Run, walk and swim your way to fitness.
Going head to head with Apple’s new Health app built into iOS 8, Google’s Android equivalent is a similar hub for all your health and fitness data. However, unlike its iOS rival, which merely collates data from third-party fitness apps, Google Fit also offers its own built-in tracking of three activities: walking, running and cycling. With the phone in your pocket – or Android Wear smartwatch or compatible fitness tracker on your wrist – it detects these automatically and, for walking and running, even counts the steps you make. If you forget to take your device with you, no problem: you can always manually add an activity later, along with figures for your weight and heart rate if you like.
A circular diagram for your daily exercise activity shows how much more you have to do in order to reach the daily goal (in terms of exercise time) you’ve set. After using the app for several days, it’ll suggest further goals for you to help you make progress. All your fitness activity, weight and heart rate data can be viewed on charts – covering a day, week or month – and also accessed via a web portal.
Since the app’s built-in fitness tracking is a bit limited, you may well want to link it up to compatible third-party apps. So far, these already include some big names such as Runtastic, Nike+ Running, Polar Beat, Withings and RunKeeper. No additional setup is required since any such apps installed on your phone will automatically sync with Google Fit so that you can view all your fitness data in one place. The types of data that can be shared include calories burned, pedalling rate, wheel speed, distance covered, heart rate, height, weight, power generated in a workout, steps taken and elevation, although app developers can also create their own custom types. So it’s all very flexible and Google Fit has a lot of potential.
Can Google’s new flagship phablet justify the £500 price tag?
The formula for making a Nexus device used to be simple. Grab the latest and greatest bits (except for the camera), put them in a nice bland case and sell the resulting product as cheap as chips. The new Nexus 6 doesn’t really fit that mould. Yes, it has top end specs (although surprisingly the processor doesn’t support 64-bit, unlike that of the Nexus 9) but it’s all packed into a body that actually has had some sort of design applied to it – there’s no mistaking that this is a Motorola device, not least because of the huge Moto ‘dimple’ on the back. The phone isn’t cheap either. It’s not overpriced (coming in at around the same cost as other flagships), but the days of cut price Nexus’ are certainly behind us. Most surprising of all? The camera on the Nexus 6 isn’t bad!
The formula for making a Nexus device used to be simple. Grab the latest and greatest bits (except for the camera), put them in a nice bland case and sell the resulting product as cheap as chips. The new Nexus 6 doesn’t really fit that mould. Yes, it has top end specs (although surprisingly the processor doesn’t support 64-bit, unlike that of the Nexus 9 tablet) but it’s all packed into a body that actually has had some sort of design applied to it. More dramatic still, unlike previous Nexus iterations, the phone isn’t cheap either. Priced at £500 it costs cost around the as other flagships, but the days of cut price Nexus’ are certainly behind us. Most surprising of all? The camera on the Nexus 6 isn’t bad!
Something that may not be obvious in the press images, the Nexus 6 is big. Huge. Gargantuan. It’s noticeably bigger than the substantial OnePlus One and is even fractionally larger (and quite a bit thicker) than the iPhone 6 Plus. The reason for this size is of course the screen – the Nexus 6 is equipped with a 5.96” QHD 1440 x 2560 AMOLED panel. The bezels on the phone are impressively slim, so it really is all about that display. In our experience the sheer size of the phone is polarising – some people love using it, others just can’t imagine being able to cope with the changes such a big phone necessitates – it’s a squeeze in most pockets and you can forget about one-handed use.
Add some security to your photos
Do you have photos on your phone or tablet that you don’t want others to see? KeepSafe Vault promises to help keep them safe from prying eyes, in case anyone should borrow, steal or find your device. When you move videos or photos into KeepSafe, they disappear from your device’s Gallery, so the only way to access them is by launching KeepSafe and entering your PIN.
There are several ways of making your KeepSafe content more secure. For example, you can add a password to each KeepSafe album. You can also disguise KeepSafe as an app that scans your system and reports any problems. This means that even if someone is snooping around your device, they won’t immediately suspect KeepSafe contains private photos and videos. Similarly, you can create a decoy version of KeepSafe that you launch by entering a fake PIN.
KeepSafe doesn’t require root access and is free to download from Google Play. Buying a subscription unlocks some extra features.
Here’s how to cast to Chromecast without being on the same network, and enable mirroring on devices that aren’t currently supported
Chromecast is a media streaming adapter from Google that lets you directly stream content to any HDMI-equipped TV, by pairing it with a tablet, smartphone or computer. The only sticking point here is that the controlling device must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as Chromecast for it to work. This is fine when you’re using it on your own, but having to hand out your Wi-Fi password to visitors is an unncessary hassle.
Google has a guest mode planned that will make this easier, but they’ve yet to implement it. You can enable this guest mode feature early, thanks to the #Configurator for Root app. This app can enable hidden features or settings in certain Google apps, by modifying the overrides table in the gservices.db database. This method requires a rooted Android, but not a rooted Chromecast.
This tutorial will show you also how to enable a second hidden feature: mirroring. Mirroring lets you view the contents of your device onto a big screen by casting your Android screen to a connected TV.
Create trigger-based profiles for popular Android tasks, with this open source automation app.
Do you find yourself performing the same tasks, over and over again on your Android phone? It may be time try a task automation app. You can use these apps to create profiles of your most commonly used settings, for example a Home profile where your device automatically connects to your home Wi-Fi. Profiles are triggered automatically when certain conditions are met, for example when your Android device’s GPS detects that you’re at home.
We featured some of the biggest names in automation on page nine, but SwiP is a new release that provides an open source alternative. This means the app’s source code is publicly available, so anyone can help develop it. You can download SwiP for free from the Play store, which also contains a link to the app’s source code. SwiP doesn’t require root, although you can access additional functionality on a rooted device. SwiP currently doesn’t work on tablets.
The Nexus 9 gets warm during use – this optimised kernel can help reduce the temperature
The Nexus 9 has a very powerful processor – a 64-bit Nvidia K1 with 192 graphics cores. This power makes for great experiences, especially gaming, but the device does get warm in the top-left corner. The source code for the Nexus 6 kernel source is available from the AOSP repository, and a number of respected community developers have already released custom kernels which tweak settings to let the system run cooler without affecting performance. They also offer a number of other enhancements controlled by kernel companion apps. The kernel is flashed to a device as part of the boot image.
This tutorial is taken from Android Magazine issue 46’s ‘Hack Your Nexus’ guide, on sale 24 December 2014. To ensure you never miss a copy of Android Magazine, buy it here or subscribe now.