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2 years ago

What is a widget? [Android A to Z]

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What is a widget?  In Android, the word widget is a generic term for a bit of self-contained code that displays a program, or a piece of a program, that is also (usually) a shortcut to a larger application. We see them every day on web pages, on our computer desktop and on our smartphones, but we never give too much thought into how great they are. Widgets first appeared in Android in version 1.5, and really gained traction thanks to HTC's Sense-flavored version of the operating system. Prior to the release of the HTC Hero and our first taste of Sense, widgets were functional, but pretty bland in appearance. Since then, OEMs and independent developers alike have done some marvelous things with widgets, and it's hard to imagine using Android without them.

Android widgets come in all shapes and sizes and range from the utilitarian 1-by-1 shortcut style to full-page widgets that blow us away with the eye-candy.  Both types are very useful, and it's pretty common to see a widget or two on the home screen of any Android phone. A full-page widget, like HTC's weather widget for late-model Android phones, tells you everything you need to know about the current conditions, and is also a quick gateway to the weather application where you can see things like forecasts and weather data for other cities.  At the other end of the spectrum, the Google Reader 1x1 widget watches a folder in your Google Reader account and tells you how many unread items there are, and opens the full application when pressed.  Both are very handy, and add a lot to the Android experience.  

Most Android phones come with a handful of built-in widgets.  Some manufacturer versions of Android offer more than others, but the basics like a clock, calendar, or bookmarks widget are usually well represented.  This is just the tip of the iceberg though.  A quick trip into the Android Market will dazzle you with the huge catalog of third-party widgets available, with something that suits almost every taste.  With Ice Cream Sandwich supporting things like higher resolution screens and re-sizable widgets, it's going to be an exciting year seeing what developers can come up with.

Previously on Android A to Z: What  is USB?; Find more in the Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

Telus launches on-demand TV streaming app for smartphones and tablets

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TELUS has just launched a new app that ties in with their Optik TV service. Canadian customers can now watch a bunch of their subscribed channels streamed wirelessly to Android or iOS tablets and smartphones. Unfortunately, the channel selection is a little limited for the time being; through the app, you'll be able to access YTV, HBO, two Disney channels, and a few others. You'll also be able to access those channels on a laptop or other web-enabled device through their online portal. On top of that, if you've got an Xbox 360 with Kinect, you can now use the game console to control everything with gestures and voice. 

This is a fine companion to the existing remote recording app TELUS offers Optik TV subscribers, and it's good to see there's a wide array of device support. TELUS LTE is right around the corner, likely coming out on February 14 with the Galaxy Note, which will no doubt be a great host of streaming mobile TV. It's worth noting that while Android devices with Optik TV will be able to benefit from LTE (with the usual data charges applicable), the iPhone and iPad versions are relegated to Wi-Fi networks. 

If you're a TELUS customer and want to give this a shot, head on over here for instructions, or download the tablet app at the link after the jump. There's a video demo down there, too. 

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2 years ago

New browser (Chrome) doesn't support dying plug-in (Flash)

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Everybody's all in a tizzy over the new Chrome for Android browser -- and rightfully so. It's likely the future of default browsing on Android going forward. But, guess what: It doesn't support Adobe Flash Player.

And that should not come as a surprise to anyone.

Adobe in November announced that Flash Player would be taken off life support, insofar as mobile browsing is concerned, and that the company would focus on AIR instead for cross-platform applications. And, so, Adobe Flash Player isn't supported in the new Chrome mobile browser. And that's a good thing. It's time we all -- from end-users to developers to OS-makers -- start weening ourselves off Flash for browsing

And Adobe said exactly as much in a blog post today.

Adobe is no longer developing Flash Player for mobile browsers, and thus Chrome for Android Beta does not support Flash content. Flash Player continues to be supported within the current Android browser.

Makes perfect sense, folks. If your favorite website's not yet moving toward HTML5, it's time to warm up your e-mail-writing fingers.

Source: Adobe

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2 years ago

Google Authenticator updates with 'UI improvements', looks the same to us

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There's only so much you can do to improve the appearance of an app that's essentially a black screen with a six-digit number on it. But that's exactly what Google's done with the latest version of its Google Authenticator app, which has just been pushed out on the Android Market. The official changelog for version 0.87 notes "UI improvements" as the only new feature in this version. We'll have to take Google's word for it -- to us, it's still just a blank screen with a number on it.

In any case, Google Authenticator is an important app for those using two-step authentication for their Google account, so it's always best to keep things up to date. We've got the Android Market link for you after the break.

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2 years ago

Google Chrome Beta now available for Android 4.0 devices

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It's been rumored for some time, but now it's finally here -- Google Chrome has landed on Android. Android 4.0 phone and tablet owners in selected countries can now grab a beta version of Chrome from the Android Market.

Chrome for Android expands on the stock ICS browser with faster performance and speed-boosting features like the ability to pre-load web pages, and a brand new tabbing interface. Tabs are now handled through a card-like interface, allowing you to flip between open pages, seeing more of the sites you've got open. Familiar features from the ICS browser, including incognito mode, and bookmark sync, have made it across to Chrome for Android too.

There's also a big focus on maintaining a consistent browsing experience across multiple devices, so you can send pages between desktop Chrome and mobile Chrome right from the menu button. We'll be diving further into Chrome for Android in a our hands-on feature. In the meantime, we've got screenshots, an official Google video and the Market link after the break. Note that you'll need an Ice Cream Sandwich phone or tablet, and live in the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Argentina or Brazil to use it.

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2 years ago

How to sync tabs in Chrome desktop and Android

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So we've now got Google Chrome for Android, eh? How's about that. And one of the shining features Google's pimping is the ability to sync your desktop tabs over to your phone or tablet. No muss, no fuss. That's not actually a new feature for mobile browsing -- Mozilla's certainly had it in Firefox and Fennec for quite some time. But today is Chrome's day.

So how do you go about syncing your desktop tabs to your phone? First things first: You need to be signed in to your desktop Chrome browser. Hit the little wrench icon that's about halfway down, and make sure you're logged in with your Google account.

Next you'll need to hit the "Advanced" button, right next to the "Disconnect your Google Account" button. Hit it, and you've got a bunch of options of what to sync. The option you want, which we've conveniently highlighted above, is "Open tabs."

Theoretically, you should now be able to see your open tabs on the Chrome app on your phone or tablet. We say theoretically, because we and others (hat-tip to Mr. James Kendrick) have had to restart one browser or the other to get things to work, and hit the tab sync button a time or two. But once that's out of the way, the sync is quick and painless.

We even went so far as to try and melt the operation with dozens of tabs open at once. Wasn't a problem for the phone -- can't say thet same for the desktop version of Chrome. But sync they did. Quick and easy.

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2 years ago

Google Voice updated with new features, new icon

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Google Voice just got itself a nice little update today, with a slew of improvements coming down the pike. They are:

  • Asynchronous SMS sending (offline queuing) Google says it works synchronously for multiple recepients.
  • New style UI in Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Official user feedback menu on each screen. (Brought forward, out of the dogfood menu)

 

Head into the Android market to get your update on, or we've got download links after the break.

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2 years ago

Announcing the Android Super Challenge on HyperQuiz winners!

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Over the weekend we gave you the chance to win one of two HTC Sensation XL handsets by proving your superior Android knowledge in the addictive HyperQuiz game. Today we're back with the full list of winners. Join us after the break to find out who managed to walk away with a shiny new handset...

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2 years ago

Seesmic Ping brings easy posting to Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce and LinkedIn

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It's been a while since Seesmic, makers of the excellent social networking app of the same name, acquired Ping.fm. Since then they've slowly been working on Seesmic Ping getting it ready for release and now, the time has come for some beta testing in the real world. The multi-platform posting application (think one-way posting to Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce and LinkedIn) is now available in the Android Market and has a great set of features to go along with it:

  • Post via web
  • Post via email
  • Attach links & images (post pictures on Facebook and Twitter as if you were posting them “natively”)
  • Schedule your posts at any time, save drafts and more

Right now, there is support for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Salesforce with more planned at a later time. One thing to note though -- the app once out of beta will be a paid app, but currently it's free for now so if you're looking for a multi-posting platform app, it's worth a look. You can find the download past the break, or you can hit the source link for the full details.

Source: Seesmic

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2 years ago

Rogers One Number lets you take video calls and answer texts on PC

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Today Rogers launched a new service called One Number, which lets you initiate video calls, SMS texts, and standard voice calls from a web console. Calls can be shunted to and from the computer with a few quick commands; dialling *11 on your phone pulls the call to your phone, while the browser app has a dedicated button to take the call from your phone to the PC. As a nice little perk, any calls to Canada started on your computer are free, even if you hand it off to your phone later on. One Number also lets you send e-mails easily to saved contacts through the web interface.On the mobile side, there are going to be Android and iOS apps available so you can manage permissions and visibility while you're on the move. 

It's an awful lot like T-Mobile's Bobsled Messaging, but unlike T-Mobile, Rogers is only offering it to their customers. At least it's free - normally, I wouldn't put it past Rogers to charge extra for these kinds of services. Since we don't have Google Voice in Canada, telephony-PC crossover apps like this are a rare sight, so it's good to see at least one of the carriers getting on the wagon.  With any luck, we'll see a few other service provers offer some alternatives. 

Rogers customers can head on over here to sign up for One Number. Video demo after the jump.

Source: Rogers RedBoard

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2 years ago

Swype promises it's almost ready for Ice Cream Sandwich

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Here's one of those good news/bad news things, which we're going to tell in reverse. The bad news is that Swype, the uber-popular third-party keyboard that lets you trace your finger from letter to letter instead of pecking, still isn't ready for Ice Cream Sandwich devices, never mind that they've been available for a few months now.  The good news is that ICS is still only on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S. (Officially, anyway.)

The gooder news is that Swype's got an update waiting in the wings that will finally enable it on the latest version of the Android operating system. It's "only days away," Swype says on Twitter. And along with the Ice Cream Sandwich support, Swype's promising "more goodies" as well.

Here's to hoping one of those goodies is a release in the Android Market. While we understand Swype's decision to stick with a business model where it's preloaded onto devices by the carriers and not available in the Android Market, it's getting a little old. Having to run to the Swype website to get our "beta" copy (nudge nudge, wink wink, know what I mean?) hasn't gotten any more fun. We're not going to bet that we'll see a shift in that sometime soon, but we can certainly hope. 

Anyhoo, stay tuned. Swype for Ice Cream Sandwich is on the way.

Source: @Swype 1, 2

 

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2 years ago

Kayak abandons BlackBerry, will support 'Googlerola phone' -- or other Android devices

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It's bad enough that when Kayak.com announced it was dropping support for its BlackBerry app that it said it was a "practical decision." That's gotta sting, right? (Even if it's true. Or especially if it's true.) But what really gave us a chuckle was Kayak's line about devices it will continue to support. 

"If you're thinking of switching to an iPhone, Googlerola phone, other Android device, Windows Phone 7 device, or a Nokia device, we will continue to innovate and maintain our free apps for you," Kayak's billo wrote on the company's news section. "Googlerola phone." Heh. Looks like we're not the only ones chomping at the bit to see what what comes out of the proposed merger (acquisition, really -- Motorola's getting about $12.5 billion out of it) between Google and Motorola. And Kayak, like many of you, is of the mind that soon enough in the future you'll have two classes of Android -- Googlerola, and everything else.

Google's Andy Rubin, of course, has said otherwise -- that Motorola continue to operate as a separate company, and that it doesn't have a lock on future Nexus phones. (Of the major smartphone manufacturers, HTC and Samsung have been tapped for the three Nexus devices.)

"We don't expect that to change at all," Rubin said back in August 2011. "The acquisition is going to be run as a separate business. They will be part of that bidding process, and part of that lead development process. And obviously Android remains open to other partners to use as they are today."

The two companies expect the merger to be finalized "in early 2012," meaning any time now, once regulatory approval is received.

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2 years ago

Rdio app updated with new interface, lock screen track control

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Rdio, a big-name streaming music service (and my personal favourite out of the bunch), today updated their Android app with some significant changes. The last update was this summer, and simply optimized the app for Ice Cream Sandwich. With the latest version, the home landing page is now a lot more helpful, offering quick links to trending tracks, new releases, and recommendations. Thanks to Android Ice Cream Sandwich, the app also lets you control tracks and view album art from, the lock screen. The app is also getting a bit more sociable; now you can also search for users, view their collections, and add them as friends from the app. That feature in particular is great, because I consider the social element the biggest benefit of Rdio. Search has been further tweaked so that you can filter results for only what's cached locally - ideal for those times that you want to get your tuneage, but don't want to kill your battery with streaming. 

As always, Rdio for Android lets you build up a personal collection of music out of a 12 million-track library, stream individual songs and playlists, sync up some songs to your phone for offline access, and discover new music through friends that are also using the service. Up here in Canada, we don't have access to Spotify and Pandora, so Rdio and Slacker are our only options for sharing mobile music to the Facebook stream. Slacker has some solid tailor-made stations, but I tend to side with Rdio for being more personal. 

Interested? You can find a download link and video demo of the update after the jump. Just keep in mind that you have to shell out $10/month for mobile access. 

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2 years ago

DoubleTwist updated again, no longer requires payment for podcast streaming [updated]

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Update: As doubleTwist's Monique Farantzos points out, streaming podcasts is now free, but you still have to upgrade to the premium version to download, subscribe and manage podcasts.

Original: Seems that the guys over at doubleTwist have been listening to the comments from the community. The application has been updated again about a week after they first brought in podcast streaming, to remove the necessity to pay for them.

A lot of you out there weren't too impressed by the charge imposed to unlock the podcast feature. Considering you can sync your subscriptions from iTunes for free if you already shelled out for the AirSync add-on, it seemed a little steep. All that is put to bed now though, as with this latest update podcasts are available for all -- which naturally includes the worlds greatest Android podcast. No word on whether or not they intend to refund anyone who did fork out, but we're guessing that not many of you parted with your cash. 

Aside from this, we also get a couple of improvements elsewhere in the app. Fixes come for video and podcast position saving, last.fm scrobbling and general bug fixes. We also get support for the Ice Cream Sandwich lockscreen which is always a welcome addition. You'll find the download links after the break.

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2 years ago

Android Central Editors' app picks for Feb 4, 2012

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Whether looking to shake things up a bit, or help file your taxes there are plenty of application options available in the Android market. Lucky for you we take the time to check them out and see what's best, so let's hit the break and check out some of our favorites.

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