Category Archives: Sprint

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Some favorite apps & resources

After picking up my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Tab last weekend (see my initial impressions post), I’ve had a chancesamsung-galaxy-tab to play and get some interesting apps loaded. Since I’ll primarily be using the Tab at home, you won’t see driving or navigation apps listed below. Also most apps are not specifically designed for tablet unless noted.

The first thing I did to customize my Tab was to install a new font (since Samsung’s TouchWiz UI allows font customization): Humana Sans ITC FlipFont ($0.99)

Then, I got busy installing apps…

News:

  • The Wall Street Journal: This app is specifically designed for Android tablet use. I’ve long had an online subscription to WSJ to keep up with business and financial news. I like the UI and how the app refreshes each morning at 4:30, so I can read news updates when I get up. Note that a $3.99 weekly subscription will apply after the trial period. (free during trial period)
  • Bloomberg: My favorite app for following stock prices & corresponding news. (free)
  • NY Times: A favorite news source made even better by making an Android tablet version available. To download, visit http://nytimes.com/androidtab from your Galaxy Tab. (free)
  • Financial Times: An excellent (and highly recommended) source for business and financial news. (free)
  • Mediafly for tablets: An interesting and varied source for news audio & video. I haven’t used this app much yet but so far find it interesting. (free)

Media (audio / video / ebook readers):

  • Radio 104.1 WMRQ: One of my favorite alternative rock radio stations. (free)
  • TuneIn Radio: A full-featured, free radio app that provides access to hundreds of radio stations. (free)
  • KCRW Radio: Probably my favorite NPR station – love their music and feature programming. (free)
  • Pandora Radio: I love Pandora’s “Spa Radio” enough to ante up the $36 annually. (free)
  • TV Flash: A work in progress app that provides ability to stream (over WIFI) a variety of TV stations  (U.S. & non-U.S.). (free)
  • Kindle: The Tab form factor makes it an excellent ebook reader, and I find the Kindle app pleasant to use. Another benefit of the Kindle app? Ability to download free ebooks from Amazon – some are basic fiction, but sometimes there are some nonfiction gems – list available here: Limited-Time Offer ebooks.
  • Aldiko Book Reader: If you’d prefer not to use the Kindle app or Amazon store, the Aldiko reader is well done. (free, paid version available)

Games:

  • Angry Birds: This fun and incredibly addictive game works well on the Tab. (free)
  • DroidWords: Looking for a Scrabble clone that doesn’t require other players? DroidWords is what you’re seeking. Get the  paid version to avoid the annoying ads inserted into the free version. ($2.99)
  • Sheep Run Beta: Another fun and addictive game. Not sure though if it’s still available in the market since, sadly, my search this morning didn’t find it. (free)
  • Droid Odyssey BETA: A fun side-scroller, the developer warns it’s has problems on the Galaxy Tablet. However, I’ve been able to play it on the Tab. (free)
  • Shortyz Crosswords: Perfect for folks who like to do crosswords and prefer free (vs. subscription) content. (free)

Other:

  • Palmary Weather Pro: In my opinion, the best weather app for Android. Widgets available, too. ($2.99)
  • Springpad: A great place to save stuff you want to remember – I like it better than Evernote. (free)
  • Touiteur Premium: My favorite mobile twitter client. I prefer the Premium version although a free version is available. (free. paid version: ~$2.73)
  • Beautiful Widgets: These are beautiful on the Tab, too. (paid: ~$2.04)
  • Dolphin HD Browser: Of all the browsers available on Android, this is the one I always return to based on ease of use and speed. (free)
  • Bookmarks to SD: After installing Dolphin HD, I use this add-on app to import my desktop bookmarks to my mobile device. (free)
  • WolframAlpha: A great reference tool. (free)
  • Dropbox: A great file archive tool. I frequently save nonmarket apps to Dropbox to put them onto my device for install. If you haven’t tried dropbox yet, here’s a referral link: https://www.dropbox.com/referrals/NTIxOTYzMDA5?src=global (free app)
  • Google Chrome to Phone: If you use Chrome as your desktop browser, this app is a no brainer… allows you to push urls from your desktop browser  to your Android device. (free)

Galaxy Tab enthusiast web sites & forums:

So, there you have it… my favorite Android apps & online resources for Tab to date. If you’ve found some good apps / references, please leave a comment to let me know!

Samsung Galaxy Tab: Initial impressions & comparison shopping

samsung-galaxy-tabIf asked a week ago, I’d have said the Samsung Galaxy Tab was the product I was least likely to buy. Although it looked interesting, I couldn’t understand why someone would buy a 7” tablet. Really, why?

Still, I’d been reading positive articles about the Galaxy Tab by James Kendrick and was intrigued. To learn more, I went to try the Galaxy Tab hands on. It’s a solid, well-built device with a beautiful, responsive touchscreen. I watched a YouTube video and surfed the web. Easy to handle. Text displayed clearly & crisply. I liked it, but wasn’t too sure about buying it @ $399 with 3G contract.

So, I visited some nearby stores to check out products that could be considered similar:

Huawei Ideos S7 7” tablet: Interesting feature set on paper (including Android 2.1), but I found the resistive touchscreen to be frustrating and not worth $299. Screen wasn’t responsive enough, and I didn’t like pressing so hard to activate a function.

Velocity Cruz 7” tablet: Another 7” tablet, but this time running Android 2.0. Build quality seemed cheap. Not compelling enough to spend ~$300.

Archos 7 Home Tablet: Cheaper than other 7” tablets at $199, and apparently running Android 2.1. However, read reports of poor WIFI connectivity. Why is it named the “Home Tablet”? Based on some reviews, apparently due to poor battery life.

I got to thinking, if my main use case would be as eReader, why not consider Kindle, nook, etc.? So I wandered over to see those. Both the Nook and Kindle are well-built quality devices (I owned the Kindle 2, and had used it day in and day out). The free 3G connectivity is enticing. However, while my main use was to read ebooks, I didn’t want a device limited to just one usage scenario. I also find E Ink’s reverse display during page turns distracting. (Note: There are rumors the $249 nookcolor will be hacked to enable broader use as an Android device. Stay tuned.)

Despite finding the Kindle and nook too limited, I realized I loved the device dimensions as a comfortable fit for an eReader. The roots of a Galaxy Tab were planted…

Before buying a Tab, I revisited the iPad as ebook reader. I love the iPad for bringing tablets to the masses, but find it uncomfortable to curl up with like a book. As an eReader, it is simply too big despite its other qualities.

Aside from the quality of the device itself, what finally compelled me to buy the tab-homeTab? RadioShack’s Sprint Galaxy Tab $350 sale (11/21 – 11/24/2010). I went with the 2GB $29.99 data package since I’ll generally use the Tab at home.

Now that I’ve had the Tab a few days, I’m finding I enjoy it even more than expected. I’m reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, on the Kindle for Android app. I’m keeping up with news via the WSJ, NY Times, and Financial Times Android tablet apps. I’m reading PriusChat and AndroidCentral forum posts on the Tapatalk Pro app. I’m reading Twitter posts via the Toiuteur Premium app. I added the Clockr Evolution text clock widget. I’ve played chess on the SparkChess HD Lite android tablet app (requires Adobe Air) and honed my Angry Birds gameplay skills. I’ve taken screenshots by pressing the Back and power buttons simultaneously.

I love the apps that are configured for tablet display but haven’t had seen any display issues for apps not specifically intended for Android tablets.

For my usage scenarios (ebook reading and couch surfing), the Tab is perfect. Comfortable to hold with a crisp, easy to read screen. If your use scenarios are similar to mine, definitely recommend the Tab as an option.

HTC EVO, three months on…

I’ve had my HTC EVO for three months, having picked it up on  June 5th.That was the day after launch, and the store sold out their stock imgreswhile I was activating my account. Little did I realize how good my timing was, considering EVO remained out of stock at Sprint for months.

So, what’s the verdict? I still love my EVO. It’s easily the best smartphone I’ve ever used:

  • Big, easy to read screen
  • Despite size, comfortable to use
  • HTC’s Sense UI, which makes Android even more enjoyable to use
  • 8MP camera that’s good enough to leave my Point & Shoot at home
  • HD video recording
  • Wifi Hot Spot capability (requires Sprint $30 add-on fee)
  • The kickstand, which I mocked before getting the phone, is extremely handy for viewing/listening to media
  • Excellent call quality & data speeds, thanks to Sprint’s network and extremely affordable plans

Not to mention all the Android Froyo goodness… I love how Android is tightly coupled with Google’s other services, so it’s easy to set up email, calendar sync, upload video to YouTube.

Despite having fewer apps available than Apple’s iTunes, I don’t have any difficulty finding great apps in the Android Market. Here are my current favorites, in no specific order:

  • Dropbox beta (released 9/16/2010): Takes the original Dropbox app and adds Android UI elements such as long press. Not yet in the Android market — link points to Dropbox web page containing download link. (Free app)
  • Hurricane Hound Free: It’s hurricane season, so this app comes in very handy. Not only shows current location, but also path. (Free)
  • SlideIT Keyboard: I participated in the Swype beta and could use that swipe-to-type keyboard, but actually prefer SlideIT.  (Paid, €5.99)
  • EStrongs File Explorer: I used to use Astro but find EStrongs provides a more flexible, attractive UI. (Free)
  • SnapTell: There are lots of “snap to scan” shopping apps but I find SnapTell to be more accurate than most. It provides links to online sources, as well as local stores. I like it better than Google Shopper. (Free)
  • Angry Birds Lite Beta: I love this game on my iPad and I’m thrilled to see it come to Android. Thankfully, the 9/17/2010 release works well on EVO. If ever there were a game requiring  12-step program for addiction, this is it! (Free)
  • Multicon Widget: Multicon lets you display 4 apps &/or widgets in the space of one. It’s perfect for those apps that I need to have handy but don’t want cluttering up my home screen. (Free)
  • Barcode Scanner: Best scanner app I’ve found for QR codes. (Free)
  • FromWhere: Nothing fancy but works well… shows city for incoming calls. (Paid, $1.43)
  • TuneIn Radio: Surprisingly, I think this free version works even better than its “paid” sibling (RadioTime). Access to numerous local and online radio stations. (Free)
  • Toss It Pro: A great game and my favorite “kill time while standing in line” app. (Paid, £2.99; free version available)
  • Touiteur Premium: Easily my favorite Twitter app. Lots of features, easily customizable, stable and reliable. Note that you must also have the Touiteur free version installed, since the “Touiteur Premium” app in the Market just provides your license. (Paid, €1.99; free version available)
  • Finance: Google’s own Finance app, providing real-time quotes and ability to track your portfolio. Note: I believe this app only supports US markets. (Free)
  • Tapatalk Forum App (Pro): Provides an easy way to subscribe to and track your favorite online forums. Much easier than trying to view forums via the browser. (Paid, $2.99; free version available)
  • Movies: Great for finding local show times, browsing DVDs, reading Rotten Tomatoes reviews and managing your Netflix queue. (Free)
  • Pandora Radio: Everyone knows Pandora… a great way to personalize streaming radio. (Free)
  • StumbleUpon: Fun way to kill time and find new and interesting web sites. (Free)
  • Dilbert Mobile: For those of us who work for corporations, a refreshing dose of daily satire.  (Free)
  • Springpad: Similar to Evernote but increasingly more full-featured.  Syncs with Springpad web site. Note: Be sure to set your settings to private if you don’t want to share your content. (Free)
  • Kindle for Android: Easy way to read your Kindle library on your phone. (Free)
  • Zillow Real Estate: Was out dog-walking with a neighbor when we passed a house that had been for sale for months – we used Zillow to view the asking price and decided the house wasn’t moving because it was overpriced. (Free app)
  • Silent Boot: Love Sprint and their network but hate the loud startup sound? This app fixes that problem Smile (Free)
  • Google Chrome to Phone: A very handy app, especially when I find a cool app available online only and want to download/install it. (Free)
  • Audible for Android: If you’re an Audible subscriber, this is a must have app. Download your books or stream (handy for those WSJ / NYTimes morning podcasts). (Free)
  • Beautiful Widgets: Very customizable widget that displays time and weather on your home screen. Don’t have a Sense phone? No worries, you can use Beautiful Widgets to design a similar time and weather widget for your non-HTC Android phone. (Paid, €1.49; from LevelUp Studio, the maker of Touiteur)
  • IMDb Movies & TV: Love this app – perfect for the serious film buff. (Free)
  • DroidEssentials: Very handy – alerts you when your battery charge reaches 100% or when it drains to 10%. I find I get better battery mileage on my EVO if I unplug it from AC power just as soon as it reaches 100% charge. (Free)
  • Quick Settings: Easy way to revise your various settings, all on one screen. I notice that the changes are immediate, without the lag I’ve sometimes experienced when using settings widgets. (Free)
  • Google Voice: Love Google Voice and use it on my EVO  instead of Sprint voicemail. (Free)
  • Battery Status Bar (AD free): Want to easily view battery % remaining in the notification bar? This app is just the ticket. (Paid, $0.99; free version available)
  • CNET News: Excellent tech news source and great app. (Free)
  • Google Maps: Oh, Google Maps… how I love thee! When I started using your voice navigation feature, I kicked my Garmin GPS to the curb permanently. (Free)
  • Sprint TV: Sprint TV is available for free as part of the stock EVO ROM. I like it a lot, and actually subscribe to Sprint TV Extra for more channels. ($10 per month)

About the battery…
I find the whole “EVO battery is horrible” meme to be overstated. I’ve found my EVO battery life to be comparable to other smartphones I’ve used, including the iPhone 3GS. I believe the bad press is because Sprint sells the phone with every conceivable sync app/setting enabled. For savvy users, it’s a no-brainer to turn off sync for those apps one doesn’t use…. problem solved.

I’m a bit surprised myself that I like the EVO so much even three months in. Usually by now, I’d be checking out other phones to see what I wanted to upgrade to next. Not so with the EVO… great phone, great plan, great Sprint service. I’m a happy camper. Smile

HTC EVO… two weeks in

evo I stopped by a nearby Sprint store on launch day to see this huge phone I’d been hearing about, the HTC EVO. I left impressed by what I saw… impressed enough that I came back the next day to buy it.

A caveat: I have used iPhones, Windows Mobile, Palm, Android. I love the rapid evolution of mobile tech in recent years — the resulting competition in the marketplace can only benefit consumers and business users. I don’t subscribe to “there’s one device/brand/os that works for everyone.”

Size:
Yep, it’s big. However, even as a reasonably petite person, it doesn’t feel too large when I pick it up and use it. Size was my primary concern and I actually expected the size to be a deal-breaker before I saw it in person. That leads me to…

Screen:
The extra real estate takes EVO from “squint so I can read the small type” to actually reading comfortably. (I confess, I’m one of those people who puts on glasses/contact lenses first thing after getting out of bed in the morning!) The screen is responsive and makes the EVO very pleasant to use.

Sense UI:
Although I’ve used Android devices previously (Moto Droid, Nexus One), I’d never used a phone with Sense UI. I expected to dislike Sense as an aberration of the stock Android UI, but actually am quite fond of it. HTC has done a nice job of adding customized apps that are quite attractive and useful, including Peep (which I use as my main Twitter client).

Camera/Video:
The 8 megapixel camera takes impressive natural light shots (I don’t like to use flash in any photography). It focuses quickly, so I can catch those “the cat is doing some cute that I want to share on Flickr” shots. It also offers “touch to focus” functionality (similar to iPhone 3GS), which makes it even easier to get good, well-focused shots.

Voice Recognition:
One of my favorite Android features is voice search, which I find amazingly accurate. I use it frequently – if you have an Android phone and haven’t tried voice search, you’re missing out!

Navigation Speed:
The EVO is zippy. Tap a shortcut and it opens quickly.

Google Apps:
Google apps are excellent across the board. I use Google Voice to provide visual voicemail for the EVO. I absolutely love Google Maps/Navigation which is easily as good (or better) than those expensive navigation packages I used to buy for the iPhone. A Google app that’s perhaps not so well known, Places Directory, is  another great way to use GPS to see what’s nearby.

Battery Life:
I’ve found EVO battery life to be as good, if not better, than I’ve seen with other smartphones like Nexus One and iPhone 3GS:
*  Yesterday I easily got over 10+ hours of active use (not standby) with GPS, wi-fi, and 3g on all the time, as well as live wallpaper and intensive data transfer activities (twitter, browsing, downloading audible.com audiobooks).
* On a recent work day, I had a few hours of conference calls along with data use and the battery was still at 50% even 15 hours after unplugging from charger.

Phone Voice/Audio Quality:
I’ve found phone voice and audio quality to be excellent. I live in a not so optimal cell phone zone (regardless of wireless provider), but haven’t dropped any calls. Nor have other parties complained I was breaking up (something I have experienced within the past 6 months with both AT&T & Verizon). It’s nice to be able to make cell phone calls from home. 🙂

Sprint apps:
Contrary to what you may have heard, the Sprint apps are actually quite good. I’ve used Sprint TV as well as Sprint Navigation (both free for EVO), and like them.

Favorite Android Apps:
Although not specific to the EVO, a few Android apps worth checking out (in no particular order)…

K9 Mail: Fast, full-featured mail client. (free)

Thompson Reuters News Pro: Full-featured news app. I especially like its stock portfolio feature. (free)

Evernote: I use Evernote as my digital brain and wouldn’t be without its mobile app. (free)

NYTimes: Well-done mobile app and great way to read NY Times content. (free)

ShootMe: A quick, easy way to snap screen shots. (free)

Swype: Excellent alternative keyboard, enables user to swype across virtual keyboard to type instead of tapping. See James Kendrick’s excellent review (including video) to see how it works. (free)

CallTrack: If you need to log/track your voice calls, Call Track is indispensable – it’s customizable and can automatically add each call to your Google calendar — incoming, outgoing as well as call length. (free)

DoggCatcher: Great podcast player. ($6.99)

aniPet Koi Live Wallpaper: Absolutely beautiful live wallpaper. ($1.99)