Posts Tagged ‘ Google ’

gAppsLauncher – Your Personalised Google Launchpad

 gAppsLauncher

If you’re the average Android devotee it’s a pretty likely situation that Google is playing a hefty part in your day-to-day routine. Whether it’s handling your emails, supplying your news feeds or being your new social network BFF, Google has a number of great tools at your disposal.

The downside to this is that many tools means many icons to keep organised which results in time-wasting homescreen navigation and space-filling icons to organise.

Enter gAppsLauncher, a simple collection of widgets that group together your all important Google services.

You can choose from a selection of widget sizes along with the whole gamut of Google services to fill them with (complete with eye-catching icons).
The widgets themselves are pretty flexible, you can fill them with as many icons as you like and each service can link to either its app or webpage counterpart.

Once you’ve set up your ideal Google based widget you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

If anything, this is the kind of idea that should come standard with Android, maybe Google should be taking notes.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 1.3.4
  • Requires Android : 1.5 and up
  • Category : Tools
  • Size : 420k
  • Price : Free

Links : Download via Android Marketplace, Download via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A simple yet perfectly executed idea for the Android fanatic. Recommended.

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!

TubeMate – My mate, your mate, our mate, TubeMate

TubeMate

A while ago on Android Apt we reviewed the Youtube download app JetVD. It proved to be one of the more popular reviews on the blog, clearly people prefer the convenience of downloaded videos over ones that you have to stream. Sadly JetVD has refused to work in recent weeks, this wasn’t totally unexpected as Youtube have a habit of making background changes in order to disable programs that can download videos. A replacement was needed and I found Tubemate, dubbed as ‘The Fastest Youtube Downloader’.

Now you can download 'How Indy 4 Should Have Ended' and watch it on your phone.

Tubemate takes the standard Youtube front-end (you can switch between the standard web or mobile version) and adds a couple of handy buttons that allow you to download content as well as share and search for videos. Pressing the download button gives you a selection of video sizes (plus an MP3 download option) that caters for all flavours of Android right up to the latest tablet resolutions (depending on the source material obviously).
Downloading content is a devilishly quick process when TubeMate is used over wi-fi. You get a handy kbps counter as the video downloads and unlike JetVD the handset doesn’t slow down to a crawl when downloading HD videos. Tubemate also supports multiple downloads so you can build up your local Youtube library in next to no time.
TubeMate is a tidy, functional and easy to navigate app that only clocks in at a tiny 500k install size. It’s definately worth a download, lets just hope it doesn’t go the same way as JetVD any time soon.

About This App – Version Reviewed : 1,04.04
Category : Multimedia , Price : Free

Links : At the time of posting TubeMate has been taken off the Android Marketplace but it is available here.

Bottom Line : Hooray! Downloading Youtube videos is back on the menu. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Google Reader – Google, Finally Kicking RSS*

Google Reader

Yeah I know, I need to stay on top of my feeds a bit more.

At last! Google Reader is now available as a standalone app for Android handsets. As much as I like ‘Pulse‘ and its slick UI it’s unable to handle all of the feeds that I have set up on my Google Reader account, this where the new Google Reader app comes into play. I use the original Google Reader in my web browser to manage all my RSS feeds and it does the job superbly, when surfing the web I always leave it open in a tab and let the articles I want to read drop straight into my lap. The good news is that Google have perfectly replicated this on the Android platform right down to the simple uncluttered UI.
All of the features from the standard Google Reader are here, you can ‘star’, like and share news items, you can even create folders and organise where your news feed will reside (this is achieved by long clicking on a news feed). There’s also a quick and easy function to send a news item to another app on your handset such as a twitter client, simply press the menu button when viewing a single post and select ‘send’. There have been some reported issues with the ‘share’ and ‘notes’ features however, these aren’t functions that I use so I’d recommend a look at Joe’s review over at andgeeks.com to get the full picture.
The main settings menu is accessible from the ‘home’ screen and from here you can activate the handy ‘volume key navigation’ function, this will let you flick through posts in a news feed by using the volume keys. The only thing I havn’t been able to find is a quick and easy way to get back to the home screen when in a news post, a ‘home’ button in the menu button would have been nice.
The app also has a good handle on media that has been placed within posts, images display with no problems and selecting a Youtube video will open it via the native Youtube app (this worked 95% of the time, the other 5% they didn’t work at all). If you have an RRS feed set up for a podcast Google Reader will show the link to the audio at the bottom of each post which can then be easily opened in a compatible music app of your choice. I used Google Reader over a 3G signal and it ran at an solid pace with no major waiting times for items to download, the only downside is the lack of downloading items for offline reading. No signal? No RSS for you then.
Despite the odd niggle Google have pretty much hit the nail bang on with this app, it’s a shame it took them three years after Android launched to get it made but at least now it’s here we can all get in on the RSS goodness.

Link : Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Simple, uncluttered and pretty much exactly all it needs to be, if Google throw in a ‘home’ button then I’m totally sold on this. If you use Google Reader in your desktop web browser then this is a good way get the same experience on your mobile.

*Yeah, I know I did this joke the other week. RSS puns are pretty thin on the ground don’t you know.

Pulse News Reader – An Android App That Kicks RSS

Pulse News Reader

I use Google Reader to keep up with my favourite websites, it’s a great tool for managing RSS feeds and it translates pretty well to my Android handset via the mobile web browser. Despite this I’ve always felt that I’d prefer to have an actual decent app do the job of handling my new feeds on my HTC Desire and upon hearing the news that it had been price dropped to £0 I decided to give ‘Pulse News Reader’ a spin. Since making an appearance during the launch of the iPad the app has found itself on the recieving end of tonnes of attention across both the iOS and Android platforms to the point where it has landed a coveted spot in the ‘App Store Hall of Fame’.

Pulse News Reader allows you to take feeds from 20 RSS streams of your choice and have them displayed on your screen in a touch senstive ‘News Strip’ style interface. You can easily choose and organise your sources as well as share articles directly to Twitter, Facebook or any other app on your handset (complete with a shortened url).

When I first saw that video I didn’t even wait for it to finish, I dived straight into the Marketplace to download the app and I’m glad to say that Pulse does pretty much everything right.

Hey look! It's us, in RSS form.

Moving around the numerous feeds and menus is intuitive, easy work and for the most part it does a great job of grabbing images from each article to populate your streams.  As a result it looks great, there’s minimal lag and it also makes short work of showing you what you want to see, even on 3G. A little tip to help save on battery drain, you may want to dip into the settings and disable ‘Background Updates’. You can also, via Pulse, log into your Google Reader account, choose from any feeds you have set-up and stick them in Pulse’s main screen. I love that using this app I can easily share an article with Tweetdeck and have it create a tweet complete with a shortened url, I can then edit the tweet and send it from any one of my three Twitter accounts; all within a few steps. Brilliant! Pulse is a clever idea excellently executed. If you use RSS news feeds then this is a great way to stay on top of them.

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Website

Bottom Line : A visually slick app that quickly delivers your RSS feeds in a dynamic fashion. Excellent stuff.

Evernote – Forever ever, Forever ever?

Evernote

You’d think that seeing as Android is a Google creation that it would seemlessly integrate with the many Google services that can be used on a desktop computer and yet despite my love for Android it’s utterly baffling how it’s impossible to effectively use Google Documents on my HTC desire. I can view my online documents through my mobile web browser (although it takes a few steps to get there) but there is no way to create or edit documents, it truly is a missed opportunity of palm-meets-face proportions. For me, Evernote has been the alternative choice to Google Documents but it’s never been quite the fully featured app that I wanted it to be. For the uninitiated, Evernote is a free service that allows you enter any info you like, be it a note, a picture or a voice recording and have it sync with your online account that you can access from any computer with an internet connection, it’s essentially an online notebook.

A few weeks ago the latest version of Evernote for Android was released and pretty much everything about the original app has been improved including the highly requested ability to be able to create notes when not online. Evernote has become a pretty essential download for anyone who needs to take down and sync notes whilst on the move

Helpfully the Evernote team have taken the time to produce an informative video that demonstrates how Evernote works it’s magic (plus it saves me churning out 500 words on how to use it).

The video doesn’t oversell it, Evernote really is as good as it looks. The intuitive UI has a pleasing look to it and using the app is quick and easy. A detailed review of the latest features can also be found on Evernote’s blog. It’s worth noting that Evernote is a pretty flexible service, whether it’s making a to-do list, drafting posts for your blog (ahem!) or one of the many other possibilities as mentioned in this excellent list by Andrew Maxwell. If there’s one complaint I have to make its the fact that it doesn’t seem possible to create new notebooks from within the app, that can only be done on the website. This aside, the Evernote team have pulled this one out of the bag. Kudos. It looks like Google is playing catch-up on this one.

Bottom Line : A much improved app that fills a gap missed by Google. Very useful and very well made. Great stuff.

Update : Less than ten minutes after publishing this post I read the news that Google are rolling out online Google Docs editing for Froyo users (link in the comments section). I’m certain this is a direct response to my blog post rather than something they were going to do all along. Yup, totally that. Ahem!

JetVD – Less YouTube, More Your Tube

JetVD

Put words in, videos come out. Simple.

It’s all well and groovy having a new YouTube app to enjoy on your Froyo Android handset but what do you when you’ve got no wi-fi connection? You can try 3G but results are choppy at best. One way around it is to grab your favourite YouTube videos ahead of time and JetVD lets you achieve that. Simply enter a phrase in the search screen, find what you want and download it.
Personally I much prefer having my own collection of favourite YouTube clips already stored on my phone rather than waiting for an online stream to get started but this can be difficult to do thanks to Google’s disapproving stance of downloading content from Youtube. As a result YouTube download apps tend to come and go on the Android Marketplace, they work for a while but then become disabled due to a change at the source or they get taken down completely; thankfully I’ve been using JetVD for months now and it just keeps on working.
Opening the app takes you straight to the search screen, search results are presented with information on clip length and number of views as well as a thumbnail image. Slightly annoyingly results only arrive in groups of ten, so for every ten videos you scroll through you have to wait a few seconds while more results are retrieved. Selecting a video takes you to the download menu, from here you can stream the video, read some info on the selected clip or choose which format you wish to download it in. JetVD does a good job at finding out the various video formats even offering up 720p HD quality videos for you to download.

Shall I download a crappy 3GP or a lush 720p video? Choices choices.

If you’re on wi-fi, downloads come down the line as fast as you’d expect, just make sure you first set up a folder in the settings telling the app where you want your videos to go. One thing I have noticed is that whilst downloading 720p HD videos your phone can become unresponsive or slow, it’s something of a trade-off considering how good the videos look during playback. The free version of JetVD only allows you to download one video at a time which suggests there is a paid version of the program. Unfortunately there is no sign of this on the Marketplace (it’s also possible that there never will be as that could generate a very tricky legal issue).
From the menu button you can also directly access your downloads, this screen comes across as a bit of an afterthought. The videos are listed in order of date downloaded, there’s no option to change this nor are there any thumbnails to go with each entry. If anything you don’t really need this screen anyway, if you have a good video player installed (such as mVideoPlayer) you’ll be browsing the videos from there instead.
It’s pretty much a ‘Nuts & Gum’* application, it doesn’t blow you away with a flashy UI but it does let you get in, grab a video and get out again; that’s all you need to do really.

Link : Install via AppBrain,

Bottom line : Not perfect but being able to download 720p HD YouTube videos with minimum hassle? Count me in. Worth a download.

* I have no idea what I mean by ‘Nuts & Gum’ application, I just wanted to work in a Simpsons reference.

%d bloggers like this: