Category Archives: Reviews

MOBiLe Cloth Giveaway

Back in March, we told you that we love the MOBiLe Cloth. MOBiLe Cloth is a cleaning cloth for touchscreen devices. The awesome team at MOBiLe Cloth reached out to us about a special giveaway. We are teaming up to give away a 24 pack of MOBiLe Cloth ($59.99 retail value)!

MOBiLE CLOTH, is made of a unique high tech split micro-material consisting of fibers 100 times thinner than a human hair! It is woven into a special pattern which we call “nubs”. Each nub acts like hundreds of tiny suction cups to pull fingerprints smudges, and germs away from the surface of your device and into the cloth with one or two swipes. No water or cleaning solution is needed.

MOBiLe Cloth is also running a special Grand Opening Special! Use the promo code “Techie” and receive 25% off and free shipping on order of $25 or more (free shipping only applies in the US and this does not include custom products). You can purchase MOBiLe Cloth here.

Want to win this giveaway? Simply leave a comment on this article. We will email the winner on 10/19/2012. Good luck!

 

Pokki Takes on Microsoft, Tries to Fix Windows 8

Microsoft expects Windows 8 to herald a new era in computing with a touch-first user interface that is suitable for both post-PC devices like tablets, and traditional computing devices like desktops and laptops. One of the most iconic changes in Windows 8 is the lack of a start button as well as a start menu. While the new Start Page is a lot more informative and interactive, it will undoubtedly confuse a lot of users. This has prompted some manufacturers like Samsung to bring back the Start Menu through software patches. Pokki is amongst those that are trying to fix Windows 8.

Pokki isn’t, however, a simple Windows 8 Start Menu app. It’s an entire ecosystem. Pokki believes that Microsoft is onto something when it comes to using the web technology stack for native desktop apps. However, it doesn’t believe that a touch-first interface with reduced emphasis on multi-tasking is the way forward.

Pokki-Windows-8-Start-Menu-Replacement

Pokki has a fairly decent selection of apps. It’s not even remotely as comprehensive as the Play Store or the iTunes App Store; however, it’s better stocked than I was expecting it to be. You can find games like Angry Birds and Cut the Ropes, and apps like Facebook Lite and Tweeki.

Pokki-Windows-8-Store-Replacement

The Pokki Start Menu stocks your Pokki apps in a handy favourites section, but also provides access to traditional Windows apps, and frequently accessed system folders like Control Panel and Documents. Pokki will also begin supporting Modern-style Windows apps in its Start menu in the coming weeks.

The Start Menu also has a nifty search bar that searches for installed apps, documents on your system, as well as resources on the web. However, the search function doesn’t work perfectly, and is the biggest annoyance with Pokki. For example, I searched for ‘IrfanView’, and the search functionality only returned ‘IrfanView – Thumbnails’, which is a different app. The other big draw of Pokki is a smart notifications system that displays real time notifications from your installed apps in the Start Menu.

Techie Buzz Verdict

After taking Pokki for a brief whirl, I can confidently say that it’s worth a try. However, it is facing an uphill challenge. Not only is Pokki betting on the desktop app ecosystem, but it is also going head-to-head against the Windows Store that will be built into Windows 8. As browser developers like Mozilla and Opera can attest, that is never an easy proposition. In order for Pokki to survive and develop a viable business model, it will need to be adapted by a sizeable chunk of Windows 8 users. No matter how impressive the functionality offered by Pokki is, without an advertising budget, the little startup has slim chance of taking on Microsoft and surviving. I am rooting for Pokki, but I will be surprised if it actually succeeds.

Techie Buzz Rating: 3/5 (Good)

[ Download Pokki ]

Review: Badly Drawn Faces

The other day I ran out of coins playing my favorite game, Scramble with Friends, so I decided to run to the App store and take a look at all the new apps out there. I ran across one that immediately caught my eye. The app is called Badly Drawn Faces and is developed by Sporcle. When I read the description, “Sharpy is a narwhal. Narwhals can’t draw. No one ever let Sharpy know that.”, I knew this game was the kind of silly I was looking for. Below, you can see a screenshot of Sharpy and his relatively bad rendition of Frankenstein.

Sharpy the Narwhal
Screenshot of Badly Drawn Faces

The game is extremely simple to get started with and to learn. There are many levels that they refer to as “Pads”. Below, you can see a screenshot of one of the pads. A lot of the pads are locked until you guess a certain number of faces, and then they will begin to unlock as you go.

pads

The premise of the game is very simple. You are presented with a graph paper sheet upon which Sharpy will commence to draw a famous face. If you figure out who the famous face is before he is finished drawing, you can hit the guess button and type in the answer for extra points. Below, you can see the face with the guess button beneath it.

Face

You will quickly find out that the most important thing in this game is collecting fish. You get one fish for every face you get correct. However, if you get stuck on a face, it will cost you 3 fish to get a hint from Sharpy. You also have the option of posting the picture to Facebook and Twitter so your friends can help you guess the picture.

I am giving this app 4 stars because it really is a lot of fun. If you’re looking for a simple game to pass the time, then this is the app for you. It runs like a charm on my iPad 2. I have played it pretty much non-stop for a couple of days and I am not even close to running out of levels. I believe this is one of those games you need to put in your arsenal for those days when you need mindless entertainment. Although, I have to admit I have learned a few things about people I didn’t know by playing it. Oh, did I mention it is free!

You can download Badly Drawn Faces at the following link http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/badly-drawn-faces/id541920351?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D2.

LG Optimus 4X HD P880 Review

The LG Optimus 4X HD has a lot riding on its shoulders. Until the Optimus G arrives, the 4X will have to bear the responsibility of keeping LG’s head high in front of giants like the Galaxy SIII, the One X, and the iPhone 5. Thankfully, at least on paper, the Optimus 4X HD looks well equipped to go head to head against the latest and greatest smartphones from its competitors. Let us find out if the actual product lives up to its specifications.

Appearance

LG-Optimus-4X-Front

The LG Optimus 4X uses a lot of plastic, but doesn’t feel cheap and flimsy in the way the Galaxy SIII does. LG has eschewed the conventional smooth curves in favor of a design with sharp corners that exude boldness. Its prism-edged design with intricately patterned back cover and a double rimmed frame lends it a more premium feel, besides making the phone easier to grip. The One X is still the winner in terms of comfort factor, and also would have won hands down in the looks department, if not for the frog-eyed lens. However, as things stand now, I find the Optimus 4X HD to be more appealing than both the One X and the Galaxy SIII.

LG-Optimus-4X-No-Buffer

Unfortunately, the Optimus 4X has one major design issue. There is absolutely no buffer space between the display and the capacitive buttons – in other words, the buttons begin as soon as the screen ends. This can lead to some extremely frustrating experiences. If even the tiniest portion of your finger touches the Home button while you are trying to tap the space bar, you will be instantly taken out of whichever application you were using and to your launcher’s home screen. After using the 4X HD for a couple of weeks, I sort of trained myself to steer clear of the capacitive buttons while typing, but I am sure that LG has accelerated my balding process.

Display

The LG Optimus 4X has a 4.7-inch True HD-IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 720 x 1280 pixels (312 ppi). Any display with a pixel density greater than 300 should be stunning, and the Optimus 4X doesn’t disappoint. It uses RGB display matrix, which should (at least in theory) lend it an advantage over the Galaxy SIII, which has a pentile matrix. However, I couldn’t distinguish individual pixels in either of the displays. The Optimus 4X HD display is bright – I mean really bright. It has excellent outdoor visibility, and the viewing angles are quite good. However, the extra bright IPS display has its own disadvantage. LG’s display lacks contrast as a result of which images appear slightly washed out. The blacks of AMOLED displays are worth dying for, and LCDs still can’t get anywhere near.

Hardware

LG-Optimus-4X-Back

The Optimus 4X features an Nvidia Tegra 3 chip, which boasts of a Quad-core (plus an additional power saving fifth core) 1.5 GHz Cortex-A9 CPU and a ULP GeForce GPU. This is precisely what the international version of HTC One X also uses; hence, theoretically both of them should be able to deliver similar performance. I benchmarked the Optimus 4X against Galaxy SIII and One X. Samsung’s flagship was the clear winner, while LG managed to beat HTC in AnTuTu, but trailed in Quadrant.

Galaxy-S3-One-X-Optimus-4X-HD-Benchmark

To be fair to LG, the difference between the Optimus 4X and other Android flagships isn’t particularly huge. The 4X HD feels zippy and smooth whether I am flinging through my pictures in the Gallery or playing an HD video. However, I did notice occasional frame rate drops while playing games like Temple Run, which was somewhat surprising.

Software

The Optimus 4X HD ships with Android 4.0, which is better known as Ice Cream Sandwich. This was perfectly fine when the 4X HD was announced. However, it has already been three months since Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) was unveiled by Google. Samsung has already started updating Galaxy SIII handsets to Jelly Bean, while HTC has committed to delivering Jelly Bean to One X owners in October. LG on the other hand is yet to even commit to rolling out Jelly Bean to its existing line of products. LG has a pretty poor track record when it comes to delivering updates, and it is clear that they haven’t learned anything from their past mistakes. It’s unforgivable that LG has failed to clarify their position on Jelly Bean update for their premium smartphone a full quarter after its release.

As far as ICS is concerned, LG has put in substantial amount of effort to distinguish its baby from the other smartphones in the market. As expected, the 4X runs the Optimus UI 3.0 on top of ICS. Skinning ICS is not the easiest task, simply because Google did an excellent job at creating a refined and aesthetically pleasing interface. Most smartphone manufacturers – Samsung and HTC included, simply fall into the trap of ignoring all ICS design conventions and slapping on a bright, colorful interface in the name of differentiation. LG is no different, but because it retains a sizable chunk of default ICS design elements, it comes off looking better than Samsung. Sony is among the few manufacturers who have managed to get the balancing act largely right by making tasteful design modification to the ICS user interface.

The strong point of the Optimus UI is its customizability. You can change everything from home screen transition effects to application icons. Even the lock screen is pretty customizable. You get to choose everything from how the clock looks to which apps appear in the lock screen dock. And, oh yeah, LG’s lock screen unlock animation is definitely the coolest that I have seen on Android. In spite of heavy customizability, LG’s Optimus UI feels slightly less intuitive than TouchWiz and Sense. Sense is packed to the brim with eye-candy, while TouchWiz uses a lot of clever gestures to enhance productivity.

As I mentioned earlier, LG has gone the extra mile to make the 4X HD stand out from the crowd. Many of the enhancements concern multimedia aspects of the 4X and will be touched upon later in this article. There are a couple of non-multimedia enhancements that I will briefly discuss right now. For a more in-depth look at the features unique to LG’s flagship, check out my earlier write-up on the USPs (unique selling points) of the 4X.

The first major enhancement is QuickMemo. It is essentially an enhanced note taking app that permeates through the Optimus UI. Just tap the QuickMemo button present in the notification bar, and whatever was happening on-screen will be frozen. You can annotate the screen capture and save it for later reference or share it with your friends. You can annotate presentations, documents, webpages, and just about anything.

The other major software enhancement concerns the mail client. The Optimus 4x ships with its own mail client called Smart Mail that offers a desktop-client like two pane view in landscape mode, and enhances discoverability of previous conversations through its smart email-sorting feature.

Multimedia

The Optimus 4X features an 8-megapixel rear cam and an 1.3 megapixel front cam. LG’s camera UI is simplistic, but still offers lots of configurability through the settings menu. Still photography provides four basic modes – normal, panorama, HDR, and continuous shot – all of which are standard features in current generation smartphones. However, the 4X does have one unique trick up its sleeve that gives it an edge over its competition. It is called “Time Catch Shot”. When you enable this feature, the 4X captures five shots in a quick succession, including shots from moments before you clicked on the shoot button, from which you can select and keep the best shot. With Time Catch, even if you are too late or too early with the shoot button, you can still capture the moment you wanted.

LG-Optimus-4X-HD-Camera-Sample-1
Shot taken at dusk
LG-Optimus-4X-HD-Camera-Sample-2
Shot taken at dusk in HDR mode

In terms of picture quality, the Optimus 4X really shines outdoors. It takes detailed, vibrant yet natural images with minimal noise. The HDR mode also works particularly well and is a great way to capture images of stationary objects under low light. However, one area where the 4X fumbles is normal low light photography. Both the One X and the S3 shoots better pictures under poor artificial lighting.

The 4X shoots 1080p videos at 30 fps. Once again, the poor low-light performance holds it back, but under proper conditions, LG’s flagship is a competent performer. The videos recorded have good color reproduction and low noise, but goes overboard with the sharpness that adds some artifacts. The continuous auto-focus works quite well, and unless you are trying to capture really close objects, the focus readjustment happens quite quickly and smartly. You also get the option to capture images while shooting videos.

As I mentioned earlier, LG has done a lot to enhance the multimedia experience. Most of its efforts show up in the video player. Optimus 4X HD’s video player has four nifty tricks up its sleeve that gives it a clear advantage over its competition. They are –

  • Fingertip seek, which shows a YouTube like preview of the frame you are about to jump to while seeking.
  • Speed controller, which allows you to slow down or speed up the video on the fly.
  • Split-Screen view, which allows you to quickly browse through your library.
  • Pinch-to-zoom, which allows you to zoom into any video you are watching. While this is not something that you will use regularly, it is a nice to have enhancement.

Others

A particularly thorny issue with modern smartphones is battery life. While we have briskly moved onto massive screens and quad-cores with frequencies in gigahertzs, the battery technology has been struggling to keep up. The 4X ships with the most firepower. It has a 2150 mAh battery, while the S3 and the One X have 2100 mAH and 1800 mAh batteries respectively. Unfortunately, in real world, 4X doesn’t perform so well. I didn’t benchmark LG’s battery performance; however, Samsung’s Galaxy S3 undoubtedly lasts quite a few hours more than the Optimus 4X HD. The 4X has a good standby time; however, surfing or watching videos kills the battery really quickly.

While purchasing a new smartphone the thing that often has the least impact on the buyer’s decision is the device’s capabilities as a phone. However, a smartphone that can seamlessly stream HD videos, but can’t be used for making calls in crowded places due to poor noise isolation is hardly a smart buy. Thankfully, the Optimus 4X suffers from no such flaws. Call quality is crisp and the speaker is loud enough to allow conversations even in noisy environments.

Connectivity options in the Optimus 4X HD include DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC. LG is also taking a page out of Sony’s book and introducing NFC smart tags. They are calling this LG Tag+. The NFC tags can be used for changing profiles, launching apps, altering phone settings and more with a tap. The Optimus 4X will ship with two tags.

Conclusion

The Optimus 4X is a great phone, there is no doubt about it. It looks and feels like a flagship device, and for the most part, performs like a premium device. The mixed benchmark scores and shorter battery life indicates that the software is not perhaps as optimized as it could have been. However, in real life, you are unlikely to notice the performance difference. The Optimus 4X is fast and fluid, and is capable of running games like Nova 3 smoothly. The user interface is highly customizable and there are numerous unique features to boot. LG’s latest flagship might not manage to beat the Galaxy or the One X on the whole, but it is extremely competent and can stand proudly next to the best of the best devices. The best part is that the Optimus 4X is a fair bit cheaper than most of its competition. Both the One X and the Galaxy S3 are currently available for around Rs. 35,000, while the Optimus 4X HD is retailing for around Rs. 32,000. Regardless, of which of the three you pick, you will end up with a great smartphone. The Galaxy S3 remains the best device that money can buy. However, if those three thousand bucks really matter to you, go for the 4X HD. It has its own share of strengths to justify its billing as a flagship. If LG can manage to get the cost down a bit more, then the 4X might even eat into the sales of previous generation super powers like the Galaxy SII.

Scribble Press Review

Scribble Press is an iPad app that lets you create and illustrate stories and share them with others. It is an award winning app and I can see why. There’s a lot of fun to be had by both young and old. If you’re a parent, teacher, or homeschooling, this is a must-have app for iPad.

Scribble Press Screen
Start Screen for Scribble Press

Inspiring the Story Teller

I installed Scribble Press on my iPad recently and was amazed how quickly my seven year old picked up on how to use it. It took her about 5 minutes to figure out how to start using the built-in story templates and create her first story. That’s when I knew this FREE app had a lot to offer. Scribble Press is really about empowering the creative mind and giving them all the tools needed to create a story from start to finish. For the beginner, there are story templates that your children can pick from, such as “My Babysitter Is a Zombie”. The story pages are outlined in advance. All the child has to do is fill in some of the blanks with names and such. It doesn’t take long however, for your child to graduate from the templates to creating full-blown stories of their own. The other day my daughter read me a story she created that literally made me laugh out loud. How cool is that?!?

Illustrating Made Easy

The illustrating tools are incredible in Scribble Press. Your child can go to the marker wall, pictured below, and choose from an enormous amount of brilliant colors and different types of media. They can use markers, crayons, stamps, and much more. Not only can your child tell a story, but they can express their inner artist. If you’re a teacher, or homeschooling, I could see this being a great tool for inter-discipline teaching by combining language arts and visual art concepts. You might even use this app for team building by having one child write the story and another child illustrate the story.

Illustration Tools
Illustration Tools

The newest version of Scribble Press also lets you create graphics without having to write a story. This is pretty nice because, as you can see in the first picture above, there is a little shopping cart where you can purchase a hard copy book as well as, other nifty products with your illustrations on them.

Pros: Scribble Press makes story creation fun. The newest version allows multiple account creation on one iPad so you can set up separate profiles for multiple people. The story templates are there to inspire the young writer, but it is advanced enough to let them create stories from scratch. There are lots of illustrating tools and they can share their work with parental approval.

Cons: At the moment I don’t really have any to report. This is simply one of the best apps I have seen. Some may view the fact that additional templates cost money as a negative, but they’re not that expensive.

Scribble Press, in my opinion, is a 5 star program, and I would recommend it as an educational tool for anyone trying to teach children to write. Quite frankly, it’s fun for adults too. For more information, visit their page in the iTunes store at http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scribble-press/id487300076?mt=8.

Review: Boxfish for iPad

Mobile apps have unquestionably made our lives easier and better. From helping us with discovering a new song to new things to do, there’s always an app for that. Meet Boxfish, a new app that highlights what’s actually happening right now on TV by analyzing hundreds of TV channels in real time. Boxfish wants to be the information engine for TV, letting viewers easily discover what’s hot, and also easily alerting them of when topics of interest come up.

How does it work? Boxfish gathers the closed captions from 3,600 cable and local broadcast stations all over the U.S. and indexes and analyses all the data in real time. CEO and founder Eoin Downling gave me a demo of how it works at the Boxfish HQ and I was simply blown away by the technology they are using. The result is presented as a constantly updating stream of trends and topics. Boxfish presents topics from sports, news, business, and celebrity gossip by default as a part of its live feed. Users also have the option to “favorite” their topics. They can also see what’s trending. The app can also be customized to be synced with a TiVo or a DirecTV set-top box. However, there’s no easy way of filtering out channels that a subscriber does not have access to.

I have been playing around with Boxfish for sometime now, and it is the most intriguing app that I have used in the past month. The app can be found overwhelming sometimes, but it is a great app that let’s TV watchers catch up on popular topics. Overall, the idea is very unique and Boxfish is a must have for TV lovers. It is like Twitter for TV. The application is a free download via the App Store [Download Link] and I’m told an iPhone app is on its way.

Boxfish was founded in 2010 in London, and the founders moved to the Bay Area in 2011. The company has raised a $3 million Series A round, which was led by Naya Ventures and T-Venture.

Editor’s Pick of the Week: Evernote

Welcome to the fifth edition of Editor’s Pick Of The Week. This week Abhishek Baxi talks about the very popular note-taking application, Evernote, that he uses everyday – on phone, on PC, and on a tablet.

The leading text would irk the folks at Evernote since they insist to call it a memory tool than a note-taking application to broaden the horizon. Last year when I interviewed Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote, he mentioned that their competition is pen-and-paper, not other note-taking apps or utilities. Evernote allows you to save your ideas, things you like, things you hear, and things you see.

Evernote allows you to create text notes as well as add voice memos, snapshots, files and web clips. All the notes you create are synced across all devices that you own as well as to the cloud. You can also sync individual notebooks (container of these notes) with your friends or colleagues to collaborate. You can of course email a note or post it to your social network. The powerful search feature allows you to search within your notes by keyword, tag or even printed and handwritten text inside images.

I use Evernote for diverse scenarios. Sometimes, I plan and my trips by keeping all the itineraries, confirmations, and plans in Evernote. My fascination for Evernote had me using it to plan my wedding ceremonies and manage the guests, which became a case study for a feature on Evernote in a business magazine.

Apart from the user experience and the feature-set of Evernote apps, there are a couple of reasons for which I’m a big fan of Evernote. Evernote is available on all devices, and the company strives to make it available on every platform that comes about. As an early adopter of Windows Phone last year I was glad when it arrived on Windows Phone Marketplace in a great avatar. Similarly, the app is already available on Windows Store with the new Windows design style. Also, there is a huge app ecosystem integrating with Evernote. There are several apps and services that allow you file the output as a note in Evernote. I use Evernote in conjunction with several apps on my phone to manage my to-dos, scan documents, file payment receipts, record meeting minutes, et al.

There is a cheeky sticker on my laptop lid. It says – “I’m not being rude. I’m taking notes in Evernote.” :)

Editor’s Picks of the Week: CloudApp and Droplr

Welcome to the fourth edition of Editor’s Pick of the Week. This week, Paul will be talking about CloudApp and Droplr, apps that make it easy to upload and share files.

It’s rather unorthodox — and possibly abuse — of this series to mention two picks, but, after much internal debate, I was kind of forced to. Both services perform the same task of allowing you to quickly upload and link to files on the whim, but their limitations differ, and, based on your use cases, one may cater to you better than the other.

Before I single them out for the purpose of comparing and contrasting, let me further elaborate on what these services do, and why I use them. CloudApp and Droplr are apps that allow you to upload files primarily by dragging them into an icon in the OS X menu bar (or Windows system tray.) The file will then be uploaded, and a short URL will be copied to your clipboard automatically (this can be disabled if needed). Both services also offer web apps, where you can manage your existing uploads and edit your profile info. And of course, while both services allow you to use them for free, there are limitations. Upgrading to the “pro” versions will also give you more features, such as the ability to associate your uploads with a custom domain.

As you can see, while there are a plethora of methods and services out there that allow you to upload files to the Internet and share them as you wish, these services greatly simplify the process through the apps on your desktop, and display uploaded images within a nice, well-designed website. As someone who frequently communicates with others over Skype and IM, I use CloudApp on a daily basis.

With that introduction out of the way, let me proceed to detail both services — and their strengths and weaknesses — individually.

CloudApp

While I frequently find myself switching between both services, CloudApp is what I’m using at the time of writing. First and foremost, it’s definitely more Mac-centric. Both apps originally were built for OS X, but Droplr developed its own official app for Windows. No official CloudApp software exists for Windows, but there are third-party solutions built on their API.

Using it is very simple. After firing up the app, an icon will show up in your OS X menu bar. To upload, just drag files into the icon, and the URL to the file will automatically be copied to your clipboard. By clicking on the icon, you can view your latest uploads and access the preferences area.

In the preferences area, you can fiddle about with “raindrops” — which are essentially plugins that let you say, directly upload something from Photoshop — and change keyboard shortcuts.

So, when using the free version of CloudApp, what are your limits? Well, you can upload up to 10 files each day that are up to 25MB in size. There’s no cap on total uploads, but you just can’t upload more than 10 25MB files each day. Buying CloudApp Pro — $5 for a month, $15 for 3 months, $25 for 6, and $45 for 12 — will allow you to upload as many files a day as you want, with the individual file size restriction raised to 250MB. You also, of course, gain the ability to tie a custom domain with your account if you wish.

Droplr

On the other hand, we have Droplr. It functions in a very similar fashion: There’s an icon in the menu bar that you simply drag and drop files to in order to upload, while clicking on the icon will grant you access to your latest uploads and the settings area. With Droplr, when viewing your most recent uploads, hovering over them will present you with the option to either copy the link to your clipboard or delete the upload which is rather handy.

Droplr’s settings area is also very similar to CloudApp: You can manage your capture keyboard shortcut, your account, and plugins that you have installed (which are very similar to CloudApp’s raindrops.)

As you can see, there are a couple of relatively minor differences between the services. However, the difference in limitations as a free user are what may sway people towards one over the other. In the case of Droplr, there’s no limit to how many files you can upload in a day, but your account is limited to a total of 1GB. And, like CloudApp, individual file size is capped at 25MB.

If you do need more storage — or the ability to upload larger files — Droplr Pro should do the trick. For $3 a month or $30 a year, you will be able to upload a total of 100GB of files. The individual file size restriction will also be raised to 1GB, and you’ll get features such as statistics, or the ability to create more private, password-protected drops. The ability to use a custom domain is also, of course, included here.

Conclusion

As you can see, in terms of the restrictions placed upon free users, both have their pros and cons. Some may find CloudApp’s 10 upload per day issue limiting, but they may also never need to have 1GB of drops uploaded at the same time. Others may be fine with it, but may want the ability to collectively upload more than just 1GB of files.

When it comes to a pro account, Droplr does definitely beat out CloudApp in pricing and features. You have a definitive limit of 100GB of files, and individual file size is limited to 1GB. With CloudApp however, you can upload an “unlimited” amount of files with an individual file size limit of 250MB. But, is Droplr the clear winner here in terms of file restrictions? It’s a tough call.

The entire purpose of these services is to quickly share things such as pictures and perhaps quick videos, even small files. It’s hard to imagine making a quick drop of a file that’s even close to a gigabyte in size. I’d imagine that such large files will be uploaded elsewhere, using services like SkyDrive or Dropbox, or even on an FTP server.

But of course, there surely are many users and use cases out there that will take advantage of a 1GB file size restriction. And also, something worth noting about CloudApp’s ability to upload a seemingly unlimited amount of files is that, well, we all see what happens when companies offer unlimited anything. I’m not saying that CloudApp does anything malicious to hinder the service of heavy users, but I’m saying that it is possible, and some may take comfort in being provided with a definitive storage limit.

Again, it really depends on your use case. I’ve also noticed that many people have a staunch preference of one service over the other, which is interesting.

As for me, I just want something that makes it extremely easy and painless to upload screenshots and share links to them over Skype and IM, and both tools do the trick. And, even with their differences — big and small — in mind, I give both services a five star rating.

Review: TV Guide Mobile App

As long as I can remember having a TV, I can remember the TV Guide. Growing up in a small town, I didn’t have a lot to do. The TV guide was kind of my connection to another world. Of course, back then we didn’t have 3 billion channels, nor did we have the internet. Nowadays I can only imagine that the TV Guide has to be quite creative to keep its revenue streams flowing. One way it is doing that is by offering a mobile app that can be downloaded on both Apple and Android formats. Today, I would like to give you my thoughts on the app.

TV Guide very recently updated their mobile app with some new features. Pictured below, you can see some of the channel partners that are available through the app. Some of these services, like HuluPlus and HBO GO, are subscription based. You can link your accounts through the TV Guide app.

TV Guide Partners

When you first install the app, it asks for your zip code so it can customize programming based on your location. It also has 3 options that allow you to choose whether you are a satellite, cable, or antenna user. Pictured below, you get the idea of how the app window looks. The current view is the “Listings” view which shows you the scheduled programs available for your area. If you click on a show, as pictured below, you will get a little pop out description of the with 3 options at the top. You can see where I have highlighted these options in red. If you click “I’ll Watch”, then it brings up a social media window where you can share what you’re watching with your friends.

TV Guide Window

You can also set alerts on shows. Pictured below, you can see the alert window. You can set a one time alert or you can set it to recur. This is pretty cool if you’re prone to forget what time you favorite show comes on. You can even set a lead time so it will warn you an hour in advance.

Alerts

You also can setup a “Watchlist” which basically allows you to pick a show or actor and it will go out and find all the relevant stuff available to you around that theme.

Watchlist

There are also other categories available like News, Photos, and Videos. The News and Photos sections are kind of like the articles you were accustomed to in the print version of the TV Guide. The videos section lets you browse through a selection of videos from the various channel partners. It also has subcategories that run along the top of the screen to help you narrow down your choice. For instance, if you’re looking for children’s videos, there is a category just for kids. There is also a search feature built in which seems to work pretty well.

Pros: The TV Guide mobile app has a slick interface and is pretty intuitive. If you’re a TV junkie, this is a great way to keep up with all the Hollywood news and keep up with programming.

Cons: Unless you’re already a HuluPLUS or HBOGO subscriber, there really isn’t a lot of free content available to you. The app does integrate with Crackle, which is free, but in my opinion, Crackle is pretty limited in its selection too. It would be nice if you could sort the videos by free or paid. It’s not easy to see that as it is designed now.

I give this app 3 stars because it really is just middle of the road in my opinion. If I had a “meh” rating, that is probably what I would give it. I think the app has potential, but right now it just seems like a shortcut to ABC programming and its affiliate companies. However, if you like reading articles about the stars and shows, then you might want to give this app a try.

If you want to download the Android App, click here.

If you want to download the Apple App, click here.

LG Optimus L5 E610 Review

I have always found the mid-range smartphone segment to be quite interesting. The budget limitations prohibit manufacturers from offering the absolute best they can cook up. However, they can’t afford to be too shabby either, since consumers rightly expect these handsets to be capable performers that are significantly better than the absolute low-end handsets that are typically available for half the price. The trick to coming up with stellar mid-range devices is to make compromises that the customer won’t mind compromising on. The Optimus L5 is LG’s mid-range Android smartphone. Let us see if LG has managed to perfect the balancing game.

Appearance

LG-Optimus-L5-Front

With the L-series, LG has been emphasizing a lot on style, and the L5 is undoubtedly among the better looking devices in this price range. The L5 is a fairly slender device with a thickness of just 9.5 mm. The combination of sharp and bold corners, faux metal rims, and intricate matt-finish on the back cover lends it a somewhat premium look that Samsung would do well to learn from.

Display

The LG Optimus L5 E610 sports a 4’’ TFT LCD screen with enhanced brightness that offers good outdoor visibility. Viewing angles are also quite reasonable. Unfortunately, those are pretty much the only positives I could identify in the display. The extra brightness comes at a premium. The L5, much like all other Optimus devices I have tried, lacks contrast, as a result of which, images appear washed out. This problem is compounded by the L5’s abysmal pixel density. LG increased the screen size, but chose not to amp up the screen resolution beyond 320 x 480 pixels. As a result, the L5 has a pixel density of 144 ppi, while Ace Plus has 165 ppi, Desire C has 165 ppi, Ace 2 has 246 ppi, and even Xperia J is rumored to have 245 ppi.

Hardware

Under the hood, the L5 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM7225A Snapdragon, which is essentially an underclocked version of the chip powering the more expensive L7. The 800 MHz Cortex-A5 processor and Adreno 200 GPU are hardly cutting edge, but they are a notch above what similarly priced Wildfire S, or Desire C offer. However, when compared with the innards of Ace Plus, Xperia P, Ace 2 or even the Xperia Mini, the L5 is found lacking. Thankfully, the L5 comes with Ice-cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) that has been optimized to run on low-end hardware. The half gigabyte of RAM also comes in handy. As a result the L5 is laggy, but not unusable. During my two weeks of usage, I encountered several momentary freezes, but on the whole, the L5 was fairly usable. If you want to play cutting edge games you will have to pony up more dough, but the L5 is good enough for the likes of Angry Birds Space and Fruit Ninja.

Software

The LG Optimus Ux Overlay is mostly unobtrusive and well done. However, I wish OEMs stopped replacing the modern, understated icons of ICS with bright, in-your-face, pastel colored blotches. And LG is not the only one who is to be blamed – this seems to be something all the manufacturers think is a good idea. A few of the extra stuff that we saw in the Optimus 4X trickle down to the L5 (for example, QuickMemo for notes and annotations), but most of the goodies are gone. The default install is mostly junk-free with just a handful of pre-loaded apps like Polaris Office, Smartworld and Smartshare. Smartworld is LG’s own app store, which offers personalized recommendations based on your download history. It’s largely redundant, and in India, it appears to be only suggesting free apps. Smartshare is a much more useful addition that enables streaming of media directly from Windows Media Player (on your PC) or to your HDTV over Wi-Fi. It is essentially LG’s counterpart of Samsung’s Allshare. However, the best bundled app is MobileTV, which is exclusive to the Indian market. LG Mobile TV is actually powered by Myplex Now, which is a free Android app available for all handsets. Mobile TV offers live streams of several dozen TV channels from different categories like news (Aaj Taak, NDTV, TimesNow etc), Entertainment (UTV Movies, Zoom, UTV Bindass etc.), Infotainment (History Channel and NDTV Goodtimes), Music (9XM and Channel UFX), Spiritual (Aastha, Gurbani etc.), and Regional (Asianet, Jaya TV etc.). Mobile TV is also slated to offer movies and other multimedia content on-demand. According to LG India, it will be free for first two months, and then require subscription.

Multimedia

LG-Optimus-L5-Back-Camera

LG’s 5 mega-pixel camera is competent, which is exactly what you should expect from products in this price range. It struggles to produce clear images under low light, but outdoor performance is good enough for most casual photography needs. Although ICS’s instant capture is technically supported, the low-end hardware means that there is a couple of seconds’ delay (more under low light) between shots. Special photography modes available include panorama and continuous shot (keeps on taking snaps as long as the capture button is pressed). Advanced options include ISO and EV settings. However, macro focusing mode is absent.

LG-Optimus-L5-Camera-Sample
Optimus L5 Camera Sample (Picture)

Video capture is a bit of a disappointment. The L5 only captures VGA videos at 30 fps. This pales in comparison to Xperia Mini, and Ace 2’s ability to record at 720p. Front camera for video calling is also not available.


Optimus L5 Camera Sample (Video)

Others

The L5 packs a 1500 mAh battery, which easily manages to last more than a day with average usage. Call clarity is good and the speaker is quite loud. I didn’t have trouble talking even in the noisy streets of India. Connectivity options supported include Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi, and NFC.

Verdict

LG-Optomis-L5-Back

The Optimus L5 makes a lot of compromises. The biggest of them are with the screen and the processor. The low ppi and single core processor means that mobile enthusiasts are unlikely to find the L5 to their liking. Sony’s Xperia Mini and Walkman Live are smaller, but come with better processors, better displays, and 720p recording. Xperia U costs about Rs 3,000 more, but offers a significantly better hardware (Dual-core 1 GHz Cortex-A9), but doesn’t support expandable memory. If you want micro-SD support, along with a dual-core processor, high ppi display, and 720p video recording, you will have to stretch your budget a bit further to accommodate the likes of Ace 2 and Xperia Sola.

However, the L5 hardly seems like a phone targeted at enthusiasts. LG is clearly gunning for the average consumer. The average consumer doesn’t care too much about the specs as long as the phone feels good. And the L5 feels good. It’s sleek, stylish, and well built. It takes decent pics, and the ICS build is optimized enough to not frustrate the casual user. LG TV is essentially a rebranded version of a readily available Android app, but it’s still something that most consumers will be attracted to.

In the end, I can’t help but feel that LG has sacrificed quality with the goal of appealing to the casual mobile users. Currently the Optimus L5 is selling for about Rs. 13,000. It would become a lot easier to recommend LG’s mid-range device had it been a couple of thousand bucks cheaper. However, right now, unless you really need the big screen, it’s hard to justify buying the L5 over similarly priced Xperia Mini or Xperia Live. In fact, if you can afford to spend a bit more, you will end up with a significantly better device by considering the Xperia U (Rs. 14,000 approx.), Xperia Sola (Rs. 15,500 approx.), or Ace 2.

Editor’s Pick of the Week: Skifta

Welcome to the third edition of Editor’s Pick of the Week. This week, our editor, Simon, tells us about a very nifty DLNA/UPnP app for Android – Skifta. 

With the recent trend of shipping devices with less and less local storage, in a very transparent attempt and pushing users towards the cloud, users are left with either giving up “owning” their media, or picking and choosing what to store directly on their devices. If you’re inclined enough to have set up a DLNA or UPnP media store in your home network, then you might want to take a look at Skifta for Android.

Skifta is much more than a DLNA/UPnP app. It is developed by Qualcomm Atheros, and if you’re unfamiliar with them, they make the chips that are likely powering the mobile device you’re reading this on. Skifta is DLNA certified (it was actually the first Android application to be DLNA certified), fully supports the UPnP standard, and if QCT has their way, will be pre-packaged in a wide range of devices.

Most DLNA/UPnP applications support client and server mode. That is, you can either host media and push it to a device in server mode, or you can use client mode, and pull media to your device. Skifta does both, but also has the addition of local storage support for when you’re offline or not within range of your home network.

Skifta is very straight forward to use, as you basically have 3 options before you start listening to music or watching movies. Firstly, where do you want to get this content from? Local or remote. Second, where are you playing it to? Local or remote. Third, what do you want to play? If you’re smart enough to answer those 3 simple questions, you’ll be enjoying your media wherever you want, in no time flat.

 

Upon selecting a file to play, Skifta will immediately attempt to buffer the entire song over whichever connection you have available to the media server. If you’re using an 802.11n network, this happens very quickly. Almost instantly. It would be nice if the application would load the next few songs in the album in order to reduce “seek” time when moving to, or skipping, a track. The lower blue indicator line indicates buffer status.

While Skifta does display embedded album art, this is only shown on the “now playing” screen. Instead of thumbnails when selecting tracks, a small placeholder icon is used to denote a folder, audio track, video file, or picture. While it doesn’t detract at all from usage, it would be a nice bit of polish to have.

Skifta also doesn’t seem to do any caching of any sort, even if the network was remembered. This means your entire library is polled every time you reconnect. This isn’t a large issue with the proliferation of fast wireless networks, but if you’re offloading media storage to a dedicated machine because your device doesn’t have enough local space, you’re going to be adding up the seconds that it takes to load a large library.

Like most 3rd party audio players, Skifta sticks itself into the notification drawer, but 2 icons are present. One indicates the network you are connected to, the other shows your media information about the media being played. Unfortunately there are no media controls, but tapping will bring you to the according screen.

All in all, Skifta might not be jam-packed with features and fluff, but it does a perfect job at pulling or pushing media around from a DLNA/UPnP server. If you’re looking for a fast and stable media player, Skifta by Qualcomm Atheros is a great app.

RealPlayer For Android Review

I’m sure most of you might have already heard or even installed the popular RealPlayer app on your Android smartphones. This app was in beta for a very long time. However, RealNetworks recently released the final version of this amazing app. I’ve been using the beta version of this app for more than a year, but it was never the default music player on my Android smartphone. I personally liked the user interface of this app from the moment I installed it on my Android device.

Earlier this month, RealNetworks removed the beta tag from this amazing media player app. The final version comes with a refreshed UI along with a graphic equalizer, metadata editing and much more. RealPlayer is currently available for free in the Google Play Store. However, you will need to shell out $4.99 for purchasing the premium package. The size of the app is 12 MB and and the current version is numbered 0.0.1.1. Most of the media player app does support devices running on Android 2.1 (Eclair) OS. Thankfully, you can install the RealPlayer app on devices with Android 2.1 or higher version of OS.

RealPlayer for Android is an “All-In-One” media player app, which not only plays your favorite music, but also plays videos and displays the photos stored on your smartphone. As soon as you open the app, you will be greeted with an amazing homescreen as shown above. It will take a couple of minutes for the app to search your Android device for media contents. You can find the option to select Playlists, Albums, Genres, Songs, Artists along with Videos and Photos on the app’s homescreen.

RealPlayer plays the music and videos smoothly, however it does not scan the internal memory by default for videos. On the other hand, there is no option in the settings to enable this feature. I found this a bit problematic, since all of the music videos and movies were stored in the internal memory of my smartphone.

An icon will be displayed in the notification bar, while you are playing a track. You can also find the album art and track info on the notification area. However, there is no option to play, pause or change the track from notifications. RealPlayer displays the song you are playing along with the album artwork and basic controls even when your phone is locked. This is one of the feature that I like the most. It allows you to play, pause or jump to the next/previous track even with out unlocking the phone. The photo browser is quite ordinary. It does not allow you to pinch and zoom or sort photos according to the album.

This app is currently available in nine languages and it comes with an optimized graphics for high-res devices. It allows you to set your favorite song as a ringtone and control the media from the homescreen widget. Sadly, you cannot play .RAM and .RM files in the free version. The homescreen widget is pretty decent. It shows the song you are currently playing along with its album art and basic controls.

The premium feature pack is available for $4.99 through an in-app purchase and it brings graphic equalizer with ability to save custom settings, metadata discovery using the Gracenote database, manual metadata editing, cross fading, RealAudio and RealVideo (rmvb) support and no advertisements. The basic version offers almost all of the necessary features. However, if you want to get rid of the advertisements or play Real audio and video files on your Android smartphone, then you can go ahead and purchase the premium package.

Price: Free (Basic, Ad-supported) / $4.99 for premium features
Rating: 4/5

[ Download RealPlayer from Google Play ]

Review: Scramble With Friends

Recently, I was introduced to a really fun game called Scramble With Friends. I needed another time waster like I needed a hole in the head, but I digress. Scramble With Friends is a lot of fun I have to admit and, as a word of warning, can be very addictive!

Scramble With Friends

The game was developed by Zynga, which is probably the most well-known maker of games for social networks. Scramble with Friends allows you to search your social networks and play against your friends. The idea behind the game is that you get a board, like the one pictured below. The board contains 4 columns by 5 rows of letters.  You try to pick out as many words as you can in the allotted amount of time. There are 3 rounds per game. This gives you a chance to redeem yourself if you royally blow it the first time.

Scramble Board

Notice the red circled area in the picture below. Every day you are given a certain amount of tokens to play with. On the left side of the tokens is a timer that lets you know when you will be given your next free token. To the right of the tokens is a button that says “Get Tokens”. This will allow you to purchase additional tokens if you just can’t stand to wait another 15 minutes to play again.

tokens

The game also features “Power-Ups” which give you certain advantages. For instance, there is a “Freeze Time” power-up, which is the blue icon pictured below, that will stop the clock and allow you to get words while the clock is frozen. You only have a certain allotted amount of power-ups, but never fear, Zynga is happy to sell you more.

power-ups

Below, is a YouTube video that will give you a better idea how the game works.

[Video Link]

The Good – Scramble With Friends is a lot of fun. If you like word games then this is a great game to play. It isn’t hard to play and it is one of the best social games I have seen. It even has a little message window where you can trash talk your friends. Unfortunately, I am so bad they usually trash talk me.

The Bad – It’s a resource hog. On my little Android Optimus T, it nearly took my phone down to a crawl. However, it runs like a charm on my iPad 2. There are a lot of ads and I am not real fond of having to wait for tokens to play. The voice that they use to cheer you on in the game could not be more creepy sounding either.

I give Scramble With Friends 4 stars because it is a great game. I would recommend it for people of all ages. It is just good clean fun. If you would like to download it, follow the links below:

Apple Download

Android Download

Editor’s Pick of the Week: Llama

Welcome to the second edition of Editor’s Pick Of The Week. This week Sathya talks about a location based automation tool for Android devices, Llama.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve walked into your office, begun a discussion with your colleague, only to be disturbed by your loud notification tone? Or have a bunch of app updates/RSS feeds/ Other apps scheduled for auto-update when WiFi connection is available, only to forget enabling WiFi once you’re at home because you were preoccupied with some other work.

This happens to me often, and it often frustrated me that I’d remember to switch on WiFi late in morning, instead of previous night — or have a notification alarm sound off when I’m in the middle of a heated discussion. I sought our techie-buzz’s resident Android guru, Rajesh, for an app suggestion and I took Llama for a spin. Needless to say, it’s been one of the best apps that I’ve ever installed.

What is Llama?

Llama terms itself as a “Location Profiles” app which, honestly is quite an uninspiring name. Llama uses GSM cell phone tower locations to mark designated areas. And once you enter/leave the designated areas and upon on other conditions, Llama lets you trigger actions. Llama supports a whole lot of conditions and triggers — some of the parts of your Android phone Llama can act upon include:

  • 2G/3G/4G network modes
  • Bluetooth
  • GPS
  • Play, pause and other media buttons
  • Mobile Data (before Android 2.3 only)
  • Run apps
  • Screen brightness
  • Wifi

allowing you to create events based on

  • Current location
  • Battery level
  • Calendar events
  • Charging
  • Phone start up and shut down
  • Time of day
  • Wifi networks

and so on. So how do I actually use this app? First, you’ll have to train Llama to ensure it knows what the areas are. I’ve defined some set of rules to automate few things that I would otherwise have to do manually.

llama rules

The rules include:

  • Switch off WiFi once I leave home – WiFi hotspots are rather rare here, and I’d enable it if required. This allows me to save on some battery life
  • Switch on WiFi when I reach home – Enables dropbox, Google Currents, Google Play to auto update.
  • Quiet at Work between 08:30 and 18:45, change to quiet every 15 minutes — Llama also allows for actions to be triggered at repeated intervals and at specific times. This rule automatically puts the phone on silent mode between the times mentioned, and the repeated interval check ensures that even if I accidentally enable sounds, it gets disabled.
  • Switch to Normal once I leave Work — My phone doesn’t have to be silent mode anymore, once I leave work.
  • No mobile data when connected to Wifi – Once I’m on Wifi, my phone doesn’t need mobile data enabled, neither do I need 3G enabled. Having these results in better battery backup.
  • Disable 3G at work: The 3G coverage at my workplace is very spotty, with transition between 2G to 3G and vice versa happening very often, killing my battery. Having 3G disabled means that my battery lasts longer.

These are just some of the rules that I use, and Llama’s UI, though not pretty, is quite intuitive. Llama’s available for free on the Play store, though I went ahead and purchased the Donation version simply because the time I have saved using the app has been enormous.

Nexus 7 Review: Best Android Tablet so Far

I have been using the Nexus 7 for over a week now, and it definitely lives up to all the hype that has been created about it. Nexus 7 is Google’s flagship Android tablet device built in partnership with ASUS. It comes with a great hardware configuration and runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS.

Nexus 7 Box

I am very impressed with the Nexus 7 and would recommend it to anyone. However, don’t just take my word for it, and read the Nexus 7 review below to learn how the Nexus 7 performs and why it is so good.

Hardware

Nexus 7 comes with a Quad-core Tegra 3 processor and a whopping 1GB of RAM. This makes the device run very fast even when you are playing games which use heavy graphics and game play. It also has a 7″ display with a whopping 1280×800 HD resolution which would put several existing laptops and desktop PCs to shame. The high resolution also makes watching movies a treat.

Nexus 7 watch YouTube Videos

Nexus 7 is pretty lightweight at just 340g and does not have a plastic feel. Additionally it comes with NFC and a Micro USB slot. Nexus 7 also comes with a 4325 mAh battery which provides up to 8 hours of active use. However, the battery can live up to 2 days with moderate use. I managed to run the Nexus 7 without charge for almost 2 and half days while just reading a book.

The Nexus 7 also provides you with video chatting capability with a 1.2 MP front facing camera. I tested out the front camera and it does the job well when it comes to video conferencing on apps like Skype and WebEx. However, there is no back camera on the device. For me this isn’t a problem, because I usually find it funny looking at people taking pictures with their tablets.