Archive for July, 2011
How much do you pay per month for your Android? My bill is at around $ 90 including taxes, and I even have the bare minimum voice plan. That seems to be pretty standard for a voice/text/data plan in today’s market, and yet it still seems rather expensive. I remember the days of paying about a third of that with my crappy flip phone. We all long for the days where our cell phones cost less in the same way we yearn for the days when gas was a buck a gallon. Yet, somehow, Virgin Mobile has a deal that’s just about as cheap as my old flip phone, and it’s good enough to power an Android device. Combined with the Android pictured above, the Motorola Triumph, it’s probably the best value on the market.
Prepaid isn’t what it used to be. Back in the mid-2000s it was mainly a means for the credit-deprived to get cell phone service. Since then it has evolved into a low-cost alternative to postpaid cellular service. Many carriers are even starting to add smartphones, including Android handsets. There are many limitations on prepaid that you don’t have on postpaid. One of them involves voice minutes. If you go over your minutes on postpaid you might have to pay overages, but on prepaid you’re cut off. That’s why an app such as Limit Your Calls is so essential for any prepaid Android user.
The app can keep your call times in check in a number of ways. You can receive notifications at certain intervals, until you’ve reached your limit. Once you’ve reached that limit, you can keep going, with the knowledge that you need to end the call ASAP, or you can just have the app hang up. I kind of find this hilarious. Just mid-conversation, boom, the call ends. But hey, it will make sure that you have enough minutes to get you through the month, or however long it is before you have to add minutes again.
Yesterday Boy Genius Report ran the results of a survey on tablets. It revealed a few things, not least of which that the tablet market still has plenty of room to grow. But there is one aspect in particular that struck me, and it strikes me as an opportunity for Android tablet makers. As you can see in the image above, there are many manufacturers from which people would buy a tablet. Of the seven listed, five are Android-based tablets (while a sixth, RIM, will soon run Android apps). Yet it’s the data that follows which makes me think that we could see a surge in Android tablet sales later in the year.
Of the people who said they planned to buy a tablet, half said they’d buy the iPad. This is unsurprising. It is the sexy tablet out there, the one with all the apps and all the marketing and all the coolness. That’s all fine and good, but these same customers who said they planned to buy a tablet said that low price was the most important consideration. Hmm. We know that the iPad isn’t a low-cost device — the cheapest is $ 499, and it thy go up and up from there. So what gives?
For reasons I’m not quite sure of, it’s easier to hate on AT&T than any other network. Maybe it’s the spotty coverage in some areas, which they seemingly refuse to correct. Maybe it’s because they had the iPhone, and after a while we all got sick of hearing about it. Maybe it’s because they were the first major carrier to implement data tiers, and now all others are following. Whatever the case, I’ve always had that urge to bash AT&T. Today they get a reprieve. Via Mobile Burn, we get some great news: AT&T is promising Gingerbread upgrades to all of its Android models released in 2011. I can only hope other carriers will follow in kind.
In the latest Android platform versions report, Gingerbread appeared on only 18.6 percent of devices. That’s barely better than the number of devices running Android 2.1. Of course, Gingerbread only came out this year, meaning only the newest devices have it. But at over 500,000 activations per day, it stands to reason that there are plenty of new devices that probably should have Gingerbread. But these things tend to roll out slowly, and many newer devices don’t yet have the latest OS.
Do you work out with your Android? I do. It’s my music player, my stopwatch, and even my data tracker. It comes with me to station to station, and so I’m always open to new fitness apps that I can use with it. Lately I came across some apps from the developer Rittr Labs, and I came away very impressed. They focus on pure strength maneuvers: push-ups, pull-ups, and squats. Those can be the most important exercises (though I prefer dips to push-ups), because they work multiple body parts. Moreover, they translate to the real world. There are instances were pushing or pulling yourself up can come in handy. Few situations, I think, require me to lift a 225-pound weight off my chest.
The apps couldn’t be easier to use. You download them and then follow the programs they lay out for you. I’ve seen other programs that supposedly can increase your push-ups and whatnot, but they’re very general. These apps take into account your own feedback, and so guide you along a personal path. It might take longer than the other programs, but you’ll get there more effectively, because you’re tailoring the programs to your own personal needs. Check out the Rittr Labs apps in the Market. If you’re into fitness and use your Android as a tool, these can add to your arsenal.
There might be some superficial Android/iPhone rivalry going on, but end users really benefit when developers release social apps that work on both platforms. Anything that involves sharing or messaging is better when more people use it. An app such as Viber, a VoIP and messaging app that launched on iOS late last year, only works well if many people use it. And so it’s good new for both Android and iPhone users that it is now available in the Android Market. My only question is of how much practical value the average smartphone user will get from it.
Essentially, the application is akin to Skype, in that you can call other Viber users using your data plan or WiFi connection, thereby not using any of your cellular minutes. It also says it provides text messaging, but really, since they only go to other Viber users it amounts to an in-app messaging system. There’s value in that, sure, especially since it’s cross-platform. But since almost every smartphone user has unlimited messaging, its value is limited. Also, if you’re on a tiered data plan there is a real trade-off now between voice minutes and data consumption. While those on unlimited plans will always benefit from placing calls over a data connection, someone with a 2GB cap might not.
While it seems that mom and pop comic shops are shuttering their doors all across the country, there also seems to be a growing interest in comics. Yet without the small shops that offer new issues of everyone’s favorite titles, how will interest continue to grow? It seems that smartphones and tablets provide the most sensible medium. Of course, if you ask any long-time comic fan what they think about this development, they’ll say that viewing a comic on a digital device just isn’t the same. Yet when I ask them the big question — what would you rather have, comics on tablets or no more comics at all? — they hem and haw, unable to find an adequate answer. Clearly, comics on tablets is the better option, and with apps such as the DC Comics app, released by comiXology, we could see interest continue to grow for years to come.
Back in December I raved about the comiXology app and how it handled the traditional comic interface. It transitions between panels in an almost cinematic way, giving you all the detail of the printed page, but without the paper. The DC Comics app is powered by the same engine, but it comes with titles from the vast DC library, including its popular Vertigo imprint. Best of all, you can enjoy the comics on not only your Android device, but also on the web and even an iOS device.
This is not a picture of my desktop, but mine down does contain this nifty circle you see in the bottom left corner. What is it, you might be wondering? It’s a simple widget that keeps accurate tabs on your battery life. See, the battery gauge in the notification bar is nice and all, but it’s not terribly accurate. It changes colors at certain intervals, but by the time you reach the 30 percent mark, it might be too late. This widget gives you the percentage of your battery remaining, so there is no mistake. Now that I’ve installed it, I know exactly when I need to charge my phone.
While the widget is as simple as it gets, there are some customization points. Specifically, this means the size of the widget. You can go 1×1, which probably works best for most smartphone users. But, depending on your screen setup you can also go 2×1, 1×2, 2×2, 3×3, or 4×4. I’m not quite sure why you’d need 4×4, but hey, some people need the reminder front and center. The app is, of course, free, and you can get Circle Battery Widget at the Market.
The luster of Angry Birds has worn off by now, right? I mean, I was addicted as the next guy, but after a while I just got sick of shooting those birds into those pigs. Yet I always need a game or two on my Android to keep me occupied when I don’t have signal strength to watch Futurama on Netflix. I’ve looked at some games on here in the past, and the common theme is that they involve a bit more thinking than your average game. The same is true of Twisted Arrows, the latest in my collection.
Found via the xda blog, Twisted Arrows has a simple premise. Just move the ball from its current position to the finish circle. Of course, if it were that easy you wouldn’t have to think much. Each square is a different color, and it has a set of arrows on it. You can only move in the direction an arrow points. Now comes the part that makes you think. Each color square rotates to a different degree when you land on it. Orange doesn’t rotate, green rotates 90 degrees, yellow rotates 180 degrees, and blue rotates 270 degrees. So you’ll see those arrows pointing in various directions, but they’re going to flip the second you land on them.
A few months ago I made the switch back to Twitter for Android. It wasn’t the best client, but Tweetdeck was giving me constant problems, and none of the other Twitter apps seemed that much better. (Also, I couldn’t get Twitter off my phone for a while, which was just stupidity/laziness on my part.) The only thing missing, it seemed, was support for multiple accounts. Today I saw an update on the Market, and there it is. I can now log into multiple accounts with Twitter for Android. Switching accounts is pretty easy, too. But wait, there’s more!
Also included in the update is the addition of push notifications. Via the official Twitter blog, if you select Automatic Refresh in your account settings — it was already selected when I checked mine — you’ll get a push notification. This is much better than the pull updates we got previously, since pulling data consumes more battery life. The update is available right now; you’ll see it when you go to update your apps in the Market. That is, unless you removed it on your rooted Android. In which case, you probably don’t care anyway. (And know how to get it if this entices you.)