Android software puts Google at heart of mobile life

People take pictures of a statue during the launch a new version of the Android operating system called Android 7.0 or Nougat on September 21, 2016. (AFP)
Updated 18 July 2018

Android software puts Google at heart of mobile life

  • Google, the revenue-pumping heart of corporate parent Alphabet, makes Android available free to device makers
  • Android is ‘open source,’ meaning that device makers can use it free of charge and customize it as they wish

SAN FRANCISCO: The Google Android operating system, the target of a long-running EU antitrust investigation, powers the vast majority of the world’s smartphones and firmly rules the mobile world.
Android software acts as the brains for mobile devices, coordinating tasks from phone calls and map directions to games, Twitter posts, or online searches.
Google, the revenue-pumping heart of corporate parent Alphabet, makes Android available free to device makers, earning money from ads, content or subscriptions at online services crafted to work smoothly with the operating system.
According to industry-tracker Gartner, Android dominated the smartphone market with a share of 85.9 percent last year, to around 14 percent for Apple’s iOS.
Some 1.3 billion Android smartphones were sold last year, compared with approximately 215 million running on iOS and 1.5 million with other operating systems, according to the research firm.
The first version of Android was released a decade ago.
In a playful way, Google has named Android iterations after tasty treats including Kit Kat, Marshmallow and Nougat. A fresh version, Android P, is in beta testing mode and is expected to be given a yummier moniker before it is officially released.
Android is “open source,” meaning that device makers can use it free of charge and customize it as they wish.
This led to complaints that the world of Android was “forked,” with compatibility of applications inconsistent and device makers slow or reluctant to push updated versions or security patches to users.
Apple, in contrast, tightly controls its software and hardware, so an application that works on one device works on all. Apple also prides itself on pushing the most up-to-date version of iOS out to mobile devices.
While Android operating system software is free, EU authorities claim Google uses its leverage to get mobile device makers to install its other mobile apps like YouTube, Chrome, Gmail, Maps and Translate to cement its dominant position.
Android is used by a host of mobile device makers, including South Korea-based Samsung, which is the world’s top smartphone maker in terms of volume.
Before Google shook up the market with Android, gadget makers paid to license operating systems or relied on their own.
Microsoft took that approach with the operating system for Windows Phone, before surrendering the market in the face of runaway success by Android and Apple.
Google makes its own premium Pixel smartphones, which showcase the capabilities of Android and are kept up to date with software improvements. Pixel smartphones account for only a small sliver of the market.
According to EU investigators, Google has required device makers to install its search engine and the Google Chrome browser on phones, and to set Google Search as the default, as a condition for licensing some Google apps.
The California tech giant disputes this, saying mobile device manufacturers, if they wish, can install applications that compete with those offered by Google.
For example, Samsung smartphones can come new with Chrome and another web browsing program built-in, or offer both Google Pay and Samsung Pay digital wallets for use.
Android users are free to patronize online venues other than the Google Play Store for apps, games, music or other digital content.
Google does promote its own services as being optimized for Android, and backed by “cloud” computing capabilities for backing up data and being able to shift seamlessly between devices such as smartphones and laptop computers.
Daniel Castro of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a Washington think tank, said Google’s strategy tries to “limit fragmentation across Android devices” so as to attract application makers and protect the reputation of the brand.

Tech accessories: Are these ‘side’ devices worth your money?

Updated 15 October 2018

Tech accessories: Are these ‘side’ devices worth your money?

  • Tech retailers have continuously introduced side accessories to augment daily gadget use
  • Some accessories can really be helpful, but there are some that are just unnecessary

DUBAI: Using your phone to capture a moment has become second nature. A reflex stimulated by literally any experience – from the time the waiter delivers your food to the table, to the moment your best friend gets married – they are all documented, hundreds and thousands of photos and videos stored in an easily accessible digital storage. Our phones have indeed become our photo albums.

But while the memories we make every day are endless, the storage capabilities of our devices are limited, and tech companies have introduced a number of side accessories that address this rather disconcerting fact.

We take a look at some of the most popular storage-enhancing tech accessories in 2018 – Virtual storage is big business, but is it worth the money and is it necessary?

SanDisk Extreme MicroSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter

Action cameras have long caught the eye of frequent travelers – if you’re one of them, this might be for you. The SanDisk Extreme memory cards are among the most popular ones in this niche, with its 4K Ultra HD and Full HD video recording and playback capability, especially built for adventurers who are fond of taking content while on the rush. 

The memory card’s selling point is its ability to survive in the most severe conditions. The manufacturers say it still functions in extreme temperatures and after being submerged a meter-deep salt water for three days. 

Read and write speeds are remarkable, especially for a very good deal that does not involve splashing out too much cash – the 32GB version sells at $18.99, while the 256GB sells at $139.99.

SanDisk Ultra MicroSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter

The SanDisk Ultra memory card is one of my favorites. For starters, the memory capacity ranges from 16GB to a whopping 400GB – and it handles file transfers in a breeze. Packaging suggests a read speed of 100Mbps, with a slightly lower write speed. But over-all performance still depends on the host device – my Samsung Galaxy S9 plus is a perfect match.

Ideal for smartphones and tablets, this high-powered memory card works wonders in capturing and storing full HD videos. I watch a lot of my favorite TV shows on the go – and this memory card’s performance ups that experience by a notch. Smooth app launches are also very noticeable, credit that to its A1 rating, which means that the card is fully optimized for app use.

The higher capacity versions of SanDisk Ultra are worth the extra cash, especially for users who are heavy on storing multimedia content on their mobile devices. 

But cheaper options are available, with the 16GB version at $8.99. The 400GB version sells at $184.99.

SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick 

As the name suggests, the SanDisk Connect Wireless is a USB flash drive that uses built-in Wi-Fi to transfer and stream files wirelessly to and from multiple mobile devices. Available in several memory capacities up to 256GB, this comes with a free mobile app for file management. 

Upon testing, transfer speed is as slow as I expected, as the wireless stick only uses the older USB 2.0 technology – a weird choice in a spur of USB 3.0-capable flash drives. Wireless functionality can easily be dismissed in this area – I’d still use the classic wired-only memory sticks. But the multiple devices streaming feature was interesting, which is probably the product’s main selling point. However, I see very rare instances where this function really becomes necessary. For a $15.99 device, I’d pass on it.

SanDisk iXpand Flash Drive and Mini Flash Drive

Apple devices are notorious for their lack of flexibility when it comes to expanding storage capacity, compared to their Android counterparts, and this product is a clear attempt to address that. The flash drives sport a back-to-back connectivity setup – one for a regular USB port and the other for a lightning USB port, and are available in 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB versions.

But these flash drives can easily be brushed aside especially for MacBook or iMac users given Apple’s sophisticated cloud ecosystem. If you want to free up your memory by dumping photos and other media content, you can already do that directly to your laptop without using a thumb drive, potentially rendering this device redundant, if not unnecessary. 

Prices start at $25.99.

SanDisk Ultra Dual Drive m3.0

For Android users there is SanDisk’s Ultra Dual Drive m3.0. With a micro-USB and a USB 3.0 connectors on both ends, this OTG flash drive allows users to move content easily from both phones and computers.

As an Android loyalist myself, the Ultra Dual Drive does its job well in terms of speed and performance. As soon as it’s plugged in, the drive auto-mounts with ease – especially with the newer versions of the Android OS. The USB 3.0 connectivity was good enough for its price with an average write speed of 32Mbps and read speed of 110Mbps. The drive can also be used on USB 2.0 ports in slower read and write paces. 

But this Ultra Dual Drive is slowly becoming obsolete in the face of USB-C mobile phones. Recent releases from Samsung, for instance, are no longer compatible with this device. If USB-C is the future, then this OTG flash drive is definitely out of the list. Other android users can still take advantage of this product though, since some mobile developers have yet to join the USB-C craze. 

Prices start at $9.99.