Tag Archives: App

Do not Install Minecraft on your Mobile

Towers in Minecraft Pocket Edition
Towers in Minecraft Pocket Edition

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.

Should you get Minecraft Pocket Edition?
Should you get Minecraft Pocket Edition?

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.

TL;DR

  • Addictive and fun game
  • Devours time
  • Murders battery life

The Google+ App for Android (& iPhone)

Google+ on Mobile
Google+ on Mobile

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+

Google+'s mobile features
Google+'s mobile features

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+

Image, location and text updates
Image, location and text updates

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 Lens List 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.

All Circles or your own?
All Circles or your own?

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.

TL;DR

  • 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.

CamCard, Business Cards & Less Typing

CamCard
CamCard, how to avoid too much typing

Business cards are archaic. Inscribing some information on a piece of ex-living flora is not a perfect fit for a digital world. Getting the information from its dead tree format into a useable form is annoying. Unless the card has something like a QR code or a smartphone app like CamCard.

CamCard scans a photo of the business card and imports the details it recognises to your phone’s contacts. It is mostly accurate and any errors it picks up can be corrected when you get to preview the information imported, before it is added to your contacts. Unlike information sharing apps like Bump, you won’t be restricted by who may or may not have it installed and set up. CamCard works with normal business cards, as they have been for decades.

The other week my boss was at a conference. He had just recently installed CamCard on his iPhone, and loved it. It scanned cards fast, and mostly accurately. The cost of the full app in the end was worth it, especially compared to how much time he would have lost had he had to enter the details manually.

CamCard works well, and can save heaps of time. While I wish Bump was more widespread, rendering business cards obsolete, for now there is a need for apps like CamCard.

Bump for Android

Bump for Android
Bump for Android

Bump is a cool little app that shares information between two phones that have been knocked together. Using the phone’s sensors, Bump determines which phones have just touched, and shares the selected information and files between the two handsets.

It is available on both Android and iPhone right now, so potentially should have a good userbase. I was going to trial Bump as an alternative to business cards at September’s Mobile Monday in Brisbane. However, most of the people I spoke to either did not have it installed or had not set up their details. I didn’t even take any business cards with me.

When I did get a chance to try it out, it was rather cool. As well as letting you manage your contact information through the application, you can also attach additional information, images and applications to be transferred. The only drawback I have encountered with this app is the lack of users, even in places where you think they should be.