Last year in February I wrote a post titled Why a 4 inch screen is enough (for me) feel free to jump to it and have a read. Since then almost a year has passed CES 2013 starts tomorrow the rumor mill is spinning, I got a new phone a HTC One S, Google released the Nexus 4. Sony is going to announce the Xperia Z and LG the G2 and much more. We will for sure see some very interesting phones in 2013. Today I want to revisit my post from last year and change my opinion slightly. I originally said 4 Inches are enough and I don’t need a larger screen. And I think I still don’t NEED a larger screen but I have been happy with the 4.3 inches on the HTC One S. In the image at the top of the post I am again comparing a few phones. One thing that I find very interesting is how the Xperia T stacks up next to the One S. Even thought it has a larger screen than the One S it is almost the same height as the One S. Unfortunately that\s not something that can be said about the Nexus 4, it continues down the same path that the Galaxy Nexus started, it is simply a phone that is too big for me, it is uncomfortable to hold. But where does this leave us with regards to phone sizes in 2013. Well I really hope that manufacturers try to reduce bezels and squeeze bigger screens into smaller phones. For fun I did a little experiment and put some larger screens on the Nexus One and the One S. To my surprise it looks like the Nexus One size could easily fit a 4.3 inch screen. The One S could fit the 4.55 inch screen from the Xperia T with reduced bezels and it could actually be made even more compact reducing the height of the phone to almost Nexus One dimensions.
I believe there is a market for phones like the Galaxy S 3 the HTC One X and the Nexus 4 but my wish for 2013 is that manufacturers start to realize that it makes sense to offer the same power in different screen sizes. There is no reason why a smaller phone needs to be slower.
If I could build my dream phone in 2013 I would take the solid construction of Sony’s Xperia T combine it with full 2 day battery life, a metal body with NFC and a 4.3 inch screen in a phone the size of a Nexus One of course with pure Android. Call it the Nexus T and I will be very tempted to buy it.
When looking at the Manufacturers I have a few wishes.
HTC should make an effort to build a Nexus phone people will love it, the One S was a great phone but offering the sleeker black version only in select markets was a stupid idea, the gradient version with the blue highlights was simply ugly. And finally get your act together and build a product line that makes sense. Flooding the market with the One X, S, V, X+ VX, SV Desire C, V and X doesn’t make it easier for customers. HTC build less but better devices please.
Sony should build on the Xperia T it was one of the phones that took me by surprise, it is one of the best engineered phones I have held in 2012 it just feels incredibly solid, please continue to build such amazing phones. I am really looking forward to the Xperia Z and what it delivers.
Samsung should finally stop building plastic crap. I just can not take a phone seriously if it feels cheap and I have yet to hold a Samsung phone that feels like a premium product. And please don’t make the Galaxy S 4 bigger than the S3 it’s starting to get ridiculous. If this trend continues we will all be carrying 10 inch tablets as phones in a few years.
LG should continue to build on the Nexus 4 platform and offer more pure Android devices, their custom skin on Android is not worth its money but LG builds solid phones, I am still using my Optimus One when exercising it feels indestructible
Motorola oh how the mighty fell. You once built great phones like the StarTac and the Razr. You came back with the tank like original Droid and tried to revive the Razr brand. I wish that you continue to build great phones and with the help of Google I am hopeful that it is time for a comeback. Do something innovative.
Nokia, poor Nokia, what can I say, why did you have to choose Windows. I pray that someone in your management finally realizes that you could build the same great phones that you build for Microsoft slap vanilla Android on them and people would buy them like Hotcakes.
RIM congratulations on finally releasing Blackberry 10 it only took you way to long, your market and especially mind-share is gone now and you probably built a solid operating system but it will ultimately fail because of a lack of apps for it. Sure you will have the one or other big enterprise or governmental contract but if you don’t jump on the Android bandwagon your time is up.
Well, so much for my outlook into 2013 I am curious how the landscape looks in 2014, I sure will be revisiting this post before CES next year.
Today is the day. It is submission deadline for The MintChip Challenge from the Royal Canadian Mint.
Check out the YouTube Video explaining how it works, below it you will find the description.
QuickPark provides a fast and simple way to pay for parking with just one click
QuickPark is a submission to the Royal Canadian Mint MintChip Challenge.
It is build around two guiding principles. A) it has to be really simple to set up and B) it has to be fast to use with as little friction as possible.
QuickPark makes paying for on the street parking easy and fast, no more digging for change or getting special cards to pay on meters, no registration required. All that is needed is the App and a phone with a MintChip and you entering the license plate of the car you wish to park.
The only piece of information that the municipality will receive is the license plate and location of the car as well as your payment. The Server then issues a parking credit that in this demo is limited to two minutes but could be of course an hour or longer. (Since the credit is only 2 minutes make sure your clock is exact if your clock is close to two minutes ahead it will not work)
This app does not let you actually pay for parking as it is only a technology demo, but it will locate you and give you a street Address as well as a map. This is good when you park in a City you aren’t familiar with. Once you clicked on “Park” it will store the location that your car is at, and you can always jump back in to the app to see where your car is and the address it is parked at. The app also tells you at what time your Parking credit expires and how many minutes till that time.
On the server side I implemented a very simple list of transactions that show fictional license plates and their time and position as well as a status of the Hosted Mintchip that the fictional Municipality would use. When you pay for parking you will see the Balance on the Website increase. http://quickpark.cirql.net/parked-vehicles
And a few screenshots of the finished product to top things off. now it’s waiting until August 15th when public voting starts. Let me know what you think in the comments on the MintChip Challenge Page
After a few weeks of waiting for approval from RIM I am happy to announce that the Saskatoon Bus Schedules App is now not only available for Android in the Google Play Store but also in the BlackBerry App World for the Playbook 2.0. All for the low price or FREE of course. Please have a look download and install it and let me know what you think.
Description from the Play App Store
Get quick access to Bus Schedule information in Saskatoon.
The unofficial App for the Saskatoon Transit system.
With this app you have all Bus Routes in Saskatoon at your fingertips, never miss a bus again, fully offline capable you can quickly find the Schedules for your Bus in seconds no need to wait for some download.
Ever stood at a bus stop and had to call Phone&Go to find out when the next Bus was supposed to come? Now you can get to any Bus stop lightning fast in just 3 clicks.
This version is just the beginning I plan on adding tons of features and look to you to suggest what you need most. Also the app currently only shows the Monday to Friday schedule we will update it soon with weekend schedules. I have been working on a brand new version that will automatically update the latest schedules from the City as soon as they are available, stay tuned for a 2.0 update early 2012.
Please contact me if you are missing a feature or have some ideas. When you first start the app it will initialize the database that can take up to 30 seconds.
I want to thank all of you who have installed this App. Thank you, it makes me really happy to see installations grow. Please rate and review the app in the Market and spread the word.
I hope that this app is useful to you, whether you are using the bus for your daily commute or are a student at the University of Saskatchewan or SIAST. If you have to use the bus this is your companion. If you are a business traveller Route 40 takes you right from YXE the John G. Diefenbaker Airport to downtown Saskatoon and back.
BlackBerry® and related marks and logos are owned by Research In Motion Limited and are registered and/or used in the U.S. and elsewhere. Used under license from Research In Motion Limited. Saskatoon Bus Schedules is a product from Grunewald’s Robots and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by Research In Motion Limited.
The Mobile World Congress is starting this Monday on February 27th 2012 and the rumor mill is spiting out new phones every day. Most manufacturers are going to announce quite a few new smartphones that will shape the phone landscape at least for the first half of 2012. And many of the phones probably will have large high resolution screens, following the Galaxy Nexus with it’s 4.65 inch screen. But is this trend really good for the people using the phones?
Looking back just two years to the introduction of the Nexus One with it’s 3.7 inch screen it was the first really great Android phone. Yes there was the G1 (Dream) and the Magic and even HTC Hero and Motorola Droid they all came before but the Nexus One really kicked things off. I still use my Nexus One and feel that it is a great capable phone that does everything that I need in a form factor that fits my hand nicely.
In 2011 Google brought out the 4inch Nexus S, which was the pure Android version of Samsungs wildly successful Galaxy S line. Had I not already owned the Nexus One I think I might have bought the Nexus S even though the build quality of the Nexus S didn’t even come close to the One, it felt plasticy and cheap. Nevertheless the 4inch form factor was great, it offered a slightly larger screen but it was still easy to use with one hand.
Mid 2011 Samsung introduced the Galaxy S II with a 4.3 inch screen and HTC introduced the Sensation also with a 4.3 inch screen. While the screen resolution of the S II remained the same at 480×800 the Sensation stepped up the game with a gorgeous 540×960 offering a real improvement over the previous 4inch generation. Samsungs entry well did not really offer any benefit the larger screen just meant the fonts and individual pixels were bigger. The 4.3 inch size was really starting to get big, and even though the Sensation and the S II are pretty similar to me the Sensation felt better in my hand, the proportions of height to width and thickness also agreed more with me than the ultra thin but wide S II
The end of 2011 Google announced its next Nexus device, the Galaxy Nexus with a stunning 720×1280 pixel screen raising the bar for pixel density to 316 ppi but at what price. The large resolution demanded a large screen a whopping 4.65 inches. As pretty as the phone might be especially with Android 4.0 the screen just doesn’t want to fit into my hand. My thumb can’t reach all corners of the screen anymore I either have to constantly re-position my hand or use the phone with two hands something that feels unnatural and awkward.
So what will 2012 have in store for us? If the Galaxy Note with 5 inches the LG Optimus Vu or the HTC One X with 4.7 inches are any indication it will be another year of big screened phones. And I am not so sure that people will continue to go for such large form factors. Especially if we have eInk E-Reders at 6 inch and tablets at 7 and 10 inches it would feel logical to have phones stay in the 3 to 4.3 inch category to stay portable and compact enough to use with one hand.
My hope for 2012 is that manufacturers realize that phones are already more than powerful enough and that bigger isn’t always better. If I could make a wish I would like to see a 4 or4.3 inch phone that has premium build quality and a 540×960 resolution. When I think back to the year 2007 when the iPhone was just announced I had a Samsung SGH-E590 a tiny 94 x 42 x 13.5 mm 65 g phone, it wasn’t a smartphone but it was the most compact and portable phone I had ever seen. Manufacturers should not forget that mobile phones, as smart as they might get, should be one thing first and that’s mobile. So hopefully we will see more variety in form factors and screen sizes this year, I miss being able to buy a phone for it’s form factor first and second for it’s OS Version or processor speed.
A while ago a friend asked me for some buying advice with regards to Android phones. Her requirement was to spend a maximum of 150 Euros and no SIM lock so that she can use it with her existing contract. Now first of a disclaimer the prices in the article are in Euros referencing Amazon.de, I am not sure how much these phones cost in other markets and there might be other alternatives.
When I set out to find an Android phone for less than 150 Euros I added a few more boxes that a phone needed to check in order for me to recommend it to my friend. The first box was that it needed to be upgradeable to android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) , the newest Version of Android. As of February 2012 there is only one phone that comes with ICS pre installed and that phone is the Galaxy Nexus, which is a premium handset and retails north of 500€ outright and would blow the budget my friend set. A quick search on Amazon.de revealed quite a few phones that ticked the below 150€ mark but most of them weren’t upgradable to ICS. I expanded my search window to up to 250€ and to my surprise there were quite a few really good phones available for less than 250€ and all of them would be getting Android 4.0.
Why is it important to have Android 4.0 you might ask, well the reason is that 4.0 is a significant upgrade, phones skipped the 3.x version of Android and are all on 2.3 or earlier. Most new phones that will be released in 2012 will hopefully be using Android 4.0 and most people who bought the first wave of Android Devices are now approaching the end of their 2 year contracts so they will tend to retire their old phones and also get new Android 4.0 phones. I would expect that by the middle of the year the 2.x devices will only be about 50% of the market and by the end of 2012 they will most likely have become irrelevant for app Developers, since Android 5.0 will be released by the end of 2012 if Google sticks with the rythm that they have established in the last years.
Now without further ado let’s have a look at the 7 devices that I found that are worth buying beginning of 2012. As I am writing this the Mobile World Congress is looming around the corner where manufacturers are expected to launch a whole slew of new Android phones most of them hopefully with 4.0. But until the new devices hit the streets, these 7 are good options if you cannot wait. Of course there are a few more phones that will get ICs but those have higher price points and are not included in this article.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray
For around 220€ you basically get an Xperia Arc that was washed a bit to hot and so it shrunk. The Ray features a sleek and compact body with a 3.3 inch screen with a resolution of 480×854, an 8 megapixel camera on the back and a front facing camera for video chats. You really get a lot of phone in a compact package. It comes with Android 2.3 and will be upgraded to 4.0 early 2012. Check out the detailed specs at GMS Arena or buy it at Amazon.de
Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
The biggest difference of the neo V compared to the Ray is the larger 3.7 inch display which results in a bigger keyboard in portrait mode which makes typing a lot easier. Unfortunately the camera is only 5 megapixel and all around the phone isn’t quite as sleek looking, but the larger display with the same 480×854 resolution might be attractive. It’s available at Amazon.de for about 210€ you can check out the full spec at GSM Arena
LG Optimus Sol E730
After two Sony Ericsson devices we now have an LG on the 3rd spot. With its 3.8inch display it is another 0.1inches larger than the neo V but in terms of specs it is pretty similar to the first two Sonys. With regards to design and looks, well it looks quite boring since it is basically just a black slab, but some might like it for its understatement. I haven’t handled this phone but if my experience with an LG Optimus One is any indication then this phone should be quite robust and solid built, and it won’t feel like it will break when you look at it. It can be yours for 240€ on Amazon.de if you want to read more about the specs check out GSM Arena
LG Optimus Black P970
The Optimus Black is the second LG in the lineup. What sets the Black apart is it’s big 4inch screen, and premium looks. It was once a higher end device when it was originally released back in May 2011, of course it has aged now as one can notice with the low 250€ price tag at Amazon.de. But nevertheless it will be updated to Ice Cream Sandwich and that makes it a great choice if you are looking for something that feels premium and has a large screen at a budget price. More info and specs at GSM Arena.
Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman
And we are back with another Sony Ericsson, we are now starting to look at lower prices and less features but you still get quite a bit of phone here. The Live with Walkman comes in at just about 160€ on Amazon.de and you still get quite a bit of phone for that. It compromises on screen size with only 3.2inches and a resolution of only 320×480 but you still get a 5megapixel camera in the back and a front facing camera for video chat. The “with Walkman” is plain marketing from Sony Ericsson it is no better or worse than any of the other phones when it comes to music. Head over to GSM Arena for the full specs.
Sony Ericsson Xperia active
If you are into sports then the active might be just right for you. It’s dust proof and water resistant, you can even use it with wet fingers. The display is scratch resistant and it comes loaded with sports and fitness apps. On the spec side the Xperia active gives you a 3inch screen to stay compact with a 320×480 resolution. Unfortunately it does not have a front facing camera. With 3 inches typing especially in portrait mode will become really hard so be aware of that before you spend the 215€ that it costs at Amazon.de. Once my LG Optimus One dies I might get this phone for sports. You can find more specs and details at GSM Arena.
Sony Ericsson Xperia mini
In the last few years smartphones have been getting bigger and bigger in screen size we went from 3.5 inches on an iPhone to a massive 4.65 inches on the Galaxy Nexus. The Xperia mini bucks the trend and offers a 3inch 320×480 display in a very compact package making it much more portable. Yes you probably are not going to watch movies on such a small screen but for less than 150€ at Amazon.de the mini has an unbeatable price and I bet you wont find any Ice Cream Sandwich device for less. You still get a fast 1Ghz processor and in general a lot of smartphone for the money. For the complete specs check out GSM Arena.
So there you have it 7 phones that will be upgraded to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich all below 250€ and one of them even below 150€. I think they all make great entry level smartphones or second phones for people who like to switch things up. I am sure there are going to be tons of new phones coming out in the coming months hopefully none of them still on 2.3 Gingerbread. Until then keep an eye on these 7 phones and get them while you can.
The beginning of July I wrote a post about my favorite Sports and Fitness Apps for Android this time around I want to highlight a few of my favorite apps to find restaurant listings and reviews as well as some apps to find out about the greatest and latest movies. Hope you find the apps useful and if you know anything that is worth adding please do comment on this post as one can never have enough great apps.
I love going to restaurants and checking out new places, especially if I am on vacation or just simply in a new city and am looking for a good place to grab a bite. This is a collection of apps that I have installed to help me find the cream of the crop in restaurants wherever I go.
TripAdvisor by TripAdvisor Rating 4.4
The TripAdvisor Website is one of the first places I go when I am planning a trip. Finding hotel reviews and good suggestions where to stay and what to avoid. The app supports the same great hotel reviews and restaurant reviews that the website offers. While I tend to use the website for hotels, I use the app a lot more for restaurants, especially to see the list of top restaurants in a city. And that feature is actually what makes this app a keeper, it allows you to keep an eye on your favorite restaurants in the city and you can see how they match up to the rest./div>
Urbanspoon by Urbanspoon Team Rating 4.1
Ahh the good Urbanspoon with it’s slot machine restaurant suggestions always a good choice for the undecided. It’s probably the most fun feature of this app but the novelty wears off quite quickly, never the less if you can’t decide where to go it’s at least worth a look. Besides that the app allows you to search for restaurants and check out the ratings and reviews see which restaurants are close by and a few more things. While I never used the Urbanspoon website before once I had the app I always check the Urbanspoon rating and the latest reviews before I go to a restaurant now.
Google Places (Maps) by Google Inc. Rating 4.5
Google Places comes as part of Google Maps and is one of the most valuable resources for Business and Restaurant information including hours, phone number and address and of course reviews, since it is so tightly integrated you will probably just happen to use it. While it is part of the Google Maps app there is an extra icon that brings you to the places landing page from which you can search quickly.
Once you have found the place you would like to eat at fire up OpenTable and check if there are still some open tables, pick the size of your party and the time and reserve a table on the spot from the app. Of course not all restaurants are available in open table, but especially those that need a reservation might be easy to find. And the good thing is no waiting on the phone for a someone to pick up and then trying to spell your name. In just a few clicks you have booked a table.
Tip Calculator by TradeFields Rating 4.4
Once you have dined and enjoyed your meal it is time to pay the bill. Maybe you aren’t as fast calculating the tip in your head as you would like to be or you need to split the bill. For all those cases Tip Calculator is a great tool, it’s quick and easy to use, allows you to round the total or round the tip or calculate the % exactly. So give it a shot the next time you need to calculate the tip.
I guess the next thing after going to a nice supper is heading out to watch a movie. For this I only have two apps that fulfill all my needs but I am looking for more so if you know a good free app that’s worth putting on your phone let me know in the comments.
IMDb Movies & TV by IMDb Rating 4.4
Who doesn’t know the IMDb the Internet Movie Database for me it has become the de facto standard when I want to know anything about a movie, show, actor, director or anything else related to things on my TV. Ever played six degrees of Kevin Bacon? Well now you got the edge, except of course your friends have the app too. The Android App brings all this goodness to your smartphone, with great search, tons of photos and awesome trailer support, so that you can plan your next movie night appropriately. On top of these more obvious features the app integrates with the search on your phone if you set it up. So you can just hit the search button and have all the information of IMDb at your fingertips.
Movies by Flixster Inc. Rating 4.5
Rainy evening and not wanting to hang out at home? Why not check what’s playing at the local movie theatre. You could look in the newspaper or on the website of each individual movie theatre or you could just use the Flixter app. Fitingly simply called Movies this app gives you all the information you need to decide if it is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 or Transformers: Dark of the Moon you get both the Flixter User reviews and the Rotten Tomatoes critics reviews, that help you decide which movie to watch. Once you have picked your movie you can check the show times and in some theatres even buy your tickets right from the app. A must have for anyone that likes movies and who doesn’t.
One of the great things about most Android phones is that they have a built in GPS and a connection to the internet, combining the two makes for some awesome fitness and outdoor apps. Here are just a few that I have. If you know of other great apps let me know in the comments or send me a message on Twitter @AGrunewald
When I first got my android phone I was looking for an app to track my workouts and after trying many different apps I have come to rely mostly on these two
Endomondo Sports Tracker by Endomondo Rating 4.6
This app allows you to track all your workouts like running, cycliing, walking it records time and gps coordinates and integrates with endomondo.com where you have a history of all your workout with lot’s of data like lap time, speed calories and so on, you can also see the map of your trip. The app itself when you are using it while working out will announce your time and speed every kilometer by voice so no need to look at your phone while exercising. If you have a Sony Ericsson Android phone you are supposed to be able to connect to certain heart rate monitors and collect that information too. There is also a paid Pro version that offers a few more features but so far I haven’t missed anything.
My Tracks by My Tracks Team at Google Rating 4.5
While not as fancy looking as Endomondo it is pretty much the grand father of all GPS Tracking apps on Android. It provides raw tracking and stats, everything is stored directly on your phones memory and ready to be exported into Google Earth. I use MyTracks not just for workouts but also on long road trips just to have a record of the when and where. When you workout you can even run the two apps in parallel.
StopWatch & Timer by sportstracklive.com Rating 4.5
There are times when tracking with a GPS might not be very useful for example if you do some indoor sport. In those cases a simple stopwatch might be more what one needs. You have a stopwatch with laptimes and a countdown timer
UltraChron Stopwatch Lite by TheSpinningHead
Yes another stopwatch, I can never decide which of the two to use. A cool feature of Ultrachron is that it can actually speak the time for both the stopwatch and the countdown time.
One of the first things I did for Android was translating SecretBox and during that translation I noticed a problem with capital letters with Umlauts in icon menus. Like ÄÖÜ so I raised a bug in the Android bugtracker. Since I am trying to understand the whole Android Platform I thought it would be fun to investigate and possibly fix the bug. After getting my Development Environment all set up I have now started to look deeper into the Bug, did my first code modifications and wanted to rebuild. And that’s were I got stuck. Since the only way I knew of building android was with the “make” command and that took for ever. So I had to find a better solution and help came asap from the #android IRC channel.
I got a link to this page Building, running, and debugging Android source which perfectly explains how to build the Android framework classes. Here is the condensed info:
Set up the environment first
$ source build/envsetup.sh
$ lunch 1
Build the framework
$ mmm frameworks/base
And sync the changes to the emulator.
$ adb remount
$ adb shell stop
$ adb sync
$ adb shell start
When you do this you don’t even need to restart the emulator. Which makes the development process so much more easy.
The only annoyance that I discovered right now is that I had to completely kill the Android Development Tools out of my Eclipse since the DDMS made problems when I wanted to debug the Framework. Since I am going to develop my Android apps mainly on my Windows machine that hopefully wont be such a big issue. But it’s something that I want to fix in the future.