I admit, the purpose of this poll isn’t to guilt everyone into remembering their missed New Year resolutions. After all, I wouldn’t be here to judge, I let my own resolution slide away as I fell miserably sick twice since the beginning of the year. However, now that I’m doing better, I went through some of our recent fitness posts on Android.Appstorm and checked the slew of great apps and tools that I could use.
There’s Brendan’s great roundup of 35 health and fitness apps, and Dean’s review of Zombies, Run! which, of all things, uses the threat of zombies to encourage you to run longer and faster. Zombies! Ha! Have we, as a human race, gotten lazy to a point where we need the threat of the living dead chewing at us to move off the couch? Oh, but I digress.
I’m personally a swimmer more than a runner, but when I do run, I do it indoors on a treadmill. In both instances, it’s hard to find good apps to track my progress and help me stay motivated. I’ve used Cardiotrainer‘s pedometer along with a heart rate monitor in the past for my treadmill jogs, as well as Workout Trainer for a little bit of indoor exercise, but I have yet to find a good tool for my swimming.
How about you? Do you think that apps help you stay on track more? Is there a certain satisfaction to seeing your progress charted out to you? And do you find that the social aspect of some of these tools encourages you to keep going, even when you want to quit?
We know this time of the year can get a bit stressful with trips, family gatherings, gifts, many to-dos before the year ends, kids to cheer up and meals to cook, and so on. That’s why, during this week, we used our love of Android to help you simplify all of that from the comfort of your phone or tablet.
Our Holiday-themed posts were aimed to help you buy a last-minute gift, manage everything you need to get done, dress your phone up for the Holidays, host and cook, keep the kids entertained and send your greetings all over the world. Here is a list of our reviews and round-ups.
- Apps for last-minute Holiday shopping
- How to stay sane with your Holiday to-dos
- 30+ Christmas and Holidays Wallpapers and Ringtones
- Inspire yourself in the kitchen with BBC Good Food Recipes
- Embrace the Christmas spirit with Santa’s Village
- Send Holiday cheer with these greeting cards apps
Now is your turn to let us know whether you’ll be using your Android device to help you get through the next few weeks or whether you like to keep the traditional ways of sending cards, browsing stores for gifts and flipping through recipes in the family cookbook.
Earlier this week, we shared with you a collection of more than 30 beautiful and Holo-designed apps. Had Connor set out to write this round-up a year ago, or even six months ago, he would have had trouble coming up with decent apps. Yet nowadays, most developers seem to have adopted — and adapted — the Google design language in their apps.
This, in turn, has been superb for us users. Apps that are still plagued with the Froyo/Gingerbread dark grey tabs on top are becoming rare and irrelevant in the face of fierce competition from newcomers that not only value functionality but also esthetics.
Looking at my own usage, I know that I was a lot more forgiving a year ago. I placed features above design, and picked my apps based on that. However, I have the privilege of using an ecosystem that offers choice and variety. Whatever functionality I need, there are probably more than five apps in the Play Store that offer it, if not ten or more.
So now I simply can’t forgive an app developer who’s stuck a few years behind their times. I want apps that I can enjoy looking at as well as using. As a matter of fact, the only relic I have on my phone is SafeWallet, a password and personal data vault that I have invested in and that works with my other phones and computers.
What about you? Is design becoming more and more important in your app decision process? Or are you still OK with yesteryear looks as long as the app does what you need it to?
Tablet-optimized apps on Android are akin to some rare pearls. Everyone assumes they exist but don’t know where, not many are persistent enough to go look for them, and if you do decide to search, you have to brace yourself for a lot disappointment. The Play Store, which could solve this discoverability problem, lacks a tablet-dedicated section and Google seems stubborn on keeping it this way which remains unsettling for new and old tablet owners alike.
After all, why do they need a tablet section when all Android apps scale usually very well between different sizes of screens on phones and tablets? And why risk the ridicule of a small number of apps if they ever create such a section and only few developers submit apps to it?
I do understand those points, but personally, I think the goal of a tablet is to provide more screen estate and more options to get things done faster. If I just see 2 more rows in an app on my 7″ tablet compared to my 4.8″ phone, and if I have to keep clicking Back and Options, then there’s no point in me having a tablet, is there?
That’s why, over the past year, I’ve made it my personal goal to mine and find as many tablet-optimized apps as I could. We’ve started covering these more frequently on Android.Appstorm with this handly link for the best apps for your Nexus 7, 10 and other Android tablet, and I personally maintain several Playboard channels with all of my recommendations for tablet apps in different categories.
What about you? Are you as focused on getting the best for your tablet as I am, or do you use whatever app does the job well, whether it’s optimized or not for the additional screen estate?
Today, Amazon is holding a press conference. We’re not entirely sure what’s going to be announced, but rumour has it that the company is planning on showing off at least one new Kindle Fire tablet, possibly two (7-inch and 10-inch), and maybe even an Android-powered “Kindle phone”. (We may also see a new e-ink Kindle, but presumably that wouldn’t be running Android.)
Okay, the phone doesn’t seem too likely, but now that Google has released the Nexus 7 it’d be a smart move for Amazon to release an update to their budget Android tablet. As I said at the time, “the presenters made it very clear – without ever actually saying the word ‘Amazon’ – that the Nexus 7 is going after the Kindle Fire market. They spent a long time talking about the Google Play Store, emphasising that it sells movies, books, and songs, not just apps and games.”
Living in the UK, I’ve never even seen a Kindle Fire – they’re only sold in the USA – but I found it interesting to read the opinions of others. Many review sites criticized the device for having a poor build quality and confusing UI (compared to the iPad), but I noticed that many actual people said that they loved it, or that their non-techie friends and relatives (who didn’t want to shell out for an iPad) loved it.
I expect great things from a second Kindle Fire. Google and ASUS have proven that it’s possible to produce a high quality Android tablet at a budget price, and Amazon have proven that once they’ve shown a piece of hardware has a place in the market, they can make it truly great by iterating on it. The first generation e-ink Kindle was pretty ugly, but popular; the second was a great improvement; and the third nailed it. I have one myself. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a good buy.
It’s Humble Android Bundle time again! Set your own price for a selection of great indie games you can play on Windows, Mac, Linux, and (of course) Android.
I can never resist these bundles — usually I wait till the last minute, but this time I made it easier on myself and grabbed it the day it came out.
To help make your decision simpler, we’ve reviewed each of the nine games in the Bundle:
- World of Goo: What. A. Game.
- Osmos HS: Chilled-Out Arcade Fun
- Anomaly Warzone Earth: A Tower Offense Game
- EDGE Extended (The Sequel to EDGE)
- Spirits: A Modern Day Lemmings?
- Uplink: Hack Your Heart Out (The Legal Way)
- SpaceChem: Difficult, But Hugely Rewarding
- Fieldrunners HD: Champion of Tower Defense Games
- BIT.TRIP BEAT: A Great Musical Twist on Pong
To make your decision even simpler: if you like games, go and buy the Bundle quickly – it’ll only be available for a few more hours!
I don’t know any Android enthusiasts who prefer HTC Sense, Samsung TouchWiz, or any other third-party UI over stock Android and Holo. Most people I know either buy Nexus, or root their device and install CyanogenMod. But then, I’m in an unusual position, surrounded as I am by Android tech writers — perhaps that’s not the case for everyone.
Still, I have to wonder why manufacturers continue to insist on using these skins. I know, I know, it helps with branding and to differentiate their Androids from all the other Androids – but with the dozens of devices out there, I’m surprised that the only top-of-the-line stock devices (hardware-wise) are in the Nexus line.
So this week’s question is a simple one: if a manufacturer did make a decent device running stock Android, without it being a Nexus device, would you consider buying it? Yes or no only — elaborate in the comments if you like.
One of the first apps I ever bought for my first Android phone was Gentle Alarm – an excellent alarm clock app that I still use today.
I love the pre-alarm that plays (quietly) half an hour before the real alarm goes off, in case I’m almost awake. I love the ability to pick different playlists for my main alarm and pre-alarm. I love the mental arithmetic puzzles it makes me solve before I can turn it off (I’m getting pretty fast now). I love that I can adjust the next day’s alarm time with a couple of taps, without it having a permanent effect.
But I know other people prize other features of their alarm clocks. Matthew Higgins likes his alarm to record and analyse his sleep patterns. Ruairi likes his alarm to have a beautiful design. And many just like their alarm to make a noise at a set time in the morning — nothing more.
What about you?
I’ve been using Google+’s Hangouts in my browser for a while, mainly to watch YouTube clips with a friend. Today, I finally attended one with my phone – and it was great! Excellent streaming and sound quality, both ways, with multiple people, over 3G. I was really impressed.
(Okay, there was one small niggle: I couldn’t get it to output the sound to my Bluetooth earphones. Apparently this is a rare bug that has been fixed for most people – lucky old me.)
The interface is integrated nicely with Android as well: when you get invited to a Hangout, the phone rings as if you’re getting a call, and you can see what you’ll look like to the other members (via your camera) before you accept.
Have you used your phone or tablet for a Hangout yet?
Yesterday, Rita El Khoury wrote a great piece explaining why she thinks 7″ is a wise choice for Google’s flagship tablet — and why a 7″ tablet is a totally different product from a 10″ tablet. Based on my own tablet experiences, I’m inclined to agree.
It feels like there are now four distinct, common sizes for Android devices: the 3″-4″ phone, the 10″ tablet (including tablets with keyboard docks, like the Transformer range), the 7″ tablet (like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire), and the 5″ phone-tablet hybrid (like the Galaxy Note). Each size has its own benefits and weaknesses.
Which do you prefer? Personally, the Nexus 7 feels about right; it’s small enough to carry around with me, but large enough to be worth using instead of my phone in some cases.