Mar 21, 2015
Mar 20, 2015
So you bought a new Windows Phone device. Congratulations!
Windows Phones stand out; they are colorful (Lumia’s at least), they have a unique start screen, beautiful apps, and they are pretty… rare.
You are going to be unique and people will ask you questions about the phone, “how is it?”, “do you enjoy it?”, “what the hell is this thing?”, “what version of Android does it run?”, but the biggest question will remain:
Can a Windows Phone meet your growing needs and expectations from a smartphone?
Over 6 months ago I started my second Windows Phone journey.
I turned a Microsoft (Nokia) Lumia 1520 to be my primary phone.
Master SIM inside, emails, WhatsApp, productivity tools, photos, social networks, the whole pack.
It took me a decent number of weeks and a lot of time spent wandering around foreign Windows Stores (mainly US) to equip myself and my phone with the best apps and best productivity tools the platform can offer.
One thing if certain: apps are the biggest pain when you use a Windows Phone, but the search of the store makes this pain even bigger, as many great apps are simply impossible to find.
Well, luckily for you, I’m here to share my findings. The below list is based on 6 months of using Windows Phone. My bottom line? I love the phone. Can’t wait to install Windows 10 on top of it!
Best Apps for Windows Phone – Part 1: News & Readers
I’m a freak of RSS readers, and I do most of my reading activities from my mobile devices. I will start my guide with the best News Readers and other apps to stay on top of everything that is happening out there.
iNi ReaderMy number one tool for managing my feeds is Feedly. Unfortunately, Feedly doesn’t run on Windows Phone so I had to find some alternatives. I tried 10-15 different RSS readers, and ended up using iNi Reader.
iNi Reader has the worst name but it's the best Feedly compatible RSS reader for Windows Phone. It’s lightning fast, well designed, has some really good reading options (list with images, small, large, etc.) and provides pretty much an identical experience like the original Feedly app. Truly recommended.
Windows central is the number one resource in the world for anything that has to do with Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Phone. There were times I didn’t care so much about what Microsoft is up to, but ever since Satya Nadella stepped in – there is something new happening every day.
Windows Central provides a very good cover of everything that has to do with Microsoft.
2 Pocket Clients: Poki and Pouch
When you have a lot of reading to do, you often need to save articles for later. I am using Pocket for that (previously called read-it-later), but once again, when it comes to Windows Phone – there is no Pocket client. That sucks!
Here, once again, I had to find a replacement app, and instead of one, I found two great ones.
Pouch – was the first Pocket client for Windows Phone I installed – it’s a modern app, with a design that takes the best of both iOS and Windows Phone worlds; flat, clean, works smoothly, seamless integration with Pocket. I recommend it.
Poki – was the second Pocket compatible app I downloaded and I use it even more than Pouch.
Why? Because it has a killer feature: text to speech functionality that will let you listen to your saved articles.
I spend around 1 hour driving every day and the ability to listen to my “read it later” articles boosts my productivity.
Presentations are something I enjoy a lot, so naturally TED is one of my favorite apps on any phone I use.
The TED app for Windows Phone is very good. It works well and provides a fun experience.
I’m not a heavy user of Reddit, but I do use it whenever I am trying to find up-to-date information on certain topics.
Readit is a Reddit client for Windows Phone and it works better than other alternatives. If you are a heavy Reddit user – check it out.
By the way Appy Geek is designed, I think it was originally created for Windows Phone. The tile-based UI and the animated transitions between the sections make it feel like an integral part of Windows Phone.
Unlike other news readers – Appy Geek doesn’t let you control your feed sources, and instead you are required to select the topics that interest you. The thing I like with Appy Geek is that the app sends you push notifications with the titles of those topics, so you are getting updates and news headlines in a push manner, rather than having to look for them.
The updates can become annoying at times, but as a technology addict I prefer to have annoy me than to miss important announcements.
Last app in the “news” section is BestDailyApps. It is not always dynamic enough with new content, but it does list the relatively new (or raising) apps in the store. Since the search mechanism of the store is really bad – I use this app to stay updated with new apps that may interest me.
This summarizes the first part of my guide, in the next ones I will focus on productivity tools, entertainment apps and apps that will make your start screen look like the sexiest thing in the mobile world.
Mar 15, 2015
If you are sitting in your office all day working with a computer – these products might interest you; LumoBack and LumoLift - Two wearables that will remind you to sit straight, stand tall, walk and feel amazing.
Your Lumo products are small, magnetic wearable devices that track your posture and daily activity. The LumoBack should be placed like a belt, the LumoLift can be clipped to a shirt using the magnetic clasp.
The products come, of course, with a companion app that will show you your stats along the day.
The LumoLift also supports counting your steps, movements, and overall activities.
- Skeptical about wearables? Here are 5 ways wearables will change your life
- 5 Tips to make your Apple Watch battery last longer.
- Oral-B has a smart Toothbrush that will help you better brush your teeth
Here are some videos to demonstrate the products.
Mar 14, 2015
Mar 12, 2015
- Rich text editor with bullets and ordered lists
- Good support for drafts, local or web based
- Seamless way to insert images and edit their size, text, layout. Definitely a unique capability in this space when talking about mobile editors
- Ability to embed YouTube videos in 2 clicks. Another winner!
- Labels support and lookup
- Stable UI - . I didn't encounter any bug so far and I'm using few times a day.
- Smooth experience and great UI
Mar 11, 2015
- Researches show that people check their smartphones 150 - 220 times a day, most of them driven by a notification. Given that a watch is much more accessible than a phone - the numbers will end up being much higher than Apple's 90 estimated checks. I'm getting over 150 emails a day, that means 150 notifications before counting whatsapp, text, phone calls, and social notifications.
- Many of the early wearable adopters buy those expensive gadgets for fitness purposes. For this people, 30 minutes workout are way off target. I workout in the gym for around 1 hour, measuring my heartbeat. Then I start my run that is typically longer than 30 minutes, and I'm a beginner. Some of my friends run for around an hour and from my experience the workout tracking and heartbeat sensor consume a lot of battery power.
- Reduce screen brightness and the time it takes the screen to automatically shut itself down. Painful, but not as painful as finding yourself wandering around without a watch all evening.
- Cancel the heart-rate periodic checks. I did it with the Microsoft Band and it improved the battery life dramatically. Unless you have heart issues, only activate this function when working out.
- Cancel your emails push notifications. Yes. Cancel them completely, not just for your watch, from your iPhone as well. Emails, unlike other interrupts are more likely to take longer to read and answer. Cancel email notifications (or at least configure them to work for VIP contacts only) and save more than 100 notifications per day. This tip will improve your smartwatch battery life and your brain performance.
- Switch to airplane mode when working on important stuff. A Smartwatch that keeps vibrating on your wrist can be extremely annoying. When I'm in the office, working on something that requires full concentration, I often switch to airplane mode. This helps me better concentrate and saves significant battery power.
- Do not make phone calls from your watch. It's ridiculous. This is why we have phones... Avoid speaking through your watch and save significant battery.
Mar 10, 2015
Traveling back from MWC15, I went over my smartwatch notes and noticed many of the Android players demonstrated smartwatches which were not running Android Wear.
In an attempt to better understand the smartwatch market I’ve collected the names (and details) of the different operating systems used by today’s (and tomorrow’s) smartwatches. I’m happy to share with your the definitely incomplete list of wearable operating systems!
Smartwatch Operating System – A Fragmented World
Probably the OS with the fastest progress, Android Wear was recently reported to account for just 15% of smartwatch sales in 2014 (total of 700,000 devices). That’s not much, mainly because the platform was only introduced in the middle of the year and still suffers from serious limitations and battery life challenges.
Android Wear OS is designed to be paired with Android smartphones (version 4.3 and on), but there are already rumors that an iOS app will be available soon. Android Wear is available mostly as an open source, but just like with Android – Google is protecting its’ IP by adding a closed layer of services such as Google Now on top of the basic layers.
Android Wear supports both rectangle and rounded screens. There are already thousands of apps supporting Android Wear notifications but less apps that actually provide advanced functionality from the watch itself.
Leading Devices by; Samsung, Sony, Motorola (Lenovo), LG, ASUS, Huawei. Most of the development is done by Google.
Tizen for Wearables
Tizen OS is developed by Intel, Vodafone, Orange, Samsung. The lightweight version of this operating system is called: Tizen for Wearable and is led by Samsung, who happens to also develop Android Wear smartwatches.
Tizen for Wearables is an open source OS and can run standalone apps (without any connection to a host app on a smartphone) which is quite unique for wearable operating systems, it can also run integrated apps and linked apps.
Developed by Pebble Technology Corp, Pebble OS is a custom version of FreeRTOS – a real-time OS for embedded devices. Pebble OS can be paired with iOS and Android smartphones and provides integrated notifications as well as activity tracking. Pebble’s low footprint allows very long battery life.
Pebble’s first smartwatch model was the first smartwatch in the world to shift 1 Million units. There are over 6,000 apps and watch faces and the popularity of this platform is considered to be surprisingly high.
Recently, the OS added support for Android Wear notifications which means Android Wear apps with integrated push notification capabilities will also work with Pebble smartwatches.
If you are not familiar with webOS – here’s a story you simply must read.
The platform that was originally created by Palm, was targeted to run on phones, switched hands several times, and found itself inside wearables by LG, who’s also using it on other smart devices such as smart TVs and washing machines. Needless to say that like Samsung, LG is also creating Android Wear-based smartwatches.
Did I mention wearables fragmentation already?
WebOS is fully based on web technologies and has some powerful features, such as being able to run completely stand alone (which means the smartwatch can operate as a phone using SIM card).
LG recently released the LG Watch Urbane LTE which is the first watch running WebOS.
Read also: The amazing story of webOS
While writing these lines the Apple Watch is not yet released, but it’s fair to say it’s going to be a big hit.
The Apple Watch is running Watch OS, which is a subset of iOS, designed to run on smartwatches. Watch OS devices can only be paired with iOS devices (iPhones mainly) and cannot run apps in a stand alone mode.
Similarly to Android Wear – Watch OS will run the app on the smartphone and a small extension of it will reside on the watch. It seems like the first release will have one significant drawback: poor battery life (18 hours normal use), but knowing Apple – this will probably not stop millions of people from buying the watch.
Developed by Microsoft, the Microsoft Band is mostly a fitness tracker and doesn’t run an operating system.
However, the Band does have a built-in software which is kind of OS agnostic, and can run apps using the Microsoft’s Wearable Architecture paired with iOS, Android, Windows and Windows Phone.
The Band uniqueness is with the set of 10 sensors, supported by the Band software and as of early February 2015 – available for developers via an SDK.
Firefox OS for Wearables
Firefox OS is a Linux kernel-based open source operating system designed to provide a complete community-based alternative for mobile devices. Firefox OS for wearables is a subset of Firefox OS and is designed to run on low-cost wearables and “things” (smart devices). The OS has not been released yet.
Fitbit & Garmin
Its funny that two of the biggest players in the wearable market; Fitbit & Garmin, appears at the end of the list. The reason is that both Fitbit and Garmin smartwatches and smartbands do not run operating systems.
Both Fitbit and Garmin smartwatches (and activity trackers) can be paired with iOS, Android, and Windows Phone, and latest models by the two companies support notifications just like other smartwatches. Fitbit is considered to be one of the pioneers in fitness bands.
Smartwatch Market Landscape
It’s hard to find a report that shows the market shares of each of the wearable operating systems. The current reports talk about specific models and devices. It’s known that Android Wear is responsible for 15% of 2014 smartwatch sales (700,000 units) which is not a lot. Pebble sold 1 million Pebble smartwatches but Samsung was the leader overall with a long list of different models.
Here are the top 10 smartwatch companies for 2014:
To recap this blog post, here’s an overview of the leading operating systems for smartwatches, in a presentation format for your convenience.
Presentation: The Fragmented World of Wearable Operating Systems
This article was written for the mobile spoon.