Android Apps of the Week March 16 2011

16 03 2011

Below are my app picks of the week. Enjoy

Bump (Free) – this isn’t a new app, in fact, it debuted on the iPhone 3 years ago. It allows two phones (running the app) to exchange contact info, photos – but what’s really cool is that it can also send apps to other people’s phone. So next time you see me and my phone and want an app, *bam*. Sent.

Gesture Search (Free, from Google). Some of you may already have this app, but if you don’t –go get it. It brings up a list of your contacts by which you can search by handwriting letters across the screen – and it doesn’t necessarily only list the first letter of the contact. Pretty intuitive.

ADWLauncher (free version) – this app is a home launcher replacement. This app is a little complicated to use if you’ve never used one before, but it essentially replaces your default Android home launcher. It controls your home screens, app drawer, but what’s cool is that you can create your own custom shortcuts. For example, I created one that automatically launches Gmail to compose a message (thus saving me a few steps from launching the default app), etc. And it’s very smooth and responsive.

Cloud Print (Beta) (free, from Google) – Google has a technology that allows you to use your Gmail account to attach printers to your account, thus allowing you to print to those printers from ANYWHERE. You need to first log into your account online and select printers you want from a local area in which you are present. This may seem complicated, but it really isn’t. Read more about it here.

GDocs (free) – if you’re a cloud person like myself, who recently migrated my personal docs to Google Docs, I use this app to sync with my online documents. Not the richest or most intuitive solution, but it works, and it’s free.

OpenTable (free) – I have an opentable account, which is free to join, and it allows you to make (online) reservations to select restaurants from your phone. I use it whenever I go to NYC. What’s neat about OpenTable is that it is embedded into your maps application on your phone, so essentially you don’t even need the app to make the reservation. Maps + OpenTable = impressing your geeky friends.

Grocery IQ (free) – this app allows you to add local grocery stores and supermarkets, add items, and the app searches for coupons. Great app and I’ve already used it successfully at ShopRite in Middletown.

Netflix (free) – yup – I got Netflix, and it hasn’t even been released yet. It doesn’t seem to be live streaming (yet), but you can control your account (add movies, etc). If you’re interested let me know. J

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iPad 2 vs. Motorola Xoom

13 03 2011

Okay, i just spent the last three and half hours at Best Buy (no joke) playing with both the iPad 2 and the Xoom. Here’s a breakdown of the differences, some may surprise you, as they surprised me…

 

HARDWARE

 

Both tablets felt a lot smaller in hand then they look on TV and the Web, no kidding. It was strange.

 

iPad – thin, but not as thin as I expected (or as all of the reviews indicated). Very light, definitely the BEST feature of the iPad. You can definitely hold it in one hand and read, especially in portrait position. The one thing i found weird though was that the edges are so bezeled that you feel how it is thicker in the middle, so it can almost feel like it will slip out of your hands. Plugging in cables and such is hard, just like how it is on my iPod touch. All buttons are standard and expected,, cameras, etc bla bla bla. Very nice – so much so that I would almost say it’s boring, and i mean that as a compliment.

 

(BTW – Smart Cases – SUCK! – by far the biggest disappointment of the iPad 2. First of all, it took me 20 minutes to learn how to properly put it on. The Ipad is so light that you literally have to yank the cover off. The worst part though was trying to fold it so it would lean on it – and i wasn’t alone – two other guys were standing with me and it took a while for us to figure it out. Cool? Yes – Smart and intuitive? Nope.)

 

Xoom – size, as I mentioned, was smaller than I thought. At first glance I thought I was looking at the wrong device. It is thicker then the iPad, but not by much. It feels thicker, but the big difference is weight. It’s about 1.4 or 1.5 pounds, but after 30 minutes it feels heavier holding it in one hand. The fact that Best Buy had a stupid cord connected to it to plug in the battery almost made it harder to hold – but heavier nonetheless. No physical buttons, which is very nice when you’re using it, so the soft buttons always appear in the same position. This is a bigger deal on Droid tablets because there are a few soft buttons (my phone has four haptic feedback buttons fr example). Not a big deal on the iPad because everyone knows what that button is and what it does. Micro SD and HDMI slots, and a micro USB slot – no surprises here – but a leg up on the iPad nonetheless. And that power button is certainly a bitch to find – it’s on the back like on our Macs (only higher up).

 

Winner: iPad – it’s so damn light they should have called it the iPad Air.

 

DISPLAY (made it a separate category)

iPad – very bright – colors pop out at you. The unit i played with, though, had some light leakage coming out near the home button – maybe someone dropped the display unit or something so I won’t count it. Obviously no retina display. I brought along my iPod for comparison and yep – you can see a difference. Is it noticeable? Well, for folks who have a retina display device, as I do, yes you can. I can see how people were disappointed, but not a decision maker in my opinion. The 4:3 aspect ratio is something I didn’t like very much, and with the same # of rows and columns, as I felt with the original iPad – it makes the display look under-utilized. Apple isn’t taking full advantage of the screen real estate. I don’t have a problem with the resolution, but they need to make better use of the interface display.

 

Xoom – bright? Yeah but not nearly as bright as the iPad. You have to crank it up to 100% to make is close. What I did like about it was the resolution, it makes the Xoom’s screen looker bigger and deeper – just like how our iMacs make PC desktop UIs look zoomed in more. Combine the resolution with Honeycomb’s UI (more on that later) and looks better utilized, like you’re using a real computer. It isn’t something that jumps out at you but after a while you see it.

 

Winner: Tie

 

SOUND

iPad – of course you realize that I brought my headphones for the ride. The internal sound was magnificent, as you’d expect. An audiophile like myself appreciates Apple’s detail to sound. External sound, albeit hard to really determine in a store like Best Buy – was disappointingly low. I cranked up the bad boy’s speaker all the way and wasn’t impressed – although in the reviews they indicate it’s better than the original.

 

Xoom – the Xoom has Boom! The external speakers, as I expect from Motorola (who have always made great speakerphones for cell phones for years) are very loud. So loud that it’s actually at a disadvantage if you crank it up too high. The internal sound was a bit washed and shallow, which didn’t surprise me – but disappointed my nonetheless.

 

Winner: iPad

 

SOFTWARE

INTERFACE

iPad – no surprises here. It’s still a giant iPod Touch (*update* – multi-touch gestures like on a trackpad have been discovered in XCode and can be enabled onto the device) – five fingered pinch and go home, four gingers up and you get apps running, three (or four?) fingers right and left and you switch apps. Still, notifications blow, enough said. Maybe they’ll bring dashboard to iOS as it exists in OS X. They need something, because as I said earlier, the iPad’s display is gorgeous but looks too spaced out and boring. Now the good – switching screens is lightning fast, smooth, and you can do it by barely even moving your thumb. I found myself doing this for 5-6 minutes at a time. Moving through pictures, movies, scrubbing movies (moving the display dot to a specific point in the movie) is all smoooooth and fast. The one app that did disappoint was iBooks – for whatever reason, turning pages wasn’t the peaches and cream experince I expected. I thought it could have been because the unit was bogged down, so I rebooted it – same thing. Tried it on another iPad and saw the same thing. The page was a good inch behind my finger – maybe they did this on purpose? Not sure – no big deal, but wasn’t greased lightning like the rest of the device. Multitasking is good, but not great. No access to the device’s file system blows, enough said.

 

Xoom – to say Honeycomb’s UI is more advanced is a bit of an understatement. But it looks just like it does on TV and the reviews. There are five home screens, with tons of real estate for widgets, shortcuts, video thumbnails, etc. It’s not as smooth as the iPad, however – it is just as responsive. This thing flies, it really does. I tried to beat this thing up as much as could but it kept coming back for more. But with a dual core chip and 1GHz of RAM this is to be expected. Is it more complicated then iOS? Well, yes, but that’s not saying much. I think it’s far more intuitive than Android that runs the smartphones, but it will take a while to get used to for novice users. The 3D holographic interface makes the screen look deeper – kudos to Marias Duarte, who Googled wooed away from WebOS, you can tell this UI was designed for tablets. Apple can really benefit from copying this interface. It’s not all good though, there are some rough edges. Live wallpapers do slow it down a bit – and I do like live wallpapers but still don’t see a use for them (yet). Never got it to crash though, which is a good sign. Reading books on it isn’t as comfortable as it is on the iPad, and turning the xoom to portrait isn’t nearly as nice as it looks on the ipad. What is nice though is that each app generates a menu on the top right, and is very consistent. Another thing to note – having full access to the device’s file system is a necessity to me, and is much easier on Honeyco,b than previous versions of Android.

 

Winner: Xoom. The iPad needs a UI makeover, iOS isn’t doing it justice.

 

MULTITASKING and NOTIFICATIONS

iPad – multitasking is good on the iPad, iOS can take a bit of a beating with many apps running (although I suspect most of whta I had running was suspended or stopped anyway). easy to navigate and easy to know whow (just push the button). Notifications, on the other hand, suck. So bad I won’t even get into it. iOS 5 better be better at this, seriously.

 

Xoom – multiasking is nice, a soft button on the lower left corner can be pushed to show the running apps. Notifications are nice, they come in in the lower right hand corner, very similar to growl in OS X. Honeycomb then keeps them and Android Gingerbread (and lower versions) do, you can click on the status bar section and see all of them and attend to or clear each one. It also has quick settings like Wi-Fi, sound, brightness – all reachable on the main screen.

 

Winner: Xoom. Not even close.

 

APPS

Winner: iPad (not even worth discussing). iMovie is cool, not as great as I think it can be, but still very good – not the easiest app to use though. GarageBand is so cool I can see myself playing this all day long, every day. It’s that cool.

 

MULTIMEDIA

iPad – the king of mobile multimedia, ’nuff said.

 

Xoom – surprisingly, the music app on Honeycomb is great. And their implemtation (or copy) of coverflow is actually better than Apple’s – seriously, no kidding. The one thing about the Xoom that concerns me is how easy or difficult it will be pulling media off of SD cards and cameras will be for my wife. We’ll see how Google implements this.

 

Winner: iPad

 

TYPING (this one may surprise you)

iPad – just as I felt with the original iPad, typing on it sucks. Badly. The keyboard is feels stretched out a bit in lanscape mode, and portrait mode isn’t much better. With two hands this is okay in landscape, in portrait it sucks both ways. It always feels like your touching clear glass. And I don’t like the keys they show – typing in the web browser is a forgettable experience. I would definitely consider a keyboard accessory.

 

Xoom – far and away the biggest shocker of this device. The keyboard is actually pretty good. It’s better in landscape mode, and even with one hand I can type a whole lot faster than on the ipad. The keys are bigger but closer together. And it’s Android so you can use any 3rd party keyboard you want – I would like to see Swype make one for Honeycomb.

 

WEB BROWSING

iPad – Not sure why or how, but the browser on ipad 2 seems slow. I was using the same Wi Fi network on two different iPads (as the same etwork the Xoom was using) and for some reason it appeared the browser choked on large sites. I shut down the device and rebooted, and it was a bit better. I’ll blame Best Buy’s network for this one. But once the pages loaded it was smooth sailing as yo’d expect – same as the iPod touch and iPhone. I did see a lot of grey screen as I scrolled however, which indicated that the browser couldn’t keep up with my fingers. But still smooth.

 

Xoom – Adobe leaked the Flash update late last night on the web, so naturally I installed. The browser loaded the same pages faster than the iPad (not by much), but considering Flash was on board is rather significant. Multi-tabbed browsing is nice. I didn’t think it would be important but found myself right at home using 4 tabs open. But the real Gem is something that can be turned on separately. There’s an option to turn on “thumb options” which allows you to flick your thumb (right or left) and additional browser options were available. Switch tabs, open a new one, open a new window, open bookmarks, reload a page, are all available as shortcuts. This one feature makes Xoom a browsing winner., and is something you have to try yourself to see.

 

Winner: Xoom – the thumb flick option is too good. Plus having flash and multi tabs is better.

MAPS

I made this a separate category, as I noticed this may be the best feature of using any tablet.

 

iPad – the app loads very fast, pinch to zoom as you’d expect works great. The mapping detail is the same as it’s been for years though, so unless you go to street view you’re not seeing much. The touch responsiveness so so great though, very very smooth. Ironically they still use Google Maps.

 

Xoom – unlike its own counterpart on iOS, Google’s Android Maps app has 3D vector graphics. It’s not as smooth as the iPad, but looks really cool with the 3D buildings. It pans sideways better than the iPad, but the controls are so hard I had a hard time doing it – keep in mind I have it on my phone and I still suck using it.

 

Winner: Tie

E-READING

iPad – a great experience, books look cool as you read them. But as I noted before, page turning is very slow. The page is actually like an inch behind your finger. Very very strange (99% smooth, just slow).

 

Xoom – great experience too. The Books don’t look as cool (or nostalgic) as they do on the iPad, but Google’s new 3D engine ‘Renderscript’ makes this very fluid. What I wonder though is whether the books app (Google Books) is pre-loaded on the devie or it wrks as it does in your browser and cloud-only. IN either event it appeared to run faster and was much more responsive than the iPad (90% smooth).

 

Winner: Xoom (only because of the lag on the iPad).

CONCLUSION

 

Either device will please you, but for different reasons. The iPad is fast, very fast. It has more apps and better apps, and the device is complete. The Xoom is a real contender, and there are reasons to like it more, and less. I wasn’t thrilled on holding the Xoom portrait (vertically), and I can’t see myself reading a short book (150-200 pages) in one sitting without putting it down to rest my hands. The iPad is so light that if reading is more important then by al means the iPad wins.

 

However, there are some things to note. The iPad is still tied to iTunes, and that sucks. That really sucks. What’s nice about a tablet is that you can keep it (keep it) in your bag and take it anywhere you go. The fact that honeycomb is tied to the cloud you don’t ever need to keep it close to a computer.

 

So here’s the score sheet:

 

HARDWARE – iPad

DISPLAY – tie

SOUND – iPad

INTERFACE – Xoom

MULTITASKING\NOTIFICATIONS – Xoom

APPS – iPad

MULTIMEDIA – iPad

TYPING – Xoom

WEB BROWSING – Xoom

MAPS – Xoom (but not weight given to category)

E-READING – iPad

 

iPad 2 – 4

Xoom – 5

 

The Xoom looks like a winner, but there are two things to note:

 

1. Weight – the iPad is so much lighter I may just get it because of that

2. Price – still waiting for the Wi Fi version of the Xoom. Best Buy told me mid-April around $450-$500.

 





Return of the blog

20 08 2010

It’s been a long summer. But now I’m back. Thanks to a great wordpress mobile app and swype, I now will be posting from my Android.





Cruise and a Whale Watch

30 07 2010

Just think, you can cruise and whale watch all at tbebsame time.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38482222/ns/us_news-environment/





Droid!

11 06 2010

image

Even though the Motorola Droid isn’t the hottest and most popular Android phone, it’s still selling well. Kudos to Motorola and Verizon.

http://www.dailytech.com/Droid+is+Still+Selling+Well+Says+Motorola/article18674.htm





Google bing’d a Microsoft

11 06 2010

Does anyone else sense sarcasm on Google’s part?

http://www.pcworld.com/article/198531/why_google_backed_down_on_home_page_backgrounds.html





3D Playboy Centerfold!

14 05 2010

Well, if you follow history of technology, it will tell you that with great technology comes great pornography. I guess this was only a matter of time.

 

 

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-20004725-71.html