Mobile Tech Manor #101: Android Getting Better

MTM post thumb

Friday has rolled around for the 101st time and it’s time to share the week at Mobile Tech Manor with you. I’m actually taking a rare day off, so I’m not really here while you’re reading this. Through the magic of technology, I’m able to visit the future to bring this column to you, though it was written in the past. Or something like that. The week was incredibly busy, as I tried in vain to fit five days of work into four. I spent a lot of time with new software, experienced a pain-free week due to a new gadget, and finished a great e-book.

Medical peripheral?

This week was the second full week since the Magic Trackpad arrived. I’ve enjoyed using it as much as I expected, and happily, it’s served the primary purpose behind my purchase. I’d long been using one mouse or another in the Manor, and due to 8-10 hour work days, I was having problems with my right wrist by the end of the day. The wrist would be painful, and sometimes I would experience some numbness. I was definitely in the early stages of repetitive stress injury (RSI).

I bought the Magic Trackpad hoping it would be more ergonomically fit for prolonged use, and was curious to see if my wrist problems would lessen. I’m happy to report that I have yet to experience any sign of the problems that have afflicted me for so long. It may simply be the result of working the wrist differently, and that the symptoms will eventually return. I hope not, but I will take being pain-free for as long as it lasts.

I like the trackpad on my MacBook, so I knew I’d like using the Magic Trackpad. One of the features providing me the most utility is 3-finger dragging. The default trackpad setting for dragging objects on the desktop requires clicking down on the trackpad with one finger and dragging things around while continuing to press the button. The 3-finger dragging is easier to perform as there is no clicking. Just position the cursor over the target and swipe 3 fingers in the direction you want to move it. This is obviously helpful for moving windows and icons around on the desktop, but the greatest use for me has been using the 3-finger method for highlighting text in any window; it is simple and very precise. Be aware that this must be turned on in the trackpad settings in OS X, as it is turned off by default. Note also that this setting activates this on any MacBook Pro trackpad — no Magic Trackpad needed.

An app a day

I’m finding Android 2.2, aka Froyo, to be really useful on the HTC EVO 4G. Version 2.1 was pretty good in its own right, and some feel that Froyo is only an incremental change. That’s true, but the changes are for the better in every way. The EVO is darn quick no matter how many things I have open at once, and using the phone is fluid. I’m finding the EVO to be a full computer the more I use it.

This week, I was given an early copy of TweetDeck for Android, and while it’s a very early beta, it shows real potential. I love TweetDeck on the desktop, and this Android version is fun to use. It has one function that no other version of TweetDeck has: the ability to “blend” multiple network updates into the main timeline view. Besides Twitter, I have Facebook and Foursquare configured so updates on those services appear in real time on my Home timeline. Each service appears in different colors, so it’s easy to visually tell the different network updates apart from the main Twitter updates. As the developers add more features to TweetDeck, I predict it’s going to be very popular for Android.

Yesterday, Google announced two new services for Android phones that are pretty darn cool. The first is a utility that ties the Chrome browser on the desktop to the Android phone. ChromeToPhone is an extension for the Chrome browser that makes sending specific information to the phone as simple as tapping a button in the toolbar. ChromeToPhone consists of this extension and an app for the Android phone (in the Android Market) to tie the two platforms together.

While ChromeToPhone was just announced this week, it’s been available in an early form for a while. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks and find it extremely useful. Once of the main uses for the extension is getting web sites into the Android browser for bookmarking on the phone. When I find a site I want to bookmark on the phone, I simply hit the button in Chrome on the desktop and it sends a notification to the EVO. Tapping the notification on the phone instantly opens the site up in the Android browser on the phone; I can then add the site as a bookmark.

This will also send other useful information from the browser to the phone. When I’m searching for something on the desktop and fire up a Google map, I can send it to the phone with one tap. Opening the notification on the phone then automatically fires up the same map in Google Maps on the phone. This is incredibly useful.

The other new service that Google announced this week is called Voice Actions, a new extension to voice searching on the phone. Searching on an Android phone by voice has always been pretty good, but with voice actions, it’s taken to a whole new level.

The first thing I did with Voice Actions to try it was say “send text to Sheri Kendrick, I will be home at 6″. This fired up the Android text message box with that very text message ready to send to my wife’s mobile phone. A simple tap of a button and the text was on its way. The speech recognition is very accurate and can be used for other functions. You can say “navigate to Reliant Park” and it will fire up the navigation screen in Google Maps and calculate the route to get there. It’s very powerful.

I’ve mentioned using LogMeIn Ignition on both the iPad and the EVO. It’s a useful way for me to access either a Windows PC or a Mac back in the office from either the EVO or the iPad. I can control the remote system as if I’m sitting in front of it, even if I’m across town. I just received welcome news from the LogMeIn folks that the next iPad version, due out shortly, will take remote control to a whole new level.

Currently, interaction with the remote desktop is done by either panning the entire desktop under a fixed mouse, or by moving the cursor around on the remote desktop. Either method works fine, but I constantly fight the urge to just tap on the remote desktop to make something happen. The next iPad version of LogMeIn will turn the Windows or Mac remote desktop into a full interactive desktop using multitouch. When you want to click an icon to run a program, you will simply tap it on the iPad screen. It will in effect turn any Windows or Mac remote system into a touch operated system. I cannot wait for this update, which will be free to app owners.

e-Book of the week

This week I finally finished the massive sci-fi collection I started two weeks ago. The collection of stories is awesome and I highly recommend it to sci-fi fans of any ilk.


Last week I took the trip down memory lane and recapped the first 100 columns in this series. It was great to relive mobile tech of the past two years. This week was a solid start to the 2nd 100 columns. Hope to see you back here soon.

Related GigaOM Pro Research (sub req’d): To Ship or Not to Ship — Product Launch in the Smartphone Era


Comments have been disabled for this post