JR Raphael

About the Author JR Raphael


4 crazy Chromebook myths, debunked

Bring up Chromebooks in any online crowd, and you’re practically guaranteed to get some version of a now-stock reaction:

Pshaw! Why would anyone pay for a browser in a box?

Or maybe:

Harrumph! Isn’t Google about to get rid of those and make the whole thing a part of Android, anyway?

Or the time-tested standby:

Pish tosh! You can’t do anything on those. Get a real computer instead. (Pshaw!)

These are the sorts of misguided statements sentient creatures have been making since the earliest days of Google’s Chrome OS platform (y’know, way back in the early 1700s, when I first started writing about this stuff). A lot has changed since the Chromebook’s debut — both with the software itself and with the way we hominids use technology in general — but the stubborn old inaccurate assessments remain.

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4 crazy Chromebooks myths, debunked

Bring up Chromebooks in any online crowd, and you’re practically guaranteed to get some version of a now-stock reaction:

Pshaw! Why would anyone pay for a browser in a box?

Or maybe:

Harrumph! Isn’t Google about to get rid of those and make the whole thing a part of Android, anyway?

Or the time-tested standby:

Pish tosh! You can’t do anything on those. Get a real computer instead. (Pshaw!)

These are the sorts of misguided statements sentient creatures have been making since the earliest days of Google’s Chrome OS platform (y’know, way back in the early 1700s, when I first started writing about this stuff). A lot has changed since the Chromebook’s debut — both with the software itself and with the way we hominids use technology in general — but the stubborn old inaccurate assessments remain.

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Time to call it: The Chromebook is the new Android tablet

Riddle me this, dear reader: If you’ve got a device that looks like a tablet, acts like a tablet, and runs Android apps, what do you call it?

Odds are, your gut answer is “an Android tablet” — right? (Either that, or “a parsnip.” But seriously, if that’s what you thought, seek immediate counseling.)

What I’m actually describing, as you may guessed, is a convertible Chromebook. But for all practical purposes at this point, it essentially is an Android tablet. And all signs suggest it — not the traditional Android-based slate — is the future of the large-screened “Android” experience. There’s an argument to be made, in fact, that you should never buy a traditional Android tablet again. And crazy as it may sound, that seems to be precisely what Google wants.

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Google’s Pixel 2 embraces the reality everyone else is ignoring

I’m just gonna come out and say it: If you’re still obsessing over bezels, you’ve got your eye on the wrong prize.

Sure, most smartphone manufacturers want you to see those sexy edge-to-edge screens and feel that tingly, gotta-have-it sensation. They’re fresh, they’re new, they’re futuristic-looking — the gadget within must be better than what you have now, right?

Well, maybe. The truth, though, is that that sort of superficial quality is far from the most significant factor most people should be prioritizing when pondering a new phone. Selling hardware isn’t easy, especially these days, and device-makers know they need to latch onto readily visible or measurable marketing points if they want folks to open up their ears and wallets. That’s why we saw obsessions over things like extreme thinness, maximum megapixels, and utmost display density in the past.

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The Google feed has lost its soul

Not long ago, the Google feed — the stream of card-based info at the left-most side of your Android home screen and/or inside the Google mobile app — was something uniquely spectacular.

“The predictive future of search,” proclaimed The Verge — a “sign that all the different parts of Google are finally working together in a cohesive way.”

“A service that shows users vital information before they actually go searching for it,” noted Time — with info that’s “increasingly sophisticated.”

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16 time-saving Android shortcuts

When it comes to modern technology, every second counts.

It may sound silly, but it’s true: A second is the difference between an interaction on your phone feeling instantaneous and feeling just a touch too slow. And particularly with how frequently we tend to repeat common mobile tech tasks — switching apps, opening menus, firing up our cameras and so on — all of those seconds can add up fast.

The good news: Android has no shortage of hidden shortcuts that can help you save time and get stuff done more efficiently. All you have to do is learn how to use ’em.

Ready?

1. Snap between apps

Cut out delays in toggling between apps by putting Android’s semi-secret fast-snap function to use. If your device runs Android 7.0 (Nougat) or higher, double-tap the Overview key — the square-shaped icon next to the Back and Home buttons — and you’ll find yourself flipping between your two most recently used apps faster than you can say “fresh Froyo.”

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A notch too far: The unfortunate irony of the bezel-less phone

Let me just start by apologizing for daring to criticize something that’s clearly both magical and revolutionary.

I know, I know: With its snazzy new iPhone X, Apple just “innovated” the bezel-less smartphone. (It also “innovated” wireless charging — er, sorry, AirPower — along with fast charging, high-quality OLED displays, and gesture-based controls, among other things. But we’ll focus on the bezels for now.) And hey, I’m certainly not one to get in the way of a good buzzword. 

While this column is ostensibly about Android, though, there’s no denying that Apple’s take on the design trend du jour is bound to have an impact on all parts of the mobile spectrum. With a variety of low-bezel phones already available in the Android ecosystem and plenty more certain to appear in the months ahead, Apple’s approach to the concept is likely to become relevant to us all at some level — whether directly or indirectly.

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Google’s HTC deal won’t solve its biggest Pixel problem

Sometimes, big news can take a while to process.

I’ve been spending the past several days thinking about last week’s revelation that, yes, Google is buying a piece of HTC. The announcement wasn’t quite the bombshell lots of folks were expecting – y’know, the “HOLY HELL, GOOGLE ABSORBED ANOTHER ENTIRE PHONE-MAKER!” variety – but it’s still pretty darn significant.

Google, as you no doubt know by now, paid a whopping $1.1 billion to bring a bunch of HTC’s smartphone brainiacs into its employ. Most of those people were apparently already working with Google on the company’s Pixel products. So in other words, Google hired its own dedicated team of former contractors to help create its future devices.

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Android file management: An easy-to-follow guide

When you think about your smartphone, apps and interfaces are probably the first things that come to mind. Beneath all that surface-level stuff, though, our modern mobile devices are filled with files — folders upon folders of ’em! — just like the clunky ol’ computers we’ve relied upon for ages.

We may not come face to face with our phones’ file systems too often, but it’s valuable to know they’re there — and to know how they can work for us when the need arises. After all, your Android device is a productivity powerhouse. It can juggle everything from PDFs and PSDs to presentations and podcasts. It can even act as a portable hard drive and house any sort of important files you might need in your pocket (and not just on some far-away cloud). Your mobile device can carry an awful lot of data, and there may come a time when you want to dig in and deal directly with it.

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What Android’s notification snoozing needs next

I love to snooze.

I’m not just talking about my nightly beauty slumber, mind you (but yes, my skin is looking rather radiant today — thanks for noticing). I’m talking about the new notification snoozing feature in Google’s Android 8.0 Oreo release.

If you’ve been hanging ’round these parts for long, you know notification snoozing is something I’d yearned for ever since I started using Google’s Inbox app a couple years back. Snoozing is a core part of Inbox’s organizational system, y’see: Instead of letting emails pile up and turn into counterproductive clutter, you either deal with messages right away or snooze ’em so they’ll get out of your way and then return when they’re relevant — or when you’re likely to have the time and inclination to think about ’em.

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iOS 11 vs. Android 8.0: Which is better? Well…

With Apple’s magical and revolutionary new iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X devices now official, the world is about to get its first full look at iOS 11 — the most advanced, beautiful, and amazing software release to emerge out of Cupertino since, erm, the last one.

And you know what that means, right? Whenever we see a major new mobile OS release, we see a flurry of feverishly crafted arguments working to answer the eternally burning question: Which is better — Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating system? Who wins this round of the mobile OS battle? Who, gosh darn it, is the best?

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How Android One could complete Google’s grand Android plan

Ahah. It’s all starting to make sense. 

Google, if you haven’t heard, is said to be on the brink of bringing its Android One phone program to the U.S. — for real this time! New rumors suggest the freshly announced Moto X4 could arrive with Android One branding in America practically any minute now. Those reports echo previous rumors from earlier this year and follow word from way back in January that Google was working to launch its first U.S.-aimed Android One phone sometime “before the middle of the year.”

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No Android 8.0? Here’s how to get Oreo features on any phone today

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Android 8.0 in-depth: Oreo’s not-so-obvious security enhancements

When you read about a splashy new software update like Google’s fresh-from-the-oven Android 8.0 Oreo release, you tend to hear mostly about the marquee features — the most attention-grabbing elements and refinements you’re likely to notice when you get the update on your own device.

It’s understandable, since those are the things we all see most immediately and directly. Beneath the surface, though, Oreo has some pretty significant stuff going on in the realm of security — stuff that hasn’t been widely covered but is as important as anything else to understand.

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