pondelok, 4. apríla 2016

My perfect Android phone setup 2016

Sometime it's very hard to get from the phone what you expect. I hope this guide will help you to get some inspiration to get some useful functions or tweaks for you phone.

I used to have a lot of custom ROMs installed on my phones, playing with it around, now I kind of settled to a setup that completely suits my needs and preference. My current device is Sony Xperia Z3 Compact purchased about a year ago.

Nova Launcher

The first thing I do on phones/tablets is replacing the manufacturer home screen app with Nova Launcher. Brief list of advantages over any stock launchers:
  • Grid size setting (both home screen and list of apps)
  • Ability to hide app icons
  • Number of icons in dock
  • Auto rotate
  • Widget resize
  • Full themes/icon packs support
  • Display of count of unread items with TeslaUnread (Nova Prime version only)
  • Export/Import of the settings (meaning you can buy a new phone or flash a ROM with no stress at all)

The free version is completely usable however I recommend buying the full version to enjoy the notification counts and support the developers.

Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher Prime (~$5)

TeslaUnread for Nova Launcher

Nova Launcher with DashClock Widget

DashClock Widget + extensions

Now this is the real thing! DashClock is in my opinion one of the best things that happened to Android. It's almost the only master widget you need. I was using the phone with only one home screen with DashClock with a couple of useful shortcuts.

Why is DashClock so amazing? Extensions are the answer. There is a quite long list of extensions you can install and use with it. You can have the info you need all the time by choosing the extensions that are important to you and configure them properly. I especially like the fact that most of the extensions display content only if it's available. If there are no unread emails, the email extension won't take any of the valuable prime space on your home screen. You can make your own order of the extensions, prioritizing the important text messages/emails at the top, then fall back to weather, next calendar entries, next alarm etc.

I have set the background to be completely transparent and keep the font color white. The best results are with a dark background, I'm using Tapet app to automatically generate abstract motives wallpapers with a lowered brightness setting so the white text is always readable. To save space, you can hide the clock

These are my top picks:
If you're new to DashClock, feel free to explore all the possibilities that are provided by the extensions downloadable from the Play Store.

DashClock Widget

Gravity Screen

I didn't use any screen lock security until it was required when I installed Android Pay. I spent one whole day in pain of entering the pattern every time I touched my phone. The app I found trying to find a solution is Gravity Screen. I set the phone's delayed lock (Settings / Security) to 10 minutes and tweaked the Gravity Screen's settings to work in the manner I found most convenient.

There are multiple use cases you want to have your screen turned off or on according to the data that comes from the proximity sensor and gyroscope. For example putting the phone on the table facing down, putting the phone into a pocket, picking it up. It even has an option to detect that the phone is lying face up on the table and you can extend the screen time out just by covering the proximity sensor for 1.5 sec.

Gravity Screen

Ultimate Rotation Control

My history with this app goes back to times I was a Samsung Galaxy S Relay user - that's the almost extinct species of the hardware keyboard phones. By working with an open keyboard, the display was in landscape and a lot of devs take a shortcut and build a fixed portrait design. And there are devs fighting back this trend and as a result we have apps forcing the landscape layout. It has a cool per app settings option that can override the global one. So after days of use you'll end up having all set up to your needs.

Ultimate Rotation Control

Voice Notify

The motivation to find an app that will read the notifications came from mountain biking. I stopped the bike when in the middle of climbing the hill just to read an email message that was not important at all or a facebook message saying "ok".

The application itself looks like it's been around for a while (no fancy Material Design, more like Android 2.x interface) but it just works! I use it to read the notification content in case the screen is off and headset connected. The most valuable for me was the information if the incoming notification is important enough to have a look at the screen or it's something that can wait.

Voice Notify

I'll be happy to read any your comments. Please, share your experience and favorite apps that do the same.

štvrtok, 4. septembra 2014

My perfect phone 2014 - Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G SGH-T699


Hi, since my first mobile phone in 1998 (Ericsson GA-628), they've gone a long way to the present, adding more features and possibilities. The customization is today not only about uploading your favourite song as one track MIDI or polyphony ringtone, or chaging the whole look of the menu with Flash file, but you can create a phone that suits perfectly your needs.

This is a description of my personal current "dream setup" of a mobile phone. It's a strongly subjective point of view backed up by my personal preferences and needs. Maybe some of ideas will inspire you or introduce you some cool apps you were overseeing. Please, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

The hardware

With my first android phone without physical keyboard, I was suffering. Then I ordered HTC Desire Z and it got lot better, but after some time, the phone specs didn't manage to keep pace with the new apps requirements (yes, in 2009, the FB app had less then 2 MB). Next phone without keyboard definitely confirmed my need to be able to input text the comfort way, with haptic feedback and without having half of the screen blocked by the keyboard itself. Not mentioning all the backslashes in terminal and pressing keyboard shortcuts such as Ctrl+D or Ctrl+A N (do this on you phone!).

Unfortunately, the physical qwerty phones are in the list of spiecies to be extinct in the near future. I remember having read a tablet/notebook buying guide few years ago with an opinion that "if you're today buying a device with physical keyboard, you're doing it wrong". I wanted an android phone with physical keyboard, decent specs, GSM network support and a SIM card slot. There were two devices that got into the final round - Motorola Photon 4Q and Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G. Both only on U.S. market, but Motorola had one big disadvantage of not having a SIM card slot. There's a way to solder one, even the author of the guide on XDA offers this service, but I didn't want to complicate things and chose the easy way of importing the only device that made it through this 4 conditions filter. Other Criteria as removable battery, screen resolution, presence of notification LED, ambient light sensor, SDcard slot, etc were not of that importance (or to be honest, I had not much choice).

Hail the winner - Samsung Galaxy S Relay 4G SGH-T699, U.S. T-mobile exclusive device.

What I really like about this device is 4" display (I had problem to reach the opposite corner on 4.5" screen with one hand), 5 row QWERTY keyboard with full numbers, arrows and few extra keys, and some details, that are not so common these days - microSD card slot, removable battery, notification LED (yes, few phones don't have it!), MENU, BACK and HOME buttons (not just drawn on the screen).

Custom ROM

After trying almost every ROM I found for the device on XDA, my choice is definitely the LiquidSmooth ROM. After pretty easy rooting and installing custom recovery, you are completely free to flash whatever you want. The original Samsung software is stuck on android version 4.1 and full of bloatware, just imagine half of the app names start with "T-mobile".

LiquidSmooth ROM is a masterpiece of work, based on AOSP 4.4.4 with lot of very cool features, I can't imagine living without anymore. [LiquidSmooth for Relay]

Let me name at least my favourite ones (or the ones I found most useful from all available).

Custom DPI setting

The default value is 182, I don't change it after install. The small screen now feels a lot bigger. You have literally a 4" tablet.

Notification LED custom values

A rather very cool feature, if you miss a notification, you can set different colors and blinking patterns for each app notifications. It's easy to know what notification awaits you just by getting used to the different colors / blinking speed.

LockScreen Notifications / Pocket Mode

The Pocket Mode is a killer feature. It uses the proximity sensor to switch on the screen, if you have some notifications to show. There are lot of alternatives to choose from in this ROM, I sticked to the LockScreen Notificaitons. Other options are Active Display, Notification Peek, feel free to try them and choose what you like the best. I use the lockscreen notifications with pocket mode on, so the screen turns itself on after picking the phone from pocket if there's some notification. Active display was disturbing my aesthetics, because the display looks totally different with and without notifications.

Notice the Battery status ring around the unlock slider

Hover Notifications

As the name states, your notifications appear hovering over the screen immediately. Everyone expands the notification right after the phone beeps, so it's an automatic process with this feature.

Custom Automatic Brightness Settings

Another cool one! You must be aware of the fact, that the screen is the worst battery drainer. With this feature, you can customize the curve of brightness level according to the ambient light intensity, making the screen more energy efficient in dark environment and brighter on sunlight. There's also a nice chart I can share with you :)



Assign custom actions for long pressing buttons on lockscreen. My fav is turning on the flashlight with holding the home button. Practical, easy, addictive.

Phonecall features

A propos flashlight, my colleague was pretty amazed when he noticed that my flashlight pulses on incoming call (400ms - of course a customizable value). He told me, that he has never seen any phone to do this before. Other comfort settings about the phone are forward and reverse phone numbers lookups, flip action choices (I use mute ringer), background incoming call (as heads up) when an app is in foreground, vibrate on hang-up, every minute.

Quiet Hours

Who doesn't like to sleep well? This ROM has Quiet Hours function built in that mutes the annoyances with reasonable options of exceptions (for example you need to call 2 times in 30 minutes to get your phonecall ring - what a brilliant idea - I'm really impressed).

Interface, Status bar, Performance and other customizations

There are many options to customize the looks and feels and performance of the environment. Don't hesitate to explore them.

The Settings

Each time after clean ROM install I had to go over the process of setting the phone again and again. The result is that I already know what settings are important to me and what I can skip to save time - in other words not important.

I've already mentioned above few settings that make me to feel happy about my phone. Besides setting my favourite ringtone, notification sounds and all the needed stuff, I made two more customizations myself.

Keyboard remap

I got used to this combination in other ROM, so this is my setup I found most useful - MESSAGE key remapped to SEARCH button as sending messages is not my hobby (I send like 3 per month - mostly for paid parking or mass transit ticket) and VOICE SEARCH key remapped to ALT key as I didn't buy a qwerty phone to use Siri and Co. and it's very handy to have an ALT key on the right side too, believe me.

Native SSH client

It's only 4 files I had to copy over from other ROM to the system partition to have ssh command line native client running the way I'm used to - ssh hostname [enter]. It's far more elegant solution than installing apps for such a core function.

The Apps

Here are some of the apps that definitely deserve to be mentioned.

Home screen - Nova Launcher
The Allmighty widget - DashClock
RSS News Reader - gReader
Music Player - Rocket Player
Notification reader - Voice Notify
Rotation control - Ultimate Rotation Control