Announcing Digital Lust Media and Android Legacy!

Greetings, internet users!

Today, I have a very special announcement to make.  As some of my Twitter followers may have noticed, there has been a long silence from me.  Fear not, Digital Lust has not ended, nor is it going anywhere!  Before my disappearance, I had an entire week of Android coverage, to some pretty awesome results.  This “test” was to see how various types of coverage would handle on their own, and Android week did so well, that I have decided to branch out the content you see on Digital Lust.

I am announcing today a brand new format for Digital Lust, that will be established in phases, called Digital Lust Media.  Under the new format, Digital Lust Media will comprise of several different blogs under one umbrella.  The first of the new blogs, Android Legacy, will be going live tomorrow.  Android Legacy will be the one-stop source to everything Android.  We’ll have gadget reviews, app reviews, how-to’s (video included with our new YouTube channel, coming soon!), and much, much more.  Android Legacy will launch tomorrow.

In October, a new iPad-themed blog will also go live, and later down the road, an Internet-themed blog will also launch.  The main Digital Lust homepage will become a hub for all of the new blogs.  Stick to Digital Lust Media for more details about what is to come!

 

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Battle of the Apps: Android Keyboards

In this week’s Battle of the Apps, we’re taking a look at a few alternative keyboards that you can install to your Android device. The stock keyboard that comes pre-installed on your device may work just great (HTC’s stock keyboard is pretty great), but many developers have created alternatives that provide users with more features than the stock keyboard, such as better word prediction, or complete elimination of needing to “type,” but “swipe” instead. We’re going to look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of four different keyboards–Swiftkey X, Swype, 8pen, and Thumbs Keyboard, and determine which of the them is putting on your device.

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Some stock keyboards, such as HTC’s, work great, but miss the spot on word prediction and other features that you might find crucial to faster use.

SwiftKey X
SwiftKey X is great. It’s a keyboard that has a heavy emphasis on word prediction, and bases what you’re going to type next based on your typing history. It allows you to analyze your typing history (specifically through text messages) and determine your typing pattern, which then allows you to type faster right from the get go. The word prediction bar that you typically see in several other keyboards gets larger with SwiftKey X, with the word that you will most likely use in the center of the screen to make it easier to select.

There’s one disadvantage to SwiftKey compared to the other keyboards that I’m going to look at today, and that is the size of the different keys. They’re quite small, which might make it harder to use in comparison to keyboards with larger keys. For those with big fingers, you may not be able to use it, which is unfortunate, because it truly has amazing features.

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Swype
Swype seems to be everyone’s favorite thing these days. It’s starting to show up pre-installed on many devices, but for those who do not have it pre-installed, you can sign up for the beta at the developer’s website. Swype gets rid of the need to type, and replaces that input with swiping. You swipe your finger to each letter that you want to type, and let go when you finish typing your word. If Swype doesn’t recognize the word you’re trying to swipe, just type it out and add it to the dictonary, and you shouldn’t have a problem with it being recognized in the future.

Swype could be considered the perfect keyboard, yet has a couple of flaws that might turn you away. The skin on the keyboard isn’t the most attractive. I like my keyboard to be themed neutrally, so that it matches everything and gives the phone more aesthetic value. Hopefully, Swype will provide theming support in the future to give users more variety.

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8pen
8pen is a tricky one, and not something that should be tried by anyone with little or no patience. It takes the entire traditional QUERTY keyboard concept and gets rid of it, completely. With 8pen, all of your letters, numbers, and symbols are on 8 different quadrants of an X. To get to each letter, you start in the middle of the screen, swipe to the quadrant that contains your letter, and then swipe around the “keyboard area” until your letter lights up, and then return to the center. The developer states that once users are used to it, they should be typing letters much faster and more accurately than with a traditional keyboard.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 8pen seems like more of a failed experiment than anything else. I can’t say that I would recommend using this keyboard unless you’re extremely bored and looking to try something different. In my opinion, it takes much longer to type even one letter than it would on a traditional keyboard. Typing full sentences are quite difficult to, and by the time you’ve finished typing what you need to type, your arm will likely be hurting. If you’re looking to try something different, its kinda fun at first to learn–and then it just becomes annoying.

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Thumbs Keyboard
Thumbs Keyboard is one of the newest alternative keyboards out there, and is getting a remarkable response from users. The app allows you to adjust the size of your keys, to make them work better for you. They also have several different skins to customize your keyboard even further. It has a pretty good word prediction system. In essence, Thumbs Keyboard is everything that users want in a keyboard to make typing easier.

And it works well, too. I noticed a little bit of lag when I was using it for the first time, and at first, even with larger keys, it took some time to adjust to. This one, however, will clearly be a fan favorite, just because of the full customization options.

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All of the keyboards have their advantages and disadvantages. The one that I had the most fun using, however, was SwiftKey X, despite the smaller keys. The keyboard makes it much easier to send out your texts and emails faster and more accurately. If I had to put an order to which keyboards are the best, from first to last, that order would be:

1. SwiftKey X
2. Thumbs Keyboard
3. Swype
4. 8pen

The Advantages of Rooting Your Android Device

Do you know what the single greatest feature of Android is? It has quite a few, but the fact that it is based on the open-source Linux system makes it an absolute dream for hardware manufacturers, who have absolute freedom in how they design their products to utilize the Android platform most effectively. Even better than that fact, is that with a rooted Android device, it opens the door for anyone to customize their experience to better suit their needs. In a world where customization is key to success, Android certainly has an upper advantage to Apple, Microsoft, and RIM.

Of course, the hardware manufacturers do not want you to “root” your phone. “Rooting” is the term used to describe unlocking your bootloader and allowing you to control elements of your phone that you previously did not. The bootloader is what starts your phone and runs it. By exploiting a hole in the bootloader, developers can make it easy for you to unlock your device, and customize it in a way that your manufacturer may not necessarily want you to.

Just a word of warning, though: Rooting your device will void your warranty, should something happen and the phone become inoperable after tweaking. It’s not for the faint of heart, so if you do not have even the most basic knowledge of coding or programming, you probably should not consider rooting your phone.

Since rooting requires a different process on practically every different piece of Android hardware, I’m not going to show you how it’s done. It’s easy on some phones, and harder on others. If you want to proceed, after reading the advantages listed below, visit XDA Developers, go to the forums, and search for your device. There should be instructions somewhere in each phone’s set of forums that will provide you with a step by step rundown of how it works. For now though, let’s take a look at some of the top advantages of rooting your device:

1. Custom ROM support eliminates all of that bloatware
As mobile devices become more powerful and have more storage space on them–your carrier will likely fill them with more and more “bloatware.”. Bloatware is the term for applications that are put on your phone when you get it, that you may not necessarily ever use. For example, Sprint packs Blockbuster, it’s own GPS service, and a bunch of other apps onto the Evo 3D. Since I typically use both Netflix and Google Maps as alternatives for these apps, they become useless and unnecessary to have on my device. Unfortunately, unlike applications that you install, you cannot uninstall pre-installed software.

The ROM on your phone is the operating system. Developers, looking to get their foot in the door in the developing world, spend days, weeks, and months creating custom versions of the Android software that aim to increase performance over the stock ROM. These custom ROMs will install a fresh copy of Android, minus all of that bloatware garbage that you don’t want. The elimination of this software alone will help increase your storage space, and your available memory bank as well.

2. Superuser Privileges
What are “superuser” privileges? They allow an app that typically changes some kind of setting on your phone to do what you want it to. When you root your device, this application is typically installed with it, allowing you to download apps that would allow you to “tweak” your phone. Good examples would include–file managers, CPU adjusters, tethering apps (we don’t condone violating your carrier’s tethering policies. Just don’t do it), screenshot applications, and software tweaking apps.

3. Tweak your performance!
Performance is everything in today’s age of faster mobile devices. Everyone needs their information quicker, and by tweaking the performance levels on your phone, you can do just that! Through apps like SetCPU, where you can adjust the processor speed on your phone (be very cautious with this, as it can destroy your phone. Do not attempt if you do not know what you’re doing!!), and custom “kernels (custom CPU settings that will automatically tweak your processor for better battery life, speed, etc.),” you can make your performance better than a stock device.

Again, I cannot emphasize the danger of tweaking your CPU settings if you do not know what you’re doing. Custom kernels are the best way to avoid “bricking” your phone. On XDA Developers, you can find a whole selection of custom kernels for your device, which aim to either increase speed or battery life. Find what’s best for you, and flash it to your phone. It’s that simple.

4. Complete and total customization
Do you want to run stock Android 2.3.3 Gingerbread, with no software changes or tweaks? It exists in CyanogenMod. If you’re still rockin’ the T-Mobile G1, and you want to run HTC Sense on your ancient device? Its out there.

With the custom ROM support that Android receives, you can do practically anything you want to with your Android experience. There are ROMs out there that mimic the iOS experience, even. If you want to try creating your own ROM, the tools exist out there (though, just like everything else in this post, it’s not for those who don’t know what they are doing!). Whatever you want to do to make your phone YOUR phone, you can pretty much do by rooting your phone. By adding a custom ROM, maybe a custom theme to go with it, custom fonts, and other tweaks–you can really make the Android experience nothing short of spectacular.

If you’re the type that really likes to break free of locked hardware and make your phone completely “yours,” go to XDA and work on rooting your device. Most devices are rootable. You’ll need a PC (Windows, or even easier, Mac and Linux make the process a lot smoother), a data cable, and a good how-to guide, along with some software you would download from XDA. Ater you are rooted, the gateway to mobile freedom is open!

Disclaimer (again): If you do not know what you are doing beforehand, or if the process looks too difficult for you to attempt, DO NOT ATTEMPT IT! Digital Lust takes no responsibility for you turning your phone into a paperweight if you mess it up!

How-To: Save Battery Life on Android Phones

In tonight’s Android How-To, I’m going to show you a little bit about how to save some battery life on your amazing Android device. It’s no surprise that Android phones do not have the greatest battery life–the resources that the phones use in their operating system make them very power-hungry devices. And while it may get frustrating at times, there ARE ways to avoid having to carry a charger or second battery everywhere you go. Lets take a look at a few of my favorite battery saving tactics:

1. Turn data services off!
This one is pretty much a given–if you’re not using your data connections, turn them off! Even when your screen is off, Android devices still keep your data connections on, giving them the ability to suck down your battery at a much higher exponential rate than if they were off. Many Android devices come with a set of widgets to turn your data services on and off. You can find them by long-pressing your home screen, adding a widget, and browsing through the “Settings” category. If your phone does not have these pre-installed, you can always download them on the market, free of charge.

This tip also applies to Bluetooth and GPS, too. Bottom line–anything you’re not using should be turned off. Your battery will thank you. Also, if you’re in an area where there is wifi, use that instead of your 3G or 4G data. The speeds are much greater, and wifi requires less power to run than those attennae.

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2. Auto-syncing data hurts your battery…alot!
Whenever you add a new account to your phone (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.), the phone will want to automatically sync that account with it’s respective service, quite frequently. Even when the data connection is off (if you turned it off after following my first bit of advice), the accounts will want to try and sync, causing your battery to take a hit once an hour (or whatever the sync frequency is). In an effort to save battery, you can very easily disable this feature, and only sync data when you want it to sync. To do this, you’ll just go into Settings>Accounts and Sync, and then uncheck the box that says “Auto sync.”. A widget also exists to enable and disable auto sync, which may make it easier for you if you’re planning on constantly using a data connection. To sync your accounts whenever you want to, just go into the application and refresh it.

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3. Adjust your brightness
If you’ve got auto-brightness enabled, the phone will survey your environmental conditions and select the brightness of your screen for you. This, of course, takes quite a bit of battery, as any slight change in lighting will result in your phone working to find the best brightness level for you. By turning this off, you can select your own brightness based on what is comfortable to you, and only you will be able to change it (not your self-aware phone).

To turn off auto-brightness, take a trip into Settings>Display>Brightness, and uncheck the auto-brightness checkbox. You can adjust your brightness settings here, as well, by adjusting the slider, or download a brightness widget (the one I use is featured in the first screenshot above).

4. Download a battery saving application
This one has never really worked for me too well, but in the Android Market, there exists a couple of different battery saving applications. The one everyone loves is called JuiceDefender. A paid, premium version of the app called UltimateJuice will give you more settings to play with. If you are the type that doesn’t want to turn off your data and all of the other stuff listed above, JuiceDefender will do it for you. I personally recommend doing it all manually, but the option definitely is out there.

With JuiceDefender, you can set schedules based on peak times that you would typically use your data and other features of the phone. Of course, because no two days are exactly the same (at least in my life), you may not want to get this involved. But if you have a stable schedule, it may not hurt for you to try it out.

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5. No Live Wallpapers!
Live Wallpapers are nice. But they are CONSTANTLY utilizing battery resources to keep them moving, even if your phone is off. If you aren’t planning on showing your phone off to your friends, it isn’t a bad idea to keep the live wallpaper use to an extreme minimum. There are millions of normal wallpapers out there that will make your phone look good. If you’re showing your new toy off to friends or family, by all means, use it. But get rid of it before your battery decides to hate you.

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By following these steps, you should be able to help your battery’s daily lifespan double. I have never had my Android device go below 40% battery, even on heavy use days (some of my days start at 5am and end as late as 10pm). By carefully analyzing what you’re using and not letting it run when you’re not using it, you should be able to get similar results.

App Attack: Switch (Android)

In this App Attack, we’re going to look at what could quickly become your new addiction–it’s Switch, and it’s one hell of a mobile game. In a world of Angry Birds and Tap Tap Revenge, does this one stack up? Read on!

The concept of Switch is very familiar–it feels kinda like Tap Tap Revenge, or an old PS2 game that I used to play called Frequency. You control a little plane, flying around a set of four “tracks.”. You’ll have to switch tracks whenever something comes in your way, and as the action progresses, and as the game moves faster, you’ll find that you have to be very quick with your fingers to be able to successfully move forward.

To control your plane, all you have to do is tap the left or right side of the screen to move to the next track. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself moving very quickly from one side of the game board to the other. Along the way, you’ll have to dodge walls and other planes moving across the different tracks. There are invincibility power ups along the way to help during those faster segments of the track. The goal here is to go the farthest you can without crashing. It’s catchy, fun, and you’ll continuously find yourself wanting to play more.

Graphically, this game looks very sharp. The game board consists of four yellow and orange “tracks” in space. The colors are bright, vibrant, and easy to look at. I feel like it’s the perfect color scheme for this kind of environment. It’s very easy to see obstacles that may come in your way, and that makes it even more fun. As the action gets faster, I did notice a little bit of slowdown, and depending on your phone, you may see an equal or greater amount of that lag (this review was completed with my Evo 3D, which is a dual-core phone…the fact that I got lag scares me for single-core phones).

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The audio track in the game is pretty awesome as well. It consists of just one techno track, but as the action gets faster, it speeds up and changes the beat ever so slightly to keep it fresh. It really does the game justice, and fits in nicely with the visual beauty of the game.

Aside from the occasional lag or force close, the only other problem that I have with the game is the ad-support. This is something that I’ve been preaching for a while now, but Android developers really need to get on their game and offer more paid versions of games, so that people who don’t want their game experience interrupted don’t have to. The ad sits at the bottom of the screen (if your data connection is on), and just sits there while you’re playing. It really detracts from the otherwise-perfect look of the playing field.

I really like this game. It currently only supports one track mode, but it randomizes where your obstacles will be. Down the road, it would be really cool to see some different colored atmospheres, with different challenges to overcome. This game is addicting, I can’t deny that. You can pick it up from the Android Market for free.

How-To: Prevent Malware on Android

The Android Market has produced thousands of good quality apps, there’s no denying that. Yet, some applications have slipped through the cracks and provided viruses and theft of data from devices. Google has cracked down on this before, yet for some reason, it continues to happen, and more and more users have their devices severely impacted.

It’s easy to prevent these “bad apps” from making their way onto your device. The first way would be to avoid downloading any application that offers you downloads, like wallpapers and ringtones. Some apps can be trusted (I personally like Zedge’s app for downloading these things). Be cautious of who the developer is for each app that you want to download, and of course, read the user reviews and ratings!! Chances are, if the reviews say it’s malware…it probably is!

On that note, looking at the application name alone should help avoid downloading malware. If you’re looking at an app called “FrEe RiNgToNeS and WaLlPaPeRz!!!11!,” it might be a little bit sketchy. My general rule–if it’s grammatically wrong, it’s probably wrong for your device.

Also use caution when downloading apps from the Internet. The only OFFICIAL hub for apps on Android is the Android Market. It was established to create a safe environment for developers to post their apps, and for users to download them. The Amazon AppStore was also designed with this in mind. Downloading apps from the Internet and pushing them to your device is permitted (except on AT&T), but not generally recommended. Sure, the Android Market has some things that slip through, but it’s generally a lot safer than downloading from a site called “getyoappshere.com.”.

My next bit of advice involves text messaging and email. With texting, make sure not to subscribe to those stupid texting programs, like for daily jokes or horoscopes–you never know when they might send you a link that you don’t want to open! With email, take extra caution not to open attachments that you wouldn’t open on your main computer. Only trust attachments from those you know and trust. Otherwise, don’t open it.

Finally, it never hurts to add a security system to your phone. There is an amazing mobile security program called Lookout Mobile Security, that will help you identify threats and eliminate them before they cause harm to your phone. It’s available for free in the Android Market, so make sure to download it and make sure your system is safe.

By following these steps, you should be able to prevent having your mobile life compromised. Hackers are starting to move away from PC viruses and focus more on mobile viruses, which dramatically increases the chances of getting a mobile virus. Follow my advice, and practice the same safety you would utilize on your PC, and you should be able to avoid ending up having your information compromised.

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App Attack!: Slice It (Android)

The hit iOS game Slice It has finally made it to Android. The game became an instant success on iOS when it launched last year, and developer Com2Us has brought the same experience to the Android Market. Does this version live up to the superior iOS version?

To throw a spoiler out right away–no. Don’t get me wrong, the game is just as addicting and fun as ever, but there are several issues with the Android version that leave a lot to be desired. The game has a couple of flaws, however, that really downgrade the experience from something that could have been much better.

The basic premise of Slice It is pretty self-explanatory. You have a shape drawn onto the screen. You then have to slice the object into equal portions. As you progress through the different levels, you will notice that you have to create more and more equal pieces, and it gets progressively harder and harder. This is a great thing, and also not so great too, due to the smaller sizes of some Android hardware. But more on that in a minute.

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The game is absolutely addicting, as I mentioned above. Failing a level just makes you want to keep on trying until you get it right. It is easy to pass each level, but only your accuracy in creating each equal slice will enable you to get a 5 star rating on each one. It can get very difficult, even on some of the easiest levels, and that, again, is due to the smaller sizes of some Android hardware.

As I mentioned above, the size of most Android hardware is going to make this game extremely difficult at times. Even on my 4.3″ Evo 3D, I was having a hard time with accuracy, which often leads to failed levels and poor scores. I feel like this is much easier to play on a tablet device (which, I have the iPad version and like it much better). In order to achieve perfect accuracy in each level, you’re really going to have to be extremely careful, and on the smaller screens, it’s not going to be easy.

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There is one major flaw that makes me not want to play the Android version of this game over yhe iOS game. This version is ad-supported. Big time. There are ads everywhere, in between levels, at the bottom of your screen, sometimes as you’re playing a level. The ads are frustrating, and there is no excuse to the amount of them. This is something that has become a pretty big problem with Android games (Angry Birds and Words with Friends are other great examples), and hopefully developers will start to realize that people will actually pay for these games. In contrast, the iOS version is only $0.99. Very worth the price.

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Overall, the game is good, but also extremely annoying thanks to the ad-supported mess that comes with it. For $0.99 in the iOS App Store, I feel like you’ll get much more and be able to enjoy the game. If you don’t mind the ads, the game is available for free in the Android Market.

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