Tag: Apps

Must have apps for Windows Phone / Symbian (Phones)

Posted by – December 5, 2012

Recent events have led me to use both Nokia’s latest phone and operating systems (Symbian on the Nokia PureView 808), as well as Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system on the Nokia Lumia 920.

As most people tend to have the same uses for mobile phones, such as twitter, camera, torch, music, etc, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of the “must have” apps for the platforms, and show what the most similar apps are on both platforms. If you want to add the Apple versions, please get in touch, or leave it in the comments, and I’ll add to this list. For android versions, have a look at this list.

Must have app Nokia Version Windows Phone Version
Barcode (QRcode) scanner UPCode Barcode Wallet (scanner and storage) / Scan
Last.fm Scrobbler* Mobbler Last.fm App
Twitter client Gravity (£8 – Well worth the money) Twitter / Seesmic
Torch App QTorch Flashlight with LED / Flashlight XT
Spirit Level Level Touch Another Level / Level
Battery Meter Nokia Battery Monitor (Ovi) Battery Level (suprisingly not built in!)
Panoramic Photo Nokia Panorama (N8 – unlimited shots?) Ztitch+ / Panorama (Nokia)
Keyboard entry Swype N/A
Photo Editor Nokia Photo Editor (Built in) Creative Studio (by Nokia for Lumia)
Phone Tracker Phonelocator Periodic Find my phone – built in, in settings
Screenshot “Best ScreenSnap 2.0” (link, or here) Built in (WP8) Press power and windows key together
Navigation Nokia Maps (Built in) Nokia Maps (Built in)
Navigation Customisation Own Voice (record your own voice)
WIFI Internet Sharing JoikuSpot Tethering / Portable Hotspot (Built in, settings, internet sharing)
Location information Here and Now (Built in) TripAdvisor (included)
Location aware profiles Nokia Situation (betalabs)
Camera based location info Nokia Point and Find (betalabs) Nokia City Lens
Task Management Task Manager (Built in, S^3)
GPS Based Sports Tracking Nokia Sports Tracker Runtastic / Endomondo Sports Tracker
Podcast Support Built into Music Player / Podcatcher (link) Built into the store
Alt. Music Players TuneWiki (link) Nokia Music, Last.fm, TuneWiki

* Can replace this with Spotify if you have an account as Spotify is available for both. Shazam / Soundhound is also recommended.

Recommended Nokia Lumia Photo apps: PhotoBeamer, CinemaGraph, SmartShoot
3rd Party Photo apps: Lomogram, Fantasia Painter Free,
eReader: Nokia Lumia: Nokia Reading, Amazon Kindle. Weather: Weather (by The Weather Channel)
Transport stuff: thetrainline.com (both), Tube Map (WP)

Find new / more apps for Symbian / Windows Phone / Nokia on, Nokia Betalabs (apps), recommended apps for Symbian on MobileRnR

Must have Symbian / Android Apps (Phones)

Posted by – December 16, 2010

Recent events have led me to use both Nokia’s latest phone and operating system (Symbian ^3 on the Nokia N8), as well as Google’s Android operating system on the ZTE Blade / Orange San Francisco. As most people tend to have the same uses for mobile phones, such as twitter, camera, torch, music, etc, I thought it would be useful to put together a list of the “must have” apps for the platforms, and show what the most similar apps are on both platforms. If you want to add the Apple versions, please get in touch, or leave it in the comments, and I’ll add to this list.

Must have app Nokia Version Android Version
Barcode scanner UPCode Barcode Scanner
Last.fm Scrobbler* Mobbler Last.fm App
Twitter client Gravity (£8 – Well worth the money) Tweetdeck
Torch App QTorch Color Flashlight
Spirit Level Level Touch Bubble
Battery Meter Nokia Battery Monitor (Ovi) Battery Widget / Built in
Panoramic Photo Nokia Panorama (N8 – unlimited shots?) PanoPhoto (only 2 shots)
Keyboard entry Swype Swype
Photo Editor Nokia Photo Editor (Built in) Photoshop Express
Phone Tracker Phonelocator Periodic Where’s My Droid
Screenshot “Best ScreenSnap 2.0” (link, or here) screenshot
Navigation Nokia Maps (Built in) Google Maps / Navigation (Built in)
Navigation Customisation Own Voice (record your own voice) None?
WIFI Internet Sharing JoikuSpot Tethering and Portable Hotspot (Built in with v2.2)
Location information Here and Now (Built in) Places (Built in)
Location aware profiles Nokia Situation (betalabs) Locale (link)
Camera based location info Nokia Point and Find (betalabs) Google Goggles
Task Management Task Manager (Built in, S^3) Taskiller / Task Manager
GPS Based Sports Tracking Nokia Sports Tracker My Tracks (link)
Podcast Support Built into Music Player / Podcatcher (link) Google Listen
Alt. Music Players TuneWiki (link) TuneWiki / Winamp

* Can replace this with Spotify if you have an account as Spotify is available for both.

Find new / more apps for Symbian / Nokia on http://blog.ovi.com/dailyapp/global/, Nokia Betalabs (apps), recommended apps on MobileRnR

Orange San Francisco / ZTE Blade TFT Review

Posted by – December 14, 2010

Orange San Francisco / ZTE Blade running Froyo

The Orange San Francisco / ZTE Blade offers an extremely cheap entry into the world of Android. Priced around £99 (with a mandatory top up of £10/£20), it offers excellent value for money, and is one of the higher spec phones available around that price. Offering a large 3.5″ screen with a high resolution of 800×480, a 600mhz cpu, and 2gb of Micro SD ram.

Another big feature of the phone is the community support for the phone, allowing it to be unlocked for free (found via Modaco), and upgraded to Android 2.2 (Froyo), and potentially newer versions when they are released, it has it’s own dedicated forum here at Modaco.

Nokia N8 OLED - Orange San Francisco TFT

Nokia N8 OLED - Orange San Francisco TFT

The “SanFran”, as some people affectionally call it, has 3 physical buttons at the bottom of the screen: Home, Menu, Back, one power button at the top, and volume buttons at the side, there is no dedicated camera button or unlock button. To unlock you press the power button and slide something on the screen based on what version of android (or screensaver) you have. Considering the whole touch screen ethos of the android operating system, it seems strange to have to use physical / moving buttons to navigate – it would make more sense for these to be soft touch buttons (as I’m sure other android phones do).

Box Contents: Phone, Battery, Orange SIM, Earphones with microphone (earbuds, NOT in-ear earphones), Wall charger (Plugs into wall and has USB socket), USB Cable (used to charge phone with wall-charge or plug into computer), User guides (quick start guide, printed 133 page manual, plus 2nd manual for orange software), 2GB MicroSD Card.

Phone quality – Making and receiving calls, the audio quality is very good, the speaker is loud and clear, and quality seemed very good with no feedback or echo noticeable. (Although you network coverage may alter your experience)

Music playback – full volume is still on the quiet side of things. The music player app is fine, nothing seems to be missing, but nothing stands out as particularly interesting either. It does the job, but only seems to work in portrait mode (and not landscape). Music playback is interupted by other app notifications!? (Could just be my OS build, 2.2, and even when the other notifications are set to silent!?)

Web browser – this is quick, responsive, and works well.

android 2.2 homescreen (with fish) android app updates android task manager - system is busy, try later! (WHY?)
Some screenshots, click to enlarge, homescreen, app updates, task manager.

Android market (app store) – this has very nice integration with websites, you visit the site, click the link to download from the store, it takes you there and you click install, it then takes you back to the website and downloads and installs the app in the background. Very swish, very un-intrusive, very simple, very easy, the way it should be done. (I’m looking at you Nokia) It’s also ironic that you can get Snake free for the android – but no official version from Nokia for Nokia phones…

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Battery

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Back / Battery / MicroSD / SIM slots

Expansion – Under the one piece back cover (made of plastic), you’ll find slots for the MicroSD card, SIM card, and battery. Small hole next to the camera lens – could be a reset button?

Battery – a 1250mah 3.7v battery.

Build and size: Slim, compact, the back cover covers the power button, and needs to be taken off / put back on carefully as, like the Nokia N95, it could cause problems if not treated with care or over-used. The plastic is coated with a rubbery texture, making the phone feel like a higher quality / higher price handset than it actually is, and internally the circuit boards seem very thin. The use of philips head screws make it very tempting to take apart…

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Taken Apart (Teardown)

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade Taken Apart (Teardown)

There’s a hidden screw under a white dot, so no doubt taking it apart will void your warranty, there’s also a moisture detector dot under the battery, as shown above, and there are 8 screws in total holding the phone together, after taking these out, the phone then unclips with some encouragement – although you can help it along by pushing the clips surrounding the battery area – I didn’t want to go further than this as the rest looked like it needed the ribbon cables disconnecting, and this is often fiddly.

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade TFT back

Orange San Francisco ZTE Blade TFT Screen Removed (back) - Click to Enlarge

To remove the front glass / case, you need to remove / disconnect the top ribbon cable that connects the *something* (don’t know what). The ribbon cable connections are held in place with plastic that “pops” up, and the wi-fi aerial also pops-off. The screen is quite firmly glued on to the main plastic “chassis” in the middle of the phone, and there is also a ribbon cable behind the main board connecting the top led and light sensor, and the volume control ribbon cable is soldiered on, and the buttons are glued onto the chassis, making it very difficult to disconnect / remove – it quickly becomes very fiddly.

ZTE Blade components ZTE Blade board close ZTE Blade board close - other side

Identifiable chips / components: (Click images above to enlarge, or to view additional images!) Top: Samsung SWB-A23 (Wifi, bluetooth), Qualcomm (hidden from view), Qualcomm PM754, AH56714, C1034003 (Power management), Underneath: Samsung 040, KA1000015M-AJTT, YK10338E (RAM), Qualcomm MSM7 (CPU, hidden from view), TriQuint 7M5012H, 1037, KORE, AT9366. Camera module: Made by MCNEX MC_32A2_48, 2010.06.04, the chip on the front of the phone, above the screen: 1KAAV0QW, Z1A0AD09.

Nokia N8 Camera with Flash - Orange San Francisco Camera with no Flash

Nokia N8 Camera with Flash - Orange San Francisco Camera with no Flash

Camera – 3.2 megapixel AF (Auto-focus) lens. Photos are awful. Terrible. Horrible. Utterly crap. Seriously substandard.

Other features? Impressions? The top bar shows you your notifications, things like texts, twitter or app notifications, and battery / connectivity status etc (3G, Bluetooth etc), but doesn’t actually let you interact with the notifications on the right of the bar… you can’t click the battery, for example, to see how much remains (like you can on Symbian ^3), instead you seem to have to go through the phones setting menu to get the information.

Updated conclusion: 6 months later: (10/07/2011) Some have said, in the comments that this review is overly negative, and somewhat lacking in it’s conclusion, and I agree. In retrospect, the ZTE Blade (Orange San Francisco) is still, to this day, 6 months later, one of the most fully featured, and lowest priced android phones available, and the good screen, and low price make it very apealling, especially with such a huge homebrew community of support. I bought it as I wanted to see what all the fuss about Android was, and I wasn’t as impressed as I felt I should have been, especially considering all the hype. There are areas of weakness such as the poor camera software (camera is poor on this phone, but may suffice in great weather, outdoors), and generally android isn’t as polished as I think it should be (this may have changed with newer versions, I tested 2.2). The ZTE Blade with a lower spec processor than most, won’t do flash, which is a huge drawback for me as I need iPlayer on my phone. Another big weakness is the high SAR levels (1.35 W/kg) – enough to give some users enough of an issue that they’ve seen a GP (Doctor) about it… Another big issue is the fact that everyone feels the need to mess with the google version of android, and try and add their own skin, apps, and money making programs to the phone. Very annoying. Anyway, to try and conclude this as quickly as possible, the ZTE Blade (OSF), is a great phone considering the price, and if well worth looking at if you’re on a limited budget and don’t mind the various issues the phone has.

Pros: (Positives)
+ High resolution 3.5″ capacitive screen (responsive)
+ Extremely good value for money
+ Easily unlocked, for free
+ Upgradable to Android 2.2
+ Tons of apps, good app store experience
+ Notification of app updates, and “Update all” button (not just OS)
+ Full screen PDF viewer (in QuickOffice)

Cons: (Negatives)
– Home screens don’t work in landscape mode (see Symbian ^3, or Launcher Pro for Android)
– Music playback is interrupted by other app noises! (even when the phone and notifications are silent)
– Limited memory as standard (only 2gb MicroSD provided)
– AWFUL camera (see Nokia N8!), lacks even basic LED flash
– Fragmented OS / Features ie BBC iPlayer is supposed to work on 2.2 (using Flash*) but wouldn’t for me, 2.1 it just isn’t available (see Nokia / Apple)
– Poor battery life (8 hours)
– No strap loop / wriststrap mounting hole
– Camera shutter sound on, even when all sound muted.
– Default install location is the phones memory, not MicroSD, easy to fill the 512mb built in.
– Difficult to use one-handed (back button awkward – and pressing the background of the screen doesn’t take you back so you have to press the back button – easier on Symbian ^3 to just press the screen behind the pop up menu)

* Flash 10.1 is needed, which isn’t available for the ZTE Blade due to the ARM6 processor.

Useful links: ChrisLowthian.co.uk How to Unlock.
Orange San Francisco also available from Amazon UK (Unlocked).

Android Apps Update

Posted by – December 30, 2009

A couple of Android apps that are well worth a look

Photoshop Mobile

An excellent, free Photoshop lite. Obviously it’s nothing like the desktop thing, it’s a few simple functions to allow users to improve photos with editing tools. Open it for the first time and it generates thumbnails, then simply tap a photo and then select ‘edit’ from the home menu. It then offers the following tools from three tap-to-pull-down menus:

Crop
Straighten
Rotate
Flip

Exposure
Saturation
Tint
Black & White

Soft Focus

The interface is very clever. For example, to add tint, tap ‘tint’ on the menu, then slide your finger over the image. Slide right to increase the value, slide left to decrease it. Very clever. Once done, save image, upload etc. Superb, simple, user-friendly.

Scoreboard

A Google sports app. Who knew that geeks like football? Very simple. Install, open, select your sport, then the country, then the league, then the team. The app then runs in the background and pulls down live scores, providing periodic notifications. Great.

Aldiko

As a reader of Ebooks since the days of Palm I noted with interest recently that ebooks outsold paper books this Christmas for the first time. Aldiko is an ebook reader that has a great catalogue of freebies and will read Epub format ebooks. The interface is a virtual bookshelf and reading can be customised in terms of colour and touch controls. The only ebook reader for Android that is any good. Downloads are quick and there is a massive amount to read for free.

Android Applications: TuneWiki

Posted by – November 21, 2009

This review is for another great android application, TuneWiki. If you use your phone for music (I currently don’t – more on that later) then this is the music application you need.

If you have a quick look at their website you’ll see it is pretty interesting. You can download free music, get lyrics, post on forums and there is also a live feed displaying the music users are streaming. There is also a really cool music maps section where listeners are charted (anonymously) around the world according to location and taste. That would make for an interesting study in to musical tastes for anyone furnished not only the time, but also the inclination to study such things.

So, on with the application. It comes in the usual two flavours, lite, which is ad-supported, and paid. The functionality of each is the same, save for the aforementioned ads which are unintrusive and very much bearable for a cheapskate like me. I know that some people hate ads and suchlike, however, since the options are either accept a few ads in return for an all you can eat music service, or pay a nominal fee to remove them, I cannot see why anyone but the most cantankerous users would complain. The only information exchanged seems to be an account and scrobbling so there are no privacy issues.

Now, on to the application, which has several functions.

Music Player

TuneWiki plays the music stored on your Android device. Handy for a music player really. It goes further than that though. Album art is downloaded and encoded to the tracks, and a nice innovation is the lyrics stream. If TuneWiki has the lyrics to the song stored in its database then the lyrics are streamed to the device and, rather intelligently, played back in real time as they are sung, layered over the album art. All the usual controls are there, play, pause, skip forward & back, scrubbing, shuffle, repeat and repeat all. You have the option to search by artists, albums, songs, playlists or shuffle all. It never skips or stops and plays in the background, all the while happily keeping itself to itself and not hogging CPU capacity. A good start. I use my iPod as the HTC Magic has nothing like the same sound quality in headphones, however, if you use your phone for music it will serve you well. I do use it, say, in the bath or whilst I am busy and play music through the speaker, but as a music player it’s nowhere near the iPod. Let’s hope the Motorola Droid can change that. That is all to do with the hardware though. The software cannot change any of that.

At the bottom of the library screen there are five buttons. The first one is a music note icon and it takes you to the music player. The second is a microphone and it takes you to…

Internet Radio

Internet radio is provided via Shoutcast, which I do not use, and Last FM. This is a real boon for TuneWiki, not only in terms of functionality, but also because the TuneWiki module for Last FM works far better than the Last FM native Android application. TuneWiki provides a wide variety of tracks that are scrobbled evenly. This might sound obvious but, in my experience, the Last FM application has an irritating tendency to playback the same few tracks. If this confuses you then don’t worry, you’re in good company as I do not understand why this is so either. I would imagine that the same algorithm powers both so I am baffled by this, however, after using Last FM for months and now switching to this, whatever the cause may be, the difference is remarkable.

I also browsed Shoutcast, which differs from Last FM as it provides many internet radio streams rather than the Last FM library playback and scrobbling service. It plays just as well and the audio is excellent quality with no stops, skips or interference, thanks no doubt to the Magic’s 3.5G HSDPA downlink speeds.

Internet radio via TuneWiki is first class, I have never heard better. It has the same album art and lyric streaming provided in the music player.

Video Search

This is another great innovation, and is accessed via the third button which is a screen icon. If you import music in to the TuneWiki library, for playback via the music player of course, then video search will automatically search YouTube and if it finds the music video, it links it to the song in your library, allowing you to watch the video whenever you like. This is another great embellishment which really enhances the feel and function of the application. It simply reeks of quality, and it is simple and easy to use. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

TuneWIki Community

TuneWiki community incorporates social networking in to the application. It provides several functions. The lyric search allows you to retrieve lyrics to songs other than those being played back. The aforementioned music maps:

provides a nice touch, and, if you use it a lot, is a great way of finding new music from listeners with similar tastes, sort of like manual scrobbling. The next two functions are linked, TuneWiki top 50, which allows you to listen to the most popular music being played and also Playlists, which allows users to upload custom playlists. This is an excellent function and unlike iTunes playlists, is free to listen to. The final three options are free music downloads, providing music under the Creative Commons licence, help functions, and, rather cunningly, an ad which looks exactly like another button. It’s a crafty trick but, given the superb free benefits and functions you get with TuneWiki I’ll let them have that one for free. I didn’t fall for it anyway. The fifth and final button is a head wearing headphones icon and this takes you to the last song you were listening to in whichever medium it was. Remember this, because if you reopen the application itself then your last listening material is not there, although it is still retained via this key so it is not lost, just inaccessible through any other button. That’s a nice touch and a great way to keep up with your playlist.

Other functions (oh yes, it’s not over yet!) that I love are the option to post status updates based upon what you are listening to Twitter, Facebook and Blip FM. You simply access the settings menu, provide login details and you stay logged in via the TuneWiki application, only after you enable it to access your profile of course. After that, should you wish to update your status you simply tap the speech bubble icon that is in the top right corner, above the album art, next to the title, and you have three buttons, either a ‘love it’ message, or ‘hate it’, or a custom button if you want to post your own mini reviews. This is superb, I absolutely love it, and my Facebook status updates and tweets will soon be showing these. I already linked my YouTube accounts with Twitter, Blogger and Facebook so this is a nice function that takes advantage of the integration functionality that is slowly infiltrating social networking. Provided you have the accelerometer switched on you can also flip to landscape for maps, art and video.

This application is perfect in its execution and the only thing it lacks is an audiobook playback function. Of course it will play them as MP3 files but will
not bookmark, download cover art or recognise chapter markers, all of which require M4B file compatibility. I am not too bothered about his yet as Android is young and audiobooks are very difficult to provide cheaply as the publishing industry is so resistant to the new technology. My own personal work experience has shown me how closed-minded the publishing industry is and believe me, you wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry if you knew the truth. It is currently having the debate we had with Napster all those years ago, and is more resistant than the music industry ever was. In light of that I understand why this function is not there. It would be an absolute nightmare fore TuneWiki, especially with Pandora yet to debut outside USA, meaning it’s this, Last FM and Imeem making the headway as well as a few independent applications run by online stations. For choice, variety and function TuneWiki is the one to beat.

If you have Android then you must have TuneWiki. It’s simply too good not to own.

Google Android Apps: My Tracks

Posted by – November 7, 2009

Google have struck gold in my opinion with My Tracks. My Tracks is the best of the glut of first generation GPS/location based applications to hit Android and it’s really great. I used it for the first time today, just a dry run to see what it does and how well it does it. The journey was a one lap hike around Clowbridge Reservoir in Lancashire, and here are the results:

View Clowbridge Reservoir in a larger map

Or:

View it in Google Maps

This is what you get. All you do is open the application and give it a few seconds to acquire a GPS fix. Once done, tap the menu button and the record option and it now records your journey in real time using GPS data. Once done, tap end recording and you can then export it to My Maps in your Google Account, to Google Docs and save it to SD as either a GPX file or a KML (to export to Google Earth), or both. This is a superb application that allows you to track things like mileage, speed and so forth. There are things I would like to see added such as a pedometer (using the accelerometer), a compass (all android phones have a magnetometer so it’s a simple process) and a calorie counter. These are the ones I can come up with off the top of my head anyway.

Once I had exported to Google Earth and Maps I was able to wow the kids with a 3D rendering of our journey and show them various possible routes, diversions and sights. If you love outdoor sports, the great outdoors in general, travelling etc them this application is simply essential if you have any need for, or interest in statistical data about the journey, or if you simply want to look at where you have been over the months and years. Superb. I will be taking this everywhere, holidays, hikes, bike rides etc. To me it is simply indispensable, and I take my phone anyway so why not make use of it?

Google strikes gold again. It’s free and it’s brilliant. Integration with Google Maps and Google Earth is seamless, ridiculously easy. I am really starting to love Android.

Google Listen Podcast Aggregator Client.

Posted by – November 4, 2009

Google Listen

As one would expect, Google provides a raft of free apps for Android. One such app is Google Listen. Listen is a podcast aggregator and a very very good one. The catalogue of podcasts available is massive and every possible subject is covered, including commercial stuff such as BBC programs etc. Quality is superb. The sound is delivered through the speaker or headphones and the interface is simple, with controls, progress bar, subscription option buttons and album art which makes it look rather polished. The 3.5 G connection gives excellent playback. I have been using it for months and not once had a pause for buffering during playback. It buffers for a couple of seconds when you initially open the podcast and after that no breaks. Scrubbing is smooth and easy too.

Listen integrates brilliantly with Browser too. Simply tap a podcast link and it will give you the option to open it with either Browser or Listen, and the option to set a default application for opening podcast enclosure links. I recommend Listen to anyone, particularly those who enjoy knowledge and media. There is a wealth of academic and popular material available via Listen and it is all free, every bit of it. If you have a hobby that you love, search for it and you will find a huge amount of material pertaining to it. Google Listen comes with my highest recommendation.