Category Archives: Android

Motorola, Samsung and RIM All Announce New Products

I guess you could call it the perfect storm: Three of the largest mobile phone manufacturers all announcing new devices on the same exact day. In any case, these three companies decided to announce and unveil some rockin’ new products that are something to get excited about. Keep reading to find out about all the gritty details.

Motorola

First off, Motorola announced the newest addition to Verizon Wireless’s Droid lineup. The Motorola Spyder (a.k.a. the Droid RAZR) comes packing with a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage (microSD slot expansion too), an 8 megapixel camera with 1080p video capabilities, and a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display coated with a layer of Gorilla Glass. Oh, and did we mention it’s only 7.1mm thick?

The Droid RAZR will be priced at $299 and will be available sometime next month. Pre-orders start October 27th.

Motorola also announced their own music and fitness device dubbed Motoactv. They claim it’s the “ultimate fitness device” seeing that it has a 600MHz processor, runs Android, has built-in GPS, and only weighs a meesly 35 grams. It’ll track your heart rate and log your statistics for running, walking or cycling.

The Motoactv also offers an FM radio and audio coaching, which frequently updates you with your pace and distance. The device will be price at $249 or $299 for 8GB and 16GB, respectively. You will also be able to grab an accompanying Bluetooth headset that Motorola is outing, the SF500 for $99 and SF700 for $149.

Here’s a quick hands-on video of the Motorola Droid RAZR courtesy of Phandroid.

RIM

Image Credit: LA Times

Research In Motion has announced the BBX mobile operating system for BlackBerry devices. It combines features from BlackBerry’s current OS and QNX (an operating system that RIM bought last year). It incorporates Enterprise, NOC and cloud services, as well as support for HTML5, NativeSDK, and Adobe AIR and Flash. It’ll also be certified for POSIX, which RIM and QNX hope will entice developers to use the new platform.

BBX will also include a new advanced graphics framework called Cascade UI, which will allow “Super Apps” that provide smooth 3D animations along with deep integration with various BlackBerry services.

RIM hopes to have BBX up and running for BlackBerry phones and tablets by next year.

Samsung

Yesterday, Samsung quietly released a pair of PMPs known as their Galaxy Players, which are Samung’s version of Apple’s iPod Touch line. They’re great for people who like Samsung’s Galaxy S variant, but don’t neccessarily want the phone portion. The Galaxy Player fully rocks Gingerbread and sports a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage (microSD expansion slot available). There are two versions, a 4-inch model for $230 and a 5-inch model with a slightly larger battery for $270. Both are available now.

Perhaps the most anticipated device that Samsung announced was their Galaxy Nexus with the brand new Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) on board. It’s got a 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, either 16 or 32GB of internal storage space, a 1,750mAh battery, 5 megapixel rear camera with 1080p video capabilities, 1.3 megapixel front camera, Bluetooth 3.0, built-in NFC, and a freaking barometer. It’s all covered by a 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED display with a 1280×720 resolution. They also claim that the display has a 0.01ms response time. Yes, that’s right: a one in the hundredths place. It’s also got what Samsung claims is the highest contrast ratio at 100,000:1.

The Galaxy Nexus will be available next month, but we don’t know officially what carriers the device will be available on. No price has been announced yet either.

Spice Up Your Android Wallpaper With Astronomy Picture of the Day

Once you’ve grown tired of Android’s multitude of live wallpapers, or if (God forbid) you’re still rocking whatever default wallpaper your phone came with, it might be time for a change. Add some science to your day and keep your wallpaper fresh with Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Astronomy Picture of the Day scrapes the NASA webpage of the same name and makes it easy to set the current day’s picture as your wallpaper.

As you would expect from an application used to set your wallpaper, Astronomy Picture of the Day is simple to use. From the main page you can see the current day’s picture, or scroll through a list of previous days’ pictures. Once you find the picture that catches your fancy, just click on it, hit the Menu key, and click Auto Set Wallpaper (note that there are a few other options in this menu as well).

On the picture’s page you can also click the little ‘i’ button in the upper right hand corner to learn more about that picture.

Astronomy Picture of the Day’s coolest feature is its ability to auto-update your wallpaper every day. From the main page hit Menu, then Preferences. Here you can set the time of day that the application should update, as well as set a few other options.

Astronomy Picture of the Day can be downloaded from the Android Market here or by scanning the QR code below. If you really enjoy the application consider donating to the developer, which also removes advertisements from the main application.

Is This Ice Cream Sandwich on the New Nexus?

With the mystery of the iPhone 5 solved, the attention of the internet geekdom has turned to the next, newest thing: Android. Specifically its newest operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), and Google’s next flagship device, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus (also known as Nexus Prime, or whatever). And we’ve uncovered the motherload.

A Romanian website (it was Samsung Romania that announced the name “Nexus Prime” back in June) has what looks to be the next Nexus device running an early version of Ice Cream Sandwich. Of course, there is no way of knowing whether this is the real thing or a clever fake, but that makes it all the more fun to discuss in the comments.

If it is real though, it looks like we can expect a change to the cut-and-dry Android form factor. The search button is missing from the bottom row of soft-touch buttons, seemingly replaced by a constant search bar at the top of the screen, which seems like more of a problem. Won’t a new button configuration make updating older devices even harder?

The screen looks larger than that of the Nexus S, not surprising when you consider how the Galaxy line up just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Also, as expected, the OS is taking a lot of design aspects from Honeycomb (the tablet version of Android), rather than sticking close to Gingerbread. This, in my humble opinion, is a relief. Gingerbread isn’t the prettiest of interfaces.

Unfortunately, the truth about this mess may be further away than we originally thought. Samsung has just announced that they no longer plan to unveil the phone with Google at next week’s CTIA:

Samsung and Google decide to postpone the new product announcement at CTIA Fall. We agree that it is just not the right time to announce a new product. New date and venue will be shortly announced.

It’s anybody’s guess why the two companies decided to postpone the reveal, but it could literally be anything. Last minute kinks to work out, patent lawsuits, fear of being buried under the iPhone hype, or perhaps even to respect Steve Jobs’ passing.

Whatever the reason, Eric Schmidt has promised that we will all see Ice Cream Sandwich by the end of November. So just nine, long, excruciating weeks to go then.

But what do you think? Is this about what you expected? Or did you want something bigger and better?

Five Free Android Apps to Improve Your Health & Fitness

Most of us could stand to lose a few pounds, but a sustainable lifestyle change isn’t always easy. A missed day at the gym can give way to a cheeseburger, and before you know it you’re back on the couch two weeks deep into a black hole of inactivity and junk food. These things happen, but your Android-powered phone can help you dig yourself out of that rut and improve your overall health, fitness and (probably) happiness.

The Android Marketplace offers a wide range of health- and fitness-related apps for the choosing. Here are some of my favorites that have helped me avoid a catastrophic health meltdown.

1. Diet Assistant

I tend toward no-frills, easy-to-use apps and this one fits the bill nicely. Diet Assistant tracks your daily meals and offers calorie estimates, which are tracked and graphed to show your progress. Similarly, it will keep tabs on your weight and give you a graph to show to your friends. Just kidding, don’t show your friends — they won’t be as excited as you. Anyway, you’ll be surprised how the momentum builds as you see your weight drop with your reduced calorie intake. Soon you’ll be making smarter food choices just to keep your graph looking nice. Oh, and there will be the added bonus of weight loss.

2. Push Ups

Again, a simple app that serves its purpose well. Push Ups is a virtual trainer that allows you to set goals for consecutive push ups and creates a routine so you can achieve it at your own pace. This may be my favorite app on the list because the gains impressed me. [Bragging alert] I’ve been using Push Ups for a couple of months and started my program barely able to do 20 push ups in a row. With the help of this app, which accounts for off days, I can do over 50 without rest. Push Ups transformed me into the total stud I am today. Hey — don’t roll your eyes at me.

3. Adidas miCoach

Motivation is a major obstacle that miCoach aims to solve. This app is a trainer for a variety of sports, including custom workouts, that measures your distance, pace, calories burned, and more. MiCoach monitors your workouts and offers assessments that keep you steadily improving. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to reach your goals if you have a program telling you what is acceptable and what is lazy. MiCoach is feature-packed (even GPS!) and will keep you rolling with whatever form of exercise you choose — yoga to basketball. Definitely worth a try.

4. Softrace

If you have a competitive streak in you, Softrace is probably your ticket to reaching your fitness goals. You can choose from a variety of race types (biking, skiing, running and more) and compete against others on pre-defined tracks in your area. Softrace tracks your statistics like altitude, pace, and time and keeps it all in a convenient workout diary. Sometimes you just want to race somebody, and Softrace makes this exceedingly convenient, even if you don’t have any competitive friends.

5. Music Therapy For Sound Sleep

Face it, if you’re a working sap with any amount of ambition, you probably aren’t sleeping well. If you spend a lot of time on your computer at night, that just makes matters worse, and believe it or not, it affects your diet and exercise by making you lethargic during the day. Sound Sleep offers ambient sounds to help you relax at night and get to sleep more easily. Match this with some light reading and you’ll be snoozing in no time. Remember, a good day starts with a good night’s rest.

As they always say, change comes from within, but don’t be afraid to seek help from your friendly Android phone in your journey to self-improvement. Mix and match the apps that work for you and maybe one day you’ll be able to do as many push-ups as me. Ha, yeah right!

Google Wallet: Changing the Way You Pay for Things… If You Can Keep Your Phone Charged

I’m pretty jazzed about Google Wallet. For those that have never heard of it, Google Wallet is an app being rolled out by the Big G, beginning with the Sprint Network, that intends to change the way we pay for things by storing your credit cards on your smart phone. It makes use of a nifty near-field communication (NFC) chip that can communicate securely (and wirelessly) with MasterCard PayPass terminals by simply waving or tapping your smart phone on it. Cool.Early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive as early adopters are impressed by how quickly and seamlessly you can pay for goods and services. MasterCard states that there are currently “hundreds of thousands” of PayPass terminals across the United States that support Google Wallet with more to come in 2012.

While NFC is a new technology to US phones, the idea is far from original as Korean and Japanese commuters have been able to pay for public transit fares by waving their phones for years. Still, Google plans to make Wallet a unique and widely used application that will allow you to abandon your leather pocket destroyer forever. Google doesn’t want to stop at credit cards, wanting to eventually allow you to store your passport, driver’s license, and plane tickets in Wallet.

As cool as the Wallet concept is, I think the obvious limitation is the battery life of current smart phones. I can’t seem to keep my Nexus S charged for more than 10 hours at a time, so there is no way I would depend on Google Wallet as my primary means of paying for things. I think the problem is compounded by traveling, where a dead phone could leave you stranded with no way of paying for things or even proving your identity.

Google Wallet is an elegant and interesting solution to storing sensitive materials in easy-to-lose wallets. If you lose your smart phone, your stuff should remain safe so long as you have it password protected. Still, it’s not a practical idea for everyday use and certainly not for traveling. I hope Google continues to develop this idea, but until the hardware can accommodate the app, I’ll probably limit my use to novelty purposes (i.e. impressing girls) only.

Why I’ll Never Use the Kindle Fire Tablet for Reading

I love my Kindle. I was hesitant to get one at first because I tricked myself into thinking that there was something to the “real book experience” that I couldn’t get from a Kindle. I was wrong — I tried the Kindle, became enamored by the size, portability, and battery life, and now I have hundreds of e-books. I’ll probably never buy a paperback book again… sure, the Kindle has some experience problems, like the hassle of quickly flipping back to reference something at the beginning of the book, but the good just vastly outweighs the bad.

I was pretty excited to see what the Kindle Fire tablet would offer me. I was positive I would upgrade, but now that I’ve seen what it’s all about, I am almost positive I won’t. Why? I’m going to do my best to show why I will not upgrade to a Fire with a picture.

See that? It’s Angry Birds, and it will prevent me from buying the Kindle Fire to read books.

I’ve had this conversation with a few friends that own iPads. I ask, “What is reading like on that thing?” They hand it over and give me a hack, and to be honest, it’s amazing. Beautiful even. There is absolutely nothing about the Kindle page-to-page experience that I prefer over that of the iPad. But how many of my friends use their iPad for reading?

Zero. Goose egg.

The problem is that the iPad has so many other features, so many other forms of quick entertainment that it becomes almost impossible to stay focused on a book! Internet browser, Twitter, frickin’ Angry Birds. While the reading experience on an iPad is quite nice, each of my friends admit that they pull out their Kindle (or *gasp* an actual book) if they want to do some serious reading.

The beauty of the Kindle, and the reason I will keep mine for a great long while, is that it is a one-purpose device for an activity that deserves 100% of your attention while engaged in it. I like the idea of a cheaper alternative to an iPad that runs on Android, but I almost disagree with attaching the Kindle name to it. It’s going to be an impressive device that almost nobody uses for reading, just like the iPad.

So, there you have it. I hope somebody from the Kindle development team stumbles across this article and bears in mind that some people want a Kindle that can only be used for reading. The Kindle Fire is going to be a really neat device (arguably better than the iPad), but I don’t see myself retiring my Kindle 3 any time in the near future.