Thursday, 26 April 2012

Skype for Android speeds up but still makes too much noise

Skype for Android wasn't slow to begin with, and the latest update makes it start up a bit faster.

That was the good news.

What didn't change: the interface is unnecessary clumsy. The tabs that made navigating the app easy and efficient disappeared a long time ago, and having to pass the start screen with the four big icons gets annoying real quick.

And then there's the noise! When you launch Skype it makes a deafening startup sound. The dialpad tones can wake up the dead. The shutdown sound makes logging out quietly impossible. And there's no way to switch off those useless decibels!

So I fired up Titanium backup and restored my vintage Skype version It doesn't have the snazzy video goodies of the latest edition, but that's a small price to pay. My Skype Classic has tabs for easy navigation, and it only makes noise when I receive a call or message. And anyway, Skype is on its way to become a relic of the past now that Vonage, Viber, and Google Voice are all over the place and standard SIP VoIP comes preloaded on all new Android phones. And for Skype Chat we have imo. Guess what? imo does voice calls too!

Microsoft, your purchase needs some patching up or it will become as insignificant as your mobile operating system.

Skype (Google Play)
Skype (on i-Pmart, a site with a dark side, beware of the dog)

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Wednesday, 25 April 2012

What do you look at, what do you look like?

Just stumbled upon a Blogspot screen full of stats. What are you looking at? This:

SetVsel: overclock and undervolt your Motorola Defy
Is the Motorola Defy really that popular? Well, speeding things up always helps.

Bloat Freezer abuses Airpush ads to blackmail you
Nobody likes to get scammed. It looks like the fraud called Trey Holland has many enemies. He deserves all of them.

DroidWall has leaky boots
It's not DroidWalls fault that Google made Android leaky by design. Still, a firewall that lets things slip on boot asks for a fix. Google, wake up!

Google apps on GetJar
This one came as a surprise. On second thought, I guess there must be millions of devices out there that don't run the Android Market Google Play Store.

Ad blocker shootout: AdAway vs. AdFree
Nobody likes ads. Psychologists discovered that advertising really stresses us out, and that blocking ads improves your health. If you don't see ads on this page it means your ad blocker is doing its job ;)

Make your battery last longer without dumbing down your smartphone
Your 22nd century smartphone is powered by a 19th century battery.

The "read phone state and identity" permission should be split
Does Google care about your privacy? Of course not!

ES File Explorer now has Dropbox and unpacks RAR files
I'm not alone in thinking this is Androids best file manager to date.

VoIP app Viber adds off switch, but still thinks you're too stupid to control autostart
Launching at boot without an off switch? That may work on an iPhone, but the Android crowd doesn't need to be taken by the hand.

Alternative Grooveshark app shootout: Dood's Music Streamer versus TinyShark
Free music always goes down well.

Other trivia: you're probably american, german, or english. India, France, and The Netherlands are represented pretty well too. Your surfboard is called Firefox or Chrome, you avoid Internet Explorer like the plague, and only 1% of you uses Iron. Let's kick that number up, because Iron is way better than Chrome. Almost two thirds of you runs Windows, 22% rides the waves on Android (maybe I should make a mobile version of this site?), and you probably found this blog by searching Google.

Is that you?

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Saturday, 21 April 2012

App drawer spam: Facebook and others

Google Android
Update: looks like Facebook agrees that adding junk icons was a bad move, because they disappeared from the next edition of the app.

The latest Facebook update doesn't just kill some bugs and add some features to the Facebook app, it also violates the "one app, one icon" rule.

Facebook is not the only one. GO Launcher fills your app drawer with a handful of icons, including one that takes you to the GO Store where you probably don't want to go. And Google Maps comes with junk like Latitude for which in-app access is apparently not enough, so it makes your app drawer even more cluttered than it already is.

Ray of light: GO Launcher lets you hide all the app drawer icons that you don't want to see.

So what's new in Facebook? There's an extra camera icon in your app drawer to shoot pics straight to Facebook, because the share menu in your camera app and gallery don't cut it for the Facebook beancounters. The messaging service of Facebook wasn't used enough for Facebooks tastes either, so in comes an extra icon. Both extra icons point to the same Facebook app where the normal Facebook icon already takes you.

As for the Facebook app itself, it sucked and it still sucks. You're better of with the mobile website instead. For Facebook Messenger there are plenty of excellent multi-network IM apps out there, such as imo.

Update: looks like Facebook agrees that adding junk icons was a bad move, because they disappeared from the next edition of the app. (way better than the app)

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Thursday, 19 April 2012

Lucky Patcher removes Google ads from Android apps

Android has a hosts file just like Windows and Linux, so you can clean up your apps and web browsing by blocking the banner farms that compete for screen estate with the real content you're after. Since just about every advertiser out there tries to follow all your moves on the internet you have another good reason to take countermeasures.

But what if you want to clean up your apps without editing your hosts file?

Enter Lucky Patcher. This smart app strips the code that downloads Google ads out of your apps, so your screen and your privacy are a little less abused by AdMob, AdSense, and the other Google banner farms that don't just show ads but try to track your location as well (which hammers your GPS, which sucks your battery dry).

Lucky Patcher can also remove the license verification of paid apps. You could download a paid app, backup and patch the APK, return it within the 15 minute window for a refund, and continue to use it with the license check yanked out. But this is pure piracy. You have to draw the line somewhere, so don't go any further than ad removal.

Lucky Patcher from chelpus

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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Get your football fix on Android with SopCast

SopCast uses BitTorrent-like technology to distribute user-generated tv channels. You can broadcast anything you like, but the main use of SopCast is watching live football games and other sports events that would otherwise cost you money or would not be available in your part of the world at all. When I'm travelling abroad SopCast keeps me in touch with my football team back home.

The Android version is still in beta testing stage and it shows all over. Especially the custom URL entry method (you have to open two menus for it) could use some polishing. But even with all its teething problems SopCast for Android is a fully functional way to watch streaming tv on your phone or tablet. And the latest beta version works on Ice Cream Sandwich too. Another nice touch: SopCast for Android launches automatically if you tap a link to a SopCast stream in your web browser.

Keep in mind that watching SopCast streams eats a boatload of data, so don't do this on a capped connection that makes you pay by the megabyte.

Missed the live airing and want the highlights? GoalTV Droid has a clunky interface, but it has the highlights of all major football competitions. Most of 'em come from Dailymotion. IMO GoalTV Droid works better than the GoalTV app from Frezya Mobile, but YMMV.

Update: GoalTV Droid is dead. GoalTV from Frezya Mobile is still alive and kicking.

The beta test version of SopCast is not on the Google Play store (yet), but GoalTV Droid is.

SopCast (
SopCast on xda (for the latest beta versions)
GoalTV Droid (Google Play)
GoalTV HD for Tablets (Google Play)
GoalTV app from Frezya Mobile for your SopCast links and other ways to live games and highlights

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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

MultiLing Keyboard for your special characters and nose jobs

When it comes to Android keyboards it's hard to beat Swype, but sometimes an alternative keyboard is useful too.

For example, highlighting and inserting with pinpoint precision is a lot easier with cursor buttons, and the Swype keyboard doesn't have 'em. On many phones the enter key turns into a smilie button when you fire up the stock SMS app, so switching keyboards is the way to put line breaks in your text messages.

Edit: Swype has cursor buttons, but they can be hard to find. Swype from the Swype key to the SYM key to make 'em show up.

GO Keyboard did a pretty good job, but I trashed it when I found MultiLing Keyboard.

MultiLing Keyboard does not ask for internet access, which is a very good thing for an app that can see any password you tap into your phone.

It comes with cursor buttons, of course. Its unique selling point is that it makes it really easy to enter special characters like ¿¡~°£ etcetera. You can even tell it which special characters to pop up when you long-press the period and comma keys. And it lets you decide for yourself if smilies should be noseless or not, as in :) vs. :-).

MultiLing keyboard

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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dolphin browser gesture doesn't get it right

Update: you can move the gesture button to the other corner again.

The unique selling point of Dolphin Browser HD is the way it lets you make and use custom gestures to switch tabs, move around your sites, and much more.

The latest update changes the way gestures work, and I don't like it at all.

The old Dolphin would let me choose if I wanted my gesture button on the bottom left or bottom right of my screen. That's how it should be, because there are left- and right handed people out there and they all have their personal favorite position for the gesture button.

The new Dolphin forgot all about ergonomics. It added a "go to page top" button which is not only useless for most (we already had gestures for that, right?), but it sits on the bottom right corner of your screen by default.

That means that the gesture button now sits on the bottom left, and there's no way to move it anywhere else.

Update: you can move the gesture button to the other corner again.

Not much of a problem in portrait mode, but tilt your phone to landscape mode and you'll probably find that the gesture button is out of reach if you're right handed. Say goodbye to single handed browsing unless you switch back to portrait position.

The new gestures share a screen with the Sonar feature. Sonar is Dolphins voice input. You're probably not using it, which is why Dolphin decided to push its Sonar in your face. It's now a tab on the gesture screen, and for some inexplicable reason you have to enable the Sonar button or else you will have no gesture button at all.

The transparency of the new gesture overlay is almost zero, so you can no longer see the page that you're drawing gestures on.

There's one tiny little ray of light. If Dolphin doesn't understand your scribbled gesture it shows a "did you mean..." set of suggestions so you don't need to draw again.

Another nice touch: the add-on sidebar now shows names in addition to icons. Too bad Dolphin found it necessary to clutter up the sidebar with some more placeholders for add-ons you'll probably never use, and there's no way to delete them. The add-on set needs a bit of a spring cleaning anyway. Really, is anyone gonna download the 2010 World Cup add-on now?

Let's hope Dolphin cleans things up in its next update.

Dolphin HD

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Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Adobe Reader adds pdf annotation, scribbling, highlighting, signing, and form filling

Adobe Reader is probably the worst PDF reader for Windows, but things are different in the Android world.

There are plenty of PDF readers for Android out there, but they're either overpriced, fail to reflow text, etc.

Surprisingly, the Android version of Adobe Reader does a pretty good job. It reflows text, shows it in pages or as a continuous scroll, and the latest version adds a few more goodies.

The new edition behaves a bit more like paper. It lets you annotate your PDFs, scribble and draw on them, highlight text with fluorescent colors, fill forms, and sign them too. So if you want to chain someone to an unbreakable legally binding contract you can add Adobe Reader to your stash of weapons.

Adobe Reader

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Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Optimize Toolbox speaks english again

All-in-one (to be precise: 15-in-one and counting) Android toolkit Optimize Toolbox didn't make new friends when an update made the app speak chinese and nothing else.

But the latest update made the app speaks english again!

Why that matters? Because some of its 15 features are quite useful. A startup timer, a pretty good app manager, and a running apps and processes tab that beats the stock app settings menu in terms of speed and usability.

The dead pixel detector is a nice touch too, but its well hidden in the new edition. You have to grab a helper app called DeviceMark to get the dead pixel finder screens back. Or you could simply toggle the background colors of any drawing app to do the same thing.

The user interface of Optimize Toolbox looks a bit slicker too. No more need to stick with the old version.

Many features of Optimize Toolbox require root access. You may want to use DroidWall or LBE Privacy Guard to keep Optimize Toolbox offline.

Optimize Toolbox Lite version (Android Market) (Play Store) English again, but check the store feedback to see if they didn't go all chinese again.
Optimize Toolbox version 2.0.9 (android underground) This old version speaks english for sure.

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Monday, 2 April 2012

GO Backup has a long way to go

Google Android
Titanium and MyBackup are the Coke and Pepsi of the Android backup apps. They back up your messages, apps, contacts, settings, and just about everything else you'd like to back up to recover from data loss disasters, or to get your things back when you switch ROMs. Both apps have one more thing in common: they don't back up your widgets.

And now GO Backup tries to squeeze in between the big two.

GO Backup backs up your contacts, messages, apps, and app settings. Just like Titanium and MyBackup, backing up your app settings requires root access, but if you're reading this your phone is probably rooted and running a custom ROM already.

There are some major flaws that need to be fixed before GO Backup can go be a serious contender.

GO Backup doesn't back up your playlists, calendar, paired bluetooth devices, WiFi access points, or Android settings. It won't back up your MMSs either, not even the text part. And you can't choose your own backup folder, so the only way to put your GO backups in your Dropbox folder is if you fire up your file manager to move 'em in by hand.

But the worst part is that you have to create an account with an email address. A fake email will work, but that's not the point. The problem is that you need to be signed in before GO Backup backs up anything. And what's absolutely unforgivable: you have to be signed in to restore your backups, even if they're sitting on your very own SD card.

No internet connection available because you're roaming abroad and you're out of free WiFi range? Too bad, but that's a no go for GO. Even if your internet is up and running the servers of GO may be out of order, and then you're still locked out of your backups. When I couldn't connect to GO the only way to use the app was by restoring a Titanium backup from back when I was still logged in. Having to use Titanium before I can use GO... irony doesn't get much better than that!

Right now GO Backup only has one thing going for it: batch restoring your apps and their settings for free, a feature for which both Titanium and MyBackup demand money. I'd still use the free version of MyBackup for my data, though.

If we give GO some time they may turn the app into a real Titanium or MyBackup alternative, but they're nowhere near there yet. Let's hope they fix the flaws before falling for the temptation of featuritis.

GO Backup

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Sunday, 1 April 2012

Samsung MyTouch Vivid One 3D announced!!!

Google Android
Finally! The rumors were all over the web, but now we have the first real hard pumping evidence of the upcoming new product that we're all anxiously waiting for!

Will it have 4G, 5G, 6G, and NFC? What about a 3D screen made of superunbreakable Chimpansee Glass? Are we gonna see the return of the infrared sensor? Did they really ditch the volume rocker for a brainwave-sensitive mindpad? And is it gonna make Siri eat herself to death on chocolate and ice cream sandwiches?

After all the other Android sites scored with leaked photos and prematurely released spec sheets Android Underground is the FIRST to show you a real action picture of the brand new LG Sony Samsung Bionic Incredible G2 One Nexus which will soon be available from a carrier near you. Yes, it makes Apple wish it was never born. Yes, it makes coffee too. And if you flash a specially modded custom ROM it will even make phone calls!

To all the poor Android phone manufacturers who have a hard time naming their newborn babies: DON'T PANIC! There's light at the end of the tunnel.

Fire your marketing department, stop breaking your head over things like Droid Galaxy Nexus S3 or HTC Samsung 5G Ultimate Plus and head straight to:

The Android Phone Name Generator

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