Last year, Google introduced a kill switch in Android to prevent lost or stolen handsets from being reused. Formally known as Factory Reset Protection, this security feature has been designed to, among other things, only allow the intended owner to use the device after a factory reset has been performed. In theory, it is a great idea, so much so that some markets have actually made a kill switch mandatory, in an attempt to deter smartphone theft.
In practice, however, Factory Reset Protection is not as effective as you might expect -- it can be bypassed on the latest version of Android, 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and in the latest Android N preview.
With the release of Marshmallow (Android 6.0) the usual question rears its head. It's the eternal question that Android users ask themselves every time Google releases a new version of its mobile operating system: will my phone get the upgrade? If you have a Nexus device, you are probably in luck -- unless it's really old, of course -- but what about everyone else?
Unlike Apple's iPhone, which has a very long support lifecycle when it comes to iOS upgrades, Android is famous for its fragmentation. Marshmallow may have been released, but it's down to individual handset manufacturers and carriers to push out the updates. So... is your handset in line for the upgrade? Here's what we know so far.
After upgrading to Android 6.0 Marshmallow on your Nexus device you have likely noticed that there is still no way to change how the battery information is displayed in the status bar or choose which Quick Settings toggles are shown in the notifications panel. Google continues to be quite limiting in this regard, which is a bit puzzling considering others like Samsung allow this kind of customization. (After all, who wouldn't like to see a battery percentage instead of a bar that is hard to interpret?)
Fortunately, both of those things can be easily customized without relying on third-party apps or rooting. All you need to do is enable System UI Tuner, a control panel that is included, but hidden by default, in the latest version of Android. Here is how you can do that.
Google packed today's big annual autumn product launch with loads of news: Nexus 5X and 6P (available for preorder now); Chromecast 2 and Chromecast Audio (for sale today); Google Photo enhancements (rolling out soon); Android 6 "Marshmallow" (arriving on existing Nexus devices next week); and Pixel C tablet (coming sometime before the holidays). Jamming in so much, some things might get overlooked. One seeming tidbit rapped my attention.
Soon after discussing how Marshmallow uses a new permissions scheme for apps, Google veep Dave Burke said: "With the new Nexus devices, we've reduced the number of preloaded apps on the phone, to make the out-of-box experience cleaner and simpler. We've also developed a new system that moves over a quarter of our apps to a post-setup installation phase, which means they can be uninstalled just like any other apps". The implications are interesting.
As September 29th approaches, and Google's annual autumn launch event, rumors increase in frequency, and a few in absurdity, about what will be revealed. The gadget-obsessed shouldn't forget what else might arrive with one, or even two, rumored new Nexus smartphones: Expanded support for Project Fi. I am surprised how little buzz there is among the fan base. Where are the rumor-wagging tongues?
The search and information giant introduced the invite-only cellular service in April 2015, piggybacking Sprint and T-Mobile networks for a cool $20 a month, plus 10 bucks more for each gigabyte of data (refunding for portion unused). The gotcha: Project Fi only supports one device: Nexus 6. You buy one or you bring your own. Otherwise it's fee-Fi-fo-dumb for you.
A lengthy password is a good thing, right? For some Android users running Lollipop, however, it may be possible to bypass the lockscreen simply by entering a password that is incredibly long. Copy and paste a lengthy string into the password field, and it is possible to crash the lockscreen and gain access to the phone or tablet.
While the vulnerability is worrying, it is not something that can be exploited remotely -- it is necessary to have physical access to the phone. The bug was discovered by security researchers at Texas University and while a patch has been issued for Nexus devices, other handsets remain vulnerable.
Google and Samsung announced today that they are taking steps to ensure the ongoing security of Android phones and tablets. Both companies said that over the air (OTA) updates will be released on a monthly basis with Google focusing on its range of Nexus devices.
Samsung made reference to the recent StageFright vulnerability in announcing that its Galaxy devices are in line for regular security updates. While Google will be pushing out OTA updates directly, Samsung is currently in talks with global carriers to ensure that updates can be delivered "about once per month".
Google has decided to significantly reduce the price of its Nexus 6 models in the UK. The devices are now available on Google Store for as low as £399.
The 32GB model of the Motorola-made handset comes in at that price, while the 64GB version is down to £479. The devices' initial prices were £479 and £549 respectively.
While choosing which iPhone to buy is a fairly simple decision -- there just aren't many options to choose from -- it's a very different matter for Android fans. The wealth of hardware manufacturers producing an endless stream of handsets means that a trip to the phone store, physical or online, can be overwhelming.
Today Google launches a new tool that can be used to home in on the perfect Android handset for you. Answer a few simple questions about the types of thing you need from a phone, and the wide selection of devices will be whittled down to those that are just right for you.
Google revealed lower revenue from its Nexus devices last year, putting some pressure on the low-cost, high performance program’s future. Fortunately, it sounds like Google is planning to give the Nexus smartphone another try in 2015, according to Android Police.
Instead of having a single mobile, Google is planning two Nexus devices this year. One will feature a 5.2-inch display, the other a 5.7-inch display. LG will work on the smaller device, while Huawei will take its first role in the Nexus program with the 5.7-inch model.
The latest Lollipop incarnation may been have around for more than a month now, first arriving on Android One smartphones slated for Indonesia, but Google only yesterday made the official announcement, and revealed the much-awaited changelog. The good news doesn't end there, as the search giant also released a number of Android 5.1 factory images.
Android 5.1 Lollipop packs some pretty major changes. Among them are support for multiple SIMs, a feature that lots of Android vendors have offered for years now, and Device Protection, a feature designed to deter smartphone theft.
Getting the latest Nexus smartphone from Google in the first few months of availability can prove to be a real adventure. You know how it goes, as the same thing has happened before with its predecessor. You have to be either extremely lucky to get one early on or extremely committed to the brand to put up with the perennially insufficient stock by waiting your turn at finally getting one. It's insane.
Because of these issues, I have long given up on the thought of buying the latest Nexus smartphone while it's hot -- including the Nexus 6 phablet, as much as I would love to grab one. The fault lies consistently with Google. The search giant is terrible at selling smartphones. Even worse, it comes up with a crappy excuse to justify it.
Just like any other first iteration of a major operating system release, Android 5.0 Lollipop is not without its fair share of problems. The main issues that users are reporting are related to battery life, responsiveness and Wi-Fi. Like other 2013 Nexus 7 users, I also have problems every so often with video playback on YouTube, something which did not crop up back in the Android 4.4 KitKat days.
Naturally, most issues will go away with the first or second update. Google is actively working on squashing the reported bugs, proof being that the company just pushed Android 5.0.1 Lollipop to AOSP (Android Open Source Project) and released the accompanying factory images for a number of its devices.