This was the talk I gave at GDG Brunei DevFest 2013 and I aimed for the content to be basic and accessible with a workable app, so that the attendees could use it as a starting off point for the hackathon, should they want to learn how to build an Android app.
I should have published the APK on the Play Store before the talk so that people could have downloaded the app and see what I was building as part of the talk
So my Linux install going messed up somehow and I was left with no wireless driver installed. I know that you can use Android phones to USB tether mobile data (e.g. 3G/4G/LTE) but I didn’t know that you can do the same over WiFi!
Now while in OSX I’m pretty sure it worked out of the box previously, it seems that you need now need to download the HoRNDIS driver. With Linux (Ubuntu) it worked out of the box and in my previous usage of USB tethering, Windows should work automatically as well.
This spawned out of me noticing that many network capable Android apps ignore the Bluetooth or WiFi Direct Peer-to-Peer networks: they don’t seem to work despite it being a network with an IP (e.g. AirDroid). While this app doesn’t solve that problem, it does help me to know what IPs I have. Some may ask, why didn’t I just look through the Play Store, and while that is a valid question, it probably would take more time looking for an app that meets the 3 key points of IP and Me and also, is a good learning platform to start learning Android development in a more structured manner.
The device in question is the Medion 4 which is advertised with “4GB Memory” on Aldi’s site, but according to AusDroid, there is only 500MB allocated for apps (the rest of the space can still be used to store photos/files but not apps without some rooting and hacking).
Filesystem Size Used Free Blksize
/data 503M 151M 351M 4096
My 16GB Nexus 4 has 12.9GB allocated to the /data partition which is a bit less than 13.6GB of a 16GB iPhone 4 (can’t seem to find a definitive answer for the iPhone 5) but is still a majority of its storage unlike the Medion 4. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a separate issue which is not exactly the same but gives the same results to the end user: a false sense of storage space (only 8.8GB free from the 16GB model due to Samsung’s customization of Android with its own skin & apps). While it’s not as bad as the Microsoft’s Surface RT storage debacle (15GB free in a 32GB Surface RT, 28GB free in a 64GB Surface Pro. Source: Microsoft’s Surface Disk Page FAQ), both of these situations don’t give me much confidence when recommending non-Nexus Android devices with X GB of storage.
At least if it is just Android customization (ala Samsung), flashing a custom ROM should be able to solve the problem. I’m not sure if the partitioning (ala the Medion 4) can be solved using a custom ROM, but even if it does, you will need to find a ROM that supports your device: so you hope that your devices isn’t a weird obscure one.
So when you buy an Android device, you can’t say for certain that you have a majority of the advertised storage available for apps. I can only assume that Nexus devices would give you the best experience in terms of not being ‘cheated’ for storage space, but I guess this gives more credence to the fact that Google has lost control of Android and that some manufacturers are still giving Android a bad name.
A couple of months back, I noticed that the Google Maps app on my LG Optimus One phone couldn’t zoom in as far as it could before (unless my memory is failing me). Below is the maximum zoom level on the phone
This is not the maximum zoom of the Google Maps android application as my ZTE V9 tablet can zoom in much further as shown below
Google Maps on the ZTE V9 at full zoom – Brunei
Google Maps on ZTE V9 slightly zoomed out
While you may think that this is a trivial matter, it really rises as a problem when I look for tram stops and street names here in Melbourne. Take a look at the CBD of Melbourne in the screenshot below and see how problematic this is: I can’t see the names of the smaller streets and I have to tap each tram stop in order to see the stop name.
To rub salt into the wound, apps that use a map view can zoom in further than the Google Maps application! Below are screenshots via the Domain.com.au app.
Map View on the Optimus One at full zoom – Melbourne CBD
Map View on the Optimus One slightly zoomed out – Melbourne CBD
I’ve tried to search for a reason for this discrepancy and have yet to find one. The map settings are both the same in the tablet and phone. CPU and RAM-wise, both devices are comparable: 600MHz each with about 420MB of RAM. Both devices are rooted with my Optimus One running the official Android 2.3.3 ROM from LG and the tablet running Android 2.3.7 via CyanogenMod. The only other difference would be screen size and resolution: 7″ 800 x 480 screen on the tablet and 3.2″ 480 x 320 screen on the phone.
Anybody who has a clue what’s going on, do let me know. Any help would be well appreciated.
After hearing that the Brunei Times introduced their iPad app and discovering that there is a mobile e-paper for iOS devices that served regular jpg files, I thought it would be great to have an Android app to do something similar to the iPad app.
Downloads current days paper and saves to SD card (/sdcard/Pictures/bt/date)
Pages download in the background
If all pages are downloaded, no further network connection is needed
Add home screen for listing all previously downloaded papers
Possibly find the high resolution images used in the iPad app
Notification of download status
Carousel image gallery with multi-touch zoom as seen in image viewers (swipe to move page to page)
So after dusting off some Android development cobwebs I have managed to get the following beta app for your feedback =)
There is nothing worse that seeing a person get new gadget only to be disappointed in it after a while. While this post only covers a few aspects, I hope it helps inform of some things to look out for. This post is targeting more of the mid-range / high-end Android phones for several manufacturers based on some observations I’ve seen repeated over and over again.
Typically only dual band UMTS support: meaning you may not be able to get 3G when overseas depending on the frequency used. There is nothing worse that having a great phone and not being able to get the maximum potential out of it, just because the manufacturer decided to save a bit of money by not giving you a better radio supporting more frequencies. Acceptable for budget devices, but not for midrange / high-end ones.
They seem to make a new flagship phone very quickly after one another or that their flagship phone is not really clear. For other manufacturers the flagship phone is typically the highest-end phone with the most capabilities and it is pretty clear which device it is.
Samsung – Galaxy S, Galaxy SII.
Sony Ericsson – Xperia X10, Xperia Arc.
Motorola – Droid / Milestone, Droid 2, Droid 3
Based on Wikipedia Announced dates of previous HTC phones which I consider their flagship device:
I won’t recommend higher end phones because they have only 320MB for app storage (Arc, Neo, Pro, Ray). For budget phones like the Xperia Mini or Mini Pro this amount will be pretty good but not for mid-range or high-end phones. I think HTC has solved this problem with their higher end phones, but ask any HTC Desire owner now, and I bet they have been utterly annoyed at the meager 140MB+ free after a factor reset (now only 128MB after the Gingerbread update). Other competitors have at least 1GB, which I think is the absolute minimum acceptable.
Bad support: i.e. no updates. As an owner of the LG Optimus One there was first talk of it not being able to be upgraded to Android 2.3 a.k.a. Gingerbread, but then in December they said it would get the 2.3 upgrade. While it seemed to be rolled out in Romania at the start of July, it is still not available to me. Note that this is their budget phone and according to the Facebook note the higher end models like the Optimus 2X will receive the update only after the Optimus One update is completed. So would this continue in the future? Higher end LG phones get updated after the budget ones?
This is mainly due to the fact official updates will take longer if they do not use stock Android, meaning that they have customized things such as the launcher or interface (e.g. HTC’s Sense UI, Samsung’s TouchWiz). This is due to the fact that they would have to update their customizations before pushing the upgrade. There was a long delay for the HTC Desire to get Android 2.2 which would aid the lower app storage space by allowing moving apps to the SD card.
Samsung, Motorola and Huawei are the other main Android manufacturers that I don’t really have any beef against. There is a mention of Samsung breaking some core functionality but that is for any non-stock Android device and so far there doesn’t seem to me much complaints / responses to the post so may be an non-issue or affects a small minority (or people just think Android is broken), but is is something to note.
All being said and done, while some manufacturers have issues with their devices they can still be recommended based on price and your usage scenarios. Below are some phones I do recommend based on the different price ranges.
We managed to get our hands on the HTC Flyer at Yappe Computer, Serusop, and it seems like a good 7" Android Tablet: an alternative to the older Galaxy Tab. It’s selling for B$859 (cash price) / B$886 (credit card price) for the 32GB model.
works in apps that support it otherwise touching the screen takes a screenshot that you can annotate
cannot be used to ‘touch’ all controls / buttons only digitizer palette brought up by touching the icon with the digitizer (not your finger)
requires a single AAAA (yes 4 As) battery which I have not seen in shops
has 2 buttons: 1 highlights text, other erases
Bundled HTC Apps
Notes application syncs to Evernote and allows infinite vertical scrolling. Allows text input, photo embedding, handwriting annotation as well as voice dictation
Reader application is a reading app linked with Kobo for in app purchasing
Watch application allows renting and buying of movies (but doesn’t seem available in Brunei, thus can only watch previews/trailers)
While it is a 7" Gingerbread (2.3) tablet instead of Honeycomb (3.x, which is the tablet optimized version of Android) it seems to be the better choice at the moment as apps will run on it with the only issue may be the way it looks. Currently is only one 7" Honeycomb tablet: the Acer Iconia Tab A100 and it was released yesterday. It is the first device to have Android 3.2 which is supposed to provide better support for 7" tablets compared to the regular bigger 10" Honeycomb tablets. However there seem to be some force close issues and app incompatibilities reported by This Is My Next and ZDnet (i.e. more work for the developer to fix problems).
On the entertainment side it supports 720p video playback, supports quite a few file formats and codecs but there is no HDMI output unless you get the dock to use with the extended microUSB connector on the flyer. The HTC Watch app is a nice feature but not being available here makes it of no use. For office use, there is support for Microsoft Office documents that allows editing with normal text entry and even the stylus (however, not all file formats are editable). Battery life seems a bit mixed with the Engadget review being impressed by it while TechRadar and CNET UK rated it has having bad battery life. BGR and Android Central give it decent battery life with typical use of 2 days per charge.
While I wished they didn’t remove the calling ability of the device, the usability of the pen to annotate and take notes is pretty appealing. A good alternative to the Galaxy Tab if you don’t plan to use it for calling. Smaller and more portable than an iPad it is made more for mobility. The main reason to get this device is the active digitizer and stylus combo or if you just wish for a tablet faster than the Galaxy Tab whose age is showing. Nice to see HTC innovate with the Flyer and hope to see more with the upcoming Puccini, their shot at the 10" tablet category.