Sunday, 6 January 2019

Android Confidential: The Android phones and features that flew and flopped in 2018

2018 sure was a fun year to be an Android fan. While the usual flagship updates to the Galaxy and Pixel phones dominated the headlines, the year saw a steady stream of announcements and upgrades competing to grab our attention (and our money).

There were so many awesome phones in 2018, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. Some had killer features, some had great designs, and nearly all of them had incredible cameras. So for the last Android Confidential column of the year, I decided to tackle the best and worst phones of the year from a different angle. Here are the things that stood out for me in 2018:

Most underrated camera feature in 2018

Winner: Top Shot, Google Pixel 3

A so many words have been written about Google’s Night Sight feature on the Pixel 3, and rightful so. It’s a fantastic, even mind-blowing feature that turns unusable low-light shots into something you can share on Instagram. What isn’t getting nearly enough attention is Top Shot. This Pixel 3 feature lets you choose from a selection of images taken before and after the original pic so you can make sure you got the moment right. There are technical drawbacks—namely that the new pics are much lower in resolution and don’t take full advantage of the Pixel 3’s superior processing skills. But for parents and anyone who’s ever lamented missing a shot by a second or two, Top Shot is a godsend.

Runner-up: 2018 was the year when pretty much every premium smartphone climbed on board the wireless charging train (I’m looking at you OnePlus), but the Mate 20 Pro does something way cool with it: Reverse wireless charging. With a 4,200mAh battery, you will not have to charge the Mate 20 Pro very often. But you can lay another phone on the Mate 20 Pro’s back and it turns into a wireless charging pad, meaning you can fill up your friend’s phone in a pinch. Just try not to be too smug about it.


Most overrated camera feature in 2018
Winner: Dual Aperture, Samsung Galaxy S9

If 2018 was defined by one trend (other than the notch, that is), it has to be a renewed focus on the camera. And it’s not just software. We saw that in 2018 triple-camera arrays, ultra-wide lenses, 3X zoom, and dual-camera selfie cams all become standard. There was one feature that received way too much hype: Dual Aperture. One of the signature features of the Galaxy S9 and S9+, it lets you manually switch from f/2.4 to f/1.5 at the tap of a button, which is admittedly a very cool thing to watch.

But there’s one reason why no other phone maker copied it: It’s kind of pointless. While a wider aperture certainly has an influence on the quality and composition of your pictures, manually switching it on the fly is kind of a gimmick. It’s much more effective to either let the signal processor handle the adjustments in auto mode or use a slider for more precise adjustments.

Runner-up: We heard a lot about artificial intelligence and augmented reality in 2018, but aside from Google Assistant, nothing really stood out on Android phones. LG’s ThinQ was laughably bad, HTC all but abandoned Sense, Bixby didn’t take off, and Google Lens is still just a parlor trick. As 2018 comes to a close, we’re still waiting for a practical use for AI and AR.


Coolest smartphone color in 2018

Winner: OnePlus 6T

Black was out in 2018, and in its place there were a bunch of truly awesome smartphone colors. But the coolest by far is the OnePlus 6T in Thunder Purple. To be honest, I didn’t know thunder had a color, but the purple-to-black gradient on the OnePlus 6T with a slick reflective curve down the center made me a believer. Unfortunately it’s sold our on oneplus.com, but I’m hoping they make it standard on the OnePlus 7.
Runner-up: It has to be the Mate 20’s iridescent Twilight finish, which morphs from purple to blue to black, depending on the light.


Best smartphone in 2018 that refused to follow trends

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 9
It didn’t come as a surprise that nearly every Android phone rushed to copy the iPhone X’s notch in 2018. What was a surprise was the one company that didn’t: Samsung. Samsung ask known isn’t shy about jumping on the latest trend—look no further than AR Emoji to see what I mean—but none of its handsets had a notch in 2018. And the Galaxy Note 9 stands out as a result. Even with a design recycled from 2017, the Note 9 looks and feels just as fast, powerful, and modern as the Mate 20 Pro or iPhone XS.
Runner-up: I’m stumped. If you know of any other worthy flagship that went notchless in 2018, let me know.

Worst resurrection of a smartphone brand in 2018
Winner: Palm

here all you really need to know about the first Palm phone in years is that it has a 3-inch screen and no name. (Seriously, Verizon calls it the Palm Palm.) Nor does it have the ability to make calls on its own. AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile customers need not apply. Oh, and it costs $350. I could go on, but let’s just say the long-awaited Palm revival fell flat on its tiny face.

Runner-up: Palm’s pretty much in a class by itself here. The only other brand revival to speak of in 2018 was Nokia's, but it’s basically the polar opposite of Palm. In fact, Palm’s execs might want to steal a page from the Nokia 7.1 for their next project.


Best trend to look forward to in 2019

Winner: Folding screens

While Samsung showed off a proof of concept folding screen in November, we are yet to see what it is, Huawei, LG, and others are rumored to be cooking up around a marketable foldable phone in 2019. Regardless, they’re going to be the first must-see and must-hold Android handsets since the Galaxy S6 Edge. Color us excited, even though they’re probably going to be overpriced and filled with bugs.
Runner-up: If you thought 2018 was filled with great cameras, just wait until 2019. We’re already hearing rumors of a quad-camera Galaxy S10, as well as a seven-camera LG phone, so strap in.

This story, was originally published by PCWorld.

How You can Make Your Small Business One of the Best Places to Work

At the beginning of a new year, after the parties have ended and we return to our daily lives, people over the world consider how the next 365 days can be even better. We write down our New Year's resolutions and think about what we can to do to improve our health, happiness and prosperity.

The same can be said for businesses of all sizes. January is a time that companies like those on Glassdoor’s lists of the 100 best places to work in 2019 and the 50 best small and medium companies to work for consider what they can do to not only bring happier and healthier employees through the door, but also keep them for the long term.
"For employers, we know that a satisfied and engaged workforce helps drive financial performance," said Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, a chief economist at Glassdoor. "Glassdoor Best Places to Work winners are strategically investing in company culture and career growth opportunities, which serves as a major recruiting advantage."

Current and former employees of more than 830,000 businesses review their experiences on Glassdoor, and for more than a decade, those reviews have generated the company's Best Places to Work rankings. To be considered for Glassdoor's annual list, small businesses must have "at least 30 approved reviews and workplace factor ratings" and at least a 3.5 overall rating. The criteria for larger companies is mostly the same, though they need at least 75 approved reviews.

This year's group includes employers across a wide range of industries, including technology, healthcare and finance.

So what common themes can small business owners emulate to create a working environment that ultimately lands them on Glassdoor's list? Here are some of the main takeaways from this year's winners.


1. Foster a positive culture.
When it comes to keeping employees happy, a positive working environment can really go a long way. Workers at some of this year's top companies on the Glassdoor list said they ultimately wanted to feel like they were part of a team that cared about more than the job at times.

"Fantastic company culture of 'Happiness,'" said a midmarket account executive with Zoom Video Communications in San Jose, California, about the company. "You feel it every day and you can't wait to come to work because you feel 'cared for.'"

One of the biggest factors that contribute to this type of company culture is work-life balance. According to data provided by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works roughly 34.5 hours a week. Assuming the average person works for 50 years, that means they spend approximately 90,000 hours working. Since work takes up so much of our adult lives, it makes sense that the highest-rated companies on Glassdoor's list have employees who rave about a good work-life balance.

A loan officer at NBKC Bank in Kansas City, Missouri, praised the company for its "flexible work schedules" before giving their employer kudos for "always striving to find new and innovative ways to improve the work experience."

Good work-life balance is more than just a perk – it can be beneficial to your employees' health. According to the Mayo Clinic, a poor work-life balance where stress is constantly high could lead to a number of health issues, including high fatigue and a weakened immune system.

Along with instituting flexible hours, companies that want to improve their office culture can invest in other methods, such as engaging with local charities and planning fun activities.

Employers can also spend time with their employees. A project manager at GetUWired in Dahlonega, Georgia, touted the fact that they and their co-workers have direct visibility with senior leadership teams. "[Our higher-ups] take time to get to know each employee on a personal level and provide encouragement and support to everyone within the company," they said.

2. Engender success.
According to a 2017 Gallup study on the state of the American workplace, approximately 51 percent of responding workers are "not engaged and haven't been for quite some time" at work. One way that companies fail to keep employees engaged is a lack of support or potential advancement within the company.

For one consultant at Pariveda Solutions in Dallas, Texas, the company's ability to carefully lay out expectations that could potentially lead to advancement opportunities keeps employees focused on the tasks at hand. "Our well-defined expectations for each 'level' and an opportunity for promotion each year puts you in an environment where growth is a top priority," they said.

A "mission-driven culture" in the office creates an environment where clear goals push employees toward success, according to Glassdoor. Some of the higher-ranking companies on this year's list scored high marks for setting their employees up for accomplishment.

"The biggest pro of Procore is the opportunity for career growth," said a software engineer at Procore Technologies in Carpinteria, California. "Procore is all about making you better and letting you follow your interests."

3. Become better coaches.

By nature, full-time work means your employees will be rewarded monetarily. While a competitive salary and health benefits are important, today's workforce also needs validation.

Now according to the aforementioned Gallup study, approximately 21 percent of responding employees "strongly agreed their performance [was] managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work." To that end, managers must become coaches who reward their employees' efforts while setting meaningful goals.

"Managers [must] create opportunities to commend their employees' successes – big and small – and address employee performance needs," the study reads. "Managers have to ensure they are using time with employees to recognize good work or acknowledge the value that the person brings to the organization and determine what they need to meet their goals."

One resident services coordinator with Peabody Properties in East Boston, Massachusetts, said their managers are "constantly recognizing and rewarding the hard work and effort given by the employees," making their experience at the company a positive one. Thanks for reading.....

How you can unlock and enable Developer options on any Android phone

Even if you're a type that is leery about rooting his Android phone and installing a custom ROM, you can still try out some features and settings that aren't turned on by default. Every Android phone comes equipped with the ability to enable Developer options, which lets you test some features and access parts of the phone that are usually locked away. As you might expect, Developer options are cleverly hidden away by default, but it's easy to enable if you know where to look.

Find your Android Build number: Before you can be able to enable Developer options on your Android phone or tablet, you'll first need to find your phone's build number. On most phones, you can simply type build number into the search field, but here's how to find it on a few popular devices:

Google Pixel: Settings > System > About phone > Build number

Samsung Galaxy S8 and later: Settings > About phone > Software information > Build number

LG G6 and later: Settings > About phone > Software info > Build number

HTC U11 and later: Settings > About > Software information > More > Build number

OnePlus 5T and later: Settings > About phone > Build number

Reveal Developer options
Once you’re able to find the screen with your Build number, you'll need to tap on it seven seven times. That's right: seven times. After a few taps, you'll see a small pop-up alert telling you that "You are now X steps away from being a developer" with a number that counts down with every additional tap. After the seventh tap, a message will appear telling you that "You are now a developer!" and the Developer options will be unlocked as an option in Settings, so in order to access it you click on the back arrow. Some phones will include a general message about tinkering with your Android phone, but you can simply tap OK. While many of the options are strictly for developers, including things like USB debugging and bootloader unlocking, you'll also find things such as high-fi audio codecs, notch options, and CPU usage among the toggles. Experiment at your own risk.

Turn off Developer options
While Google used to demand for a factory reset to rid your phone of Developer options, it's easier to jettison now. In most Android phones running Nougat and later, you'll see a on/off toggle at the top of the screen, which will let you switch off Developer options. The screen will gray out, and once you leave, it'll be gone from your phone. To get it back, you'll need to follow these steps again.