Archive for the ‘Android’ Category:

Mobile: Native or Web App?

Before trying to build a mobile app, this should be the first question you should ask yourself.  And by native, I mean an app that runs on Android, iPhone, iPad, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry. And by web app, i mean something that runs in a mobile browser.

Short answer:  If you got deep pockets and lots of developers (like Facebook), and you want features HTML5 can not provide, go native.  But really it depends on what you’re trying to do and what resources you have.

The right answer only happens after goals have been identified, both short term and long term. This blog post will not cover all the details needed to answer the question, instead it will provide a few links that cover the details.  Note there is also a third option of building a hybrid apps (native apps that get the latest content from the web).

Overview:

Trend towards HTML5 (aka web apps)

Still want native

Option 3: Hybrid

HTML5 Facebook Announcement, Sept 2012

For techies: The details

I hope the links above helped. Remember not to confuse whats best for your app with what other apps do or how they do it.  If you’re still not sure, one approach is to design a web app first, and if it doesn’t meet your needs (which should be fleshed out during the design phase), then go native.

 

Best Music and Audio Players on Android

July 21st, 2012

Last fall i switched from iPhone to Android and for the most part am happy I did.  Apple has great design, but you can only do things the apple way and i wanted more options.  One of the things I wanted was more audio playing/managing options.   I don’t just want any player, I am picky – I’ve listed my requirements below.

Goal

Sync audio (music and talk/news radio) with Android.  Specifically:

  • Make it easy to create/edit playlist on mac, and sync it with bionic, the way iTunes and iPhone work.  Includes adding and removing songs from a existing playlist, and those songs get sync’d .. easily.
  • Make it easy to do daily syncs of podcasts from iTunes (or skip itunes and sync android with internets)
  • Make it easy to delete songs/playlists from android.
  • Do it all for Free.

Environment:

  • Mac with 5,000+ songs and podcasts in iTunes.
  • 400GB of mp3s on backup drive.
  • Fast wifi at home, but dsl (slow) between home and internet.
  • Android bionic phone, limited storage (8GB, can only sync a few playlists of songs from my collection).

Solutions

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Winamp is similar to the classic program from the 90’s. For android, its a complete and quality program, few bugs.  Similar to Doubletwist.

Pros

  • UI is functionally complete and then some.
    • Bottom always has a drawer that you can drag up to get info on what is currently playing.
    • Clicking on winamp lightening bolt logo in bottom right goes to main menu
    • Has a progress bar showing elapsed and total time of current track, and you can drag current position marker to move to end or beginning of track.
    • Pressing and holding next/prev arrow buttons goes fwd/back a few seconds in track.  Great for fine-positioning tracks over an hour (too hard to do with position marker on progress bar).
  • You can’t sort songs, but there are 3 useful built-in playlists: Recently Added, Recently Played ,Top Played
  • Pauses when headphones are pulled out
    • nice if you’re out and about listening on your headphones and someone asks you a question, you can immediately pull out cord, talk, and then spend time with android to start playing where you left off.

Cons

  • Updating playlists duplicates them, should replace. You can manually delete older ones by tap and hold, but if you want to auto-sync 5 playlists, you will have to manually delete 5 every time you sync.  Gets old real quick.

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Doubletwist is complete music app, appealing to those who like iTunes

Pros

  • UI is functionally complete and then some.
  • Very easy to manage through iTunes, then ready to sync, launch doubeltwist, connect phone via usb, and done

Cons

  • Adding new songs to existing playlist in iTunes does not update playlist in Doubletwist on phone.  However, there is a fix – open Winamp and delete all but most recent version of a playlist, then come back to doubletwist to see most updated version of playlist (see Winamp Cons)

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Google Music Beta, now Play Music, is Google’s version of iCloud.  You sync your music from your computer to the cloud, then either download to android or stream real-time.

Pros

  • Sync without wires, over the cloud
  • Stream is useful if you have fast connection and not enough space on device

Cons

  • Cloud syncing is WAY too slow.  Syncing one or two songs is fine, but to sync GB from mac to internet and back to android takes forever.
  • UI for app is pretty basic
  • Has bugs .. like syncing unknown albums

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DoggCatcher (DC) Podcast App, is for the android only, does not run on a computer (a mac).  You  setup your podcast feeds directly on your phone.

Pros

  • Best way to manage podcasts – on phone directly
  • Intuitive interface
    • Feeds – lists all your podcast feeds, add by category or suggestions or search. Perfect.
    • Playing – summary and complete description about podcast (other players cut this info off)
    • Audio – lists all downloaded podcasts, tap and hold to reveal many options
    • player at bottom – always there, pause easily.
  • Free for trial period

Cons:

  • Content is very limited compared to what is possible with iTunes
  • When the headphones pull out, it plays off speaker (winamp pauses automatically)

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I want to use these a bit more before I review them

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Summary

I have been using a combination of the above for months now. I love winamp the most for playing audio for all reasons listed above.  I use Dogcatcher to automatically get the latest news and talk radio podcasts, like NPR’s This American Life, AC360 from CNN, the Nerdist, and Comedy Bang-bang. And I like doubletwist to easily keep iTunes playlists on my mac in sync with my android.

Note: I will update these as i try new music apps.

 

 

Switched from iPhone to Andriod Bionic

June 4th, 2012

After 3.5 years with the iPhone, last September I decided to give the Android a go. Apple was good to me in the beginning, offering a major life improvement when i switched from a standard cell phone. I loved having maps, my personal calendar, email, and music with me all the time. Huge improvement. But ever since my wife got the HTC Incredible (an android phone) in the summer of 2010 I was jealous. Her phone was faster in most ways compared to mine, which had poor reception at home and work, where i spent most of my time. The wife would consistantly leave me in the dust on roadtrips as well.  She also had Verizon, and I had AT&T, so I was eager to switch carriers. Last fall after losing my iPhone i looked into the android options and decided it was time.

At first the main reason I wanted Android was control. I love Apple, they design better than anyone, but at the end of the day I was tired of always doing things the apple way – I wanted more control on how to manage things that are as personal as your mobile device. In other words, I don’t care how awesome your hammer is, everything is not a nail. I prefer a swiss army knife.

After about 9 months, I have mixed feelings on the switch, so I’d thought I’d list my pro’s and cons

Droid Bionic Pros:

  • Bionic
    • 4.3 inch screen is bigger than 3.5 of iPhone.  I prefer bigger screen when using the touchscreen or watching videos/pics.  It still slides easily into my pocket, too.
    • Supposedly faster with Dual Core.  Having a dual core means if some app messes up, even if its in the background, it won’t bring your phone to a grinding halt. In practice it doesn’t seem faster, and several times a week it is dramatically slower (unlocking can take several seconds, oh the horror).
  • Android Hardware
    • I love having a back button.  I hate that Apple doesn’t have that – only has the “home” button.
    • I also love the menu button.  Apps take advantage of that better providing a better and faster way to get what i need.
  • Android Software
    • Notifications bar.  New email, text, voicemail, app msg, whatever.  You’re always 2 secs away from getting what you need.
    • I have not rooted my phone yet, but plan to.  That opens up even more possibilities.  Not so much on Apple.
  • Pro – Google.
    • I am more like google than apple.  That is, I rather have more data and more features available to me then have that one button positioned just right.
    • Google Account integration.  If you’re a google user, with gmail, google docs, maps, etc, then this is for you.  Integration is so natural it blows me away.  Especially contacts – facebook and gmail merged is so sweet.
  • Syncing
    • I love that i can sync my mac with my bionic without using wires.  However, i’m still not excited about the delay it takes to go from my computer to google then to my phone.
  • Camera
    • Although both iPhone and Bionic suck when your photo needs a flash, The droid has 8 MP and a nice video camera – a step up from iPhone.
  • Storage
    • More storage. Bionic has internal card and removable SD card.

Droid Bionic Cons:

  • Bionic has Bugs
    • Sometimes I must reboot to get data connection to work over phone network (when not on wifi).  This is better than it used to be, but still buggy.
    • Google calendar interface is jumpy – When looking at agenda view, it will jump backwards a week or more.  Just annoying.
    • Freezes for a few secs sometimes, while i’m typing (which screws up your flow) or during a transition or animation (like unlocking phone).  This happened alot on iPhone, too.
  • No screen capture by default
    • On iPhone, you can take a photo of any screen by pushing power and home button.  Nothing like that for Android, making it hard to share cool stuff with friends or debug.
    • Note: The maxthon browser lets you capture the screen of a webpage with this addon.
  • Video Player not good
  • I miss Apple’s Music/iTunes sync
    • I got used to iTunes, and once i setup sync with my iPhone, I loved just plugging in my iPhone and having things just sync. I could easily organize music and podcasts (i get news and stuff daily) on my computer, then in a few mins my updated playlists are sync’d.
  • I miss Apple’s intuitive interface.
    • Basic things apple does really well, like size of buttons, how much info to display on a page,