React Native: NodeJS and Expo Start Failure

Recently I was looking at doing some React Native work so that I can quickly get some Android and iOS prototypes up and running to help me build the app that I actually want to get onto the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.

To help me get a better understanding of what I need, I looked at several YouTube videos. The tutorials/guides were extremely useful, however I encountered an issue that was not present in the videos. When I ran the following command on my computer:

npm start

instead of the Expo DevTools running locally in my browser until I force killed it through Command Prompt, it would crash immediately and my Command Prompt would display an Unterminated Character Class error like below:

C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app>npm start

> @ start C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app
> expo start

Starting project at C:\Development\Android\React Native\Tutorials\rn-first-app
Expo DevTools is running at http://localhost:19002
Opening DevTools in the browser... (press shift-d to disable)
error Invalid regular expression: /(.*\\__fixtures__\\.*|node_modules[\\\]react[\\\]dist[\\\].*|website\\node_modules\\.*|heapCapture\\bundle\.js|.*\\__tests__\\.*)$/: Unterminated character class. Run CLI with --verbose flag for more details.

Metro Bundler process exited with code 1
Set EXPO_DEBUG=true in your env to view the stack trace.
npm ERR! code ELIFECYCLE
npm ERR! errno 1
npm ERR! @ start: `expo start`
npm ERR! Exit status 1
npm ERR!
npm ERR! Failed at the @ start script.
npm ERR! This is probably not a problem with npm. There is likely additional logging output above.

After doing some Googling, I found this super handy StackOverflow page (answer linked) which has several answers that talk about specific NodeJS versions that have this problem and downgrading to an earlier version (I had installed NodeJS 12.13.1, which at the time was the latest recommended version to install) fixed it. Or you could modify a specific JavaScript file that was not escaping correctly.

I decided to modify the blacklist.js file instead of downgrading my NodeJS version. The StackOverflow page linked above outlines what needs to be changed in the file. If you are using an editor like Visual Studio Code then with the syntax highlighting you will notice the difference once the \ is added to line 15 of the file. It basically goes from:

var sharedBlacklist = [
  /node_modules[/\\]react[/\\]dist[/\\].*/,
  /website\/node_modules\/.*/,
  /heapCapture\/bundle\.js/,
  /.*\/__tests__\/.*/
];

to this:

var sharedBlacklist = [
  /node_modules[\/\\]react[\/\\]dist[\/\\].*/,
  /website\/node_modules\/.*/,
  /heapCapture\/bundle\.js/,
  /.*\/__tests__\/.*/
];

Now this issue may only affect Windows due to the nature of how the slashes are escaped and respected (different OS do things slightly differently). So if you encounter this problem, either downgrade your NodeJS version, or if you don’t want to do that then modify the offending JavaScript file. Also it would be worthwhile to go visit that StackOverflow page and bump up the answer. As developers we need to help each other out and share as much information as possible to help make the world a better place.

Playing with my new Google Pixel 3

My Final Nokia Troubles

Last weekend my Nokia 8’s microphone had stopped working/functioning correctly. It was also not the first time that it stopped working or started to not function correctly. Instead of the individual on the other end of my call being able to hear and understand me, all they could hear was static or white noise. But to resolve the problem before I just blew into the microphone to remove any dust, dirt or anything else that might be interfering with the microphone. This time that did not work 😦 Looking at the official Nokia support forums I am not the only one who has experienced this problem; poor design. You can also see various YouTube videos that show the same thing that I was experiencing.

I could have taken my phone to a repair shop to get them to take a look at it but it got to the point where I was a little frustrated and annoyed at Nokia and my Nokia 8, so I decided instead to take the more expensive option and buy a Google Pixel 3 (not a 3a however); with my friend getting me a good deal on what I purchased and a sale already on the white version of the Google Pixel 3, I feel I made the right choice. Along with the white Google Pixel 3 I also picked up an official charcoal Google Pixel 3 case and a Pixel Wireless Charging Stand too.

I knew the Pixel 3 phones were really good phones even if they lacked some of the features of other flagship and no flagship phones (3.5mm headphone jack, expandable memory, 5G support, etc), and it did come in at a high price point but it has not disappointed me so far.

Solid Hardware Build

The build quality of the phone is really good IMHO. In your hands it feels heavy and well put together. The size of the phone is perfect for my hands and I don’t see any real shortcuts that Google took when I am handling the phone. I did put a case on my phone (as I do with most of my phones I purchase) so I don’t have to worry about scratches to the back of the glass and if I do drop it then it should protect it from any major damage.

The screen is of really high quality and along with the stock Android OS it makes for an absolutely smooth and pleasant experience. The front facing dual speakers are also really good. I prefer to have front facing speakers than a single speaker at the bottom of the phone, or what some phones are now having, in-screen speakers (using vibrating motors behind the screen). The fingerprint sensor on the back is something I have to get used to as the Nokia 8 had a fingerprint sensor at the front.

One area that I want to comment on is the forehead and the chin on the Pixel 3. I am not a fan of a notch or punch hole on phones. I am also not a fan of the various different ways that device makers are adding mechanical and moving parts to the cameras which over time will breakdown or not work properly; no matter what they say, moving parts are prone to breaking. The Pixel 3 has, as some people would say (not me), a large forehead and chin. But I think the Pixel 3’s forehead and chin are absolutely fine. Plus with the “sized” forehead and chin on the Pixel 3 you get dual front facing speakers, which are well worth it.

Pixel Android

I am a super fan of stock or “pure” Android. I don’t want (nor need) multiple email clients, multiple chat clients, multiple browsers, etc. Apps I cannot delete or disable are pure and utter garbage that annoy the hell out of me. As soon as I see that there is a separate skin or over the top launcher added to a phone out of the box with that bloatware I refuse to buy the phone. Most, if not all OEMs do this which is a shame.

The Pixel phones are IMO what I feel Android should be. It is how Google imagines Android should be; stock Android with all the added benefits of Google’s new ideas. If you are not into the entire Google ecosystem and like all the Googleyness that is added to the Pixel phones then the Pixel line up might not be for you; but you can then add other apps to better suit your needs though. I do enjoy what Google offers and having Android setup with how Google envisions the direction Android should go is great.

Crazy Camera Quality

There are countless articles out there from a number of different sites that say that the Pixel 3 phone’s camera is one of the best (if not) the best camera out there on a phone. Does it have ultra wide support? No. Does it have the highest megapixel count? No. Does it have multiple camera lenses? No. But it has some of the best software out there to make sure that no matter what photo you take it is the best possible capture.

I generally do not take many selfies, or photos; unless the time calls for it. I don’t use Instagram or Snapchat so I don’t have a need for a camera to be on the high end, but if I go to an event or place and want to take a picture then I want to be sure that I am getting the best possible photo or video. Knowing I have a Pixel in my pocket makes me feel that I will get the best photo (no matter how much light is present or not).

All the Extras

The squeeze functionality if a little bit of a gimmick. I don’t think I’ll be using that feature much. I’d rather just use my voice.

This is the first phone I have had that has wireless charging. Right now I am seeing the convenience of it. Nowhere near as fast as charging through USB-C fast charging, but when I come home from work I place it on my Pixel Stand and I leave it there until I need to leave for work the next day. On the weekend I keep it docked while I am at my desk and it shows me the time, etc. I never need to worry much about whether or not I will run out of battery.

Overall I am super happy with the Pixel 3. The screen is vibrant, the sound is clear, the build quality is top notch, the OS is perfect, and it will get constant OS and security updates for 3 years. Hopefully this phone lasts me the 3 years and I will not have to pick up another phone until at least the end of 2021.

No New Nokia Phones For Me

Last week on the train ride home I was talking to my friend about the up and coming Google I/O 2019 event, Android, the Pixel phones and gimmicks/features all these phones are coming out with. With the recently leaked Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL details I questioned whether when the Pixel 4 is announced (at the end of 2019 at the usual Google Pixel hardware event?) that there would be three or four models. Two mid-range models (one for the smaller model and another for the larger one) and two premium models (again one small and one large). The reason I bring this up is because HMD Global/Nokia have again failed to live up to timely updates and I am fed up.

It is now the month of May and my Nokia 8 still does not have the April update. It took until the end of April/beginning or May for HMD Global/Nokia to release the March update or my phone to receive the update. Completely unacceptable IMO, for a company that specified they will be providing timely updates to their devices, and my telecommunication provider not being at fault. I have already blogged about this, but this time I am drawing a line through the HMD Global/Nokia brand when it comes to buying a brand new phone. When my friend’s Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has the April security update, and Samsung being known to take more time to release updates to their phones it is unacceptable.

It is as if HMD Global/Nokia have completely forgotten their commitment to timely updates for older model phones. This is one of the reasons why I moved away from HTC. Right now the only devices that I feel would be providing timely updates are the Google Pixel line of phones, have the hardware to do what I need (nothing special and I don’t play games) and not fall apart; oh and also not cost an arm and a leg. I miss the days of the Nexus line (I had a Nexus 4 and Nexus 6), all of which had timely updates, did the job they were tasked to do and lasted physically without costing a fortune. I know that the Pixel line is expensive but with the new line of mid-range phones coming from Google perhaps that is what I will go with. Is it so hard to ask for an OEM to provide timely OS and security updates, at a reasonable price point (under $700 Australian dollars) and has specifications that are not turtlish but also not elite. I also don’t need gimmicks with my phone such as the with the LG G8 ThinQ.

Goodbye HMD Global/Nokia, you had your chance to keep me as a loyal customer but you have failed after I gave you a number of chances. The only hesitation I have with the Pixel line is the hardware is not the best such as the lower than what is common now RAM and the durability of the phone. If the Pixel 4 mid-range phone can withstand JerryRigEverything’s durability test, has workable hardware, and is not going to break the bank it will be my go to; otherwise I will need to look elsewhere for a new phone when this Nokia 8 kicks the bucket. My fingers are crossed for the Pixel 4.

Living with a Google Home Hub

Some Background

When Google announced the Google Home Hub at their Google Pixel event in October, I was intrigued. Do I use Cortana? Yes. Do I also use the Google Assistant? Yes. The more I watch Microsoft’s assistant play in the consumer space, the more I get attracted to Google’s offering. I’m sorry Microsoft, I really like you and your products but your play in the consumer space is not great (non-existent really). Not only is the Google Assistant superior to Cortana on Android, it feels far more complete and functional. Cortana on Android has been of a little bit of a mess for me anyway (you can read my post on that here).

Looking at what the Google Home Hub can do and what some of the smart device offerings are on the market currently really made me decide to pick one up. I did not decide to pick up a Google Home or Google Home Mini because they did not have screens. I have never considered picking up any of the Alexa enabled devices such as the Echo or Echo Dot either. Having audio only results presented is not ideal in all situations, for example if I ask the Google Assistant what the weather is going to be like for the remainder of the week it shows me the next several days, the highest and lowest temperature and what the expected conditions will be. Another bonus of the Google Home Hub compared to other smart devices with screens is the distinct lack of a camera.

Unboxing

When I went to my local JB Hi-Fi and asked for the Google Home Hub in charcoal, the box that it came in was small as is the actual device. I originally thought that the device was going to be a little bigger, but it being this size has really not bothered me. If it was a little bigger then placing it on my bedside table (where it currently sits) would make it look out of place and too big. When you open the box you get the device, some paperwork and the cable that connects to the wall. Overall it was a pleasant experience (clean and there was no wasted space or materials), much like other premium device boxing like the Surface Book 2.

Setup and Configuration

I commend Google in making the setup process of the Google Home Hub so easy. Downloading the Google Home app on my Android phone and then following the prompts on the Google Home Hub and the Google Home app made it seamless. As someone who is security conscious with access control enabled on my wireless router and my wireless network does not broadcast its name, having the Google Home Hub connect and then allowing it to communicate on the network was easier than some other wireless devices that I have connected on my network. The Google Home app on Android has all the settings that you will need to make sure that your Google Home Hub is properly configured. From the downtime options to alarms and the brightness of the screen when the room is dark. Everything is there for you to configure and is clearly laid out when you select the device on the Google Home app. Simple and easy to use which is always a nice to have for a device that can do so much.

Clear Display with Decent Speakers

With a smaller display than the other smart devices on the market you would think that the quality of the screen and resolution would be poor. But I find that it is just about right. Images look acceptable, they are not the best I have seen but they are also not the worst. The screen can also go really bright and really dark, plus the ambient light sensor at the top makes the brightness change accordingly and it works great.

For a device this small I would have thought the speakers would be worse. But I am pleasantly surprised at how loud and how clear the speakers are. They don’t have much bass to them, but that is to be expected. Overall the music, radio and standard alarm that get blasted through the speakers is acceptable, but don’t expect it to be amazing.

The Google Assistant Shines Bright

With no other smart devices purchased currently the main use of the Google Home Hub for me is to use it as a bedside clock, alarm and informational device. As a bedside clock, the Google Home Hub does a very good job. I have a clock displayed when the hub is idle (not cycling through my Google Photos) and depending on the ambient room brightness the display on the hub changes brightness. At night it is not bright at all and I can easily make out the numbers and during the day it is just like any other clock.

Configuring the Google Home Hub to have an alarm is super simple and you can also set a radio alarm. On the Google Home app on Android you can check to see what alarms you have but you cannot modify them which is a little unfortunate (maybe in a future update); the volume of the alarm appears to be the only thing you can change. The actual Google Home Hub cannot modify the alarm volume with the volume rocker that is on the back right of the device, that seems to just adjust the media volume level.

One of the first things I do in the morning is turn my alarm off and then say “Ok Google, good morning”. The morning routine that I have set for my Google Assistant provides me with the information to see what is on my calendar, what tasks I need to complete, what reminders are set, what the weather is going to like, how my commute to work will be and then it plays my favourite radio station while I get ready for work. I love this feature because it gets me ready for the day and I know what I need to do.

Asking the Google Assistant information such as the weather, travel time, locations of certain shops, etc is really easy too. You don’t need to yell, as the hub can easily pick up your voice from the other side of the room (my bedroom is about 5 meters by 5 meters). I find that the Google Home Hub’s Google Assistant performs near identically to the one on my Android phone. A bonus here is that information from the Google Home Hub can also be relayed to your phone, for example if you ask for departure times or how to get someone, the information will be presented to you ready for Google Maps.

Well Worth It

Overall for $220 Australia dollars, I feel that I have gotten my money out of it. I got a brand new bedside clock, a new radio alarm, and also a little assistant I can get to let me know in the morning what I need to get done before I go to bed and also ask it any information that I need to know without touching a screen.

Microsoft or Google’s Productivity Apps

My original post was going to be about the two different AI assistants that Microsoft and Google offer, Cortana and Google Assistant respectively. However while writing and reviewing the post the theme of productivity and how the two assistants are making life simpler kept appearing. So instead I discarded that post and started this one. I try to streamline and make my life easier by looking for ways to automate, digitally organise, and remove redundant or boring tasks while taking advantage of applications on both mobile and PC to keep everything together.

As someone with an Android phone and has/is still using Google’s products on a number of platforms it would make sense that I lean towards Google’s ecosystem and productivity apps. But, Microsoft’s own products are just as good (if not better IMO) than Google’s. Are there other productivity products out there that do the same job or better? There could be but I generally only like using first party products because I don’t like giving other applications access to my account information. If others have suggestions about other apps that are useful let me know in the comments and I’ll potentially take a look at them and break my rule.

Email

Be it personal or for work, I use email a good amount. On my Android phone I have disabled the Gmail app and have opted for the Outlook app. There are several reasons for this. Aesthetically the Gmail app is pleasing and the performance is great, you never see any slowness or lag. Outlook is not as visually pleasing and appears more formal but it too performs well with little to no lag or slowness. If you are on PC then you can use both Gmail and Outlook through your web browser of choice, and if you subscribe to Office 365 (like I do) you can get access to the Outlook application where you can have both your Gmail and Outlook accounts synced up. The features that you get with Outlook on their apps and the web are also far superior than what Google offers. Outlook can be far more complicated and daunting with all your options, etc while Gmail is more user friendly, streamlined but lacks the options that Outlook offers. Score one to Microsoft here with the number of email features on offer when using Outlook.

Calendar

This one is a no brainer. For some reason Google has a separate app for your calendar which is a little bit of a pain. But the calendar app they do have is like the Gmail app aesthetically pleasing. Not only does it look good but it also performs very well. However the major draw back is that it will only sync with your Gmail account (perhaps I have not found the right setting but I cannot sync other calendars to it). Microsoft’s Outlook app has an inbuilt calendar (yay, less apps) and it has all the features the Google Calendar app offers. On the PC you can again use a web browser to access both Google and Microsoft account calendars. The Outlook app to manage your calendar on PC is a power user’s dream. There are a number of features that are either really hard to find in Google Calendar or are not present. So again Microsoft takes the win here by making Outlook such a powerful app on both Android and PC.

Tasks, To-Dos, and Reminders

I decided to bundle tasks, to-dos and reminders together because I generally treat and use all three in a similar way. Microsoft allows you to handle these either through the dedicated To-Do app (would have loved to be able to do this through the Outlook app like everything else unless you use Outlook on PC) or the AI assistant Cortana, plus there is the Microsoft Launcher, but I won’t discuss the details about that app here. I just want to point out that aesthetically Microsoft’s apps on Android feel very corporate and formal, but the To-Do app feels very consumer friendly and welcoming like Google’s apps. Google handles tasks, to-dos and reminders in a much similar fashion. Google has Google Keep and a new Google Tasks app, plus there is the Google Assistant. I previously used Google Keep and it did the job really well, but after moving to Office 365 and Microsoft’s products I found that Google Keep was/is fairly basic. From what I have read about Google Tasks, that product is also basic and has only the very bare minimum features with more coming the future. If you want a number of features for your tasks, to-dos and reminders then Microsoft’s products are the way to go, but what Google offers do the job just fine.

AI Assistant

The AI assistant of choice really depends on which ecosystem you are using. If you are in the Google ecosystem using Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Tasks, Google Keep, etc. then the Google Assistant is the one you should be using IMO. If you use Outlook and To-Do then Cortana is the AI assistant you need to use. Google Assistant on Android is integrated so well it is really a shame that Cortana does not integrate as well. If I could identify one area where Google is leaps and bounds above Microsoft is the quality, performance and appearance of the app on Android. I believe Cortana does not look as good as Google Assistant and also is not as responsive. There have been graphical issues when I launch the app at times, there is the occasional lag, etc. However with every new update of Cortana on Android it gets better. Cortana on PC however does not have the same issues as it does on Android in regard to performance and appearance. Both AI  assistants perform very similar when I ask them questions in my day to day use so if you’re worried about not being able to answer or perform a task during day to day use then you shouldn’t. They have their own ways to perform the same task but it is just a matter of getting used to it. Google’s feels a little more natural than Microsoft, but it is not a major issue. If I had to lean one way, Google’s integration with all their platforms, products and services, aesthetics and performance makes this one a win for it.

Overall Google and Microsoft offer a number of products and services that can pretty much handle everything that you throw at them. Google’s products are simpler, easy to use and are very consumer friendly. They perform very well and visually are superior to the ones offered by Microsoft. Microsoft’s products feel more business, formal and professional oriented. The number of features that they have is also far superior to that of the features the Google products have. If you are a power user and really want to streamline, organise and stay on top of all your things then Microsoft has you covered. At the end of the day you cannot go wrong with either ecosystem and it is all about what you want out of your apps.

Another Android Messaging Play?

Poor Google.

If you have ever used Android, then you may be familiar with the various messaging and chat clients that Google has provided you throughout the years. There was Google Talk, Google Hangouts, Google Messenger, Google Allo, etc. Some of them no longer exist, some have been repurposed, some have been renamed and some have/had no support in a long time.

Now it appears that Google will be trying to unify and have one primary messaging and chat app for the Android OS with the backing of a number of telecommunication companies, mobile phone manufacturers and service providers. This is sorely what the Android platform really needs if it wants to catch up to Apple and the iMessage system that they have.

This information appears to have been broken exclusively by The Verge and propagated through other media outlets afterwards. When I watched their video and read the article I was excited, and still am. However I do have some reservations with what they are offering. Some of these are unfortunately unavoidable while others are concerns based on how Google likes to work.

What excites me:

  1. A single, unified, quality chat and messaging app:
    • I don’t need to have Allo, Messages, etc on my Android device. There is just one default app now called Chat.
  2. Support from a number of third parties:
    • From the telecommunication companies to the mobile phone manufacturers, it appears to be backed.
  3. Charged for data messages instead of SMS where possible:
    • Data messages cost me significantly less than a standard SMS. Anything to save some money is fantastic.

What concerns me:

  1. No end to end encryption:
    • With all the snooping, data gathering and harvesting, ensuring that your messages are readable by only the intended parties IMO is critical.
    • iMessage has the leg up here.
  2. Long term support from Google and third parties:
    • Will the third parties drop support soon after launching?
    • Google has a habit of:
      • Throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.
      • Constantly drop support for apps and services when they get bored and try to start again.
      • Not letting apps and services mature before they get cut or dropped.

Looking at the list of operators, Telstra appears to be on the list so that is good for me. HMD Global/Nokia appears to not be on that list, but that may change in the future as they seem to be going the route of pure stock Android. Having Microsoft onboard is also great because it could mean that a Windows 10 desktop client may also be in the works.

Messaging on Android may get a cleaner and uniform in 2018, but for how long?

Update: HMD Global/Nokia Missing Android Security Updates

Update 28/04/2018

Recently I was in contact with the HMD Global/Nokia support team and I had two very different experiences. The first support person I was in contact with I explained my situation and wanted to know why my Nokia 8 had not received the Android Oreo 8.1 update and the April 2018 security patch. They were extremely friendly and happy to assist. They tried a number of different methods to force the update and were not sure why some Nokia 8 devices received the update and others did not. I was told to contact the support team again later on in the week if the update had not arrived. My second support contact was no where near as friendly or helpful however.

Unlike the first support person I was in contact with, the second support person was hostile, rude and did not seem interested in helping me at all. As the first support person instructed me I let the second support person know what was happening and that I was told to ask for further assistance if the update had not arrived. This second support engineer did nothing or try to find answers to my problem. Instead all they kept responding with was to “just wait and the updates may come”. This right here is not really reassuring to a customer who just wants a little explanation as to why this is happening and to be so rude and completely unwilling to assist helps no one.

Yesterday I got a little notification on my phone that allowed me to update to Android Oreo 8.1 and also update to the March 2018 security patch (not the April 2018 security patch unfortunately). I will be closely monitoring the situation and if HMD Global/Nokia continue to delay patches to their Android smartphones then I may have to bite the bullet and buy a Pixel phone in 3 years time.

Original

I was really hoping that I would not have to write this post.

When I was looking for a brand new Android mobile phone, one of the requirements that I had was that the mobile phone would be supported by Google and the manufacturer for at least three years (two for the major Android OS and three for the Android security updates). The only manufacturer that I could find that met this requirement was HMD Global/Nokia (not including Google) and why I chose to pick up the Nokia 8. On the Nokia Android home page it clearly states:

Regular security updates and two years of OS upgrades…

If you navigate to the Nokia Smartphone Security Maintenance Release Summary page you can see that HMD Global/Nokia are pushing updates to various Nokia mobile phones (including the Nokia 8). However, not all models are receiving the updates. The security patch release information is done on a Device – Build_number basis it appears. My Nokia 8 has a Build_number ’00WW_4_390_SP02′, which unfortunately does not appear in both the March and April security patches.

When contacting the HMD Global/Nokia support team about this, they could not provide a valid reason why my Nokia 8 was not getting the security patches even though my device (not the build number though) was listed in the security patch release. Looking through the forums shows the same confusion and frustration from other customers. Some sort of answer would be greatly appreciated by HMD Global/Nokia.

Has HMD Global/Nokia gone back on their promise of regular security updates? I would say partially yes. They are updating some devices but leaving other devices based on build numbers it would seem. In saying that however how regular is regular? Is a monthly security patch regular? Is a two month or three month interval regular? Right now I wished that HMD Global/Nokia would have been more specific about the regular security updates. To their credit though, compared to Samsung, LG, HTC, etc. they are trying to ensure their devices are up to date.

Recently I came across an article on The Verge discussion manufacturers lying to customers about the security level on their Android devices. That is even more concerning. I would not want to “update” my mobile phone only to not be properly protected even though it appears that it is protected. Hopefully HMD Global/Nokia is not one of these companies.

Right now I am sitting and waiting for the latest security update for my Nokia 8. But if it never arrives then when it comes to buying a brand new mobile phone it may be time to switch to another manufacturer. Perhaps going back to the Google products (RIP Nexus line) and buy a Pixel mobile phone is the only option. Are Android security patches and OS updates worth the premium price of those Pixel phones? For me the answer is yes. I would happily pay more for a device that is supported and updated timely.

I will update this post if my Nokia 8 receives the April security patch, but will not be updating it after April as a two month gap between security patches is not regular IMO. Am I making too much of a fuss? Or should HMD Global/Nokia and other manufacturers take more responsibility and ensure that customers are protected while using their devices?

Android and Split Screen

Recently I have been noticing that sometimes when I unlock my Nokia 8 which runs Android Oreo, I see that the split screen mode has been enabled/triggered. At first I was extremely confused as the device was supposed to be locked in my pocket, but yet the apps at times (mainly Spotify) would go into split screen mode.

Looking through all the settings I could not find a way to disable this split screen mode. Again I find that odd and slightly confusing because the new picture in picture mode can be turned off. So why did Google not provide a means to disable the split screen mode for the apps?

While doing some more reading I managed to find how potentially I was triggering the split screen mode in my pocket. The app switching button if it is held for a short period of time triggers the split screen mode. The 9to5Google Android N quick-tips: How to activate split-screen multitasking mode outlines the same method that I have detailed above how to trigger the split screen mode, but they list two other methods.

Perhaps Google when they finalise Android P they will offer a way to disable the split screen mode. If someone does know of a way to disable split screen mode then please do let me know because the only pieces of information that I could find on the Internet are articles about how to ensure your app handles split screen mode.

Android Wear Are You?

Is it just me or has every smartwatch that doesn’t run watchOS become vaporwear? I feel like if you want to buy a smartwatch then you will most likely have to settle for the Apple Watch or a smartwatch that really isn’t “supported” by Google. By supported I mean that they are featured on the official Android Wear web page and will be getting continual OS updates from Google.

When the start of the current smartwatch craze occurred I really wanted a smartwatch too. It wasn’t for the style or visual appeal but the convenience of not having to actually have your smartphone in the same room as you to respond to a new message, or even check the time (like a standard watch). Right now I generally carry my smartphone with me and leave it on the table whichever room I am in. Recently I started to get the itch to get a smartwatch but when I saw what was on offer I was a little disappointed. There was nothing on the market that I could find that was easy for me to purchase or supported by Google. Living in Australia has not made getting a smartwatch very easy it would seem.

Going to the official Android Wear website and examining the different Android smartwatches that are available was flat out disappointing. Not only was the selection fairly poor but actually getting a hold of one of the smartwatches through the officially supported stores was near impossible. Starting with the LG Android Wear smartwatches, none appear to be available to purchase in Australia. I continually get routed to the US website and when I change to Australia and check for availability it shows “coming soon”, even though these smartwatches have been out for some time. The three other Android Wear smartwatches (Zenwatch 2, Huawei Watch and Moto 360 2) all are supposed to be available through the Harvey Norman store. But when you click the link to examine the item all you get is a “Page Not Found” page. Google appears to not have abandoned the Android Wear platform entirely either. Android Police appears to have obtained information about Android Wear smartwatches that will be getting Oreo updates and/or already have the latest version of Android (see here). But why are these smartwatches not displayed on the Android Wear webpage?

Microsoft is also out of the smartwatch market as of 2016. They stopped producing more Microsoft Band 2 devices and unfortunately had no plans to release a Microsoft Band 3 according to this article from The Verge. Unlike the traditional smartwatches the Microsoft Band was closer to a fitness band with its emphasis on health and fitness monitoring. With Cortana integration it was super appealing to me as that is my primary AI assistance, even on my Nokia 8 (running Android Oero), Cortana has replaced Google Now/Assistant. Maybe Microsoft will return back to the smartwatch market, but with them also pulling out of the smartphone hardware market I doubt it very much. If (and this is a big if) they release a Surface Phone or Surface Watch then I will most likely be picking them up. I have never had any major issues with any of the Surface products that I have purchased, even the Surface RT. But nothing Microsoft has said, shown, or even hinted at has indicated a new smartwatch from them.

Do I really need a smartwatch? Not really. Would it be a nice to have? Absolutely. I have a couple of really nice standard watches. Some have leather bands, some have metal bands. None are “smart” and none do anything more than show me the time and date. For now this will have to do. I will be taking a look at various online stores to see what I can get here in Australia, but right now the Android Wear future does not look as bright as it once was.

Nokia 8 and Android Oreo

HMD Global was touting that the 2017 branded Android Nokia mobile phones will be receiving Android OS and security patches extremely quickly, as of December they have delivered on this. They also said that the mobile phones will also be one of the first to receive Android Oreo, before the end of 2017 I might add. This is a mighty claim, many have tried and failed with many manufacturers like HTC and Samsung holding out on the Android updates due to software issues with their launchers and skins. The Nokia mobile phones run a stripped down and pure Android OS with no bloatware or skins; this should make the update process much quicker and smoother.

Last night I got a little notification that allowed me to download and install Android Oreo on my Nokia 8. There were rumours that this version of Android was in testing and would be ready sometime in December (no indication whether it would be at the start, at the end or somewhere in between). I applaud HMD Global in pushing out the update extremely quickly. HMD Global is only one part of the update puzzle however. Your mobile phone provider also has to ensure that the update still works on their network and does not completely render your mobile phone useless on their network.

Telstra has been notoriously slow with pushing these updates to consumer’s mobile phones (even if you bought the mobile phone outright and not through Telstra). You can go to their forums and support channels to see a number of posts with people complaining that Telstra is blocking mobile phone updates. This time Telstra has pushed the update out fast. Have they changed their tune and business practices regarding mobile phone updates? Perhaps, but it is too hard to tell. One Android update coming to your handset in a timely manner does not excuse or disregard the numerous other delayed or blocked updates.

After the update was installed I noticed really only a couple of differences compared to the previous version of Android; there are probably more but these are the ones that stood out to me straight away:

  1. Notifications Bar – now with white icons and the expanded notifications bar has a white background with dark icons.
  2. Battery Percentage Indicator – other launchers and skins already had this but now Android comes with this handy little feature right out of the box.
  3. Nightlight – another feature that required either a third party app like Twilight or a custom launcher. The ability to change the blue hue on your display based on the time of day now comes standard with Android Oreo.
  4. Picture in Picture –  some apps have the ability and option to now work in “Picture in Picture” mode. You can easily browse the Internet while having YouTube running in a small window. Personally I have disabled this feature.
  5. Settings Cleaned – the entire Settings app has been cleaned up and made streamlined. There is no more confusion or ambiguity of where a particular setting sits. Well done Google.

Under the hood I imagine Google has made some improvements regarding battery life, optimization of the Android OS and other little improvements to make the Android experience that little bit more fluid, consistent and uniform. I use the Microsoft Launcher so I cannot comment on the default Google/Android launcher and if there has been any changes to that, but it most likely also has been improved like previous versions. So if you have a Nokia 8 (or potentially any other Nokia 2017 mobile phone) and you are on the Telstra mobile network then see if your device has an update.

Enjoy your new version of Android Oreo 😀