Tag Archive for 'android'

15 Free Android Apps I Can’t Live Without

Ever since I got my G1 Android phone, it has been a love and hate relationship. I still hate the fact that the phone is lacking the standard audio jack but A2PD support pretty much replaces it since I can use a blutooth headset instead. The battery life is as bad as it was, but a couple of spares help me get through the day.

One thing that is gradually getting better over time is Android Marketplace. It’s been constantly adding apps and over the past year I have installed quite a few of them, all free so far. The introduction of GPS Navigate functionality to Google Maps has been the killer event (and was highly publicized). Below is the list of 15 lesser known apps that I love and use daily.

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Friday roundup: news that caught my eye

There was a lot of small news this week that didn’t warrant an entire blog post but I still wanted to mention them here since not all of you are following me on Twitter or in the Buxr discussion board. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Walmart is staging a new price war, this time in video games. Last Wednesday GameStop’s stock tumbled 8.26% on the news and caused a discussion on the topic ‘can Walmart cause deflation’ on NPR Morning Marketplace on Thursday.
  2. Do you have a Google Gmail account? You can send a free post card to your friend with this free Google sponsored service. There are several designs available but all have a Google logo hidden in them.
  3. Lenovo is running a 40-day holiday giveaway. I usually don’t take part in these (just as I never play lottery) but there is something about this particular one that attracted my attention. Maybe the fact that it takes very little time to try? :-)
  4. Disney Rewards is giving away 5 points daily in December. You need to login daily and enter the unique code they feature on this page. What a brilliant idea to bring people to the website! You can redeem the reward points towards movie DVD’s, soundtracks CD’s or theater tickets.
  5. It doesn’t come as a surprise that Amazon beats Walmart and Target in a usability test conducted by uTest among the three retailers. Target came in last in every tested category. 600 testers from more than 20 countries took part in the test, over the half of the bugs found were at Target.
  6. New York Times rounds up several smart phone apps for reading e-Books. I use Aldiko on my G1 and it is great!

My experience with Google Voice Android App

With all the publicity about Apple rejecting Google Voice iPhone app I just had to install it on my HTC G1 to check what the noise is all about. First of all to use the app you need to have a Google Voice account. It is offered by invitation only and to get it you need to fill out this form and wait for an invite code to show up in your email box in a few days. You are more lucky if you have a GrandCentral account. Since the company is now owned by Google you can convert your account to Google Voice and this way get access to the app. The upgrade took me just a few moments and it kept my old contacts and call settings.

upgrade to Google Voice

The new service has all the cool features that GrandCentral had plus more: voice mail transcripts, conference calling and SMS support. No one sends me SMS messages and I am yet to try conference calling but I find voice mail transcripts a great time saver. Here is how a typical voice mail transcript looks. The only bits that have errors are the last name and the phone number (it somehow got an extra digit which should not be there).

voice mail transcript sample

The release of Google Voice Android app has made the service even more useful since now I can not only receive calls to my Google Voice number but also make them and the receiving part will see my GV number despite the fact that I call from my cell phone which has a different native number.

The app nicely integrates with the Android contact book and you can configure it to intercept all calls, only international calls, or prompt on each call you make. So far I have configured it for international calls since the rates are much lower than what t-Mobile offers but I will be glad to go all the way with the first option if/when Google offers to port my cell number to Google Voice. Too many people have it and it will be too much of a hassle to migrate.

Android Google Voice Settings

Meantime I can still use the GV number as a temporary number I want to give to the businesses and people whose calls I want to screen. E.g. I am going to give it to the car dealers when I go shopping for a new car to replace my Accord which later this year will have 160K miles on the odometer.

By the way, I find GV international calling rates very competitive. Canada is free, Ukraine is 10 cents and Russia is 5 cents (these are the 3 countries I call the most). JustVOIP is still cheaper but it is hard to compete with the Google Voice convenience so most likely I will use it when I have to call on the go (which previously was a big hassle since I had to dial all those access codes).

Do you use Google Voice? Is it running on your phone? Please share what you like/dislike about it in the comments

The top 10 things I hate about my T-Mobile G1

It has been a few months now since I replaced my HTC Wing with the famous G1 running Google Android. Fully functional internet browser on 3G network is invaluable when 90% of things you do on your phone is web related. I also love the Gmail and Google Maps integration.

Despite all the great features G1 offers there are quite a few things I wish could be fixed. Some of these are just annoyances while others are really important factors that make me wonder if I should have made that jump. If you are thinking of joining the ranks of G1 owners, read these notes and decide for yourself if G1 is good enough for you.

Things I hate about my G1

  1. The keyboard has no ‘arrow’ keys - I use the keyboard a lot and lack of arrow keys is a big setback. I am supposed to use the little trackball instead but it is too sensitive to my liking and I always have problem with it if I just need to move the cursor by one space.
  2. There is no ‘today’ widget for the dashboard - I loved my old phone’s dashboard that listed today’s events and tasks. For some reason G1 doesn’t have anything like it and unless you go to the calendar (or configure a reminder) there is not way of knowing you have an important meeting coming today.
  3. Battery life is terrible - If you use the device for internet or other things, the battery is only good for an hour or so. Even with occasional use (5 minutes here and there) I have to put it in charger every evening or it will just die overnight.
  4. Market place has very few apps - From what I hear iPhone has many more applications at the marketplace compared to Android. This was somewhat expected. I hope things will change once Google opens it up to developers who want to sell their apps (so far all the applications are free).
  5. No file manager - I couldn’t find any file manager application that would let me move files around and edit text files. An app like that is crucial for my needs. A workaround so far is to connect the phone to a computer via USB and mount the file system as a Windows drive. You can then use your desktop computer for file management.
  6. Cannot record video - Android doesn’t come with any video recording software out of the box and I am still to find a Marketplace application that would do so.
  7. Proprietary audio jack - You can’t simply connect your stereo headset to the phone. Instead you have to use a special proprietary HTC converter. I understand this is done due to size limitations (the same jack is used for USB and power) sill I consider it a huge inconvenience.
  8. No support for A2DP on bluetooth - The absence of normal audio jack would not be a big problem if it wasn’t for the lack of support for A2DB. This is a bluetooth protocol that would allow you to stream stereo audio from your G1 to a wireless headset.
  9. No easy way to sync contacts - While I did find an application to synchronize my calendar, I am still out of luck searching for one to sync my Outlook address book. So far I just exported and imported my contacts via a CSV file.
  10. Ever hiding phone keyboard - Whenever you make or receive a phone call the screen is filled with details about the caller (or calling) party. If you want to use a keyboard (e.g. for touch tone operation) you have to expand a collapsible virtual keyboard. This is something I have to do a lot and I really wish I could configure it to stay always open.

The biggest problem I have with my G1 is not any of the things I mentioned above. It is a lack of good password & account management software. I used eWallet for Windows Mobile (by Ilium Software) on my Wing and there is simply no replacement for it on Android. This is a huge setback for me since after web and email this is the next primary function of my phone.

Do you have G1? Are you happy with it? What are some of the things you don’t like? Please share in the comments

ShopSavvy – price comparison on Google Android

G1 running Google Android went on sale today in T-Mobile stores. I just watched the marketing clip and I am now eager to get one of those phones in my hands. It is not the phone itself that I am so excited about though. G1 is a fine piece of hardware but by itself it doesn’t achieve much (my year old HTC Wing does a lot of what G1 has). It is the combination of advanced hardware, open source platform, and online services that creates that incredible value.

I think when I get my hands on G1 it will be the applications that I will get most use of, not the phone itself. As phones become smarter you can do more and more things with them and the phone aspect of it gets less significant.

One of the Google Android applications I am eager to try is ShopSavvy - one of the winners in the Google Android Developer Challenge. The developers team has gone one step further than Frucall (the online service I reviewed last year) and made price comparison even easier.

With ShopSavvy you don’t need to read the UPC code off of the product and type it into your phone. The application makes use of the built in camera and ZXing, the open source bar code reader, to enter that UPC for you. Besides the bigger screen and faster connection allows ShopSavvy to navigate you directly to the product offering online, or pinpoint the location on the map should you choose to shop in-store.

Watch this embedded video for a short demo of how to shop using ShopSavvy. It is fairly easy and yet very powerful. I am sure the big guys at PriceGrabber and Shopzilla are already figuring out how to compete in this potentially huge marketplace. I can almost smell an acquisition. ;-)

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