Category Archives: ipod

You can turn your Android into an iPod, but why?



Not long ago an app called Idrod surfaced in the Google Play store. What is this you say? What if I told you it was an app designed to make your Android look exactly like an iPod? You may say “cool!”, but I say “why?”. Before you begin your attack please hear me out and then you can hurl your insults.

First of all I get it — nostalgia. After all, the iPod is fast becoming yesterday’s device. Sure, it is largely credited with turning Apple around when the company was on the brink of failure. It solidified Steve Jobs’ place as a genius of design and marketing, although the latter should be considered the biggest part given that Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player.

Second — yes, the app is very cool. It’s well done, looks authentic, has lots of options, etc., etc. There are plenty of people who still want an MP3 player, although those numbers are quickly dwindling. And, yes, the iPod is the all-time classic in the field.

But, and here is my point, who stores music on their phone these days? In 3+ years with Android handsets I have never once transferred a single song to a device. I own more than 80 GB of music, but every bit of it is available for streaming from anywhere via Google Music. In fact, it’s also on Amazon Cloud Player as well, just for a backup to the backup. If I grow tired of all of that then I have Pandora to fall back on — I even pay them $4.99 per month for ad-free service. Those who don’t care for Pandora have countless other choices like Spotify and Rdio to choose from.

My real point isn’t to make fun of Idrod — it’s a very cool, well done and a good looking app. It’s more to wonder why this, or any other MP3 player app, is even necessary today. Do you have an answer? By all means, let me know.


An Airbus A380 Flew Over My House



My husband has been using a really fun app called Plane Finder. Today, he discovered that an Airbus A380 flew over the house. He heard a loud plane outside, and wondered what kind it was. Plane Finder had the answer!

Plane Finder picks up ADS-B plane feeds that are used by both commercial and private planes to transmit information. It has the name of the plane, its position, callsign, status and more. Plane Finder’s own servers then add some more information. They give you the departure airport that the plane came from and the destination where the plane is headed. Select one of the little planes on the map and you will get a picture of what the plane looks like.

The Plane Finder app is free, and is compatible with iPhone and iPod touch. There is also a version that works with Android devices. If you have an interest in planes, then this is the app for you. Right now is the busiest travel season of the year, so there should be plenty of opportunity for you to use Plane Finder to find out what kind of plane is flying over your house.

Pinkfroot is the company that makes Plane Finder. They also make a free Ship Finder app that tracks ships. Both Ship Finder and Plane Finder update when Pinkfroot has more stuff to add to it.


Update On Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard For iPad 2 & iPad 3



Belkin Bluetooth Folio KeyboardRecently I purchased a Belkin “YourType” Folio + Keyboard for my iPad 2. The unit operates via Bluetooth. When I initially began using it I noticed there was a rather prominent problem with rather frequent lost or multiple keystrokes when a given key was only hit once. I didn’t know if this was a Bluetooth problem, or a problem with iOS 6 taking too many CPU cycles on an iPad 2. An iPad 3 might not suffer from the same lost keystroke problem when connected to a Bluetooth keyboard since it comes with a faster processor with much improved performance.

So, I started a bit of troubleshooting. One of the things I suspected might be stealing CPU cycles was app notifications. My one and a half year old iPod Touch really became sluggish after installing iOS 5 on it. I was able to mitigate the sluggish iPod response problem somewhat by turning off push notifications for the vast majority of apps. So, I turned off all of the push notifications on my iPad 2.

Turning off all push notifications did seem to help, but did not entirely fix the problem. I started experimenting with typing old standby typing phrases such as “Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country.” This phrase seemed to type in just fine with no lost keystrokes. But then when I started typing other things, I noticed the lost keystroke problem immediately reared its ugly head once again.

What could the problem be? What about that automatic spell check that is enabled by default in iOS 6? Could that be an issue? I went into the iPad settings and turned off the automatic spell checker, along with the automatic correction feature, as well as eliminating the sample shortcut that comes with iOS 6, and that helped out even more.

For good measure, I also went through and deleted as many apps as I could that I really don’t make use of on my iPad.

Since my iPad 2 is WiFi only, I also have an external “Dual” GPS unit that connects to the iPad via Bluetooth so I can use the iPad as a GPS device with apps such as TomTom, USA Atlas (Hema) and Co Pilot. I noticed if I turn it off while I’m using the Belkin Bluetooth keyboard, it helps reduce the occasional lag problem even more.

All of these things combined have improved the Bluetooth keyboard response dramatically. There are still a few dropped keys now and then, but at this point they are much less frequent to the point where the keyboard is now quite usable.

It’s likely that had I never upgraded the iPad 2 beyond iOS version 4, there likely wouldn’t be a Bluetooth keyboard lag problem. Why is it we seem to always scream for the latest iOS updates, but then ultimimately end up annoyed by poor performance?


Android Apps Accelerate



When I got my first Android phone a bit over two and a half years ago, an HTC Evo from Sprint, the Android Marketplace was a confused and confusing place. The Apple App Store had the clear advantage. Android apps that did exist then were often clunky.

A lot has changed in two and a half years. Today, the aptly renamed “Google Play” store contains Android apps that very often match their Apple app counterpart in both they way they look and in their functionality. Google Play also contains a lot of other content for sale, including magazines, music and movies.

My HTC Evo had a limited amount of primary memory, so it was effectively limited in the number of apps that could be installed. As a result, I mostly ignored the app store because I couldn’t install anything new without giving up some other app or combination of apps in order to free up that memory. I experimented with apps mostly on my iPod and iPad. Since replacing my HTC Evo with a Samsun Galaxy S3, which has no similar memory issues, I have been experimenting with new apps like mad.

What I’ve found is that for the vast majority of apps I use on my iPod and iPad, there are Android versions of the same app. So, I am able to use apps right on the Galaxy S3 such as Flipboard, Skitch, MyRadar, Adobe Photoshop Express, etc., etc., etc. In other words, most of the apps that I use on my iPod and iPad now have Android versions of the same app that function, look and act the same as the iOS version(s).

The Google Play store is better organized than it used to be. One of the major advantages of Android over iOS devices is that the apps can be set up to automatically update without any user intervention. The automatic updates function like clockwork. One you’ve installed dozens or even hundreds of apps on a device, there are always several apps per day that have updates. With iOS devices, the update process must be initiated manually. Let your iOS devices sit a more than a day or two without updating them, and the apps needing updates rapidly escalates. With Android, the updates simply happen automatically and leave a pull-down notification of their success.

Apple still has a clear advantage when it comes to iPad apps versus the confusion that still exists in the realm of Android tablets. However, when it comes to phone devices such as the Galaxy S3, the app advantage once enjoyed by iOS has greatly lessened.

Competition is a wonderful thing for the consumer. It makes products far better. The explosion of hand-held computing devices and fast broadband wireless networks is resulting in a continuing explosion of future possibilities and possibilities realized.


Review of Spider + App by Brainium Studios



Lately, I’ve become a bit nostalgic for some aspects of what computers were like in the early days of the internet. Remember when PCs used to come with one, simple, solitaire game installed? I spent countless hours playing with the virtual cards on my computer even though I had a perfectly good deck of real cards that I could have been using. There was something relaxing about playing solitaire on my computer, and it was nice to not have to put away the cards when I was finished.

Today, many of the “time-waster” games have gotten rather complex. I’ve grown tired of the games that require you to get online, log into Facebook, and hope that your friends will send you enough “virtual stuff” to complete the quest, build something, or advance in the game. It started to feel very tedious.

Recently, I asked my friends to suggest an easy, “time-waster” game that did not require me to log into Facebook every time I wanted to play it. The game that got the most mentions was Spider Solitaire. I now use a Mac, and a brief search of the App Store revealed a game called Spider + that was created by Brainium Studios.

The app costs $1.99 on the Mac App Store. The version for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad requires iOS 4.0 or later, and is free. The Android version cost $0.99. You can find a quick link to whichever version works best for you through the Brainium Studios website.

I am really enjoying this app! The cards make a flicking sound as they are placed. If you move a group of cards from one row to another, it makes a soft, “shh” sound. The game is very relaxing! You can customize the design that appears on the back of the cards, and the background the cards sit on, by choosing from a few different designs, or by selecting an image from your computer.

The game keeps track of how long it took you to win in the last game you played, and your best (and fastest) time completing the game. It also shows you how many moves it took for to you to complete the last game, what score you earned in that game, and a total of all your scores. The cards shuffle quickly, and I haven’t had any glitches or bugs at all. I highly recommend this game to those of you who long for the days when you could easily spend a couple of minutes playing with virtual cards.


Apple, Samsung and a Third Way for Patents



Samsung LogoWhen I heard the verdict on the Apple v. Samsung case, I was angry. Angry with Samsung for copying, angry with Apple for suing, angry with jurors for naivety, angry with the legal system for letting itself be a pawn. Over the weekend, I’ve mellowed a little but I’m still concerned about the impact it will have on consumers.

Apple is not a great first inventor. It didn’t invent the PC, the GUI, the digital music player, the smartphone or the tablet: I will leave it as an exercise for the reader to educate themselves as to who did. Apple is great at design, marketing, timing and extracting value from suppliers, partners and customers. Absolutely no doubts there and they have the bank balance to prove it.

Android LogoThe word on the street was that Apple was looking for a $30 licensing fee to cover the use of the patents. As a consumer, I think that’s a rip off when compared to the overall price of the device. None of those patents are intrinsic to the device and I would happily have a phone or tablet that doesn’t have those features. Multitouch and pinch-to-zoom is over-rated generally, and as for the bounce-back, it’s a waste of CPU cycles.

Obviously there are two possible outcomes from an Android perspective. Either the patents are circumvented and Android users get an arguably lesser experience or the manufacturers stump up the licensing fees.

But there is a third way…Wouldn’t it be great if, as an Android consumer, one could choose whether to avail of certain patents or not? You could accept the Apple licensing and pay the extra $30 or else decline and get the non-infringing version. How brilliant would that be and it would let the market decide which patents are valuable and which aren’t.

Of course, the chances of it happening are slim but remember Google and Samsung, you read it here first.


Activision Pitfall Updated and Released for iOS



Some of you may know the game Pitfall thanks to it being kept alive through computer emulators, and a few of you may even remember playing it on your Atari game console.  Now Activision has revived the classic with a remake for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices.

The game has been redesigned for modern mobile devices, so don’t expect any nostalgic 8 bit graphics here.  The work was done by Blast Furnace, a new Activision UK game studio.  Gordon Hall, head of the studio, said, “The team has kept the elements that made the original so much fun to play, and merged them with a cool, retro HD art style, updated controls and play mechanics to keep both old-school fans and newcomers happy.”

The new Pitfall coincides, not by accident, with the 30 year anniversary of the original Atari version from 1982.  An Android version is also planned, but no release date has yet been scheduled.


FiiO E6 Headphone Amplifier Review



The FiiO E6 is small headphone amplifier designed to improve the listening experience from personal music players and smartphones. With a couple of equalisation settings, the E6 can enhance the bass range to counteract the high-frequency tendencies of digital compression.

FiiO E6 in Retail Packaging

In the box, there’s the E6 itself, two clips for attaching the E6 to clothing, a USB charging cable and two stereo 3.5 mm cables, 12 cm and 75 cm. For hooking up iDevices, an Apple connector-to-3.5 mm jack is available to buy. There’s also a small instruction manual.

FiiO E6 Contents

The E6 is 40 x 40 x 9 mm, approximately the size of an Apple Nano. The main features are a mini-USB port for charging, two 3.5 mm stereo sockets (one in, one out), a volume rocker and an on/off slider. There’s a small LED on one side, but until the E6 is powered up, you might mistake it for a reset hole.

The E6 is quite light as the case is plastic. Coincidentally, the finish was a good match for from my Sansa  player and could easily be mistaken as a complementary accessory, but clearly that feature depends on your particular mp3 player!

Sliding up the on/off switch turns the E6 on, with a blue LED illuminating the silver corner. The volume rocker switch turns the volume up and down and as this is an amplifier, it’s possible to exceed the volume of the original device, so mind your ears. The battery life is given as around 10 hours which would be in line with my experience of the E6.

On the back, there’s a small pinhole LED showing the equalisation – off, red, blue and lilac. Each further upwards push of the on/off switch steps through to next setting. According to the manual, the four settings are equalisation off, 3 dB boost, 6 dB boost and -3 dB boost, i.e. reduction, but the effects are more subtle than simply amping up or amping down.

Generally, the equalisation boosted the bass while reducing the treble and while my personal preference was for the first setting, both were very acceptable. The equalisation was done well, in that while the balance of frequencies was being adjusted, the clarity was still there. Although reduced in significance, the higher frequencies weren’t muddied and the overall impression was of greater warmth.

A small amount of background hiss was only noticeable between tracks when using the earbuds in quiet surroundings. When using over-the-ear headphones, it couldn’t be detected.

Currently priced at £18.99 from Advanced MP3 Players, the E6 is an inexpensive personal amplifier. It might have a budget price but the E6 punches above its weight, counteracting the tinniness of digitally compressed sound with depth and feeling.

Most of testing was carried out with Sennheiser CX-300 earbuds, Sennheiser eH1430 headphones and a Sansa e250 mp3 player.

Thanks to Advanced MP3 Players for the loan of the E6.


RSS Talk IOS App



I was talking to a friend early this morning about what I’d like to see in an RSS reader app. As a truck driver, I’ve got endless listening hours. I want an RSS reader app that can use text-to-speech and read articles to me in a non-stop fashion.

To my surprise, my friend told me that such an app already exists in the iTunes App Store. It’s called RSS Talk. It comes pre-populated with a variety of different mainstream RSS feeds, in addition to the ability to manually add feeds of the user’s choosing. RSS Talk sells for $1.99 and has very positive user comments. I immediately downloaded the app and gave it a try. It really does work as advertised! The female voice is very clear and natural. It does a great job of just reading the article and completely avoids reading non-article elements that most text-to-speech schemes end up reading such as formatting tags.

This is one of those rare apps that brings the best elements of hardware and software together in an easy-to-use app form. Once it is started playing there’s no need for human intervention. It makes the perfect reading companion, enabling me to listen to all of those RSS feed articles I’ve been subscribed to for years but rarely have time to actually read.

This app is a buy!

http://rsstalkapp.com

 


Amazon Cloud Player App Finally Available for iOS



Amazon Cloud Player has been available for Android devices since it launched, but today Amazon announced that the music app is now available for iPad and iPhone.  That’s great news for iOS owners, especially given that the other big player in this field, Google Music, is also not available for Apple’s mobile platform.

Amazon Cloud Player offers 5 GB of free storage for your MP3’s.  Customers can not only store the music they purchase through the Amazon MP3 Store, but also upload their existing music to the service.  Additional storage is available at tiered rates, which are pretty reasonably priced.  New users can sign up for the service over at Amazon.  The app is available now through the iTunes Store.  The app is free for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch and requires iOS 4.3 or higher.  Amazon Cloud Player is also available for Android and on the web.

iPhone and iPod touch