Android Phone Dump: March 2015

Last year, I got sick of my LG not updating due to lack of space on the onboard memory (really, an android phone should have a MINIMUM of 8 GB onboard; this had a paltry 4 GB and I was running out of space daily) so I broke down and bought a Samsung Galaxy SIII.

It’s a good phone.  Not the highest of the high class, but a robust phone that’s running Android KitKat (and might get Lollipop; we will see) that has 16 GB of onboard space and has sweet 4g connections due to the upgrades at work.  Ahem.

Anyway, I’m rocking the Google Launcher (fuck Touchwhiz) and I’ve got the “OK Google” down for directions and for internet searches.  I love it.  I love “OK Google,” I love the quick right swipe to get to my Google Now cards, I love the simplicity of the whole thing.

Also the phone is a decent size, compared to what else is out there.  No, I do not want a LARGER phone.  This is about as big as I’d like it… the huge size and the super high price tag (seriously, $600) was the reason I did not go for the Samsung S5 when I was in Best Buy and picked this one up.  Bigger isn’t always better; I want my phone to fit in my pockets.  I’m a chick, so pockets are small and in short supply in my pants.

But anyway.  Performance of this thing is awesome.  You can read and watch all the reviews online; I’m not going to rehash it here.  Suffice it to say, I’ve had no problems with it (unless I push it while it’s in a case… the battery gets hot and the phone will restart if it gets too hot.  I let it cool and all is good).

Now for a quick explanation showing how I’ve setup the home screens:

2015-03-04 01.22.36 Here is the main screen.  I’m using the Dashclock widget on my homescreen because I lock my phone with a pattern, so it won’t work there.  But anyway, I’ve got weather, my Wunderlist tasks, a battery info widget, and bluetooth information active right now.  If I’m playing a song or podcast, it shows that as well as upcoming calendar appointments, missed calls, and any hangouts messages.  You can really configure this widget to work for you and you don’t need a million widgets cluttering up your screen serving you information.  This is all contained and I can resize it to suit my whims if I want it smaller.

In the dock area I’ve got my dialer, hangouts, the home button to get me to my app launcher thing, Blue Mail which is now Type Mail (I’ve no clue why they’ve changed the name, but it’s an awesome email app), and Firefox.  I’ll have another post detailing why I’ve switched from Chrome/Chromium to Firefox, but suffice it to say, I was having issues with Chrome and Firefox is working well.

Screen number two:

2015-03-04 01.22.43

Starting at the top, I have a flashlight widget (very handy) and my Noom Walking widget (this is not accurate as I walked a bunch without my phone today).  Next row is Google’s Camera app, Instagram, Roku, and a bunch of games in a folder.  The last row is a folder with my social apps (Untappd, AndroIRC, Swarm, Google+, Fenix, Facebook, Tumblr, Facebook Messenger), my “wallet” folder (Authy, Google Wallet, Chase, Evernote and Meijer), my “Music” folder (Play Music, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Pandora, SomaFM), and then finally my “Web” folder (BaconReader [Reddit app], Flipboard, gReader Pro, Pocket).

I will also be resurrecting my “Android App Series” and making an entry for Pocket Casts, but it’s probably the best podcasting app I’ve used on Android, IOS, AND browser.  Yes, they all cost, but I’m hoping that by paying I won’t lose the syncing that is crucial for my podcast listening.

I do not remember where I got the background from, but it was probably NASA or something like that.

Anyway, my phone (pocket computer?) is simple, quick, and multifunctional!  It also makes and takes phone calls, so there’s that too.

Let’s Talk About Pocket

Pocket, the web bookmarking service, is an invaluable tool for me (and many others) to hold temporary bookmarks. I’m using ifttt to copy my “starred” articles to pinboard, which is my favored bookmarking service.

I really like pocket. I had an account when it was “Read it Later” and I never really got into it. I don’t think I really got it because I wanted something that would sync between my different browsers. It didn’t work that way so quit using it in favor of Instapaper.

I love this service. It is awesome to read things on my phone and ipad because it strips out extraneous formatting and makes it much easier to read. Also, it’s perfect for temporary bookmarks. If I’m reading something in my RSS reader and I want to save it for later I can just send it to my Pocket account. Then the articles sit there waiting for me to have 5 or 10 minutes to read something.

This service is something that is totally worth trying out.  They have apps for your android device, Mac, ipad/iphone, and Chrome.

New Phone Home screens

I got a Samsung Galaxy SIII recently and I’ve set up the Google Now launcher with three homescreens: Google Now, the main with Dashclock, and another with my most used apps.

I’m not going to show google now, because most should know what that looks like.  Anyway, here’s my main screen:

2014-09-07 22.21.53

I’m using the weather, battery, and g-reader pro widgets on there.  I also have the hangouts and facebook ones enabled, but since I don’t have any messages, they’re not visible.

Now for my second screen:

2014-09-07 22.21.58

I’ve got my apps in folders and my quick-access apps in the second row.  That walking man in the corner is Noom Walk and it shows the number of steps I’ve taken today.  I didn’t have my phone with me for most of the day, so it didn’t really measure very many steps.

And now, the lock screen:

2014-09-07 22.22.57

Simple.

I really like this phone.  It’s a hair big, but it has more internal space than my last one.  Also, it’s running Android Kitkat 4.4.2.  This was Samsung’s flagship two years ago, and it’s still got plenty of power to do what I need it to do.

HP Chromebook 11 Update

As many of you know, the HP Chromebook 11 had a problem with its charger.  Essentially, the charger ran hot (which is kind of normal; this one ran SUPER hot) and could potentially cause a fire.

After all the jokes about a fire sale and how the Chromebook was “too darn hot” I started looking toward Google to find a replacement charger.  I filled out the form that I got from here and figured that I wouldn’t see it til after the holidays.

I had a couple emails about this, but I figured that I wouldn’t get it anytime soon, so I forgot for awhile.  Imagine my surprise when the following arrived today:

I also was absolutely floored when I also pulled out a $25 Google play gift card.

I knew Google was awesome but I was unaware as to how awesome they were.

Thank you Google.  I also have a nice little note for you in the box I’m sending back to you.

Oddish Tablet

Screenshot_2013-08-08-20-14-09

 

Oddish on my tablet!  I have the same iconset (Minimal UI) that I do on my phone.  I love this iconset; it’s very nice looking!  I’m still using Fancy Widgets and I love that widget program; it’s totally worth every penny.

The wallpaper is from the same site my other Pokemon wallpapers are from; see my last post about how to get it.

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of a team with multiple pokemon on it that can do different things; balance is key to a strong team.

New Phone Theme

Screenshot_2013-08-07-18-30-16

Changed my wallpaper to Piplup from Pokemon Pearl and kept everything the same except the ringtone and notification sound (Lavender Town Remix and Pikachu’s Victory respectively).  The music I got from Flashygoodness’ bandcamp.  The album is Super Smash Land Hidden Tracks and can be found here.

Pokemon pic can be found here.  Download all the pokemon in one .RAR file and add them to your desktop or phone.

As my dear readers can tell, I really like to change up my phone wallpaper and my ringtones and stuff.  With a smartphone, it’s really easy; I remember having to BUY ringtones on my old flip phone.  How far we’ve come.

Android App Series: gReader Pro

I know, I already reviewed Feedly, but I wanted something more “Google Reader” like so I decided to try this app out.

I initially tried the free version and it was awesome except for the ads along the bottom.  I still had some money left in my google play account (the absolute best way to deal with paid apps, in my opinion, but that’s another post) so I decided to “upgrade” to the paid version.

I’m so glad I did.

I don’t mind paying for apps.  It supports the development of great apps and it encourages the people behind the great apps to continue to update the apps and keep improving them.

Anyway, gReader Pro is a very good RSS app that has cloud Feedly support as well as The Old Reader syncing.  I use it to keep all my RSS feeds in line throughout my all my devices: Nexus 7, Samsung phone, and my computer (chrome browser on three systems).

Anyway, it’s got a great layout and is very easy to use.

Have a screenshot of the main page:

Screenshot_2013-08-06-21-09-24

This is what it looks like on my phone, the Samsung Galaxy Reverb.  It’s slightly bigger and whatnot on my tablet, but I’ll just be using the phone screenshots.

Hit “All Items” and get the following:

Screenshot_2013-08-06-21-10-06

 

You can press on an article to read it and from there, swipe from the right to the left to advance in the articles.  It’s very easy to use.

What I also like about it is that it has Evernote (through Everclip), Facebook, Twitter, G+, Pocket (Read it Later) and the Mobilizer in a quick menu that you get to with a tap on the article and then touching the “share” button.  Screenshot below:

Screenshot_2013-08-06-21-15-38

 

Tap any of those quick shortcuts and send directly from the app.   Unfortunately there is no “email” option, but you can use the menu next to it for that.

Anyway, if you want to check this app out, see the google play page here.  The Pro version costs something like $5 but that’s for the lifetime of the app and you shouldn’t have to pay again.  It’s not a subscription based service, so you don’t have to worry about being charged again.

 

Android Phone Theme

New phone screenshot!

This is using Nova Launcher and the Minimal UI iconset as well as Fancy Widgets Pro.

My wallpaper I got from google searching Cowboy Bebop pictures.

I’ve enabled the “unread counts” on Nova so I get that little flag on my gmail.

I’m using the black and white icons for the tray down there and the color icons for everything else.

Man I love this one and I’ll be keeping it around!

Android App Series: My Data Manager

I installed My Data Manager on my old phone so that I could monitor how much data my Spotify/Pandora streaming was using.  I’ve since installed it on my new phone, and I love it.

I love the “Ongoing” section of my pull down bar on Ice Cream Sandwich.  I can swipe down from the top of my phone and see what is going on.

Anyway, this little beauty of an app monitors how much data you’re downloading.  You can set it up to track for your billing period and see how much data you’re actually using.  This is useful if you know you have a cap or a threshold where your carrier will start throttling your speed (mine does; 2.5 gb).  I’ve never gotten anywhere near the cap, and I think I could lower my “unlimited” data to 1.5 gb and I’d be fine.  This is with doing updates, streaming, gaming, and anything else I’d do (reading news too).  I tend to do as much as I can on my home wifi so I don’t use up my phone data.  Which makes sense.

Oh, this app also shows how much “data” you’ve used on wifi.  This is handy too.  I like to know how much my phone is pulling down, but I don’t really care when it’s on my home wifi.  Go to town, phone!  When I tell it to throttle back is when I’m on 3g.  I have plenty of data, but I don’t want to get to the end of my billing cycle and find out that I’m throttled to unusable speeds.

Anyway, this is a great tracking app to see what is using data and when.  It’s also great to track how much data you are using; this potentially could save some people some money as they could reduce the amount of data they’re paying for and use their home wifi network to do all updates and file transfers.

I really like it and I would totally recommend it to anyone who has a carrier who has a cap or throttles their speed when they get to the soft cap.

Android App Series: Swiftkey

Swiftkey is an app that I found that was touted by Lifehacker as the bee’s knees, so I had to try it.  I watched Lifehacker and pretty soon, it was on sale for something like $2 or $4; I cant remember.  So I picked it up.  I started using it on my old phone (an LG) and found that it was better in most ways from the stock keyboard as well as Swype.  So, I started using it more and more.

Cue my new phone.  This app was the first thing I installed, since I had gotten used to it.  It’s updated to v. 4, so now I have “flow” which allows you to slide your thumb around the board and spell out a word.  Swype has this, but it doesn’t seem to be as predictive as Swiftkey is, so I use the title app.

I’ve also installed it to my Nexus 7.  It works fine, although they want you to buy a special tablet version; if that version goes down in price, I would totally get it, but for now, the standard version works fine.

I find that the prediction is awesome and it can seem to figure out what I want to say before I say it.  Other than being a bit creepy (though all these apps and services might be considered creepy), I really like it.  I especially like it when I use the phone in one hand; like when I’m trying to carry my bag and reply to a text.

The following video seems to give a better show of what I’m trying to say.  I’m using a cool black and blue theme; I think it’s called holo.  Anyway, watch the video.

 

This is a great app and should be on everyone’s phone or tablet.  It’s turned into a “must have” for me, and I’m glad that Lifehacker featured it awhile ago.

Android App Series: Feedly

I love RSS.

And because of that love of RSS I was extremely sad when I saw the announcement that Google Reader was shutting down, but that’s neither here nor there as I don’t control Google and have no say in what they keep or get rid of in regards to webapps.

Anyway, I was using Feedly to sync my RSS feeds from Google Reader to my tablet and phone.  Now I’m pretty much using Feedly as my go-to app on all of my operating systems (Win7, Ubuntu, Mac, Android) to keep my RSS feeds in sync.

I really like this app.  It’s got an intuitive interface and is easy to navigate around in.  I imported all of my RSS feeds from Google, allowed it to sync over my home wifi for both my phone and my tablet, and ta-da, I had more stuff to read!

How about a screenshot of the web/browser interface?

Screenshot from 2013-04-06 17:54:35

Pretty clean and easy to figure out.  This is my start page which is the magazine “all” view.

Tablet:

Screenshot_2013-04-06-17-58-04

This is my “funneh” category (hee, category!) that has all my LOLcats and whatnot in it.  Again, very clean and easy to figure out.  I like this because there’s a quick menu in the story view and I can easily share to twitter or pocket or facebook immediately with no hassle.

Screenshot_2013-04-06-18-01-01

The phone interface is pretty much exactly the same except smaller.

Anyway, this is a great app if you want to read news on your smartphone or tablet.  One note, however: it doesn’t download the articles from the web for reading later; you will have to have a connection via wifi or 3g/4g in order to read articles.  If you want something that downloads your articles, look into Currents.

Great app, easy to use, and pretty fast; I’ve never had Feedly crash on me.

Unfortunately, if The Old Reader comes out with an android app soon, I will probably be switching over to it because the web interface is easier than Feedly for browser-based reading.

Android App Series: SMSdroid

Texting apps.  There are a lot of them out there and some are good, some are great, and others are a huge pain in the butt.

I used my stock messaging app for awhile on my new Samsung phone but was not happy with it.  The text was too big and I couldn’t find a decent way to make it smaller, there were no options for what it looked like, and I just was not happy with it.

Enter my testing phase.  I tried Handcent, GOsms, and SMSdroid.

Handcent had ads on it that I had to pay for to remove.  It sent and received SMS just fine.  It seemed a little slow, however, and I thought the whole reason for SMS was quick test-based communication.  Also, it had a lot of customizations and I don’t necessarily need it along with the emoji.

I tried GOsms Pro.  I really wanted to like it.  It seemed to be ok, but was rather bloated in that it wanted to seemingly take over my phone and install itself as a chat app as well.  For the record I use Trillian and have no problems.  Anyway, after I got the 10th spam SMS from them, I decided to pay for it.  $5 and there were no usability improvements and the only thing I could really do were to take out the spam SMSes.  And if you wanted to get more themes for it, you had to go to the store and download them, as well as pay for most of them.  I already paid $5 for the app, I shouldn’t have to pay for more stuff to go in the app, nor should I have to deal with extras I don’t want.  So, I wasted my $5.  Someone else might want that functionality, but I don’t need it.

I tried Chomp SMS and they had annoying ads along the bottom.  I was displeased, especially when the ads were flashing.  Ahem.  Of course you can buy it for $2 but I wasn’t into also having to install the themes separately inside the app.  This was no different from GO, except it didn’t send me any spam texts.

Enter SMSdroid.  I installed this and noticed there were ads in it.  I was a little grumpy but figured I would try it out.  I found that it worked gloriously and was quick on the SMS send and receive, and the ads were text only, unlike the others.  I’ve decided to use this program after paying for a donation to the developer.  Also, this is the only app that’s open source and has it’s code hosted on github.  That in itself is cool, so I’ve decided to support this developer.  It’s a simple app that just works and has some simple theming.  More than the stock app and less than something like GO or other apps.  It’s a great app that does what it says on the tin.

If I get sick of SMSDroid, I might go back to Handcent if I need more theming options.  I’ll for sure have to pay to get rid of the ads; that’s annoying.

Android App Series: Moon+ Reader

When I bought my Nexus 7, I figured I’d use it mostly as a reading device.  And sure enough, that is what I use it the most for.

Pocket notwithstanding, I like to read ebooks.  I needed to find an ebook reader that would be suitable.  I don’t mind google’s ebook reader but there didn’t seem to be a a way to import your books into the program, and I like to read a lot of Project Gutenberg stuff as well as things from Storybundle, so that was high on my list.  I tried several ebook readers (including the Nook app) but didn’t find something I liked till I gave Moon+ a shot.

I was wow-ed immediately.

I loved the different reading color “skins” and the text changer and everything else.  Moon+ was the first app I ever bought for any android device.

It’s pretty simple:  You load your books into it (and there’s a Dropbox integration, which I have to try yet), pick what you want to read (you can filter by author, series, etc) and then start reading.  Swipe from your right bezel to flip the page forward; to flip back, swipe from the left.

It’s simple and I got it for something like $4.  It might still be half off on the google play store, but I highly recommend it for reading books you’ve downloaded.

5/5 penguins for the fact that it can be as simple or as complex as you want it and it’s array of options.  Also, it’s a rock solid app and doesn’t crash or crash my device.

Android App Series: Pocket

I’d like to start a new series on my blog of Android Apps I use regularly and that I love and can’t think of functioning without.

The first one I’d like to write about is Pocket.

Pocket was originally called “Read it Later” and was the first read later service I tried.  It was not the last; I tried a special folder in my bookmarks, a read later tag on del.ici.ous, a read later tag in diigo, a folder of webclips in Evernote, and Instapaper.

I was using Instapaper as my “go to” read later app.  I then got my Android phone and didn’t really have a good mobile app for reading things while on the go.  It was about this time that Pocket came on the scene and I tried it out.  It told me that I “already had an account on this service” and I found out it was  a rebranded Read it Later.  I installed it on my phone, copied my articles from Instapaper, and the rest is history.

I use it judiciously when I’m reading online on one of my computers.  I’ll find long articles on Ars or Lifehacker or a great feminism post somewhere or whatever, and I click my “save to Pocket” button in Chrome and I have an awesomely formatted article on any browser that’s connected to the internet as well as my phone and my tablet.  The awesomest thing?  I don’t have to have network access to read the articles as they download to the device.  This is both a great thing and a bad thing if you have limited space, but Pocket formats things mostly in plain text and removes the pictures, so you have a plain text reading experience.

I also use Pocket when I’m reading my RSS feeds in Feedly on my Nexus 7.  I pick the “save to Pocket” option on things I think read better on a larger screen (lifehacker with comments, for example).

You can read in your browser, on your phone, and on your tablet.  As long as your devices are connected to the internet, you can easily keep your place between devices.  This is handy if you read something on the tablet, and then get pulled away and have to go out somewhere and then are waiting in line and then you read some more on your phone.  You’ll keep your place so you don’t have to scroll to where you were.  It’s a really handy app.

You can also “star” articles to read again or if you are compiling research for an article or something.  Click the star on your article and it saves to the “starred” section of your Pocket account.  It’s handy to keep track of your favorite articles.

I’ve set up IFTTT to take my starred articles and send them to a folder in Evernote so I can keep them for reading again.

Pocket is a brilliant app and works on Android, i-devices, your browsers (through an extension or bookmarklet) and various RSS readers and other apps.  I give Pocket a hearty thumbs up and 5/5 penguins for its simplicity and usefulness.