Hello, everyone! So this is the second post of the year of these and I feel like I’m settling back into the groove well enough. That said I’ll keep this one relatively brief like the last one because again there hasn’t been too much in the way of big news and I’d rather not drone on about things that aren’t that interesting.

npBrowser

Last week I wrote about CAF Chromium Browser which is a version of Chromium with CAF (aka Qualcomm Snapdragon related) optimizations that basically gave you Chrome with night mode and ad blocking built in.

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Unfortunately, for reasons that weren’t made to clear the app itself wasn’t in the Play Store and that meant having to manually download and install the apk for it and having to check back regularly to see if there were any updates.

Well, as of yesterday the app is officially in the Play Store under its new name of npBrowser. Install it as you would any other, but there’s one thing you need to do first. If you previously installed CAF Chromium Browser you need to uninstall it, otherwise you’ll get an error when trying to install npBrowser and it’ll fail to install.

Google Opinion Rewards

Google Opinion Rewards is one of those apps that almost no one uses and which everyone should be using. This app is pretty simple in its nature, answer short surveys (we’re talking at most around 4 questions) and you receive Play Store credit for doing so. The amounts can vary and the more you answer the better the payouts get. I average around $0.40 - $0.50, but I’ve seen some people get easily $1.50 per survey.

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Honestly, if there’s paid apps or whatever that you want from the Play Store but you don’t want to pay for it yourself then this is the easiest way to earn “cash” to do so.

It does bear stating though that surveys come in as they see fit and I’ve personally found it’s location based insofar as say I swing by FedEx today then within a day or so (at most a week) I’ll get a survey asking “which of these locations have you visited recently” and it’ll give me a list of options of which FedEx is one and then I’ll be asked “when did you visit said location(s)“ and I make my choice and then it’ll ask “how was the service” and you rate it from one to five stars.

So definitely check it out when you have a chance.

Remix OS

Have I discussed Remix OS before? I feel like I have or at least should have, but I’m honestly not sure if I ever did so on here or if it was just online in general elsewhere.

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Remix OS, for those unaware, is a version of Android that is designed to run on more traditional devices, think desktops and laptops, but with added functionality not traditionally associated with Android. (See screenshot above.)

Up until now the OS itself has been limited to a tablet and a “mini desktop” created by Jide, the developers behind the OS. Before anyone discounts any developers porting Android to more traditional form factors for the average user let me point out that in this case those developers are former Google employees.

They made some additional tweaks and as of yesterday officially released a version of the OS that was compatible with pretty much any desktop or laptop out there, although naturally enough some people will find themselves unable to try it out on their respective devices due to incompatibility issues.

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The OS itself is basically what we’re all used to, stock Android. However, it’s been tweaked to work with keyboards and mice as much as possible. There will be some issues with apps naturally enough, but that’s due to developers of those apps not having the appropriate support which given that Android is run on touch screen devices primarily is perfectly understandable. That said it does have multi-window support for apps which helps with multitasking on these “new” form factors.

Anyone interested in checking out the OS can get the direct download fromhere.

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There is one catch though I have to mention, previously it was stated that the OS would have Gapps pre-installed and it’d be fully ready to use out of the box so to speak. But numerous people, myself included, noticed that the download links shared from Jide’s website yesterday does not have Gapps included. This is likely due to a licensing issue of one sort or another, so at present you’ll have to use it as is. Or research how to install Gapps after the initial install on your device.

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Additionally, Remix OS has its own subreddit and if you’re game for using the OS then I highly recommend you pay the subreddit a visit as there’s plenty of helpful information on there.

I plan on trying the OS out this weekend. Was going to give it a go on my desktop at home but my network is acting up and I need a new router and a new WiFi adapter and frankly everything is a mess right now at home that I’d rather not deal with it but I will at some point over the weekend because I hate when my stuff is acting up. So I might share some thoughts on the OS next week if I get everything going.

And now, our first user submitted subject of discussion for the year: What small phones are worth checking out?

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I had this one asked of me with my “bangishotyou’s best smartphones holiday gift guide” back in December and another person or two asking me about it in the post after it and also on Giz in a random Android related post there.

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For the sake of clarification and to make sure we’re all on the same page, they specifically asked what sub-5" phones I recommended. Originally I thought I’d have quite a few options for everyone but as I did more research on the subject I realized something. Smaller phones are actually getting pretty hard to find and depending on the person wanting them there might not be any options that meet their exact specifications and needs. (I have had someone on Giz demand,and I’m not joking when I say “demand”, that I give them a phone option for a phone that was no larger than 4.7 inches and that had a 1080p display. For those unaware, no 1080p display has ever been used on phones 4.7 inches and smaller. So they were literally demanding something that has never existed and likely never will.)

So what phones are there that are smaller and worth buying?

If you want the absolute best phone you can get then there’s really no choice but the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact. I mean, hell, Android Police’s review of it is titled “The Only Small Phone That Matters”. That says it all really.

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Edit. Ha! As I was writing this post I saw the following pop up on Tweetdeck.

Again, kinda says it all.

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Rather than go off describing the phone itself I’ll just borrow liberally from AP’s review of it and focus on the highlights. Keeping in mind that their review went up back at the end of November and prices (at least) have dropped for the phone.

As for overall thoughts on the phone here’s what AP had to say.

On top of AP’s thoughts on the phone I’d like to add a few things. Sony updates their devices. Given how small their overall line of devices is it’s not hard to see why they are shooting for updating pretty much everything they can (and that includes devices that are just over two years old at this point).

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Sony is also really good about working with the developer community and providing all resources needed to unlock bootloaders, provide device binaries, ASOP build instructions, etc.

And that’s ignoring that Sony is willing to try some unexpected but awesome things out entirely on their own.

Mostly stock Android on a Sony device? Yes, please!

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Beyond that though you really can’t beat the price of either the Moto G or Moto E. I know less than a year ago I was one of the biggest Motorola fanboys around here, but after their sale to Lenovo they’ve kinda gonna off the deep end in regards to all the things they’ve done that suck for customers and fans of the various Moto devices. That said you won’t find better small phones at the prices those two go for.

I mean technically you can but I’m trying to avoid Xioami and Huawei and a few others simply because they come up short in a number of important ways, mostly in regards to US network Band compatibility. Sure, they might have some cross compatibility with our bands here but it’s hit or miss enough that it’s easier to just point people to devices that’ll just work perfectly out of the box.

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That’s all I got for today.

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Still getting back into the groove of doing these, so it’ll be at least another week before I get back to going off again like I did before the holidays. I should warn you all though that I have been toying with an idea for a post but it might be dedicated entirely to one app. That app being Tasker! Just to give you some idea of what it is in advance, it’s an app that allows for a ridiculous level of automation for anything and seemingly everything on your phone.

Anyway, that’s all for now and feel free to chime in with whatever below.