Archive for May, 2011
When it comes to SD cards, speed matters. If you care to plow through the numbers on SDcard.org, you can see that different cards transfer at different speeds. For Android users, this can be of great importance. If you’re constantly transferring files back and forth between your SD card and your computer, a faster card will help you do it, well, faster. It’s even more important for users, rooted and non-rooted alike, who store apps on their SD cards. A faster SD card will make those apps run smoother. If you are of the rooted class, you can actually boost your SD card’s speed with an app from the Market.
It might seem like snake oil, but the app really does work. What it does, as I learned in the accompanying xda thread, is allow your Android to read further ahead — that is, it can cache more data while the SD card process works. That might sound confusing, but liken it to peeking around the corner. Your SD card speed is linear, but you can use this app so that your device can look ahead and cache data, making the load a big quicker. Again, this is for rooted devices only, as the function requires superuser permissions. You can get SD-Booster for free from the Market.
Why are so many apps that cost money in the Apple App Store free in the Android Market? I had a friend gripe about this issue a few weeks ago, in regards to Angry Birds. Sure, the Android version has ads running over it, but the fact remains that it’s free, while it costs a few bucks on the iPhone/iPad. The reason might be as simple as this: Android users just aren’t as apt to pay for apps. At least, that’s what it feels like. For those wondering if there is any statistical backing to this anecdotal evidence, I turn you to a recent Distmo report that contains information about paid apps in the Android Market. It does seem to jibe with the general feeling about the app environment.
Google has been a little busy sending out invitations for its cloud storage service, but that hasn’t stopped others from rolling out the same. If you’re still waiting for that invite, you might want to check out a new service from mSpot. Actually, there are two new services that work hand in hand. The first is that cloud storage service. The second is streaming radio. You might like your Pandora or Slacker — even the new Slacker Premium — but mSpot’s streaming service adds a personal twist that the others don’t quite have.
The cloud storage works as you might expect. You can head over to mspot.com and sign up for a free account. From there you can upload your music, up to 5GB for free. After you download the Android app, you can access those songs from the cloud. This is clearly a feature that we’ll see more of in the coming months and years. Everyone seems to be releasing a cloud storage service, since it means streaming without using on-device memory. mSpot is also offering a premium plan, which allows you to upload 40GB and access those songs from up to five mobile devices (from the free plan you get just one device). That costs $ 3.99 per month, which is pretty reasonable given the cost of other music services.
There was something of an outcry when Google reduced the refund window on Market purchases to 15 minutes. That doesn’t give users much time to sample the application, and it forces them to do so right away. I thought it might lead to a greater preponderance of free trial versions, since there is less of an opportunity to try and then return the app. I haven’t seen much of that yet, so for now the 15-minute window is mainly an annoyance. There’s a new app, though, that can help you manage your refund windows.
Refund Timer is one of those wonderful apps that does exactly what the name suggests. When you download an application the 15-minute timer starts. The application and remaining time get laid over your screen, so you will see the full 15-minute countdown.
There are drawbacks, not least of which is that you have to eventually pay for the app. You can try it free for 72 hours, but after that you have to buy a license from within the app. I’d love to tell you how much it costs, but the app keeps crashing at that point on my device. Oops.
What’s the best way to ensure that you stick with something you start? To track every aspect of it. There’s something cathartic about recording and analyzing data when it pertains to you and something you’re trying to achieve. This is where I believe most diets go wrong. There’s really no focus, so it’s easy to slip. Even when people try to write down everything they eat, they often fail when that pad and paper isn’t in front of them. But your smartphone is with you at all times. That makes the new CalorieCount.com Android app a perfect diet and exercise accompaniment. Since you always have your phone with you, you have no excuse to not record the data.
When you download the app you’ll be prompted to either log into your CalorieCount.com account, or to create a new one. Thankfully, the creation screen is simple and straight forward; it should take you about two minutes, tops, to create an account (and if you type fast it’s even quicker). From there you’ll go to the main screen, which is a visually-pleasing, graphical screen that gives you some easy information about your intake and output. It also breaks down your nutrition intake (fat, carbs, protein) so you can see if you have an optimal distribution.
Not too long ago we looked at how you can use Google Taks on your Android. Most major mail platforms contain tasks, but I especially enjoy Google’s. It’s just a chat window in my Gmail. My only issue is that Google doesn’t have a dedicated app for it on Android. I suspect that, like Google Docs, it will come eventually. Until then you can use the mobile web shortcut described in the above link, or you can try a third party app. From the xda blog comes what might be the best of them: GTasks.
As you might expect, this app works in a straight forward manner. (If it didn’t, I wouldn’t say that it’s probably the best tasks app.) The main screen contains your master list. You can scroll to the left or the right to get sub-lists. When you click into a task screen you’ll see a notepad-looking screen. Here you can not only type out the name of the task, but also all the steps that go along with it. That’s good for project management. You can see when your tasks are due, and then see each individual part. It’s kind of like Getting Things Done in that way.
There is a tendency, and I succumb to it, to call a minor technological advancement the greatest thing ever. The concept of depositing checks by taking a picture of it with your phone definitely qualified. No, it might not top other great inventions of mankind, but man, it is really, really convenient. My bank has the feature, and I use it all the time. Hell, I don’t even mind it when people write me checks any more. So when iPhone users got this functionality last year, I was insanely jealous. I mean, the ability to deposit checks directly to PayPal means I can take better advantage of the .018% money market account I’ve got! And now I can. PayPal has issued an update to its Android app, and it sure does include mobile check depositing. The whole thing is a boon, really, since I can do almost anything on my Android that I can do from my computer. If you’re a PayPal user, I don’t see any reason to not download the PayPal app from the Market.
As I’ve chronicled in this space, the search for the best Android media syncing app has been a long one. For a while I settled with doubleTwist, and that worked well for what it was. But the more I used it the more I got annoyed by the minor bugs, and eventually I was manually managing my music. That’s not what I want, since playlist sync is high on my list of desires. And so I looked around and found a few that appeared worthy. When I read Phandroid’s walk-through of iSyncr, I knew it had potential. Once I tried it, I was hooked. It’s such a simple solution, and it doesn’t require you to install an additional media manager on your computer.
The way the app works is actually quite clever. When you first run the app it walks you through a tutorial, so you’ll know what to do right away. The process involves installing iSyncr on your SD card. That’s where you’ll run the app, so you’ll need to mount the card. From there you just click on the iSyncr icon, and you’ll see a new window pop up. It should look familiar, as it contains all the sections of your iTunes library, including Music, Movies, TV Shows, Podcasts, Books, your playlists, and more. From there syncing is easy.
Streaming internet radio and on-demand music go hand-in-hand. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been streaming on Pandora, found a band I really liked, and started to explore them further. But that took multiple steps and multiple apps. Wouldn’t it make sense for a streaming radio service to add a Rhapsody-like on-demand service that would allow for easier discovery? Apparently Slacker Radio thinks so. I was happy to read this morning that they have released a premium tier that includes on-demand music. I have my allegiances to Pandora, but this definitely changes the balance of power.
The interface seems pretty easy. When you’re playing a song on the radio you can add it to a playlist, and then come back to it whenever you want. So if you want to drop everything and go listen to that artist, you can go to your playlist and find more songs. But you also have the option to go back later, when you’re done listening to your sweet station and you’re ready to discover a whole new artist. Just typing that out has made me realize that this could be easily worth it.
We’re all forgetful from time to time — some of us more frequently than others. Thankfully, there are ways to help mitigate the problem. For instance, when my forgetfulness got out of hand I started writing down everything. If I had even the minutest thing to remember, I put it on one list or another. This helped somewhat, since I reminded myself while writing. But often I’d forget afterwards, and my forgetfulness would strike again. That’s because the list existed somewhere, and I had to remember to look at the list in the first place. The solution is to make sure the list or note is in front of me at all times. As with most problems, an Android help has proved handy.
The app is called Whiteboard, and it makes sure that your notes are right in front of you. It places a widget on one of your home screens, so your reminder is there all the time, ensuring that you won’t forget. Well, assuming that you look at your phone frequently enough. Within this widget you can write a note, but you can also draw a note. For some people I’m sure this will aid the memorization process. You can even speak notes through a voice-to-text converter, making it even easier to keep things right in front of you.