Category Archives: android

the ultimate android space clearing guide

If you’re running into that annoying problem where you can’t install yet another awesome app on your Android phone because you are running out of space, here’s the ultimate guide to freeing up app space *dramatic music*

1. Clean up app cache

Bansky street cleaner - Chalk Farm

Your phone stores apps on its internal memory card (not RAM, but the disk) including some temporary data for each app. That cached data is the first thing you can go and remove to free up space. Depending on the app, this can be quite some data. Think apps that download resources like video or images, create thumbnails etc.

You can do this manually with the internal app settings screens and go over each app individually. I bet you have better things to do though. Instead you can install ES Task Manager, which has a cache cleaner built-in and does the job for you. Sweet. There are plenty of alternative cache cleaning tools available if you don’t like the ES one.

2. Move apps to the external memory card

Still not enough space? Damn. To free up space on the internal memory card, you can also move some apps to the external card. If you have that option, you can use the application tools to move apps individually. Not all apps support this and it usually doesn’t free up all the space either. There’s always some core files that stay on the internal drive, so don’t expect any miracles. The best way to go about it, is to sort the apps by size and try to move the biggest ones first. But if that doesn’t do the trick you might want to…

3. Uninstall some apps

Yep. Makes sense doesn’t it. The bigger the better too. It sucks, but there’s probably some stuff in there you haven’t used in months. Time to say goodbye and press the delete button. Aah, instant free space.

4. When all else fails.

Still not working? I had that. My internal memory was showing 250MB of free space and I couldn’t get a 40MB app like Chrome to update anymore. Same thing with any other app around that size. They all failed to update.
It doesn’t make sense when you look at the numbers, but my guess is that it’s like with a fragmented disk drive on a PC. At some point there isn’t a large enough open space to fit the update file in one piece. Or that 250MB of free space isn’t just for apps. I’m not sure. But what I am sure is that resetting the phone wipes the internal disk space, and frees everything up again.

Photo by Dan Brady, cc-licensed.

the 10+ android apps I use the most

Smart Launcher 2 for Android makes your home screen look all nice and minimalWell look at that. It’s time for another of my most-frequently used and super useful Android apps roundup! I’ll be comparing to the list of 2010 (whooosh, where did time go) to see who’s still around and who dropped off.

  1. The browser. I’m using Chrome now, cause it’s faster and uses less memory than Firefox. Sorry foxy, but I still use you the most on the desktop! I stopped using the stock one because it doesn’t get updates and that’s just not safe any more.
  2. To get quick access to any power toggles I now use Power Toggles from Painless Apps. The best thing here is that it allows you to dock the power buttons you want in an extra notification bar, so it fits right in with the notification bar the OS provides by default. This also avoids clutter on your home screen, which I like.
  3. For note taking I’m not using a specific app any more. I resort to plain text files now because they are easy to sync with Dropsync and also edit with the Dropbox app (and more, see later).
  4. SimpleTask cloudless is my todo-list app. It uses the portable and future proof todo.txt format, which means my todo list is a mere text file synced to the cloud (see #3) and editable with any text editor. You can also use the SimpleTask app which automatically syncs with Dropbox, but I’m already using Dropsync for that.
  5. FBReader is still my eReader of choice, together with Instapaper app for any read-later articles collected online.
  6. The Tiny Tiny RSS app is my Android RSS reader client, but you need to host your own Tiny Tiny RSS RSS reader web app to be able to use that, so it’s probably not for everyone.
  7. Tweedle has become the twitter app of choice. It’s slick, it has tabs and it’s fast. Can’t remember exactly why I dropped Tweetdeck. I think it broke down or got really slow at some point.
  8. I like minimalism when it comes to launchers. Before I used Zeam Launcher (no longer under development unfortunately) or the stock one, but now I’m using  Smart Launcher 2 for a while and quite like it. It takes some getting used to, but it’s super minimal and original.
  9.  ES File Explorer is an extremely handy system tool. This “file manager” app is way more than just that. Next to exploring your internal and SD storage It allows editing of text files, open zip archives and has a music player and image viewer built-in. It gives you access to cloud services, FTP or network drivers if you want. You can even use it to share files over it’s built-in FTP server. Other features like a task manager and app cache cleaner makes this a must-have app on any Android phone.
  10. Bittorrent Sync just has to be in here as well. If there’s one tool that makes syncing large amounts of files between your phone and a PC a breeze without needing the cloud, it’s this one.
  11. AutomateIt Pro is my automation tool. Change sound levels when at home or work or late at night, start my music app when I connect headphones, turn on wifi & sync when I plug-in the charger. It takes care of all these little tasks for me.

Anything awesome I should be checking out? The comment box is awaiting your wise words.

what drains your battery faster? 3G or WIFI?

So what drains your smartphone’s battery more you think? Using a local WIFI network or the 3G cell network to download stuff from the internet? I Googled it but I didn’t find any solid hardcore scientifically based evidence. Time for a small home-grown scientific experiment then!

So here it is *drumroll*, the WIFI vs 3G battery drainage challenge!

I fired up the Grooveshark html5 app (which is quite nice actually) to non-stop stream music for 20 minutes and checked the battery usage when repeating this for both types of networks. In the meanwhile I was keeping anything else down to a minimum (like activating the screen which is also a juice sucker). Checking the battery usage means simply writing down the percentage displayed in the top Android menu bar before and after the test, so it’s not that precise, but it’ll do.

The results after 20 minutes of non-stop music streaming where:

  • WIFI battery usage : 2% drained
  • 3G battery usage : 5% drained

WIFI beats 3G with more than half of the battery usage in this (not so inaccurate) test. But still, it gives a pretty clear idea of the winner here. So roughly speaking, on 3G you have about 6 hours of music to go and a whopping 16 hours on WIFI before your battery is dead, if you have a Sony Xperia. Taking mobile data costs into account, WIFI certainly seems to be the preferred option to stream anything over.

Heck, I’ll even trow in some pixelarty kinda infographic, to make all the numbers just look a bit more pleasing.

wifi vs 3g battery usage duke-out infographic (sort of)

sync files to your phone with bittorrent sync

Triple Sync

Syncing files with a phone is sometimes a cumbersome and tricky task. I blogged about a few solutions before like this one using FTP, but recently I found another gem.
Bittorrent Sync turns out is awesome to sync large amounts of files over WIFI to and from a mobile device without a lot of effort.

So what is it? Bittorrent Sync is, as you probably guessed, a product from the Bittorrent lads. You can use it to synchronize folders between machines in a distributed, non-centralized way. So you could think of it as Dropbox without having to use the central cloud server. There are
clients for all sorts of operating systems like Windows, Android, Mac and Linux.
The only “downside” here is that you need to have another machine online before the syncing happens as there is no central server that keeps a copy of your files in the cloud. You can also see this as an advantage if you don’t want copies to end up on third-party servers.

So to sync from your main machine to a mobile device, this works perfectly.

Basically you do the following to set up file syncing between your PC and your phone:

  • Install the BTSync application on your PC.
  • Install the BTSync app on your (android) phone.
  • Setup a sync folder on your PC.
  • Scan the QR barcode for this folder from your PC screen with your phone from the app to set up the sync folder on your phone.
  • Sit back and watch the magic happen.

Depending on your settings you can use this to sync in both directions, set up multiple sync-folders, sync with multiple machines etc.

It’s awesome, it’s free and it works like a charm.
I love it.

Addendum: if you upgrade from an older version to v2 of Sync your old sync folders might break. I ended up uninstalling and reinstalling Sync on my PC & phone + recreate the sync folders to have it all work flawlessly again.

Photo by Grant Hutchinson, cc-licensed.

the best android ftp server app

Upload / Download

Hooking up your Android phone with a USB cable to your computer is so cumbersome isn’t it? So with that WiFi network you have around the house you might as well fire up a FTP server and transfer your files using FileZilla or WinSCP right?

Of course! But what android FTP server app is good, stable and free to use?
Well I’ve tried a few and I have to say there are a lot of shitty ones out there. Some of them are free as long as you don’t transfer files bigger than 10 or 50MB (boooooh!!), some of them get in trouble when transfer speeds get “high” and crash or loose their connections (booooh!!) and some of them are just too cumbersome to set up (booooh!!)

But I wouldn’t be blogging about it if I didn’t find a pretty damn good one in the bunch. In fact, this one isn’t just a FTP app. ES File Explorer is a darn good file explorer app for your Android phone packed with some extra handy features such as a remote access module, which basically sets up a FTP server on your phone.

The cool part is once you’ve configured it, you can have it drop a shortcut on your home screen to start-up that FTP server with a single tap next time.
It’s awesome and so far it’s stable as a rock. I throw big bunches of large files at it with WinSCP and it takes everything with a smile.

So if you’re looking for a good FTP server for android device, check out ES File Explorer.
It’s also a really good file explorer, can access a bunch of cloud services, uninstall apps, check battery and running apps and much more. In short, this is a good tool to have on your geeky Android tool belt. I imagine it to be a bit like the one Batman has, but with one of those green robots as a belt buckle.

Note: FTP is kinda flaky on android to transfer files sometimes, so recently I tend to use Bittorrent Sync for easy and trouble-free file transfers from and to my phone. However, FTP can still be a quick and dirty way to get files transferred without having to install the BTSync client.

Photo by John Trainor, cc-licensed.

mighty handy android apps

Marvin from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - not again

Well look at that. It’s been since 2010 that I actually reviewed the list of Android apps I often use. Can’t have that now can we? What awesome and fresh new apps would I be using these days? Which ones have I ditched for more shiny or slick ones? Let’s see!

  1. The stock browser. Yes. I’m still using it. The other ones, still too bulky imo and don’t seem to be adding any features I can’t live without.
  2. The stock energy manager had to go for a better one I’m afraid. So now I’m sporting Free Power Widget on my homescreen which also gives me access to Bluetooth & mobile data settings and has customizable colours. Ooh, pretty indeed.
  3. Catch Notes is still there. Kicking note-taking buttocks.
  4. FBReader also still there. Best eReader out there & open source.
  5. Advanced Task Killer Free has gone. The stock one is good enough really.
  6. Tweetdeck. You betcha. Best Twitter app for the phone. Ever. Love the tabs. The tabs make all the difference for me. Slide, slide, slide and you’ve seen everything you want. Awesome. From Twitter Inc nowadays. Makes sense.
  7. Zeam Launcher has now replaced the stock launcher because minimalistic goodness and features. It adds a nice customizable toolbar, double-tab multi-screen overview and the easiest way to uninstall apps ever. You just drop them from the app list onto the trashcan ét voila, you can uninstall that bugger without using the market or “Play” thing, nor having to go through the slow loading and tedious system applications menus.
  8. LittlePhoto is the only phone app besides the stock on I’ve kept around. It’s minimal but has lots of nice filters which you can combine in an endless number of ways until you have the perfect image… all messed up. Not locked into any online photo sharing thing either, so you can just save locally and share to whatever you like.
  9. iPaper is a must if you are already using instapaper.
  10. As photo viewer I’m using QuickPic now. Why? Because the stock one just isn’t fancy enough. It also has more features, but still, sometimes you just want things to look pretty dammit.
  11. Dropbox is worth mentioning too. If you don’t know about it, it’s for syncing your files in the cloud to all your devices, so in this case also your Android phone. Lately they’ve done a great job on the Android app, making it a breeze to upload photo’s (automatically even, which is a bit spooky) or other files to your global cloudy storage space. Beats hooking up that darn USB cable to your PC for sure.
  12. An old version of Acrobat Reader for PDF’s, because the new one is just plain worthless on Android imo. Sorry guys.

Photo by Adam Foster | Codefor, cc-licensed.

getting the old Acrobat Reader back on Android

Tokyo International Forum : Tokyo, Japan / Japón

Acrobat Reader is as far as I know the best PDF reader on an Android device. So every time an update was available, I gladly downloaded it from the market to check out the new features and it’s usually fancier layout.

After the update to Acrobat X however, I found out that they killed the most important feature to easily read PDF’s on a phone. From now on there is no way to have the text of a PDF reflow and resized on that small mobile’s screen. What. The. Fuck?

Without this it becomes extremely annoying to read any PDF, since none of them have been adjusted for reading on a tiny handheld phone’s screen. Reflow & being able to adjust the font size allowed me to use it as an e-book reader. Without that, it gives me instant RSI from constant pinching and scrolling left, right, up & down to be able to fit the text on-screen. And I don’t like RSI.

None of the other PDF Readers seem to have a text reflow feature, except BeamReader. Although this is damn good app, it’s only free for evaluation for 10 days. I didn’t feel like spending 7 Euro on something that I used to have for free, so I kept looking for another solution.

So how about getting the old version back of Acrobat Reader? That would fix it right? You can’t do that through the market unfortunately, but I did find a copy on a website called freewarelovers.com. I know this is something to be wary about, so take care if you’re following me down this path. Downloading apps from websites like this is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. I did get the 9.0 version of Acrobat Reader from it though, and so far nothing funny happened and I have my text reflow back. Hurray!

Being able to restore/install older version of apps would be a nice feature. Not all updates are going to turn out as they should, or as you’d want them to on your phone. I’m wondering if you guys and girls have another way of dealing with this kind of thing too.

Photo by Miguel Michán, cc-licensed