A Wish List for Android 4.3

HTC1_BestofGoogle_final_revThe long wait for an updated version of Android may soon be over. With a Google press event scheduled for next week and some 4.3 leaks, many sites are reporting we will see an updated version of the Nexus 7 and a bump to a refreshed version of Android.

As someone who spends a lot of time with an HTC One and Nexus 7 (although the latter is clearly close to giving up the ghost) I have a few hopes for what Google will put forth in the newest version of Android.

  • A better stock messaging app: Yes, there are plenty of third-party alternatives, but those running stock Android have the best messaging that 2007 can provide. It does not handle MMS well and jumps and flashes far too frequently during intense messaging sessions. It is one of the reasons I have stuck with Sense on my One – the messaging app is far better. [Read more...]

Flayvr Brings Order to Chaos of Photos

Flayvr Image 4Organizing and editing photos are quite the rage these days. So before you give them all to Google, take a look at the more independent-minded flayvr.

The iOS/Android app attempts to sort your images into albums, making them easier to share with others or look back at for those fond memories. It is designed to eliminate the constant scrolling and hassle that comes with trying to find that particular image.

“flayvr redefines the way we consume and share our favorite life moments by magically organizing photos and videos. flayvr is instant, hassle-free and allows for a seamless shareable interactive experience across all Android devices,” said Ron Levy , flayvr’s Founder and CEO, in a statement. “Launching on Android is an opportunity for us to share the best of what flayvr has to offer with new audiences across the world and help them bring back to life millions of photos and videos that are stuck on devices.”

While many of these tools can be found in other applications, flayvr does a good job of creating a pleasing interface. It also may be a welcome replacement on Android devices for some of the rather annoying add-ons that manufacturers add to the gallery (I particularly dislike how HTC Sense wants to fill your gallery with Facebook photos). [Read more...]

Sonic the Hedgehog Launches on Android

Sonic 1_Screenshot 1The 16-bit masterpiece that stole many hours of my childhood is now on Android. Sonic the Hedgehog can be had for $2.99 on Google Play; it is still available for that same price on the App Store.

The classic has been remastered for mobile devices, complete with 60 frames per second graphics. The memorable characters are there, as the gameplay is virtually the same with touch controls rethought for mobile devices.

Given the game’s excellent reception it furthers the mystery as to why Nintendo has not jumped on board with a mobile edition of its popular games. Super Mario Brothers would likely garner millions of downloads, as Sonic has done rather well on iOS with multiple four- and five-star ratings from users. [Read more...]

Follow Google I/O 2013

The rumors about a music streaming service from Google and a “Google Edition” Galaxy S4 are already swirling before the annual I/O developer conference gets started.

Find out what happens by watching the keynote here:

Nova Launcher Prime Review

nova-launcher-primeDespite’s Android’s work to clean up its interface with recent versions hardware manufacturers continue to ship flagship devices with custom User Interfaces. The two newest Android flagship devices, the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, both run the company’s latest custom skins.

While some of the add-ons are helpful (there is much about Sense 5 I actually like) they all carry some annoying baggage that can muck up the Android experience. So what to do?

Sure, you can root your device. Yet that path isn’t for everyone, and is fraught with potential issues for those not experienced enough to manipulate the inner workings of their device. A stock Android experience can be found in the Nexus 4, yet that means sacrificing LTE and dealing with abysmal battery life.

Nova Launcher is the right fix. It brings a Holo-like feel back to your device, along with an extensive list of customizations. Users can add in specific gestures, customized icons and folders, along with unique themes to put your own stamp on the device.

For $4.00, the Prime upgrade brings worthy enhancements. While some (wrongly) may balk at the cost, it is well worth paying for something that will optimize your device.

After downloading Nova Launcher, your phone will ask which launcher to use when accessing the home screen. Set Nova as default and you are ready to go. [Read more...]

Flipboard Magazines Arrive on Android

flipboard-android

Flipboard’s magazine feature, which unleashed some creative personal magazines on iOS, is now available on Android. The 2.0 update brings this along with other improvements to the app for Google’s mobile OS.

Android users can now add content throughout Flipboard into their own customized magazine. By hitting the + button on an interesting article it becomes one of the posts inside your customized publication.

And because you don’t get enough notifications, count on some from Flipboard when others comment, like, or subscribe to your magazines.

Below is the full changelog from Google Play:

-Collect and save content into your own magazines, tap the “+” button to begin
-Your magazines are public, but can be made private
-Integrated Android share: add content from the Gallery & other apps to your magazines
-Bookmarklet to add items to your magazines from a browser
-Get notifications when people like, comment or subscribe to your magazines
-Share magazines via email or social networks
-Personalized recommendations for more to read
-Search is now front & center, with improved results

Swype Now in Google Play

Swype, the keyboard that pioneered gesture-based typing, is finally available in Google Playswype-google-play. It is being offered for $0.99 as a promotion.

Previously users had to purchase the app from the company’s Web site and then load it into their device.

With Swype one can slide their finger across a keyboard instead of tapping out early key. The Swype software then will offer autocorrrect ions to increase the typing speed.

This typing method has been rather popular, as Google has implemented this technology in the stock Android keyboard. SwiftKey recently introduced SwiftKey Flow as an option in version 4 of its Android keyboard.

At $0.99 Swype is a good enough deal that many people may want to try it out. I did the same, with mixed impressions. I like the number of predictions offered for each word and the interface choices. Swype also does a good job at offering words that minimize the amount of typing, or in this case “swyping,” that one must do.

However, I find the predictive power in SwiftKey to be superior to Swype. And if gesture-based typing isn’t your thing then SwiftKey is the way to go without hesitation.

WordPress, LinkedIn Revamp UI

WordPress-for-android

Updating an app’s user interface has been rather popular lately. WordPress and LinkedIn are the latest to jump on the design craze, giving their apps a more consistent look across iOS and Android.

LinkedIn

For LinkedIn, the newest version brings a consistent design to its iOS and Android options.

Gone is the awkward home page that broke everything from the app into four different categories.

Outlook.com

Outlook.com has emerged as a strong alternative to Gmail. However, outside of Windows Phone its mobile component has been lacking, especially on Android.

The new UI in the latest update mirrors the Windows 8 interface and looks great on its own platform, but feels out-of-place on Android. Also the folders found on the desktop to not sync across to the mobile app.

While Outlook.com is a substantial improvement from Hotmail, Gmail power users who rely on labels and the strong integration that Google has built into its Android app are unlikely to be satisfied with Outlook. Nonetheless, grab the updated app to check out one of the alternatives out there in Google Play.

 

HTC One Available Today

HTCONESilver_Left_BIG

The HTC One is one of the most anticipated and best reviewed Android handsets to launch recently. Those who want to grab one of the devices can do so, beginning today.

The HTC One is available from a large number of retailers, including AT&T, Sprint, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Walmart, Target, Amazon.com, Costco, Car Toys, Sam’s Club, HSN.com, and HTC.com.

The device runs Android 4.1.2 and includes specific HTC customizations, such as HTC BlinkFeed, which streams content to one’s home screen. The One’s camera is lauded for its hi-res images and photo software HTC Zoe promises to create better organized photos. Reviewers have also praised the dual front-facing stereo speakers with HTC BoomSound.

More from the official HTC release:
[Read more...]

SwiftKey Stats Illuminate Trends

A world of SwiftKey - stats1SwiftKey has transformed our expectations of typing on a touch-screen device. SwiftKey’s keyboard has been one of the major factors in driving my switch from an iPhone to a Nexus 4 as my primary device (although that HTC One looks pretty amazing). 

The following post from Charlie Edmunds, Head of Consumer Insight for SwiftKey, looks at what the company’s data indicates about its usage worldwide. 

Last week we showed you what your SwiftKey stats mean; today we’re taking a look at the habits of SwiftKey users around the world. Based on our anonymous usage stats, we’ve got some very interesting insights about how different countries use SwiftKey and we’d love to share them.

Starting with size, the USA is the country with the most SwiftKey users – Google Play tells us that 42% of our users are in the States. But neighboring Mexico has the most productive typists, each entering 2,650 characters per day, compared to an average of 1,794. That’s enough to fill 19 tweets.

Denmark is the country with the most efficient typists – the average efficiency there is 37%, compared to 34% overall. Perhaps this is because Danish users love to use SwiftKey predictions – one in 15 of their words is chosen without typing a single letter (6.7%, vs 4.3% on average). [Read more...]

MyGlass App Live in Google Play

google-glass

Google Glass is almost here. To help fill out the experience Google has pushed the MyGlass companion app to the Play store. It requires an Android device running version 4.0.3 or higher.

The MyGlass app is designed to serve as a tool for getting one’s Glass device up and running. It provides information about your specific device along with some configuration settings.

There is a disclaimer on the app’s Google Play page about the utility of the application for those who do not have Google Glass:

If you don’t have Glass, then downloading this will be a waste of time. Sorry about that. But if you swipe the screenshots to the right you’ll see there’s a picture of a puppy in pajamas. So not a total waste of time after all.

Google has announced that its Glass devices should be shipping soon to those who were selected through its Glass Explorer program. It has also released API details and information about initial apps.

Sliding Messaging Pro, Chat Heads Liven Android Messaging

sliding-messaging-pro-update

Sliding Messaging Pro has become my favorite messaging app on Android. Despite some occasional glitches, developer Jacob Klinker has worked diligently on the project to improve the interface, which is now a far superior messaging experience than the stock Android messaging app.

The latest update is a rather radical redesign that places all of the conversations inside cards for better viewing. The original aesthetic of sliding is still there – just swipe any direction to go through the conversations or to get back to the main list. Each contact also is displayed at the top of the conversation (if you wish) for a quick glance at their information.

Unfortunately none of this will quickly take you to that profile’s contact card. This is a feature that would be a good addition in a future update.

Sliding Messaging Pro now handles MMS very well. The feature only came into being with the app recently, though it greatly improves it not only through the ability to send a picture but also as a way to send longer messages. You can set how long the message limit is prior to sending it out as an MMS. This prevents your contacts from getting several messages from you just because there was too much text.

Probably my favorite feature is one that is fairly inconsequential – Sliding Messaging Pro supports Emojis. So if you are chatting with iPhone-toting friends their green messages will at least be accented by those lovingly annoying picture messages. [Read more...]

Google Play 4.0 Continues Minimalist Design

google-play-mainGoogle’s newest redesign of its Play Store furthers its effort to create a cohesive, minimalist interface as its new branding mark. For myself Google’s design aesthetic has become more pleasant and properly blends real-world icons with a digital interface – a much preferable look to that of iOS.

This is a matter of preference, of course. The icon-based interface of iOS and its emphasis on the use of skeumorphism work well for many and serve as a useful link to the past. Also, whatever one makes of the UI of iOS, it still is the vast ecosystem of apps that make the iPhone and iPad worthy of paying attention to.

The new look brings larger icons, more content recommendations and less digital clutter. The top of the new home page contains links to the major content areas of Google Play; the icons have been tweaked to match the flatter look.

Gone are the panels which tried to squeeze too much information into a small space. The highlighted apps, movies and other features fit well inside the page; view them by scrolling down.

Those coming from the App Store may feel an instinctive pull to swipe through the promoted items. Instead you need to hit the “Read More” link to see further items from that category. Navigating is accomplished through swiping the sliding panels, which is one of the key UI characteristics of the Holo design. Watch the bar along the top to keep track of where you are. Fortunately more Android apps are beginning to use this design aesthetic, which is bringing some much-needed consistency to Android applications.

Each app page is essentially the same as the previous iteration of Google Play, save for the font changes and lightened background color. Also there is still that tight integration with Google+, which requires you have an account with Google’s social service in order to leave review or give content a +1.  [Read more...]

SnipSnap Suspends ‘Follow the Money’ Contest

snipsnap-iosCoupon-clipping app SnipSnap has nixed a contest designed to increase the social component of the network. Due to “significant mechanized entries, collusion, and fraud” the company sent an email to users announcing the suspension of the contest.

SnipSnap, a popular coupon sharing app, has been building up its sharing component and sought to use the contest as a way for users to gain additional followers. Those who gained 100 followers were eligible to win a $100 gift card.

Below is the text from the company’s email:

SnipSnappers,

We have been forced to suspend the “Follow the Money” contest (get 100 followers, win $100 gift card), due to abuse.

Over the weekend, the contest was compromised by significant mechanized entries, collusion, and fraud.

We are sorry to have to cancel the contest after just one short week, but we don’t have the manpower to investigate each and every claim, especially given the overwhelming number of false ones.

We will be reaching out to all individuals who already submitted a claim, and attempt to adjudicate accordingly. If you followed the rules of the contest and got 100 new users to follow you, you’re golden! However, if your follower count appears to be identical to other submissions, automated, or otherwise fishy, you will likely be disqualified. [Read more...]

Twitter for Android 4.0 Brings Holo-Friendly Design

twitter-for-android-update

Twitter for Android 4.0, available today in Google Play, vastly improves the Twitter interface and gives it a Holo-themed design aesthetic.

The app now includes many smooth animations, sliding panels, and larger text which pops out from the increased white space. While there is not yet a tablet-specific version, the app looks much better on a Nexus 7.

Users can swipe from one column to another instead of being forced to only tap the heading. Twitter for Android now also recommends Twitter user names and hash tags when typing a tweet.

Also I found it to be far more responsive when alerting me about @mentions or new follows.

It is another good sign for Android users, who increasingly less need to be jealous of all those applications running on the rival iPhone or iPad. Yes, there are still those current exclusives like Tempo, but even that and other apps that first debut on iOS have plans to make their way to Android.

Nonetheless, as operat
ing systems get more powerful and integrated, developers continue to respond with compelling applications that take a central role in users’ mobile computing.

Evernote Smart Notebooks Now Work with Android

evernote-moleskine-androidEvernote Smart Notebooks can finally be used with the note-taking service’s Android app. An update rolled out from Google Play early this morning which adds additional features supporting the Moleskine and Evernote Android app functionality.

The notebooks are a collaboration between Evernote and Moleskine, blending the traditional note taking of pen and paper with the evolution in digital file-keeping. Through a series of stickers users are able to take pictures of their handwritten notes for easy filing inside of Evernote. The paper is also said to be designed by Evernote for better picture quality.

The new version of the app also includes a “Page Camera,” which is designed for more accurate digitization of physical documents and pages.

The Moleskine notebooks have been available for several months in tandem with the company’s iOS apps. Today’s Android app update brings these specific Evernote features to devices powered with Google’s mobile operating system.

Those who purchase one of the Moleskine notebooks get a three-month subscription to Evernote Premium, which includes the more robust camera features, offline storage and additional space for saving files.

Evernote Premium subscribers also now have access to search in attached office documents, spreadsheets, and presentations with the latest Android app.

Google Keep for Android Review

2013-03-20 21.06.56If there has been one major hole in Google’s ecosystem it has been the lack of a native note-taking app. Google Play is filled with the likes of Evernote, Catch, and others built around idea saving. It would appear that Google saw a lot of information that was going to other services instead of its Google Drive.

Enter Google Keep - the company’s effort at recording one’s thoughts or short lists. The content in the Android app syncs in real time with Google Keep on the web (full integration isn’t there yet, but Google says it is coming). It has a clever interface that is built to mimic post-it notes without the excessive skeuomorphism of the iOS Notes app.

What I like best is how it is built for rapidly launching a new note. It is perfect for that confirmation number, address, phone number, or other snippet of information that you quickly need to take down. For example, when opening the app it is only one tap to begin writing a new note.

Another clever trick – when you click “show check boxes” it will transform the current text into a list with boxes. Feel free to tick them and clean out the to-do list.

Change the color of notes by tapping the color palette icon on the top right corner. Also, tap and hold a note to rearrange its position within the application. Each app can also be shared with Android’s excellent sharing feature, deleted, or archived. [Read more...]

Gmail for Android Adds Reply, Archive to Notification Shade

android

The Notification Shade is one of those differentiating factors in Android, so Google clearly wants to use it to its advantage. It has done so today with a tweak to its Gmail for Android app, allowing users to reply to messages or archive them directly from the notification.

Additionally, search works faster in Gmail and has more predictive options. I fond it helpful for finding email contacts or popular topics that I needed to resurrect from the vast archives.

The feature is rolling out to Google Play today. I had to manually force the update – go directly to the Gmail app page to make that happen.

Image credit: Official Gmail blog

Feedly Cures Google Reader Blues

wpid-Screenshot_2013-03-17-22-46-51.pngAfter spending some time using Feedly I began to think all the weeping and gnashing of teeth over Google Reader was overblown. Feedly is a robust, cross-platform RSS tool that all Google Reader nomads should consider as their new home.

In fact, the developers have smartly included some guidelines for customizing Feedly to look and act much like Reader. This is because Feedly has enough flexibility to give a Flipboard-like magazine experience or the utilitarian look of a traditional RSS reader.

While some have argued that RSS is past its utility, for many it still has an important function. For example, I subscribe to several product feeds from Google, Apple, Microsoft and others that aren’t designed for an imaginative layout. Such posts are short and designed for quick updates.

Power users will also want to learn Feedly’s keyboard shortcuts, which will help transition to zipping through a large number of sources.

Feedly looks great in the browser and has apps for iOS, Android, and Kindle. While Reeder and Press are both excellent apps and will likely recover from Google’s decision, Feedly has an inherent advantage with its cross-platform appeal and free price tag (the browser version has occasional advertising.) [Read more...]

Google Reader Shutdown Sends Developers Scrambling

Google-Reader

Google’s announcement that it was nixing Google Reader will not only disrupt those who use the service to read their feeds. Many of the most popular news reading apps like Reeder and Press use Google Reader to pull in their data. It makes it simple for users to quickly log in with one’s Google account credentials and see a list of all of one’s RSS feeds.

Developers were quick to react Wednesday, pledging to continue on despite what was disappointing news.

Jay Ohms, developer of the Press app for Android, said his team already is working on a solution.

“We’re as surprised as everyone to hear about the death of Google Reader,” he said. “We’ve put a ton of work into Press and will do everything we can to keep it alive and an app that people love. We’ll be looking over all our syncing options over the coming weeks, but our plan is to absolutely carry Press into the post-Google Reader world.”
[Read more...]