Just don’t. You will lose hours of your time, run your battery down and if you just get the free demo version, probably buy the full version. Finally the mobile version of Minecraft now works with more handsets. Minecraft, as you probably know, is a popular indie game that features an 8-bit aesthetic and gameplay options that range from vicious survival to peaceful sandbox.
Until just recently, the only mobile version was optimised for Xperia, and as I have a Samsung Galaxy S, that was not very useful. Fortunately this has recently changed, so now if your phone is running Android 2.1 or higher you can run it. Both paid and demo versions of Minecraft Pocket Edition let you build whatever you want in a sandbox mode. Neither version has the survival mode, though the paid version has more blocks to build with, and the ability to save worlds between sessions.
Aside from some very occasional tearing, the graphics looked good, and the game ran smoothly. Minecraft’s visual style seemed to work well for the limited capabilities of mobile. It did kill the battery, which should be no surprise considering the load it puts on both the screen and the hardware, and given how easy it is to lose yourself even in sandbox mode, this is not a game you should play when you are more than an hour away from being able to charge your phone.
If you have an Android mobile, and you enjoy 3D world creation games with a sandbox mode, you should get Minecraft Pocket Edition. If you prefer to not run your battery down at the worst possible moment, because you just had to finish that castle while waiting for the bus, then you might want to avoid it.
Previously you would have had to ask an Android user just how good Google+ can be on mobile, at least until the iOS version was released today. The mobile experience is, in my opinion, the most compelling reason that Google+ will build a userbase. As good as the the mobile site is, the app Google released for Android handsets and the iPhone is light years ahead of both the mobile site and its competition.
Facebook versus Google+
The Facebook app for Android does not look good next to the one for Google+, and is barely usable in most situations. Unlike the Facebook app, Google+ starts fast and is easy to navigate through. Both apps start on a screen of buttons, linking to the app’s functions, but Facebook also tries to display recent photos from your stream, which in some situations kills performance and gets in the way of doing whatever task I opened it for in the first place. I can’t say that Google+ has replaced Facebook for me on my phone, because I stopped using Facebook on mobile ages ago. It really was that bad.
Living with Google+
Basic activities such as posting updates, images and locations are integrated and painless, though there is no option to attach links, even using contextual sharing through the phone’s browser. Selecting the Circles to share the post with is simple, and managing them through the app is easy.
Life Through a LensList Circle
Circles are cool. They are a great way to manage who you talk to and separate people into discrete groups by relationship, interests, location and hair colour, and keep these groups up-to-date as circumstances change. However, no-one is ever actually going to do this as the time needed grows with the size of one’s social network, and those that try will go mad, or give up.
I only ever seem to use just two of the Circles I’ve created: everyone I’m connected to on Google+, and everyone except those that post too much. It is the second Circle I spend all my time in, which is why it’s frustrating when Google+ defaults to the unfiltered stream, and even more so on mobile.
Google+ supports lots of text, images, videos and comments, and the number of updates per pageview is low, especially on mobile. Consequently, noise management on Google+ is important, maybe even more so than on other platforms like Twitter.
In the Google+ mobile app the stream has three default views: Nearby, All Circles and Incoming. Nearby is for public posts near where you are, Incoming is for people who are not in your Circles but who are following you, and All Circles is for all of your Circles.
The app lets you swipe from one to other, which in itself is cool, and you can add additional Circles to these three as well. But it will always open on All Circles. This is very annoying, especially when my 3G decides the year is 1999 and it therefore doesn’t exist.
Ideally Google+ also needs to allow its users to create Circles based on who isn’t being followed rather than who is. It would be even cooler if you could create Circles based on which Circles to exclude. A ‘Stream’ minus ‘Noisy People’ Circle would be cool, as would ‘People I’ve Met’ minus ‘Work People’.
You could of course set up a Circle including everyone except the noisy people, and this would be a good idea too, assuming you are only connected to 20 people. Circles managed by inclusion really don’t look like they will scale well.
And of course, Google+ still needs to let the user decide what they want their default stream to be.
Group Messaging via Huddles
There is only one thing that might make it worth micro-managing Circles: Huddle. Google+’s group messaging feature is actually a good reason to go to the effort of creating and curating small Circles of people who occupy a very specific part of your life, just so you can message them as a group. From your phone. Easily.
It is better than the Facebook app. By lots.
The app is stripped down compared to the desktop version, and does not include Hangouts or Sparks, but does include Huddle.
Circles sound cool, until you try to manage them over time.
Not being able to choose a particular Circle as your default stream is annoying.
For me Wednesday is the worst day for buying coffee on the way to work. It is the day I usually run out of change entirely, or struggle to find enough small change for a takeaway coffee.
This is why Epresso sounds like such an awesome idea. Epresso is a service where the users set up a prepaid account, and top it up online, which lets them order coffee online, from either a computer or smartphone.
With this service, the customers pay for coffee without cash, and without slowing down service at the cafe. By ordering before they arrive, their coffee will already be waiting once they get to the cafe. The business won’t miss sales because the customer has no cash.
The idea is very simple, and solves a small, but persistent and annoying problem, and that is why I can easily see myself using this, given half a chance.
Last year a lot of cool stuff was released for Android, with a great mix of awesome ideas and great executions for mobile. But as a user, the real test is what ended up on your home screen and which apps you use practically every day.
My Must Haves
The home screen of my phone (Samsung Galaxy S) only has nine icons: three folders and five apps, and the Power Control widget. I left four spaces on the right hand side empty because I have a bad habit of holding the phone there and accidentally opening whatever is there. The apps that made the cut are:
As well as these five there is another I consider a must have, Remote Notifier. It runs on both your phone and your computer, and displays alerts from your phone on your desktop using your WiFi. If, like me, you leave your phone on silent on the other side of the house, a message popping up everytime someone calls or texts or when your phone is running low on power is very useful.
There are a couple of other apps that, while I don’t use them daily, are still very handy to have. These are the ones I keep in folders – that extra click to access them isn’t a big deal like it would be with my email.
Simplifies moving files around in general, and especially for mobile. The app lets you access your own online storage from your phone, through a browser or any computer where it is installed and you can either upload, download or share.
I am sure it does a lot of cool stuff, but mostly I use it for reading PDFs, usually after downloading them from my Dropbox account, and before tagging the interesting ones for Evernote. It does this very well, and fast.
It is synced to my Google Calendar and is a Samsung app that came with the phone.
I, like most smartphone users, have a lot of other apps installed on my phone. Some of them are kind of meh, and others I have not used enough to have an opinion yet. The ones listed above are the stand-outs for me.
If you have an Android phone, this stuff is pretty cool. Check it out.
When you only have ten invites for a new social network, to whom on Earth do you give them? It is an interesting question, and in a way, unintentionally similar to another shiny new tech thing, Path, which limits you to 50 connections. This week I got my Diaspora t-shirt, as part of my backer’s rewards. A few days later I also got my Alpha invite. With the 10 invites.
Diaspora is not limiting its users to just 50 connections, or even to just the ten that they give you invites for. Understandably as it is in Alpha, they are limiting scale, at least until things move forward some more. Whatever the reasons, I am still left on the wrong side of the network effect and with the question of whom to give one of the ten invites.
Network Effect as a Bell Curve
Populated by purported ‘social media gurus’ or bored IT staff. That’s it.
Early adopters can find their immediate circle of friends.
That guy who made primary school miserable for you wants to become your friend.
Ignoring your coworkers’ friend requests becomes harder to sustain.
Boomers are commenting on their kids’ party photos, thanks to friends tagging them.
Traditional media is reporting on all of those off-colour pages your profile links to, as funny as they were at the time.
Obviously I would want to give them to people I already interact with, and of course I would like to give them to people who would actually use them, but who are they? It is like Google Wave all over again. Not everyone even looked at it after they cemented their geek cred by acquiring an invite.
In the Diaspora Alpha, you can manage your updates by groups called ‘Aspects’, post photos and even publicise your own content through Facebook, Twitter and, even more cool, as an RSS feed. Comments on photos and posts are there, as is the ability to reshare posts across aspects after publication. I am interested in seeing if doing this makes all comments visible too, but unfortunately I can’t test that right now.