20 Best Apps For Android Users That You Should Not Miss

Technology
by Jane Hurst

Many apps are created with one thing in mind, and that is to help make your life a little bit easier.
There are thousands of apps out there though, and it can be difficult
to figure out which ones you can actually use, and which ones you don’t
need to bother with. Here are some of our favorites, and we recommend these apps for all Android users.

Notes & Lists 

1. BuyMeaPie – Grocery Shopping List 

Download link: Free | Paid

This app has more than 5 million downloads and is considered one of the most popular of its kind.
It has a smart cloud synchronization that allows users to create and
manage lists either on web app or mobile device, and sync them with a
number of devices. With this app users can also share their lists with friends and family and collaborate on shopping together.

Price: there is a free version and a paid one for $2.98.

2. Google Keep – Create Custom Notes and Lists 

Download link: Free

If you are forgetful and need to take notes for reminders, this is the app for you. Color-code all of your notes, take photos using the app, and even transcribe recorded voice messages.

Price: Free.

Productivity 

3. Swype – Type Fast, Swype Faster 

Download link: Free | Paid

Typing on a small device can be difficult. If you want a better keyboard option for your device, this is it. Once you get used to using it, you will find that you have better speed and accuracy with your typing.

Price: Free version and paid for $0.99.

4. Plague – Spread Information Like A Virus 

Download link: Free

You want access to information, and you want it now. That is what you will get from this app. This is a new way to share information with others all over the world. It’s like a virus. Once information is shared, it spreads from user to user.

Price: Free.

5. Link Bubble Browser – Do The Right Mobile Browsing 

Download link: Free | Paid

Don’t you just hate how much time you end up wasting browsing online? Change all of that with this app.
You can click on a link and the app will load the link in a bubble in
the background, so you can keep on browsing while it loads.

Price: Free and pro version for $4.04.

6. tTorrent – Simply The Best Torrent Downloader Client 

Download link: Free | Paid

If you download torrents, you need this app. It is a great peer-to-peer app that lets you browse and download torrents quickly and easily. It has all of the same great features as the expensive torrenting programs.

Price: Free lite version and paid version for $4.99.

Messengers 

7. HoverChat – Never Interrupt What You’re Doing To Answer A Message 

Download link: Free | Paid

Do you hate having to stop in the middle of something just to send a message? You won’t have to do this any longer when you use HoverChat. You can watch a movie and have a conversation at the same time, and you can customize your messaging windows.

Price: $3.99 and a free promo app.

8. Mighty Text – SMS From Computer or Tablet 

Download link: Free

Never miss a text again with this app. Even if you can’t access your phone (during meetings, classes, etc.) you can still see them on your tablet or computer. It even works with Gmail.

Price: Free.

Security 

9. Cerberus – The Best Protection You Can Get 

Download link: Free

This is an awesome anti-theft app that everyone should have.
In addition to tracking stolen devices, you can also use the app to
control the stolen devices through the website or with a text message. You can wipe all of the information from the device, lock it using a special code, have the alarm go off, and more.

Price: Free trial, and a one-time upgrade fee of 2.99€.

Personalization 

10. Muzei – A Living Museum For Your Android Home Screen 

Download link: Free

If you love art, this app will allow you to be able to look at some of the most famous works of art in the world. Muzei gives you wallpapers for your home screen, and you get a different piece every day.

Price: Free.

11. UCCW – Create Your Own Custom Widget 

Download link: Free

If you prefer having custom widgets for homescreens, this app will let you create them. Choose from a variety of skins, and start creating. You can decide what the widgets display, from low battery to missed calls to weather and much more.

Price: Free.

12. Cover – The Right Apps At The Right Time 

Download link: Free

This app will put all of your apps on the lockscreen, so everything is in one convenient location. It can tell when you are working, at home, driving, etc., and gives you the apps you tend to use most often for these and other activities.

Price: Free.

13. Light Flow – LED & Notifications 

Download link: Free | Paid

You can use this app to get into your smartphone’s LED to get custom
notifications, as long as your phone has an LED light that alerts you to
notifications. It will give you a special color for texts, emails, phone calls, etc., and it can even let you know when your battery is running down.

Price: Free lite version and paid one of $2.49.

14. Lux – Improve Your Phone’s Automatic Brightness 

Download link: Free | Paid

Lux1

If you hate a screen that is too bright or too dark, you can use this app to change the brightness settings. This comes in pretty handy when you need more or less brightness depending on the light conditions you are in.

Price: Free and $3.80.

15. Tasker – Automate Your Android Phone 

Download link: Paid

Capture

This is another app that will let you customize your phone based on actions. You can set up customized actions for apps, time, your location, various events, shortcuts, and a whole lot more. You can even use this app to create and sell apps.

Price: $2.99.

16. Locale – Condition-Based Android Automator 

Download link: Paid

Capture

Do you want to know who is calling just by the way your phone rings? You can do this, and a lot more, with this automation app.
You can customize how your phone works based on all kinds of factors,
including your location, who is calling, battery life, and more.

Price: $9.99.

Entertainment 

17. Google’s Sky Map – Your Portable Planetarium 

Download link: Free

sky-map-android-apps-screenshot-970x546

Astronomy lovers will go crazy for this app from Google. Point it at the sky, and it will tell you what constellation it is pointed at. This is a great tool to help you learn more about the constellations.

Price: Free.

18. Yahoo Weather – Weather Forecasts 

Download link: Free

yahooweather1

Always be ready for the weather by downloading this popular app. You will be able to find out what the weather is going to be like, which is great so you can know how to dress accordingly.

Price: Free.

19. Instagram – Capture And Share The World’s Moments 

Download link: Free

Instagram-3-0-iOS-Puts-Your-Photos-on-a-Map-2

If you don’t already have this app, get it now. You can do a lot with your photos by using the filters, and you can instantly share your photos with friends and family.

20. VLC’s Media Player – Multimedia Player 

Download link: Free

Enjoy videos anywhere, and at any time with this app. You can watch videos in any file format. Cost: Free.

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4 things Apple should do to help kick start iPad sales

The iPhone was once again the star of the show during Apple’s second quarter of fiscal year 2015.

During the period ending on March 28, Apple sold a whopping 61.2 million handsets. That’s an all-time record for the quarter.

The iPad, however, is heading in a decidedly different direction.
Apple sold 12.6 million tablets during the quarter, which was a 23
percent drop compared to the same time frame in 2014. For the first time
since 2011, Mac revenue even surpassed what Apple made on iPad sales,
which is definitely surprising.

Infographic: Apple Posts Record iPhone Sales as iPad Sales Slump | Statista

During the conference call with analysts, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he was still optimistic about the iPad’s future:

So
my belief is, as the inventory plays out, as we make some continued
investments in our product pipeline — which we’re doing, that we already
had planned and have had planned for a long time — between that, the
inventory playing out, the enterprise starting to take over, I believe
the iPad is an extremely good business over the long term. When
precisely it starts to grow again I wouldn’t want to predict, but I
strongly believe that it will.

But here are four ways Apple can help to reverse the slumping sales trend.

Release the long-rumored “iPad Pro.” There’s no real
doubt that a larger, more professional-oriented iPad is coming as Cook
even slyly referenced “continued investments in our product pipeline”
during Monday’s call. But Apple needs to finally step up and release the
device.

While the all-new MacBook is spectacular to see in person, I’ve been
holding out for a similar device running iOS. Current rumors point to an
iPad with a 12.9-inch screen and maybe even an included stylus. I would
whip out my credit card in a second to purchase the larger form factor –
and I know I’m not the only one.

Once and for all banish the 16GB storage option.
This one is simple. Profit margins be damned, Apple needs to retire the
16GB iPad and iPad mini once and for all. The cheapest tablet options
needs to feature 32GB of storage, and buyers can pay more for a 64GB or
128GB version.

Figure out where the iPad mini fits in. The iPad
mini has had an interesting, albeit short, history. Back in 2013, Apple
proudly packed the iPad mini 2 with the same internals (the A7 chip and 1
GB of RAM) as the larger iPad Air. Buyers could simply pay more for a
larger screen.

But the landscape changed dramatically last year. The iPad mini 3
offered exactly one improvement from the previous generation – a Touch
ID sensor. Everything else remained the same, and I advised friends and
family to save their money and purchase a cheaper iPad mini 2. Apple has
a decision to make – either the iPad mini line should offer similar
specs to the larger iPad Air, or it’s the decidely cheaper, less capable
little brother.

Give users more reasons to upgrade. I will happily
admit my family owns way too many iPads, four in all. But short of an
iPad Pro, I don’t see upgrading any time soon because Apple hasn’t
really added any new “killer” features to the tablet line. While I
appreciate thinner and lighter iPads, that’s not a good enough reason –
at least for me – to upgrade. I’d happily purchase a slightly thicker
iPad with better battery life or a tablet with the same Force Touch
technology as the Apple Watch.

What do you think Apple should do to help spur iPad sales?

— AppAdvice

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Apple’s Small iOS 8.3 Updates Speak Volumes About Where It’s Headed

What easier app downloads and Siri updates are really saying.

Apple siri iosApple may have finally succumbed to common sense: A reader at 9to5Mac

spotted some new settings in the upcoming iOS 8.3 software that suggest
iPhone users should get ready for easier app downloads and more
convenient voice features.

Judging by the iOS 8.3 beta, people
will be able to nix the password requirement for free downloads. The
update also points to a new Siri feature that can launch speakerphone
calls without touching the phone at all.

These feature updates
might seem incremental, but they hint at Apple’s larger play: They are
stepping stones to a future in which enjoying new Apple features and
talking to our Apple devices—on our wrists, at home and on the road—will
become second nature.

Password Play

Passwords weren’t always necessary for freebies,
but the iPhone maker inexplicably built in the requirement. Now it
appears users will be able to toggle it on or off in iOS 8.3. The beta
version, released last week, shows the setting under the new “Password
Settings” configuration page (in the iTunes & App Store settings).
Note that the change covers free apps, media or other iTunes offerings
only; there is no way to turn off passwords for paid downloads.

9to5Mac
notes that the setting hasn’t been activated in the beta software, but
it will likely be available in the final release.

See also: Apple’s Emoji Characters Will Soon Look More Like The World

The new password option joins other changes spotted in iOS 8.3, including:

Advertisement — Continue reading below
  • Ethnically diverse emoji characters
  • Two-factor authentication for Google services
  • Apple Pay for China
  • Expanded Siri support for seven new languages
  • Improved keyboard
  • Wireless CarPlay features

The latter may offer a clue as to why Apple gave Siri control over the speaker.

What The Updates Are Saying

AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety took aim at voice features—Siri, in particular—last
fall, so Apple’s efforts to appease critics with a simpler hands-free
calling for drivers makes sense, especially as part of Apple’s overall
push to make its technology vehicle-friendly.

Initially, users
could only trigger the Siri voice feature by holding down the home
button. Apple eventually gave users the ability to activate it by saying
“Hey Siri” (when the device is plugged into power). Users can now place
calls this way, but they’d still have to use headphones or hold the
phone up to their ear.

By allowing speech activation for the
speakerphone, there’s no need to physically handle the device at all,
just to place a call. Ideally, that should reduce driver distraction.

The company seems to be firing on all cylinders now. Its previous iOS 8.2 software, released a couple of weeks ago, brought Apple Watch support into the fold, as well as improvements to HealthKit and other bug fixes. Apple also filed a patent for an iPhone dock that could feasibly turn into a smart home hub for its latent HomeKit initiative, and is expected to release a brand-new Apple TV with the App Store and Siri, plus a new streaming live TV service.

The
common thread in most cases are apps and, increasingly, voice features.
Given that, Apple’s focus on these areas should come as no shock. They
all play into the windfall of Apple technologies about to head our way.
That much seems to be loud and clear.

Lead image created by Adriana Lee for ReadWrite

 ReadWrite

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5 Myths About Phone Charging Debunked

Technology
by Nicholas Garcia

Most people in this day and age have a smartphone.
This means that the majority of us have access to our social media
accounts, mobile games, news, e-mail, and more pretty much anywhere or
anytime we need it.

The problem with smartphones is that, because we use them so much, they usually run out of battery fairly rapidly. This means we all carry around extra chargers to bring to work, plug into our cars, and so on and so forth. All of this charging has, quite unexpectedly, led to the emergence of several charging-related myths. I am sure you are already familiar with a couple of them.

All that said, what is the truth about the Lithium-ion batteries powering our pocket computers? What battery-related advice should you believe, and which should you forget about? Find out below.

1. Never Charge Your Phone Overnight 

We have all likely heard this one before, and it probably emerged at a
time when battery technology was nowhere near as advanced as it is
today. The truth, according to experts like Shane Broesky , is that “leaving your phone plugged in overnight is okay to do.

Apparently,the technology regulating smartphone batteries has advanced to the point where it knows exactly when to stop feeding a charge into your device.
In other words, there is no risk of you “overcharging” your phone and
causing damage to the battery, as there are safeguards in place to
prevent that from happening.

What you do need to worry about, according to Broesky, is overheating. So, if you are going to leave your phone charging overnight, make sure you place it in a relatively cool area. Also, remove any case you may have put on it so that heat from the battery can escape in a timely fashion.

2. Let Your Phone Go To 0% Before Charging 

I don’t know where this myth came from, but I’ve seen this repeated constantly. What makes this particularly egregious is that completely draining your battery before a charge actually causes it to become more unstable .

Shane Broesky suggests instead that we keep our devices charged “between 50 and 80 percent.
In other words, you should charge your phone intermittently throughout
the day instead of waiting to perform a “deep charge” from 0 to 100
percent.

3. Any Charger, Even An Off-Brand Model, Will Work 

While it may be tempting to try and save money by purchasing an
off-brand charger for your phone, the damage it can do over time might
make you think twice.
The fact of the matter is that it is always best to use the charger
that came with your device, even if you can find another cheaper model
that still technically works.

Experts caution against off-brand chargers for one simple reason : they are “not built with safety in mind.
This means there is a far greater chance of these chargers causing a
fire, or harming your battery, than there is with your phone’s proper
charger.

4. Turning Off Your Phone Is Useless 

While it might seem like an inconvenience to physically turn off our
phones from time to time, experts suggest that we do exactly that. Indeed, one Apple Genius employee stated that “in order to maximize battery life, you should [definitely] turn off your phone from time to time.

This does not mean that you have to always shut down your phone before bed, or do it on a daily basis. That would defeat the purpose of having an always-ready-to-use smartphone.
You should, however, try and shut down or properly restart your device
at least one a week, as this has been proven to conserve your device’s
battery life over time.

5. Don’t Use Your Phone While It’s Plugged In 

As long as you are using the charger that came with your phone, or a certified replacement made by the same company, it is perfectly fine to use your phone while it is charging.

This myth does have a bit of a chilling origin, however. While it is safe to use your smartphone whilst charging it with its proper charger, it is not recommended to do so when using a third-party charger, as that may lead to the phone exploding, or worse, electrocuting the user.

While there is only a slim chance of that happening, you still shouldn’t risk it.
Off-brand, third-party chargers might be cheap, as mentioned
previously, but they don’t work as efficiently with your phone’s
battery, meaning there’s a much higher chance of it overheating and
possibly injuring  you or others during periods of extended use.

Well folks, that is about all I have when it comes to charging myths. Were you familiar with any of these? Were you fooled by a few of them previously, like I was? I’d love to hear your comments below!

Featured photo credit: Gray #3/Phil Roeder via flickr.com

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Google pulls the Nexus 7 tablet from its online store

In case you were on the fence about grabbing one of Google’s affordable Nexus tablets, you’d better jump off it pretty soon. The Nexus 7’s been pulled from the Google Store, as spotted by TalkAndroid, and it almost assuredly isn’t coming back — especially since the Nexus 9 exists. That means if you still want one of the consistently updated 7-inch slates you’ll have to hit places like Amazon
while supplies last or wallow in regret for all that could’ve been.
Namely, owning a tablet that (to me at least) is more comfortable to
hold than the IPad Mini 2 and is essentially just as capable.

Unless you go for the most expensive configuration — 32GB with LTE
— most models will run you less than half what one of Google’s newer,
bigger tablets will, too. That sound you hear? It’s opportunity
knocking. We’ve reached out to Google for additional info and will
update this post should we hear back.

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Dell Venue 8 7000 review: thin design, great screen, gimmicky camera

Engadget doesn’t review many tablets anymore. When it comes to
Android devices, we’re far more likely to write about phablets, those
supersized smartphones that for many people have eliminated the need for
a dedicated slate. Meanwhile, iPad sales have slowed, and Apple has made so few changes to its products that in some cases we actually recommend you buy the previous-gen
model to save money. Still, there are some companies that continue to
not just build tablets, but also produce interesting designs. One of
them is none other than Dell, a company whose track record includes some
sensible Windows slates, a series of forgettable Android tablets and a phablet that was ahead of its time.

Lately, though, the company has been undergoing a reawakening, with a series of striking products that includes the XPS 13 and the Venue 8 7000,
a $399 Android tablet. The Venue 8, as I’ll call it from here on out,
is notable mostly for its design, marked by a stunning OLED display and a
skinny 6mm-thick frame. It also happens to be the first tablet with
Intel’s RealSense 3D camera setup. All told, that combination of specs
was impressive enough to win it a Best of CES Award. But does that mean you should go out and buy one?

Venue 8 7000

Summary
Dell’s flagship Venue 8 tablet is thin and well-made with a
stunning screen and long battery life. It’s one of the best Android
slates you can buy, but we’d like it even more if the image quality from
the camera were better — and if it weren’t so easy to cover up the
speaker and rear lens with your fingers.

Hardware

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“That’s a Dell?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that since I started using
the Venue 8 in public, and showing it off to colleagues. If you’re
reading this, Dell, that’s actually a compliment. A backhanded
compliment, to be sure, but high praise nonetheless. With its machined
aluminum surfaces, blunt edges and front-facing speaker setup, the Venue
8 looks like something HTC would have made back in its original HTC One phase.
It does not look like the brainchild of a company that went private so
that it could focus on making more corporate-friendly PCs.

It’s actually difficult for me to say what I like best about the
design. Under duress, though, I think I’d pick the screen. What we have
here is an incredibly crisp 8.4-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 panel, slightly
larger than the iPad mini’s, with a slightly higher pixel density to
match (361 pixels per inch versus 326 on the mini 3).
But the sharpness is only part of the story. The OLED display also
brings deep blacks, white whites, bright colors and strong viewing
angles. Every time I pick up an OLED tablet, whether it be the Samsung Galaxy Tab S or the older Galaxy Tab 7.7,
I find myself floored by the beauty. As a bonus, the battery life on
those devices also tends to be pretty epic. What can I say, then? It
hasn’t gotten old for me — especially since relatively few tablets even
have screens like this. I’m not sure why they’re still so rare — it’s
clearly possible to build a reasonably priced OLED tablet — but in any
case, I’m glad Dell went with the best possible option. It makes a
difference.

Last thing about the display before I move on: It’s nearly
bezel-less. Other than a thin metal band about as thick as a fingernail,
it’s all screen, from edge to edge. Even the black space surrounding
the screen is minimal. It’s a gorgeous sight, all those lit-up pixels,
but it does at times feel a little impractical. If I’m holding the
display in portrait mode, as it was primarily meant to be used, my
thumbs cover both the metal bezel and even the black buffer space,
leaving me no choice but to block the picture with my fingers. I could
hold on at the bottom too, but that makes for some uncomfortable weight
distribution and besides, my fingers will end up covering the
front-facing speaker located below the display.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So long as I’m talking about what it feels like to hold the device,
this might be a good time to mention the Venue 8’s aluminum shell. At
6mm thick, this is the world’s thinnest tablet, or so Dell says, and
it’s also lighter than you’d expect an all-metal device to be, at 0.67
pound. (For comparison’s sake, the iPad mini 3 weighs 0.73 pound.) The
Venue 8 feels well-crafted, like someone spent a lot of time thinking
about how durable the tablet should be, or how nice it is to press your
fingers against cold, hard metal. In a word, it feels expensive.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem someone spent as much time thinking about
the camera placement. The three cameras in Intel’s RealSense setup are
housed on the rear of the tablet toward the bottom, with two of them
inside a thin strip, and one inside a wider panel along the lower edge.
If you’re holding the tablet in portrait, your fingers will almost
certainly be blocking one of the lenses, which means you’ll almost
certainly need to flip the tablet upside-down to take a shot.

Fortunately, all of the other ports are exactly where you’d expect
them to be. Along the left-hand side are your usual power button and
volume rocker. The good news is that because they’re up toward the top,
you’re unlikely to press them accidentally. The bad news: They won’t be
in thumb’s reach if you’re using the thing in portrait mode. Ah well.
Moving on, there’s a pin-locked microSD slot on the lower-right edge,
which accepts cards as large as 512GB, and which also has room for a SIM
card on the forthcoming LTE model. (My review unit was WiFi-only.) Up
front is a 2-megapixel webcam for video chats and the occasional selfie.
Last but not least, there’s a standard micro-USB socket on the bottom
edge for charging and data transfer. Pretty standard stuff.

Camera

So far, I’ve referred to RealSense as a “3D” camera setup. The better
term might actually be “depth-sensing.” In addition to an 8-megapixel
rear camera — clearly, the main shooter — you get two stereoscopic
720p cameras on either side, which allow the device to collect multiple
layers of depth information. So, when you take a shot in the camera’s
special depth-sensing mode (this part is important), what you’re
actually getting is an amalgam of several shots: one with the foreground
in focus, one with the background, et cetera. This allows you to do
some interesting things. Using Dell’s included “Gallery” app, you can
adjust the focus of the shot, blurring out the background to focus on
the foreground, or vice versa. And, because the shot is broken down into
several pieces, you can apply effects selectively, too (think: sepia in
the foreground only). Think of it as owning a Lytro, except instead of a single-purpose, one-trick camera, you also get a full-featured Android tablet.

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Google set to announce Android M later this month

The latest iteration of Google’s mobile operating system, currently
codenamed Android M, will be announced this month. It will be be
unveiled at the company’s annual I/O developer conference, which kicks
off May 28.

The info is based on the description of an I/O session in the
conference agenda, mentioning the word “Android M”. That session has
since been removed from from Google’s I/O website.

Although the details are scarce, it was revealed that the mobile OS
will be enterprise-focused, and will provide a service – dubbed Voice Access – that Google claims “gives anyone access to their Android device through voice alone.”

– GSMArena.com news

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2015 Apple iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus rumor round-up: specs, features, price and release date

2015 Apple iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus rumor round-up: specs, features, price and release date

In
2014, Apple made the biggest upgrade to its iPhone lineup: it finally
introduced a larger iPhone, and not just one, but two models, the iPhone
6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

This year, in 2015, we don’t expect another
major redesign. Instead, rumors agree that Apple will stick to its
tradition of focusing on internal hardware and software updates in the
second year after it introduces a new design.

Now, the first
rumors have started coming in from reputable sources, and it’s time to
round up the picture around the 2015 Apple iPhones: the iPhone 6s and
iPhone 6s Plus, as most analyst expects them to be called.

More capable, 12-megapixel camera, and maybe, 4K video (finally?)

Apple
first featured an 8-megapixel camera on the iPhone 4s back in 2011, and
since then all iPhones have used 8-megapixel sensors with slight
variances in the size of the sensor itself. At the same time rivals like
Samsung, HTC and Sony have started using 16- and 20-megapixel main
cameras, which theoretically are capable of capturing more detail in
daylight but come with reduced pixels that make it harder to capture
great low-light images.

In 2015, it seems that it is time for
Apple to also make the jump to a higher-res camera, and rumors agree
that the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus will focus on the camera
experience with a brand new, 12-megapixel camera sensor.

A
12-megapixel sensor would also allow Apple to enable 4K video recording,
something that is not possible on an 8-megapixel camera.

We have
seen various rumors about this particular upgrade, including wild
theories about clip-on lenses introduced by Apple, and even a
mirror-like system that would allow using the rear camera also for
selfies, but so far, these seem like a far stretch. Having a
12-megapixel camera with some new shooting options and 4K video
recording, however, do seem possible and very likely.

Force Touch

Apple
first introduced Force Touch with the Apple Watch. A feature that
allows the device to know the difference between a slight tap and a
longer, more forceful touch on the display, this feat is already
available on the Apple wearable, and now rumors point out that it’s
coming to the new, 2015 edition of the iPhone.

We
find this rumor very credible for two reasons: it comes from various
sources, with reputable ones like KGI Securities’ Ming-Chi Kuo among
them, and it fits well in a tradition of synergies for Apple that we’ve
seen with the iPad mini design being adopted by others, as well as in
other occasions.

So far, though, it’s hard to say how will Force
Touch work on the iPhone. Also, having both a slight tap and ‘force
touch’ is not all that intuitive, and will take some getting used to.
Such a solution is also not a transparent one in many cases: what would
happen if you force touch in the Music app? what if you do the same in
the Photos application? and what about other places? We’re curious to
see how and if Apple implements Force Touch in the iPhone 6s.

Apple A9 expected to make the jump to 14nm, and – finally – an iPhone is coming with 2GB of RAM

Apple
has remained a leader in terms of benchmark performance (especially on
the CPU side) with the Apple A8 chip it introduced with the iPhone 6,
and the 2015 edition of the iPhone is practically certain to get the new
Apple A9.

Fine details about the Apple A9 chip are still under a
veil of secrecy, but there are some transitions that are very likely to
happen. First, we do expect the Apple A9 to be built by Samsung and not
TSMC due to the more advanced manufacturing that’s already available at
Samsung fabs. Apple chose TSMC as its supplier for the 20nm Apple A8,
and this year, Bloomberg has reported that it will make the jump to 14nm
with the Apple A9 with Samsung being the manufacturer.

Cross-section of Samsung's 14nm FinFETs in Exynos 7420, image courtesy of Chipworks
Cross-section of Samsung’s 14nm FinFETs in Exynos 7420, image courtesy of Chipworks

Most
importantly, this will also be a move from a planar design to FinFET
for the transistors in the chip. This is important as, at current
miniature nodes, planar architectures are affected by power leakage
issues due to the gate in planar architectures having a reduced control
over the source-drain channel, while FinFETs have their gate wrapping
around the channel (rather than just laying on top of the channel) and
are thus capable of keeping tighter electrostatic control over the
channel. And while Samsung is at its first generation of FinFETs, while
Intel is alread at the second one, it’s nonetheless remarkable how a
cheap mobile SoC will be edging closer to the expensive Intel chips,
using the same advanced technological process.

Speaking in
performance terms, we do expect this switch to a new node and
architecture to yield some substantial gains in performance. Last year,
Apple stated that the A8 brings 25% more CPU performance and 50% more
graphics performance while drawing only 50% of the power compared to the
Apple A7, and we’re curious to see what the numbers will be this year.

Improved design: sturdier, 7000 series aluminum, and a rose gold option

The
iPhone 6 Plus was widely accused of being prone to bending, even under
lighter pressure, and this bend-gate was quite the hot topic around the
launch of the phone late in 2014. Apple seems determined to put all
chances of such deformation occurring even under slight pressure to
rest, as rumors say that rather than using 6000 series aluminum, the
2015 generations of the iPhone might come with a sturdier 7000-series
aluminum alloy. If this change does indeed happen, it’s not certain
whether Apple will advertize the new material all that much – given all
the controversy around the issue – but this new alloy does seem like a
credible possibility.

Interestingly, rumors also speculate that
Apple is working on adding a fourth, ‘rose gold’ color option for
iPhones along with the current gold, space grey, and silver models.

A concept for a rose-gold iPhone

Apple iOS 9: the big launch for Beats

One thing that seems
practically certain is that the new iPhones will run on iOS 9. Apple
hasn’t skipped a year since the launch of the original iPhone in 2007,
introducing new versions of iOS every year. This year, we expect to see
iOS 9 at WWDC 2015 on June 8th, and while the feature list for the new
version of the platform is not official yet, the big highlight is
expected to be the re-introduction of the Beats music subscription
service.

Apple seems to have built a lot of momentum in the music
industry, and with names like Taylor Swift and others leading what
looks like an open war with Spotify, the new Beats Music subscription
service could snatch some high-profile exclusive artists. So far,
expectations are that all-you-can-eat music with Beats will cost $10 a
month, just like Spotify.

Apple iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus price and release date

Finally,
the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are not likely to surprise us when it
comes to their price and release date. Apple keeps a steady yearly
cadence with its iPhone announcement, and if this year is part of that
repetitive pattern, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus announcement should happen
on Tuesday, September 8th with a release date on Friday, September
18th.

The prices will also likely be unchanged at $200 for the iPhone 6s and $300 for the iPhone 6s Plus on a two-year contract.

What do you want to see in the next iPhones and are you happy with the rumored changes? Let us know in the comments below.

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How Long Will My Hard Drives Really Last?

How Long Will My Hard Drives Really Last?

Dear Lifehacker,
I know hard drives can fail, but how long do they really last? Will they last longer if I don’t use them as often?

Sincerely,
Drives for Posterity

Dear Drives for Posterity,
These are good questions, and you’ve
asked a bunch of them! You’re essentially asking how long different
kinds of hard drives will last under regular or normal use, and then how
long they’ll last under no use at all (as in, stored in a box
somewhere.) Let’s go through each of them one by one.

Under Normal Use

How Long Will My Hard Drives Really Last?

Any hard drive in active use is essentially a ticking bomb. Let’s be honest: It’s not a matter of if a hard drive fails, it’s a matter of when,
and how lucky you’ll get postponing that as long as possible. If you’re
really lucky, it’ll be after you’ve upgraded to a new one. If you’re
unlucky, it’ll be in a matter of months or years, and when it does die,
we can only hope you’ve made sure to back up your computer before it happens.

As for the average life of the hard drive in your computer, well,
that depends mostly on whether it’s an HDD or an SSD. Here’s the basic
breakdown though, and some average life expectancy:

  • Hard Drives: Traditional hard drives, which
    you’ll usually find in desktop computers (and some cheaper laptops) will
    often fail sooner because they use moving parts. The average life of a
    hard drive depends on a lot of things, like the brand, type, size, and
    interface method, but you’re looking at about four years on average. Online backup service Backblaze studied the drives in their infrastructure
    and found about 80% of them survived for four years. Of course, that
    also means 20% didn’t and failed sooner, most of those in the third year
    of use. Similarly, the brand of drive you use makes a difference. Seagate, for example, failed much more frequently than Western Digital or Hitachi drives in Backblaze’s tests. You can check out the raw data on all 41,000 drives
    for more, but in short, keep your data backed up, watch for SMART
    alerts, and keep an eye on your hard drive’s warranty. Most are about
    two to three years, and while your drive may last much longer than that,
    be ready for failures after that point.
  • Solid State Drives:
    Solid state drives, which have become extremely popular in laptops and
    desktops for their faster speeds, are different. You may hear people say
    that you have to be careful with SSDs because they have a limited
    number of reads and writes. In reality, consumer SSDs actually last a really, really long time under normal use. TechReport’s famous SSD endurance test
    showed us that a lot of those fears are over-blown, and even consumer
    SSDs managed to survive writing and reading well over 700TB of data.
    These drives usually come with a three to five year warranty, and
    manufacturers assume you’ll write 20GB-40GB per day in data. That means
    to get to that 700TB, you’d have to do 40GB every day for 17,500 days,
    or just shy of 50 years. That doesn’t mean you should mistreat your
    drive, and it doesn’t mean SSDs won’t fail due to other issues, but if
    you’re worrying your SSD will die because you used it too much, don’t.

Of course, all of this is average data. Your experiences may differ,
and you may wind up with a great drive that lasts forever, or another
one that fails a few days out of the box. That’s why it’s important to
keep your systems backed up. Beyond that though, stick to trusted brands
with solid warranties that don’t make it a nightmare to RMA a drive
that dies before its prime.

If You Aren’t Using Your Hard Drive at All

How Long Will My Hard Drives Really Last?

The other side of the coin involves “cold storage.” If you write data
to a drive and then, let’s say, drop it in a safe deposit box or a time
capsule, how long would the data on it survive before it degrades?
Well, we touched on the question a bit in this guide to storing data for the long haul,
but if you’re talking about true cold storage—as in you don’t want to
access it for years, perhaps decades at a time, the numbers change a
bit.

Again, things are different depending on whether you’re talking about SSDs or traditional HDDs. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Hard Drives: If you’re planning to drop some
    data on a hard drive and toss it into a storage unit or a safe deposit
    box, you probably don’t need to worry about the data deteriorating on
    its own. On episode 11 of TekThing, Patrick Norton talked to PCPer’s Allyn Malventano,
    who said as long as your drive is in a climate controlled environment,
    the only issue to worry about is the oil around the ball bearings drying
    out. In short, spin them up every few years—which you should do anyway
    to make additional backups and switch storage methods (which we’ll get
    to a little later.) If your environment isn’t climate controlled,
    well—just make sure it’s climate controlled. A time capsule in the
    ground with a hard drive in it likely won’t survive to be dug up and
    read.
  • Solid State Drives: SSDs for archival
    purposes is a difficult thing to pin down. SSDs are still relatively new
    technology, especially compared to magnetic media (which most
    businesses still use for archival backups) so there aren’t many serious
    studies as to their long-term survivability in cold storage. We have an
    idea that, under power, SSDs can last a good long time, but even SSD
    technology is evolving (future consumer SSDs will likely be PCI, just
    for speed purposes, the way enterprise SSDs have been for a while) and
    everything could change again in a matter of years. Theoretically
    though, assuming a climate controlled environment the only thing you’d
    have to worry about is the slow degradation of data in the drive’s NAND
    cells, but that’s a process that takes decades, possibly longer.

Long story short, if you keep a hard drive offline and in a box—as
long as it’s someplace well maintained, you’ll have other problems to
worry about long before the eventual degradation of the data on the
drive. Conceivably you could keep either for decades, probably longer,
and then fire them up and they’ll work as good as they did the last time
they were powered down, and the data would be right there for you to
read.

The More Important Factor: Interface Technology

How Long Will My Hard Drives Really Last?

All this talk about the mechanical or physical life of storage is
great, but it misses the biggest, most important point: The pace of
technology, and how quickly your drive’s connection interface or
platform will be obsolete. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that the
hard drive interface standard was IDE, then SATA, then SATA II and III.
For external media, long before we had USB 3 and Thunderbolt, we made do
with Parallel Port and Serial connections. While the drives buried
inside those old Parallel Port or IDE-based storage devices probably
still function, and still have their precious data on them, you need to
find equally old technology (or working converters and adapters) to
retrieve it.

This is a bigger issue, one that data archivists struggle with, and a
more pressing matter for anyone thinking about saving data for
posterity—or trying to hand down electronic information to future
generations. If you think you can slap some precious photos onto a 1TB
USB drive, put it in a safe deposit box at the bank, and will it to your
children with instructions to open it when you pass away, it’s a gamble
that (depending on how old you are, of course) there’ll be any USB
devices left by the time they get around to seeing what’s on it. Just
think: If someone handed you a ZIP disk today and told you there was
something important on it for you, how would you go about getting at
that data? What about a 5.25” floppy? Your best bet is to, instead of
setting and forgetting it, to diversify your storage methods, update data and drive formats every few years, and keep more than one type of backup whenever possible.

In any event, the physical life of your hard drive is one thing, but
the practical, useful life of it is something completely different.
Hopefully we’ve addressed both for you here though, and you can rest
assured knowing your drives will probably last you a while. That said,
make sure you back up your data!

Sincerely,
Lifehacker

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