Archive Android
26. March 2013

After the depressing news about the demise of Google Reader, here are some good news from Google. Yesterday, an update for the Google+ Android app had been released and after several previous updates just with some minor improvements and fixes, the new version 3.6 came with some amazing surprises. For starters, the posting stream in both the circles and the communities has been slightly revamped without losing the “magazine”-look. Completely new plus-, share- and comment-buttons in style of the web interface have been added and even thumbnails of the commenters are displayed in the stream overview. The dynamic reformatting of the posts also seems to work much better now, although the right and left margins have become a little larger. But most importantly, the app now scrolls vertically in landscape mode instead of horizontally like before.

There are also two special changes in the streams which photographers on Google+ will love: 1) images are no longer randomly cropped into a square format and 2) tapping on an image directly leads to the gallery view while tapping on the post header calls up the single post view. The single post view has also been very much improved, now showing the header, the image in full width, the comments and a fixed one-line comment box on the bottom. The user profile view now shows the complete larger header image, but the user photo is still square, although it is displayed as a circle in the stream. The circle view now also boasts a very handy new addition: a header with nine thumbnails of people and a tenth box with the number of users in the circle. Underneath is a settings button, which calls up a long-missing feature from the web interface: in the Android app it is now possible to adjust how many postings of the circle are seen in the main stream. This is also present in the community, it can be found when the header is expanded.

There might be even more new features I have not yet discovered, I’ve heard that there are also new functions for moderating a community. I also don’t know which of these changes are present in the iOS version, since I’ve only used the Android app. All in all, it’s a brilliant update which makes many of the features from the web interface finally available on smartphones and tablets – and it shows how far developed Google+ on mobile devices really is in comparison to Facebook. The Android app also really works well on low-powered devices like my little Odys Xelio tablet – version 3.6 runs much smoother now and for some reason I was able to update it directly from the Play Store for the first time.

But Google has also been a little lambasted recently for the introduction of Google Keep, a little Android notepad app, which directly syncs with a special new section in Google Drive and can also be used from the web interface. It just does what it says on the cover: keep notes, but you can also enter lists, take photos and insert pictures. The layout is like a post-it collection, and while the functionality is totally basic, not much more is really needed to make it a very handy little program which is ideal for taking short notes or even transferring small texts or web adresses from a computer to a tablet. Of course there are other apps like Evernote, Note Everything or Handrite, but Google Keep beats them all for sheer simplicity.

15. March 2013

This knocked me nearly off my chair… Google is actually killing off its RSS reader on July 1. Well, they say, that RSS is a dead format and nobody uses it anymore, but why are nearly all websites and blogs still offering a RSS feed? It’s in every kind of blog and content managing software and a brilliant way to keep on track with many websites at the same time. I’ve been using RSS since my early days on the Palm PDAs to read my news offline and after moving to an Android tablet last year, I finally switched to Google Reader and the great Android app gReader. And now it’s all supposed to end on July 1? Hopefully not!

Maybe it’s selfish to say, but I actually don’t care about the Google Reader itself. I have only used the web interface to sort the feeds and I do all the reading on the tablet, so I’m not really dependent on Google’s RSS aggregator itself. I don’t like to live in the cloud and I haven’t chosen Google Reader for this reason, but the app I have found to read my RSS feeds on my tablet just happens to use Google Reader. However, it seems that the RSS world is not goint to end in the middle of the summer – Digg has already said that they are building a replacement with a compatible API, the maker of gReader seems to be working on an alternative and a couple of other RSS aggregators seem to be ready to jump into the gap.

What is actually sad is the behaviour of Google – what they call “spring cleaning” is actually a massive disappointment for a company who says that they care about their users and who want to be the good guys. There’s already a petition going on with more than 97.000 100.000 signatures, but I’m not sure if this is going to change Google’s mind. But this is not the occasion to do a “rage quit” and say Google is evil! Don’t use Google’s services! – this kind of gut reaction has never led to anything. After all, Google Reader is a FREE service and if they choose to shut it down, they are in the full right to do so. No, it’s not particularly nice towards the users, but they are not terminating a paid contract. So it’s best to calm down and see what the next months will bring – at least they had the decency to give everyone a few months notice!