Use Your Fingerprint to Unlock an Android Smartphone

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Who needs Touch ID? Thanks to a new Android app, you can unlock your smartphone with a touch of your finger for free.

ICE Unlock is a brand new Android app that uses your phone’s front-facing camera to scan a high-resolution image of your fingerprint. From there, you can use your fingerprint as verification to unlock your phone, functionally the same as Touch ID. And, for emergencies, you’ll need to have a backup pin ready, so you won’t ever find yourself locked out of your phone completely.

ICE claims to be a true biometric scanner for Android. Rather than touching your fingerprint to the screen, you’ll be unlocking your phone using the front facing camera again, which will match your fingerprint map with the template they have stored (which you provide initially). Your fingerprints are stored locally, not on central servers, for a little added privacy reassurance.

ICE Unlock is available now for free on Google Play.

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Google Sells Motorola: Explained!

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The Elder Scrolls Online — Arrival Trailer

The Elder Scrolls Online - High Tech Geeks

The Elder Scrolls Online – High Tech Geeks

 

The Elder Scrolls Online is the latest chapter of the award-winning franchise — and will bring the legendary experience online for the first time.

 

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Twitter app gets a new update, adds basic image editing and more

twitter-update

Twitter used to be solely about words, but it has gradually evolved to incorporate better support for images as well. On Monday evening the official Twitter client for Android received an update that makes it even easier to work with images, adding cropping and rotating options so images can be perfectly framed. There’s now no need to edit images in another app, it can all be done as part of the upload process.

Cropping is reduced to a simple selection of one of three default options — Square, Wide and Original, and rotating is fairly self-explanatory. Another change to the tweeting of images sees the introduction of tagging reminders. The app will detect when a photo of people is being uploaded and will then throw up a reminder to @ mention anyone who is featured.

Regular Twitter users can get frustrated after using the swipe-to-update gesture only to find that there are no new tweets to read. Now when you refresh and there are no new tweets, rather than seeing nothing new, you will instead see a list of recommended tweets, trending topics and account suggestions. Users in the United States will also now receive updates about TV, sports and news when there are no other tweets available.

Hit Google Play to grab the app, or just check for the update if you already have it installed.

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BlackBerry OS 10.2.1 update goes official, available now

BlackBerry has just announced the latest 10.2.1 update for its BlackBerry OS. It brings lots of new features, and is compatible with all BlackBerry 10 smartphones. The rollout has already started so you can update your device right now.

   
BlackBerry OS 10.2.1

Here is the complete official change log:

  • Customize Pinch Gesture to Filter BlackBerry Hub – BlackBerry Hub lets you access all your messages and notifications in one place. A new feature lets you instantly filter the message list in the Hub. You can customize the Hub to show only Unread Messages, Flagged Messages, Draft Messages, Meeting Invites, Sent Messages or Level 1 Alerts. Once the filter criterion is set, you can simply activate it with a pinch gesture on the Hub’s message list.
  • Simplified Phone Experience – The phone includes a new incoming call screen that lets you swipe to the left to answer or swipe right to ignore a call. New intuitive icons allow you to instantly silence the call, or send a Reply Now response through BBM, SMS or email that you can’t answer the phone right away. You can choose from a list of standard automated responses or respond with a personalized note.
  • SMS and Email Groups – You can now create SMS and email groups for more efficient broadcast communications.
  • Actionable Lock Screen Notifications – You can now “Tap to open” a message that appears on the lock screen, letting you respond to an important message much quicker or to check messages more discreetly.
  • Picture Password for Quick Unlocking – You can quickly unlock your phone using a combination of a picture and a number (0-9) of your choice, which you place at a particular point on the image. When you try to unlock the phone, the picture will appear along with a grid of random numbers. To unlock, simply drag the grid so the number you selected overlays the particular point on the image.
  • Customizable Quick Settings Menu – You can now customize what appears on the Settings menu, which includes features such as being able to quickly change the Brightness of the smartphone’s display, toggle various network connections, and access the built-in flashlight. The Settings menu also includes a toggle that lets you instantly switch between your Personal and Work perimeter.
  • Offline Browser Reading Mode – You can now save the current web page you’re on for later viewing, even if you are offline or without an Internet connection.
  • Preferred Contact Sync – You can now choose the sync source for your Contacts ensuring you always have the most up-to-date contact details. When adding a new contact you can designate which sources you want the contact info to sync with, such as the corporate address book, Gmail, Hotmail, etc.
  • Device and Battery Monitor – A new and improved device monitor provides you with essential details on battery usage, the impact of installed apps on battery life and memory usage and storage, as well as CPU stats.
  • FM Radio – If you have a BlackBerry Z30, BlackBerry Q10 or BlackBerry Q5 smartphone, the new software update unlocks the built-in FM radio in those handsets. You can listen to local FM stations, which does not require any network connection.
  • Automatic Software Updates – OS updates can be set to happen automatically over a Wi-Fi® connection to help ensure you’re always benefiting from the latest and best possible customer experience.
  • Enterprise Features – When combined with BES10 version 10.2, enterprise customers will gain additional security features and IT policies for when more granular controls are required, such as for regulated industries and for organizations that work with sensitive data. For more information about BES10, please visit bes10.com.

BlackBerry says the new 10.2.1 update is now available for all compatible devices (Z10, Q10, Q5. Porsche Design P’9982) everywhere around the globe. Of course, the rollout is gradual, so it may take some time before the update hits your device, especially if it is carrier-bound.

According to a leaked USA roadmap, Verizon’s Z10 will get the update on January 28, Q10 – on February 4, the Z30 – on February 10. The same roadmap claims AT&T’s Z10 and Q10 will receive the new firmware on February 10, while T-Mobile’s Z10 and Q10 will get the notification in mid-February. Sprint’s Q10 will be the last one to join the fun – at the end of February.

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Video shows Android 4.4 KitKat on LG G2

Meizu MX3 vs LG G2 thin bezels what

A YouTube video shows off Android 4.4 KitKat running on the LG G2, but don’t expect to see any massive changes to the phone’s user interface with the update.

The nearly 3-minute video uses the new scree recording feature of KitKat to show off the update to the LG G2. Without the section of the video that specially shows the Android version number as 4.4, however, you might mistake it for a video of the G2 running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean.

There are a few changes to the UI of the LG G2 with the Android 4.4. update, but they’re all very minor. The icons in the status bar are all the same light grey color, for example. The update also seems to rearrange some elements of the notification tray while adding a new print option.

LG also implemented the new fullscreen mode in the camera and browser apps in the G2 running KitKat. Fullscreen mode gets rid of the black (or white, depending on your settings on the phone) bar around the virtual buttons. The feature lets you see more content on a website or more objects in your frame in the camera app.

The Android 4.4 KitKat update started rolling out to Korean LG G2 units in December, but it hasn’t spread to everyone just yet. This video is the closest some G2 owners will get to KitKat for a little while, depending on the speed of the global rollout. If nothing else, this video proves the update is real, and will theoretically reach other models soon.

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Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

motog 520x245 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

The leap from feature phones to smartphones didn’t happen overnight. Slowly but steadily, our phones grew smarter and smarter until they’d become capable enough that we could fulfil most of our computing needs on these pocket-sized devices. The onset of powerful third-party apps spurred that progress into overdrive, so much so that most of what we do on our phones these days isn’t even possible on the full-size desktop computers they are derived from.

In this series of two articles, I’ll take a look at five Android apps that allow you to insert your own brand of customised artificial intelligence into your phone. I’ll go into detail about how to set up and use each of the following apps and provide examples of real life usage scenarios to help get you started. These apps range from the very simple to the pretty complex—but fear not, enterprising mobile warrior, because I’m here to guide you every step of the way.

First up, Gravity Screen… 

Gravity Screen

Let’s start with Gravity Screen.

Throughout the day, you take your phone out of your pocket countless times, whether it be to check your email, respond to that message you just received, dial a call or even just check the time. Isn’t it bothersome to have to press that power button every time you do so and press it again before you put it back? Gravity Screen can take care of that trivial everyday annoyance for you.

The way it works is that it detects when (a) your phone is either oriented upside down or placed face down; and (b) its proximity sensor is covered. If both conditions check out, it will turn off the display for you. Reverse the conditions, and voila, it will turn it back on!

As long as you’re willing to change your habits with regard to how you store your phone—upside down in your shirt or pants pocket and face down on flat surfaces—Gravity Screen works with 100% accuracy with the default settings and consumes minimal battery. On my phone, it does not even show up on the battery usage statistics screen.

Gravity Screen 1 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

Gravity Screen 2 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

If you’d rather not keep your phone face down, there is a setting that’ll allow it to detect when the phone is placed face up on a flat surface, but it consumes more battery that way and it gets annoying to have to pause the app (which you can do by tapping on its permanent notification) when you want to use the phone on a bed or table. In this mode, the app will also turn on the screen if anything accidentally passes over the proximity sensor, which annoys me no end.

Other features of the app include the ability to “keep the screen on by motion”. With this feature enabled, you can set your screen’s timeout to a very low setting (say, fifteen seconds), but while you’re actively using it, Gravity Screen will detect the tiny motions of your hand and keep the screen awake. When you place the phone on a stationary surface, it will allow the timeout to function. I found this feature to be an unnecessary waste of battery life and prefer to simply keep the timeout to a respectable two minutes, but you may want to give it a shot.

The following are the Gravity Screen settings that I have arrived at after a little trial and error, and that work best for me. Feel free to use them as a guide when setting it up for your own usage:

  • Pocket Sensor: 60º
  • Any Direction: N
  • Table Sensor: 35º
  • Lying Face Up: N
  • Turn Screen OFF By Proximity: Y
  • Turn Screen ON By Proximity: Y
  • Turn Screen ON By Motion: Y
  • Timeout: 10 min
  • Sensitivity: 15
  • False Turn-On Protection in Pocket: Y
  • False Turn-On Protection in Hand & Car: Y
  • Keep Screen ON by Motion: N
  • Alternative Proximity Method: N
  • Alternative Turn Off Method: N
  • Vibration: N
  • Headphone Support: N
  • Disable Screen Lock: N
  • Notification: Y
  • Start at Boot: Y

Available for free from the Play Store, the lite version performs well and has almost all the features of the paid version, with a few minor exceptions. Like the developer himself says, “In the Pro version the screen can be turned on by motion up to 16 hours instead of 15 minutes. Also, in the Pro version the Table sensor is more accurate.” I use the pro version myself and highly recommend that you pay the $1.50 upgrade fee if the free version works well for you.

➤ Gravity Screen [Free / Pro]

Read on for our next app…

SpeakerPhone Ex

Next up is SpeakerPhone Ex. In the same vein as the previous app, SpeakerPhone Ex intends to solve one small everyday annoyance of using a phone and does it exceedingly well. Yes, your phone turns itself on when you take it out of your pocket, but why do you have to manually answer incoming calls before you bring it up to your ear? SpeakerPhone Ex makes it possible to answer incoming calls just by performing that action.

Answering calls based on sensor input is risky business, so it is important that the app is reliable. In my several months’ experience of using this app, I’ve had fewer than five times when the phone was accidentally answered before I’d intended it to. For the most part, it works great, especially if you take to stowing your phone in your pocket upside down (as you need to for using Gravity Sensor).

The app is intelligently designed and the default settings are well considered. My only recommendation is that you enable the “Stop auto answer face down” setting in the “Stop When” section of the app’s preferences.

SpeakerPhone Ex 1 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

SpeakerPhone Ex 2 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

SpeakerPhone Ex also has the ability to manage your speakerphone for you. It will automatically turn on the speakerphone if you bring the phone away from your ear during a call and silence it when you reverse that action. If you manually intervene, it will stop automatically toggling it for you for the duration of that call. There are various delay options built in to guard your privacy. I have set it to delay switching speakerphone on by 1.5 seconds, which gives me enough time to change between ears during calls and to disconnect them after I’m done without the speaker turning on.

The paid version of the app adds several more features, among which is the ability to automatically hang up calls when the phone is placed face down (but it’s missing a pocket detection feature, like Gravity Sensor, which would’ve made this particular feature significantly more handy), various call related alerts (which I don’t find useful) and the ability to “fine tune the auto answer functionality, to minimize accidental answers”. Again, it is well worth the $1.50 purchase.

➤ SpeakerPhone Ex

Next up, Nights Keeper…

Nights Keeper

Moving on from the core functionality of using a phone, there’s a free app called Nights Keeper that makes it possible for you to get a good night’s sleep while it manages your incoming calls, messages and other notifications for you. And when I say “manage”, I mean it shuts them up until absolutely necessary, so you’re only disturbed if something more important than your rest comes calling.

Nights Keeper will allow you to schedule a profile that activates at a set time every night (or on days of the week you specify) and deactivates on the morning after. It will silence your phone entirely—muting all phone calls, notifications and media sounds—and turn off vibration, but will keep an eye out for urgent calls.

Nights Keeper 1 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

Nights Keeper 2 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

If you get a call from someone, it will automatically screen it and send them a text message of your choosing. But if they keep calling you repeatedly, it will eventually allow them to get through. You can configure how many screenings one has to go through before the phone will ring (it’s set to two missed calls on my phone) and set up a whitelist of contacts who can always get through to you on the first try.

Other features of the app include the ability to reduce brightness, turn off auto sync, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and your mobile network at night and re-enable them in the morning, but I find myself having no use for them. There are also a bunch of other settings you can configure and a widget you can use to quickly activate the night profile at any time irrespective of the set schedule.

➤ Nights Keeper

Next: Shush! Ringer Restorer…

Shush!

Perhaps the simplest app on this list is Shush!, but it is also the most universally useful. You may or may not find the other apps here simple enough or relevant enough for you, but pretty much every Android user would benefit from having Shush installed.

When you go to a hospital or a movie and silence your phone, you never have to remember to turn it back on again after you leave. Shush throws up a simple dialog asking you how much time you need the phone to be silenced for when you flip that switch and you can either tap on a button to silence it indefinitely or set it to any time in fifteen-minute increments.

Shush 1 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

Shush 2 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

When silenced, it will show up as an ongoing notification, letting you know at what time the silent period ends. At any point, you can tap on the notification to restore the original volume of your phone. The only bug with the app is that it never restores the vibration setting and I’ve contacted the developer to try to get it fixed. Besides that, Shush is an excellent app and can be yours for the low price of free.

➤ Shush!

Next: Unlock with WiFi

Unlock with WiFi

Given the volume of sensitive data we store on our smartphones, it is essential that they be impenetrable if they fall into the wrong hands—and yet, no one wants to sacrifice convenience on the altar of security. The solution is provided by Unlock With WiFi, an Android app that keeps your device protected against unauthorised access by a PIN lock, but gets rid of it when it isn’t necessary.

Unlock With Wifi maintains a list of trusted WiFi networks and automatically removes your PIN lock when your Android device is connected to them. Step out of your home or office and it promptly re-enables the authentication screen, so your data is protected if the phone falls into the wrong hands.

Once you install the app, it’ll ask for device administrator privileges, which it needs to work its magic. After you grant that, you can no longer uninstall the app until you revoke that permission. For this reason, if you ever wish to uninstall it, you should do so from within the app itself.

Unlock With WiFi 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

Unlock With WiFi 2 220x366 Make your Android device a whole lot smarter with these handy apps

Add your favoured wireless networks to its list and set up a PIN lock to get started. The app uses the standard Android lock screen, so you do not lose any functionality on that front, but you cannot change the PIN code from the system settings app anymore. Unlock with WiFi also gives you options to automatically turn off WiFi when you leave a trusted network and turn on Bluetooth, GPS and other settings. I found no use for those features, but the core feature itself is worth the $4.00 price of entry.

Unfortunately, Unlock With WiFi does not work with Bluetooth and does not support the face and pattern unlock features, but on the positive side, it does not need a rooted device to function either. Also, it does need you to enter your PIN code once when you enter trusted wireless zones before the lock screen is removed. Give the free four-day trial version a run before you jump in with both feet.

➤ Unlock With WiFi

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