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Recent Reviews

Top Android App: Advanced Task Manager

Posted on Dec 8, 2009 in Tools, Top Rated Apps | comment

Advanced Task Manager is your Android app to end applications, speed up your phone, and save battery life.  This is one of the most useful apps you can own on your Android device, hands down.

Application: Advanced Task Manager

Version: 3.9
Size: 145KB
Category: Tools
Price: $0.99
Overall Score: 4.8/5
User Interface: 4.5/5
Ease of Use: 5/5
Customizability: 5/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Indispensability: 5/5
Inside the app you will see a tab called Applications which shows all the current running applications.  It also shows the amount of memory that each app is currently using.  You can use the check boxes to select multiple applications at once to end them all.  An important note is that if you end any applications, their services and notifications will be also stopped.  In order to avoid this, there is an option to add an app to the exclude list.  The exclude list will put a red X in the applications tab and so it won’t be an option to end.  Examples of apps that you might want to add to the exclude list include Email, Facebook, or Twitter.
There is a handy feature to this app called auto-end.  This feature will activate itself, auto-end all running apps that are not excluded, and then deactivate.  This way Advanced Task Manager will only be running for a very short time, yet apps will be closed in order to conserve battery life.  Again, exclude any apps like email, calendar, etc. which you don’t want their notifications to be cleared.  If it’s easier to just select apps you want to auto-end (instead of all running apps) you can add applications to the auto-end apps list.  You can adjust the frequency of auto-end as well to fit your personal preference.
There is even a shake-to-end-all option that will auto-end all applications with the shake of your phone (you can set the threshold for how hard you shake it to activate this feature).  Similarly, there is a 1×1 widget for Advanced Task Manager that allows you to auto-end all running (or predetermined auto-end apps list) apps.  These two features speed up the task killing process, even though it’s very fast to begin with.
The uninstall tab offers a one-touch method of uninstalling any unwanted apps.  Simply click the app you no longer want to open the uninstall dialogue.

Note: You can also end Advanced Task Manager itself when you’re done.

If you don’t want to pay for the paid version right away, there is a free lite version of this app on the Android Market as well.  Although, as I think you will find, the full paid app is definitely worth it.

Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to Advanced Task Manager in the Android Market.

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Android App News: Google Goggles

Posted on Dec 8, 2009 in App News | comment

Here is the Google website for their newest Android app, Google Goggles.  Check their site out along with our review:

Enjoy the awesome new Android app!

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Top Android App: Toggle Settings

Posted on Dec 8, 2009 in Tools, Top Rated Apps | comment

Toggle Settings is one of the fastest way to control the settings on your Android phone.  This app is extremely customizable and offers you total control of your phones’ settings.

Application: Toggle Settings

Version: 2.5.4
Size: 522KB
Category: Productivity
Price: Free
Overall Score: 4.7/5
User Interface: 4.5/5
Ease of Use: 4.5/5
Customizability: 5/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Indispensability: 5/5
The initial screen that is brought up contains tabs for Toggles (1-3) and Profiles.  Each Toggle tab can have up to 8 settings to control.  Again, these are customizable so that you can have the settings you want to control the most often on the first tab.  Settings you never change don’t even have to be included on any of the tabs.  List of settings that can be added to your toggle tabs:
·         Airplane
·         Mobile Data
·         Auto sync
·         Bluetooth
·         Fast bright
·         GPS
·         Lock Screen
·         Orientation
·         Screen never timeout
·         Silent Mode
·         Wi-Fi
·         3G network
·         Brightness
·         Notification ringtone
·         Phone ringtone
·         Ringer mode
·         Screen timeout
·         Volume control
The second great part of this app is the customizable profiles that you can create.  Simplified, a profile is a saved set of settings that you want to apply repeatedly.  For example, you can have a Low Battery profile that has settings set to conserve the amount of battery life that you have remaining i.e. turn off GPS, lower screen brightness, etc.  This is a great part of the app that can really come in handy for quick settings adjustments.  Currently I have Home, Location, Low Battery, and Work profiles.
The third important part of this app is the customizable rules that you can setup.  A rule is basically a criteria that when met, will lead to the application of a particular profile.  For example, you can add a rule that when the Battery is less than some %, the Low Battery profile is applied.  Or another example would be a rule based on the time, so that at 8:00AM the Work profile is applied.  Your work profile might include setting your phone to silent, turning off GPS, etc.  Rules can be applied to various different parameters like time, location, battery life, charger is plugged in, etc.
Overall, Toggle Settings is one of those must have Android apps to quickly and efficiently change the settings of your Android phone.  Similarly, it is a great app for conserving battery life in that you can control how settings that are battery intensive are used.  Definitely worth the download.
Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to Toggle Settings in the Android Market (Android 1.6 and 2.0).  If you’re running 1.5, search for Toggle Settings (Cupcake) for the appropriate app.
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Android App: Yelp

Posted on Dec 8, 2009 in App News, Travel | comment

Note: I’m not going to review the Yelp app officially just yet because I feel that many new updates will be coming to this app in the near future.  This is more of an informative news article/brief review.
Today the Yelp app was released to Android.  If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for this app for quite awhile now.  I like writing reviews for Yelp and I also almost never go anywhere without first reading up on other peoples’ experiences with a restaurant, business, etc.  For this reason I am very pleased with this new addition to my Android phone.
The main page of the app allows you to view nearby listings for the main categories like restaurants, bars, etc.  This is great for a quick find.  If you select a category, you can see a list of all the nearby businesses listed with their name, rating, address, distance, and price range.  Furthermore, a very useful feature from this page is the Map button.  With this, the Yelp app will show you your GPS location and also the locations of all businesses around you in the category you selected.  This is great if you don’t feel like traveling too far for what you want.
When you select a particular business, you get expanded results building off of what you see in the previous page.  Here you can read individual reviews, instantly map the location to get directions, or hit the Call button to quickly get in contact with the location.
Lastly, the Yelp app saves a history of what you have searched for and clicked on.  This is a convenient feature so that you can return to previous searches you may have been considering but hadn’t decided upon yet.
The reason I did not assign this app a review score yet is that it’s brand new and I feel like Yelp will be adding a lot more functionality to this app very soon.  Right now you can only search for and read reviews.  You can not write reviews from your Android phone, submit photos, or any of the other truly interactive options you’d expect from this app.  The reason I am confident these will be added is because that’s what Android and having a smart phone is all about.  If I just had an amazing meal at a new restaurant or extremely friendly customer service at a business location, I am much more likely to write a rave review right after the experience than when I get home.  The Yelp app (and Yelp itself) will see more reviews and activity if it makes these features available.
All in all, I enjoy reading Yelp reviews and using it to make informed decisions.  Because of this, the app is a great addition to Android.  Test it out and see what you think.

Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to Yelp in the Android Market.

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Top Android App: Google Goggles

Posted on Dec 8, 2009 in Tools, Top Rated Apps | comment

Google Goggles is the newest release for Google on Android.  Instead of using words or voice to search for an item or location, now you can use your camera!  Simply take a picture of an item or your surroundings and the app will attempt to recognize what has been captured.  From there, the app will return relevant search results using their Google search engine.  This is a great development for items that are tough to describe, like a monument in a place you’ve never been before.

Application: Google Goggles

Version: 1.0
Size: 486KB
Category: Tools
Price: Free
Overall Score: 4.8/5
User Interface: 4.5/5
Ease of Use: 4.5/5
Customizability: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Indispensability: 5/5
Some of the items that Google Goggles recommends you use with this app:
·         Books & DVDs
·         Landmarks
·         Logos
·         Contact info
·         Artwork
·         Businesses
·         Products
·         Barcodes
·         Text
And some of the items that Google Goggles does not recommend you use with this app:
·         Animals
·         Plants
·         Cards
·         Furniture
·         Apparel
Also, the app recommends using the left landscape to take pictures for best results.
Here’s a YouTube video from Google describing the app and how to use it.

So far I’ve tried this app with a few different items.  A couple items had obscure/rare logos and they were not recognized.  Then I tried the 2nd book in the Twilight series (New Moon) and it had no problem recognizing it and giving me relevant results.

A nice feature is that the app stores a history of all your searches (if you choose so) so you can comeback at a later time to remember what you saw and searched for at a particular time.

Another great feature that may often get overlooked is that Google Goggles will also show nearby businesses in your camera view (based on your GPS location).  When you see the small info box at the bottom of the screen you can click on it to return a search result for that business location.  This page will subsequently show you the location’s name, website, phone number, web results, and more information.  In one touch all this information is yours.  Incredible.

Right off the bat, this is a great app that really displays Android’s functionality and utility in your everyday life.  You can’t possibly skip out on this app for your Android device.  Go get it!

Note: Unfortunately, Google Goggles is only available for Android phones running Android 1.6 or later.  Hopefully all phones running 1.5 will upgraded sooner rather than later.

Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to Google Goggles in the Android Market.

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Top Android App: FxCamera

Posted on Dec 7, 2009 in Multimedia, Top Rated Apps | comment

FxCamera is an app that enables you to take pictures with a selection of effects. 

Application: FxCamera

Version: 0.5.1
Size: 1.06MB
Category: Mulitmedia
Price: Free
Overall Score: 4.9/5
User Interface: 5/5
Ease of Use: 5/5
Customizability: 4.5/5
Originality: 5/5
Indispensability: 5/5
So far, there are 6 different effects that you can take advantage of to make unique photos.
·         ToyCam
·         Polandroid (Polaroid)
·         Fisheye
·         SymmetriCam
·         Warhol
·         Normal
This app is a great addition to the Android platform.  Sometimes normal pictures just don’t do a picture justice.  Now when you want to send someone a picture you can add your own touch to it.  Want a portrait like something Warhol painted?  You got it.  Want a Fisheye picture of your pet?  You got it.  This app will definitely make your gallery of pictures on your phone much more interesting and fun to look at.
One note: this app requires an SD card to be in your phone.  As long as you haven’t removed the one that came with your device (or replaced it with one with a larger capacity) you are fine.
This top rated app is extremely easy to use so jump right into it.
Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to FxCamera in the Android Market.
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Android Game: WordUp!

Posted on Dec 7, 2009 in Games | comment

WordUp! is a game based on the original Boggle.  The object of the game is to find as many words as possible out of the grid of 16 letters on the board (there are also 3×3 and 5×5 grids depending on your skill level).  You must do this before the time runs out.

Application: WordUp!

Version: 1.2.0
Size: 844KB
Category: Games
Price: Free
Overall Score: 4.25/5
Graphics: 4.5/5
Gameplay: 4.5/5
Originality: 3.5/5
Indispensability: 4.5/5
With your Android phone, you simply have to trace the word with your finger.  As you do this the word will be spelled out as the letters are highlighted.  Words that are accepted will turn from white to blue.
The basic rules are:
·         Each subsequent letter must share a side or corner with the previous letter.
·         A specific letter must be used only once per word.
·         Proper nouns, slang words, and words with apostrophes are not counted.
Scoring words as follows:
·         Three or four letters = 1 point
·         Five letters = 2 points
·         Six letters = 3 points
·         Seven letters = 5 points
·         Eight or more letters = 11 points
When time runs out you can view all the possible words that could have been created from the grid.  The words you were able to capture are highlighted in blue.  There is also the ability to look up any definition of words that are found in the game which is a great feature.
With WordUp! you can increase your vocabulary and have fun at the same time.  This game is great for kids (and adults alike).  If you like word-based games, download this one for your Android device.

Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to WordUp! in the Android Market.

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Top Android Game: Robo Defense

Posted on Dec 7, 2009 in Games, Top Rated Games | comment

Robo Defense, created by Lupis Labs Software, is a great rendition of the familiar tower defense type game.  It features multiple map layouts which greatly add to the challenge.  You can start out with maps that have a single entrance and exit for units you need to kill (easier), to maps with multiple entrances and exits (more difficult).  There are also up to 20 levels for each of the map types so you know you’ll be playing this addictive game for awhile.

Application: Robo Defense

Version: 1.2.0
Size: 1.89MB
Category: Games
Price: $2.99
Overall Score: 4.75/5
Graphics: 4.5/5
Gameplay: 5/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Indispensability: 5/5
The first thing you’ll notice is that Robo Defense has nice graphics for a tower defense game developed for Android.  This definitely adds to the high rating because no one wants to tolerate poor graphics for very long.
A very nice feature which greatly adds to the indispensability of this game is the amount of upgrades that can be made to your each of your units.  The more upgrades that are offered, the more of a strategy the game truly has.  Also, with each kill you make, you earn reward points.  These reward points can be used to upgrade specific characteristics of the game, i.e. number of lives you have, amount of damage each missile does, speeding up reload times, etc.  You will definitely be spending these reward points in order to give you the edge to advance to the next level.
Overall Robo Defense is a great app for your Android phone.  You’ll find yourself playing this game whenever you’ve got some downtime.  Hopefully you earn a few achievements along the way!
If you’re a little weary, try out the free lite version to see if it fits your fancy.

Here’s a quick YouTube video of someone playing level 500.  Check it out to see what to expect (and for a hint at one successful setup strategy).

Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to Robo Defense (Free Lite version) in the Android Market.

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How to Take Screenshots on Your Android Phone

Posted on Dec 6, 2009 in Tutorials | 11 comments

This guide is intended for the user who wants to take screenshots on their Android device.  For a standard (non-rooted) phone, the following steps are currently the only method.  Unfortunately for now, there is not an application that can perform this task.
Step 1: Enable USB debugging on your Android phone.  For this you will need to click Menu > Settings > Applications > Development > USB debugging.
Step 2: Download the Android SDK for your current platform (Windows, Mac, or Linux).  Save the file to your desktop and then extract the files from the .zip file.  Once you have done this, you will also need to check that you have a current copy of the Java runtime environment on your computer.  The JDK is necessary for this process to work.  You will then need to run the SDK Setup.exe file that located in the “android-sdk-windows” folder that you just extracted.  Make sure that you install the necessary packages (specific Android versions) for your phone.
Now plug in your Android phone to your computer with your USB cable.  Note: you do not need to mount your device for taking screenshots.  Simply plugging in your device and seeing the notice that “USB debugging connected” is all that you need.
Step 3: Run DDMS.  DDMS is the Dalvik Debug Monitor Service and is located in the ‘tools’ folder of the “android-sdk-windows” folder that you downloaded in Step 2.  Simply double-clicking on the DDMS icon will launch the necessary components (including the windows\system\cmd line which you have to leave open for DDMS to run).
Step 4: Once you have opened DDMS, you should see only 1 device listed.  Click on your device to highlight it, and now you should be ready to take screenshots.  From here, click Device > Screen capture from the top menu.  Alternatively, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+S.  Doing this will pop up the Device Screen Capture window which will show the screen you currently see on your Android device.  In this window you can Refresh the current image to generate a new image of your current screen (if it has changed since your previous screenshot).  You can also Rotate, Save, and Copy the image.  When you are finished click Done to exit the Device Screen Capture window.
1. My device is not recognized in DDMS.
I had this problem with my T-mobile G1 in Windows when I initially tried to take screenshots.  The reason this occurs is because you currently don’t have the required Android USB Driver needed by Windows to recognize the device in DDMS.  The USB Driver is a downloadable component of the Android SDK.  It can be found in the Available Packages portion of your Android SDK and AVD Manager.  For instructions on how to install it, refer to the link above.  Even without this driver you can still mount your device, transfer files, etc. so it’s not crucial unless you want to take screenshots.
Here is an example of the procedure for installing the new USB Driver on Windows XP, straight from the Android developer website for the USB Driver linked above. 
Windows XP: Perform a fresh installation

To install the Android USB driver on Windows XP for the first time:

  1. Connect your Android-powered device to your computer’s USB port. Windows will detect the device and launch the Hardware Update Wizard.

  2. Select “Install from a list or specific location” and click “Next.”
  3. Select “Search for the best driver in these locations”; un-check “Search removable media”; and check “Include this location in the search.”
  4. Click “Browse…” and locate the folder where you copied the installation package.
  5. Click “Next” to install the driver.

Instructions for doing this with Windows Vista can also be found on the same website.

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Top Android App: Key Ring Reward Cards

Posted on Dec 6, 2009 in Tools, Top Rated Apps | comment

Key Ring Reward Cards is developed by Froogloid, LLC and uses the barcode scanner on your device to recreate digital copies of all your reward cards.  Know you don’t have to search through your wallet or purse for reward and discount cards, you have them at the tip of your finger.

Application: Key Ring Reward Cards

Version: 1.3.21
Size: 593KB
Category: Tools
Price: Free
Overall Score: 4.7/5
User Interface: 4.5/5
Ease of Use: 4.5/5
Customizability: 5/5
Originality: 4.5/5
Indispensability: 5/5
Adding a card is extremely easy once you’re in the app.  Simply click ‘Add Card’ to open a window where you have the option of either scanning a barcode to add it to the app, or you can also use the keypad to manually type in the code that is located on the card.  With this versatile functionality, Key Ring allows you to add any barcode or non-barcode cards.
Once you’ve scanned the card you then select the retailer that it belongs to.  Key Ring currently supports over 650 global retailers so you shouldn’t have a problem with many of the cards you find yourself carrying around everyday.  Here’s a few photos to show the quick step-by-step process.
Overall, Key Ring Reward Cards is extremely useful in consolidating all your retail/discount cards into one place.  This way you never have to bother with carrying around countless cards again.  This app is a great demonstration of the ability of Android to make life easier.  We recommend you start trying out this app if you haven’t already done so.
If you have any trouble with scanners being unable to recognize a code, watch Froogloid’s short YouTube video which includes their tips on how to maximize the effectiveness of their app.

Scan with Barcode Scanner for direct link to Key Ring Reward Cards in the Android Market.

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