Google Docs for Android Gets Updated with Native Text Editing

Google Docs for Android Gets Updated with Native Text Editing

Feb 23, 2012

One of the biggest complaints about the Google Docs app on Android as it stands is that it lacks any kind of native editing. The features in the app support native features, like ocular character recognition, and offline document synchronization, but the editors have been wrapped in web views. This is starting to change, as now Google Docs for Android supports native text editing.

This native editor supports basic text editing functions: bold, italics, underline, list items, all that would be necessary for a text editor on a phone or tablet. The document then is saved to Google Docs, and available anywhere Google Docs access is available. Web editing mode is still available for those that preferred that. As well, it’s now easy to add collaborators to a document: just tap the contact button in the top right, and they can either edit or view documents as well. Spreadsheet editing is still done in the web wrapper, though. However, given the lack of quality text editors on Android, this is an important start, especially with the cloud access that Google Docs provides. The update is compatible with both phones and tablets, and is available now.

Asus Transformer Prime Gets Bootloader Unlocked – Hackers Take Advantage of it the Same Day

Asus Transformer Prime Gets Bootloader Unlocked – Hackers Take Advantage of it the Same Day

Feb 23, 2012

The Android hacking community is swift, like a hawk attacking its prey. On Wednesday February 22nd, Asus released an official bootloader unlock tool for the Transformer Prime, meaning that it is now possible for hackers to install their custom roms and other software on the tablet. Of course, it will take time for these hacks to get implemented, so Transformer Prime owners should be patient…wait, no. Within the space of hours, the community had *ClockworkMod Recovery* installed on the Transformer Prime. *ClockworkMod Recovery* is used to install virtually any software to a device (including new kernels and roms), along with enabling other tweaks available from recovery. As well, an early version of CyanogenMod 9, an Ice Cream Sandwich rom, has been running on the tablet. More customizations are soon to hit, as the Android user community pounces on improving their devices, and they pounce swiftly. The bootloader unlock tool can be downloaded here, and the ClockworkMod Recovery for the Transformer Prime can be downloaded here. These should only be installed by experienced users, or ones who are willing to step out on a limb to hack their device.

Neoteria Review

Neoteria Review

Feb 23, 2012

Neoteria is the newest game from OrangePixel, another retro-inspired affair. This time, they tackle the horizontally-scrolling shoot ‘em up, as this title takes inspiration from games like R-Type and Gradius. The story is light as it tends to be in these games: there’s some dialog at the start of each level, but nothing that is particularly essential. What is essential is taking out as many enemies as possible, advancing to the next checkpoint in each level (there are infinite lives here, but also a power down punishment for dying), trying just to survive against the onslaught of enemies.

The traditional OrangePixel art style is here: pixel art, and 16-bit-esque chiptunes. The game has the look and feel of a title like R-Type, only slightly less frustrating. I emphasize slightly, because the game is still challenging, even on its easiest difficulty. It just doesn’t feel impossible. Also, the removal of horizontal movement is a great decision for a mobile shmup, as it’s just one fewer factor to be concerned with.

The weapon upgrade mechanic from INC returns here, where collectibles dropped by enemies can be used for more powerful weapons. This bar decreases on death and it’s possible for weapons to downgrade, so replaying earlier levels becomes necessary to keep it up. Unlike INC, the power-down is much less on death, so while grinding is still somewhat necessary, it’s less of an annoyance. I still have issues with the power down, but it is orders of magnitude less annoying, though it becomes very necessary in later levels, and grinding that first world becomes boring after a short while.

A lot of the game isn’t really explained in the game itself. How does the star system work, and why do I have two stars on some levels and one star on others? How do the branching paths unlock? No clue!

The controls are rather fussy, if only because the up/down buttons are rather small. The game supports physical controls on the Xperia Play, and external controls on tablets and phones with USB host support and the’re far superior to the button controls, as too often have I tried to move in one direction, only for nothing to happen because I wasn’t pressing on the button. This is where the Reckless Racing control customization would have come in handy, to define custom touch areas for each button.

Neoteria is frustrating in two senses: first, in the sense that most retro shmups are. It nails that aspect. The second comes from the grinding and touch control issues. The free version is definitely worth checking out for those curious.

Theme Thursday: Typo

Theme Thursday: Typo

Feb 23, 2012

Another week, another theme, and we have one last GO Launcher theme for a while; this week we’ve dug up a nice little theme called Typo White. While nothing crazy or outlandish, for those looking to give their phone a cool retro-pop-art look, this might do the trick. Typo replaces the stock system apps with amazing text-based icons that do a great job to incorporate the app they are representing. It is very easy to tell that the developer here went the extra mile to put that elusive polish onto a app that could have easily just been passed off as another tired theme. The major issue, however, is the lack of these icons, for a theme a big goal is to make everything uniform and a major way is by making as many theme icons as possible. While gorgeous, the selection of only stock Android apps does disappoint as it still makes non-standard apps look slightly out of place.

But looking past this, when everything is as planned, this theme is kind of curiously striking. I enjoy the almost retro look of the wallpaper and the total loss of 3-D effect is something novel and a great change of pace. The tiny text icons and the included wallpaper gives a nice retro look, although the bright, flat white background will take a toll on battery life. Fortunately, Typo also comes in a bold dark theme that plays just the same as the white but presumably is less of a burden on our already overtaxed batteries.

As in my last review for the GO Launcher theme Touch, Typo really benefits from a nice text widget to display the date and time due to its flat, 2-D nature. For the regret-free price of free, those sporting GO Launcher should at least take a cursory look into Typo White or Typo Black.

ChompSMS Review

ChompSMS Review

Feb 22, 2012

These days, SMS apps on smartphones are must-have for people who communicate more through text messaging than making phone calls. For Android, there are tons of free SMS apps in the Market and it can get pretty confusing. So we’ll help out by reviewing ChompSMS, a sleek, powerful messaging app. ChompSMS is a robust replacement for the phone’s native messaging app. It offers more options for maximum performance and functionality for text messaging.

The first thing to notice when beginning to use ChompSMS is its smooth performance. Scrolling through conversation lists and messages is a pleasant experience with the speed and fluidity this app delivers. It’s also a breeze to open and reply to messages and the app never had a lag as I was using it for this review. Even long messages that took a while to open with other SMS apps, ChompSMS had no problem pulling up in a fraction of a second.

The app has a simple and straightforward interface. There are free themes that can be downloaded from the Market, and even those are also quite toned down and minimalist in design. Like its competitors, ChompSMS also offers some ability to customize the overall look of the app such as manually changing the look and feel of the conversation lists.

Although ChompSMS offers similar customization functions as other apps, these are rather basic and lack the variety offered by other apps such as GoSMS or Handcent. However, these extras may be necessary for the app to function as fast as it does.

To compensate for the lack of customization options, ChompSMS has options not found in other apps, such as configuring the phone’s physical buttons to send or reply to messages. With Quick Compose, it is possible to choose between the phone’s camera or search button to compose and send a text message without going into the app itself. Another feature that’s unique to this app is ChompSMS credits. It allows you to buy these credits for lower rates when sending SMS worldwide. This may not be applicable to everyone, but it’s a handy option to have in any case.

When it comes down to it, ChompSMS is a notable contender for a fully functional and powerful SMS app albeit sparse in extra tricks. For users that prefer speed over design and stability over fluff, then ChompSMS is the app to try – and stick with.

KickStarter Spotlight: Conquest

KickStarter Spotlight: Conquest

Feb 22, 2012

Once a dominant force of rainy days and lazy Sundays, board games have been around forever and have not changed much over the last 50 years or so. However, tablets are the perfect medium to play interactive board games . Gone are the days of lost pieces and cheating, replaced instead with visually striking, high tech games that can be played on separate tablets allowing for greater privacy. A great example of this is the iOS version of Scrabble that allows players to view their tiles with an iPhone or iPod touch while a single iPad sits in the middle as the game board.

For strategy conquest fans, the tablet is a welcomed portal to formerly impossible territories. One KickStarter project looks to take advantage of this opportunity by developing an aptly named tablet-only “board” game, Conquest. This is a Risk-style game that pits two or more players against each other in an effort to seize control of a small corner of the galaxy. Each player controls a small fleet and goes around conquering planets and obtaining resources. One great addition in Conquest is that moves are only shown after every player has selected their action. This makes the game more realistic and keeps all the action happening in real time. Another advantage to being on tablets is that the “board” isn’t restricted in size or depth. Conquest takes place on multiple planets, each with territories as in Risk, but also in space, and combat can be initiated in either. Think of Conquest as a sort of Risk-Star Wars hybrid.

Games of this ilk are going to become more and more popular in the near future as tablets become cheaper and more prevalent. A whole new genera of high tech board games will break into the forefront, moving off the Toys’R’ Us shelves and onto online marketplaces. That’s why Conquest is so exciting and ambitious; if funded it could represent a dramatic shift in the way we spend a rainy day with friends.

CloudMagic Review

CloudMagic Review

Feb 22, 2012

What CloudMagic aspires to do is to help bring together the various cloud services that we use. The app, which recently just released, allows users to link a Google account (with support for Google Apps accounts) and a Twitter account, in order to index emails, contacts, calendars, and more, to make them universally searchable from one interface. So, typing in a certain search term will show relevant emails, calendar events, contacts, and recent tweets matching that search entry.

For example, I linked together multiple Google accounts and my Twitter account, then I did a search for “GDC” and the results were as expected. It showed all the results for GDC in my email inboxes. It searched my calendars for my GDC events. Most impressively, it did a search through only my Twitter contacts that I follow for tweets about GDC. I cannot stress how important and useful that last sentence is. Twitter search is such a mess, and having something that turns up relevant results from the people that I follow is worth keeping this tool around alone, never mind the Google integration.

In fact, the key drawback to CloudMagic at this time is the fact that it only integrates in Google and Twitter. For someone who uses both, this is fantastic, but for other email/contacts/calendar service users, it’s somewhat lacking. Facebook and Google+ would be useful services to integrate, as the commentary from people on those services could be useful in finding relevant social data. Twitter searching can only go back so far, likely due to Twitter limits, although it can easily find self-posted tweets and direct messages containing the search term. As well, having Google-esque searcheengine operators would help make the app far more useful. I’d love to search through Dropbox files to find relevant information as well.

While CloudMagic has a long way to go to be something all-encompassing, its current implementation is very useful for users of Google and Twitter. It even manages to out-Google Google in its universal search of Google services, something that Android surprisingly lacks. This is a very useful tool for Android owners.

Ubuntu for Android Will Unify the Android Phone and Ubuntu Desktop Experience in One Device

Ubuntu for Android Will Unify the Android Phone and Ubuntu Desktop Experience in One Device

Feb 22, 2012

Android may be a Linux-based OS, and a very powerful mobile operating system that can perform a lot of computer tasks, but it’s still a secondary device to a computer. Canonical, developers of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, want to bring Ubuntu to Android smartphones, and have announced Ubuntu for Android to help get this done.

The requirements for an Ubuntu for Android device will include many phones released in the past year: 1 GHz dual-core processor, 512 MB of RAM, 2 GB of memory, along with HDMI output and a USB port. The idea appears to be to have it be something that will be a hybrid of both Android and Ubuntu, so users could simply dock their phone or plug in the required hardware and then boom, instant Ubuntu on a monitor. This is possible because Ubuntu for Android will use the same kernel as the Android build running on the device, making it possible for both experiences to exist side-by-side. So, when users use their phone, it will be a typical Android experience, but this will enable phone users to use their phones as a desktop when necessary. It will also integrate phone functions into the desktop OS, enabling users to read and write SMS messages and talk on the phone from the desktop.

This is a bold strategy, and one that will dramatically alter the phone experience, if not unify disparate experiences in one device. This could be extremely useful for tablets, as they are the typical victims of the gap between a mobile OS and a desktop OS – the mobile experience and feature set can occasionally be limiting to what a desktop or laptop OS can do. Hypothetically, an Ubuntu for Android tablet could be used to type up reports while on the go in a coffee shop from an app like Documents to Go, then set up in the dekstop mode at the office to polish and finish it off using desktop Ubuntu apps.

The concern for modern phones potentially using Ubuntu for Android will be that there aren’t a lot of apps built for the ARM processors that currently power many Android devices. Intel x86 architecture is coming to Android, but is still something that is “in the future.” Still, this could be the niche that these devices could actually launch with – the idea of a phone that is also seamlessly a desktop, and could run many Ubuntu applications on the desktop easily.

While this whole project is something that is just now getting off the ground, it appears as if Canonical wants to push this to phone manufacturers and carriers as well as the end user, becuase adoption of Ubuntu for Android will come more easily when it is something that the average user could go out and buy, instead of having to hack their phone to support.

Droid Scan Pro PDF Review

Droid Scan Pro PDF Review

Feb 21, 2012

I like overachievers.

I like Alexander the Great, Mia Hamm and Susan Boyle. I like things that help me do more, especially when they help me do more with less. That’s a major reason that I carry a smartphone.

Droid Scan Pro PDF is an application that allows Android owners use their device cameras to scan items on the go. It also allows one to convert the scans to PDF or JPEG. Portability of business functionality is ever so valuable in a ever-increasing mobile world.

It weighs in at 1.13 MB, and less if the user opts to move it to SD card. The application has a fairly direct UI, giving the app user the option of importing, scanning or even sharing from within the app. Now, the UI may not attract effusive circus clowns, but it does work well to add an aura of seriousness to the software. The scans came out better than envisaged; creation of a PDF document was fairly smooth. I especially liked the trimming tool, which allows the user to shape the document with the use of an adjustable edger. I suspect the overall quality of the scans would be a function of your device hardware to a degree; as noted, they looked good snapped with my aging EVO’s camera. Droid Scan Pro completely cedes the image capture process to the device camera, which means you will be using a familiar menu to take the initial shots.

One can also import files to work on. This is useful when having to convert a JPEG to a PDF for example. I found that I could also import files from my preferred word processor, file manager and gallery. The Turbo import feature automates the process of importation into Droid Scan Pro.

The Share function allows one to distribute with a host of built-in apps, including Dropbox and email. The scan jpeg or pdf is also available in the device’s gallery app in the newly created Droid Scan file, so it is not necessary to even open the app to get to the scans in the future. The app’s built-in functionality also extends to compatibility with Google Goggles, which allows one to add business cards to Google Contacts.

I thought the menu could be a bit more intuitive; it is not rocket science, but my admittedly strong urge to tap and hold or use the menu button to navigate did not always work as I would have guessed it would. Using the back button sufficed. Also, the bulk action functionality did seem wonky at first, but was flawless on subsequent tries.

All in all, Droid Scan Pro PDF was functional, sturdy and did not crash on me once. I also note the fact that the developer took the time to include a feedback button as a major part of the user interface. That’s good.

Droid Scan Pro PDF is available for 4.99 on the Amazon Appstore and Android Market.

PlanetScapes Brings Intricately-Designed Alien Worlds to Live Wallpapers

PlanetScapes Brings Intricately-Designed Alien Worlds to Live Wallpapers

Feb 21, 2012

Live Wallpapers look fantastic, bringing life to screens that otherwise are static and lifeless. It’s one of those things that Android owners can boast that they have that iOS owners do not. However, some of the live wallpapers are just random moving lines and patterns, nothing more. For those looking for a more substantial and detailed live wallpaper for their device, there’s PlanetScapes from Central Core Studios.

This live wallpaper incorporates three different selectable alien landscapes as a live wallpaper: Avalon Falls, Sunridge Canyon, and Northern Tundra. Each wallpaper is a dynamic view of the landscape, and fully animated. Each wallpaper also has settings to customize elements in it, like the rate of snowfall in the Northern Tundra wallpaper, cloud speed in Sunridge Canyon, and the camera panning effects when switching between home screens. This is a very high-quality set of live wallpapers, and while there are settings to decrease the processor hit they will take, a powerful device is recommended when using these. A free version is available with just the Avalon Falls wallpaper, and a paid version with all three wallpapers is also available, both from the Android Market.

Quill Brings Handwriting to Android Tablets

Quill Brings Handwriting to Android Tablets

Feb 21, 2012

For Android tablet owners who have a stylus and want to use their tablet as a pen-and-paper replacement, one solution is Quill. This app allows users to handwrite in vector graphics in virtual notebooks. There are various settings for different pen colors and thickness, along with undo/redo and manual erase tools. There is a fountain pen mode that makes the line darker depending on how strongly the pen is pressed down on the screen, simulating an actual fountain pen. Each page can be tagged with various tags, which is perfect for students who want to remember what notes on various pages contain. The app also has support for the active pens on the Lenovo ThinkPad, HTC JetStream, and HTC Flyer. Notes can be exported as PNG files, or as PDFs, and shared via Evernote or Android built-in sharing. Quill is available for $1 from the Android Market), or available for free under the GPL from the Quill Google Code project website. Quill does require a Honeycomb device, so Galaxy Note owners are out of luck for now.

The Hills Are Greener: Size Matters

In the glorified internet flame war between Apple fans and Android diehards, screen sizes are a real sticking point. Apple fans think iPhones’ smaller sizes are ergonomically superior to the bigger screens of many Android phones, and they think the iPad’s bigger screen is superior to the smaller screens of many Android tablets.

The latest source of derision from the iOS camp is the Galaxy Note from Samsung, the 5.3″ 1280×800 behemoth of a phone/tablet hybrid. The brouhaha seems to be split between two camps: one, the people who look at its 5.3-inch screen and think it’s massive, too massive for human consumption. Then there are those who feel like it’s big, but not necessarily too big to use, and the benefits of its size outweigh the weight. It is the focal point of the iOS-Android flame war, along with the derision over 7-inch tablets.

But it actually makes sense for this smaller size range, for Android phones and tablets to be five inches and seven inches respectively. The easiest way to stand out next to an Apple product is to look completely different. People who might want a bigger phone will look Android (and with some of the bigger models, it’s physically hard not to look). For those wanting a more compact tablet, Android is the only game in town, unless an iPad mini or iPod touch Deluxe comes along.

Really, where Apple tries to stand out is in screen quality, not necessarily screen size. The iPad 2 screen looks notably nicer than the Motorola Xoom, especially as it has a better contrast ratio. I’d rather watch a video on the iPad 2, just because it looks much nicer, despite the aspect ratio difference. As well, if reports are true, then the iPad 3 will boast a 2048×1536 Retina Display, which may be a bit overkill (and a developer nightmare if it doesn’t have enough horsepower), but odds are that the iPad 3 will have a screen that competitors will be rushing to keep up to.

That, or they just won’t. After all, they are only now just catching up on DPI on phone screens, preferring to go for wider landscape ratios and bigger screens than iOS devices – the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung is the only phone that can come close as far as DPI is concerned.

Apple might not have any reason to change the size of the iPhone. The iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, and iPhone 3GS all outsold any individual Android model over the holiday season, despite being smaller than the average screen on any Android phone. Apple may feel that the 3.5-inch screen size is their preferred ergonomic design. Apps are designed for that explicit screen size, and it would be a new wrinkle for developers to deal with, a slightly larger screen size.

However, rumors of a 4-inch iPhone 5 have floated around the internet, and while there isn’t any proof of this existing yet like the iPad 3’s Retina Display. Steve Jobs may have had certain parameters in mind, but as was said when Apple was demoing Mountain Lion to press recently: “We’re starting to do some things differently.”