Thursday, May 9, 2013

Should Google bother with software features in the next version of android?

Should Google bother with software features in JB 4.3/KLP? It's my opinion that they shouldn't. Sounds crazy, but hear me out.

ICS 4.0 was mostly about the redesign of android, but as far as specific software features, the big one was supposed to be the almighty "face unlock". If you haven't herd of it, I don't blame you. The hype sizzled out pretty quick. It is still there though under - system settings > security and in the top unlock options. The idea was that you woke your phone up, it would turn on the front camera and when it regognized your face it would unlock your android.

Jelly Bean 4.1 didn't really being any specific features (Google Now was really just an update to the search app, not a new system feature)... But Jelly Bean 4.2's biggest software feature was PhotoSphere.  Again, like Face Unlock, it is actually a phenomenal idea - stitch together a bunch of pictures to get a single 360° panorama picture. However, also like Face Unlock, most users don't use this feature after the "ohh, shiny!" feeling wears off.

So, in my opinion, Google should leave features out of stock Android and leave that for manufacturers to add in (because let's face it - the OEMs do it much better). I know I'm not alone in feeling that stock Android should be (as much as possible) a simple, nearly blank canvas on which experienced users create their ideal phone experience on. Let's face it - most stock Android users are savvy enough to install their favorite launcher, so why not keep all the features/bloat out, and give users the maximum storage space available?

I'd be interested to hear what you think, there is a comments section below or you can find the link to this article on Reddit and discuss there.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Hopes, Dreams, and predictions for JB/KLP

It seems that the Android team often takes hints from separate developers when it comes to their development of Android. Such examples are the "gesture keyboard" (started by Swype), screenshots (was widely available everywhere besides stock android), and data usage stats (made popular through apps such as 3G Watchdog).

So, what are developers doing now, and could they possibly be helping shape the future of Android?

I've noticed a whole ton more gestures.

I'm a launcher lover, and my current is Action Launcher which is extremely heavy on gestures. First off, you can turn folders into 'covers', which lets you cover a folder with an app. Touching the cover (the app icon) opens the app, however swiping up opens the folder. Also, there are 'shutters', which let you swipe up from an app icon to open the corresponding widget.

Other launchers such as Nova Launcher also has support for many gestures, each which can be set to perform an action (from quick launching apps to toggling UI elements such as the dock, and quick dialing a number, just to name a few...).

There is a very good chance that in Jelly Bean 4.3 there will be more of an emphasis on gestures, especially because that's the way Google's 'holo' scheme seems to be going.

Google wants you to become more heavily invested in the Android ecosystem.

It's obvious - Google wants you to stay in Androidland. They are in the process of releasing Google Glass, which is based off Android but is mainly used in conjunction wile connected to an Android phone. People are going to use glass, and to make the most of it they'll need to stick with Android.

Google Now has been a major pull - you now have no reason to go searching for anything. Instead, Google will bring it to you...using their services.

I'm expecting the next version of Android to bring an even more inclusive experience. Google has reportedly been working on a 'Game Center', which would really help users get attached to games and other apps, and again get everybody to use Google's all-inclusive services as opposed to any other ecosystem.

We are going to see the next version of Android on May 15 at Google's annual developer conference, Google I/O. But until then...

What do you think we'll get in Jelly Bean 4.3/Key Lime Pie 5.0? Do you have any ridiculous hopes? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Carrier Close-up: Virgin Mobile (Canada)

Virgin Mobile is a global "bargain" cellular service provider, and it's Canadian division has deals happening right now. Let's see what this Canadian carrier has to offer, shall we?

Despite being a 'tier 2 carrier', Virgin offers some good phones (at some great prices, too). The best budget phone they offer is the Windows Phone 8S. This phone (made by HTC) has a dual core 1GHz processor, a 4" 480x800 screen (Virgin's spec sheet is wrong), and a 5MP camera. For $150 ($0 on a silver plan), this is a steal, and by far the best deal on any phone they offer.

Virgin Mobile Canada doesn't offer many mid-range phones, but they do have the iPhone 4S ($49 on a platinum plan), and Galaxy S 3 (also $49). The iPhone 4S is super smooth and fluid, wile having access to the best selection of quality apps. The S3 on the other hand has a much larger 4.8" screen, and more powerful innards.

There are lots of 'Tier 1' level phones to choose from - there's the iPhone 5 ($179), HTC One ($150), Galaxy S4 ($199), Nexus 4 ($0), or BlackBerry Z10 ($99). This "Tier 2 carrier" has every hit phone of late. Starting with the iPhone 5 - it is the smallest out of the bunch, has one of the best cameras, and the best quality app selection. The HTC One has the most storage on-board, with the best low-light camera, and best audio quality by far. The Galaxy S4 is the fastest, with about 50 unique software features. The Nexus 4 is a bargain, yet still has specs to rival the others including a quad core processor, and stock android. BlackBerry's Z10 runs the most efficient UI, getting the job done. (Note: all prices are with a Platinum plan using $500 tab)

 Virgin's plans are tiered - Silver plans are cheapest, Gold plans are in the middle, and Platinum plans are the most expensive. Silver plans don't include data (the data saver adds monthly data use onto the base plan), but start at $20/month thru $50/month for unlimited everything (excluding data, which is extra). Getting a new phone on a Silver plan lets you put up to $150 on Tab.

Gold plans have a balanced mix between data and calling minutes. Right now, there are special offers starting at $35/month (200 minutes, evenings & weekends free, 200MB) and ranging through $60/month (unlimited calling, and 2GB of data). These are generally the best mix between what you get and what you pay, especially now that they have special offers. $300 can go towards your tab when you pick a Gold plan.

Platinum plans start at $45/month (1000 minutes, 150MB) and go to $100/month (unlimited everything besides only 5GB of data). Only get these if you need them, as they do cost a lot more than gold plans. You can put $500 on a tab when you use these plans.

Top Deal:
Now for the best combination of value/cost: The Nexus 4 on the $39/month (limited time) Gold Plan. For $99, you get one of the best phones available, and you get an amazing plan including 200 minutes, unlimited calling on evenings and weekends, as well as 400MB of data. Unique to the Nexus 4 is a feature called "photo sphere", which allows you to take multiple pictures from a stationary position and it puts them all together into one giant 3D panorama picture you can look through.

Let me know which carrier you want details about next, I'd love to help you guys find the best deals on mobile phones! Either comment below, email me at, or tweet me @QandAndroid. You can also find me on Reddit, username (you guessed it) QandAndroid.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

[Android] New Play Store v4.0.25 now out (sorta)

Google's Official Blog has announced the new Play Store version 4 which was leaked earlier on sites such as TechCrunch, and is now available for download. That's right, it's a rolling out product launch, so some users might not get the update for another few weeks. Fortunately, the .apk is available for download (links below).

The new Play Store feels faster, smoother, and in general more modern. The main screen isn't showing any content, rather just 5 boxes representing the categories (apps, games, movies, books, and magazines). From there, each box will take you to a different section, as you'd expect. Each section has it's own color scheme (the top bar, cost, and current tab indicator all change to the section color). Somewhat oddly, apps and games share the same (ugly) green color.

The UI acts very similarly to it used to, with the sub-sections (top paid/top free, top grossing etc) scrolling horizontally, and the categories on the left. The layout is cleaner, but gives less information. On my Nexus 4, I can see 5 full (and 1 title) apps per screen while I used to get 10+. This is mostly due to the fact that each app/movie/game/song/book takes the full width of the screen.

For further reading, here are links to Google's Official Blog, Tech Crunch's original 'leak' post, and the .apk download link, provided by DroidLife.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

[Android] Essencial Apps

These are my recommended apps, let's hear yours in the comments!


Dolphin Browser is the fastest browser I've come across, and has a decent UI. Plug-ins are also accepted here, so you can even run Flash in Dolphin if you want.

Glovebox is an app that gives you quick access to a bunch of apps (up to 8 in the free version) from swiping the edge of the screen.

Light Flow is amazing - you can customize the LED notification light on your phone so that each notification type illuminates the LED a different color.

SwiftKey ($4) is the best keyboard app I've used. After trying out a ton of keyboards, I always come back to SwiftKey.

Where's My Droid lets you locate your phone. Through SMS messages, you can remotely make your phone ring, flash the LED, and vibrate, or send a text back with GPS coordinates.

Action Launcher Pro ($4.29) is the way I like to setup my home screen. It puts your app tray on the left (accessible via a swipe), and also has 'Covers' (folders hidden under apps), ans 'Shutters' (swipe up from an app to launch it's widget.

Nexus Triangles ($1.01) is everything you want a Live Wallpaper to be. Fast, smooth, doesn't hog battery, but most of all it looks amazing and has the options to tweak it to your liking.


NFS Most Wanted ($4.99) is my go-to game on my phone. It runs smooth, with great controls. A must have for any racing junkie.

SG: DeadZone is the only first person shooter app I have installed. It runs pretty smooth and is a giant online chaos game. It's also free.

Super Hexagon ($1.07) has been distracting me from more important things. It is a simple concept, retro graphics, amazing soundtrack, and is the most difficult game I have downloaded.

Podkicker ($2.99) is the only app I use to listen to podcasts. It's free, simple, and have a very usable UI.

Imgur for Android easily lets you upload images to imgur, so it's easier than ever to upload an image to Reddit from your phone/tablet.

QuickPic has the best UI of any gallery app I've used and the only thing it lacks is the ability to show PhotoSpheres.

RealCalc improves upon the stock calculator so much, you can't afford not to download this free app.

Keep is made by Google, and is an extremely simple notes app which auto syncs with Google Drive.

Reddit is Fun has all the bells and whistles you could want from a mobile Reddit browser.

Reddit Now is a Reddit client that uses the Holo theme, although it does miss some functionality.

Self Serve - I'm with Virgin Mobile (Canada) and this is their app which informs you of how much of your monthly plan you've used (talk, text, or data). See if your provider has a similar app, it could save you money.

PVSTAR+ is a youTube player which still runs in the background, and allows you to watch videos not meant for mobile devices.

MX Player can play any file format you can think of, with a nice UI.