Tag Archives: android

…and then everything changes

Over the last couple of months, on some of the learning technology mailing lists I belong to there has been a lot of discussion about tablets. Despite the fact that it dominates the market, considered by many to be an industry standard, popular with consumers and revolutionised the tablet market; there was a significant number of respondents on the mailing list who had decided that the iPad was not the right device for their learners and/or institution and were looking for some other tablet.

There were also others on the list who felt that the iPad was an expensive toy…

This attitude does surprise me slightly as, yes though Apple usually do charge more for their devices (and I guess this is where that attitude comes from) when it comes to the iPad they are one of the cheapest tablets on the market.

Yes, you can buy cheap Android tablets from Amazon, but in terms of comparable specifications, I have found that most Android Tablets are just as “expensive” as the iPad, if not more so… The Motorola Zoom for example was £499, though now it is only £350.

When it comes to WIndows tablets, Microsoft recently said in their Surface announcement that the price would be comparable with other Ultrabooks. Most Ultrabooks are in the £800-£1000+ price point, significantly more expensive than the iPad.

The newest iPad is £399 and you can get last year’s model for £329. Yes you will need to pay more for increased storage and more for 3G, but the same can be said for Android devices.

In terms of functionality, it is quite normal for someone to explain loudly how limited the iPad is and how much more functionality other tablet devices or Windows netbooks have.

The iPad 1 didn’t have a camera, the iPad 2’s camera is poor quality. There is no USB port on the iPad, no way to add external USB storage. The screen resolution is poor, it doesn’t play DivX natively out of the box. There is no Flash player on the iPad, nor Silverlight. The OS is locked down, you can’t install any app on the iPad, you can’t tweak the OS, it doesn’t run Office! The on screen keyboard is “unusable” and you can’t plug in a USB keyboard… etc… etc…

Then the “virtues” of other devices are added into the conversation. It has a proper keyboard, removable battery, proper USB port, good camera and it supports Flash!

The problem with these arguments is that they often fail to take into account usability and the user experience. The reason that people like the iPad is very little to do with the hardware, but how the operating system works and their own user experience. The iPad is responsive and meets users’ expectations.

A week ago my recommendation for a tablet would have to be the iPad.

A week later, well a lot can happen in a week, and it did this week. It was a week that everything changed.

What changed?

The Google Nexus 7 was announced.

Now it will be a few weeks before someone like me can get their hands on it, but this is the first Android Tablet that I think can be a real game changer when it comes to using tablets in education.

Firstly it sounds incredible value for money, just £159 for the 8GB model, £199 for 16GB.

It looks great and hopefully with Android 4.1, Jelly Bean, this will be a mature tablet operating system that just works, and works just as well as iOS does on the iPad.

If this tablet is as well tweaked as the Google Nexus One was then this is going to be one useful tablet. The initial reviews talk of fast performance, beautiful screen. The only real failing is that 8GB is way too small! So if you are going to buy one, go for the 16GB model.

I’ll be honest I have been meaning to buy an Android tablet for a while now. Most of the really cheap ones didn’t even run the tablet only version of Android, Honeycomb, but only ran 2.2, Froyo. Those that did run Honeycomb were quite expensive and in most cases more expensive than the iPad! I really quite liked the look of the Sony Android tablet devices, but the reviews were quite scathing, saying they were sluggish and not powerful enough. They soon dropped in price too, indicating poor sales.

Things have changed recently, but I really do like the idea of the Nexus 7 and like the fact it will be running Jelly Bean the latest version of Android OS. So as they say, watch this space.

ebrary on Android

I have reviewed the ebrary App for the iPad, and a few people asked if there was an Android version? ebrary is currently working on an Android app, in the meantime it is possible to read ebrary e-books on your Android device. You can of course read e-books on the ebrary platform through a browser on your Android device, however this requires a live internet connection, which is fine if you have wifi, or unlimited data.

Using Adobe Digital Editions on your computer it is possible to download e-books from ebrary and transfer them to your Android device using a compatible eReader application, myself I used the Aldiko app as a “bookshelf”. You can then read these books offline without needing a constant internet connection.

Alas it isn’t possible to download the books direct to your Android device, you will need to go via your computer. There is a “bug” that stops you downloading direct to your device, this may be fixed at some point.

You will need to first download and install Adobe Digital Editions and then sign up for an Adobe ID. This will allow you to “authorize” transfers from your computer to your Android device. On your device you will need to install a compatible eReader application. I used Aldiko as I already had it on my Google Nexus One.

Start Aldiko on your Android device, then connect to your computer and where necessary turn on USB storage.

Having connected your Android device then start Adobe Digital Editions, it should recognise your device and add it as a “bookshelf” to your library after you have authorised the device.

Once this is all done then you can go onto the ebrary platform, select the book you want to read, click the download link.

There are a few options, you can download a DRM-free PDF containing part of the book, or a DRM’d copy of the whole book.

It will download an acsm file, open this file and Adobe Digital Editions will start to download the book from ebrary.

Once downloaded you merely need to drag the book from your library to your Aldiko bookshelf, this will then transfer the book from ebrary to your Android device.

You can then read the book on your Android device. Remember though you only have the book for 14 days before the DRM “expires” the book and then you will need to delete the book.

As for the reading experience, well this isn’t a true e-book experience and I found it quite difficult to read the book on the small screen of the Google Nexus One.

However on an Android tablet with a larger screen I suspect the experience would be as good as reading on the iPad.

Retro Camera – Android App of the Week

Retro Camera – Android App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive.

This week’s App is Retro Camera.

With Retro Camera you’ll take delicious old-school pics your friends will drool over. 5 cameras, 5 sets of vintage vignetting, film scratch & cross processing effects for that off-the-hip analog look. Inspired by the old Lomo, Holga, Polaroid, Diana & toy cameras whose iconic styles we treasure. Instant Nostalgia now free.

Retro Camera comes with 5 different cameras:

The Bärbl – An East German classic, naturally faded with a scratched film and medium vignetting, the perfect all-round choice.

The Little Orange Box – The Soviet Staple with aggressive cross processing and scratched square film. It’s crappy plastic lens leaks in light and exhibits strong vignetting. Black and white option for even more emotion.

Xolaroid 2000 – Its inspiration is obvious! We love the candid snapshots this camera produces – you simply can’t fail, every shot is a keeper. Blue / Green cross processing effects and timeless contrast. Black and white option for that classic touch.

The Pinhole Camera – A DIY gem and more unpredictable than Schrödinger’s cat. Full bleed developing and vignetting through the roof, be sure to give this cardboard chimera a go.

The FudgeCan – The perfect rig for outdoors; developed on square film that wasn’t quite stored… or developed right. But therein lies the charm that’ll make your pics with this beauty, memorable and instantly nostalgic.

Free

On my iPhone I have lots of camera and photography apps and they can be used to create some nice photographic effects, Instagram is one I use a lot.

The Google Nexus One does have a nice camera and if you want to get some nice effects for your photographs similar to the effects you can get with the many iPhone camera apps then you might want to look at Retro Camera for Android.

The App is ad supported, so you do see ads in the apps, you can buy the Pro version which is add free for £2.99.

There are five different cameras each with a unique effect.

The advantage of these kinds of apps for learners is that they speed up the process of taking and manipulating images that they want to then use in their assignments, projects, presentations and web activities such as wikis and blogs.

Of course you can get superior results using a proper DSLR and Photoshop, but though that may be the road that media and art students would travel along, students in other curriculum areas may not have access to the kit to do this. Those students probably do have a phone.

I was pleased with the results from the app and would certainly recommend it to anyone who has an Android phone with a camera.

Socialcam – iPhone App of the Week

Socialcam – iPhone App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Originally this feature focused on iPhone and iPad apps, however I have now expanded to include Mac, Windows and Android apps.

Socialcam is the easiest way to share videos with friends. It makes sharing video from your phone as simple as uploading photos to Facebook. With a few clicks, you’re able to record, tag, and share videos as well as browse, like, and comment on your friends’ videos.

Features

- Unlimited video length and storage
- Upload video while you are recording for fastest possible upload
- Record video offline and it uploads later when you have Internet
- Tag your friends in videos
- Instant notification when you are tagged in a video
- Browse, like, and comment on your friends’ videos
- Share videos with Facebook, Twitter, Email and SMS

This week’s App is Socialcam.

Free

So what is Socialcam? Well if you remember the Seesmic video micro-blogging service, well it’s a bit like that. Though today Seesmic is much more known these days for its Twitter apps. However Socialcam is not quite like the old Seesmic video service, it’s much more akin to Instagram but for video.

You capture your video on your iPhone and then it uploads it to a server. Your video is then available to your “followers” in their video stream. Like Instagram you can be followed and follow others, so there is a social aspect to the stream. However the social is very much linked into Facebook. You can only use the service through a Facebook connection, so you do need a Facebook account. This for me is a bit of a downside, I know it means that I don’t need to create a new account, but not everyone has a Facebook account, likes having a Facebook account and you don’t really want to have to create a Facebook account just to use this app. It would appear that this may change in the future, but at this moment in time you need a Facebook account.

Once you have recorded and uploaded your video you can “share” the link with various other social services such as Twitter or even on Facebook.

The people behind Socialcam are Justin.tv the video streaming service. So as a result they probably do have the bandwidth and the server capability to meet the needs of the users of Socialcam.

One of the downsides of the service for me is that I can’t use video I have already recorded on the iPhone. I do use other apps to record video, the 8mm Vintage Camera app is a perfect example of an app I would like to use to record video and then upload that video to Socialcam.

Now what if you don’t have an iPhone? Well the app is also available for Android devices, excellent.

BBC iPlayer – Android App of the Week

BBC iPlayer – Android App of the Week

This is a regular feature of the blog looking at various apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Originally this feature focused on iPhone and iPad apps, however I have now expanded to include Mac, Windows and Android apps.

This week’s App is BBC iPlayer.

Free

The BBC have released an App for Android devices for BBC iPlayer. I have now used it a few times and it works okay, however it’s not perfect. If you have a Froyo 2.2 Android device then you can install Flash and access the BBC iPlayer site through that, but to be honest when I tried that a few months back, I wasn’t too impressed either.

The main difference between the web version of iPlayer and the app is that you can watch live TV on the app, though you will need a TV licence.

The main problem is you don’t get the smooth playback that I get on the iPhone or the iPad. If I play videos direct from the phone I do get smooth playback, so I don’t think it’s an underpowered hardware issue.

However if you read the BBC blog, it maybe the reason…

To download and use the app you’ll need a device that uses Android version 2.2 and has Adobe Flash 10.1 Player installed. Our Flash streams need a powerful mobile phone processor and a Wi-Fi connection to ensure a smooth viewing experience, which means that only newer, more powerful Android 2.2 devices connected via Wi-Fi can support the Flash 10.1 streaming experience.

Having said all that I am pleased to see the BBC not ignoring Android and just producing the iPad app. It’s free so check it out for yourself and see if it works better for you.

I do wonder though if we ever see similar apps from ITV or Channel 4? Possibly?