Barnes & Noble’s Nook e-book reader runs Android! (gotta love the name… “Nook e-book” is every bit as good as the Wii for puns and jokes!) I’m not surprised to see that Nook is powered by Android, especially after running across a dual boot Android/XP netbook and a “dualbook” (part e-reader, part Android netbook) called the enTourage eDGe. The Android operating system is definitely designed for more than just cellphones. It’s an OS for mobile devices.
So while I understand there are limitations with the refresh rate of the E-Ink display, it’s hard not to get carried away thinking about the possibilities. I’ll be honest, I was not really interested in the Nook until I heard it will run Android. That changed everything. So while some complain that Nook would be great if it only had text-to-speech or a web browser, I don’t really care about the current features anymore. (Yes, their e-books are overpriced.) Someone is going to hack this thing, and that will be the point at which it becomes amazing and irresistible. Let me put it this way: 10-inch screen+wifi+micro-sd slot+color touchscreen+Android+root=Awesomeness!
Update: I have switched from JF 1.5.1 to the latest Cyanogen ROM (v.4.0.2). You should NOT use Apps2SD with this ROM because it already has built-in support for using your microSD card for app storage (you still need to set up a separate ext partition so it will work). More details are available here: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=537204
Back in October 2008 I started using Google’s first Android phone, the T-mobile G1. By the end of January 2009 there were 800 Android apps compared to over 15,000 iPhone apps. Of course, the iPhone had been around for well over a year at that point. But I think 2009 will be the year that Google Android really comes into its own as more than a dozen new models of Android phones are introduced. There are definite pros and cons to going with an open platform like Android, and I hope I can offer a realistic view of the good and the not-so-good that I have experienced with my Android G1 phone so far.
New Favorite Apps
I am still very happy overall with my G1. Especially now that I have root access to my phone I can do even more, like tether my laptop to my phone’s Internet connection via wifi. At the 1-month mark I made a list of my top 20 Android apps. That list has changed quite a bit, so here is my new list of top 20 Android apps. Interestingly, only 5 of these apps were on my first list 9 months ago. They are marked in bold. All the apps below are free unless marked otherwise.
Where – Displays movies, weather, etc. based on your location. It also has voice recognition and Yellowbook search, which presents you with address and phone numbers of businesses based on your location which you can then call or look up on a GoogleMap with a click or two.
BeyondPod ($2.99) – A Podcast app that allows you to manage podcasts and even update them over wifi. (So iPod Touch, why can’t you do this?)
Sky Map – Allows you to see stars, planets, and constellations just by holding your G1 in the direction you want to look (including the ones beneath the horizon). The digital compass, accelerometer, and GPS to move your phone around and see different areas of the sky. A very cool example of what augmented reality (AR) apps can do.
Wikitude – This is another great augmented reality app, but this one lets you “see” cities and landmarks close to you by holding the phone in front of you and turning in any direction. Selecting the names on the screen pulls up the web page for that city or point of interest in wikipedia.
Places Directory – Google’s version of Where. I can’t decide which one I like best so I use them both. Places uses you location to look up restaurants, shops, parks, and other points of interest. You get addresses and phone numbers you can use to locate or call whatever it is you are trying to find.
It sounds like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel: a tiny computer, worn around your neck, that lets you surf the Web from any location and project it onto any surface. But MIT Media Lab’s Sixth Sense machine allows you to do just that.
Well, shiver me timbers! It looks like the first 2D barcode game was called QR-Kill and took place about a year ago in Barcelona. (Have you ever noticed how everything cool happens in Barcelona?) Thanks to Leo Gaggl of BrightCookie.com for pointing this out to me. And while the more generic name is 2D barcode, I think most people are using a certain type called a QR Code. I found a free QR code generator (from that same group in Barcelona). I can see how this could make for some really fun games. Here’s an example of how you could set up to play a game of SMS tag:
As fun as that would be, I want to set up a game where some of the codes give you text clues (up to 100 characters per QR code), others call you back with a recording, and still others allow you to track what items you have picked up so you can solve more complex games — including instructional games. I also wonder how to support multiple languages. For now it seems each language would need it’s own QR code.
Anyway, here are some links to QR code readers. To download them visit any of the following websites from your cell phone’s browser:
I first got interested in barcodes and mobile phones when I discovered I could scan UPC at the store and look up prices and reviews from my G1 Google phone. ShopSavvy and Compare Everywhere are still two of the most popular Android apps on the Android Market. But a recent post to the UNESCO OER list led me to think about applying 2D barcodes to mobile learning.
At a very basic level, I can imagine a lecture where the last powerpoint slide is a 2D barcode which includes the presenter’s contact info or a link to the presentation on slideshare. and a URL. 2D barcodes are quite common in Japan, in magazines and on billboards. For those with a camera-enabled cell phone, there’s no need to write down the URL or contact info.
I am part of a graduate class that is designing a location-based game for a local museum. We are putting a lot of time designing a game that will work on PCs and a limited number of GPS-enbled, PocketPC and Garmin devices using an application called WhereIGo. But what if the same game could be designed using 2D barcodes, so that anyone with a web-enabled camera phone could play? More and more cell phones now come with built-in 2D barcode readers, not just smart phones. Does anyone know of a game engine that uses 2D barcode readers? Just curious.
So how do you make these fancy barcodes, you ask? One of the easiest ways is on a site called Kaywa. Anyone can create a 2D barcode that represents a web link, a vCard, a phone number, or some hidden text (like a clue or something). Another option is called Snappr.net. But unfortunately, Snappr.net insists on linking back to itself, even for basic contact info. So don’t use it if you want an independent 2D barcode that doesn’t require web access. Still, Snappr.net has some neat functionality like the barcodes survey below. Instead of banning cell phones from our public schools, why don’t we start using them to engage students and other learners?
I was concerned about how I would move all my addresses and phone numbers from my Blackberry Pearl to my new Google Android phone, but it went really smoothly thanks to a very nice vCard to CSV Converter I found online. I was able to export my addresses from both Outlook and Apple’s Address Book app to vCard format. From there, I used the converter to make CSV files that would be Gmail compatible (so as not to lose any data). Then from the Contacts section of Gmail, I used the Import link to import all these CSV files. Gmail did a great job of merging all my duplicate contacts, since it had already stored email addresses for many of them. The creepy thing about this is that now Google has all my contact info. The cool thing is that now I can access it from any computer or phone (so I won’t have to do this again if I stick with Android phones). So please Google, remember not to be evil.
It’s been a week now, so I am prepared to offer my opinion on T-mobile’s G1 Android phone. Overall, I am still glad I bought the G1. The HTC phone hardware gets a B, while the Android operating system gets closer to an A. Here are a few thoughts:
Battery life. As expected, the battery life on the G1 is pretty poor. After a couple hours of heavy use, only 25% of the battery remained. After talking to some of my friends the battery life seems comparable to the iPhone. Hopefully I will be able to drop a better battery into it as they improve.
Android Market Apps (with some bugs). The G1 comes with just a few Google-based applications plus calculator, camera, etc — but new apps are appearing on the Android Market every day. I don’t have time to go into all of the ones I’ve installed right now (I think I’ve installed a couple dozen at this point), but I like what I see so far. Many still have some bugs, but I was expecting that. Updates seem to be coming out regularly, and most of the popular apps are quite stable. All of them are free as of right now, so I guess you get what you pay for The top 3 apps on my wishlist are a flickr image uploader, a geocaching app that tracks caches offline, and a turn-by-turn navigation app. My top suggestion for the Android team is to allow a way to exit apps. But I’m sure someone will put out an application killer app soon.
That’s it for now. At some point I’ll review my favorite 3 apps, including one that could be the start of a really fun location-based game.
My wife wanted to watch North and South last night while I was gone, but after calling every video rental store in town she finally gave up. Well guess what? It was available in the Netflix “Watch Instantly” section, along with over 12,000 other movies and TV shows. But she is not the type to watch a movie on a laptop. And since the instant movie viewer currently only works via Internet Exploder, I would have to open VMWare Fusion on our mac first, start Windows, etc, etc, etc.