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Interesting random stuff

5 alternatives to Whatsapp

Now that Whatsapp is part of Facebook, some might feel a bit exposed using it. But I wouldn’t worry about Facebook doing something with their chat conversation data. I would worry more about the fact that it has been known to have very weak security.

Also last weekend, after the Facebook purchase, the service had a major fail. I had several friends going back to SMS messages to communicate.

So for those cases, here are 5 alternatives to Whatsapp in case you don’t like it, don’t trust it or when it fails:

### Line

line logo

Besides normal chat like Whatsapp, Line offers free video and voice calls. It has emoji like Whatsapp plus stickers, and you can also send location, photos, videos and voice messages in the chat stream. Another plus with Line is that it has a desktop client, so you can reply and continue your conversations on your desktop while doing other things, instead of having to reach your phone every time.

Download Line

### Viber

viber logo

Viber also supports emoji, stickers (and you can download extra ones if you need), and like Whatsapp it supports group messages with up to 100 members. Besides texts, Viber only supports voice calls. Like Line, it also has a desktop client. Oh, and they explicitly say they value your privacy.

Download Viber

### Telegram

telegram logo

When Whatsapp went down, Telegram signed up 5 million new users. This app is getting more popular every day.

Telegram supports group chats with a maximum of 200 members. You can share photos and any other media, and videos up to 1Gb. The most unique feature of Telegram is Secure Chats. These chats have end-to-end encryption and they claim are not logged in the chat servers. Also you can set them to auto delete themselves after certain time on both ends.

They also claim to be concerned about your privacy and security and they show it with their features. They also claim to never disclose data to third parties.

The interface is very similar to Whatsapp if you’re migrating from that. The downside is that it doesn’t support voice or video chats. It supports emoji but no stickers like other clients and no desktop client either. Although you can install it on a tablet, it lacks a tablet design.

Download Telegram

### Skype

skype logo

Well, we all know Skype by now. It supports chats with very limited emoticons, no emoji or stickers. You can send files but not share pictures easily in the chat timeline. The advantage of Skype is its large user base and its voice and video chats. And if you have skypeout or similar you can have an additional phone number to receive calls on any device.

Download Skype

### Google Hangouts

hangouts logo

Hangouts is Google’s chat client replacing Google Talk. It supports voice and video chats, emoji, photos and location (no videos or voice messages for now). It has a desktop client (actually a Chrome extension) so you can continue your chats anytime your browser is open, or you can do it while having your Gmail or Google+ window open. Like Google+ in the social media landscape, Google Hangouts is a late-comer into the mobile messaging world and it has slowly been adopting features from its competitors. But since it has the Gmail user base behind it and every new Android phone seems to have Hangouts included, it is slowly gaining popularity and it is very likely that your friends already have it, ready to receive your messages in case other services are unavailable.

Download Hangouts

If your concerns are more into the privacy and security area, I recommend you to read my post about secure communication apps.

Categories
personal

Replaced my Galaxy Nexus with a Motorola X

When I woke up in the morning, it never crossed my mind that I was going to change my phone that day.

I’ve been off contract for several months. If I wanted to go back in to contract, I would need a good deal since I was on an unlimited data plan that are no longer offered. Another benefit that I should look into a new contract is the price of a new phone.

Since I’ve used my Galaxy Nexus for two years and have been very happy with the stock Android experience, I didn’t want to go back into a custom branded phone; like something with Samsung’s Touchwiz for example.

I started the day by getting lunch at P.F. Chang’s, and right across the street there was a Telcel customer service office. So I went over there just to be curious on what was available, and surprisingly got a good deal: a lower rate contract since I not using all the minutes I was paying for, and a relatively good price on the Motorola X phone.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Motorola X

Coming from using the Galaxy Nexus, the improvements are very noticeable. Not in the software, which are minor tweaks, but in the performance. The GNex has 1GB RAM vs the Moto X’s 2GB RAM that make a world of difference in load and response times.

The screen is very bright and I love the contrast (is it called dynamic range?) of the blacks and the bright colors.

Although the general software is pure Google Android, it has some special software like Touchless control and display notifications. I comes with Android 4.2.2, and not the current 4.3 version. The Motorola sales guy told me that it will upgrade to 4.4 “as soon as it comes out”, but I take his word with a grain of salt. You can also install the Motorola Connect Chrome extension so you can read your SMS messages and review your call log on the computer screen.

Also the camera software is different from stock Android, which I still haven’t tested thoroughly. Upgrading my mobile camera from the GNex’s 8 megapixel camera to the Moto X’s 10.2 megapixel camera sounds like a nice improvement that I still have to test and compare in detail. I like the fact that with two swings of the wrist the camera quickly activates. I got tired of spending 8 to 12 seconds to bring up the camera on the GNex, most times missing the moment, and don’t get me started on the focusing. The Moto X camera seems to focus pretty fast the couple times I’ve tried it so far.

The only complain I have so far on the Moto X is the Gallery app. It doesn’t sync all my web albums. So all I see are the photos stored in the phone. I don’t want to replace the gallery app with some untrusted version. The same thing happens with my CyanogenMod tablet, but I’m willing to experiment on that one more than on my new device.

I know that at the time of this writing and my recent purchase, the Nexus 5 is only days away from being announced. But I don’t regret my purchase. It will take weeks for it to start hitting the streets and months for it to get offered by my mobile provider at probably double the price than in the US. I guess I’ll still want a Nexus 5 when it comes out, but for now I can wait a few months, to save up for it while I figure out how I can order it from the US and get it shipped to Mexico, but more importantly, read comments and feedback from the early adopters.

Categories
GNU/Linux Free Software & Open Source personal

Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich from Telcel

Galaxy Nexus box

I was lucky to get an online coupon to get the Galaxy Nexus phone on launch in Mexico (Telcel carrier) last thursday.

The software and usability

I wanted to give the phone some use before writing about it so I waited some weeks to post anything about it. I think it’s a very fast and elegant phone and the new operating system is key to its success. The good news is that the Galaxy Nexus was not altered by the carrier, so it has no crapware on it. It’s 100% Google’s Android Ice Cream Sandwich.

Having used for months the Samsung Galaxy Tab with Honeycomb, moving to ICS was not a big deal to me, but I can imagine that it would be a big leap for Gingerbread users. The interface is very different and they way you interact with apps has also changed. Since there are no “physical” buttons, or touchable buttons like in the Galaxy S and S2, all buttons are on screen. The menu button is gone, so for apps that use it you need to look for a button that has three vertical dots. That can be very confusing at first, but having used the Honeycomb’s Gtalk and Gmail apps, it was easy to figure that out immediately.

One friend once complained about Android taking too long to open the contacts list. On the Galaxy S it took a couple seconds to load. I don’t know if this is Samsung specific or all 2.x versions had this lag. On ICS there is no lag when opening the contacts list, it has a very fast scroll and it has a very nice and clean design.

For the security aware people, ICS now comes with an option to encrypt your phone, a feature that was present in Honeycomb as well for the tablets (but I hadn’t tried until now). The bad news about it is that once you decide to encrypt your phone, you can no longer use swipe, pattern or face unlock screens. Only PIN and passphrase unlock screens are available. I didn’t expect that but I don’t mind, I “ported” my pattern to a PIN and use that. I can’t imagine typing a passphrase everytime you want to unlock your phone.

Galaxy Nexus with Ice Cream Sandwich

The hardware and design

On the hardware design part, I like the fact that the headphone jack is at the bottom and not at the top like in the Galaxy S, this makes it more comfortable and a more natural movement when taking it out of your pocket without having to flip it around. I sometimes miss the front button that you could tap quickly to turn on the screen.

My surprise though, was that when I read the Galaxy Nexus official website, it says it has 32Gb of internal storage and no indication of any alternative options. The version I got, has only 13Gb and since it has no SD card slot to expand your storage, this can get quite limited.

The Galaxy Nexus has a multicolor notification LED that is very practical to see what type of notification you haven’t seen. The downside is that the LED blinks very slowly, so you have to stare at your phone for a couple seconds to see if there’s anything blinking. On the Galaxy S I used BLN notification and when I had a notification, the LEDS were always on. If only I could make the Galaxy Nexus LED blink faster it would be more practical.

Compared to the Galaxy S2, the phone’s camera is “smaller” on the Galaxy Nexus, and by that I mean that it has a 5 megapixel camera vs the Galaxy S2’s 8 megapixel camera. The good news is that it has a zero delay shutter speed so as soon as you hit the button, the picture is taken. Long shutter lags was one of my biggest rants on previous phone cameras, so for me this is a must have on every phone from now on.

Battery lasts longer than my Galaxy S, for which I’ve had to buy an additional battery because it drains so quickly. Still you have to take the normal battery saving considerations of turning off things that you don’t need, but it still lasts longer on idle. It’s a bigger battery as well, so it might be just that.

Conclusion

Having used the phone for a couple weeks now, I noticed that for me there was little difference in speed and usability to use the Galaxy Tab with Honeycomb or the Galaxy Nexus with ICS. But I could feel a difference when using the Galaxy S with Gingerbread. I went on a weekend trip taking only my phone and I didn’t miss my Tab or my laptop to do my causal browsing and information consuming “needs”. But I couldn’t say the same if I just had the Gingerbread phone, the larger screen and the commodities of ICS in the Galaxy Nexus makes it a very fast and comfortable mobile device. ICS is a very well built mobile operating system that is not designed as only a smartphone like the 2.x Android versions. I’m very happy with this new phone and I recommend it greatly.

Categories
personal

Arriving late to the mobile computing era

mobile computing

As I’ve mentioned on previous posts, I recently got an android phone. And I don’t say “smartphone” because I had a Nokia N95, which was considered a “smartphone” back around 2007 or so. But this phone is different. Ever since the BlackBerry and the iPhone got out and then the Android OS devices, the small device in your pocket was no longer “just a phone”.

I know, I’m VERY late to write about this topic as if it was today’s novelty. The fact is that at the time of this writing, not everyone yet has joined the mobile computing world. I would like to share some of the things I’ve been using my phone, for others who, like me, are joining late the smartphone world.

So, for those who are still thinking on getting a smartphone, and wondering what’s the big deal or the big buzz around the topic, here are three basic ideas that I’ve found out after I got my android device:

Your device is not a phone, its a pocket computer.

That’s the first paradigm I noticed to be a big shift. What’s the big deal about it? Well, you can install and create lots of applications that you can use as entertainment, but specially to assist you on the go. You would never have on your desktop/laptop an application to split the restaurant tab, or remind you your grocery list, or aided with GPS and accelerometers to track your exercises. Its a different kind of computing you’ll be experiencing.

Your device is an extension of your desktop/laptop.

With applications like Chrome2Phone, you can easily extend what you’re doing on your computer to your mobile device. I sometimes search for an address on my computer browser, since the normal keyboard is more comfortable, and use this app to send the map to my phone, so I can use it on the road to get to my destination. Once I traveled to Mexico city for 7 days and did not used my laptop at all! Games, browsing, socializing, were all done from my phone (I did no programming those days, I was on vacations).

Your device is an extension of your memory and yourself.

Having a computer in you pocket handy for whenever you need it and packed with applications for many uses, you can have a better control of your time and tasks. Your to-do list, your calendar, your contacts, your social network notifications, your camera, all this in real-time sync with the online world and your computer can help you not miss anything, from attending a meeting, tracking your health or saving a moment through a video or photo and immediately sharing it to get real-time feedback.

For those who have already been in the mobile computing era for a while, what has been your experience? How has your life changed since you got your smartphone?

Photo is Creative Commons Licensed by Johan Larsson on Flickr