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.” :)

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.

Bank of America Android App Finally Gets Check Deposit Feature

Finally!!! The largest bank in America; Bank of America has finally got a feature to remotely deposit checks to your bank using your Android device. Several other banks already had this feature for a while, but the latest update for Bank of America, which was rolled out today, now allows users to deposit checks using their mobile phones or tablets.

Bank of America Android App

While several other banks like Chase already had this feature for ages, BofA was the only bank which did not have it. Today’s update to the Bank of America app adds the following features:

– Make check deposits
– Choose the BankAmeriDeals™ you want, and earn cash back
– Receive Bank of America Alerts as push notifications
– Securely send money to others, using their mobile number or email address (requires enrollment)

I am definitely happy with this update because it was definitely becoming a pain lugging around those checks to an ATM or bank branch just to deposit. Finally, I can now deposit checks to Bank of America while I am lazing around in my house.

You can get the latest features by updating the app on your device or by download it from Google Play.

Apple Drops YouTube App from iOS6 Due to Licensing; Standalone App Coming Soon

The war is officially on between Apple and Google with their competing mobile operating system; iOS and Android. Apple recently built their own Mapping system for iOS 6 and removed the integration with Google Maps. However, the most recent update to iOS 6 also drops the YouTube app.

According to The Verge, the removal of the YouTube app from iOS 6 was done because Apple and Google had come to an end of their licensing terms.

Our license to include the YouTube app in iOS has ended, customers can use YouTube in the Safari browser and Google is working on a new YouTube app to be on the App Store.

However, this is not the end of the YouTube app on iOS 6 because Google is reportedly working on a standalone YouTube app for iOS 6. This was mentioned in the Google India event.

YouTube is probably the most popular app on the iOS operating system and Google will definitely come up with a replacement before iOS 6 is shipped to consumers. However, it looks like the default app will still be available on older iOS versions.

Apple’s decision not to renew the license for the YouTube app may be based on their thinking to get rid of as much Google dependency as possible. I won’t be surprised if Apple also decides to go with Bing as the default search engine in future. If that happens, it would be a huge blow for Google because they make a large chunk of their revenue from the search option in iOS.

Official London 2012 Olympics Apps

London 2012 Olympics Clock
London 2012 Olympics Clock (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The Countdown has begun and the Olympics are right around the corner. Here is a list of Olympics apps for iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone.

Apps for Watching the Olympics

BBC Olympics App – The BBC app is a FREE comprehensive app with everything you could ever want to know about the London 2012 Olympics. It is available in iOS and Android flavors however, it appears for now only the iOS app is the only one that will let you watch streaming video. A screenshot can be seen below.

BBC Olympics App
BBC Olympics App

NBC “Live Extra” App – This app will give you live access to the Olympics however, there are some stipulations. To quote their website, “Access is free for subscribers to a cable, satellite or telco TV service package that includes CNBC and MSNBC.”

NBC Live Extra
NBC Live Extra

 Official London 2012 Olympic Mobile Apps

The London 2012 Olympics have come out with a few mobile apps of their own. See below for screenshots, descriptions and download links.

Official London 2012 Join In App – If you plan on being in London to watch the games, then this is the app for you. In their own words this app is a “mobile guide to help you plan, enjoy and share your Games experience”. This is a FREE app.

 London 2012 Join In app
London 2012 Join In app

The London 2012 Results App – This app is probably the one you’ll find most useful if you’re watching the games from the comfort of your own home. They describe the app by saying,”The Official London 2012 Results app provides all the latest news, schedules and results, allowing users to keep up-to-date with the latest action live across all Olympic sports and Paralympic sports.” It is a free app and so far the only one to include the Windows Phone family.

 London 2012 Results app
London 2012 Results app

Official London 2012 mobile game – Just for fun, London 2012 has launched an official mobile game that features 9 Olympic events. It comes in iOS and Android flavors and has a free and premium version. Visit their Facebook page to  learn more about it.

Official Mobile Game
Official Mobile Game

Keep checking back with Techie Buzz as we continue to update you on the latest mobile apps surrounding the Olympics!

Blackberry World Hits Three Billion Downloads

While RIM seems to be going through a spell of bad luck, they have finally hit a positive milestone. According to RIM, Blackberry World has served over 3 billion downloads since it was launched in 2009 to compete with Apple’s App Store and the Google Play market (previously Android Market). RIM has also stated that a billion of these downloads took place in the past six months. As of now, RIM is currently serving 2.5 million downloads a day, however this isn’t much compared to Google’s Play Market and Apple’s App Store who serve over 30 million apps daily. RIM has stated that included in these 3 billion downloads are not only apps, but themes, wallpapers and other content from Blackberry Word.

While 3 billion apps downloaded in three years may seem exceptional, Apple has managed to bring in over 25 billion application downloads in just four years. However, RIM’s download counts still suprise me as the Blackberry OS is slowly but surely dying off. Do these numbers surprise you? Let us know by leaving a comment on this article.

Source: AllThingsD
Image Source: Honou

Google Search Adds Dedicated Application Search for Mobile, PC & Browser Apps

Mobile smartphones and tablets are the future of computing and lot of companies understand that very well. One of the most important things that make a smartphone successful is the number of apps that are available for that particular platform. Most of the major platforms like iOS, and Windows Phone 7 all have dedicated app stores where users can download apps for their platforms.

Google Applications Search

However, it looks like several people are also searching for those using Google. An indication of this is a dedicated section in Google search where users can search for "Applications" as seen in the screenshot above.

The new section available in the LHS menu allows users to search for applications in various app stores. However, the list of app stores/websites seem to be limited to Apple and Google for now. For example, my search for "rowi" the popular app for Windows Phone did not yield any results from Windows Phone marketplace, however, a search for everything listed it as the second result.

The Applications search is not just limited to mobile phones though and can also be used to search for extension and apps, add-ons, Windows applications, Mac OS X software and more. A dedicated option for Applications is definitely good because and will allow users to quickly find download links to their applications.

I am not sure if the Applications search is new or old, but it was probably the first time I have personally seen it. Have you seen the Applications search before? Do you find it useful while looking to download apps?

Apple Agrees to New Privacy Policy Notification Standards

Today, the California Attorney General’s office has announced an agreement with Apple and five other tech companies including Google, Amazon, HP, RIM, and Microsoft which will ensure that these companies implement new standards for notifying users of privacy policies associated with apps offered in their stores. The new requirements will require developers of apps, that collect personal information to include privacy policies with their app that can be viewed directly from the store before downloading the apps themselves.

In addition, links to privacy policies will be in consistent places within the App Store and other marketplaces. This will offer the users the ability to view the privacy polices briefly. Developers who do not agree with the new requirements can be charged under California law. Apple and other companies signed the agreement and have pledged to inform developers about the privacy policy requirements and help them to meet the standards.

Also, the agreement requires that the companies provide simple methods for users to report apps that do not comply with privacy requirements, as well as systems for dealing with those reports. Thanks to these new rules, it sounds like these companies have a lot of work on their hands!

Windows Phone Apps of the Week

Every week (and sometimes I skip!) I pick three of my favorite Windows Phone apps. I include both paid and free apps as well as games. If you are an app developer and want me to feature your app here, drop me a line.

News360

News360

News360 is an intuitive app that delivers news headlines and stories from more than 300+ English newspapers. The stories are personalized to your location and global news sources are collected by sophisticated linguistic algorithms.

You can share your feeds with friends via Facebook or Twitter. You can also add the people or companies you want to track to your Favorites. News360 is a comprehensive app for news junkies, and at the price of nothing, it should be a favorite of many.

News + Weather | Free | <1MB | Download

Perfect Scan

Perfect Scan

Perfect Scan turns your Windows Phone device into a portable scanner for documents, receipts, business cards, whiteboards, etc. You can email your scanned documents or upload to Dropbox and Google Docs.

Perfect Scan features automatic perspective correction and allows image enhancement like cropping, rotation, and color adjustments. The ability to add text to your documents is useful to fill out forms or sign documents. Perfect Scan is an easy app with a seamless interface and allows both PDF and JPEG formats. Although, there are several similar apps on the Windows Phone Marketplace, Perfect Scan is better in terms of processing and output scans. However, most users would miss support for SkyDrive.

Tools + Productivity | $2.99 | 1MB | Download

Kinectimals

Kinectimals

Cuteness has arrived on Windows Phone! Visit the island of Lemuria and spend time with your very own cub. While you play with and care for your cub, you might just fall in love. Kinectimals features delightful animations and is a visual delight.

If you already play Kinectimals on Kinect for Xbox 360, Kinectimals on Windows Phone would allow you to unlock five new cubs on your console.   The mobile game though allows newer ways to play with your cub than the console version.

Games | $2.99 | 85 MB | Download