Hack your superphone, discover the essential apps for Marshmallow and check out our hands-on reviews of the BlackBerry Priv, Nexus 5X, Wileyfox Swift and more
Is your superphone not quite super enough? Do you want to get better battery life, enhanced speed and advanced performance? You need issue 58 of Android Magazine, then.
In this issue you’ll learn how to root the new Nexus devices, plus other Marshmallow-powered superphones, in order to achieve a cleaner, faster, more customised install. Rooting not for you? Then check out our feature on the essential Marshmallow apps to enhance your phone instead. Plus we take a look at the new Chromecasts and get hands-on with the BlackBerry Priv, Wileyfox Swift and more. We round up the best of the budget phones on the market right now, and share a host of tutorials that will help you to get more from Android every day.
Revert your phone to having a locked bootloader after rooting it
The bootloader is a hugely important part of your Android software. It’s what kicks everything off when you turn on your device, telling your phone or tablet what it should load. Most devices ship with a locked bootloader, which essentially means they’ll only run programs that have been verified by the bootloader. This means that it’s difficult or impossible to use a different OS to the one that the device ships with. Unlocking the bootloader gets past this and means you can root your device then install pretty much whatever you want on your phone or tablet. But there are times when you’ll want to shut that door. Maybe you’re trying to sell your device and you want it back to factory settings, or perhaps you just want to go back to a standard OS with the added security that the bootloader offers. In this tutorial, we’ll walk you through how to lock your bootloader. It’s a pretty fiddly process – you’ll need a computer at some point and you’ll need to set aside an hour or so. If you are unfamiliar with some of the terminology or steps that we take, then it might be better to do a bit more research before you attempt the task. This isn’t an easy thing to do by any means, but it’s worth a try if you’re interested in the deeper workings of your Android device. You’ll need to be a confident user of ADB as there is the potential for bricking your device if you get anything wrong, so do this at your own risk!
Find the cheapest way of buying a smartphone by and get the best of both worlds
For modern smartphones, there is an argument that pay-as-you-go is the worst option of all. When you consider how you use your phone, it is likely that watching videos, streaming music and undertaking many other activities that use data will form part of your daily routine. You will not want to be constantly worrying about what you are doing every time you pick up your phone – this can greatly reduce your enjoyment and take away the main reason you bought it in the first place. With a pay-as-you-go phone though, you do have the option to swap to a SIM-only package at any point because you have already bought the phone and are not tied to a contract in any way. Think of this system as an option that is mainly suited for calls and texts, one that is not wholly suitable for modern mobile data usage.
Find out more about the cheapest way to buy a new phone in issue 56 of Android, available to download now.
A recent policy change by Google is banishing bloatware on some of our favourite devices
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 does not have Google+ installed. This isn’t because Google+ is finished (not yet at least), but because it’s relaxing its own rules on which of its apps must be installed as standard on Android devices. The full list of apps that were once mandatory, but are now optional, reads: Google+, Google Play Games, Google Play Books, Google Play Newsstand, Google Earth and Google Keep. Don’t worry, they will all still be freely available for download through the Play store. The requirement for having certain apps pre-installed is not widely known and it highlights the conflict in the ownership of Android. Android, the operating system, is free and open source to all. This means that any manufacturer who wishes to build an Android device can simply download it and get started. Yet so much of what we think of as the Android experience actually comes from Google: Chrome, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Play services tying it all together. If a manufacturer wants these apps, it must conform to certain guidelines set by Google. This includes the insistence that if you want one Google app, then of course you must have them all. While there are a few outliers, such as Amazon’s Fire OS, for most manufacturers the prospect of going Google-less isn’t an option because Google also owns the Play store. Although you can find third-party alternatives for the browser and maps, if you don’t have a fully stocked app store then you don’t stand much of a chance. Just ask Microsoft. Which is where the bloatware comes in. You want the Google Play store? Then you’ve got to have Google Newsstand too. Google’s change of mind on this policy is a good thing for everyone. It’s less restrictive for manufacturers and there is less clutter for users too. Plus – and this may be part of the motivation behind the move – it’s less likely to draw attention from competition watchdogs.
This data management app is the ideal way to save mobile data with little effort
Mobile data is a precious commodity for many people thanks to network plan limits and the fact that we use our mobile devices for data-heavy tasks more than ever before. You could pay extra for a more generous plan or you could take advantage of the free Opera Max – Data management app and reduce the data that you use every day; in particular when watching movies and television shows. All you have to do is install the app and then click Connect on the main screen. Next, click Okay in the panel that appears and you’re ready to go. You can use Netflix and other apps as normal, meanwhile Opera Max will do the data saving for you in the background. The savings vary, but we can assure you that watching online videos will give you the best chance of saving the largest amounts.
Your watch face can do much more than just tell the time
The latest version of Android Wear brings with it various improvements, but perhaps the most obvious is the inclusion of interactive watch faces. Google has included a watch face called Together in the latest update and this is designed to keep you connected in a variety of ways with one special person. It is an obvious counter to the Apple Watch. One which potentially offers more features, but you can only connect with one person so make sure you choose wisely. Once you have set up Together, you can share emojis, send photos, sketches and stickers, or even share your most recent activities. It takes some time to get used to, in particular the way some notifications appear on your watch face, but the end result is an emotional one that grows over time and one which has the potential to develop friendships in a completely new way. If you use an Android Wear watch and someone close to you also does, you should try Together.