Theme Thursday: TouchPal Contacts

Theme Thursday: TouchPal Contacts

Oct 18, 2012

Most Android users do not really consider the Dialer or contact app as something that can be customized. It it what controls the most basic function of a phone, calling people. Now I don’t have a big problem with how Android handles their contact lists and the dialer, but I am not a fan of how specific manufacturers skin over the stock Android system. My least favorite overskin has to be HTC’s Sense UI, and seeing as this blog post deals with customization it makes sense to look at something that generally remains untouched.

My choice here was the highly rated TouchPal Contacts, which offers a whole suite of customization apps, but I am going to specifically be concentrated on their contact/dialer app. This offers some specific advantages over a stock dialer, and even some of the older versions of CyanogenMod 7 which does not come with a T9 dialer. My personal favorite is the ability to quickly set an away status which will set the phone to silent and also answer an incoming call with an away text. There are other apps and ways of doing this but I found that using TouchPal is quicker and offers some more customization options.

This would not be a Theme Thursday without the option to change a theme or two. The quantity of themes is not very great but what they lack in number they make up in quality. These themes are all very well done and they all look great. There is also a large variation in styles here ranging from simple, minimalistic to ornate and detailed. Other unique features are gesture dialing, which is always a plus. Being able to immediately dial a specific contact without pressing a button is amazing and is a great conveinence.

Like some other apps of its kind there are some proprietary features that facilitate extended interaction with other TouchPal users. These include social media interaction and contact exchange. A cool feature is the ability to update specific social media networks directly from the app, but this is largely superfluous
because there are a hundred of other apps and widgets that fulfill this need without opening an app.

In conclusion, anyone looking for a better looking and more useful dialer app be sure to definitely check out TouchPal Contacts.

KickStarter Spotlight: MG

KickStarter Spotlight: MG

Sep 5, 2012

While the exact state of the portable gaming remains a hot topic, there are very few facts that are impossible to argue. The industry as we have known ever since the first GameBoy is slowly dying. Taken over by independent developers and smartphones, the single use portable gaming console idea is quickly seeming obsolete along with the idea of brick-and-mortar stores with game cartridges. Portable games now are less of an investment and more of a way to waste a few minutes on the bus or before a lecture. People unfortunately do not want to play God of War on a small 4.5″ screen between their hands when they can witness it in full HD on a 45″ plasma screen in their living room. The games that are meant to be on small screens so close to the player’s fingers are the kind of games that smart phones have been ushering in; the Angry Birds and Cut the Rope’s of the gaming world. While some hardcore PSP or DS fanboys may disagree, it is very hard to argue that the portable gaming that we are familiar with will be almost extinct come five years.

Recognizing this trend, a small startup, PlayMG, has been quietly developing its own Android-powered portable gaming device that would cater directly to those who just want their addictive 5-10 minute gaming bites. Their product is the MG; the first portable Android based gaming device. Without the ability to text or make phone calls, consider the MG an android version of the iPod touch. With the MG there is access to the full breadth of the Android Market which will supply endless hours of entertainment for a fraction of the cost of big budget PSP or DS games.

Because the MG will naturally appeal to kids there are great parental control tools, including a free app that lets parents know exactly what apps their kids are downloading and playing. Also included is a prepaid credit card that allows kids to purchase apps without the parent being charged $0.99 every time. Parents load this digital wallet up with as much money as they see fit and once the money is gone their child cannot make another purchase until more money is placed back onto the card. Also, similar to XBox Live, MG has its own avatar and profile system that allows for easy connection between friends.

The whole device looks great and has a nice large 4″ screen surrounded by ergonomically-designed rubber bumpers. My main concern for the device is weather or not there is enough of a need in the marketplace for it, but because the target audience is so specific, teens under-18 without smartphones, and because the MG is only retailing for around $100, I feel confident enough that it could easily become a hit. There are plenty of parents who have major qualms about giving their children expensive smartphones but feel pressured because of their child’s want for all those shiny and colorful games. Fortunately for them, MG fills in that gap and might be the closest thing the iPod touch has seen to a competitor in years.

Theme Thursday: Touch for GO Launcher

Theme Thursday: Touch for GO Launcher

Feb 16, 2012

I’ve always been a sucker for clean, minimalist user interfaces. For me, a phone home screen should be something that can be shown off even if that might mean a subtle loss of convenience. For a while now my main home tile has been completely devoid of the usual assortment of widgets, containing instead purely aesthetic widgets that add a small layer of class onto an otherwise pragmatic piece of tech. In this week’s Theme Thursday I’m going to look at not just a basic theme, but two more additional widgets that can bestow incredible power in making a launcher its own small piece of art.

First and foremost is the GO Launcher theme called “Touch.” This is probably the weakest part of my home page right now as the custom icons are not spectacular and the great background could probably just be found on Google Images. Small touches are nice, such as a simple, white app drawer, but I would not declare this two dollar theme a great value. Touch puts a white border around every app on the home screen which does go a way to delivering some great continuity, but it would be nice to at least have the option to disable this feature. For those using GO Locker there is also a free locker theme that works well and goes a long way to tie everything together.

Two great widgets that really break the mold from the classic HTC Sense UI-style of plastic looking 3-D widgets are Minimalistic Text and BobClockD3. BobClockD3 is a clock app that displays the time vertically with flat san-serifed text. While the customization options are thin, there is ample room for creativity. For those looking for a simple way to give their phone a facelift I would highly recommend checking out BobClockD3, and it being free removes pretty much any argument against it.

In total contrast is Minimalistic Text, playing a legitimate “Linux” to BobClockD3’s “Windows” this app gives total control over text display on the home screen. There is a myriad of display options here, ranging from time as text, to battery percentage, and even RAM usage. After some practice of the initially confusing workspace it becomes easy and fun to add text to the home screen and give it the truly modern look that it has been lacking.

So give it a shot, regain aesthetic control of the cellular domain and create a modern minimalist masterpiece that will turn heads and draw compliments.