The Hills Are Greener: A PC Home For Android?

The Hills Are Greener: A PC Home For Android?

Jan 15, 2013

While Windows Phone still is kind of sauntering around in the background of the iOS and Android scene, waiting for an opening, it should not be ignored. Its App Store is growing and phones are selling. But there’s one particular aspect of it that long-term could have Windows 8 doing well: OS integration with Windows.

Yes, the big sexy trend is moving away from desktops and moving in to the mobile space, particularly with tablets. But Windows is definitely starting to make a move in to tablets, or at least with hybrid devices. And with the Windows 8 experience being more consistent across different devices, there’s the potential for Microsoft to use this to sell the OS on phones, tablet, or PCs, wherever appropriate.

It would be a move in the direction of Apple, who increasingly make their mobile OS and computers cross-compatible with one another. iCloud has helped to make Macs and the iPhone a more seamless experience. There’s definitely a lot more that could be done, yes, but it’s something Apple’s got a heads up on. If Microsoft does it well, they can sell Windows as a cohesive OS from the phone up, especially with the modern interface formerly known as “Metro” across different devices.

Because Android is not connected to a specific OS, there’s an inherent disadvantage. They can’t push that kind of deep-level integration that Apple and potentially Microsoft can. However, there is the advantage that by connecting to software like Chrome and web services like Google+ and its Instant Upload. Not to mention all the things like Gmail, Calendar, and Contacts that already exist in a cloud service capacity. Google has a heads up there. But internally-integrated solutions are as a general rule more user-friendly, and Google will always exist as an outside provider on these platforms.

Is there a chance that Windows integration just never plays out? Sure. Android could still be the biggest fish in the sea on mobile (as far as raw numbers go) without this kind of integration? Sure. Heck, the personal computer could be a dying concept for many people and so this won’t matter. Or perhaps Chrome OS is the next huge thing. But if not, this does come off as a potential point of weakness for Android.

BlueStacks is Now Running Android Apps on Mac

BlueStacks is Now Running Android Apps on Mac

Jul 9, 2012

HandyGames’ BlueStacks app player that allows computer users to test out Android apps had previously only been on Windows. No more! Now Mac users can get in on the BlueStacks action with the first beta now available. (see photo at left of the marriage of Android and Mac)

Now, let’s immediately confront the inherent contradiction of owning a Mac and wanting to test Android apps. Well, it turns out not everyone who uses a Mac is an iPhone user, or obsessed with just iOS! I mean, I use iOS all the time, but I use Android too, and I was an Android user well before I was a Mac user! So deal with it!

BlueStacks emulates an Android device on Mac, with apps living in individual instances. So, don’t expect to get Twitter notifications while checking Facebook in BlueStacks.

Right now, the ability to install custom apps besides what is bundled is not included (that’s planned for beta 2), but there’s Twitter, Facebook, and various games included. The one that might show the limitations of using a touchscreen interface on a desktop with a trackpad is Fruit Ninja. It’s not as intuitive or accurate, but it is playable. I scored 158 on my first try in Zen mode, not fantastic but certainly not completely terrible. The game played at full speed, too – it uses the full power of one’s computer in order to run these apps like on actual hardware. For Magic Trackpad users on the Mac, it appears as if 2-finger gestures will serve as multitouch for pinching gestures. Twitter runs a lot better on BlueStacks than it does on my phone, that’s for sure.

This has some advantages for both users and developers. Now those developers porting their games over to Android will have a computer simulator to help test out, theoretically. Find an interesting free Android game or app worth trying out? BlueStacks may just be able to run it. Long-term usage may not be as good as using an actual device just because of the differences in interfaces, but it is an interesting testing method. BlueStacks is available for free from their website.

Syncing Without Wires on a Mac

Syncing Without Wires on a Mac

Oct 31, 2011

With Apple’s iOS 5 comes wireless iTunes synchronization. This allows a user’s iOS device to wirelessly sync their movies, pictures, and music from their home computer and vice versa. This eliminates the need for cords and all the syncing goes on in the background, hiding it from the user. While there is no iCloud counterpart on Android quite yet, there are a few apps that come close. The most popular and probably the best is Winamp, but seeing that it’s only for Windows, this post looks at a few wireless media syncing software for the Mac/Winamp alternatives. 
The three apps being looked at are the popular DoubleTwist, simple TuneSync, and ambitious AudioGalaxy. All three of these apps offer different services but they all aim to basically do the same thing, offer a wireless way for you to sync or listen to the music on your computer on your phone. Seeing that all three require an application to be installed onto your Mac, that will be our jumping off point.

There couldn’t exist a bigger difference between the applications needed by DoubleTwist, TuneSync, and AudioGalaxy. The latter two offer small, menu bar applications that run in the background and one, TuneSync, only has two options in its drop down menu. This is a total contrast to the behemoth of a program that DoubleTwist requires. The DoubleTwist app aims to be an Android version of iTunes, and is just as bloated and somehow slower. The program lags and frequently locks up for 30 seconds at a time. If you want an application to solely sync music over to your phone using a cable, DoubleTwist is not the best option. A plus for DoubleTwist is its ability to AirPlay music to an Apple TV, Xbox 360, and PS3.

That said, DoubleTwist’s desktop app does serve its purpose and will get the job done. The paid AirSync add-on allows for your phone to appear on the list of devices even when not plugged into your computer. This lets you just drag and drop the files into your phone no matter where it is as long as its on the same network. It’s Android app is also a media player, which I found very impressive. Unlike DoubleTwist, TuneSync does not come with a media player, which is not really much of a problem because most Android users already have a media player of choice. TuneSync lets you sync specific playlists from iTunes wirelessly to your phone. This may seem restrictive but it is really the opposite. Simply make a playlist in iTunes then add and delete songs freely and TuneSync will update your phone accordingly. By doing this you bypass the middle man and do everything in a program you already use. If you are an Amazon MP3 user, this app also has the ability to put your purchases onto your computer as well.

Doesn't look pretty, but it doesn't have to.

Being a whole other monster, AudioGalaxy has no desktop media player but a decent web app. Instead of merely syncing files to your phone, AudioGalaxy uses your computer as a media hub, scanning your library and putting the information online for you to access at any time. The media streams off your computer over the internet to either your phone or another computer. The advantage here is you don’t need to pick and choose which songs to sync your whole library is available. The downside, obviously, is that your computer must be on and connected to the internet for this to work, and, if on 3G it will consume data. Songs can also be pegged for offline mode, which downloads the file to your phone. This process isn’t as efficient as either TuneSync or DoubleTwist but that’s not the main objective of this app. Still in the beta phase this web app shows a lot of promise once a few bugs are fixed.

When it comes to sync speed DoubleTwist is the fastest, with TuneSync coming in a close second, and AudioGalaxy obviously bringing up the rear. Even though downloading songs is not AudioGalaxy’s main feature, the fact that you are unable to check on a songs download progress is a head scratcher. Both DoubleTwist and TuneSync show download progress with TuneSync shown song by song progress while DoubleTwist just gives brief overview.

In conclusion, as usual, it just depends what you are looking for. My personal recommendation if I had to choose one is TuneSync because of its simplicity. I have a media player that I love (UberMusic, shameless plug I know) and doing everything through iTunes is much easier than using DoubleTwist’s problematic desktop app. Another point for TuneSync is that it can automatically sync when your phone is plugged into your computer. All three of these apps can work in great harmony by paying the 6 bucks and using TuneSync for syncing music, getting the free DoubleTwist mobile app for interacting with an Apple TV, PS3, or X-Box 360, and since AudioGalaxy is free, there’s no risk in trying it out, especially if the computer you use is a desktop.