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Archive for the ‘How to Guides’ Category

Android 4.4 SMS text messaging app alternatives (and how to set them)

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Android 4.4 introduced official support for changing your default SMS app, replacing the hacked together implementations that have been relied upon in the past. It’s definitely a change for the better, but Google’s new default SMS app in Android 4.4 – Hangouts – isn’t always ideal.

Probably the biggest issue with Hangouts is that it’s hard to tell the difference between Google chat messages (which are free and depend on internet connectivity) and texts (which are not free and depend on cell connectivity). If you have a limited supply of data or texts, then it’s important to know that you’re sending the correct type. While there are indicators, probably the simplest solution is to use Hangouts for Google chat messages only, and another SMS app for actual texts.

In this guide, we’ll share a few SMS app recommendations for you to try, as well as show you how to change the default SMS app in Android 4.4. This way, you’ll never mistake an SMS for a Hangout message, and vice versa.

Recommended SMS apps

Go SMS Pro – free

Go SMS Pro is probably my favourite third-party messaging app, with support for a massive number of themes and a reasonably clean and professional look out of the box. Functionality is right up there with the best of them – you’ll get ‘quick text’ templates, privacy options, spam blocking and all kinds of other doodads. A solid choice if you’re looking for a unique look.

8SMS – free

8SMS is a recently developed app, based on the default 4.4 messaging app from the Android Open Source Project (AOSP). There are quite a few cool options that have been added here as well, everything from theme support, pop-up notifications, emoji settings and timestamps. The stock Android styling of the app fits quite well with the rest of Android 4.4 (as you’d expect), which makes a nice change from the rather grating visual styles of other 3rd party SMS apps.

Handcent SMS – free

An old favourite, Handcent SMS still claims to be “the most popular messaging app on the Android Market”… note that they didn’t say Play Store there! While Handcent does include some recent features, like pop-up notifications and advanced privacy options, it does look a bit dated and honestly has been outpaced by more recently developed apps. Still, it remains a viable choice in Android 4.4.

How to set your default SMS app

So it turns out that once you know how to do it, setting a default SMS app is super easy. Just go to Settings -> More… (under Wireless and Networks, right at the top) -> Default SMS app. Here you get a list of all SMS apps installed on your phone, and you click on the one you want to use as your default app. This prevents these other apps from sending and receiving SMS messages, while piping texts to the correct one. Simple!

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found this article useful. Thanks for checking it out and be sure to let me know if you run into any difficulties in the comments below. I’d also like to hear your SMS app suggestions – what are you using?

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Nexus 7 (2013) Root, Unlock & Recovery Guide

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Today we’ll be using the Nexus Root Toolkit (NRT) to root, unlock the bootloader and install a custom recovery on a Nexus 7 (2013) tablet.

Root access lets you remove pre-installed apps, make full backups, and install root-only apps which block ads, mount USB storage and take control of your device in other interesting ways. You can also install custom ROMs, which are community-designed remixes of Android that can include overclocking, additional customisation options, new UIs and other special features.

It’s quite fun to try out new apps and ROMs, and you’ll definitely learn a lot about Android doing it! Let’s get started, beginning with the obligatory warning…

THERE IS A SMALL RISK OF LOSS OF DATA AND FUNCTIONALITY TO YOUR DEVICE. While I have followed the steps above successfully, many times, it’s worth proceeding with caution – we at Mobile Fun can’t be held accountable for anything that happens through following these instructions. Good luck!

1. Install and launch the Nexus Root Toolkit

To begin, we’ll download the latest version of the Nexus Root Toolkit from Wugfresh.com. Install and launch the application. Once launched, you’ll be asked to select your model and Android build – be sure to check what this is in Settings -> About this tablet before proceeding. The firmware listed at the bottom (KRT…) is the info you want.

2. Install drivers

Next up is installing drivers. This can either be quick and easy, or the longest part of the process. To begin, you’ll need to enable USB debugging – go to Settings -> About tablet, then tap on the build number at the bottom of the screen seven times. Then, go into the newly created Developer Options menu in Settings and turn on USB debugging. Finally, connect your tablet to your PC using your best (ideally original) micro USB cable.

n5.png (532×300)

Just press the ‘Full Driver Installation – Automatic + Manual’ button, then follow the instructions. Generally this involves removing all other drivers, installing new ones provided by the program, then running a test to see if everything has worked.

At some point a window should appear on your tablet asking if you trust the computer you’re connecting to for USB debugging – be sure to say OK, and tick the ‘remember’ box too. If this window doesn’t appear, then you may need to toggle between a PPT and Media connection (press on the USB connected notification and then select the relevant checkbox to do this). Once properly done, you should be able to pass the Driver Test in the final tab of the NRT – and then you can move onto the fun part(s) of this tutorial.

3. Backup

Unlocking the bootloader on your Nexus 7 will wipe the tablet, so be sure to backup everything first. You’ll want to copy off all pictures and other important data using Windows Explorer (just open the tablet while it’s mounted on your PC, then check the DCIM and Pictures folders for pictures). Backing up apps and other settings is accomplished via the NRT itself; press the Backup button and then select Create Android Backup File. Again, follow instructions – you’ll need to OK the start of the backup process, then wait around until everything is copied to your PC.  My backup took about 10 minutes to complete, so feel free to go for a coffee break.

4. Unlock bootloader

Our next step is unlocking the bootloader.  As mentioned before, this will result in a FACTORY RESET OF YOUR DEVICE, WHICH ERASES ALL USER DATA - so make sure you’re happy to lose everything on the tablet! It also voids your warranty, so be forewarned.

Allow the NRT to reboot your device into bootloader mode automatically, then you’ll be asked to confirm on the tablet that you do indeed want to unlock the bootloader. The bootloader will be unlocked quickly, and a factory reset will take place. Wait until the tablet has booted back up, then go through the initial setup process again – you’ll need to connect to a wireless network, sign into a Google account, etc. Once you’re through it, just re-enable Developer Options and USB debugging in the same way you did before.

5. Root and install custom recovery

In the root section of the NRT’s main window, check the checkbox next to ‘and also flash Custom Recovery’, then hit the Root button. Follow the instructions provided; you’ll typically reboot into the Bootloader, install TWRP recovery software, then copy over the SuperSU binaries.

Once the operation has completed successfully, your tablet will boot back up. Be sure to go into the Busybox installer – grant it root permissions, then let it prepare its smart install. Press the Install button when the progress on the screen has ceased. You may also want to open the SuperSU app, to ensure it doesn’t need updating.

6. Restore backup

The final step is restoring the backup made in step 3. Just open the Restore section of NRT, then select the .ab file you made earlier. As before, accept the restoration and then wait for the file to be transferred and applied. Once completed, feel free to copy across any photos or other media that you backed up as well.

7. Celebrate

OK, you’re done! I hope everything went to plan. I did this myself earlier today, and happily it only took about 20 minutes – the vast majority of this was waiting for the backup files to be copied! If you do run into problems, the best place to take them is the XDA thread for the Nexus Root Toolkit.

Now that you’ve got an unlocked bootloader, root and custom recovery installed the world is your burrito! Try some new custom ROMs or install root-only apps that allow connecting to all kind of Nexus 7 (2013) accessories like wireless game controllers or USB drives. There’s a lot to explore, so have fun.

Thanks for checking the article out and I hope it was helpful. I welcome your feedback in the comments below! li

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Nexus 5 Root, Unlock & Recovery Guide

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Today we’re going to show you how to maximise the use of your device, by unlocking the bootloader, then rooting and installing custom recovery software. By using the Nexus Root Toolkit, we’ll be able to do this with the minimum of fuss and without requiring a great deal of technical knowledge.

Before we begin, here’s the standard warning: THERE IS A SMALL RISK OF DATA LOSS, BRICKING YOUR DEVICE, ETC. If you proceed carefully and follow instructions then you should be just fine, but I cannot be held responsible for the results of following these instructions. Having said that, I’ve never known anything unrecoverable to happen and I’ve followed these steps without issue.

0. Install and Run the Nexus Root Toolkit

While it’s possible to do everything in this guide using ADB commands, there’s a slightly more friendly way of doing it – using the Nexus Root Toolkit, a well-designed app that automates pretty much everything. To get started, download the latest version of the application from WugFresh.com. Install the application, then launch it.

To begin, you’ll need to go through the initial setup phase. This is pretty straightforward – select Nexus 5 as your device, then the build number that matches your device (likely KRT16M).

You will be offered the chance to download a few files for the Nexus 5; be sure to accept these. Once this is completed, you should be at the Nexus Root Toolkit (hereforth known as NRT) main screen, with options to Install Drivers, Backup, Restore, Unlock, Root and Install Custom Recovery.

the main screen for the Nexus Root Toolkit

1. Install Drivers

Now that NRT is installed, you’ll need to ensure drivers are installed for your device.

Start by enabling USB debugging on your phone. You’ll need to unlock the Developer settings menu by going into Settings -> About phone and then pressing on the build number at the bottom of the screen seven times. You’ll see a message that “You are now a developer!” when you’ve succeeded. Then, go into Developer options in Settings, and turn on USB debugging.

The relevant entry in Developer Options

When you connect your phone to a PC during the rest of this step, you’ll be asked to confirm that you want to allow USB debugging for this computer – be sure to select allow and to tick the box to remember this choice.

Now, follow the instructions provided in the NRT program to install drivers (“Full Driver Installation Guide…”). Typically, this involves deleting all existing drivers, then installing the universal drivers provided. Remember to not skip any steps (including removing old drivers and restarting your computer), as they are all necessary. Once you get a success message in the driver test phase, you’re ready to move onto the next steps.

If this doesn’t work, try different driver installation packages and/or ask for help on the XDA developers forums.

2. Backup

Unlocking your phone will wipe your data, so make sure you back up everything first. Click on ‘Backup’ in the main Nexus Root Toolkit window, then follow the instructions. Your device will reboot, then you’ll be asked to unlock your device and prepare to accept the backup option. Just wait and then press ‘Back up my data’ when you’re given the opportunity. Then, wait for a few minutes while your apps and data are backed up and copied to your computer. My backup file was about 900 MB, and took about 10 minutes to complete.

3. Unlock Bootloader

Unlocking the bootloader will let you rewrite the protected section of your Nexus smartphone, allowing custom recoveries and ROMs to be installed. As mentioned earlier, this will wipe your device memory completely so make sure you do a backup first!

Allow the NRT to reboot your device into bootloader mode automatically, then you’ll be asked to confirm you want to unlock the bootloader. Use the volume buttons to select the ‘yes’ option, then press the power button to confirm your choice.

Your phone will reboot a few times and display some interesting screens, before ending up back at the initial setup screen. Go through this as you did initially, filling in your Google account details and the like. Once concluded, be sure to enable the Develop Menu and then USB debugging as you did in the first step.

4. Root and install custom recovery

Rooting will allow you to run root-only apps (which tend to offer unique capabilities versus root-free apps). Meanwhile, installing a custom recovery software will make it easier in the future to install custom ROMs, make Nandroid backups and other useful system functions. Together, you’ll have access to the full gamut of apps, hacks and modifications available for your device.

Thankfully, this stage is quite straightforward. In the Root section of the NRT’s main window, click the checkbox next to “and also flash… Custom Recovery”, then press the Root button.

As usual, read each window carefully and follow the instructions provided. I had to manually boot into Bootloader mode (power off, then hold volume down and press the power button) in order to get moving, but this might not be necessary.

Once your device is rooted and your TWRP custom recovery is installed, you’re done! You may need to update the SuperSU binary to finish things off, but after that it’s all gravy.

5. Restore

Now that you’ve achieved unlocking, root and custom recovery installation, you’re ready to restore your phone to the way it was before. Use the ‘Restore’ option in NRT, selecting the .ab file you made earlier.

Your device will reboot, then you’ll be asked to “Hold the device in your hand and unlock the screen” by NRT. Do as it suggests, then hit ‘OK’. Click “Restore my data” when given the option on your Nexus 5, then wait patiently while the restoration is carried out. As before, it can be a good idea to enable Airplane mode so that this process isn’t interrupted by an incoming call or app updates.

When completed, you’ll get a “Process finished!” message from NRT.

6. Success!

After restoration is complete, you should be done! I hope that everything went smoothly and you’re happy with the results. Now you can try out some root-only apps and new ROMs, or just rest easy knowing that you can do either if you want.

Now that you’re good to go, make sure your phone is safe with a Nexus 5 case!

Useful alternatives to mobile phone insurance

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Mobile phone insurance can be a nice way to prevent costly repairs and replacements from coming out of your own pocket, but it typically requires a monthly fee that adds up to a fair amount over time. In this article, we’ll show you how to keep your smartphones, tablets and accessories safe without paying a monthly fee through a number of helpful alternatives.

Screen Protection

One of the most common ways in which phones are broken is damage to the screen. Whether through excessive scratching or outright shattering, a dead screen prevents you from using your phone and is typically quite difficult to fix by yourself. Thankfully, an entire industry exists for screen protecting products, from simple plastic screen protectors and more robust tempered glass options to cases and spray-on solutions.

          

Probably the easiest and cheapest option is to get a plastic screen protector. Nowadays it’s easy to find screen protectors that are already cut to fit your particular phone, taking into account buttons, front-facing cameras, ear-pieces and other irregularities. These are typically made of thin plastic, and are designed to prevent scratches from afflicting your device. Because these are quite inexpensive, it’s common to get multiple screen protectors in a pack, then replace them as they get damaged through normal use.

A more recent innovation is tempered glass screen protectors. These tend to be thicker and more expensive, but offer far greater protection against scratches. They also provide limited protection against impact damage, preventing your screen from shattering. These tend to be sold one-at-a-time, and therefore don’t typically need to be replaced for the life of your phone. Good options exist from BodyGuardz and Spigen, among others.

Cases are another obvious solution to screen shattering and scratching. Through a lip that runs around the front of the phone, any potential drop or impact is taken by the case first and spread around the phone, preventing a single point from taking enough force to break. Different case designs have varying effectiveness in preventing damage to the screen, but all well-designed cases should provide a significant upgrade over a bare phone. Some of the most effective cases for preventing screen damage are folio or flip cases, which include a cover that rests over the screen when the phone isn’t being used.

          

Our latest category is spray-on screen protection fluids, which add a layer of protection just nano-metres thick. This prevents damage from scratches and minor impacts, and also keeps your phone’s screen free of dirt, bacteria and fingerprints. Two good examples are Crystalusion and CleanSeal. If you really like the look and feel of a naked phone, then this is a fine option. You also can use this type of screen protection on all devices you own – you don’t need to get a different product for each device you want to protect.

Theft Prevention

A big potential hazard for anyone with an expensive smartphone or tablet is theft. What’s going to stop a nearby malcontent from snatching your phone from your hands, picking your pocket or just recovering it when you leave it in a coffee shop? Mobile phone insurance is one answer, but it’s not the only way. For example, you might think about using an anti-theft app. There are plenty of different apps available, but for now let’s have a look at Cerberus, an anti-theft app for Android.

Once the app is installed on your device, you can remotely track and control it by logging onto the Cerberus website or sending text messages to your phone. You can see the device’s location on a map (based on GPS, cell and wireless networks), get a list of recent phone numbers called or received, and get information about the mobile phone network it’s on. As well as passive intelligence gathering, you can also try to recover your phone more directly – by turning on an alarm, recording audio from the microphone, or taking pictures with the front or rear cameras. Cerberus is tricky too – it’ll hide incoming control texts, hide itself from the app drawer, and won’t be removed even if the phone’s memory is reset. If all else fails, you can wipe your device to keep your private data hidden.

With all these features, you have the best possible chance of finding your device - as we’ve seen in a dramatic play-by-play of a stolen phone’s recapture that attracted national attention. Cerberus is available as a free time-limited trial, and you can purchase a lifetime license for €3.

What about if you’re on a different platform though, like iOS or Windows Phone? Apple’s own Find My iPhone and Microsoft’s Find My Phone offer similar (if not quite as far-reaching) features that can be great in tracking down a lost or stolen phone.

Water Protection

Hands up if you remember this story or something like it: “My phone fell in the toilet.” What about getting sand or spray on your phone at the beach, leaving your phone in your pocket when you do laundry or just trying to use it in the rain?  Pretty much everyone has experienced this before, or knows someone who has… so let’s see what we can do to stop it.

The most obvious answer is to pick up a waterproof case. There are some different options here at different price points – you can pick up a fairly simplistic case that makes sense for going boating and hanging out at the pool, but these aren’t great for constant use. Another niche option is the waterproof armband, which is great for running in the rain or using at the gym. If you’re after something that can be used constantly, then a case like the Griffin Catalyst, Otterbox Armor Series or Seidio Obex will work brilliantly. A nice benefit of these top-end cases is that they’ll protect against other forms of damage, like scratches and drops too.

A more extraordinary way of protecting your device from water is to give it a water-resistant nano-coating. Services like Techjacket will do the deed for you, taking your phone, coating it, then returning it to you.

          

The final option is perhaps the simplest – just choose a waterproof phone! The Sony Xperia Z, Z1 and Z Ultra all boast water resistance, for example. You could also try the Galaxy S4 Active, a water-resistant version of the popular Galaxy S4. If you don’t want to spend that much, then our Fonerange Rugged 128 and CAT B15 phones offer waterproofing (as well as a robust design) at a much lower price.

Conclusion

While mobile phone insurance can definitely make sense, it’s not the only option available to you. Whether used as alternative or additional protection, the suggestions we’ve outlined above bear thinking about. Thanks for checking out the article – and be sure to let us know if you have your own suggestions or want to ask us a question about keeping your phone or tablet safe!

How to identify which iPad you have

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

The easiest way to identify which iPad you have is to check the model number on the iPad’s back case. Just find your number in the table below, then click on the model name to see compatible accessories.

Wi-Fi only Cellular
iPad Air (late 2013) A1473 A1474 A1475
iPad Mini 2 (late 2013) A1488 A1489 A1490
iPad Mini (late 2012) A1432 A1454 A1455
iPad 4 (late 2012) A1458 A1459 A1460
iPad 3 (early 2012) A1416 A1430 A1430
iPad 2 (2011) A1395 A1396 A1397
iPad 1 (2010) A1219 A1337

 

Of course, there are other ways to check which iPad you have without looking up the model number – just follow the steps below, looking at the iPad’s size, its connector, and its thickness.

1. Full-size iPad or iPad Mini?

First things first – do you have the iPad Mini or the full size iPad? The full size iPad has a screen that’s ten inches along the diagonal, while the iPad Mini is smaller at about 8 inches. If you’ve got a full size iPad, skip to the next question. If you’ve got a small iPad, read on.

If you’ve got the smaller kind of iPad, then you have either the iPad Mini or the iPad Mini 2 (also known as the iPad Mini with Retina display). The iPad Mini with Retina display will look sharper due to its higher resolution screen and will be 0.3 mm thicker, but if you don’t have two iPads to compare then the effect won’t be obvious.

Instead, have a look at the back for that model number. For A1488, A1489 and A1490, you’ll want iPad Mini 2 accessories. For model numbers A1432, A1454 and A1455, you should have a look at our iPad Mini accessories here.

The iPad Mini 2 (late 2013) aka the iPad Mini with Retina

The original iPad Mini (late 2012)

2. Full-size iPad with Lightning connector – but does it have a thick or thin bezel?

The most recent iPad is the iPad Air – a newly retitled and redesigned iPad with a very thin bezel, like the iPad Mini. The big difference to previous full-size iPads is the thickness of the bezels. The Air has very thin bezels, and a lighter and thinner design overall as well. If you have a thin-bezeled iPad, then check out our iPad Air accessories.

iPad Air (late 2013) with noticeably thinner bezels than the iPads shown below

If you have wider bezels, then the most recent iPad it could be is the fourth generation iPad, or iPad 4. It’s very similar in shape and size to the third generation iPad, but it has the small micro-USB sized Lightning connector instead of the earlier wide and thin 30 Pin Apple connector. The iPad 4 was released in late 2012.

If you’ve got a thick-bezeled iPad with a Lightning connector, it’s the iPad 4, so have a look at our iPad 4 accessories here.

The 4th generation iPad aka iPad 4 (late 2012)

3. Full-size iPad with 30 Pin connector?

If you’ve got a thick-bezeled iPad with a 30 Pin connector, then you have either the iPad 3 (marketed as “the new iPad”), the iPad 2, or the original iPad.

Third, second and first generation iPad models. Aside from the model number, the only real difference between the Wi-Fi models is the thickness of the chassis.

Telling the difference between the first, second and third generation iPad models is more difficult, because the only real physical difference is the thickness – the original iPad is noticeably thicker (12.7 mm or 1/2 an inch), the iPad 2 is thinner (8.6 mm or .34 inches), and the iPad 3 is slightly thicker than that (9.4 mm or 0.37 inches). The iPad 1 was released in 2010, the iPad 2 in 2011, and the iPad 3 in early 2012.

If you’re still not sure what iPad you’ve got, why not check out Apple’s article on the subject?

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