I just commented on Land of Droid's comparative review of Swype vs SwiftKey Flow, and it struck me that my long comment about the differences that had been missed out in that review nearly amounted to a review in itself, so now that SwiftKey Flow is out of beta, here is my own take on the differences between the two.
Anything that helps to streamline supermarket shopping is fine by me. I'm not a fan of supermarket delivery services (I prefer to pick out my own produce). So, as I'm going to be cruising the aisles myself, in my ideal tech-assisted grocery shopping world, I'd have:
To create a shopping list a smartphone (Android in my case) shopping list app that
allows us to have a shared shopping list that either of us can add to when we spot something we need
can be told or will learn what we buy regularly and prompt us to add those items to the list if the normal amount of time has passed since we last added them
allows optional easy-to-add-or-remove ad-hoc notes for any item on the list (e.g. Urgent; have coupon; special offer ends on ..., etc.)
To do the shopping
Something other than a wretched £1 coin/token system to release chained up shopping trolleys. At branches without chained-up trolleys, I can take just my Android phone and credit card. Unlike a man, I don't conveniently carry coins in an easily accessible pocket. In fact, my cash is carried in a rucksack-style handbag, and is deliberately as inaccessible / thief-proof as possible. I don't use cash much for anything!
The shopping list should allow me to teach it the order I'll navigate the aisles to find different types of items in different branches or stores. I'm mad enough to actually take the time to do the intial set-up once (and tweak as necessary when the supermarkets move things around) to streamline subsequent trips. Even better would be a Location-aware shopping list - although asking supermarkets to come up with an Android app I'd be happy with is probably a tall order, based on any I've seen so far!
A way to avoid having to put everything in my trolley, queue and take it all out again at the till, and then repack it all after the checkout operator has scanned it.
Back in the real world, we use the Our Groceries shared shopping list, and I make do with a categorised list that isn't in aisle order (most apps can categorise and allow you to set up categories sorted in one order by judicious naming of the categories, but I do most of my supermarket shopping in any one of 4 different branches of Tesco, each of which has a different layout, of course).
Scan as you Shop
As to the queuing at the till part of things, I've been a huge fan of the Waitrose scan as you go system for many years, and disappointed that other supermarkets haven't introduced similar systems, as I don't often shop at Waitrose.
So I was delighted to discover that the Wokingham branch of Tesco has just introduced their own version, and it seems they plan to gradually roll it out to other branches too. (I believe some other supermarket chains have now started to introduce similar systems as well.)
For some time now, I've been meaning to build on my mini reviews of DoggCatcher and BeyondPod in the PSC Forums, and perhaps do a comparative review. However, this intention has been overtaken by the news you'll find at the end of this post.
I was involved in the beta testing of BeyondPod 3.0, which involved a major redesign of the UI. This addressed the vast majority of my gripes with BeyondPod 2.9.15 and transformed it into something which (to my mind at least) is much more intuitive.
On a recent episode of the Phones Show Chat, I talked briefly with Steve and Tim about my quest for my perfect second device, so I thought I'd add some more detail here. As a bit of background, I have 2 active SIMs - my main one is in my phone (currently a Nexus S) and is an AYCE contract from Three UK. In general, I'll use this as a hotspot for other devices when I need to. My other one is on GiffGaff. This is a PAYG SIM that can be made to work like a contract if you want it to by using "Goodybags" and/or automatic topups, and uses the O2 network. Most of the time it's in PAYG mode (so costs me nothing when not in use) and I keep it in another phone in my bag, partly for emergencies - if the battery dies on my other phone, or if I can't get Three coverage - and partly to increase my chances of coverage when we're away in the campervan and don't know what to expect on any given campsite. For this purpose when we're going away I add a £10 goodybag that gives me unlimited data for a month (tethering not permitted), plus some inclusive calls and text messages. It occurred to me recently that if this SIM was in a small tablet with an optional decent keyboard, I could effectively have a pretty competent laptop replacement in my bag all the time.
For me, a laptop replacement has to have a decent physical qwerty keyboard good enough to touch type on (so a little thumb keyboard is NOT going to work for me in this scenario, despite its portability) and a screen big enough to view full desktop websites. On the other hand, for media consumption (including ebook reading, podcast viewing/listening, etc.) a small tablet is a better option, as it's lighter and more comfortable to hold for long-ish periods. In terms of form factor, a slightly squarer version of my old beloved Psion5/5mx (i.e. the same width in landscape mode, but a little taller to give a 16:9 display) would be a good size - after all, I did used to carry one around in my bag in the days long before touchscreen PDAs and smartphones, so it clearly passes the handbag compatibility test. The keyboard may have been smaller than even the original eeePC's, but it was absolutely superb with good feel and travel and a conventional layout, so with my small hands I could use it to touch type completely normally. 7" would probably be the upper limit on size to fit in my bag, and even then, only if it's a slim device with small bezels. In with all the other stuff in my bag, it would need to wear a protective case. A 6" device with good display resolution would probably be the sweet spot for me. Oh, and it'll be running Android so that I can make use of all the apps I've already bought and use regularly.
The Phones Show Chat reaches its 100th episode in party mood, with regulars Steve Litchfield and Tim Salmon joined by Jon Satherley, Kev Wright, Rafe Blandford and myself to discuss what's been a pretty busy week or so in the mobile phone world, plus the usual features, including App of the Week. This time, mine was Digital Clock for Android.
Yesterday I saw the sad news that Alex Simanov and his family were all killed in a plane crash, as reported by the Miami Herald and elsewhere.
In parallel with this, users of the AceMoney Yahoo group have been unable to post, although for some reason that I don't understand, I seem to be the only person who still can. I have to assume that as a long-standing group member, Alex had either forgotten to set my profile to require approval, or did not feel it necessary. Whatever the reason, we have no way to control it, and I don't know of anybody else who has been able to post without awaiting approval, which is, of course, unlikely ever to be forthcoming.
Over the years, Andy and I have had occasions where we’ve wanted to find each other in an unfamiliar place. Both of us have smartphones with GPS and navigation software, but sending a location and using the received location to navigate to always used to be a bit of a challenge. Then Google’s Latitude provided one possible solution - but only once you’ve set up who you want to share your location with. Here I Am 2 (for Android) and other similar apps allow a snapshot of current position to any email address or SMS number, but can be a bit fiddly to use. Recently, I discovered Glympse, and we’ve been using it partly for fun and partly for real while we’ve been away on holiday. The more I use it, the more I find it can do.
Tesco has just announced a trial of its new "SatNav" electronic shopping list Android software ... not that there's any "Sat" involved, but any electronic shopping list that can be sorted into aisle order according to the store you're visiting is great news as far as I'm concerned ... always assuming the app itself is any good, of course.
I've been using electronic shopping lists, manually sorted (as best I can) into aisle order since I had my first Psion5, 12 years ago. I currently use OurGroceries to maintain a shared shopping list with Andy, but getting it in aisle order for minimum-fuss shopping is a bit of a lost cause, especially as we regularly shop in 3 different Tesco stores, so grouping by product type is as far as it goes.
Sadly, the trial is only available in the Romford Tesco Extra store, or I'd be trying it out in a flash! Let's hope that the Reading Extra is the next test site :o)
Steve's Phone Show review of the Xperia Arc with a little help from me is now available to view (complete with hideous thumbnail, courtesy of YouTube!)
A quick summary:
Slim hardware in the middle of the phone, with thicker top and bottom, housing the phono and microUSB slots. Sadly, these are on the sides, not the top (my preferred location for headset socket) and bottom (my strongly preferred location for the charger, to make it easier to use Brodit powered car mounts or desktop chargers). To be fair, Brodit have created a sideways slide-in mount for this phone, but those can never be quite as elegant as a "drop-in" design.
Quite angular corners on the handset - I like it to look at, but not so much in use, but that's really just a personal preference.
Crisp screen, but no automatic brightness display, and some slight distortion in the review copy I used. However, this was only noticeable on close inspection of vertical lines close to the edge of the display (e.g. when playing WordFeud ;-) ).
A triumph of form over function for Contacts - graphic designers gone mad, without any apparent thought for usability.
I couldn't get the WiFi to work with either of the two routers I tried it with. However, Steve didn't have any problems. This is clearly one of those situations where both the phone and router affect the situation.
See Steve's views on the camera.
This won't be my device of choice (even without the show-stopping WiFi issues), but I quite enjoyed using it for the week.
My Nexus One is stubbornly refusing to recognise my (or any other) SIM card, so while it goes for repair, I'm temporarily using the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc as my main phone this week, as kindly lent by Steve Litchfield. My thoughts and his to follow in the Phones Show, probably in show 139.
I'm also coming to the end of my contract (which was originally for the Nokia N97!), so I'm starting to look around for my next phone. However, I don't think this is going to be the one for me. And this time round, I won't make the mistake of getting something for which Brodit don't make a powered mount. (There is one for the Arc, but with the power plugged in and a headphone / speaker connection, it really does look as though it's sprouted ears, as the charging socket is on the top right, and the headphone socket is on the top left. Not the most elegant setup in the car!)
When I bought the Dext and found that no Brodit mount was available, I realised just how much I rely on them ... and with the Nexus One's charging socket being sensibly positioned on the bottom of the phone (manufacturers, please take note!) I really appreciate just being able to slot the phone into the cradle with no fiddly cables to plug in separately, especially in my own car where I have a Parrot MKi9000 A2DP Bluetooth handsfree to stream podcasts through the car speakers, so that I can literally just plug it in and go. In my partner's company car, I have to slum and plug in an extra headset cable wired to the car stereo. I even have a Setting Profiles rule set up to start my podcatcher/player automatically when it detects power + headphones or my Parrot ;-).
I don't know how I first heard about Words with Friends. I knew it existed back in December 2010, and was looking forward to trying it out. When I discovered that my best friend of 30 years' standing played it on her iPhone, I was even more keen for it to be released on Android. It arrived in the market on 15 February 2011.
Then I found mention of Wordfeud in the comments about hemorrdroids' video review of WwF, and I've now been playing games in both for a week or so. Wordfeud has been around since before September 2010 (I haven't been able to dig back further than that).
Thank you to all of the various opponents I've been playing against - you know who you are - for providing (often terrifyingly high-scoring) opposition.
Here are my thoughts, observations, likes, dislikes, wishlist and finally a conclusion about the two games head-to-head.
NB: All graphics are taken from the Android Market and/or the developer's website.
Since my original post on the subject of secure storage of passwords etc. on Android (and other platforms), there has been a significant update. Today, SBSH Software has released SafeWallet for Android, hot on the heels of SafeWallet 2.0 for Windows which includes Dropbox support, and a few weeks after the release of versions for Mac and iPhone. A Symbian client has been available for some time.
One of the biggest issues for me - and other ex-Symbian users - was the lack of an encypted home for my passwords and other little useful snippets of information. HandySafe Pro gave me a (paid) synchronised Windows and Symbian where I had access to my passwords on 2 Windows PCs (home and work) and a Symbian handset, and synchronisation between them - in this case via the phone, using PC Suite. I needed something that would give me the same functionality with an Android handset.
Yes, Evernote (at least the Premium version) allows me to encrypt snippets of text for privacy, but I had a whole database of information already in HandySafe Pro that I needed to migrate to a solution that would allow me to access the same information on my desktop PCs and Android handset.
Having been a long-time Symbian user (E70, E90, N97 - spot the QWERTY keyboard theme), I had a heavy investment in Symbian and apps that I was used to and had paid for.
However, I was also a heavy Google user (with a Google Apps account, and a significant investment in Gmail, Google Reader and Google Calendar, with a sprinkling of Picassa, Google docs, and a bit of Google Blogger thrown in for good measure), so it seemed reasonable that an Android phone would suit me well. In fact, when I got my N97, the G1 was available ... but at the time, Android and the marketplace just didn't have the tools I needed on my phone for day-to-day use. As well as getting used for the occasional phone call and text message, my smartphone also needed to be my podcatcher and player, occasional music player, camera, notepad, reference library for snippets of useful information, eBook reader, and a whole bunch of other things that Android and the G1 just couldn't do at the time.
AppBrain is a web-based utility for users of Android phones. I first came across it via Gina Trapani (Smarterware.org and TWiG). It has a number of functions:
The phone app automatically populates your list with the apps already installed on your phone
It allows you to search the Android Marketplace from its web page (i.e. without using an Android phone), choose what you want to install / uninstall and then sync those choices with your phone
Once synced, you can ask AppBrain to Perform Installs - which means it will go to the Market Place for each of your pending installations and updates in turn, and start the process. You still need to complete the installation yourself. Once back at the MarketPlace listing, the Back button will proceed to the next app
It automatically puts updates to your apps in your Pending list for updates on the phone
It's social. You can see what any Android user with Appbrain has installed if
they've made their list public
you know (or can guess) their Appbrain user name
It has embeddable built-in links to your own app list in various formats, including a widget showing a phone image with all your app icons.
Please note that in general I do not accept friend requests from people I do not know in the real world. It's nothing personal!
I've been a bit of a geek for as long as I can remember. I love gadgets - I just wish I had the income to support my habit!
I have a BSc in Computing (more years ago than I care to contemplate), and worked in software support for Hewlett Packard for 9 years after I graduated. I had recurring back problems, and left HP to join Back in Action, having been impressed by the service they provided to me as a customer. 13 years later, in January 2006, I repeated the pattern of happy-customer-turned-employee when I joined The Veterinary Centre in Henley, having become a bit of a fixture during the last year of my dog Jazz's life while he was being treated there for canine lymphoma. I am now Office Manager there, looking after day-to-day admin and the computer systems. In addition to this I have had a part time job since June 2012, helping to support BeyondPod for Android.
My first PDA was a Psion 5, followed by a Psion 5mx - possibly the most advanced handheld gadgets of their time, and with a QWERTY keyboard that in my view has still never been beaten on a pocketable device. I could actually touch type on it. I ran my life on that thing, with no thought of synchronising with anything else - nor any desire to.
I'll post here sporadically (and definitely not regularly) about things that interest me enough in to put pen to paper (or rather, fingers to keyboard).
Current smartphone: Samsung Galaxy SIII; Android 4.1.2 (JellyBean) I also have a Nexus 7 and Asus Transformer Infinity with Keyboard Dock in regular use, and a Nexus S, Nexus One and Huawei G300 which still occasionally get used for testing.
How to say thanks
If you've found any of my posts useful (or even just entertaining), there are a number of ways you can say "thank you" in practical terms. Some of them even benefit you too.
GiffGaff offer PAYG SIM cards which can also be used as if they were contract SIMs ... but without being tied in for the long term. Call rates are generally pretty good as a PAYG, and for £12 per month you can get genuinely unlimited data, plus bundled minutes and unlimited text messages. If you need more minutes, you can go up to £25 per month. Oh, and if you're using it as PAYG, you can set up automatic top-ups from your credit card when you get below £3 credit, but with limits on the number of top-ups per month to make sure it's not possible to rack up huge bills without knowing about it. If you use my link, I get a £5 credit, and so do you.
Those of you who follow Kev Wright or listen to Tech Talk UK will already know about Quidco. It's a site where you can earn cashback on purchases. If prices are otherwise the same for an item that you're planning to buy, you might just as well earn cashback on it too. There's no charge to join, but the first £5 you earn each year is retained by Quidco. So, if you don't use it, it doesn't cost you anything. And if you register your credit cards, some stores give cashback when you use that card for in-store purchases too. Oh, and there are Android and iPhone apps that will earn you a few pence just for checking into some stores. I'm afraid using my link doesn't gain you anything, but it does earn me £2.50.
Dropbox is a cloud synching service that has PC applications to automatically sync files in your Dropbox folder to the cloud and all of your other PCs with the software installed. In addition to that, there are mobile apps which allow you to download and upload files from and to your online storage, and folders may be shared with other dropbox users or made public. In February 2012, Dropbox released a version of Dropbox for Android that does automatic uploading of photos to your Dropbox too. You get 2GB free (or can pay for more), plus we both get an extra 250MB if you use my link to sign up.