Browse websites with UC Browser from your Android Device

ucbrowsericonIn many ways, many mobile users do more web surfing on their mobile device than they do on their desktop/ laptop PC. In some cases, a mobile device is all you’ve got, so you’re going to do all of your web surfing on your mobile device. In cases such as these, you really want a browser that’s going to work for you; and in many cases, that’s NOT the default browser that came with your device. This is why apps like UC Browser for Android are so important. This browser for your Android mobile device can really help you get the biggest bang out of your mobile device buck.

UC Browser is a browser for your mobile device. Its, adaptable configuration helps you adjust the way you browse the internet under different network connections. This allows you to reduce data plan needs and costs; and helps to speed up page loading. The latest version achieves faster data presentation by compressing web pages on its server, and by preloading pages in the background. Android 4.3 is supported in the newest version of UC Browser.

You can personalize your browser experience with add-ons. This is something that is somewhat new in the mobile world. You don’t see a lot of this, or haven’t in the past, largely because of performance issues, but UC has resolved those issues. Now you can quickly and easily upload photos to Facebook with UC’s Facebook Photo Uploader. This method is easier than using Facebook’s built in functionality, as you can get everything done in a single step. You also get push notifications on likes and comments from your friends without actually having to run the full Facebook app.

UCB-06 UCB-07

UC Browser also lets you save web pages as a PDF. Now, rendered receipts and other important information that don’t automatically have agents that email you a copy, can be saved and recalled later, as needed. Additional file handling capabilities built into the browser also let you manage zip files, directly from the browser. Now you can download supported, compressed files and unzip them so you can work with their contents more easily. This is further augmented by the app’s Download Manager, which allows you to multi-task and contains support for UDisk, permanent, cloud-based storage on UCweb’s servers.

I’m not a big fan of 3rd party browsers on my mobile devices. They often take up space and don’t offer much of an improved or better user experience than the built in version. With UC Browser, that’s not the case. The app is pretty cool.

Over and above the FB plugin and compressed file handler, the browser also offers a webpage translator. The plugin takes advantage of both Google Translate and Bing, and supports more than 70 languages, opening up more of the web to you while you’re out and about. The application is free; and is better than some of the other browsers that I’ve encountered on a mobile device. The only thing it’s missing is a desktop counterpart where synchronization between bookmarks, history and reading lists would make the experience on your device, that much better.

Even without these, it’s a great app; and as it’s free, it’s hard to turn down.

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Smartphone 101 – Retrieving Voice Mail

Retrieving Voice Mail

Voice mail is a wonderful tool and can be a huge help, especially if you have a busy schedule. Getting it and managing its contents can be a challenge for the busy individual. This section assumes you’ve set up your voice mail account and it’s all good to go.

iPhone

  1. Open the phone app
    VM-ios-01
  2. Tap the voice mail icon on the bottom right of the app screen
    VM-ios-02
  3. Tap the voice mail message you wish to hear. It will expand to show a progress bar, representing the audio length of the message.
    VM-ios-03
  4. Press the play button on the left side of the screen. The message will play.
    VM-ios-04
  5. If you wish to save the message for later, do nothing. If you wish to delete the message, tap the Delete button.

Note: the iPhone uses Visual Voice Mail, which brings a more tactile voice mail management system to the device as opposed to the more traditional voice mail systems (like Windows Phone, below).

 

Android

Please note that voice mail systems on Android devices can vary from device to device, even on the same carrier. Some have Visual Voice Mail, like the iPhone, above. Others have more traditional voice mail systems. The following demonstrates voice mail retrieval on the HTC One (M8) on Verizon Wireless.

    1. Open the phone app.
      VM-and-01
    2. Press and hold the “1” button. Voice Mail will be called.
      VM-and-02

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Smartphone 101 – Receiving a Call

There are a couple-three different scenarios here, believe it or not. Some or all of them may present you with different screens and buttons when they occur.

  • Receiving a Call with the Phone in Standby/ Screen Locked
  • Receiving a call while using the Phone/ Screen Unlocked
  • Receiving a call while on Another Call (Did you know your Phone (likely) has Call Waiting, free of charge?)

Receiving a Call with the Phone in Standby/ Screen Locked

This is probably the most common scenario, unless you’re on your phone, literally, all the time.   Let’s assume that your smartphone is charged, and on a desk, or in a bag

    1. From a screen off position, your phone rings.
      RECV-ios-01 RECV-and-01 RECV-WP-01
      iOS Android Windows Phone
    2. Unlock the phone and answer the call. For iOS, slide the bar to the right. For Android, tap the green call button. For Windows Phone, slide the screen up.
      RECV-ios-01 RECV-and-02 RECV-WP-02
      iOS Android Windows Phone
  1. Conduct your call.
    RECV-ios-02 RECV-and-03 RECV-WP-03
    iOS Android Windows Phone
  2. When you’re done, press the End Call button to terminate the call.
RECV-ios-02 RECV-and-04 RECV-WP-03
iOS Android Windows Phone

 

Receiving a Call while the Device is in Use

This is probably the next most common scenario.   Let’s assume that your smartphone is charged, on and you’re using an app.

 

    1. While the phone is in use, you receive a phone call.
      USE-ios-01 RECV-and-01 RECV-WP-01
      iOS Android Windows Phone
    2. Answer the call. For iOS, tap the green call button. For Android, tap the green call button. For Windows Phone, tap the blue answer button.
      USE-ios-01 RECV-and-02 USE-WP-02
      iOS Android Windows Phone

 

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Smartphone 101 – Making a Phone Call

OK… now that we have everything synching between your phone and your email account, let’s figure out exactly how to use it.

If you remember I started this series a few weeks ago and had one article about setting up your email account and address book and then one about synching that data to your smartphone. At this point, any changes or additions you make to either your email account via your computer or on your smartphone, to any of that data, will appear in both places.  It’s really pretty cool.

Integration, remember..? It’s all about integrating your data into the places where you will make the most use of it. That’s what makes your smartphone smart. It puts your data where you want to use it most – meaning your phone – and even anticipates how you want to use it, sometimes.

Your address book can hold listings for friends, family, businesses and the like. You’re likely going to want to call your parents on the weekends, your children’s pediatrician when they’re sick or need a checkup, and your dry cleaners to make sure that your clothes are read to be picked up, among many, many other things.  You may just want to yack your head off with your best friend.  Who knows…

Here’s the best way to do all that in all three major mobile operating systems. There are a couple-three scenarios here.

  • Making a Call

  • Receiving a Call

  • Retrieving Voice Mail

Let’s run through all of them quickly.

Making a Call

There are a few different ways to make a call – you can dial directly, search for a person in your address book or dial from a Favorites – or frequently called numbers – list.  I’m going to try to make this easy and have screenshots from all three operating systems in each section so we only have to do this once. Please note that the instructions here are going to reflect calling numbers here in the United States. If you live in another country, please sub in your country specifics for direct dialing numbers.

Dialing Directly

  1. Open your device’s Phone app and switch to the dialing pad screen

    DD-ios-01 DD-and-01 DD-WP-01
    iOS Android Windows Phone
  2. Dial the 10 digit phone number:  (area code) phone-number and press the (usually green) Phone button on the dialer to initiate the call.

DD-ios-02 DD-and-02 DD-WP-02
iOS Android Windows Phone

Please note – in the US, you do not NEED to dial a “1” in front of the phone number as you do on your land line phone.  While your call will still connect if you do, it’s not required on the cellular network like it is on the land line network. In most cases, unless you’re going to do any regular, international travel, you should NOT store your phone numbers as +1 (area code) phone-number.  Leave the “1” (or “+1”) off unless you DO travel internationally; and then it’s a good idea to have the “+1” prefix.

    1. Conduct your call.

      DD-ios-04 DD-and-03 DD-WP-03
      iOS Android Windows Phone

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Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite 2: Setting up a Sync Relationship with iPhone

I’ve been working with mobile devices since 1996. I’ve had nearly every kind of mobile device from near every manufacturer on nearly every mobile OS…ever. The iPhone is by far the easiest to setup and configure. Like the other two mobile OS’ in use today, we’ll run through the default configuration and then see about adding another sync account to your iDevice. Apple makes this pretty easy…

Please note that these instructions were done using and iPhone 5 running iOS 7.1.1. As I don’t have an iPhone 5S, you won’t find instructions on using Touch ID, here. However, as you will see from the screenshots below, the configuration process is very easy. You shouldn’t have any problems configuring it if you simply follow the process and then work with the device when it wants to read your finger prints.

1. Turn on your iPhone for the first time. After the device boots, you’ll be greeted with a welcome screen. Place your finger just to the left of the greater-than sign (>) and slide it over the top of the words, “slide to set up” to begin the configuration process.
IMG_0001

2. Select a wireless network to connect to. If you have Wi-Fi in the house, using it over your mobile broadband bandwidth is preferable. Select your network from the list and tap it.
IMG_0002

3. The wireless network password screen appears. Type the password to your Wi-Fi network and then press the join button.
IMG_0003 IMG_0004

4. Turn on Location Services. You’ll want to make certain that they are configured correctly later, but for now, you’ll want them turned on so things like Maps and local search work correctly. Tap “Enable Location Services.”
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Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite 2: Setting up a Sync Relationship with Windows Phone

Now that you have your email account created and your address book populated, let’s get the data on your smartphone.

OK… we took quite a bit of time the other day getting our email account setup on our service of choice. Any of the ones that I gave you instructions for – Google Apps/Gmail, Outlook.com, iCloud – are decent choices and should serve you well. While you’re going to want to make certain you give yourself the best opportunity for glitch free synchronization (meaning it’s not always wise to mix and match devices and services, or more aptly put, I’d recommend using the service that is natively paired with your device – Gmail+Android, Windows Phone+Outlook.com/Exchange, or iCloud+iPhone), it is possible to mix and match if you absolutely HAVE to. If you must put a Google account on your iPhone, don’t be surprised if your experience isn’t as optimized as it would be if you had either Google services synching to an Android phone or Apple services synching to an iPhone. It works, but there may be a couple of glitches here and there…

So, how do you get the information from your email account over to your smartphone? It’s quite simple, really. You have to tell your smartphone that you have the type of account you have and then let the two communicate via the smartphone’s cellular data connection with the internet. As changes are made to either side – on your smartphone or on your email account – those changes will be made to the remaining side so that you’ll always have the latest information, no matter where you look at the data.

The big thing to remember here is that this is likely one of the first things your phone is going to want to take you through when you turn it on for the very first time. It’s going to want to attach itself to your email account so that you get all of your PIM data (Personal Information Management data – Mail, Calendar, Contacts (or address book) and Tasks) to and from your smartphone as the data changes. It will set up a Push Data connection (the same kind as Blackberry made famous, back in the day…); and as a result, your smartphone will always have the latest data and will be considered a “smart” source of information (hence the name, “smartphone”). Any time you want to know who needs to be where at what time, who you can call if for some reason you don’t get the information or can’t make an appointment, or want to message someone about… you can use your smartphone. (This is why we took the time to get your email account set up correctly…). It also makes all of this information portable, mobile and easy to take with you wherever you go.

Ok, so your phone is going to want to setup its default account (if you have more than one email account, you can set up more than one sync relationship) so that it gets all the info all the time. I’m going to take you through some of the default setup steps for Android, iPhone and Windows Phone. This will help you if you have problems.

However, the screens we’re going to review actually take you through, step-by-step and have a pretty good set of instructions. If I gloss over something that you don’t understand or need more information on, let me know in the comments, and I’ll update the instructions.

Please remember that this process assumes that you’re mixing apples with apples. In other words, you’re using the default email account TYPE with a LIKE phone.

Windows Phone+Outlook.com (or your Microsoft Account)
1. Turn your new Windows Phone on for the first time. The Welcome screen below, will appear after it boots.
wp_ss_0001

2. Sign in to your Microsoft Account on the “Keep Your Life in Sync” screen. If you sign in later, your phone won’t be setup correctly until it has all of this information.
wp_ss_0002

3. Enter in your Microsoft Account email address. This is more than likely a @msn.com, @live.com, @hotmail.com, or @outlook.com email address, but it could be any email address you have, provided you registered it as a Microsoft Account mail address.

4. Type in your password in the password field. When you’re done, either check or uncheck the “Allow Microsoft to send you information and tips about your Windows Phone,” checkbox. While this will subscribe you to their Windows Phone newsletter, it might have some cool tips in it that you didn’t know about. If you’re new to Windows Phone, I’d check it. You can always unsubscribe later.

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Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite #1: Setting up Your Address Book

This is a cell/ smartphone’s primary use case; but it isn’t as cut and dry as you think…

If you remember my intro from the other day, you’ll remember that what makes a smartphone smart can be summed up in one word – Integration. We’re going to come back to this point a number of different times over the course of this week, just to make certain everyone certain that they understand that missing an integration point can effect more than one app or piece of functionality.

For example – Failing to correctly setup and configure a primary email account will affect your ability to make and place cell calls.

I know. It’s strange except for one very important point – the address book in your smartphone is a universal address book. It has names, addresses and phone numbers in it for everyone that you want to communicate with, in any and EVERY way you will want to communicate with them.  That includes email addresses, Skype addresses, Facebook and Twitter name, etc.  If you don’t get your address book set up right, then you’re going to have issues taking and placing calls. Period.

The biggest thing I want you to do here is to NOT get overwhelmed. Yes.  You’re right…there’s going to be a lot here that may or may not make sense to you right away.  If things are confusing, then the biggest thing you can do to help yourself is

Ask questions.

That’s what the discussion area is for. If something doesn’t make sense to you, ask a question in the discussion area. I’ll check through the comments (if any) and answer your question(s). If need be, I’ll answer it in an article if the answer requires a bit more than a one-two step answer. It’s not a big deal…

So… step one – get an email address if you don’t already have one.  If you do have one, then you need to make certain that it will work appropriately with your new smartphone.  You’re probably also going to want to make certain that this service (remember that word for later…) also has a compatible calendar and task list or to-do list.  You’re likely going to want to keep track of those and your phone makes a great tool for that.  Here are a couple GREAT examples of mixing and matching PIM (Personal Information Management) services that will likely have to be forced to work.

Hotmail/ Outlook.com/ Exchange on Android – it works, but Google stopped supporting Exchange ActiveSync on Android.  All this means is that if you have your email, contacts (address book) and calendar here, getting it to show up on your Android phone just got more difficult. Chalk this up to the smartphone and ecosystem wars going on between Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Exchange on iPhone – Google isn’t the only one who stopped licensing Exchange ActiveSync (Microsoft’s Push eMail Sync System) on their devices. Apple did it too, and now getting the information there for new users of new Exchange eMail accounts is more difficult. It’s still possible, but you may have to configure things manually. I know I do…

Google Apps/Gmail on iPhone – If you have a Gmail account and you want to sync it to your iPhone, it isn’t as easy as it used to be when both Google and Apple were licensing Exchange ActiveSync. Now that neither support EAS, you either have to be grandfathered in via Google Apps, or pay $50 per year, per user to enable the feature. I don’t know many consumers that do this.

Ok… so your next question is obviously, “OK, Chris… What DOES work?”

That’s easy – stick to the ecosystem; or pair like animals together.

If you’re using an Android device, use or get a Gmail or Google Apps account.  If you’re using an iPhone your best bet is to use or get an Apple iCloud mail account. If you’re using Windows Phone, you can use Hotmail/Outlook.com or Exchange email addresses without any difficulty.  All of these will have Calendars and Task/To-Do lists.  You can set them up later.

See how the smartphones and support systems match up?  That’s what each company wants you to do.  They want you to use their SERVICES (I told you to remember that word from before…) with their devices. Google and Microsoft are all moving to a subscription based software licensing model when it comes to many of their software titles (like, Office 365, for example) and supporting services.  They want to lock you in so that you have to get what you need from them (that way, THEY get your dollars). The mixing and matching of devices and services that we did between 2008 and 2012 is ending. It’s getting harder and harder to do that. So, if you have an Android device, you might want to consider using Gmail. If you have an iPhone, you might want to consider using iCloud, etc., even if that means you have to stop using an address you’ve used for a long time.

Your first step, after signing up for a new email address is getting your contacts from the old system to the new system.  You’re likely going to want to do most of the work here on your desktop PC. There’s (potentially) a lot of information to capture, so you’re likely going to want to type things in on a desktop or laptop. Doing this on your smartphone keyboard is gonna suck.

Depending on the number of contacts you have, you can try to use the export system your old account has.  There are up to 9 different sets of instructions here (Contacts, Calendar, Tasks are available in Gmail, iCloud and Exchange); and all three have decent help systems that will show you how to export these items. If you have problems, leave me a comment and I will give you as simple a how-to for your situation as possible; but if you can send email, you can probably figure out how to export these three items into a format that can be used for importing into another system.

The same can be said for importing items. Look to your new email’s help system for importing items. After you get everything into the new system, we’ll setup a sync relationship and then make a test phone call.

However, if you’ve never had a smartphone before, then you probably don’t’ have a lot of contacts. If you have less than 100 entries in your old device’s phone book, you can probably type them into your new email account manually. To update your address book, use the following instructions on the following different systems.  These instructions assume you have already created an account on the appropriate and/or relevant system.
A quick note on importing contacts from social networks, like Facebook and Twitter: Most social networks ask you to input an email address and a phone number into your account profile. If you or your friends did that with, say your Facebook account, then that information will likely be imported into your new email system if it gives you the opportunity to import those contacts.

Outlook.com – These instructions will help you
a) Import some contact records to Outlook.com from 4 compatible social network and/or email sources (instructions included only because the options displayed automatically when the People app main page appeared)
b) Create a contact record for yourself.

1. Open your web browser and navigate to Outlook.com.
2. Log in with your Microsoft Account’s user name and password.  The Outlook.com main email page will appear
Outlook.com - Contact 01

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HTC One (M8) – Wrapping it all Up

My time with the HTC One (M8) is almost up. Here are my parting thoughts on the device.

Introduction

My time with the HTC One (M8) is nearly over; and I’ve had one heck of a time with the device. There are some things I really liked; and there are some things that I really didn’t care for at all.

I’ve published a number of blogs here on Soft32. You can search for all of them if you like, or you can simply click through and check out the links below:
HTC One (M8) Unboxing
HTC One (M8) – Initial Impressions
HTC One (M8) – Performance at a Premium
HTC One (M8) – Duo Camera
HTC One (M8) – Is Retro Good Enough?: The Dot View Case

I wanted to take a few moments and give the device the proper treatment before I box it up and send it back, so here are the core essentials of a proper review.

The Specs
The device has some really nice hardware specs from a device perspective. The camera, as you can see in my review of it, leaves a great deal to be desired. It does OK, but if you’re used to 8MP or better on your phone, I think you’re going to be greatly disappointed. However, I also have a decent DSLR and take some (semi-professional quality) pictures. Honestly, I don’t want to be a camera snob at all, but I would definitely NOT buy the HTC One (M8) for its camera. I’m not even certain I would rely on it as a smartphone camera. My iPhone 5 takes much better pictures, and by today’s standards, its 8MP sensor with f2.2 lens is about average. There are smartphones (some Android, some not…) out there with much, MUCH better lenses. If you’re wanting to double up smartphone and camera needs, this is not the phone to look at, in my opinion.

However, as I said, the rest of the specs are quite respectable, and I think, worth the premium price. The camera would have made this a home run, and instead, it unfortunately makes the HTC One (M8) just a mediocre phone.

Quad-core 2.3gHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
32GB Solid State Storage
2GB DDR3 RAM
microSD Card Slot supporting up to 128GB cards
5″ HD Display
HTC BoomSound
HTC Duo Camera – 4MP, dual LCD Flash
5MP Front facing camera
Bluetooth 4.0

The device does not appear to have BT LE as part of its Bluetooth stack. I’m not certain why. My iPhone 5 does, and its 2 years older than the HTC One (M8). Very disappointing, and somewhat confusing…

The device has enough onboard storage to hold a movie or two as well as most of your music collection. I’ve got a HUGE music library and have about 2300 songs on my iPhone 5. I’ve got maybe 500MB of space left over after that and all my tech podcasts (apps, etc.) are on it. With only 16GB, I don’t bother with video. There just isn’t enough space.

However, the HTC One (M8) has twice that space, and as I said, you can hold 1-3 HD movies, PLUS a large music collection, PLUS other audio (like podcasts) and still have space left over. You can also stick in up to a 128GB microSD card in the device for a max total space of 156GB. The HTC One (M8) gives you enough storage capacity to take everything with you, without having to compromise.

Its 2GB of DDR3 RAM insures that nearly everything you run – games, video player, music player, productivity apps, etc., run smoothly. In the month or so that I’ve had the device, I haven’t had any performance issues with it. It’s been running smoothly and quickly. I really couldn’t have asked for a better performing device.
The Hardware
Despite the camera issue (which for me, is HUGE, due to my photography bent), the HTC One (M8) has a lot to offer. From a hardware only perspective, the (M8) hits a home run.
The Device Itself
The HTC One (M8) is a great looking, great feeling device. Its aluminum body is solid, and it doesn’t look or feel cheap by a long shot. The device is thin and sleek. As you can see from the pictures below, it makes the larger iPhone 5 (with a 4″ 16×9 screen) seem dinky by comparison. I’ve tried to give you a decent look at the device. You have the full 360, plus the device’s front and back.

HTC One (M8) -0001
The HTC One (M8)

However, I did find that with a 5″ screen, the HTC One (M8) REQUIRES two hands to operate. I am huge (and have been for well over 10 years) on one-handed operability. I live in my device, and often have a notebook, pen and cup of coffee in one hand and my smartphone in another, checking mail, messages and the location of my next meeting. I can do this with my 4″ iPhone 5 quite easily. The device is skinny enough that I can hold the device and work the screen with my thumb.

HTC One (M8) -0002

The HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 5 – front view

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