Slack is getting a pretty cool update that is rolling out now.
Per Google Play:
Slack 2.14.0 Release Notes:
• Many much-desired additions to Calls: including Bluetooth support, symbols to indicate who is actively speaking, added support for receiving emoji while on a call, and, best of course: Added support for /call slash command. Type it, then talk. Easy peasy.
• The User is Typing setting will now show you when a team member is currently… wait for it… typing.
As big a fan as I am of mobility and solutions related therein, if we’re going to be honest, there are some plays that just feel a bit harder to incorporate mobile technology.
Take my other endeavor, for instance. Since college, I have had the opportunity to coach youth soccer professionally. Beyond the certifications and clinics and such, the sight of a coach whipping out, say, a tablet as a coaching accessory on the sideline is far from common.
There are valid reasons. Weather and light conditions play a part in one’s ability to use mobile technology. Still, as any coach knows, almost more important then the game is the preparation leading up to it, and this is one area where the tools are definitely getting better.
This software is geared towards fans and teachers of The Beautiful Game, and is a full-fledged training helper that fits into the palm of one’s hand.
After downloading, one is presented with a sign-up screen; after this, one sees the virtual representation of a well-manicured 2D soccer pitch, and several buttons that facilitate usage. As noted, I’m especially interested in designing training sessions, and used it for that purpose.
One can select from two teams with distinct colors, and the program even has a bunch of virtual knick-knacks — cones, goals, lines, etc. — that make session crafting a breeze. It also has line segments one can add to mimic runs and ball path; player figures can be manipulated to show name and/or numbers for easy understanding.
Toggling the 3D feature is great for animated sessions, and is remarkably easy to set up.
It’s a surprisingly vibrant application, one that makes the process of being prepared more enjoyable, and a bit more relatable. The high gloss graphics are great, and the varied tools to denote motion and the like is especially useful. The export tool is another advantage, and the 3D functionality needs to be beheld to be truly appreciated.
Now, if one is a USSF-badged coach looking to stick to strict USSF session design guidelines (like triangles vs circles), the app might come up a bit short; it would probably also help folks on printer ink budgets (and who isn’t?) if the background could be more grayscale friendly.
It is a premium version is a pricey upgrade; if it actually comes with cross-platform/web access down the line, it will definitely be the program to beat.
As-is, it’s a great option that is well worth a look.
Way back when, relatively early on in my smartdevice ownership life, I happened upon a service which greatly enhanced my professional life. This application had a killer feature which gave me a serious sense of legitimacy: it allowed people calling into my phone to receive custom response. Seemingly little, yes, but infinitely useful, beyond the (then) new visual voice mail capabilities.
The app/service, YouMail, was an anchor app back then. Since then, it has grown and is available on other platforms. Now, it’s known as Visual Voicemail;and it does a lot of what it used to, and a whole, whole lot more.
In its base form, right off the Play Store, the app is pretty robust. One finds a standalone inbox with space for 100 messages, and the expected visual voicemail functionality, which gives folks the ability to peek in on calls and messages. It also packs in an integrated spam blocker and my favorite aforementioned feature: Smart Greeting. This retains all of the old charm, allowing set up callers to get personalized greetings, starting from the name. Another biggie is the call blocking feature, which allows users to spoof an excuse to ward off unwanted calls.
Yes, the free version is pretty nice.
YouMail gave us access to YouMail Premium and YouMail Business, two higher tiers available via paid subscription ($5 and $10 respectively). With these, even more features are added: message alerts, the ability to search texts by voice and advanced customer care options, amongst other unique features. Additionally, the Business subset adds unified inboxes and still more.
Visual Voicemail promises to be a mobile secretary, and in practice, it does this quite well. As noted, it adds a veneer of professionalism that is quite becoming; calls are answered organically, and the mailbox works as advertised. One drawback is that YouMail is rated for only three of the Big Four carriers; if one uses Verizon (or prepaid carriers/services), one is out of luck. Also, it is a bit wonky with Google Voice, so users might of that service might want to see if it works for them.
All in all, the service is even more vibrant, giving users a great option beyond boring stock voicemail. In many ways, it makes one mobile life even more flexible.
We’ve been working on write ups pertaining to smartpens, and looking at what they bring to the mobile productivity table. For the most part, we’ve found them to be great tools, but only as good as the add-ons that allow them to be harnessed by the platforms they are being used on.
One of the names that continually cropped up during reviews and research was MyScript. MyScript is a name that should resonate with smartpen users; it powers a lot of the image recognition software that some smartpen device makers bundle with their products. The premise is fairly simple: one “writes” with a stylus (or finger) on compatible surfaces with compatible peripherals, and MyScript helps translate the script to formal text.
The potential benefits can be profound. It allows folks who love to write have an opportunity to do so on digital devices. With regards to smartpens, it allows people to write naturally, and convert the collected data to computer-ready text that can be manipulated digitally. It’s fascinating stuff, and seeing it appropriated to mobile devices universally via the MyScript Stylus Beta app for Android is the Next Best Thing.
The app concept is straightforward: it acts like a keyboard, in that it essentially becomes another mode of virtual entry, and when the user wants to enter text, it pops up a window seamlessly (instead of the keyboard one is used to seeing.
Install out of the Play Store is easy enough, as is the initial set up; one then picks a language (it offers support to 64), and then one follows the dialogue to select the Stylus input as the default. After that, as noted, the app is invoked whenever the user looks to enter text. As it was, I had the perfect test bed: this review, via the WordPress app.
Using a soft tip stylus, I was able to get this post going. At the bottom of the screen, a clean, white window appears, and the basic concept is to write. I started of slow, with deliberate strokes; it picked them up quite quickly. Over time, I was able to go even quicker, and defaulted to my more natural cursive. Again, it worked admirably. It utilizes word suggestions at the top, and it picks up punctuation fairly easily. I did run into problems when I typed too fast, but for the most part, it was surprisingly good, so much so that I did the vast core of this draft via the app.
In trials with my finger, the app was also pretty proficient, but my entry was a bit slower, I really preferred the stylus. I came away thinking that a thin-tipped stylus would be the best option for text entry.
Added altogether: functionality, gesture controls, ease of use and customization options, it’s easy to fall in love with this nifty set of software, even before considering stuff like multiple language support.
It’s one of those anchor apps I use on a daily basis, almost without thinking. Multitasking, hands-free operations, news… you name it. Still, one of the key ways I rely on it is to track packages. This is key in this line of work; we get review items in and out almost every day, going and coming from literally all parts of the globe. Google Now is a (sometimes) seamless bridge between information and access. Since we handle expensive equipment and devices, it really helps to when what arrives where.
But Google Now does treat package tracking in a finicky way when it wants to, and one big issue is that there isn’t a way to add packages that it didn’t originally pick up or remove on its own. While searching for a solution to this, I stumbled upon Deliveries Package Tracker. What this app looks to do is simple: provide a one-stop solution with regards to collating shipping information from a host of worldwide sources.
The UI is simple; it seems to avoid being too flashy, which is okay for what it purports to do. Upon opening the app, it’s fairly easy to see how it works: add a tracking number, tack on the source, and the app does the rest by pulling in data such that one gets movement information up to and including actual delivery.
Data can be entered by scanning (using a separate bar code scanner app) and can be typed in manually; it is especially helpful to copy a tracking number from an email using Android OS’s built-in share functionality to get it directly into Deliveries; this works very well in my experience. The services natively supported form quite the expansive list, and it’s probably easier to find a service not supported. One gets USPS, Fedex, UPS, DHL, TNT and whole lot more to choose from.
The pro unlock kills the ads and opens up a few more features; a key one is the ability to link one’s account to Google, Amazon and eBay. With this, one can seamlessly track shipments coming in from those services.
Some services can be especially difficult to work with; I found China Post to be truculent, but to be fair, that seems to be a function of the service. The need for a third-party bar code scanner sucks, but again, I can see where I’d prefer a thinner app anyway. The adjustable background update and multi-device sync are definitely valuable
All in all, it’s a pretty nifty app that does what it does well. Add this one to the indispensable list for folks who do even just the occasional online purchasing and shipping and/or receiving.
In a perpetually fast-paced world, there is always a place for easy-to-use news apps. Enter SmartNews, an app from Japanese developers that already has quite the positive reputation on Google Play.
Upon first inspection, the app looks clean. It opens up into the main page, and one gets to see the white background and splashes of color upon that in the tabs at the top. It is set in blog form, with text summaries bordered by a relevant pictures. It a serious look, but easy on the eyes, and easy to appreciate from a visual perspective.
The tabs (channels) underscore a major part of the functionality by providing easy access to color-coded news categories: Entertainment, Lifestyle, Sports and such, with a “Top” Channel — representing overall top news — occupying the leftmost section. One can scroll down to browse new articles, or swipe from side to side to access new channels. Tapping on any one story leads to the corresponding full article from the hosting website; there is also a “Smart View” option that can be selected, which provides a cleaner, less-frilled version of a website. Together, the navigation elements are fairly intuitive and especially smooth.
Now, as noted, what SmartNews looks to do, obviously, is provide news effectively. By default, on the surface, it seems to accomplish just that. News stories are relevant, and properly filed, allowing for one to get a good dose of leading headlines. The sources run the gamut: CBS, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, RE/COOL, The Guardian, Business Insider and much, much more. The channels one has can be tweaked in setting, and it is also possible to add sources.
One cool tool is a pop-up service that provides reports for the user at times during the day: morning, afternoon and evening. The app can be paired to external services like Facebook, Evernote and Twitter. Another thing which is pretty interesting for Android users is the Google Now functionality; this allows stories to appear in one’s Now feed. (this feature is dependent on Google’s card functionality roll-out).
It’s tough to be a news utility of repute in Google’s world, and SmartNews has managed that. It’s a great app that is easy to use, and in today’s world, that is gold.
Blaze for Twitter is a new-ish option that brings a new way to consume and produce tweets. AS there can never be too many options, we were happy to take a look.
The intro sequence is humble, inviting the user to add a Twitter account. After tokenization and such, one gets an idea of the customization options available, as well as a look a the user interface. It has a clean default look, with definite lines and bold coloring. The layout option which pops up at the beginning gives one a large say with regards to tweaking the exterior. Off the bat, it is possible to adjust the way Blaze handles images, going from full all the way down to thumbnails. After that, the background color — light or dark — can be selected; there is also a theme option, which allows the user to select from several colors.
Beyond that, the app can be set up to be read from the top or bottom, and one can also pick long service to use and the frequency rate. When it’s all said and done, the app does give the user a bunch of options to make it his/her own. The app clearly pays attention the Material Design, and overall, it is a pretty vibrant-looking application.
On the functionality side, the app incorporates a lot of the tools we’d expect in a microblogging client; one can slide through specialized screens for home, @ replies, direct messages, lists and trending topics. Each tweet in one’s stream can be manipulated individually via small symbols, and again, we get the core tools: reply, retweet, favoriting, muting and sharing. Working on an individual tweets brings even more options, like the ability to make a note or text someone a tweet. Retweeting gives one the option to quote, copy or do a simple retweet (I love the overlay). It is possible to work on one’s profile from within Blaze too.
The cherry on top? Blaze handles multiple Twitter accounts.
There’s not much to dislike; if I am to nitpick, it would be that I would have liked a “shoot-to-the-top” button, such that one can get up quickly. An option to tweet to simultaneously to multiple accounts could be handy on occasion.
All in all, it’s a great option, underscored by the option to use the ad-supported option, or the premium build. Either ay, it’s a client to appreciate, and well worth the risk-free try.
I’ve said it before, and said it often: cottoning to a virtual keyboard was the only way I was able to leave the relative security of physical QWERTY devices and try out Android.
It has been smooth sailing ever since. Mostly. Still, I have a soft spot for keyboards, even if I feel fairly vested in my current option. And even as the third-party options delightfully expand, I love how they push Google’s own options.
And then we get Google Handwriting Input.
The concept is basic: one uses a finger to write, and the app converts it to digital text. When activated, it acts like most other keyboards, and pops up from the bottom. Instead of keys, the entry tool is made up mostly of a writing area, and other buttons that control sundry items, as well as a space bar at the bottom. After activating, “writing” is a cinch; tracing with one’s finger allows the app to interpret the entry and to place it in the appropriate entry box. Right above the trace area, word suggestions are provided, and can be selected if the initial guess is wrong. The program recognizes simple punctuation too.
Non-cursive writing works best based on my testing. The blockier the entry, the more accurate the program seems to be. It does multiple languages too, which is an added bonus, and there is a conventional keyboard that can be invoked from within the app.
My biggest fuss has to do with spacing. It’s a cramped going in portrait, and only slightly better in landscape… even in phablet-sized devices. Obviously, there is gonna be a trade-off been accuracy and sizing of the input area, but I did come away with the feeling that it works best on tablets.
Weirdly enough, even though the capture process does its thing, I’m faster using a swipe keyboard. This is due to the slight delay that occurs while the app recognizes an entered word; these add up.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find this option intriguing. Despite the growing pains, it feels like a relatively well-thought out concept, and it works well in real life.
As Android continues to mature, one of the cooler aspects is the way Google has seen fit to not only build its version of mobile utilities, but to also serve a lot of its apps Ã la carte. Keep, Calendar, Keyboard, etc are great parts of the OS, but pay of their charm is that they are optional pieces.
When it comes to messaging, most observers would probably agree that Android is very, uh… well… an area of opportunity. Definitely not from a lack of options. Oh no. Between Voice, Hangouts and the deprecated Talk, there are quite a few communication tools. And now, the relatively new Messenger throws its hat into the muddled ring.
Messenger is Google’s homogeneous answer to Android device SMS and MMS communication. It’s a slim offering that acts as a replacement for OEM/carrier messaging apps.
Off the bat, it possesses that streamlined, familiar look that Google is clearly looking for with Material Design. There is a lot of white space and blue accents, with the chatted-with contacts appearing as icon circles towards the top left; for each one, there is a text to the right highlighting the last sent/received communication. To the top right, one gets a search button and the three-dot menu, and at the bottom right, there is a circled “+” button for starting new conversations.
When a contact is selected from the main screen (or a new one initiated), the same mostly white motif shows up. Each sequence is denoted by defined chat bubbles, with the user postings aligning right and the person being chatted with gets their words slanted to the left. From the individual contact settings, one can personalize the colors somewhat, such that the text bubble of the contact can be shaded. Calls can also be initiated directly from the individual “pages.”
The main menu doesn’t provide a whole lot more diversity, but one can set up notifications and set up delivery report.
In practice, it works well, as instant as the built in apps (which isn’t shocking).
It would be nice if there was automatic functionality with Goggle Voice, but it’s hard to knock the clean simplicity. It’s a no-frills presentation that mostly works. Yes, i would have appreciated more customization options, but hey.
Is it good enough to replace built-in options? Yes. It’s not necessarily breathtaking, but merely good enough, and that it an intimidating starting point.
I admit it: I still use the BlackBerry experience as my mobile email barometer. It probably explains my craving for combined email. Gmail doesn’t have it yet, but hey, it does well at other things.
Can’t blame a guy for looking though, and the recently released Microsoft Outlook Preview game me a great excuse to try something new.
Or new-ish, really. After poking around a bit, it does feel a lot like Acompli, the email utility Microsoft gaffled up a while back. The opening UI is bathed in whites and blues, with clean styling and subtle material design aesthetics.
Formally getting started involves adding an account; Outlook supports IMAP accounts, as well as email sourced from Yahoo, Google, iCloud and (of course) Exchange plus Outlook.com. After the login and acceptance of permissions — there are several — the app gets the required tokens and signs in. I tried it with two Google emails to start, and the login process is mostly seamless, though it was necessary to tweak my IMAP folder setup.
By default, emails from different accounts show up combined, and the navigational aspects should feel quite familiar to anyone who has used the Gmail Android app. Tapping the three horizontal lines invokes the email folder slide-out, and from here, one can view unread counts as well as manipulate folders. On the main page, it gives one the option of checking “focused” emails, and there is a nifty “quick filter” function that allows one to pull up emails that are unread, flagged or have attachments.
The built-in calendar is a nice touch; it pulls in data from each Google account. It integrates with OneDrive, Box and Dropbox.
My biggest gripe has to do with the way the app handles Gmail labeling. I like the ability to file emails immediately, and frequently use multiple labels as appropriate, like when a “review request” also contains some “news.” This can’t be done on Outlook just yet; the email can be moved to one file, or none at all. I was a bit dismayed by the lack of integrated tasks, and would have loved some integration with other apps like Light Flow. The navigation seems a bit inconsistent; that back button got me lost more than once. Then, I would have dearly loved more swipe functionality.
Still, for a preview, it is a pretty nice option; it obviously has plenty room to grow. It has a good base, and with Microsoft’s cross-platform push, consumers win.
Root Explorer looks to accomplish a serious task: give its user access to the file system on the host Android device. It is able to list all the data, in several ways, in such a way that it can be manipulated, on the device itself, without the need for a desktop terminal.
It is especially geared towards root users — Android users that have attained administrative privileges on their devices — as the hidden file menu (which is the bane of stock Android ownership) is revealed with this app.
The feature list Root Explorer possesses is what sets it apart. Off the bat, it looks like a business tool, with simple navigation. For folks that like a bit of customization, the app offers the ability to tweak the appearance; there are different themes, and the iconset can be played around with, in addition to how the files themselves are presented. The developer allows the user to create as minimal of a user interface as possible. File paths have an easy visual path that is easy to understand.
Working with data is easy. One can easily delete, duplicate, copy and rename files. Additionally, it is possible to do advanced operations, such as adjust read/write permissions, zipping/extractions, sending/sharing files via installed utilities and more. The basic operations (like copying) flow intuitively, allowing one to place a file precisely where one wants it. The tab feature is also great, allowing the creation of quick access “tabs” at the top; so, if one frequently accesses a specific file path, said location can be bookmarked via a tab.
One of my favorite features is the ability of the app to access external cloud storage tools; using the tab interface, one get access to Dropbox, Box and Google Drive. This is a very convenient tool. Just as impressively, it is possible to interface with network locations via Samba. Again, Root Explorer serves as an invaluable conduit that allows users to manipulate files remotely.
All in all, for root users, Root Explorer can be a very functional tool. It works well, can be tweaked, and is a breeze to use. Additionally, for folks on the fringe (or unrooted folks), free app Explorer is available in slightly less functional form. It’s almost impossible to touch on all the app brings to the table, and that is one reason it is so compelling.
Email is serious business. I should know. In any case, serious business requires serious tools, and as such, taking a look at the Android email option MailWise Email for Exchange & Hotmail + felt very much like a worthy endeavor.
The application is quite clean, with some similarities with the Gmail app. In the Inbox, for instance, the visual lines are slight but deliberate, with senderÂ avatars to the left. It makes use of the familiar three lined menu activator to the top left. There is a large compose button, and beside it is a selection button and after that a search button. When an email is selected, one will find the same design principles, with easy access to action buttons at the top. Altogether, it feels minimalist without being too lean.
Setting it up with email addresses is simple and intuitive; the system prompts the user through, and after any and all emails are populated, it’s easy to see how the application works in real life. It does not run too different than Gmail, and though we did not try the Enterprise portion of the app, the webmail aspect is a good testimonial.
One of the biggest draws for me is that the app handles mail locally. There isn’t any server issues to contend with, as the developer doesn’t have servers for mail handling. Also, the minimalist threaded look appeals to me as well; the app looks ready for business.
On the flip side, while I dearly appreciate the looks, the app could probably use some more options on the visual side so as to appeal to even more users.Â Also, the option of a unified inbox would probably be welcome, especially since the app handles mail equitably from so many different sources.Editor’s note: MailWise was kind enough to correct us, and show us how to work the unified mailbox; we have adjusted our rating accordingly. We humbly apologize for our error.
All in all, for free option, it’s very hard to not appreciate MailWise. It’s a bold app in a busy space, and has the fortitude to hold its own.