Is Rufus the Future of Wearables?

 

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Yes you can strap a 4 inch iPhone onto your wrist and do the same thing but the apps would not be convenient.

This is why Rufus was invented. Now he Rufus Cuff isn’t a spectacular device. you could of course strap any 4 inch Android to your wrist and get it working the way you see below without any problem.

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The whole idea behind the Rufus Cuff was for the industrial workforce to stay in touch but only through WIFI. The industrial version also comes with a bar code scanner that is connected via bluetooth to the Cuff, though I am not sure if the extra step is worth the trouble since battery life is limited to one day of use. It would have been more useful if the device used eInk screens since we don’t need full color applications for industrial use.

Consumer Version is a Dud

The consumer version is basically the same. And there are no external storage offered via microSD. So this means you have to ante up to the 64GB storage if you want to stream music or movies.

The other downside is that it hasn’t got any cell reception. It is just WIFI enabled.

And to throw a spanner in the works, there is no heart rate monitor. So its usefulness as a health tracker is severely restricted.

GPS is only useful if you have downloaded stored maps and you can’t access online mapping unless you have a WIFI enabled mobile router from the likes of Huawei.

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In spite of all this, the Rufus is working in the right direction for a wearable device, with the Apple Watch looking more like an expensive toy than an accessory.

I am sure the Chinese will figure this one out and slap on a low power screen, calling and messaging option via a proper mobile network and add both a front and rear facing camera in a package that runs stock Android.

The Chinese have already done this with a slew of watches made in China that does all of the above but battery life is really the main challenge. The technology for the Rufus is already available and it is just a matter of shrinking the chip sets to make the whole package wearable.

Specifications

TI CORTEX A9 PROCESSOR

BLUETOOTH 4.0

3.2 INCH TFT CAPACITIVE TOUCHSCREEN

9-AXIS ACCEL/GYRO/COMPASS

SPEAKER

MICROPHONE

FRONT-FACING VIDEO CAMERA

VIBRATION ALERT

16/32/64GB STORAGE

1175 MAH BATTERY

LED ALERTS & FLASH

ANDROID KIT KAT

MULTIPLE LANGUAGE SUPPORT

WI-FI 802.11 B/G/N

Get Mobile Notification on your PC with PushBullet

Pushbullet-640x401 Everything has been done to death so when someone thinks of something so simple and yet so useful, well, you gotta hand it to them.

PushBullet is one of those apps that resides both on your mobile and your Desktop PC that deserves attention. Why? Coz for the longest time, everyone wanted something like this but no one bothered to do it as it just seems…well too simple to be of any serious use.

There are other ways to achieve what PushBullet does, but as a complete package, there are no competitors.

The Great Mobile Disconnect

Push notifications on your mobile reside on your mobile, and each time  you get a notification from your mobile app, you have to pick up your device to reply and read those messages.

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While on the desktop, you could be looking for some information and when you find a link you need to pass on to your mobile device, you can’t because the only way is to use Evernote or Google Keep, pasting the URL, and getting that on your mobile device.

How about the time you wanted to pass on an image from your mobile to your desktop? The fastest way was actually to save it to Dropbox and have that file saved back locally on your desktop PC hard drive. That’s like taking the scenic route to the book store.

PushBullet can do this and more. It can also make use of your mobile functions like replying your SMS from your desktop computer as long as the two are connected.

PushBullet on PC

Currently, it supports browsers such as Safari, Opera, Chrome and Firefox. The sharing of links and files is pretty solid except for maybe large files which will take a while to send over to your mobile device. There is another app, Caast.me, which is similar but uses a QR code to connect your mobile to your PC browser.

For Pushbullet, the connection is done only once on your computer, that is once you link your mobile to your account, it will forever be there. To add more desktops, tablets and phones, you just click to add on your profile dashboard and you’re done.

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What’s more you can also message your friend who are PushBullet users. If they are not PushBullet users, they will be notified to join up. I know this sounds kinda lame, since IM is probably the most abused and misused feature on mobile these days and with so many providers already offering IM services, it cease to be a unique selling point. But when integrated as a package, I can see the difference in the overall workflow experience.

PushBullet Workflow

This is what sets everything apart. As a stand alone app on your mobile, you can say that it is pretty useless as the only feature it has which differentiates itself from the rest is the news channel subscriptions.

There are several news channels or news aggregators which you can subscribe to for free—allowing you to periodically receive the latest news on the Internet. It doesn’t have proper news channels like CNN or NYT but it does support a host of industry channels from gaming to tech happenings. Beyond that, it offers nothing else for mobile users.

However for people who work from desktop PCs and mobile devices, this is a very handy tool as files and links gets passed around easily and shared with people on your IM list.

What’s more, you can also have project group mates who you might want to send URL links to instead of writing them an email. And who reads emails these days? When you get 100s a day, it gets pretty lame trying to sieve through them, and these are work emails and not the spam variety you find on supermarket shelves.

The UX is very well thought out. On mobile, it sits there as any standard app without IM capabilities. So there is no fussing around. You can also turn off the pushed notifications whenever you like or have them pushed ONLY while you are connected on WIFI.

The folks at PushBullet are still building this beast of a service in the hope of being bought out. I think they have done a great job coming this far. Lets hope it stays that way. I can already the hawks in the Internet industry descending on them to take them out. What they provide is inherently very simple but it is the way that it is delivered that makes them world class.

 

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.

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.

FB Paper 

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.

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.

espier-launcher-ios7-cap-android

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.

Android KitKat: No Surprises

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The world is flat. I don’t have an issue with it but this flat design approach is probably taking it a step in the wrong direction when it comes aesthetics as Apple fan boys hated it. But let’s not go postal over this. Feature wise there isn’t much to talk about except the following:-

Google Now is the Home Screen

Yea, but only for the stock standard KitKat, so if you have Touch Wiz or some other launcher working ontop of this, you won’t see much of it. This sort of optimization is going to encourage more telco and manufacturer bloatware, which you can’t remove but have to put to sleep manually using the Android App Manager.

Works on 512MB of RAM

As silly as it sounds, but not many devices are shipping with 512MB these days. And even if the stock standard KitKat will only be less of 512MB of code, manufacturers will put in their own bloatware ontop of it so don’t go celebrating this by buying a round of drinks for all your buddies at the bar.

QuickOffice is Free

It has been free since Google bought it out and now comes as part of KitKat. The app gets updated automatically via Playstore so it resides as part of the OS, the bad news is that you might not be able to delete it to free up storage.

Third Party Cloud Storage for Photos and Media

No big deal here. You could already use Box or Dropbox to upload content automatically to the cloud. You can even auto upload to G+. With Gallery integration, you can how back up all your photos of the day to Cloud Storage for sharing or self whoring.

Hangout with SMS, forget FB Messenger

Yes, Hangouts has been improved to take on every sensible communicative process including MMS and SMS. Time to dump your Facebook Messenger app! This will no doubt cause a lot of pain in the patukis  for Zuckerberg and gang who had earlier intended to hijack your messaging app.

Emoji for your Keyboard

No more fiddling around with those icons, it comes free with your standard Google keyboard, which I don’t use anyway. Emoji might change that as you can use this icon pack instead of purchasing those proprietary icon packs when expressing your angst.

Air Printing is now a reality

Wifi is handy, you got a printer on a network, you could just send that PDF you got to the printer in the office. There is a printer hub which printer manufacturers can now release an option for. No more messing around with the network copier and printer for those who hate doing manual labor.

Immersive Mode Full Screen

No more dodgy notifications, jarring buttons or status bars. You go full screen with the app the moment an app launches for media playback. Multi touch support is from the center of the display. Not bad not but nothing great.

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Memory and Storage Optimization

Probably the most important feature that you can’t see. Android has a pretty weird way of dealing with memory/storage and optimizing the process is going to make apps more  efficient. This could mean more fluid app dynamics and leave plenty of room for gaming and social media distractions.

When can I get KitKat?

If you are running stock standard Android, you can get it now but there is a caveat. It won’t work on the Galaxy Nexus, its innards are too old to support the new firmware.

Samsung and HTC will take a good six months before it decides which sets will get an update. As far as I remember, Samsung promised a Jellybean update for GN 1 and it never came, though I was told it was rolled out to certain countries. KitKat isn’t a massive improvement, it is an update to sort out some user experience issues and memory grabs by apps that were poorly coded.

Like iOS7, it is more aesthetics than features. Samsung would be loath to release an update but the smaller KitKat foot print could give them more room to inject more bloatware. For now, you best bet would be Cynogenmod, those band of independent developers have promised to release a 4.4 update as soon as they can pare down the code.

The only visible thing you’d be getting from KitKat are the icons. Since the stock standard KitKat will carry the new and improved icon pack, device manufacturers won’t see the need to skin them into another form.

Who Will be Getting KitKat?

New devices from all he major brands with the exception of Motorola of course—who now offer only stock standard Android. HTC and Samsung will have their own interpretation of a home screen so you won’t be cursed with a Google alternative. The majority of devices with a minimum of 1GB RAM will be able to run KitKat — preferably with a dual core processor.

One Version to Rule them All!

Fragmentation was pretty bad with Android Gingerbread and Honeycomb. This fork has now been unified. All devices shipping with Honeycomb for Tablets can now offer KitKat and this is of particular interest for tablets and phones offered in third world countries where only 512MB of RAM is often the defacto standard for cheap knock offs.

To a large extent, KitKat is like iOS 7. Nothing to shout about, has some nice optimization which you won’t see much of and can be incredibly boring for those who want more. Google Now with Voice command is given more prominence but if you happen to speak with a lisp, chances are you won’t be using 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.

applist

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.

BBM on Samsung Galaxy: Too soon or too late?

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Apparently BBM is going to make its debut on Samsung Galaxy phones in Africa after its long promised launch of iOS and Android. But who would want to use that now? Word out is that Apple is evaluating the BBM app. Should they even be afraid?

For one, I firmly believe that the only way out for Blackberry is to die a natural death, just like the Palm Pilot with it’s later resurrection WebOS that came with a crash and burn effect.

BBM is as fashionable as wearing inch high shoulder pads with all your attire. There are so many more ways to skin a cat than to have BBM on Android.

Same old Same old…

Who in their right mind would pay for the BB World service is beyond me. In the past, BBM was king. No one could touch it. Talk anytime you want, anywhere you want and chat with friends from all over the globe. Today, if you need IM, why not consider the likes of LINE, WECHAT, KAKAOTALK, or ChatON? BBM was part of the BB  service, you pay a monthly fee just to chat and all data connected with chatting is covered by the fee. Big deal. Even if you chatted all day and all night for 30 days, I doubt you’d rake up enough bandwidth to move a movie through P2P. With the move to BB10 operating system, the new open platform herald a free BBM service that rides on your data plan but legacy users still had to PAY to get BBM. Why not make it open for everyone? But of course they didn’t.

Blackberry made IM chic, but you have to pay to access this service as it was their business model….which is suppose to be premium for those Exec types. However if you take a look at the landscape for IM, there is no reason to go BBM even if your friend can only be found on BBM. There are IM services like Viber, WeChat, Skype and Whatsapp, all of which are available on some of BB’s devices. You also need to thank BB for fragmenting its hardware to the point of no return. With so many different processors, hardware configurations and touch screens, mobile app developers clearly do not want to make an app work on just ONE platform.

Where is my BBM now?

“BBM Me” used to be a buzzword. Wow. You’re a blackberry user. Today, it has to be whispered just to avoid being labeled “old skool”. BBM will make its debut in Africa, a land where poor data bandwidth dwells. The limited infrastructure makes perfect sense if telcos aim to make money on data bandwidth rather than SMS. All you need is an EDGE connection and you can be text messaging all day till the Lions come home.

Samsung’s spearheading the attack into Africa is well planned but for BB, they need to either sink or swim. BBM is tied to BB devices, so if you want to be flooded by messages placed through your server by Android and iOS devices, what are you going to do to make money? You don’t have to look far to see the business model that both LINE and KakaoTalk are subscribing to. It is not in the billions but with some creative foresight, it might work out for the better.

Facebook already has a separate Messaging app that runs outside of the Facebook App, they know where they are going with it and how that will make money for them. BB just has to emulate that. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.

I haven’t the faintest idea on when BBM will land on iOS but Apple isn’t pleased either.  Its own iMessage and Facetime has proven to be an abject failure for users and is now buried in the message pane, hopefully forgotten until rediscovered while you are out cleaning  your apps. Yes, Apple’s own iMessage is a fucking disappointment. Worst still is the Facetime function which was sold to many as a game changer on desktop Macs. It clearly doesn’t work as well and if you paid money for the Desktop version, you have been had.

Facetime and iMessage was suppose to revolutionise the messaging platform but it just didn’t handle the calls placed as quickly or efficiently even when you have over 50 million people who are said to be subscribers. Apple probably feels these folks are freeloading on their servers and since they don’t pay to have the service, well the service has got to suck.

BB should learn from this mistake. Just because you have mass, it doesn’t mean you got the muscle to manage it all.

activesync-flowchart-31-8uv

BBM is very secure. So secure that the NSA can’t hack into it.

What are my Options?

Got sakes, just take a look around.  IM has replaced SMS and if you are still using SMS, then you are truly a 20th century kid. You can virtually connect through ANY of your friends via Skype, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangout, LINE, WeChat, KakaoTalk or the lesser known KiK messenger. I am sure if your friend on Windows, BB, iOS or Android will be on one of those and as long as you have three of them working on your device, it should cover the entire spectrum of friends.

There was a time, a long time ago that is, when people used BBM. Today, it is as dead as the Dodo and yes, you may think that it is sexy but I can assure you that times has changed and that bell bottom trousers you been saving since the 70s isn’t going to come back into style anytime soon.

Who would be the future users of BBM? Well, these should be drug dealers, human traffickers, terrorist, paedophiles. arms dealers, the Taliban, communist Insurgents, Neo Nazis, North Korea and criminals from the world including dictators and their henchmen. Blackberry does a damn good job in keeping the BBM messages secret so if you happen to fall under those guises, please stay on BBM. Your life depends on it.