Posts Tagged ‘ HTC Desire ’

Android Apt : Normal Service Will Resume Shortly

Hey there! How have you been? Any regular visitors to Android Apt may have noticed the sizeable drop-off in activity on this blog over the last month. In case you didn’t already know, this Android blog is the work of just one person (yours truly) and the month of July has kept me somewhat busy with a number of other projects to juggle.

One of those projects has involved writing content for a new Android magazine that hit the shelves yesterday.

Hmmmm, just look at all that lovely Android green.

Produced by Imagine Publishing, ‘Android Magazine‘ is a new monthly mag dedicated to Android users, it’s currently on sale in the UK in all major newsagents and will launch in the U.S. shortly in B&N stores. Android Magazine covers all aspects of Android with hardware and app reviews, tutorials for beginners and a dedicated ‘Hacker Zone’ for the users more adept at ‘getting under the hood’ of their favourite handset.

For a limited time it’s also possible for UK readers to get the first three issues for just £1 by subscribing online.

Another thing that’s been keeping me busy is my new Android Honeycomb Tablet. Having looked about for a good model I finally went for the Asus Transformer (or as my kids refer to it, The Double iPad). It’s a lovely bit of kit, perhaps not quite an iPad beater in the eyes of the casual consumer but for an Android fan it’s currently one of the best choices available.

Asus Transformer - Tablet In Disguise

As good as Honeycomb is there’s still a few bug bears and the app support isn’t quite where it could be. This has meant that I’ve spent the last few weeks digging around the marketplace for serviceable tablet-based replacements for the main apps that I used on my HTC Desire. In effect I’ve been pondering over tweaking the content of the site to cover apps for anyone else who’s new to Honeycomb.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Keep a sharp eye out, there should be some new ‘Android Apt’ content coming your way soon.

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Go Launcher EX – “We Are Go For Launch”

 Go Launcher EX

Take a look at your Android phone. Try flicking through a few home screens, bring up the app tray, now put it away again.

The choice of transitions are plentiful, you'll spend a good few minutes trying them all out.

All that stuff you’re looking at, it’s called the Launcher. In very basic terms it’s the interface that lives between your fingers and the inner workings of your Android handset.

If you have a HTC handset you may be familiar with the term HTC Sense, that’s the default launcher that ships on their phones.
If you get bored with how your Android phone looks you can easily change your Launcher and it’s all thanks to the tweakability of Android. All you need to do is look for a third party Launcher on the Marketplace and install it. It’s as easy as installing any other app and can dramatically change (and sometimes improve) how your phone behaves. It’s almost like software modding your phone but nowhere near as scary and the process can be easily undone.
There are a number of great Launcher apps on the Marketplace, a great round up of them can be found here but the one that has caught my attention is Go Launcher EX by the Go Launcher Dev Team.
Bought to you by the same group behind ‘Go SMS Pro’, Go Launcher EX is an extensively customisable home screen app that includes theme support, a scrolling dock bar, fluid transitions and a fully tooled up app tray.

See those tabs at the top of the app tray there? Handy stuff indeed.

Once you’ve installed the app you’ll need to start setting up your home screens all over again, it can be a slight pain if you’ve already set things up exactly how you like it but this is the same with any Launcher app that you install. Don’t worry, your original home screens will be safely stored away and Go Launcher EX includes a settings backup tool so once you’ve got your icons & widgets where you want you can save it.

Go Launcher EX runs excellently, the home screens transitions are smooth (there’s also plenty to choose from) and there are a plethora of ‘easy-install’ themes to sift through. The app tray also houses some very nifty tweaks for everyday use. You can order your apps alphabetically or via the date order of when they were installed. There’s also a history tab that’s capable of listing many more recently used apps than the your average Launcher and finally there’s a task killer available if you’re that way inclined.
Once you’ve installed Go Launcher EX you can also install any of the free widgets made by the Go Team. My personal recommendation is the excellent calendar widget, it’s the first quality free scrolling calendar widget that I’ve come across.
For anyone who’s owned their Android phone for a while and feels the need to freshen it up Go Launcher EX is a great way to go about it.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 2.30
  • Requires Android : 2.0 and up
  • Category : Productivity
  • Size : 2.7M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Android handset modding without all the scary warranty breaking fuss. Give it a try, it could make you feel like you have a new phone all over again.

Topple Towers Lite – Timberrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

 Topple Towers Lite

Topple Towers creator Ian Stanbridge is a very patient man. For months he has been quietly waiting for a review of his app and now, finally, after all kinds of distractions I can sit down and review Topple Towers. Sorry for the wait Ian.
Largely reminiscent of the excellent Wii game ‘Boom Blox’ the aim of Topple Towers is to use your cannon to knock down all of the red towers within each level whilst leaving the green ones intact wherever possible. Knock down too many green blocks and you fail the level. Initial stages seem simple enough but eventually lead on to more intricate challenges involving cogs and chains. It’s certainly a unique puzzle offering in a marketplace full of ‘Angry Birds’ wannabes.
Topple Towers is a challenging game, there’s a tutorial to ease you in but once the main levels get going you’ll need to flex the old grey matter in order to be up to the tasks ahead. By far the most impressive aspect is the in-game physics engine. The rendering speed is up to scratch on my HTC Desire as blocks interact and tumble in an entirely convincing fashion. There are also options in the settings menu to help those with lower spec handsets run the game.
There are some sticking points however. The controls can prove tricky to master and you don’t get the full amount of aim that you may be used to with a first person game such as this. Many a time I found myself moving into place for a shot only to find that the limited ‘aiming circle’ couldn’t give me the firing angle I desired.
The other (more superficial) issue is with presentation. It’s not entirely fair to harshly judge a product on looks especially one as unique as this but there is no avoiding the fact that the overall appearance of Topple Towers somewhat resembles an early 90’s PC game. In a marketplace where apps are stylised to within an inch of their lives Topple Towers may lose potential players with it’s dated looks, blocky menus and freezing loading screen (complete with comic sans).
If you can look past the rougher visual aspects and get the hang of the controls then Topple Towers contains some enjoyable action for fans of 3D physics puzzle games. The Lite version contains 10 levels and a tutorial for you to enjoy whilst the full product boasts over 5 times as many puzzles.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 1
  • Requires Android : 2.0.1 and up
  • Category : Games – Brain & Puzzle
  • Size : 21M
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : It may not look as polished as other Android apps but for those willing to persevere there’s plenty of physics based puzzle challenges to get stuck into.

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.

App Hunter – The Hunt Is On

App Hunter

Here at Android Apt we are all about the free apps, the kind of stuff you can grab for gratis and use straight away. Of the 100+ apps on my phone only a handful are actually paid or premium versions.

Yay! Cheap stuff. Get in!

That said, it’s nice once in a while to actually spend some money on an app, to actually take some ‘ownership’ of the product.
Buying apps needn’t cost the earth though and with App Hunter you can find the apps that are currently selling at a reduced price. As a result  you may find yourself saving some money when you hit the Google Checkout.
App Hunter is a light install and it operates with a simple yet quick interface. Opening the app takes you straight to the ‘On Sale!’ page. Apps are listed in pages of twenty entries and selecting an app takes you straight to its page on the Android Marketplace. As you may expect, pop-up ads do make an appearance on the bottom of the screen but thankfully they don’t get in the way of using the app.
The first time I ran the app my expectations were low. I was expecting offers on some pretty woeful stuff that otherwise couldn’t be shifted at a higher price. Imagine my surprise when these offers came up in just the first five entries.

  • Asphalt HD – Was $4.99, Currently $0.99
  • Bejeweled 2 – Was $2.99, Currently $0.99
  • Game Dev Story – Was $4.89, Currently $2.42
  • Touch Poole 2D – Was $4.99, Currently $0.99
  • ZombieBooth Was $1.41, Currently – Free

That’s pretty good stuff right there, premium apps and some hefty savings (I’ve already downloaded ZombieBooth, nice one). According to ‘Echo Lu’, the team/person behind App Hunter, the data base will update daily so there’ll always be new deals to check out. For those with no money to spend there are also tabs to search for the hottest and latest free apps. Whilst not as useful as the ‘On Sale!’ tab they are still handy additions to have available.
As suggested by ‘Patrick’ on the Android Marketplace, a ‘favourites’ tab would be a useful addition for a future update. Imagine if there was a way of bookmarking or ‘watching’ an app so you can be alerted when the price on it changes. That would be pretty cool. While we’re brainstorming, a way to share deals would be pretty useful, either via Twitter or Facebook or directly to people in your contacts list.
If you find yourself with some money to fritter away on an app or two ‘App Hunter’ is worth a look, it may even save you some cash in the process.

ABOUT THIS APP – CURRENT VERSION : 1.0.2

REQUIRES ANDROID : 1.6 and up , CATEGORY : Tools , SIZE : 103k , PRICE : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : A handy tool for sniffing out Marketplace bargains. Already worth a download. If the potential for extra features is realised in future updates this will become an essential app.

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