Latest LauncherPro Update Adds Sweet New Transitions

It’s been over a month since we last heard from Federico Carnales, developer of the awesome Android homescreen replacement application LauncherPro. He’s been busy completely rewriting LauncherPro from scratch, but recently found time to push out an update to the current version that adds some very cool screen transitions.

For the uninitiated, LauncherPro is one of many homescreen replacements available for Android devices. These replacements run over the top of your device’s default homescreen and often add new features to improve the Android experience. For example, LauncherPro, among other things, lets you set the number of homescreens you want, adds a new app drawer, and allows you to hide non-removable applications (V-Cast applications, anyone?) from your app drawer if you’re not willing to root your device in order to get rid of them completely.

To check out the new transitions, update LauncherPro to the most recent version, hit the Menu button on your phone and click on Preferences. Click on the Homescreen Settings submenu and you’ll find a new option for Transition Effect. Here you can choose an awesome new transition, and you don’t even have to restart LauncherPro to try it out!

Excepting the Cube transition, which is still a little jerky, the new transitions are just as fast as the stock scrolling transition. Of course, that could also just be due to my ancient Motorola Droid.

In his latest blog post Fede also promises another update soon that will add to the growing list of goodies available to those who have paid for LauncherPro Plus. If you haven’t given LauncherPro a go yet, there’s no better time than the present! Scan the QR Code below to be taken directly to LauncherPro’s Android Market page.

You can also check out a quick demonstration of all the new transitions in the video below.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niGDpeeUXkw

Droid X: That “Pull” Tab Behind the Battery Cover is for Battery Removal, Don’t Tear it Out!

After a few delays, I was finally able to get my hands on Motorola’s new 4.3″ Android smartphone, the Droid X.  This is a really impressive phone, but there is one thing you need to watch out for when you first use it: the “Pull” tab is not meant to be removed!

Before you insert the battery into the back of the phone, you’ll notice a yellow tab with the word “PULL” written on it.  Taking this simple instruction literally, I began firmly pulling on the tab (thinking it was something that had to be removed before the phone would be operational, like the tape on new printer ink or those little plastic tabs on children’s toys).  Luckily for me, I noticed something wasn’t quite right and stopped before I pulled the whole plastic piece out.

The “PULL” tab is actually there so you can remove the battery after you’ve inserted it into the phone.

The Droid X’s battery really snaps into place, and without this tab it is very difficult to remove (although I’ve been told you can use the battery cover itself to remove the battery if you accidentally tore out the pull tab).

Dozens of people have assumed the Pull tab was intended to be completely removed, and doing so accidentally pulled out the entire black plastic piece that exists between the battery and the phone itself.  Most users have reported that the phone still functioned after this happened, but like most things in mobile devices, that plastic was probably there for a reason.  If you’re careful, you should be able to get the plastic backing into the battery recess after you’ve removed it.

Initial rumors speculated that accidentally pulling the tab out would void your waranty, but this has been found to be untrue.  Laura Merritt, PR manager for Verizon Wireless, told Examiner.com in an email:

“If the customer removes the tab, the warranty is not affected. If they can’t get their battery out, I suggest that they take it to one of our stores for assistance. They don’t want to damage the phone or battery trying to remove it.”

So there you have it.  If you’re thinking about getting a Droid X, it’s a wonderful phone – just be sure not to rip out anything important before you first use it.

Droid X: This is one hard phone to find (without a preorder) [Updated]

Update 07/22/10: I’ve spoken to Verizon reps at corporate stores across the Minneapolis metropolitan area and they have reported that the Droid X is sold out in all stores across the nation.  They explained that the only way to currently get the phone is to order it from Verizon online, which should start shipping on approximately August 3rd or 4th.  The phone will include free overnight shipping.

Well, it accidentally turned into Android week here at Techerator (sorry about that, non-Android people).  I’ve been running around today trying to find the newly-released Droid X with the same response from everybody: we’re sold out.

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It seems like most retailers, including Verizon authorized stores and Best Buy, sold their entire stock of Motorola’s newest, 4.3″ smartphone through pre-orders.  All stores have offered to put me on a waiting list, with new shipments “hopefully arriving next week”.

Had any luck finding the newest member of the Droid lineup?  Share it with us in the comments!  My search continues…

Verizon Moving Away from the Droid Eris?

Owners of the HTC Droid Eris have been seeing some dark predictions (specifically here, here, here, here, here, and here) these past few months as Verizon appears to phase it out for future phones like the Motorola Droid X and the Motorola Droid 2.  So far the phone has been removed from Verizon’s website and there are hints that HTC will not be releasing Android 2.2, the newest version of the Android operating system, on it.

But seeing as these are mostly rumors and leaks, it is hard to tell what is actually going to happen.

How long should a phone stay on the market?  The Eris was released back in November 2009 and has been the affordable conterpart to the Motorola Droid for quite some time now.  It may not have had the fastest processor or hardware, but it still handles the Android OS with relative ease.

Whether or not these rumors are true, this Eris owner will not be trading in anytime soon.

Use AppAware To Find New and Interesting Android Applications

While there are plenty of great applications available for Android, it can sometimes be difficult to find them. The Android Market doesn’t do a very good job of showcasing applications, so you’ll usually see the same twenty or so apps on its front page. If you want to find those buried gems, you’re forced to scroll through an endless list and click on the applications that appear promising.

Thankfully, there’s an application that can help relieve you of this tedium. AppAware tracks all application installations, upgrades, and uninstallations for users who have installed AppAware.  This allows you to view which applications are being installed the most and is usually a pretty good indicator if they are worth checking out.

AppAware is incredibly easy to use. On the main page you can see what applications other people are installing, updating, and uninstalling in real time. A check mark is placed next to apps you already have installed. By long clicking on an entry you can see more options for it, including a link to its Market page.

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Clicking on the bar graph in the bottom left brings you to a list of the most active applications. You can see which applications are being installed, updated, and removed the most in the past hour, day, or week. You can also check out the list of Featured Apps, which estimates the best applications based on the number of installs and removals.

Clicking the Menu button on your phone while on the main page takes you to the settings page where there are a couple of entries worth noting. You can connect AppAware to your Twitter account, which not only allows you to tweet your activity, but also associates all your activity with a profile that others can view.

For those with privacy concerns, the settings page also lets you disable the sharing of your application activity completely. You’ll still be able to see what others are installing, but your own data won’t be collected.

Scan to download AppAware

AppAware is a free download for Android-based devices and can be found by searching the Android Market for AppAware or scanning the code to the right with the Barcode Scanner application.

Do you know of any other great Android applications? Let us know about them in the comments!

Image credit: AppAware

First 48 Hours with the Motorla Droid

I was recently forced to switch to Verizon after 4 years of service from T-Mobile due to lack of coverage in Grand Forks, ND.  Let me tell you, I don’t think I could have been forced to do anything better.  My first 48 hours with the Droid have been a complete eye opener from its predecessor the G1, with a few hiccups along the way.

Two things initially impressed me after receiving this phone.  First, Verizon’s speed and ease of transferring my number, and second, that I didn’t have to copy any data off my old phone.   The first point has nothing to do with the phone, but the second is where I think Android and all handsets that use it are going to start dominating the market.  Since my last phone was the HTC G1, which also runs Android, all of my contacts and voicemail (thanks to Google Voice) were already stored with Google.  This allowed me to turn on the phone and have all of my previous numbers already on the phone, but this is also where I ran into my first hiccup.

When you log into the Facebook application on the phone it asks you if you want to sync all your contact data, which is an amazing feature of the phone.  This syncing allows you to not only see the profile pictures of your friends as their contact picture but it also allows you to view any information they have publicly available on Facebook, the two most important being e-mail and phone number.

This was my first problem. I am a chronic misspeller and nickname giver, so when Android/Facebook went through my contact list very few people’s information actually matched up.  The only way I found to solve this was to go through all of my contacts and rename them to match their Facebook names (hint: middle names don’t count).  It took me roughly an hour to copy and paste all of my contacts from Facebook to Google Contacts.  After this everything synced perfectly.

One other small problem with the Facebook syncing is that when you do a full sync, the phone will import information of people not currently in your address book. If you try to add information to those contacts later, it won’t let you. You can only add info by creating a new contact which is automatically paired with the Facebook one.  This seems a little backwards but I’m more then willing to put up with it for the rest of the functionality syncing offers.

Now that I have my only true complaints out of the way I will talk about the pros of the device.  First, this device comes with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which is the single greatest hardware improvement over the G1.  This allows applications such as Pandora and Stitcher to be used with standard audio devices and greatly improves the versatility of the device.  Originally I was planning on purchasing an iPod Touch on top of this phone, but after downloading a few applications I now have streaming podcasts, both standard and web radio, and music on demand.

Like the G1 and all other Android phones, another huge selling point is the seamless integration of just about every service Google offers, making the phone into a truly unique productivity platform.  Add to this the completely open Android Market offering 20,000+ applications (according to Google) and you can turn the Droid into anything you want.

These are my thoughts after my first 48 hours with the device.  I will come back later with a more in depth look at this device, but everything so far makes me believe this is the best phone I have ever owned.

Comparison: Motorola Droid vs. iPod Touch

A friend of mine recently asked if she should buy an iPod Touch or a Motorola Droid.  While these are two completely different products, one being a wifi-enabled MP3 player and the other being a full-featured smartphone, a choice definitely still exists.  So without any further adieu, here’s what I had to say about the two of them!

I bought my 16GB iPod Touch two summers ago and I used it like crazy.  Since I didn’t have a smartphone back then, I basically used it for everything.  The apps are fantastic, battery life is great, and let’s not forget that the Touch is still a really nice MP3 player.

On average, I used my Touch 90% of the time for apps and the internet, and the other 10% was for music/audiobooks.  The one real downside of the Touch is that a wifi-only device, so once you hit the road you won’t be able to use most of the internet apps.

I bought a Droid about two weeks ago.  It’s amazing.  It’s exactly the type of phone I’ve always wanted – highly customizable, very fast, and has huge potential for growth.

Since you’re trying to figure out which one to buy, here’s some things to keep in mind about the devices:

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– Both have apps.  Touch has way more, but Droid’s app store (called the Android Market) is steadily increasing.  The nice thing about Android phones is that the app market is completely open, which means there are no barriers to entry for a software developer (unlike Apple, who requires an arduous approval process).  If a developer wants to make something for Android, boom, it’s done.  Huge potential for growth here.

– Both support the basics.  They can both play music (although the Touch is probably more refined when it comes to a straight MP3 player).  They both have apps like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email, web browsers… pretty much anything you can think of.

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– Battery life will be much longer on the iPod Touch, but keep in mind the Droid is also a full-featured cell phone which uses most of the juice.

Here’s where they’re pretty different:

– Touch has Google Maps, but no GPS (and you can really only use the maps when you have a wifi connection).  The Droid uses your cellular network and has a built-in GPS, so not only can it show you maps, it can also do turn-by-turn navigation (which is free!).  It’s a straight-up GPS, and I used it on my last trip to Minneapolis as a total replacement for my old GPS.

– Droid has a cellular network. This was implied before, but this means you’ve got an internet connection anywhere where you go.  Verizon’s network is really impressive, and you’ll browse websites on the Droid just like you would at home.

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– Touch is much simpler and easier to use.  For a person like me this can be frustrating (I like menus! And settings!), but you can’t beat it for ease of use and using it for what it was intended – enjoyment.  The Droid, on the other hand, lets you customize basically every facet of the phone (and the things you can’t change can typically be modified with apps from the Android Market).  This is a blessing and a curse – even I found the Droid to be a little daunting when I first started using it.

– Droid has a camera (5 megapixels), the Touch has no camera.

– Both are touchscreen devices.  They both have “virtual keyboards”, which are keyboards on the touchscreen, but the Droid has an actual slide-out physical keyboard.  I’ve never had one of these before and I really like it.  A lot of people complain about the keyboard though, so your mileage may vary.  The Droid offers both landscape and portrait virtual keyboards in almost all applications, but the Touch only offers landscape virtual keyboards in applications that support it.

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– As for size, they’re about the same dimensions but the Droid is much thicker (again, the cell phone is the reason for this).  The Droid is heavier than the Touch.

– Droid supports a bunch of Google services out-of-the-box (Android was designed by Google).  This means that Gmail, Google Calendar, your Google contacts, and several other services are automatically synchronized to the phone and are deeply integrated.  This makes it really easy to manage your data.  Touch can do these things too, but it’s more “added on” and not as smooth in my opinion.

– Total cost of ownership: the iPod Touch costs around $300 and that’s all you’ll every pay to use it (excluding purchases from the app store). The Droid costs $200 with a new 2-year contract, and you’ll need a voice plan (starting at $39.99/month) as well as a data plan ($30/month). That puts the total cost of ownership for the Droid at about $1,040 for the first year (includes price of the phone) and $840 for successive years (network charges). Plus tax.

Overall, I’ve loved both of these devices.  I still use my Touch (mainly because Audible.com DRM-encrypts their audiobooks and they don’t support Android yet – that’s another rant altogether) but for all intents and purposes, the Droid gets all of my attention.

I love being connected everywhere I go, and the Droid does a fantastic job of integrating all my Google services, Facebook, Twitter… everything.  It’s a fantastic device.