Another “top 50 Android phone apps” from the Guardian for our Android users…

Update for Android tablets coming soon

Those of you testing Android tablets ill be leased to know a number of manufacturers are about to release the next version of Android OS for their tablets, in particular Asus and Motorola. Find out more about what Ice Cream Sandwich brings here.

To upgrade your device to Ice Cream Sandwich:

  • Go into “Settings”, then “About” / “Software Update”
  • You will then get a message informing you that an update is available. If this is the case, make sure you are connected to wifi, then hit “Download” or “Download and Install”. Do not touch the device and let Android do the work for you. The device will eventually reboot and none of your documents / music / pictures will be lost
  • If you do not get that message while checking for updates, then try again later / the following day / week / month

Updates will roll out this quarter for the to above-mentionned manufacturers, while Samsung also promised the upgrade (without giving a timescale).

Ice Cream Sandwich does not bring a revolution but unifies the OS across phones and tablets. It is a worthwhile update, not least because it irons out bugs, brings additional functionalities, makes the system faster and supports Google’s celebrated browser, Chrome for Android. Once you’ve upgraded the device you can download it for free  from the Android market – the android version of Chrome supports many additional functionalities such as tab browsing.

It is sleek, fast and a much better alternative to the default browser. Oh, and it syncs all your bookmarks across Google services, such as Chrome on your laptop.

The Guardian’s top 50 Android apps & Chrome to Phone (Android)

If you are trialling an Android tablet the Guardian has recently published its list of the 50 best apps for the platform. There is a bit of everything in it but many could be classified as productivity-enhancing apps. Check the list for yourself here and why not subscribe to their apps blog which reviews some of the newest and best apps on both iPads and android tablets?

Also worth downloading on Android is Chrome to Phone – recently updated, it allows you to send the content of your Chrome browser on your laptop to your android phone’s or tablet’s browser.  One app that I miss (an maybe the one I miss most) on the iPad. Watch the demo here


Asus Transformer series -transforming perception !!

I have joined this project primarily because of my interest in environment and sustainability. A way to eliminate usage of paper and make information mobile was an ideal foresight. Initially I was reluctant to try any other operating device other than IOS but as a part of this project we wanted to test Android vs IOS.

The tablet had transcended the meaning of convenience, mobility and simplification to another unimaginable level. I no longer carry heavy notebooks and lecture handouts and I have saved more papers than I could in the last few weeks  just by using Supernote for scribbling.

The touchscreen facilities are well designed for convenience. However I would require more time to be more efficient.

Polaris Office has worked perfectly for me minus the PDF files  for  which  our mentor, Nicolas had suggested Easy edit.

For Android, it is difficult to switch between apps. I hope it is just due to my technology illiteracy for android devices otherwise they will need to incorporate up-gradation for the same.

Other apps such as the My Library, Press reader and My gallery  created my virtual second home after mac .

I am yet to explore more  apps but  these few weeks has just been about developing acquaintance with the tablet and I am relatively content.


First impressions on the Galaxy Tab by Dave V

Dave here with a few thoughts….

From the start of this project I have come from the bias of being an iPhone user. Seeing as I have progressed through the iPhone 3g and 4, I have become used to IOS. Due to this, I believe that if left to my own progression, I would have bought an iPad in time. This project shall be interesting to me, to see if I can become converted to Android.

The tablet (Samsung tab 10′) has proven easy enough to use so far. On the whole, the operating system seems more similar to windows than apple. I found it very annoying that you have to use a Gmail account to use android store as I have no desire for a new email address. Registering for the store proved easy enough once this was done. The use of the store is much the same as the iTunes app store.

I have found the use of features such as the key code lock, changing your settings and importing the university time table to the tablet time table, to consistently require more effort than the IOS equivalent.

Upon receiving the tablet I decided to do a feature by feature analysis of this tablet vs the iPad 2. Though this tablet proves better on the majority of features, it proves less smooth to handle and completes like for like tasks slower, for example logging in to the Leeds portal, or searching and downloading an app.

Though I have found several negative features, I have still enjoyed the use of the tablet.

I have perhaps found myself using the tablet as more of a laptop substitute than an independent product in its own right. An example of this was when a friend commented – why are you turning off your tablet? I thought that I had completed the tasks I wished to use it for and had turned it off like you would a laptop. Their point was that you can let your tablet accompany you though your day, use the calendar more vigorously and incorporate it more in to your life like a smart phone. I suppose I have used it less often in this capacity due to owning an iPhone for so long and having gotten in to habits. The lack of 3G on the tablet leaves the phone superior in a large proportion of situations throughout my day, so I don’t think a direct substitute has been found just yet.

Any way I think I shall sign off for now…

Android Galaxy Tab

Hi, Duncan here.

I’ve bought the previous Samsung Galaxy Tab 7” model from 2011 and am using it with an OS X platform.

I’ve so far had it 1 day.

My initial impression on Samsung,

I’m very pleased with the responsivess of the touch screen, the resolution and technicical capabilites however concerning the software;

I updated my Android Tablet to Gingerbread 2.3 through the official update that samsung supplied but however I found afterwards that the Samsung Kies software suit did not recognize my Tablet anymore!  This meant that I cannot use any of the Samsung pre-installed apps as they all require to sync media (photos/music) through the Samsung Kies suite. I think this is really bad on samungs part as this tablet is 1.5 years old and already totally not supported anymore!

On another note I found that the pre-installed samsung apps such as Movies usually just take me to a website and that was it.  The pre-installed samsung ebook app was an exact copy of iBook, not necessarily bad but again very limited.

Another annoyance on Samsung’s part was the fact you can’t remove any of these pre-installed apps, unless you “Root” your Android device.  But having worked with Samsung laptops before, that’s exactly what I expected. Shortcoming preinstalled software.

Luckily the community site of Android compensates for Samsung’s shortcoming

Apps I can recommend:

Defintely install the Dolphin browser (for Android & iOS)

It’s a tabbed browser such as Google Chrome, really userfriendly and also offers the option to sync it with Google Account (bookmarks)

For Android tablet users, defintely install Swiftkey Tablet X , it’s an optimized keyboard for Tablet users, it’s makes typing fast so much easier

For news, I found Pulse extremely pleasant, I usually don’t like RSS readers but this newsfeed gave a “magazine” touch,N You can input different news sources and it displays it very pleasantly.

Despite the initial hick-up on Samsungs part I am thoroughly enjoying the massive android community concerning the tablet

I have not installed a productivity office suite yet but will do it this weekend and test it next week in class, I’m also planning to test several movie/ebook/music apps.


Some useful Android productivity apps

A selection of apps I used for some time on Android, hoping that will prove useful to get you started:

Note: the Android market operates a 15 minute refund policy so you can buy apps and as long as you return to the android market on your device and click “refund” you will be refunded. Outside of that 15′ window you can not get refunded so best to try the app as soon as it has downloaded. Check reviews for individual apps before purchasing them too!


Obviously one of the most useful apps which works together with your Evernote account. Free. With Evernote on your tablet you can upload web pages, pictures, files, text… virtually everything onto your Evernote account. Use it both on your laptop, smartphone and tablet and everything is in sync. To upload anything onto Evernote open the document / webpage / picture you want to upload, click on “Share” then “Evernote” and the item will be waiting for you on any other devices you may use.

Chrome to phone

Very useful app which, once installed on your tablet and in Chrome (as an extension) on your laptop enables you automatically open a website on your tablet right from your laptop. Free. Very useful when stumbling upon a website on your laptop but want to read it later on your tablet. From Chrome on your laptop, click the Chrome to phone icon and the same website opens a few seconds later on your android tablet. Magic! And cool. An app I will miss on the iPad.

The reverse is also available by using a different app, 2cloud


The opposite to Chrome to phone. From your tablet, open a webpage, click Share / 2 cloud and the webpage will automatically open in your Chrome browser on your desktop/laptop. Another app I ill miss on the iPad. Free. Needs to b installed on the tablet and on the laptop (in Chrome) to work.

QuickOfficeHD Pro

In my opinion the best office editor available on the tablet. Installed by default on the Motorola Xoom (not sure about the Xoom 2). Alternatives include Polaris Office (comes pre-installed on the Transformer) but not as good in my opinion.

A trial version under “Quick office HD Trial” is available for free.


An app that enables you to annotate lecture handouts in pdf format and save them locally. Very useful. £1.90


Ideal if you use buses anywhere in the UK – the app displays your approximate location, nearby bus stops and displays real time information for every single stop in England, using GPS technology installed on board every single bus.  For real time train information try Rail Planner Live with real time information across the National rail network, planned engineering work, journey planner etc.


Not strictly speaking a productivity app, Google Music enables synchronisation of all your music (including that bought on iTunes) with all your android devices. On your Android tablet choose to access each song locally (i.e. by downloading it onto the tablet when you are connected to wifi for listening in non wifi area) so that your whole music collection is available offline as well as online. Initially restricted to US users there is a work around to get it to work in the UK – happy to advise… it definiely works (well) on my Android tablet. Free.

TuneIn Radio

Probably the best radio player available both on the iPad and on Android with access to live streams, a wide range of podcasts and programmes previously broadcast on radio stations around the world. Free.


Obviously. And Free. Get access to all your files from any device anywhere in the world without worrying about losing them. Dropbox saved my life when my hard drive died on me last Friday. Free. Alternative includes

Citrix Receiver

Accessing the VLE can be a pain on some devices. Citrix enables you to access all network software and resources  (such as the real Internet Explorer, full versions of Powerpoint, excel etc as well as your M drive). Free. please refer to the apps guide Cath put together for details of logon credentials to access the service. Can be clunky though.

ES File Manager

A proper file manager which allows you to move your files across folders, similar to a Windows experience. Send files and pictures from your Android tablet to your phone and any other computer via Bluetooth. Move them around. Create folders etc. A typical file explorer. Free. Plenty of free alternatives, check the reviews on the Market before downloading the app of your choice.

Flash player

Unlike the iPad Android tablets support Flash, but you will need to download the free player to access Flash-based material such as videos, etc.

Plenty more apps to tell you about on another occasion. What apps have you downloaded?

Background and first impressions

by Nicolas Forsans

A week ago the first iPads reached us here in Leeds and this gave me an opportunity to have first hand exposur

e to the iPad. Being an Android devotee since the release of the first (decent) Android phone (the HTC Hero) about 4 years ago if I remember correctly I had a good understanding of how Android worked and what could be done with it.  I had

since acquired quite a few Android phones (the popular HTC Desire, its less popular little brother Desire S and more recently the one that led Apple to sue Samsung and everybody else: The white Galaxy S2). I had never thought much of iPads, mostly because of the lack of basic copy/paste and other functionalities when the first iPhones were released – functionalities that were provided de facto on Android. Then came the iPad and newer iPhones, but the way these devices are locked by Apple kind of put me off. Meanwhile the Android platform provided additional functionalities and a smoother user interface with every platform upgrade, from Android 1.5 (Cupcake?) to 3.x (Honeycomb) and the long awaiting IceCreamSandwich (4.x). From phones I moved to tablets, having tested the Motorola Xoom and Asus’s innovative Transformer – the one that comes with a detachable keyboard.

In short – I had never been tempted by iOS and the iPad.  The arrival, a week early of the School’s iPads 2 for our pilot project provided me with the perfect opportunity to get my hands on one.

The recent influx of Android tablets, the promise of cheaper prices with the arrival of Amazon’s Kindle Fire and a myriad of Asian manufacturers all going Android – all this provided us with a strong incentive to consider their suitability to a learning and teaching context, in addition to the iPad. This is what our pilot project is all about, and the thoughts of our 15 testers will be published on here over the next 6 months.

First impressions

Woww, there is no denying the product is stunning. John, one of our Pro-Deans at Leeds called it yesterday an “object of desire”. He’s not off the mark. The screen in particular is a pleasure to watch, and the on-screen keyboard is particularly good. And the device is increadibly thin and light to carry around. Too light and too easily scratched? maybe. I realised I would have to take super great care of it..!  These are the unique selling points of the iPad2. Then there are the apps, but with Android catching up with Apple in recent years the massive app catalogue may not be an element of differentiation for too long.

A quick look at Apple’s Appstore reveals a number of apps which I had used for a long time on my Android tablet so I am not in an unfamiliar territory. On thing I have noticed however: apps that I have used on Android tend to be more expensive on the iPad than they are on Android. In my opinion there is no economic justification for it. iPads have been far more popular than android tablets as a result of the late launch of the latter which, if anything, provide developers with  much bigger markets to spread fixed costs onto. This should result in lower prices on the iPad, not higher ones. The only justification I can think of is developers taking the view that Apple customers splash out more money than Android ones, given the price points used (retail prices) by Apple. If true, then I think it is a rip-off! It would be interesting to compare prices across both platforms for a sample of apps and check whether these claims hold true.

One of the first things I did after switching the device on is to customise it and add email accounts. This was a straightforward process, although what struck me is the way in which the iPad handles it in relation to Android. All settings, including app-specific settings are all together in a “Settings” section.  This took me some time to get used to – in Android, app-specific settings reside within each app, which makes more sense to me. Not a deal breaker though.

And then I was ready to go… and that’s when I started to feel disappointed at the way Apple locks the whole system. While the Android browser has loads of settings that can be user-customised (for example, to load a full version of a webpage in the browser as opposed to the default mobile version of it, to load or not external images, to take screenshots from the browser, to name a few) Apple has none, and so every single user has to use Safari in exactly the way. Gone was the ability to upload right from the browser a webpage to my Evernote account for future reference. I started to realise the flexibility provided by the way Android handles some activities and the ability for the user to customise his tablet experience is Android’s unique selling point – something I had taken for granted.  Doing some google searches revealed a number of workarounds to solve a few of these problems, some of them rather tedious to implement while others were more straightforward – details in future posts.

Finally the browser is a pleasure to use. Of course the lack of Flash support meant streaming audio and video programmes was no longer an option in Safari, something I had taken for granted on my Xoom. Media companies have found a way round: the app. Having downloaded the BBC iplayer and some other apps (iTele for french news, for example) solved the streaming problem in Safari. Happy I was, but also conscious I would have to change the way I work as clearly the iPad does not support some of the functionalities I had grown accustomed to on Android. Time will tell how quickly I can adapt to it and get back on track – as I tend to spend a long time  travelling by train each week my tablet is what enables me to turn dead time into productive one. So I will have to find workarounds…

On Tuesday I had to say good bye to my short term companion as one of our testers took it off me. Overall a very pleasant experience, so pleasant indeed I bought one on Monday night so that I could keep exploring it. Next step: download the wordpress app for the iPad and post my thoughts right from the device. Plenty more to say about my first week using the iPad, so until next time….. thanks for reading..!


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