Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Google reaches 100 millionth Android activation!!!

If seeing and hearing all about Android everyday wasn’t enough to convince you of how popular the platform is, perhaps some numbers will.

Google announced yesterday during the Google IO developer conference that more than 100 million Android devices had been activated up till now, but did not give any updates or details with regards to what version of Android currently leads the pack.

36 OEMs, 215 carriers, 450,000 Android developers all over the world, Google wants to say "thank you!" Android has recently crossed its 100 millionth activation milestone, and is also growing at its fastest pace yet: 400,000 devices activated each and every day. There are now 200,000 Android applications in the Market, which have accumulated a total of 4.5 billion installs, at a rate which Google actually says is accelerating. These figures have all been cited as a way to illustrate Google's mobile momentum, which is evidently not even thinking about slowing down. 

It's market competant Apple iOS activates 360,000 devices each and every day. The best part? Those numbers are actually accelerating. The Little Green Guy sure has come a long way.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Samsung Infuse 4G: A Review

When it comes to smartphones, how big is too big?

Samsung obviously isn’t preoccupied with that question, as evidenced by its latest Android device release, the Infuse 4G.

As soon as you pop the phone out of the box, the first thing you notice is its size. The thing is massive. It needs to be, though, in order to support its 4.5-inch super AMOLED display. Save for the first Dell Streak smartphone-cum-tablet hybrid — whose screen is a whopping 5-inches — the Infuse is packing one of the largest screens we’ve seen on a smartphone.

This is a good thing. I watched the HD trailer for Cowboys and Aliens on the little silver screen and could practically feel the trail dust on my face. The picture quality was excellent, and as bright as can be. I did wish the Infuse came with a little kickstand for my movie watching, something akin to what the HTC Thunderbolt has on its back. With this phone’s slick edges, it won’t be very stable propped up on my airplane tray table during a long flight.

After seeing how well the screen handled the trailer, I could see myself using Samsung’s Media Hub store, which lets you download from a library of thousands of HD movies. To sweeten the pot, Samsung throws in a $25 credit with the phone, which is enough to rent about 6 films.

Size has its disadvantages. After sitting down with the phone in my pocket, it felt a bit like a splint trying to straighten my upper thigh. And I don’t even wear skinny jeans.

But for being such a fatty in pure surface area, the thickness of the phone is surprisingly svelte. Samsung boasts that the Infuse is the “thinnest 4G smartphone out there today.” It’s light, too. Airy, not terribly bulky, if not a little too light. I personally prefer a bit more heft in my device — one of my biggest complaints with its Nexus S brother was the light, plasticky build that made me feel that I’d break it if I wasn’t delicate enough.

The removable plastic backing that protects the phone’s innards is thin and flimsy. It practically peels off the back of the handset, and I was worried I’d snap it in half while I took it off to look under the hood.

Samsung included a few perks that I don’t often see come with other phones. The Infuse comes with a 2-GB micro SD card, saving you a trip to Radio Shack. It also comes with a microSD adapter card, so if you’ve got a regular-sized card reader built into your laptop, transferring files is easy as pie.

An issue: The phone doesn’t have HDMI-out on the handset itself (Samsung probably ran out of room, being its “thinnest” phone to date), which is a bummer. Samsung remedies this, however, with an included MHL adapter. With a screen this big, you may wonder if you need anything else, but you might find times when an HDTV is easier to watch.

Like every other 2011 Android smartphone release, the phone doesn’t ship with the latest version of Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), but instead runs 2.2 (Froyo). 

Listen up, bird-chucking addicts: The Infuse 4G comes bundled with a copy of Angry Birds, complete with hidden level only available to Infuse owners. Whoop.

Both the 8-megapixel back-facing camera and 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera take clear, crisp photos, which can be auto-uploaded to an AT&T-hosted online locker for storage or sharing, which I found pretty cool.

Overall, Samsung has created a media hub, as much as a smartphone, in the Infuse 4G. All of the included attachments practically beg for you to use it as such, and from my initial tests, it delivers.

As for the phone’s performance on AT&T’s network, that’s something to be saved for a longer review.

Beginning May 15, the phone will be available on AT&T’s HSPA+ 4G network for $200 with a two-year contract.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Google Docs for Android: An early review!!

Since Google's native app for Docs on Android came out last Wednesday, I've been giving it a test drive. Google Docs works well enough in the mobile browser, and many apps have already come out trying to provide sync and edit functions. However, nothing integrates as nicely as a native app direct from the service provider.

When you first start the Google Docs app, you are greeted with a clean, uncluttered home screen with shortcuts to all your items, collections, starred documents, and other helpful things. Text documents, spreadsheets, and PDFs all open quickly and render nicely.

There is also a home screen widget or quick access to starred documents and quick creation of new documents or photos, which Google will run through optical character recognition (OCR) to turn a photo of a document into editable text. And the native app makes sharing a document with your contacts easy.

Now for the hard part: editing documents. The native Google app is great for viewing documents, but for editing, you'll be sent to the browser. The app opens the mobile version of Google Docs first, but you will have the option to switch to the desktop version--which just means you see the site as if you were on a regular PC. With the mobile version, there's no way to close the onscreen keyboard when using a Bluetooth keyboard, even though many other apps seem to be fine with that arrangement. If you close the onscreen keyboard, you lose the cursor, and no text is inserted. The arrow keys also won't move you around the text in the Document, but bounce between page elements instead. This would work for shorter text entry or quick edits, but I didn't last more than a paragraph trying to actually create a new document that way.

So, I moved over to try Google Docs in the mobile browser. The page renders nicely in the browser, but sadly does not function as well as it would on a desktop computer. As with most full versions of Google Apps on a smartphone browser, scrolling does not work quite right. The document renders beautifully, but you can't scroll through it. The arrow keys simply move you around page elements rather than moving the cursor through the text in the document. That means that once your document reaches beyond the bottom of the screen, you can't get to it. Text entry also lagged way behind my typing in the full desktop version.

I turned to Evernote to create a text document mainly because it played nicely with the keyboard, allowing me to close the onscreen keyboard and instead type and navigate my text with the Bluetooth keyboard. I also like the easy syncing of Evernote with my other computers, as well as easy sharing of notes via e-mail.

There are a few alternative Google Docs viewers. MyDocs--in a beta, testing version for now--offers another simple and clean interface for Google Docs, but will still send you to the browser for editing. GDocs has simple editing baked in, but still won't let me minimize the onscreen keyboard when I'm using the Bluetooth keyboard. This app will also allow download of documents for offline viewing or editing.

If you need a more full-featured office suite with stronger document-creation options, check out ThinkFree Office Mobile, Docs To Go, Office Suite Pro, or Quick Office Pro. If you have one of those fancy, bigger-screened, Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets, you'll want the HD version of Quick Office. For those who prefer open source office software, Open Office Reader can view, but not edit, .odt and .ods files. When not even that is enough, and you simply need access to the whole shebang, LogMeIn Ignition will get you back to your desktop.

The Google Docs app is a clean and simple way to browse and do minor edits to your Google documents, but not quite compelling enough for me to run out and grab an Asus Transformer for writing. Perhaps the most intriguing feature of the Android app--and the one I will definitely be testing more--is the photo document creation with OCR. For quick reference and reading of Google Docs, this is a great addition to my Android smartphone.