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Favorite Android Utility Apps

Every year I try to avoid "resolutions," but that doesn't mean I don't take inventory and try to make changes where needed. Over the coming weeks, I'll cover some of my favorite apps on various platforms. I use iOS, Android, Mac and Windows, so hopefully at least one of the posts will be useful to every reader.

The following Android apps do not require root privileges. Some are paid apps, but most have a free version or trial. I believe in paying for apps I rely on because the app ecosystem is ripe with apps that do not get maintained over time when there is no clear support model for the developer.

These are the Android utility apps that have made me more productive on my HTC One M8:

1Password

1Password is a great password manager on its surface, but I've come to use it for so much more over the last few months. It can be used to securely store credit cards, identity data like Social Security cards, software license keys and even secure notes. The Android version includes the option of a custom keyboard that will populate usernames and passwords automatically with the touch of a button.

1Password also has Mac, Windows and iOS versions that all sync reliably so that your passwords and more are available on every major platform.

Texpand Pro

Texpand Pro is a text expander/text automation app. I've used TextExpander from Smile Software on Mac and iOS for years, but was never satisfied with the Android alternatives until Texpand Pro came along. While it doesn't sync with TextExpander (importing snippets from a TextExpander Sync/export would be a great feature to add), adding snippets is very intuitive and the app follows modern Material Design guidelines. Backup and restore options are available in the app settings, so moving to a new device shouldn't be much work. Some other notable feature are as follows:

  • Write phrase snippets to user dictionary
  • Import snippets from user dictionary entries
  • Hovering expansion button that floats as recognized phrases/abbreviations are typed

I do not use the last feature, personally, but I can see how it would be useful for some. I keep it simple and just expand snippets using a short abbreviation. For example, when I type scb it automatically expands to my full conference bridge phone number and ID. It makes creating meeting invites a snap.

Twilight

Twilight's premise is simple; blue light from your device is bad when you need to go to sleep. Reading on phones and tablets trick our bodies into trying to stay awake. Twilight tweaks the color of your screen so that the bad blue light is filtered. You control how aggressive the filter performs and it will even allow you to dim the screen more than turning the standard brightness setting all the way down. Twilight has the option to automatically enable/disable based on on sunrise/sunset for your current location. You can also set it to start/stop at specific times. If you want to read more about what blue light is doing to your brain at night, the developers put several great references in the app description on Google Play.

Sparrow Flies The Coop

MG Siegler discussing his feelings around the acquisition of Sparrow by Google:

On the other hand, it sucks that development of Sparrow itself is stopping (though it will continue to be offered an supported). Thank god they got that Retina version out just in time for the new MacBook Pros. I use Sparrow on a daily basis to pound through email at a speed that Gmail on the web simply cannot handle.

I agree, except that I wish they would have gotten out the iPad app too.

Name That iPad

There is much discussion lately about what a new, smaller form factor iPad might be called. Names that have been mentioned as possibilities include iPad Nano, iPad Mini and iPad Junior. Okay, the last one is more of a joke by Dan Benjamin, but he's sticking with it. I have an iPad, and I can see why some might prefer a smaller, lighter form factor. I think that if Apple does in fact release this device, it will sell very well (especially if they hit the purported $199 - $249 price point). I don't, however, think that any of the above names will end up being the one assigned to the device at launch.

Past Precedent

What the above names have in common is that they are rooted in Apple's past naming schemes. The smaller iPod models got "Shuffle" and "Nano" appended to their base "iPod" name. The iPod remained the "iPod" for several cycles, and then became the "iPod Classic." There was also the iPod "Touch," which serves as the iPhone, without the phone, media player niche. "Mini" comes up in the "Mac Mini" product, and speaks to the devices tiny footprint. "Express" could even be mentioned from past naming, as the smaller AirPort product uses this to separate itself from the larger, slightly different in function, AirPort Extreme.

Why None Of This Matters

Apple is making a shift in its mobile product naming. What is different about all of the above examples and the possible new smaller 7" - 8" is simple. Each of those was a new product launch in a product "family", but not simply a shrunken version of the existing product. The iPod variants each had their own personality and filled a unique position in the market. The Mac Mini was a category almost all its own.

It is my belief that the move to calling the (3rd generation) iPad just "iPad" was with future plans in mind. If they called it the iPad3, then that would significantly limit their options with another smaller device in the lineup. iPad4 or 3S (for small) wouldn't make sense. Ipad4 would make it seem iterative when the product may actually have less advanced hardware than the 3rd generation iPad. The "S" in iPhone product names has typically been understood by most to stand for "speed", not "small."

The iPad

I believe that a smaller iPad would simply be launched as "the iPad." Yes, I know that is the same exact name of the larger device that recently launched with a retina screen. It is also the name of the original device that launched a couple of years ago. I think Apple is taking a page from other product lines that have the same device, but in multiple size/spec configurations. The iMac has two sizes, yet share the same name. Same with the MacBook and MacBook Air lines. While it makes it a bit more difficult for writers and reviewers to specify which device they are discussing, that really isn't Apple's concern. When a consumer tells their friends they purchased an iPad, and the question of "which one" is asked, they'll simply say, "the smaller one" or "the bigger one."

For what it's worth, I also believe that the next iPhone will simply be called "the iPhone" for similar reasons. At one point, the race towards the next device launch was iterative, and the naming took that into account. Now, it is just a natural transition like new versions of the next luxury vehicle in a line. People use a descriptor which is not part of the make/model name, like the year, or 2-door/4-door to specify which version they have. It works just fine, so why would the company that is always advertising "simplicity," complicate it?

RIM hit with $147.2 million patent verdict

Rob Beschizza writing about the $147.2 million patent verdict against RIM:

When people use the term "death spiral", it implies the existence of a useful aerodynamic characteristic influencing the descent. RIM's looks more like a death plunge.

Couldn't agree more.

EDIT: I mistakenly posted this link with the title "They Found More Cancer" vs. the author's title which is now reflected. While the original title fits, it is for a post I plan to write about RIMs "plunge" to purgatory.

Turntable.fm: Where Did Our Love Go?

Really interesting article about the origins and struggles of a web start up that I have heard a lot about, but never actually used personally (until today). I find that getting the history of how a popular web brand got to where it is fascinating.

Then traffic started falling. By autumn, it dwindled to less than half its peak, and the very same tech watchers started wondering whether it was all over. Goldstein says he can hear the doubt in the voices of his Silicon Valley friends. "I can tell now when people say, 'How's it going?' they mean, 'You're flattening, aren't you?' "

Thinly masked methods of asking if a company is floundering can be an artform.