Ask the Android.AppStorm Editor #3

It’s that time again! Thanks for all the questions you’ve been sending in; it’s great to be able to help you out with your Android issues. Keep them coming :)

This time we’re talking about Android vs. iPhone, tablet screen resolutions, separating your contacts into groups for work and friends, and how to turn off that blasted sound effect whenever you take a photo.

Read on for plenty of Android knowledge, and details on how to have your own questions answered.

I’m an Apple/iPhone owner and would love to see a detailed article/argument that outlines the benefits of switching to an Android phone. Are there any?

- Anonymous

I can’t give you an objective list of benefits, because almost all of the reasons for choosing Android are subjective. But I’ll explain why I picked Android over iPhone.

The first big reason is Flash Player support. I do a lot of Flash work (I’m the tech. editor for Activetuts+, another Envato site which hosts Flash tutorials), and Steve Jobs made it very clear that he wanted Flash to crash and burn.

No Blue Lego for me, thanks

I understand why Flash has a bad reputation: awful Flash-only websites, corny intros to HTML websites, animated banner ads, crashing… the list goes on. But there’s a lot to like about it, too: Flash games, RIAs, custom video playback, and more. Regardless, at the time I was considering a new phone, I needed to see what Flash was like on mobile, and that swayed me away from iOS.

Second: I’m a geek, and I like to tweak things. Android offers more customisation ability out-of-the-box, and because the community is made up of even more people like me, there are plenty of apps and themes suited for such tweaking. On similar lines, with iPhone, there’s always one major model that’s currently the best, and then there are some older models in case you can’t afford that. That’s simple, and I can see the appeal of that — but I prefer having a huge array of devices to choose from, with different specs and prices.

Third: I don’t like the “walled garden”. This is the common metaphor for how Apple controls so much of what you’re allowed to use on your phone. Flash is part of that, but there are plenty of other examples where Apple has refused to list an item from the App Store for not obeying their exact specifications — like a camera app that used the volume buttons to take a picture (incidentally, this is built in to the Settings on the stock camera app in Gingerbread). Again, I can see the appeal, but it’s just not for me. I don’t need to be babied.

Finally: Apple’s marketing just turns me off. I couldn’t stand Jobs’s claim that Facetime was the first time we’d ever been able to have video calls on a mobile. I was taken aback when I stepped into a train station a while ago and saw a giant picture of an iPhone with just the word “Folders” beside it. I wince whenever I see one of those TV commercials with the overly friendly man explaining to me just how simple an iPhone is. None of that clicks with me; it’s not for me.

There’s no Ultimate Argument that’s going to swing you from one platform to the other. It’s just personal.

As far as I know iPad is using a screen resolution of 1024×768. What will be the resolution of the Android tablets?

- Urs

I must admit, I don’t know the answer to this off the top of my head, other than that there will be many different resolutions, with different aspect ratios. Wikipedia’s Android tablet comparison article goes into a lot of detail on what you can expect; we’re going to see everything from 320×240 (the resolution of the Wildfire) up to 1366×768 and 1280×800.

The Motorola Xoom has a resolution of 1280×800. Since the Xoom is regarded as the flagship Android tablet, it wouldn’t surprise me if that became the standard resolution for 10.1-inch Android tablets.

I’m looking for a contacts app to separate my contacts between business and personal: all business contacts in one list and all personal contacts in another. Any suggestions?

- Robert

Hey Robert! If your contacts are synced to a Google account, you can actually do this already. Head over to http://contacts.google.com/ and sign in, and you’ll see a list of all your contacts. From here, you can make Contact Groups — I’d suggest Business and Personal, in your case, but you could split them into Co-Workers, Family, Friends, and whatever else makes sense — and assign contacts to those groups.

On your phone, open your Contacts app, hit Menu, and tap Display Options. Under “Choose contacts to display”, open the section corresponding to your Google account. You’ll be able to choose which groups of contacts are visible.

Contact groups

Okay, admittedly this is a bit of a pain. If you want something smoother, and with more features, check out Enterproid Divide, which lets you split your entire phone into separate profiles for work and for personal use. It’s currently in public beta — look out for a full review on Android.AppStorm in the future!

Is it possible to turn off the sound that the camera makes when snapping a picture? My phone is not rooted and I have a Motorola Droid X with Android version 2.2.

- Ben

Funnily enough I was trying to figure this out myself the other day. Apparently the reason it makes such a loud noise (apart from “realism”) is so that people around you can tell that you’re taking a picture — no sneaky snaps of people without their knowledge!

And yet, you can easily disable this by muting your phone, so that argument doesn’t make a lot of sense. Whatever the reason, there’s no option in the stock camera app to mute the sound effects.

There’s an app that claims to have the solution, though: SilentSnap (also available in Paid). This will disable the sounds so that you can take a picture in silence. However, a quick scan through the reviews shows that it doesn’t have a 100% success rate across all phones, so bear that in mind.

I know you haven’t rooted, Ben, but in case anyone else is reading who has, there’s another way around this: simply delete the /system/media/audio/ui/camera_click.ogg sound file and you’ll never hear that click again. Problem solved!

Didn’t See Your Question?

If you asked a question but didn’t have it answered today, don’t worry! I’ll do my best to get to it in a future week, either in a post like this or by covering it in a separate article. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to answer every question that’s sent in.

If you’d like to submit another question for the next time around, you can do so here:



  • Jonathan

    The Xoom’s resolution is actually 1280×800, which is significantly wider than the iPad’s display.

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      Oh shoot, you’re right. I even mentioned that in an earlier article. Thanks for pointing it out!

  • JD

    I switched from an iPhone 3GS to an HTC EVO and I have to agree that the ability to customize my phone is great; it’s really what keeps me interested in my phone the most. However, depending on what Apple announces at WWDC this June, I’m seriously considering switching back to an iPhone. I recently heard Steve Jobs (or someone from Apple) say that smart phone aren’t really about hardware as much as they are about software, and when it comes to software (in terms of apps and app quality) Android just doesn’t hold up to the iPhone. I love changing the look of my phone, but if I can’t also enjoy the main reason for the phone’s purpose than what’s the point of using it?

    • http://michaeljameswilliams.com/ Michael James Williams

      That’s interesting. I do agree that software is the core of what modern smartphones are about, though I would include all of the interface (like keyboards and messaging) in that. And yet I’ve never felt, as an Android user, that there are any apps I’m missing out on. Maybe I should read iPhone.AppStorm more often ;)

      • JD

        It’s not so much about missing out on apps, though there are a few I’ve seen that I’d really like. Coming from the iPhone to Android, I was able to find many of the same apps and find similar apps to what wasn’t available; but the constant always seemed to be apps that are lower quality in terms of design.

        I’m big into design and really enjoy apps that are both nice to look at and function well. There are plenty of apps on Android that cover the latter, but I’ve consistently been disappointed by the look of apps. Perhaps that’s a bit shallow, but true for me nonetheless.

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