Data Planning and Usage

As a mobile tech writer, I have been often asked many things, from the buying of new gadgets to data plan purchasing. Now, I understand that most people have little or no understanding of data consumption. Your consumption habits are tied to several factors—chief among them is your need to consume.

a rough data guide

So do you need a all you can eat buffet or a light snack as I would like to put it? I got asked this by a girlfriend of mine who didn’t quite know what data plan she needed with her new iPad. She had gotten a 3G model and was keen to make full use of it. Now, making full use is subjective, as it depends on her usage patterns.
She told me she likes to watch movies, stream them into the iPad on a regular basis. I then told her that a movie can be between 450mb to 700mb so if she does this regularly, her plan to sign up for a 6GB monthly plan would be exhausted in no time. If you think abou it, there is a reason why many people make use of 3G data to access the Internet. Convenience is one but the real issue is the availability of free WIFI hotspots. If you live in a place where you are more likely to have access to a WIFI hotspot, your 3G data consumption should fall below 200MB a month on average.
If you make use of apps like Voice Actions or Siri, then your data consumption will be much higher. I have done a rough calculation for bear basic use of the Internet sans WIFI access during the month, the figure still comes out to about 500MB of data a month. This is base on a daily average of 15MB a day of data consumption, without the use of YouTube or Music Streaming.
Moderate users often use between 30MB to 35MB a day, making a 1GB monthly plan possible. Now this is without WiFi tethering to other devices.
Tethering, the act of sharing your 3G or 4G connection with other devices, is a data drain. A Facebook page viewed on a PC or notebook is roughly 1MB in size. So if you have constant fresh content, you are liable to exceed your data bandwidth within two weeks.
So before I go, let me share with you a finding on mobile Data Usage from another site.

So, just how much data will you use in a month?

The rate at which you chew up your data will depend on what you use your device for. If you are hoping to use your device to stream videos, music, or movies over a 3G connection on your way to work every day and are constantly connected to the internet without using a WiFi connection you will quickly burn through a 2GB or 5GB data plan. On the other hand, if you are just sending the occasional email or checking the news every now and again, you may find you are using less than 200MB per month.

The type of device you have will more than likely impact the rate of data you use too. People with high-powered devices (such as iPad, iPhone, Android-powered handsets and tablets) designed for surfing the web, streaming videos and making VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls are more likely to eat up low data allowances than those wielding a small-screen without enhanced internet capabilities.

According to US network provider AT&T, 200 megabytes (MB) of data should be enough for you to “send/receive 1,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 150 emails with attachments, plus view 400 Web pages, plus post 50 photos on social media sites, plus watch 20 minutes of streaming video” every month via a 3G connection. With 2GB of data you should be able to “send/receive 10,000 emails (no attachments), plus send/receive 1,500 emails with attachments, plus view 4,000 Web pages, plus post 500 photos to social media sites, plus watch 200 minutes of streaming video” per month.

AT&T believes that around 65 percent of their smartphone customers use less than 200MB of data per month. 98 percent of their smartphone customers use less than 2GB per month. However, those figures will no doubt change in the future as music and video streaming and VoIP technologies are better integrated and as people start to use their mobile phones or tablet PCs as their primary computing devices.

A February 2010 study by market researcher Rysavy Research showed that the average smartphone user uses around 0.3GB per year (25.6MB per month) in 2010. In six years that figure is expected to reach 6.7GB per year (570MB per month).

Consumer polls on technology blogs such as Phonedog.com and DailyTech.com show slightly higher data usage figures. 33 percent of the 2,700 DailyTech readers polled used less than 200MB, 20 percent used between 200MB to 500MB, 12 percent used between 500MB and 1GB of data, 8 percent used between 1GB and 2GB, whilst 26 percent of smartphone users polled used more than 2GB of data per month.

9.1 percent of the 1,044 PhoneDog.com readers polled used less than 50MB, 5.5 percent used less than 100MB, 8.1 percent used less than 200MB, 10.7 percent used less than 500MB, 14.3 percent used less than 1GB, 12.7 percent used less than 2GB, 15.3 percent used less than 5GB and 24.2 percent used in excess of 5GB.

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Gaming: Anomaly Warzone Earth HD

I like playing games that work on the Galaxy Note’s huge screen and HD games are a must. So when Anomaly Warzone Earth was part of the HD humble bundle, there was little reason to resist.

And if you missed it. Shame on you.

Having played the game on the Mac and later on the iPad, I was wondering if there was any significant changes to the gameplay. Fortunately this version plays the same as the iPad version.

overview screen for route planning

Visually I can’t tell the difference between the GN and iPad version as the pace is the same. This is a good sign and if you have held out for this game, this is a good time to put your money down.

Now for the next question, do you like to think and strategize? If not, then don’t bother with this game. It is not a casual game as the makers have you believe. It requires dexterity and focus to figure out what will happen if you change strategies.

actual game screen

The game is a reverse tower defense app, they call it Tower Offense for simplicity sake and the production value is very high indeed. The game first launched on OSX for the Mac but I hated that version. Sure it had more to offer in terms of visuals and gameplay but I didn’t like the way the controls worked.

You are given two screens where you control a battalion of sorts. APCs, shield vehicles, tanks, crawler, etc. are at your disposal and you get to choose which you want to use to get through enemy defenses. The enemy has towers, several different kinds and if you manage to take some of them out, you’d be rewarded with power ups. These can be in the form of a vehicle repair power up, smoke bomb (totally useless), decoys and lastly the airstrike. There are additional bonuses in the form of a alien mineral which you can sell at your downtown wet market and get a load of dosh….just kidding….but the mineral bonus is real and like gold, translates to more cash —allowing you to buy more spiffy armor or vehicles to bust those alien chops.

There is an overview screen that shows you the alien towers and the position of your armor vehicles, all you need to do is change the route should it get too messy for you to take them head on.

Touchscreen games are quirky. You need games that can be manipulated with your fingers and Anomaly Warzone plays beautifully in that respect. It even plays smoother than on a PC with a mouse. Trust me. As far as gaming goes, this is stellar.

The game play can be frustrating at times because you are only given two choices after you have been busted. Either start at the last checkpoint or start all over. At times, you’d be wiser to start all over because there when you have less than sufficient armor to do  the job, it doesn’t make sense for you to try.

This games require a fair bit of concentration and focus. You just cannot plok your route to the destination and let it run. As the alien towers hammer your vehicles, you have a chance to decisively change tactics. But the vehicles themselves do not stop moving….which is  real pain, but heck those are the rules of the game.

Overall, this is one game that works beautifully on the GN, and I recommend this for all strategy or RTS fans.

Camera 360, refreshed for HD!

Long before I got the Galaxy Note, I had a Acer Ferrari Liquid E to keep myself entertained. The camera, though 5 megapixel could not rival that of the iPhone 4 at the time but one app did. Camera 360 Ultimate. I bought this solely for snapping pictures and suddenly realize how good it was. There were numerous updates at one time for Froyo 2.2 and it was difficult to justify using as some of the features found fault with the hardware. This didn’t stop me from using it as my main camera app even though it would suddenly quit on me and I had to restart the damn Acer all over again.

faux HDR effect, shot from a moving bus

I loved using the HDR option. This is not a true HDR Capture option but rather one that makes use of single frame shooting to create a faux HDR. Often in dark or high contrast environments, smartphones (including the iPhone 4S and Galaxy Note) will under or overexpose certain regions within an image. The darker regions will show little or no detail while the brighter regions will often be clipped to glaring white.

Fast forward. Galaxy Note.

Having updated to Gingerbread, I was quite pleased to find out that Camera360 Ultimate had become a free app. I have no idea why, and it was soon residing on my GN. It didn’t work well as it was not created to run on HD size screens. Bummer. But nevertheless it still worked.

Magic Color, a selective color enhancement that you can use during capture

Now, we have the Camera360 V3! Upgraded and refreshed with a new user interface. And it is still FREE at least during the holiday period.

For the record, I never regretted buying Camera360 Ultimate. And even if it reverts to the full price, I would still recommend you get this.

First, I have blown away the photos taken by friends who were using the iPhone with my trusty Acer. And it was good to know that Pinguo the developers (which actually means Apple in mandarin) have rolled out a iPhone version of their app only recently.

I have made it a point to shoot only with this app for one simple reason. The effects are nothing short of superb—beating out the stock standard camera app any day.

Let’s not forget that there are a number of camera apps that run on the GN and iPhone. I use to spend hundreds of dollars just downloading apps for the iPhone but Camera360 was by far the best option for snap shot photography. Enough said.

The new HD version has been tweaked with a new interface, the previous needed wasn’t so bad but it suffered from navigation problems.

The reason why I have stuck with it thick and thin is simple, it is the best camera app on the Android and for good reason. There are functions within the app that can compete with any Digital Compact Camera and since it is also fast to load, you do not miss a photo moment.

There is no manual out there on how to use this and I know if I put up one, there would be sufficient grounds for a novella like book. The capabilities and options are wide and there is no way I will be able to cover this in one review.

Regardless, I do recommend that you get this one now before the offer expires. It is by far, the best camera app for the Galaxy Note.

AnyDo: Task manager on Steriods

I don’t use task manager because they are cumbersome and requires you to input your task via a keyboard. That is as simple as it gets.

Even when I had the iPhone, I didn’t find the use of task managers any more exciting than say ant farming or waxing my shoes. I loathed it.

Why can’t anyone design a task manager that is easy to use.

simple and clean interface

When Siri came along for the iPhone, people found it useful for taking notes and stuff with a push of a button and we all know that Siri has more entertainment value than Google Voice Actions.

So why not this? Make a Google Voice Action enabled task manager….and that’s the wining formula. What I like about it is that it works. Yes, you need to have an active data connection for Voice Actions to work (so does Siri) so let’s call it even on that.

I like using something that is simple and painless. Using a keyboard these days may only take a few stabs of the finger but it is the effort of behind it that scares me.

I like the concept where you press the MIC and speak your note into it, then set it up as a reminder for the day, or the week. You can even it set it months in advance too. This will show up on the user interface under, Tomorrow, This Week or Later.

Later often refers to agendas months ahead in time.

month view for future events

The reminders are just alarms which you can set ahead of the scheduled time and it is

intelligent enough to tell you that reminders won’t work if you key in a time that is in the past.

You can also preset the alerts to go off up to half an hour or at a custom time which you like to decide. This is all quite neat and because it is so easy to use, it makes you wonder why hasn’t anyone thought of this earlier. It also works with Google Sync and even has a reminder option to tell you to return missed calls. Cool.

Those of you who are on ICS and have NFC enabled on your phones, can also share task via Android Beam.

AnyDO is a great app, simple and neat. I highly recommend it.

Pocket Cloud PC Remote Access

There is no shortage of remote desktop software as a simple search on the market will reveal a myriad of choices, each promising to do more than the other but in truth you just have to ask yourself how many ways can yo skin a cat.

Pocket Cloud is different. First, as misleading as the name sounds, it is not a Cloud base service which box.net or dropbox, offer you copious amounts of storage space for you to share your files. On the contrary, pocket cloud uses the age old remote desktop concept to turn your desktop PC at home as a cloud storage of sorts.

reaching out to my Mac

I mean, why not? If you already have unlimited data on your Android device, why pay for cloud storage when you can set up your own?

Why would you part with your money when you already paid for, and have set up a WLAN network in which your home computer is left on 24/7? I use to remember using my iMac with my Macbook set up over Airport Express, allowing me to access my desktop iMac wherever I was in town sipping a nice latte and chatting up the baristas.

In the age of the LTE networks, and those of you with LTE enabled Galaxy Notes, will be a boon. Files can be accessed remotely, and quickly via a 4G network or at Starbucks.

To work, you have to buy the Pocket Cloud app on the Market and pair that with a download on your PC or Mac by going to http://www.wyse.com/pocketmac.

Here you will find two desktop programs that must be installed to allow access. Like most desktop remote apps, you use a Google account to sync your computer to your Galaxy Note and woe betide those who do not own a Google account as there is really no other way in which you can access your desktop. Why you ask? Well, according to the folks at wyse, it’s for your security. There are after all a variety of password trolls lurking in wifi hotspots and if you ever had the misfortune of being intercepted, the settings on the desktop could provide you with a firewall against stolen data.

Pocket Cloud works well on the Galaxy Note, and the only caveat is when you switch out and switch back into the app that you probably will have a hiccup where the connection is lost but this can be restored by hitting the refresh button.

I tested it with a few image files, downloading it from the Mac to the Galaxy Note and it worked fine until the it prompted me to use a imaging program to open the incoming file. The Gallery app was buggy at best when confronted with an image download, there was no option to save it unless you used another program to open the image. You could also resave the incoming file onto a cloud service when prompted.

Uploading to your Desktop

You navigate the PC desktop using a series of tabs that denote which folder you are in. If in doubt, just jump to the root or user desktop. It is that simple.

Uploading from the Galaxy Note to the PC is equally simple. Just go to the desired folder and deposit your file there.

 

 

 

From this menu screen, you can create a new folder. Simple. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.

The app worked flawlessly on the GN, and no, there is no fragmentation issues for this app. The large 5.3inch screen is well supported and there are no black unused borders in which to hide the true screen size of the app either.

For now, Pocket Cloud is on sale for US$0.99 cents and it is a steal. It will cost US$4.99 when the promotion is over so I would advise you put down that dollar to support the folks at wyse.

This app is only useful if you wish to set up your own desktop access and it is in no way a method for you to share your ill gotten stash from the Internet. You cannot share links and people have to know your gmail account login before they can have access to your desktop HD. So if you need to share your files with the outside world, my advise is for you to ante up on some cloud storage.

Great Games for the Galaxy Note

The humble bundle is a great way to experience gaming for your GN. First let me tell you what sort of games you’d be getting. For a donation of just 5 bucks you get to play with these great games:-

  • Anomaly Warzone
  • World of Goo
  • Osmos
  • Edge

Just head on down humblebundle.com to get them but hurry. Offer is for only 10 days.

Anomaly Warzone

This Tower Strategy game was a hit on the iOS and plays beautifully on the Galaxy Note. It pits you against an Alien species which has decided to camp out WoodStock style in cities across earth and your role is to navigate your way around them, without having your eyebrows cinched to ashes.

The concept for the game is really good and the graphics too. The Galaxy Note plays this beautifully!

Warzone Earth as seen by 11 Bit Studios

World of Goo

A game that you will either love or hate, it too was a hit when released and is a high concept puzzler that has you guiding a bunch of gooey blobs to their next destination. It mixes both platform and strategy in the concept that will either frustrate you or keep you entertained for hours!

gooey goodness

Osmos

A cell based puzzler where you have to guess the best route to navigate your bacteria looking cell organism in a fluid world. The game physics is pretty creative though some would have preferred it to be faster. This is a very slow game to play.

slow and steady

Edge

This is a platform puzzler that has you guiding a block through a maze of sorts that is filled with traps in one piece. Not a bad idea or concept behind it but the blocky graphics could put you off. Game plays beautifully on the GN. Full screen graphics.

go to the edge

 

Last Word on the Bundle

  • Since the humble bundle is donationware, I wish to highlight something about the offer.
  • Pay for Android but also get the same games for download for Mac, Windows, Linux
  • You need to donate a minimum of US$5 to have all the games, any less then you won’t get to download World of Goo
  • The PC, Mac and Linux versions can access through your STEAM account but make sure you request for the keys at the download screen.

Frankly, this is one of the best offers now for gaming on the Android. I suggest you pick one up real quick before the offer expires.