Brandon's Notepad

May 1, 2013

Android Applications: Web Browsers

Home > My Lists > Android Applications > Web Browsers


Web browsing is an essential part of the tablet user experience, and there is no shortage of browser options available on the Android platform, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. With nothing to lose, I decided to try several. Here are my conclusions.


Evaluation Criteria

Actually, for this post, I’m not going to focus on a list of specific features or performance benchmarks. Browsers perform one basic job and should do so well. No one is going to complain that their browser is too fast or that it seems to handle any and all multimedia content thrown at it without flaw. We just expect these things, and there are plenty of other sites that cover benchmark testing and the like. Also, I was trying to find a good all-purpose browser, which may not be what everyone else needs. Plus, features change over time and good technology today is (hopefully) replaced by better technology tomorrow. That’s not to say that I didn’t have specific requirements going into this evaluation (and I do mention some of them below), but the specific criteria don’t seem to matter as much in the long run as the process for evaluation and the overall philosophy that came about as a result.

The Best

Ultimately, I decided to stick with the big name browsers: Chrome, Firefox & Opera. These proved to be the most stable and the most feature rich. They had by far the biggest footprints, but they were still small in comparison to the space available on my tablet. Tabbed and private browsing functions are big selling points, and these were not available in other smaller offerings, at least not at first. Chrome is my favorite. Its user interface is more slick than Firefox’s (IMHO) and the ability to share open tabs across devices (e.g. with Chromium on my laptop) is very useful. Firefox is still my second-favorite browser, and though the placement of tabs on the side in landscape mode is less efficient, it does make for easy tab navigation. Opera has some nice eye candy, like the Start Page grid, but I have not been pleased with the overall performance or feel, so I usually only open Opera if I need to access a page that won’t load using the other two. Ironically, there were some sites that I visit frequently that would not work in Opera, and even if this improves over time (through patches and/or changes in content) as long as Chrome and Firefox work as well as they do, I don’t really have a vested interest in making Opera by browser of choice. Security, frequency of updates, quality of testing, and other software development issues played a role in the decision to stick with the big guys as well.

The Rest

Each of the other offerings I tried seemed to cater to specific needs. Some emphasized how lightweight they were, which means they would work better on lower end phones than the default browser (and thus, far better than the heavyweights discussed above). Simplicity was also a selling point, targeting users with smaller screens. Of course, there were those few that included user interface features that they hoped would catch on like wild fire. But none of them had it all, or at least enough to effectively compete with Chrome and Firefox for my loyalty. I did try Dolphin Browser (HD & Mini) early on, which came highly recommended by a friend. The magazine view looked very appealing, but again, that’s just eye candy, and I never did latch on to the gesture interface, despite my Palm Pilot nostalgia. I did get really excited about the Pocket browser (formerly Read It Later) for offline browsing, but in practice I never put it to much use. There were others, but the details don’t seem worth mentioning now.

The Future

Does this mean I’m not going to try out new browsers going forward? Not at all. In fact, while I was redrafting this post, I read about the Puffin browser. I had seen the name in passing, but I never looked into it. And who knows what else the future of browsers holds?


February 27, 2012

Android Applications

ShortURL: http://goo.gl/wUxLzx
Home > My Lists > Technology > Android Applications


This page started off as a list of apps I wanted to try, become a set of reviews, and now contains a mixture of elements that I consider part of my Android experience.


Android & Me

A few years ago, I bought a tablet computer. It was a bit of a luxury, but it proved to be very convenient for things like casual browsing at the coffee shop and checking off shopping list items at the grocery store. I was using it more like a PDA than a browsing platform or ebook reader. I had already started compiling a long list of apps that I wanted to try, and after I started using the tablet on a regular basis, I started posting short reviews for many of them. At some point, it became impossible for me to keep up with the new offerings and all of the updates, and my work on this topic stopped. I continued to use the unit for some time, and then I was given an iPhone by my employer. My need for the tablet dissipated, and now I plan to repurpose the unit as a desktop MP3 player. I am now more interested in documenting my experiences with the Android tablet, retaining whatever remains useful from the reviews.

Reviews

I’m slowly migrating the sections below into bite-sized posts.

Productivity

Editing & Notetaking.

AK Notepad. [468K] By the makers of Catch (below). This appears to be a very simple notepad, but does allow tagging and export.
Catch. [size varies]
Evernote. [6.9M] I have started using Evernote online and love it! The app is great too!
Inkpad Notepad. [445K] I created an account and used this notepad online. It’s clean and simple, but I was hoping to see the same options as are shown on the screenshots for the Android app, namely the ability to create checkbox-laden to-do lists. All I get is blank notebook paper.
OneNote. [7M] Well, first of all, it’s made by Microsoft, which almost automatically disqualifies if from my list; however, I was impressed with it a few years ago when tablet PCs (read: laptops with swivel screens) first came out. It’s limited to a certain number of notes before you have to pay a license fee, and it does not appear that notes can be exported. I think I have better options.

Planners.

DGT GTD + Toodledo. [1.3M + 233K] This app syncs with Toodledo (with extension), which I already use for GTD components. I need this, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s third-party and only in beta testing.
Pocket Informant. [2.4M] It syncs with Toodledo and I like the book layout interface! The User Guide is available in PDF format on the Market page. I need to read this before deciding. For $13, which is a lot for an Android app, I expect it to work well.

Religion

Laudate (Catholic One). [4.8M] This is one of the first apps I had to evaluate. Confession: I installed it on a tab in the store. It has a lot of good stuff! I wrote to the author who confirmed that the lectionary and divine office require an Internet connection, but smaller content, such as prayers, rosary, and stations do not. Interestingly, the NAB Bible relies on a connection, but the Douay Rheims does not — I wonder if this is due to copyright restrictions. I came to realize that I could download most, if not all, of the same content to an SD card in PDF or TXT format, and/or cache it with Read It Later (see above).

Photography

Skitch. [1.5M] I definitely want this app if for nothing but to annotate pictures to post on Facebook.
Measure & Sketch.
My Measures & Dimensions.

Utilities (was System/Toys)

Bump. [2.7M] Recommended by a friend, but it looks like it’s most useful for phones, and I’m not sure I’d use it for much of anything at all.
Graffiti. [free:4.1M pro:2M] Palm-style data input. From what I’ve read, it disables some browser zooming.
Sky Map. [2.2M] Great reviews, and it’s not critical for me, so I will probably use it. I can get back into astronomy again!
Swype. Similar to Graffiti (above). I don’t see it on the Market anymore.
Voxer. [3.2M] PTT/walkie talkie functionality. Probably not necessary on a tablet. Perhaps on a phone. Recommended by a friend.
Connectbot. [707K] Installed this at a store. All I could do was ‘cd’ and ‘ls’. No grep, sed, perl, etc. The good stuff (if it exists) probably requires rooting the tablet.
Juice Defender. [size varies] Comes in regular ($0), plus ($2), and ultimate ($5). Recommended by a friend. I will probably try it.
Lookout. [3.3M] Security and antivirus suite recommended by a friend.
App Organizer. Recommended by a friend to keep app icons organized and not cluttered.

Yet To Research

Milage Tracker. I’d like to capture the data once.
Mindmapping. I’ve used MindMeister in the past. I don’t use this type of tool often.
DOT Reader. I’ve used Graphviz in the past and can create the files with a text editor.
PicsArt – Photo Studio
Sketch Notes
FreeNote
Note Plus +
GMemory


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