Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Day in the Life with Android (Part 4)

This is Part 4 in my continuing series in which I share how I use my Google/ASUS Nexus 7 tablet on a day-to-day basis. Part 1 covers my hardware accessories and business apps; Part 2 focuses on a variety of utilities; and Part 3 deals with social media and related apps as well as ebook readers.

This time around I will be covering most of the apps that are left -- a combination of utilities, news apps, and apps that didn't fit in the previous three posts, excluding games and audio-video apps. I'll delve into a few of the games I have, as well as my audio-video apps in Part 5, the last (hopefully) of this series. Really, though, what would an Android device be without at least a few games, some tunes, and a movie or two.

But before proceeding forward I need to go back a step, or two.

To quickly recap something from Part 1: I stated that I was using the Swype beta keyboard, which I was quite fond of. Then, Swype released a revision to the keyboard, and in the process broke a number of the keyboard's key (no pun intended) features. So, I switched to a competitor's keyboard, SwiftKey beta keyboard. Well, as is typical with Android apps, Swype released yet another revision to their keyboard that fixed all the issues and, in addition, included some new features. As of this writing, I have now switched back to the preferred Swype beta keyboard and, so far, all is well.

And in Part 2, I mentioned the four "cloud" services I am using. As of today, I can now add a fifth cloud service to the list: MediaFire. I learned about this service just this morning, but unfortunately the app was not compatible with the Nexus 7. Someone posted in an Android forum that they contacted the developer about this incompatibility, and a few hours later the problem was resolved. That's the kind of action Android users like to see from a developer (and it's a free app as well). MediaFire provides 50GB of free storage at signup; additional storage is available for a fee. I didn't mention this previously, but when using cloud services always be aware of their file size limitation on file transfers; typically it's between 100MB and 250MB per file, depending on the service, which means no movie streaming.

Speaking of cloud services, I use Cloud Print, which allows me to print from my N7 to my (new) wireless printer. (During Christmas week I installed a new Epson WorkForce WF-3540 Wireless All-in-One Printer; it replaces my tired HP deskjet, a true workhorse that has served me well for more than 15 years.) To use Cloud Print you must first configure your PC and wireless printer to work with Google Cloud Print.

I also have a new addition to my social media apps listed in Part 3: Until just this past week, Facebook Pages Manager was only available in Europe (I believe), but the app has now been released in the States. This app will allow me to manage my Alien Contact Anthology page on Facebook via my N7.

And just when I thought I was caught up, I learned of a new utility app just last night while reading posts on one of the Android forums. History Eraser is a multi-faceted app for deleting the cache on the N7. Just doing a quick delete of the cache on my N7 gained me 0.50 (and change) gigs, which is equivalent to more than 500+ megs. For the sake of comparison, the size of the History Eraser app is just under 2.50 megs.

Whether you are new to Android and the N7 or an experienced Android user, I recommend that you join the Nexus 7 Forum, a community devoted to helping each other and providing information (reviews, announcements, etc.). I added the forum to my Feedly app so I can scan the posts without having to actually visit the forum site. Of course, I also read Android Central, Android Police, and Droid Life, to name three others sites/communities.

So, who doesn't like to go shopping...

All of the app links in this series of blog posts point to the Google Play store. However, also has its own source for Android apps: the Amazon Appstore. The primary focus is, of course, on the Kindle Fire device, but the majority of the apps I have checked out are also compatible with the N7. There are some caveats, however, in using the Amazon Appstore. In the Nexus 7's settings, under "Security," you have to enable the option "Unknown Sources" -- this allows the installation of apps from other than Google Play (formerly known as the Android Market). This is also a potentially dangerous option because it will allow installation of any Android app from literally anywhere -- but you never want to install an app from other than a known, legitimate source; otherwise you put your device, and your data, at risk for malware.

You will need an account before starting; and once the Appstore app is installed (you'll find a link to installation instructions on the Appstore home page), be sure to access the app's settings and enable notifications so that you are notified when new updates to your apps are available.

What is especially cool about the Amazon Appstore is that the store showcases a "Free App of the Day" -- every day -- and always a paid app. Most of the featured apps are games, and the majority of these are for younger audiences. But I have acquired a few apps this way through the "free app" program, including my favorite game, CrossMe Color Premium (which I've posted about here and will revisit in Part 5); this app is priced at $4.95 on Google Play, but I installed it for free as a "Free App of the Day." So I literally check the Amazon Appstore every day just to see what free app is being offered.

Of course, if you're like me, you purchase more than just apps from; or, at the least, I use Amazon for checking availability, prices, and reviews. So, I've installed the Amazon Mobile app, which is available from Google Play. Be sure to snag the "Tablet" version, which is optimized for use on the N7.

If you've ever navigated the Google Play store, then you know there is no one place (screen?) you can go to to find which apps are on sale. So that's why I use the AppSales app. This app searches Google Play for all app sales, lists the app along with its original and sale price (and the sale price percentage); if you've configured the app to do so, it will send you a notification when it finds new apps on sale. You can also maintain a "watchlist" -- paid apps that you would like to purchase if/when they go on sale -- and AppSales will send you a notification when it finds an app on your watchlist on sale.

All the news that's fit to print...

Though I read a number of Android sites and forums, I like to know what news, reviews, and apps are trending specifically for the Nexus 7. Drippler accomplishes this. I counted at least 46 different Drippler apps in the Google Play store, one for every major Android device on the market, so be sure to install the one for the Nexus 7.

I use Feedly for reading blogs, forums, etc. and Drippler for trending Nexus 7 news. I also want to be able to read news of the world, as well as politics, sports, health, entertainment, and science news. The N7 comes with Google Currents, and I've also tried Flipboard (which has garnered a lot of raves recently), but... I wanted a news app that would allow me to delete sources that I don't want to read, and then be able to add my own personal choices, without each of these added sources being a separate tile/category. The only app I've found that will allow me to do this is Pulse News, which also features a beautiful Google "holo" design.

Breaking News, a product of NBC News, is essentially a widget that I maintain on my home screen. It has the top 5 news headlines (clickable links) at any given moment.

Though more for information, or at least data, than news are the IMDb app (Internet Movie Database) and the Wikipedia app. I don't know how many times I've watched a TV show, or a movie, and recognized an actor, but either couldn't recall the person's name or where I had seen them previously. IMDb to the rescue. And Wikipedia never ceases to amaze me: no matter what obscure person, place, or thing I might look up, there is usually a listing for it.

One more, and I'll consider this blog post complete.

The Nexus 7 has a built-in front-facing camera. This makes scanning QR codes and bar codes a bit difficult, because you can't see what you're scanning, but it can be done, and there are apps (pic2shop Barcode & QR Scanner, for one) that will work with the N7. But what if you just want to launch the camera, snap some pics, record some video? Then you will need Camera Launcher for Nexus 7 -- an app designed specifically for the N7 to, you guessed it, launch the built-in camera.

A Day in the Life with Android
Continued in Part 5

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