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2 years ago

Evi is a Siri 'competitor' for Android -- if you like slow, non-answers

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We've talked before about what it takes for an app to truly be a competitor to Apple's Siri. 

  1. It needs to be easily accessible, and launch quickly. Very quickly.
  2. It needs to actually understand what you're saying.
  3. It needs to return results quickly.

We're going to add one more reqiurement to that list: It needs to actually be on iOS. Otherwise, it's not a Siri competitor. It's just an alternative. On another platform.

Anyhoo. That brings us to Evi, the latest app to attempt Siri-like functionality on Android. That is, you ask it a question or give it a command, and it responds with audio and text. Maybe.

Evi's user interface isn't too shabby. Clean lines and all that, and you've got a nice, prominent microphone button, so you know what to hit. You don't get the same home button metaphor that you do with Siri on the iPhone, but then again most Android smartphones don't have dedicated home buttons. That's not a big ding, just noticeable. Evi uses Google's voice-to-whatever UI and is powered by Nuance, so that looks familiar, and it's quick enough in listening to what you're saying.

But that's when things pretty much go off the rails. In even just our handful of tests, Siri was much quicker at returning results. It's pretty obvious for some things, Siri already knows the answer -- it's looking them up in the background. Evi needs a minute, though typing your question may speed things up a tad -- but that kind of defeates the purpose here.

And once again we see diametric differences in the presentation of results. Siri is simple, both in audio and visual answers. Evi's voice is decidedly robotic, and the answers are too long -- almost engineerish. Oh, and telling me to go look up the weather myself? That's really not acceptable. On the other hand, you get to give each answer a thumbs up or thumbs down. Guess which one I've been using more. 

Does Evi have Siri-like functionality? Sure. Is it a Siri "competitor?" No. It's just not as good -- and it's not on the iPhone, therefore it can't directly compete. (Update: Ah, it's on iOS, too.)

Check out our video walkthrough after the break. And note that we're not dinging Evi too badly for having server problems. When you're a new app that gets a bunch of attention in a short amount of time, this can happen, we suppose. But that doesn't mean we're willing to put up with it for very long. After all -- if your app doesn't work, it doesn't work.

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2 years ago

Dolphin Browser releases Skitch and Evernote add-ons

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The folks at Dolphin Browser, one of the most popular third party browsers for Android devices, have unveiled two new add-ons today -- Skitch and Evernote.  Both integrate seamlessly with the Dolphin Browser app, and look to be simple and elegant.  We love simple, especially when paired with elegant.  Using them is easy enough -- when you come across a page you'd like to share you just tap the icon in the Dolphin Browser sidebar (Skitch is a big pink heart, and Evernote is the elephant profile we all know and love) to send it to the correct app.  You can either grab the screen and annotate before you share it with Skitch, or clip a block of text to send to Evernote.  If you don't have the app itself installed, Dolphin will direct you to download it and get signed up.

The developers at Dolphin promise us a whole slew of great add-ons in 2012, and they're off to a great start with these two.  When something looks and runs well, and is useful, we're all for it.  Keep up the good work fellows!  We've got links to the Market for both add-ons below, check 'em out.

Source: Dolphin Browser

Download the Evernote add-on

Download the Skitch add-on

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2 years ago

New 'Experiments' Gmail feature discovered in Android 4.0.3

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The Android 4.0.3 update for the Asus Transformer Prime brought with it some improvements to the Google Apps. However small any changes may be, nestled among them the Gmail application has received an interesting new feature menu known as "Experiments."

Experiments at the moment consists of a couple of new features which are probably not quite ready for the prime-time. 

The first of these, enables full text search. Pretty straight forward this one, but still pretty useful. It allows you to index an entire message to search for keywords. 

The second may not be immediately obvious as to its function. The contact chip is bascially the name entered into the To, Cc, and Bcc fields when composing a new message. Enabling this function allows you to long press on one of these contact chips, and simply drag and drop to another box. 

At the moment, the updated Gmail app is rolling out with Android 4.0.3. But, enter the Android community, as the apk has been extracted from the Prime and is working just fine on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It has been tried on Honeycomb, but ran into some nasty force close issues meaning this is purely for Ice Cream Sandwich guys. 

If you're keen to try it out for yourselves, hit the source link where you'll find a handy download.

Sources: Computer WorldAndroid Police

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2 years ago

AC Asks: Are you using Google Currents?

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Google Currents is closing in on being two months old. Initial growth has seemed pretty impressive -- we've got around 178,000 subscribers -- but how much are you folks actually using it? We'll share some numbers here shortly. But for now, let's hear it. Are you using Google Currents? And if so, how often? And if you're looking to give it a shot, hit our subscribe link below.

Subscribe on Google Currents: Android Central; iMore; Mobile Nations

Are you using Google Currents?

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2 years ago

Google Music updated in Android Market, fixes bugs in shuffling songs and multiple accounts

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Google Music has been updated to version 4.1.512, bringing fixes to shuffle mode and fixes for folks using multiple Google accounts.  The update looks to be across the board for all devices running Android 2.2 or higher, so be sure to check and see if your copy is up-to-date.  We love Google Music around here, and on devices without removable storage it's a life saver.  Hit the break for the download link if you haven't given it a try yet.

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2 years ago

The Wiggles are coming to Android

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Attention all parents: The Wiggles are coming to Android. Repeat: The Wiggles are coming to Android. Ruckus Media Group today announced that it's been granted worldwide rights to come up with an iOS and Android storybook apps for smartphones and tablets. The first titles will arrive in iTunes in April, and on Android later in the year.

For those of you without kids, the Wiggles are an Australian children's music group and have sold more than 24 million DVDs, 8 million CDs and 8 million books worldwide. 

The Wiggles Android app will fill yet another niche in Android children's apps. We've seen a plethora of kids apps released over the past year or so, including "A Charlie Brown Christmas," a number of books by popular children's author Sandra Boynton, and "Winnie the Pooh, What's a Bear to Do."

Source: Press release; Also: See more Android kids apps

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2 years ago

Android developer Stephen Erickson open-sources his BusyBox installer -- we're all free to learn from it

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If you're an Android hacker or developer, you know about BusyBox.  For the lay-people among us, it's a utility that extends the limited commands provided by the Android toolkit in the shell -- copying and renaming files, reading and writing data, that sort of thing.  Here's a chance to learn a little more, as Stephen Erickson has open-sourced his BusyBox installer application.  A look at the source will show you not only how to download and install BusyBox, but how to add all sorts of shell commands and assets to your custom application.  You can then add these commands into custom menus in your ROM, or even write your own Android app with a little more study.  It's things like that make us all love open-source software.  Thanks, Stephen!

Source:Google Code pages; via +Stephen Erickson

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2 years ago

Android Central Editors' app picks for Jan 21, 2012

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Looking for some new apps for your beloved Android device, well you are in luck today. Hit the break with us and let's check out some of the teams favorite applications from this week.

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2 years ago

Google Sky Map getting open sourced

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Google's own window into the night sky is all set to head down the open-source road. The Google Sky Map application has been massively successful, currently boasting over 20 million users. Not bad considering this app was created in part just to show off the capabilities of the early Android smartphones. 

Now though, Google has decided that it is "donating Sky Map to the community." Through a collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University, future development of the application will be the result of student projects. In addition to this, the app itself has been open-sourced, allowing budding astronomers to take the code and "augment it as they wish."

You'll find download links to Google Sky Map after the break -- it's still a brilliant way to show off what Android can do. 

Source:Google Research Blog

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: What is the JIT?

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What is the JIT?  JIT stands for "Just In Time," and we use it to describe a Dalvik JIT compiler, which was added to Android with the 2.2 release.  It compiles bytecode into native machine code at runtime.  Essentially it takes the code for an app, analyzes it and converts it into something that runs faster.  It does all this while the application is running, and that's where the "just in time" tag comes from.  The JIT compiler designed for Android also can do this with a very short "warm up" time, meaning it doesn't take very long to analyze the code before it starts working.  It stores information in a cache in your phone's RAM, which means it's not an ideal solution for devices with low memory.  It's been optimized to have a small footprint -- about 100K per process -- but even that is enough to impact performance on older models like the G1 or HTC Magic.  This is why most phones that came before the Nexus One never got an official version from Google -- hardware limitations.

You hear terms like "runs faster" or 4 to 5 times performance increase anytime you talk about Android's JIT compiler.  A JIT compiler simply saves CPU cycles -- more work can be done for each clock cycle.  This means applications that were throttled by CPU performance get faster, and apps that are "rate-limited" (run until they are finished without taxing the processor to the maximum) finish faster and use less battery because of it.  Not all applications see a significant speed increase, and most applications written with the NDK or in native code won't see an increase at all, as they don't use the Dalvik virtual machine.  

If all this reads like Greek to you, that's OK.  To the end user (that's you and me) all we should see is better performance in most of our applications.  We certainly saw that when Froyo was released for the Nexus One, and things have just gotten better with every release.  For the more technically inclined, check out the video from Android engineers Ben Cheng and Bill Buzbee during Google I/O 2010 where the JIT compiler was introduced.

Previously on Android A to Z: What's an IPS display?; Find more in the Android Dictionary

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