Android Community Weekly Digest: Aug. 9, 2015

August 9, 2015
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This week may have not been as action packed as the the weeks before but don't be deceived, it's just the calm before the storm. While we anxiously, or even excitedly, await what Samsung has in store for us this week, we take another look at what has transpired in the days past. Sony is yet again sending mixed signals, putting out rather convincing new smartphones but at the same time seemingly pulling back. Samsung, on the other hand, seems to be piling up the hype with what may be a new tablet coming this week as well. These and more in the Android Community Weekly Digest, covering the days from August 3 to 9, 2015.

Sony's two steps forward, one step back

At this point, Sony's plans for its mobile business is completely unfathomable. It has been sending conflicting messages, especially as far as its flagship line is concerned. It may put out a new "Xperia Z5" and even an "Xperia Z5 Compact" before the year is over. Indeed, it has scheduled a press event on September 2 for its usual IFA flair. What those new smartphones wll be like is anyone's guess. Other than a fingerprint scanner, we haven't heard anything new that could help Sony save some face.

Sony also just announced two photo and selfie centric mid-range smartphones, or rather "high" mid-range. The new Xperia M5, though not bearing the "Aqua" moniker is just as rugged as the Xperia M4 Aqua before it. Powered by a MediaTek Helio X10 processor with 3 GB of RAM, a hefty 21.5 megapixel rear camera and an equally formidable 13 megapixel front shooter, the Xperia M5 almost qualifies as a flagship. The Xperia C5 Ultra, on the other hand, is more the traditional mid-range phablet, but it's two 13 megapixel cameras, front and back, make it just as interesting.

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At the same time, Sony is practically withdrawing from its online retail business in the US. It has announced the upcoming closure of its online store on August 28. While the website will remain, it will simply point to its retail partners when it comes to actually buying the products. Perhaps Sony is tightening its belt, which doesn't bode well for confidence.

Samsung's Unpacked surprise

We thought we already had the full picture when it came to Samsung's big August reveal, expecting the Galaxy Note 5, the Galaxy S6 edge+, and the round Gear A/Orbis smatwatch. But lo and behold, it seems that Samsung may still have one ace up its sleeve. An official teaser image hints at something with an even larger screen, presumably a tablet. It has been quite a while since Samsung actually put out a premium slate. The Galaxy Tab S2 didn't even get much media attention. Maybe Samsung will take this opportunity to hype that up. Or maybe it has a new Galaxy Note tablet in store.

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In the meantime, the leaks and unofficial info about the two upcoming smartphones, and not all of them are good. A retailer claims to have been given some special hands-on time with the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ and reveals a few interesting tidbits, like the lack of a microSD card sadly. In any case, we only have to wait a few days to finally get to the truth.

Stagefright Fight

The Stagefright vulnerability has definitely given us quite a scare, but almost ironically, it might be the instrument that will help solve one of Android's biggest lingering problems. While the fix for the security exploit is already known and available from Google, getting the update into the hands of thousands, if not millions, of affected devices. This is because the process of rolling out updates involves so many parties, so many tests, and so many steps that it takes weeks, even months, to get even critical updates out the door. That might be changing soon.

Google, of course, already had the fix for months but only decided to roll it out last week just to batch it up with other fixes. Given calls for changes, however, it has announced that it will instead adopt a monthly release cycle for updates, making sure that Nexus devices remain vulnerable only for weeks. But yes, that promise only covers Nexus devices. OEM versions, are, sadly, out of luck. Well, unless your smartphone happens to be a Samsung. The Korean OEM is also promising the impossible. Monthly updates for its devices. Now, unlike Google, Samsung's updates have to pass through other channels, which makes this commitment ambitious but also desperately needed. Hopefully it can pull it off and other OEMs will follow suit.

Android Lollipop is nearly at 20%

That's right. The latest Android version, which now covers both 5.0 and 5.1, nearly covers a fifth of the entire Android market. That's a rather impressive feat for a new Android release, especially one that has very big changes both above and under the hood. This trend bodes well in the quest to banish Android fragmentation, though, honestly speaking, that isn't going away any time soon, as OpenSignal's annual report indicates. Still, it goes a long way in easing the pain of developers as well as integrators and OEMs.

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Bits and Bytes

Bad news for NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet fans. The company has issued a massive recall for tablets sold within almost a one year range. The reason is that it has come across a problem that will result in the tablet overheating and potentially bursting into flames. While NVIDIA is promising replacements for affected devices, it's still discouraging to see it make this "discovery" only a year after sales have already begun.

Another disappointment has descended on the fans of the e-ink display toting YotaPhone 2. Despite a successful Indiegogo campaign to bring the smartphone to the US, Russian outfit Yota announced that it has decided to scrap plans to do so. It has come across unavoidable and insurmountable problems that would delay the phone all the way to 2016, which is pretty late for a phone with late 2014 specs. Refunds are being promised though details are still uncertain at this point.

In contrast, things seem to be going pretty well for OnePlus, enough for CEO Carl Pei to confirm that another smartphone is coming later this year, probably in time for the holidays. No, it won't be the OnePlus 3 or the OnePlus 2s, though Pei hints that it is just as tasty as the OnePlus 2. That said, the latest smartphone has left a bad taste in some fans' mouths, particularly due to the lack of NFC capability. Pei insisted that mobile payments, which are the main appeal of NFC, is still a year or so away, which made them decide to cut the feature out. Perhaps to also save some cash. Heavy users of NFC tags, however, beg to disagree.

And here's something entertaining to cap the list. What would happen if you installed Android on an iPhone 6 lookalike and told Apple fans that it was the new iOS 9? Well, apparently, they'll still love it. Even a self-professed Samsung fanboy failed to notice the Android running beneath. While it might be amusing, it does go to show how some Apple fans will swallow up anything the company puts out, even if it is an Android.

Wrap-up

And that's it for this week's top news. Better not get too comfy, though, because in just a few winks of an eye, we will be mesmerized by what Samsung will be unveiling at its largest Unpacked yet. Or not. Fan or not, there's no denying that this will be a big Android event. So better get the popcorn ready and we'll see you there!


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