Category Archives: Technology

5 Favourite Android Apps of 2012

Over 2012 I have really pushed my productivity system.  A big part of that has been to make the most out of my android phone – helping me stay productive, wherever I may be.  I’d like to share 5 of my favourite apps that I have used the most over 2012, and a little bit about how I use them.

Waze

Website
Google Play: free

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Waze is a free social sat nav app.  I started using this not long after it first launched, and the maps neeed a lot of work before they became useful.  However, over the past couple of years, the app has really improved, and whilst it can’t compete quite so well with the likes of Tom Tom, it still does a hell of a job.

The key to this app is in it’s social functionality.  You can report pretty much anything – hazards, such as objects on the road, accidents, floods etc, traffic jams, speed traps etc and even record new roads.  The app also automatically notices if you are going slower than the average speed and asks you if you are stuck in traffic.  It then records the average speed down the road, so you can see at a glance where the traffic hot spots are.  I use this for my daily commute to look for alternative routes or optimal times to leave.

Speaking of commutes, there is a really good widget included that uses previous data for the traffic on your daily commuting journey, coupled with current data and recommends the optimal time to start your commute.

If you notice something that isn’t quite right with the maps, then you can go into the map editor on your computer and edit the map.  True integration!

Dropbox

Website
Google Play: free

Dropbox with memories floating out to user

Dropbox is an absolute lifesaver!  This is more than just an app – the app is simply another way of accessing the whole service.

Essentially this is a cloud storage solution.  You get 2GB for a free account.  However, for every member that you refer, you get a further 500mb of space.  You can often get deals giving you more space too.  There is also the option to purchase more space too, should you need it, for quite reasonable prices.

There are plenty of ways to use it.  Keeping reference books synced on my phone, sharing files with collaborators, keeping in-work documents handy, ensuring preference files are synced across your computers, the list goes on.  For more ideas, have a look here and here!

BeyondPod Pro

Website
Google Play: free | paid

Beyondpod logo

As well as music, I enjoy listening to Podcasts.  Theres nothing like catching up on radio shows such as The Infinite Monkey Cage at a time that suits me!

I used to use the traditional iTunes & iPod route, but that involved me having to regularly connect up my aging iPod to my computer in order to update it – and making sure I turned my computer and iTunes on regularly…. far too much hassle in this day and age!

Along comes BeyondPod to save the day!  BeyondPod is a podcast manager for Android.  I subscribe to all the feeds I want.  By registering for the Pro version, for a measly amount of money, I can set my podcasts to update automatically whenever I want and however I want.  I set mine to use my free overnight broadband bandwidth at home, so it doesn’t eat into either my mobile allowance, or my home broadband allowance.  The free version lets you update manually though, so if you are happy doing that then there is no need to fork out…. but it is nice picking my phone up in the morning to find I’ve got a new podcast to listen to on my commute that day!

Pocket

Website
Google Play: free

 

As well as my healthy addiction to podcasts, I also like to read.  Be it feeds from websites and blogs, or articles people have tweeted about.  However, finding the time to read them is often limited.

Pocket (formerly read It Later) Pocket logolets you save articles for offline reading.  So, wherever I am I have a whole bunch of articles ready for reading.  I actually have a bit of a system going when it comes to keeping up to date with my reading, which I will post about in a future article.

Evernote

Website
Google Play: free

Evernote Logo

Evernote is new to me.  I’d been using Springpad previously, but I think Evernote is just about pipping it to the post now in terms of usability for me.  Springpad has lots of bells and whistles, like scanning a barcode to add a product to a list, but Evernote’s strongest feature for me is the OCR functionality.

I can scribble notes in a meeting, photograph or scan the page into Evernote and behind the scenes, the notes will be scanned for any words and I can then search within the picture.  An absolute genius feature!

There are plenty of ways to use Evernote.  For some ideas, check out this post, focussing on blogging, and this post on photography.

So there you have it.  My favourite apps of 2012.  What apps have you been using in 2012?  And what features in apps would you like to see in 2013?

hand holding a bundle of usb cables

Are you using the right lead to charge your phone?

I recently purchased the brand new HTC One X. What a beast of a phone! I love my gadgets and I love being able to tweak the hell out of my gadgets! This phone is ideal for me. It has a great camera, for impromptu photo shoots, a fast enough processor so I don’t have to wait half an hour to change screens, but most importantly it has a HUGE screen! A whopping 4.1″ of huge screen! However, as with most things in life, this comes with a price….. Battery life!

The HTC One X doesn’t do too badly in this respect and manages a just-about-acceptable once a day charge, but the first time I used it in the car as a sat nav I got a message telling me that I was using more power than the charger was supplying. This worried me, as I had already upgraded to a 1a car charger, so at first glance I was providing as much juice as I could.

A few days later, I had got back into the routine of putting the phone on to charge overnight and picking it up the next morning, when I noticed that the battery wasn’t quite full. This was odd, as it had been charging for at least 7 hours! I checked the charger and that was fine. I then started doing a bit of research and discovered that a cable is not just a cable!

Experiment

I devised an experiment. I charged my HTC for a while with my generic cable and then switched to the HTC cable that came with the phone. I could then look at the rate of charge in the power usage section of the settings.

Results

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The results speak for themselves. A clear increase in charge rate can be seen for the lastfew minutes, which is the time the stock HTC lead was in place!

So, the message might appear to be “Don’t skimp on your leads”, but not so fast….

Slow charging can actually benefit your battery life and capacity! It is known as “trickle charging”.

So, I now have my HTC lead in the car, where I use more power due to GPS use and the screen being on, whilst at home I use a generic cheap lead which benefits the battery more.

The tricky thing now, though, is that there is no way to tell the standard of the lead when you buy it, and the majority of reviewers still believe that a lead is just a lead.