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FEATURE REVIEW – Unihertz Jelly Pro

The Jelly Pro takes on the Goliath’s of the Android World with the smallest form factor since 2006 (or so)…

Introduction
I remember back in the day – and I’m really targeting the 2006 – 2009 time frame, just before, and right after the face of the smartphone industry changed with the impact of the release of the original iPhone in 2007, small one-handed devices were all the rage. At this point, the world was used to small, one hand operable candy bar styled phones. Phones just like the Jelly Pro.

I’ve got one for review; and I’ve already done an of this phone and have posted it for everyone to see. I’ve been using it on and off – the intended use of the device – over the past few weeks or so and I think I finally have enough information to pass along to everyone. The Jelly Pro is NOT intended to be used as a daily driver. It’s meant to be a go-to phone when you want or need something small and still want or need to stay connected. Let’s take a look at the device and see if the Jelly Pro is something that might help you.

Design
The Unihertz Jelly Pro is 3.7 inches tall, 1.75 inches wide and 0.6 inches thick. It weighs just 2.1 ounces and is so small, it can fit in the coin pocket of your jeans without any issues, problems or forcing. It slides right in. The device is so small that it really reminds me of the Zoolander Phone – The Veer.

Zoolander Phone - The Veer

The Jelly Pro supports full 4G LTE speeds and VoLTE; and should work on just about any GSM network. It also has dual SIM slots, allowing the device to support two phone numbers at the same time. This is totally amazing in a device that’s really this small. However, the device has a bit more going for it than its size. Let’s dig in…

Display
When you’ve got a device this small, there has to be a few draw backs. If there’s one spot that’s going to suffer the most, it’s the display. The Unihertz Jelly Pro’s display is 2.45 inches in size and has a resolution of 240×432 pixels. This is NOT a display that you’re going to want to watch any kind of video on, though the device is clearly capable of playing and streaming video, the screen is so small, it’s not something you’d want to use to watch video on unless it was all that you had.

In fact, if you’re a bit older, or have poor or aging eyesight, this display is going to be a challenge. Its small. It’s very small… Especially by today’s standards where displays for phones like the iPhone 8 or iPhone 8 Plus are 4.7 and 5.5 inches, respectively. The Jelly Pro’s display is approximately 1/2 of the size of the smaller, iPhone 8. It has 201 PPI (pixels per inch) and supports 16M colors. It’s also covered with scratch resistant glass, though I can’t find any information on whether its Gorilla Glass or something else. (So, assume something else, at this point, as Gorilla Glass would be a huge marketing point for a device of this size.)

The interesting thing here is that the phone’s biggest strength is also its biggest weakness – The phone’s size. It’s too small to do anything except make calls. Trust me, I’ve really tried…

The on screen keyboard is so small, it’s amazing that you can type any words… in English (or your language of choice). You’re going to rely on autocorrect a lot on this device. You’re also going to use speech to text a lot with this device, too. It’s going to be very difficult to use, especially if you’ve got big hands. I have had a lot of trouble with the on screen keyboard, even with my slender fingers.

Don’t get me wrong. The Jelly Pro has a decent screen. It’s just too small to do any texting with. It’s also too small to reply to any email with or to do any real typing with. If you’re a heavy texter, even if this is just an occasional device, it’s not going to be one that you’re going to want to send any messages with.

Hardware
The rest of the device actually has some decent specs… with one small exception – the battery. The device has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. As long as you have a decent data plan, this device should be able to handle audio (and honestly, video) streaming without an issue. It should also be able to handle local storage of some media and entertainment content as well. At 1.1GHz, the processor should be able to handle streaming audio without any concerns with lag or other processing issues.

As I mentioned earlier, the only other issue that the device has is the battery. Its only 950mAh. This means that you’re going to be charging the device at least twice during the day, especially if you try use the device all day.

The device will NOT last a whole day on a single charge. It simply won’t. The battery is just too small. You’re also going to want to make certain you have a microUSB cable handy. The device charges via microUSB, and since the battery is so small, being without one, especially if this is the only device you carry when you’re using it, is going to be a huge mistake. Charge as often as you can with this one…

The Full 360

The front of the Jelly Pro and the HTC One.  Boy this thing is small!
02 Jelly Bottom Edge
The bottom edge of both devices
03 Jelly Right Edge
The right edge of both devices. You can see the Jelly Pro’s microUSB port and power button here.
04 Jelly Top Edge
The top edge of both devices. The Jelly Pro’s 3.5mm headphone jack is located here.
Jelly Left Edge
The left edge of both devices. You can see the volume buttons on the Jelly Pro, here.

Android
The device comes with Android 7 Nougat. I haven’t heard any news related to the Jelly Pro running Android 8 Oreo. The one good thing that is going on, however, is that Unihertz is actively updating the device. When I turned the device on last month, I immediately got an update. I got another one recently as well. This kind of active support by the OEM really makes a huge difference. I’m very pleased that Unihertz is providing this much support on this device. It means a lot when the OEM takes an active role in a device’s life cycle.

Conclusion
The Unihertz Jelly Pro started through a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. The device only retails for $129 USD and is available directly from their their website. For the price, this is a huge deal. The device has enough power to handle most of what you would want to do with a mid to low level device; and does it affordably.

This device is cheap enough, and it’s got decent performance. Unfortunately, the Jelly Pro has got some serious issues with its battery life and the feature that’s supposed to be its biggest draw – its size. The screen is too small to type on. It’s too small to really watch any video content on. The battery is also too small to last you through a day with a single charge, ESPECIALLY if you use it to play any kind of game or watch any video. You’re going to need to charge it at least 2-3 times during the day.

The biggest premise of the phone – its cheap enough to use as a situational phone, is seriously hampered by its size, which is one of its biggest selling points.

Size in a device like this is important. That and price are the reasons why you buy it. However, its display size make it very difficult to use and the size of its battery makes it something that you’re going to have to charge often (at least once every 4-5 hours) under normal use, more frequently if you use it for any kind of streaming content, especially games and video.

While the cost of the phone isn’t all that high, buying something like this to use in place of say, an iPhone 8 or iPhone X or even a Note 8 when you don’t want to take the big device, is high enough that you probably won’t want to lay down an extra $130 bucks when you just spent $1000 or more dollars on the big dog, which is very disappointing…

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Unboxing the Unihertz Jelly Pro

I never thought the Zoolander phone was real… until now.

The Unihertz Jelly Pro is here! Just off of successful campaigns on both Kickstarter,and Indegogo, the Jelly Pro is intended to be a supplemental device and not your daily driver. The device is tiny. It fits in the coin pocket on your jeans. It fits into a small party clutch.

It goes where you do when you can’t take your standard, five plus inch smartphone, yet still provides all the power and functionality of your regular Android phone, without taking up all the space and without the risk of breakage (because you stuck it in a rear pocket or some other place where its likely to get sat on…
Jelly
Full Specs are below.

• 4G/ LTE Smartphone (with support for VoLTE (voice over LTE))
• Quad Core CPU 1.1gHz
• 2GB RAM
• 16GB ROM
• 950mAh Battery – Reported 4-12 hours real use, depending on apps installed
• 2.45 Inch (62.23mm) Display
• 8MP Rear Facing Camera
• 2MP Front Facing Camera
• Android 7.0 Nougat (out of the box)
• Connectivity Support:
o LTE
o WLAN
o Bluetooth
o GPS

Unihertz doesn’t have all of the details I’m looking for in their tech specs, so I’m doing a bit more digging and investigating to see if I can get information on connectivity support and when (read: IF) Unhertz will be updating Jelly Pro to Android 8 Oreo.

The full review is still in the works!

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Jelly – The World’s Smallest 4G/LTE Smartphone

After successful campaigns on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, Jelly is finally available!
Jelly

Back in the day, small but functional was the thing. One handed operation on any PDA or smartphone was not only important, it was imperative. Back in the early 2000’s, if you couldn’t fully operate your phone with one hand, it wouldn’t make it. I remember reviewing one or two phones who stretched this a bit and didn’t do very well. Back in the day, large screens were a no-no.

Today, the world is all about bigger screens for video purposes. In fact, the larger the screen, the better (without really being a tablet…). However, when you do this, you lose some portability and convenience. Enter Jelly… an Android phone that tries to go a long way to resolve this issue.

 

Unihertz sponsored two crowd funding campaigns – one on Kickstarter, the other on Indegogo. Together, Jelly was able to raise nearly $3M in funding.

Jelly is meant to be an “alternative” to your usual phone that you can use while working out or maybe going out for the night. The device, according to Unihertz isn’t supposed to be your primary phone, despite the fact that its running Android 7, Nougat.

Measuring 92.3 x 43 x 13.3 mm, Jelly sports a 2.45-inch screen with 240 x 432 pixels. Jelly is powered by a quad-core 1.1 GHz processor, with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of ROM or 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB ROM. Both models feature two cameras, dual SIM support, GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a 950 mAh battery.

According to Unihertz, with only a 950mAh battery, the device won’t last all day long, and you shouldn’t rely on it as your only device. This means that you’re likely going to need to swap your SIM card in and out in order to make this work as intended. From my perspective, 950mAh isn’t ideal, but it isn’t horrible. Back in the day, a battery this small was often encountered and just meant that you will need to charge it periodically, if possible.

However, the proof is in the pudding, as they say. I have a Jelly Pro (2GB RAM/16GB ROM (for storage)) coming to me to review. I expect it to be here some time in November 2017. I’ll have additional spec and performance information in the review, and I will also do an unboxing video as well.

Stay tuned!

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Installing Custom ROM’s on the HTC 10

You need to start with a rooted device…

Introduction
A while back I rooted the HTC10 that HTC sent me. Since then, I’ve not done much with the device. However, I did notice that rooting it DID break OTA updates for the stock ROM that ships with the device.

I found this out after I rooted the device and a device update notification showed up from AT&T. I suspect this was the Android Nougat update that was promised, but I’ll never know. Downloading the AT&T update and trying to install it simply reboots the device directly into TWRP Recovery for HTC10 and nothing more. Trying to do anything in TWRP at that point either results in a flash error or in a file not found error.

I’ve reached out to the author of the tutorial video but haven’t received any kind of response or acknowledgement.

I figured since I rooted the device and can flash just about any available ROM for it anyway, that I should likely get to flashing. However, before I get into anything here, I really need to relate the following:

  1. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) & No Warranty
    Anything that’s suggested in any of this text or any of the linked articles either written by me or referenced by me and written by others is done at your own risk. I’m not telling you to do anything, can’t provide you with any support; and no warranty – either real or implied – is available by or through me, Soft32.com (or its related companies) or your device OEM or mobile carrier. If you flash your device and it bricks, you’re simply outta luck. (it’s the same risk I’m taking with the same YMMV issues with my HTC10, too).
  2. It’s all Just for Fun
    I’m not suggesting or implying that you HAVE to do anything I’m writing about. I think it’s cool and I like to do it, at times…
  3. I Ain’t Goin’ Overboard
    The reason I stopped using an Android device in the first place was because supporting a rooted device can be very tedious and time consuming. I started doing it because I was bored with the stock launcher and Android distribution on the Android phones I was using. I’m going down this road again, but only with a select chosen few custom ROM’s and then certainly NOT with nightly or experimental builds.

Resources
The first thing you’re going to need is a microSD card. If you don’t have one in your HTC10, stop what you’re doing and go get one. A 32GB card can as cheap as $13 bucks on Amazon while a 64GB card can be gotten for about $21 bucks. Both of these deals are available via the same URL and are available with Amazon Prime’s 2 day delivery service. Get as big a card as you can afford. The HTC 10 will support a 128GB card.

After you’ve got an SD card in your device and its mounted and readable, you’ll need to find some ROM’s to flash to the device. Of course, the best place to find this stuff is XDA-Developers and most specifically, in my case, the HTC10 Device Forum.

Once you get to the form on XDA-Developers, you need to spend a bit of time wandering around. All of the ROM threads are prefaced with a “[ROM]” label. All the kernels with a [KERNEL] label, etc. everything is easy to spot.

[ROM] threads are likely the most interesting to most folks, especially those of us that are among the noobies of the group. Most of these threads come with an introductory post that explain everything you’d likely ever want to know (and everything you don’t) about the ROM creator, its features, issues, bugs, etc. This post will come with instructions on how to install it, as well as any needed or desired components that make this ROM special. It will also include any special instructions and gotchas that you might need to care for. Follow their instructions to the letter. You’ll want to be able to back up that claim with facts, should you need help setting things right if they turn sideways.

Read through all of that information.

It will also include any special instructions and gotchas that you might need to care for. Follow their instructions to the letter. You’ll want to be able to back up that claim with facts, should you need help setting things right if they turn sideways.

If the ROM author offers any support if and when you have problems installing the ROM, I can promise that they will be more willing to help you if you’ve followed all of their instructions and paid attention to the known issues, etc. for their ROM. If you haven’t they will likely send you packing telling you you’re on your own. That’s not me, that’s just the way this advanced crowd rolls.

[KERNEL] threads will provide instructions and download links to alternative ROM kernels that can be flashed to your device. Kernels can most likely provide a great deal of enhanced functionality to the ROM you’re using. However, since this is really the heart and soul of the ROM, you need to treat it like the “heart transplant” it feels like.

While all kernels in any device forum will work with that device, they may NOT work or work well with every ROM. Make certain you read the instructions post – again, usually the first post in the thread – and take note of any listed warnings. If there are ROM’s in the forum that don’t work and play well with any specific kernel, it will likely be listed in either the instruction post of the kernel or the ROM (or both). Heed these warnings. Don’t install a kernel that doesn’t work with your target ROM. You’ll brick your device or worse.

Flashing a Custom ROM
I’m not going to go into a great deal of detail here (there will be some) on flashing a custom ROM. There are some very specific reasons for this, and I want everyone to understand why.

  1. Flashing a Custom ROM Voids the Warranty on Your Phone
    It doesn’t matter what device you have. It doesn’t matter what custom ROM you use. If you’ve rooted your device AND you proceed to flash a custom ROM on it afterwards, you’re risk bricking the device AND you void the warranty all in one fell swoop.As such, flashing your Android device with a custom ROM shouldn’t be done lightly, or by anyone who really doesn’t know what they’re doing or getting themselves into. Recovering your device from a bad flash can be a very tricky, and very long, stressful set of activities.
  2. I’m not Taking Responsibility
    If you flash your device and it bricks, winds up in a circular boot loop (that happened to me while researching and writing this article…it’s not easy to fix), or some other nasty result, it’s not on me… It’s on you. You do this at your own risk.
  3. Your Mileage May Vary
    Not every custom ROM is built equally. You need to find ones that work for you. However, XDA Developers remains the PREMIER resource for finding rooting instructions and help and for available compatible ROM’s for your device.

If you’re still good to go with flashing a custom ROM to your previously rooted Android device – I have an HTC 10 and will be using it for this article.

Please note that my HTC 10 is still running Marshmallow and a Marshmallow compatible firmware. While I will be flashing a Nougat (Android 7) ROM on this device, my HTC 10 will still be running that Marshmallow firmware.

To flash a new ROM to your device, follow these steps.

  1. Find a ROM
    The first thing you have to do is find a ROM that you like, with the features you’re looking for. There are always a LOT of ROM’s to choose from. Pick one that you like and that has a lot of support from the developer. Most ROM posts have screen shots and informative information in the first couple of posts. Again, go through these intro posts very carefully. Any gotchas will be listed there.
  2. Copy the ROM to your SD Card
    Connect your device to your computer via cable. After allowing it to connect to your PC, copy your ROM of choice to your device’s microSD card. Depending on your PC and the type of connection you have (USB2, USB 3.x or USB-C), this may take up to 15 minutes. It usually takes about seven to ten minutes for me.
  3. Reboot to Recovery Mode
    I’ll be speaking to TWRP Recovery as defined in my article on how to root the HTC 10.Reboot your device to its bootloader and then to the recovery partition. Press and hold the power and volume down button until the device buzzes and then the device logo appears. The device’ download mode screen should appear.

    Press the volume down button twice. The blue bar should move down to highlight “reboot to bootloader.” Press the power button to accept the choice. The device will reboot into its bootloader.

    Press the volume down button three times. The blue bar should highlight the words, “Boot to Recovery Mode,” and press the power button. The device will reboot into the TWRP Recovery Partition.
  4. Begin the Installation Process
    Once TWRP has loaded, tap the Install button.

    TWRP’s select storage screen will appear. Tap the Select Storage button on the bottom left corner of the screen.

    Select the location where you copied the ROM image you downloaded earlier. If you followed my previous suggestion, you copied it to your storage card. Select the Micro SDCard radio button and tap OK.

    Select the ROM you wish to flash. The Install ZIP screen will appear, asking you to confirm your choice and to swipe right to start the process.

    The flash process will start, the LeeDroid logo will appear, and Aroma will appear.
  5. Choose your Aroma Options

    Aroma is a ROM option selection application used to collect installation and OS default options in Android ROM’s. It’s fairly straight forward and easy to navigate through. There are, SEVERAL Aroma screens. I’m not going to run through them all here, as that would unnecessarily elongate this process. It also may not be very meaningful to everyone, as my installation options are unique to my preferences. There are, however, a few screens that you need to be aware of when you go through the process. I’m going to highlight those very quickly, here.
    Do you wish to perform a full wipe?
    This comes about 5 screens into the process. If you’re installing a new version of an existing ROM on your device, you don’t have to do a full wipe. If you’re installing a never used on your device before ROM, you should always wipe your device before installing a new ROM. While you’ll need to reinstall all of your apps and tweak the ROM to your liking, you’re likely going to do a lot of that anyway. Failing to wipe your device appropriately, will likely cause it to become unbootable, as your data partition likely contains data specific to the functioning of your OLD ROM, and will conflict with the new one you’re flashing.

    Which firmware are you running?
    You are asked this on screen 7. Choose the right firmware! This process will NOT upgrade your device from one firmware version to another. It will only install the a version of Android that will run on your device; and that version must be properly configured for your device’s firmware.CHOOSE THE RIGHT OPTION HERE or risk bricking your device.
  6. Let the Install Run

    After all of your options are selected, tap the Next button to begin the actual installation.

    Let the install run. The ROM will install with the options that were selected. Tap the Next button when you’re done.
  7. Reboot the Device

    Tap the Next button. You’ll be taken to the TaDa page, indicating that you’ve successfully installed the ROM and a reboot is required.Reboot the device. Let the device do whatever the device wants to do when it reboots. It’s likely going to take a while to get through the first reboot after the flash, as well.Don’t panic.This is normal and not something to be concerned about. There are cache files that need to be created and written to internal storage, and this happens on the first boot of the device after a ROM flash.

Conclusion
Flashing a ROM on a rooted Android device is always an exciting time. In many cases, users buy a specific Android device for one of two reasons – they either love the hardware or they love the OS screens they see. It’s rarely ever both; but when that happens, its magical.

The HTC 10 I have is a truly awesome piece of hardware. I love the device, the camera, the Ice View Case; and was really NOT impressed with the version of Android that shipped with it. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t anything to write home about, either. Simply put, it allowed the device to operate. That’s about it.

Rooting your device and then installing custom ROM’s on it can be very exciting. It allows you to use functionality that the OEM or even the carrier never envisioned for the device in the first place. It allows you to extend the life of your device. I know users who find three to four different ROM’s that work with their device and then flash back and forth between the versions as the mood strikes them. If the device they own is popular and has a lot of enthusiast support, I’ve seen users do this for a period of three to four years with a single device. (Most smartphones are designed with a two year life span, max.)

Caution should be taken with any device flash, however. There are a lot of opportunities for failure and flashing the wrong type or version of a ROM on your device can easily brick it. As such, the moment you flash a custom ROM, you void the warranty on your device.

At the end of the day, READ the information the ROM author posts. Follow any and all instructions that are posted. Ask questions on the forum if you have them; and by all means… HAVE FUN!

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Another One Bites the Dust

CyanogenMod is Dead. Ok… so… NOW what?!

This is a real head shaker; AND a huge mess. As with so many small companies and/ or startups, what was once meant to concur the world, has ended in a flaming mess. It’s a common enough story, but one that bears a bit of telling, in that many – including myself – will find interesting.

It was announced a couple of days ago that CyanogenMod would shut down. By shutting down it’s not that the OS is going go back into a state of community driven development (at least not exactly), no. The entire company that came out of CyanogenMod is shutting its doors, its development, its services, etc.

The company is gone. Unfortunately, surprises like this often happen with internet properties. Unfortunately, you just never really know what’s going to happen. Sometimes, change comes suddenly and can be very jarring.

In 2015, the CEO of Cyanogen, Kit McMaster said they were going to kill Google. Two years later, they’re shutting everything down. It’s a common enough tale. Apparently, the company has burned through over $100M in venture capital and has burned down a number of bridges. The one real win the company got – their partnership with One Plus One, failed horribly.

In July of 2016, the company’s CTO and cofounder, Steve Kondik claimed that the company wasn’t going anywhere (meaning they were staying the course) and they haven’t put aside their intent to bring CyanogenMod to the world.

As often happens with organizations like this, the company lacked a single, centralized vision. There were serious conflicts between founders and senior management some of them got so “violent” between Kondik and McMaster (the CTO and the CEO, respectively) that McMaster swore to burn Cyanogen to the ground.

Which is exactly what happened.

Kondik’s power was reduced by October 2016 and Cyanogen announced it was switching from an Android fork – its original strategy – to an open sourced, modular OS. This would enable interested hardware manufacturers to put some, part or all of Cyanogen into stock or a home brew version of Android.

CyanogenMod, however, is dead. The company will shut down its nightly builds, its services as well as every other part of its OS on 2016-12-31. The dream, if you will, the brand, is dead. McMaster may have “won,” but Kondik is going to have the last laugh.

The OS will be forked. According to Kondik, as stated on the CyanogenMod Google+ list, the list’s moderators indicated that the OS would indeed be forked and continued,
“However, CM has always been more than the name and more than the infrastructure. CM has been a success based on the spirit, ingenuity and effort of its individual contributors – back when it was Kondik in his home, to the now thousands of contributors past and present.

Embracing that spirit, we the community of developers, designers, device maintainers and translators have taken the steps necessary to produce a fork of the CM source code and pending patches. This is more than just a ‘rebrand’. This fork will return to the grassroots community effort that used to define CM while maintaining the professional quality and reliability you have come to expect more recently.”

The reincarnation of CyanogenMod is going to be called LineageOS, and its believed that Kondik is leading the effort. The project, however, is still getting off the ground. Time will tell if the effort will be successful; and its likely to remain in this “stealth mode” for a while.

LineageOS is going to be built on parts of CyanogenMod 13 and 14. However, it’s not known when it may actually hit the streets. It’s also believed that Kondik is heading up the new effort. While they can’t actually assume any Cyanogen IP or intellectual property, they can build upon the idea of an Android OS that’s small, fast, easy to use. That’s the hope for LineageOS, if and when it is released.

Unfortunately, not much more is known. However, the LineageOS site – if you really want to call it that – promises more information will be released on Tuesday 2016-12-27. If you click on the Status link, you will see that some work, is indeed taking place.

LineageOS plans on putting in the following infrastructure:

  • Jenkins for builds
  • A Portal for downloads
  • A set of download mirrors
  • Gerrit Code Review for development
  • Jira for defects and requirements management
  • A statistics page
  • A wiki for knowledge management

Jenkins is already up to some extent, but is listed with a partial outage. Gerrit Code Review is up, but is listed with performance issues. Everything else is currently down. The incident log indicates that LineageOS will be monitoring Gerrit over the next few days.

No other information is currently available.

It’s clear that everything is still in its infancy at LineageOS. It’s going to take a bit to get things going, so if you’re interested in seeing this on your Android device, you’re going to need to wait a bit. You’re also likely going to need to pre-root your Android device. You’re likely going to need to do a bit of work prior to LineageOS and its first public build are released.

How the OS will be structured and what features it will have, have yet to be revealed. However, if everything happens the way I think and hope that it will, Android users will be in for a treat. LineageOS is likely to pick up where the original CyanogenMod left off before it became a “big deal” and got ahead of itself.

Are you an Android user? Have you rooted your device and do you use a custom ROM? Did CyanogenMod interest you? Have you tried it before? Is LineageOS something that you’re interested in? Will you install it on your device – given that its supported – once its released? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and give me your take on Cyanogen’s situation as well as what’s become of it and on LineageOS and its direction. I’d love to hear from you…

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Am I a Relic from the Distant (Music) Past? – Streaming vs. On Device Music

…And by distant past I mean, like Steve Jobs time frame… or just 15 years ago.

I’m an Amazon Prime Member. For this service, I, like everyone else who subscribes to this service, get unlimited, free, 2-day shipping on all of my Amazon, physical goods, purchases and all of the digital video my internet services (both at home and mobile) will allow me to stream.

prime-music-header

A little while ago, I got an email promo for Amazon Music Unlimited. It’s an on-demand, ad-free, music streaming service offered by Amazon (obviously) that streams music from their vast, digital music catalog. It comes with personalized recommendations, curated playlists and curated stations. It also has Prime Member exclusive pricing of $7.99 USD per month (non-Prime members can get the service for $9.99 per month). You can also get an Alexa only version for only $3.99 a month. That last deal should be especially interesting to folks who mainly listen to music only through their Amazon Echo.

Amazon is really stretching the offerings here. They’ve given users a number of different ways to get access to their vast catalog and are offering unlimited streaming without any ads. The extra $4 bucks a month for access to ALL of their music seems to be a huge no-brainer, especially if you have an Amazon Echo in the house. You can listen to anything and everything as many times as you wish, and Alexa will serve it up – again, ad free – all at the asking. I’m not certain exactly how vast their catalog is, but it has to be pretty big, right?

With this new offering, it appears as though Amazon is doing the best it can to make the best of Prime’s position. Their audience is big, and they have a lot of other services that they’d like to sell…

apple-music-header

Conversely, my daughter – and a whole bunch of other folks – subscribe to Apple Music. Apple Music works on every iDevice in sight, and once you subscribe on one, the service is available on every iDevice that uses your AppleID. At $10 per month for their service, it’s a similar offering to Prime’s in that you get access to everything, without any ads. I think the best thing here, is that their trial period is three months long.

The cool thing with Apple Music is that it provides purchase links to everything you hear, interfaces with Apple Pay (at least on your device) so buying something that you hear and really like is super easy… much easier I think than any other service offering available today.

UPDATE: Potential new pricing information has come to light from Neowin while I have been writing and researching this article. It is currently rumored that Apple is seriously considering a price drop on Apple Music in order to be more competitive with Amazon’s Prime Music. The new rumored price points are said to be:

  • Regular rate: $7.99 per month, down from $9.99
  • Family package: $12.99 per month, down from $14.99
  • Student rate: $4.99, remains unchanged

The decision looks like a tough one for Apple, it’s expected that if it does slash the price of its Apple Music, it will have to directly pay the difference to the record labels. Digital Music News claims that Amazon is already forking over money to the music labels to offer its own low prices on Amazon Music.

google-music-header

Google Music is much like Prime Music in that it offers a way for you to easily upload and stream all of the music you already own – up to 50,000 songs – as well as stream new music from their service. You get to stream all of YOUR music for free. With Google Play, you get a 30 day trial and after that, the service costs $10 bucks a month.

The cool thing about Google Music is that you get to stream your own music regardless of whether or not you subscribe. The software and service work on iOS, Android, and on macOS or Windows, via a web browser. You can download anything you hear, your music or the services, and listen to it either online or offline. The service has up to 35 million different tracks, too.

Unfortunately, Google Music doesn’t offer any kind of student or family plan. With Google Music, it’s one size fits all. So, you get everything for free for 30 days, and then its $10 bucks a month.

You know… I’ve been chewing on this article for about two months. I’ve talked to a lot of people about the whole streaming craze. Me…? I get it; but I don’t get it. Traditional radio is on the outs. Kids… millennials… don’t listen to it. I’m not certain why, but they’re not. Maybe it’s the mix… the music that’s being played. Maybe the kids don’t like being dependent on the DJ or the station and all of its advertising influenced playlists. Maybe they like having more control over the content that actually plays and streams; and when you subscribe you get ad free music – so no commercials or DJ’s stopping to promote this that or the other thing – and you get both curated playlists AND the ability to skip as many songs as you don’t like (depending on the service).

Here’re the issues that I have with all of this:

  1. You Gotta Pay for the Service
    Traditional radio is free. And while I get that while most smartphones can play FM broadcasts, they DON’T include an FM radio app. Most kids carry their smartphone. They don’t carry a portable radio these days, and without the ability to actually PLAY live, traditional radio, it’s clearly OUT of the picture.

    When I talked to my daughter, who is clearly a millennial, about all of this, she said the biggest reason why she subscribes to a streaming service is music discovery. She wants access to new music. The issue I have with this is that you have to pay to play; and at the end of the day, you don’t own any of it. However, you can play songs as often as you want or like. So if you want to find new music, and you want to play it where ever you are, whenever you want, its gonna cost you on the average, $10 bucks a month to find what you want and play it.

  2. You Gotta Pay for the Bandwidth
    I think this is perhaps the singular most problematic point in the whole streaming music model; and it’s the point that bothers me the most. Not only do you have to pay for the service, you have to pay for the service that gets you the bandwidth that allows you to play the music in the first place.

    This can cost you anywhere between an ADDITIONAL $10 to $50 a month per line on your account, which – at the end of the day – more than doubles the cost of your music subscription, especially if you go over your monthly bandwidth allotment.

    This over and above any and everything else is where the whole streaming model falls apart for me. I love music. I especially love listening to music while I drive to and from work. If I were to stream everything and if I had to stick to a specific bandwidth limit, I’d likely either run out of bandwidth or go over my limit and be subject to overage charges.

    This is the one thing that everyone forgets about when it comes to the streaming model: it uses cellular bandwidth, and bandwidth costs additional money.

  3. When you Leave, you Lose the Music
    You have to remember, you don’t own any of the music that you download. You can’t burn any of it to a CD. You can’t play any of it after your subscription expires or is cancelled. You only have access to any of the streaming catalog as long as you’re paying for your monthly subscription. Stop, and you no longer have the music in you.

Again, maybe I’m just an old fuddy duddy. Maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m too old for music discovery and new artists. I don’t think I am, but there has to be another, perhaps better, easier, less expensive way to discover and play new music… Isn’t there? ISN’T THERE?!?

If there is a solution that I’d likely embrace, I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s in development now, or perhaps it’s still on the drawing board somewhere. In the meantime, I’ll rely on friends and family to turn me on to new music and new artists… and I’ll keep on playing the music I already own and I already enjoy.

What do you do for music discovery and for playing your favorites? Do you stream? Do you use traditional radio? Do you own a large music library and do you play locally or use a service to stream it like Google Play or iTunes Match? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below, and give me your thoughts on the whole issue?

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Netflix Now Offers Offline Content

Streamers and video junkies rejoice..!

netflix_logoI’ve been a Netflix subscriber for years. I started off as a DVD subscriber and at one point had three to four DVD’s flowing in and out of my house a week. When the streaming biz started, we jumped on that too, as it was sometimes easier to stream than to wait for the DVD to arrive. Sometimes you had to wait weeks or months for one to get here, especially if it was a popular film. We’re streaming only now, as the DVD biz has gone the way of the do-do… and I got tired of paying for the service that regularly didn’t deliver what I was wanting to watch.

The streaming service is nice, as I can get all the kids watching on iPads as well as my wife and I and my daughter and son-in-law watching separate shows on separate TV’s at the same time. It works out very nicely for us.

One of the biggest asks of all Netflix streamers, though was offline viewing of content. Sometimes, an internet connection isn’t available, especially on a plane or on a long car trip, and a movie on an iPad is just the ticket to a little peace and quiet. Until now, that wasn’t possible. Now… it is.

Netflix recently added an option to its mobile apps that will download films AND TV shows in advance, allowing users to watch them without an active internet connection. Extended trips and plane rides will never be the same.

Unfortunately, not everything in the Netflix catalog is available for offline viewing.

Seen as one of the most desired subscriber features, offline viewing has long been the most popular subscriber request. Netflix has resisted it for years thinking that cell service would improve to the point where it wouldn’t be needed. Unfortunately, mobile internet STILL isn’t ubiquitous, and Netflix competitors began offering the service. That’s what ultimately drove the company to offer it to its customers. Well, that and expansion into other countries where cell and internet services are spotty at best.

You CAN view the following popular shows, among others, offline:

  • Stranger Things
  • Orange is the New Black
  • The Crown
  • House of Cards

The following shows and movies, among others, are NOT available offline:

  • Sherlock (BBC)
  • Disney’s’ Zootomic
  • The Little Price

However, more downloadable content is scheduled to be released, “soon.” Downloadable content is clearly marked with a downward facing arrow next to a show or movie’s title.

In order to view offline content, subscribers need to download the latest version of Netflix’s app. The app, available on iOS and Android devices.

Are you a Netflix subscriber? Have you downloaded the latest app update? Have you tried to download any offline content? What was the download experience like? What was the offline viewing experience like? Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area, below and give me your thoughts on this interesting development?

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Use Android Auto without the Radio

If you’re an Android you can now use Android Auto directly from your Phone

I remember back when I was using a Nexus One and reviewed for Just Another Mobile Monday. Unfortunately, the site and the review have been taken down. However, you can see info about the review in the link, above. The point is that back in the day, Android Car mode allowed you, often with a special dock, to access an automobile UI for Android. This was really the precedent to Android Auto. In the years since, that mode has largely been written OUT of the core OS.

Thankfully now, however, with the inclusion of a special app, you can get access to “car mode” again.

Android Auto is now available as a special app for your compatible Android phone. This allows you to access all the features of Android Auto without having a special, compatible touch screen radio in your vehicle. You simply access the functionality right on your phone. The function is similar to Android Wear. This is based on the idea of showing the user what they want to see, before they’ve actually asked for it.

The app includes most, if not all of the features of Android Auto. You can use navigation, listen to audio, make calls, etc. Voice interaction is key, so make sure you have that enabled, as interacting with a touch screen while driving isn’t always legal in all areas of the country.

The Android Auto app is available now, and requires Android 5.0 Lollipop or greater.

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