Android Introduction

This is a new web site, still under construction, that is intended to present impressions, advice and other information pertaining in general to the Android platform.

It was last updated on 5-Jan-2013 where new items are colour-coded with this background colour.

Background

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Key Features

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Strengths

Weaknesses

Applications

Amazon Kindle turns any Android device into a Kindle Reader. I access my Kindle collection from my laptop, my phone, my tablet, from my Kindle 3G and from my Kindle Fire HD7. The experience varies across each platform but remains feature rich with WhisperSync keeping my page position, notes and bookmarks consistent across all platforms. Just as with AmazonMP3 for your music, Amazon Kindle keeps your books in the Amazon Cloud and you can download them whenever you want to read them. For example: I read different kinds of books on the different platforms above so I don't keep them all downloaded onto every platform. My Kindle 3G has them all, but the other platforms has just what I fancy reading there.
AmazonMP3 is my favourite source of music tracks. The search engine is good, you can hear previews of the tracks, and the price is reasonable. Tracks that you buy are stored on the Amazon Cloud and can optionally be downloaded either right away or later. Tracks stored in your account in the Amazon Cloud are yours - you have purchased them - you can stream them from the Amazon Cloud if you don't have the space to store them, or you can download them and play them locally. Up to 10 devices can be authorised and linked to your Amazon Cloud.
It is quite amazing just how many sensors that a typical Android device will have. Apart from the obvious such as GPS, it will usually have noise levels, light levels, presence sensors, gyro sensors (so it know which way up it is), motion sensors, electronic compass etc. This fascinating app shows what sensors your device has and what they are reading at the moment and can produce fancy graphs from each sensor.

Astro File Manager is a really excellent tool for handling files and applications. It provides a Windows Explorer-like mechanism for finding your files and copying them, moving them, deleting them etc. It also has a really good module for backing up your applications. If you start to run out of memory you could backup apps that you're not currently using onto your storage card to make space, then swap your apps around later to have a different combination available. The backups can also be used to sideload the apps onto another Android device that does not have access to the Google Play market - for example: the Kindle Fire HD.

Also check out ES_File_Explorer below because that is equally good, has some excellent features that work better than on Astro, but doesn't have the app backup utility.

BeyondPod is an App that manages podcasts. It has powerful grouping features and also lets you set up a schedule of what is to be played - this is very useful when driving as it saves having to work the Android device to select another podcast when the current one finishes. It can handle video podcasts as well as audio, and it can download them (say using your WiFi) for playing later, or you could choose to stream the episode whilst listening to it. It has good features to introduce you to new podcasts that you might not have discovered yet and to locate ones that you already know about.
ES File Explorer is, like Astro File Manager, another great tool for exploring files. This one in my opinion has an easier interface to selecting multiple files and processing them. I also have found it more reliable trying to access Network File Store devices. Further, if you are short on storage then there's a great little device you can get called a Wi-Drive, and ES File Explorer can access this perfectly by defining it as a FTP site using Webdav.

Office
Applications

There are some very useful Office applications on the market but none of them is the killer Office app that does everything one would want. For that reason I have 3 such Apps and they are presented below in the order in which I find them to be useful starting with the most useful.

Documents To Go is a paid-for app. It does have a free version but I found that to not have as many features as I would need.

Documents To Go has the following strengths:-

  • Reads, writes and updates Microsoft format files including Word, Excel and Powerpoint
  • Excellent PDF reader
  • Can bring up the list of contents and jump straight there (both in Word and PDF)
  • Good with Cloud Storage including Google Drive and Dropbox

QuickOffice has pretty good formatting options that can often be easier to use requiring less steps than Documents To Go. It also has features to read the document to you. It too has integration with Cloud Storage such as Google Drive and Dropbox but it never seems to remember the passwords. Bearing in mind that most Android devices are logged in to your Google account all of the time, it should not be necessary to keep on having to enter the Google Drive account and password details.

Polaris Office is often provided free with an Android Device, although the free version is often limited in capability. It seems to be quite commonly in use but I have not really used it. When I have tried to use On-line Storage (and I'm assuming that Polaris means Cloud Storage) it confirms my account name but then fails to log on.

Playing with the application just now, it seems to be reasonably easy to use. It initially opens documents in read-only mode (which can be useful to protect against accidental changes) and then you can elect to change the document and it will then provide the full editing capabilities.

Formatting seems to be similar to QuickOffice and it too can read out selected parts of the document.

Shazam has helped me to buy many of my favourite tracks recently. I never know what the tracks are called and who is performing them. When I hear a track that I like then I run up Shazam which listens to the track and figures out what it is and who is performing it. It then provides a link to AmazonMP3 where I can buy the track and add it to my collection.

SwiFTP is very useful for transferring files between a PC and the Android device without needing a USB cable. The Android device effectively becomes an FTP server, it displays its IP Address and Port Number and then you can use an FTP client on the PC to attach and swap files. On the PC I would recommend either CuteFTP or WinSCP. In particular WinSCP presents an interface where the FTP server (i.e. in this case, the Android device) appears as a Windows Explorer window and you can drag and drop between this and the local PC folders. You can also in Windows 7 work directly in Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer) by entering the address in the address bar - example: ftp://192.168.11.114:2121/ and this should produce an Explorer window onto the Android device where you can readily drag and drop files as required in both directions.

TuneSync is used in conjunction with iTunes. It presents a list of playlists found on the PC running iTunes and the user chooses which playlists to sync. TuneSync then brings those playlists onto the Android device including all of the tracks contained within those lists. It is a two-way processes so updates done on the Android platform will be passed back into iTunes. Synchronisation is done over a wireless connection.

I use this app in conjunction with use this app in conjunction with AmazonMP3 to automatically send tracks that I buy from Amazon back into iTunes on my PC.

Media

Cloud Media

Dropbox

Google Drive