Category Archives: Mobile Devices

Apple, quit your sapphire bullshit. Seriously.

So, Apple launched this year’s iPhone 13 and one thing that really grinds my gears is one specific thing they’ve been saying for a while and people always bitch at me I’m an Apple fanboy because I don’t mention it. Well, here you have it.

What I’m talking about is sapphire used on camera lenses. Apple has advertised it as “Sapphire crystal lens cover” for several generations…

Apple_Sapphire_BS

I like sapphire and have tons of experience with it from watches. I have several watches with real sapphire crystal covering their watch face. Steinhart Ocean One, Seiko SARB, Casio Oceanus and they all have absolutely pristine crystal despite being worn A LOT and often bashed at things. That’s because sapphire is incredibly tough, hard to scratch crystal. So, it would make sense to use it on camera lenses right, so you have protection of camera lenses that will most likely never scratch.

However, as proven many times by JerryRigEverything, Apple is bullshitting all of us by stating it’s sapphire, while it’s not actually sapphire.

The tester needs to go to red level to register sapphire grade crystal. And it should be only slightly scratching with Moh level 8 and more with 9 test picks, not with 6.

Like, come on Apple. I know real sapphire crystal for regular watches cost up to 50€ depending on size and thickness. You’re charging 900€ and more for your phones, surely you can afford to slap 3 tiny lenses made out of real sapphire on those cameras. Or if not, just stop writing it’s sapphire. No one would care if it’s just strengthened glass, but when you say it’s sapphire, then fucking actually use it. It would cost them literal pennies for quantities they push out.

In a way it’s a petty thing, but in other way I wish they’d either fix this claim or fix the material used. This is customer deception and I’m surprised they haven’t got sued over it yet. It’s not fucking sapphire!

Enable power saving over night for iPhone and Apple Watch

I’ve noticed you can enable power saving measures so that iPhone and also Apple Watch doesn’t drain much power over night. Especially on the Apple Watch side and also adds convenience of Apple Watch display not glowing bright during night. It’s distracting and serves no purpose. I sleep with the watch and charge it in the morning before I go to work, so not having it drained much over night is certainly useful.

We can achieve this using Automation feature in iOS 15. Older versions had it, but it was not activating tasks properly and was asking you about it which defeats the purpose of automation. You can find it in the Shortcuts app.

For my power saving I’m using “Low Power Mode” and “Theater Mode”. Low Power Mode disables a lot of syncing and other background features/tasks on the iPhone, where Theater Mode turns off sounds and display on Apple Watch. I like Always-On Display on my Apple Watch 5, but I don’t need it during night and it is quite bright as well as a battery drain.

Set the time when Low Power Mode is enabled to something when you usually go so sleep and set it to be disabled either when you wake up or a bit before that. This way it’ll be saving power, but not really affect your morning routine.

Same goes for Theater Mode. Set it to time when you go to sleep and Apple Watch display will automatically turn off during that period. Set the time to disable it when you wake up or a bit before that and that’s pretty much it. You can still invoke the display by touching it and it’ll show the time for a short time before going off again if you wake up in the middle of the night and want to know the time.

Make sure you disable “Ask Before Running” toggle, otherwise it’ll ask and wait for your confirmation which is not desirable. And this is it. Confirm and it’ll perform the actions at selected time.

You can also go beyond that and actually do other things like turning off WiFi (using “Set WiFi”), disable cellular data (using “Set cellular Data”) and even beyond that by switching to 2G or 3G (using “Set Voice & Data”) during that period over night, depending which networks are still available in your region. 2G or 3G use way less power than 4G/LTE, but you’ll still be reachable for emergency calls. Phone being in such passive mode for 6-8 hours every night is pretty significant, both for power usage as well as data usage.

Be aware that using such measures over night means automated tasks like backups and updating won’t be performed. So, keep that in mind if you use iCloud or rely on automatic updating. I do the updating and backups on my own so it’s not an issue.

iOS 14 App Library isn’t useful at all

We got App Library feature months ago, almost a year ago actually with release of iOS 14. And now that I’ve been living with it for all this time, I realized it’s not all that great. Sure, it holds your apps that you removed from home screens, similarly like App Drawer does on Android, but what really doesn’t help are actually its categories. Every time I need to run an app that I don’t have on any of the home screens, I have to go to App Library and then dig through categories where you can’t really be sure where app will be placed within many categories.

iOS14_AppLibrary1

Like for example, “Reddit” is in “Information & Reading” instead in “Social”. Why? Or how Apple’s own translation app is in “Information & Reading”, but Microsoft’s Translator app is in “Productivity & Finance”. Others are for the most part in correct categories, but still. That’s not helping.

Then there is the fact it displays categories with 3 apps with big icons and 4th opens up the rest that aren’t listed there which takes additional time of your attention to figure whether you have it there in big icon or you have to expand the category. Even more so because the big icons have no text labels so you have to entirely depend on recognizing them through icon.

Every time I need to got o App Library I notice I’m spending too much time looking for app that I want which I think it’s the opposite of what it should App Library be doing. Which is make faster access to apps.

What I prefer more is actually the alphabetically ordered app list with alphabet index on the side for quick jump that you can access by pulling the screen down when on App Library main screen.

iOS14_AppLibrary2

This here is so much more convenient. I already know the first letter of an app because of what its name is which means I already roughly know where it should be. And instead of scrolling through entire list, you just drag finger over the alphabet index on the right side and it instantly jumps to that letter.

It’s by far the fastest method to find an app. I even hate Android’s grid ordered App Drawers because they are not easy to find apps in. Lists in alphabetical order with index are the shit.

Main issue here is that on iOS 14, there is just TOO MANY steps to reach the list view. I have 2 home screens and third is the App Library. So I have to swipe to the side twice to reach App Library. Then I need to swipe down and then I get the list view.

Why not be able to select default view for the App Library? So that when you reach the App Library it would already be in the list view by default. I’d very much prefer that.

Instead, I often just drag the screen down on my home screens to see Siri suggestions and app that I want is probably already there. Or I just use search there to look up for the app by searching for it. Which kinda defeats the purpose of the fancy App Library. It’s really just a holding bin for all the apps you don’t use and nothing else. It could be better and more useful than that…

Importance of software updates on smartphones

I’ve talked about long term software support on smartphones before, but I want to further expand on that because seeing what kind of absolutely dumb shit people say on GSMArena about quality software support on smartphones makes me believe they have absolutely no clue what it even means to the whole experience.

Comment section there is an absolute dumpsterfire on steroids where only thing they understand are hardware specs (which work solely through bigger numbers are better) and bragging what Android OS has more than iOS (bigger numbers are better again) and it makes me wonder if people are really that clueless, dumb and straight up willfully ignorant that they actively don’t want vendors to offer them better support. Every time I bring up importance of updates because they generally suck with all vendors, people bring up “muh Android has all the features 10 years ago that iPhones won’t get for 20 more years”. You dumb idiots, updates are more than just features!

There are 3 factors that define good software support and it’s not just number of features phone supports out of the box and how many it gets later via updates.

Longevity of support

Longevity essentially defines how long device receives any kind of updates as whole. From day you buy it to day it gets very last update, major or security update. And here I’m talking actual OS updates, not stuff downloaded from GooglePlay as few components that have such updating (like Android System WebView).

Updates responsiveness

While several vendors these days claim 4 years of total support, the rate at which you get updates is often still really sad. Seeing how many phone vendors are just now updating their phones to Android 11 (which was released back on 8th September 2020!), I don’t really have much faith in any of it. Getting new OS version pretty much 1 year after it was released by Google is just pathetic. 6 months should be an absolute maximum regardless of device cost. Because they tend to do even worse on cheaper devices… And we’re not talking major OS updates only. So many companies are ridiculously late with security updates too. Google releases monthly security updates and most vendors are so late they are releasing them whole month later, sometimes even longer. So you’re getting July 2021 update at the end of that month or even in August. Another issue I have with Android phones in general that falls under this category is how they always seed updates. On iPhone, when any update is out, everyone gets it this moment. If not automatically, you can manually check and update will be there, no exceptions or regional restrictions. Good luck with that on Android phones, just in general from my experience. And that’s why you always have comment sections filled with people asking and wondering why others got the update already and they still haven’t got one after many days and even weeks and they keep on manually checking for it. One of biggest annoyances with literally every single Android phone I owned which doesn’t exist on iPhones at all.

Security updates

Most people seem to think software updates are only feature updates and fixes for said features. You know, getting new functions and settings and fixes when they are broken. The thing is, we have our entire lives on our phones these days, private photos and videos, banking and finances, logins to webpages, all our bookmarks etc, surely you don’t want that ever compromised, right? It’s why I put a lot of emphasis on long term support and praise Apple for how long they actually actively support and update their devices with security updates when feature/major OS updates already stop and why I’m not a big fan of Android’s approach of letting you run really ancient OS versions that haven’t received any updates for years and everyone just run with it like it’s a great thing.

Now, granted, apps do get updates and some key system components like WebView do get updates past software support of the actual phone vendor, but those can only go so far as they can’t patch security issues in WiFi or BT modules or core OS components that are only updatable via dedicated security updates. I’m absolutely not fond of the idea relying on these “app updates” to keep me secure and hoping they in fact cover the vulnerabilities. If they were, there would be no need for monthly security updates that have to be issues by phone maker and can’t be delivered by Google itself through GooglePlay.

There is also this general misconception that “monthly security updates” on Android phones are somehow magically delivered to ALL phones by Google itself. Which is not only incorrect, it’s straight up lie. Google releases monthly security updates to vendors and then it’s up to them to actually deliver them to specific phone models used by users. If they don’t deliver security updates to actual devices, Google can release 100 security updates and users won’t get any.

Secrecy and how vendors specify support for phones

A very big annoyance is how vendors always hide software support policies into some obscure pages and documentations so 3/4 of people have no idea how long phones actually get software updates. Why is it so damn hard to openly state this next to all the rest of phone specs like display resolution, chipset type and battery size? Why not mention it right there? You really have to be super involved into mobile devices to be on top of things and know for example Samsung offers OS updates for 3 years and 1 extra year of only security updates. Which brings me to another super annoying thing, which is how vendors specify software support…

Basically all of them market it as “3 years of OS updates and 4 years of security updates”. Now, what does that tell you? To me, this sounds like you’re getting 7 years of total software support. 3 years of major OS updates and then 4 additional years of security updates after that. However, the wording actually means 4 years in total. It’s 3 years of major OS updates and of those 3 years, security updates already run in parallel, you only get extra 1 year. One may say, but that makes perfect sense? Does it? One would expect security updates to be a normal part of OS updates because getting major OS versions means that’s period of fully active software support, security updates are when you’re in grace period of support before total discontinuation of software support. If you’re releasing those, surely you’ll be also releasing security updates through that period, right? It’s how long after major OS updates you still offer security updates that’s important to me. Why not call it 3+1 ? Or 3+2? Or just 5 years of support and you know you’ll have 5 years of both for, well, 5 years and then that’s that and you’re off relying on app updates only.

Resources to see how long Android phones are actually supported

Visit page www.androidupdatetracker.com and search for brand you’re interested in. It’ll open a list of phone models from that brand. Open any of the listed models and on that page, down below you can find “X Android Update Policy” where X is brand name. Here you can see for every brand how it treats its phones as far as software support goes.

Page maintainers seem to keep good track of it, but some vendors don’t have any policy listed. so those are the unknown.

Conclusion

This post turned into a really long one yet again, but I think it’s important for people to realize software support on smartphones is also very important and we should all demand phone vendors/makers to do better and not coddle them with stupid excuses and defend their slow and lazy software support. This is not competition whether iOS is better than Android or vice versa. It’s about having great experience from software and hardware perspective and not only focus on hardware specs non stop and ignore or dismiss software side. I always mention Apple because it has exemplary support. They support phones for incredibly long time, they release updates to all users at the same time and offer security updates for very long time even after major OS updates have stopped. I want that from Android phone makers, because despite people constantly calling me all sorts of dumb names for it, I’m really not a fan of Apple as brand outside of things they do well and that I like or are important to me. And if I’ll ever want to return to Android they need to do better with software updates than pathetic support they offer currently. And that goes to nearly all phone makers in existence! You all suck at software support compared to Apple, even if Apple is sometimes late on certain specific features/functions.

Comparison of Android and iOS long term software support

I’ve noticed people always brush against Apple’s requirement for iPhones to run relatively recent iOS at all times and claim they drop support for phones too quickly based on that, not factoring in how they actually got to that point. Well, I’ll explain how that’s not actually true and how iOS updates actually work…

With Android, Google allows you to run very old Android versions. Currently you need to run at least Android 5 (Lollipop) or 6 (Marshmallow) to still be able to use most apps and it’s my experience with Android 5.1.1. that I already lost ability to even find some apps on GooglePlay with it. So it’s more Android 6 really… And Android 6 was released in 2015. Phones generally mostly received 1 update back then, more if you were really lucky which meant you were essentially stuck with that version of Android till this day in 2021. Which is roughly 7 years of being allowed to use an old version without much or any restrictions after which support starts to slowly decline. You can use it normally, you’re just stuck with old outdated version all this time.

iOS on the other hand, it uses a bit different approach. It actually requires you to run more recent versions as rather strict requirement. And people always complain with: “But you need iOS 13 today to even use most apps!” Well, iOS is not like Android where you’re basically stuck with old version of OS, but still allowed to use it. With iOS you need to stay up to date which has many security and faster API evolving benefits. But the catch here is, while yes, you are required to use at least iOS 13 today, the difference is, you can install and use iOS 13 on an iPhone 6s which was released back in 2015. Not only that, iPhone 6s is eligible to install iOS 14 too and is planned to receive iOS 15 as well in fall 2021! Notice when was iPhone 6s released? Yeah, quite long time ago…

And if you look that iOS 13 is a requirement today when iOS 15 is almost out, it means Apple gives you a 1-2 year grace period (sometimes even more for popular models) between latest iOS version and required version in which you continue to only receive security updates and no feature updates anymore. And if you sum those times it gives you same 7 years (sometimes even more) of being able to use your device pretty much without limitations. You’re required to use latest versions and you’re also actually kept up to date the entire time.

Let me visualize it in a spreadsheet for easier understanding…

iOSvsANDROID_UPDATES

Android’s state of updating was really sad back in 2015 with most vendors only handing you a single update if at all. Samsung was really the only exception to give Galaxy S6 users 3 years of major OS updates. Which is why single major update was really an average of the industry back then, but Google allows you to use that old version from 2015/2016 version till this day and will probably continue to allow with slow decline in availability of apps when using it. There is no hard date on discontinuation of support for Android 6 Marshmallow, but seeing how Google just dropped Android 2.3 Gingerbread this year, it’s safe to assume Marshmallow will be entirely dropped in 2025 after 10 years of service just like Gingerbread.

iOS on the other hand was actively being updated for iPhone users and is guaranteed to receive major OS update this fall with iOS 15. After that it’s safe to assume it’ll not receive major updates anymore if we consider trends in the past, especially since iOS 15 will be a 6th major update for iPhone 6s which is a bit of an outlier, but this is common to happen with models that are really popular. After this period iPhone 6s will continue to receive only security updates till 2024/2025 when it’ll be entirely dropped and you won’t be able to install new apps or use any Apple services. Phone will still work with apps already on it and all that, but support will effectively cease entirely.

Conclusion

As much as people rave how Apple drops support for devices too quickly, the reality is, they actually don’t. In fact they actively support devices for longer than Android phone makers and when you draw a line and sum all things together, the long term support is about the same with both. It’s just different journey to the final point where they both cease the support entirely. iOS pushes you to run newer versions and after certain period of support is over, they stop supporting you. Android on the other hand doesn’t have much of a support and sort of leaves you with an old version, but is allowed to be used for same period as iOS overall. You need to rely on GooglePlay and app updates to address security issues which has a limited scope of reach when it comes to fixing OS core level security issues that need actual full on security updates and not what GooglePlay services can deliver.

Android’s updating of major OS versions and security updates has gotten better with 2 years being an industry average now with big players like Samsung following lead with 3 major OS updates and additional 1 year of security updates and then same yellow path of no updates, but still being functional. We’ll see how things will change for Android with Google planning to offer 5 years of full major OS and security updates starting with their new Pixel 6 phones. It would be nice if it pushed other phone makers to do better than 2-3 years of major OS updates.

But for now, this is the conclusion under existing observed conditions. Both, Android and iOS have very similar long term support with slightly different experience through this period. And if we’re honest, 7 years is a very respectable period for Android or iOS devices, especially given their “gadgetry” nature which means they are really old, slow and generally outdated devices at this point and people only stick with them because they either don’t have finances to buy new one or they really only use them for basic things for which they are still fine.

Features I’m most excited about in iOS 14

As you might have heard already (or not), Apple has released some information on their software and some hardware in their annual WWDC 2020 conference. You can watch their whole presentation here:

There are some interesting things they are bringing this Fall, but I’ll focus on iOS stuff because that’s what I’m most interested in. Some of them were not mentioned in the keynote and were revealed by users who tried the BETA version of upcoming iOS 14.

Widgets support

Apple announced widgets support that can be added to any page, almost anywhere. They still aren’t full blown widgets like on Android, but more like dynamic tiles from Windows Mobile that can come in various sizes and can be fit into any page, almost anywhere. Apparently you still can’t stick them in the middle of icons so they still kinda align through entire display width, to the left or to the right side of the display, but hey, we’ll finally be able to have them outside of the first page which was dedicated for widgets only till now.

Page hiding

Up till iOS 14, if you didn’t really need some apps, you had to either dump them into a certain folder or certain page just to get them away from your usual apps. In iOS you can simply hide entire pages if you feel like you don’t need apps located on them.

Apps grouping/categories page

Another new thing is the new page located at the end of all the pages which stores all the apps grouped based on their functionality. So all the games will be bunched into one category, all the entertainment apps in another, all the gadgets like calculator and stuff in third one etc. On top you’ll also have Frequently used apps category and “Just added” category where newly installed apps will appear. This panel also include alphabetical listing of all apps so in a way it’s like a launcher on Android, but not quite.

I still have mixed feelings about it and will have to try it myself to really see if it’s useful to me or not. Because even on Android, I was never a fan of app drawer. Especially the grid list was terrible way of finding things quickly. Alphabetical list was always my favorite if I had to use the app drawer. Sliding finger across letters to quickly jump to where app is instead of looking at icons in a grid. Then again I always preferred Huawei’s EMUI and Xiaomi’s MIUI as a phone launcher and those are super similar to how iOS behaves so I kinda felt at home in iOS when moving away from Android.

Technically, you can just have widgets page and this new page with categories and you can hide away ALL the other pages that have apps on them. I’m actually going to try it this way to see how it works for day to day use.

Picture-in-Picture (PiP)

iOS 14 is also bringing more wide PiP support which is petty seamless. You can flick the app to go from full screen mode and then you can move and resize the video popup however you wish. You can even move it outside of the screen where it’ll turn into an arrow on the side of the display. You’ll still hear the audio so you can listen to music or news without watching video. But you can always instantly pull it into view if something interests you during the video. Pretty neat.

Set default browser and e-mail app

One of longest awaited features that is confirmed for iOS 14, but not included in the keynote. And while Android fans are mocking Apple for not including it years ago, it wasn’t that annoying even though I transitioned to iPhone relatively recently (from Android). It was annoyance, but not as big as everyone is making it to be. It’s certainly a nice convenience addition that I welcome.

It’s for now limited to browsers and e-mail clients only, but it’s where you need it the most anyway. Browsers are still limited to use Safari’s rendering engine. Which I’m generally ok with even though I’d like it if browsers could use their own rendering engines so browser developers don’t have to write entirely different browser compared to Android. Which is often a reason why iOS browsers are neglected badly or just don’t exist because developers feel like it’s not even worth their time for some reason…

Smaller Incoming calls and Siri

Not as ground breaking of a change, but a nice addition, they changed incoming calls and Siri pages so they don’t take up entire display anymore. I kinda understand why Apple preferred it whole display so it really catches your attention, but it’s probably more convenient to deal with when it’s not covering entire display. Especially with incoming calls that you can just flick away at the top to dismiss the call without rejecting it.

Back tapping gestures

Another neat addition with iOS 14 are back tapping gestures. You can assign commands to double or triple tap on the back of the phone. And apparently you can even chain Shortcut commands on those tap gestures so you can make iOS launch almost anything using specified gesture. It’s a small feature, but can be hugely convenient as you always have fingers at the back of the phone whether you hold it with one hand or both so you don’t even have to take your hands away to reach physical buttons or virtual buttons on display. You can request Siri this way, launch browser, fire up flash LED or even launch Camera (you need to use Shortcuts to do it as they don’t offer direct Camera selection for some reason). But hey, you can do it and I think it’s pretty neat.

Things I wasn’t so impressed by…

My biggest annoyance is how Europe is treated like a 3rd world region. Sure, I get it that USA is Apple’s primary market and they focus on that the most, but come on, the new Translate app mostly only focuses on few languages and that’s it. Sure, my expectations of Apple supporting Slovenian language are tiny since my country is also tiny and I can see how we aren’t exactly high on Apple’s priority list, but given how big of a company Apple is, they could do better imo. They should at least be on par with Google. Especially since Google is Apple’s main competitor in this segment.

And same goes for Apple Maps. When I can’t do something with HereWeGo maps (which is rare) I resort to checking Apple Maps since I don’t use anything from Google anymore. But it just seems like all the cool functionality is only dropped in for US users and the rest of us just get very cut down and basic maps functionality and it’s quite disappointing to a point I never even think of going to Apple Maps as my first navigation or maps selection.

They really need to step up the game for European region if they want to excite more users to grab iPhone instead of countless Android offerings.

What are you excited about in iOS 14 that I maybe haven’t mentioned here but is a cool feature or function? Let me know 🙂

Ditched Google for good. Entirely this time.

Several months ago I’ve ditched everything Google and avoided it like plague. Only thing still following me was Android. Sure it has several neat features, but user privacy sure as hell isn’t one of them.

And with phones, you really only have 3 options. Dumb phone, Android or iPhone. There is no in-between. Some people say “uh oh, use a different Android ROM without Google Apps. I’ve had a different ROM and my banking app was endlessly protesting because it was unlocked (but not rooted!). Besides, if you don’t use GooglePlay, you’re really using just a better feature phone. What’s even the point then? So, I’ve done something unthinkable. I’ve said in the past I’d NEVER EVER own anything made by Apple. And here we are, in 2019, I ate my own words, spit them out and bought iPhone XR.

I know I’m essentially just trading one big corporation for the other, but Google repeatedly disappointed me with their practices as well as with their MO of hoarding data like mad and not giving a single fuck about it. Where Apple, their efforts in regards to privacy show they actually care and that also shows not only internally, but also externally. Set “Location” to NOT ALLOWED and apps will respect that while still work. Where on GooglePlay, if you set that, most apps will just endlessly bitch about it and just blatantly refuse to work until you do even though they don’t need the damn location info at all to operate. And just having Location enabled reports everything to Google where they pinky promise not to use it in any way. Sure… Besides, Apple is selling products. Expensive ones, but they mostly make money with that. Google hands almost everything out for free. Guess how they make money. From YOU. So, that’s another aspect.

I’ve always protested Apple idiocies and boy iPhone has some of the dumbest things I’ve seen last 2 decades. But it also has quite some really neat things. I’ve had to escape Google and I just took a plunge and said to myself: “I’ll adapt if I’m forced to.” And I have. It’ll still take some time to figure it out entirely, but so far, I like the experience in general. And build quality is indeed premium. It just feels as good as much as I’ve paid for it. A lot. Sure, it’s still expensive, but at least I have a company behind it that at least on the outside gives a damn about user privacy and software support basically guaranteed for the next 5 years. Which is just a wishful thinking with Android, which absolutely sucks in this regard.

We’ll see how things unfold, because a decade ago I wouldn’t buy an Apple product. And back then I also never thought I’d be ditching Google with such joy a decade later…

Firefox for Android finally supports password managers like Bitwarden or LastPass!

For a long time I was basically forced to use Opera for Android because Firefox didn’t support accessibility services, meaning you couldn’t use password managers like LastPass or Bitwarden with it. And that was a huge deal because when you’re using long and complex passwords, you have to rely on these. But today, I tried it again to see if it supports this yet and guess what, Firefox for Android now supports that!

You can finally use Bitwarden or LastPass with Firefox on Android! Fiery Fox, I’m coming back 🙂 I liked Opera, but Firefox being open source and now only browser with own rendering engine, I always liked it more. It was just that lack of support for password managers that was a total showstopper for me. Not anymore 🙂

Enhance Android privacy with Blokada app

Are you privacy conscious, but you realized you don’t actually have any options? You can either use a dumb phone, a ridiculously overpriced iPhone or Google infested Android. There are literally no other options unless you sacrifice everything that makes a smartphone virtually “smart”.

So, you’re stuck with Android with all its Google shit. There is a cure for that. It’s called Blokada and it seems to be so effective Google removed it from GooglePlay because it was “going against their business practices” (which just means it blocked their ads and data hoarding). You can also grab it on F-Droid Android software store and if you still have doubts, you can also check Blokada source code

Blokada

Blokada_3_5.png

How does it work?

In an essence, it works as a local VPN, so you don’t have to root your device. Just install it from its webpage (you’ll have to manually allow installation of a 3rd party app, under Android Oreo it should give you access to controls for this directly with the popup, at least on my Xiaomi Mi5 it does) and fire it up. It’ll connect as VPN service, but it’s not really redirecting traffic anywhere, it’s just a neat trick to filter traffic without having to root the phone.

Blokada is using blacklists just like AdBlock, AdGuard or uBlock. It’ll block ads, trackers and even allow you to change DNS to whatever you like.

It gives you a huge selection of various blacklists as well as DNS servers and also has a whitelist where you can exclude apps from filtering in case they get broken or you want to support the devs of that app specifically by allowing ads.

Potential problems

In general, not many apps have problems with it even though I’ve removed most of predefined whitelist exclusions. Some banking apps may refuse to function when any kind of VPN is enabled and since those apps can’t differentiate from actual VPN or a local VPN like Blokada, you’ll at least know what is causing the problem and you need to turn off Blokada entirely for the time you want to use such apps. Whitelisting doesn’t seem to help since those apps seem to detect VPN of any kind is on and just plain refuse to work properly.

Does it work?

Can’t say for sure other than my battery seems to last for quite a bit longer now, I’m not seeing any ads anywhere, not even on Youtube (could be just that I watch videos without ads), but the notifications do show a lot of trackers being blocked and the number of total blocks is in the thousands after just few days of using Blokada. I guess it’s working alright.

Update Huawei Ascend P7 L10 to Android 5.1.1 !

UDPATE: Because of certain issues with the initial article, I’ve researched the update process thoroughly and updated the article accordingly, to resolve the initial direct B830 update issues.

I was a bit tired of waiting for the stupid Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) update to show up within the phone updater, so I’ve taken things into my own hands…

Here is what you need:

  • Huawei Ascend P7 (unbranded European P7-L10 only!) smartphone with fully charged battery
  • microSD card inserted in the phone
  • USB cable
  • 7-zip, WinRAR, PeaZip or other archiver capable of unpacking archives with updates

Plus the following updates:

Latest update:

You have to first have B839 installed on your phone before you can upgrade to B852. OTA updates are incrimental and they have to be installed in a correct order! B839 -> B852 !

This update ONLY supports following existing builds:

P7-L10V100R001C00BXXX
P7-L10V100R001C900BXXX

Check Settings -> About Phone -> Build number if numbers match. In my case, the first one was a match, the XXX can be any number, it was 135 in my case followed by SP04. But I don’t think that’s important. BXXX numbers however are very important!

If they don’t match, anything you do in advance is on your own risk! I recommend you don’t update it if the version numbers don’t match.

Updating process for versions lower than B621

I recommend wiping the phone prior updating to avoid potential issues. Backup your internal data and transfer/deactivate your Google Authenticator codes before you perform factory reset!

  1. Download B621 firmware, unpack archive and copy entire dload folder to your Ascend P7 microSD card root using USB cable.
  2. Turn off your phone. Wait for it to fully shut down.
  3. Press VolumeUp+Power buttons and release them when logo appears on screen.
  4. Select Wipe Cache partition and then Wipe data/factory reset.
  5. Restart the phone and skip all the first start settings.
  6. Shut down the phone.
  7. Press VolumeUp+VolumeDown+Power buttons until the phone starts. This will force install B621 update.
  8. Download B621 CUST Hotfix, unpack it and copy entire dload folder to microSD card. This will replace old update files (confirm overwriting the files).
  9. Shut down the phone.
  10. Press VolumeUp+VolumeDown+Power buttons until the phone starts. This will force install B621 CUST Hotfix update.
  11. Download B830, unpack it and copy entire dload folder to microSD card. This will replace old update files (confirm overwriting the files).
  12. Shut down the phone.
  13. Press VolumeUp+VolumeDown+Power buttons until the phone starts. This will force install B830 update.
  14. Download B839, unpack it and copy entire dload folder to microSD card. This will replace old update files (confirm overwriting the files).
  15. Shut down the phone.
  16. Press VolumeUp+VolumeDown+Power buttons until the phone starts. This will force install B839 update.
  17. DONE!
  18. Setup your phone by adding Google Account or simply factory reset it again for first start setup wizard to appear.

It looks complicated, but after step 7, it’s basically a repeating task for each build.

Updating process if you are running a version B609 or newer

If you’re using B609 or later (because your phone arrived with it when new or it updated itself to this version), you should be fine updating directly to B839, but you strictly have to use a full version update which is around 1,5 GB in size (the above link).

Updating process if you have already updated directly to B830 or B839 and you’re experiencing functionality problems

If you have upgraded from lets say B135 directly to B830 or B839, like I have, you have most likely experienced several issues after doing factory reset. Missing keyboard, lockscreen and wallpaper images locked together, missing Motion Control settings etc. In this case you have to first downgarde your phone back to B621. You have to use the same chain of upgrades, just in reverse to downgrade your phone. I had B839 installed, so I had to first downgrade it to B830 and then B621. Made a factory reset and then repeated the above B621 updating process, step by step. Updater may say that firmware upgrade failed in the very end of each downgrade, but don’t worry, it will work anyway. You can check your build version number on each downgrade step if you want to be sure. Going back from B621 to B839 should not show any more FAILED messages. It should successfully update them.

Why all these problems appear?

Apparently the CUST issues happen when manually transitioning from Huawei’s EMUI 2.x custom interface to latest versions that use EMUI 3.x. It somehow conflicts. But if it’s already running EMUI 3.x, there should be no problems updating directly to latest version.

Synopsis

Everything is working perfectly now, no issues, no missing features, just the latest OS and super smooth functionality. From now on, you should receive updates through integrated updater or by new builds (I might update the article with that in the future). Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) is allegedly also planned even for Ascend P7, so it might be interesting. We’ll see…

Enjoy!

PS: If you need any extra info, ask me down below and I’ll check it out for you.