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All posts tagged "android"

Monday, September 24, 2012

High-End Android Smart Phones, What's Here and What's Coming!

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Talk" @ 02:00 PM

One of the best things about Android is you can pick the phone with the features you want and there are plenty of choices. Size, weight, battery life, processor type, display type, display size, connectivity, and upgradable storage are just some of the options you have to choose from. In this article I'll explain what some of the differences are and hopefully help you choose a phone that best meets your needs.

I'll start by talking about some of the technologies in phones, grouping my thoughts by component. Then I will list some of the new high-end phones available now and expected to be released later this year. I'm not covering phones with pen input, like the Galaxy Note 2, because there are only a few of those to choose from. What are you looking for in a smart phone? I would love to hear your thoughts! Read more...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Notes from an iOS User: My Week with a Google Nexus 7

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Android Slates/Tablets & Accessories" @ 01:30 PM

"My first Android experience has been very, very positive, thanks to Google's Nexus 7 and Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). I received my tablet a week ago, and also received a $25 Google Play credit as an early purchaser. My initial thoughts were that I'd use the tablet primarily as a reader - but it's much more than a Kindle (Fire) replacement."

As a longtime iOS device user, and like most modern device users, I have my biases, and have kept them firmly in mind when using an Android device for the first time. But, maintaining objectivity has been easy with this tablet. I'm guessing that skipping the earlier Android releases have saved me from some amount of frustration, just as skipping earlier iOS versions would have in the iDevice world. The bottom line is that so far I'm not finding much missing from Android.

I have several "must haves," including Banking, Browsing, Calendaring, Contacts, Dropbox, Email, Facebook, Foursquare, Kindle reader, LinkedIn, MS Office-type apps, PDF reader, Search, Skype, Text editing, and Travel apps. All present, and arguably equal to the iOS versions. Not as many app choices from Google Play, but all I need is one of each.

Things that I like so far, in no particular order: Android 4.1.1 - already one patch automatically downloaded to Jelly Bean; Battery life is very good; Customization is as simple as the iPad - the home screen is easy to configure; the display is very, very good - not quite up to the new iPad, but excellent for much less money; Sound quality is good; Security is good - face recognition login authentication can be configured to require a blink, making security stronger; Performance is excellent - I haven't noticed anything crapping out or any lags in performance, at the app or UI level; Shutting down running apps is a breeze, much simpler than iOS; Removing apps is easy; Reading is a breeze on this form factor - no more carpal tunnel holding and reading an iPad. Comfortable to hold and use. Many pros to this device!

Things that are less than stellar (and I admit freely that maybe I just don't know enough about Android yet): Apps on the home screen cannot be ordered or arranged for a whole screen - must be dragged and bumped individually; Setup options are not as rich as iOS; iCloud mail is handled a bit better in iOS, as one would expect; Google Play Store doesn't seem to have an easy way of selecting "tablet-only apps," aside from Staff Picks for Tablets. A pretty short list of cons.

Overall, a very positive experience so far, and, while I'm not dumping my iPad, my Nexus 7 is already getting more use than my earlier small tablets, a Nook tablet and a Kindle Fire, both of which were too restrictive for me, and were sold pretty quickly. For the money (I got the 16GB model), this is a superb tablet, and the Android experience is a pleasure. I like the fact that it is not "carrier specific," so it has none of the bloatware associated with subsidized devices. The Nexus 7 is a keeper!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Google Improves Android Security with Jelly Bean

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 09:30 AM

"In an analysis published Monday, security researcher Jon Oberheide said Android version 4.1, aka Jelly Bean, is the first version of the Google-developed OS to properly implement a protection known as address space layout randomization."

Diagram showing attacker overwriting a return address with a pointer to the stack that contains attacker-supplied dataWikipedia

It's great to know that Google is taking mobile security seriously and working to improve it. This sounds like a large step in the right direction. I was also surprised this was the first I had heard of this change being in Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. Another feature new in Jelly Bean I heard of recently is a "Safe Mode" to make sure a problem you're having is not app related.

What's your favorite new feature in Jelly Bean?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Samsung Galaxy SIII Review

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Talk" @ 10:00 AM

"Are you ready for 2GB of RAM? How about a phone that lets you and your friends share the world with a couple of clicks? Do you want to be a part of the next Android global phenomenon? This is the phone that is supposed to bring all of that – let’s see if it did."

It's almost old news now but the Samsung Galaxy SIII is a hit and still a phone people are talking about. I figured there are probably many who are thinking about buying one but haven't made the move. Check out the review after the break.

This phone is well future proofed (assuming Samsung supports it well) with the excellent performance of the Snapdragon S4, 720x1280 3.8" SuperAMOLED display, 2GB of RAM, removable battery, and MicroSDXC. It's one of the first phones that has MicroSDXC as opposed to MicroSDHC. This means instead of being limited to 32GB of MicroSD storage the theoretical limit is 2TB! They advertise 64GB since that's the largest that's available right now. The 2GB of RAM was a smart move too. Many phones have been limited being upgradable to the next version of Android (whatever it was at the time) due to not having enough memory. That will not be a problem with the North American version of the Galaxy SIII for a while.

I have a few friends who bought it and are very happy with it. The battery life seems to be excellent and the performance is awesome. I think the screen looks great on it too even though it is PenTile. Did you buy the Galaxy SIII? Which carrier do you have? How has your experience been with it so far?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Word Lens Augmented Reality Translation App Released for Android

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Software" @ 09:30 AM

"The beauty of an app like Word Lens is it is really fast to use since it uses the camera and updates the image live. It also completely replaces words it sees instead of just adding overlays, all while trying to match the same font, color, background, and text size."

This looks like a pretty amazing app to me and one of the most practical uses of augmented reality I've seen. Watch the video above and see what you think. It actually replaces text you would otherwise see through the camera of your phone with the text in the language of your choice. Right now they offer Italian, Spanish, and French. Everything is done locally so no network connection needed. You basically pay $5 per language pack.

Check out the Hands-On mini-review after the break for more demonstrations and information.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The ASUS Google Nexus 7: A Performance Beast

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 09:00 AM

"Note to all tablet makers not named Asus: This is how you make a 7-inch tablet.

The Nexus 7, the first tablet to wear Google's Nexus brand, sets a new standard for smaller slates, proving that just because it isn't as big as Apple's iPad doesn't mean it can't be just as useful, as fast, or as fun. If you've been on the fence about Android, or tablets in general, this is the tablet you've been waiting for."

Most of the initial hands-on reviews for the wifi-only Nexus 7 are positive, and this one is no exception. The biggest complaint so far has been the lack of tablet applications for Android, so, for example, the user can be "stuck" with up-sized phone apps for popular apps like Facebook and Twitter. The near-IPS quality 1280x800 screen, at about 216ppi, is superb, and the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 coupled with 1GB of RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of storage, is, as the author puts it, a beast. The first Android 4.1 Jelly Bean tablet screams, with none of the earlier OS hiccups, and the price is right, at $199 for 8GB, and $249 for 16GB. Out of the box, the tablet is obviously Google-centric, but can be tweaked, and the full Google Play store is available. Early purchasers (I was one) receive a $25 credit for the store, so I'll be able to add my obligatory "MS Office" equivalent. Shipping is scheduled for mid-July 2012 (I hope) so check back here as we review more real world experiences with the Google Nexus 7 from ASUS.

ARCHOS ELEMENTS 97 carbon Tablet Announced

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 12:00 AM

"ARCHOS, an award-winning innovator in consumer electronics, is pleased to introduce the ARCHOS 97 carbon, the first of its new tablet range called "ELEMENTS", an entry-level line up of 7, 8, and 9.7 inch tablets that combine ARCHOS design and engineering with full access to Google PlayTM and a full suite of Google apps at an affordable price."

Interesting to see the new tablets coming to market at consumer-friendly prices. This 9.7-inch tablet sports an IPS screen, plays 1080p HD video, weighs 21.8-ounces, and is 0.45-inches thick. With a 1-GHz processor (no further processor details were available), 1GB RAM, and 16GB storage, the Carbon 97 is running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) 4.0 and is set to debut this July (2012) with a price of $249.99 or less. Interesting to also note that the carbon 97 supports expandable memory via SDHC cards up to 32GB and (or?) USB flash drives from a full-sized USB port. It'll be interesting to see if ARCHOS can crash the tablet party, and give the bigger players some competition at this price point.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dolphin Browser HD Updated to Version 8.2

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Software" @ 10:00 AM

"Dolphin HD users are introduced to several other handy features, including the option to launch bookmarks through custom gestures, load images over Wi-Fi only, launch directly to the last closed tab, disable the Add-ons and/or the Bookmarks sidebar(s), and several routine performance improvements."

If you're a fan of this excellent Android web browser update if you haven't already and check out some of the new features. If you haven't tried Dolphin maybe now is the time!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Safely Factory Reset a Phone with Google Wallet

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 09:30 AM

"It all started after an app (Sense) began force closing repeatedly. Normally, under a situation like this when things start acting awry, a factory reset has long been the go-to method for fixing up a device’s software issues good as new. Anyone who has ever contacted tech support when dealing with a software issue knows this well. But that’s actually what started this whole mess."

If you have a device that supports NFC (Near Field Communication) and you use Google Wallet this is for you. It turns out that if you do a factory reset on your phone without doing a reset in Google Wallet first you will not be able to use Google Wallet again on that phone. It's a simple process to reset Google Wallet. Just open Google Wallet, go into the settings, and choose "Reset Google Wallet". Then you can safely do a factory reset of your phone!

I'm curious how many people use Google Wallet. I'm not aware of any stores near me that support Google Wallet and there do not seem to be many phones that even have a NFC chip. Is Google Wallet a service you use on a regular basis?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Comcast Introduces Xfinity Voice 2Go

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Software" @ 02:00 PM

"The end goal is to bring the perks you enjoy with your smartphone to your landline. It all starts with an app that's available on iOS and Android (in both phone and tablet-friendly formats) that functions similarly to Google Voice."

Xfinity Voice 2Go lets you answer or make free calls from a mobile phone or tablet over 3G, 4G, or WiFi using your home phone number. It supports concurrent ring on up to 5 different numbers and SMS messages. It also lets you pick up to four additional phone numbers that different members of your household can use for voice calls or SMS. I didn't see any mention of when this service will actually be available.

I love Vonage but this is starting to sound pretty good. Would anyone switch to Comcast Xfinity phone service for these features?

HTC Releases Ice Cream Sandwich Update Schedule

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 09:30 AM

"HTC has published a brand-new list of its devices to get Android 4.0, but the difference between this one and previous lists is the level of detail. Most phones have a target OTA deployment range of 2 months, significantly more precise than the typical "quarterly" guestimates we see manufacturers publish generally."

HTC has a great track record of providing update for their devices. This list includes 17 phones that are scheduled to get Ice Cream Sandwich (Android version 4.0). Take a look and see if your phone made the cut. Most, if not all, HTC phones with more than 512MB of RAM did!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Coming to the US: Kyocera Rise, Qwerty Slider with ICS

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 10:00 AM

"Kyocera is looking to regain a foothold in the US smartphone market, and curiously enough, it's doing so by catering to niche audiences. First we saw the Hydro, a waterproof handset, and alongside it is the Rise, which features a sliding QWERTY keyboard."

The Kyocera Rise should be an inexpensive phone with the latest version of Android for people who mainly want to do texting. It's CDMA so you can look for it on Sprint or Verizon. It has a 3.5" 320x480 resolution IPS LCD screen, 512MB of RAM, 2GB of built-in storage and it comes with a 2GB MicroSD card. It has a single-core 1GHz Snapdragon S2 processor that should feel very fast especially with such a low screen resolution. It also has a 1500mAH battery that should provide plenty of juice to get you through the day on this device. We don't know which carrier it will go to but my guess would be Sprint.

It's great to see Kyocera ready to ship the Rise with Android 4.0 but it's really too bad they gave it a screen that's so small and has such a low resolution. Really, I can't believe any manufacturer would release any phone with a lower screen resolution than 480x800. At least they put the needed system buttons on the phone so you don't need to waste more of the screen just to show the system buttons. The keyboard looks like the keys are nicely spaced and I always like having an inverted T layout for the arrow keys but I'm also a fan of a 5 row keyboard so you don't need to use a function button to get numbers.

Are you looking for a lean, mean, texting machine? Are you OK with the screen size and resolution? Check out the hands-on video after the break!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Check Out These Videos of the Samsung Galaxy S3

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 10:00 AM

"We’ve gathered some of the best video hands-on we can find online showing off the Galaxy S III in the flesh."

Unless you've been living under a rock you probably already know that Samsung unveiled their Galaxy S3 Android phone yesterday. It was a huge event in London with a gigantic screen up front that went across the entire stage, a live orchestra playing, and a huge area behind the stage were everyone at the event could go afterwards to try out this new phone. Some hardware of the phone include the 32nm Exynos 4 Quad CPU, 4.8" 720x1280 SAMOLED (pentile) display, RGB notification LED (any color like the Galaxy Nexus!), MicroSDHC slot, 32GB of built-in storage, 1GB of RAM. Some special features include S-Voice which is like Apple's Siri but it listens all the time instead of you doing something to invoke it on the device. It seems like it's smarter than Siri too but time will tell if it is and how useful it really is. Another interesting feature is called "Smart Stay". It will use the front facing camera to check if you're watching/reading the device and if you are it will not turn the display off. I think that's a brilliant idea. They are saying the Samsung Galaxy S3 will be available in Europe at the end of May. They didn't give a date for the US or Canada that I've seen.

Compared to other devices out there one thing that's clearly different is the Exynos 4 Quad CPU. It's the only Quad-core out there in the mobile device world other than the Tegra 3. Like the Tegra 3 it is uses an ARM Cortex A9 base instead of the newer and faster ARM Cortex A15 which the Snapdragon S4 uses. However, according to some early benchmarks at AnandTech the Samsung GS 3 is no slouch. Also, while the Exynos 4 Quad is larger than the 28nm of the Snapdragon S4 it's still significantly smaller than the 40nm die size of the Tegra 3. That should give it an advantage over the Tegra 3 in battery life. It's also nice that it as a respectable 2100mAH battery. I do wonder how its LTE battery life will compare to that of the Qualcomm LTE chipsets in the S4 devices - which apparently have much improved battery life over previous devices. One other thing I should mention, there have been rumors that the US version of the Galaxy S3 will use a Snapdragon S4 instead of teh Exynos 4 Quad.

What are your favorite features of the Samsung Galaxy S3? Will this be your next Android phone?

Update: The Samsung Galaxy S 3 will be available in the US in June.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Cyanogenmod 9 Available for the Tegra 3 HTC One X

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 10:00 AM

"If you love the powerful hardware, excellent screen, and beautiful design of the HTC One X, but would prefer your smartphone have a Sense-free, stock Android experience, the hacking community has answered your call."

If you have an LTE version of HTC One X, which uses a Snapdragon S4 CPU/GPU, this will not work for you. But if you want a clean, as it was meant to be, Android device, you can now have it with possibly the most high-end Android hardware available. The Cyanogenmod 9 is now available, though not officially released, for the Tegra 3 based, HTC One X. It sounds like most features are working other than the camera and WiFi hotspot.

Will you be giving Cyanogenmod 9 a try on your nice new quad-core phone? Let us know how it works for you!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

HTC One S Coming Soon to T-Mobile

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 10:30 AM

"This new-ish page for the HTC One S has a terrific list of all the features available on the One S, still expected to hit store shelves a week from today on April 25th."

This may actually be my favorite phone from the One series. While it "only" has a 4.3 qHD screen (540x960) it still has the same high quality camera, 1GB of RAM, 1080p 60fps video recording, Beats Audio, and Snapdragon S4 processor as the One X. On top of that not everyone wants a huge phone with a 4.7" screen and the One S seems to get better battery life than the One X, possibly due to the One X having a larger and higher resolution display. Both the phones come with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). The HTC One S should be available from T-Mobile for just under $600 on April 25th. Hopefully there will be a subsidized price option as well. Make sure you check the T-Mobile site for more information. My favorite feature of the One series is probably the Snapdragon S4 processor. It's the first 28 nm processor available in a smartphone and offers a "next generation" of speed and battery life.

Would you rather have the super-sized 4.7" 720p display or the 4.3 qHD display with better battery life?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Samsung Wants Everyone In Your Family to Have a Different Galaxy Tab

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 03:00 PM

"And now there's the Galaxy Tab 2, with two models (7.0 and 10.1) that are very slightly improved, but not enough to justify a few hundred bucks."

There are two more tablets from Samsung that are not a lot different from the others. With the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 they are coming in at a nice low price point of $250. The 7.0 has a 1024x600 display and the 10.1 has a 1280x800 display - both are PLS (Samsung's form of IPS) LCD displays. Maybe the biggest change compared to previous Galaxy Tabs is that they both come with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). Samsung did add a MicroSDHC slot to both the 10.1 and the 7.0 models. They're also using TI dual-core processors which, while they're great, they're generally a little slower than Samsung's own Exynos processors that were in some or all older models. The camera's are nothing to brag about with a 3MP in the back and VGA in the front. If you're not sure, VGA was good in about 1992. At least the 3MP is good enough to do 1080p video which both tablets can record at 30fps. One interesting feature on both Galaxy Tab 2's that apparently isn't new to Galaxy Tabs is an IR port for controlling your home audio and video equipment.

Really, you'd think Samsung could have just put Ice Cream Sandwich on some of their older Tabs that haven't sold and lower the price but I guess "newer" is "newer". Lots of people love their Galaxy Tabs so maybe there is more of a market for these than it seems. What do you think?

Mobile Office Suite for Android Announced: Office Mobile 2012

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Android Software" @ 09:30 AM

"German software vendor SoftMaker today announced the immediate launch of the public beta test of its new mobile office suite SoftMaker Office Mobile 2012 for Android. Boasting impeccable compatibility with Microsoft Office, it is poised to become an excellent choice for demanding users of Android phones and tablets."

A (free-to-try) beta has been announced by SoftMaker, and includes TextMaker word processor, PlanMaker spreadsheet, and SoftMaker Presentations. The suite promises Office 2010 compatibility (docx, pptx and xlsx formats) and will be sold and priced individually, at about 10 Euros (or equivalent dollars) per app. Highlights include: direct PDF export/save; syncing with Dropbox, Evernote and eventually Google Docs; multi-language spell checking that underlines errors in red; supports track changes in a format familiar to MSO users; plays presentations with full transitions and animations; and supports adding TrueType and/or OpenType typefaces. Sounds promising!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Google Currents 1.1 Translates and has Off-Line Reading

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Software" @ 10:00 AM

"Google has today rolled out version 1.1 of [Currents] for Android and iOS, which makes the service available worldwide with support for 44 languages, and adds a number of other improvements including the ability to select which editions have images for offline reading, instant online sync, translation for 38 languages and a promised 7X performance boost."

I haven't used Google Currents but it looks like a great app. I may have to try it out! The fact that it does translation is cool and off-line reading could be just what some WiFi tablet owners are looking for! It's free on the Play Store and supports phone or tablet form factors.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Amazon Appstore Adds In-App Purchasing

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Software" @ 10:00 AM

"...devs can now take advantage of the familiar revenue booster already available in the iOS App Store and Google Play, through the use of the Amazon Appstore In-App Purchasing API."

One of my favorite things about Android is the way you're not forced to get apps from one place. Amazon Appstore has been around for just over a year now and it's come a long way. It seems to have tons of apps and now with in-app purchasing it should be attractive to some developers who may have been holding out. Another feature they added recently was the ability to up the download limit over 3G from 20MB to 50MB. It's still 20MB by default but instead of just smaller options, they have added a 50MB option.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Make ICS Fit Your Needs With This Custom ROM

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 05:00 AM

"Still dallying at the corner of Custom ROM Road? Then maybe the forthcoming update from Team Kang (AOKP Build 30, no less) will entice you onwards."

With this new custom ROM on the way from the Android Open Kang Project you can add up to five new buttons to your navigation bar. Each button can also have a second function for tap and hold. There are move features too including the ability to use actions from Nova Launcher on the bar. If you like Ice Cream Sandwich but wish you could do a little more with the interface you should check this out. The added customization options may be just what you're looking for. Follow the "Read" link for a demo video. While it's not available now it looks like it should be coming soon but I didn't see a specific release date.

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