VLC / VideoLAN is a popular desktop video player for Linux and Windows, and it’s the program I go to when I want to watch a local video on my computer. VLC also has an Android version, but last time I checked VLC in an Android TV box, I was disappointed due to the lack of SAMBA support, and video decoding support was pretty poor on Rockchip RK3368 processor at the time.
The good news is that the developers have now released VLC for Android 2.0, which brings several improvements including:
Support for network browsing including DLNA/UPnP, Windows Shares (SAMBA), FTP(S), SFTP, and NFS
Multi-windows/pop-up video with support for Samsung MultiWindow and LG Dual Window extensions
New asynchronous hardware decoder, and codecs and formats support updates.
Subtitle downloads via OpenSubtitles from VLC interface without having to go to the website inside a web browser
Right-To-Left and Complex Text Layout subtitles
Video playlists support
History has been added back (but can be disabled)
Less permissions required, and support for Android N
Although it’s likely to work better in Android smartphone and tablets with Samsung, Qualcomm or Mediatek processors, it might be worth giving it a try in Android TV boxes too. You can do so by installing VLC for Android from Google Play.
Most smartphone manufacturers will drag their feet to release GPL source code, unless you go with Google Nexus or Android One smartphones. OnePlus is another exception as they have just launched OnePlus 3 smartphone, and released the source code the very same day as the hardware launch.
OnePlus 3 specifications:
SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core ARMv8 processor with two “Gold” cores up to 2.2 GHz, two “Silver” cores up to 1.6 GHz, Adreno 530 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0, and Vulkan, and Hexagon 680 DSP @ up to 825 MHz
Connectivity – 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS, GLONASS and BeiDou
Rear camera – 16MP with EIS (Electronic image stabilization) OIS (optical image stabilization), auto focus, up to 4K @ 30 fps or 720p @ 120 fps (slow motion); Sony IMX 298 sensor
Front-facing camera – 8 MP with EIS, fixed focus up to 1080p30 fps; Sony IMX179 sensor
USB – USB Type-C @ USB 2.0 speed
Sensors – Fingerprint 3.0 scanner, Hall sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor and electronic Compass
Misc – Hardware keys, vibration motor, RGB LED notification light
Battery – 3,000 mAh non-removable capacity with support for Dash charge (5V/4A)
Dimensions – 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm (Anodized aluminum body)
Weight – 158 grams
The phone ships with a pre-applied screen protector, a Dash charge Type-C cable and charge adapter, a SIM tray ejector, and a quick start guide. OnePlus3 runs OxygenOS based on Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
This brings me to the software release. I understand that while OxygenOS itself is not open source, you can still retrieve the open source part and some extra binaries from the phone to build and possibly modify the image yourself, as explained on OnePlusOSS github repo:
Retrieve some close source libraries from the phone after rooting it:
This will create a “vendor” directory that you need to copy to the build directory
You can then build the firmware:
and flash it with fastboot:
adb reboot bootloader
fastboot flash boot boot.img
fastboot flash system system.img
OnePlus 3 sells for 399 Euros. More details can be found on the product page, and if you are interested in hacking the device (rooting won’t void the warranty btw), you may want to check the dedicated forum on XDA developer.
Project Tango uses computer vision to enable mobile devices to detect their position relative to the world using 3D maps of the world created in real-time using 3D depth cameras. Google and Lenovo had already announced a Tango phone would be launched later this year during CES 2016, and the companies have now officially introduced Lenovo Phab 2 Pro, the world’s first Tango-enabled smartphone, scheduled to start selling worldwide in September for $499 and up.
Lenovo Phab Pro 2 specifications:
SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 Tango Edition processor with 4x ARM Cortex A72 cores @ up to 1.8 GHz, 4x ARM Cortex A53 cores, and Adreno 510 GPU
System Memory – 4GB RAM
Storage – 64GB flash
Display – 6.4″ display with 2560×1440 (QHD) resolution
Audio – Dolby Atmos / 5.1 audio capture via 3 microphones with 360 voice noise-cancelling (Note: How can you record 5.1 audio with only 3 microphones?)
16MP rear camera with fast auto-focus (< 0.3 s)
8 MP front-facing camera
Motion tracking camera
Misc – Fingerprint scanner
Battery – 4,050 mAh with 2.4x turbo charging
Dimensions – 8.9 mm thick
The phone will obviously run Android, and several Tango apps can already be found – or soon will be – in the Google Play Store such as Lowe’s Home Improvement app capable of showing items for sale in your own living before actually buying them, or take measurements, as well as Phantogeist, Raise or Woorld augmented reality games mixing virtual with reality.
Google announced Daydream virtual reality platform at Google I/O 2016 a few days ago, and now ZTE has announced the first phone compatible with Daydream, namely Axon 7 powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor with 4 to 6 GB RAM, and 64 to 128 GB flash.
Their will be three versions of the phone: basic, standard and premium editions with the following key features and hardware specifications:
SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 quad core ARMv8 processor with two “Gold” cores up to 2.15 GHz, two “Silver” cores up to 1.6 GHz, Adreno 530 GPU with support for OpenGL ES 3.2, OpenCL 2.0, and Vulkan, and Hexagon 680 DSP @ up to 825 MHz
System Memory and Storage
4GB RAM, 64GB flash, and micro SD slot up to 128GB OR
6GB RAM, 128GB flash, and micro SD slot up to 128GB
Display – 5.5″ 2560 x 1440, WQHD AMOLED, 2.5D; Premium: force touch support
Battery – 3,250 mAh capacity, support for Quick Charge 3.0
Dimensions – 151.7 x 75 x 7.9mm
The phone currently runs MiFavor4.0 based on Android 6.0, but ZTE will have to update this to Android N if they want to support Daydream VR.
The company has also introduced ZTE VR headset for the phones:
Lens – Aspherical lens; field of vision: 96 degrees; PMMA material; diameter: 38 mm;
Viewing adjustments – 8mm lens effect distance; 0 to 600 degrees vision; auto adaptive pupil distance
Sensors – 9-axis gyro sensor
Dimensions – 185.3 x 85.3 x 76.7mm
Weight – 255 grams (Only headset)
ZTE Axon 7 has launched in China on JD.com on May 26 for 2,899 RMB ($422) for the Basic edition, 3,299 RMB ($500) for the Standard edition, and 4,099 RMB ($625)Premium edition, while ZTE VR headset is priced at 518 RMB ($94). International launches in the United States, Europe, and other regions will come a little later.
Two innovative cases for smartphones have been introduced very recently: OtterBox uniVERSE modular case system which allows you to add various modules in a similar fashion to what Project Ara promises, and Tapit case adding a flexible keyboard on top of your smartphone case.
OtterBox uniVERSE modular case system
The company offers a protective case for your phone for $50 to $60, and you can add modules as needed from the following selection:
Square Contactless & Chip Reader, $49.99 – To accept credit cards and contactless payments on the go
PolarPro Beat Pulsar Wireless Mobile Speaker, $59.99
PolarPro Fisheye Wide-Angle Lens, $29.99
PolarPro Trail Blazer Armband, $34.99
PolarPro Stash Slim Mobile Wallet, $19.99 – Ditch the wallet and stash cash directly on the uniVERSE case
The downside is that the case and accessories are only available for iPhone 6/6s, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 6s Plus, but I assume that if the system gains traction popular Android smartphone will be supported too. Alternatively you could also use Nexpaq once/if they sort out their issues.
Tapit’s usefulness appears to be debatable, but basically it’s a case with a transparent physical keyboard that give users tactile feedback to make possible eye-free smartphone operation. So for example, it could improve the experience if you use your smartphone as a remote control for your TV or TV box, and Tapit Launcher app pictured above, allows the user to pre-defined 18 keys on their lock screen for fast access.
The company provides an API in order to let third parties develop app leveraging Tapit physical buttons. The case is compatible with Samsung S5, S6, S6 Edge, S7, and S7 Edge smartphones, and the company took it to Kickstarter to raise at least 20,000 Euros to go ahead with mass-production. Rewards start at 35 Euros (early bird) and 49 Euros (Classic bird) for the case. Shipping is included, and deliver is scheduled for November 2016. Visit Tapit Case website for a few more details.
Google has also unveiled the third Android N Developer Preview at Google I/O 2016, and the first “beta quality” release, available on Nexus 6, 9, 5X, 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel C, and Android One as a “seamless updates” if you opt-in to the Android Beta Program in order to get an over-the-air update with the very latest firmware.
Google wants Android N to be faster, safer and more productive. The first two previews addressed performance with a new JIT compiler and Vulkan 3D graphics API support, productivity with multi-window support and direct reply from notifications, as well as security thanks to seamless updates bringing the latest security patchsets to your phones in a timely manner.
The third preview brings fixes, and some interesting new features:
VR Mode in Android – Google has modified and augmented the Android stack in N to reduce lag between sensor data readings (e.g. head motion) and sending pixels to the display. Motion-to-photon latency on Nexus 6P is now less than 20 ms, a required to make the user feel he/she is really in the rendered scene. You can read Imagination Tech blog post for more details about low latency implementation. Google has now two VR kits: the good old Cardboard and a new platform called Daydream, just like Android screensaver, that’s virtual reality kit with a two button motion controller that will be available in fall 2016, and work with upcoming Android N smartphones.
Android Instant Apps – So far if you want to install and an app, you need to go to Google Play, search for it, install it after agreeing to permissions, and finally you can tap to run it. Google has decided to develop a faster way with Android Instant Apps which let you skip the installation part. You just need to tap to run the app as you would do when you click a link on your web browser. Android Instant Apps are compatible with Android 4.1+ using Google Play services.
Sustained Performance Mode – Most recent devices will throttle under heavy load, leading to dramatic performance fluctuation of long-running apps. To address these limitations, Android N includes support for sustained performance mode, enabling OEMs to provide hints about device-performance capabilities for long-running apps. App developers can use these hints to tune apps for a predictable, consistent level of device performance over long periods of time. The new API is currently only enabled on Nexus 6P device.
You can get a complete list of API changes for Android N (all preview versions) on Google Developer’s Android N page. Google has still not decided about the actual name for Android N, so they’re asking for your help.
In recent days, I wrote about low cost MCU boards such as the $2 BluePill, and the One Dollar Board project, but several people commented that while the board themselves are very cheap, it might still be a problem in some developing countries, where access to computers cannot be taken for granted. So person suggested that such initiative would work better in some countries if programming was possible via a smartphone instead. Is that true?
According to a 2014/2015 study by Pew Research Center, there is some truth to it, but it varies greatly between countries. For example, 55% of Brazilian adults own a computer at home, while only 24% own a smartphone, but in Kenya only 8% own a computer at home, while 15% own a smartphone. Some devices in the “cellphones but not smartphones” might be feature phones with WiFi and a web browser.
Some of the steps (installing firmware) require a computer, but this could be either done at the factory or using a single computer in the classroom, with Lua programming done on the students smartphones. A summary of the steps can be found below:
Asus has introduced Zenfone Go TV Android 5.1 mid-range smartphone that only stands out thanks to its built-in digital TV tuner supporting DVB-T2 and ISDB-T standards letting you watch terrestrial digital TV on the go without needing Internet connection.
The smartphone runs Android 5.1 with ASUS ZenUI “skin”, and ships with the battery, a power adapter, a USB sync cable, and a 3.5mm wired headset with microphone.
The tuner makes it suitable for ASEAN & Middle East, Europe, Africa, South America, Taiwan, and Japan, all countries that broadcast using DVB-T/T2, or ISDB-T. I’d assume you’d have to be relatively close to the broadcasting station for it to work, and/or that it might not work everywhere you go.