How To Change Your Default Apps On Android Phones

But what if you don’t have a certain app installed on your phone? For example, if someone sends you a Play Store link for a cool chess game. Tapping on the link takes you to the Play Store listing of an application that supports the Instant App feature. In a nutshell, an Instant App is a condensed web-based version of an app that lets you get a brief taste of it without having to download and install it. Not all Android applications support the Instant App system, and it is up to the developers to offer the convenience. A

For applications that support the Instant app functionality, there’s an option to specify the default link opening behavior — open the Play Store in a link in a browser, or directly launch the Instant app version in the Play Store. To do so, follow the steps below:

1. In the Settings app, head over to the Apps section.

2. Scroll down and open the Default apps section, and then select the Opening links option at the bottom.

3. On the next page, select Instant Apps preferences and then enable the toggle that says Upgrade web links.

4. Once enabled, users will be able to directly access the Instant Play option for eligible apps, as is depicted in the image above.

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How to Use Link to Windows to Connect Your Android Phone to a PC

Thanks to efforts from the biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world, the gap between smartphones and computers has grown ever smaller. These days, you can get a desktop-like experience by booting up your iPad or by plugging your Samsung or Huawei phone into a spare monitor. But efforts to bridge the gap between phones and computers haven’t begun and ended with the desktop-like DeX mode, and if you own a compatible Samsung or Microsoft smartphone, you can use Link to Windows to connect your phone and your computer.

Using Link to Windows allows you to see your most recent photos, reply to messages, see notifications, and mirror your smartphone’s screen from your PC. Whether you’re a power user or more casual, it’s safe to say connecting your smartphone to your computer is useful. Here’s how to use Link to Windows to connect your Android phone to a PC.

Which phones and computers are compatible?

Of course, you first need a phone and computer that are compatible with Link to Windows. Link to Windows requires a Windows PC running Windows 10 and the May 10, 2019, update at the earliest. It also requires a compatible Android phone. The full compatibility list is available from Microsoft, but basically, you’re looking at most phones released by Samsung in the last three years, including Galaxy flagship devices back to the Galaxy S9 and the Microsoft Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2.

If you have one of those phones and a Windows 10 PC that meets the requirements, then move on to the next step, because we’re ready to start.

How to set up Link to Windows

You won’t need to download a new app on a Samsung phone to use Link to Windows, but you will need an app on your PC. Here’s how to link your phone and computer, and how to turn on notifications, too.

Step 1: Open the Windows Store by searching for it in your taskbar, and then search for Your Phone in the store.

Step 2: Install the app and tap Launch to open it. The app will ask you to choose between iPhone and Android. Since this guide concerns itself with Android phones, select Android, and move on to the next step.

Step 3: Next, you’ll need to link your phone to your PC. Go to your browser on your phone and type in the URL displayed on your PC. If you’re using a non-Samsung phone, you’ll need to download a companion app, but a Samsung phone will go straight to the linking process without an additional app download.

Step 4: Click Generate QR Code on your PC and scan the QR code using the screen that pops up on your phone. You may need to allow Phone Companion Permission to access your camera.

Step 5: The next step takes place on your phone. You’ll need to set up app permissions first to let your phone and PC play well together. Tap Continue and allow access to your contacts, phone, files, and SMS messages in order to turn on all of the features.

Step 6: Now shift back to your computer and click Get Started to open up the main Your Phone window.

Step 7: Make sure each section is set up correctly by clicking on each tab and following the tutorials to set up full access. For instance, for the Messages section, you’ll need to click See Texts, followed by Send Notification. If you’ve already allowed access to your phone, your messages should pop up in a few moments.

Step 8: Turning on notifications does require a few more steps to set up. Click Open Settings on Phone to open a list of apps. Scroll down the list until you find Your Phone Companion, and then tap the slider to turn it on.

Step 9: Tap Allow to allow access to notifications. This allows future notifications to pop up on your PC as well as your smartphone.

How to use Link to Windows

Now you’ve set up Link to Windows, you might be wondering what you can do with it. Here’s a brief explainer of each section and what you can get from each.

Receiving and customizing notifications

Any new phone notifications will pop up on your PC as they arrive, keeping you up to date without unlocking your phone. But if you’re getting overwhelmed with notifications, you can easily change your settings to exclude certain apps. Open Notifications and click Customize at the top right. From there, you can turn off notification banners, badges in the taskbar, and notifications from individual apps.

You can also click on a notification to open your phone screen on your PC. You’ll be able to control your phone through this window, allowing you to respond to messages on social media.

Receiving and answering messages

Clicking on Messages will open up a list of your most recent text messages. You can reply to messages from within the apps, and there’s no need to launch a screen mirror to reply or receive new messages. Essentially a beefed-up version of Android Messages’ web service, this is probably the simplest but most useful aspect of this app.

View and download recent photos

Photos is another simple and fairly self-evident tab. Here you’ll find your most recent photos, downloads, and screenshots. You can click on them to view them in your PC’s gallery app, share them through various messaging platforms, and save them directly to your computer.

Open and use apps without picking up your phone

One of the more interesting features of Link to Windows is the ability to launch and use any app on your phone through your PC. Open the Apps section to see a list of the apps currently installed on your phone. You can mark certain apps as favorites to see them above the list, and launch them by clicking on them. Your Phone will connect to your phone and open a window that mirrors your phone’s screen. Unlock your phone, and you’ll be able to use your phone as you would normally, but with a keyboard and mouse. This ability also extends to any games you might have installed, so you can explore New Eden in EvE Echoes without needing to pick up your phone.

Receive and place phone calls

If your PC has Bluetooth capabilities, then you can even use your PC to take and receive calls — which some may find a little more useful than playing Candy Crush. Simply select Calls to make and receive phone calls and hear them through your speakers and microphone or headset.

Editors’ Choice

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Google Photos’ Locked Folder is now rolling out to more Android phones

Google Photos’ Locked Folder feature, which promises to keep sensitive photos out of your main photo roll, is starting to roll out to non-Pixel phones, according to Android Police. Google said in September that the feature would be rolling out to more Android phones “soon,” and it’s reportedly started to show up on some Samsung and OnePlus devices, according to Android Central. Older Pixel devices that didn’t originally get access to it are also getting it now, based on our tests.

The feature lets you choose specific photos or videos and put them in a passcode or biometrics-locked folder, taking them out of your main photo feed and keeping them off the cloud. It was introduced on Google’s own phones (Pixel 3 and up) in June, after being announced at Google’s I/O presentation in May.

In its presentation, Google used the example of parents hiding pictures of a newly purchased puppy from their children. A valid use case for sure, though I suspect most people will probably use it for less wholesome pictures, alleviating the “what if they swipe too many pictures back and see my butt” anxiety that can come when showing people photos from an unfiltered library. (Surely a relatable concern.)

The feature should be available to phones running Android 6 or later, and I was able to access it on my Pixel 2 running Android 11 by going to Photos > Library > Utilities. Google also said that the feature will come to the iOS version of Google Photos early next year.

If you’ve got the feature and want to use it, it’s worth noting that photos stored in the Locked Folder won’t be backed up to the cloud and will be deleted if you uninstall Google Photos or wipe your device without transferring them. You can read more on Google’s Locked Folder support page.

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‘Rocket League Sideswipe’ rolls out globally on iOS and Android

After launching into pre-season earlier this month, the mobile game Rocket League Sideswipe is rolling out to iOS and Android users around the world, 9to5Mac has reported. The side-scrolling car soccer game was unveiled earlier this year as a mobile, 2D version of Rocket League that lets you play solo or team with friends for two vs. two matches.  

Like the original, Sideswipe is all about that car soccer life, but with a 2D side-on instead of a 3D view. It uses touch controls designed to be easy to master, with advanced control mechanics available for better players. Like the original, there’s a ranking system and numerous car customization options. 

As with the pre-season trailer, the official gameplay video brings a similar look and feels as the original but adapted for simpler mobile play. Logging in with an Epic Games account for online matches will let you earn extra XP across both the regular Rocket League game and Sideswipe. The game launched in pre-season in Oceania to shake out any bugs, but it’s now available to everyone for free on the iOS App Store and Google Play

Update 12/1/2021 11:14 AM ET: The article originally stated that Rocket League Sideswipe was free with in-app purchases, but there are no in-app purchases. It has been updated with the correct information.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Android 101: How to stop location tracking

Location tracking can be very handy — it’s convenient when an app can tell you, say, where the nearby restaurants or gas stations are — but it’s also a privacy issue. Do you want all your wanderings registered by Google? Are you comfortable knowing that Mark Zuckerberg’s minions know where you are at all times? (Well, not that Mark Zuckerberg has minions, but you know what I mean.)

In this article, we’ll take a look at how to stop location tracking on your Android phone (and your Google account) and how to delete your location history from your OS and from some of the more popular apps. As always, note that versions of Android can differ, and many manufacturers use overlays as well, which can change the locations of various commands — but they should be similar enough for you to be able to find your way. For these instructions, I’ve used a Pixel 6 phone running Android 12, but I’ve included some directions for those with earlier versions of Android.

Stop Google from tracking you, period.

You probably know that Google can track your location and movements through its Google Maps app. But you may not realize that your Android phone is also tracking your movements and activities through several other built-in apps.

If you really don’t want your phone to be tracking any of your movements and activities, there is a way to turn tracking off for all (well, most) of them. You just need to be aware that you’re probably going to render many of your apps (such as ride-share apps, weather apps, and, of course, mapping apps) less usable — or in some cases, completely unusable.

Stop Google tracking using a browser

First, we’re going to stop Google from saving your data.

  • Go to
  • Under “My Google Activity” you’ll see the buttons for three types of activity: Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History. You can visit each individually by selecting the appropriate button.

Under “My Google Activity” you’ll see the buttons for three types of activity: Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History.

Under “My Google Activity” you’ll see the buttons for three types of activity: Web & App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History.

  • A more efficient way, though, may be to go to Activity Controls, found in the left-hand menu. This page will show you all three controls on the same page; in addition, you can control ad personalization.

Google’s activity controls lets you turn off tracking.

Google’s activity controls let you turn off tracking.

  • “Web & App Activity” covers anything you’ve done on Google apps and services. You can turn tracking off completely, or choose to keep it on but stop it from saving your history or activity when you use your Chrome browser. You can also turn off “Include audio recordings,” which determines if all your audio interactions with Google and / or Google Assistant are saved.
  • The other relevant category is, of course, “Location History,” which saves information about where you’ve gone with your device. Also, look for “Devices on this account” and click the down icon to the right; you’ll get a list of all the devices that you have that are currently following your location — since that may include old phones that you are no longer using, this is a good thing to check.
  • We might as well mention that you can also disable your “YouTube History,” which includes both your search and watch history, and “Ad personalization,” which uses your history to choose which ads you’ll see.

Okay — you’ve now prevented any more data from being gathered. But you may want to delete all or some of the information that’s already been collected.

  • Go back to the My Activity page and click on “Delete activity by” in the left-hand menu.
  • You’ll get a pop-up window that lets you delete your activity based on time period: the last hour, last day, “All time” (in other words, all dates), or “Custom range” for a specific date range.

A pop-up window that lets you delete your activity based on time period.

A pop-up window lets you delete your activity based on time period.

  • If you choose “Custom range,” you’ll be able to choose a date range. If you choose “All time,” you can then filter that info depending on services (such as ads, Chrome, Google Play Store, etc.). When you’re ready, click on “Next.”

you can then filter that info depending on services

You can filter your info depending on services.

  • You’ll then get a preview of some of the activities that will be deleted. If you’re okay with that, select “Delete.”

The last step before you delete your activity.

The last step before you delete your activity.

Incidentally, if you want to make sure that nobody but you can delete your histories, then select the “Manage activity” link under each category in Activity Controls, and look for “Manage My Activity verification.” If you enable that feature, Google will ask for a password any time you want to look at or delete any history in your account.

And if you don’t want to worry about manually deleting your stuff, you can enable auto-delete in each category (you’ll see the option within each category on the Activity Controls page). You’ll have the option to automatically delete your activity after either three, 18, or 36 months.

You can now auto-delete your location history.

You can now auto-delete your location history.

Stop Google tracking on an Android device

  • Go to Settings. In the search box on top, type in “Activity controls” and tap it when it comes up.
  • If you have more than one Google account, select the one you want to manage.
  • Here, as with the browser version, you can turn off or pause the monitoring of various activities, including setting auto-delete and managing a timeline of your activity.

Android’s Activity Controls are very similar to those on the web.

Android’s Activity Controls are very similar to those on the web.

You can select an auto-delete option on your mobile device.

You can select an auto-delete option on your mobile device.

Turn location tracking on and off from the Quick Settings tray

If you want to be able to turn location tracking on or off as you need it, you can do that, too. One way to arrange this is to use the Quick Settings tray (which is what you see when you swipe down from the top of your screen). The tray holds a variety of icons for the most often-used Android features; there is a “Location” icon that lets you toggle the location feature on and off.

  • Swipe down from the top of the screen. If you’re using Android 12, you’ll see a series of bubbles for things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, flashlight, etc. If you’re using Android 11 or earlier, it will be a line of icons. Either way, that’s your Quick Settings tray. Look for the Location icon (usually, it looks like an upside-down drop of water).
  • Not there? With Android 12, swipe across to see more bubbles; otherwise, swipe down.
  • Still missing? Look for a pencil icon; on a Pixel, it will be on the bottom of the tray, but some Android interfaces will have it on top. Tap on the pencil, and the menu will open further. You can now see all the icons that are available. What you want to do is make sure the Location icon is in the easily visible part of the tray.
  • If your Location icon is in the bottom section, hold and drag it up to the visible group.

You’ll now be able to quickly swipe down from the top of your screen and toggle Location on and off — for example, if you want to use Google Maps for directions, you can toggle Location on, and then turn it back off when you’re finished.

There is a location button in your Quick Settings tray.

There is a location button in your Quick Settings tray.

There is a location button in your Quick Settings tray.

If the Location button isn’t immediately visible, you can move it up.

Stop location tracking on Android devices

If you don’t feel the need to block Google from recording all your activities, and simply want to stop the phone from recording your location, it’s easy to do — as long as you pay attention to the details:

  • Swipe down from the top of the screen so that you see your Quick Settings menu, and long-press on the Location icon — or swipe down, tap the Settings icon, and choose “Location.”
  • You’re now on the Location page. Find the “Use location” feature at the top and toggle it off.

You’d think that would be it, wouldn’t you? But you’d be wrong. What is meant by “Use location” in Android depends on which sensors are following the location of the device: besides GPS, it could be Wi-Fi, mobile networks, or other sensors. So before you leave this page, look a little further down. If you’re using Android 12, look for the “Location services” button, otherwise, look for the “Advanced” button and tap on that.

Either way, you’ll have several categories that you can toggle on or off. These can be (depending on your Android version and your phone’s manufacturer):

  • Google Emergency Location Service. This tells emergency services where you are if there’s a problem; for example, if your car goes off the road and the ambulance needs to find you. You can turn this off if you want, but read the fine print: “If ELS is off, your mobile carrier may still send device location during an emergency call.”
  • Google Location Accuracy. This uses Wi-Fi and other services to help pinpoint your location. If you want to turn off “Use location,” you need to make sure this is turned off as well. Any app that requires “precise location” (which I’ll explain in a bit) needs this to be turned on.
  • Google Location History. This leads you to a page where you can pause your device’s collection of your location history. That doesn’t get rid of what’s already been saved; there are instructions for that a little later in this article.
  • Google Location Sharing. If you’re sharing your location with family members or friends, you can manage it here.
  • Wi-Fi scanning. This lets apps and services scan for local Wi-Fi networks, even if you have Wi-Fi turned off.
  • Bluetooth scanning. This lets apps and services search for Bluetooth devices even if Bluetooth is off. Both this and the Wi-Fi scanning are meant to improve location features.

If you can’t see these last two, go back to the Location page and look for a “Wi-Fi and Bluetooth scanning” link.

On your Location page, select “Location services” to see additional options.

On your Location page, select “Location services” to see additional options.

It’s a good idea to keep your Emergency Location Service turned on.

It’s a good idea to keep your Emergency Location Service turned on.

Disable location tracking for any specific app

You can find out which apps actually use location tracking and just disable it for those that you feel don’t need it.

  • Go to the Location page (by long-pressing the Location icon in your Quick Settings tray).
  • Tap on “App permission” (or, if you’re using Android 12, look for “App location permissions”).
  • You’ll find here a list of all your current apps that have permission to access your location either all of the time or only while in use. Tap on any to change the permission to either allow all of the time, allow only while in use, ask every time, or deny. You can also decide whether the app will be allowed to use “precise location” — in other words, use more than GPS to determine where you are. For that, “Google Location Accuracy,” also found on the Location page.

Sometimes when you turn off permissions in the Android Settings, the app itself will continually try to get you to restore that permission. It’s irritating, but unless the app lets you say, “No, leave me alone,” you will either have to live with it or get a different app.

App permissions classifies apps by which permissions you allow them to have.

App permissions classify apps by which permissions you allow them to have.

When you click on a specific app, you can change its permission level.

When you click on a specific app, you can change its permission level.

Delete your location history

While you can turn off location tracking from your Android phone’s settings, once a service has collected your location info, getting rid of that history takes a little work. If you want to delete your location history, the first place you need to go is Google; after that, apps that collect this information include Facebook and Twitter.

Delete your Google location history on Android

While you can delete location history collected for your Google timeline in the My Activity area (see above), you can also get rid of it easily in Google Maps.

  • Go to your Google Maps app.
  • Tap on your profile icon in the upper left corner.
  • Tap on “Your Timeline.”
  • Select the three dots in the upper right corner. Tap on “Settings and Privacy.”
  • Scroll down to “Delete all Location History.” You’ll get a pop-up window that asks you to check a box saying that you understand that some of your apps may not work properly. Check the box and select “Delete.”
  • You also have the option of deleting your location history within a date range or setting the app to automatically delete your location history after three, 18, or 36 months.

You can delete your entire location history, or just within a range of dates.

You can delete your entire location history or just within a range of dates.

Google will always give you a last chance to back out.

Google will always give you a last chance to back out.

Delete your Google location history on a browser

  • Go to
  • Tap on the three parallel lines in the upper left corner of the side panel. (If you don’t see the panel, look for the small arrow in the upper left corner and click on it.) Select “Your timeline.”
  • Look for the gear icon on the lower right side of the screen. Click on it, and then on “Delete all Location History.” You can also set the automatic deletion feature here.

Look for the gear in your Timeline to delete your location history.

Look for the gear in your Timeline to delete your location history.

  • As with the mobile app, you’ll get a pop-up window that asks you to check a box saying that you understand that some of your apps may not work properly. Check the box and select “Delete Location History.”

You’ll be asked to confirm the history deletion.

You’ll be asked to confirm the history deletion.

Delete your location history on Facebook

Facebook does keep a separate history of your locations, and if you want to delete that history, you can do it through the mobile app or the browser.

Using the Android app

  • In the Facebook app, tap the hamburger (three parallel lines) in the top right corner.
  • Scroll down and tap on “Settings & Privacy.”
  • Tap on “Settings.”
  • Scroll down and tap on “Location” (which is under the “Permissions” subhead). This will take you to the “Location Services” page.
  • You can now choose to let Facebook access your phone’s location all the time, while using the app, or never.
  • If you want to allow Facebook to save a history of your locations (or stop it from doing so), tap on “Location History” to toggle it on or off. It’s here that you can also delete your existing location history.

In Facebook “Settings & Privacy,” select “Settings.”

In Facebook “Settings & Privacy,” select “Settings.”

Location Services lets you choose when Facebook can receive your location data.

Location Services lets you choose when Facebook can receive your location data.

Using a browser

  • In Facebook, click on the small arrow next to the Notifications icon in the upper right corner. Click on “Settings & Privacy” > “Privacy Shortcuts.”
  • Click on “Manage your location settings.”

Select “Manage your location settings” under the “Privacy” category.

Select “Manage your location settings” under the “Privacy” category.

  • On the “Location Settings” page, click on the “View your Location History” button.

The “Location Settings” page lets you view your history, delete it, and stop recording it.

The “Location Settings” page lets you view your history, delete it, and stop recording it.

  • Then click on the gear in the upper left corner. As with the mobile app, you can now either delete that specific day or delete your entire location history.

You can delete that day’s history, or all your history.

You can delete that day’s history or all your history.

  • On the “Location Settings” page, you can also turn your location history on or off for your mobile devices.

Delete your location history on Twitter

Twitter makes it relatively simple to turn off its location tracking within the Android app.

  • Tap on your personal icon in the upper left of the homescreen.
  • Tap on “Settings and privacy.”
  • Tap on “Privacy and safety.”
  • Scroll down until you see “Location information” and tap on it. You can then toggle off the boxes that give Twitter permission to collect your GPS and other location information. And don’t forget to tap on “Explore settings,” which gives Twitter the option to show nearby content.

Scroll down until you see “Location information.”

Scroll down until you see “Location information.”

There are two location settings to toggle off.

There are two location settings to toggle off here, and one to tap on.

You can delete your Twitter location history as well, but only from your browser.

  • Go to your Twitter account, click on “More” in the left column and on “Settings and privacy.”
  • In the left-hand menu, click on “Privacy and safety.” Scroll down and select “Location information.”

  • Uncheck “Personalize based on places you’ve been.” Then click on “Add location information to your Tweets.”

Uncheck “Add location information to your Tweets.” Then click on “Delete all location information.” And if it asks: yes, you are sure.

Update August 25th, 2020, 2:37PM ET: This article was originally published on April 12th, 2019; it has been updated to include the update from Android 9 to Android 10, along with changes to various web-based applications.

Update November 30th, 2021, 3:55PM ET: Updated to reflect changes in the Android operating system and in Google, Facebook, and Twitter apps.

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‘Alien: Isolation’ is coming to iOS and Android on December 16th

One of the most memorable survival horror games of recent years is coming to smartphones and tablets. Feral Interactive will bring Alien: Isolation to iOS and Android on December 16th.

Feral, which also handled the Nintendo Switch port of the 2014 game, claims it has replicated the “stunning AAA visuals, arresting narrative and terrifying atmosphere of Creative Assembly’s award-winning sci-fi masterpiece” for mobile devices “without compromise.” It added customizable touchscreen controls, though you can connect an external controller. The game, which costs $15, includes all seven DLC packs.

Alien: Isolation is set 15 years after Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi horror film Alien. Players take on the guise of engineer Amanda Ripley, who attempts to get to the bottom of her mother Ellen Ripley’s disappearance. 

Creative Assembly did a great job of replicating the terrifying atmosphere of the original movie. The first-person perspective certainly adds to the feeling of dread as you try to evade a xenomorph. Whether Alien: Isolation feels as immersive on mobile as it does on consoles and PC remains to be seen, though the Switch port was well-received.

Meanwhile, as of Tuesday, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can play another classic survival horror game on their phone. Dead Space is now part of the cloud gaming library, thanks to Microsoft’s partnership with EA Play. Alien: Isolation is also available on Game Pass, albeit only on console and PC, not through the cloud.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Android problems? Uninstall Pikmin Bloom

This week a series of Android issues have been connected to the new Niantic app Pikmin Bloom. Users have reported issues appearing on their Android phone after installing Pikmin Bloom, and disappearing once Pikmin Bloom was uninstalled once more. We do not currently know for certain what the root issue is, but uninstalling Pikmin Bloom seems to fix a variety of problems, from massive battery drain to the apparent blocking of notifications from other apps.

Our experience so far

Our first couple of days with Pikmin Bloom seemed to go well. The game wasn’t particularly fantastic at launch, and our Pikmin Bloom first impressions feature reflected the game’s relative lack of instant gratification as such. This game may have been built on the back of Pokemon GO, but at launch it appears to be a very different monster.

Part of the game allows the user to interact with Pikmin creatures using a device’s camera. I tried this feature on a Google Pixel 6 running Android 12. It was quite unstable – surprisingly so, given the high level of accuracy delivered by a similar feature on Pokemon GO.

This game requires that users install Google Fit to work. It encourages the user to be healthy, to get out and walk around, and to use one’s phone to spread the cheer of Pikmin around the world with persistent tracking of flower elements on a virtual map.

At launch, this game used more battery life than any other app on the Pixel 6 I was using. It would seem that I was not alone in finding Pikmin a giant battery drain. It was only after I’d uninstalled the game and found a batch of notifications from other apps waiting for me that I realized the other issues the app had caused.

Issues linked to Pikmin Bloom

If we take a peek at a comment made on Reddit by ElegyD today, we see a succinct list of issues that a number of Android users have experienced at the launch of Pikmin Bloom.

Notifications stopped appearing while other apps weren’t fully open. Google Play Store became finicky – appearing unable to “Update All” apps, appearing unable to download apps all the way to 100%. Android Auto (wireless) stopped functioning. Significant battery drain – far more than Pokemon GO, with its similar background tracking features for on-the-go gameplay.

If we take a peek at comments from Antelmo24 and other Google Pixel 6 users, we see similar issues, and similar solutions. We see similar issues with Google Pixel 4 XL users (as shown in the image above, from the official Pikmin Bloom Community page), also running Android 12.

Theories for issue

In Android 12, there is a feature called App Standby Bucket. This feature should, by all means, push Pikmin Bloom down to a Restricted Bucket as it “consumes a great deal of system resources, or may exhibit undesirable behavior.”

Instead, it may be that Pikmin Bloom pushes other apps to lower buckets as it requires such an intense amount of resources. As Google Developers suggests, “the system places your app in a less restrictive bucket if the user interacts directly with your app.”

Once Pikmin Bloom is running and notifications are halted for other apps, notifications appear again once the user interacts directly with said app. It might very well be that Pikmin Bloom’s location tracking has kicked the bucket, so to speak. We won’t know for certain until we’ve done some additional testing – we shall see!

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You Can Now Easily Install Any Android App on Windows 11

Android apps arrived on Windows 11 not too long ago, but there’s still one big issue: Windows only supports the Amazon Android app store, which has less than a fourth of the apps that can be found on Google Play. But there’s a solution in the form of WSATools, a utility from engineering student Simone Franco that not only allows you to install any Android app, but also makes the process much easier.

Around the time of the announcement of Windows 11, we received confirmation that users would be able to sideload, or unofficially install, any Android app on Windows 11. The problem is that the process is tedious. It requires multiple downloads from separate sources, a lot of tweaking, and some time in the command line.

WSATools deals with all of that in the background. After you load it up, it will automatically install the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) — essential for sideloading apps — and ask what Android app you want to install. The process is as seamless as installing Android apps through the Amazon Appstore.

And that’s great news because Android apps work excellently on Windows 11. The limited number of available apps on Amazon work well, as do many APKs — the file extension associated with Android apps. It’s important to note that performance when sideloading apps can’t be guaranteed, so proceed at your own risk.

To access Android apps on Windows 11 right now, you need to be a Windows Insider (we have guidance on how to join in our how to install Windows 11 guide). You also need WSATools from the Microsoft Store, which was just updated to fix a bug that caused ADB installation to get stuck.

Although sideloading Android apps is much easier on Windows 11 now, it’s not without risks. The most important thing to know is that a sideload is an unofficial install. At best, that could mean apps don’t perform as well as they do on native hardware, or that you run into bugs that developers may not be inclined to fix.

At worst, you could encounter malicious code. You can’t just download an APK file from Google Play, so you have to seek out third-party sources. APKMirror is one of the more trustworthy options, as the site doesn’t host any pirated or paid apps. It also cross-checks unchangeable APK certificates to verify that apps are legit (make sure to look for an icon indicating this is the case).

Still, sideloading carries risks regardless of the installation method or source of the APK, so proceed at your own risk. Although we always knew that users would be able to sideload Android apps on Windows 11, it’s nice to see the community take advantage of Android’s open-source nature to make the process easier.

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Netflix starts rolling out mobile games to all Android subscribers

Netflix is taking a big step forward with its gaming ambitions. Starting today, all subscribers can play five mobile games on Android devices at no extra cost by downloading them from the Google Play store on phones and tablets. The games will be available through the Netflix app starting on November 3rd as part of a gradual rollout. As for iOS users, they can access the games at a later date.

In August, Netflix started testing games in its Android app in Poland with Stranger Things 1984 and Stranger Things 3. The test expanded to Spain and Italy the following month with three other casual games — Shooting Hoops, Teeter Up and Card Blast — none of which are connected to Netflix shows or movies.

The games have no ads or in-app purchases. You can access them on your phone or tablet by going to the games section of the app’s homepage or through the games tab. Once you select a game, you can download it from the Google Play Store or (soon) the App Store, and play it via the Netflix app.

Games will default to the preferred language in your Netflix profile. However, if a game isn’t yet available in that language, it will default to English. Some games will work offline too.

Everyone with a profile on a Netflix account can play the games without the need for a separate subscription. However, the games aren’t available on kids profiles. Users who have set up a PIN to prevent access to adult profiles will need to enter their code to play games too.

After experimenting with interactive shows and movies over the last few years, Netflix has made it clear it’s eager to gain a bigger foothold in gaming. During its Q2 earnings call in July, the company said its most serious gaming push to date would start on mobile. 

Netflix says the initial batch of five titles are just the beginning of its gaming aspirations. In September, the company bought a game studio for the first time in the form of Oxenfree developer Night School Studio.

“Just like our series, films and specials, we want to design games for any level of play and every kind of player, whether you’re a beginner or a lifelong gamer,” Mike Verdu, Netflix vice president of game development, wrote in a blog post.

Update 11/2 2:15PM ET: Clarifying the rollout timeline on Android.

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Why Having Android Apps in Windows 11 Is a Game Changer

Microsoft finally rolled out the much-anticipated ability to download Android apps on the Windows 11 Insider Preview, and it is turning out to be a game changer. For tablet devices like the Surface Pro 8, Android apps feel like a natural fit.

Learning from the experience of using iPhone apps on an iPad or Mac, or Android apps in Chrome OS, it feels like Microsoft just took a significant step toward marrying software with Surface hardware. Windows 11 itself made a big difference, but now with Android apps available in Windows 11, the 2-in-1 dream is finally coming to fruition.

Getting apps is easy

With the latest Windows Insider beta of Windows 11 already installed on my Surface Pro 8, getting Android apps up and running was simple as could be. Yet, I do want to note that not everyone running Windows 11 will get this experience.

For now, you’ll need to be a Windows Insider. Microsoft is still keeping Android apps in Windows 11 as a feature exclusive to the “beta branch” of Windows 11 until beta testing is complete so it can gather proper feedback. Enrolling a PC to this branch, though, is safe, and it takes less than five minutes.

Once up and running with the beta version of Windows 11, installing Android apps is quite simple. Just update the Microsoft Store app to the latest version, and search for “Amazon Appstore.” Install it following the instructions on the screen (I just needed to click “OK”) and the Windows Subsystem for Android will take care of things in the background automatically.

From there, I opened up the dedicated Amazon Appstore, clicked a listing, and hit the Install button. Android apps show exclusively on the Amazon Appstore, but the apps install right to your Start Menu, without the need to go digging.

From there, I was downloading apps left and right, and my Surface Pro 8 finally felt like a proper tablet.

The performance is just right

The Windows Subsystem for Android and performance in task manager.

In opening up Android apps on Windows on my Surface Pro 8 — like the Kindle app, the Amazon App Store, and Subway Surfers — I never felt any slowdowns. I expected things to run with some lag due to the underlying virtualization, but the Surface Pro 8’s hardware managed to keep up, using up to 1.6GB of RAM maximum for the Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA).

Here’s why I need to talk about performance to look at why this all just works right. Android apps in Windows run under the WSA — essentially an Android virtual machine in the background of the operating system. It’s part of the reason Microsoft requires 8GB of RAM for things to work, and why things end up feeling so native.

In fact, over on Reddit, someone managed to run Geekbench testing on the WSA by sideloading the Android Geekbench 5 app on Windows 11. On an XPS 13 7390 2-in-1, the WSA scored 997 in single-core testing, and 3,122 in multi-core testing. That’s compared to the 1,181 Single-Core Score and the 3,642 Multi-Core scores of native Windows 11.

The secret sauce? Microsoft says it closely partnered with Intel.

Remember when people first benchmarked Windows 10 running virtualized on M1 Macs and said it was better than running it natively on a Surface Pro X? It is true that this is a different situation, but the Android virtualization on Windows 11 seems pretty impressive, if not close to the ARM-based app emulation Apple has accomplished on its own hardware.

The secret sauce? Microsoft says it partnered closely with Intel. Intel’s Bridge Technology enables ARM-only apps to run on AMD and Intel devices.

When it comes to overall performance, Android apps feels like they run on the Surface Pro 8 just like Windows apps do. Comparatively, it’s like opening up an iPad and running an iPhone app. Everything works fine. Windows didn’t freeze, nor does it skip a beat. With Windows 11 being as optimized as it is already thanks to the way it handles foreground tasks and CPU processes, Android apps feel right at home.

It works natively

Android apps on Windows 11 running natively.

Android apps on my Surface also look and feel like native Windows 11 apps. When I open an Android app, it has a title bar just like a Windows app does. I can close the app, size it how I want, and even use Windows 11’s Snap Group feature with that Android app. And the Android apps integrates itself into the Windows 11 Start Menu, Taskbar, and even the clipboard.

All around, Windows 11 Android apps feel like they belong. On a Surface Pro 8 device, in particular, it feels even better. I even get to use the new Touch keyboard to type in Android apps. The 120 Hz screen means that the Kindle Android app feels alive, and games like Subway Surfers really make me feel like I’m part of the action. Sideloaded Android apps like Sketchbook work with the Surface Slim Pen 2 as well.

It’s a big contrast to what happens when you try to run iOS apps on Mac devices. The apps are clunky, have the same touch controls as iPads or iPhones, and don’t support touch. Even on iPads, running an iPhone app under emulation doesn’t give you a windowed mode. Instead, the app goes full-screen. Microsoft is onto something here, and it’s unlocking the Surface’s full potential.

The door is wide open

Sideloaded Android apps in Windows 11.

Android is open source, so that leaves the door wide open for developers and the community. I initially spent a lot of time on my Surface Pro 8 playing with the 50 apps already available in the Amazon App Store. However, it is possible to sideload any Android app you’d like, leaving the door wide open for more ways to enjoy Surface.

Doing so requires turning the WSA to developer mode, as well as the use of Android’s Android Debug Bridge (ADB) developer tools, the Windows terminal, and an APK file for the Aurora app store. (Try this at your own risk. We don’t recommend doing this and Digital Trends is not responsible for damage to your computer.)

This is something that used to be possible on M1 Macs. You could have used a third-party program to sideload any iOS app, but Apple quickly shut it down. On a Surface, and with Android being open source, plus the additional command line tools, I was able to use my own apps from third-party sources. However, apps that need Google Play services (Snapchat or Chrome, for example) do not work since WSA does not support this.

Yet on my Surface Pro 8, these apps felt better and performed better than Windows versions. Instagram’s Android app felt the same way as it did on my Pixel 4XL, with full controls. Microsoft Teams’ Android app also felt a lot more laggy compared to the desktop version, and even integrates with the Windows 11 notification center.

While things are still in beta for now, this early version of Android on Windows 11 impresses. On Surface devices, apps feel great, look great, and perform great. Things can only get better from here on out.

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