Category Archives: Mobile Devices

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.