Jan 28, 2010

Nexus One Dock

The Nexus One has its first accessory, and its a good one! The Nexus One Dock serves several purposes and I'm not even sure I've figured them all out yet.

1. Its a Phone Charger
2. It activates a Clock Application (great for travel!)
3. It has Bluetooth and an Audio input

#1 and #2 are very useful and functional... but #3 is newsworthy! Here is a quick walkthrough of my Nexus One Dock:

Jan 26, 2010

How To: Organize Icons on Your Home Screen

Another thing I love about my Nexus One? The ability to organize icons on the Home Screen! This is something I always wanted to do on the iPhone, but couldn't. Just one more reason I like my Nexus One way better then my iPhone.

Jan 22, 2010

Draw! App Review

At first I thought the Draw! app was just to simple and my kids would never be interested in it.Then I went to grab my new Nexus One off the charger and couldn't find it. I discovered it in thehands of my 5 year old, using Draw! and discovered that it is one of his favorite Android Apps, much to my surprise.

Draw! starts out as a simple black screen. Use your finger to start drawing and the black lights up at your touch. The menu button brings up options, like different sized brushes, double clicking the brushes lets you chose your colors. Somehow a 5 year old intuitively knew this, when none of it was obvious to me.
It is such a simple yet fun App, I had to include a few of the drawings we did! Just when you think this is all it can do, then you discover something else! From the Menu choose More: Import to choose photos from your Gallery to manipulate. More: Preferences lets you choose Clear with Flip n' Shake. Other options let you share your creation on Social Media sites (twitter, facebook, etc) and email them.

Price: Free with Ads/ € 1.68
Phone tested on: Nexus One

The Rescue of Ginger App Review

We went on a road trip this weekend, so it was the perfect time to test a few android games with my kids as a captive audience!

The Rescue of Ginger is a really cute interactive storybook that I was pleased to see my boys, who are 5 and 8, enjoy! They are Mario Kart fans and I thought this would be too simple. But they especially got a kick out of the dancing mice at the end. It kept them busy for at least 25 minutes before they moved on to a game that blew stuff up. The target audiance is younger, and Ive read reviews of people saying "my 18 month old loved this". I tried the game with a friends baby and he was intrigued by the game but by no means able to play it himself. I also let several girls aged 5 to 8 play the game too.

The game is very simple and sweet, something parents can appreciate. The child touches arrows to move between the pages or have the page repeated. Except for the baby, all the kids figured this out on their own and were able to navigate the game without any assistance. The story is read out loud by the different characters in funny voices, as they search for their pet cat, Ginger. There are interactive objects on each page, mostly mice, that they can touch too. There is color and shape recognition and some counting, throughout the game.

Ginger is also available on the iPhone.

Price: 2.99
Phone tested on: Nexus One
Website: http://www.lynandline.com/

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this game to review.

Jan 21, 2010

Air Attack Lite App Review

This is my 8 yr olds absolute favorite game on my Android. It can keep him busy for way longer then he should be allowed to play it. The Lite version is Ad supported, but I didn't even notice the ads, they didn't get in the way of the game or keep popping up.

In the game you are a soldier on the ground that is being fired on from jets, airplanes and helicopters. Some drop paratroopers that can also attack you. You can fire on all the objects with your "bazooka" as my son calls it. Hitting an airplane will make it crash land or explode. If you fire on a paratrooper or you are killed there are a few tiny pixals of red (presumably blood) that go flying. It is very WW II style. The further you get in the game, or Waves you progress through, the more planes attack. You have the ability to dig under the ground and objects to hide from bombs.

While I would prefer that my boys weren't drawn to war games, the fact is, they are. As war games go, I think this is fun and simple without displaying too much violence.

Price: Free Ad supported/ .99 Full
Website: http://games.martineriksen.net
Phones test on: Nexus One

Jan 20, 2010

5 Reasons Nexus One is Better Than the iPhone

I know there is a lot of chatter about which smartphone is better, the Nexus One or the iPhone. So driving around today and using a few features on my Nexus One and realizing my iPhone didn't have them, I thought I would weigh in.

5 Reasons Nexus One is Better Than the iPhone:
5. A Real Camera: By real I mean 5 megapixals and a flash. The iPhone 3G has a 2 megapixal and the 3GS has 3, neither has a flash. The Nexus One has built in controls, that you have to get a 3rd party App to manipulate on the iPhone. An added bonus is that photos are stored on your memory card and can be accessed directly, which obviously you can't do on the iPhone.

4. Voice Input: The telltale signs a friend had a new iPhone were cute in the beginning, but it gets old. Over time I got used to the iPhone's guessing what I really want to type and now I'm getting used to the Nexus One's guess (the system is far superior BTW. It brings up a list of words that could match the letters you have entered and lets you choose). But the Nexus One takes it to a whole new level with Voice Input. Anywhere you can type, you can pretty much talk instead. Find a contact, send a text/tweet/email, use Navigation, update your grocery list, search the web and the list goes on. I have found it to be extremely accurate and a big time saver.

3. Navigation: A standard (and free) App that comes installed on your Nexus One is Navigation. It is real spoken turn by turn GPS, and it is very accurate. You might say, I already a GPS in my car so I don't need it in my phone. But when you combine the power of a smartphone and all the information it has (all your contacts, internet access, with a great GPS, you have a lot of power.

2. Multitasking: This is one thing the really bugged me about the iPhone, it could only do one thing at a time. That is so old school! I remember being on a run with my GPS exercise tracking App going and I wanted to stop and take a photo of the scenery. I had to exit the App and my run, turn off my music, take the photo and then start the music and App all over again. The Nexus One is a tiny computer in my hand that does pretty much does as many things at once as I want. I even tested multiple GPS exercise Apps on it at the same time AND took a photo while listening to music. Sounds simple enough, but the Nexus One can do it and the iPhone can't. And if you don't think multitasking is important, then your not really aware of just how useful your smartphone could be.

1. Options: With options come choices, and there are no choices in carriers with the iPhone. Personally, where I live AT&T service is awful. Just plain, call dropping, awful. With the Nexus One you have a choice of carriers (or you will very soon), thus a choice in service plans and options. The iPhone service plan is pretty expensive, which I didn't really mind for a few years. And then I moved, my service was awful and I realized I was paying $119 a month and I still couldn't make a call. I save nearly $60/month on my Tmobile plan over my AT&T plan, that is $720 a year which is a considerable savings.

So here is my advice: sell your iPhone and GPS on Ebay/Craigslist. While your there, sell your pocket digital camera and video camera, because you won't need them anymore either. Do it now, while you can still get a good price for them and buy a Nexus One! No really, that is what I did. I made enough to more than pay for my new phone and I haven't regretted it for a moment.

Jan 19, 2010

What's a Widget?

There are so many things I love about my Nexus One, things that the iPhone could't do. One of those things is the concept of Widgets. They are "live icons" that live on your Home Screen. They are typically larger then an icon, thus take up more space. Each one is a different size, some as small as an icon, while others take up half the screen.

What's the purpose? They allow you to access information directly from the Home Screen without launching an App.

A few of the Widgets I use daily are:
  • Facebook - scroll through friends statuses and update your own
  • Weather - Location based weather is displayed
  • Google Reader - Displays the number of unread feeds
  • Youtube - Upload videos taken on the N1
  • Astrid - To Do list management
What Widgets do yo love on the Nexus One?

Jan 12, 2010

How To: Add a Contact to Your Nexus One Desktop

Everyday I'm learning something new on my Nexus One! Having been a dedicated iPhone Mom for the last 2 1/2 years, I knew that phone pretty well. But remembering back, it all took a while too. I have made a series of videos with a few of the useful things I've discovered. If you are new to Android or just new to the Nexus One, I hope you find them useful. Any tips you have and would like to share back are also welcome.

One complaint I have is how difficult it is to just make a call! Swipe, swipe, tap, tap, scroll, tap, tap. I discovered how I could as a Contact as a Shortcut on the Nexus One Home Screen, and it made perfect! You couldn't do that on the iPhone. (In fact I heard Apple applied to patent it, but Android beat them to the punch, as reported by Engadget).

I also show off a little of the damage to my Nexus One that has been bounced around the playground a bit! I really need to find a good case for it.

Jan 11, 2010

CadioTrainer App Review

GPS Exercise Apps are big for the active Smartphone crowd, and I really miss the wonderful Runkeeper I had on my iPhone. So I'm in search of an Android App that will help me track my fitness goals! I have tried several of the free GPS Exercise
Apps and CardioTrainer by Worksmart Labs is, hands down, the leader.

There are a few quirks you'll want to work through before you take it out. First the is the AutoPause. Its a great feature if you are working out in a non-wooded area with great GPS coverage and you run fast. But my workout doesn't meet any of that criteria! So over a dozen times I heard the British accented trainer inform me "Workout Paused" and eventually "Workout Resumed". Sure enough when I was done, there were several small gaps in my run. But the good news is that you can change the AutoPause settings and even turn it off, which I recommend.

There are audio prompts that you can alter the settings for that are really nice. It tells you at the set intervals how far you've come and your pace/speed depending on your settings. You can switch between miles/km and also use it as a Pedometer for indoor treadmill exercise (a feature I did not test). There are several other settings that you are allowed to adjust that help make this a great app!

You can also integrate with your Facebook profile and it will show up in your news feed. From Facebook search for the Application CardioTrainier and allow it access. You will need to enter your unique ID which can be found on your Setting Screen on your phone. But beware, it shows all the details of your workout including map detail.

One thing I haven't figured out is the accuracy. I've taken two different Android GPS Apps on my regular run and both show that it is over a mile longer then RunKeeper told me. Looking at the GPS trail on the map after the workout is complete, CardioTrainer seems to be very true to my actual route and doesn't make any straight-line assumptions. My workout has lots of switchbacks, and like I mention is in the woods, so its hard to track with certainty. Worksmart Labs website says the CardioTrainer is a Beta product, so maybe that explains it.

While it's not perfect, it is a great app and the exercise GPS tracker I will use on a regular basis!

Price: Free
Phones Tested On: Nexus One

Jan 8, 2010

OurGroceries App Review

I like to shop with a list, which I've read keeps your grocery bill down. My friends said I'm too high tech to keep my lists on scraps of paper, so I'm on a search for the best Android Grocery List App!

So far OurGroceries from Headcode is my app of choice. The best feature is being able to share lists among multiple phones. So my husband can add things to the list himself from his phone (now if only he could do the shopping too!). Apparently this works between platforms too, i.e. between Android and iPhone if your family has both. I like that I can have multiple lists; grocery, Target, Costco, ToDos, etc. You can enter recipes and build a list off of recipes, if you are into that sort of thing too. You do not pick the grocery items off of a list, you enter everything in yourself and it remember it for next time. Some people will like this, other prefer to pick brand names off a list. If that is you, this App probably isn't for you. To mark items off your list, you simply touch the item and it appears in the "Crossed Off" section with a line through it. You can enter multiples of an item and move them from one list to another. Items appear alphabetical on the list, and currently there is no option to change the order.

While OurGroceries markets itself as a Grocery List App, I'd say it is more of a general list App. Which works great for me! Today I took it to three different stores and it worked really well.

Price: Free
Phones Tested on: Nexus One
Website: headcode.com/ourgroceries

Jan 7, 2010

Google Voice App Review

The first Android App I had to review is Google Voice. I'd have to categorize it as a "Super App" and reveal it is one of the driving forces in my upgrade to the Nexus One from the iPhone. Before my Android (B.A.) I used Google Voice for incoming calls only, as it was too much trouble to dial out with it. While it can be used on any phone (cell or land line), Google Voice is seamlessly integrated and works beautifully on Android phones!

The simple rundown of Google Voice is that you get a phone number, not attached to an actual phone. Then you set it up to call your actual number/numbers. Sounds useless, right?

Google Voice is actually a Super App for parents too, as its lets you leave one phone number for people to reach you, and it can find you in a multitude of different ways. For example, I give out my Google Voice number to the school then set it up to call me on both my home and cell numbers. If it goes to voicemail, it sends me a text and email with the transcript of the voicemail, along with a link to actually listen to the voicemail.

Features of Google Voice:
  • Control which incoming numbers call you where and at what time
  • Individualized messages and voice greetings for each contact
  • Contacts are integrated with your Google Contacts
  • Set up rules that forward calls to different numbers depending on time of day
  • Transfer calls between your land line and cell
  • Block calls from from specific numbers
  • Screen calls and pick up in the middle of the message
And these are just the features I use!

One caveat is that it is available my invite only. If you know someone who already has Google Voice, they may be able to send you an invite ( I have 3 invites available right now, leave a comment below with your email if you would like one). Otherwise use this form to request an invite directly from Google for now and is only available in the U.S..

You can pick your own phone number depending on availability. I moved recently to a another state, but didnt want to change my cell number and I could not, for the life of me, remember my new home number. I sat down at Google Voice and picked a number with my new Area Code that was simple and had one of my children's names within it. So while it was easy for me to remember, it was also very easy for the kids to memorize too!

A little history: Apple rejected Google Voice for the iPhone App Store, without giving a real reason. Was it because the iPhone can't multi-task which would be required to run Google Voice at the same time as placing and taking calls or because AT&T didn't want the App? I don't know, or really care now!

Price: Free
Phones Test On: Nexus One, G1

Jan 6, 2010

Who Says the Nexus One Can't Do Multitouch?

With all the buzz about the Nexus One the one I keep hearing most is that it doesn't support multitouch. So, here is a video I just made with my Nexus One using multitouch via the Dolphin Browser. I understand there are a few other Apps that make use of multitouch too, but I haven't tried them.

As a long term iPhone user, multitouch was something I used in the beginning. It is super cool to show off, right?! But really, in everyday use it wasn't something I used. But either way, here it is:

Jan 4, 2010

Mommy Has a Nexus One!

Okay, so I made the big switch and upgraded from the iPhone to the Nexus One a.k.a the Google Phone! Moms have to roll in style too, right? I have made a short video of my phone and my favorite features. I am no technical expert, so sorry if I concentrate on the superficial stuff.

The main reason I decided to upgrade from an iPhone to the Nexus One was phone coverage. I was tired of dropping calls several times a day. I had been doing that for 2 1/2 years and had not seen a phone that could take calls and do everything intuitively the iPhone could do. Until now.

Compared to the iPhone, the Nexus One is:
* Smaller, slimmer, lighter
* Faster overall, loads web pages faster
* Can run multiple programs at once - completely unlike the iPhone.
* Completely integrated with Google products! My gmail, Google Calendar, Latitude, Picassa and Google Voice all work beautifully on my phone now.
* Updated my friends contact photo with hteir Facebook profile photo, if they have one
* Much cheaper, given my service plan with T-Mobile. I will save big bucks each month ($50) over my AT&T plan. Thankfully, I was out of contract and had purposely not upgraded to the 3Gs just for this reason. It paid off, big time.

So far, I love it! I do not miss my iPhone at all. Sure, I miss a couple of Apps, but I can take a call with confidence now. My favorite thing? The seamless integration with Picassa! I basically have every photo I've ever taken on any camera available on my phone! Perfect!

If you have an Android App that is perfect for kids and family, drop me a line at androidmom@gmail.com. I will begin reviewing apps shortly! I am already missing my favorite iPhone apps (Runkeeper Pro which promises to be porting soon, Grocery IQ and my kids love PocketGod) but I'm sure to find new apps which are equally good.