Saturday, April 30, 2011

Google Talk video chat coming to Android 2.3!

There is great news in the Android world this week.  On Thursday, Google announced their plans of bringing a video and voice chat service to the Android system.  This news all comes with a slight problem, however.

They are moving fast through there plans and plan to have an over-the-air software update in the next few weeks.  Initially, the update is planed for the Nexus S smartphone and they plan to release it to more Android phones in the near future and an example of what this will look like appears on the right.  As far as I know, the service will be "free" if you have an unlimited data plan.

The service is planned to run on wi-fi along with 3g and 4g data networks but the problem is that it is currently only being installed on the newest version of Android which is known as Gingerbread(2.3).  There are not too many details on how it will work or specifics on data usage at this time

Most of the current popular Android phones currently run Android 2.2, also known as Froyo, and even a few new and soon to be released phones that are being released still run the "old" version of Android.  Google says that most of these phones are just not physically capable of running the new version of Android and says that the video chat update will not occur on these phones.  This is bad news for the thousands of people who currently own these phones.

Personally, I find this update very interesting and I think the feature is great, however, I do not believe that I would use the video chat at all.  I hardly talk on the phone with people and would rather send text messages, that is just me.  If anyone has any thoughts about Google Talk voice chat, feel free to comment below.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Apps every Android user should have.

It's been a very tough week with finals and all but I'm finally finished with the year and thought I might post a few great apps that got me through the year and that I think everyone should have on their phone.  I know that most people who have owned or currently own an Android phone for awhile have probably already used or heard of these apps but now I present to you...

1. Pandora - This app turns your phone into its own disk jockey. I own a cheap pair of speakers and I can plug my phone into them through the auxiliary port. Admittedly, if you listen to the same stations enough, you start to hear many similar songs but Pandora streams high quality music right to your phone for free, cannot beat that!

2. FlashLight - You have no idea how many times you will use the app, especially if you have a roommate. It is surprisingly bright and allows you to easily see in front of your phone without lighting up the entire room to bother your sleeping roommate.  It is also free so if you don't like it, you can delete it without any problem.

3. TaskKiller - I will be reviewing this app soon but just know that it speeds up your phone, a lot.  It stops processes in your phone that cause extra memory uses and takes a huge load off of the battery, adding hours to your battery life. It is also free and can be set to stop processes every time you turn your phone off.

4. Handcent - This app gives you a break from the default text messaging service. It adds the ability to reply to text messages without unlocking your phone or quitting other applications, an option that is life saving for anyone who is a heavy texter. It also allows you to customize the look of your messaging service. It is totally free and has many options.

This list is just a general impression of some great apps, I have over a hundred apps on my phone, many of which I use nearly daily.  I simply think that these apps are the most useful apps in general.  If anyone has a suggestion on apps or a comment about the apps that I've mentioned in this post, feel free to comment below and be sure to follow for more great reviews and ideas.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Solitaire Challenge. Multiplayer!

Continuing with the last post about multiplayer card games, I thought I might review a relatively new game of the same nature.  Solitaire Challenge is a Solitaire game(Klondike) that features multiplayer.  There is not much to say about this game as most of my readers know the basics of Solitaire but if you do not know, try searching online for a guide.

Solitaire Challenge is basically a race between two random players to finish a game of Solitaire. Each player is given the same set of cards and they draw one at a time.  The only thing you see about your opponents progress is his percentage of face down cards exposed. As you win, your ranking goes up and you begin to face higher ranked opponents.  It also seems that the difficultly of the sets of cards goes up, making it more difficult to finish the cards. It takes 4-8 minutes to finish usually.

This game is very fun.  You need to be really fast once you get up in the 1400 ranks but if you have fast fingers and a fast mind, you will enjoy it a lot.  The only downfall is that you cannot play this without 3g or wifi but that should be expected of multiplayer games.  I would give this a 4.5/5 stars.  I haven't been able to get enough of it lately. It is free so try it out!

Solitaire Challenge

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Live Blackjack 21 and Live Blackjack.

I'm going to review these two apps in the same post today due to the fact that they are nearly identical besides a few obvious differences.  The apps are "Live Blackjack 21" and "Live Blackjack."  The games are both obviously blackjack games but, even though they have strikingly similar, not to mention unoriginal, names, they were designed by two separate companies.  You can click on the names above to see and download the apps in this article.

Live Blackjack
Both games are 100% free and use fake chips for staking.  They also both have the ability to sell the customer these "fake" chips for real cash but that seems like a very stupid waste of money.  As players play and earn chips, they also gain levels based on experience points that are awarded based on the amount they stake and win.  Live Blackjack 21 only allows you to risk 4000 of your chips at one time while Live Blackjack allows you to risk up to 10000.

The large difference between these two games is the ability to play multi-player.  Live Blackjack 21 has this ability while Live Blackjack does not.  In Live Blackjack 21, you can sit at tables with up to four other players and play as they play.  It is fun to see yourself strike rich while other online players lose riches but at the same time, it slows down the game. It is really a personal preference and I do enjoy both depending on my situation.

Overall, these blackjack apps provide a fun and free time waster. As mentioned before, I couldn't decide between the two apps. If you are feeling multi-player then Live Blackjack 21 is for you.  I do want to mention that the graphics and betting for Live Blackjack are, in my opinion, more appealing and smoother. Also the bet sizes are better for Live Blackjack.  It is your call and be sure to try out both if you are interested in a blackjack game for the Android system.

Live Blackjack 21
Live Blackjack

  • Smooth and attractive graphics
  • Better Betsize

Live Blackjack 21

  • Muti-player
  • Landscape mode

Saturday, April 23, 2011

gStrings: an unfortunate name?

I absolutely love this app. There is just nothing like a perfectly tuned guitar.  As a amateur musician(and when I same amateur, I mean slightly above average. very slightly)I know the feeling of having a guitar that feels wrong.  It just sounds off and out of shape, chords are not crisp but this app fixes the problem.

As any read would have guessed, the gStrings app is a guitar tuner.  It uses the same microphone that in used to pick up your voice when you are calling someone to take an incoming sound. Its really only downfall is the fact that outside noises can affect the ability of gStrings to pick up the targeted sound.  It is able to pick up the sound of a plucked string to show you what note, or lack of note, you are playing.  gStrings is amazingly accurate and is a great substitute to a normal tuner, mine always break. I'm not sure if professional musicians would agree with me on this one but I think it is safe to say that buying a tuner is worthless when you have an Android phone.

It is worth noting that this app works with more than just guitar.  You can use it to gauge your own voice or tune a piano, etc. It is very easy to read and can be used in landscape mode also.  It allows you to tune each string individually or, my favorite, a mode they call "tune auto" which automatically decides the pitch that is being heard and allows you to adjust in real time.  Below is a picture of what the app looks like.
Ad-Free Version of gStrings
The app comes in a free version and a paid, ad-free version version which costs $1.46.  The free version does contain ads but they are very subtle.  In fact, to be honest, I had to actually open the free version on my phone to make sure there was really an add and believe me, I've used this app many, many times.  The add appears as a banner at the top of the screen.  The only reason that I would pay for this app is if you wish to support the developer.  Overall, I must say that this is one of the most useful and effective apps on the Android system and I give it a 4.5/5 stars. Props to the developer.

X Construction, I should change my major!

Today I am going to blog about another great game that is available in the Android Marketplace.  This game is of course "X Construction.  If you have not checked it out yet, you should.  This game is rather neat. The whole goal of the game is to construct a bridge using a limited number of beams and, in the later levels, large wire ropes so that a passenger train can cross safely over a large gap.  It seems like an easy enough task but you will be in for a surprise.   The weight must realistically be distributed between beams and if this is not the case, the bridge will fail. This game is extremely difficult.

From level one, this game brought out full displays of emotion from me, a feat that a very small amount of things can achieve.  

Seemingly Perfect Bridge in Progress
I failed. As an engineering major, I thought this game would be fun and second nature so I downloaded it due to positive reviews about the physics and what not but something about that first level sent me into a fit of tears laughing and raging. Even on the first level, my seemingly perfect bridge just collapsed out of nowhere, sending the train and its passengers screaming into a little valley.

Regardless, this game turned out to be one of my favorites.  Everyone I know got a kick out of the extremely obnoxious screams that occur when you fail.  I never purchased the full version due to the fact that I am a poor college student but I did beat the lite version.  The full currently consists of 15 levels although I have no doubt that new ones will be added sometime in the future. It costs $1.46, a number that seems rather random.   The lite version contains only 7 or 8 levels which I was able to beat in a few days but it was really difficult and I must admit that I cheated and looked online for help on a couple, they're that hard.

Overall, this game deserves its 4.5/5 star rating in the Android Marketpace.  It is very frustrating and could take a lot of time to finish if you do it without any help.  The game, however, is useless once you beat it due to its lack of replayability.  There is a free mode in the full version in which you can make anything your little heart desires but really, it is up to you to decide whether a $1.46 is worth a few hours of fun. For me, it isn't.  I hope that if you're still reading up to this point (if you are, you are a champ) that you will follow me and enjoy my future and past posts.

Horrible Refurbished Phones from Verizon

As I mentioned in the previous HTC Thunderbolt review, I had recently gone to the Verizon store to get my Motorola Droid replaced, yet again.  This is the second time that I have gotten it replaced.  As many of you may know, though details are still cloudy, the original Droids were released with seemingly two separate keyboards.  The reasons are still unknown as to why this is but most theories suggest two different manufacturers or a change in model as one was found to be defective.  There is really no certain reason due to the fact that each were being sold at the same time and model number and manufacture date don't seem to correspond to either.  Anyways, the majority of phones, probably 90%, were built with a flat keyboard while a small number were built with a raised keyboard. I will put pictures of each at the end of this post so you know what I am talking about.  Many people who had the flat complained and wanted the "new" raised version because they thought it was an upgrade(most of these people complained of difficulty placing the keys and believed that the raised version provided better typing, which it did for the most part).

I was one of the few to get the raised and I thought it was pretty neat for the longest time until keys started falling off.  Yeah, they literally fall off. I'm not sure what caused it but they started to curl and the glue failed.  My currently theory is that the heat from the phone ruined the glue. It is also possible that water caused this as I have used the keyboard before with wet hands.  I went to the store and they quickly saw my problem as it was obvious but what surprised me was that the many did not even check for water damage on any of the indicators.  That is normally the first thing they do, just to make sure that they can't blame water for any and all problems.

I researched a lot before and only read bad reviews from other people on their refurbished phones from Verizon, at which point I became worried but my new phone arrived in a few days and I was pleasantly surprised. It seemed rather perfect although I did notice that I now owned a flat keyboard phone.  It's no problem. In fact, I like it before, the buttons are easier to mess up on but at least your fingers don't get sore from having to jam down the keys like it was with the raised.

The Raised Keyboard
Oh yeah, I tried to take a picture and it won't auto focus.. bummer and for me, that constitutes a new phone.  I take many pictures with my phone and I'd like them to be of a pretty good quality, at least not blurry as hell. So here I am, phone-less for a few days and hoping for a good phone.  I have read places that if the refurbished phones are not perfect after three times, you are legally entitled to a brand new phone.  I don't have this verified but it seems like a legit law.

The photos on the left are examples of each keyboard

The Flat Keyboard
I posted this just to see what any readers may think. I only have experience with Verizon but I'd like to hear from others. What are your experiences with your phone companies? My mom had to get her phone replaced twice just as mine will be. She's not a technology person but she can tell when her A key is missing from her keyboard(her "refurbished" phone literally came without an A key).  A close friend had to pay Sprint $40 for a new phone after his screen stopped working and they blamed him for downloading a virus type thing which he knows he did not.  His $40 replacement broke soon after and he went through hell to get another free replacement.  So comment, tell me what you think and I hope you liked this blog post.  Expect a new review soon.

Friday, April 22, 2011

HTC Thunderbolt! Fast but Lacking Keyboard.

My second review will be on the HTC Thunderbolt.  I have not had a chance to open it up and test the entire system but I went to the Verizon store the other day to get another replacement for my Droid, I'll mention this in a future blog but, anyways, I checked it out and it is REALLY fast and it just looks amazing.  I must admit that I am shallow when it comes to phones and tend to buy them based on looks but who doesn't? So first let me show you some specifications.

Really big 4.3' touchscreen
8MP autofocus camera with dual led flash
1.3MP front facing camera
8GB Emmc + 768 RAM
36GB SD card which is upgradeable obviously, poor iPhones ;)
1ghz Qualcomm Processor

It already seems impressive. As I said before, the 1ghz processor, while potentially slower than the Global (which has a 1.2ghz processor), is really fast.  The touch screen is extremely sensitive and accurate, I actually noticed it is visibly better than the Droid. The camera is really nice also which is great for me because I take too many pictures. Another thing is that it is really slim, it doesn't appear that way in commercials.  It is small and looks nice but still has a large screen. Everything about this phone is excellent but I do have a few things I'd like to mention about it.

First off, the thing that will most certainly cause me to not purchase this phone, it has no physical keyboard.  I don't think I could go a day without the keyboard due to the amount of text messages I send on average. However, I do think this phone would be a perfect upgrade to those who have an aging HTC Incredible or possibly EVO, even the Motorola Droid if you are looking for something different.  Another semi-complaint is the front facing camera. I understand where they are going with it but I wish they would make it a little better.  Admittedly, I don't know a whole lot about camera prices but I can't imagine them losing much money by adding a 4 or 6MP camera in the front so that it is useful for "selfies" rather than just a Facetime like application that uses little data.

Overall, I would give this phone an exceptionally positive rating.. a(very conservative) 4.5 out of 5. I would probably not buy this but it is definitely a great phone. Thanks for reading and remember to follow my blog if you wish to hear the latest and greatest.

Here we go! Dillo Hills!

Alright, I have been thinking of something for awhile that I think people would find interesting and that I would also.  I decided that, since I have a Droid by Motorola, I would share my opinions, the latest news, and other interesting Android related information such as apps, deals, and new products.  I will be sure to sneak in some other information that I find interesting.  I hope that I can keep this blog informative but still informal.


The first app I decided to review today is Dillo Hills.  If you have never heard of it, Dillo Hills is an Android developers version of Tiny Wings, which is currently out in the Apple Appstore and many, including myself, wondered if it will ever get around to the Android Market.  I researched Dillo Hills(funny name too, I might add) and it is.. interesting.  If you do not know, in Dillo Hills, you play as what appears to be a fish but is actually an armadillo(Dillo Hills, who would have thought) The goal is to get as far as you can on a number of very hill island before you "run out of happiness." I think this Dillo smoked the wrong stuff thus morning*cough*. Anyways, you press anywhere on the screen to increase your weight(or gravity) and you go down, attemping to land on the right side of a hill where you consequently ramp off the other side of the hill. You earn points by chaining together ramps and collecting gems, among other things.

My personal opinion on this app is that it is rather poor.  The game seems a little laggy and choppy, definately not as smooth as Tiny Wings is on the Ipod, and also puts a hurting on the battery.  Now, I have the original Droid by Motorola and yes, I need an upgrade, but it is alittle disappointing.  Still, I've heard some pretty good reviews from people with faster phones such as the Droid 2 Global and the HTC Thunderbolt.  I'm sure in the future, updates will increase this apps quality and ability to run smoothly.

The app currently costs $0.99 in the Android market and it also contains a LITE version at no cost with the exception of ads.  I would not buy the guy right now but I would suggest trying out the LITE version.  My final verdict is that if they can improve the game play to make it smoother, this game could be one of my favorites. This app currently gets a 3.5 out of 5 stars but if any new updates come out, I'll be sure to post so follow if you'd like to hear more. Below are some random screenshots for your entertainment.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ideas Ideas Ideas

This is my first post as a blogger.  I am deciding what to blog about but for now, here is a picture that I made using GIMP.  I consider myself somewhat of an expert in technology and I have a passion for it. Look for future posts!