The good old days…

I admit it… I miss the good old days.

Way, way back when… when mobile games and utilities were novelties that cost as much — and sometimes even more — than similar desktop applications. Heady days, I tell you. Finding that special application could make or break your mobile experience.

Back then, Palm and WinMo were the platforms to contend with, and the mobile apps available were slick pieces of engineering. Remember Datebk and Agendus (by Pimlico Software and Iambic respectively)? Well, you were not — could not — be organized without them. Calendar, to-do and everything in-between for the mobile professional. Owning one or the other was a sign of seriousness. Owning both? Hello.

And then, what about TomTom Navigator? Yo, $150 got you the best GPS software at the time (before adding a bluetooth puck, by the way). SplashMoney was king when it came to managing financial accounts. Think about it… checkbook balancing with every Hotsync.

And there were games too. A whole lot of games. Bejeweled found a mobile home early on, as did fantastic entries like Chuzzle, Platypus and more. Look, if you didn’t have an Astraware game, you didn’t know games. Seriously, that studio had my free time on lock. I still think that Hellfire: Apache vs Hind is one of the best games to ever make it to mobile, but I am sentimental like that.

The Broken Sword series (from Revolution). SimCity. You name it, and I probably had it. Owning games meant spending money.

It is a different day now. Back then, freeware was probably unique, so much so that they were cataloged separately (prior to the proliferation of app stores). Now, free-to-play is pretty much the standard.

On the surface, it’s all good. Kudos to developers reacting to the market, and figuring that creating experiences that give the user the option to go for more (or using ads) was the way to go. Everyone wins, no?

Still, I miss the old days, when buying a full-fledged application was the way things were done. I am not against IAPs, but I do wish I had an opportunity to procure some games outright. Developer, name your price. I decide if I want to pick it up. May the best app win.

That’s my perfect world.

But the app market has spoken, and I do have to respect it. Now, instead of the semi-functional demo version that leads one to get the full version, we have it all in one package. Micro-transactions are the law of the mobile gaming land. More downloads, potentially more money for the developer willing to put out a great game AND put in the work to keep said hit game maintained.

But I am allowed to reminisce I think. I will look back at the good old days, where I spent a lot and got a whole lot more… I think. there was a whole lot less available, numerically speaking, but I do feel like I was a better supporter of those who made the apps.

My App Addiction: Swagbucks

My App Addiction: Swagbucks

Jul 31, 2017

The internet is one great window shopping trip. For me, at least, it is. I love finding cool, useful stuff, especially gadgets. Now, the whole process works for me because I have one crazy flaw: I dislike buying stuff at full price. I will if I absolutely have to, but usually, I’m perfectly fine not purchasing an item if it isn’t on sale at that point in time.

Consequently, I’m always looking for a deal. Yes, one has to consider the ROI of deal-chasing, but still, Swagbucks is a great tool to have when it comes to pulling the trigger with specific retailers.

Swagbucks is a way to earn “swagbucks” for answering surveys and shopping. Said swagbucks can be redeemed for cool goodies like Amazon gift cards. Some of the surveys feel more invasive and time-consuming than others, but the shopping aspect is compelling; what essentially comes to cash back for shopping and the like can be addictive. For example, buying stuff at can net you 6% in swagbucks… basically, 6 swagbucks for every dollar spent.

Bucks can be redeemed for gift cards from Amazon, Target, Paypal, Walmart and several other big name companies.

Of course, for folks that are especially mobile — self humbly included — it wouldn’t be as cool without a companion app.

Now, I use the app more for reference. If I am out and about, and see something on sale (or am notified of a great price via another one of my addictions Slickdeals), I usually check to see if it a seller that gives out swagbucks. If it does, I figure it might be better to purchase online, maybe even via my phone, so as to get the affiliate link.

It’s also possible to do the aforementioned surveys on the go. As noted, these can be quite inquisitive, but for those that don’t mind answering truthfully, it can be a great way to answer these surveys and earn bucks while hanging out at the doctor’s office or during have time of a sporting event.

The mobile app also allows users to rack up bucks by watching videos. Now, this is not the quickest way to garner points, no, but just like the surveys, it’s a great, mobile way to get these done. Now, even cooler if you love watching movie trailers.

The app, of course, also provides notifications with regards to swagbucks-gaining opportunities. It’s the best way to find out about the so-called swag codes that pop up on Facebook and elsewhere. Such codes can be entered right there within the app.

Swagbucks is far from something new, or especially unique at this point. What makes it relevant for me is its ability to potentially make an already sweet deal even sweeter. The app helps keep track of where I am on the go, and to effect sensible purchases when I am away from my desktop or Chromebook. It takes an important app to earn a lasting spot on my primary devices, and Swagbucks has earned one.

My App Addiction: YouTube

My App Addiction: YouTube

Jun 30, 2017

Up till that point, it was probably my happiest day.


I was trying to recapture a part of my youth. See, kids today don’t understand how music videos transformed our lives. Back then, cable was not a luxury my dad was ever going to pay for, and our only way of seeing our favorite musician do their thing were the patched together VHS tapes that folks peddled in the open air markets.

We had informal trading clubs.

And then came MTV and them. And internet at home.

And then, I stumbled on YouTube.

I was searching for a music video from way back when… via MSN search, if memory serves me correctly. I could not believe that I could find and watch MC Hammer online. Score.

Since then, it has grown from a bookmark constant to an indispensable mobile app. Education, entertainment, work tool and content distribution all rolled up in one. I have a thing for Nollywood videos, and YouTube is my go-to utility for this type of free content, and more multicultural stuff. There are so many things one can find on YouTube that is hard to find elsewhere, and then there is the added benefit of having relatively clean content.


And the scary thing is that it continues to get better. As a free repository, it is virtually peerless, but even Google’s more recent commercial additions are not off-putting. YouTube Red isn’t a bad value, especially when matched with a Google Play Music subscription. The ability to purchase content is a bonus, and YouTube TV isn’t perfect, but definitely worth checking out, I think.

I am unabashed fan. The app is an everyday thing for me, so much so that I expect it to be on every device I use, from TV to Amazon Fire to tablet to smartphone.

And beyond.

Our favorite gadgets of the past year

Our favorite gadgets of the past year

Apr 28, 2017

Frankly, mobility is all about the gadgets. In Android land, we love the plethora of slick pocketable machines and stash-able tablets, but we always love to see those jazzy accessories that use mobile devices to extend their own functionality.

We have seen quite a few of these, and we are going over — fondly — which ones we liked best. Just to be clear, we are giving high marks to affordability, ease of use and the ability ro cater to cross-platform households.

Here we go:

Jabra Elite *Truly* Wireless Earbuds

Jabra brings its considerable experience in the bluetooth telephony accessory field to this sleek piece. It works in tandem and as a single piece, can be used for streaming and phone calls, and ships with several mini-pieces that help with fit.

Stilo Stylus

I still rock a Palm every now and then… just to have a chance at using the stylus. Look, with more virtual keyboards recognizing handwriting entry, a good stylus is back in vogue.

Stilo makes a really, really good stylus, good enough to displace others from the go bag.

Linksys EA9500 Gigabit Router

Yep… so this one is surprising, but when you factor in the mobile controls and how well the app works, you’ll never go to something so backwards as a “regular” router again. You’re welcome.

Roidmi Bluetooth FM Modulator

FM Modulators are so last year, no? This is one is sleek, is app-supported, works to provide an extra slot, and… works quite well.

Nyrius Smart Outlet

This is your connected home starting piece. Think about it: a wireless outlet socket that essentially allows you to control whatever is plugged in by the tap of an app.

Dog & Bone Locksmart Mini Wireless Padlock

Keys are my kryptonite. But hey, this lock is powered by a bluetooth connected app hosted on the Android phone. I never lose my phone. See?

From the Editor’s Desk: to S8 or not to S8?

From the Editor’s Desk: to S8 or not to S8?

Apr 20, 2017

Samsung has grown on me.

I disliked the company’s first few Android offerings, and my dislike solidified after spending time with the atrociously named Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch — seriously, the Galaxy SII. After dealing with that Gingerbread-laden device, I mostly discounted anything that had TouchWiz.

I somewhat appreciated the gains made with the S III, but really started to thaw towards Samsung again with the advent of the S5. For its time, it was cutting edge, and had a wide range of accessories that made it a better option for more people.

Last year, I made a serious decision.

Picking a device manufacturer admittedly does not rate as “monumental” for most folks, but I am who I am, and I deliberate about such things for awfully long periods. To cut along story short, I ended up with a Galaxy S7 edge, the (then) Samsung flagship. My plan was simple: root it, make it mine — as in keep the looks and advanced functionality — and carry on.

But then I stumbled upon Samsung Pay, and began to use it a good deal. That killed rooting, because I didn’t want to trip Knox. I grew to appreciate the optimized UI overlay, and for everything else, I could use third-party apps to tweak.

I have been using the S7e as my daily driver for months.

And now, the S8 is here. Do I stay or do I go?

At this point, I don’t know. I have really enjoyed the mini-ecosystem, and the new devices are gorgeous. Yes, the fingerprint scanner location bothers me, but I don’t use the one I have now. And then, there is Samsung Pay.

And the other new devices, popping all over the place. Is the S8 a big enough upgrade over the S7?

But I could also wait for the S9.

I love choice…

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

Jan 1, 2017

We made it through 2016!

Here’s to a new year… new gadgets, more innovation and an ever-improving platform.


My App Addiction: Chrome Remote Desktop

My App Addiction: Chrome Remote Desktop

Dec 10, 2016


I am a huge fan of mobility. When it’s all said and done, the ability to do most things unencumbered by stationary desktops is invaluable beyond measure. I’m able to manage most aspects of my daily life reasonably well from my Android-powered smartphone. Outside of wi-fi connectivity, the internet connectivity is great to have, and opens the doors to being able to things far, far from home.

I don’t even fear provider outages anymore. It’s all about pocket power.

Still, every now and then, it is necessary to get on Ol’ Trusty. The desktop still manages all sorts of peripherals (like wireless hard drives and the like) and there are some apps that just don’t translate to Chrome OS or Android.

That’s where one of my favorite applications, Chrome Remote Desktop, comes in and fills several gaps admirably.

What this app does is to, in essence, link Chrome browser on Windows and Mac machines to Android and/or Chromebooks. When set up properly, it is possible to pipe in to one’s desktop remotely. In practice, this allows me to access my main desktop from my Chromebook and my Samsung S7 Edge and iPad, if I so need.

You see, there are some operations that are still a little more fluid on a desktop. Other times, it is a unique problem; for example, the other day, I needed a particular account password on the road. I do have a password vault with both mobile and desktop clients, but I had entered this new password in the day before, and hadn’t synced both clients. One quick CRD session later, I had the password I needed (and then synced the password vault clients for good measure).

Another scenario is the occasional need for an alternative browser when using my Chromebook. I sometimes find it easier to just pipe in to the home desktop.

With the right resolution, I feel like I am right at home, sitting at my desk.

Chrome Remote Desktop isn’t perfect; I’m not that big a fan of keeping a desktop machine on and running indefinitely, but hey, it is a simple solution that has the benefit of being relatively lightweight and cross-platform.


My App Addiction: Minimalistic Text

My App Addiction: Minimalistic Text

Nov 16, 2016

Admittedly, a lot of what framed my initial Android impressions came from comparisons with other operating systems. For instance, the whole concept of launchers was something I picked up from Palm. Calendar management? BlackBerry baby.

And so on…

Customization on Android was something I had to see to believe and understand. Having an device I could tailor to my own tastes was something I really enjoyed.

There are a couple of apps that did make the change more palatable, and Devmil’s Minimalistic Text is near the top of the list. I thought the feature set was — is — groovy indeed.

And what does it do? Well, Minimalistic Text makes widgets sexier. Now, when that is viewed from the perspective of one that is new to Android and the beauty of widgets to begin with, you’ll understand why this app excites me.

In a nutshell, it allows one to customize said widgets… really, one is able to make his/her own. It provides a range of templates, and then allows one to tweak its appearance, down to the color and shadow effect. One can make a widget based on date, weather, battery meter and the like. You can even create one out of straight text. Then, one can make it look just perfect, using a serious color selector and other tools.

One fine function is the ability to assign taps. This allows you to, say, create a text widget and make it invoke another app or action. On my main device, I have a week bar widget (with the actual day of the week highlighted); tapping on it invokes a customized agenda widget. But I can also assign a double tap action, and with that, I have a custom weather widget.

It really allows me to pack in a lot of information that is easily accessible in a clean way. That’s a major reason why Minimalistc Text is on every main Android driver I have owned.

What? You’re Not Rooting?!!! (Pt 2)

What? You’re Not Rooting?!!! (Pt 2)

Sep 30, 2016

First, it might make sense to get into the specific reasons that I root. A major one is the ability to really customize the look and feel of my device. For example, one thing I liked was the ability to create an “invisible lockscreen” on my phone. Hidden icons and latent access that made my phone fairly unusable without a formal lockscreen. I can still do a lot of that with Nova.

Another thing rooting worked for me is/was to was allow me to expand on Google Now functionality. With specific tools, I could add the number of keyword-driven actions I could perform. With Commandr for Google Now, a few commands do require root, but not a lot; as such, I figure a stock device wouldn’t hurt me too bad with regards to this.

A real big one for me is the use of Tasker. I use this quite a lot, and would miss it a lot too. With Tasker, I can automate a lot of tasks, like running backups and creating group events (like tapping on Google Maps invokes Launch GPS – Increase Screen Brightness sequence.) Or, using Google Now to create tasks in Toodledo. Now, some of this can be replicated in other ways, but hey.

When it’s all said and done, the truth is that Android continues to get better. Yes, device manufacturers and the telcos don’t make it easy to root, but it might be the maturity of the OS that ends up reducing the rooting minority. In any case, there are easy-to-root devices that thrive.

There will always probably be a rooting community that pushes the boundaries, and don’t see myself stopping tinkering permanently. I just really like the fact that it doesn’t feel mandatory any more.

Rooting is becoming more of a pastime than an ownership ritual, and that’s a GREAT thing.

What? You’re Not Rooting?!!! (Pt 1)

A few years back, I was listening to a podcast hosted by Android sage Phil Nickinson, and heard him say something that a lot of die-hard Android heads probably considered crazy.

Phil said he no longer roots his Android devices.

Okay, you have to see this in context. Nickinson is the editor of Android Central, one of the most renown tech sites in the world. Outside XDA, it probably is the biggest repository for rooting (getting administrative rights) information on the web. For a lot of Android users, AC is the source for everything Android modding.

So when Phil (as interpreted by me) said he had reached a point where he felt stock Android was good enough, it says a lot.

Quite a deal.

I tend to root my devices, and have done so with every main device I have used since I moved to Android moons ago. It has never been about celebrating geekhood — though I do admit to falling prey to an over-inflated sense of “why not?” — or getting round legalities. I like being able to have full control of my gadgets, and expanding upon the functionality of an OS is something that has been well worth the time. In many ways, I have continued to use Android because of the ability to root: I can do a lot, and cannot replicate it elsewhere. I tend not to upgrade every year anymore, and I avoid contracts, so having a rooted device helps keep me on track.

But with my latest acquisition — the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge — I might be leaning towards Phil’s madness.



There may not be a need to any more. For my needs, at least. I could conceivably use this device without ever going S-Off, and actually intend to.

And the reasons aren’t that crazy.

From the Editor’s Desk: Road Trippin’!

From the Editor’s Desk: Road Trippin’!

Jun 27, 2016

2016 has been a pretty good so far.

Great new products, plenty of great concepts, and on the device front, competition is very fierce. It’s a tech lover’s nirvana, and we are barely halfway through.

Stateside, it’s summer time… just about, mostly, kinda. The seasonal anthem is all Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff, with cookouts becoming the norm and suntan is in high demand.

Visibility is good, the sun comes up early and it’s the perfect time to travel, and the automobile is the tool of kings.

Now, when I was a kid, road trips were painful. Nothing to do but read, look outside, sleep or bicker, and four kids in the back seat of a micro sedan left a LOT to be desired.

Things have changed.

It makes sense that the malleable concept of technological mobility has to converge with a physical one. Android Auto, for instance, is an ever-growing initiative that looks to organically pair Android devices with one’s appropriately equipped vehicle. And then there is the wealth of car accessories that continue to be released, all with one objective in mind: improving users mobile experience.

Creating a hands-free experience? Device holders so the backseat drivers become backseat movie watchers? FM modulators that refine older school solutions? Off-road helpers? Wireless chargers? Navigation apps? Heck, even portable “smart” gadgets that shorten a trip? Bluetooth accessories?

Yep, yep and yep!

As usual, we at Android Rundown are quite happy to ride the wave. In the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a look at several products, from simple to fairly complex. You know… tools that make one’s life on the road more enjoyable.

We have gear from Magellan, Roidmi, TYLT and other innovative accessory makers on tap.

Fun times ahead… keep tuned to our hardware reviews. You’re sure to find something you like for the road.

My Upgrade Conundrum: An HTC M9 Mini-Review — A Look Back

Frankly, working with technology has its perks. We get to see the coolest new software and gadget all while never really falling out of love with the old. It’s a fun diversion, and hard to complain about.

I have found a way though.

When it comes to picking a daily driver on Android, the problem of choice arises. Everybody has a worthy flagship that looks good; just about all of them carry the main features people on the go crave, and every generation sees one or two introduce something especially cool that might set them apart — for a short time. Other device makers either co-opt the feature or create a better one, and the cycle gloriously repeats.

The fight to be a cut above the rest is definitely a boon to Android OS users.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of HTC software. The company has been front and center with Android since the beginning, and its recent devices, back to the M7, exemplify what happens when cool software is merged with Android; My One M8 is still my device of choice.

Still, I have looked at going for a spell with another manufacturer, not necessarily because I am unhappy with HTC hardware, but more because I can, and wouldn’t mine having extended time with something new. Samsung has me yearning, LG is tempting, and Huawei continues to be intriguing.

Unfortunately, I have had a lot time with the HTC One M9. Darn.

The specs are well known; what it underscores is the great concept of finding a winning solution, and sticking to it. The exterior still manages to feel premium, and HTC’s softawre overlay is still beloved… even in 2016. It’s a device that is easily relevant far into the feature (hey, like I said, I’m still rocking my M8 as my daily driver).

My biggest wish? HTC stays in the Android hardware business for the long haul. Please.