mercredi 22 mars 2017

Substratum 612 Re-Introduces DirectAssets Mode and Prepares for Android O Support

Substratum is a highly popular theme engine, one that you are likely familiar with if you spend any time browsing our forum looking at all the cool custom ROMs that are available. We've covered this tool many times in the past, and will likely continue to do so as the team behind the engine is constantly at work bringing new features and expanding the supported device list. Now, the Substratum team is announcing version 610 of the theme engine.

When Substratum was initially in development, it used to contain a feature called "DirectAssets mode." The mode successfully killed the "resource cache" dialog and directly withdraws assets from the APK itself. The Substratum team mentions that this feature used to be contained within their early builds of Substratum, but they had forgotten to add it back. Now, Substratum version 610 reintroduced DirectAssets Mode, eliminating the time-consuming process of cache building altogether.

The update also prepares the popular theme engine to support Android O, though it hasn't yet been actually tested on that software. Anyone who is able to root their device running the Android O Developer Preview is welcome to try out Substratum Legacy, though.

Other improvements include fixing potential memory leaks during overlay complications by stopping all the recreates previously present.

Looking to finally get started with Substratum? The team recently initiated a cloud database containing the names of all the ROMs officially supported by Substratum. You can head over to this link in order to access the list.

In another release ( version 611, to be specific) the compilation of themes with "type 3 spaces" and themes attempting to override target values was fixed. As of now, the ROM Support Check has been temporarily disabled. For those of you wondering what these types, namely type1, type2 and type3, are all about, here's an excerpt from the app:

In yet another release (612, to be specific) all the issues with different kinds of types erroring out on the log have been resolved. The team has also fixed all the compilation errors related to appending new resources. A toast has also been added, informing you whether the overlay you're compiling has a type3 mode or not.

The SubstratumRescue archives have been updated and it is recommended to wipe the current archives off of your /storage/emulated/0/substratum folder in order to update to the new ones. Henceforth, every time you leave a themes' activity and processing, theme cache will automatically be cleared.

As Mr. Chum stated in a post on G+, Substratum is moving towards working on the UI changes we informed our readers about in a recent post of ours. It'll be exciting to see what direction the new UI changes take with respect to Android O.



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Opinion: The U Ultra Signals HTC’s Utter Identity Loss After a Compelling HTC 10

Throughout May of last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the HTC 10, a sturdy little phone that ended up becoming one of my favorite releases of 2016.

At the time, HTC had a lot to prove to regular customers and its fanbase alike — the One M9 had been a colossal failure, blasted by the media for its stagnant design and scorched with criticism for its fundamentally-flawed Snapdragon 810. Indeed, by being one of the first devices to feature that processor, the One M9 harnessed an almost-unreasonable amount of flak for what would later become a systemic issue among 2015 flagships. The HTC 10 had to truly deliver in every key area in order to gain customer trust again, as well as impress the media that loved the M8 so much, yet cared so little about the M9. This desire to be brilliant again showed in their marketing strategy, which was seemingly aimed at core users by advertising battery life and performance, reassuring customers that "they've been working hard", ending each short tease with the phrase "you'll see it".

And we did see and feel it: my review of the HTC 10 was surprisingly positive, and I noted that HTC delivered a "delightfully restrained user experience". There was no 'wow' factor to go after, there was no gimmick to shove down our throats — HTC made a solid smartphone that tackled every specification with moderate success. In my review, I stated that it was "rare to see phones that focus on the user experience to the degree that the 10 does", a sentiment echoed by devices like the OnePlus 3 and Pixel phones later that year. This phone lacked the compromises that sunk much of the appeal of its predecessors, and everything from the software UI to the outer design felt quintessentially HTC. The HTC 10 was the culmination of the design language and industrial design expertise we've loved for years, with a thoughtful Sense UI and solid internal hardware — capable camera, decent battery life, speedy processor, great audio output.

It seemingly wasn't enough. Fast forward a few months, and the HTC 10 was starting to fall into the after-hype memory hole so many OEMs find themselves in after decent-but-unspectacular releases. I still held the opinion that the HTC 10 was one of the best devices we were already starting to forget, be it due to the admittedly-high price or the almost radio-silent marketing post-release, which came after much of the early year hype had passed along with its competitors. It was a shame because, in my opinion, more-extensive positive feedback could have prompted HTC to stick to the path they were on, and save us the disappointments we are seeing in early 2017. After the dismissal of Peter Chou in favor of now-CEO Cher Wang, however, the company hasn't focused on smartphones enough to craft a consistent road to success. Cher Wang herself noted that the company had to "rethink smartphones", saying that "[their] flagship is in direct competition with several others, we have had some problems with it for two years". Perhaps such troubles with its competition are what then led HTC to just start copying it:

The U Ultra is not a particularly bad phone, but it is a specifically bad HTC flagship

The HTC U Ultra is, to me, an abomination coming from HTC. This isn't to say it's a particularly bad phone, but it is a specifically bad HTC device, because it foregoes so much of the tact and restraint that I think helped make the HTC 10 such a strong offering. Moreover, the HTC U Ultra is precisely what I feared would happen with HTC flagships once I realized the HTC 10 had failed to attract the attention the company needed to profit. The prime reason I dislike the U Ultra as an HTC device is that, to me, it's simply not a device I'd expect from HTC — it's a freakish amalgam of its competitors' hardware and features, a far cry from the no-nonsense approach of the HTC 10 and a seemingly-desperate attempt to replicate the success of other companies through imitation.

The most obvious example is the undeniable influence that Samsung devices have had on the HTC U Ultra. While we could argue that the LG G6 also borrows some design elements from its South Korean rival, HTC's imitation is much more blatant and direct, with strikingly similar elements on the back, though with a much shinier (and gaudier, in person) glass panel. HTC managed to merely copy one of Samsung's signature design elements but failed to add one of its most beneficial features, wireless charging, which is currently featured only with glass or plastic back (though possible on metal). This is particularly troubling for a company that redefined the paradigm of Android design and build quality with its exquisite metal smartphones, and that achieved a construction pedigree unmatched by other OEMs.

The other obvious example is the "second screen" curiously borrowed from the LG V20, with both having similar functionality. As Miles from XDA TV noted, though, the HTC U Ultra does end up falling behind in terms of functionality and implementation. Other marketing points such as Sense's AI features are likely going to be ignored as well, if even noticed at all. Most of it comes in the form of suggestions and observations that range from mildly convenient to obvious and unnecessary.

And all of this for what improvement, exactly? The HTC U Ultra is still a massive phone with its 5.7 inch display, making it harder to handle than the HTC 10 due to its sizable bezels, not to mention it is far slipperier and more fragile too. The HTU Ultra's processor suffers from the same lack of year-on-year oomph we see in other early 2017 devices launching with the Snapdragon 821, and the larger screen is not supported by a larger battery than what's found on the HTC 10 — at 3,000mAh, most of my contacts and fellow reviewers have struggled to get more than a day's worth of battery life from the U Ultra. For a price tag north of $700, one would expect more than last year's phone with a new screen feature wrapped in a new design, especially when the phone isn't even waterproof like the Samsung Galaxy S7 that it draws inspiration from. It even dumps the 3.5mm headphone jack among criticisms that have brought trouble to much bigger brands as well.

Instead of being the trendsetter that kickstarted the enthusiasm for quality metal Android devices, HTC is now following the glass herd

The HTC 10's design was clearly something we'd expect from HTC, with chamfers that added character and robustness that didn't need cleaning or babying. The U Ultra, on the other hand, collects smudges, attracts gunk, and can gather scratches in a way that makes it feel less premium and less durable than any flagship HTC has made since the One M7. It might look excellent in promotional material and carefully-shot review footage, but during your day-to-day use your device will end up looking plasticky at best, or feeling greasy and gross at worst. When compared to the unassuming sturdiness of the HTC 10's metal construction, I find that HTC has traded tried-and-true familiarity and expertise for an approach to hardware design they do not excel at, aiming to mimic others who have a proven track record. Instead of being the trendsetter that kickstarted the enthusiasm for quality metal Android devices, HTC is now following the glass herd and chasing Samsung's success.

The "hype lag" after their release certainly didn't help, and in the end I have a hard time believing the HTC U Ultra will get better reviews and even better sales than the HTC 10. While time will prove or disprove that last assessment's accuracy, I do see the U Ultra as HTC's loss of identity, a sign that they are willing to waste a release cycle against some of the most competitive flagships of the year, by experimenting with a product that could hardly be called theirs if it wasn't for the logo on the back. To me, it also shows that HTC doesn't have much of an idea of what made its previous phones so great, what should be kept and what should be improved — and perhaps most importantly, how to market and sell their devices.

The audio-centric, speedy metal 'superphones' we saw in the M8 and the HTC 10 were, to me, some of the better devices of their respective years, while the U Ultra is a phone we most certainly won't even get to review at XDA Portal due to a striking lack of interest from our readers and forum users (it's just not worth it). It's a shame, because I had high hopes for HTC's 2017 flagship — and while the company might make a U turn and release a proper successor to the HTC 10 later in the year, it's also hard to ignore that they missed a great opportunity by not propping up a solid competitor ahead of Samsung's delayed S8. They had a head start they haven't enjoyed in previous years – the M9 got demolished at MWC 2015, and the HTC 10 came after the first round of 2016 flagships – and they wasted it on an uninteresting device that offers many things nobody asked for, nor expected from them.

HTC made it clear the U line is its own endeavor, and that other flagships are coming with a reduced output of phones in general, giving the company more time to focus on individual releases by disregarding low-end markets. If the U Ultra is anything to go by, though, we should keep our expectations in check. Many of the problems that have plagued HTC and undermined its success remain unaddressed, even those that they themselves recognize (such as marketing), while the company also walks away from the trends it set, the expertise it amassed and the design decisions that awarded it so much praise from the media just a few years ago. Trading all of that for a samey and uninspiring release like the HTC U Ultra, at such a crucial time for smartphones, really does make it hard for us to believe in HTC. First, the company needs to believe in itself, its smartphone tradition and the product philosophy that helped catapult Android into the mainstream in those early days of glory.


What do you think of the HTC U Ultra and HTC's direction? What would you change? Sound off below!

Check Out XDA's HTC U Ultra Forums! >>>



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Build Android Apps on Debian using Only Debian Packages

If you're an Android developer who prefers to use a Debian machine for home or work, then you may be interested in a guide published by the official Debian blog on how to build Android applications using ONLY Debian packages. At this time, you can build applications only if it targets API Level 23 with build-tools-24 as these are the only versions that are completely Debian at the time of this writing.

The steps to build an app using Debian only packages is quite simple and straight forward especially if you are an Android app developer. The guide careful to mention that you cannot use all features of the Android SDK just yet as libraries such as Android Support have not been converted to Debian only libraries. Also note that lint in this Debian version of the build-tools is still problematic, so its best to avoid it for now.

There are plans to add more API platform packages and build tools to the Debian backports in the future. The Debian Android Tools Team will be focusing their attention "on use cases that are poorly covered by the Google binaries" as Google's existing binaries already cover most common use cases and are a lot of effort for the Debian Android Tools Team to port. Debian's Android Tools Team is aiming to make Android 100% free like Debian already is, so working on areas that are currently not free is their main focus. They also plan on building the Android NDK and setting up support libraries that will be packaged and held somewhere online that allows users to enforce a fully free build of Android.

The guide finishes by requesting both testers and contributors, so if you are a developer looking for a new open source project or would like to test out and give feedback on the newly released toolset get in touch with them using their preferred communication channels.


Source: Debian



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ViPER4Android Gets Ported to the Huawei Mate 9

As long as you don't mind setting SELinux to Permissive, you can now install ViPER4Android on the Huawei Mate 9. This comes to us from XDA Senior Member ante0, who used a slightly modified script from XDA Member guitardedhero and the kernel/profile for V4A from XDA Member's auras76 ROM.



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The Sony Stock Patcher Mod is Now Available for the Xperia XZ

XDA Recognized Developer AdrianDC has just released their Sony Stock Patcher mod for the Xperia XZ. This mod will make it easy to transition from Sony's stock ROM to a modifiable ROM that can be modded as you like. For instance, the stock ROM can be made usable in MultiROM, kernel patches won't trigger Sony's security features, and allows for systemless mods on the stock ROM.



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LG to Launch ‘LG Pay’ with the LG G6 in June

Not to be left behind by the likes of Samsung, Apple, and Google, LG is getting prepared to launch its own mobile payment service as early as June this year, at least in South Korea, as the company officially revealed.

LG Pay has been rumored for a while now, so getting a proper timeline on when we can expect the service to be available is good indication of progress.

Separate reports, originating from Reuters as well as from Korea mention that LG will be providing a convenient payment system to users equivalent to that of Samsung Pay with its MST technology. This is possible because LG has reached an agreement with U.S.-based Dynamics Inc. to make use of its Wireless Magnetic Communication technology. This technology allows people to make payments by touching their smartphones to regular credit card devices to send a magnetic signal from the phone, which is inline with previous reports claiming that LG will adopt MST as well. While the payment method is similar to Samsung Pay, the technology behind the algorithm is different, the Korean report claims.

LG Pay will launch officially on the LG G6 first, which already comes with the necessary hardware. Other handsets will be included in the service later through the year via software updates.

LG has not announced any plans to expand the service to other countries. For South Korea, LG is in talks with eight credit card companies, with seven of them expressing their intent on joining the service so far.

LG's announcement of LG Pay comes on the heels of Samsung launching Samsung Pay in India. LG has a lot of catching up to do if it wants to make LG Pay a major selling point for its devices.

What are your thoughts on LG bringing LG Pay services to South Korea? Let us know in the comments below!


Source: Reuters Source: Younhap.co.kr



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Snapdragon 835 Hands On and Qualcomm Visit Part 1: Benchmarks, Performance & Power Savings

Last week, we were invited to Qualcomm's Headquarters in San Diego, California, to get a first look and hands on with the Snapdragon 835 in the flesh.

We were able to put the company's upcoming chipset through its paces, as well as learn about its product design and philosophy by speaking to project leads and touring the enormous set of Qualcomm offices to learn more about their camera technology, Virtual Reality advancements, and the ways in which they optimized power efficiency. It was an interesting trip that allowed us to get a feel for how the Snapdragon 835 will perform in devices coming this April and beyond, and we got to learn some extra information about what the company is trying to achieve with this new processor; what new features they're trying to sell to OEMs and consumers alike, and how they intend to market many of these new aspects.

While the core of this trip surrounded benchmarking the Snapdragon 835, Qualcomm highlighted the opinion that far too many mobile enthusiasts miss the forest for the trees by focusing solely on year-on-year performance gains. Admittedly, much of what they wish to convey is hard to measure and quantify, and much harder to meaningfully convey with real-world examples. Nevertheless, we'll go over some of the things we learned after touching upon what you'll probably find the most interesting part of this article: benchmarks.

Specs Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Chipset 835 (10nm LPE) 821 (10nm LPP)
CPU 4x 2.45GHz Kryo 280 (big), 4x 1.9GHz Kryo 280 (LITTLE) 2x 2.15GHz Kryo, 2x 2.19GHz Kryo
GPU Adreno 540 GPU Adreno 530 GPU at 653MHz
Memory 2x 1866MHz 32-bit LPDDR4X 2x 1866MHz 32-bit LPDDR4
ISP/Camera Dual 14-bit Spectra ISP 14-bit 32MP Dual 14-bit Spectra ISP 25MP
Modem Snapdragon X16 LTE (Cat 16 downlink, Cat 13 uplink) Snapdragon X12 LTE (Cat 12 downlink, Cat 13 uplink)

With the official unveiling of the Snapdragon 835 earlier this year, we finally learned about the year-on-year gains the new processor provides over the Snapdragon 820 and 821 through official numbers provided by Qualcomm. Samsung was quick to boast about the performance improvements that their new 10nm FinFET process enables – up to 27% higher performance at the same power usage, or 40% lower power consumption at a similar performance level, while Qualcomm's numbers were slightly lower at 25% year-on-year boosts for the CPU and GPU. This came as a surprise given that traditionally, Qualcomm itself has cited much higher proportional jumps in performance for their flagship-class releases.

Let's put it into perspective by comparing it to previous figures – take the Adreno GPU, for example. The Snapdragon 805 was reported to be 40% faster than the Adreno 330 in the 800 and 801, while the Adreno 430 in the Snapdragon 810 further boosted performance by 30%. The Adreno 530 found on the Snapdragon 820 and 821 (with different clockspeeds) offers up to 40% better graphics performance over the previous generation. Now, all of these proportional increases don't always translate directly into equally-higher benchmark results, and Qualcomm has remained at the top of the graphics game through this steadfast GPU portfolio. But it begs the question, why on Earth did Qualcomm claim a meek 25% figure for this generation? While we've learned that the new Adreno revision is just that – a rather slight revision – the CPU itself sees a new architecture, dropping Kryo cores for an ARM-based "semi-custom" core through a licensing agreement, that enables very limited modifications on Qualcomms part (at the event, they were still unwilling to confirm whether the new CPU is based on A72 or A73 cores). What kind of gains can we actually expect from this chipset, then?

We had the opportunity to test the Snapdragon 835 for a short two hours, which was enough time for us to diligently test a variety of benchmarks including Geekbench 4, 3DMark, GFXBench, Basemark OS II, PCMark, and AnTuTu while still allowing the device to reasonably cool down in-between runs, to gather better samples for independent runs. The device the processor was found inside of was an unassuming light weight plastic phablet with a matte body, and top-notch specifications to ensure as few bottlenecks as possible. As per the table below, these include a 1440p display, 6GBs of DDR4 RAM, and fast UFS storage –while Qualcomm wasn't able to disclose on-site which specific solution they employed here, it was most certainly UFS 2.1 judging from the read and write speeds I was able to achieve using Androbench.

Device Qualcomm Test Device
Model MSM8998
Android Version 7.1.1
Resolution 1400 x 2560
Camera 21.4MP / 13MP
RAM 6GB
Storage 64GB UFS (2.1?)
Frequency Range 300-2457.6 MHz

Before we jump to the numbers, I want to point out some caveats you need to know when interpreting these results: the numbers for the Snapdragon 821 and Kirin 960 were obtained through much better-controlled tests with higher sampling, while the limited time only allowed us to gather between three and eight samples per benchmark. The software on the test device was also unstable, and often decided to begin producing terrible results until it was rebooted (we were advised to do so by Qualcomm, as they pointed out this was a bug). We monitored CPU frequency throughout the test and didn't find anything out of the ordinary which allows us to infer that there was no cheating. Finally, this device featured excellent thermals that peaked at around 33°C (91°F) as measured by our FLIR thermal camera. We wish we could have done more careful testing, and we will definitely take a much deeper look at the 835 once we get our hands on actual devices.

Beginning with CPU performance under Geekbench 4, the test device managed to score an average of 6403 for Multi core and 2040 for single core across 8 independent runs, with the highest score being 6461 for multi-core and 2067 for single core scores. This is a substantial improvement over the Snapdragon 821 that not only is higher than the supposedly-leaked benchmarks we've seen circulating on the blogosphere, but also higher than the 25% average would suggest. For reference, our OnePlus 3T (with no benchmark cheating, of course) achieves a mean multi core score of 4344 and 1828 for single core. This means we see over 45% improvements in multi core, but only slightly above 10% for single core. However, there are a few things to consider here: the Snapdragon 835 has an octa-core chip with an asymmetric big.LITTLE setup, while the 821 and Kryo focused on fewer but more-powerful and symmetrical cores.

The multi core year-on-year improvement looks to be substantial, mostly benefitting multi-threaded usage scenarios while still outputting respectable performance for applications which rely on a single core. Surprisingly enough, these scores are also higher than the numbers we obtained for the Kirin 960 in the Huawei Mate 9 (set to "Performance"), scoring a little less than 5% higher in both single and multi core scores. Geekbench 4 itself is one of the better predictors of CPU performance out there, so these results alone are quite revealing, and also provides more clues about the Snapdragon 835's CPU architecture.

We find a similar story in the GPU department, where 1080p Manhattan Offscreen (ES 3.1) outputs results higher than we expected given Qualcomm's official numbers. The device offers a 33% year-on-year improvement over the scores we obtained on our Google Pixel XL, and more than 50% the framerate of the G71 in the Kirin 960 (Mate 9). Other tests show similar gains, including 3DMark Slingshot Unlimited 3.1 (which is independent of resolution), where we find gains upwards of 40% over the Google Pixel XL, and over 60% over the Huawei Mate 9. Minimum and maximum frametimes within the test saw healthy variance, with the minimum frametimes on 1080p Manhattan and the exhaustive Car Chase benchmark sitting below the 16.66ms target.

More holistic and comprehensive tests also put the Snapdragon 835 ahead by a respectable margin, though we'd disregard tests like PCMark given their dependency on system optimizations and the huge variance we've seen in scores of different devices sharing the same chipset. Benchmarks like Geekbench 4, which get closer to the metal by using the NDK and bypassing the interpreted language overhead, should suffice in giving us an idea of what kind of number-crunching improvements we can expect from these new processors.

I'd also like to remind our readers that these devices were given to us specifically for the purpose of benchmarking, and the hardware had some of the best thermal profiles I've seen on a smartphone, so it's likely that these results will vary with their implementation, and that performance-over-time and other metrics will also be very different from anything we could have encountered here.


While speaking to various Qualcomm representatives and the head of SoC development, I found that an underlying pattern of their talking points revolved around power efficiency. Senior Director Travis Lenier, for example, explained to me that power efficiency was a core goal for the Snapdragon 835 and that while they could have pushed for even higher performance under their configuration, they think they struck a balance that should favor yearly improvements on battery efficiency slightly higher than the yearly performance improvements.

I also suspect that part of Qualcomm's conservative (in context) yearly improvement numbers come from the fact that many enhancements to the Snapdragon 835's CPU and GPU, such as better branch prediction or depth rejection for graphics, don't really shine on most workloads — some smaller additions, like a larger L2 cache for the efficiency cluster, have much more significant improvements to the real-world user experience than one could measure with benchmarks, too. Qualcomm is ultimately confident that the areas in which they focused on, such as virtual reality, provide very respectable battery life savings.

We managed to see such examples during our visit, as we saw a Snapdragon 821 and a Snapdragon 835 being tested for power draw (using tools you yourself can obtain) while running a couple of demos, in real time. The contraption allowed us to see how the current draw varied under the exact same workload for the 821 and 835. Under the virtual reality demo, we saw a current intake difference of 32%, a substantial delta that also comes with a similar boost in performance – many of these improvements don't come from the GPU either, but rather sensor data processing and specific VR optimizations in the 835. The difference during a very simple camera demo was still a respectable 27%, though the camera was fixed, pointing at a corner with no real activity, so we didn't get a chance to move the setup.


This sums up part one of our Snapdragon 835 coverage, in the next portion we will focus on all of the aspects that benchmarks cannot measure, yet impact your user experience (and often go beyond performance). As always, keep in mind that none of the numbers above necessarily mean that smartphones running the Snapdragon 835 will offer exceptional performance, though we surely wish they would.

Moreover, with the changes to the architecture of the CPU, some of the features Qualcomm provided in the 821 that enhanced real-world performance, such as the boost-mode (CPU maxing) triggered by opening applications and other user inputs, will not make their way to this new chipset. It's understandable, given that this is a vastly asymmetric chipset and that specific functionality in particular wouldn't lend itself to work as well as it did on a quad-core chipsets with homogeneous cores.

But as we said, there are many things that Qualcomm is doing with the Snapdragon 835 that benchmarks simply cannot capture, and two short hours of benchmarks in a small room with a test unit provided by the company certainly don't tell us all the answers anyway. In a future follow-up article, we will discuss how the overall package has more to offer than raw performance and power saving improvements, and how Qualcomm's position in the market specifically requires them to offer value past clockspeeds and core counts.



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