Gnarbox hopes to change the way you edit Video on Mobile

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Say goodbye to your laptop or notebook computer as the mobile device takes over to edit and share your videos. Gnarbox just got funded on Kickstarter and it’s a worthy gadget to have if you shoot bus loads of video and can’t edit it on the fly. One of the problems with video editing is that you need a device or gadget that will make the workflow workable. For this, people often download their raw video and edit them on a computer. The mobile device? Well, it’s less than desirable with a less than competent video processor found on an iPhone.

Juggling loads of clips with a limited amount of RAM is one of the biggest flaws for any mobile device and the iPhone is no exception.

So here comes Gnarbox, a set top video editing device which takes all the heavy lifting in stride.

What you have here is a durable and robust video editing tool in the form of a self contained video editing box. It is rugged, water proof and will take a fall better than your Macbook.

Pair with an app using WIFI, you are then able to view, edit, and later share your clips while away from the computer all with the use of just your mobile device. The controls on the app turns your mobile into a dumb terminal while all the editing and processing functions sit on the Gnarbox independently.

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To use, you can download your video captured on any camera device, like a DSLR or GoPro into the Gnarbox. What happens next is truly a technological marvel.

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The mobile device becomes just an app that connects to the Gnarbox and it take care of the editing and processing without having to strain your mobile device.

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The Gnarbox can connect to multiple devices and once done, you can export those clips you edited to social media or the cloud.

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Gnarbox will retail at US$250 a pop when released and is a good way to dump that notebook as part of your travel baggage. The only caveat is that the Gnarbox app may not have the same editing functions or experience as say, Final Cut Pro, since it is after all optimized for mobile use.

For that, you have no choice but to turn to a full notebook for a complete editing experience. However for social media vloggers, the Gnarbox is a god send.

Showbox App Revisited

header-uiOne of the beauties of the Android environment is that you don’t have to root your phone to use apps deemed illegal by Google. Try that with Apple too and you’ll be booted out faster than greased lightning. So with that in mind, I will like to dedicate this post to all those who are fans of illegal movie downloads, who probably need a daily fix before bed time.

Showbox Hosted on a burnt Wire

Previously, I could not put a link up because, there was no link to Showbox app. But today, it is gone again. It was originally hosted on a Chinese server, showbox.me, but you can get copies of the app from various places. The Aptoid link is still live so  that is one place you must look. There are updates and I suspect that the whole deal about Showbox is that the media files are hosted on a dedicated server farm.

Each time Showbox goes online with an app download, it gets snuffed out like a burnt wire. Compared to Popcorn time, which is hosted in Europe, it has no server location since the media files are hosted by users as opposed to a centralized location for Showbox. The app has no assets whereas for Showbox, the assets are hosted on a physical server in Russia.

[update April 2015: You can download showbox Android app from here. But please ensure you have a malware protector to check the APK as the source of this app does not have an official source. Previous versions required very little permissions but this ones takes a lot more.]

What’s the Difference Between Popcorn Time and Showbox?

Plenty.Just so you know, I have made the distinction here.

Popcorn Time

Popcorn time is a torrent application. What it does is that it seeks out movie streams on torrent links and downloads them into the app. Popcorntime is available on desktops as well as mobile. But the downside of Popcorn time is very evident from the moment you hit the download to watch button. It just won’t stream instantly. It has to build up a buffer or download the entire movie first. The instant streaming fix you need is impossible. The app does not allow you download the files to your device either. For this, you need a dedicated torrent downloader.

If you see a torrent link, make sure you blast it!

If you see a torrent link, make sure you blast it!

Lastly, the movie selection is limited. You can only find the latest and most popular movies on torrent. Anything older than your dog would be a difficult find. One of the advantages of torrent files is that it can pick out a desire subtitle option.

Showbox

Instant gratification as long as you have a fast internet connection. The system protects itself from leeching by allowing only one download or streaming activity at a time. So the speed is consistent. The download option is fabulous. You can download the entire movie file in low, medium or high quality. High in this case often means up to 1020p. What I love about Showbox is its simple interface. You can have all your files downloaded to watch later.

Showbox link is live? Wow that is cool!

Showbox link is live? Wow that is cool!

The choice of movies grows by the day and yes, it even supports TV series. So if you are looking for the latest season of Anthony Bourdain’s  Parts Unknown, you will find it here. Showbox also has a distinction for having the latest movies as well as favorites from 2 decades ago. They have some older movies from the 50s and 60s as well but these titles are limited.

VK the missing Movie Streaming Link

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Vladimir Putin may have something to do with VK social network site but one thing is for sure, you can get plenty of the latest blockbusters for free as Russia does not recognize the DMCA take down. The best kept secret on the Internet is actually Vkontake or VK.com. Once you join, you can stream almost any movie known on the planet. I was asked to find a torrent on “To Kill a Mockingbird” and could not locate one until I searched on VK.com.

VK.com has a mobile app that allows you stream movies online, and yes, there is even porn if you know where to look. Thanks to this, VK has gotten a lot of flak from movie producers and studios but it is the best kept secret in town if you want to watch just about anything. What’s more, music can be streamed for free! Fuck yea! No more Spotify subscriptions to pay! Just add that into a playlist and you’re good to go.

VK.com is a social network and works in a similar way as Facebook except for the free music and movies you get to stream. There are even third party video downloaders which will rip the videos directly to your PC if you want to keep a copy. VK app is available on IOS, so for iPhone and iPad users, this is your only choice to enjoy streaming movies.

VK comes highly recommended for both Android and iOS. Not sure if is available on Blackberry or Windows Mobile but if it is, you better start using it.

Android Holo User Interface Craze

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When one speaks of design, the Android platform is a wild place. I have written previously about getting custom ROMs and launchers for your device but the one that stumps people most these days is the use of the term ‘holo’ for User Experience (UX) and User Interface  (UI) Design. The UI is open to manufacturers to determine, thus you have TouchWiz, Sense UI and even Xperia UI just to name a few.

Google on the other hand presents its own stock standard UI which is still evolving and one of the design principles behind the UI is the Holo design theme. You can browse this site to find out more about how the Holo theme is implemented by third party app developers. You can also add your own custom Holo theme app from some weird folks who just ‘skin‘ a current app by taking it apart and reapplying the Holo theme but do beware, these have to be downloaded outside of the Playstore so you have to enable app installations from a third party in your settings menu.

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Note the icon changes and tiny design modifications to the official Instagram App

How Holo can it Be?

Design fragmentation is a bad thing but not entirely so. You get a personalized look and feel and it makes it pretty unique except that Google doesn’t like it. Since ICS 4.0, Google has added pressure on manufacturers to conform to certain design rules. These Holo design rules are to be applied across board to any manufacturer that ships Google Android with the official Playstore. The Holo design API is standard with the SDK and cannot be removed by manufacturers so any app developer can make use of these design APIs to create a Holo-fied app.

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Holo is very similar to Apple’s iOS 7, and Jonny Ive was reported to have ripped design elements from Android to fit the new Apple UI. Chief among the elements is the flat design look, where colors are muted and cooler in appearance.

Custom ROMs are not Spared

Even custom ROM developer, Paranoid Android is moving to that sphere with design elements implemented using Holo Theme. These guys rock. They have redesigned the whole UI to give a different experience to the user. The main difference as you can see here is the use of a PIE type navigation where you can touch and hold the screen to bring up a PIE type navigation wheel.

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But before you jump in to download this particular custom ROM, let me remind you that it is only applicable for the Google Nexus line of devices. Putting it into your Galaxy or HTC device will probably brick your set.

Changing the Look and Feel

There are still  other ways to change the look and feel of your User Interface without resorting to a custom ROM job. The folks at mycolorscreen.com have a beta app which is nearing completion. It has a tonne of User features for your home screen to give it a more personal touch with the Themer App. Zooper Widgets, which are highly popular and customisable, has been integrated into the Themer App fold. So you can literally design a Zooper widget to fit any Android screen and sell it as your own on the Playstore.

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So far, the app has yet to exit Beta testing after a copyright claim from Apple threw a spanner in the works. Apparently someone had ripped off icon elements from iOS7 in one of the home launchers and Apple took action. There are plenty of Holo type home screen launchers available but you have to wait till the Themer app goes prime time. Until then, your best option for a custom UI is to flash a custom ROM.

Paper Makes Facebook Cool again?

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So how do you make your service cool again? Having spent the last 10 years milking the same traffic, Facebook has to reinvent itself and this is where Paper comes in.

I am one of those who resolutely refuse to install the Facebook App on my primary device, it is by all accounts a resource hog and taking up a massive 56MB of RAM. On Android devices, Facebook offers you Messenger for chat and Facebook Pages to manage your brand and followers. The total cost in RAM? Roughly 100MB of RAM space when all three is running. You could delete FB Messenger and save roughly 36MB of RAM since it also duplicates your SMS app but that’s about all you can save.

Ultimately, this is a lot of space for those who are already saddled with 1GB of RAM, the Facebook app works in the background getting notifications and stuff from your fan pages so you can’t power that down. I ejected Facebook app from my primary smartphone since it is just a browser for my timeline. It doesn’t do much beyond that.

I did explore the possibility of using a third-party app, which at best, did the same thing….feed me with lots of adverts right into my time line. But these are poor copies that duplicates the service via the mobile web app feed.

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Why would Facebook put out Paper (which is at best… a Flipboard clone)? Well the original Facebook app isn’t cool anymore. With Paper,  you have the ability to browse content outside of your Facebook network, which makes it a handy app to use on a day-to-day basis without looking at the same old Facebook timeline content.

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Paper borrows heavily from Google Now as it uses a card base system to feature content. To read more or dismiss a card, you only have to swipe it away. The old Facebook app was complicated and didn’t support swipe controls—it was designed to work just like the desktop browser based timeline and that was a dull move. The left to right and right to left swipe didn’t do much but for Paper, it does a hell of a lot more. The idea behind it is really to get people to use the app more often and NOT just to view their Facebook timeline so it is more useful.

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Paper also has the neat feature of tilt to pan any landscape picture using your accelerometer instead of you having to swipe left or right. There is also more emphasis on images than text so people get to see more within a content card as opposed to just headlines.

Content and Control

Before you start using Facebook paper, you are given the freedom to customize your preferred content feed. These would be news items from various sources but for some reason of other, you cannot add your own content feed into the app.

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Content aggregation is probably one of the best places to start when you want to control advertising on apps. No more filler memes, nonsensical videos or borderline porn links posted on timelines as everyone will be digesting the same newsfeed on Paper. These kosher timeline feeds will make it far easier for Facebook to link advertising to them.

Second guessing a timeline post based on keywords can be a disaster for advertising so let’s not go there. Instead, put up an advert just like what Flipboard does within the content feed and you’d be safe.

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What’s more it also makes sharing of kosher content so much easier on mobile devices instead. For now, Flipboard does a damn good job in that department which Paper has to match.

Paper is sans advertising and I think this is the version that should not get updated. It just feels right without having tonnes of adverts pushed my way but if you look at how the App is designed, pushing adverts can already be done natively once the servers are switched on. Advertising cards can be inserted into content feeds and there is no opting out.

Paper’s Availability on Android

This will eventually come but it will be a while. Right now Facebook is testing the app on iOS and for good reason. Google has in recent times become a competitor in the content aggregation business with Google Play Newsstands replacing the Currents app as of November 2013. Newsstands app works just like Flipboard so you get to share any content link with any app on your Android device. Whereas the Google Newsstand app is heavy in content aggregation, Paper by comparison is much lighter and will appeal to those who just want to be entertained.

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Paper is probably the right direction for Facebook at least for now. Facebook has opened a new monetization channel with content aggregation, that is until you get bored with all the same news feed everyone is reading and junk it for Flipboard or Pulse. That said, Facebook’s Paper looks more like an app that would appeal to Hipsters—which is nothing more than a stop-gap measure to arrest declining revenue from a decade old service until the next big thing comes along.

Suck it Up with Clean Master

Clean_Master_App“Massstarrr, the House is very Messy!”

“Well Igor, CLEAN it up!”

Android suffers from one major problem. Juggling files in RAM storage and leaving a ton of trash files behind. Those of you unlucky enough to own 1GB RAM devices, you’ll know what I mean. Apps that promised some form of house cleaning can be found all over the playstore, and many do NOT warn you that your RAM is dangerous close to being overstuffed…that is until Clean Master came along.

First, I normally do not spend much time testing utility types apps but this one has won me over. The app is one that tells me whenever I am near the limit of my RAM storage and this happens quite often.

Why Your RAM is Stuffed

I have mentioned this before and I will mention it again. One of the biggest culprit for junk files is Social Media. Each time you fetch a Facebook newsfeed or an Instagram post, the files are stored in RAM. Over the course of a day, you will have more and more junk files than you care to imagine. A single newsfeed refresh on Facebook can yield as much as 1MB of files and once you start browsing your newsfeed, it starts to fetch even MORE files. The breathing room for your device gets squeezed and that’s when you start to realize that it gets slow and turgid. This addiction to mass Social Media Consumption is what drives people nuts. They want their device to be quick all the time but they only have themselves to blame.

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The other big users of RAM are games online or multiplayer. You may not know how this feels until you start to see glitches in speed. Your gaming starts to stall and lag. You know the deal here when you see it.

Clean Master Rocks

Flushing the toilet after use is probably the best way forward but mobile devices aren’t made for cache flushing on its own. Clean Master identifies the problem and alerts you about it. It’s up to you to take that notification seriously. The app can be used for both normal and rooted access. For rooted access, you can grant it Super user privileges.

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But Clean Master does more than this. It also monitors your App usage, warning you that some apps haven’t been used and you should junk them. For instance you may have downloaded an app and totally forgotten about it. Clean Master makes a note of all those apps that don’t have much attention and suggest that you eject them from storage. It also tracks your internal storage files, allowing you to clean up that forgotten video porn you  downloaded while waiting for your boss to get back from lunch.

Unlike other RAM cleaning apps, Clean Master monitors your RAM state constantly while leaving a very small footprint. For now, there is no banner advertising and from the looks of it, they could go PRO by asking for a fee later.

Android’s operating system can never be as efficient as iOS because of Google took the multi tasking route. iOS is more linear in its RAM usage and this is also the same reason why Apple never gives you much RAM to play with in the first place. By limiting the RAM on the iPhone 5s to just 1GB, you can see why iOS can never be truly multitasking. Apps that are in the background will stay stuck until you bring it up front. That is why so many side loading apps that promises background operation don’t work.

Android users have to contend with the constant house cleaning as part of the Android structure, but those background apps keep humming along without you having to do a thing. Files can be uploaded to cloud storage as a background process and two apps can be running and sharing the same resource and computing power.

There is no one perfect operation system and as long as you’re aware of this, you get to keep working the way you do on Android.

Photosphere on Android: No Root Required

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One of the most exciting thing to come out of Android in the 4.3 update was Photosphere, a bubble photo capture feature found on Nexus devices but Google unfortunately did not make that available to all as it was included as a native camera app. So if you have updated to 4.3, chances are that you’ll still be missing this feature unless you got yourself a stock standard Android update like those found on Nexus and Motorola phones.

Photosphere APKs to the Rescue

The folks at XDA released an APK file for users to download and install the Google Nexus camera app and you can find them here.

But a word of warning. It doesn’t actually work on all devices running Android 4.3. Part of the problem is probably the hardware. The Galaxy Note 2 did allow me to run the app but the images shot on it were far from stellar. The overlapping images didn’t stitch well and the whole bubble image turned out to be more of a psychedelic attempt at feeding LSD directly into your brain. You can view my failed attempt here.

Shooting a bubble is relatively easy. It can take anywhere from 3 to 5 mins to complete the photography cycle before you can stitch it all together.

The APK file is actually a Gallery and Camera app, the camera’s bubble capture capability is buried under this APK. Samsung has its own dedicated camera app in Android 4.3 that doesn’t support Photosphere so you need to remind yourself to launch the Google Gallery or Camera app instead of your usual device camera app to capture and view bubble photos.

Photo Bubbles are Hip

Well, Instagram is so old school so why not get some new school shooting with Bubble photos? Allow me to give you an idea what Photosphere is to Google.

  • It is to be used alongside Streetview, where places prove inaccessible to their cars.
  • Photosphere can be shared on G+
  • On mobile, Photosphere can only be viewed in real-time using the Maps application or Web browser.

Both iOS and Windows Mobile have competing Bubble type photography features but on unfortunately on iOS, it is not native. Apple couldn’t care two hoots about Bubble photos but a few Apps that support the iPhone, including Microsoft’s Photosynth.

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Google Maps and Photo Bombing Opportunities

In recent past, Photosphere was the domain of the DSLR. You needed one of those to shoot the photos and put them together. However with the new mobile capability on Google approved devices, ANYONE can shoot a photo bubble, upload it and have that seen all over the world. For advertising mileage, there isn’t anything better! People who contribute to Photosphere can effectively Photo Bomb the image with banners and advertisements before uploading those to Google maps.

Hardware Compatibility Issues

Right now, Google hasn’t got any plans to make Photosphere a standalone app, but it might do so if it wants more people to contribute to the platform. The chief reason for this omission so far has to be hardware issues. Dual core devices with 1GB of RAM won’t cut it. Shooting photo bubbles and stitching them together is a RAM intensive operation. There is also the question of accelerometer compatibility as this is used heavily when all the photos are being put together.

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For now, you can download the Google approved Gallery APK with Photosphere and try it on your device. It might not work but if it does, then it is good to go. Google has released a slew of APIs to support Photosphere for use on websites and blogs so you won’t be seeing the last of this for a very long time.

iOS versus Android: Christmas Shopping List

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Truth be told, I have never given up on my past times, some of which can only be found on iOS. For the most part, Android for me is more of a productivity tool. It connects and entertains but it has its weaknesses. In the coming Christmas season, you’d be wondering which platform you should get onto. Eric Schmidt of Google may have penned out this thoughts on how an iPhone user should switch to Android but technically speaking, that’s like ignoring the real issue at hand, that is…you gotta have some pretty good software to cater to different folks. Here’s a run down on what you should be buying this Christmas based on the strength of the apps found on both platforms.

Music Making

Hands down. iOS wins. Garageband in particular is fab, so are those DJ mixing apps and drumming, loop and any music generating apps. Best to get an iPad to do that. The iPhone is far too small to use as a music productivity tool. The iPad be it the mini, or the Air will be the darling of the music industry this Christmas. Android plain suxs on this. There is nothing on the playstore that can even come close to Garageband, let alone exceed it.

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Games

Again, hands down, iOS wins. There are more paying customers on iOS than on Android and that’s the reason why game developers cannot ignore the iOS platform when releasing games. Android may have a larger user base but there are problems in getting games to play on different devices made by a variety of manufacturers. iPads are the best for gaming. iPhone is just too MEH….

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Mobile Photography

Sorry but Android takes this one. Forget the Nokia 1020 for a moment and think about the apps available on Android only. They kick iOS ass. Apps like Cameringo and native Android apps found on the Sony, HTC and Samsung can double down and win this race without bating an eyelid. A long time ago that Android camera apps were lacking, these days, it shines brighter than the star that Steve Jobs sits on. Cameringo alone puts all the other filter based iOS apps to shame. Forget the Hipstamatic app from iOS. It’s rubbish. And what about Photosphere? You can’t have that for free on iOS while it’s a standard feature on all Android 4.2 devices. The Google app lets you upload 360 pano bubbles to Google Maps, which is free for all to view.

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Work Productivity

So you want to do some serious work, encode files, upload to cloud and save files on flash drives? You can’t beat Android. iOS may have pioneered the mobile office suite but its iWork modules with new hardware running on iOS 7. Google already gives out its own Quickoffice for this and it’s not restricted by hardware. What’s more Android devices support read and write to flash drives using a OTG cable. Plug and Play. For iOS, you gotta be psychic to beam a file onto a flash drive. Bluetooth? Have you seen an iOS device send a Microsoft file to an Android device? How about NFC and WifiDirect? Does iOS have these under their belt? Both iOS and Android have productivity tools to do your work but it’s iOS that needs a data line to be of any use.

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Drawing and Art

As much as I love the Galaxy Note series with their pressure sensitive stylus, iOS wins hands down when it comes to drawing and exporting your art in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG). Exporting a drawing in JPEG or any type of rasterized image is plain silly. People should be able to edit a drawing without compromising on the quality or the brush strokes. SVG allows you to do this as the data is vector encoded. Android’s support for these type of file is very poor at the moment. iOS wins hands down.

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Entertainment and Video

Android is the clear winner and by a mile. There are numerous apps that lets you consume video like never before. For Samsung devices, they have an All Share feature which can beam content to your set top box via Wifi. Third party apps are also available for you to do this. Connecting a DNLA device isn’t a problem on Android but it is a huge problem for iOS. Apple wants you to stream stuff through their Apple TV box. Making iPads or iPhone DLNA compatible for video is ritual suicide. Third party apps on iOS can support streaming of music but not Video. Streaming of music or video on Android is a no brainer. It just rocks.

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Buying Guide

You get what you pay for. Apple’s tablets and iPhone is on the highest end of the retail chain but price alone should not dictate your choices. Both devices have their strong and weak points when it comes to apps. You have to pay for apps, not expect them to be made free but there are times when the free apps alone will do fine.

For any internet device, there are two schools of users. Those who use their devices to maximize their creativity and productivity, and those who just consume digital media.

Consuming is easy. These are the same folks who use social media, play games with friends, read the news, read books and magazines. For this, any device be it from iOS or Android will do the trick.

Those of you who are more productive —who want to take pictures and have control over their captured parameters, make and create music, draw or take work along with them, will need something more. So choose wisely this Christmas and you’ll be duly rewarded.

Lift Off: Android Launchers Review

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Android’s winning feature has to be its customization capabilities. Stock standard home screens can be an incredible bore and Google has even addressed this in KitKat, where you can select a custom launcher of your preference from the settings menu.

Home Screen Launchers offer you a way out of your standard Smartphone UI (user interface) and Apple iOS user can’t help but look on in envy as you show off a new home screen every day of the week. But sadly, not many devices will allow you this freedom. First you need plenty of RAM and a fast processor. Quad Core is best, dual core…not so much — with at least 2GB of RAM. Here is a run down on some that I have tested on various devices, for both Tablets and Smartphones.

AVIATE

Still in beta, this is made by ex-Googlers and based around the Google Now card concept. This is an extremely intelligent launcher that is developed to be more functional than beautiful. The card concept isn’t something that will make ducks take to water, as the rectangular boxes that represent your widgets may put fashionistas. The home screen is multi faceted as it detects your location and this is what sets it apart from the rest.

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Aviate has three custom functions, that is to segment the apps you’d use while at home, work or when going places. For example when it detects that you are at work, it offers you a chance to pull out a productivity drawer which has all the apps you’d be normally using. When at home, it gives a different drawer for home use, like maybe playing music or watching videos. You add apps to each of the drawers or download the suggested app. These drawers will also carry app suggestions from the Aviate should it be empty.

The ‘going places’ drawer is the most interesting. You have a choice of bar and foodspotting apps as well as Four Square check ins. For me, I don’t use four squares so you can replace some of these suggested apps with one you’d normally use.

Widget support is rather weak as not all third party custom widgets are supported. However the standard ones that come with it is enough to keep most people happy.

The no nonsense approach is probably best for the more rational users who do not like the clutter of seemingly artistic UI touches. Aviate also scores well for memory and storage usage as there isn’t much going on behind the scenes to take away the user experience.  For now, Aviate is only available on Smartphones but I suspect a Tablet version isn’t far off.

Themer

Mycolorscreen’s Themer offers the best options for styling your home screen but is very complex to use. This project started with a website called MycolorScreen.com, where people shared home screen designs. It graduated to a whole new level with the Themer launcher.

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The folks at Themer even bought out Zooper Widgets in the process, making it the defacto widget customization tool which you can use. This is not to say that it won’t work with your other widgets, just that it might not work as well as it should.

I will not talk about the bugs here since this is still in Beta and it works well on any quad-core 2GB ram device. That said, you will experience performance issues with dual core 1GB devices. The widgets and the number of customized screens you can add is very enticing for fashion conscious users but as usual, it comes at a price as the more widgets you add, more resources will be consumed.

Themer’s business model created around  brand sponsored home packs for you to decorate your home screens. This means the launcher will remain free. Sponsored branding will generate  revenue to pay off the development cost of Themer and I do think that’s a great idea. You can customized each Theme with Zooper Widgets and this is where it gets a bit complicated. Size, color, looks can be changed but it does take time. Predesigned themes can also have several scrolling home screens for you to customize so you can be spending hours tinkering with the look. The moment you start adding more home screens and widgets, the overall responsiveness will be affected.

Themer also pays individual designers a small fee for designing a great launch packs which you can download and use for free. Not sure if this will transition to a paying model as the app is still in Beta.

Themer is available only for Smartphone use for now.

Espier iOS 7

Espier is a German word for spy. So I am not too sure if you’d be compromising your safety if you used this. Built as an iOS7 look alike and developed by some folks from China. Espier gives your Android device a Jony Ive look without having to pay for Apple hardware. It looks good and works on a unique business model. The launcher has its own hub where some of the functionality have to be purchased. What I like about the Espier is that it works pretty much like the Apple version, right down to the multi touch to remove apps from your home screen or folder. It has a notification bar widget which you can add on to give it a more authentic Apple feel but at a price. Some of the features like widgets cost money, and widgets are proprietary. You can’t add stuff on a home screen like you would on other launchers.

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On a quad core, 1GB RAM device, it worked ok. There were momentary hiccups with the icons but the responsiveness wasn’t affected. On dual core 1GB devices, user responsiveness was akin to prodding a dead possum to life. To be fair, the look and feel of iOS is looking very dated. The Jony Ive look is way over hyped and a tad boring but then again, you can have this look for cheap on Android hardware—and on a larger screen too.

Espier will work on both Smartphones and Tablets.

Buzz Launcher

Looks and feels very similar to Themer, which an option to download themes designed by users. Each theme can be made with a host of widgets and Buzz Launcher, which like Themer, offers its own widgets as a separate download. Users can also add third party widgets.

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Buzz isn’t meant for dual core 1GB devices. Some of the theme packs designed by users make use of a wide range of third party widgets to the point that it overloads the RAM. There are simpler home themes which do far less device resource but if you are a power user, you need a faster device with a minimum of 2GB of ram.

Buzz is available now, and there is a lot of activity from designers who offer their own themes. The missing widgets for the custom themes can be directly downloaded from the Play store, but not all of them are free. Some designers have made use of paid widgets so you need to replace this with something to your liking.

Overall responsiveness depends on the theme and number of widgets it uses. It might just scrap through with a 1GB RAM dual core device but you soon get bored and want to try some hipster home screen that is resource intensive. Widgets don’t always work due to lower RAM so you have been warned. It was slow and turgid on 1GB dual core devices when I tested it.

What makes this a winner is the sheer variety of Theme Packs which you can download for free. It is bewildering!

Buzz will work on both Smartphones and Tablets.

Hipsters Look Out!

Just coz you can hijack your own homescreen doesn’t mean that it will work on all devices. I have always said that having enough available RAM is very important if you want to have a custom screen, a fast quad core processor is preferable over dual core.

Android KitKat’s was designed from the ground up to take advantage of custom home launchers by selecting it from the home menu. What’s more KitKat is also more efficient in juggling storage and RAM, though I have not personally tested it, I am sure it will work better than what you have experienced on Jelly Bean.

There are also dozens of other home launchers which I haven’t reviewed so remember that any custom home launcher you install will have their own quirks. Each widget you add on your home screen will affect your RAM availability. The more widgets you have, the harder it will be for your device to keep up. So don’t go reporting bugs and slow performance issues when your device just doesn’t have the muscle to do the heavy lifting.

Home screen Launchers are the darlings of the Android world. Apple iOS can’t even come close. Five years ago, the Apple home screen revealed by Steve Jobs was ground breaking but by today’s standard, it is merely functional. This is why Android rocks and will continue to do so for a long time to come.

What you need to know about 64 bit Processors

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As silly as it might sound but Samsung has committed itself to a slew of new mobile processors after being told by Apple to buckle up. This was after the launch of iPhone 5S where it was announced that 64 bit is where the A7processor stands today. The A7 is so new that no games or apps has been tailored to meet the new 65 bit requirements…oppss….requirement is the wrong word. Let’s back track a little.

Android Can’t talk 64 Bit

This is true. All the current line of Processors for the Android platform run on 32 bits. Even the code from Jelly Bean, the current OS from Google refuses to talk in 64 bit. Samsung promised that it will have a 64 bit processor ready….soon. Well, soon maybe a bit too early. Try next year when Android releases Kit Kat and find out for yourself if that is truly 64 bit . Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3, which is suppose to take on the Apple devices this year has only a 32 bit processor! So does it mean anything?

iPhone’s Spiffy new Processor

iOS 7 and the A7 are both 64 bit compliant. That’s crazy if you asked me. Too damn fast for something that small. But how is that going to add up in terms of performance? Guess, what…..its zilch!. Here’s Why it won’t work.

Where’s My Gas Tank Dude?

Did you know that Apple claims that it has a 10 percent larger battery? Yup. If you are lucky, it is suppose to give you a further 10 hours or talk time, that’s provided you use it for talking and not playing games and other stuff. With any luck, your new iPhone will tank out  an hour later than previously assumed if you had all the connections made thru WiFi, IM, FB, Instagram running all at the same time. 64 bit processors are very thirsty to run. If you don’t have the fuel for it. You won’t go the extra mile.

Where is the Extra space Dude?

Apple never claimed anything extravagant about RAM, and that’s where it will give you the most problems. The iPhone 5 only has 1GB of RAM. The Galaxy Note 3 has 3GB of RAM. And guess what? For a 64 bit processor to show its true prowess, you need a minimum of 4GB of RAM! So if you unwrapped your new iPhone 5S, and find out that you only have 2GB of RAM tops. You are not going to seen any difference! Apple has been mum about the whole affair hoping that you won’t know the difference.

WTF is the Upgrade in plain English Dude?

There are no apps that are optimized for 64 bit processing but it will come later in the year. Then you have the problem of another kind, seeing some speed gain or superficial speed gain, which at this moment is negligible. Google doesn’t think you need 64 bit processing as yet for one simple reason. There is no reason to!

Apple has technically sold you a car with a fantastic new engine but without the necessary hardware to make it move faster than it was originally claimed. WTF is Apple doing? It can only be pointing in one direction. All of Apple’s processors for their desktops are running 64 bit. This new A7 will fit into the Apple TV Games Console that has yet to be announced. It will run iOS, and you’d be able to play games designed and developed for the iPhone and iPad. Makes perfect sense if you asked me. Games and software can be ported to iOS and then to its future TV device once it is ready for prime time.

In short, Apple has asked you to invest in their future. You bought into some redundant firmware and hardware which won’t run on that multicolored iPhone but heck, you have paid Apple to develop their spiffy new console device with your kind patronage. That kinda sucks doesn’t it?

Custom Themer for Android

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My ColorScreen is a launcher developer that is about to release a really cool beta app that promises to change your home screen.  Now most of you know that there is one thing that sets Android apart from iOS device is that the former has loads of customisation options. There is always one popping out of the Google Play store that garners legion of followers only to be flatten by less than stellar performance on any Android device.

Themer from My ColorScreen is seems pretty slick but then again, this is just a intro video to their launcher. The candy colored theme is probably a bit too sweet for many of you.

Not too long ago, one particular theme launcher that debut on Kickstarter was asking for a 30K of funding and got double that. But since its launch, the theme has been panned by users and critics for being bug infested and laggy.

The Chameleon theme looks fabulous. You can’t deny it. It has a touch of sophistication which unfortunately did not materialise in the final product.

Chameleon Launcher for Android

Chameleon Launcher for Android

And to add insult to injury, the problems still persist even now though I suspect not all of the problems are entirely their fault.

Where’s my RAM Dude?!

Not too long ago, we all had only 1GB of RAM on our devices. This is the storage area used by the device’s CPU and works more like a “warehouse” than a storage room. Apps that needed to work move in and out of this warehouse, and those you leave on your device to run operations like launchers and persistent apps reside here. Each time an app is launched, it is moved into RAM to do its work.

Persistent apps such as those like IM and apps that have push notifications require a fair bit of space in this warehouse to serve you. They work in the background so you won’t see them much until they receive a work order to generate a notification to display. You can view how they occupy RAM by going to settings>applications>running apps.

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One of the problems with limited RAM is that you really don’t have much room to move about once you have manufacturer type bloatware home screen TouchWiz and Sense UI. When you install a custom theme launcher, it squeezes the resident home screen launcher into the background. This means even more RAM is used up. The only way to remedy this is to go for a total removal of resident bloatware home screen launchers but this means you have to root and flash your device with custom ROM. These often work better and faster but at the expense of app compatibility. Some Google play apps may not work once you root your phone.

I have installed several popular launchers on my 1GB RAM devices and all of them behave like they had too many rounds at the buffet table. It’s just not happening. Custom launchers just do not have the sort of room to move about even when you have loads of internal storage (as opposed to RAM). What’s more, there are launchers are very resource intensive, those which checks for regular updates and new notifications are prime suspects. These have custom widgets that give you social media updates, galleries of your flickr photos, animated backgrounds or news feeds make it worst. It is this sort of stuff that will eventually kill your appetite for launchers.

Solution is just over the Horizon

More RAM, that’s one remedy, with a faster processor. That’s provided that the bloatware on your device has not been increased, or would you want to increase them with all sorts of social media feeds and IM apps like KakaoTalk, Line, Viber, Skype and Whatsapp.

The new generation devices have up to 3GB of RAM and with quad core processor to boot, running custom launchers would be smoother.

iOS doesn’t have this problem even with limited RAM as they don’t have custom screens. The concept behind the no nonsense UI is that you can get to any app you want from home screen. Android launchers on the other hand are supposed to decorate your home screen and give access to information you deem as important, hence the time, notification updates, calendar and newsfeed widgets. The new iOS 7 look does not address the issue of launchers so they are in a different league.

There is no right or wrong to this approach. It is just that Android home screens are built differently and with newer devices with loads more RAM, custom launchers will be the way forward for people who want a tad more personalization than what you find on iOS.