Posts Tagged ‘ Twitter ’

Vevo – Viva La Vevolution

 Vevo

Vevo is a website that allows you to stream music videos from three of the ‘big four’ major record labels. Since it’s launch in 2009 it has become one of the most visited sites in the U.S and as expected app versions have been created in it’s wake. The Vevo app has been around for a while on the Android Marketplace but it has only recently just started working here in the UK.

It's not all pop-pap on Vevo. At least there's some Beastie Boys.

The Vevo app for Android allows the user access to over 25,000 videos from over 7,500 music artists. Tucked away in it’s tidy interface are pre-built playlists, ways to share videos via Twitter or Email and the option to purchase songs via Amazon.
Vevo’s strength lies in it’s intuitive and information packed interface. Making your way around the app is second nature and over wi-fi it’s easy to be streaming videos in just a few short presses. Even better is how well the app runs over 3G, it’s understandably by no means perfect but with a strong signal you can get some decent enough results.
So far so good, Vevo makes for some very strong first impressions however digging a little deeper brings to light a few problems and some glaringly missed opportunities.
The biggest issue is with the music catalogue itself. 25,000 videos may sound like plenty to get through but considering that that source is the major record labels fans of more independent music may struggle to find content they actually care about. To make matters worse the only ways to access the content are by using the preloaded play-lists / charts or via a direct search. There seems to be no way to browse the music via genre which for some people would be the first method they would want to use. This wouldn’t be a problem if the default play-lists covered a lot of ground but sadly for the most part they only offer the predictable choices of ‘most popular videos’ or ‘top artists’ which in turn places the commercial content ‘front & centre’ and even then there’s bizarrely only 12 video results per topic.

Nice U.I., shame it doesn't cover all the bases.

This leads into the next problem with Vevo, how it’s not possible to personalize the app to your own tastes. There’s no option to build your own play-lists which is very odd given how you can do just that on the main Vevo website. What’s even stranger is how the app totally ignores the original Vevo website and it’s users. If you have a Vevo account there is no way to access it via the Vevo app, as a result you cannot sync up your Vevo experience across platforms. It truly is an opportunity wasted.
Even within the confines of the app itself there is also no way of accessing your recent play history or bookmarking your favourite videos. If there’s a clip you want to go back to time and time again and it’s not on the main charts you’ll have to search for it every single time. On the subject of repeat viewings there is also no video cache function. It would have been great if Vevo could have automatically cached data to the sd card to speed up repeated playback or to allow you to use the app when there is no network. Sadly this is not the case. No network? No Vevo.
Ultimately Vevo is a well made, information packed app and may be worth the free download just to see if it chimes with your tastes in music. It’s just a shame that it totally drops the ball when it comes to realising its full potential.

About This App :

  • Version Reviewed : 1.06
  • Requires Android : 2.1 and up
  • Category : Music & Audio
  • Size : 941k
  • Price : Free

Links : Android Marketplace, Install via AppBrain

Bottom Line : Vevo is good, but it could’ve been great. It could have been personalised music video jukebox in your pocket but sadly it’s lacking the tools to fully accomplish that task.

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!

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.

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.

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.

Grooveshark – Shark Tale or Shark Fail?

Grooveshark

Sigh! Grooveshark on Android should’ve been great. More than that, Grooveshark should’ve been amazing and right now I should be telling you to stop what you’re doing and to go grab this app as soon as possible. But it isn’t amazing, it isn’t great and yet it so could’ve been, it’s practically heartbreaking. For only $3 a month, Grooveshark offers you access to millions of songs which you can stream straight to your phone. You can search for songs, create & save playlists and ‘favourite’ the tunes you like the most, there’s even a “hassle-free” trial period. If anything this should be a real competitor to Spotify and even iTunes but sadly, despite the fact that the app does what it’s supposed to (search for and stream music), creating and saving playlists takes more work than you may be willing to put in.
For the uninitiated, Grooveshark in it’s proper form is an online music search engine that allows you to search and stream music, it’s like Spotify except that it runs in a web browser rather than being it’s own program. Sadly it’s UI isn’t as polished as Spotify (in fact it’s downright awkward at times) but you can dip in and do the same things as Spotify wherever you have a computer and a good internet connection and you don’t even need an account to use it. To use the free trial on Grooveshark for Android you will need to get a Grooveshark account, the good news is that these are totally free to get and once you do, your Grooveshark App trial will last for 14 days or 50 played songs with no need for payment details. It really is hassle free and it allows for a long enough run to give you a good idea of whether you want to stump up for a subscription.

It's all there on the homescreen, all it needs to do now is respond when you select something.

Once you’ve logged in you’re greeted with the clearly presented homescreen, from here you can access your playlists, favourited songs, offline songs (more on that later), popular songs on Grooveshark and Radio Stations. Clicking on ‘playlist’ left me waiting for longer than I expected whilst the app grabbed my playlists (all five of them) from the Grooveshark server, and this was over wi-fi too, hardly a good sign. Sadly this happened almost everytime I clicked playlist or any other icon that required an internet connection, sometimes the app would even become unresponsive, even at a low $3 a month this isn’t really acceptable. When it does work Grooveshark runs well, scrolling through playlists or the lengthy ‘What’s Popular’ list with smooth abandon. Using playlists you’ve already created is fine, you can organise them by name or date and you can even share them via any apps which appear in your share list on your handset. Creating playlists however, whether it’s from scratch or via saving a playlist created by another user, is pretty much hopeless. If you have a list of songs you’d like to save to a playlist you have to save them one by one, there is no multiple select option. To make matters worse the app doesn’t remember what playlist you previously selected so with every save you have to go back into the drop down menu of playlists and tell it where you’d like the song to go. If your account has anything more than half a dozen playlists this makes creating a simple playlist tiresome chore.

Using playlists is great, creating them however will drive you insane.

Saving other users playlists, particularly ones based on albums, is also a hit and miss affair. Saving them is simple enough but due to the user managed nature of Grooveshark you may be saving a poorly created playlist, it could be in the wrong order or even missing entire tracks. There is a separate definition to search for albums rather than playlists but there doesn’t seem to be an option to save these so you can go back to them at a later time. This is consistent area where Grooveshark falls down, at times the UI can be counter intuitive and for an app that’s trying to compete with iTunes or Spotify getting the UI right is half the battle.
Searching for songs works well, results usually come back in plentiful supply and if you’ve drawn a blank for search ideas (as is always the case when you can search for anything) the ‘Popular’ list is on hand to offer all kinds of suggestions to get you started. Once you select a song, you can play it, share a link to other mediums such as Facebook or Twitter, add it to favourites or a playlist or even make it available offline. Offline songs are stored in Grooveshark’s ‘offline’ folder on your SD card, they can only be played by the Grooveshark app. Having songs stored offline is ideal for when you have no wi-fi access (using Grooveshark on 3G is a futile exercise), it’s an excellent feature that stops this app from being a total write off.

Ok, think I'll just skip to my favourite par... OH GOD THERE'S NO SKIP FUNCTION!

Once you’ve got a song up and running, the ‘Now Playing’ screen seems to fulfill the necessary criteria and to be fair Grooveshark streams music perfectly well over wi-fi. You have buttons to favourite a track, add it to a playlist or share it. There also basic play/pause, next & prev track controls, access to your playlist is done via a cool ‘drag up’ menu and there’s also a ‘Radio’ button with which you can rate a track and build a ‘Last.Fm’ style playlist (Last.Fm scrobbling is also possible in the full app). If you go into landscape mode the screen arranges itself into a better layout and you can ‘swipe’ through the tracks in your playing queue, very nice. What’s totally missing however is a seek option, there is no way to select what point in a track you would like to listen to despite the fact that the screenshot for Grooveshark on AppBrain clearly show one.
In a way that’s the Grooveshark experience in a nutshell, for each thing it does right it does something else horrendously wrong which ruins what could have been a must have Android app. It’s not a complete loss, most of these issues are things that can be fixed in future builds, whether I’ll be able to try those builds out is another matter as Wraith3 points out in the Marketplace comments section.

Needs to reset free trial after bug fixes. How am I supposed to know if it got any better if I can’t log in?

…. hmmm good point.

Links : Install via AppBrain, Official Page

Bottom line : A counter productive and sometimes unresponsive UI, along with unreliable content ruins what could have been the one of the best apps in the Android Marketplace. For a subscription based app, even at only £3 a month, it’s still not good enough. Here’s hoping that things improve for the future.

App Round Up – Quick & Useful Apps

Among the many applications on the Android Marketplace there are a number of apps that exist purely to perform one simple task. These are the kind of apps that you either use only occasionally or they become a part of the furniture to the point that you think they came with the phone in the first place. In most cases these apps can be an essential part of your day-to-day Android experience. Due to their small size and simple purpose it’s a bit of a stretch to write a comprehensive review on each of these apps so instead here’s a rundown of a few of the best ones that I have found in the last few months of using Android.

AppRemover – Essential. A quick and easy way to uninstall apps on your handset. Faultless.

 

Analytics Widget – A bit niche this one. If you have a website or blog this widget will keep track of how many hits you’ve had that day. A simple and effective ego massage, lovely.

Fast Reboot – When you run this, all your apps will shut down and then restart again as if you’ve just powered up. It’s not a proper reboot but it’s a fast way to help free up memory or kickstart an app back to life when your handset is being sluggish.

Quick Settings – Another essential app. Get quick access to all your main settings wherever you are via the drag down status menu. All it takes is a  simple swipe and a press. If I were Google, I’d add this function to all builds of Android from now on.

SDMove – A quick and easy way to see what apps take advantage of the ‘move to sd’ functionality of Froyo and then move them to your SD card.

 

Silent Boot – I have a HTC Desire, it very much likes to make a song and dance when it’s switched on which is highly annoying. This app silences the tone that plays on start-up. I cannot praise this simple app enough.

SMS Backup & Restore – Simple backup & restore of your sms messages. Doesn’t get more simpler than that.

 

URL Shortener – A godsend for sharing url’s on twitter ,facebook, etc. Long click a url in your browser’s address bar and share it with URL Shortener, it will shorten the link via your chosen service and copy the shortened URL to your clipboard. You can then paste the shortened link wherever you need it. Excellent.

 

Do you have any other suggestions? Add them in the comments section.

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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