Thursday, November 7, 2019

5 Apps that every Android user should have.

     The best part of having an Android or Iphone is arguably the plethora of apps that are available to us. When "Android Market" first launched back in 2008 there were 13 apps available to choose from. Today there are 2.8 million apps to choose from. For any new user to Android, this can be overwhelming. There is a guy I know that is relatively new to smart phones. I realized the other day that he has had his smartphone for about 6 months and had yet to even install an application on his phone aside from the pre-loaded apps. After helping him install some apps, he was over the moon about the new "features" his phone suddenly had. This made me think that maybe I should throw together a list of "Must Have" apps for every Android user. As we move forward, keep in mind that this is based solely on my opinion. If you feel that I missed some important apps, please add them in the comments!

     I love the fact that I can customize my Android device as much or as little as I want to. I also text far more than I speak on the phone, so a robust SMS APP with plenty of customization options is a must have! This brings me to my 1st Recommendation.

1. Textra SMS - FREE w/Premium Option
I remember using ChompSMS way back in the day of the 1st Android phone, and even then, I realized the importance of a good SMS app. I have used a lot of SMS apps over the last 11 years, but I keep coming back to Textra. It's minimalist style, and heavy customization options makes this a staple app for me. This is often the 1st app I install on my new phone. You can customize bubble color, fonts, emoji style, and more. It's regularly improved upon and has great developer response on issues.






2. GBoard  - FREE
Arguably the one thing you use on your phone the most is the keyboard, and strangely enough, some people don't realize that you can choose which keyboard you use. I have used almost every keyboard worth having and while Swiftkey is definitely a close 2nd, GBoard is probably my favorite 3rd party keyboard. Some phones actually have started using GBoard as the baked in keyboard, which means it's already the default keyboard without you having to install it. I am a bit of a GIF whore so having integrated GIF support that is just a click away really sold this keyboard for me. It has a great predictive engine and supports gliding. It has built in Translation, Google Search, Listening, and themes. It also support "Minis" which is Googles attempt to copy the famous Apple "Memoji". Whats not to love?


3.  Nova Launcher  or Nova Launcher Prime FREE/$4.99(PRIME)
The launcher controls the majority of the UI experience. Anything on your home screen, app drawer, status bar, and navigation pane is controlled by your launcher. Most devices have whats called an overlay. Samsung has "Touchwiz", LG has UX, HTC had Sense, etc. I have found these overlays to be clunky and slow. Nova Launcher replaces those with a clean and minimal version. I know $4.99 seems like a lot for an app, but this really is so worth it. Premium allows you to hide apps from your app drawer, so it allows you get rid of pesky bloatware and other clutter. I use the circle launcher widget for my apps (its later on this list) and it becomes redundant to have my apps in my app drawer as well as circle launcher. You can also download icon packs and theme all the icons on your home screen and app drawer.The customization options really are almost unlimited, and there are too many to post here, but definitely get at least the free version. 


4. QuickPic - Photo Gallery with Google Drive Support - FREE
Again, coming from 11 years of tried and true experience, this is easily my favorite Photo Gallery. It allows you to organize in custom folders. You can crop and edit within the application, You can also upload to the cloud. In addition to these features, you can transfer the entire contents of you gallery to another phone via a wifi transfer. You can also hide certain albums, and password protect others for your privacy.




5. CircleLauncher Lite or CircleLauncher Premium - FREE/$1.00
I first started using this app about 3 years ago, and it changed the way that I organize my apps completely. I used to have my most used apps spammed all over my home screen as shortcuts. It made my desktop look cluttered, and made the applications difficult to locate.  Circle launcher allows you to place a widget on your home screen and put several apps under one icon. In addition to that, the premium allows you to customize the icon, icon label, icon size, theme the app icons within the widget, change the size of the circle, the launch animation, and much more. In addition to organizing your apps, you can create a contacts launcher in order to call your favorite contacts with one click. It supports backups/restores as well so you can keep your layout if you change devices. If you use Nova Launcher Prime, you can hide all these apps from your app drawer, and save even more room.


 I could go on and on about apps that every user must have, but I save them for another post in the future. If this one is popular, I may come back and do a part 2. Keep in mind that I didn't include staple apps like Facebook, Google Apps Suite, Messenger, Snapchat, etc.

Honorable Mentions
DigiCal Calendar Agenda
Timely Alarm Clock
reddit is fun (unofficial)
Pixlr – Free Photo Editor
Drippler - Tips, Apps and Updates for Android
Movies by Flixster, with Rotten Tomatoes
ProtonMail - Encrypted Email
Call of Duty®: Mobile



Friday, September 27, 2019

Tech Bytes, It's not just a blog anymore!

     Hey readers, I'm branching out! I decided to roll out a full service computer repair business. This includes both Home and Business. PC, Networks, Mobile Phones, Tablets, Etc. In addition to on site repairs, I have remote support as well! As long as you are able to connect to the internet, I can repair your PC remotely.

     In addition to repairs, I will also be offering Tech Tutoring sessions. If you are new to a certain piece of software, or computer, or website, I will remote in or come to you for a one on one tutoring session to teach you all you need to know to make the most out your tech.

Thank you all for your continued support!!





Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Google Podcast - Finally....

Android Fanboys rejoice! Android FINALLY released an official podcast app. I'm still not sure why it took until 2018 to officially support a medium that's over a decade old, but here we are. 

First things first, Can someone tell me why they decided to make the icon look almost identical to the Fitbit icon? It's so blatant that it's almost offensive. Not to mention annoying when I can't tell the two apart in my status bar.



Now, let's talk about the app itself. Historically I have used Podcast Addict. I have the paid version of the app, and it is robust. Auto downloads, offline play, sorting, you name it. 

However, Google podcast does NONE of that. If you want to binge on your favorite podcasts, you'll be streaming it, and you'll be thrown back to the 90's while watching the app "buffer". 

The GUI is clean like we've come to expect from Google. The search function seems to be robust. I had no issues quickly finding my favorite podcasts (Shoutout to SYSK). However, I feel like I should have the option to download podcasts for offline playback. Sometimes I travel, and I shouldn't have to worry about my signal when I'm driving through the mountains. I also have my favorite episodes that I listen to more than once. I have around 20 SYSK episodes that I enjoy going back to. Podcast addict allows me to quickly search the vast library and pick the episode I want to listen to. 

I am very happy that Google decided to release this app, but it feels totally half baked at this point. Maybe I'm just spoiled, but I like to have control over my data and media. Even Spotify lets me do offline playback. Maybe in another 10 years Google will catch up to my favorite podcast app. 

I'm sure that this will come as no surprise to you, but Google Podcast is




Saturday, June 2, 2018

Mmm....Cake (The mobile browser)

This browser was found by me on a facebook ad, believe it or not. I usually never click those mobile ads, but this caught my eye because it appeared to be a minimalistic alternative to Chrome.

Now, I wouldn't say this will ever replace Google Chrome on my phone, but, damn it's close.

They've essentially done away with traditional search, instead when you do a search for a website, it will load the website, there will be tabs at the top to tweak the results.

When you search for a business or location, it takes you straight to contact info. It's a very clean browsing experience, and in the few days that I have used it on my iPhone, it has been incredibly fast.

Even better, each page lets you choose whether or not to hide ads by clicking the menu button. So you can still support your favorite pages by allowing ads (ahem). Shortcut buttons on the bottom of the page makes it easy to instantly share, view open tabs, or bookmark the page with a quick tap. Tapping the tabs button will allow you to open a private browsing session for all your sleuthing.

In the settings you can customize which search engine you want to use for different searches.

So, you can set google for web searches, you can set multiple search engines for videos and images. Default settings are Google Videos, Youtube, Vimeo, Bing, and Dailymotion.
So, if you hate Bing like me, simply uncheck Bing , and it will exclude those results.

This is a short review, but I have only been using it for a couple of weeks, and it has definitely become my go to browser for quick searches, and replaced Chrome on my shortcut menu.

So this app definitely gets the beard!!! Download it and give it a shot!






Thursday, April 5, 2018

Essential Phone: 8 Months Later

Many of you who don't have Sprint may not know what the Essential Phone is. Let me catch you up real quick.

Essential is an Android Smartphone designed by Android Co-founder Andy Rubin. As the name would suggest, this phone is very minimalist. There is absolutely no branding on the phone, and yes, this includes carrier branding. The construction of the device screams quality with a ceramic back, Titanium frame, and the screen is Gorilla Glass 5. It features USB C, and has 2 magnetic pin holes on the back of the phone for (currently non-existent) modular accessories. Currently the only modular accessory is the 360 degree camera. They have a charging base coming out in the near future as well, but details are still not released. As most other current generation phones, they chose to Eighty-Six the headphone jack, so I would recommend a nice set of Bluetooth Headphones.

I got my Essential PH-1 (get it? PH-ONE) very shortly after launch. My initial impressions were less than favorable. This is a new phone from a new company, so shortfalls and setbacks are to be expected. The phone definitely had issues. First and Foremost, the camera was terrible. I hoped and prayed that the issue was software and not hardware. Essential was very timely with software updates, and after a rocky couple of months, they slowly fixed most of the issues.

I also had a nagging problem with frequent freezes, and very odd behaviors. Some resulted in random reboots, and others ended with me having to force reboot the device. I was very close to selling the device around month 4. I took to Reddit to complain about the issues with the device, but I was met by fanboy mods. Ill speak of the device found my Reddit account banned for 2 weeks from the Essential subreddit, but that is a story for another time.

Not too long after that, I decided to take the plunge and flash the Oreo Beta build on my device. I had decided that if the Oreo update didn't fix the issues, then I would sell it and move over to the overpriced Pixel 2.

Much to my delight, Oreo fixed ALL of my issues. The device has very excellent battery life, typically getting 12-14 hours per charge. Thanks to the fast charging, it typically fully charges in about 45 minutes.

It's not all rainbows and butterflies though. Unfortunately, the device had very weak early sales. I think this is mainly because Sprint had exclusivity to the Essential Phone. With a starting retail price of $599 for the unlocked variety, people avoided it. Mainly because they were asking people to invest in a device from a company that was unknown. This resulted in a lackluster line up of accessories for the device. You are looking at only a handful of cases. Namely, Tudia and Incipio. I have had each, and I must say that Incipio is the better product. Most cases do not allow access to the modular ports on the back of the phone. In fact, if you are looking for a case that allows access, you will need to give up protection and go with a thin cover instead of a protective case.

I am also disappointed in Essential for dragging their feet on new modular accessories. Modular phones had the potential to be the future of mobile devices. The issue is that no company has released an impressive line up of modular accessories to date. Now it has become more of a gimmick than an exciting way to customize your device to your needs.

This isn't Essential's fault necessarily, but they had the chance to shake up the modular technology, and I'm afraid they missed the bus on this one. There has been talk about a new device from Essential, but with their last device being a loss on their ledger, their lack of accessories, and sales being lost to the marketing of Moto and One Plus, I wouldn't expect much from the new device. Here's to hoping that they get their marketing and development team on the same page, and do something to shake the market up a bit.

While I don't have high hopes for the future of the company, the device itself (when running Oreo) is one of the nicest devices that I have had the pleasure of owning.

All things considered, I would have to recommend that you buy the Essential PH-1. The price point has come down, and I would expect the price to drop again as essential gets ready to release a new device.

This probably won't come as a surprise to my readers, but Essential Phone get a Beard of Approval.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Customer Experience with Hauwei.

So recently, as most of my readers know, I switched from my Nexus 6P to an iPhone 6s Plus for about 6 months. After my iPhone experience, I decided, with some reservation, to switch back to the Nexus. Not because I don't like Apple (quite the opposite actually), but because the iPhone was just such a pleasant handset.

I sold my iPhone and purchased a Gold 64 GB Hauwei Nexus 6P from Swappa, and after 2 weeks, I suddenly fell victim to the bootloop issue that seems to be plaguing Nexus users. I reached out to Google and asked for a replacement, and since I purchased it from swappa, they wouldn't help me. I found out from the seller that the phone was originally bought from amazon, so therefore, Google would not help me. They instead sent me to Huawei. I was immediately pissed, because I HATE dealing with manufacturers. I begrudgingly went to Huawei's nifty warranty checkup website, and found out I had literally 1 week left on the warranty. I explained to them what my situation was, and they sent me a UPS overnight label to ship the device to Fort Worth, TX.

I immediately took to Reddit, and read up on previous experiences with Hauwei. People were reporting being without their devices for upwards of a month. I was physically ill. I dug in and decided to do what I needed to do. My phone shipped out on Monday, July 17, 2017. Thursday, the 20th, I received an email saying that a return label had been generated for me. I was immediately livid and assumed the worst. Since my phone had been previously rooted, I assumed that they were sending it back with a voided warranty. I called Huawei, and they said they had no info from the repair center yet. All I could do was wait until Fri. Friday came around, and I received my device, and it worked! I was over the moon.

Furthermore, the lower rear back panel has a small plastic door on it that was coming loose. The repair center fixed that as well even though it was NOT covered under warranty.

I called Huawei to find out what was wrong with my device, and they had no details, but they did tell me that they also extended my warranty for another 90 days in case the repair didn't stick.

That means, that I received my same device back, repaired, and cosmetically better than it was when I sent it out. And it was all done over the course of 4 days! Color me impressed.

Huawei has gained a customer for life:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

iPhone VS. Android : A Google Fanboys Unbiased Opinion.

     I have been an undying Android fanboy since I first laid my hands on the ADP1 (AKA HTC Dream). I loved being able to root and modify my device. I could personalize it to  my liking. I never had any desire to move to the iPhone because I wasn't going to give up my physical keyboard. Not to mention, the iPhone was notoriously expensive.

     Since then I have had countless Android devices. I would estimate that I have had about 25 different Android devices, and I have had 2 Apple devices. I had the iPhone 4, and the iPhone 6S Plus (most recently). My experience with the 4 was not a pleasant one. The phone was much smaller than the Android counterparts, and lacked many of the features that I was accustomed to on my Android. I'm going to glaze over my iPhone 4 experience, and jump to the more relevant (at least today) iOS 10 experience.

     So lets get our hands dirty and discuss differences.

Build - There is no denying that the iPhone is probably one of the sexiest handsets available. Especially when we are talking about the earlier builds of Android devices. It wasn't until recently that Android manufacturers got the hint and moved away from plastic bodies and into the realm of aluminum and gorilla glass. Going to more glass, obviously means you are more likely to damage your phone. The older iPhones were notorious for shattering when dropped. The older ones were encased in glass. Carrying your phone naked was a great gamble. Now it is more of a toss up. While the iPhone is still arguably more aesthetically pleasing, Android's build quality and looks are getting better with time. The Nexus 6P and Pixel devices are very nice.

Price - Again, up until only recently, iPhones were notoriously expensive. With the release of Edge display technology and aluminum unibodies, the Android devices are now just as expensive as the iPhones. I mean, you had better be ready to drop close to $1000 for the new Pixel XL. Even I had to roll my eyes at that one, and I have no plans to pick up a Pixel any time soon.

Support and Updates - OK. Again, this category goes to Apple without hesitation. Androids have a terrible reputation of not only releasing OS builds in a timely manner, but we are at the mercy of individual carriers in order to get our new OS unless we bit the bullet and rooted our android devices. Even then, we are at the mercy of developers to port it over to our device. I had the Kyocera Echo when it came out, and I loved this phone. However, there were no plans to update it to the latest OS (even though it was more than capable) and since the phone never picked up any speed, there was no dev community behind it. Suffice it to say, I didn't have this handset for long at all. iPhones take the cake here, because you know not only when it will be released, but exactly what handsets will receive the update. Furthermore, we don't have to depend on our carriers. Apple releases the updates themselves. Not to mention, if you have a problem with your device, you can call Apple. With Android phones it's a crap shoot. Even if you have a Google Brand device, reaching google for hardware support without a nexus care plan is infuriating to put it mildly.

Software/UI - OK, this is where the waters get muddy. There is something to be said about the out of box user experience with Apple devices. The phones are so easy to use and understand (even though 3D touch took some adjustment). I can back up and restore with great ease, thanks to iTunes. However, if you are like me, you want to personalize your phone. If you don't care to do that, you can skip the rest of this section. If you want to jailbreak your iPhone, Apple will do everything but disown you. They claim that it voids your warranty, and lord forbid you need any support while jailbroken. It wont happen. Not to mention they actively try to thwart Jailbreaking with every new OS released. Not Cool Apple. Especially given the money we spent on the iPhone. Google, however, is another story. When you root your device, you open up a new world of possibilities. You can theme, run modded OSes, tweaked apps, and have full control over power settings and multiple other UI tweaks. In addition to that, you can even download custom kernals to dictate how your phone processes and even utilizes the battery. There is a wealth of knowledge and support for these ROMS on the Android platform. XDA-Developers is my one stop shop for modifying my phones.

Apps - OK, I know what you're thinking. I'll go ahead and say it. While Androids Play Store boasts a higher number of apps, their community standards are piss poor. There are so many apps that have NO PLACE in the play store that it can make you sick. If you are downloading from iTunes, you are much more likely to get a useful app, instead of a piece of trash. However, the play store has a more robust review system. Where Google shines is the availability of 3rd party apps. Now, with that being said, you shouldn't go download third party apps all willy nilly, because that's a good way to break your phone. As a general rule, I only download apps that have been approved by XDA. All the apps aren't a completely new build. Some 3rd party apps take a google app and strip it down or tweak it for performance purposes. The best example of this type of app is music and audio tweaking apps. They can really change your experience.

So, whats the verdict then? Well, it's not that easy. Most biased reviewers will tell you why one is better than the other. However, having had the iPhone 6S Plus now for about 6 months, I can honestly say that they really are both great devices in their own way. The fact that they are both smart phones is really where the similarities stop.

If you are on the fence and you are reading this review hoping I will tell you which phone is better, you are going to be disappointed. However, I will help you make that decision on your own

If you like stability, and you are a set it and forget it type of person. You want to make sure you always have the latest builds, and want to put out little to no effort to get it. If you want to get high quality apps that you can trust without having to research, and if you want to have a device that most of your friends have, then an iPhone is your best bet. One thing I didn't mention was Apple's ability to marry your iOS devices together. If you have a Mac, Apple TV, iPad, etc, it's a no brainer. Get an iPhone.

Now if you are like me, you will want an Android. If you want to make the device your own, like to tinker a lot, and enjoy researching, and tweaking, then Android is your device. I am never content with my device. I am always looking for the next best ROM, or trying to tweak my phone for performance or battery life. I enjoy themes and third party apps. If you look at my Android device at any given time, you will be hard pressed to figure out which OS I'm running, or even what apps I am using because they are so heavily themed and modified. With that being said, it' a trade off. I have to manually backup, update, restore, and manage my device. It's something I enjoy doing.

I would be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss my iPhone. It is a great device, and the wealth of accessories like cases, etc are nearly unending. Not to mention, I never had to worry about messing my phone up. I could just let iTunes back up and restore. I have had more than my fair share of scares on Android. There were many late nights spent trying to restore my phone from a "Soft Brick".

My advice is to stop slinging mud across the aisle. Don't try to convert users from one device to the next. Do share the experience, and if you keep an open mind, and try the other device, you might be surprised. They are both excellent devices.

With that being said, I have sold my iPhone and purchased a Nexus 6P. I look forward to rooting and theming my android.

With that being said, The iPhone is: