If you have not been paying attention, I am taking part in a Samsung Galaxy Mccann Digital campaign, in which 5 bloggers review a total of 100 Android apps in 4 days. This is the last of my reviews. However, before I get into the apps, I want to thank Nir Refuah from Mccann Digital for this campaign and Yael Goren, who was the person corresponding with us throughout the campaign. I would also really like to thank Arad Akikous from theffusion who was a driving force behind this whole operation. All of them displayed high professionalism, and it was a privilege to work with them on this, and I hope to have the chance to work with them again in the future (I will even do it without a free phone next time, that’s how much I like you guys )
Now, on to more geeky things. I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about the device itself, which is on the very edge of mobile technology, both in terms of its features, its OS, and its openness. As I am sure you know, Google launched a mobile OS called Android. The big deal was that as opposed to other mobile systems, Android was completely open. It is an operating system optimized for touch screen devices, and more and more companies are adopting Android as their in house mobile OS. Just yesterday, Motorola jumped on the bandwagon with their new Cliq device. In any case, Android is a very impressive initiative on the part of Google, and it has definitely taken the mobile world by storm.
Having said that, Android, while it is leagues above Symbian and BlackBerry in terms of usability, has a lot of work ahead of it before it can become a serious contender for the iPhone OS. I know there are many people who would buy Android over iPhone just because of its openness and Apple’s extreme closeness (is that even a word?), but if I am judging purely based on the user interface and consumer experience, iPhone is still way ahead.
The Samsung Galaxy is actually the most impressive Android device out of the entire group with a 5mp camera, 8GB of onboard storage, Bluetooth 2.1, a 1500 mAh battery, and a 3.2′ capacitive touch screen. It is also the lightest Android device on the market weighing 114g compared to the 135g of the HTC Hero or 158g of the HTC G1. I have had the privilege of using the HTC Magic and there is no debating that is has some advantages over the Galaxy, such as the convenient scroll wheel and what seems to be a faster responding accelerometer. However, all in all, I prefer the Galaxy over the Magic due to its better form and wider screen. It just sits better in your hand and I find it much easier to use both for using apps and typing text.
When it comes to Android, almost all mobile experts agree, it will dominate the market within a few years (unless something drastic happens like Apple opening up their OS), and in my opinion, this will happen sooner than expected. The App Market is impressive in both its usability and the number of apps it offers. Those numbers are always growing, as are the numbers of manufacturers interested in the Android OS.
Now onto 5 more apps for review including a ranking out of 5 at the end of every review:
- Break the Blocks I have very few games on my phone, but along with Snake and a few others, this game is always fun and a must download. The app basically requires you to break blocks using a ball and a moving object. You have to prevent the ball from falling by making it bounce off the moving object. The cool thing about the app is that you can choose to use 3 different methods to move the object, the accelerometer, the dpad or the touch screen. I found the accelerometer to work better on the Samsung Galaxy than the HTC G2, which was too sensitive for the game and every slight move lead to a huge movement, causing the player to miss the falling ball. It is quite an addictive game and the advanced controls and settings make it even more enjoyable.5/5
- Skype: The Skype Android app is a complicated story. On the one hand, the UI is great and easy to master. The chat feature is bug free and completely instant, but then again, who uses Skype for text? There is no option to call your contacts on the app unless you have Skype credit, something that I cannot understand. I have not seen this documented anywhere, so I could be wrong, all I know is when I click a contact, the Call option is missing. You can use your Skype credit to make calls but not call Skype to Skype for free like you can on a computer. I keep thinking I am missing the feature and it is there somewhere, but I am afraid that is not the case, and you just cannot call to Skype unless you have balance in your account. As for the app itself, it works flawlessly and the free calling feature would make it a real winner. 2/5
- Currency Converter: As a Content Manager for a foreign exchange website, I could not ignore this app. It enables you to convert any currency based on the most updated rates of the foreign exchange market. The settings enable you to choose your base currency and how much the default amount is to convert. Unfortunately, the Israeli Shekel produced a Null result and the information was unavailable. Another cool feature is that you can choose what the source of the rates is. You can also manually add the amount you want to convert. However, the app is full of spelling mistakes and bugs and left a lot of room for improvement. Android users who often exchange money will be able to get a lot of use out of this app, but I would recommend the developers release a more updated and polished version. 2/5
- Documents to Go: I have used this app on many mobile platforms including Symbian and BlackBerry and have always found it to be very useful, mainly because there really is no competition (kinda like Microsoft Word?). With the free Android version you can only view Word and Excel files but cannot edit them. To edit, you will need to purchase the full version. The actual file to download is 9MB, way too big for a mobile app. The developers claim they are working on an update. Another strange thing I noticed is that when you want to upgrade the free version, no information on the price of the full version is available. You click to buy it and you are brought back to the market where you see the free version and it says Installed. The actual app is pretty straight forward and does what it is supposed to do, but I am personally looking for better replacements that are not full of these kinds of bugs. 2/5
- New York Times The New York Times app for Android is yet another example of how simplicity can somehow equal greatness. The app gives you what you want in the most simple of interfaces. You have the latest news, the most popular stories, and different news pieces from around the world at the touch of a finger. You can open an article and easily save it for later by clicking Save and then easily access it from the Saved column of the app. The app could use some more configuration options like the ability to add specific topics to the main screen, but unfortunately, those features are missing. The actual text is also not customizable but it seems to be the perfect size for easy reading. The app is completely bells and whistles-free and that is what I love about it most, although sometimes you need a few extras to really make it an outstanding app. 4/5
Thanks again Samsung, theffusion, and Mccann Digital for this opportunity, I really enjoyed it, and I think it was a brilliant idea and a true indication that you both have some smart individuals on your teams who know the true meaning of the social Web.
If you have any comments on the above reviews, or would like me to review any Android app, please let me know in the comments or you can write to me on Twitter here.