Serif Affinity Photo review

Serif Affinity Photo review

The next generation

Serif has been making affordable rivals to professional graphics tools like Photoshop, QuarkXPress and Illustrator for decades, but in 2015 it did something unexpected. Rather than converting its PhotoPlus, PagePlus and DrawPlus programs to the Apple Mac, it launched a completely new series called Affinity. It was an instant hit with Apple users, and now Serif is bringing it to the PC to replace its existing range. So while Affinity Photo has been around for 18 months, it’s only now available to Windows users, and if you already have PhotoPlus, this will be your next upgrade.

Developing a completely new set of programs from scratch is a brave move
– and it’s paid off. We always loved the breadth of features you got for your money in Serif’s Plus software, but it was all about imitating professional packages at a lower cost rather than offering a different way of working. Affinity rethinks the whole approach to each task based on what regular users actually want to do, and it turns out that tools that suit pros better are probably easier for the rest of us to get to grips with too.

For example, it’s particularly noticeable that you can try everything on the main image you’re looking at, not via a small preview. You can even roll back your command history (multiple undo) visually, watching the image change back as you drag a slider. And for many operations you can also drag across the image to compare before and after.

Inevitably, the breadth and depth of features can’t quite match Photoshop, whose ever-increasing toolbox sprawls out into areas like 3D modelling. But for everyday image retouching and composition, even at a serious level, there’s not much you’ll miss. Selection tools, healing brushes and content-aware fill (see smaller screenshot right) let you chop and change images seamlessly, and full layer support means you can try all kinds of advanced techniques.

Filter layers let you add advanced effects to all or sections of an image that are reversible, so you can still edit everything later. Raw pictures from higher-quality digital cameras can be imported and tweaked for maximum control over exposure and tone, and a full range of export options is available.

Our only complaint is that while Affinity runs smoothly on even quite modest Macs, thanks to programming that makes use of Apple’s optimization technologies, it struggled a bit on our Windows 10 laptop, making us wait longer than Photoshop for similar commands to complete. DirectX 11 and Direct 2D acceleration is supported, so if you have a decent graphics card you should fare better.

Unlike Photoshop, you don’t have to buy Affinity Photo on subscription, and at under £50 – less than half Adobe’s annual fee – it’s a great deal.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Windows 7, 8 or 10 • 2GB memory (4GB minimum, 8GB recommended) • DirectX 10 or higher graphics • 670MB free hard-drive space

VERDICT: At a very reasonable price, this is a serious photo editor that everyone can use, with all you’re likely to need and less clutter.

★★★★★

ALTERNATIVE: Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 £10 per month With the Lightroom picture manager included, this is still the ultimate professional imaging choice.

Google Nest Cam Outdoor review

Google Nest Cam Outdoor review

Watch without bother

Google Nest was the company set up by Tony Fadell, the inventor best known for creating Apple’s iPod. Its first product was a smart central-heating thermostat, but when Google bought the company it also acquired Dropcam, an internet security-camera maker, and thus the Nest Cam was born: one of the first simple, all-in-one units for monitoring your home over the internet. Now there’s a version that works outside your house too.

The camera

The camera comes with a small metal plate that you can screw to any suitable surface. is done, the Nest Cam Outdoor attaches to the plate magnetically. en you just need to get power to it. If you have an outdoor power socket, the supplied 7.5-metre cable should reach it. If not, you’ll need to drill a hole through your wall to route the cable through, which is a simple job for anyone with a long drill bit.

Naturally, the unit is weatherproof, and it also has its own infra-red LED to film at night. We found this covered our entire garden (about 40ft long). Of course, you won’t want to sit watching all the time, so the camera will send an alert to your phone if it detects movement or loud noises.

It will try to exclude everyday movement, such as trees swaying. You can schedule times when alerts are active, for example only at night or when you’re out.

The catch is that to record anything you need a Nest Aware subscription, from £80 a year. is saves video constantly, 24 hours a day, to Nest’s servers. Just keep an eye on your broadband-usage limits. At the default 720p resolution, which we found very clear, Nest reckons you’ll use 60 to 160GB per month, or 140 to 380GB at the even sharper 1080p. Nest Aware also adds motion detection zones and people recognition, although unlike the Netatmo Welcome it can’t be set to ignore everything except people. Without the subscription, you only get to watch live, which you can do from anywhere over the internet.

SPECIFICATIONS

1080p camera with mic, speaker and motion detection • Requires broadband internet connection and Nest Aware subscription for some features
• 72x72x89mm (HxWxD)’

VERDICT: Nest is good at making these systems easy to set up and use. Our only reservation is the expensive subscription cost.

★★★★☆

ALTERNATIVE: Netgear Arlo £190 is weatherproof camera with base station needs no wires and comes with free storage, but has limited battery life,

Google Chromecast Ultra review

Google Chromecast Ultra review

Stream TV in 4K

First, there was Chromecast, a stick that plugged into the HDMI port on your TV and played videos from the internet. en there was Chromecast 2, with faster Wi-Fi and a new shape. is time, Google has kept the same design – a little flying saucer on a rubber strap – and added 4K resolution, four times sharper than Full HD. As before, you’ll need an Android or Apple phone or tablet to operate it. e Ultra connects either via Wi-Fi, or with an Ethernet cable – which you may need to get a fast enough connection for 4K.

Other streaming boxes are available (see ‘Do I really need…?’ Issue 491, page 22), but this is currently the cheapest with 4K, also known as Ultra HD. Relatively few films and TV shows are available in UHD, but it does look great. If you don’t have a 4K TV set, on the other hand, it’s pointless. Just buy the cheaper Chromecast 2.

Even if you do have a 4K TV set it probably already has its own smart
apps that access the same major online video services (Netflix, BBC iPlayer and so on), without £69’s worth of dangly frisbee. In fact, your 4K TV may provide something important that the Chromecast Ultra doesn’t: Amazon Video. is offers a huge choice of content, and if you have an Amazon Prime account, most of it is free. But because Amazon isn’t friends with Google, it’s not available on Chromecast.

SPECIFICATIONS

802.11ac Wi-Fi • HDMI plug • Ethernet port • Mains adapter with 2m cable • 4K video • 13.7x58x58mm (HxWxD) • 47g • Requires a device with Android 4.1, iOS 8.0, OS X 10.9 or Windows 7 or later

VERDICT: e basic Chromecast is a handy gadget, but this adds too little for most 4K TV owners at too high a price, and Amazon Video is a big miss

★★★☆☆

ALTERNATIVE: Amazon Fire TV Stick £40 Available in April, the updated version of the streamer, which comes with a remote, omits 4K but adds Alexa voice control and guest accounts

PC Specialist Enigma K2 review

PC Specialist Enigma K2 review

A PC for work and play

Having tested a few now in different PCs, we can confirm that Intel’s latest processors, codenamed Kaby Lake, aren’t exactly a quantum leap over their predecessors (Skylake). More like a dispirited plod up a low kerb, to be honest. Some do show noticeable performance improvements, but the i5-7400 inside this new desktop system from PC Specialist is not a shining example. It’s no faster in practise than, say, 2013’s i5-4670K, which is now so old it’s officially ‘end of life’.

It is cheaper, though, which means it leaves room in a reasonable £800 budget for 16GB of memory, a 240GB SSD, a 1TB hard drive, and a GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card from Nvidia’s surprisingly powerful new range. is lot plus a chunkily styled Cooler Master K350 case adds up to the Enigma K2.

GTX 1060

This particular GTX 1060 (see our review, Issue 492) has 3GB of its own memory and isn’t quite as powerful as the 6GB variant. Even so, it’ll run just about any game on maximum-quality settings at Full HD (1920×1080-pixel) resolution with enough frames per second (fps) to keep things smooth: that is, well above 30fps, even if it doesn’t quite hit the preferred 60. Lots of graphics programs also support Nvidia cards, so it should help to keep photo filters speedy and video timelines responsive too.

That’s not to be sniffed at in a machine at this price. And it’s not as if the i5-7400 is a big compromise: it’s more than adequate for most Windows 10 tasks, including photo and video editing, as long as you’re not trying to produce the next Star Wars movie. But it’s appreciably slower than the i5–7600 processor, which you’ll find in the Wired2Fire Diablo Ultima v2 (see Issue 497). e SSD isn’t in a super-fast M.2 slot, and nor is there such a slot for an extra drive.

The Asus H110M-R motherboard provides two USB 3.0 ports at the back, along with four USB 2.0 and, to keep all those free, a pair of PS/2 connectors, in case you still have a keyboard and mouse from yesteryear. ere’s even an SD card reader. But there’s no USB 3.1, Type-C or underbolt for high-speed external storage. at’s also true of the Diablo Ultima v2, but it gives you more raw processing power in return for having to turn down your 3D graphics options.

SPECIFICATIONS

3.0GHz Intel i5-7400 quad-core processor • 16GB memory • 3GB GeForce GTX 1060 graphics card • 240GB SSD • 1TB hard drive • 3x USB 3.0 • 5x USB 2.0 • Gigabit Ethernet • HDMI port • DisplayPort • DVI port • Windows 10 Home • 415x192x418mm (HxWxD) • Three-year warranty

VERDICT: If you want a PC for gaming, work and media, and future expansion isn’t a big concern, this is a good buy

★★★★☆

ALTERNATIVE: Wired2Fire Diablo Ultima v2 £800 is teams an i5-7600 processor for demanding work and creative programs with a cheaper Radeon RX 460 graphics card

Acer Spin 3 review

Acer Spin 3 review

More and more laptops nowadays are slimmer

More and more laptops nowadays are slimmer, lighter ‘two-in-one’ touchscreen machines, with a 360-degree hinge that lets you fold the keyboard out of the way and pretend you’re using a tablet. e Spin 3 isn’t quite that. It has the convertible feature, but it’s a full-size 15-inch laptop that weighs over 2kg, or four-and-a-half bags of sugar in old money.

That’s not so heavy that you couldn’t lug it around with you, but it wouldn’t be easy. Basically, it’s a full-blown Windows 10 computer with touchscreen operation thrown in. Because Windows 10 is specifically designed to work just as well in Tablet mode as with a mouse or touchpad, that’s a sensible proposition. And although it’s fairly chunky, the Spin 3 looks pretty smart for a laptop costing under £500, with its black plastic finish enhanced by Acer’s classy ‘shale’ texture effect.

The keyboard takes advantage of the Spin 3’s generous dimensions

The keyboard takes advantage of the Spin 3’s generous dimensions to include a proper numeric keypad, which will keep your spreadsheet work quick if you’re used to working on a desktop PC. e keys are satisfyingly clicky, and there’s little give in the case when typing hard. We liked the touchpad, too.

On the other side of the hinge is a 15.6in touchscreen, which feels like a luxury compared to more portable 11 and 13in machines – until you turn it on. Sure, there’s enough physical space to fit two document windows side by side, or spread out your palettes in creative programs. But with just 1366×768 pixels, you don’t get enough detail. User interface elements take up more space than content. And while buyers with less than perfect eyesight might be happy that everything looks relatively big, they’ll wish it was less fuzzy. Limited brightness and contrast complete a lacklustre impression. In the US, Acer offers a Full HD screen, and that would make a big difference.

There’s also corner-cutting on the inside. Intel’s i3-6006U is among the weakest of the Core series processors, and in our tests it struggled to hit a third of the speed of a mid-range i5 PC in everyday tasks. You wouldn’t want to rely on it for regular photo or video editing. e 1TB hard drive does have a relatively large 128MB cache, which means the operating system doesn’t constantly slow things down swapping little chunks of data back and forth. But Windows 10 still doesn’t feel anywhere near as responsive as if it were installed on an SSD.

We did get surprisingly acceptable results in 3D games, managing to run some smoothly at 720p HD resolution with high graphics settings. Smaller i3 laptops we’ve tried couldn’t keep up, probably because heat couldn’t escape their slim cases fast enough. And we were also pleased to find the Spin 3 lasted seven and a half hours in our video- playback test.

If you do want a giant convertible, there are more powerful options available. Dell’s Inspiron 15 5000 2-in-1 (£699 from Dell www.snipca.com/23755; see our review, Issue 483) comes with a new i5-7200U processor and a 256GB SSD, but costs £200 more. HP’s Envy x360 15 (£850 from Currys www.snipca.com/ 23757) feels more upmarket, with its aluminium case, 1TB hard drive and 128GB SSD, but is even more expensive. And it still doesn’t offer a particularly great screen or keyboard.

By comparison, the Spin 3 looks like a bargain – but the limited performance and dated screen mean it just doesn’t feel nice enough to use.

VERDICT: Acer has made a full-size convertible look affordable, but it’s not well-equipped enough to feel practical

★★☆☆☆

ALTERNATIVE: Dell Inspiron 15 5000 2-in-1 £699 Has a much
faster i5 and Full HD screen, but costs £200 more and lasts two hours less

Best Free Software

SysGauge review

SysGauge

www.sysgauge.com

Free system-monitoring tools tend to focus on one job, such as checking hard-drive usage or alerting you when your processor is about to blow a gasket. SysGauge juggles both these tasks – and also monitors your RAM, installed programs, operating system, USB ports, router and even other PCs on your network. It displays real-time measurements on graphs, then offers ratings and warnings to help you make sense of the numbers. All from a small, easy-to-use program that doesn’t cost a penny.

What’s the catch? Honestly, there isn’t one. It can even spell ‘gauge’ correctly. It can’t quite whip out a screwdriver and fix your PC, but it can switch it off and on again, which some may argue is the main job of IT support anyway (not that you’d catch me saying such a thing). It’s up to you to configure this warning system, by setting SysGauge to, for example, play a sound or restart your PC when a certain counter crosses a chosen threshold. e instructions are explained clearly on the web page.

You can export data as a spreadsheet (Excel or CSV), as well as PDF, plain text and HTML – all for free. ere’s even an interval export option that saves data at set times (say, every 10 minutes), then automatically emails you the files.

The program does need installing but the process is quick and junk-free. Click the appropriate Download button for your PC (32bit or 64bit), then save and run the installer. e program takes up just 14.3MB (64bit version). SysGauge launched in January 2017 and has already released several updates, so we expect even more options to be added soon.

The default counter displays CPU Usage (how hard your processor is working). Click the entries under Counter to see Memory Usage, Network Transfer Rate and more.

To add one or more of dozens of counters to the list, click Add then click through the options. For example, we added a counter to monitor a USB port’s transfer rate.

To get a current health report, click Analyze. To configure automatic actions (Conditions) at certain levels, right-click a counter, then click Edit Counter.

To save a report, click Monitor, Save Report, then choose an export format and mode. To set up automatic reports at intervals, click Options, then Advanced.

What should Windows Vista users do now?

What should Windows Vista users do now?

Microsoft is about to pull the plug on the 10-year-old operating system

Just as all political careers end in failure, all operating systems (OS) end with support being removed. Windows Vista will become the latest to go to that great server in the sky when Microsoft ends ‘extended’ support on 11 April. From that date Vista will receive no further security fixes which, Microsoft says, means it can “invest our resources towards more recent technologies so that we can continue to deliver great new experiences”.

There will probably be fewer tears shed for Vista than when support for XP ended in 2014. Now running on less than one per cent of computers worldwide, Vista was never widely loved, and has received more criticism than any other version of Windows. ere’s even a Wikipedia page that catalogues all this censure. Vista users now need a painless escape route that lets them keep their files and folders.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft’s suggested solution is to upgrade to Windows 10. is will keep you safe until 2025 when, according to Microsoft’s ‘Windows lifecycle fact sheet, security support will cease. But to upgrade directly from Vista, rather than installing Windows 10 from scratch, you’ll need to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1 first. Only from these operating systems can you make the leap to Windows 10.

It may be hypothetical anyway because many Vista PCs will lack the hardware to run Windows 10. Microsoft tells you how powerful your PC needs to be on its website

Another way to check is to

measure your processor’s speed using software like PassMark (www.passmark.com). As a general rule, if your processor scores less than 1480 then abandon any plans to upgrade your PC. Instead, consider buying one of the Windows 10 PCs that have impressed us recently. Our current ‘Buy It!’ favourite is the £800 Diablo Ultima v2, made by the Dorking-based Wired2Fire (see page 30).

But if PassMark’s results give you the green light, you have two options. You can perform what Microsoft calls an ‘in-place upgrade’, which moves your programs and data. It recommends using Laplink’s PCmover Express for the task, and is currently promoting it at half price (£13.14, www.snipca.com/ 23819). is is a bit sneaky because only the Professional version of the program can carry out an ‘in-place upgrade’ – and that costs £59.94.

Remember though this process still requires you to upgrade again, from Windows 7 or 8.1 to 10. is means you’ll need to find someone selling a legitimate copy of 7 or 8.1 – most probably on Amazon – which won’t be easy or cheap. However, one advantage of this route is that you’ll still be able to get Windows 10 for free by taking advantage of Microsoft’s ‘assistive technologies’ loophole, see Workshop Issue 495, page 35).

If two upgrades feels like double the trouble, you’re left with the second option: buying Windows 10. e Home edition costs £119 from Microsoft’s UK store.

What if you want to continue using Vista? at’s fine, as long as you don’t use it to connect to the web. ere may not be many Vista users left, fewer even than XP, but from 12 April hackers will be lurking online waiting to pounce.

Google’s ‘invisible’ CAPTCHA

Google’s ‘invisible’ CAPTCHA

Google’s ‘invisible’ CAPTCHA automatically knows you’re a human

Google has promised to abolish one of the biggest online annoyances – the CAPTCHA tests that ask you to prove you’re a human, not a robot.

The company says it has developed an “invisible” system that confirms a user is human by analysing how they browse the web. If it proves successful it means you’ll no longer need to decipher squiggly letters, or tick a ‘I’m not a robot’ box.

For years websites have used CAPTCHAs to prevent automated software from bombarding them with internet traffic. Hackers launch these Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks in order to knock a website offline. Other sites use CAPTCHAs to prevent automated programs from buying tickets online and leaving comments.

Google acknowledges that the human-robot test is a necessary evil, but since buying the reCAPTCHA technology in 2009 the company has been working on a way to make it less irritating.

It has gradually replaced wobbly text with puzzles that people can solve, but computers can’t. ese include identifying pictures of dogs in a gallery of animal photos, and listening to somebody reading numbers over music.

Google has launched a site telling website owners about the new system (www.snipca. com/23756), saying that it lets genuine visitors “pass through with ease”.

The company hasn’t revealed exactly how the system works lest hackers find a way to bypass it. But it’s known to look for types of behaviour online typical of humans, but not robots. For example, humans move the cursor in a more random way than robots do.

Windows 10 Creators Update

Windows 10 Creators Update

Set your diary: Windows 10 Creators Update ‘due 11 April

Windows 10 users now have a date when they might get the much anticipated Creators Update: 11 April. e date comes from the website MSPoweruser, citing “sources who are close to Microsoft’s plans”. It expects the company to confirm the date by the end of March, or first week of April.

Microsoft is expected to roll out the update in ‘waves’, so not everyone will receive it on 11 April (should that be the date). is ‘staggered’ release will prevent downloads overloading its servers. The rumoured date is a month earlier than previous reports, which had suggested 10 May, to coincide with Microsoft’s Build conference for software developers.

Delay updates

Excitement about the Creators Update has grown as each new preview version has been released. ese show that many useful tools will be added to Windows 10.

On its website (www.snipca. com/23854) Microsoft emphasises the “new creativity and gaming experiences” in the update, such as designing 3D objects and playing 4K games.

But other tools tucked away may prove more beneficial long term. ese include the option to ‘snooze’ security updates on Patch Tuesdays for up to three days.

Also new are ‘Compact Overlay’ windows – sometimes called ‘picture-in- picture’ – which let you play videos in a small box on top of another program. is will prove particularly handy during Skype calls. Your Skype screen will remain visible in the corner of your desktop if you open other programs.

Most recently Microsoft announced ‘playable ads’, which lets you try a desktop app for three minutes, after which you can choose to download it. In its blog (www.snipca.com/23855), Microsoft gives the example of playing a Solitaire game.

At the end of the three minutes you’re shown the message, ‘Want more? Install the game’ (see screenshot left).

Microsoft has already started working on the next major update for Windows 10, codenamed ‘Redstone 3’. Early versions of this are expected to be made available to users on the Windows Insider Program (https://insider. windows.com) in late April or early May.

The final version of Redstone 3 is expected to contain even more new tools than than Creators Update, breaking Microsoft’s usual pattern of large updates in the spring/summer, followed by smaller ones in the autumn.

Looking to Android O

Looking to Android O

Google’s upcoming mobile operating system

Google has done it again, releasing the Developer Preview of its next Android operating system ahead of its annual Google I/O developer’s conference – exciting news for the increasing number of Android users across the globe.

According to new research from StatCounter, Android is now the world’s number-one operating system for getting online, ahead of both Windows and iOS. In March 2017 it had 39.93 percent market share, versus Windows’ 37.91 percent.

The first build of Android O o ers insight into what’s coming next to the mobile OS. However, you won’t find the update on the Android Beta site. The rst build is available for Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Pixel C, Pixel and Pixel XL, but must be manually ashed on to a device and is not intended for consumer use.

The nal version of Android N was released in August 2016 as Android Nougat, and we’re looking at a similar time frame in 2017 for the release of Android O, for which we will hear more details at Google I/O on 17 May.

Read on for more information on what we know about Android O so far.

What will the next Android OS be called?

Following Android Alpha and Android Beta, Google
has always named its Android OS updates after sweet treats, and in alphabetical order. So far we’ve had Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean, KitKat, Lollipop, Marshmallow and Nougat.

In 2017 Google will be looking for a sweet treat beginning with O. Trouble is, there really aren’t that many. The Tech Advisor team could come up with Oreo, Orange, Oatcake and Oh! Henry. It could even shake things up entirely and shock us all with something like Android OMG. (We’re joking, but we kind of like it.)

Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer has been stirring things up on Twitter, seemingly suggesting Android Oreo is the most likely candidate. But is he pulling our leg? Quite possibly, given he has also tweeted an image of Pocky (chocolate cream covered biscuit sticks) with the caption #2018. Trouble is, there are few sweet treats we can think of beginning with an O, so it could well be Android Oreo as rumoured.

Given that Android Marshmallow was Android 6.0 and Android Nougat was Android 7.0-7.1, we would assume that Android O will be Android 8.0. But Google hasn’t always done things this way, and Ice Cream Sandwich, Jelly Bean and KitKat were all 4.x updates.

Google I/O 2017

Traditionally Google uses Google I/O to announce the new update to its Android OS. The 11th annual I/O conference will take place between 17 and 19 May 2017 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.

Release date

Google surprised us in 2016 by taking the wraps o the Developer Preview of Android Nougat in advance of its summer Google I/O conference, and in March 2017 it has done the same again with Android O. The final release of Android N came in August 2016 with little fanfare and no new hardware, so the chances are we’ll see the company follow that same format in 2017. (The new hardware came later, with the Google Pixel and Pixel XL unveiled in early October.) Our money is on an August release for Android O, with the new Pixel 2 coming later in September or October.

New features

Notifications in Android O. Many of the new features regard noti cations,
and in Android O we will see user-customisable noti cation channels whereby alerts are grouped by type. Users will be able to snooze noti cations, and devs can set time limits for noti cations to time out.

Also adjustable will be the background colours of noti cations, and the messaging style.

Background limits

In Android Nougat Google introduced the ability to restrict certain app activities in the background, and in Android O it improves on this by placing the priority on extending battery life without user-input.

Improved Auto ll Framework

Users will have to opt in to this service, but will then nd it easier to ll in login and credit-card information forms with fewer mistakes and much less repetition.

Picture-in-Picture mode

Picture-in-picture, which is already available on Android TV, is coming to Android O. This is mostly used for video playback.

Improved keyboard control

Android O won’t be restricted to phones, so there will be improved arrow and tab key navigation for when used with a physical keyboard.

Adaptive icons

Icons in Android O will support visual e ects and can be displayed in various shapes on di erent devices.

Connectivity enhancements

Wi-Fi Aware will allows apps and nearby devices to discover and communicate over Wi-Fi without an internet access point. We’ll also see improved Bluetooth support for high-quality audio through the Sony LDAC codec, and new ways for third-party calling apps to work with each other and with your network operator’s special features.

Multi-display support

Interestingly, Android O will be able to support multiple displays, allowing a user to move an activity to one screen to the next.

Better management of cached data

Every app will have a storage space quota for cached data, and when the system needs to free up disk space it will delete data from apps using more than their allocated quota rst.

New enterprise features

Google says it has made the pro le owner and device owner management modes more powerful, productive and easier to provision than ever, with highlights including the ability to use a managed pro le on a corporate-owned device and enterprise management for file-based encryption.

We were already aware of a few user-facing features coming to Android O thanks to a tip-o from VentureBeat, though there was no con rmation that they would make it through to the nal build.

Copy less

This feature is expected to ease copying text from one app and pasting it within another by giving suggestions in the second app as to what you might be about to type based on what you were doing in the previous app.

VentureBeat gives the example of nding a restaurant in the Yelp app, then opening a text conversation, beginning to type ‘It’s at’ and the restaurant name popping up as a suggested term. It is currently unclear whether it will be a new feature on the Gboard virtual keyboard or baked into Android itself.

Opening addresses in Google Maps

Right now it isn’t possible to share your current location on Android as it is in iOS, but according to VentureBeat there are some new changes coming that make dealing with addresses easier. If you click on an address in a text message, in Android N it does nothing but in Android O it could open that address in Google Maps. It says it is not yet known whether this will be functional only in Google’s Messages app, or in all messaging apps on Android O.

Improved gestures

Today you can quickly call up your contacts using
OK Google, but in Android O you will be able to draw onscreen the letter C to open your contacts menu. This is similar to what we’ve seen in many Chinese phones – the ability to in standby mode draw on-screen a letter and open an app of your choice – though here it should work when the screen is switched on and in any app. This feature may not be ready in time for Android O, however, the source warned.

Will my phone get Android O?

Google phones and tablets are always the rst to get new operating system updates, but even Google won’t support them forever. Security updates are provided for three years following the device’s release, or 18 months after it is removed from the Google Play Store (whichever is longer).

So, for example, the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P will
be supported by Google until September 2017, which means they will get both Android Nougat and next year’s Android O. The Nexus 9 and Nexus 6 will both be supported until October 2016, which should mean they get an update to Android Nougat but not Android O. Older Nexus devices will not be upgraded.

Those with supported Nexus devices should nd the update rolls out to their device following the launch of the new Nexus phones for 2016, or at least within a few weeks of launch.

If you have a recent agship phone or tablet from a well-known maker such as Sony, Samsung, HTC, LG or Motorola, it’s likely you’ll see the update rolled out within the rst few months of 2018. However, before you can get the update both the hardware manufacturer and mobile operator must be ready to roll it out, which can slow down things.

In its promotion of the Moto G4 Plus, Motorola has already said it will receive Android Nougat and Android O. If you’re running a mid-range or budget model it’s likely that you will never get Android O. Android OS fragmentation is still an issue, and at the last count
on 6 March 2017 there were still devices running Gingerbread (via Android Developers).

What is Android Andromeda?

Andromeda is a Google operating system that is in essence a mash-up of Chrome OS and Android and has been rumoured for about as long as we can remember. And when Hiroshi Lockheimer tweeted in late September that Google’s October event was going to be as memorable as the one in which Google announced Android (see below), the internet went crazy trying to guess what it is that could possibly warrant such hype. The only logical suggestion was Andromeda, but of course what we actually got was the rst ‘Made by Google’ phones.

However, Andromeda is still allegedly on the cards, and Android Police assures us that Andromeda is an actual thing and not the gment of many Google fan’s creative imaginations. It points to a Wall Street Journal report that Google was intending to fold the two operating systems into one to better suit a range of hardware platforms. This would open the doors to a new market sector in which Google has previously tried and failed: the lucrative world of laptops.