APUS Launcher trades features for size

Quick, name the top 5 or most popular alternative launchers. Chances are, whichever those are, no matter how fast and smooth they seem to be, they are most likely fully featured launchers that take up space in both storage and memory. For those looking for even less needier options, APUS Launcher tries to go the opposite direction and shed off as much as it can to keep its footprint slim.

That is basically the major spiel of APUS Launcher, that it takes up only 1 MB on your storage. That is a bit true, but isn’t exactly the complete picture. The app does take up an additional 3 MB on a fresh install, ending up with a total of around 5 MB. Not exactly the 1 MB promise, but close enough. APUS Launcher achieves this by throwing out most of the things you would have grown to love in popular launchers, like theming, contextual suggestions, adaptive learning, search, and even, to some extent, configurability. That’s not to say, however, that APUS is too basic and lacking in interesting features.

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One thing that might trip up users trying out APUS for the first time is the lack of a separate app grid or launcher. Instead, APUS throws everything into the homescreen, a bit like IOS or some other Android launchers. However, it does try to group some apps together so that you don’t get pages worth of app icons. It does, however, sometimes fail in categorizing some of the apps. Worry not as you can drag icons in and out of folders and create your own folders and even name them. The very first screen is special as it is the default screen and has a non-removable clock widget. And yes, you can put widgets on screens too. The app folders that APUS generates are a bit interesting, as they have a section for apps that people nearby are using.

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As for customizations and settings, APUS has very few. In fact, only two. The first one is the wallpaper, which you can change to your liking as normal, but you can also opt to have it blurred or not. The second option is new. The latest APUS update brought quick settings toggles on the notification panel, much like how Samsung’s TouchWiz does it, but with different options. They are, however, unconfigurable, though they can be turned on or off as desired. More toggles are available in APUS Launcher’s specialized Settings app. Other than that, there are no other personalization or control options, not even the option sort apps in alphabetical order, something the probably many users might feel to be severely limiting.

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APUS Launcher is definitely no hotshot and, in fact, tries to be the exact opposite. That said, for your basic launching needs, it seems to fulfill its promise of being lightweight, fast, and simple. Some even attest to how their batteries lasted longer after switching. Still, some might feel a bit suffocated by the almost complete lack of options here. If you’re curious enough to see which side of the fence you’ll fall, give it a whirl. It’s free of charge on Google Play Store and has no hidden in-app costs.

AutoVoice Tasker plug-in blows Commandr out of the water

Admittedly, we were pretty stoked at the time we were exploring all the things you could do with Commandr, and app which initially ran in tandem with Google Now’s “Note To Self” to have your Android device automate some tasks for you. But what AutoVoice plug-in can now do in conjunction with Tasker will make Commandr look like a high school project.

Tasker received a pretty big update recently – adding some new features and squashing a number of bugs. On that day, AutoVoice was also updated to make use of – actually “hijack” is the better term – Google Now commands via an Android Accessibility service. We can start explaining here technically what this does, but we’d like the video to show it for you.

You can do all of these, no rooting required. Of course, you will notice that there are a lot of steps to do just to set up one command. The learning curve here is a bit steeper than most, but once you get the hang of it, you can see the full potential of voice commands with your Android device. And AutoVoice doesn’t even interfere with your regular Google Now voice searches – it just integrates seamlessly.

In the end, AutoVoice is still a Tasker plug-in. This means that you will need to purchase Tasker (a USD$2.99 purchase here) and learn how to use it to its full potential. Then you need to install AutoVoice – a free installation with in-app purchases at the source link, or purchase the PRO unlock (USD$1.57 purchase here). More than the cool automation factor, imagine how this could have the potential to automate a big part of your workflow on a daily basis.

SOURCE: AutoVoice at Google Play Store
VIA: Android Police

LAS app lets you shift easily between last apps used

If your TV has a previous channel button that makes it easier for you to switch between channels, shouldn’t smartphones have the same thing? Of course, instead of between channels, it would let you easily go to and from the last two apps that you’re using. But since there’s no actual button on smartphones right now, we have to content ourselves with an app like LAS: Last App Switcher.

As the name implies, its primary function is to let users switch easily between apps. Of course, it’s already a little bit easy to do it randomly by doing the long press and looking at all the open apps and choosing which one to go to next. But what if you can eliminate a few more steps, especially if at the moment, you’ll just be needing two apps that you go to back and forth? That’s where LAS comes in.

The persistent semi-transparent floating button that will be above all the apps you use is your one tap button that will let you do just that. For example, you’re debating with someone on Facebook about something that needs the special power of Google Search. So instead of the longer process of the long press, it will be “FB-tap-Google-tap-FB-tap-Google-tap” and so on and on until the argument is settled.

It also won’t drain your resources like memory and battery that much, since it just has a very basic function. And the best thing about it? It’s free. No premium upgrade or hidden in-app purchases required. Download LAS from the Google Play Store.

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HP to unveil the 3 new tablets with slightly confusing names

Hewlett-Packard is set to add to an already loaded tablet market with three new products – the HP Slate 10 Plus, the HP Slate 8 Plus, and the HP 10 Plus. The three products already have official images, but have not been officially launched, this according to German tech site Mobilegeeks.de. The devices may be launched within the next few weeks. Let’s take a closer look at how these new tablets stack up.

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The first tablet is the HP Slate 10 Plus, and it carries the “Slate” branding that HP has chosen to push for its tablet products since they began selling them. The source blog claims that the devices are made by Chinese tech manufacturer Huawei, and that this specific model is identical to the Huawei MobilePad 10 Link +.

The tablet will have a 10.1-inch IPS screen with 1280×800 resolution powered by a quad-core HiSilicon Balong V9R1 processor running at 1.5Ghz. The device will reportedly have 1GB of RAM and 16GB internal storage. The Slate 10 Plus will also have LTE connectivity, plus a 3MP rear camera and a VGA front camera. The device will reportedly be running a version of Android 4.4.2 Kitkat, although it remains to be seen if HP will have a tweaked version on board. Reported retail price is around USD$430.

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HP Slate 8 Plus

The Slate 8 Plus is reportedly a virtual twin of the Huawei MediaPad M1, and replicates most of the Slate 10 Plus’s specs on an 8-inch IPS panel with 1280×800 resolution. It sports the same processor and features as its 10-inch sibling, only that the 8-inch version may not carry LTE-capability due to the 3G modem that is found in the device. Retail price is reportedly around USD$400.

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HP 10 Plus

The third tablet is the HP 10 Plus, another 10-inch tablet which curiously does not carry the “Slate” branding. The HP 10 Plus is fully a “WiFi only” model, lacking mobile internet connectivity, but its other specs look more solid than the Slate 10 Plus.

The 10.1-inch IPS display has a 1920×1200 resolution in a 16:10 aspect ratio. This is powered by a yet undetermined ARM Cortex-A7 quad-core chip that will reportedly deliver 1.0Ghz per core. There will be 2GB of RAM for this model, plus the standard 16GB for internal storage. The front-facing camera is 2MP and the main camera comes in at 5MP. It will also reportedly be running Android 4.4 Kitkat. The pricing for this WiFi-only tablet is around USD$320.

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VIA: Mobilegeeks.de (1), (2), (3)

Galaxy S5′s Ultra Power Saving put to test in road trip

Since Samsung has been harping about the Ultra Power Saving mode of its Galaxy S5 for some time now, even going so far as to mock its rivals with a clever ad, they decided to prove its worth with a coast to coast road trip test. The trip was compressed into a 2.5 minute video that shows the smartphone managed to last 7 days on the road without needing to recharge it.

The video shows two men who go on a road trip from New York to Venice, California and using a Galaxy S5 that was mostly on Ultra Power Saving Mode, they were able to use it for 150 hours through 3504 miles in 13 states visited. Not only that, they were also able to send out 86 texts, take 119 photos, take around 4+ minutes worth of videos and had 16+ minutes of talk time. We say mostly in Ultra Power Saving Mode because it was not on the entire time, as they had to switch to regular mode in some instances. The video indicates when it was on and off, depending on what they were using the phone for. Imagine how much longer it would have lasted if it was on Ultra Power Saving mode the entire time.

The feature basically turns your Galaxy S5 into black and white mode and you can only access certain applications, like making phone calls and sending text messages, the Samsung browser, and if you want to, some other apps like Calculator, Google+, Clock, Voice Recorder, Memo, ChatOn. It also turns off all unnecessary features of your smartphone, including WiFi and Bluetooth, and if your screen is off, your mobile data. Since the S5 has an AMOLED screen, this means that it doesn’t use a backlight so if it’s in grayscale mode, it basically turns the pixels off.

Since the Galaxy S5 and all its variants are the only smartphones (so far) that offer this feature, they have a distinct advantage over their competitors, since battery life and being mobile without charging are two of the most important things for users right now. Check out the road trip video and see what you will be able to do on a coast to coast road trip with your S5 on Ultra Power Saving mode.

By the power of root! File managers square off

We’ve said it before. For better or worse, one of the things that separates Android from iOS is the fact that we can browse our devices like we do our computers, at least to a certain extent. File managers give users power, but not all yield those powers equally, especially when it comes to superuser powers, otherwise known as “root”. Let’s take a peek at the current choices of file managers and see how they fare when pitted against one another.

Root Explorer ($3.99)

Let’s immediately start with the heavyweight of the batch. Root Explorer‘s name immediately tells you it means serious business. And at that price tag, it better be. Like what its name says, it lets users experience what it is to cruise their Android device as the all-powerful root user. Billed as *the* file manager for root users, Root Explorer comes with loads of features that even the non-root faithful will most likely appreciate, like creating or extracting ZIP files and other compressed archives, a viewer for SQLite databases (since Android uses the database format almost everywhere), and even access storage on popular cloud service like Dropbox and Google Drive.

But perhaps we should ask the obvious question: why root and why for a file manager? Root access itself will allow programs, like Xposed framework modules, for example. to modify the system in ways Android would not normally allow. In a file manager, it gives users almost unfettered access to every file and folder, which may sometimes be a bad idea. But for an example of how useful root file access can be, one can try to modify init scripts, programs that get run every time the phone is booted up, so that they can’t be run at all. In geek talk, that means setting the init script’s file permission to 600, readable, but can’t be run. Use it on certain OEM or carrier services and say goodbye to bloatware. At least until an update overwrites your changes.

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ES File Explorer (Free)

We’ve already shared some tips and tricks on using ES File Explorer, so you might be already familiar with what this talented file manager can do. To sum it up, ES File Explorer gives all levels of users something to chew on. Beginners can take advantage of all the features, including cloud access and app backup, from the get go and power users can flick a simple switch to enable root access. Provided, of course, that your device is already rooted in the first place.

Perhaps the only wart on ES File Explorer’s face is that its extra features are truly extra, functionality that you’ll find in other external apps that you need to install first. The good news is that, like ES File Explorer itself, all of them are available free of charge. OK, there might be another wart, though small: ES File Explorer isn’t the prettiest file manager around.

ASTRO File Manager (Free/$3.99)

OK, it might be cheating a bit, but we’re not trying to pick on good old ASTRO. Of this selection, ASTRO doesn’t actually offer root access to files and folders. However, this app still bears mentioning because of its almost venerable history. ASTRO File Manager has been one of earliest file managers on Android and it is definitely a welcome sight to see it still alive and kicking. Except for the lack of root powers, ASTRO gets the job done and does it well, with swipe gestures, cloud access, and more. One quite special power that ASTRO does have is in the depth and breadth of its search, allowing users to search across all locations, whether on the device, network, or on the cloud, and even make very specific filters based on name, size, location, type, etc.

If the free/paid notation above is any indication, ASTRO File Manager’s free version comes with a non-monetary price. The free app isn’t crippled in functionality, but it does come riddled with ads, which you have to pay to get rid of. There is also something to be said about ASTRO’s “unique” visual style. Although it isn’t as plain as ES Explorer or as serious as Root Explorer, it appears to be a mishmash of different artistic styles that give it a rather disjointed appearance.

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Tomi File Manager (Free)

Tomi is a relative new comer to the file manager scene, but it is quite interesting for one, single reason: presentation. Although it does have a switch to enable root access, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the more powerful file managers. In exchange, it lets users peruse their files in a more visually oriented way. The home screen of Tomi presents users with a pie chart of storage space usage and a categorization of the different file types like Music, Pictures, Documents, etc. A filing system near and dear to Google’s own heart. But more than that, drilling into the Pictures and Videos sections shows all those media files in preview mode. This lets you really explore your photos and videos without having to open a separate gallery or multimedia app.

Of course, Tomi still lets users walk through the file system the traditional way, via folders and files. In that regard, Tomi offers the most basic of functionality that should let users wade through without drowning in a sea of options.

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Wrap-up

We’ve seen very powerful file managers on Android that opens up the world to users with power, but one question remains unasked: Do we need file managers at all? Let’s set aside for a moment the security and stability considerations of giving unknowing and unsuspecting users almost unbridled access to Android’s innermost workings via root. iPhone and iPad users have certainly lived for years without it. And if Android on Nexus devices is any sign, Google believes users won’t need to either. At least not in the way file managers usually do. Google is more interested in presenting files grouped according to media type rather than the plain files and folders tree structure of conventional systems.

Do you find file managers essential for an Android experience, even for regular users? Do you think root access, whether in apps or in file managers, is worth the risk of messing up things you’re not supposed to? Do you have any favorite file manager, especially one that grants root powers, that you’d like to bring to the community’s attention? Let us know in the comments below!

Jink location sharing app is both helpful and private

Imagine you’re meeting with some of your friends but all of you are not familiar with the place you’re going to. You’re switching back and forth between your location app and your group chat just so you can keep track of where everyone is, and it’s all getting a bit confusing. What if you have just one app where you can do both and you keep your privacy as well? Jink is the newest location sharing app for Android that can let other people know where you are exactly but at the same time maintain your privacy.

There are many location-sharing apps out there, but most of them are either “stalker friendly” or something used by people to humble brag the places they’ve been to. But Jink is different in that it is for those who want to share their location only to specific people who will benefit from knowing where they are. It also serves as a messaging app so that it would be easier to both talk to people and share your respective locations. The fun thing about it (or bad thing, depending on your intention) too is that you can see the icons moving in real time, so there’s no pretending you’re near, when in fact you’re still far. In other words, you can’t hide or lie!

And to protect your privacy, not everyone one can add you up or see your location. You can only send an invitation to someone to Jink with you if their mobile number is in your phone book. If someone isn’t on the app yet, it will send a link invitation through SMS. And when you finally meet up with your friend or group of friends, the Jink session will end, since it has already done its job which is to get you together with the person or people you’re meeting.

The app is also very user friendly, so no need to do a “training session” with your Dad just to show him how to use it. So download Jink now from the Google Play Store and start “Jinking” with your friends and loved ones.

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VIA: SlashGear

Samsung Galaxy Gear gets a one way ticket to Tizen

The rumors and leaks were indeed true and now Samsung is making it official. It is giving owners of the first generation Galaxy Gear smartwatch a chance to migrate their wearable timepiece over to a more up-to-date platform. No, Samsung isn’t talking about Android Wear. This is all about Tizen.

Before you take the plunge, you should probably know first what is involved so that you can make a more informed decision. The Tizen firmware update is completely optional and because of that, it isn’t delivered via OTA. If you want to get it, you’ll have to use the Kies 3.0 desktop software to get it to your Galaxy Gear. But the most important bit of information is this: once you get Tizen installed, you are stuck there for life. You will not be able to revert to the customized Android originally installed if you decide to go this route. It maybe possible some day for some of the arduous modders and developers to defy that limitation, but for now, the dire warning stands.

So why make the change? Well, according to Samsung, you get access to more apps, around 140, which is definitely more than those available currently for Galaxy Gear directly. You also get to play music directly on the watch and pipe it through a Bluetooh headset. And you also get many, but of course not all, of the features present in the second generation Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo. So it is basically an upgrade. That is, if you actually buy Samsung’s spiel, who obviously has a vested interest in getting Tizen on as many real-world devices as possible.

To be honest, though, it is a very flimsy and weak proposition, especially considering there is no turning back once the vile deed has been done. Those seeking to extract more use from their Galaxy Gear might as well just install a custom ROM like null_ on the thing and get even more functionality, without leaving the comforts of Android. And of course, there’s is Android Wear, which is probably a better smartwatch platform than Tizen, because of its wider availability and compatibility beyond a single manufacturer. It might sound a bit biased, but then again, we’re Android Community after all.

SOURCE: Samsung (1), (2)

OnePlus One Bamboo cover is here and out of stock

Right on the dot, OnePlus has revealed the availability of the first “textured” StyleSwap cover for the still elusive OnePlus One smartphone. Of course, that depends on how you define “availability”, as this unique wooden cover is currently marked as out of stock, making it pretty much like the smartphone itself: unavailable.

OnePlus promised a lot, and to be fair, it has delivered on them to some extent. The OnePlus One was indeed a premium smartphone with an affordable price tag, which could explain the sustained interest in the device despite being near impossible to acquire. Before launch, OnePlus already promised that there will various StyleSwap covers of varying textures, including wood, something Motorola also provides for the Moto X. Today, OnePlus made true its word and the first, or maybe even only, wood cover has been revealed as Bamboo.

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Environmentalists might feel a bit aghast at the idea of using bamboo as a smartphone cover, but those who like their devices to be truly unique and personal might find this offer quite attractive. And unique it will be as OnePlus promises each cover is one of a kind thanks to an almost endless combination of bamboo fibers, nodes, and colors. OnePlus claims that no two Bamboo covers in the world will be the same. It does indeed look professionally crafted and might attract a few glances. OnePlus amusingly even made a trailer just for the cover alone.

The OnePlus One Bamboo StyleSwap cover costs $49, though, as mentioned it is currently out of stock. OnePlus has apparently taken a regular approach to manufacturing and selling these covers, unlike the per-order system of the Moto Maker. Considering that there are comparatively few OnePlus Ones out in the world, it wouldn’t be hard to keep up with orders. That said, as interesting and beautiful as this bamboo cover might be, with the OnePlus One still unavailable for retail, it will remain just a taunting photo in our web browsers. OnePlus better be careful that it doesn’t let the window of opportunity pass by, that is, if it actually has any plans of selling the smartphone the old fashioned way at all.

SOURCE: OnePlus (1), (2)

Facebook introduces ‘Save on Facebook’ feature

We’ve all been there once before – maybe you’re killing time at a lounge before a meeting and took a quick glance at Facebook over your handheld device. Then you see an interesting link – a video, an article, a BuzzFeed list – but you really don’t have the time to explore it just now. What do you do? Either you let it go right now and hope you remember it later, or consign it to oblivion.

The new “Save on Facebook” looks to meet that need, taking its cue from Android apps like Pocket and Links Saver, allowing users to “save” links so that they can come back to it later. Sounds cool, huh? Well, suffice it to say that Facebook wasn’t the first to think about this idea, but we’re actually glad that it is going this way. With the hundreds of links you get on your News Feed every day, this is a way for you to explore those that are actually relevant to you.

But Facebook is going one over the apps we mentioned, and rightly so because of the relative variety of content you do get on your feed. So “Save on Facebook” doesn’t just save links, you can save virtually ANYTHING that appears on your News Feed – that great restaurant that your friend went to last night, that book your friend was reading, or music that you may have been listening to. Want to react or comment at a later date because your friend was “feeling meh” at one point in the day? Save it on Facebook.

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Lastly, Facebook will be making the items you save available on all platforms – you can view the items you saved on mobile on the web. Your saved items will be organized by category, and you will be able to directly share to your timeline from your saved list. Again, pretty logical for Facebook to do. You will also be getting reminders on your feed about the items you have saved, just in case you forgot that you did save some items. This cool new feature will be rolling out on Android (and iOS) devices in the “next few days”, FB says.

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SOURCE: Facebook