microSD Card Slot supporting up to 128GB cards
5″ HD Display
HTC BoomSound
HTC Duo Camera – 4MP, dual LCD Flash
5MP Front facing camera
Bluetooth 4.0

The device does not appear to have BT LE as part of its Bluetooth stack. I’m not certain why. My iPhone 5 does, and its 2 years older than the HTC One (M8). Very disappointing, and somewhat confusing…

The device has enough onboard storage to hold a movie or two as well as most of your music collection. I’ve got a HUGE music library and have about 2300 songs on my iPhone 5. I’ve got maybe 500MB of space left over after that and all my tech podcasts (apps, etc.) are on it. With only 16GB, I don’t bother with video. There just isn’t enough space.

However, the HTC One (M8) has twice that space, and as I said, you can hold 1-3 HD movies, PLUS a large music collection, PLUS other audio (like podcasts) and still have space left over. You can also stick in up to a 128GB microSD card in the device for a max total space of 156GB. The HTC One (M8) gives you enough storage capacity to take everything with you, without having to compromise.

Its 2GB of DDR3 RAM insures that nearly everything you run – games, video player, music player, productivity apps, etc., run smoothly. In the month or so that I’ve had the device, I haven’t had any performance issues with it. It’s been running smoothly and quickly. I really couldn’t have asked for a better performing device.
The Hardware
Despite the camera issue (which for me, is HUGE, due to my photography bent), the HTC One (M8) has a lot to offer. From a hardware only perspective, the (M8) hits a home run.
The Device Itself
The HTC One (M8) is a great looking, great feeling device. Its aluminum body is solid, and it doesn’t look or feel cheap by a long shot. The device is thin and sleek. As you can see from the pictures below, it makes the larger iPhone 5 (with a 4″ 16×9 screen) seem dinky by comparison. I’ve tried to give you a decent look at the device. You have the full 360, plus the device’s front and back.

HTC One (M8) -0001
The HTC One (M8)

However, I did find that with a 5″ screen, the HTC One (M8) REQUIRES two hands to operate. I am huge (and have been for well over 10 years) on one-handed operability. I live in my device, and often have a notebook, pen and cup of coffee in one hand and my smartphone in another, checking mail, messages and the location of my next meeting. I can do this with my 4″ iPhone 5 quite easily. The device is skinny enough that I can hold the device and work the screen with my thumb.

HTC One (M8) -0002

The HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 5 – front view

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