It's the end of one year and the beginning of the next, and that means lots of lists covering all manner of tech stuff. I like reading lists. Everything laid out in an easy-to-read format fits my analytical side, and helps me process more information faster. I don't much like writing lists though, because that leaves less space for me to ramble and drift away from the topic at hand. Sort of like now, huh?
Anyways, back to my list. I used a crapload of mobile stuff this year, most of it some flavor of Android. I'm not even going to run through them all, just what I use everyday while working for AC or as a general technophile. A lot of you will disagree with my choices, and that's a good thing. The world would be pretty much a suck-fest if everyone were like me. Jump through and have a read.
The stuff that clutters my desk
Yeah, I use a lot of stuff. You're probably thinking "Whoa, man! I wish I could play with all those Androlicious devices!" You really don't though, trust me. I have to keep them charged, and current (for the most part) and it takes time away from playing with the phone I like. I'm the resident test-monkey-nerd around here, and many a late-night conversation with my co-workers has ended with me saying that I'll have a look and see what happens. That means I need to have the stuff on hands to see what happens.
My testing devices include the Nexus One running stock Gingerbread, The Nexus S running stock Ice Cream Sandwich, The Galaxy Nexus running stock 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, and rarely the T-Mobile G1 running stock Donut or a hacked AOSP build of 2.1. Need to know what the email application was like on stock 4.0.4? Or how the stock 2.3.6 build messaging client acted when you tried to send an MMS that was too big? Those are the kinds of things I need to know, so I need to keep these around. The cool part is that any one of them still make a great smartphone (maybe not the G1), and from time to time I'll grab one and carry it for a while.
The stuff I use makes a bit smaller list.
This was cheap and has T-Mobile Wifi calling. That makes it a perfect house phone. We don't have a land line, but thanks to Google Voice I can easily have a number for a house phone that has great service no matter where in the house I'm using it. Basements are hell on cell service if they're built right, but with a good router I have crystal clear service in my dungeon office. It also serves as an emergency Wifi hotspot when mother nature or Comcast decides I don't need Internet service. Thanks to an old legacy T-Mobile Android plan, it's super cheap to use it like this. Since I don't do anything with it, and it's normally not looking for a cell signal, the battery lasts a few days as well. It's running the latest version from Samsung, rooted and some the more invasive T-Mobile and Samsung bloat yanked out of it. If you have an old T-Mobile BlackBerry or Android phone laying around, it's worth thinking about doing this yourself.
Like most old Android nerds I have a soft spot for HTC. Their early phones sucked (I'll admit it) but they weren't afraid to take that chance and build Android phones for whoever wanted to buy them -- and way back when that was very few people. Now that I've went and gone all nostalgic, none of that is the reason I carry the One X with me. The one thing it offers that no other phone seems to be able to is to get great pictures in low light.
I'm sort of an amateur photo nerd, and like to fiddle with taking pictures. I tried a bunch of 2012 phones' cameras, but when push comes to shove and the light sucks, the One X just takes better pictures than all the rest. When I am away from my desk I want something in my pocket that can replace a point and shoot camera, and the One X does it. Having the Tegra model to play games on while idle helps a lot, too. It's running the official HTC Jelly Bean build, but I have rooted it because I think every piece of hardware I own should be rooted.
Other than the camera (which isn't bad, but doesn't stack up to the One X), the Nexus 4 does everything I need from an Android device, better than every other Android device I've tried. Thanks to the magical parts inside it, the thing is super-fast and will rip through anything you throw at it. To me, it's a great update from the Galaxy Nexus, with performance miles above any phones from Samsung or HTC in 2012, and allows me to have my bleeding edge beta Android experience on the best mobile hardware available today. It's unlocked and rooted, but everything else is stock and lovely. I honestly think it's the best Android phone to date.
I mostly use a tablet for three things -- reading, playing games, and watching movies. For the reading and watching movies part, you can't beat the Kindle Fire HD. I went over it as well as I could in my review of them, but I still expect some eyes to roll at my inclusion of it here.
If I ever splurge for a Paperwhite, or Amazon ever put out VoD for all Android tablets, I'd probably stop using the Fire. But until then, Amazon and this hardware is my go-to combo for most of my tablet needs. That makes me sad, because with a little work on the content and content delivery side Google could easily win me back.
It's not as good in any category as its big brother the Nexus 10, but the 7-inch size is 100-percent pure win. I play all my games on the Nexus 7, and it's no slouch when it comes to watching a video or two either. I was tempted by the insane resolution and "HD" sound of the 10-inch Nexus tablet, but the easy way the 7-incher feels in my hands can't be denied. I'm also a huge fan of software optimization, and NVIDIA does as good a job (dare I say better) than Apple does when it comes to making apps that wow you on their hardware. I might even get myself a 3G model when I have a few extra bucks. If it had a matte finish on the screen, I'd use it as an e-reader as well and kick Amazon to the curb.
I think the Nexus 7 defines Android, and is simply the best choice available for anyone who wants a tablet for all around use.
The Transformer Prime is one of those devices I'll never get rid of, because it makes a perfect couch computer. Anyone who invested in an Asus tablet with a keyboard dock will tell you it takes Android to a whole 'nother level. I'm under the weather with the flu, and using it now to write this blog post -- something I would never try on another tablet.
I had a Nokia N9 for a while, but a few issues made sure I wouldn't be able to keep it. I like Meego better than Android, but there are no apps to fill some serious holes. It's also basically a dead platform, so nobody is working to make it better. But the biggest issue I had were the sharp corners of the phone, which made it uncomfortable to hold. It was one of those things that I just can't overcome, and I found a new home for it.
I spent some time with iOS 6 recently. I see why people like it, but it just wasn't for me. It did make me realize that Apple and Google need to stop squabbling and work together more often.
I bought a BlackBerry 9360 for a friend I owed a favor to, and it made me miss my own BlackBerry. I'm hoping when BB10 comes out, someone will sell me a 9900 on the cheap to replace my Galaxy S II.
I still love my Nexus Q, and it does everything I wanted Google TV to do -- just better. Haters gonna hate.
My favorite apps
I install a whole lot of apps, but end up keeping very few. I uninstall games when I've beaten them or get tired of them, I use stock Android options for things like messaging and my calendar, and keep tools and utility style apps to the few I use often. But I do use a few, and here are some of my favorites.
Light Flow is a must have for any phone with an LED indicator light. The app can do all sorts of magic with the when and how your LED lights up in relation to app notifications, but the single most important thing it does is provide a way to shut them all off. Three or four phones with notification LEDs on your nightstand looks like an old Geocities web page at night with all the blinking. Light Flow lets me stop all of it, and does a better job than black electrical tape.
Audio Manager Pro is a great little app that helps manage audio volume on your Android device. There's two parts -- one is a shortcut to all the volume controls on the phone in one place, and the other is dedicated to creating audio profiles. Set them up on a timed schedule and you'll never have to worry about your phone making noise when it shouldn't be.
Shot Control is a great camera front end, and it gives you access to all the functions you need without all the extra crap Samsung or HTC force on you. If your phone's camera always wants to use too high of an ISO (Hello, Nexus 4) you need this app. You'll take better pictures with this one, I promise.
Press is a great new Google Reader app that I fell in love with. It still has some rough spots, but it's a perfect second instance of Google Reader for me. I have two Google accounts on my phone, and I don't want "work" stuff all mixed in with my personal stuff. Two apps means I can keep things like AT&T press releases separated from Vice.com. Press is the best second Reader client I've found.
Pocket is my gateway between the small screen on a phone to the big screen on my computer. A lot of times I'll see something on my phone that I want to take a better look at on a bigger screen. Pocket is a tool that grabs a link of whatever you are looking at, and saves it to an online folder you can get to from your computer web browser. No more reading 12 page Washington Post articles on my phone.
SwiftKey 3 lets me type as fast on my Nexus 4 as I was able to on my BlackBerry. The prediction engine is amazing -- which is why everyone has copied it. It's the first app that gets installed on any Android device I use.
Wifi File Explorer Pro is an easy way to copy stuff to and from an Android device that doesn't involve looking for a USB cable. There are other options available, but this one was first, and I see no reason to change -- it does everything I want it to do, and nothing extra. I like simplicity when it works.
Google Play Music is the app I use the most of any. Three Google accounts means I can have 60,000 songs available to play at any time, and I always have some playing. It's cloud based, but audio transfer doesn't need fast Internet -- it even works on Sprint 3G.
Ski Safari is one game I haven't grown tired of. I'm not even sure that there is an end-game, 'cause I like just playing it. It's small, has simple controls, and is fun without becoming immersed in it. To me, that makes for a great mobile game to play while sitting still for a little bit.
Riptide GP is still my favorite game. If you're a fan of racing games, Riptide GP; a Tegra 3 device; and an HDMI cable is a world of fun. So is kicking back and playing it for hours on the Nexus 7.
There you have it. You'll probably disagree with half of what I say, but I get to pick these ones. And these are the choices that work for me.