If Only Home Decorating Was This Simple! (Samsung Mob!lers)

No offence to my beloved moggie but I’m bored of him staring out at me from my phone. I decided to have a change. I’ve yet to decide exactly which wallpaper I want (no doubt I’ll have about seven or eight before I settle on one, which will, if I’m honest, will probably be the cat again!) but I thought I’d do a quick tutorial with the Samsung Galaxy Pro on how ridiculously easy it is to have any picture you should so desire on your phone.

I thought I’d use the above photo for a few reasons. Mainly because it’s super pretty but also because I took it on holiday (was it only two months ago?!) which brings back a happy memory and also because the content might remind me to reach for a piece of fruit, rather than a lump of cake, if I look at it often enough. So, picture chosen, I transferred it to my phone and opened it using the gallery. I then selected the ‘More’ menu and pressed the ‘Set As’ option.

I modified the image to crop the part of the photo I wanted to use then selected to have the picture spread across both home screens.

Select ‘save’ and you’re done. Here you can see how the image is stretched to fill both screens. Nifty eh? And it took me about 2 minutes to do from start to finish.

I’ve also used a neat little app called Zedge for new wallpapers (as well as ringtones) which is great if you want to change the look of your phone in even less time. Easy to use and (there’s that magic word again) free. Just type in a key word and see what pops up. You could even use a photo manipulation app like Pixlr-o-matic which adds really impressive retro effects to your photographs which you could then set as a wallpaper. The options are endless. Have fun!


Have Gogglebox Will Travel (Samsung Mob!lers)

Could you live without your TV set? I definitely could. I can’t remember the last time I sat down to watch a program as it was broadcast. When a series comes along that I really want to see (I can really only think of ‘True Blood’ and ‘Walking Dead’ at this point) I record and then burn the episodes to DVD to watch all in one go so I can stick it to the man by spinning through the ads. I’ve never been a big fan of being told what to do (or when to do it) and with the myriad of ‘on demand’ TV available online, it seems like madness (MADNESS I tell you!) to plan your life around TV schedules when you can now fit it around your own timetable.

For the most part I tend to watch online content on my laptop, simply because it’s a nice big screen but the availability of various media players (BBC iPlayer, ITV Player) on Android Market means I can also now view all my favourite programs on something more portable. Which means you can watch video anywhere………. anywhere (you know where I mean, just make sure you put your phone down before you stand up to flush!). Currently that portable device is the Samsung Galaxy Pro which is great for keeping me entertained on train journeys. I’m hoping to get my mitts on one of the frankly, gorgeous, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, which means I’ll get all the easy accessibility with a bigger screen. Can’t be bad.

It’s not just TV you can watch though, oh no, it’s movies, movie trailers and, the ever popular and seemingly never-ending, array of clips of cats doing cute things.

Recently I’ve been watching the 4th series of BBC comedy ‘Outnumbered’. I think the kids are fab though, if I’m honest, I think the older they get the less charming their antics become. Great writing, some fab ad-libs and a nice half an hour watch.

I’m forever visiting IMDB.com to answer that eternal question when watching a film – “What’s he/she been in?”. Remember the days before t’Interweb? When things like that would drive you ever so slightly mad until all of a sudden it came back to you at 3am and you sit bolt upright in bed shouting “DUNCAN!” as you *finally* remember the name of Kevin Costner’s manservant in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Just me? Oh. Anyway, now I use IMDB to view trailers too. Here’s one for Lars Von Trier’s latest, Melancholia.

I’m a big fan of Blinkbox for watching movies online. Primarily because they have a great selection of free (one of my favourite words, along with ‘all you can eat buffet breakfast’) movies, many of which are ‘video nasties’ from the 80s such as Flesh for Frankenstein and The Beyond which I’d wanted to see since watching Jake West’s (essential) documentary on the subject.

I’m not ashamed of my love of cat videos, as far as I’m concerned it’s what the Internet was invented for and if everyone watched a cute cat video once a day there would be a lot less depressed people in the world (though global productivity would probably slide). While ‘real’ cats are all well and good, there is something extra special about the Simon’s Cat videos. I never get bored of them.



Finally, I tend to use catch-up TV for viewing my guilty pleasures, stuff that I can shut off quickly, should someone come into the room and discover my dirty little secrets. Bizarre ER on BBC is one of these and, in the same vein (HA – geddit?!), Embarrassing Bodies from Channel 4. The great thing about watching online also means that when I start to feel a bit faint, as I inevitably will, I can pause it, make a cup of sweet tea, then start again. Don’t ask me why I do it to myself. I have no idea.

Android Vs RIM (Samsung Mob!lers)

My first ever mobile phone was a second-hand Motorola MG1-4C11, which, even back then (12-ish years ago) was commonly known as ‘The Brick’. It weighed a ton, had about three ringtones (being either ‘ring, ring’ or ‘riiiiing, riiiiing’ or possibly ‘ring riiiiiiiiing ring’) and the contacts didn’t link to the messaging so I had to type the numbers in every time I sent a text. On the plus side, being the size of a small dog, I never lost it in my bag. It made texts and calls – that was it. Imagine that.  How quaint.

Flash forward and I currently hold in my hands the new Samsung Galaxy Pro which is more powerful than the computers which sent men to the moon in ’69. It weighs less than a banana, allows you to have any ringtone you might desire (*cough* the theme from ‘My Neighbour Totoro’) and, with the right app, all you have to do is speak a person’s name to send them a text, call or email. Yep, we’ve come a long way baby.

As wonderous and magical as these functions may have seemed back in the late 90s when I was working my biceps and number recall abilities with ‘The Brick’, they are fairly standard features of smartphones on the market today. I’ve come to realise that the main criteria for choosing a phone now is not automatically the size/style of the handset but the operating system (OS) on which it runs. Two phones of similar style can have vastly different functionality depending upon the featured OS. Which brings me to the meat of this post.

The Samsung Mob!lers team furnished me with the Galaxy Pro (released April 2011) and asked me to compare its OS to that of the BlackBerrys. Just looking at the Pro you can see why such a comparison is appropriate. I’m not saying it is an outright BlackBerry wannabe but, on looks alone, you could easily mistake the Samsung for a BlackBerry Curve, given a dark night and one too many sweet sherries. The attractive candybar design with the QWERTY keyboard and touch screen combo appeals to those who like to mix business (emails/messaging) with pleasure (games/social networking) but, putting the physical hardware aside, the defining criteria is definitely the OS.

In the (cute) green (robot) corner we have Google’s Android (the 2.2 version on the Galaxy Pro) which was listed as the best-selling world-wide smartphone platform in 2010 and seems to be going from strength to strength.

While in the blue corner we have BlackBerry’s RIM (Research In Motion) which, after being named as the fastest growing company in the world in 2008, has recently suffered reduced revenue, job losses and falling stock. It is, as far as I have gleaned, in very real danger of being left behind. Not simply because it is starting to feel old-fashioned but also because of the newer companies nipping at their heels.

I have never personally owned a BlackBerry but I’ve fiddled with a few (“That’s what she said!”!) and I’ve donned my researcher’s hat to gen up on the pros and cons of the system. I’m aware of the devotion the brand incites and the ‘Crackberry’ moniker so there must be a reason for the high level of appeal. Regarding Android, I’ve had the Galaxy Pro for over a week now and have enjoyed playing with the various bells and whistles. While it’s obviously different to the Apple iPhone OS that I’ve been used to for the past few years, it is by no means dissimilar (in terms of the icons and touch screen operation) and it took me seconds to figure out how to access the main functions. My experience with BlackBerry phones has been almost the opposite, they are less intuitive and take real investment to get to know.

One of the main selling features of the smartphone is the plethora of ‘apps’ available. I remember a friend telling me about her iPhone a few years back and all the free apps that she’d downloaded. Of course my ears pricked up and my ‘owt for nowt’ sensor kicked in. Free? Free stuff to play with? I’m having a bit of that! Where Apple has iTunes, Android has its Market and RIM has Blackberry App World.

Android currently has around 200 000 apps available with the lion’s share being free. BlackBerry has significantly less (37 000) on offer and, more often than not, you will find yourself having to fork out for the privilege of downloading them. Initially developed for the business world, BlackBerry has been playing catch up when it comes to the more entertainment focused apps and, while there are some cracking little doodahs to be had,  it may be a case of too little too late. Android is light years ahead in terms of what’s on offer. If you’re a virtual social butterfly you’ll be pleased to know that all the major social networking apps are available for free on both OS. I can’t say I found Android Market overly user-friendly to navigate but this may be more down to the relatively small screen on the Galaxy Pro rather than any issue with the feature itself. I particularly like the Voice Search/Actions apps which almost negate the need for any kind of keyboard (QWERTY or otherwise) altogether. Just tap the app and tell it what you want to do – make a call (even if the number isn’t saved in your contacts), search the web, send a text, even dictate an email. It’s all very 2001: A Space Odyssey – without the murderous HAL 9000, of course, I hope *eyes phone warily*.

Rather predictably, I also got a great kick out of the (free) ZombieBooth app which will ‘zombify’ your pictures, complete with freaky animation and sound effects.

Phones are no longer just about function, they’re as much an extension of our personalities as cars, hairstyles or ‘amusing’ slogan t-shirts. Call me tragic but one of the first things I do upon unboxing a new phone is change the ringtone, message alert and wallpaper to something more ‘me’. It’s like moving into a new house, isn’t it? It never truly feels like yours until you’ve slapped a bit of paint on the wall, changed the curtains and, if you’re like me, spilt something on the carpet! The makers of Android obviously understand this as the OS is set up for all manner of customisation – themes, ringtones, wallpaper, widgets – all totally changeable with very little effort. You can have up to seven home screens, placing apps and icons wherever you like and even the messaging skin is open to modification. Conversely RIM is a lot more rigid, allowing for very little self-expression, you can change the ringtone and the wallpaper but that’s about the size of it. I almost feel like the BlackBerry is telling me I’m here to work, not to enjoy myself, and that I should straighten my tie and tuck my shirt in while I’m at it.

The area where BlackBerry really ruled the roost and, initially, left others in its wake was the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) feature. It is also the reason they became the handset of choice for businesses to distribute to their drones – sorry – staff. All that is needed is an exchange of PIN and users can message each other to their heart’s content, in real-time, with no character limits, without incurring any additional costs. Pretty appealing. The only slight drawback being that BBM is only available to BlackBerry owners, so if you’re not in the club (and you don’t know the password) you don’t get to play – boo. Pretty mean, huh? Clearly RIM’s parents never taught them the benefit of sharing and inclusion. Android, on the other hand, are all about the sharing and openness. The Samsung Galaxy Pro comes with a great little app called ‘What’sApp’. It works on the same principle as BBM but across various platforms (iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Symbian) and requires no PIN, it integrates directly with your contacts. You’ve also got ‘Social Hub’  preloaded (this is Samsung specific) that pulls in all your email, text and social network messages, so you don’t have to deal with separate apps and windows.

I’m not a huge fan of listening to music on my phone (though I am a huge fan of music). My iTouch does the ‘music on the move’  job nicely and, to be brutally honest (though I’m always open to convincing) I can’t be bothered investing the time and effort into using another device. While both RIM’s BlackBerry and Google’s Android have provision for music, the Android set up, once again, has more applicable apps and a more rounded, accessible experience.

It would seem to me then that Android puts the ‘fun’ back into functionality that RIM had taken out. The BlackBerry OS is very business orientated with the focus on getting things done quickly and easily with little time wasted on fripperies. Android does all this PLUS has the scope for indulging the users’ sense of fun and entertainment needs, while also allowing them to express their individuality. Android has taken the popular functions of BlackBerry and elevated smartphone usage to new levels with higher integration and constant expansion. The ‘either/or’ conundrum no longer applies – if you want it all, I know a little green robot who can help you out.