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Google and Samsum to Announce new Nexus 10 Tablet PC

October 21st, 2012 No comments

Get ready for the next Android based Tablet PC by the Google and Samsung partnership.  Google and Samsung are expected to announce a new 10-inch tablet codenamed “Manta” on October 29th.   The manta is rumored to feature a 2560 x 1600 display beating out the iPad pixel density of around 300ppi.  The tablet’s official name will likely be called the Nexus 10 and will be sold along side the Asus Nexus 7 and the new LG Nexus 4.

Android 4.2 and Nexus 10 Manta

Google will also announce a minor refresh of its Nexus 7 line, which will include HSPA+ 3G connectivity to the tablet.  The previous version did not have telecom connectivity.   There will also be an increase in internal storage.  The Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 will also include a new version of the OS Android 4.2 that will feature a new Play Store Widget and Tablet Sharing features.  Tablet sharing allows multiple user accounts on one device, which is convenient for family members sharing a single device.   There does not seem to be enough evidence to suggest how this will work or whether some applications will simply be locked for other users.  Android 4.2 will also feature horizontal and vertical panoramic photo capture. There will also be a new quick settings section in the notification bar.  The quick setting is supposed to be activated by double swiping to toggle for GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Android 4.2 will also bring a redesign of the Gallery app to closely resemble the photostream of Google+.  Google is trying to bring a more unified experience across their products and services.

Android 4.2 Gallery App

Google’s announcement comes at a competitive time as Apple and Microsoft are also expected to announce new products.  Apple is rumored to introduce a new iPad Mini category and Microsoft will announce Surface and Windows 8.  It will be an exciting couple of weeks.

 

Categories: Android, Electronics, Google, iPhone Apps Tags:

Planet of the Apps

July 12th, 2012 No comments

We all know that apps are taking over our lives, but to what extent?

As we all know, there is now an app for everything, whether you use an iPhone, Android or tablet device. 3G connections have changed the way we live, and mobile broadband has meant that apps are at our fingertips wherever we are in the world.

Who would have thought that Android would be catching up iOS with the number of apps it has available? And who would have thought that 6.5 million of us downloaded Angry Birds on Christmas Day?

We’re celebrating the Planet of the Apps by sharing this data on our app habits…

Planet of the Apps

Planet of the Apps

Apple Finally Approves Google Voice App

September 17th, 2010 1 comment
Apple Finally Approves Google Voice App - GV Connect

Apple Finally Approves Google Voice App - GV Connect

Apple finally approves Google Voice App (the second time) and it is available on the iTunes store now here for $2.99 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gv-connect/id347835665?mt=8

GV Connect is a native iPhone/iPod Touch application for your Google Voice account. The app features the following:

  • Place calls using your Google Voice number rather than your mobile number.
  • Send and receive text messages (SMS) from your Google Voice
  • Listen to voicemails and recorded conversations right on your device (pause, rewind, fast foward)
  • Mark messages as starred, block senders, delete conversations
  • Set call forwarding, do-not-disturb), rediections
  • Retina displays

I suspect the FTC inquiry on Apple’s blocking of a native Google Voice app sparked the change.

Apple Unveils iPhone 4

June 7th, 2010 No comments

Apple finally unveils iPhone 4 to the masses. Steve Jobs introduced the new iPhone on Monday, complete with an all-new, thinner design, camera flash, front-facing camera called FaceTime for video calling, a second noise-canceling microphone, multitasking, HD video recording, iMovie App for iPhone, iOS software, and a gyroscope for six-axis motion sensing.

iPhone 4

iPhone 4

Steve Jobs says the new iPhone is beyond any consumer product that’s ever been seen, only 9.3mm thick and 24 percent thinner than the iPhone 3GS, making it the “thinnest smartphone on the planet.”

Availability
The new iPhone 4 arrives on June 24, while preorders begin on June 15. It is available in the same prices and capacities as last year’s model: $199 for 16GB, and $299 for 32GB. The iPhone 3GS will be available for $99.

Internals
The new hardware also has a larger battery that offers longer uptime, including 7 hours of talk time 3G, 6 hours of 3G browsing, 10 hours of Wi-Fi browsing, 10 hours of video, 40 hours of music, and 300 hours of standby.

Dual cameras
The iPhone 4 also includes a whole-new camera system that includes LED flash with a 5 megapixel lens that records HD video. The new rear camera will record 720p video at 30 frames per second. Users can also use built-in video editing to trim their HD clips right on the phone.

The handset’s forward facing camera can be used for video chat with the application FaceTime, allowing users to see someone using another iPhone 4 as they talk to them. Videos can also be edited using the new iMovie application, which will cost $4.99 on the App Store.

Review – CallPod’s Keeper

February 16th, 2010 9 comments

The folks at CallPod gave me a license key to their Keeper product and asked me to do a review.  This is a first for me, because I typically only review stuff I would have bought anyway.  I did my best to remain objective in my review – the fact that it was free was tempered by the fact that it wasn’t a product I typically would have bought.  But I did want to make sure I was up front about how I got the product.  OK so on to the review!

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There are a  number of utilities that have sprung up of late that are designed to help folks keep track of their various passwords.  We are constantly being given opportunities to create user IDs and their attendant security information, and unless you use the same stable of passwords, keeping track of all of them become difficult.  For sites you visit often, it’s not a problem.  But for occasional use sites (like credit cards, affinity programs, retirement accounts and the like), I always have a devil of a time trying to remember my security phrase or password or whatever.  The tool I use, however, does not sync with the iPhone, so I can’t access my information when I’m away from my PC.  Keeper resolves that disconnect.

Keeper has both a desktop and a mobile component.  The desktop component is compatible with Mac, PC, and Linux, while the mobile component will run on the iPhone/iTouch, Android, and Vodaphone.  I ran Keeper on a Windows 7 laptop with the iPhone mobile component.  The mobile component is free; the desktop component is $19.95 regardless of platform.  I took a quick look at other similar applications available through iTunes to do a price comparison.  mSecure runs $2.99 for its mobile component but the desktop component is $14.99.  And SplashID is $9.99 but doesn’t have a desktop component as far as I can tell.  eWallet runs $9.99 for the desktop component and $9.99 for the iPhone component – you get the idea.  About $20 seems to be the sweet spot for these types of programs.

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When you install and launch Keeper, you’re greeted with the above screen.  You pick a master password (preferably a complex one) and enter it twice.  It is critical to not forget this password.  You only get five attempts to log in after setting the master password; after that, Keeper wipes your data.  I couldn’t find a way to change the login attempts allowed to be more than five – if it’s not a feature, I’d suggest making it a future enhancement.  This is very important because the password you set in Keeper desktop has to match the password you set in Keeper mobile to allow syncing to occur.  Complex desktop phrases suddenly become a lot harder to enter when tapping on the iPhone’s virtual keypad.

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The data entry interface is pretty straightforward.  The Folder field allows you to group sets of accounts by type.  The Title field allows you to name the specific entry.  The Login and Password fields are self-explanatory and the Notes field is pretty much your catchall for anything else.  A few more fields would have been nice, specifically things like URL and PIN.  I ended up using the Notes field to store those, plus things like answers to security questions.

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The Settings allow some level of customization of the data entry fields, as well as timeout settings and data storage.  There is also a way to import and export your password database.  Exports can be for backup purposes, or you can print your database to PDF, text, or Excel.  Only the export to text file option allows for encrypting of the output.

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The mobile component is very similar to the desktop component.  Options are limited, but how many options do programs like this really need?  You do have the option of turning off the self-destruct of the database if you fail to enter the correct password.  I thought this was an interesting option – on the one hand, you kind of want the database gone if someone tries to access your info.  On the other hand, I ended deleting my database three times either because I couldn’t remember my master password or because I mis-typed my complex (but easily typed on the desktop) password.  Again, balancing act – complex enough to make it difficult to guess but simple enough to enter easily on the virtual keyboard.  It’s a tough choice.

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IMG_0207The login page shown is a bit deceptive because it defaults to numeric entry.  This particular page is only shown when you launch the app for the first time and need to set a master password.  I’d originally set a numeric password when I launched the mobile component, but then later had to reset the master password for the mobile app when I wanted to sync (more on that later).  Once the master password is set, however, you get a more standard login screen with a single password field and the alpha keyboard, rather than the numeric one.

I would suggest that Keeper look at using two different passwords on the mobile app.  The first password should allow access to the mobile app, while the second password should be the one used for syncing, and be forced to match the password on the desktop component.  This way, you can set a simpler password to allow quick entry to the application when you need it but you still retain a complex password for keeping the desktop and mobile versions coordinated.

Callpod will allow a one-time backup of your password database.  You pick a security question and provide an email address.  The mobile app then backs up your database to the Callpod servers.  When you want to restore from that backup, you provide the email address you used when you created the backup.  Callpod emails an access code to that email address, which you then enter into the mobile app.  Once entered, you must provide the answer to the security question you chose when you backed up the file.

But what most interested me about Keeper was the mobile/desktop syncing.  It works over Wi-Fi and it’s pretty slick.  You activate syncing on both the mobile app and the desktop app.

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On the mobile app, you get an IP address plus a numeric key.  You enter this information on the desktop component, decide how you want the syncing to be done, and hit the Sync button.  The process is pretty quick and fairly bulletproof.  I tried syncing five or six different times and had only one failure.  I just re-tried the sync immediately however, and was able to sync just fine, so it’s not like failure means hours of troubleshooting.

Overall, I was pleased with Keeper and thought it was a solid product.  If you’re hesitant about buying it outright, the mobile component is a free iTunes download, so you can try it before you buy the desktop companion.  Callpod’s willingness to host a backup instance for free gives you a way to store your passwords securely, so if you don’t add tons of accounts on a regular basis, it’s possible for you to set up all your important passwords on the mobile version, have Callpod store a backup, and be about your merry way.  (Not sure that the Callpod folks are going to be happy about this suggestion!)

The biggest problem with Keeper (and other apps like it) is something they will not be able to solve on their own.  I am referring to the lack of multitasking on the iPhone, which makes products like this totally annoying to use.  I can’t just flip back and forth between Safari and Keeper on the iPhone – instead, I have to log into Keeper every time I want to access a different secure site.  It significantly deteriorates the usability of the application through no fault of Callpod’s.  I think an app like this would be great for the iPad, which is much more intended to provide a complete web experience.  However, the lack of multitasking on THAT platform will also make things annoyingly frustrating.  For a company that talks all about the user experience, Apple is having a harder and harder time justifying the lack of multitasking on its portable products.

Would I buy Keeper based on my experience with it?  Honestly, I’m not sure.  For a long time after I got my iPhone, I was looking for some way to view my passwords for American Express and Ameritrade and the like.  But since I couldn’t find anything that I was willing to pay for, I actually ended up learning the passwords.  If there were an easy way for me to switch between Keeper and Safari, or have Keeper pass URL, user ID, and password information to a Safari session, I think this software would be totally worth it.  But given the frustrations of flipping back and forth between Safari and Keeper, I just couldn’t see myself using it on a regular enough basis to justify its cost.  Your mileage may vary.

GymFu Fitness Apps

January 26th, 2010 1 comment

January is the top month for gym memberships enrollment.  Everybody resolves to get into better shape.  And come February, the peak volume of January declines to normal levels as everyone quits.  I know that my gym is filled with noobs right now – we’ll see how long that lasts.

For those of you who don’t want to pay for a gym membership, body weight exercises provide effective exercise with minimal equipment and space requirements.  And they’re not a wuss-out form of exercise, either – studies have shown that bodyweight exercises will build mass, reduce fat, and get you in shape just as efficiently as weight equipment, if you do it right.  In order to help you do it right, a company called BrainBakery has created a suite of iPhone applications and a supporting web site under the moniker GymFu.

The GymFu line consists of four iPhone applications – CrunchFu, SquatFu, PushupFu, and PullupFu.  They run $0.99 each.  There is also a free version of SquatFu called SquatFu Lite that limits you to 30 reps but gives you a chance to try out the product line.  I downloaded three of these apps – I did not buy PullupFu because I don’t have a pullup bar.  The other three exercises only require some floor space to test out.

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The basic concept behind all the apps are the same.  Each application trains you to reach a target goal for the given exercise.  For pushups, the target is 100 reps; for squats and crunches the target is 200 reps; and for pullups the target is 50 reps.  There are two modes.  The training mode is used to progress towards the target reps for the exercise, while battle mode allows you to compete against other GymFu members.  In order to use battle mode, you need to create a GymFu.com account (which I didn’t do).  If you create an account, you can post your progress to GymFu.com and see how you compare against other users of the app.

GymFu’s apps, however, don’t just record your progress – they make sure you’re doing each exercise correctly by using the iPhone/iTouch’s accelerometer to figure out if your rep was a good rep.  They only count the good ones, so the apps help keep you honest and make sure you’re doing a full range of motion.

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To start off, each application gives you a short tutorial on what proper form looks like for the exercise in question.  It also gives instructions on how to mount the iPhone/iTouch for best sensitivity.  The app then has you go through a leveling section, where it tries to figure out at what level to put you into.  There are ten stages to the training but you can skip several of them depending on how many reps you can do when you first start out.

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Each training session consists of five rounds.  The first four rounds have set target reps, depending on where in the progression you are currently at.  The fifth round is an “as many as possible” round, used to help determine whether to move you on to the next level or drop you down some.  Each training stage consists of three “days”; once you pass the 10th stage, you reach a finale where you perform the target number of max reps in one go.

The apps count your reps for each round.  They will also tell you if the rep was a half-assed one or if the rep was done incorrectly.  In use, I found this part to be a little annoying – it’s highly dependent on proper placement and perfect form.  It’s also important to get a strap that will fit you.  That’s not a problem for arm straps but finding an arm strap that will also fit around your thigh (for the squats) will be a bit of a challenge.

The default voice is a bit mechanical but if you sign up for an account, you can download two additional voices.

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Since I belong to a gym and work out on a regular basis there, I didn’t use these apps as much as I thought I would.  However, for people who want to exercise in their homes and want a way to keep themselves honest and motivated, these apps are as good as anything else.  They’re also probably a better workout than a Wii Fit and a heck of a lot less expensive.

ProSwitcher – Awesome Multitasking Demo

January 7th, 2010 1 comment

I’ve recently re-jailbroken my iPhone.  Primarily this was to get access to two apps that the App Store refused to carry (uMonitor and GV Mobile), plus I really like skinning my interface (hint hint, Apple!  For a company that claims to be about individuality, you make it damn difficult to customize your products).  I have a 3G iPhone so I can’t do much with it.  But I saw a few posts on a variety of iPhone and gadget blogs talking about a multitasking application called ProSwitcher.  It looked interesting enough that I wanted to try it out.  I’ve been using it for about two weeks now and I gotta say that these guys have a great idea.

The basic concept of ProSwitcher is to replicate on the iPhone an interface similar to that of the Palm Pre.  It is a front end to Backgrounder, an app that allows you to set certain apps to run in the background.  Backgrounder is a must-have app for jailbroken iPhones but it has a distinctly minimalist interface, plus switching among the various running apps requires the standard interface actions so it’s hard to keep track of what’s running in the background.

When installed, ProSwitcher creates an icon plus a Settings entry.  You never need to touch the ProSwitcher app itself – everything is handled through its Settings.

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The settings primarily revolve around how ProSwitcher is activated, though there are a number of other parameters that can be set using the interface.

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The activation options are many and varied, and you should play around with them to figure out which method works for you.  When activated, ProSwitcher cards look very Pre-like.

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There are a small set of dots underneath the application title – these describe the number of running apps.  To switch between the apps, just flick the cards left or right.  To close a running app, just hit the “X” button in the top left corner.  You can activate any of the dock icons directly as well as flicking between the active apps.  And that’s pretty much it.

The main issue I had with ProSwitcher was that I didn’t have an iPhone 3GS.  On the faster processor with the larger free memory, I’m sure this app would have been really amazing.  But on a 3G, the lack of RAM plus the slow processor makes this app worthless for running more than three or four apps at the same time, and since two of those slots are typically taken up by the Mail and Phone apps, and since I use my iPod app more than just about any other app on my phone, I was pretty much only single-tasking anyways.  But if you’ve got a jailbroken 3GS, definitely check out ProSwitcher.  I think it’s a great little app, and the fact that it’s (currently) freeware is even more amazing.  I was going to buy MultiFl0w, the other highly rated multitasking manager, but I’m glad I tried ProSwitcher first.  Not because it’s necessarily better, but because it showed me that I really don’t multitask very much.

ProSwitcher is available via Cydia.