Review: WidgetLocker 2.0

The lock screen is one of the most important parts of a phone; it allows us to see multiple information sets without unlocking our phone. Most importantly, we can see items in our notification bar and the time; other features include being able to mute/unmute the phone without going into the settings menu.

At it’s core, this is all very basic functionality. Clearly, Google believes that the functionality we have is enough, and an average user should be able to get by.

However, what if we want… more? It’s the nature of Android to have a degree of customization over other phones, so why should the lock screen be any different? (more…)

Review: ActionComplete helps you get things done

Though there’s many ways of organizing your time, the one that nerds seem to be embracing in droves is David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method. Based on the book of the same name, GTD emphasizes the removal of stress by the use of lists. This seems really simple, but it’s not just a matter of listing a project and waiting to cross it off – instead, users are encouraged to list the action that is the next step in moving towards conclusion. Try it yourself: write down a project you have to do in the next little while, then the immediate action that you have to do next.

While doing this example, I felt a little bit of weight lift off me: because I had placed that next step in a list that I could refer to constantly, it wasn’t bouncing around in my head. This kept me from wracking my brain trying to remember all the things I need to do and actually got me closer to completing them.   (more…)

Review: Make Your Clock Widget indulges our need to tinker

We feature a lot of widget posts here on Droid Life; we believe that part of what makes Android so amazing is the ability to customize your home screen however you want. Sometimes, though, what someone’s thrown together isn’t enough; you need something a little bit more personal.

Make Your Clock Widget is an application currently in beta that allows you to do just that. At face value, it’s a very simple do-it-yourself app; from its menus, you can choose different elements of date and time, change their color, add a drop shadow, mess with layering and size, and generally muck about until you create something you’re happy with. This is great for fickle types like myself, who need to have things exactly so.   (more…)

Review: PressReader for Android

Though the business of journalism is in flux right now, people are taking chances in order to fix it. Whether it’s trying new methods of content delivery, or new methods of payment, the important thing is that people are trying.

PressReader is one of those attempts. Essentially, when you pay a subscription to their service, you are free to download newspapers from over 79 countries around the world. These newspapers are updated daily, which means you’ll always be up to date; you can download them on a per-issue basis or set up a subscription, so issues are downloaded daily.   (more…)

Review: PewPew for Android

My hatred of touch screen controls is well-known to my editor here at Droid Life. Most of the time Kellex isn’t a fan of posting my more vitriolic reviews because games that do touch controls badly are simply bad apps. They fail in their most basic function: to make the game easily playable with minimal frustration.

Every once and awhile, however, I find something that changes my mind: PewPew is one of those games. It takes the winning formula of the Geometry Wars series and mercilessly rips it off; I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. However, it replicated the dual joystick experience of an Xbox 360 controller quite well through two amazing responsive on-screen control knobs. In short, one control stick moves you, the other tells the game which direction you want to shoot. Sometimes the game is a “rub your stomach while pat your head” conundrum; keeping track of the two is harder than it looks. (more…)

Review: Beluga looks to be Android and iOS’ BBM

Even though Android and iOS have emerged as the preeminent smartphone operating systems, there will always be a one mainstay that refuses to kick the bucket: RIM and their Blackberry OS. There’s a big reason why people are still tethered to these phones, even though most new devices by other companies blow them out of the water. It’s one little application: BBM.

Blackberry Messenger is important to the brand’s survival: it is free phone-to-phone communication tied into a PIN number, rather than a username. More importantly, it’s on every Blackberry. This means that there is nothing to bug your friends to install, or more importantly use.

Which is why when cross-platform BBM-alikes get released, like Kik Messenger or the above Beluga, it’s almost a lost cause. They (of course) aren’t compatible with BBM, nor are they offered on Blackberries at all: RIM, like Apple, is very finicky with apps that “replicate features.”

However, the app does what it advertises extremely well: Beluga’s interface is sleek on both platforms, and allows users to group their contacts into “pods” which then can be communicated with instantly. You can provide image and location-tagged messages, and members of the pods are updated on-the-fly. It’s simple, and works; I had no hiccups testing it.

Beluga also takes some time to try to tackle the user base problem, as well. When you sign up, you are required to tie your account to your phone number. While I was initially apprehensive about this, I realized its greater purpose: automatic contact sharing.

What Beluga does is query your phone book for any numbers that are on the system. When it detects a match, it automatically notifies you that person X is also using Beluga, and vice versa. When I asked a couple of my friends (pictured above) to use the service along with me, there wasn’t any questions of what their Beluga username was; as soon as they signed up for the service and their number was entered into the database, my app let me know. I cannot stress how great that is.

However, the reason I won’t keep Beluga on my phone is the same reason I won’t join Facebook-alternative Diaspora: none of my friends use it, and trying to convince them is not worth the effort.

If I had to convince all the Android and iOS users I know to install an app, coach them on how to use it, then hope they all check it once and awhile, I would have to wonder why I wouldn’t just call/SMS them in the first place. I mean, their contacts are already in my phone!

I have the same apprehensions with BBM: I don’t understand the appeal of “instant.” My friends tell me it’s big amongst professionals, where time is money; others tell me it’s comforting to know that while texts can be ignored/lost/unread, BBM lets you know that your message has been sent/received.

All I know is that its success is largely because of the fact that everyone uses it, and if a phone would otherwise be cast off if the feature was omitted, then there has to be something to it.

If you have enough people in your network of contacts using Beluga, I’d say go for it; it really is an amazing app. However, if you’re like me and only have one or two people that would actually use it, you might find that Beluga’s downfall is one that has nothing to do with the way it’s coded.

You can download Beluga for Android here.

Matt Demers is Droid Life’s app guy and feels it’s a bit hypocritical telling people that instant doesn’t matter when he’s such a Twitter addict. You can give him tips to things you want reviewed by following or e-mailing him.

Review: Sleep-As-An-Droid visualizes your sleep

Sleep and I rarely get along well. I’m a long-standing insomniac with morning classes, and this usually results in me being pretty dead on my feet. My alarm clock is situated across the room to prevent me from hitting “Snooze” so easily, but this too seems to be of little consequence.

Android’s decided to help me out, though, with an app called “Sleep as an Droid.” Grammatically-incorrect title aside, it’s a very robust alarm clock and sleep tracker: there’s a number of features that set it apart from the stock clock, and make it worth looking at if you’re interested in the way you sleep.   (more…)

Review: Shift does platforming with a touchscreen right

If you’re familiar with my game reviews, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of anything that tries to make precision movements with on-screen buttons work. They tend to be ill-advised affairs, and a frustrating time for all. Something about buttons that aren’t quite 100% responsive and tricky movements just makes my skin crawl; it’s like trying to play Tetris on the highest level when your flip button has a random 1-3 delay. You never know when your actions are going to be performed the way you want, and that makes for a bad gaming experience.

Shift adds something else into an otherwise bad formula: it’s a port of an iOS game, which in turn is a port of a flash game. I’m not going to hate it on principle alone (there’s been some pretty great iOS ports to Android), but it makes me wary. Something as intricate as a platformer needs attention to detail, not a “rush it out to as many platforms as possible” attitude.   (more…)