» Videos http://androinica.com Google Android phones, news and apps Fri, 17 Jan 2014 18:41:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Pantech Marauder – The budget phone that shows Android has no budget phones [Hardware Review] http://androinica.com/2012/08/pantech-marauder-the-budget-phone-that-shows-android-has-no-budget-phones-hardware-review/ http://androinica.com/2012/08/pantech-marauder-the-budget-phone-that-shows-android-has-no-budget-phones-hardware-review/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2012 16:19:37 +0000 Ben Crawford http://androinica.com/?p=45433

The Pantech Marauder is my first Pantech phone, and its first Ice Cream Sandwich phone for Verizon. While handling the phone for the first time, I knew it was a mid to low tier smartphone, however, the software from Pantech…

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The Pantech Marauder is my first Pantech phone, and its first Ice Cream Sandwich phone for Verizon. While handling the phone for the first time, I knew it was a mid to low tier smartphone, however, the software from Pantech disguises any blemishes and preconceptions you may have about the word “budget.” Maybe it’s ICS, maybe it’s the fact that Pantech basically left ICS alone, or maybe it’s a result of significant hardware/software growth in the past two years, but I can barely distinguish the microseconds between scrolling and opening an app.

Hardware

The Marauder is as simple as it comes. The power button (at the top of the phone instead of the side), volume rocker, headphone jack, and USB charging port are all that surrounds the outside of the phone. A front and back camera are standard and unobtrusive. Pantech decided to go with capacitive buttons (Back, Home, Tasks, Menu) instead of on-screen keys which I personally dislike, but I know a lot of people still like having the menu button around.

The Marauder is very much a hardware vs software phone. While the phone lacks things like a camera flash, an ambient light sensor for automatic brightness, and a large screen, ICS runs very smoothly. Without a quad core processor it doesn’t handle apps like a Galaxy S 3, but its keyboard appeals to business consumers otherwise turned off completely from Android.

The keyboard is completely foreign to me. It has convenient shortcuts for the SMS app and browser, but it lacks shortcuts to the regular Android keys (home, back, tasks, and menu). The buttons have a decent tactile feel to them, however, my fingers were too big for the spacing between keys, and I found myself mashing multiple keys at once. All in all, I can type much quicker and much more conveniently with Swiftkey or Swype than I ever could with physical buttons that I have to physically press down with no auto-correction.

Screen/Camera

Even compared with other devices in its price range, the Marauder is still on the small side it terms of screen size. With a 400×800 resolution, the quality of the screen isn’t something that will blow you away, and it has no fancy name like SuperAmoled Plus to make it stand out. The contrast and clarity of the colors are strong, but not on par with the upper echelon of devices (i.e. Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One X, etc). The glare from windows or being outside in the sun noticeably washes away the screen, and with no light sensor for an automatic brightness setting, it’s a chore to change the brightness from blinding in the dark to a dim nothingness in the sun. Unlike newer devices like the Galaxy Nexus and Galaxy S 3 that have a black, seamlessly integrated screen and body, the Marauder’s screen is a grey color when turned off which doesn’t blend in well with the black body.

The Marauder comes with a 5MP back camera and a VGA front camera. Nothing spectacular, but if you’re just pointing and shooting, the Marauder will take decent shots. Pictures don’t have sharpness and are darker than I would expect, even from a $50 phone. Without a flash, the Marauder isn’t a phone that will replace even a budget digital camera. The Marauder’s camera takes a long time to focus and take the picture, and I don’t really understand how Pantech devolved the stock ICS camera into something this slow.

 

Software Performance

Finally, the Marauder shines with the Ice Cream Sandwich OS and very few UI changes. If nothing else, the Marauder is proof that ICS is Google’s big leap in perfecting their OS. The Marauder is fast with a sleek color scheme and design. A noticeable deviation from ICS, but extremely helpful, was Pantech’s option to change to a starter or standard interface. Pantech clearly understands its target demographics, and the starter mode, for very basic and new Android users, is almost feature phone simple. The homescreens contain only a big dial pad, weather, favorites, bookmarks, and contacts. Users can add and edit some of these, but most standard functionality is removed in favor of simplicity. This is a great, necessary feature.

The standard mode is very similar to AOSP. You can edit the dock, there are quick toggles, and the lock screen has multiple shortcuts to apps. While it’s still on the basic side compared to Sense or Touchwiz, I enjoyed having a similar setup to AOSP with a couple extra features. I also enjoyed the slate/turquoise color scheme throughout the phone even if it’s missing in a few places. There are tons of personalization settings in the settings menu, and probably the most convenient is the default programs which lets you choose what programs are the defaults.

Unfortunately, the 4G LTE radio was extremely spotty before I completely reset the device. Since then, it has been better, but once a day, I will completely lose a signal for a few minutes where my Nexus is fine. I also found the speaker to be tinny instead of clear, but the call quality was good through the ear piece. Another positive was the GPS. Every time I used Google Maps I had instant lock-on within seconds. The Marauder is easily one of the best GPS devices I’ve used.

App Performance

I’m really starting to question my GNexus after the Marauder beat it opening apps handily. Too handily for a “budget” device. The scrolling was a little laggy on the home screens and in the app drawer, but apps ran remarkably well. Even the recent tasks was quick and could switch between apps just as quick as my Nexus running Jelly Bean with Project Butter. It’s honestly amazing how fast this device is with no extra help from replacement launchers or ROMS.

Battery life was mediocre for me. I’ve seen a few different reviews for the battery life, but it lasted about 15 hours with moderate usage for me. Nothing to gush about, but it can certainly last a day if you’re on the semi-cautious side. As I mentioned, I like the theme and overall look of the device. There are some nice animations when moving around screens and adding widgets.  Pantech also added a nice weather widget to rival HTC. The usual Verizon bloatware comes pre-loaded, but nothing surprising made the cut. Unfortunately, the Pantech only comes with a diminutive 4GB of internal storage so the pre-loaded apps really eats up your storage space. The Marauder does have an external microSD slot, but it doesn’t come with a card. The ultra convenient six app shortcut lockscreen rounds out the Marauder’s extras.

Final Thoughts

The Pantech Marauder comes with a lower tier mindset: simplicity for new and basic users, cheap plastic parts, and minor changes to Google’s AOSP. It brings a keyboard to the 4G market for the dwindling keyboard-using crowd. Maybe ICS covers up a few of the Marauder’s problems, but this phone runs circles around apps and tasks. When you’re using the phone itself with blinders to anything but Angry Birds and Temple Run, the Marauder can hang with any phone, even the big boys.

If you’re looking for a phone that will replace your camera, that you won’t feel in your pocket (can’t expect this with a keyboard phone), or a phone to watch movies on, the Marauder probably won’t be for you. Even it’s main selling point, the keyboard, isn’t as solid and spacious as I would like it, but regular keyboard users or smaller handed individuals may find it acceptable. The Marauder breaks down the new arguments for cost effective vs full feature phones. The software is easily the best part of the phone and the most apt to keeping the phone feeling new. The feel and corner-cutting exemplifies the low budget market. However, instead of getting an Android 2.1 phone when 2.3 is released like two years ago, you’re getting a unified Android 4.0 without a camera flash. The trade-offs have certainly made the feel of a “budget” device seem a lot like the pricey alternatives.

You can get the Marauder on contract at Verizon and Wirefly, for free on a new two year contract, and at Amazon for $49.99.

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Android Photography: how Samsung Smart cameras can remotely control or transfer your photos http://androinica.com/2012/07/android-photography-samsung-smart-cameras-video-demo/ http://androinica.com/2012/07/android-photography-samsung-smart-cameras-video-demo/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2012 17:10:42 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=43825

The smart device era has connected all of our favorite gadgets to the Internet and each other. The ability to link phones, televisions, and cameras has made way for some cool, if not always practical, use cases for interconnected technology.…

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The smart device era has connected all of our favorite gadgets to the Internet and each other. The ability to link phones, televisions, and cameras has made way for some cool, if not always practical, use cases for interconnected technology. A pair of apps from Samsung Imaging illustrate that by linking Samsung’s digital cameras to Android phones.

At CES 2012, Samsung announced a line of smart cameras that would include WiFi Direct, a protocol that can establish a wireless connection between two devices. Once the two are paired, the Samsung Remote Viewfinder Android app can control a Samsung camera, or the Samsung MobileLink can transfer photos and videos wirelessly. The Samsung NX 200 is among the latest cameras to support this feature but I couldn’t acquire one just yet. So I reached out to Samsung and they agreed to lend me a Samsung WB850F so I could test the feature.

The WB850F lives at the higher tier of point and shoot cameras even before you factor in its Android bonafides. The camera supports GPS, 21x optical zoom, up to 12 MP photos, 1080p video, and has a 23 mm wide angle lens. Like other Samsung WiFi cameras released this year, it can use Android to remote take and transfer photos.

REMOTE VIEWFINDER: Relay the camera’s lens to your phone

Remote Viewfinder rates highly on the “cool” factor, but it leaves much to be desired. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t support video, and compatibility may vary among Android 2.2 or higher devices. (It works with a Galaxy S3, Galaxy Nexus, and HTC EVO Design that I tested). The viewfinder isn’t crystal clear, but the image is good enough to know whats happening, so it’s easy to overlook this shortcoming. Zooming is also troublesome because you cannot hold down the in/out buttons. Instead, you have to repeatedly tap the plus and minus sign, which is difficult because the app lags and says that “The zoom is already in use.”

I’ve seem some apps offer complete control of DSLR’s through a wire, but Remote Viewfinder is impressive because it’s wireless. Someone can launch the app, place their Samsung camera on a tripod, and then sit down for a self or family portrait without running back and forth to check the camera. Users can change image size, set a self-timer, snap a photo, turn on/off flash, and get a live look at their viewfinders without having to touch the camera. It’s a limited feature that I doubt you’ll often use, but it’s a good showoff feature that you’ll appreciate on those rare occasions that you use it.

MOBILELINK: Transfer your photos/videos to your phone

MobileLink establishes a connection and then sends the photos or videos to an Android device. Samsung Smart cameras also feature the ability to post to Facebook, Picasa, YouTube, and Photobucket, but shuffling the files over to Android provides more options. From there, you can share to other apps, like Instagram or Dropbox, or upload to Path and Google+ instead.

I was very intrigued by Polaroid’s concept of doing everything on one device, but there’s been no update on when that will happen. Mobilelink is as an excellent way of expanding post-capture options for your photos. Users can select photos or entire libraries, and transfer speeds between devices are very quick. Considering that speed and more options, Mobilelink can act as a very convenient way to grab media from a Samsung camera.

Visit Samsung.com for a complete list of WiFi cameras that can support linking with an Android device.

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Songza re-ups with expert Music Concierge playlists, lockscreen controls, and new Holo-like design http://androinica.com/2012/07/songza-android-app/ http://androinica.com/2012/07/songza-android-app/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2012 14:43:58 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=44382

One of my favorite music streaming apps on Android is Songza for tablets (formerly Songza HD) because it factors in actual humans to craft music playlists rather…

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One of my favorite music streaming apps on Android is Songza for tablets (formerly Songza HD) because it factors in actual humans to craft music playlists rather than rely on algorithms. If you remember from my review of the tablet app, it’s well-built and incredibly accurate for when you want to hear music for the right mood.

Songza is bringing the human touch to the phone by launching a new version with an all new design meant to have more in common with the Android 4.0+ UI conventions. The Holo-inspired design switches from the old style white-to-gray gradients and uses tabs and color schemes more familiar to the new style of Android. And to sweeten the pot, it’s added lockscreen controls for pausing and skipping songs.

The latest update adds Music Concierge, a feature that finds the playlist you need to hear at the right moment. Concierge looks at a user’s location, time of day, and day of the week to decide what song to play. A Saturday afternoon might call for energetic party music, but a mundane Monday morning might require a pick me up of happy songs you can listen to while at work. The service has recommendations within genre, so you can grab fun summer time indie music or fun summer time hip-hop music.

Songza is a free, ad-supported app available for Android 2.1 and higher. Download the app from Google Play to start streaming music to your phone, and check out the tablet version while you’re at it.

[Download from Google Play]

Note: The app update should be rolling out to users today. If you don’t see a Holo version on Google Play, return in an hour or two and check again.

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Nexus 7 Review: $199 and worth every penny http://androinica.com/2012/07/nexus-7-review/ http://androinica.com/2012/07/nexus-7-review/#comments Mon, 09 Jul 2012 19:42:39 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=44344

The tablet market has been a difficult realm for Google to conquer. While the iPad remains the immovable king, Amazon and Barnes & Noble usurped Google by delivering successful mini tablets that rely on Android as a foundation but not…

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The tablet market has been a difficult realm for Google to conquer. While the iPad remains the immovable king, Amazon and Barnes & Noble usurped Google by delivering successful mini tablets that rely on Android as a foundation but not an ecosystem. Even Samsung, Google’s most prolific and commercially successful partner, has expressed disappointment in its tablet efforts.

The Nexus 7 probably won’t be the commercial hit that Google has sought, especially if rumors of a smaller iPad and a Kindle Fire prove true later this year. But whether Google succeeds isn’t the consumer’s primary concern. What matters most is if the Nexus 7 is good enough, versatile enough, and impressive enough to become the next tablet you buy.

At a cost of only $199, the answer is probably yes.

HARDWARE: Pocket sized power

ASUS partnered with Google to build the Nexus 7, and the pair produced solid results. The 7 isn’t very impressive visually because it’s just a black rectangle with Corning Gorilla Glass and a hard plastic rim. The tablet gets higher marks when it comes to touch because it’s incredibly comfortable to hold. The Nexus 7 has smooth round edges that nestle in your palm, and the back material is very soft. Factor in the 0.75-pound weight and smaller stature thanks to its 7-inch screen, one-handed operation is not cumbersome at all. And that’s the primary reason to enjoy the Nexus 7. It’s bigger than a phone and capable of doing more, but not so large that portability or weight becomes an issue.

The Nexus 7 has a 7-inch IPS screen, which makes it less desirable to people who want the power and size that the average 10-inch tablet offers. However, don’t take that to mean that the 7 is weak. On the contrary, it sports the same NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor found in favorites like the ASUS Transformer series, only it’s clocked at 1.3 GHz. Teamed with a 12 core GPU and 1 GB of RAM, the Tegra 3 processor allows the Nexus 7 to access a library of Tegra-targeted games with better graphics. It also means that the 4-plus-1 architecture can drop to lower speeds when watching video or performing less-intensive activity, allowing the device to conserve energy. Google promises 8 hours of continuous use for the 4325 mAh battery, and depending on your activities and brightness settings, you should get close to that.

  • A significant amount of memory is set aside, so there’s only 5.9 GB of usable space on the 8 GB model. The lack of a microSD card makes the storage pinch sting a little more
  • The IPS display is very reflective in direct sunlight and lacks the superiority of IPS+ displays. However, it does a solid job of color displays and brightness indoors or with moderate light, so you shouldn’t have many issues otherwise.
  • A 1.2 MP front-facing camera enables video chat, but there’s no rear camera, which may be a negative for users who want a camera on every device.
  • No MHL or HDMI-out means you can’t connect it to a larger screen.

SOFTWARE: Jelly Bean is bittersweet

The Nexus 7 is the first Android device to launch with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. That means it’s privy to the amazing and just-getting-started Google Now, a voice search and relevance engine that’s going to be a major part of Android very soon. It also has a new home screen launcher with clever tweaks like auto-arrange, a smarter and more feature-rich notification drawer, and offline voice typing.

Most important for tablet owners, Jelly Bean is visually the fastest Android device yet. Google stamped out much of Android’s perceived lag with Android 4.0, but that wasn’t enough. Android 4.1 included “Project Butter” to launch apps and switch between tasks 3x as fast as it previously did. It’s not so much that Android is that much faster (we’re talking a difference of milliseconds), but new animations and buffering techniques make a noticeable difference. The stuttering and pausing when switching between apps is dead and buried. Heck, even the lag time when switching between portrait and landscape has been significantly shortened.

Jelly Bean delivers a much improved experience on the phone and tablet, but Google curiously decided to showcase more of the phone aspect with the Nexus 7. You’ll notice the difference on the home screen, which forces portrait orientation rather than auto-rotating like on Honeycomb/ICS tablets, and the lack of settings toggles. Rooting the phone and a build.prop edit will enable the traditional tablet UI, but this is a disappointment for folks who opt not to root their devices. Apps should still recognize the Nexus 7 as a tablet and display their tablet UI (Evernote, Google+, and a few others I tested did), but some developers like Mint.com may opt to introduce 7-inch tablet-specific apps. The inclusion of Jelly Bean means that some apps aren’t yet compatible, Amex and Bank of America tablet apps for example, but this is a growing pain of all platform changes that should be fixed soon.

SOFTWARE: The Play Store means business

Amazon launched the Kindle Fire to be nothing more than a gateway to the company’s content services. The Nexus 7 is of a similar purpose, although there’s more wiggle room for consumers. The Nexus 7 is a Google Play box built with the explicit purpose of making a more portable and affordable device that can access the apps, books, magazines, music, movies and shows that populate the Play Store. That mostly plays out to great results.

Google Play is great, but it still has a lot of work to do when it comes to music, movies, and TV shows. The Music app is beautiful and can stream thousands of personal songs uploaded to the cloud just as easily as it can sell music. The Movies app recently added the ability to own rather than just rent, and the inclusion of TV shows has added thousands of hours of entertainment. The newly-added magazine app zooms quickly and can switch into a Google Currents-style text and photo format rather than the PDF-like default display. However, not all content creators have signed on to these programs, so there’s a big gap of missing content in every section. The utility of these services is also limited to a handful of countries. Only the United States can lay claim to having full access to Google Play, so international users can’t view the Nexus 7 as a one-stop shop.

On the bright side, Google Play has over 600,000 apps, so there are plenty of options to fill the gaps. Can’t get Google Music? That sucks, but there’s still Spotify and other music apps. You can also access Netflix, YouTube, and all your other favorite apps because there are enough sensors included (WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC, accelerometer, etc.) to ensure compatibility with most apps.

CONCLUSION

The Nexus 7’s low price and similar size automatically draws comparisons to the Amazon Kindle Fire, but there is no comparison. The Nexus 7 has better hardware, better software, a larger ecosystem, far more app choices, and an equal price. The Nexus 7 also has the flexibility to load Amazon’s apps, as well as that of Barnes & Noble or anything else you wish.

I’m sure the Kindle Fire will outsell the Nexus 7 because of Amazon’s retail power, but there’s really no reason to buy any 7-inch tablet other than Nexus 7 unless you are an Amazon diehard. I’d go one step further and say there’s a good chance that you’ll be happier purchasing the Nexus 7 over a number of the larger tablets. Someone who wants a tablet mainly to read and browse the web will find this to be the lighter, more comfortable solution. The Nexus 7 is the best value on the market, and unless you need a larger screen size, it’s arguably the best tablet for you to buy.

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ReLaunch can launch apps from anywhere in Android [App Reviews] http://androinica.com/2012/06/relaunch-android-app/ http://androinica.com/2012/06/relaunch-android-app/#comments Mon, 25 Jun 2012 19:45:37 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=43818

Android multitasking works well, but what about when you need super-tasking. I’m not sure if that’s a real word or term, but that’s what I call the way ReLaunch enables more than just switching between recently open apps – it…

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Android multitasking works well, but what about when you need super-tasking. I’m not sure if that’s a real word or term, but that’s what I call the way ReLaunch enables more than just switching between recently open apps – it can launch new ones as well.

ReLaunch is a utility app for Android that allows users to open any app from any screen. Rather than going to your default home screen or app launcher, it provides an always-accessible shortcut to getting wherever you need to go. The user can get to the desired app or game just by pressing down near the edge of the screen.

Users can change the areas for which ReLaunch activates. The entire left or right sides can be triggered, one side can be disabled, or only the top portion of a side can start the persistent launcher. Once ReLaunch appears, it shows all installed apps according to category, so someone can just drags over the labels and then a specific app.

The downside to ReLaunch is that it can get in the way of typing if the user presses too hard on some areas of the screen. You may accidentally switch an app when typing or trying to tap on a specific area in the browser, so be sure to limit the area of the app. Then you’ll be able to take advantage of features like manual categorization, choosing the highlight color, change icon size, and sort apps alphabetically or according to which are most used.

ReLaunch is free, but fans of the app can upgrade to the Pro version to support the developer.

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Passwords are for suckers. Nuance Dragon ID uses voice recognition to unlock phone features http://androinica.com/2012/06/nuance-dragon-id/ http://androinica.com/2012/06/nuance-dragon-id/#comments Tue, 05 Jun 2012 15:39:08 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=43204

Nuance has unveiled a feature that doesn’t ask users to make a gesture, key in some numbers, or even show their pretty faces. Instead, it asks only that you speak and be heard.

Nuance’s DragonID forgoes the familiar mobile security…

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Nuance has unveiled a feature that doesn’t ask users to make a gesture, key in some numbers, or even show their pretty faces. Instead, it asks only that you speak and be heard.

Nuance’s DragonID forgoes the familiar mobile security methods and makes it so “your voice is your password.” The feature, currently being pitched to OEM’s, uses voice analysis to recognize a user and grant access. It verifies voice signatures and can then unlock a phone or even a mobile wallet application. Anyone not matching the signature will then be shut out.

Dragon ID is more that just an unlocking mechanism, however. It also joins the crowded virtual assistant space by answering questions and issuing commands. A user can say, “Hello, Dragon, do I have any messages?” and the app will confirm how many are available. It also replies to questions about the weather, meetings, launches apps, and pays for your lunch according to the demo video below.

“Consumer devices and the experiences they deliver are incredibly personal – and with that comes a need for greater security. Nuance’s innovative Dragon ID further humanizes the mobile experience, leveraging a person’s unique voice to secure and access their device, and keeping the content they rely on each day private and personal.”

- Michael Thompson, executive vice president and general manager, Nuance Mobile.

Voice authentication can even be applied to multiple users, so a child who uses a parent’s tablet could say “Hello, Dragon” and unlock the phone without needing Mom or Dad. Dragon ID would then launch a personalized home screen with apps, games, and settings tailor-made for a specific person.

All of this sounds very interesting and exciting until you hear that Nuance will not release Dragon ID directly to consumers. Instead, the company will work with manufacturers to integrate Dragon ID into their software. There’s no word on which companies will implement it or when, but one can only hope that it will find its way into some Android devices soon.

Supported languages include English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Nuance

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Alarm Clock Ultra makes your Android phone kick butt in the morning [App Reviews] http://androinica.com/2012/05/alarm-clock-ultra-android-alarm/ http://androinica.com/2012/05/alarm-clock-ultra-android-alarm/#comments Wed, 30 May 2012 18:01:07 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=43003

Getting out of bed in the morning is such a struggle that there are apps that force you to scan your orange juice to prove that you are awake. Alarm Clock Ultra doesn’t require that you get out of bed,…

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Getting out of bed in the morning is such a struggle that there are apps that force you to scan your orange juice to prove that you are awake. Alarm Clock Ultra doesn’t require that you get out of bed, but the app packs enough features to make damn sure that you’ll wake up on time – or on your own time if that’s what you prefer.

Alarm Clock Ultra, available for Android 2.1 or higher, is packed to the brim with features and even goes as far as to have a pretty exterior, too. In addition to playing personal music stored on the phone, Ultra offers several wake up tones, including jazzy or Latin piano music, traditional alarm clock ringing, tranquil music, and even a rooster. Users can also set volume level and make the sound gradually play, so there’s less of a shock when woken by sudden chiming from your phone.

But what if sound isn’t enough to get you out of bed? Well, then you can set Alarm Clock Ultra to not stop playing music until you solve a couple of math problems or a puzzle. You can also prevent accidental snoozing by requiring those features or shaking the phone with a pre-defined sensitivity.

Alarm Clock Ultra also features:

  • Home screen widgets that display the time
  • Multiple alarms, repeating alarms, and vacation mode
  • Quick sleep to wake you up from a nap
  • Stopwatch, countdown, and egg timers
  • Night mode that can keep the screen on consistently, turning your phone into a bedside clock

The app is available for free in Google Play, but if you like it, upgrade to the paid version. The full-featured version of Alarm Clock Ultra allows adds more alarm sounds, the Ultra Sleep System that plays relaxing music when you try to fall asleep, and morning weather and social media reports. This is a hell of a way to wake up in the morning.

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Vlingo Labs Beta offers elementary list of voice commands and search for Android 4.0+ [Beta App Review] http://androinica.com/2012/05/vlingo-labs-beta-review/ http://androinica.com/2012/05/vlingo-labs-beta-review/#comments Wed, 30 May 2012 15:00:08 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=42977

Though S Voice is an evolutionary update to voice search and commands features available on Android long before Apple stepped into the fray, the “Siri for Android” comparison were bound to happen when Samsung announced the feature earlier this month.…

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Though S Voice is an evolutionary update to voice search and commands features available on Android long before Apple stepped into the fray, the “Siri for Android” comparison were bound to happen when Samsung announced the feature earlier this month. Just as inevitable was the desire to get S Voice on non-Galaxy S III phones.

S Voice is available officially only to Galaxy S III owners, but a very basic version of the technology it is based on is available in some capacity through Vlingo Labs. Available for Android 4.0 and higher, Vlingo Labs is a beta application that can search the web or perform limited tasks through voice prompts. Users can say “Hey, Vlingo” and become the commander of their phone, so long as they only want to command a few features.

In theory, it’s fantastic; in practice, it’s less impressive. Like all Siri for Android apps – and Siri itself – the app feels a little incomplete at times. Vlingo Labs supports only North American English (for now) and can misunderstand someone who doesn’t speak perfectly enunciated commands. The “Hey, Vlingo” wake up command only works when the user opens the Vlingo app, and there are a couple of missing features from the year-old Vlingo Virtual Assistant. So why should I use this app again?

At the moment, Vlingo Labs can schedule appointments, search the Internet, send text messages, and call contacts. It’s simple and intentionally basic because Vlingo wants users to try out the app and provide feedback on its most basic design and performance. There’s nothing distinguishing about the app just yet, but Vlingo Labs is a “test kitchen where [Vlingo will] try out new ideas,” so it’s a chance to see the new features that will make it into future iterations.

Vlingo Labs (Beta) requires Android 4.0 or higher; it is available only in the United States and Canada.

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Solid Explorer is the best looking Android file explorer around, and it may be the best overall soon [Beta App Review] http://androinica.com/2012/05/solid-explorer-android-app/ http://androinica.com/2012/05/solid-explorer-android-app/#comments Fri, 18 May 2012 15:46:05 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=42819

I’ve often overlooked ugly Android apps because they performed well enough. But as time passed and more apps emerged that are just as pretty as they are functional, it’s become hard to put up with apps that aren’t easy on…

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I’ve often overlooked ugly Android apps because they performed well enough. But as time passed and more apps emerged that are just as pretty as they are functional, it’s become hard to put up with apps that aren’t easy on the eyes. Solid Explorer has found that balance between beauty and power to quickly become my favorite Android file explorer, and it’s not even out of beta yet.

Solid Explorer is an Android 2.2+ app that looks incredible. The app features a white-to-gray gradient design with great icons and sensible menus that put the cluttered look of other apps to shame. There’s even a dark theme that looks just as good, and the ability to view by list, grid, or detailed list or grid. The interface then makes it easy to filter, organize, bookmark, or search to quickly locate items. And if you need to move a file, wait until you get a look at two-panel browsing.

Aside from the looks of Solid Explorer, the features are also beautiful. The app can read ZIP, TAR, and RAR archives, as well as create ZIP or TAR archives from the files stored on an Android device. Users can even connect the app to their box or Dropbox cloud storage. That makes it easy to manage files directly from Solid Explorer, enabling things like cut, copy, rename, delete, and open files.

Solid Explorer is still in beta, but its feature set is rock solid. The app is available for free in Google Play. Here are just a few more features supported, as well as quick video demonstration:

  • Two independent panels for browsing
  • Drag and Drop inside and between panels
  • FTP, SFTP and SMB/CIFS clients
  • File sharing via FTP
  • Root access (file rooted devices)
  • Indexed search, also available from the system (search for files from the Google Search widget/app)

Install app

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Flipboard for Android leaks and is available for download; here’s what it looks like http://androinica.com/2012/05/flipboard-android-apk/ http://androinica.com/2012/05/flipboard-android-apk/#comments Wed, 09 May 2012 13:05:41 +0000 Andrew Kameka http://androinica.com/?p=42477

Remember when I said that Flipboard for Android would be a Samsung Galaxy S III exclusive? LOL. I said it…

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Remember when I said that Flipboard for Android would be a Samsung Galaxy S III exclusive? LOL. I said it with a straight face, even though you and I both knew that it would be leaked within minutes of the device being released. Well, one XDA member thought waiting for release date was a waste of time, so he’s already released Flipboard for Android into the wild and made it available for your downloading and reading pleasure.

Usually we don’t write about leaked APK’s; however, it’s easier to rationalize linking to the XDA thread containing Flipboard for Android since the app is free and bound to be released soon. And when you use the app for a little while, it’s hard to not let people know that there’s an excellent reading app available for them to grab.

Flipboard is a beautiful news reading app that imports interesting articles based on your declared interests, and links shared by your Facebook and Twitter friends. Rather than simply list the articles and have users scroll through just a title, it puts the focus on one or two stories at a time and requires that the user tap on a large thumbnail to read the article, or swipe up to flip to the next one.

The UI choices in Flipboard are a little different from what you’re use to, but the app’s flat icons, smooth transitions, and style may be good enough to make you abandon your current reading app. The APK doesn’t have a tablet mode, which is to be expected considering the app is designed for specific phone, but it does scale up on a Toshiba Excite 10 and I’m sure a tablet version will be included later. Other features include:

  • Read Later option with Instapaper, Pocket, or Readability.
  • News and select status updates shared from Facebook and Twitter
  • Link with Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, LinkedIn, Instagram, Flickr, tumblr, and 500px
  • “Muted authors” prevents shares from select friends
  • Mark items as Twitter favorites
  • In-app browser for truncated feeds and link to open standard browser
  • Search for specific content

Thanks, Sam!

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