Mobile Music – how do you do it?

We all love music so how do you listen on the go? mp3, streaming, internet radio, free, paid for, we look at the options

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Music is everywhere and it’s often a topic of conversation with friends, new and old alike. The power and connectivity of the modern smartphone means that many of us now have the ability to access our favourite tunes at a moments notice, without a separate device. Apple and the iPod / iTunes combination may have turned the music industry on its head years ago showing how a legal and profitable digital delivery system was viable but since then the market has diversified and grown much further.

As I type this a colleague’s Android phone is streaming Internet radio through a free app over our WiFi connection and plugged into a speaker system for the office to listen to. Simple technology these days but just one example of how easy it is to get hold of some tunes. The same app works over a data connection too although that eats up his monthly allowance.

The classic mp3 is obviously still in play and every new device will have a built in music player that can handle a variety of formats so your downloads and ripped CDs (I still buy CDs…) will play natively. Plenty of third party music apps are available too just in case you don’t like the interface on the one included with your phone. One downside to this though is storage space – many devices don’t have a large amount of internal storage making them inferior when compared to a separate music player. Internal storage is on the rise though and the option to add storage with a microSD card is there on a lot of handsets.

Free internet radio apps, as mentioned earlier are available in abundance and get you listening to tunes quickly and easily, although of course you generally have to listen to whatever the radio wants to play. Some of the better radios stations let you listen by genre.

Big money is also changing hands in the world of streaming too. Spotify weren’t the first to provide such a service but have positioned themselves as one of the biggest names with access to millions of tracks and a tiered service with free and paid options. Initially costs for streaming services may appear high but when put next to the cost of actually buying tracks or albums either physically or digitally the benefits stack up. Making playlists, offline access, quick sharing with friends and other users makes the music scene more social than ever before. Streaming services appear to be the way forward but the space is getting crowded very quickly and choosing one paid service over another is already a task when artists and labels decide to make content exclusive on one or another.

So what’s your solution? Tell us in the comments how you go about getting your music fix with your phone

Google Calendar now available on the Play store

 

Google calendar is now officially available for download on the Play Store. This eagerly anticipated app makes life a whole lot easier. Now you can manage all your calendars in one place, including Google accounts and other calendars that you may have synced to your Android device.

Extra features include:

  • The ability to snooze events
  • Pinch to zoom in and out of your day
  • Set a home time zone to help stay organised whilst travelling
  • Extended sync period (view past events from up to a year ago)

You can download Google calendar on the Google Play Store for devices running Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.3+) or Jellybean.

Android Apps: Chrome, Maps, Earth, Google + and more updated

Android app updates – Chrome, Maps, Earth, Google+ and more

Slightly overshadowed by Google’s plethora of hardware announcements yesterday were the announcements regarding sofrware updates, which are pretty substantial as well. Coupled with the news that the Play Store has received a serious update, the software experience on Android really has been enhanced. Here’s a look at the improvements for various apps.

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Apple iOS v Google Android – Slide to unlock gets patent

Well the Apple v Google situation may just have got a little more intense.  In fact not just for Google, any other manufacturer who uses the slide to unlock mechanism to unlock a touchscreen.

Unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image.

A device with a touch-sensitive display may be unlocked via gestures performed on the touch-sensitive display. The device is unlocked if contact with the display corresponds to a predefined gesture for unlocking the device. The device displays one or more unlock images with respect to which the predefined gesture is to be performed in order to unlock the device. The performance of the predefined gesture with respect to the unlock image may include moving the unlock image to a predefined location and/or moving the unlock image along a predefined path. The device may also display visual cues of the predefined gesture on the touch screen to remind a user of the gesture.

Now we do not know the full technicalities or what Apple will plan to do with this now they have it, but it will no doubt really intensify the battle between Apple and Android.

In fact we are surprised that this had not been patented before by one of the earlier phone manufacturers?!

If Apple wanted they could license this, but something makes us believe that they wont, thus meaning devices such as Google Android and many others will now need a dedicated unlock button or a pass code rather than the very common slide to unlock/swiping motion.

What are your thoughts?  Comment below.

VIA: Coolsmartphone Source: US Patent Office

[REVIEW] Extending your battery life – Galaxy S II Desktop Sync Charge Cradle with Battery Slot review

Dual desktop chargers are go!

After a much needed hiatus to recharge my batteries I’m back here at the Clove Blog – first point of order: finish the Extend Your Battery series. Read on after the break to see if a dual charger is the charging solution for you…

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The journey from Apple iOS to Google Android

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Moving from iOS to any other platform will be a wrench and one that is only realistic for the power user if they move to Android. Apps dominate and it is likely that most iOS users have a selection that they rely on, myself included, and so I have embarked on a process of seeing how easy, or difficult, it is to move. Before I even contemplate moving I need to ensure that my most needed apps/tasks are available.

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For this test I am using an HTC Legend, a phone that was released 17 months ago. It runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) perfectly well thanks to an official HTC update and is still one of the best looking smartphones available on any platform. I have deliberately used an older Android phone to dispel some of the criticism levied at Android regarding fragmentation. Sure, some older Android phones have not been updated properly and some budgeimaget devices will never run the latest operating system versions, but this is a mid-range phone that should be able to handle some tough days.

There are apps and there are apps. Many of us have 50 or more installed, but the 5 that are used every day and which perform tasks that make a smartphone what it is are the 5 that matter. I took a look around at the options and here is what I found-

Notes: this is a key area for me and one that I use multiple times a day. Evernote is my repository of choice and Awesome Note on iOS is the ‘perfect’ way to manage my notes on a mobile, and indeed it is a better system than the Evernote desktop app. So imagine my surprise when I saw Easy Note + 2do which is either written by the same developer or worthy of legal action from the Awesome Note guys. Sadly it doesn’t support Evernote, but the number of notes apps on Android that do are numerous. With time I believe that I will come up with a full solution for Awesome Note so I will hedge my bets and not give this area full marks.

iOS replaceability: 9/10

Finance: Pocket Money is my app of choice for financial management on iOS and it is also available on Android and works just as well. That was easy.

iOS replaceability: 10/10

Navigation: This is difficult, but not because of the apps available. I use TomTom on my iPhone, but Co-Pilot Live is not far behind and the free Google Navigation is not too far behind Co-Pilot. Ultimately, I have a solution on both platforms even if my preferred choice is not available on Android.

iOS replaceability: 8/10

eBooks: Kindle on the iPhone and Kindle on the Legend.

iOS replaceability: 10/10

Podcasts: So many options available on both platforms and more free ones on Android. The adverts don’t matter because I tend to listen to Podcasts in the car via an FM Transmitter of which many are also available that work from the 3.5mm headphone jack.

iOS replaceability: 10/10

Reading Later: There are, again, multiple options on Android that let me use InstaPaper as I do on the iPhone.

iOS replaceability: 10/10

Website management: The Android Squarespace app is in beta testing so should be available soon. The iOS Squarespace app is so poor, however, that any Android app is likely to be as good or better. It cannot surely be worse.

iOS replaceability: 10/10

Gaming: I tend to game more on the iPad these days so won’t lose many of the games I play by moving from the iPhone. Most of the popular titles like Words with Friends and Angry Birds are available cross-platform anyway. I would say, however, that the best iOS games are still better than the best Android games, but not by far.

iOS replaceability: 9/10

PIM: As a GMail, Google Calendar and Google Docs user Android kills iOS for me. The default iOS email app is dreadfully basic and with Google pushing Android the difference is stark.

iOS replaceability: 10/10

Out of a possible score of 90, the total came to 86 which shows that Android truly can replace iOS for my app needs. In many cases it has big advantages, but those will be covered in part two where I will look at how well Android can replace the iOS experience.

The above article is compliments of Shaun McGill of Lost In Mobile.

Image: anankkml / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

HTC Sensation Review Vs Samsung Galaxy SII: Round One – Initial impressions, build quality, screen, benchmarks

This review will be a little different than my previous outing with Samsung’s Galaxy SII, since rather than being a straight review of the HTC Sensation on its own merits, this review will largely concern itself with how it fares against its main competitor in the Android realm, seeking to answer the hot question of the minute – which is the better phone? Before reading on you’ll probably get the most from this comparison by at least scanning through my SGSII review – if you hit up the link to my content on the side bar you can find most of it (the first and second parts went up before I had a WordPress account, searching for “real user” should get you to them).

Initial impressions, Build materials/quality, Design:

I think it’s fair to say that my initial impressions out of the box for the Sensation were definitely more favourable than those I had with the SGSII (which you may recall were pretty favourable in themselves already!).

The Sensation really is a lovely looking piece of kit!

The design of the rear casing is a little bit polarising, I like it.

Obviously statements on the aesthetics of the device are quite a personal thing, so when I say that I really find the Sensation a very attractive device, that may be a sentiment you don’t happen to share. I think however that most would agree it’s more of a looker than the rather boring and inoffensively-styled SGSII. The slight curve upwards at the edge of the screen, the narrower curved body that comes with its more widescreen aspect ratio screen, the soft touch metal materials and the weight they contribute all adds up to one thing: a reassuring feeling of quality and durability that the SGSII can rightly be envious of. It sits really well in the hand, and despite the extra weight I suspect that its combination of ergonomics may well suit some people who found the SGSII too much of a handful.

Volume rocker, and the somewhat prolematic micro USB port placement

Of course there are holes to pick at. One is that it doesn’t deliver the unibody design that was promised, instead going for a rather interesting ‘sleeve’-type design where the internals and screen slip into the casing. That in itself wouldn’t necessarily be a problem for me, what is a problem is the amount of dust that gets trapped between these elements, light leakage, and the possibility of creaking that comes with it (a small number of users have reported this, I haven’t personally been able to replicate it with my unit). Of these three problems the dust trapping is probably the larger consideration, since some users have reported dust trapped beneath the screen, even on their brand new Sensation’s. In low light situations I can see light leakage at the bottom margin of the screen, not really a big deal in of itself, but again I just wonder what that means in terms of dust collecting behind the screen over time.

Despite how it looks here the SGSII feels much thinner in the hand that the Sensation

The other relatively minor gripe I have here is the placement of the micro USB/MHL port on the left hand side of the device, which I think is another sacrifice to the ‘sleeve’ design. It’s a small quibble, but it made life difficult with my universal car mount, and it’s also quite annoying trying to use the device in portrait while it’s charging. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with some of my micro USB cables, or a ramification of the USB being placed on the curved side of the device, but I’ve noticed that some cables don’t click into place well (first night I had the Sensation it didn’t charge overnight because the cable got knocked slightly out of place).

Note the slightly thicker Sensation, but then notice the superior ergonomics

Firing up the device for the first time certainly helps to maintain the positive impressions. After the usual initial setup you’ll be greeted by the latest iteration of HTC’s Sense user interface, their own custom Launcher that replaces stock Android. Many would actually prefer stock Android, and the possibility of rapid updates to the latest OS version that it affords, handsets that offer that are relatively few and far between. Basically all the rest have some manufacturer developed custom UI present, and, well, if you’re going to have one foisted on you then it might as well be Sense. While Sense certainly adds a lot of usability, in terms of first impressions it’s the eye candy that helps… and oh my, is there ever a lot of it! Whether it’s just simply activating and unlocking the screen, or checking out the multi-layered homescreen transitions, or ogling the weather demo, Sense just exudes a style and refinement that can’t be beat. All that ludicrous eye candy is taking a toll of course, and Sense is getting very close to crossing the line into bloat, but we’ll come to that later. For now suffice to say that you’ll be very impressed with how it all looks straight out of the box. In fact, writing that just now, and a request from a Twitter follower, has inspired me to upload a wee demo video of the Sensation UI, so you’ll all know exactly what I mean (it’ll be up on the blog soon!).

The Screen:

They're both good, but is one better than the other in absolute terms?

So the tale of the tape is like this: the Sensation sports a 4.3inch 960×540 “qHD” resolution screen with a 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio, while the SGSII in comparison runs a lower 800×480 “WVGA” resolution screen of 4.27inches, which actually looks slightly larger due to its squarer aspect ratio. Naturally there is more to it than that, with the SGSII showcasing the widely hyped Super AMOLED+ screen technology, compared to the Sensation’s Super LCD screen type. The SGSII also sports a very good oleophobic coating (translation: is quite fingerprint/grime resistant), while the Sensation appears to either lack it, or have a rather ineffective coating applied. A final word here – neither of the screens utilises a pentile matrix (in comparison to older generation AMOLED screens like the one seen in the original Galaxy S, or the other qHD-toting Android phone the Motorola Atrix). If you don’t know what a pentile matrix is, don’t worry about technical explanations too much – the upshot of it is that pixels are more visible, and this manifests particularly when viewing small text like when browsing, making the text less clear and more difficult to read (in other words its bad, and neither of these phones having it is good).

The Sensation outdoors in bright(ish) sunlight, notice how reflective it is, and how much the lack of an oleophobic coating hurts sunlight legibility

The SGSII in the same conditions struggling a little less

So what does all that mean? Which screen is better in actual use? Let’s break it down. The Super AMOLED+ display has better blacks and contrast, better viewing angles, is less affected by grimey finger marks, and is also less reflective. Due to this constellation of screen qualities I found its sunlight legibility improved compared to the Sensation, and hopefully the pictures illustrate that point reasonably well. This is a particularly important aspect when it comes to using the camera’s viewfinder outdoors, so I took some shots to illustrate that specific use-case scenario – the SGSII has a pretty clear advantage even before activation the Outdoors Visibility setting. Some will find its super-saturated screen colours a turn off, while some will prefer it this way. The Sensation on the other hand has a better aspect ratio, better resolution, better pixel density, and more natural colour reproduction (including a very natural white in comparison to the SGSII’s blue-hued whites). The people who may well find they really need the extra resolution are likely to be productivity types, who need to better read small on-screen text, or are using RDP/VNC type software a lot.

Camera viewfinders, SGSII with Outdoors Visibility off

Same subject, SGSII Outdoors Visibility on

As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t assume that all your must-have apps will scale correctly to qHD. So far I’ve only had my preferred RSS reader, the excellent NewsRoom, fail to format properly, so this is not a particularly large issue (and its really up to devs to write their software to be properly DPI agnostic – you hearing me NewsRoom coders?).

SGSII screen on extreme 1cm focal length macro, text zoomed (view this and the next image individually and zoom to see how much better the Sensation is)

The Sensation 1cm macro shot, surprisingly hard to show how much better it is in photographs, the difference is readily apparent to the naked eye!

Both screens have their share of reported quality problems in relation to the screen. The SGSII has the uneven brightness/colouring defects seen particularly on dim screen settings (see the final part of my SGSII review for more details), and some units developed lines through the screen. Reports of dust under the screen and dead pixels seem quite prominent for users of the Sensation. Whichever phone you get I recommend checking for these things early in the warranty period – the Market has several apps to help see dead pixels (I used Dead Pixel Test).

Taking everything into account I think the SGSII has the better screen, but certainly those who don’t like SAMOLED+ contrast, or who really need the higher resolution, will not feel disappointed with the Sensation from the point of view of the screen.

Benchmarks/Speed in actual use:

So I ran the Sensation through all your usual benchmarks, mostly because I know lots of you want to know the results. To be perfectly honest I get more disenfranchised with these tests the more I use them. They have relatively little bearing on your actual use experience, and are difficult to interpret across devices of different screen resolutions (the Sensation has more work to do in graphics tests being qHD). Overall the benchmarks show the SGSII romping all over the Sensation, and for whatever ever its worth, here they are:

Neocore showing its age, not driving the GPU hard enough to drop it beneath its framerate limit, and the oft-quoted Quadrant (who knows what relationship it actually has to real world use)

Linpack running its new multi-threaded benchmark, SGSII on the left, Sensation on the right (note the Sensation screen looks odd because its been resized to match the height of the SGSII screen, and in doing so while preserving its widescreen aspect ratio it becomes narrower than the SGSII's screenshot)

Chainfire benchmarks - SGSII on the left once again. You'll note both my handsets gave representative results, and another "win" for the SGSII. Chainfire is a dev I trust; I think his benchmark is likely to be more representative than many of the others.

The real question is how do the devices fare in day to day use? Will you notice lag and slowdowns that are bothersome?

You may remember in my SGSII review just how impressed I was with the blazing speed in general use, I can tell you that another month of owning the device has done nothing to dampen that enthusiasm. I just can’t make it lag. The Sensation doesn’t fare quite so well – you will see the occasional micro-lag or hitch in a transition here and there – but it’s not of a level that I find particularly bothersome at all.

Low memory warnings - not very 2011

What I have found bothersome in day to day use with the Sensation is the free RAM situation. The SGSII has 1GB of RAM, 833MB of which is available after system resources are allocated. Usually about 430MB of that RAM is in use, still leaving somewhere in the order of 400MB free for additional tasks. In the SGSII I have yet to see Tasker deliver me a low RAM warning, no matter how hard I’ve pushed. In comparison the Sensation has 768MG of RAM, 558MB of which is free after system resources take their slice. It typically has around 430MB of RAM in use also, only in the Sensation that degree of background loading into the RAM leaves you only around 130MB free. I get a low memory warning from Tasker daily using my Sensation, and quite often I have to wait around for the Sense launcher to restart, because the system has killed it to free RAM for whatever I’m doing. Sometimes that may be because I’m listening to music, whilst browsing with several tabs open, perhaps one of them with a flash element running, and then I go to open at email that’s just come, but other times I’ve just been using one intensive app and that’s been sufficient on its own. That seems quite annoying for a 2011 flagship. If you’re watching HTC: your Sense-bearing phones need more RAM, and while I love the eye-candy, Sense itself could probably do with some trimming down too.

Anyway, that’s enough for now, I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on media playback, browsing, and gaming (will possibly cover the camera too, time permitting).

PS: …and don’t ask me about battery life yet, OK? It’s too early to tell, sometime next week I can give some more answers. I have made some comments in my Twitter feed, if you absolutely must have micro-feedback on the Sensation in the interim.

Google Android v3.0 (Honeycomb) & Android Marketplace Website

Google yesterday held a press conference to show off Honeycomb – Android 3.0 and a new marketplace website.

Honeycomb is the latest version of the Android platform which has been developed for use on tablets, such as the Motorola XOOM.

This version carries many of the features of Android which users have come to know and love but is optimised for a tablet so items look better and operate more efficiently on the larger screens of a tablet.  Having said his comments from Hugo Barra, Google’s director of mobile products told Gigaom ‘Honeycomb is Google’s touch and tablet OS, the company will be working to bring it to mobile phones. For now, it’s highly optimized specifically for tablets’.

A brief run down of the key features are as follows:

  • Smarter widgets – do more with a widget
  • Improved notifications - Notifications pop up as opposed to appearing in a drop down notification bar.  These notifications too provide more content and actions available, meaning less taping and more getting things done.
  • Improved graphics – More powerful processors allow richer content, so we can expect better apps and games with ore polished graphics.
  • Improved camera interface – A new camera interface, with a rotary dial enables settings to be manipulated with ore ease.
  • Video chat in Google Talk – Chat to friends with video like you would on a desktop or laptop.
  • Simple multitasking – Access used and currently running apps with more ease.
  • Purchase Apps in local currency - Another feature of the improved Android Market is that you can purchase apps in your own currency with no need to worry about the exchange rates.

A full run down of the new version is provided in the video at the bottom of this blog post.

They too announced at the event, something for every Android user.  Android Marketplace Website.  Its the marketplace you see on your phone, on the desktop.  However the cool feature is you can install an app on our phone from the website.  Simply sign into your account (using your Google login), select install on the app you want, choose the device you wish to install it on (if you have more than one) and within a minute or so you will see the app downloading on your smartphone or tablet.  Very nice!

You can take a look at the website HERE.

Business Insider has already put a guide together for a step by step tutorial. CLICK HERE to take a look.

Android Event Video:

Source: Google Mobile Blog / Gigaom

Huawei IDEOS–Now in stock

Huawei_Ideos_Blue_Front_SideOver the last couple of months we have been bringing you bits of information on the Huawei IDEOS.  This cheap smartphone does not lack in terms of its features and functions and is most certainly an option if you have been thinking of venturing into the world of Google Android and smartphones for the first time.

NOW IN STOCK, the Huawei IDEOS is available today at Clove Technology for just £169 inclusive of VAT.

If you want to know more about the IDEOS, why not check out some of our previous articles shown below.

Huawei IDEOS Google Phone

Huawei IDEOS Announced

Huawei IDEOS The Evolution

Huawei IDEOS – Brief Hands On Review

Huawei IDEOS Unboxing Video

WaveSecure on Android

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Google Android will automatically backup the majority of your data/settings but it never hurts to have an additional backup just in case.

WaveSecure is one such option.  It is a paid for service that retails at $20 per year, but for a limited time, if you place an order with Clove Technology that totals £20 or more, you get a FREE 3 month subscription to the service.

No ties, simply 3 months of FREE use without restriction.  At the end of the 3 months, you can either upgrade to retain the features or decline and cease using WaveSecure, but we would be very surprised if you did this.

So what does WaveSecure offer:

Back up your data for protection

WaveSecure backs up data on your Android phone

Choose to back up data straight from your Android phone or remotely on the web. Important personal information such as SMS, contacts and call logs can be stored securely on the WaveSecure web site. In addition to keeping your data safe, you will be able to access them with a web browser. Anytime. Anywhere.

Don’t lose your photo and video memories. With WaveSecure for Android, you can back up and keep them safe, too.

Restore your data when needed
WaveSecure restores your mobile data when needed

WaveSecure lets you restore your SMS and contacts stored online to your phone. If you find that a hassle, trigger a restore of your backed up information from the WaveSecure web site. This will send your personal data wirelessly from our servers to your mobile.

Lock and secure your Android phone
WaveSecure locks and secures your Android phone

What happens when your Android phone is stolen? Don’t fret if you have WaveSecure. Our mobile security service will automatically lock your phone once it detects a SIM change. This prevents unauthorized use and makes the phone worthless to the thief.

Choose to display a message on the device to prompt the the finder to return the device. If you want, you can sound an alarm remotely to warn the thieft and increase the chances of recovering your phone, too.

Track and locate your mobile
WaveSecure tracks and locates your Android mobile remotely

Once WaveSecure detects the insertion of a new SIM card, your buddy will get a SMS alert so you can contact the person who has found or stolen your device.

In addition, WaveSecure lets you track the current location of your phone and even plot them out on a map.

WaveSecure wipes data on your Android phone remotely

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