Big Changes Coming to Google+

Google has announced a raft of changes that are coming to Google+ for the web and for Android.  While there are several things that were highlighted, perhaps the two biggest have to do with Events and the old G+ layout.  One is returning and one is going away for good.  Events went away from Google+ during the revamping of the app and the web site last year and it was one of the feature that many users had requested Google to get back into it.  That will be happening starting January 24th.

Finally (drumroll please!), we’re bringing Events over to the new Google+. While there’s more to be done to improve the experience, beginning January 24th you’ll be able to create and join events on Google+ web as you have in the past. Please note that Events will not be available for G Suite at this time.

Note that the post said on the web.  It does not look like you’ll be able to add events from the app – at least not yet.

Project Fi Referral Plan Extended Indefinitely

Last month I wrote about a referral program that Project Fi had going on last month.  Basically the way it worked is that if you used a referral link from a Project Fi customer (like mine for example), you would get a $20 kick back on your bill have you have been active for 30 days.  In return, I get the same kick back after you have been active for 30 days.  It was a win-win and it was a great for you to try Fi with a little bit less risk.

And while I’m at it, thank you Alan, Rodger and Stef for using my referral link last month!  😀

Now the referral program has been extended indefinitely.  If you want to try out Fi, you can use a referral link from any current Fi customer and sign up.  After you have been with the service for 30 days, you too will get a referral link so you can share the love too.

Age of Empires Castle Siege Coming to Android in March

Age of Empires: Castle Siege has been available on Windows Phone since 2014 and was a banner game for that platform.  The developer, Smoking Gun Interactive, worked closely with Microsoft on the real-time strategy game and up until last week, you could only get it on Windows Phone and Windows 10.  Last week it launched for iOS and now it looks like we Android users will get the game in March.

For those not familiar with Castle Siege, the game is a top-down tower defense style game where you select a civilization and begin building your empire.  The game starts with plenty of step-by-step tutorials so even if you have never played AoE you will get the hang of it pretty quickly.  Picking your civilization is important as each one has unique skills or technologies to it over others.  If you have played in the past then again, this will feel familiar.

AOPEN Announces the Chromebase Mini Tablet

AOPEN has announced a new Chrome OS powered tablet, the Chromebase Mini.  The 10.1″ tablet does indeed look like a mini Chromebase and is aimed at the enterprise and retail markets but with a price point consumers can afford.  If you haven’t heard of AOPEN, they have been working with Chrome OS for a long time.  Most of their work has been around digital signage that runs on the platform but they have also had commercial grade Chromebox devices for a while.

The Chromebase Mini has a 10.1″ display that renders in 1280 x 800, has multi-touch support and is powered by a quad-core Cortex A17 processor running at 1.8GHz.  It has 4GB of RAM and 16GB of storage build it along with a Full HD Webcam that shoots at 2MP.

Rumor Suggests Android Wear 2.0 Launching February 9th

If Evan Blass is right, and he usually is, we can expect Android Wear 2.0 to launch on February 9th.  Evan took to Twitter in the wee hours of this morning to tell everyone to mark their calendars and get ready for the release.

 

If you don’t follow Mr. Blass on Twitter, take a minute and do so. He is deadly accurate on most rumors and leaks and is a great source of information.

Review – Withings Blood Pressure Monitor – An Excellent Tool to Monitor Heart Health

Like many aspects of healthy living, understanding your blood pressure and the impact it has on your body is critical.  This is especially true for those with a genetic predisposition to heart disease and high blood pressure.  High blood pressure can have long term damaging impacts on your body that can include heart attack and stroke.  Monitoring your blood pressure and your pulse can be done at home with the Withing Blood Pressure Monitor.

The Withing Blood Pressure Monitor allows you to take your blood pressure at home, leveraging the Withings app on your Android or iOS phone to keep track of it on a daily or weekly basis.  While it is not as accurate as a medical office checking your blood pressure, it does serve as a solid tool to help you understand what you eat, drink, weight and exercise do to your blood pressure.  I’ve been using the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor for many months as part of keep track of my blood pressure as heart disease runs in my family.  It has become an valuable tool, giving me information that I can readily share with my doctor to discuss and make dietary or lifestyle changes.  Here is my review of this great medical tool.

Today’s Deal – Sony Xperia X Compact Down to $379 on Amazon

Today’s Deal is on a great phone that I reviewed a few months ago.  The Sony Xperia X Compact has a lot of punch in a little package and right now, it is on sale for $379 at Amazon.  Normally this 4.6″ phone is $499, so this is a healthy amount of savings.  It is powered by the Snapdragon 650 hexa-core processor.  It has four 1.4 GHz Cortex-A53 cores &  two 1.8 GHz Cortex-A72 cores.  The processor is coupled with the Adreno 510 GPU which provides good graphics performance.  The X Compact has 3GB of RAM onboard and has 32GB of built-in storage.  That storage can be expanded up to an additional 256GB thanks to the Micro SD slot that is built into the SIM tray of the phone.

Display wise, the Xperia X Compact has a 4.6″ IPS LCD display that renders at 720 x 1280.  That gives you 319 ppi which is low compared to other devices out there.  I caution readers to consider that this device has a much smaller display so 319 ppi is actually very comfortable on this screen size.  Indeed for comparison, the iPhone 6 had 329 ppi so we aren’t talking about a massive difference from even larger devices.  The display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3.

Android Nougat Rolling Out To The HTC One A9

Good news for those who have the unlocked variant of the HTC One A9.  Android Nougat is coming your way!  HTC’s Mo Versi, VP of Product Management, took to Twitter yesterday to announce that starting last night, the unlocked phone would start having the latest version of Android pushed to it via an OTA update.  The announcement comes after the HTC 10 started – then stopped – getting the Nougat update and it comes nearly six months after it was released by Google.

 

The update takes the One A9 to version 7.0 with the latest security patch for that build.

Chrome OS Could Soon Have Model Specific Wallpapers at Launch

An interesting tidbit of code has shown up in the Chromium change log for Chrome OS.  The change outlines that the default wallpaper on a device can be controlled by the master configuration.  In other words, manufactures like Acer, Dell and HP could have specific wallpapers for specific Chrome OS devices.

The ability for an OEM to set a default wallpaper has been in play for some time now.  Both Acer and HP have a custom wallpaper that they have all their Chromebooks show when you first power them on.  Google is incredibly strict with what OEMs can do to the Chrome experience.  To this point, the manufactures had one wallpaper they could add and it was the same on every Chromebook.

Nvidia Shield Gets Android Nougat Update and Many Other Updates

Nvidia has started pushing out the Shield Experience 5.0 update to the Nvidia Shield TV and it is massive.  While the headline will be that the streaming TV platform as been upgraded to Android Nougat, there are a huge number of new features and improvements in the update.  The first big enhancement is Amazon video integration.  Now if you have a Amazon video account (via Amazon Prime) you can stream that content from the Shield thanks to the built-in app.  The streaming from Amazon is also in 4K HDR.

The new Games app that comes with this update allows you to find compatible games for your Shield.  It gives you listings of games that are available and allows you to download them. Once they are installed, they show up as a single row within the Games apps so you can easily find them.

Review – Sleep as Android – Wellness Begins With Good Sleep

Sleep is a critical part of any healthy lifestyle.  Getting the proper amount of restful sleep not only helps with your psychological wellness but also has other health benefits when it comes to general well being and fitness.  Sadly, most Americas struggle to get the proper amount of sleep each night or have poor quality of sleep.  Sleep as Android is an app that allows you to measure your sleep, the quality of that sleep, and integrate that data with apps like Google Fit.  By having the app running on your phone next to you as you sleep, it will track your sleep cycles, see trends and even record noises as you sleep to see if you are snoring or, worse, suffering from Sleep Apnea.

Sleep as Android, however, is so much more.  It can serve as your alarm clock, can play soothing sounds to help you relax and get to sleep and gently wake you up in the morning.  It is an all-in-one app for your sleeping.  I’ve been using the app since the beginning of 2017 as I am focusing on making sure I get the right amount of sleep each day.  It has been an eye opening app for me and has become a daily part of my life as I try to live a healthy – and rested – lifestyle.  Here’s my review.

Outlook for Android Update Brings Mentions to Emails

Microsoft has pushed a new update out to Outlook for Android users.  The update should be hitting users in the next few days and when it does, you will find a new Mentions features.  The new feature allows you to mention people or call attention to things in your email by using the @ sign in your email.  When you use @ in your email, you will get a pop-up of your frequently used contacts or you can dive into your contacts list (personal or corporate if on Office 365).  This makes it just a couple of taps away from adding a person to an email you are sending.