Today, a majority of the phone’s functionality is controlled by those tiny icons that are arranged neatly on our home screens, launching apps, games and pretty much anything else that we need to do.

The unfortunate truth with Android apps, though, is that most of these icons are not exactly eye candy. And if you are the type who like your visuals co-ordinated and consistent, that’s pretty much a dream with a typical Android setup and a random selection of apps. Fortunately, changing apps’ icons is pretty easy, and there are a lot of beautiful icon sets available for free to help you make everything look sleek and sexy.

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We’ve all been there: we’re driving, in a meeting, or at a movie, and we get a text or a call. So we get on our phone, much to the dislike of those around us, to let the person on the other end know that we’re busy and we can’t talk right now (though to be honest, I think the point of a text message is to allow the recipient to respond when they can). This distracts the people around us: other drivers, movie goers, or meeting participants – and, quite frankly, it’s rude.

Luckily there are a ton of apps out there to help us with this problem. Today we’ll look at Away Text.

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Like the idea of the ASUS Transformer, but don’t want to splash out on a new netbook? Well, I recently stumbled across an article written by Web.AppStorm editor Matthew Guay on How-To-Geek, describing how to run Android on a Netbook. I was intrigued and tried it out as an experiment. Since it runs off a flash drive, nothing is installed or written to the hard drive. Read on to learn about how you can run Android on your netbook, and how it fares.
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In the ongoing battle for smartphone supremacy, Android and iPhone have come a long way and are very close in terms of style, performance and features. The one standout feature that keeps many users on the Android platform is customization – especially the ability to configure your home screen to have much more than a bunch of icons. To be more precise: widgets.
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Around two months ago I flew out of Gatwick for my holiday in Cyprus. I brought my phone with me, of course. I wasn’t hoping that my phone would provide an abundance of entertainment while I was away, but neither was I intending to leave it in the bottom of my bag. Read on to see how useful your phone can be abroad.
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Google Wallet was launched this week! Just as Gmail is Google’s take on email and Google+ is Google’s latest take on social networking, Google Wallet is Google’s take on paying for stuff. (For more about the technology that powers it, check out this morning’s post, Is NFC Really the Future of Payments?)

The idea is, instead of swiping a card or handing over cash to pay for something in a store, you can tap your phone on a special reader device, which will send the payment from whatever credit card you’ve authorised on your phone.

It’s very early days for this: so far, it’s only been rolled out to Sprint users, in the USA, with a Nexus S 4G (if that’s you, then your latest OTA update will include a new Wallet app), and the only credit card that can be used with it is the Citi MasterCard – though you can use a Google Prepaid Card instead, and top it up with new funds via any other credit card. Plus there are only a handful of places that accept this method of payment for now.

Personally, I’m not overwhelmed with excitement for it as it stands – I’ve no plans to move to the USA and buy a new phone just to try it out. And I’ll admit that, on paper, it doesn’t sound like a big deal: you’re just tapping instead of swiping.

It’s the first stage in a bigger movement, though. If you have a Kindle, you’ve probably seen how convenient Amazon’s 1-Click payment is when you want to buy a new e-book; it’s not that much faster than getting your credit card out and typing in the details, but it’s just that bit easier.

More exciting is the idea of consolidation: a credit card is just a piece of plastic with some basic data stored in it, but an app holds so much more potential. When I go to the supermarket, I swipe my loyalty card and my credit card separately; if I’ve received any loyalty coupons I have to remember to take them with me and swipe them as well. If all that’s stored on my phone, then presumably I’d take care of that with a single tap-to-pay.

I expect that some clever developers will write apps to let you keep track of how much you’re spending, on what, and where – like Mint, but without necessarily knowing everything about the contents of your bank account. This will be great for managing personal finances.

All that is a few years off, though, even assuming that Google are on the money with this one (it wouldn’t be the first time they’d poured a lot of time and research into a new “solution” for some problem that eventually failed).

So, I remain interested, but not too excited for now. What about you?

Google Wallet was released for Android this week. The vision is to aggregate all your payment methods – making up the third generation of payments, according to Google, after coins and paper – into a single app that can be applied to real life commerce. As they put it: “Make your phone your wallet.”

This is achieved through near-field communications, a Bluetooth-like technology that can perform an unpaired data transfer with something in the general vicinity (generally around 4cm away). The term is generally used to refer to a method of commerce between untethered devices. Let’s find out more about it.
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Tumblr hardly needs an introduction. It isn’t WordPress, but that’s exactly the point. Because of it, a lot of youngsters from Gen X and Y are attracted to at least some sort of long-form writing. Long before Twitter, Tumblr was the pioneer in getting microposts and media (particularly images) in front of those who didn’t have the time or inclination to read hundreds of words per post.

The success of Tumblr is due to the sheer ease with which even a technical novice can start publishing online. That – alongside the awesome community that fosters conversations and reblogs content for quicker discovery – is the reason they have grown from one billion to ten billion posts in just a year. Recently, Tumblr completely revamped their Android, and it’s now time for us take the app for a spin and see how cool it is compared to the web app.
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Astrid Task is an open source, simple todo list app on the Market, and is by far the most popular with over two million users. It focuses mainly on ‘social productivity’, making your tasks available to other people – for example, it allows you to assign tasks to colleagues for a specific project.

Let’s have a look at what this intelligent and user friendly todo list app has to offer.
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If you are a frequent traveler, FlightAware might sound familiar to you. Why? It’s the biggest live flight tracking website on the web! However, for those of you who are staring blankly at your screen, I’ll go into more detail. FlightAware, founded back in 2005, was the first company to offer free flight tracking services for both private and commercial air traffic in the United States. It quickly became the most popular flight tracking service in the world and on the web.

Airlines and other aviation businesses rely on FlightAware to provide live flight data, airport information, weather maps, flight planning, and navigation charts, as well as aviation news and photos. They also power operational management and dispatch software, airport flight information displays (FIDS), and provides reporting data to aircraft and airport operators.

After success via the world and the web, the company moved into the mobile industry by creating Flight Tracker for iOS, Blackberry and Windows. Now, at last, it’s Android’s turn!
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