Posts Tagged ‘ Beta ’

Feedly – Easy to use, not too Feedly.

Feedly (Beta)

Since getting my first Android handset I’ve gone through my fair share of RSS feed readers. I’ve tried the official Google Reader app, Pulse News Reader, GReader and NewsRob amongst others. All were very good but still not the 100% perfect RSS reader that I was looking for (although I do love the interface on Pulse). Now a new app, Feedly, has stepped forward to be added to this ever-growing list and in the process offers up a unique new UI.
Rather than going for the standard ‘news listing’ layout Feedly goes for what it calls a ‘magazine-like overlay’. This involves a large front page for the latest news post with further posts becoming available as your scroll through them like you would turn a page. This ‘magazine’ aspect is very clean but also pleasing to look at making it a worthy download for those who want an alternative to Pulse Reader. On my HTC Desire it looked great, on an Android tablet it could possibly look excellent. Away from the front-end there’s also a built in browser in which to read posts with an option to open them up in your standard browser.
Setting up Feedly is utterly painless, it has a selection of default feeds to read and thanks to the way it integrates with the Android Account Manager it can import your Google Reader account with a simple button press.
Speaking of integration, Feedly also keeps your desktop based Google Reader account in sync with what you’ve already read on your phone therefore avoiding repetition when you transition between the two. Feedly really does a great job of allowing you to stay on top of your feeds, an aspect that I have found lacking in other RRS feed readers.
For those who like to share what they come across, Feedly also packs the standard share options so you can forward stories to Tweetdeck, Facebook or whatever you use to frequent your online social circles.

The pull out side menu provides easy access to all your feeds.

Another advantage is that Feedly also seems to happily take care of any number of unread posts making all your material available. This is an advantage over similar apps that only load up a limited amount of posts which can leave older unread items out of reach.
Sadly it’s not all sunshine & lollipops, whilst being used on 3G I found myself occasionally booted out of my Google Reader account but it was nothing a few key presses couldn’t fix.
There’s also a learning curve to navigating your way around your feeds. If you rely on the main screen to get around it’s possible to not find yourself in an unexpected place. In most cases it’s best to stick to the slide out menu to access a specific feed. Also, those people rocking a handset with a larger screen may also lament the lack of a landscape view. For sharing purposes there is a built in ‘Twitter share’ client but so far it seems unfinished as I couldn’t find a way to log into it.
The important thing to remember here is the ‘Beta’ tag, Feedly isn’t in its final stages so this is all stuff that’s ripe for a clean up when the app gets a proper release. When it does go official this app could well be one of the best of its ilk on the Marketplace.

About This App – Version Reviewed : 0.9.4
Requires Android : 2.2 and up , Category : News , Size : 2.6M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain, Official Page (check the guided tour on here for some Android based tips)

Bottom Line : It’s still not the 100% RSS app that I’m looking for but it’s very much on it’s way to getting there. Great stuff.

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Webroot Mobile Security (Beta) – Get to the Webroot of the problem.

Webroot Mobile Security (Beta)

Somewhat foolishly, I’ve never really given a thought about Anti-Virus software for my Android handset. Just the other day, a recommendation by bestandraoidppsreview.com suggested I should give Webroot Security a try and so I did. I hadn’t really planned on reviewing it it but given this worrying post (read it here) that turned up on Android Police today I figured I’d write a blog post about it.

Webroot Mobile Security (Beta) claims to bring to Webroot’s powerful online security tools to your Android device. It comes with the expected Anti-Virus suite but for a free app it also generously includes Secure Web Browsing, Lost Device Protection and Call/SMS Blocking.

My Chomp is virus free. That is good to know.

The Anti-Virus component is lightweight in appearance but effective. Whenever you download a new app or file the anti-virus silently kicks in and scans it for you, if anything dodgy is found it is instantly blocked. System wide scans and virus definition updates can be performed on a scheduled basis or whenever you fancy. Scanning is quick and thorough with every app and your SD card contents getting the once over.

The Secure Web Browsing feature will silently scan where you’re going whilst you browse the web. Should you stumble across any malicious sites Webroot will step in and block it.

The Lost Device Protection is the most impressive sounding addition especially for a free app. You simply create a ‘buddy list’ (a list of trusted friends’ mobile numbers) and a password. When you text your Android phone from a ‘buddy’ with your password you can order it to follow a specific command. Should your phone go missing you can order it via text to lock itself and wipe all the data stored on it. You can also make it scream out an alarm sound and even command it to send you a Google Maps link that shows you exactly where it is. To be honest I haven’t tried the remote locking/wipe/alarm aspect yet (I’d rather not have to) but Webroot have a lot of confidence in their product so I’m willing to go on a little faith here.

I have to confess that this isn't my screenshot. I decided that deliberately searching out malware on the net is not my idea of fun.

For anyone plagued by endless calls or text from people trying to sell them stuff (in my experience it’s always people claiming to be from ‘3’ trying to sell me a new contract) you can activate the Call/Sms Blocker. Whenever you receive a call or text from someone who’s not in your contacts they will not get through to you. Webroot keeps a log of all the failed attempt so you can see who tried to call/sms you. It’s a great feature the only downside is that you have to block both calls and sms. There doesn’t seem to be an option to block just one.

In summary Webroot Mobile Security offers a hefty amount of decent handset protection for the excellent price of £zero. It’s a small install, it hasn’t slowed down my handset at all and unlike other Anti-Virus apps (some of which like to make a big song and dance about how they’re protecting your phone) I’ve barely even noticed it’s there and that’s what I like about it. . It just gets on with the task in hand.

There’s a few other Anti-Virus alternatives out there from the likes of Norton and McAfee which are worth a look (although some comments suggest they are not totally free) but for now I’m sticking with Webroot.

ABOUT THIS APP : CURRENT VERSION: 1.4.10.260 ,
REQUIRES ANDROID: 2.1 and up , SIZE: 2.5M , PRICE: Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain, Official Page

Bottom Line : An effective, and free, mobile phone protection package. Go get it.

XBOX Live Statistics (BETA) – Xbox Live Comes To Android (kinda)

XBOX Live Statistics (BETA)

Yeah so I play a little Peggle, what of it? I'm not hooked or anything, I CAN QUIT ANYTIME I LIKE!!

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to try out a new Windows Phone 7 handset, to give credit where it’s due, it’s a pretty good interface. It looks good, it’s intuitive and considering M$’s previous failures (hello Windows Vista) it’s something of a success. Being an Xbox user I was particularly keen on how WP7 interacted with Microsoft’s gaming platform although not anywhere near enough for me to make the switch from Android.
Well thankfully I’ll never need to make that switch (as if) thanks to the recently updated ‘XBOX Live Statistics’ app (currently in BETA). Using your log-in details this app can access your Xbox Live account and allow you to manage your account on your Android handset. Using this you can check who’s online, read and reply to messages or compare achievements with your friends. There’s also a link to the Microsoft Events Calendar so you can get in on the organised Xbox Live fun (although I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually uses the Events Calendar).

Now I can see how crap I am at games wherever I go. Great!

The UI appearance is clean and up to date with the latest xbox branding, the different screens can be navigated via the buttons on the main display or by swipe gestures. There’s also widgets you can add to your home screen that can track the number of friends online or provide quick access to the messages in your account. According to the developer’s website this is the final release of the free version, there won’t be anymore updates however you can pick up the paid version (which will be updated) for only $0.99 until the end of the year. Considering the performance and usefulness of this app, it’s an offer I may well take up. Don’t feel left out PS3 owners, the creator has also made a Trophy app, check the ‘Official Site’ link below.

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Site

Bottom Line : Simple and tidy and yet it features some great functionality for xbox gamers who want to manage their XBL accounts via their Android handsets. Worth a look.

Video Trimmer – Video Editing Minus The Trimmings

Video Trimmer

The Gallery View. If you can correctly name all the videos on my phone then congratulations! You're some kind of scary person, please don't call me.

Android can do a lot of cool things but ‘a lot’ is never enough, there’s always something else that you wish it could do and for the love of Christmas sometimes you just can’t find a way to do it. Video editing is one of them, my trusty old Nokia N95 could do it as standard so why doesn’t my Android handset have a native app to trim all those carefully shot home videos on my handset? Released just a few days ago, Video Trimmer has stepped in to help fill the gap.
Launching the app takes you into a gallery of every video on your phone, whether it’s something you shot or a video clip you downloaded from the internet, it’s all there ready for you to edit. Once you select a video the editing screen opens up and the video starts to play, simply drag the ‘start’ and ‘end’ markers to suit your editing requirements and then tap the scissors icon in the top right corner, it’s a simple process (I remember the Nokia video editing app being a nightmare to navigate). The editing accuracy is on the rough and ready side of things, you can’t break down your start and end points frame by frame but for general phone clip editing the tools available here should suffice. With each edit you are given the option to save this over the current clip or save it as a new video, seeing as the app is in beta the developer has advised to back up your videos before doing any editing so do bear that in mind.

Hey! Move that advert out the way. I can't see what I'm editing.

If you’re looking for more flashier editing tricks to use here then you’re out of luck; It’s called Video Trimmer for a reason, you won’t find any options for transitions, fades, titles or stitching of clips, all you can do is cut video. The app is also ad-supported which is understandable but some users may get annoyed with how they pop up during editing, potentially this could mess up your placement if you’re working a particularly delicate edit. The UI itself is also pretty basic to look at but it’s not really a problem considering that this free app (which is in Beta) is barely a week old. Potentially this is all stuff that could be worked on in future releases so fingers crossed.
Video Trimmer is a quick and easy way to edit your videos on your handset, it may the lack bells and whistles that some users may wish for but for now it does a solid job of what is was made to do. An app to keep an eye on and definitely worth a try.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Video editing made simple on your Android handset thanks to Video Trimmer’s intuitive UI and solid performance. If extra functionality is added in future updates this could be an essential media application for all Android handsets.

Winamp Beta – It’s The Llama’s Pyjamas

Winamp Beta

If, like me, you rock an Android handset then I guess that, also like me, you’re thinking it must be Christmas right now. At the time of writing this we’ve had Angry Birds, Tweetdeck, an updated YouTube app, all in the last 10 days and now Winamp Beta has popped up on the Marketplace to a rapturous reception from the Android community.

Hello old friend, it's been a while. My, you're looking nice.

I’ve always struggled to find an Android based music player that I’m 100% happy with but the Winamp team, thanks to their talent for appealing and intuitive design, have ported their popular media player to the Android platform with great success. This truly is the trusty old Winamp experience scaled down to your Android handset right down to the familiar ‘Winamp, It Whips The Llama’s Ass’ soundclip when you first start up the app; it’s like meeting an old friend who happens to have kept themselves in great shape.
Hands down the UI on Winamp is the best I have found on Android so far for playing music. It’s not overly flash or fussy but it helps you get the job done with ease. From the home screen you can access Artists, Albums, Songs, Playlists, History or the Search function, menus are responsive and the program runs perfectly. Wherever you are in the UI you can usually get to wherever you want to go with a minimal amount of navigation thanks in part to the excellent ‘drag-up’ Now Playing screen. For me, the Now Playing screen is the most important part in any music player and should be accessible as easily as possible (take note Audiogalaxy), the ‘drag up’ feature of Winamp makes this possible.

In this case the Now Playing screen also includes some shameless cross promotion.

The Now Playing screen features everything you need, play/seek controls, album art, access to the current playlist, a list of all tracks / albums by the current artist, shuffle/repeat controls and the all important home button. Creating and editing playlists on your handset is easily done via long pressing on songs when in a tracklist. Also tucked away in the long press menu are options to use a particular track as a ringtone and a search function to find the track on Youtube or the Internet. For widget fans Winamp also comes with a very tidy widget with all the basic controls you need to control your music from your home screen, there’s only one size at the moment but I would assume that more will be developed as the program moves closer towards a final release.
Scrobbling to Last.fm is also possible, you’ll need to install the Last.fm app on your handset; as yet there are no options to share info on currently playing tracks to Twitter or Facebook.
If you install the new Beta version of Winamp on your PC you can also stream your music library to your handset via Wi-Fi. Sadly I could not get the Winamp Beta program to install on my Windows 7 installation. That’s the downside of a Beta I guess, someone will always be at the worse end of the testing experience, in this case it just happens to be me. Even without the streaming capabilities Winamp Beta has easily pushed aside all other media players on my handset, if they include shoutcast radio or video playback in future versions then I could be finding myself throwing all kinds of other apps on the scrapheap (or should that be Appheap?, sorry).

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Winamp Blog Post

Bottom line : Boasting a superb and robust UI with easy to access features; this is the best audio player app I’ve used on Android so far. As a music player it ticks all the boxes, if you can get the streaming library to work then it’s an utterly essential app.

Audiogalaxy – My God, It’s Full Of Stars

Audiogalaxy

Whilst spending this week looking for media streaming apps for my HTC Desire I was quite surprised to come across Audiogalaxy. Originally, back in 2001 Audiogalaxy was a website that attracted file sharers who were abandoning Napster at the time. Eventually it’s main file sharing functions were shut down and users drifted away to get their content elsewhere. In 2010 Audiogalaxy relaunched as a service that allows you to stream your DRM-free music stored on your home computer to your phone from anywhere using 3G, EDGE, or WiFi, and all for free. Imagine having tonnes of music right there on your handset ready to stream with no limit set by storage space, I’m happy to say Audiogalaxy (which is currently in beta) achieves what it promises.

The 'now playing' screen pretty much has everything you need.

First, you need to register at www.audiogalaxy.com so you can download Auidogalaxy for the PC or MAC, wherever you install this is where your tunes will be streamed from. This is a painless step although once installed Audiogalaxy immediately runs off searching for your stored music which I’d rather wish it didn’t do. I didn’t want all my music online straight away, I wanted to pick certain folders first. You can eventually tell Audiogalaxy what folders to focus on but not before the program has sniffed out a bunch of tracks and added them to your library. It’s not a negative aspect and it’s something that sorts itself out once you’ve specified your music folders, it’s just annoying that you’re already having to reign the program back under control before you even get started. Once that’s done, you just download the app to your handset, log in and stream away.
The menu screens are fairly basic but they get the job done, you can look at your playlists, browse via artist or album, use the search function and see what’s currently playing. Slightly annoyingly, albums are only sorted by title name whereas some people may like them grouped or sorted by artist name, it’s not a massive problem though. The search function is great, whatever you enter is cross-referenced with song, artist and albums titles, results pop up quick and are presented in a tidy list with album artwork. In all lists of tracks you can long click a song and choose whether to listen now or add to the queue. From here it would be nice to have a way to go straight to the now playing screen but instead you have to go back to the main menu in order to do that. This doesn’t ruin the experience but it’s a small niggle all the same.

Searching for tracks works a treat.

Quite simply, everything works very well, especially on wi-fi. Even on a 3G signal (of average strength) I streamed music for over 20 minutes with only two stutters to allow the app time to buffer more music. Tracks load up quickly, the ‘now playing’ screen shows artwork if available and whilst not being flashy, it does everything you need it to do. From here you can also easily save the current queue of music to a new playlist, ideal for those ‘on-the-fly’ playlist creations.
Audiogalaxy is totally lacking in options, pressing the menu key only gives you a choice of refreshing the screen or logging out. An option to increase the buffer would be handy (although to be fair Audiogalaxy seems to do an ok job of managing this itself), and some kind of EQ would be great. I imagine a number of users will also lament the lack of a widget or Last.FM scrobbling which I can understand. Still, considering that this app is still only in Beta these are hopefully features that will appear in further updates. Right now I am just glad this app works as well as it does.

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Site

Bottom line : A great music streaming app which confidently does the job it sets out to do. Whilst the UI isn’t perfect and it’s lacking certain features the fact that it’s a totally free app makes it a recommended install.

Tweetdeck – Worth Tweeting About or RT to Sender?

Tweetdeck

Once upon a time the main use for my mobile phone was to send text messages, it seems like ancient history now but in reality those SMS based times were only just over a year ago. These days my handset has almost totally dropped texting and become a Twitter hub pumping out nonsense Tweets of 140 characters or less to whoever wants to read them. And I’m not the only one. Twitter clients on mobile phones are a very particular thing to each individual, you try a new Twitter app, you become wise to it’s funny ways, making it work in your favour so your Twitter experience is optimised to how you like it. But then one day you say “Enough! There must be a better Twitter app out there for me.” and so you start all over again, learning from scratch. My android/twitter journey has already taken in four apps..

  • Touiteur – Lovely, has the best bird tweet alarm sound but became buggy, wouldn’t always update.
  • Twitter – Official app, nice presentation but bloaty, plus you’re stuck with Twitter’s way of doing things (no old school RT, no multiple accounts)
  • Twidroid – My fav so far, but no free multiple account support (and I’m a notorious cheapskate)
  • Seesmic – Good, but not my favourite, free multiple account support though.

You can sign in to Twitter, Facebook, Foursqaure and Google Buzz (if you're mad).

Tweetdeck is out of beta, it’s been officially released for Android and it’s now that I find myself on my fifth Twitter app (sixth if you count the excellent Gravity app from back when I had a Symbian handset) and hopefully this is my last. First impressions are good, a simple menu to setup Twitter, Facebook, Google Buzz* and Foursquare** accounts. Tweetdeck already gets a huge smile from me for allowing multiple Twitter accounts (I currently rock three Twitter accounts, get me) a feature a lot of Twitter apps currently charge for. For the record, the first Twitter account you enter will be set as the default account, you can always change your default choice in the future from the ‘accounts’ screen by long pressing on an entry in your account list.  Integration with Facebook seems solid too, with posts and pictures appearing nicely in your feed to which you can like or comment on. Tweetdeck have promised to work more on this and make Facebook integration ‘deeper’, already it seems good enough so I guess it can only get better with further updates.

The first thing you’ll notice is how blindingly fast things are, screens whiz up & down and left to right in a flurry, it’s a joy to behold. Tweets are displayed with an avatar and user name, with the timestamp shown in the bar at the top of the column. This bar also acts as a ‘move to top’ or ‘refresh’ button depending on your position in your news feed. Selecting a tweet will also bring up information on how that tweet was posted. Thankfully you can now change the text size of your tweets (a feature missing from my beta version) to allow room for more posts at a time on your screen. My main, or ‘Home’, timeline consists of my posts from my default Twitter account and Facebook feed with simple colour coding to seperate the two. Timelines are displayed via columns which you scroll through from left to right, scrolling is quick and fluid which makes using Tweetdeck a very pleasant experience. There’s a flexible choice of what columns you can have and how many, I’ve currently got six columns on the go with no sign of slow down or complication. You also have fairly flexible control over how often each column updates which, if you’re juggling multiple accounts, is very useful. Annoyingly you only seem to be able to manage your default account, so if you want to follow someone with your other twitter account you need to set that as your default account before doing so.

Hey look! It's Android Apt on Twitter. Please excuse the low follower count, we've barely been here two weeks.

Composing tweets is great, you can choose how many accounts you want to tweet from (yes, you can tweet from multiple accounts simultaneously. Aces!), add a picture, add your location or browse through your contacts to add them to your tweet. With RT’s, Tweetdeck gives you the choice of classic RTing or official Twitter RTing, thumbs up for giving us the choice. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be any built-in URL shortening, which can lead to an issue with overlong tweets. In my experience overlong tweets fail to send and there’s no way to go back and edit them, they stay stuck in your notification bar with the option to retry sending them, all you can do is clear the alert and start again. Tweeting pictures is done via Yfrog and there is no option to change to another picture host so if you’re a fan of Twitpic or another service you’re out of luck. In it’s favour Tweetdeck does a great job of handling pictures, select a tweet with a picture link and a preview image will appear. Tweetdeck can even pull a preview image from a Youtube link, nice. Tweetdeck also has a conversation view which is a godsend for keeping track of those back & forth messages between users on Twitter.

When it comes to options there aren’t really any to choose from, compared to other clients which offer a wealth of options Tweetdeck’s approach seems to be limiting but the reality is the opposite. I have found that trusting the app to do want you want seems to yield the best results as it really does hit most, if not all, the marks. It’s as if Tweetdeck is light on options but full of features, there’s so much more to discover but doing so would delay this review by at least another week. If anything a manual would be handy as there are all kinds of functions in there, you just have to know where they are. Tweetdeck is a great app and a recommended download, I am glad to have given Tweetdeck a chance and it has now become my final ‘go-to’ app for Twitter.

…. unless I get that itch again, oh god no!

* I didn’t try my Google Buzz account because.. well, it’s Google Buzz, what’s the point?

** I didn’t try Foursquare either, I’m not on Foursqaure. Nor do I ever plan to be.

Links : Official Android Page, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : After just over 24 hours use I am happier with this than any other mobile Twitter client I have used.  Sure, there’s something of a learning curve but it’s worth sticking with this app to unlock it’s full potential. Recommended.

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