PingDroid, the ping.fm client built for the Android OS is an absolute must for anyone who mixes in a plethora of social network circles by enabling the automatic cross posting of ‘Status updates’ to various communities such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Bebo, etc etc. The client itself is reassuringly lightweight and does what all good tools need to do… do something, and do it well. If you, like me, see the value in Ping then be sure to check out their igoogle gadget too.
Ping.fm as a service is growing constantly and the number of web services that it talks to is just ever-expanding and is certainly worth keeping an eye on if they don’t at present support the platforms that you use.
Klaxon is a beautiful simple alarm clock application for the Android powered devices. To be honest there is nothing uber special about it at all; it simply has functions which should have been in the default Alarm Clock app that comes pre-installed. Features like the ability to modify the snooze time and set an increasing tone volume are just what the doctor ordered.
I’ve never experienced a ‘force close’ from the application and anyone who wants more from an alarm than offered by default on the G1 could certainly do worse than give Klaxon a whirl.
My G1 arrived just before Christmas (in fact just 1 day after my Birthday) after many, many months of pestering work to order me one. To say I was excited would be an understatement (Yes, I am a self confessed geek), the thought have having such an open device really was blowing me away.
For those that don’t know the T-Mobile Android G1 was the first released mobile device which runs the open Android operating system (developed by Google). The OS is open source which essentially means that all the code monkeys out there can dig right into the device and develop applications for it to their hearts content. The G1 hardware wise is actually a branded HTC device. HTC prior to this move are probably most famed for their Windows Mobile handsets such as the MDA/XDA ranges.
Anyhoo, back to my first thoughts…
Lots of folks think the G1 isn’t a pretty phone… perhaps they’re right, but to be honest I’m not one of them. And after much much use I actually think the phone is nice and well built. The sliding full qwerty keyboard is extremely usable and feels solid. The small angled portion of the phone helps it sit nicely in my pockets too. It doesn’t seem to big or fat even. One thing that does bug me however is the fact that one handed use is a tough. I don’t think I put this down to the fact that I have small hands but just that the “back” or “return” button is too far left to reach with your left thumb. This small niggle could be resolved by adding a “soft” button to the OS and applications… and given that this phone appears to be a developer’s dream it’s probably not long before this starts to appear.
The battery is poor… there’s no denying it. It would get me through a day of modest use with certain precautions taken like turning off bluetooth, WLAN and turning down the screen brightness but this seems absurd when I think that my old SE P910 would last for days even with extreme use levels. A fair point maybe the use of 3G which is known to be a real battery drainer and has plagued other handsets such as Nokia’s N95.
One thing that does really bother me about the G1 is the lack of a 3.5mm headphone socket. As someone who doesn’t want to have an MP3 (or OGG) player as well as my phone this is a real pain in the derrier. Adapters are available but that’s not really the point.
I suppose that I should make it clear that the hardware for me is certainly at the bottom of my thoughts when I talk about the G1… so lets move on and you’ll find out why.
Because of the G1’s open-ness the “Market” (Android’s sister to the iPhone App Store) was full of applications very soon after the phone’s launch. Scores of developers had been using the Android SDK to make all sorts of pieces of software (many useful, many not so much) that could be downloaded directly to the phone. The open-ness also meant that many of the core phone features could be accessed by these developers… things such as the GPS, WLAN, contacts and SMS are all available to be used. Another key benefit that the Android OS offers is that internal architecture is extremely flexible and expandible. Basically if there’s something you don’t lke about any of the software (including the pre-installed apps from Google such as their Contacts applicaation) then these can be re-written and replaced.
At the moment there’s only a couple of things I don’t like about the G1 when it comes to the OS and software, these being the lack of Outlook syncing, Bluetooth being limited to audio use (I.e. no PIM transfer) and no inbuilt support for using the phone as a modem. What we have to remember here is that these are (hopefully) only short-term issues thanks to the Android OS (in fact some clever folks have already come up with a tethering work around). Another point to remember is that support for “paid for” applications in the Market Place should be available in the first quarter of 2009 and that a whole host of offerings including an ActiveSync application should be available very soon after.
The Bottom Line
It’s amazing… yes it is. The G1 itself has a few faults – which I quite happily forgive it for – but this I suppose isn’t what I think is amazing. It is in fact the Android OS that creates a whole world of possibilities. If you don’t like the look of the G1 then don’t worry, they’ll be scores of Android powered terminals coming out over the next year and I’m sure they’ll be one that you’ll feel happy about getting out in the pub.
With Google’s announcement of their Grand Central aquisition I see another slice of the mobile operators’ pie being taken away… and yet another push for the network providers to become nothing more than bit-pipes.
Today Grand Central…
Grand Central offer terminating telecoms services such as ‘visual voicemail’, call screening and ListenIn™. These (what I would perceive to be) rich services are not widely – if at all – yet offered by the majority of mobile operators.
These services are facilitated by the offering a new single telephone number which I presume you offer out as your main contact number. There is no sign (that I’ve seen) of number portability yet but I would think it would not be too long till you’ll be able to move your mobile number over to Google’s service.
And these services are just the things that could start to replace the mobile operators very own value added services and systems such as their IN and Voicemail.
What is different about this latest move from Google though is it’s not just the mobile operators who are having their toes troden on… this time the impact appears to have a much greater reach and it is infact the fixed-line providers who are under threat as well. With terminating services being taken care of the whole telecoms network and service provider industry has a new competitor.
And with rumours of a Skype purchase by Google floating around we could really see one big VoIP service provider to rule them all. In such a world your traditional fixed line and mobile telephone numbers could be used by no one else other than the providers themselves for billing you for your bit-pipe usage.
So what are the traditional networks to do? I suppose they need to look at what ‘value’ they still hold and can uniqely provide to their customers. To be honest I’ve not yet thought about this in any kind of depth but whatever they do they need to move quick and strong to even stand a chance in the long term. These “bit-pipes-to-be” used to be able to say “We know our customers… we know who they are and where they are” but what Google may soon be able to say is “We know OUR customers… we know who they are and where they are… and not just when they’re using their mobile phones”.
I can see an Orange pay-as-you-go customer making a call on their Android powered handset to one of their Gmail contacts (to their global Grand Central number) over Skype (all transparent to the user of course) which calls the destination’s very own Android phone (over VoIP) as well as their Skype client on the netbook and their fixed line phone (over VoIP too)… and all the originating user pays is their “all you can eat” data bill.
Ok, so Todget is able to check balances, allowance information as well as paying bills and topping up by debit or credit card but I thought that the title would be too overwhelming. Oh I forgot that it provides jokes too 🙂
Todget is simply a front end to all those confusing SMS commands that you can use on your mobile phone to manage your phone account. It as mentioned above supports the following services (only currently available on T-Mobile UK):
Check you balance (this is for pay as you go as well as for contract customers including flext
get allowance info (such as Roaming minutes, number of MMS)
Pay you bill by credit/debit card for contract customers
Top up your account (for prepay customers)
Get a nifty joke… and maybe help you pull
OK, here’s my ‘get out of jail free card’… at the time of writing all the above (except the Joke service) are free.
Since it’s a nifty little java application for your mobile it is supported by the majority of cell phones.
I heard there’s rumours that support for other networks would be supported… let’s hope so.