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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!

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, March 7, 2012

Google Renames Android Market to Play Store

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android News" @ 11:30 AM

"Google's content portal for Android apps, music, books and video content has been consolidated under a new name -- Google Play."

If you haven't gotten the update you probably will very soon. Google is pushing out a new version of the Market called the Play Store. They are also replacing your current Books, Music, and Movies apps with Play Books, Play Music, and Play Movies. I think this move makes a lot of sense rather than educating people that they can use the Android Market on the web with their Windows PC to buy books, music, and video. It's a good time to check for deals too. There are apps for $0.49 and lots of other discounts as well.

Here is one thing to watch out for if you have a Motorola device. This update will cause your Market link at the top right of your app drawer to stop working. Hopefully Motorola will fix this soon on many of their devices. It's not a huge deal since you can still launch the new store using the Play Store icon but it's annoying.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Open Files Off-Line With The New Google Docs

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Software" @ 11:00 AM

"Google has released a pretty useful update for their Android version of Google Docs, providing offline access for your files and a better overall experience for tablet users by providing high-resolution versions of your documents."

This was a much needed update! To not have access to files when you have no network is just dumb. Large collections of media or things you don't need often, maybe that can stay in the cloud, but small text files, documentation, or notes, I want available all the time. It sounds like the synchronization is done well also. I played with it a bit and it's easy enough to save a file locally as shown in the screen shot above. Improving the app for tablet owners was a very smart idea as well. Really, I think that should have been done when the first Xoom was released but better late than never.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Google Maps Gets Updated

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android Software" @ 03:30 PM

"Download the latest release of Google Maps, and never carry a paper map again."

Google Maps has been updated with some nice battery life improvements, improvements to transit navigation, and more! A nice little CES-week gift I suppose, however what I'd really like to see are some heavy duty G+ updates!

Tags: google, maps

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Holo Theme Mandatory on ICS Devices with Market

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android Software" @ 02:00 PM

"Android 4.0 showcases the Holo theme family, further refined since its debut in Android 3.0. But as most developers know, a new system theme for some Android devices isn't a new or uncommon event."

You want the Android Market on your ICS powered phone, Mr. Carrier or Mr. OEM? Then you've gotta include Holo. It doesn't have to be the default, but it has to be an option, like it or not. A slight win for those against bloatware, although I'd prefer Google forcing a screen at initial config asking which skin you want, and telling you how to change it easily.

Tags: google

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Koush's Tether Alpha Gives Tether Without Root Requirement

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android Software" @ 10:00 AM

"Over the last month, I've been working on a new app. Tether Alpha is a USB[2] tether solution for Mac, Windows, and Linux that allows you to use your phone's data connection to get internet access on your desktop or laptop."

Back in 2003, I could tether my Dell Axim to my i-Mate Pocket PC without any issue, in fact it was all done over Bluetooth DUN and didn't even require me to press anything on the Pocket PC - it could stay in my bag while I worked with the Axim. It seems that since then, data speeds have gone up (thankfully) but ease of use has gone way down. Now that carriers care about data usage (despite trying to get us to use as much as possible), solutions like Koush's appear, promising to let us tether without it showing up to our carrier. Intriguing times we live in!

Tags: google, root, koush

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Did Google Steal Android from Apple? Why Jobs Was Wrong.

Posted by Craig Horlacher in "Android Talk" @ 01:00 PM

"But the fact is that Apple could never have existed if not for the ideas and creations of other companies. And there's nothing wrong with that."

Since iOS 4 was released I've seen a number of articles saying that Google stole ideas from Apple for Android. This article points out that all computer systems around these days were preceded by something else. The main point is you can't say that Android stole ideas from iOS and iOS didn't get ideas from anywhere outside of Apple. I think that's a valid point and is how we get a lot of innovation today. Companies improve products they were not the first to develop.

Read the article and let me know what you think. Follow the "Read more" link for the rest of my thoughts on this topic.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Google To Unveil Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, Oct. 18 in Hong Kong

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

"If you recall, the event was planned for two days ago, but was postponed—the official line being that it was out of respect for the passing of Steve."

Google has announced that Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, will be announced in Hong Kong on Oct. 18 at 10:00pm Eastern time. This location may sound odd to you but it also happens to be where Google's Andy Rubin was scheduled to speak before the date was moved. You can watch the event live on YouTube. Along with Google at the event will be Samsung to show off their new Galaxy Nexus/Droid Prime/Droid Nexus/Nexus Prime that's designed to run the new OS. Ice Cream Sandwich will be the first version of Android to combine the phone version of Android withe the tablet version of Android. I can't wait to see what other changes are on the way!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Google Docs Gets Tablet Enhancement

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android Slates/Tablets & Accessories" @ 07:30 AM

"Earlier this year, we introduced the Google Docs app for Android. Since then, many users have downloaded the app and enjoyed the benefits of being able to access, edit and share docs on the go."

Google's at it again, this time with a major update for the Tablet version of Google Docs!

Tags: google, docs

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ice Cream Sandwich Coming Soon - Developers, Start Your Engines!

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android Software" @ 04:00 AM

"The next major version of Google's Android platform, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), is expected to reach the market in October or November."

We're slowly getting more details on Ice Cream Sandwich, and for developers among us, guidance on how to make our apps look the best!

Tags: google

Friday, September 16, 2011

Google Goggle's Updates and Makes Your Phone Smarter

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android Software" @ 05:00 AM

"Today, we launched a new version of Google Goggles that enhances the camera on your Android-powered phone."

The new version of Goggles can now identify things in photos you've already taken. This means that fancy door you took a photo of on vacation can now be automatically linked up to more information about it. A knowledge junkie's delight!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Google Docs App Updates Once Again!

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android Software" @ 06:00 AM

I've recently switched my to-do list to a Google Doc, and the Docs app keeps getting better. The newest version incorporates Web Clipboard, and other improvements. A great app to interface with a great service!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Google's Newest Market Update Adds Several New Features

Posted by Karey Westfall in "Android Software" @ 03:00 PM

"It seems like Google is constantly working on its suite of Android apps."

Google is staying on top of apps - they just released an update for the Android Market bringing it to version 3.1.3. The newest version is packed with new features, including the +1 button for market apps and new security features. Check out all the new features, then let us know if you like the update!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Will a Google-Motorola Merger be a Disaster?

Posted by Jake Ludington in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 10:00 PM

Integrating the software engineering culture of Google with the hardware manufacturing business of Motorola Mobility will certainly face some challenges, but will it go down in history as one of the biggest merger disasters of all time? Henry Blodget seems to think so when he says, "But if Larry plans to keep Motorola and operate it as a stand-alone business, as Google said on the conference call yesterday, look out. This deal could easily end up in the same Hall of Shame that enshrines AOL Time Warner and many more of the worst mergers in history."

Patents may be the only part of this deal Google cares about. If it's about patents, there's really nothing interesting to talk about and a disaster is highly unlikely.

From an Android OS perspective, Google owning Motorola won't change much. While Google may insist on a more specific Android experience on Motorola hardware, it still needs HTC and Samsung to make sexy devices or the market for Android phones won't grow. Maybe Google will subsidize Xoom sales to grow the Android tablet market. The biggest problem facing every Android tablet I've tried so far is that it feels unfinished, which is partly due to the fragmentation. Having Google dictate a software release schedule for a set of tablets would push the other tablet makers to keep pace with adding Android features. I'm guessing here, but none of that sounds like a disaster.

The Motorola set-top box business looks like a bigger opportunity than phones. Google hired away some of the people who built Microsoft's Mediaroom IPTV product back while I was consulting for Microsoft IPTV. If Google can provide a mature enough TV experience with in-house set-top boxes, they may be able to steal some business from Microsoft, assuming Google has patience for the lengthy sales cycle. The cable companies all buy either Motorola or Tatung set-top boxes, so Google has a great in to offer their own complementary software. Or maybe we need to imagine an Adwords business that offers more direct television ad buying where Google cuts the cable providers in for a slice of the action. Again, nothing that sounds like disaster.

Blodget may be right that the Motorola culture won't mix with Google. But if Google isn't trying to mix culture, there is opportunity for Google software business units to work directly with Motorola hardware business units. What do you think? Will buying Motorola break Google?

So What Happens When Google Buys Something?

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android News" @ 05:30 PM

"Google's $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola will be its biggest acquisition ever - more than four times the size of DoubleClick, the previous leader. But over the last decade, Google has been one of the biggest-and most successful-acquirers in the tech industry, and owes a lot of its success to these smart buys. Its core search advertising platform and most of its biggest new businesses, including Android, YouTube, and display advertising, all come from other companies."

Yesterday's Google Grab of Motorola Mobility may have you wondering what will happen now. If you want to see Google's track record of 16 recent acquisitions (and where they are now), check out this interesting Gizmodo piece. Obviously if anything it proves that no one really knows what will happen over time after Google decides it needs to eat up another company!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Google Buys Motorola Mobility

Posted by Jon Westfall in "Android News" @ 07:00 PM

"Google's announcement today of its planned Motorola Mobility acquisition may come as a surprise to some, but Moto's dedication to producing Android handsets, along with its recent $56 million Q2 net loss and comprehensive patent portfolio, make this a logical next move for Mountain View's search giant. Operating independently -- for the near-term, at least -- both companies will cooperate to grow Android, while Google claims that it will remain committed to its other partners as well. So what will this mean for Google and the future of the smartphone industry as a whole? Jump past the break for our thoughts."

If you've been on the net at all today, you probably have seen the news that Google has bought Motorola Mobility (pending the usual government reviews, of course). Many are speculating that it's the patents that Big G is after, while others speculate that Google might decide to launch a proper (as in made by) Google phone with the hardware division. Some wish it meant the end of MotoBlur, however I don't think we'll get that lucky. Only time will tell what Google will do with it's new acquisition, but one thing is for sure - they are seriously in love with the little android dude - and are ready to put serious bucks into keeping him at the top of the rankings.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Google Maps 5.8 Released with Improved "Places" Features

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

"When deciding on a place to go, people often want to know what a place looks like in addition to seeing ratings and reviews. You can now contribute photos to help others get a sense of places. You can now attach your photos to Places, and yours may even become the profile picture for that page."

Google has added a number of social features to Maps. As mentioned above it will now let you add your own photo of a place. New descriptive terms will also show up when you search for a place. You can add places if the one you're looking for doesn't exist. So now you can check in anywhere - even when the place isn't listed. Make sure you check the source for all the details but there is a lot here - especially for people who love to explore and try new destinations! Google Maps 5.8 for Android is compatible with Android 2.1 and newer. Have you been playing with any of the new features? Let us know what you think!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Google and Microsoft to Offer MS Office on Android?

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 10:30 PM

"Google and Microsoft have a problem -- and to sum it up, that problem is Apple. Google has tablets but they aren’t selling well against the far more complete iPad offering. Microsoft won’t have an iPad competitor until well into 2012. Google is having an issue with relevancy on tablets and Microsoft loses not only a Windows footprint but an Office footprint with every iPad sold. What if the two partnered? Ironically it isn’t as hard as it sounds. You could actually see how this could work today. So let’s explore Microsoft Office on Android this week."

Interesting idea, as the iPad sometimes can be a viable lightweight replacement for (the Big Three of) Windows, Office and IE. Microsoft doesn't seem to be able to come up with a competitor for the iPad, so maybe teaming-up with Google is a step in the right direction, getting their flagship application running on Android devices. Needing Excel and Word on a regular basis for work, this concept is intriguing, without waiting for Windows 8, and would make Android tablets more desirable, in my opinion of course. The author's recommendation is to try Windows Live on a Honeycomb tablet using Opera for Android. But, since Microsoft is one of Apple's largest developers, any guesses as to when MS Office will appear for iOS?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Get Your Popcorn Ready: WiFi Xoom Gains Access To Google Movies

Posted by Jason Lee in "Android News" @ 11:00 AM

"Hard to say why Google chose to roll its Movies app out first to 3G-packed tablets sporting Android 3.1 (a smaller testbed, perhaps?), but it looks as if it won't matter for much longer."

This is good news indeed. I was super excited when I saw the update show up for my Xoom. I haven't rented a movie yet but if there is ever anything I want to watch that isn't on Netflix this is the way I would prefer to do it. There are other video and movie rental services online but I'd rather not enter my credit card into yet another web page or online service. I already have Google checkout setup. I'm not sure exactly how much I'll use this as I haven't rented a movie in over 10 years but I like having the option. Anyone rented anything yet from this new service?

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