Okay, so fair warning, today's post is gonna be a lengthy one and I dedicate it to behinddarkglasses, Chrono, Drillpress and a few others. All of whom inspired the idea for this week's various topics or started discussions elsewhere that I feel a need to add to and elaborate on (in regard to replies I left them elsewhere).
Just an additional heads up, I will not be posting pics of anything this time around. This is going to be a lengthy post as is, so if you want pics of all the devices and apps in question you'll have to visit the included links. It won't kill you to do so, but I won't put a gun to your head and force you to do so. At worst you can always take my word that everything below is great to use. I would never steer any of you wrong when it comes to my device or app recommendations. But one size definitely doesn't fit all and what I like you may not. So read on and decide for yourselves what's what.
Up first, Chromecast!
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 At that point you need to install one of the supported apps (although that list is incredibly out of date at this point) and when in said app, click the Chromecast button and select your Chromecast to connect to and send what you're watching or listening to to it.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.
So now that you've got a Chromecast, you might be wondering just what apps you can use with it.
Apart from the given ones listed previous in the "supported apps" link, there are a few good ones not listed that I've come across since owning the device (which I went out and got on Day 1) and that I use almost every day.
EDIT: Also, I've said it before and I'm saying it again. This has to be the best device made last year. Fuck you in advance to all the trolls who'll come out like they did last time I said that. The tech itself isn't new. I am not saying it is and I never did the first time this came up on the io9 main page. It also isn't for everybody, by which I mean if you've already got a Roku or AppleTV or what have you then good for you. It is however for the majority. It is elegant in its appearance, even if you never see it again after putting it on your TV. It is also simple in its use, which is where it really stands out and shines among the competition. Oh and as far as price, it beats the competition hands down. That's not even remotely up for debate, nothing comes close in price and affordability. It's impulse buy territory hands down. It also works in conjunction with a number of devices and doesn't tie you down to any one ecosystem. Have an Android device? You can use it with this! Own iOS products? You're not excluded! Only have a computer (desktop or laptop)? Welcome to the party! Seriously, don't bother commenting if all you're going to do is bitch and say "fuck Chromecast and fuck your opinion". (I will dismiss any and all such comments. I'm not in any kind of mood to deal with idiots this week.) I had enough people do that last time and arguing why you're wrong or why what works for you doesn't work for everyone else got old real quick. Anyone can use this and that above all is why it's perhaps one of the best, if not the best, electronic devices on the market in the past year and a half.
Pocket Casts, available in the Play Store, is a podcast app. It is far and away the best podcast app on Android bar none. I've tried them all at one point or another and none match it in terms of looks and features, the most significant of which, in my opinion, is the ability to sync podcasts across device. Not all podcast apps allow you to sync your subscriptions across your various devices, this one does. That alone makes it worth using if you've got numerous devices you use. Beyond that it's got all the usual things you want in a podcast app, or at least in a good one.
It's got the ability to sync and backup your subscriptions, the ability to export them as well. It's got episode filters, so you can see what you've missed or haven't downloaded yet. It's got variable playback speeds. It handles video and audio podcasts and allows you to switch from video to audio for things you just want to listen to and not watch. You can setup auto download to get the subscriptions you simply can't live without. It's got a sleep timer so you can pass out listening to your favorite ones. A nice Holo inspired interface (with various themes) and the ever important slide out/hamburger menu. And oh so much more.
I can't cover it all, besides I don't want to. One of the joys in a silly way of the app is its Play Store description. With every update it changes and often for the hilarious and informative. Seriously, go read it. You'll laugh. I guarantee it.
I mentioned it does Chromecast too, right? If not consider it mentioned.
I should add that the app itself is $3.99, which is a bit on the pricey side for a podcast app (although by no means the priciest). It is definitely worth the price though.
InfiniTracks. This is an 8tracks app available in the Play Store that isn't from the official line-up of 8tracks software. It's made by someone else and it looks amazing.
I discovered this while researching the Noon Pacific app recommended by the always awesome and incredibly courteous and friendly Alan Henry. I first heard about Noon Pacific from him and I first heard about the Android app from Noon Pacific as well from him. Sadly, the app itself leaves a lot to be desired. It looks nice, don't get me wrong. The cost itself isn't too high, but it's lacking a lot of things that honestly make it hard to recommend, especially given how specific it is to just solely being used for Noon Pacific.
So I started looking into alternatives to enjoy the Noon Pacific mix, just in time for the Weekly Mix Tape posts I might add. To that end I kinda stumbled onto 8tracks.
What is 8tracks? Basically a way to do mixtapes online . You upload your tunes, create your mix and share it with the world. I've discovered some amazing mixes on there that I now listen to every morning on the drive to work, beats the radio. (Hint hint, Chrono!)
Anyway, I discovered this app and quickly added the Noon Pacific feed through the 8tracks site to ones I liked, which of course added it to the app itself. So now I get that in a well designed app.
The app itself looks great! It's also got the slide out/hamburger menu. When you first launch it you'll see pictures with a handful of words signifying what the respective mixes are about and the name of the mixes themselves. It's all very elegant.
Beyond that it's just a lot of exploring and seeing what you like. I'm having a blast so far doing exactly that and I've discovered a lot of great music I wouldn't have heard otherwise. Not even through my All Access subscription.
One of the features I really like is the ability to set a sleep timer. I suffer from insomnia, so I usually am up late most nights and need the TV or music going as a noise filler. Now I just throw this app on and eventually pass out to it thanks to the sleep timer, which I set as lengthy/late.
There are a few things you can pay for within the app itself. Namely Chromecast support, which itself comes in at $4. In addition to which is the ability to create mixes from the device/app itself, also coming in at $4. Or you can get both at the same time, plus any future premium updates as they are released for $7.50. That might be a bit much for some of you, but so far it's worth it in my opinion. I had some Play Store credit thanks to an awesome friend (you know who you are!) and I shelled out the $7.50 for both things and guaranteed additional updates. I now fall asleep to tunes coming from my TV via the app and am actually working on a few mixes myself to eventually share with people. (My music tastes are eclectic to say the least, so these mixes might be all over the place and even shock some people. Especially when they realize I don't listen to just punk, rock, metal and blues.)
Seriously though, get this app. If only to listen to Noon Pacific, which is a service that puts up a new mix every Monday at Noon (Pacific time, dur). It is a great way to make your Mondays (which are bleh! as it is) that much better. Alan, you are the man for introducing me to that! If you ever see this, thanks a ton! There's a reason you're my fav Lifehacker/Gizmodo writer!
Onward and upward though as the kids say!
In light of my recent 2 factor authentication post, I've got at least one app worth highlighting for sure this time around.
Google Authenticator. If you have a Gmail account, and assuming you read these weekly posts and own an Android device then you pretty much have to, you should be using this app. No room for debate here. If you aren't then No! Bad you! Bad! [swats all of you not using it on nose with rolled up newspaper and then spritzes you with a water bottle to emphasize the point] Seriously. There's no reason you shouldn't be using this already. So if you aren't, I'm disappointed.
Stop reading right now and go get the app from the Play Store.
What does this app do? Basically lets you run the 2-step authentication show in regards to your Gmail account.
Once you've installed the app, you can follow the instructions shown here for how to set things up properly.
And if you aren't already setup for 2-step verification for your Google account, you should go here and read up on why you need it, how it works and protects you and how to get started setting it up.
I'm not even remotely kidding, set it up. Even if you don't think you need to, you should on general principle. Better safe than sorry.
Once you've got it setup, any time you need to login to your Gmail account from a non-authorized computer or one you don't inherently trust, you'll be asked for a verification code. You can get that code for single use/one-time access on said computer or device or whatever through that app.
It literally does nothing else. Just gives you a code you can use for logging in and that code is only good for entry within the allotted time frame, the timer is basically a circle that fills up. Once it fills up it generates a new code and the old one is no longer valid. From a security standpoint it doesn't get better or safer than that.
The app itself is free, so you have no excuses for not getting it. I expect all of you to be using it before the end of the day. Or no soup for you! (Sorry, that was on the other night and now it's in my head.)
In addition to that I discovered another app that does similar, which I will be testing out myself shortly but I take no issue with sharing now for those who might be interested.
Authenticator Plus. It goes for $2.99 in the Play Store and seems to replicate the functionality of the Google Authenticator app and then some. If you want a comparison be sure to visit here to see it. But basically it seems to do the same job but also handles 2-step verification code creation for numerous other services, a number of which can be seen in screenshots in the app's description in the Play Store. All of which are also listed in the links I provided in my 2FA post.
So if you use a number of those services, you should probably consider getting this app to handle your security needs all in one place.
Sophos Authenticator. This is another app that seems to do the same thing as Authenticator Plus, the only difference is this one is available for free in the Play Store. So consider this one as well if you need to tie more services to 2FA.
Beyond that, not much more to add on any of these things. Check them out yourselves, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Happy to answer any questions or comments you have. Like usual of course.
And Happy Wednesday! We're almost at the weekend guys/gals! I love 4-day work weeks! Especially ones where I get to skip Monday!
And like usual, today is the day where Google usually updates their various Android apps. So if there's any updates then I'll just update this post with links to the apps as they're released and cover what if anything has changed in them.
BONUS APP EDIT (for 99telepodproblems, the only weather junkie/app enthusiast I know): Storm Weather Detector. I won't describe the app, see it for yourself/yourselves.