Blog

Posts tagged by: "android"

Securely Erasing An Android Device

I decided it was time for my trusted Nexus 5 and I to part ways. We had many good times over the last few years we had known each other. But as things sometimes unfortunately turn out, our time together finally came to an end. The battery life was starting to wane and I really need a phone with a larger capacity - more than 16GB.

Enough with the sentimentality...

I am now the proud owner of a Nexus 6P.

My Nexus 6P

And what a beauty she is!

In getting the Nexus 6P, I am about to sell my dear Nexus 5 on eBay, so that it may grace someone elses life in a positive way just as it had done mine. It's in very good condition and still looks brand-spanking new. The only thing that I need to ensure is that the phone is wiped clean - inside and out. Even though I carried out a factory reset, I read doing this alone is not enough to make your previously stored information fully un-recoverable.

To be completely sure that the device has had a complete wipe down, you need to ensure the Android device is encrypted prior to carrying out the factory reset. You can check if the phone is set to be encrpyted by going into Settings > Security > Encryption. By doing this, the encryption process will scramble your data and if some data is left after the factory reset, a key would be required to unecrypt it. For the general user, this should suffice.

I decided to take things a step further, just to be 100% sure. I found a very good post on StackExchange Security that states the following:

Factory resets reset your phone to a stock like state but does not remove your data, just applications. This leaves some data behind. The best way to prevent this data from being recovered is to encrypt the phone, and use wipe data/factory reset from the recovery menu. This way you don't have to download a ton of data and you can be fairly certain your things are secure.

If you're not that worried, encrypting, and data/factory reset from the recovery menu is probably enough.

Forgot to mention why the recovery mode data/factory reset. It formats the user data areas as well as the application area, and is far more thorough/secure than the one inside of the android OS and will prevent you from download junk data. It just flat out gets rid of it.

To get to the recovery console on the Nexus 5 for resetting:

  1. If your phone is on, turn it off.
  2. Press and hold the Volume Down and Volume Up buttons, and then press and hold the Power button at the same time until the phone turns on. You'll see the word "Start" with an arrow around it.
  3. Press the Volume Down button twice to highlight "Recovery."
  4. Press the Power button to start Recovery mode. You'll see an image of an Android robot with a red exclamation mark and the words "No command."
  5. While holding the Power button, press and release the Volume Up button once.
  6. Press the Volume Down button twice to highlight "wipe data/factory reset" and press the Power button to select it.
  7. Press the Volume Down button seven times to highlight "Yes - erase all user data" and press the Power button to select it.
  8. After the reset is complete, press the Power button to select the option to reboot your device.

Don't forget to also revoke account access as an extra measure by logging into your Google Account and clicking the "Remove" button (https://security.google.com/settings/security/activity).

Disconnecting Nexus 5 from Google Account

Change Colour of Address Bar In Chrome For Android

Posted in: Client-side

My Nexus 5 upgraded to Android version 5.0 a few months back and it's by far the best update yet (apart from the minor bugs). An OS that is as beautiful to look at as well as use.

One of the most intriguing things I noticed was that the colour of my Chrome browser address bar would occasionally change if I went certain websites. Being a developer who works in the web industry, this peaked my interest. So I had to find out how to do this.

After doing some online research, I found adding the this feature couldn't be simpler. Just add the following META tag to your page:

<meta name="theme-color" content="#4c7a9f">

I carried out this change on my site and it looks kinda cool!

Before

Android Chrome Browser Colour (Before)

After

Android Chrome Browser Colour (After)

Detecting Facebook In-App Browser

It seems there is going to be a growing trend where apps on our mobile devices will open webpages whilst you are inside the app itself instead of using the devices' native browser. A prime example of this is Facebook. In recent updates during the tail end of last year, both their iOS and Android offerings open webpages from within the application.

This isn't a bad thing. In fact I quite like having webpages opening within the application, since this creates a nice seamless experience. However, the Facebook in-app browser doesn't seem to render a webpage in the same manner as the devices' own native browser (Safari/Chrome). I started noticing this whilst working on a complex website that was very much custom JavaScript driven.

The only thing I could do is modify specific mark-up or features that affected my website negatively when opened from within Facebook by detecting the user-agent. In my code (using ASP.NET C#), I was required to carry out additional browser checks:

//User is within Facebook browser.
if (Request.UserAgent.IndexOf("FBAN") > -1)
{
    if (Request.UserAgent.Contains("iPhone OS 8_0_2"))
    {
        //You are using iPhone version 8.0.2.
    }
    
    if (Request.UserAgent.Contains("Chrome"))
    {
        //You are in the Facebook App in Android.
    }
}
else
{
    //You are not in Facebook App.
}

You can modify the code above to create a nice self-contained method to return an enumeration as I ended up doing to be used when required.

Where touchscreen and keyboard meet in perfect harmony…

Posted in: Hardware & Tech

Touchscreen LaptopI had the opportunity to try out one of my friends new gadget purchases (someone's been a good boy this year!) - the Asus Transformer Infinity. I read a lot about the Asus Transformer range ever since its first release in 2011, but got the impression that this was just another worthless mishmash of tech with a mistaken identity. I never understood why anyone would buy a touchscreen tablet that had a keyboard. That just defeats the whole point of having a tablet device does it not? How wrong was I...

The combination of a keyboard and touchscreen just works and feels perfectly natural. I always had the misconception that a mouse is needed to accurately communicate with an OS user interface. The more I used the Asus Transformer, the more I wished I had one and oddly when returning back to my Alienware m11x I felt something missing. In my eyes, the good ol' touchpad just seemed inadequate. In all honest, the Asus Transformer touchpad is just as inadequate and a little flaky (possibility due to lack of support by Android). They should have left that out.

With the advent of next generation on laptop/touchscreen hybrids such as the Microsoft Surface and Lenovo Yoga (which has an awesome ad), maybe there is method in this concept after all and I look forward to using future variations.

For the moment, all I know for sure is I want a Asus Transformer Infinity!

Why I Think Rooting Is The Only Future for Android…

Posted in: Smartphone's

Android Rooted…if you want a true Android experience.

When thinking of all the Android smartphones I’ve purchased in the past, they all inherit a common bad trait. Each user interface is different, causing a somewhat inconsistent experience when moving onto different Android handsets. This isn’t an issue for the bog standard phone user. However, when a phone is promoted to be running on Android, you expect there to be no difference.

Currently, we have the following variations of Android:

  • SenseUI
  • TouchWiz
  • MotoBlur
  • LG TouchMax

We can all agree the first version of Android was not exactly a pretty sight. Thus, phone manufacturers took it upon themselves from day one to push Android to the limit. In most cases they got it right but there were others who fell short.

Android 4.0 was supposed to be a turning point and instil the original vision Google intended to have in their operating system. Providing great design, functionality and innovation. Even though Android 4.0 is widely available, it will sadly never see the light of day. Well that is, in its true form. A good example of this is the recent Android 4.0 update released for Samsung Galaxy S2 owners. You’d be forgiven not to notice any change after upgrading due to the TouchWiz interface.

The only option is to root. This is the “root” I plan on taking in the future (you see what I did there!). Android has a great modding community who like me care what version of Android that runs on their phone. Generally, you will find that an unadulterated version of Android runs far better than its custom-skinned counterparts. It just seems a shame the lengths we have to go through to get the version of Android of our choosing.

So it looks like custom UI’s are here to stay. Obviously handset makers think they can offer something Android cannot and this will not be changing anytime soon. To me, simply using a stock version of Android seems like a win-win situation for both the end-user and handset makers. Handset makers can spend less time in porting upcoming versions and spend more time and money innovating their hardware. Just leave software development to the professionals.

For a platform that has so much potential, this has to be the main sticking point. Phil Nickinson’s article, “Dear Molly Rants: Let's talk about Android 'fragmentation' ..." sums it all up quite nicely:

Google is constantly updating the Android code. Anyone can go get it. Problem is the smartphone…Android itself is not the problem here. It can, however, be the solution.

Google Analytics and Adsense Android App Alternatives

Posted in: Smartphone's

Being a Web Developer and owning my own website, I’m quite interested in seeing how my site is doing when I am not in the vicinity of my computer – mainly analytics and advertising revenue. Even though Google Analytics and Adsense provides me with really good information, I was interested in seeing if there were any alternatives in app form on Android.

To my surprise there were no official app alternatives for AdSense or Analytics. Thankfully, there are a few unofficial app's currently available to download free on the Android Market. Here are (in my opinion) the best ones:

gAnalytics

gAnalytics Screen Shot gAnalytics provides all the necessary types of stats you would require. Even though currently in beta, this hasn’t restricted the app in anyway and I haven’t experienced a single issue whilst using it. You have access to the following type of reporting (not a complete list):

  • Visitor stats –  pageviews, average time on site, bounce rate and new visitors.
  • Demographics – language, country and city.
  • System stats – browser, operating system, screen resolution and service provider.
  • Referral/Direct traffic.
  • Search Engine traffic – keyword and search query.
  • Content stats – page, search term and exit pages.

If that wasn’t enough, gAnalytics lets you retrieve statistics from a given date period.

To summarise, gAnalytics is a perfectly comprehensive and a brilliant all round app.

AdSense Dashboard

AdSense Dashboard ScreenshotI would say the AdSense offering in terms of reporting isn’t as comprehensive as gAnalytics. What AdSense Dashboard does do well is providing you with a heads-up view on all AdSense metrics, such as:

  • CPM
  • CTR
  • Page views
  • Clicks
  • Estimated revenue

Unfortunately, you don’t get an option to view AdSense metrics over a specific date period. Only today, this month and year to date.

AdSense Dashboard is a simple app giving you top-level on stats and revenue information over four different screens.

Android + Phone Manufacturers = Bad Combination

Posted in: Smartphone's

android fragmentation

On Saturday 6th August 2011, I was waiting impatiently for my new phone to be delivered. It’s not just any phone. It’s the phone that will technologically enhance my productivity and will define what an Android operating system really has to offer in a small, slim and neat package. It was the Samsung Galaxy S2!

I had been looking for a new phone for quite sometime to replace my “slow-mo” HTC Hero and the Samsung Galaxy S2 seemed to fit my requirements exactly. One of the things that attracted me to buying this phone was the fact that compared to other phones on the market, the Samsung was a performance powerhouse packing in a dual core processor and a lot of RAM that will future-proof my purchase for some years to come. So spending around £400 didn’t phase me.

During this time, there was talk on the internet on how the 2012 release of Android 4.0 will not just be another Android release, it will be a release to remember. We all know Android has been fraught with fragmentation issues throughout its life due to phone manufacturer’s adding their own customisations thus adding further complexity in future Android upgrades. By starting over in a major new release, consumers will see more similarities between low and high spec handsets.

Knowing I have a high-spec handset I was sure I will be getting Android 4.0.

How wrong could I be…

I was really annoyed to hear just before Christmas that Samsung will not be releasing Android 4.0 to its original Galaxy S phones and tabs. Even though Samsung Nexus S has similar hardware specification to my Samsung Galaxy S2, there is not enough memory available on the device to install Ice Cream Sandwich along with TouchWiz. Who actually wants TouchWiz? It’s an ugly interface. Android is a perfectly acceptable out-of-the-box. Long gone are the days when Android was a bit of an eyesore.

The problem with Android is that its allows too much freedom allowing hardware manufacturers to do what they want. Having all this freedom in the initial stages is great, but there are bound to be complications as future upgrade will require a lot of time and money to get right. No hardware manufacturer would want to do that.

So when will phone manufacturer’s STOP bastardising Android with their own customisations? No good can come of it. This is what really peeves me off about being an Android user. Its phone manufacturer’s like Samsung that are playing with customer loyalty. I think Samsung is not realising their business incentive to do these updates.

Up until now, I’ve been a happy Android user and was proud to be different to the iPhone drones that surrounded me. Now I’m uncertain. Just as uncertain (I believe) the future of Android. I really like my Samsung Galaxy and it does everything I require. I can even make phone calls! But it’s a real kick in the teeth knowing I spent so much on a phone that is not upgradeable especially when its less than 2 years old.

Google should really take more of an initiative. The following come to mind:

  1. Lock down Android to stop unnecessary modifications.
  2. Google take the Apple route and manufacture their own hardware.
  3. Make the latest OS available online for consumers to download and install on their phone.
  4. Allow manufacturer’s to make modifications through a separate driver layer. So consumer can ditch manufacturer customisations with ease.

Smartphone Operating System Market Nov 2011

According to Gartner, Android has now taken over 52.5% of the global smartphone market and stealing share from smartphone operating systems such as Symbian and Blackberry. With this in mind Google and its handset makers should be rewarding its customers and not penalising them. As John Gruber (http://daringfireball.net/) states in one of his posts:

Why bother with software updates? We’ve got their money. Let them buy a new device if they want the latest software.

I am afraid to say that this is the mentality of some Android handset makers where customer satisfaction is a low priority. I hate to say this is where Apple wins. They clearly have more respect for its customers and the longevity of their products.

I wonder what 2012 will have in store for Android. No doubt the Android market momentum will continue to rise at the cost of consumers. I will definitely think twice before purchasing another Android handset.

Do Not Ignore Android’s Low Memory Warning

Posted in: Smartphone's

Android Memory I have a HTC Hero which was recently upgraded from Android 1.5 to 2.1 a few months back. It has definitely been a significant and worthwhile upgrade packing in lots of new extra features and most importantly extra applications to download from the Android Market.

The only downside to the upgrade is that I now have less memory to play with and this can cause a detrimental effect if you get the “Phone memory is running low” warning. Since I received this warning I found that all my Google Synchronisation tasks stopped syncing automatically. Even if I tried manually starting the synchronisation service nothing would happen. In addition, I couldn’t even download any applications from the Android Market.

Soon as I went on a massive clear out on my phone and resolved the low memory error, my Google Synchronisation worked instantaneously. All the problems I previously had were magically rectified. Its just a shame that all the applications get stored onto the phone memory rather than the external memory.

The weirdest thing is that I still had around 14MB of free space on my phone prior to having my cleanup. I find it a little strange the low memory threshold is set so high. 

I guess its good to know that Google has rectified this issue by allowing applications to be stored on external memory in their Android 2.2 release. Unfortunately, it highly unlikely my HTC Hero will see this update.

;