Category Archives: mobile

AVG Android Performance Apps



AVGAnti-virus outfit AVG have released a suite of small Android apps which aim to improve the performance of your smartphone or tablet. The free apps Cleaner, TuneUp and Uninstaller all help to keep your device ticking over smoothly. Here’s what each app offers.

AVG Memory & Cache Cleaner – The Cleaner apps cleans out all the cruft and detritus that accumulates on your smartphone or tablet in caches, downloads and histories. Overtime, this material can build-up and have a significant impact on functionality. For example, on my tablet the Play Store sometimes gets stuck and can’t upgrade an app until I clear out its cache and this app sorts it out. The app provides plenty of options to clear out certain sets of information while leaving others intact but the best feature is the Auto Clean which lets the user set how often the Cleaner app removes the rubbish. I have mine set to clear out once a week and I’m regularly seeing 100 MB or over being tidied up.

AVG Cleaner

AVG Battery Saver & TuneUp – This app has four distinct parts, Task Killer, Battery Consumption, Data Usage and Storage Usage, which together are less focussed that the other two apps. However, this doesn’t stop them being useful.

  • Task Killer is self-explanatory and kills user-selected tasks and processes. I think tasks are the same as running apps and processes are equivalent to background processes, but this could be clearer. Helpfully the tasks can be ordered by memory use so you can see which apps are hogging the space.
  • Battery Consumption lets the user setup a power saving mode by turning off various radios and other options. When the battery level reaches this level, the power saving mode is entered automatically.
  • Data Usage does what it says, monitoring the data used by the phone and alerting you when it gets to a predefined level. There are quite a few options around setting volume and reset dates but there doesn’t seem to be any discrimination between 3G and Wifi data which would be a useful enhancement.
  • Finally, Storage Usage shows the apps that use the most storage space with the option to uninstall the worst offenders. There’s an overlap here with the Uninstaller app but it’s no big deal.

AVG TuneUp

AVG Uninstaller – The Uninstaller app doesn’t just uninstall apps, though it seems to do this competently enough. What it does do is present different views of apps on the device so that you can make an informed choice as whether to uninstall an app or not. The four views provided are by usage, by data, by battery and by storage. Personally, I find by usage the most useful as it lets you see the apps that you really never use and aren’t going to miss. There’s a weekly reminder feature which reviews the app usage and recommends apps for uninstallation based on lack of use.

The other Uninstaller views could be useful if you are having a problem, but I already know that Ingress is consuming a large percentage of my battery. The storage view is handy too if you are wondering where your memory has gone but that option didn’t throw up too many surprises for me either.

AVG Uninstall

Overall, these are all handy little apps that are worth the free download. If you’ve already got AVG Antivirus, you’ll find that these apps integrate into the Antivirus app so you can launch Cleaner and Uninstaller from within Antivirus. The Battery Saver and TuneUp app’s functionality is already built-in to the Antivirus app so this app is not required if you have AVG Antivirus.

The only irritating aspect of these apps is the advertising. It’s not that I’m against the advertising per se – the apps are free after all – but it’s that the adverts are for apps that I’ve installed already! AVG, please don’t waste the screen real estate for apps I’ve got, and if you were to introduce paid versions, I’d buy them.

All are available to download from the Play Store. Tomorrow, I’ll be looking at two other AVG apps, Privacy Fix and Image Shrink & Share.


A Microsoft Fantasy



MandroidMicrosoft and their “Windows Everywhere” strategy — it’s a painful thing to watch.  Microsoft is becoming the new Blackberry.

Technology is always improving at an ever-accelerating pace.  Mobile devices combined with ubiquitous, ever-present Internet, combined with ever-increasing bandwidth have come together to disrupt the traditional PC market, which itself was a disruption.

Companies that ride the wave of technological disruption frequently become household names. Once upon a time one of them was Microsoft, which was able to ride the crest of the wave of the personal computer revolution. Microsoft software was once almost everywhere. Alas, the next wave of disruption came along in the form of mobile hand-held computers with always-on connectivity, and now Microsoft in many respects is drowning behind that next wave.

I believe people at Microsoft see the handwriting on the wall – traditional PC sales numbers are dropping like a stone into a bottomless pit. The vast majority of people don’t need a traditional computer because modern handheld touchscreen devices such as iPads and smartphones frequently do most of what consumers want faster and better.

So, with Windows 8 Microsoft tried to force Windows users away from the traditional PC desktop to a new touchscreen interface dubbed “Metro” that seems to be sort of half-baked. When users rebelled, they released a semi-compromise in the form of Windows 8.1. Apparently the thinking must have been that if they could get end-users of desktop Windows computers used to the new interface, they would naturally gravitate towards the same interface on Microsoft smartphones and tablets. Thus – “Windows Everywhere” has been implemented and is clearly floundering, with good reason.

Microsoft is still a profitable enterprise, largely because of the X-Box and server software. In my opinion, Microsoft should concentrate on these two profitable areas of their business and forget about selling tablets and smartphones.

A Radical Suggestion

However, if Microsoft can’t bring themselves to abandon the mobile device market, I have a radical suggestion for them. It’s clear to me the only remote chance Microsoft has of success in todays’s mobile market is if they would dump mobile versions of Windows and adopt Android. They could call it Mandroid.

Microsoft now owns Nokia, and even before the Nokia purchase Microsoft has demonstrated it can produce sleek hardware.

Microsoft, if you want ANY chance of the vast majority of consumers considering buying your mobile products, re-develop them with Android. You would have the huge instant advantage of the Android app market, and a stable mobile OS that already has plenty of marketplace traction.

Will Microsoft adopt Android? Not a chance. If Microsoft is lucky it will end up like IBM, a beached shell of its former self.


Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 Review



Wireless mice are commonplace these days but many only work with their own brand wireless transceiver, which restricts their use to devices equipped with USB ports. Less common are Bluetooth-based mice which have the potential to work with any Bluetooth-equipped unit, including Android and iOS tablets, potentially making them much more useful. On review here is one such mouse, the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000. Snappy name, but let’s take a look.

The 5000 is fairly typical of notebook mice being smaller than a typical desktop mouse at only 9 cm long and about 5.5 cm wide. People with large hands may find the mouse is too small but for occasional use with a tablet or notebook, it’s fine. I certainly wouldn’t want it as my main mouse as I can’t really rest my hand on it, but this is all subjective and some people may find it perfect.

image

Looks-wise, it’s not a Microsoft Arc or a Logitech Ultrathin, but it’s not entirely unattractive. This is the version with silvery-white buttons and dark gray body; there is a version with these colours reversed too. The silver matched my Samsung Chromebook rather nicely but the colour does vary with the light.

Two Duracell AA batteries power the 5000, which are supplied in the packaging and Duracell’s make a welcome change from the generic AAs that usually accompany remote controls and other battery-powered accessories. There’s an on/off switch on the bottom to conserve power when not in use. I’ve been using the mouse for about a week and I’ve yet to replace the batteries.

To pair the mouse, there’s a second button on the underside that needs to be pressed for a few seconds to put the mouse into a pairing mode. After that, the mouse should appear in the device list of whatever computer is to connect to the mouse. I successfully paired with an Android tablet, a Windows 8 tablet and a Chromebook. I imagine that it will work with iPads and other iOS devices but I didn’t have one at hand to test.

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In use, the 5000 works pretty much like any mouse. It’s an optical mouse with a laser motion tracker so resistance will depend entirely on the surface in use. There are four buttons: left, right, middle and “back”, which is next to the main left button and can pressed by your thumb to take your web browser back a page – you can see it in the top picture. Great if you are right-handed, but a waste of time if you are left-handed. The scroll wheel has a bit of stiffness to it but I like that as it prevents accidental scrolling.

Overall, the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 is a good mouse but not a great mouse. It’s nothing special but there’s nothing wrong with it either (except for the back button only being useful to right-handed users) . The 5000 is available from all good retailers for around £25.

Disclaimer: this was a personal purchase.


Rovio gets ready for tricks and treats



angry birds friends halloween

Halloween is right around the corner and, as in previous years, Rovio is celebrating via its popular mobile games. In the past this has consisted of an update to Angry Birds Seasons, but this time around the developers are taking a different approach.

The Finnish company is rolling out two updates, this time adding zombie pigs to both the Bad Piggies game, as well as Angry Birds Friends, the weekly tournament game.

“This is the Halloween when Zombie Pigs will walk the Piggy Island! A new update for Bad Piggies, called Tusk ‘til Dawn, kicked off the Halloween celebrations by introducing 30 spooky new levels with scary Zombie Pigs searching for King Pig’s candy”, the company has announced.

In addition, beginning October 23 there will be a special Halloween tournament live on Angry Birds Friends. “Don’t worry! You’ll have new custom slingshots to fight the hordes of the oinking dead. You can purchase a new slingshot with a special power that will apply to all birds shot with it. You can change the slingshots for each bird, and once purchased you can use them permanently in both web and mobile versions of the game”.

Both updates are now available in the Google Play store and the Apple store.


Angry Birds goes Kart Racing on December 11



Rovio continues to find new ways to market its industry leading mobile game franchise, Angry Birds. This time, instead of teaming with another major franchise, as it did for Star Wars, the Finnish company is heading to the race track.

Today Rovio unveiled Angry Birds Go, a new racing game set to hit app stores on December 11. “It’s a complete first for the Angry Birds series, featuring high-octane downhill racing, upgradable karts, tons of characters with unique special powers and a fully rendered 3D world”, the company announced today.

The game will be free to play, and Rovio has partnered with Hasbro to integrate TELEPODS into the racing game. For now, a gameplay trailer has been released to tease you with what can be expected this holiday season.


Virgin Mobile’s YouTube Wants to “Blinkwash” You



Virgin Mobile
Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile is running a new video on Youtube. It’s called “Blinkwashing”. You will need a webcam connected to your computer, which the YouTube page will calibrate your face and blinking. This will act as a remote control to switch the video up.

Every time you blink, the video changes. It doesn’t lose place in the video; it just moves to another video with the exact same script. Blink your eyes and you see two girls talking on the phone about Virgin mobile. Blink again and you see an aerial view of police cars and the script sounding like its coming from the CB. Blink again and two bikers are arm wrestling.

It doesn’t matter how many times you blink, the channel will change. If you don’t blink at all, the video will continue on. There is everything from a clown to a karaoke channel talking about Virgin Mobile.

virgin-blinkwash[1]When I tried this on my Macbook Pro, it worked like a charm. However, on my desktop sits an older Logitech 9000 webcam which brought problems. You won’t be able to do this on mobile devices.

Could this be the start of something new? There is a possibility. Other head movement instructions could turn Youtube videos into a “Choose your own adventure” video. Want to walk through a door on the left – turn your head to the left.

In the meantime, I think I’m going to switch over to Virgin Mobile now…

 


Zens Qi Wireless Charger



Although I was disappointed by the Nokia DT-900, I wasn’t ready to give up on wireless charging nirvana for my Nexus 4. With a bit of searching and review-reading, I plumped for a Zens Universal Qi Single Wireless Charging Plate which garners 4.5 stars on Amazon. Although unknown to me, Zens is a young Dutch company specialising in wireless charging products, and from first appearances, it looks like they’re doing a good job.

The Zens charging plate comes in a well-presented package but is surprisingly small. It’s bigger than the DT-900 but it’s still not large and I imagine that most large screen smartphones will overhang on one side or another. However, the extra size and the rubber covering mean that most smartphones will sit comfortably on the pad. As with the DT-900, it has a DC power supply – no USB charging here, either.

Nexus 4 on Zens Charger

In use, the Zens charging plate is far better with the Nexus 4 than the DT-900. In most instances, simply placing the the Nexus onto the pad started charging and usually, I’d get a high rate of charge without any precise positioning. With a bit of practice, I was able to get a sweetspot that worked every time and an LED on the right side of the plate turns green when the pad starts charging.

The screenshot below shows the charging rate when everything is perfectly aligned and honestly, it’s not far off the rate when the Nexus is plugged in.

Zens Charge Rate

The plate also has a feature that when the phone is fully charged, the charging turns off until the the battery levels falls to about 93%. Here’s what it looks like in Battery+.

Zens Wireless Charger - Full charge

In my opinion, the Zens charging plate knocks the DT-900 into a cocked hat, especially if you have a Nexus 4. Both are priced a little under £45 here in the UK, though the Zens charger seems quite pricey in the US at $100 (Amazon). Update – have since discovered the Zens charger on other websites for a far more reasonable $50. Recommended for all UK Nexus 4 owners.


SIM Card Security Flaw Exposing 750 Million Cell Phones



SIM Card
SIM Card

Outdated encryption is to blame for a new risk on your cellular device. According to a report by SRLabs and research which will be presented at BlackHat on July 31st, the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card can be hacked in a few ways, including through SMS messages.

According to SRLabs, SIM cards use 56-bit DES encryption – a technology created in the 70s. Using what is called FPGA clusters, a SIM can be crackable. SRLabs is looking to make aware these issues, then recommend a better SIM card technology, SMS firewall and SMS filtering so simple hacking techniques cannot access SIM card data.

It is reported that over 750 million SIM cards are vulnerable to this hack. That is 1 in 8 SIM cards, according to Karsten Nohl of SRLabs. An improperly encrypted SMS message – along with use of a custom Java program – can open the SIM to the malware. A hacker can do anything from change your voicemail to access your personal information on the SIM card.

In some phones, most information is stored on the phone and not the SIM. In some phones, SIM data can also include bank information, passwords to websites and programs and more. However, as we move to mobile and wearable devices, more SIM cards will be used to connect people to cellular networks.

 

 

 


Rovio rolls out account sync to iOS and Android



Rovio again makes the news, this time not with a major game release racing up to the top of the download charts, but instead with the beginning of its account roll out. Why is this a big deal? Simply because customers can now put down their phone, pick up their tablet and play a game right from where they left off on the previous device.

“We’ve been gradually rolling out Rovio Account over the past couple of months, listening to feedback and ensuring a seamless sync experience for all of our fans”.

angry birds

For now, the update has only hit the original Angry Birds game, but the company has plans to begin rolling it out to all of the platforms very soon. Users will see a “sign in” option on the home screen of the app. I have used the feature, already, to bring my progress from my Nexus phone to my tablet and can report it works perfectly well.

“We know that you’ve all been waiting for a way to sync progress between devices and we really feel that we have an amazing solution in place now” Rovio announces.

Now, we only have to await the feature to be rolled out to Space, Star Wars and the rest of the company’s hit games, a process which should take place over the coming days and weeks.


It’s Time for Dual-Band Bluetooth Please!



170px-Bluetooth.svg[1]So this first week with my Google Glass has come with a lot of fun tasks like getting out and capturing the city through this new device. Yet, it also brought some annoyances – mainly the pairing of Glass to a mobile device. Whenever I got in my car, my Jabra hands-free unit kicked the Glass out and Glass never re-paired with it unless I manually re-paired.

Its not just Google Glass. I have a ZAGG folio on my iPad. I also have a Bluetooth headphones which I cannot use at the same time. I would like to use both – listen to music or podcasts and create an article or two. Instead, I pair the headset to my phone and the keyboard to my iPad.

As we continue down the mobile plug-free road, we’re going to be faced with the same problem as HDMI ports on a LCD TV have – too many devices fighting for limited connectors. Worst yet, we don’t want another device controlling our mobile Bluetooth connections in our pockets.

One way to solve would be to create a dual-band Bluetooth standard. This would be where the Bluetooth could pair 2 devices at the same time. Then you can have your headset and your keyboard work simultaneously.

Another option is a pass-through device. For example: device 1 could be a headset and device 2 (the passthrough) could be a keyboard. You would pair device 2 with device 1, then pair device 1 with the mobile. A little more complex and only effective if you have the passthrough device around.

Currently, Bluetooth version 4.0 has a data rate of 24 Mbit/s. A keyboard might not need that high of a data rate, whereas something like Google Glass might when pushing video. That is where data packeting can shine – giving 2 devices the ability to stay paired and the mobile device not overworked.

Of course, we also have to look at power consumption. Bluetooth low energy (BLE) protocol allows for Bluetooth to be in a nocturnal state. The device would have to also work dual-band so if device 1 is on and 2 is not, it can put half the device to sleep.

At any rate, these connection problems are only going to get worse as we rely on our mobile devices to become our primary computers. Current Bluetooth standards cannot meet that demand. With the growth of mobile devices starting to outpace computers (Gartner predicts 467,000 tablets sold vs. 271,000 PC’s in 2017), the list of companies wanting to connect to that device will grow. Soon enough, we may even need 4-band (or more) Bluetooth devices.