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
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.
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 =)
Been super busy finishing up contract work and now MovemberBN. With KristalFM being the official broadcast station for MovemberBN and their recent relaunch with an online streaming option, I thought it would be fitting to have an Android streaming app for KristalFM.
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.
I came to know of the EeePad Transformer’s existence in Brunei via Goh De No’s article in the Brunei Times last week. The Transformer is an Android tablet but also a ‘laptop/notebook’ with the keyboard dock that adds functionality to make this an interesting device.
Android 3.1 (according to Goh De No in the Brunei Times article)
Price: B$899 for the 16GB version with the keyboard dock at C.F. King in Kiulap (no non-bundled price available)
Android 3.2 is available to this device via the Transformer’s download page and thus adds better functionality and compatibility with applications developed for phones with the new ‘zoom’ mode. This should scale applications up just like the iPad does for iPhone apps. While phone apps should install and run on Honeycomb tablets, the layout may look weird or even broken and this feature should resolve it.
While I’m saddened that CF King did not offer a price without the keyboard dock, the Transformer is a device that can have some productivity uses with the keyboard dock which allows the device to be used for up to 16 hours (the other 8 hours in the day can be used for sleep!). Damien from Carrypad is actually trying to use the Transformer as an enterprise productivity device and I’m curious to see the outcome of his experiment. Coincidentally he has just posted an article about week 1 of the Transformer usage.
Another thing interesting about the Transformer is that it will have a dongle to convert the HDMI to VGA output: a great tool if you wish to use it for presentations on the move, as VGA is still much more compatible and widely available on projectors. I believe this is the only other tablet besides the iPad that has VGA output and is something I would recommend for teachers or anybody else who gives presentations and wants to have a minimal yet functional setup with them.
Read full reviews of the Transformer at LaptopMag, AnandTech, Carrypad (Part 2 here) and Engadget. If you’re interested in the device I suggest heading down to CF King and have a go at the device. One of their staff, Poh, is a nice and friendly guy there, I’m sure he could help you out.
For other innovating / whacky tablets from ASUS keep a look out for the 10" Eee Pad Slider, 7" Eee Pad MeMO 3D or the 10" pad and 4.3 phone that make up the Padfone. One thing is for sure, none of ASUS Android tablets are typical. As the fore father of the netbook with the Eee PC I salute you!
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.
This phone seems to be a phone I would buy, if I didn’t buy my LG Optimus One, as a great budget Android phone which seems to have the least compromises. Check out the video that I managed to get at Incomm as I played with the device.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread: the current major version of Android of phones
3" HVGA (320×480) screen: a bit small in size but good resolution that is widely supported by all apps
Slide out landscape QWERTY keyboard
1GHz Snapdragon CPU with Adreno 205 GPU
400MB for apps (according to GSM Arena): a bit small but acceptable for a budget phone and sadly (for Arc users) it is the same amount as the Arc based on Sony’s specs which says up to 320MB (Arc vs Mini Pro)
5MP rear camera with autofocus, flash and 720p video recording (auto focus while recording video, recorded in mp4 encoded with h264, aac)
VGA front facing camera for video calls
Supports Adobe Flash
Plays 720p videos (mp4 encoded with h264,aac)
Can open PDFs and Microsoft Office documents (doc,docs,xls,xlsx,ppt,pptx)
I really like that this budget phone seems to have practically no compromises for a budget phone: there doesn’t seem to be any major show stoppers. Most budget phones will have no front facing cameras and won’t have cameras that can record 720p. A budget phone won’t have a keyboard nor a 1GHz CPU. The CPU couple with a GPU and sufficient RAM should ensure this device is smooth and usable for the regular user.
The main issue is the small 3" size of the screen (iPhone: 3.5", Optimus One & Wildfire S: 3.2", Galaxy Mini: 3.14"): a small size coupled with a high resolution may make some text small to read and will make using the onscreen keyboard a bit difficult. Thankfully there is a physical keyboard on the Xperia Mini that should help alleviate this (as long as the keyboard is good and usable). Also the smaller 1200mAh battery (vs 1500mAh of the Optimus One) may give it less battery life, but that also depends on the amount of work being done: with a better CPU, the same amount of work may require less energy from the Xperia Mini. I guess we’ll just have to wait for more in-depth reviews with battery life scores and this is the main unknown factor at the moment. Another compromise would possible be the UMTS frequency band support with it only being dual (900/2100) or triband (800/1900/2100) depending on where it is purchased but I don’t think this will affect many. Most of these issues/compromises are acceptable for a budget device.
With that said, I think I could tentatively highly recommend this phone to users but only after they take a look at it and try to use the keyboard and check to see if the text is too small on the device; and also after some battery life tests are published – all the features are of no use if the battery life is bad. From my use with it, the screen and text size seem fine but my fat thumbs did have a bit of an issue with typing. It could play 720p video, Flash video and even edit office documents. Overall a snappy device and I’m just very impressed at what Sony Ericsson managed to pack on this device hitting all the right check boxes giving the user minimal compromises. Great job Sony Ericsson, now improve your higher end devices!
Sample Photos (note front camera was covered with a thin plastic film):
I was pretty into the Archos 70 IT when it was announced due to it having Froyo, Flash, USB host and HDMI output. However some quality issues (some reported screens was assembled upside down and thus viewing angles were wrong: they watched videos with the device upside down) and some Android issues (low app storage space and no Market / Google apps) led me not to get one. With Honeycomb the low app storage space should be solved and hopefully they work on better quality this time around. Also the upgrade options for Archos may not be the best: they may update fixes, but looking from their device line up it seems they won’t upgrade major Android versions. Their last generation are still on Android 2.2 while some of their budget tablets are on Android 2.1, and I’m not sure if this behaviour will change with Honeycomb. So to be on the safe side; if you plan to purchase these tablets, get them for what they can provide out of the box not for what you think they can do with any future updates.
I managed to stumble upon the Huawei IDEOS S7 at Yappe IT Store in Serusop selling for B$399 (cash price) and when recording the video below I noticed that quite a few of them have already been bought. Check out the video giving an overview of the device
CPU: 750 MHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (source: UMPCportal as we forgot to check the processor but it seemed decent enough)
GPU: Adreno 200
7″ 800×480 (WVGA) Capactive Multi-Touch Screen
Android 2.2 with custom launcher
Front and Rear facing 2 megapixel cameras that record in CIF (352×288)
8GB storage (7.51GB available but 116MB for apps)
3G Enabled (standard SIM) with dialer (can make calls and text)
Can run Flash (installed from Market)
Upto 720p HD playback of mp4 (h264, aac), wmv files
Device seems rooted by default (Superuser was installed after factory reset)
Other hardware details: Kickstand, Removable battery, Optical trackpad
Budget price B$399: great budget device for a 7″ tablet and phone with calling ability
Able to run Flash for a fuller web experience (put settings as ‘On-Demand’ for better performance)
Android 2.2 thus you can do mobile tethering (share 3G via Wi-Fi)
Cold boot / Restarts in about 1 minute
Decent Performance: it did not seem sluggish or noticeable slow but there were times where it took multiple touches to get the device to respond (could be also due to the plastic film on the device screen)
Only 116MB free for apps
A few default apps are landscape oriented and don’t rotate if device is in portrait mode
No Office software to read Word/Excel/Powerpoint files (doc/docx/xls/xlsx/ppt/pptx)
I doubt this will get any future upgrades because it is an older model and Huawei is releasing an S7 Slim and also the recently announced Media Pad. The main issue with the device will be the battery life: having a removable battery aids it but then you will have to buy another battery and external charger to keep it running. I was contemplating on the device and using it as a mobile hotspot with my b-mobile Zoom! SIM card and using it as a tablet for reading and on the go computing. However with the possible battery life issues, the best bet for my use case is still the Samsung Galaxy Tab which will cost about B$250 more but you get better hardware and a better overall experience. But having said that, I believe this is the cheapest 3G and Flash enabled Android tablet in Brunei. If you’re looking for a budget all-in-one phone and tablet device, and don’t mind the possible battery life issues, this is a good deal.