Archive for Android

Car Accessories for Samsung Galaxy S3

Two years ago, when the Samsung Galaxy series of phones were released, I, rather famously, posted three articles as to why “Samsung Vibrant is NOT my new Android Phone (Part One)“, (Part Two), (Part Three). Then, this past August, pretty much two years from then, I upgraded to the new Samsung Galaxy S3, and I couldn’t be happier.  All the problems I experienced with the Samsung Vibrant are gone, and there are so many new features I haven’t quite figured out how to use them all, but one thing is certain: I want to use this device safely in my car. So I’ve done a little shopping.

Belkin Bluetooth AirCast Car Hands-Free Kit. This purchase came about when I was looking for ways play music from the phone through my car stereo with a minimum of wiring. I found a few Bluetooth dongles that could plug into the auxiliary input of my car stereo, but then decided for a little bit more I could add hands free calling to the mix. You can watch the Youtube video below to see more about this accessory.


Arkon SM410 Universal Smartphone Windshield and Vent Car Mount. When I purchased the Samsung Galaxy S3 I also bought a car mount, but it only worked on the windshield or other places where I could get its suction cup to work. Many times in the past I considered getting car mount that could clip to the air vents on the dashboard, and after reading about this item from Simon Hill at Digital Trends in his article “Best Samsung Galaxy S3 accessories” I decided to give it a try. (I haven’t received it in the mail yet, but when I do I’ll update this post.

Fun with Augmented Reality

Following up to yesterday’s post on Augmented Reality Apps for Android and iPhone users:
Moosejaw 2012 X-Ray Catalog

Moosejaw’s AR Campaign

The Moosejaw clothing company has created a “Moosejaw X-Ray” app to go with their latest catalog. Download the app to your Android or iOS device, and scan the models in the catalog. On certain pages the clothed models will have their underwear exposed by the app. I tried it out (how could I resist) and found the x-ray images went from serious to funny. The male models in particular were ridiculous. One was revealed to have squid or octopus taped to their side, while another had bullet holes in his undershirt. You can install the app and then scan the image at left. Or you can try it on Moosejaw’s online catalog. The model images are 2D so there will be no peering around the back or the edges for the inquisitive or the infatuated. The next augmented reality app is fully 3D. For better or worse it kept me far too entertained.
Chestburster

Chestburster

This app from Fingerfunk kept me busy. There is an image you have to download and print (shown left or download hi-res image). Print the picture and attached it to a t-shirt, then view it using the Chestburster app for Android or iOS (iPhone or iPad). You’ll hear some alarm bells, and then the famous baby alien chestburster appears to burst through the image with the appropriate R rated gore. The image is fully three dimensional, so depending on the angle of view you can view the top, bottom, or sides of the alien’s head. You can even see into the open cavity behind it. I’d print on a white t-shirt for the best effect. I had fun taking shots of the baby alien bursting out of my refrigerator. Oh, yes, there is a screenshot feature so you can save the image seen on your screen. Some samples to follow shortly.

Burster Samples

 

Augmented Reality (AR) Apps

QR Code
QR Code

This is one of those one-thing-leads-to-another stories.

Yesterday, I received an email newsletter with a headline “Are QR Codes an Outdated Technology?” Since I create and track QR (quick response) codes as one of my business services, I was interested and took a look. The story linked a YouTube video titled “Image recognition that triggers augmented reality” from the TEDTalks series. The video was demonstrating an app called “Aurasma” which can be installed on Android and iPhone smartphones.

Robert Burns

Scan me with Aurasma on your smartphone

In my opinion, the video and lecture boiled down to “Why use QR codes as tags when the object can be a tag?” That is: If the image or object has a unique appearance, then it could be used a link to more information when scanned or photographed with a smartphone. So if you’re an artist, you don’t need a QR (quick response)  code on your publicity materials; just use your photo or one of your works, and when people scan it, they will be given more information via the Internet or other medium. In the demo, they used a painting of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, which when viewed with the Aurasma app, a video would take its place with an actor reciting one of Burns’ poems.

I tried out Aurasma on my Samsung Galaxy S III Android phone, and — while it worked — I found that there was a very very small number of companies making use of it. Furthermore, the company behind Aurasma was really providing customized apps for the companies that wanted it so they could create their own social media campaigns and games. These companies included Marvel and DC Comics, Document magazine, and a clothing company called Moosejaw.

Marvel ARMarvel and DC Comics are using augmented reality apps in major cities around the world. Instead of scanning a QR Code with your phone, you could scan architectural landmarks and posters, and then be presented with a video of a superhero or villain in action superimposed over the landmark standing before you. In the example at right, an Avengers X-Men poster is scanned with an app that superimposes a 3D image of Iron Man when viewed through the phone.

This is a good time to answer the question: What is augmented reality? According to Wikipedia:

With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Artificial information about the environment and its objects can be overlaid on the real world.

Think of it as similar to a HUD (heads up display) on a fighter jet or high-end automobile. You see the world in front of your, but computers project additional relevant information into your field of vision.

You can get the Marvel AR app for Android or iPhone from Marvel’s Mobile App page. Come back tomorrow when I show you what Moosejaw did with AR. I’ll also talk about a app that I got a lot of mileage out of yesterday. I’ll give you a clue, its called “Chestburster”. Think sci-fi.

Shop Now

Red MyTouch 3G Slide Accessories

Back during my rant against the Samsung Vibrant, I mentioned that I had purchased a red T-Mobile myTouch 3G Slide as my new Android phone. I still have the phone, and I’m pretty happy with it. (I want the G2, but it will have to wait.)

I’m looking into getting this Red Rubberized Snap-On Hard Case for my phone. My phone is red, too, so it should work out quite nice as opposed to the white phone shown in the picture. It runs for $8.96 with free shipping. The shell is supposed to be simple to install in  seconds. The 2 pieces simply snap onto the phone! Though made from a hard rubber material, the case is light-weight, strong, and durable with custom cutouts for volume controls, camera shutter and lens, stereo jack, and the USB port.

Sticking with red, I’m also looking at this mini Capacitive Stylus for the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G Slide. A stylus is handy for manipulating items on the touch screen. It should be handy in the cold days ahead, since I won’t have to take off my winter gloves to operate the phone. If you’re wondering — as I was — what the little black peg is hanging off on the side: you plug the peg into the 3.5mm headset jack on top of the phone so the stylus is handily attached to the phone at all times. The item sells for $21.48 including the shipping charges. Available in: Jet Black, Metallic Silver, Crimson Red, Lunar Blue.

Samsung Vibrant is NOT my new Android Phone (Part Three)

MyTouch 3G Slide (HTC)

I’ve been discussing issues I’ve had with Samsung’s Vibrant Android Phone. This is just one of four new phones in Samsung’s Galaxy S Series which includes Epic 4G (Sprint), the Captivate (AT&T), and Fascinate (Verizon).

So far my small yet bothersome problems have been the Contact Manager and the Calendar. Now comes the biggie. The problem that pushed me over the edge and made me return the phone for another model. (I’ll tell you what I got instead).

WorkSmart Labs CardioTrainer

WorkSmart Labs CardioTrainer on the G1

GPS. I am far from the first to complain about the GPS problems with the Samsung Vibrant. Sadly I wasn’t aware of this when I bought the phone, or I didn’t believe the magnitude of the problem.

The complaints have been that the GPS doesn’t get a strong satellite lock or that it takes too long to get one or that it’s just not reliable. I experienced all three problems. Various fixes were discussed in a variety of places online, but none of the fixes I found and implemented fixed the problem.

Poor GPS Experience 1. I’ve been using WorkSmartLabs CardioTrainer app for Android with its Weight Loss Tracker on a near daily basis. It has GPS features that allow me to track how far and fast I travel when exercise by walking or cycling. It’s a great feature, but only when your phone has a reliable GPS function. My G1 always gave me extremely accurate readings, but on one particular cycling trip the Samsung Vibrant showed me following a course almost 10 miles east of my actual location.

Poor GPS Experience 2. While using CardioTrainer on a walk, the Samsung Vibrant showed me as walking in along a spiraling or corkscrew direction. Furthermore, it showed me as moving while I was standing still. I imagine the movement was the device working on pinpointing my location while its link to the satellite signal improved.

Poor GPS Experience 3. Here’s a beaut. I’m riding my bike under the clear open sky, yet the Samsung Vibrant lost its GPS signal and showed several gaps in he course I followed. the largest gap was almost a quarter mile long.

MyTouch 3G Slide (HTC)

MyTouch 3G Slide (HTC)

Taking It Back. I took the Vibrant back to T-Mobile, and told them I was very disappointed with the phone and wanted to exchange it for the MyTouch 3G Slide Android Phone (made by HTC; makers of the G1 and the Sprint EVO 4G). The 3G Slide is smaller than the Samsung Vibrant and doesn’t have the Vibrant’s sexy iPhone look-alike charm, so they were amazed I wanted to exchange it since no one had returned one to that location in the two or more weeks since its release.

“They obviously don’t need GPS,” I replied. “I use it everyday, and I need to be able to count on it.” Specially since I was traveling out of state soon. (I was in Denver from 8/14 to 8/17 to see the rock group Rush at the Red Rocks Amphitheater on Aug. 16 — great show! Hurrah! Where you there?)

Update: In the last 48 hours, while I was in Denver I read online that Samsung is releasing a GPS fix in September. They don’t have an exact date as yet. I’d consider a possible move back to the Vibrant if the fix really works. My old G1 was highly reliable with GPS. I’d like to see if the Vibrant can be too.

Currently, the MyTouch 3G Slide is working fine by me. The contact manager and calendar work the way I used to, along with a few other improvements. The GPS is solid and my workouts have been tracking fine. As a matter of fact, the Vibrant couldn’t get a GPS signal in the T-Mobile store, but the 3G Slide got a fix within 300 meters in less than 3 seconds in the same location. The only problem I am having is the power switch is right on top and tends to activate the phone when its off in my pocket.

The Vibrant has great HD video and multimedia features. That seems to me to be Samsung’s focus — video and photos — but these, as nice as they are, are not features I really need. I considered quitting T-Mobile and getting the Sprint EVO 4G (another HTC phone) but I have a lot of friends who use T-Mobile so its nice to be able to call them any time at no extra charge, ie minutes of airtime.

Samsung Vibrant is NOT my new Android Phone (Part Two)

Samsung Vibrant

Monday I started discussing issues I had with the new Samsung Vibrant, a phone which uses the Android operating system for cell phones.

I really enjoy the basic Android software. Yesterday, I discussed the clunkiness I experienced with Samsung’s modifications to the Contact Manager. It just wasn’t as simple and intuitive as the basic Android software seemed on my old G1 (for T-Mobile by HTC). There’s two more points I’d like to hit on.

Samsung Vibrant

Samsung Vibrant

The Calendar. I am a forgetful person, so a great calendar that sends me reminders when I need them is a big plus on a smartphone. I’m busy and have lots of things I try to accomplish every day in my business and personal life. I need to have substantial and timely alerts to prepare for and be on time for business meetings and appointments with clients.

With the old G1, I liked being able to specify a basic (default) reminder interval for events. Typically I like to get notified 2 hours in advance that I have something coming up. The Samsung Vibrant had a several presets, one being 1 hour in advance, and the next being one day in advance.

?!?

The preceding line was not a typo. I was genuinely puzzled and dismayed. This was pretty annoying. I’d have to choose between 1 hour or 1 day. Some may not consider this a problem, but for me it was. Eventually I did discover I could set a reminder for 2 hours in advance, but I couldn’t set 2 hours as my default reminder. Each appointment I entered I had to set the reminder period manually. Can you say “excessive keystrokes”?

frustrationThe next problem with the Calendar I will admit is specific to the basic Android O/S and the Samsung variant. Both allow you use multiple Google Calendar accounts so you can import from your multiple accounts or from associates accounts. NEITHER version allows you to specify the your own color scheme for these calendars. The software chooses them for you, and most of them appear to be shades of brown. It would be great if I could choose my own colors.

Next Up: The Biggest Problem of All.

Please chime in with your own pros and cons on the Samsung Vibrant. It has great features, too, but these were dealbusters for me. Specially the next one.

Thank yous: Thanks to @gmalhotra23 @OnADge @Alltop_tech for retweeting this post.

Samsung Vibrant is NOT my new Android Phone (Part One)

Samsung Vibrant
Samsung Vibrant

Samsung Vibrant (CBS Interactive)

Well, just two weeks ago I finally upgraded my Android Phone — twice. I had the original Android phone, T-Mobile’s G1 by HTC. Perhaps you’ve heard of HTC? They make the Evo 4G for Sprint, too. That phone sold out in a day or two, nationwide, when it was released in early June. You may also recall back in early March that Apple sued HTC and HTC sued Apple in May for various patent infringements, and each requested that the other not be allowed for sale in the US. (I find it amusing, in the previous link, that they wonder what would happen if both companies won and neither could be sold in the US.)

But, as I’ve done before, I digress.

So anyhow, two weeks ago today I went to T-Mobile to get the Samsun Vibrant. The Vibrant is the T-Mobile version of Samsung’s four new Galaxy S series of Android based phones: the Epic 4G (Sprint), the Captivate (AT&T), and Fascinate (Verizon) are the other three .

As I’ve mentioned before, Android is Google’s operating system for smartphones. Most people identify the Motorola Droid for Verizon as the only Android phone, but, in actuality, it is just one of many Android based phones on the market.

Samsung Vibrant

Samsung Vibrant

So I got the Samsung Vibrant which has HD video capability, TV output for video, and come preloaded with the entire James Cameron film Avatar, and the videogame The Sims. None of these features interested me at all. I was just interested in getting a faster and up-to-date Android phone since the G1 was stuck at version 1.6 while the latest Droid phones used version 2.2.

A few items ticked me off with the Vibrant.

The Contact Manager. First thing I noticed was the address book. The basic Android contact manager was great as it stored all the contacts on Google’s Gmail servers, making them accessible on any Internet connected computer, but the Vibrant, while having capability to do the same, also allowed your contact info to be stored on the phone instead of on Google’s servers, and storing on the phone is the default setting. I couldn’t seem to find any way to change the default, so if I wasn’t careful I’d wind with some contacts on the phone, but not on Google.

Furthermore, I had trouble setting the default phone number for my contacts. With the basic Android system it was quite easy, but the Samsung version made it more complicated, and even if you set it, there was no guarantee that you could just simply auto dial without being offered the option of using one of your contact’s other numbers.

Tomorrow I’ll continue discussing the other problems I had with the phone, and which phone I replaced it with.

Thank yous: Thanks to @gmalhotra23 @OnADge @Alltop_tech for retweeting this post.

eBooks: Barnes and Noble Nook

After my last post regarding the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader, one of my Facebook friends asked:

“Isnt there a thing called the Nook or something that downloads books from the library?”

The answer is a big “Yes” and a little “No”.

Yes, there is a thing called the Nook, and its the ebook reader from Barnes and Noble, but the only library it downloads from is from Barnes and Noble’s catalog of books. Though if you think “free” when you think “library” then you could say “yes” because the Nook has over 500,000 free ebooks available to it, while the Amazon Kindle doesn’t. The nook retails at Barnes and Noble for $259.

Lending

One interesting feature of the Nook is its ability to allow you to lend select ebooks to friends for free for 14 days. They don’t even need a Nook themselves. All they need is an app they can install on their PC or Mac or their iPhone. Soon they’ll also be able to loan their books to Blackberry, Android, and Windows Mobile smartphones, too.

(I do find it strange that there is no Android app yet because the Nook runs on the Android operating system. Is it possible Barnes and Noble will forge some sort of alliance with Google, the provider of the Android OS?)

Expandable Memory

Another plus for the Nook is its expandable memory using MicroSD or MicroSD HC cards. The Kindle only has internal memory, and you can’t swap memory chips with books on them as you can with the Nook.

Color Nav Screen and WiFi

The Nook also has a separate color touchscreen for navigation, unlike the Kindle with its pure grayscale screen. It also has WiFi and 3G wireless, while the Kindle only has 3G. The plus here is you can access WiFi in the Barnes and Noble stores, and elsewhere, and browse and download content in your local bookstore. I suppose if you can access WiFi elsewhere, the you can probably download content there as well.

T-Mobile G1 Battery Life Accessories

I purchased a T-Mobile G1 w/ Google Bronze phone (that’s the G1 in white shown at left) back in February of this year, and I’ve been pretty happy with it. For 2 decades I’ve had run-of-the-mill cellphones. (Have we had cellphones in the mainstream for two decades now?) I like it because the data plan is cheaper than that of the iPhone. (Economy and efficiency all the way). The only disappointment has been the battery life. Some times, when I have a not-so-great Internet connection I can actually watch the battery level decline while phone tries to access the page.

So I’ve been looking for ways to improve my battery life without erasing all my apps and shutting down features I’m not using at the moment to only have to turn them back on again less than 30 minutes later.

I searched here and there online until I turned to Buy.com to make my purchases. Here’s a list of the items I picked up and why.

SEIDIO Innocell 1400 Extended Battery for T-Mobile G1

I decided to get an extra battery: the SEIDIO Innocell 1400 Extended Battery for T-Mobile G1 (shown at left). It’s supposed to provide 15% more power than the stock 1150mAh battery. It’s not a big increase, but I figure carrying an extra battery will help out. I can just swap batteries when one dies.

SEIDIO Innocell 2600 Extended Life Battery for HTC T-Mobile G1 (with Battery Door)

Of course, there is the massive SEIDIO Innocell 2600 Extended Life Battery for HTC T-Mobile G1 (with Battery Door) (shown at right) which provides 125% more power than the stock battery. The drawback, in my opinion, is the added thickness the battery gives to the phone. Some people have said the speakers sounds a bit muffled because the larger battery casing places the speaker opening further away from the speaker. Additionally, I like carrying the phone in its stock sleeve in my pocket, and I don’t need a bulkier phone in my pocket.

T-Mobile HTC G1 by Google Desktop USB Battery Cradle

I also purchased a T-Mobile HTC G1 by Google Desktop USB Battery Cradle (shown at left) so I can charge both the phone and the spare battery in the evening. There’ s a bit of a compromise here since the cradle charges the phone via a USB connection to a computer — the purpose here is to allow you to synch your phone’s data files etc while it charges — while an AC adapter is used to charge the spare battery. I would have liked to charge both phone and spare from the AC adapter, but I guess I’ll have to get a USB power adapter for charging the phone on my night table. Or have both charge in my home office by the computer. Hmm, I’m still mulling this part over.

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Android 1.5 Update (Cupcake) Delayed

Bonnie Cha at cnet news reports:

T-Mobile USA announced on Monday that it’s still finalizing the build to “ensure optimal functionality and smooth delivery” so it has delayed pushing out the over-the-air update by one week. The carrier said it expects all G1 owners to have the Cupcake update by early June.

Well, I will have to start anxiously waiting again next week.

More news stories regarding the Android 1.5 update delay can be found here.

The image above can be added to your G1 boot screen by following instructions at zenthought.org. I haven’t tried it myself, so be careful if you decide to try it yourself.




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