Free to use Word Processors for Android

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I still remember the days where term ‘wordprocessor’ was used to indicate an over glorified typewriter. I used WordStar on a Apple II, so I know how far this has been going on.

Over a decade ago, I told someone that office tools needed to be moved into the cloud so that you don’t have to pay those expensive licenses to Microsoft for use of their office Suite. This was before Google and just around the time of the decline of Netscape.

Today, with Google Docs, we can do this, all free of course with your Google account but we have all know now that this works best on paper . So when Google decided to buy out QuickOffice and gave it for free to Android users, everyone rejoiced.

The only users who didn’t were those who had paid for QuickOffice before it went the freeware route.

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QuickOffice Versus Polaris Office Versus Kingsoft Office

Cloud based office tools like Office365 and Google Docs need you to be online to use. This is fine if you are working form a desktop. When you are offline, you’re better off with a mobile app that does just this.

There are three office programs which I am familiar with, there are more but I don’t usually go for them as I need a spell check feature. Having been schooled into the British system, I have to revert to American spelling when I write online and this is where the spelling gets choked up. I don’t do presentations nor do I like doing it on a tablet or mobile device. The problem is the workflow. To add and edit, add, save and create files on mobile devices is a slow process.

On my Android Tablets, you should be able to find about three different type of Office tools. Namely, Quickoffice, Polaris Office and Kingsoft Office. I had to test drive the word processors before deciding which best suited me.

Truth be told, I was never a fan of Polaris Office, a Korean developed office suite that has very basic features. It works almost like a basic word processors with very basic functions. I didn’t test drive the spreadsheet as that is something I don’t really use either. Google owned QuickIOffice offers one of the poorest workflow performance so far. I don’t mind the minimalist approach to its design and UX, but it is almost like using an electric typewriter.

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QuickOffice document formatting can be found on the top right hand corner and that’s all you are getting!

Polaris is way better than QuickOffice I am afraid. For one, it will open any word file format. QuickOffice has given me errors and problems on opening files in both .docx and .doc. But the limitations of the office suite is probably one big caveat. How Infraware has gotten away with it so far boils down to its Korean roots. Polaris is given free with every Samsung Android device. So if they made a dollar on every Samsung device sold, they would be millionaires.

QuickOffice supports a document spell check and has a ‘check as you type’ feature to correct words and spelling. You can choose to go and resolve the spelling as you type or do it at the end of the document when you are done. Words and suggestions for spelling is supported with a dictionary and it relatively intuitive. Aside from this, both Polaris and QuickOffice don’t seem to fall very far from the same tree.

Behold the King!

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China founded Kingsoft rules the roost when it comes to Office tools. They are way better than some of the PAID Office Apps and will totally kick Microsoft Office365 into hyperspace. And yes, Kingsoft Office is FREE.

Now its feature rich UI design is a welcome change from the minimalist type word processors like QuickOffice and Polaris Office but it comes at a price. It is heavy on RAM usage and there are issues such as lag, sudden crashes and a less than stellar spell check function.

There is no ‘check as you type’ feature and the word suggestions are poor. It could not point out the correct spelling for spelling error syntax like “dont” for “don’t”. This Neanderthal intelligence is probably the one that irks me the most.

Conclusion?

Apparently there is no clear winner. All of them suffer from some handicap and at times, I wish the developers would pay more attention to the user experience (UX) and not the user interface (UI).

The biggest losers are Microsoft, which until this day refuses to put up a challenger in the hope that people will buy into their Windows RT platform just to access the Office Suite. Microsoft has one app on Android called OneNote which is more for note taking just like EverNote. All three provide some support for Cloud based storage, which I  abhor since there will be a time where data lines become inaccessible with no way to retrieve your files when you most need it.

There is much hope on Kingsoft, which for some reason has put out a desktop PC version of their Office suite. They seem to be pouring in loads of money to develop a very ambitious and free office suite. So let’s keep our fingers cross and hope that they will get it right in the next upgrade.

Lastly, I do not think I would write an entire book using a mobile wordprocessing app for one reason—user experience. Typing is far more rewarding on a physical keyboard than an onscreen version. The tactile feel is just right for you to keep your fingers moving. With a touch screen keyboard it’s just not the same. I still dream of using the IBM Keyboard that was made with a buckling spring. Fortunately it is still manufactured by Unicom but only for the PC and Mac.

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Sell your Smartphone Photos on FOAP

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If you had the chance to clean out your old photos from your Android device, you might be wondering if any of it would be good enough for people to buy. Sure, you might post it up to Facebook or G+ but that said, it’s not going to make you a cent.

So how much are your photos worth if you do sell them? That’s rather subjective. Alamy, which sells stock photos will take your mobile photos but only for news related photos. So if you happen to see Godzilla come on land one fine day at the beach, well your photo will be worth something.

FOAP will take ANY of your photos, price it as a stock image at US$10 a pop and give you 50 percent of the proceeds from each sale. The only thing stopping your photos from getting on the retail shelves are the community reviewers who look at the photos and rate them. You need to get an average 2.6 star rating from five reviews to qualify.

What’s the Catch?

There is one. Your mobile photos should be at least 900 pixels on the shortest end to qualify for upload and all the uploading must be done from your mobile device.

This means, you get to shoot and upload as you go and that’s a very interesting proposition. The Android app itself does everything and you input the tags, GPS location and title of your photo. Once you put it up for review, would-be sellers will be asked to rate it. You’d be asked to do the same for five other photos. Once you complete this, then you are free to get back to your Angry Birds game.

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The webstore on the other hand is purely for retail purposes. Mobile device photographers are not allowed in and have no way of getting in to upload your photos because FOAP doesn’t want you to. They want your mobile photos so you do everything from the mobile app available for iOS and Android. Even payment (cashing out your earnings) is managed from the mobile app.

Royalty Free, the Bane of Cheap Photos?

Five bucks is not much and FOAP’s licensing covers both print and web use. An eight megapixel photo is probably good enough to use for print and even with the best pixel scaling software, you could stretch that a bit to about three times. FOAP licensing doesn’t cover image editing so people who buy these photos have the right to chop it up and create multimillion dollar branding with it.

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FOAP’s target buyers are brands that need cheap photos. We all know how cheap these brands are in America and this will sit well with them. Photos can be used in social media and branding with impunity or those cheap memes that get floated onto your FB timeline. Corporate America isn’t interested in paying top dollar for photos so why not give them some cheap alternatives?

Pro Photogs reading this could well declare Jihad against the likes of FOAP as the sully the good name of licensed images but hey, that’s life. Royalty free is here to stay and there is no stopping them.

What are the Security Issues?

Yes, with no way to get back to your earnings except from the app, you don’t exist outside of the mobile internet world. This means if you lost your phone or tablet, you can only reactivate your account via a new device. Anything else, you need to contact their support unit directly. This also means that all your photos on your device could be stolen and uploaded by the culprit under his name.

There is also the fear of stolen images ending up in some other conniving image thief. All they have to do is steal your flickr photos or device images, get them onto a device storage like a microSD card and then uploaded to FOAP as their own via the FOAP app. Then again if all you ever shot was your pet cat, I don’t think you’d be earning a pretty penny from them.

FOAP takes a hands off approach to copyright theft and if you have any grounds to chase them for copyright, then you could take it down using a DMCA complaint. It is a scorched earth policy you have to take if you want to put up photos for sale.

Should I, or Shouldn’t I?

If you shot solely on your iPhone or Android device, chances are you might have shot something that is worth something to someone. Large stock agencies on the other hand rarely pay attention to mobile stock images as their quality is suspect but not for the guys at FOAP. They think it is good enough and they might just be right.

So instead of relegating your mobile device photos to a wall post on Facebook, why not make some beer money for yourself? It is certainly worth a shot.

Why the Galaxy Note 3 is good value for Money

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Dollar for dollar, the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is far better value for money than the iPhone 5S anytime and you don’t have to look far to know why. For the longest time, I have had sleepless nights thinking that maybe I should get back into Apple’s ecosystem after having invested so much money on apps. But the truth is, this is changing. The apps you have on the old Apple iOS 6 is a different breed than that of iOS 7. Developers have seized this new opportunity to develop new apps for iOS7 and want you to pay (again) for the same app you paid for iOS 6.

Upgrading seems insanely infantile. Just coz you want a new OS, you have to rebuy some of the old apps you had previously—all for a spiffy new iOS7 look.  What’s more, Apple forgot to mention that the 64 bit architecture isn’t going to speed up your iPhone one bit thanks to the limited amount of RAM you’re saddled with.

Hardware versus Hardware

Apple fanboys will take a blood oath and swear upon their mother’s grave that the hardware on the new iPhone 5S is the best value for money. Phoeey to you. Dollar for dollar you get more screen real estate from a Galaxy Note 3 than on the iPhone 5S. The two are priced within the same ballpark, with the Galaxy Note 3 getting cheaper as it matures.

Apple’s new camera sensor is suppose to take better Panoramas and low light pictures but that doesn’t mean you are going to hunt vampires in the night. What about the wide open vistas you are hoping to take? I do agree that the variable exposure settings is a pain on the old iOS6 and is much better on iOS 7, but how often do you shoot wide angle panoramas?

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Let’s not forget the Stylus. Sure, Steve Jobs wanted you to point with your finger and he had vehemently denied the usefulness of a pen or stylus. He could be right, I never saw anyone pick his nose or any bodily orifices  with a stylus or pen. But when it comes to drawing and taking notes, writing is indeed faster than an onscreen keyboard.

RAM is an issue with lesser Android devices but it is not so for the iPhone? You now why? Apple’s iPhone could never do multiscreen multitasking! It has always been a poor performer on multi tasking but it gives you the impression it could be a multi tasking beast as long as you have your music being played while you surf the net.

What about the radio? Apple’s iTunes radio service isn’t free as advertised. You have a data plan? Good. Watch that run out within a few days if you stream your music everyday over LTE or 3G. The Galaxy Note 3 has a Free-to-Air radio feature to get RF local stations won’t cost you a dime to use it, only battery juice. The only way you can get such a free radio service on your iPhone is to strap a transistor radio to it.

Need more room for storage? Ok, well ante up to the new iPhone 5S with 64GB of space. On the Galaxy Note 3, you could just pop in a microSD card with 128GB written on it and it will work. You want more storage on the iPhone 5S? Go get another iPhone.

What about video? The iPhone 5S is the top of the range device that supports 1080p video. The Galaxy Note 3’s top of the range model supports 4K video. Of course it won’t mean much to you if you have a puny 1080p TV, but wait till you get your hands on a 4K TV. Apple thinks it is a bad idea to future proof your device with 4K video capture so you have to wait for the iPhone 6 to enjoy this.

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Finally, iPhone’s retina display isn’t a big deal anymore. In fact, it is so old school that in it has become almost geriatric. Let’s not talk PPI. It puts the iPhone to shame. A long time ago, Apple’s retina display could boast of having the highest pixel density of 326ppi. Today, there are over a dozen models that can beat that score.

Innovation please…?

Buoyant by initial demand for the iPhone 5S, Apple fan boys will line up to be one of the first to own it. But sadly, even Wall Street knows that it isn’t worth the hype it was created on. Dollar for dollar you are paying so much for so much less in terms of hardware and features that you have to be blind in one eye to see any value in such an investment.

My scathing remark has to do with value and nothing else. I love Apple products. I still carry an iPod 5G for good measure. I wish Apple tried harder to win me over but they don’t see the value in doing such things. All they want is your money. Innovation is a forgotten inducement. My fear is that Apple becomes another Blackberry. Too late to innovate and too stubborn to listen. That’s what brought it down.

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As much as the credit goes to Jony Ive for the new iOS 7 update, that isn’t going to save the iPhone ecosphere— especially with a design borrowed from Android. Take a look at the Shade feature and you’d know what I mean. Parallax image background themes are old school Android themes made new again on iOS. That said, Jony has done nothing to change the way iOS operates. It just gave it a face lift and called it new. Neither Tim or Jony wants to be risky with innovation it could cost them a ton in stock options. They have so much more to lose. That said, innovation is dead at Apple.

Microstock Agency Makes Android Debut

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It’s been a while but  Microstock library 123RF.com has taken almost forever just to make an Android app for RF photo submissions and it just made it to the Playstore. For some years, 123RF had an iOS app, called 123RF OTG which gives you the freedom to submit photos shot on the iPhone but it never did bother with Android community until now.

For the record, Microstock libraries are niche type operations and offer extended licensing. What is this licensing all about? Think of it as having pawned your crown jewels before ever having a chance to use them—with the business model similar to that of the oldest profession in the world.

How does it Work?

First, you have to submit a photo that is shot on a a 5 megapixel mobile device camera, have that vetted by their own team of photo editors before being approved for sale on the site. Now sale is misleading as they count towards downloads instead of image sale. What you get is 30 percent if you make it pass their censors and more if you happen to contribute more regularly.

Unlike FOAP that specialises in Editorial images, 123RF has commercial potential as they accept images with models and sell them with verified model releases. If it was at a specific location, you also need a property release, like if you posed a model next to the MI5 Building in London or the CIA headquarters in Langley, USA. Failure to do so could land you in a jail with the keys thrown away for good measure.

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The vetting process should take a few days, depending on how free they are to look at your badly mauled Instagram inspired pictures. Once it is up, you also need to send in your complete verified details as photographer and owner of the images you have submitted. This way, no one will claim that you lifted their pictures off Flickr for misrepresentation.

At the moment, 123RF also accepts news pictures and video feeds as well but that’s another story. You cannot be shooting a video and posting it to them via this app they have created. They take any 1080p video feed so you can try to shoot something with your smartphone and see if that sells. Uploading on the other hand has to be done via a web browser.

Benefits of Signing Up

There is one benefit, that is 123RF has specially created contest submissions you can take part in just to spice things up on your mobile. The contest will have different themes and you can submit any photos that fits into that category and win yourself US$300 bucks. That’s a pretty good deal compared to the returns you get from your images to the stock agency.

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The other benefit is that the contributor account you have with them also qualifies you to submit artworks, audio and video files. This is pretty interesting as you can record unique soundbites and have them submitted as well.

Before we jump the gun, the smartphone app only allows you to submit photos and not anything else. All other submissions have to be done via their web browser.

Dude, Show me the Money!

To be frank, it is not very lucrative for the smartphone photographer to indulge his or her passion in microstock photography. 123RF works on a per-download basis so you don’t get paid on per use. They use a popularity system and pay 30 percent on that but it can go as high as 60 percent. If you have more downloads from that image, you score more on their scale. They don’t even have a published rate that speaks in layman terms! All the earnings information is available to you only if you didn’t fail maths in school. Beyond that, you can only hope that they are not out to bamboozled you out of your day to day earnings. Cashing out can be done via Skrill or Paypal. Minimum is US$50 bucks so to make that cut, you should have at least 500 image downloads. You do earn more for other submissions like artworks, eps vectors, audio and video. Smartphone Images are unfortunately categorised as cannon fodder. Works shot on a DSLR is more highly rated and if suitable for print, you can earn far more.

123RF transitions to this mode of payment only recently. Just to make it cheaper for publishers and image buyers. They even have a weird Creative Commons giveaway, where you give up all rights to the photos for free to use. These gimmicky approach is to attract would be image buyers to sign up but I think it’s a waste of effort. It will no doubt attract the free loading content thieves who ply the Flickr route.

Whatever you do, don’t quit your day job just to live the life of a pro-stock photographer. The commission you earn isn’t going to help you pay that mortgage but it could pay for the tent you had in mind for camping out in the woods.