Before I get to it let me start by saying something important: Hi, I’m bangishotyou. The Odeck’s resident Android guru? Fanboy? Something or other. But I’m not alone, there are dozens of us! [raises corn dog in the air] Dozens! (If you don’t know by now I can work Arrested Development into almost sany post then you’re new here, welcome!) But I digress, I haven’t been posting much over the past few months because slow news days and NaNoWriMo and life and all that and recently I’ve been popping back in and realizing I’m seeing lots of new names I don’t recognize or that my last post was shared across the Kinja-verse and I figured I’d just introduce myself and these to all of you new people who don’t know who I am. These are regular posts for the Odeck and if it’s Android related I’ll discuss it or learn about it to share what info I can with you or that you all want to know or might not know you should know or whatever. So by all means let me have it. Questions, comments, etc. Send it my way and I’ll do my best to address it all.
And yes, I did in fact draw that Robot Santa myself onto several Post-It notes. You have no idea how bored I get at work!
In keeping with my most recent post from last week here’s another one to tide you over while I settle back into my groove and get back to doing the weekly regular Android ones, a post on all those lovely items you might not be aware are in the Play Store and elsewhere and which would make excellent gifts to yourself or others!
So throw on the Stay What You Are album by Saves the Day and get to getting and read on! (I have been loudly singing along to this album since last night and I have no clue why and there is nothing anyone can say to convince me that this isn’t an amazing and delightful album in its entirety. I can seriously sing “See You” all day long and love every second of doing so.)
Also, I know I include a lot of links in these posts but they’re usually their for a reason, folks. So, please, click them because they usually contain relevant articles worth reading, pics and videos of one sort or another, and sometimes just tidbits to break up the potential snoozefest that these posts might be to non-tech enthusiasts like myself who find all this stuff to be like reading gibberish and what have you. I aim to amuse when and where I can with these too!
Update Nova Launcher Prime is currently on sale for $0.99 (in the U.S. as confirmed by jinxe, MyPrettyFloralBonnet, and umataro42). It is also on sale across the globe, but prices vary and as no one has told me what those prices are I leave it to you to find out for yourself. The sale will continue until December 15th and I highly recommend you take advantage of it while it last because the last time it was so heavily discounted was about four years ago.
Update 2 Info on prices elsewhere straight from the horse’s mouth.
Link to the thread about Finland not existing. Please, read it! It’s hilarious in its insanity.
Seen in screenshot above and those below is the Fresh Icon Pack ($1.99) by Stealthychief. Although I am more often than not using Glim Icon Pack ($2.73) by Maximilian Keppeler (also available in a free version via Glim Lite) because it has over 2,500 themed icons and is regularly updated, plus the dev is a nice guy who’s turned me on to other apps to help make my phone stand out. Like Evolve Wallpapers ($0.99) by DaviidH.
Maybe you want a non-stock homescreen, but tweaked to your heart’s content. Maybe you want to try out a new icon pack that really makes your homescreen and app drawer pop. Maybe you’re tired of seeing apps in your app drawer that you seldom or never use. Maybe you just want to get things a little more organized. Maybe you want to do some organization within organization and keep various apps from various developers or that have various functionality and use separated but still easily accessible.
Nova Launcher lets you do all that and more!
Look at the first screenshot I included. Ignoring the obvious icons and apps they represent, would you even suspect that I have quick access to an additional nine apps from that same screen? I bet you wouldn’t. Hell, if I felt like being silly I could use a perfect AMOLED friendly solid black wallpaper and hide every single app you do see on there and still have instant access to everything that was originally there and those nine additional apps.
Actually, everything seen in the dock is double. Every single app in my dock can also be swiped on and will launch another app entirely. That’s an additional five apps on top of the original nine that most people aren’t even aware are there.
All of that is allowed for via gestures.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in regards to what you can do with Nova Launcher and Nova Launcher Prime. Add in another customization app or two and the sky is truly the limit. Using those two in conjunction with one another, as you need Prime to access some of those extra features like gestures, and you can truly make your phone your own. Not even remotely joking, and anyone who has a nice setup they’ve made using the app (or ones like it) please chime in below in the comments and show me what you what you got!
But maybe you want something a little more. Maybe you need to really make your homescreen stand out, that’s where something like KLWP Live Wallpaper comes in. Through the use of Komponents, among other items that you yourself can set and determine the use of, you can basically turn your homescreen into a livewallpaper the likes of which few have even dreamed possible.
That GIF doesn’t even begin to show you just what you can do with the app, my goodness the things you can do. I like to consider myself to be a bit more into this kind of stuff than most people and even I can’t do some of the things I’ve seen people do with it. Luckily for me that’s where the Pro Key comes in, it lets you import other people’s setups (either via a zip file) or install them from the Play Store.
Seriously, folks, that’s the kind of thing you can do in Kustom if you’re so inclined. I mean I’m not that inclined, but hey to each their own!
Then again maybe KLWP is a bit too much, maybe you like some of the komponents you can use but don’t want to go all out and put in the effort required to figure out KLWP. That’s fine, I don’t blame you. Luckily that’s where KWGT comes in, because it lets you use those same komponents as widgets instead.
KWGT is for those who want something more without having to do too much more to achieve it and is perfect for those who want to start getting into the world of theming their homescreens but need a simple way to do so. Baby steps, ain’t nothing wrong with them.
I have used oh so many podcast apps over the years and several years ago I finally took the plunge and tried Pocket Casts and that was it. No more did I jump from app to app in an attempt to find the perfect one, it’d been found in Pocket Casts.
I’ve written about the app before though, so I’m just going to copy/paste what I wrote previously.
It’s got syncing! You sign up for an account and that’s it. You’ve basically enabled syncing, get a new phone or tablet and all you have to do is sign in and you’ll have your favorite podcasts at your fingertips again. No more manually adding them all from scratch.
Of course you can always cheat and ask for the OPML export file of your podcast and load it up quick, fast and in a hurry. Oh yeah, if anyone wants a copy of mine feel free to give a shout in the comments and I’ll hook you up. I listen to lots of comedy ones, informative ones and all kinds of stuff in between. No politics or sports though. Sorry. If that’s your cup of tea then whatever floats your boat but that ain’t my thing.
Oh yeah, they also added a web player this past week! Suck it, Stitcher. I’m leaving you for someone who looks better and is far more responsive and a pain in the ass in general to deal with. You had your chance! It’s over. Just go. Don’t make it weird.
If you’re a Pocket Casts user already, you can go here to sign up for early access. (They will send you an email saying you’ve signed up and they got your info, then they’ll email you when you’ve officially been granted access. Woohoo!) You get a free 7-day trial and then you have to pay to play basically. Of course, it’s a one time $9 fee for permanent access to “skip the trial and jump right in!”, also there’s a neat little imaege that shows up when you move your mouse over that option. No spoilers, you’ll have to see it for yourself. Also, $9 is more than worth it and I’m sure a great many of you spend that possibly daily if you go out to eat at lunch or something. I know I do, but damnit that #2 double meat Whataburger (with cheese, pickles and bacon only thank you very much) is just so damn good!
Beyond that, not much else to add. My daily morning and afternoon commutes would be beyond unbearable were it not for this app.
This one is another one like Pocket Casts that provides me with hours of entertainment while on the road or at home, it’s an app that gives you the 8tracks everything in a much more polished form than the official 8tracks app.
The app itself is free, but there are a few extras available as in-app purchases which can be purchased separately or in one bulk purchase that also guarantees you any future extras as they are added. I forget the exact pricing, but I know the all-in-one price is $7.99 and that gets you the two available separately extras in one go. Those extras are Chromecast support and the ability to create and edit playlist directly from your device.
The first thing you see when you fire the app up is what’s “Hot”. Scrolling down shows you other currently popular playlists and overall the selection is rarely if anything bad. Even for stuff I wouldn’t normally listen to I’ve found more often than not that once I play something and move past at worst the first song or two I’ll hear something that catches my attention.
Tapping on the slide out menu on the right leads to that and you can see what’s up for additional perusal there. Feeds, down there at the bottom, are feeds you’ve added yourself to keep track of.
One personal favorite you can’t quite see is the Noon Pacific, which I was turned onto by Alan Henry over at Lifehacker. You can listen to that feed there on the 8tracks link or directly on Noon Pacific’s site. They’ve also got an app, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It doesn’t look bad, but it’s got extremely limited functionality I’d say overall and the fact that it hasn’t been updated since April really doesn’t make it worth spending the $1.99 on. It looks wonderful otherwise though.
Naturally my favorite part of the app is being able to pick up where I left off (sorta) by listening to liked playlists and mixes again. Two as you can see there are right up everyone’s alley on here, can’t remember who recommended both of those on here but thank you! Whoever you are, since I can’t remember cause I just have a weird brain like that.
Beyond that, not much to add. It’s a great app and if you really want to create mixes on the go and enjoy that Chromecast support then you’re gonna have to shell out. It’s worth every penny though in my opinion to do so. I use the Chromecast support all the time at home and I love jumping from mix to mix seeing what’s out there, I’ve yet to hear one that I just hated everything about (then again, the labels and all that are enough to go on as to whether you’ll like something or not).
What does the app do? Well, basically let you control your computer from your phone. I mean completely. You can control Windows Media Player, Chrome, Netflix, Pandora, Google Play Music, etc. There is pretty much nothing on your computer you can’t control with this app.
Honestly, I bought it like a year back (also while on sale) and I’ve used it regularly ever since. I’m talking multiple times a week. It is the perfect app for those of us with a lazy streak.
It should be noted that you will need to install the client server part of the app on your desktop/laptop before being able to have fun with the app. But that really should be a given and understood.
You can read a little bit more about it on Android Police, which can be found here. And of course Artem’s reaction pretty much sums things up regarding this app.
Author’s note: As far as paid apps that are on my device and I think everyone should be using that’s really it. I have a ton of paid apps on my phone but for the most part I have free apps that are absolutely free and I just shell out as I can via various donation options to continue to support development and I highly encourage others who can to do the same. Good apps and developers don’t come easily, so show your support!
For this one I took to Twitter, but I’m more than happy to take requests here if anyone has anything specific in mind, and asked what if anything people wanted to get some recommends on.
There was just one response, “accessories”. Alright then. Lol. I can work with that, Zuldim. Don’t think I can’t.
For this one I’m just gonna cover all of them under the one byline. It is shocking how many people don’t realize how important cables for their devices are. Then again most people don’t think much of them beyond “Can it charge my device? Yes? Then that’s all I need.” But here’s the thing, not all cables are created equally and there are some out there (looking at you OnePlus) who make cables you flat out should avoid using entirely.
As a tinkerer you’d be surprised how many times I’ve run into issues involving cables and transferring this or that via ADB. I mean it used to happen a lot until I realized something important, OEMs don’t necessarily make the best cables to use with our devices. So I started investigating other options and slowly but surely just buying replacement cables via various online and offline retailers and using those more than the ones that came with my devices.
For general cables good for charging or hooking up to your computer for transfers of any kind I highly recommend Amazon’s AmazonBasics microUSB cables. They’re inexpensive, work well, and I’ve never had any issues with whatsoever.
But hey, maybe you picked up a new Type C compatible device and want something more specific for your device. You’re in luck! A Google Engineer has taken it upon himself to literally review as many such cables and possible and give his “yay” or “nay” on them as decided depending on if they met compliance specifications. You’d be surprised by how many and from whom he says to pass on or maybe not.
Honestly, I’m far too lazy to do the work of covering every single cable he says is worth buying or avoiding. So here’s a link if you want the full score on what’s what.
What I will do is highlight a few of the ones that are worth buying. Where applicable or I feel like it I’ll point out a few pros of the specific cables I thought were mentioning.
Honestly, from a personal perspective I like braided cables. They’re just better made, more durable, and thus longer lasting than their non-braided counterparts. For those of you who seemingly go through cables on a frightening basis then braided cables are made pretty much with you in mind.
Those of you seeing the price and thinking, “$12?! For a damn cable?!” I’d just like to point out I’ve paid less for phones. Lol. As have a few other Odeckers. (Moto E 2015 Black Friday sale FTW!)
But hey, maybe you’re like me and you prefer lengthier cables for late at night in bed reading so you can charge your device without being forced to be as near to the edge and outlet as possible. There’s always a bigger fish, to quote from a movie we don’t speak of around these parts. And such is the case with TechMatte’s five foot Type C to Type A cable, it’s long enough to give you that extra bit of length necessary to read comfortably late at night without fear of falling off the edge of your bed or forgetting how short the cable is and moving a bit further than you should have and promptly having your phone pretty much ripped from your hands before momentarily panicking and checking to make sure you didn’t bust the cable or screw up the connection port on your phone. Or is that just a me thing? Don’t judge me.
For when you just need your phone to reach halfway across your room and then some. Or that might definitely just be me because I have a tiny triangle shaped room. You’ll also find 1’ ($12.99) and 6.6’ ($12.99) cables at that same link, so be sure to investigate the options below the “want it by Thursday” bit.
These are also braided and if I need to explain why that’s good again then you’ve got the memory of something with a very bad memory. [waves hand around] You know, one animal or insect or whatnot or another.
This is also one of the first cables reviewed Benson Leung, the previously mentioned Google engineer
And last but not least is Belkin, who makes oh so many products I’ve bought at one point or another through the past few years and they definitely don’t make exceptions when it comes to the various Type C to [insert item and length here] cables. Seriously, just look at the screenshot and you’ll get what i mean.
Then again maybe you haven’t splurged on yourself and gotten one of those new fangled phones with this whole Type C connection on it, maybe you’re hanging onto something from last year but that’s still pretty damn good for reasons I’ll get to momentarily. In that case this charger is the charger for you. Assuming you have a Quick Charge 2.0 compatible phone (please see screenshot for a list of compatible devices) then you really need a charger like this if you don’t already have one.
Have you ever had your phone at a battery level that just made you anxious or that you knew wasn’t going to get you through whatever you needed to get you through? We’ve all been there, except Nicole who has made it clearly likes to live dangerously. Talking below 5% battery level dangerously. Some people just want to watch the world burn. But anyway, Quick Charge 2.0 lets you charge your phones a pretty damn decent amount with almost no waiting around required. Throw your phone on a compatible charger and depending on how depleted your phone’s battery is watch it quickly jump between 10-30% in as little as fifteen minutes. I’m not joking, I do that regularly with my Turbo Charger from Motorola for my Moto X 2014.
And that’s where a charger like this excels. But hey, even if you don’t have a compatible Quick Charge 2.0 phone you should still consider this charger because it’ll charge your phone slightly faster than a regular one anyway due to the amps it puts out.
Same thing as previously mentioned item by Tronsmart but for your car, with both ports being Quick Charge 2.0 ready.
For what it’s worth I picked up one of these for my mom right around this same time last year and she got tons of use out of it in car, as did I since I randomly had to drop her off somewhere and take her car home and I can’t stand having my phone ever dip below 75%. It makes me nervous. Like “oh snap, my bladder is about to explode due to my inability to make a decision regarding picking from two items” nervous. [shrugs] I’m weird that way. (And shout out to MyPrettyFloralBonnet yet again from sparing me that fate recently in regards to a lamp which I am still really excited about. Clearly I have reached old age since a new lamp excites me.)
UPDATE! It looks like there’s a deal alert from Android Police regarding a different Tronsmart 4-port car charger! Get it while you can if you’re so inclined.
Portable battery chargers
On this front, there’s really only one brand I recommend to everyone and it’s Anker.
In the words of DrillPress, I CAN DO THIS ALL DAY PEOPL! Click the first Amazon link for the company above and just scroll through to find what you need. There’s an external charger for everyone and I do mean everyone. They’ve even got some with built in flashlights! (The degree with which I want one would be absurd if I didn’t have genuine daily use for a flashlight.)
Like I said up above, Quick Charge 2.0 compatible anything is amazing. Thus the reason behind me specifically focusing on the charger above.
Of course there are plenty of other options. Some much more pocket friendly than that beast, which depending on your battery size should get you at least 7 or so charges (and that’s from completely dead to full).
This one for example is a little bigger than a tube of ChapStick, yet it easily holds enough of a charge to give most phones a single complete charge from dead to full.
And hey, if $26 seems too much to pay for such a small device you can always pick up last year’s model for $9.99. Same capacity as the updated model.
I believe if memory serves me correctly that Pessimippopotamus had one and naturally you can ask particulars of these type of chargers of him and I’m sure he’ll be happy to discuss whichever model he had.
EDIT The following has been brought to my attention by MyPrettyFloralBonnet, so I figured I’d share it with all of you as well.
I am convinced that no one who writes the battery product descriptions has every actually used chapstick/lipstick. My small flashlight external battery is just slightly larger than the one you linked and it’s the size of a large gluestick, which is much larger than chapstick. #petpeeve - MyPrettyFloralBonnet
This is a roughly double the size of the last one I had and is absolutely perfect for charging to full once every month or so and tossing it in your car’s glovebox or center console for emergency use purposes for yourself or anyone riding with you.
The price is right at $20 and if it’s anything like the previous one I had (which was made by another company entirely and which I’ve written about before)
Okay, I know people love their phones cases to be unique and reflect some kind of personal preference or one another so I’m not even going to touch on this one too much beyond saying the following companies make cases I have no problem whatsoever recommending to others and their are enough available from each to meet every usage need and preference. Although if you want to know what I personally use it’s usually just a “slim case”.
But anything made by RearthUSA, Incipio, Seidio, and Spigen is something you pretty much can’t go wrong with. Be sure to check their respective stores and on Amazon when looking for a case worth buying. Usually their sites or Amazon will have the other beat on price and it varies pretty much year round as to who has the better deal on any given case.
Also, RearthUSA tends to include screen protectors with their cases (via their site and Amazon) so that’s a definite plus on their part.
Although if you truly want my opinion on what to look for in a case then it’s as follows, look for “hybrid” cases. Now the description or names might vary on that but basically look for a case that offers the best of both worlds. Both worlds being “hard cases” and “TPU cases”. Hybrid cases basically take both and combine them, so you get a TPU seemingly soft bumper to wrap around your phone and cushion it from any potential drops and you then stick that in a thin hard case that takes the brunt of any impact. So you pretty much get the best of both worlds in one package.
If you want my little brother’s opinion though, “Incipio!” He swears by them and has for years now. But he’s also an iPhone fanboy and has been since the OG iPhone. So let’s not put too much stock in his tastes. : P
But hey, maybe you also own a tablet and want a case for it too. If that’s so I highly recommend DodoCase. My mom’s been buying their cases for a few years now and despite being a bit pricey she loves them. Although they do make some phone cases as well, if you want iPhone ones you’re good. Android though is pretty limited.
And for those who like the look of unique cases like the ones Dodo makes here’s something else Pessimippopotamus has seen fit to share with the class. Cased by Carved, which features a number of unique cases made of wood and which are absolutely stunning in their appearance. The one catch is much like Dodo they only make for a very limited number of devices, which is a damn shame because I’m sure all of us want one now after having visited their site.
Seen above is the first case by the company that Pessimippopotamus shared with me yesterday and now I’m almost tempted to pick up a Nexus 6 just so I can buy that case for it. That is a lovely case and I dare anyone to say otherwise.
I might have to go Deadpool on you if you do though.
Snap on camera lenses
Now it’s no secret that the best camera you can have is the one you have on you at any given moment and for most of us that means the one built into our smartphones. That said not all smartphone cameras are created equally and unless you’ve got a Samsung phone, which reports show almost everyone and their mother has, or the latest flagship device from any given OEM chances are you’re using one that occasionally leaves a lot to be desired.
To that end a handful of companies have come up with lenses that snap on to your device and basically give you a better camera, although at the cost of adding extra bulk to your device, giving you something else that’s tiny and which you can easily lose, and not coming as cheap as some people would like. The latter is especially true when plenty of folk in the U.S. balk at the mere idea of paying anything over $200 for a smartphone. (Yay contract subsidies making people less open to off contract pricing! /s And seriously contract subsidies are the worst thing ever, those in the know can tell you that you actually don’t save money and more often than not you pay more than retail value and price on any given device when you go that “oh, only $200” route. The U.S. carriers are proverbial “pros from Dover” when it comes to screwing people.)
You definitely don’t need to break the bank though to get something decent for your phone should you wish to add some extra lenses or even quality to your pics though. Aukey yet again is there to save the day and spare your wallet. (Did I mention Aukey already? If I didn’t you should definitely investigate their offerings. Much like Anker they make a lot of products, most of which I recommend.)
Google Cardboard (aka virtual reality device)
Rather than go into this one on a ridiculous level and make this post beyond lengthier than it already is and it’s already a doozy I’m gonna suggest you check out this write-up I did fairly recently for the always amazing antipodes [waves at antipodes]. Not gonna lie, it’s a lengthy read (3 pages) with plenty of links contained therein but everything you need to know about Google Cardboard and VR in general as it pertains to Android can be found in there.
Chromecast and Chromecast Audio
Similar to my Google Cardboard bit, I’ve discussed this before but what they hey I’ll just copy/paste the little bit of info I wrote before.
What is a Chromecast? For those of you who are unaware, it’s simply “the easiest way to enjoy online video and music on your TV”. Or in non-advertising speak, it’s basically a device that lets you send what’s on your phone or tablet or computer to your TV wirelessly.
The device itself is available through the Play Store for the low price of $35, but you can find it at almost any electronics retailer locally or online.
How does it work? You just plug it in to an an HDMI port on your TV, install the app on your phone to set it up and then have at it.
Although it’s not that simple. The app itself does nothing beyond setting up the device. At that point you need to install one of the supported apps (although that list is incredibly out of date at this point) and when in said app, click the Chromecast button and select your Chromecast to connect to and send what you’re watching or listening to to it. It is incredibly simple to use.
How simple is it to use? My mom knows how to use her Chromecast and how to send stuff from Netflix and Google Play Music to it. My mom! The same mom who still types using one finger and who is as tech illiterate as can be.
Exactly. If my mom can figure out how to use a Chromecast like a champ without any input on my part then so can anyone else.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning that Google a few months back released Chromecast Audio. What Chromecast Audio does is basically allow you to cast any audio whatsoever to any setup you might currently have in your home for audio. It’s as simple as plugging the 3.5 mm plug into your setup’s existing Auxiliary Audio In port and that’s it. You can now cast things around the home.
At present though multi-room support isn’t built in, but it’s expected to be supported relatively soon via an update.
It is also worth pointing out that you need WiFi to do all this (for both the regular Chromecast and Chromecast Audio). So if you don’t have that then you might want to get on that.
I’ve been using the original Chromecast since Day 1 of release and honestly it’s something that’s amazing because of its ease of use. I and a few other Odeckers have these and/or have gifted them to others and quite simply for those who don’t consider themselves techies or too tech literate or anything there is nothing simpler for sending video or music apps on your phone or tablet to your TV or stereo system. Seriously.
And that folks, is all!
Although I may or may not add more to this post throughout the day (week? month, right up until Xmas?) as people ask for additional apps or accessories worth checking out based on things I may have overlooked.
Like usual if you have any questions, comments, etc just drop them below and I’ll get to them in due course. And if I can’t I know that there’s a few other guys and gals on here who may be able to because we’ve all been doing so since these posts started going up a few years ago (?) and we’ll continue to do so going forward.
I hope you all enjoyed this post and found it informative and yet again I’m bangishotyou and this is kind of my thing so suggestions, etc, etc, etc are more than welcome and that includes for future related posts you’d like to see. But if you ask me about iPhone things I might dart you with some kind of tranquilizer. : P
Oh and because I can, here are tons of ferret pics! If you don’t have anything nice to say about ferrets (aka carpet sharks, dook noodles, fuzzbuts, cat snakes, etc) just keep it to yourself. I will dismiss with extreme prejudice any comments that are of an uncivil nature about those lovable little sock thieves. You have been warned!