Tag Archives: Mobile

4 Apps to Make Traveling Easier

maps 2 goWhen on the road, even the most routine and everyday events can be made difficult. Internet connections can be hard to find, technology may not work correctly (or at all), and you’re forever searching for a free outlet. With all of these hang ups, it can be hard to check email or even locate your flight information in a timely fashion. But thankfully, there’s an app for everything, even for traveling.

Use these helpful apps to make the traveling process go as smoothly as possible, no matter how far you’re headed.

Apple’s Passbook

Coming standard on iOS devices, Passbook allows users to store all their important flight info in one, easy-to-tap location. This also goes for movie tickets, coupons, rewards cards, etc. Handy while on the go, Passbook is also great for everyday events. Simply load boarding passes, rental car info, or whatever other travel documents you need, and continue about your events paper-free.

Google Flights

Tired of searching around for the best deal? Download Google’s free compare app for a second opinion any day of the week. Use it to compare flight prices, or see which airlines are offering the best deals and when. The platform even offers suggestions and lets you know when to buy for the best deal possible.

City Maps 2Go

Out of your data network area? Try these pre-loaded city maps instead. The app offers easy-to-follow maps without the overage fees or slow data time. (Think of them as paper maps, but in a smaller package.) It even locates restaurants, shopping areas, or other specific types of businesses so you can find your way even when your phone has other ideas.

Packing Pro

Take the stress out of packing with this user-friendly app. Make a list of necessary items, and then check them off as you go. Adjust each list based on location, or email family members reminders of what to bring. For a small fee, packing becomes easier with this organized packing app.

Whether needing directions or expatiating your next flight, these apps are meant to take the hassle out of the traveling process. And considering users are on their electronic devices more often while traveling than any other time, pulling up these helpful screens shouldn’t be a problem. Just remember to charge up and log in for a stress-free traveling experience each time you leave the house.

How to make a DIY smartphone stand for under $1

7816754688_487dd75457_hSmartphone stands are a great way to watch content on your phone without having to hold the phone upright, and there are a ton of different DIY methods for making them. A lot of them are made so that they’ll hold your phone horizontally, but some users want stands that prop up their phones vertically, similar to an iPhone dock from Apple.

If you want to make something similar, I’ve discovered an insanely-cheap method for building a smartphone stand that will prop up your phone vertically. It’s cheap, but it does take a little bit of assembly. Here’s how to do it.

Supplies You’ll Need

  • MiniDV tape case or a regular cassette tape case
  • A handful of pennies
  • Hot glue gun w/ glue sticks
  • Rubber tape
  • Dremel power tool

How to Make It

Technically, just the tape case will do the trick if you want a barebones solution; just open up the case all way and stick your phone in the slot. A MiniDV tape case is the perfect size for most phones, but a regular cassette tape case will do the trick.

However, if you want to take the stand to the next level, you can add a few things to make it perfect:

1. Take your pennies and hot glue gun and glue the pennies inside the case. This adds weight to the stand so that it doesn’t slide around. Pennies aren’t the best option, since they’re currency and all, so if you have any other tiny objects that weigh a lot, you can use those instead.

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2. Next, use the rubber tape to line the stand so that the phone won’t slip around when it’s in the stand. Since my iPhone doesn’t fit perfectly in the slot, I cut out small strips of the rubber tape and glued them into the slot to add a little padding so that my phone would fit perfectly.

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3. Lastly, take your Dremel power tool and use a small drill bit to carve out a small hole on the bottom of the tape case slot so that the phone’s sound can exit through the speaker without it being blocked by the stand.

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Conclusion

It’s a pretty janky-looking smartphone stand, but it’s dirt cheap and it does its job. Plus, it still folds up just like cassette tape does so that you can toss it in your bag and take it with you on the go.

Of course, buying a pre-made smartphone stand may be a good investment if you plan on using it all the time. Good smartphone stands can cost as much as $30, but that’s a small price to pay for something that you’ll use every day into the future.

The colorful iPhone 5C is not just for kids

5cOn September 10, Apple introduced the iPhone 5C. This new line of iPhones strays from the metal/glass design of the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 and now 5S and brings a colored shell to the iPhone.

Many people keep writing about how this line is made for kids. While I do think these will be popular with the teenage crowd, I disagree that these phones are just for kids.

Price

When my contract is up next fall on my current iPhone 5, I plan on buying a “C” phone (presumable a 6C). Why? The price is right, for one thing. For $100 less, I can get a 32GB iPhone that is very powerful and has a fantastic camera. The original iPhone 5 works great for me. The camera is fantastic and the phone does everything I need it to. Yes, the camera in the 5S is better and the processor is faster. However, I would expect the next “C” model to be faster and have a better camera then the current one, giving it a boost over my current phone. After trading in my iPhone 5 a new “C” phone might even be free!

The price is not only attractive to me, it will be attractive to many. For those, like my wife, who bought a 16GB iPhone 5 because the iPhone 4 was too heavy and boxy, this phone is perfect. She is a very light user, but wants a new-model iPhone with a great camera. She doesn’t need to spend an extra $100 for features that she doesn’t use. For $99, she can get a great phone that is modern and suits her needs. It isn’t just last year’s model in a new case. (Kudos to Apple for making slight improvements so it isn’t just that.)

Fingerprint Scanning

As for the fingerprint sensor: I could care less. I don’t mind typing in my password to purchase content on the phone and I don’t use a passcode. Sure it makes the phone more secure, but my guess is I would turn it off after a few weeks. I suspect there are many people out there who would not use it either.

Colors

I have been saying for years that I am not a fan of the iPhone design. I thought the iPhone 4 was one of the ugliest phones available (not to mention the fact that it was uncomfortable in the hand). I kept hoping for the return of the curved back of the original iPhone and iPod Touch. When the 5 came out the design was improved, but it still had that boxy iPhone 4 look. I bought it because I wanted an iPhone, but I thought there were better looking phones out there.

While the 5C maintains the boxy iPhone look, it has the curved edges that, in my opinion, look nicer. The colors, while a little too much on the pastel side, aren’t bad. I’d probably cover it up with Gelaskin anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, the iPhone 5S is a great phone. The camera sounds fantastic and the processor sounds very impressive for those that need it (now put that processor in the next iPad and we can talk). However, there is a group of people out there who don’t need those features and the iPhone 5C is going to be perfect for them. It will be a huge hit and is not “just for kids.”

Distributed computing comes to Android with BOINC

Our understanding of the world around us has grown by leaps and bounds since the invention of the computer. The simulation of complex systems in particular involves crunching a ton of numbers, a task computers excel at. Unfortunately, the very best number crunchers happen to be extremely expensive, both to buy and to maintain. Through a system known as distributed computing large, complex tasks can be completed without the hassle of managing a supercomputer.

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Image credit: NASA

In distributed computing, a central server offloads small tasks to the computers connected to its network. Each computer completes its task and sends the results back to the server. By utilizing the spare CPU cycles of tens of thousands of volunteer computers, a project like Folding@Home can complete vital research without needing to buy pricey supercomputers. Distributed computing networks exist for a vast array of scientific pursuits, including disease research, the factorization of large integers, and even the search for extraterrestrial life.

Major distributed computing platforms have been available for the desktop computer for more than a decade, and a Folding@Home app can even be installed on the PS3, but until now the mobile market has remained largely untouched. The Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) has changed that with the recent release of their Android app.

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Upon first opening BOINC’s app you’ll be prompted to select a distributed computing project to contribute to. A brief overview of each project’s goals can be found on BOINC’s website or by selecting a project in the app. After selecting a project you’ll need to create an account to track your computing progress. Once you’ve created an account, BOINC is ready to do its work.

You’re probably thinking that an app of this nature would quickly drain your phone’s battery, and you’d be right if the BOINC app ran continuously. Thankfully, it isn’t configured to run continuously. By default, it only runs when your phone is connected to power, and even then only when the battery is charged to at least 90%. These settings (and others) can be fine tuned in the preferences menu. I highly recommend changing the max used storage space option to something much lower, as the default setting is absurdly high.

The computing power of a current generation smartphone might not compare to that of even a meager desktop computer, but combined with thousands of other phones that power becomes much more substantial. Every little bit helps.

BOINC is available for Android and can be found on the Play Store. Clients for Windows, Mac, and Linux can be found on the BOINC website.

Will book apps replace the ebook?

kindle21

More and more people are reading ebooks instead of physical books nowadays. It’s a platform that continues to be popular and it’s definitely a lot easier to carry dozens of books on a tablet than to carry even a few actual books with you on vacation. As ebooks continue to grow in popularity, there’s a new type of platform entering the market, and it’s called the book app.

What is a book app?

A book app presents a book in app form rather than ebook form, and it allows for much more interactivity. Sure, an ebook can have video and sound in it now, but a book app can do so much more. It can add interactive video, games, and new ways to get involved with the story; it’s an entirely new and different experience.

Book apps have actually been around for quite a while, mostly being prevalent in children’s books. When the iPad first came out, Disney released a free Toy Story book app, and it’s still one of the best apps in the app store. It includes the book, along with a coloring book and games mixed into the story to engage children as they read it. After this book was released, Disney continued to release more and more interactive book apps, and they still do to this day. Other content creators have since jumped in.

Book apps are gaining steam

However, while it’s not a brand new category by any means, book apps are expanding to include more than just children’s books. Just these past couple of months has seen the release of two fantastic book apps. First,  The Animator’s Survival Kit. This is an app based on the book of the same name, which is a book that teaches animation. Instead of creating an ebook edition (one still might be on the way, but it’s not available as of this writing), the book was converted into a full-blown app, adding many fantastic features you wouldn’t get otherwise. The app is packed with all kinds of videos, including interactive videos that let the reader see the animation steps in a way not possible in an ebook. It’s fantastic, and it’s the same retail price as the actual book, so you’re getting a lot more bang for your buck.

ebooks are still sticking around

That was just one example of a recent book app, but does this mean the end of the ebook is near? I don’t think so. Certain books only work as text, and it’s what most people still want. However, I do see interactive book apps becoming more and more popular as time goes on. Can you just imagine a Stephen King book as an interactive app? That would be pretty amazing.

The Budget iPhone: A Risk for Apple?

The Apple rumor mill is currently working overtime with reports and leaks related to a new low-cost iPhone. In recent weeks, various photos have emerged, including the rear view of a plastic iPhone in a range of colors, as well as a pile of plastic boxes for an “iPhone 5C.”

While there’s nothing to guarantee that there’s any truth to the rumors, when the web-based chatter reaches this volume, there’s usually some level of fact in play. Prior to the launch of the iPhone 5, the bulk of the leaked information proved to be right, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that some of the reports that we’ve heard about the budget iPhone are correct.

Budget iPhone

Assumptions

Let’s assume that most of the rumors we’ve heard are true. What other assumptions can we hypothetically make about a new budget iPhone? Here’s what we could expect.

  • It will run iOS 7, because Apple’s hardly going to release something new that runs an old operating system, obviously.
  • Storage options will be similar, although there may be a return of the low-capacity 8GB model that’s been dropped since the release of the 4S.
  • It will have the same aspect ratio as the iPhone 5, although it may not be a retina display.

As we’re now playing the assumption game, let’s also assume that the cost of the budget iPhone is roughly half the cost of an iPhone 5. (A SIM-free 16GB iPhone 5 is $649 in the US right now, making our hypothetical budget iPhone cost around $325, which is broadly in line with internet rumor).

What will you get for paying double the price?

  • Potentially a little more storage space
  • A higher-resolution camera
  • A retina display
  • A phone built with higher-quality materials

So what’s my problem with all of this? My main problem is that aside from the points above, consumers still get an iPhone after paying half the price. Most everyday consumers don’t even know how many megapixels their camera has, nor do they probably care. Furthermore, the lack of a retina display will most likely have no bearing on sales, as the lower-quality display has done nothing to stop the iPad Mini selling by the boatload.

We’re then left with the materials. The materials that have made previous iPhones seem luxurious and desirable are the same materials that result in expensive repair bills from disastrous smashed shells and screen incidents. With this in mind, I have to wonder if, when I go to buy my next iPhone, I’ll decide to buy one that costs half as much. More importantly, it will still only cost half as much when I have to replace or repair it.

Conclusion

I welcome the possible release of a low-cost iPhone. I also fully appreciate that there will always be plenty of people who simply have to have Apple’s flagship phone. This is, of course, made easier for consumers in countries where handsets are network-subsidised.

However, I can’t help but wonder whether Apple is underestimating how many people just simply want an iPhone and aren’t that bothered about specs and materials. While a budget iPhone will undoubtedly sell to millions of people who haven’t been able to afford one before, it may also encourage existing iPhone users to “downgrade” the next time they “upgrade.”

New doorbell lets you answer the door from anywhere

doorbotIn the growing list of items to become “smart”, now comes the doorbell. Wi-fi enabled, video stream-able, and recreating the definition of privacy laws, this doorbell puts a completely new take on answering the front door. Known as the DoorBot, this new invention brings both safety and technology to the old fashioned knock at the door.

For instance, when traveling or running errands, a user can video chat with a delivery man, asking him to place a package around back or leave it on the porch. The camera also allows homeowners to screen their guests; simply check the camera to see who’s waiting at the other side before opening up one’s door. Whether using this feature to duck salesmen or helping kids identify strangers vs. friends, the DoorBot is bringing convenience to answering one’s door.

How it Works

Equipped with a small camera, when “rang,” the DoorBot notifies users through its free app and allows them to remotely chat with a guest. Connecting to the home’s Wi-fi, DoorBot owners can see a clear view of the knocker, while the guest only hears a voice. This way users can maintain their safety, never even having to mention they are at a remote location. While sound comes out of the device itself, it could easily be a speaker from indoors. Even if home, residents can answer remotely to keep interactions safe and brief.

The DoorBot also runs on a rechargeable battery, so there’s no need to constantly replace its power source. Add on an extra security feature, known as Lockitron, with the device for peace of mind, or stick to this futuristic doorbell for a convenient way to answer the door … no matter your location. In a world where smartphones can provide so many other virtual tasks, why not answer your door as well?

With the security add-on, where users can lock and unlock their front door from their phones, the device runs at about $350. Updated features also help the model stay put, so there’s no worry about doorbell theft.

Whether receiving packages while on business, wanting to protect one’s kids, or just need a way to thwart the salesmen, DoorBot offers a unique approach to the old fashioned, “Who is it?” form of answering one’s door.

Pre-order yours today or wait for them to hit the shelves later this year.

4 ways to make your Android phone’s battery last longer

Android PowerageOne of the reasons why Android operated devices are highly welcome in the market is their exemplary multitasking capabilities. However, there is a price to pay for this. To maintain a good number of applications running in the background and on demand, the processor has to constantly keep a record of running apps and actively swap every now and then. As the number of services accomplished by the processor increase, so does the devices power consumption.

However, there are a couple of things that you can do to reduce your gadget’s power consumption. This freedom draws from the characteristic customization capabilities that Android devices possess. You can shut down some services and functionalities that you do not need and reduce the hardware performance to save battery juice for a nobler course.  Below are some of the basic tricks to help you accomplish this.

1. Turning off Unused Features

Most of the services and applications bundled into our Android devices do not have to run 24/7. For instance, you will not use you Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and data connection continuously. Even though these services make the device more functional, they also consume a good amount of power whenever they run, whether on active or idle mode.

To save on power, only turn on wireless connectivity when you intend to use it. Additional functionalities that may look cool but are unnecessary and power consuming include vibrations. Only use haptic feedback where necessary to conserve power.

2. Filter your notifications and reduce the number of apps that can ‘Auto-sync’

In bid to keep smartphones smart, most designers give them the power to ‘talk’ to the internet. The basic idea behind this is to allow the phone to access and process data on your behalf. However, such powers would be useless in some instances.

To ensure that your phone does not consume power processing unnecessary notifications or accessing the Internet every now and then for futile synchronization, you could turn off auto-sync and report generation for most of the apps and only let the most important applications retain this capability. This will help your device will stay alive for longer due to reduced power consumption.

3. Make Use of Power Control Widgets and Task Apps

Even though statistical reports show that the number of people purchasing smartphones is on the rise, not all of them know how to optimize their power settings. Developers seal this gap by releasing applications that help you regulate the number of processes your phone executes per unit time and the speed of execution to cut down on power consumption.

With a swift and convenient way to access most of the native setting from under the same roof, you are in a position to optimize your device to best suit your environment and requirements. The most basic things that you can change using these applications include screen brightness, processor frequency and allowed limit of process per unit time.

4. Power Efficient Customization Techniques

As device manufacturers struggle to create better display units, the power needed to run the high-resolution screens increases exponentially. Rendering high quality graphics on the screen at high brightness levels consumes more power than rendering still and dull graphics. When selecting your wallpaper and themes, go for something dull and simple to cut down on power hogging.

These are just some of the things that you can do to your smartphone in a bid to cut down on its power consumption. Though these measures might reduce your device’s performance, they are helpful especially if you do not have the opportunity to recharge every now and then.

Music discovery app Shazam raises $40 million in preparation for IPO

Shazam

Shazam, in an effort to prepare itself before going public, recently hired a new CEO.  The company, which is well known for its music discovery app, has more good news to share before finally going public. The company has raised $40 million from America Movil, and enters into a business partnership with the company, which is seen as a move to bring its media products to the carrier’s subscribers, and in turn, boost its user base.

Shazam’s growth has been astounding, currently standing at 350 million users, which is twice the number of users it had just two years ago. Active monthly users have also increase, up from 22 million two years ago, to 70 million.

According to the executive chairman of Shazam, Andrew Fisher, the company is growing incredibly quickly prompting the need to purchase more capacity to support this growth as people spend more time using the service. He also said that the company is looking to innovate much faster as a result of this growth and the funding should give it the needed boost to move in this direction. Some of these innovations include the introduction of notable updates in its television product which should enable users discover ads and programs playing on screen. Other notable improvements include the application of emerging technologies such as audio and image recognition, which should make it much easier for people to engage with media and brands that they are interested in.

According to Fisher, the new funding will not change the company’s IPO timetable. While not disclosing more details as to when it will go public, he gives the assurance that the company will be ready once it goes through another phase of growth.

Shazam was founded in 2000. In 2011, it launched its Shazam for TV service which shows specific mobile-optimized content including social features. Shazam is currently in use in more than 200 countries.

An introduction to developing software for Google Glass

glass development

Now that Google Glass is quickly becoming a mainstream product, have you wondered how you can develop for Glass? Well, you don’t have to wonder anymore because Google has made available the Google Mirror API to help developers build web-based services that interact with Google Glass.

The developer guide gives a detailed explanation of how to develop timeline items, menu items, create subscriptions, enable location data, access to contacts and enable authorization. However, despite the ease of development for Glass, Google has also published developer guidelines to ensure that developers create applications that offer the desired user experience.

Timeline Items

Timeline items or cards, display content on Glass and can either be swiped forwards or backwards to reveal more cards in the past or future. The guideline shows how to insert, attach update, read, and delete timeline cards.

Menu Items

In order to make your services interesting, you need to allow users to interact with timeline cards. This can be done through menu items where users can tell glass to read a card aloud, navigate to a location, share the card contents, or reply to a message. Menu items can populated from a list of built-in items or custom created.

Subscriptions

When a user takes specific timeline actions or changes location, you can subscribe to such notifications. There are different notification types for different events. Some of these notification payloads include Shared timeline item, a reply,  a delete notification, a custom menu item selected, or a location update.

Location

User’s location be requested using the Google Mirror API including their last known location and periodic location updates. The API can also render maps and overlay makers and lines to signify important places and paths.

Contacts

The Glass API can allow users to share your timeline items with other contacts by allow them to tap a share menu item which displays a list of possible contacts to share with. It can also allow users to share timeline items with Glassware where you create a contact that represents Glassware and allow users to share with this contact. This can be declared to limit sharing for only specific cards.

Authorization

All requests to the Google Mirror API must be authorized using OAuth 2.0 credentials. When users load applications for the first time, they are presented with a dialog to grant permission to access their Google Glass account.  This one-time authorization is all that is needed even when your app is being used offline.

Developer Tools

Google has made available developer tools to help you get started with Glass Apps. The Google Mirror API Playground lets you experiment with content display while the Subscription Proxy can be used to subscribe to notifications in a production environment.