Blog Archives

WolframTones Generates Unique MIDI Ringtones for Your Cellphone [Ringtones]

If your phone’s ringtones just aren’t doing it for you anymore, or if everyone at work is sick of that one MP3 snippet, WolframTones can generate original, 8-bit-sounding ringtones based on genres you select and send them to your phone. More »







Textie for iPhone Sends Free Text Messages [IPhone Apps]

Textie is a free iPhone application that sends free text messages to email addresses, most cellphones, and other Textie users. Textie doesn’t dip into your monthly messaging plan, so it’s basically unlimited texting. More »







Create Instant QR Codes with a Bookmarklet [Bookmarklet]

Creating camera-phone-friendly QR codes with a goo.gl shortlink URL tweak is nice, but one of our readers took the next logical step. His bookmarklets creates a goo.gl link, automatically converts it to a QR code, and shows you the result. More »







iPhone Touchscreen Bests Nexus One, Droid in Accuracy Tests [Comparison Shopping]

Product development firm Moto Development Group tested the touchscreens of four popular cellphones—the iPhone, Motorola Droid, Nexus One, and Droid Eris—to determine which had the best performing touchscreen. At the end of the day, the iPhone came out on top.

Although we usually use sophisticated tools to test touch screen accuracy, MOTO has also developed a simple technique anyone can use to evaluate the resolution and accuracy of a touchscreen device. All you need is a basic drawing program (download one if necessary), a steady hand, and a few straight lines drawn very slowly on the screen.

On inferior touchscreens, it’s basically impossible to draw straight lines. Instead, the lines look jagged or zig-zag, no matter how slowly you go, because the sensor size is too big, the touch-sampling rate is too low, and/or the algorithms that convert gestures into images are too non-linear to faithfully represent user inputs.

As more great smartphones continue to roll out on more networks, a lot of people are looking to upgrade—and while touchscreen performance is far from the only measure of a smartphone, it's certainly an important part—especially for those smartphones without hardware keyboards. For a more money-focused comparison, check out BillShrink's cost and feature comparison to get up to speed on various features and costs. Moto’s test is unscientific, to be sure, so if you put your own phone through their test, let’s hear how your results compare in the comments.






Google Voice Gives Users Invitations to Hand Out to Friends [Invitations]

Getting a Google Voice invite has, until now, involved either dropping a request penny down the well, being a legacy GrandCentral user, or knowing someone at Google. Now Google Voice has started giving established users invitations to hand out.

They're being "rolled out gradually," three at a time over the next few weeks, so users can look for them in their account's lower-left corner—and their friends can begin the begging process starting now. If you're new to Google Voice, take a gander at our first look at Google Voice. If you end up with an invite in your inbox soon, then head over to our guide to easing your transition to Google Voice.






Ditch Your Cellphone Contract with Attention to the Fine Print [Cellphones]

Being locked into a less-than-favorable cellphone contract doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t worm your way out. If more conventional methods like trading out of a contract don’t do the trick, video site Howcast offers other more extreme ways to duck out.

Among their suggestions is to take advantage of the “material adverse change” clause in your contract. In laymen terms, this means looking for even the slightest change to your original signed contract, then using that as collateral to get out of your current one. Alternatively (and potentially less effectively and kind of shady), you can resort to bombarding customer service with calls detailing your dissatisfaction with their service. It’s not the method we’d suggest.

Check out the above video for other last ditch effort ways to rid yourself of your phone contract. If you prefer more fool proof tactics, check out previously mentioned cellphone swapping services Celltrade and Flipswap.






Inumbr Creates Temporary Disposable Phone Numbers [Privacy]

If you ever need to hand out your phone number in a public forum or, say, give your number to a stranger on Craigslist, you rarely want to give away your real number. Free service inumbr generates free, auto-expiring phone numbers.

We’ve mentioned inumbr twice before when it was called Craigsnumber and simply numbr, but it’s been renamed yet again, this time to inumbr. It’s a bit annoying that it’s constantly changing, but it’s also the only dead simple disposable phone number service we know of.

Just go to the site, pick your city, set your expiration time (one hour, one day, one week), then tell it where to forward your calls. Google Voice actually steps in and eliminates, to an extent, the need for something like this (Google Voice lets you filter and even block calls you don’t want), but the simple throw away number is nice to have under the right circumstances.






Ten More Neat and Productive Android Apps [Downloads]

The Android Market keeps growing, new phones are coming to seemingly every carrier, but finding the best, most useful stuff remains a challenge. We’re helping out with 10 apps that get things done and make Android life easier.

We’ve previously posted our Android app picks, in two different lists of a dozen each. This list adds some recent discoveries and neat apps we’ve stumbled upon.

Want to see the whole list without all the clicks? View all the items on one page here.

As always, we heartily welcome your own suggestions for useful, productive, or just awesome Android apps in the comments.

Astrid

What sets Astrid apart from the many, many task/to-do managers out there? Two great features. One is its mostly seamless synchronization with cloud-based task manager Remember the Milk, which can happen in the background or when you hit "Sync". The other is its turbo-charged nagging powers. Astrid places itself in your notification area when a task is due and literally forces you to head over to the task to get rid of that nagging little squid-like icon. That's right—hitting "Clear Notifications" won't kill your to-do, and when you arrive at Astrid's home screen, it pops up the thing that needs doing with a rotating phrase, like "Do it and you'll feel better" or "Are you ready, tiger?" That might sound annoying to some, but to those whose thumbs are quick to put things off, Astrid is just the right kind of cure. Finally, if you're into the whole geolocation thing, Astrid can plug into Locale, the awesome conditional phone manager mentioned in a previous Android round-up, to do things like remind you to buy stamps when you’re near a post office, or drop off those clothes in your trunk whenever you’re around a Goodwill.

SnapPhoto Free

It must be said that SnapPhoto is not the most stable of applications. When it does work, though, it adds a slew of photo geek tools to your camera with a slide-out top panel. ISO controls, automatic or custom white balance, stabilizing software, effects, and, perhaps most helpful, a timer are available, along with quality and size modifiers. Reviewers’ consensus and personal experience find that the app gets less stable the more shots one takes, but for pulling off one key frame with your phone, it’s definitely worth the price.

ACast

It's a free, full-featured podcast client for Android—not an easy thing to find. It sports a few small ads that run along the bottom of the screen, but they're far from intrusive. ACast can search popular podcast databases to find your podcast feeds or accept manual URL entries, and lets you set up whether it updates, downloads, or streams your shows over Wi-Fi only or through a cell network. The app's own podcast player allows for auto-queueing of downloaded items, but those happy with Android's own minimal music player (assuming they exist) can simply play their tunes as normal. Be sure to hit up ACast's flush settings menu to customize how and when your shows are culled from the net.

Rounded Labs’ Toggle Widgets

When Android’s “Donut” revision lands, users will have a dedicated widget for one-click settings changes. In the meantime, Rounded Labs offers up five separate one-square widgets that simply turn Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and your phone ringer on or off, and change your screen brightness with every tap. The GPS widget actually sends you to a settings dialog to click once more and toggle GPS, but two clicks are definitely better than four.

Sherpa

Sherpa's not the first app that finds the stuff around you using GPS or Wi-Fi location, but it might be the most personalized. Sherpa's results come in a familiar map layout or a revolving "carousel," and are filtered by the time of day—it theoretically won't send you to a dry cleaners at 3 a.m. unless it's a 24-hour spot. Sherpa also "learns" from what you've previously selected, so that it presents Caribou Coffee shops when you're visiting Raleigh if you've looked for them in Atlanta. It could stand to move a bit faster, but it hooks in well to Android's native map, email, and location tools, and might just discover something new for you right across from where you're standing.

Sound Manager?

If Locale‘s uber-customization and multi-part settings are a bit too much for your needs, and you just want your phone not to ring at night and buzz while you’re at work, Sound Manager is what you should grab. The basic screen lets you set individual volumes, so notifications are silent while ringtones are audible, for instance. The scheduling capabilities are where it’s at though, given that most of us work, sleep, eat, and do other ritual activities we’d rather not have interrupted by new Twitter direct messages or emailed Amazon shipping alerts.

PdaNet for Android

We’ve mentioned this Windows/Android app combo before, but it’s worth noting again because it still works, and it’s still probably the easiest way to turn a 3G/EDGE connection into a connection of last resort for your laptop. Uncooperative eateries and ransom-pushing airports can be bypassed with a simple click of Connect on both the phone and a Windows taskbar item. The bummer is that it requires having a USB cable connection between the handset and the computer, but otherwise it provides a decent hook-up for low-bandwidth necessities. (Original post)

Amazon Android App

Like its iPhone counterpart, Amazon’s app can “remember” whatever you take a picture of and send to it with reasonably amazing accuracy. Where the Android app surpasses it is in its barcode scanning ability. If an item you want to save to a wishlist, suggest to a friend, or note for your own purchase later doesn’t photograph well, or can’t be found by Amazon, the bar code will almost always hit the nail on the head. Whatever you do in the app is also noted in your Amazon account, so it makes for a great list builder, whether or not you’ve got the time to tinker right there in the store. (Original post)

Astro File Manager

Astro is one of those apps you wish wasn’t necessary, but are glad a developer took the time to whip it up. It’s basically a serious file browser, one that can download (nearly) any file you find a URL for, pass files on your SD card along to the Gmail client for attaching, find the files that your music or movie player can’t seem to find on their own (insert grumbling here), and back up your downloaded applications to your SD card. You won’t use it too often, but you’ll be glad it’s there when you need it.

Retro Defense

Okay, so you could theoretically call this a goofy tenth item tacked onto a list of nine perfectly productive apps. But that theory assumes you’ll never be stuck in an unbearably long line, terminal, or car ride, and desperately want to engage in a little Tower-Defense-like action with eye-catching Tron-style graphics. The free version contains only one level at Normal difficulty, but it’s more than enough to keep a casual defender captivated. From notably extensive testing, this also doesn’t appear to be as much of a battery drainer as other Android games.





3jam Is Like Google Voice with Number Portability and Skype Support [Telephony]

Google Voice has been been making a splash among early adopters, but if you’re looking for an alternative with many of the same features plus a couple of extras, take a look at 3jam.

(Click the image above for a closer look.)

3jam isn't an altogether new service—it used to be primarily a text messaging service—but its Google Voice-like features are. Like Voice, 3jam rings all your phones from one number, gives you access to your call history and SMS history, offers (visual) voicemail online, and more. Unlike Google Voice, 3jam also supports forwarding your calls to Skype, AOL, or Yahoo Messenger. It also lets you port your current number into 3jam for easy transition—something that's not (yet) available with Google Voice.

What’s more, 3jam isn’t in an invite-only beta. The catch: 3jam costs, at minimum, $5/month. That’s not terrible considering what they offer, but in light of Google Voice’s free offering, not all that many folks would be that excited at the notion of ponying up cash for 3jam. Then again, if features like Skype or IM ringing are particularly important to you (say you want to save some cell minutes), 3jam may have a leg up on Voice.

On the other hand, 3jam doesn’t currently have all of Google Voices features, like call filtering. If anyone has given it a try, let’s hear your experience with 3jam in the comments.





BlueRetriever Reunites You with Your Lost Cellphone [Lost And Found]

Losing your cellphone in the great wilderness of the urban jungle is a disheartening affair. Increase the chances that your phone will find its way back to you with a BlueRetriever tracking number.

BlueRetriever is a web-based service that provides a way for good Samaritans to return a lost phone to you. When you sign up for the free service you are given a serial number for your phone and a wallpaper image, seen here, to put on your phone. During the registration process you can specify how great the reward is for your phone, from nothing—good karma!—up to $100.

When someone finds your phone and enters the number at the BlueRetriever web site, they are given the option to select how they would like their reward—currently they can get the reward as a gift card to Amazon, Target, or Starbucks or they can donate to Kiva—and a form to get in contact with you.

One minor annoyance with the site is how it asks you to specify the phone you have to size your wallpaper. Currently the phone list is pretty small, but you can easily resize or crop the wallpaper if you need to. It would be ideal if they offered a variety of common phones, screen sizes, and even an option to plug in your screen dimensions and generate your wallpaper. As it stands, however, it wasn’t too much of a hassle to select the iPhone and just resize it to fit our test phone.





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