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Android Intelligence
 
 
IN THIS ISSUE:
 
  The Latest Android Intelligence: The magic phone formula and out-of-the-way Android options
  3 Things to Know This Week: New Android-inspired features for Chromebooks, OnePlus's pop-up camera gamble, and the bending glass of future phones
  Tips o’ the Week: Microsoft's new camera trick, the Chromebook Cheat Sheet, and Android's top-secret turbo setting
  Deal Intelligence: A brand new Pixel 3 for $350
  Plus a new form of high-tech parent-proofing — and it just might work...
 
 
 A Word of Welcome

Q? Q? Where are yoooooo?

 

I don't know about you, but I've got my eyes open wide for Google's next big Android version right now. Last year, y'see, the first Android P preview release launched on March 7th. The year before, the first Android O preview landed on the 21st. And the year before that, March 9th was the big day for Android N's initial reveal.

 

Today is March 8th — so, yeah: Odds are, we'll be seeing our first glimpse of Quindim, Quesito, or perhaps Queen of Puddings (please, let it be Queen of Puddings!) pretty forkin' soon.

 

While we wait, I've got a little somethin' for you to chew over. It's a timely li'l ditty about how we need to rethink the way we assess a phone's worth, especially when devices are routinely costing $900 and up — and when we're hangin' onto the things for longer than ever, too. What we need is a new formula, a refocused way of assessing these increasingly appliance-like gadgets and interpreting their actual value.

 

Fear not, for I have the answer. See my first column, below, and lemme know what ya think.

 
JR
jr@androidintel.net
 
 
INSIGHT
 The Latest Android Intelligence
 
The Smarter Way to Choose a Smartphone (a.k.a. the Magic Phone Formula)

 The Short Version: Whether you're eyeing a Galaxy S10 or a Pixel or considering something else entirely, this unconventional approach will help you accurately assess a phone's actual worth.

 

 Know More: It's time to start thinking of phones in the same way we think about appliances — more of mundane multiyear investments than anything-goes one-off purchases — and that means we need a whole new system for assessing their value to us over time. It may sound like a complicated headache to consider, but I've come up with an easy and effective way to do it.

 

 Read more: The full column is here.

 
 
8 Out-of-the-Way Options That'll Enhance Any Android Phone

 The Short Version: Hidden among Android's accessibility options are some powerful productivity tools that can add value to any smartphone setup.

 

 Know More: From a ridiculously advanced voice control system to an easier way to end calls and a super-effective system speed-up trick, some of Android's most useful features are ones you'd probably never even think to try.

 

 Read more: The full column is here.

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As part of that, I'm proud to offer an even more personal resource package for anyone who really wants to make the most of their mobile technology. My Platinum membership program gives you a supercharged Platinum Edition of this newsletter every week along with on-demand advice and answers (from me, whenever you need 'em!). And that's just the start.

 

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PERSPECTIVE
 3 Things to Know This Week
 
1. Chromebooks may soon get some significant new Android-inspired features

 The Short Version: Recent progress in Google's open-source Chrome OS code suggests engineers are working on a phone-reminiscent face unlocking system for Chromebooks as well as an "Adaptive Brightness" system that may mirror the intelligent auto-brightness option introduced with Android 9 Pie.

 

 Know more: Chrome OS borrowing inspiration from Android has been a theme of ours for quite a while now — from the distinctively Android-like notification/Quick Settings panel that came along last fall to the presence of app shortcuts, smart suggestions, and that spiffy new Wallpapers app. The list goes on and on, and it's finally obvious to everyone that this is more than a fluke — that aligning Chrome OS and Android is a deliberate and strategic move on Google's behalf. Having hardware-centric features like face unlock (which we've heard is being worked on as part of Android Q, too, perhaps not coincidentally) and Android's excellent A.I.-driven auto-brightness system would be a pretty huge leap forward in that same direction.

 

 Read more: You can find info about the face unlock progress here and details on Adaptive Brightness here.

 
 
2. The next OnePlus phone could bring the pop-up camera to America

 The Short Version: If a series of alleged leaks and speculation is accurate, this year's OnePlus 7 phone could feature a low-bezel setup without a notch — and with the front-facing camera instead hidden away inside a sliding mechanism that pops up out of the phone when you need it.

 

 Know more: The pop-up camera concept isn't completely new, but it's yet to catch on here in the U.S. — so OnePlus shifting to that sort of setup would be quite the bold gamble. The idea is that instead of having to cut out an area of the phone's display in order to hold the front-facing camera (the infamous "notch" compromise), you hide the camera away entirely and then have it spring out of the phone's frame only when it's actively needed. It's an interesting kind of workaround to this silly problem (which, I'd point out, could be avoided much more elegantly by just keeping some barely noticeable bezels around the damn display), but it raises plenty of fresh questions about device thickness, durability, and repairability, among other things, as a result of the added mechanism.

 

 Read more: The info and images from the alleged OnePlus 7 leak are here. Also worth considering is this analysis, which looks at a recent phone by related Chinese electronics company Oppo and notes how maybe, just maybe, there might be a connection.

 
 
3. Actual bendable glass could be ready for phones sooner than you'd think

 The Short Version: Corning, the maker of the Gorilla Glass used in lots of smartphone displays, is actively working on a futuristic kind of bendable glass that's a mere 0.1mm thick and yet still as durable as the hard, flat surfaces we see today. The company says such material could be ready for mainstream use within the next couple years.

 

 Know more: One of the biggest issues with the foldable phones we're seeing right now is that they use a flexible plastic material in order to let their screens bend — and that plastic material (a) looks like garbage compared to the high-quality glass we're used to having on high-end phones and (2) is super susceptible to scratching, creasing, and other types of damage. Not exactly ideal, right? Having an actual sturdy glass screen that's capable of bending would, as the cool kids say, change everything. It wouldn't automatically make foldable phones worthwhile, mind you — there are still plenty of unanswered questions surrounding the form, including the existential one of what meaningful purpose it even serves (aside from being good for marketing) — but it'd be a pretty significant step in at least making the idea reasonably sensible, which it presently is not.

 

 Read more: All of the Corning info is here. For more perspective on the issues with foldable phones and the questions that still need to be addressed, look back to this column of mine from a few weeks back.

Productivity
 Tips o' the Week
 
Turn photos into spreadsheets in Excel

This is a sentence I never thought I'd say, but Microsoft's Excel Android app has a really interesting new feature. The beta version of Excel just got updated with the ability to let you snap a photo of a physical data table — on a paper, a whiteboard, a can of green beans, or whatever — and then have the info turned instantly into a editable table within an Excel spreadsheet.

 

Pretty nifty, right? There's just one catch: You'll need an active Microsoft 365 subscription in order to try it out. If you have that, go to this page to opt into the app's beta channel. You'll then receive an update to the app that'll enable the new feature.

 
 
Step up your Chromebook game

Let's be honest: Chromebooks have gotten kinda complicated as of late. There are web apps, Chrome apps, Android apps, Linux apps, and all sorts of advanced shortcuts and systems for organization.

 

That's why I decided to put together a simple guide to making the most of your Chromebook setup — from navigating all the different app types to learning the platform's power-user tricks and setting your system up for efficiency.

 

I call it the Chromebook Cheat Sheet, and it's full of useful knowledge for Chrome OS newbies and veterans alike. Check it out here or pass it along to someone who could use it.

 
 
Put your Android phone into turbo mode

This last tip is something I mentioned as part of my column on Android accessibility features, above, but it's significant enough that I wanted to call it out separately to make sure it grabs your attention — so here goes: Hidden within Android's accessibility settings is an unassuming option that'll completely transform the way your phone feels to use.

 

Open up the Accessibility section of your phone's main settings and look for the line labeled "Remove animations." Tap it to activate its toggle, then back out of that menu and move around your phone a little. Insanely fast, right?

 

The option, as you probably figured out by now, disables all the animations throughout the operating system. That does take away a little of the poise and polish, but at the same time, man — does it ever make things feel speedy. Almost absurdly so. And unlike the more common method of disabling animations, you don't have to dig around in your device's developer settings to use it.

 

The frills-free speed may or may not be your cup of tea, but it's well worth giving a whirl and keeping in mind for the future, in case your phone ever starts to feel a little too sluggish. I've grown accustomed to it myself over these past several days and am finding it difficult to go back.

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SMART TECH
 Deal Intelligence
 
A brand new Pixel 3 for $350

It's a slow week for standout deals, but there's one whale of a sale worth mentioning: From now through the end of Saturday, Target is selling the Pixel 3 for a mere 350 bucks. That's $450 off its usual price and, quite frankly, is completely bonkers.

 

The catch is that the price is valid only if you activate the phone on Verizon and sign up for a two-year payment plan. If you're planning to use Verizon, anyway, though, it's a no-brainer.

 

The sale is available exclusively for in-store purchases — and unlike the last similar deal Target offered, this one is a direct and immediate discount, not a "get a gift card back to make up the difference" sort of setup.

 

 Check it out: Target

 And Just For Funsies...
 

I'm a huge fan of funny Wi-Fi network names, as you may or may not know by now. My wife can (and happily will) confirm that I'm way too proud of my own carefully plotted home network name — something you might've seen show up in screenshots on occasion: "Connection Error." (Seriously: It's the gift that keeps giving. I laugh out loud about it at least once a month when some new amusing situation arises.)

 

Well, this week, I saw a new network naming tactic that really made me chuckle:

 

 

I've certainly done my share of high-tech parent-proofing (hi, Mom!), but that's a step I've never thought to take. And if it wasn't actually done for the benefit of a real parent, well, good golly: That's even funnier — isn't it?!

 
Cheerio, Mate

Thanks as always for reading and having me over to your inbox. Charming decor in here, by the way — really love what you've done with the place.

 

I'll see ya back here next week, when Q Watch 2019 (QUEEN OF PUDDINGS?!?) continues...

 

Ta-ta for now.

Thoughts
JR

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