Archive for February, 2011

RedWall – All in all it’s just another brick in the (Red)Wall.

Redwall

One of the things I always overlook with my handset is the wallpaper. Changing the background on the home screen can really help freshen things up from time to time. The thing is I’m generally too lazy to hunt around for images and alter the resolution to properly fit my homescreen, thankfully Redwall now does the job for me.
Redwall is powered by the community at Reddit.com. It grabs the top wallpaper images from the ‘subreddit/r/redwall’ (whatever that is) and allows you to choose which ones you would like to plaster on your Android desktop. With just a few clicks you can easily chop and change your wallpaper to your heart’s content.
RedWall has only been around for a few weeks but already there’s a solid selection of images to choose from with new arrivals popping up everyday. The app is clearly laid out and each wallpaper entry has it’s own thumbnail so you can get an idea of what you’re downloading. There’s also easy access to a number of filters (New, Hot, Top Week etc) to help you track down your new favourite wallpaper.
Long clicking on a wallpaper entry brings up a menu where you can choose to preview, download or leave a comment on an image. Single clicking an image (which is the instinctive action) performs whatever action you choose in the setting menu. Ideally I would have preferred a single click to bring up an enlarged preview window from which you could choose an option on what you’d like to do with the image in question, but that’s just me.
Obviously RedWall performs best over wi-fi but I’m glad to say that it also runs pretty nicely over 3G with only a small amount of loading time involved when switching between menus. The only downside for some users may be the inability to choose where your wallpapers are downloaded on your handset but personally it’s not an issue for me.
RedWall is one of those small and simple apps that is worth keeping handy for when you fancy a quick and easy wallpaper change for your handset.

Links : Android Marketplace , Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Simple to use and loaded with an ever-growing supply of wallpaper artwork, RedWall is a worthy download for the wallpaper tweaker in us all.

AppsFire : Hot Apps & Free Apps – YEEAAAAHHHH! This Apps is on Fire!

Appsfire

It's funky, it's colourful but sadly it's also got the jitters.

Due to the nature of the Android Marketplace there’s all kinds of ways and means of searching for apps to install on your phone. I like to use a combination of AppBrain and the new web-based Android Marketplace which has been getting a lot of attention lately. Thanks to this blog I’m always on the search for new apps to review and seeing as Appsfire has pegged itself as ‘the best way to discover the greatest apps’ it seemed a good idea to give it a spin.
With it’s funky icon filled UI Appsfire truly is a unique way to search for new apps that may take your fancy. It’s certainly an acquired taste though, I personally like how it looks although some may find it cluttered and the lack of an ‘icons & text’ option can result in an amount of guesswork as to what apps you are looking at.
As well as the bog standard search window Appsfire comes with some great filter topics based on location, recent price drops, what’s hot right now or apps it thinks you may love. As well as the defaults topics there’s also a good selection of custom filters to choose from.

Fortunately the app info screens are clear and informative. Good stuff.

The UI scrolls quickly making browsing easy although when stationary I found it would annoyingly ‘jiggle’ from time to time with entire rows moving up and down.
There’s also a widget version so you can have a selection of available apps to peruse directly from your home screen. A word of warning, you might want to select the option ‘hide mature content’ otherwise you’ll have links for the likes of ‘Porno Tube’ viewable from your homescreen. Try explaining that one to your wife/children/boss/local vicar.

Away from the icon based UI, the menus and app info screens are pleasant on the eye with full info, ratings and even video previews when available. You can share app discoveries with friends as well as manage your current apps and whether they need updating or installing to your SD card.
Sadly issues can arise when you finally discover your app of choice, a number of apps I found in Appfire could not be located on the Marketplace at all.

Unfortunately this happened from time-to-time. A-boo!

Even after a week of installing Appfire, the offending apps were still listed despite not being available for download. This, for me, is quite a let down. I love how Appfire works but if it can’t deliver on the results it promises then the whole point of the app is lost somewhat.
Due to these mixed results Appfire may not be an all out replacement for the likes of AppBrain but it still serves as a viable alternative for finding apps that may have passed you by.

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Appfire boasts a unique UI and some great search options which are sadly let down by broken links. Either way it’s worth a try, you still may find something out of it.

Wheelz (Free Edition) – Is it Wheely Good?

Wheelz – Free Edition

Aaaargh! Bastard! No, you F@#£ing AAAARGH! That’s what the less hardened gamer may be saying when they get stuck into the harder levels of Wheelz – Free Edition. Not me though, I’m blimmin’ ace at games me.

Truth be told, the main menu is a bit garish.

Wheelz isn’t a million miles away from the popular ‘Trials’ games on the PC and Xbox 360. You control a Monster Truck across all kinds of insane 2d terrain in the hope that the physics engine won’t get the better of you and make you crash.
Games of this ilk either live or die by their physics engines, a recent case being the reported iffy physics in the Android ‘Cut The Rope’ rip-off which has since vanished from the Marketplace. Thankfully the physics in Wheelz seem solid enough to ensure a consistent gaming experience. In a genius move you can also adjust the wheels and suspension on your vehicle to change how the game feels should you get bored and fancy a new challenge.
No matter how easy you find the game you’ll make the odd mistake and that’s when you’ll come across the unforgiving spawn system in Wheelz. It doesn’t matter where you are in a level, crashing your Truck sends you all the way back to the start, not ideal when it comes to the lengthier levels.

Harsh, tricky, unforgiving, frustrating. Yet I keep going back for more.

The free version of Wheelz ships with 24 number of levels with the creator promising to add more in the coming weeks. If you’re feeling brave you can even edit your own levels with the tools on the creator’s blog.
The game flows smoothly enough on powered phones with some nice touches of dirt being churned up whilst wheel spinning. For those sporting less powerful Android phones there are also options to tone things down a touch to help with smooth running.
Wheelz is another Android game to add to the ever growing list of ‘worthwhile timewasters’.

Links : Android Marketplace, AppBrain

Bottom Line : Possibly slightly rough around the edges but Wheelz is still a nicely produced game with an enjoyable amount of content to get through. Good stuff.

HottMix – So Hot Right Now

HottMix

For anyone who enjoys electronic music the ‘Soundcloud’ website is a great place to discover new material. Producers, record labels, DJ’s and fans use the site to upload music that they have either created or found. Every track or DJ set on the website can be streamed and some are also available to download.
‘Hottmix’ by Rocudo attempts to bring the ‘streaming’ element to your Android device therefore offering the potential of thousands of new songs for you to check out whilst on the move.
It’s main feature is the ‘HottMix’ key which initiates a playlist of the 50 hottest rated tracks on Soundcloud. It’s a great idea and I found all kinds of good music that caught my interest. The ‘now playing’ screen is pleasant enough with a good use of cover artwork and song information. The standard play controls are clearly laid out along the bottom along with a useful ‘add to playlist’ key that allows you to bookmark any favourite songs for easy access at a later time.

The 'Now Playing' screen does the job nicely.

If you’d rather find music yourself there’s also the search function where you can use normal search terms as well as more specific factors such as song tempo or date. It’s a pretty good tool which can come up with some great results.
Streaming over 3G works pretty well although the sound quality may not be to a good enough standard for any serious audiophiles out there.
Sadly despite all the good points there’s also a few things that let that app down, mainly when the app is used on 3G. Within the first 15 minutes of using HottMix I counted at least 7 occasions of the app hanging and Android stepping in to save the situation. The app is also occasionally slow and unresponsive, skipping onto another track in the ‘now playing’ screen can result in an awkward wait before anything happens. As soon as I was on a Wi-fi connection these problems went away.
Navigating the app isn’t the most intuitive process either. Ideally with a media player you’ll generally want easy access to the controls no matter where you are in the app. In HottMix the controls live solely on the ‘now playing’ screen and annoyingly there’s no option to jump straight there.

You'll be seeing this screen a LOT whilst using HottMix on your 3G connection.

HottMix is both 50% excellent and 50% infuriating. It looks great and in terms of what it can do it’s excellent for picking up on music I would otherwise not come across. Sadly it’s flaky stability when mobile and non-intuitive UI puts it some way behind other Android media players. App makers Rocuda are looking to add all kinds of fancy functions in future updates but I would happily trade all of that for some solid basic functionality.

Links : HottMix on Android Market

Hottmix on AppBrain

Bottom Line : An excellent music discovery tool that’s badly let down by force close issues, occasional unresponsiveness and a lacklustre UI. If these are fixed in future updates then HottMix would easily become an essential app.

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