Don't Miss Out. Customize Your Andriod Mobile

The whole point of owning an Android phone is to customize it to your personal liking (i.e., enhance your user experience). This site explains the things you should do to get the most out of your Android Smart Phone. If you are not interested in modifying what came out of the box, then you should consider an Apple or Windows 7+ phone (obviously other excellent choices).

To get started, please read my post Getting the Most Out of Your Android Phone.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

How to Get Adobe Flash Working (Yes there is a way)

For higher end Android phones, you can easily get Adobe flash to work by installing their Flash Player 11 app.  However,  for people using lower or medium range android mobile phones which have lower processors (ARMv6 or ARM 11chip) Adobe chose to not support them (what a pain, no?).

Nevertheless, as always there is a modded solution that does support these phones. In other words, yes you can run Flash in your mobile browser even if Adobe does not support it!

Getting Flash Player Working on Lower or Medium Range Phones
Recently a Chinese developer modded the original flash player application and enabled support for lower end devices. It is the full version of Adobe Flash Player 10 (so its is not Flash Lite). But it tends to work best on rooted phones with custom ROMs. Some reports note that the app does work fine on most Froyo and Gingerbread based devices too but I can't confirm this.

Basically, its so simple to install the modded app, its worth m try. Here is all you have to do:
  1.  Use the link below to download the app as a .apk file.
  2. After download, use your File Browser to locate the file on your phone and open it.
  3. Follow the prompts to install, etc. 
  4. Reboot your phone. You now have Flash support on your phone.
Install Flash Player 2.2 Modded App

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Volume is Too Low (Here's How To Turn It Up)

Unpexpected Disappointment
I am a huge fan of podcasts, music, and watching all sorts of videos on my mobile phone. So I was really disappointed when I found that the maximum volume level on my Android phone did not drown out the external noise (you know people talking, moving cars, street noises, etc.) while on the move. 

After doing some research I found that this is a common problem on Android phones. If you are like me its a show stopper. I mean my user experience is supposed too be better than my previous  'un-smart phone'. It was frustrating but I did find a solution that continues to make me happy (JABRA BT3030 noted below). 

Volume Fixes
 There are two options to fix the low volume. One is through software and the other is through hardware.

There are apps out there that turn up the volume but at the expense of sound quality. These usually increase the audible gain or use an equalizer to improve the sound level. Honestly, this did not do the job at all for me because I still wanted the good sound quality---not a louder but slightly distorted sound. 
  • The best app hands down is MixZing Media Player.   It lets you set separate gain and equalizer levels for each audio file or a group of files. While this app is certainly helpful it can introduce distortion on some audio files which is annoying at times.
  • DSP Feature on Cyanogen Custom ROM. Dynamic range compression, equalizer, and headphone filtering. This is also helpful it again can introduce distortion. Plus, its available through a Custom ROM (an aftermarket version of Android which you may not be willing to install as it voids certain warranties of your phone, etc).

External hardware that amplifies the sound. So you get much higher volume without any loss in sound quality. There are too many products that do the job out there. The one I ended up buying is the Jabra BT3030. The sound quality is decent and the volume difference is massive.

Realize there are pros and cons and its annoying to have to buy something extra. But for me this is truly the best solution (especially while at the gym). I can answer calls, change tracks, change volume levels, and change the earphones. The external noise around me is cancelled out and I find it sometimes too loud.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Setting Up Custom and Group Ringtones (This Should Be Standard!)

As a smart phone, you would think its at least easy to assign custom ringers to certain functions (say when I receive an SMS, or email, or notification,  and I want my own custom ring tone to sound off). Additionally, I want the same kind of customization for individuals (e.g., wife alert) and  groups of contacts (co-worker alert). Well, once again out-of-the-box these functions are either not available or too limited.

This is OK as you can achieve the above using your SD card and a free app called Group Ringtones.

Adding Your Custom Ringers (mp3 clips or songs)
Assigning a ringtone is easy. But there is a trick to making the clips or songs available to select fro your list of choices.

Android looks for certain folders on your SD card for notification ringers. So one quick way to add custom ringers is to simply create a folder on your SD card as follows.
  1. Make a folder on the root of the SD card called "media"
  2. Inside "media" make a folder called "audio"
  3. Inside "audio" make 3 folders called "alarms" "notifications" and "ringtones"
You want to put your mp3's for text messages in "notifications", the rest I'm sure you can work out. To learn more click Tell Me More

Adding a Custom Ringer To a Group (mp3 clips or songs)
To quickly add a ringtone to specific groups in your contact list, I recommend the free Group Ringtones app. Its easy to use and does the job.

Text/SMS (What I Always Wanted)

If your like me, you expect Android Text/SMS to be smarter and better than your previous phones in the past. Unfortunately, this is often not the case.The default app to send and receive text/SMS is OK but there are way better free alternatives.

My favorite is Chomp. Simply put, you can use chomp SMS as a souped-up replacement to the built-in Messaging application, just with a heap more features and customizations. There are two key ones for me:
  1. Chat-style bubbles. You see the conversations in little cartoon like bubbles.So its easy to see who said what and when in a kind of grouped or threaded view.
  2. If your phone is locked and in sleep mode, any new text message is displayed right on the screen. Very useful because it lets you see the entire message right on the locked screen. It even includes buttons to take action on the message.
 Only thing I don't like is the Chomp app logo/icon. Of course, this is no big deal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Google Sync (Get Into The Cloud)

 What is Google Sync?
Google Sync is truly amazing. Basically, imagine if all the important stuff (e.g., contacts, calendars, apps, etc) stored in your Google online account and mobile phone could be merged together and stored on a server---the Cloud as they say. It remains there and continues to be updated always staying in sync with each other. Then if you ever need it (let's say you lose your phone or buy a new one) it self installs in your new phone.
Blown Away!
Here is how I got blown away. I bought my phone, plugged in the SIM card and started playing with the menus. Eventually I added my contacts from my previous phone (stored on my SIM card). After some time, I put the phone down with Sync settings turned on. Later when I picked it up again, I found that the phone now had all my contact info from my Gmail account too---imagine all my email addresses which I never bothered to enter on my previous phone's contact list now at my mobile finger tips!

Then when I checked my Google account online, I suddenly saw all my mobile phone contacts (over 1,000) now stored in my Google account.

Never Lose Data Again
So I now have a master set of contact, calendar, and apps I installed in the Google Cloud. And I can pull it into any Android device whenever I need it.

To learn more click Watch Google Sync Video

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Battery Drain (Ouch!)

My Battery Drains Too Fast!
One of the biggest gripes Android users have is their phone battery does not last for long. This is particularly painful to anyone upgrading from a Java-based phone or similar phone with smart-like-features (e.g., email or web browsing etc). This is because these older phones were not really intended to function like a smart phone and generally had superb battery life.

Smart phones are meant to be always connected to the internet, GPS satellites, Bluetooth devices, social networking sites, and mobile networks. Also they are meant to provide high-quality entertainment (photos, music, videos, streaming TV, and games, etc.). All of this requires lots of power just like your PC at home or in the office.

So if smart phones are meant to act like a mini mobile computer, you would expect smart phone creators to ensure excellent battery life; otherwise what the heck is the point, right?

What You Can Really Expect
Well, its like the smart phone creators (including Apple, though some debate this) ignored the whole point is to use the cool phone features as much as you want while on the go.

The hard to swallow fact is with moderate usage of cool features most Android users should expect their battery to last for about a day to a day and half----and this only after taking the steps below to improve their phone's battery drain.

Best Methods To Improve Battery Life (as of Oct 2011)
Here are four proven ways to get more battery life:
  1. Limit Usage. Try to limit how much you use the phone's cool features (again this makes no sense to me because its the cool features that made you buy the phone in the first place).
  2. Automatic Usage Management. Install applications that automatically manage when the cool features turn on/off. The idea is to easily control when they are on (draining the battery when you need an app) and off (saving the battery when you don't need the app).
  3. Auto-Kill Apps. Install applications that are designed to repeatedly kill or turn-off apps that keep turning themselves on. So its a kind of loop (turn on...autokill...turn on...autokill again).
  4. Stop Apps from Auto-starting (Turning Themselves On). Install a special app that prevents other apps from being able to auto-start (so here you are preventing the loop noted in #3 fromever happening).
  5. Remove Bloatware. Get rid of the junk applications which come per-installed in your phone. You don't need most of them and even if you remove them, can always install them for free later.
Note:  In addition to reducing the display brightness, the most effective way to reduce battery drain is to remove unwanted apps and/or prevent apps from auto-starting. But in order to do this you must "root" your phone and pay for a special application called Autorun Manager (the cost us about $5.00. Trust me its well worth the money).

1) Limiting How Much You Use Cool Features
There are a number of Android phone settings that can increase the battery or juice drain on your phone. One example is the screen or display brightness. To learn how to change these settings manually on your phone, click Manual Settings.

2) Automatically Turn Cool Features On/Off
Cool features usually mean being connected to the Internet (things like GPS, email, Wi-Fi, social networks, etc.). If you simply must always be connected to the Internet world and do not want the hassle of frequestly playing with manual settings, then you can install apps designed to manage this for you. One of the best free apps is Juice Defender.

3) Kill Unwanted Apps
 Perhaps the worst thing about any smart phone apps is the fact that turning one off or closing it, does not in fact actually do so. I realize this make little sense, but most apps leave traces behind and/or simply stay partially on---all the time. Forcing them to turn off is called 'killing them'. One of the best apps to kill other apps is Advanced Task Killer. With this free app, you can tell your phone to keep killing any app over and over again. So no matter how many times the app turns on, it gets killed each time.

 4) Prevent Apps From Autostarting
Apps are designed to keep turning on and the setting to prevent them from auto-starting is not accessible unless you root your phone an install Autorun Manager.

5) Remove Bloatware
OK so when you buy a smart phone it generally comes with pre-installed apps (e.g., voice dialer, Car Home, Pico TTs, Genie Widget, etc). This is often called 'bloatware' because it is taking up unnecessary space and memory. This is similar to when you buy a PC and there is a ton of extras or trial software (e.g., antivirus programs, etc) that you don't want and end up uninstalling.

However, unlike PCs, it is very difficult to remove them or uninstall them in Android. And so they keep switching on automatically and unnecessary drain your battery. So basically you want to uninstall these unnecessary apps. There are two ways to do this:

Root Your Phone
 If you obtain admin rights to your Android phone, you can then manually delete the apps you do not need within the System/Apps folder. Click here to learn more about rooting your phone.

Install a Custom ROM
The best solution is installing a custom version of Android (a custom ROM). The benefits are huge. Its a game changer that will change your smart phone world and make you look cool too. The one I prefer is Cyanogen Mod.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

My Android Phone (running Cyanogen Mod 7)

This is the popular ZTE BLADE (Gen 2, 500mb RAM, LCD) version. Its most unique feature is its 480x800 screen resolution. Dell simply resells it under their own brand in India. It has many other names in other countries (e.g., in the USA is called San Francisco).

Note: While this is considered an entry level Android phone, you can customize quite a bit to give some of the higher end phones a run for the money. Out of the box I'd say it was just OK. But after customizing, I'd say this will be my phone for quite sometime!

This is my ZTE BLADE's current Desktop (after Cyanogen 7 install and other customization)