Thursday, February 28, 2013

Smart Launcher for Android

From time to time I look at my phone and think it's time to rethink my setup. In times like those, you'll find me searching through the personalization section of the Play Store. This time, I found Smart Launcher.



Smart Launcher is a casual minimalistic user's dream. Instead of homescreens, you are instead met with the "flower" - a ring of 6 icons which will launch your camera, music, dialer, Internet, gallery, SMS apps, and the camera (as far as I can tell they aren't interchangeable, but you can set the browser/music app you want to open etc.). You have the option of 4 icon styles which are pre - installed. Also on the home screen is the clock widget. The paid version supports additional widgets, however the free version doesn't.

This set-up is perfect for anybody who uses their phone as...well...a phone. It's simple, but you can't put games or other apps on the 'flower'...meaning you'll always have to go into the app drawer for all those apps you use all the time. This isn't a big deal, but I don't really like it. It would be great if the developer (GinLemon) would let users personalize the apps launched by hitting the icons. The button in the bottom left that looks like a grid is the app drawer button.

The app drawer is modified as much as the 'home screen' is. To get to it, either tap the grid icon in the bottom left of the home screen, or drag your finger from the left edge. The launcher automatically sorts your apps into groups (communication, internet, games, media, utility, and settings). From there you can organize them either alphabetically or by most often used. Unfortunately, like the homescreen these 6 folders aren't changeable either. You can however manually move an app to another folder - but the icons on the left and names of the folders are permanent.

Smart Launcher does a great job putting apps in all the right folders, and I'd assume that he somehow does this through the Play Store - finding which apps are in which categories and then going from there.

Smart Launcher is a fresh take on how how Android could look, and it's very sleek. For non-tech-savvy users, it's perfect. You can't get lost, and everything is 4 touches away tops (home, swipe left, tap on the group, then again on the app). You can find the app in the Google Play Store, where it's average rating is 4.6/5.


Monday, February 25, 2013

HP's new Slate 7 tablet

HP just announced a new tablet. Currently, they are the #1 computer manufacturer in America - but their last attempt at a tablet crashed and burned. There were very few survivors.

Not everybody knows about the TouchPad, but it was HP's first attempt at a tablet. It ran Web OS - an evolution of the software that ran the old Palm phones. They couldn't sell any until they reduced the price from $600 to $99. Yes, it was a similar situation to the BlackBerry Playbook. Funny how companies think they can release their first tablet and price it the same as the iPad. Hahaha.

Earlier when I herd that HP will be releasing the Slate 7, I was shocked. After reading about it a bit, it started to make some more sense. This time around, they are trying to tackle the tablet market from the opposite end - the Slate 7 is a budget 7" tablet. My main concern is that this is a new segment of the market, pioneered last year by Asus, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble, and it's crazy hot right now. Not only those 3 companies, but now Acer, Apple, and another dozen or so manufacturers have joined in again. The Slate 7 is running Android this time around, which is a good change from Web OS the TouchPad ran. It's got a dual core A9 processor, a relatively low-res screen (1024X600), 2 cameras and not much else. I'm worried for HP - they seem almost desperate to get a foot in the mobile door, because laptop and desktop sales are plummeting.

What do I think of this? I think HP needs to crack into the mobile market if it wants to remain relevant in the consumer market, but they aren't going to get far just with the Slate 7. The 7" market is booming, but if consumers know about the Nexus 7, this HP tablet will be a tough sell. The Nexus 7 costs only $30 more than the Slate 7, but comes with 16GB instead of 8GB, has a higher res screen, a quad core processor, and the latest software straight from Google.

HP needs to wow consumers before they can get widespread adoption, and while the Slate 7 doesn't look like it will quite do the trick, it's a good start getting one of their products out there. HP looks like it's beginning to change it's brand into a more mobile based company, which is very important to today's consumers. They need the Slate 7 to succeed if they want to get any recognition in the harsh mobile sector.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Falcon Pro for Twitter hits Token limit and asks for users to sign petition



Falcon Pro is by far my favourite Twitter app. The developer is actively adding new features, fixing bugs and take requests for new features. Whenever I have had a problem, a quick tweet to them and they have either told me what the fix is or told me they will fix in the next update.
Suddenly, Falcon Pro has reached its Twitter imposed 100, 000 user token limit and all within 3 months of leaving BETA. This is the limit of users Twitter will allow the app to connect to their account. One hundred thousand users sounds like a lot, but not when it's clearly explained.

A token is taken up by the app out of its stock of 100, 000, when a user uses the app to connect to their Twitter account (this is when you input your email and password). If that user then decides to no longer use the app (for what ever reason), then that token is still taken. It doesn't automatically get revoked when/if the user deletes the app from their device. This means their could be hundreds (if not thousands) of tokens taken up by users who no longer use the app and have deleted the app from their device. The only way to free up a token for the app is to log on to your account on the Twitter website, go to the 'Apps' section of your settings and revoke access for that app.
Click this to see all the apps you've allowed to access your Twitter account.
Click this to see all the apps you've allowed to access your Twitter account.
Sadly, not many people know about this, so if won't release these tokens for new users to come along and use the app.

What does this mean for Falcon Pro's current users? Nothing. Unless you want to use it on a new device. It also means that the developer will no longer get any new customers, as new users cannot use the app. This could also potentially cause problems for the stores that sell the apps. If a new user were to download the app having paid the £0.64/€0.73/$0.99, then finds the app is no longer accepting new tokens. If they don't return to the Play store within 15 minutes of the purchase, they would be out-of-pocket. In the Apple App Store, users would have to go through Apple for a refund explaining why.
In this case, the developer, Joaquim Vergès, was quick to add a disclaimer on the front of the Play Store description to state that the app would no longer accept new users for the time being.

In an effort to resolve this, Vergès has taken to Twitter to ask his users to sign a petition he will send to Twitter to get the block removed or extended. At the time of writing, over 2000 people had signed it. Personally, I signed it straight away and retweeted the petition to keep this fantastic app on the market and continuously improved.

You can sign a copy of the petition here and download it from the play store (when this mess is resolved) here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Best of the Best: Smartphones

This is the 2013 edition of the post that began on /r/PickAnAndroidForMe - "Powerhouse Phone List". It's going to go through all the best phones available, but this time also covering other platforms. This list is in No particular order, and formatted the same way as the old post (note: TL;DR means "Too long; Didn't read", and is basically a summary). Prices will vary depending on where you buy the phone, and not all phones will be available in every market.

Android phones

Samsung Galaxy S 4 (price not confirmed) - Android's new figurehead. Samsung's Galaxy S lineup has hit a home-run each time, and the S4 looks to continue this trend. It's got the best hardware specs out there, with the software features few will use, but are nice to have anyways. Depending on the market, it will either have the Exynos Octa-core (8 processors! Whoa!) or the Snapdragon 600 processor. The Octa-core uses the big.LITTLE format. This means that there are 2 quad core processors that toggle between them depending on use (heavyweight 1.6GHz A-15 and power efficient 1.2GHz A-7 processors). Although this phone lacks any single "wow" factor, it is clearly an improvement on the best selling android phone ever, the S3. TL;DR: The S4 is the best all-round android phone, making no compromises.

HTC One (not to be confused with 2012's One X/S/V) - HTC is back. HTC have had some trouble in 2012. OK - they had a lot of trouble, but that should all be over because they made the One really good. On paper the camera looks like ts from 2009 (its 4MP "ultrapixels"), but it is the best damn 4MP camera on Earth, taking better pictures than most13MP cameras on smartphone of today. It also has "BoomSound" with two amazing speakers (on the front of the phone!). HTC also rejigged their UI (Sense 5) again, and is starting to come back to it's former glory. It also uses a new Snapdragon 600 processor - the newest Qualcomm chip (an upgrade from the S4 PRO).TL;DR: HTC is putting all it's weight behind this hardware heavyweight.

Nexus 4 ($300/350 unlocked or ~$150 on contract) - the Google phone. This phone was made by LG (don't worry though, it's hardware is good quality) but has no bogus software put on it - only stock android will be found on a Nexus. This is the android that Google (the maker of Android) envisioned, and not tinkered with by any manufacturer. It doesn't have as many features as say Samsung's TouchWiz skin, but it does look slick. It's the best phone for the cost: it's got a great quad core processor (S4 PRO) with 2GB of RAM. The screen is another huge plus, as it's one of the best available. LG and Google did skimp out a bit to bring the cost down though...the camera isn't amazing. Totally usable, but low-light pictures are horrid. Also, there's no LTE. Battery life wasn't great at launch, but with the latest update (4.2.2) it seems to have gotten better. About updates - because manufacturers don't have to re-jig with the software, it will always get updates first. TL;DR: Updates, inexpensive, stock android. What more could you want?

Sony Xperia Z (price not official, likely ~$200 on contract or ~$600 off contract) - delectable, yet durable. Sony hasn't really been known to produce 'epic' smartphones, but the Z looks really good. It's main attraction is that it's kind of looking a bit like Nokia - trying to produce indestructible phones. The Z is water resistant up to 1m for 30 minutes. Toilet - 0, Sony - 1. The glass is also "shatter resistant", and the entire thing is dust-proof. Even with all that protection, Sony managed to pack in the standard (among top-tier phones): quad core S4 processor, 2GB of RAM, 5" 1080p screen, 13MP camera, and 2330mAh battery. Sony also makes a different varient - the Sony Xperia ZL which gives up the glass back and waterproofing in favor of LTE and a slimmer design. TL;DR: This is a very rugged phone that makes no compromises.

Samsung Galaxy Note 2 (~$700 off contract, ~$200 on contract) - The 'Big One'. Samsung's engineering team seems to throw weird ideas out there and see what sticks. The original Note was a full inch bigger than other leading phones when it came out, and the Note 2 is even bigger. At 5.5", there isn't really anything bigger than it. Because it's so huge, Sammy could fit in a giant 3100mAh battery, and their own Exynos quad core processor (1.6GHz) plus 2GB of RAM. This is the oldest phone on the list, and as such it doesn't come ontop for a few reasons - mainly the screen. While most new flagship phones are coming out with 5" 1080p screens, the Note 2 stretches 720p across 5.5", making for a pixel density of 267PPI (pixels per inch). Even with that drawback, it's an amazing phone. TL;DR: Giant, not a single sacrifice. Easily one of the best, even nearly 1 year after it's launch.

Lenovo Ideaphone K900 (price unknown) - the Chinese superpower. When you think of amazing quality, Lenovo doesn't come to mind. But neither does LG, but they're on the right track now as well. The main thing this phone brings, is an Intel processor. I can tell how excited you all are (sarcasm), but you really should be excited. Intel's mobile processors are top-notch. Their single core 2GHz processor found in the Motorola Razr i almost matched the performance of the Teggra 3 processor, and often exceeding dual core processors. The K900 comes with a dual core 1.8GHz Intel processor, and when it was announced at CES is smashed benchmarks. Other than the processor (I've gone on long enough), you get a 5.5" 1080p screen, 2GB of RAM, and android verson 4.2. TL;DR: China can make amazing phones. Consider importing one.

Windows Phone

Nokia Lumia 920 (~$500 off contract, ~$100 on contract) the Windows Phone. It's thick, it's heavy, and it's awesome. Nokia really out did themselves on this one. Specs aren't comparable to android phones (WP8 is so much less of a specs hog than android), but if you really want to know it's got a dual core S4 1.5GHz processor and 1GB of RAM. It almost has as many added features as Samsung phone's, too. With PureView camera technology, CityLens mapping, and other features, you'll have it all. Windows Phone 8 runs really smooth, with beautiful menus and a unique interface. WP8 doesn't have tons of apps though, but more are coming every day, especially with Microsoft throwing cash at it until its awesome (ahem: XBox). TL;DR: HIPSTERS! And anybody who wants something flashy, yet basic.

iOS

iPhone 5 (~$750 off contract, ~$200 on contract) Tried and true. We all know that the iPhone doesn't bring anything revolutionary, but "it just works". Everything is pretty easy to do, and fast too! The dual core 1.3GHz processor doesn't sound like much, but it doesn't slow down in games at all. That's just the way of iOS. Apps are top-notch as well - not only the number, but especially the quality. Android is really just starting to catch up to the iPhone as far as apps go, and the iPhone runs the same games smoother (generally). The camera isn't the best, but it's certainly up there. Same goes for battery life. It is also the smallest of any phone on this list - a 4" screen, and incredibly thin and light. TL;DR: Solid phone, super app selection, and the most accessories! Best selling phone on the planet for a reason.

BlackBerry

Z10 (~$600 off contract, ~$150 on contract) Didn't expect to see a BlackBerry phone on a "best of the best" list, did ya? The Z10 is BlackBerry's 'savoir phone', and it does a pretty good job at it too. BB10 just released, but they've already got nearly all the major apps. You now get revamped BB10 (now with video chat), and a unique interface (no buttons!). Everything is controlled by gestures - to go home, swipe up from the bottom bezel. For the menu, swipe down from the bottom. To peek at your notifications, swipe up, then to the right, and everything is there. I haven't read one review about the Z10 saying they were disappointed with it, but they've all said the keyboard is legendary. Too bad the battery life isn't quite what it used to be (on BB7), but at least BB's now have a competitive device. TL;DR: multitasking is top-notch, everything is fluid, the Z10 is the best phone to get S#*T done. 

I've tried to be as un-bias as possible. Again, prices will vary, and these are only guidelines. Information is correct to my knowledge, but if I goofed something soundoff in the comments.

HTC One Announcment

Just minutes ago HTC announced their new flagship phone, the One. BGR, Engadget, Phandroid, Android Central, the Verge and a ton other blog sites already have a quick blurb up on their sites about their first impressions.

So far, it seems that HTC has put enormous importance on the One, and it could truly be the One to rule them all. It has new "BoomSound", which is basically marketing talk for the biggest speakers on any phone, provided through two giant speakers on the front just above the screen (where the normal speaker grill is), and at the very bottom.

Another area HTC has innovated in is the camera department. Anybody know what an "ultrapixel" is? It seems that HTC has decided to use multiple sensors to basically take different pictures, and then stitch them together (although this reportedly reduces to final image down to 4MP - but a 4MP picture that looks as good as a 13MP pic). Sounds similar to the idea of the Nokia 808 PureView...reducing the pixels into one picture. The best part? The new One has optical image stabilization, so shake that camera a bit - you'll still get a pretty steady image.

HTC has done something interesting though - they've changed their Sense UI to something completely different. It looks a bit like WP8 mixed with some BB10 multitasking and a bit like Flipboard as well. I'm sure some hands on videos on YouTube will be springing up real quick.

As far as specs go, it uses Snapdragon's new 600 quad core processor clocked at 1.7GHz, promising epic performance, and of course 2GB of RAM. They also included 32GB of storage, with optional 64GB instead. The One also packs 1080p full HD into a 4.7" screen...which seems ridiculous.

Sounds great, but when can you get your paws on one? The answer on the street is March. Where? According to Android Central, there are 185 carriers worldwide that will offer this new beast phone. Click the AC link for their article.

It looks like the One has everything modern smartphone users want. Sense 5 and the Snapdragon 600 chips are both meant to save on some battery, so that shouldn't hold this One back. Watch out Samsung - the pressure is now on you and your March Galaxy S 4 announcement.

YouTube has some good videos up of the One already, here's a great looking teaser, and here's a quick hands on demo video. HTC also just put up the official site for the One, and you can find that here on HTC's website.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Blackberry Super Bowl Ad: Missed the mark

Blackberry Super Bowl Ad:  Missed the mark.

Like most Americans, watching the Super Bowl has become a ritual and so has watching the commercials.  With such popular commercials such as the E*Trade baby and the Darth Vader kid, Super Bowl commercials have high expectations (Especially with the price tag they put on them).  So I was very excited when rumors stated that Blackberry was creating a commercial for the Super Bowl.  

My feelings of the commercial when it aired can be summed up in three words:  they botched it.  I understand the whole premise and what they were going for as I have been keeping up with Blackberry 10 for almost a year.  The average consumer, on the other hand has probably not been keeping up with the Blackberry 10 launch  except for the past couple of weeks.  This commercial was Blackberry’s chance to show America that Blackberry is back and it isn’t your dad’s smartphone.  This was their chance to show the roughly 110 million people watching that Blackberry is back in the fight to be cool again.

Blackberry needed to show off what it does best which is amazing keyboards, superb security, and BBM.   All I got from the commercial was that it cannot turn tanker trucks into rubber ducks and it cannot make you explode into a glorified smoke bomb.  They should have showed the both Z10 and Q10 devices in full for starters.  They are great looking phones and the Q10 contains what Blackberry does best, physical keyboard.  They also should have showed the Blackberry HUB, their messaging app.  Combining these features with a blurb about their 70,000 plus apps would have been an eye opener to the demographic that they need to win back, which is the Apple and Android crowd.  The people that knew of the name Blackberry but never have owned one, because of the lackluster support Blackberry put into its App store.  

This was their one big shot at getting a core demographic and they went backwards instead of moving forwards.

Hello, I’m Brooks and I am a crackberry addict.

Hello, I’m Brooks and I am a crackberry addict.  

I have had a smartphone since 2005.  I majored in Mechanical Engineer during my college tenure and during one summer  I had an internship with a small company that was a Nextel representative.  I was brought on to be a “phone paramedic” where a client calls us and we go to them to fix their phone.  I received my first Blackberry at that point and it was a 7520.

I loved this phone, it was a brick but it made me feel important.  I was rarely in the office so I responded to a lot of emails on my Blackberry.  The keyboard took a little getting used  to since I had never had a smartphone before but once I got the hang of it I never looked back.  The keyboard on Blackberry was insurmountable.  That phone never left my side as I worked a lot  and loved having the internet, even though it was horrible), on my phone.  I learned everything about that phone; how to fix them, how to set them up.  I also  gave 1 hour training sessions to new users (saved the ringtones until last because after that I lost them).  

I worked for the company off and on until 2008 and then phones that I carried were, in order; 7520, 8700, 8830 World Edition, 8330.  They were all great devices, with my favorite being the 8330.  I just loved the trackball and they were very easy to replace  if you needed to.  After I left the company my personal phone was an iPhone 3g, but I could never get used to the keyboard.  The apps were nice but I never downloaded a ton and rarely used them.  I also, really missed BBM (Blackberry Messenger), as all my friends still had Blackberry..The internet on the iPhone was amazing, a lot better than on the Blackberry.  I had the iPhone for about a year and then switch to the wonderful Blackberry Bold 9000.  What a lovely phone and I miss it everyday.  

I got rid of the Bold for the brand new Torch that came out on ATT.  It was a very neat phone with the slider and touch screen but the keyboard took a hit compared to the Bold.  The Torch left a sour taste in my mouth as the slider got really annoying and internet still wasn’t up to par with the other smartphones.  It wasn’t a bad phone on all fronts but it wasn’t for me.  I decided to try out the Android operating system when the Motorola RAZR came out.  Android is a nice operating system, but yet again I cannot get used to the keyboard and I refuse to pay for an app with a keyboard.  

I currently still have my RAZR and as soon as the new keyboard Blackberry comes out in America, I will be getting it.  I am so excited for Blackberry and cannot wait until I get my hands on that sexy physical keyboarded phone.  

HTC - Will it be enough?

Now is an eventful time for HTC - they just dropped out of the 'top 10 Smartphone manufacturers' list (as mentioned by Android Headlines in their aticle), and tomorrow (Feb 19) HTC have a major event lined up, as teased on their site in a very dominant position. With both of these events, and Mobile World Congress (MWC) coming up very quick, it is vital that HTC makes a huge impact with their new phone(s) if they want to stay influential. That's the big question, but right now HTC just has to answer the question "will it be enough"?

OK, let's have a look at HTC's last major release - the HTC One lineup (of 2012 - the One X, One S, and One V). It looked very promising, but there were a few...weird things. First off, the One X looked amazing, performed great, has the best camera and screen many have seen...it had everything going for it. The X really pushed the envelope when it came to flagship phones when it first came out...for the most part. Oddly, HTC decided to make the One S very close to the X as far as specs were concerned. It has a slightly smaller, lower resolution screen, smaller battery, but the same processor/storage/RAM. Weird how they are so similar, but one was considered 'flagship status', and the other 'midrange'. The One V was an amazing little phone, which brought a lot of punch for a pretty low price.

How did the 2012 lineup do? It was Titanic. Let me explain. Like the Titanic, it had tons of hype, and was the 'next big thing' of it's day, but when it came time to actually performing it sank. The entire lineup didn't have good enough battery life. The other, larger factor was public awareness. Every tech blog site had numerous posts every day about the One series, but the average consumer doesn't read anything like that. In the general public's eye, Samsung makes the only good smartphones. We all know this isn't true...although it's understandable because I know I've never seen an HTC ad. Every other ad I see (on YouTube at least) is about Samsung's "next big thing".

So, back to the present. Will HTC's February 19th announcement wow the world enough to bring them out of their downward spiral? I really hope so. HTC was one company that really pioneered Android, and they do make quality hardware (likely the best hardware running any android phone). HTC's timer just passed the 24 hour mark, and I can't wait to hear about the new HTC phone(s) - the M7 and/or HTC One.

Get to know me: QandAndroid

Hey guys, you found this new site, great! I'm going to be writing for the Cordless Core, and I thought I'd just leave this here to see if anybody wanted to get to know any of the writers at all (it's by no means mandatory, of course).

I first got into mobile tech way back in 2009, with the iPod classic 2nd gen, followed that up with an iPod Touch 2nd gen, and then later upgraded to an iPod Touch 4th gen. Sure, these aren't phones...but they were my first step into the world of mobile. iPods were great - they offered a ton of great games, apps (good old Tap Tap Revenge). Eventually I'd need a phone though.

When I got my first smartphone, the Galaxy S 2 back in the fall of 2011, I found it did everything my iPod did and more...and since then I've been more of an android guy. It's screen looked really grainy compared to the iPod Touch 4th gen's beautiful screen. Within the first 2 weeks, I'd tried out probably 8 themes, 2 keyboards, and a whole ton of lockscreens. From that point onwards, I was hooked. When my trusty S2 mysteriously stopped turning on, I went to Kijiji and bought a used HTC One X. I clashed with Sense, and the multitasking and poor battery life led to me reselling it at a $20 loss. I went back to my old S2 (after I got it fixed), and decided to get my feet wetter than they already were. I installed my first custom ROM - CM10 (how original). Then I herd news of the Nexus 4 coming back into stock. It was really tempting, but I ended up deciding it would be the phone I stick with. I put my S2 up on a number of classifieds sites and soon sold it - although the Nexus 4 wasn't ready for ordering yet. I used my brother's old BlackBerry Curve (still on BB6) for about 2 weeks until the Nexus came. Ohh my, what a chance that was. The BB stock browser couldn't load reddit because of the pitiful amount of memory. Good thing Opera Mini was available from the App World (because nothing else was). Now I'm back to Dolphin Browser, and loving it a ton.

As far as tablets go, I had a Nexus 7 until an unfortunate incident in which I shattered the digitizer...oops. It was great while it lasted though.

So in short...iPod classic --> iPod touch (gens 2 & 4) --> Galaxy S 2 --> One X --> BB Curve --> Nexus 4. Also owned the Nexus 7 for about 4 months.

As far as my knowledge of mobile goes...I really kind of went nuts after I got my S2. I started lurking around any android site I could find. The first forums style pages I wrote on was at Yahoo Answers (don't judge) answering "which phone should I get" questions...but that only lasted around 3 months. Then I found Reddit. Since then, I've mostly hung around /r/PickAnAndroidForMe, with frequent stops at /r/Android, /r/Mobile, /r/iPhone, /r/WindowsPhone, /r/BlackBerry...basically I try to know all the hardware possible.

Every week I'm listening to a bunch of podcasts covering mobile technology, and I had a bit of experience writing for my own personal android blog...then I thought it was time to go all-out mobile and find writers who could help bring news from all the mobile platforms onto one site...and then the Cordless Core was born.