Posts Tagged ‘ Facebook ’

Photaf 3D Panorama (Free) – Life Through A Panoramic Lens

 Photaf 3D Panorama (Free)

As the Android Marketplace grows so does the number of apps that are making unique use of the main camera that’s built into each handset. Apps that help you take panoramic shots are nothing new (I recall an application on my old Nokia N95 that could do the same) however Photaf has a few tricks up it’s sleeve that are designed to help even the most novice photographer achieve some decent results.
From the clearly laid out opening menu it’s just a simple click to access the main camera screen. Visible at the top and right of the display are a pair of spirit levels which glow red or green depending on how level your shot is. The centre of the screen shows an arrow that instructs you on which way to turn and in the bottom left there’s a preview window that gives you a rough idea on how your pictures will line up.

Probably the best photo that I managed to take.

Once PhotoF thinks you have the perfect angle it will automatically take the shot on your behalf and from here you can either continue to create your panoramic shot or ‘stitch’ your taken images together. It’s a pretty good system that makes taking panoramic shots an easy piece of work. Simply point, shoot and then turn.
By default the picture quality is set to ‘low’, there is a ‘high quality’ option but if you want to use it you’ll need to purchase to full version of the app. Once you’ve taken your panoramic shot you can scroll through it via the touch screen or via ‘compass mode’ in which the position of your phone dictates your view of the photo, clever stuff. If you’re happy with your efforts you can use the share function to upload them to Facebook or to the Photaf website although it has to be said that the Photaf website features some shockingly appalling photographs.

Boscombe pier on a rainy day. (Click to enlarge)

And therein lies the big issue with PhotaF, the results can vary wildly. Obviously panoramic photography is a tricky process, especially on a camera-phone, but it’s still a shame that the automatic functions don’t always bring out the best results. Shots can come out with blurry results and we also had occasions of items in our pictures ‘doubling up’. It’s still good enough for a free app but it’s not quite there to make us slam our money down for the full-blown Pro version.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 2.8.3
  • Requires Android : 2.1 and up
  • Category : Photography
  • Size : 2.9M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A good idea with some excellent implementation but sadly the final results aren’t always up to scratch.

Skyfire Browser 4.0 – Is it Skyfire 4.Woah or Skyfire 4.Blow?

Skyfire Browser 4.0

A while ago we reviewed a beta version of Skyfire and despite its potential it just wasn’t quite up to the task of replacing the default Android web browser. Since that time Skyfire has gone through a number of iterations and has morphed into version 4.0 which brings with it a number of hefty improvements. It seemed like a good time to give Skyfire another chance.

Click the magnifying glass next to your Google results to open this handy results 'gallery'.

The layout makes for a good first impression, it’s feature packed but also tidy and intuitive. The top of the screen includes the address bar and a search box. Below this is an array of buttons for page navigation, home, bookmarks and tab management. Yes, Skyfire does tabs and it does them well. Also included is a handy switch to alternate between Android and Desktop mode which helps with avoiding those annoying limited ‘mobile versions’ of your regular web haunts. There’s also a drop down menu that offers similar choices to your average Android browser (share page, find, select text etc.) as well as the settings menu.
Using the Search box on the top right of the screen opens up some interesting search results. Searching for an item brings you the standard Google results but also displayed is a row of buttons that can scour for your search on Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Videosurf and Digg. It a genius idea that turns a simple query into a whole range of varied search results. Excellent stuff.
The biggest selling point of Skyfire is the SkyBar, a customisable tool that is capable of offering all kinds of extra web content with the minimum effort on the user’s part. There are buttons for Facebook and Twitter which allow use of the social networks within Skyfire itself, they’re not as complete as their standalone app counterparts but it’s nice to have them handy if needed. A Facebook ‘Like’ button is also included so you can quickly share while you surf. There’s a ‘Popular’ button that can scan the website you’re currently visiting and show you what content from it is being shared the most and the ‘Fireplace’ button will scan your Facebook news feed for any photos or links your friends have posted.

The 'Popular' button is a great way to find content you may have missed.

These last few features combined are great for those moments of web surfing when you’ve ‘gone blank’ for things to look at. There are also buttons for sharing pages, viewing Google Reader and content related to news, sports and finance. In this latest version Skyfire really goes all out to deliver everything in one package.

Worthy of additional note is the ‘Video’ button, this is a feature that hunts down any video link on a page and optimizes them for playback. If you have downloaded Skyfire before you will get this feature for free however new-comers to Skyfire will only get a 3 day trial before it requires unlocking for a fee. So far I’ve not had much luck with this feature, videos take too long to buffer (even over wi-fi) and the playback quality could be better. I seem to have a better time relying on Skyfire’s built in flash capabilities, maybe I’m using the wrong sites (I’m open to suggestions here). Seeing as this feature costs £1.85 to unlock I recommend thoroughly putting this feature through it’s paces before committing to it.

Away from all the bells and whistles, general browsing on Skyfire is a breeze, web pages load in good time and the zoom / text-wrapping functionality is much improved from the beta. There’s even a built in pop-up blocker which so far has done a great job of staying on top of those ever-annoying rogue interruptions.
Despite the good stuff there are a couple of small downsides to Skyfire. So far I’ve been unable to find any way of organising my bookmarks, they only appear in the order I save them. There’s also a lack of an ‘incognito’ function, something that is becoming a more common feature on many browsers. These aren’t deal breakers and hopefully are simple things to be picked up on future updates.

Skyfire has definitely surprised me.

Skyfire does a fine job of handling flash content (and blocking pop-ups).

Usually a new web browser can take time to get into but I found Skyfire easy to get the hang of and it’s handling my everyday web browsing with ease. It’s the first mobile web browser I’ve come across that can play an active role in helping you find new content to enjoy rather than just sit back and let you do all the surfing. For me it’s earned the ultimate accolade on my HTC Desire, it’s become my default web browser and with that, I tip my hat to the team at Skyfire.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 4.0.3
  • Requires Android : 2.0 and up
  • Category : Communication
  • Size : 1.7M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A great web browser with some unique features that make surfing even better than before. Excellent stuff!

Go SMS Pro – “Go Go Gadget Text”

Go SMS Pro

The first thing I would advise to anyone buying a HTC handset (or possibly any Android phone for that matter) is to ignore the standard SMS app in favour of a third party alternative. In some cases the SMS apps on the marketplace are a better option over the stock versions that come pre-loaded on an Android handset.
Since buying my HTC Desire almost a year ago I’ve tried Chomp SMS and more recently Handcent, both are definitely worth a look. A few weeks ago, another new SMS by the prolific ‘Go Dev Team’ (ace name) popped up on my radar and it’s charming looks were more than enough to perk my interest.

Yes, it's looking a bit sparse. This is just the default view. (Do check out the Beasties album BTW, some good stuff on there).

On the surface Go SMS Pro is very much like the other third party SMS apps previously mentioned but everything here just seems to have that slightly more ‘polished’ edge about it. Standard features such as the chat style interface and pop up alerts are present as well as theme support with extra styles available for download.

GO SMS Pro contains a whole warehouse full of extra functionality, there’s far too much to cover here but features worth noting are the email style folder support (accessible via some cool transitions), scheduled SMS functionality, DIY themes and Emoji support.
The latest additions on the menu (as of version 3.33 ) are a Wallpaper Maker and Facebook Chat plug-in. Sure some of these features are available in the other SMS apps I’ve mentioned but GSMSP (as I have now called it in this never to be used again abbreviation) brings the whole thing together in a great package.
The only downside may be for those rocking a slower Android handset. Go SMS Pro is known to be demanding on the horse power so you may need to play around with the ‘Running Mode’ settings to get the best from it.
That aside, Go Sms Pro has quickly become the default sms app on my handset, well for now anyway.

About This App – Version Reviewed : 3.33
Requires Android : 1.6 and up , Category : Communication , Size : 2.7M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain, Official Page

Bottom Line : Well made and feature packed. If your phone can run it this is a great SMS (and now Facebook messaging) app to have.

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.

Angry Birds Rio – An Angry Bloke Review

Angry Birds Rio

Writing a review for the new Angry Birds game seems something of a redundant excercise. By the time you read this about a bajillion people will have already downloaded it. Even those who haven’t yet grabbed the latest installment from Rovio will know exactly what to expect.

So why review it?

As of three months ago 50 million people had downloaded Angry Birds. Today that total stands at a staggering 100 million and that figure will surely get a boost once the planned xbox 360, ps3 and Facebook versions are released. The range of Angry Birds plush toys have shifted 2 million units, Mattel have a board game due for release in May and there are even plans to move into animation & feature films. Angry Birds is truly a gaming phenomenon in motion, in time (if not already) it could very likely be listed alongside Mario, Sonic et al as a gaming icon of it’s generation.

So why review it?

The release of ‘Rio’ has heralded an interesting series of events within the Android scene. Rovio decided to give a timed exclusive to Amazon for the launch of their new Android App store. It all seemed very exciting, Android users would have a new outlet for Android apps. The consumer would have the option to ‘shop around’.
And then came the launch.
It soon dawned on everyone outside of America that they would not be able to enjoy Rovio’s latest release. In their infinite wisdom Amazon had limited their new marketplace to the U.S. Understandably, those unable to get the app felt hard done by. What didn’t help matters was the way those people (myself included) had to jump through hoops and make adjustments to their Amazon accounts before being told they weren’t invited to the party.
For a product with a hungry worldwide audience this was probably not the best approach. I’m genuinely surprised that given the openness of the Android platform there wasn’t an outbreak of virus/malware infested fake ‘Rio’ apk files just waiting to be installed by unsuspecting users.
I don’t blame Rovio for this, I blame Amazon. One of the main complaints against Android is fragmentation and here they are fragmenting it further based solely on location. Even now, having launched their cloud music service, there is still no known date for when the app store will be available to those outside the U.S.A. Considering how Android is perceived as a platform that is in fierce competition with iOS, this current move by Amazon appears to do more harm than good.

So why review it? So where is this bloody review?

Thankfully Rovio have released Angry Birds Rio on the Android Marketplace so now all those non-Yanks such as myself can enjoy the latest installment. I had dubious thoughts about it being a tie-in with the forthcoming movie ‘Rio’ but surprisingly the theme is a good fit for the franchise.

Seriously, worst stacking of cargo EVER.

The gameplay is the same as before but there are enough tweaks and touches to warrant losing more nights of sleep whilst trying to three-star each level. Compared to ‘Angry Birds Seasons’, ‘Rio’ has a gentler learning curve making it a great jumping off point for any newcomers to the franchise.
The graphics have also been updated, nothing revolutionary but the scrolling foregrounds and beefed up menus are enough to keep the series looking fresh.
On the subject of keeping things fresh Rovio have already planned a series of updates which will become available over the course of 2011. As usual it’s a worthwhile free download.

That’s it? That’s the review? It was more a rant about Amazon than a review of Angry Birds.

Yeah sorry about that. I had to get that whole Amazon thing off my chest.

That’s ok. It was truly a dick move on their part.

Yes, yes it was.

Ok so now you’re just talking to yourself. I think you need a lie down.

So do you.

Haha, very funny.

About This App Version Reviewed : 1.0.0
Requires Android : 1.6 and up , Category : Arcade & Action , Size : 13M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Just when you think you’re out, Rovio pull you back in. Rio is an enjoyable new chapter in the Angry Birds franchise. Bring on those updates!

Songbird – Not Tweeting, Not Angry, Just Singing.

Songbird

It’s been a while since a new music player caught my eye and this week it was nice to stumble upon ‘Songbird’ to try out as an alternative method of listening to music.
Already a popular desktop application, ‘Songbird’ comes to Android bringing with it it’s stylish purple design to take on the likes of Winamp and PowerAmp.
Everything about Songbird is tidy and clean, exploring your music collection is quick work and surprisingly flexible. Like Winamp, the ‘now playing’ screen can be accessed via a slide-up drawer which works excellently. The ‘now playing’ screen features all the usual controls as well as a unique Flickr button which activates a photo stream of the artist that’s currently playing. There’s also a Facebook ‘Like’ button that allows you to inform/annoy your Facebook chums about what music you’re listening to.
One of Songbird’s main strengths is the ability to easily create playlists. I’ve seen other music apps completely fumble the method of playlist creation but Songbird seems to have nailed it perfectly.
Sadly it’s not all thumbs up for Songbird, the home-screen widget kept locking up and would only come back to life with a handset reboot. Bear in mind this may not solely be an app issue, it’s possibly a compatibility issue with my Cyanogen rom.
Songbird is also lacking some of the cooler functions when compared to more established apps like ‘PowerAmp’ but the creators have promised a number of new functions and plug-ins in future updates (lock screen controls are top of my list).
Songbird may not yet be the ultimate Android music player but the potential is definitely there. It’s pleasant on the eye, simple to use and allows a strong degree of freedom on how you listen to your music.

About This App – Current Version : 1.0
Requires Android : 2.1 and up , Category : Music & Audio , Size : 1.2M , Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : It’s not quite up to the benchmark of the leading Android music apps but given a bit of time (and a few updates) Songbird could be the music app everyone is chirping about (groan!).

GRave Defense Silver FREE – You Say Defense, I Say Defence, Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

GRave Defense Silver FREE

Tower Defence Games eh? They’re like Zombies. They’re everywhere! Now we have a game that combines both Tower Defence AND Zombies (well, mutated monsters but it’s all the same), how can I refuse such a double whammy?

Personally I’ve never really understood the point behind this particular game genre despite being unable to ignore it’s ever-growing popularity. A quick search for ‘Defence’ on AppBrain displays a whole gaggle of Tower Defence games based on all kinds of different themes.
Once I started up GRave Defense Silver for the first time I could see why there were so many Tower Defence Games. In no time at all I had become addicted to one them. Damn!

Things are pretty calm right now, it'll kick off before long.

The aim of ‘GRave Defense Silver’ is to prevent the horde of the undead making their way into your safe haven by installing and upgrading weapon emplacements. As you progress through each level more varieties of guns are available as well as more variations of zombies to use them on.
GDS makes an attempt to shovel in a story via a lengthy text based intro before each level. To be honest this approach comes off a little po-faced especially when compared to other zombie video game fare such as Left 4 Dead or Stupid Zombies (which we reviewed last week).
Once the intro is done the blasting can begin. The map layouts in each level are visually varied, they make great use of the space available on a mobile device and the scenery is very nicely detailed.
Gameplay runs smoothly with only minimal slowdown when the screen becomes packed with monsters making their way all over the map. There’s a pretty good difficulty curve with each level needing a few tries before survival is assured (which also adds to the ‘one more go’ factor). The only major compaint I have is regarding the collectable power-ups that occasionally appear. They sometimes don’t respond to your touch and they time out pretty quickly. Sometimes they’re gone before you even get a chance to notice them.
There’s two game modes, story and survival mode each with a range of difficulty levels to keep you busy. GDS also includes OpenFeight support so you can compare your unlocked achievements with your friends. There’s also a Facebook tab which to be honest I didn’t get involved with (I didn’t feel much like sharing my Facebook account).
I can’t deny that there’s something I find addictive about building and upgrading defences in order to take out wave upon wave of bloodthirsty zombies. More than once I found myself finishing a game GDS only to discover that I’d been playing for far longer than I had originally planned. For a free game, that can’t be bad.

ABOUT THIS APP – CURRENT VERSION : 1.0.0

REQUIRES ANDROID : 1.5 and up , CATEGORY : Arcade & Action , SIZE : 3.1M , PRICE : Free

Links : Android Marketplace , Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Well made, plenty of content to enjoy and very addictive. Worth adding to your Android game collection.

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