Carousel Review

Carousel Review

Apr 23, 2014

Dropbox is a-cookin’, and Carousel, its new media management app is headlining the menu.

The app itself is fairly clean in appearance, with a bright default menu system that is reminiscent of the menu of its big brother. The gesture-based contexts are well represented by in the quick tutorial; overall, the minimalist concept looks good.

If Carousel’s main purpose is to streamline storage and access to images and videos, it makes a good case for itself on the first use. After creating or signing in to an existing Dropbox account, it automatically collects photos from the device and collates them by date. Each picture can be selected by tapping on it, and then the picture can be shared or hidden. In the gallery view, the sets of picture by day can be scrolled through.car1

The share functionality is very interesting, and probably the best feature. In the main view (by date), several pictures can be selected by tapping; a blue check mark appears on the ones selected, and when one is done, one can tap the “share” button, which opens up a a send dialogue. The sharing tool lets stuff be shared to contacts in the address book: by SMS, email, etc. If sharing to other onboard services is more of the current fancy, the extended share functionality takes care of that. There is also a dialogue icon that shows shares, and for the queasy, the app backs up taken photographs to the cloud.

So, with regards to sharing and simple organization, Carousel is an equitable offering, but “organizing” doesn’t necessarily include “deleting” at this point. On one level, it isn’t that big of a drawback, but I immediately found some pictures that I wanted gone, but could not get rid of off from within the app. Of course, it then begs the question of whether a standalone extension of Dropbox for just media is warranted.

For now, it’s great for light use, and I think as time goes, it’ll be a more functional part of Dropbox’s mobile strategy.

Helium Review

Helium Review

Jul 29, 2013

Helium, formerly known as Carbon before trademark disputes, most likely with the Twitter app of the same name, forced a name change, sounded like an extremely interesting app, promising app backups without rooting. However, I never really had much of a reason to give it a shot until a second primary Android device came in to my life. Now that I do have one, I must say: Helium is amazing.

This is an app backup and restore tool that works without root, by using a backdoor method with PC app backups. Setting up initially will require following instructions and connecting to a PC running a special app. Then, apps can be backed up, either just their data or the APK file as well for compatible apps (some require Google Play downloads), and then restored from either local storage or from connected cloud storage. It’s all simple to use and very seamless. Multiple devices attached to the same Google account can share backups, too. This app does what it says and does it well.


The app’s backdoor method of doing all this without rooting is the one annoying thing about it: Helium won’t work after a restart until it is plugged in to a computer again, and the initial setup steps repeated. This is relatively painless, as the app explains what the user needs to do in which settings page, but it’s still a bit of a hassle. Granted, on unrooted devices this is a necessity. Rooted users can use it without any problems, and I recommend it over Titanium Backup for most users. Helium is just so much more simple, though Titanium Backup has more advanced options.

The app works perfectly fine for backing up to the device and to the cloud, but the premium key is necessary to restore from the cloud. This isn’t inherently ‘necessary’ per se and it’s probably possible to circumvent this by copying from Dropbox to the Helium directory on the device, but it’s just so much simpler with the premium key. As well, restoring apps from different devices is extremely easy with this. Want to copy game progress from one device to another? This is the trick, unless something goes wrong and it doesn’t work. Technology can always screw up.

For those who want to ensure that their apps are backed up or even want to make game progress transfer wirelessly, this is the must-have app.

Google Keep Review

Google Keep Review

Mar 22, 2013

A lot of people — the whole wide world, seemingly — are not too happy with Google’s decision to discontinue its popular Reader application.

If Google Keep (it’s newly unveiled cloud-supported note taking app) is supposed to be a mea culpa, Google might already be back in our hearts.


The Android note-taking space is not sparse by any means. There are plenty of note apps, and the competition creates a very high bar. Google’s last offering, Notebook was okay, but lacked oomph. Thus, even Google needs a pretty good offering to stay abreast. Keep, I think, does that.

Simplicity, Google’s oft-repeated mantra, is clearly at work here. The interface is clean, with minimalist undertones that seemingly beg to be filled with information. The default light grays and whites combined well. Per user interface, the app allowed for dual panes or a single line of notes, and I was also able to personalize notes by switching background color.

The “simple” looks translated to the on-screen controls as well, with the developers opting for a regular entry button, a check box marker, a microphone for dictated text and a control to invoke the camera for imaged notes. In real-world tests, the entry sequences were smooth and intuitive. The audio functionality worked very well, which was key for me; many of my note entries are dictated, so accuracy is important. I liked that i could archive notes by swiping and toggle check boxes on the fly.

I think the true strength of Keep is it functionality. Google makes the app sync to Google Docs, which is a positive if you have already started using Google Docs. I love the ability to look up and access and/or edit files on the go. It worked well with my device’s share functionality; it pulled in actual text from the note into the my calendar app, instead of a link to the note url as one leading note app does. Now, I would loved to see it pull information from the app, liked entered dates, to create a true calendar entry. Street addresses entered into the app became clickable links that automatically invoked the map app; phone numbers pulled up the dialer. A resizeable widget adds to the overall appeal.

I would have loved for a filing convention of some sort, but barebones is barebones.

Time will tell if Keep will develop a following. It has plenty of upside, but the cool thing is that it seems to be so useful already.

FileHopper Now Backs Up Contacts, Call History, and SMS Messages Along With Important Files

FileHopper Now Backs Up Contacts, Call History, and SMS Messages Along With Important Files

Mar 12, 2013

Android may be open, but backing up important data is still not really easy through any kind of official or sanctioned method. Thankfully, with third-party apps, this becomes a lot easier, and now FileHopper, with version 3.8, is backing up text messages, call history, and contacts to my butt with their subscription-based service.

While cloud-based contacts is already something possible through Google, it’s also something that some users may not know all that much about. SMS backup and call history backup are something that can be hard to get easily, and allows for records of important messages and calls to be kept in secure places. As well, FileHopper makes it possible to share all types of files with any device that can use FileHopper.

Note that FileHopper is currently only available for Android phones, as the Nexus 7 is incompatible. The base app is free to download from Google Play, with a 2 GB free 30-day trial, and 250 GB of storage available for $19.95 per year.

Free App Recap – SMS Add-on Apps

Free App Recap  – SMS Add-on Apps

Mar 5, 2013

A while ago we talked about different SMS apps for Android. These text messaging apps were a total replacement for the stock messaging app. The benefit of those apps is they have a whole lot of new features. While this is great for some people, others just want an added feature like a pop-up window when they receive a new message. For these people there are SMS add-on apps like the ones in this list. Let’s have a look at some text messaging add-on apps.

SMS Popup Alert

Only a few stock SMS apps have some sort of option to show a pop-up window for new incoming messages. This saves some clicking or opening up the notification bar to see who the message was from and what it said. Once installed, a pop-up window will appear with the incoming message displayed in it. There is a choice to reply or drag it to the trash right from the pop-up window. This may not work with 3rd party SMS apps.

Download SMS Popup Alert

SMS Backup +

SMS Backup + is a great app for backing up message threads. When a message thread gets into the 1000 messages or longer range, some phones or apps can slow down and take a whole to load the thread. Having an app to backup the messages, deleting them every couple of days is easier to do. They are backed up to Gmail and placed in a label called SMS. Also, SMS Backup + will backup call logs and place them in Google Calendar if desired. This is great for people who need to track calls for work or other reasons.

Download SMS Backup +

Vault-Hide SMS, Pics & Videos

From time to time there may be a need to hide a picture or message from prying eyes. Using an app like Vault-Hide will surely do the trick. Not only is there an option to hide images, SMS messages and even Facebook messages can be hidden from people trying to see who is chatting or sending images. I know there are a lot of reasons to hide a picture or message from people. Not only for the inappropriate images, it can be for work messages that might be sensitive and shouldn’t be seen by other people.

Download Vault-Hide SMS, Pics & Videos

Carbon for Twitter Releases for Android, Not to Be Confused With the Backup App of the Same Name

Carbon for Twitter Releases for Android, Not to Be Confused With the Backup App of the Same Name

Feb 7, 2013

While third-party Twitter app development has slowed to a crawl, some developers are forging ahead with their plans to improve on the Twitter app experience on Android. Meet Carbon for Twitter, a stylish new Twitter app that’s just released for free.

This app is primarily designed for phones (Nexus 7 users will get a dialog prompt saying it’s not optimized for their device yet), and it’s meant to provide an experience that focuses on the column at hand. Swiping horizontally switches between differnet columns, with a minimalist options bar, profile button, and new tweet button at the bottom.

This app should not be confused with ClockworkMod’s Carbon, which has also recently released to Google Play, and allows for apps to be backed up, even without root access. It’s possible to backup Carbon with Carbon. Joy!

The app already has over 50,000 downloads meaning that since Twitter claims they’ll only authorize 100,000 user tokens, the app’s days may be short-lived. What Carbon’s developers plan to do at that point is unknown. So get it on it quickly.

Never Lose Any Data With G Cloud Backup

Never Lose Any Data With G Cloud Backup

Sep 12, 2012

G Cloud Backup wants to bring one of iOS' most useful features to Android: automatic remote backups. See, iOS users can back their devices up to iCloud automatically, so if something happens, like their device gets stolen, they upgrade, or if they had to get it repaired, it's easy to restore like brand new. G Cloud Backup does something similar. It can back up pictures, music, videos, contacts, call logs, documents, and SMS to their cloud services. By installing the free app, users can backup their data on initialization, and also in the background. G Cloud Backup can intelligently only back up when plugged in and on wifi, or when there's sufficient battery life. Or, it can be configured to backup to the cloud whenever.

Now, this all works without rooting, which is a blessing and a curse, because there is one feature that's missing: the ability to back up apps. This is a security restriction, something that requires root access (and Titanium Backup) to do, so G Cloud Backup can't help there. However, the rest of what it backs up is useful, and it can be used to restore data to a new device. The app and service are free for 1 GB of storage. 10 GB of storage are available for $0.99 per month. The app is available from Google Play.

The Hills Are Greener: The Tyranny of iTunes

The Hills Are Greener: The Tyranny of iTunes

May 9, 2011

Oh, if there is one thing that I do not miss having to use on a regular basis having switched from iPhone to Android, it is iTunes. It is a bloated mess of software that remains the single worst facet of iOS usage. And yet, iOS devices remain tethered to iTunes because Apple still requires it. Music, videos, apps, even the limited direct file management that iOS provides all go through iTunes, and even jailbreak solutions make it very difficult if not impossible to abandon iTunes entirely. iTunes is overly slow (especially on Windows), requires that anything on a device also simultaneously exist on a computer, ties users down to one computer lest everything be deleted if they move to another one, and is just unpleasant to use. And yet, iOS users lack any choice in the matter – it’s use iTunes, or don’t use an iOS device at all.

Android is great because it does not need a manager program like iTunes at all. There are options available for managing media on Android phones, yes, but they’re entirely optional. I use Winamp and its wireless sync (something Apple has yet to set up on iOS) to put music on my phone, and I’ve even transferred music from it that I’ve downloaded straight on my phone. If I get a copy of an app that I want to install, I don’t have to go through iTunes or iPhone Configuration Utility (which, while relatively painless compared to iTunes, has always been buggy for me), I can just download it and install it straight on my phone. While services like Testflight are making adhoc distribution of apps from developers easier, they’re still purely 3rd party services that not all developers are taking advantage of yet.

Oh, and if I want to back up my app’s data, like if I have a game I don’t want to lose progress in? iTunes backs up application data, but only as one big chunk that get backed up when a device is synchronized. This extends the time it takes to sync an iOS device, although BackOff is an option that is available to make this far shorter. If an app was downloaded on an There exist easy ways to back up application data on Android, such as Titanium Backup, and the Android Market’s cloud data backup that was introduced in Froyo. These are all significantly easier and more user-friendly methods than iOS, which purports to be the easier and more user-friendly OS.

It’s a joke that Apple continues to claim that the iPad is part of the post-PC market, when it still requires that the iPad be plugged in to a PC before it is ever usable. It still requires that applications, music, and videos sit on a PC, wasting space, lest iTunes dictate that they be deleted from the device they’re on. Apple may be all about the controlled user experience, but iTunes shows how horribly wrong it can go, and how difficult it can truly make it. Every time I’m forced to use iTunes for some reason with my iPad and iPod touch, I remain glad that I never have to use it with my Android, ever.