Free downloadable and customised Samsung Galaxy S II wallpapers designed by Husam Elfaki. These are available for download here, just right click and “Save As…” on each wallpaper you like.


For those who are looking to get the most out of their Galaxy S II device, I’ve decided to write up a couple of tips and tricks you may not be aware of as regular users but may benefit highly from. Hopefully this will become part of a greater series of posts where I can share information that stems beyond this device but aims information towards the larger spectrum of Android users. From hardware to apps, I’ll be covering topics from small tricks to software updates.

Tip #1 – Swype

If you’re familiar with the Galaxy S II you may have been made familiar with the added “Swype” functionality that comes with the device, an addition made to the touch keyboard included in Android 2.3. Swype is a particularly handy tool when it comes to any form of productivity when inputting text into text messages, search boxes and other dialogues you may come across. You’ll be able to quickly swipe across each letter on your keyboard in order to spell it out without making individual taps for each character.

To enable this feature just go into your Settings page, which can be found in “Applications > Settings” from your home screen, then scroll down to find the “Language and keyboard” option.

Once you find this menu, just tap the “Select Input Method” option and select “Swype” from the dialogue box. And as simply as that, Swype is enabled!

Now for using it! Lets assume that we would like to start our text message with the word “Hello”. By touching the screen at the letter H we begin the word, and without letting go until we’ve finished typing the entire word, drag your finger to the next letter “E”, then to the “L”. Since Hello contains two l’s, make a circular motion over the same letter for a double letter spelling. Finally, drag to the “O” for the finish and it’s done! Swype also conveniently recognises the end of a word and adds a space for you, so you don’t have to hit the space key between words.

Admittedly, this new input method takes a little bit of time to get used to at first, and though there is a chance you may not immediately see the benefit, you’ll adapt to the keyboard layout and become a lot quicker at it. For a more comprehensive tutorial on how to use Swype that covers capitals, misspellings and punctuation tips, press the Swype key located at the very bottom left of the keyboard (Hand with blue stroke).

More tips and tricks to come soon!


 

Free downloadable and customised Samsung Galaxy S II wallpapers designed by Husam Elfaki. These are available for download here, just right click and “Save As…” on each wallpaper you like.

I hope to get some more free downloads out, do let me know if you would like to see more.


One of the first questions users of new Android devices ask is how to download apps, with the intent of extending the functionality of their phone further for making Skype calls or watching videos. The great thing about the Android Market is that games are no different, so this tutorial will cover how to download new games and install them to your device.

 

First off, you’ll need to look out for the Android Market icon, which is usually located in the first screen of your applications menu, characterised by a small green and white shopping bag.

 

You’ll then be greeted with the main menu for the marketplace, where featured applications are shown in a rotating ticker at the top of the menu, and underneath are the buttons to change your search from Apps to Games. You can also check what apps you have already downloaded from the marketplace and manage any updates from there. Once you select the “games” option, you’ll be lead to a page that allows you to choose the category of games you’re interested in. If you’re not sure, pick the “All Games” option and you’ll see some popular options first.

Of course not every game in the Android Market is a free download, and if you aren’t quite prepared to shell out any cash for some of the more premium games on offer there are many free alternatives. Select the “Top free” button at the top of the menu to filter the results, and scroll through the games until you find something interesting.

Simply selecting a game from the list (which is seemingly endless) will give you more details, as you can scroll down to find a description, user comments, ratings and screenshots of what the game looks like once it has been downloaded. If you’re happy with your selection, tap the button at the top of the screen (In this case, “FREE”) to install the game. You’ll then normally be asked to OK a decision for certain game permissions that are described underneath the title. These usually aren’t intrusive permissions, but do make sure you read and agree to the descriptions made before you hit the OK button just in case.

Once the download has been set, you’ll be returned to the list and notified that your item is being downloaded. Once the download is completed, you’ll be able to now find that application in your Applications menu ready to be opened. In this case, my download was “Jewels”, a variation of the popular Bejeweled series specifically for Android.

And that’s it! You’re now able to enjoy your recent download, and if there are other games you are interested in that aren’t free, you can sometimes find a free or “lite” version of the game to try before you decide to make a purchase. With mobile games I tend to normally play them while I’m commuting between different cities and other locations, so for those who are on the move a lot here are a list of the Top 5 games I would recommend for the daily traveller:

1. Angry Birds (Free)
2. Tetris (£1.84)
3. Dillo Hills (£0.61, LITE version available for free)
4. Fruit Ninja (£0.76, FREE version available)
5. Modern Combat 2 (£4.31)

If there are any interesting Android games you’re aware of, do recommend them below as I’m always interested in something new to try. Have you played any of the above games or know anything better?


With the Samsung Mob!lers programme being started back up again for 2011 (and myself being a lucky part of it for this second year running), I’ve been lucky to test run the Samsung Galaxy Pro smartphone and give a comparison on how Android stacks up against Blackberry, using this particular model as a nice point of reference due to its similarity with the range of Blackberry models released by RIM (Research In Motion).

Physicality

What struck me with the Galaxy Pro was its likeness to a typical Blackberry smartphone on the surface, but clearly this was a perception I had made purely based on its physical properties and my previous exposure to Blackberry devices that looked just as similar. I had realised that this thought in particular was a mentality that was being inspired by that range of RIM devices, and whenever I think of smartphones with a keyboard I’m automatically reminded of the rounded square shape of a Curve series device. This instant reaction to the Galaxy Pro was what made me understand just how well established Blackberry have made themselves in this area, with some of their time being invested in devices that take on this form, but also taking their time to advance that form and refining it until it becomes something they can release with confidence.

Beyond this aspect however was that although they occupy similar appearance from a product design standpoint, they are fundamentally different in their underlying technologies, with RIM supporting their Blackberry OS and Samsung running Google’s Android 2.2 (Froyo).

Customisation

As a person with an artistic background and a creative perspective on life, I’d consider myself very in-tune with the look of something, may that be the intricacies in the build of quality a product or a great movie poster. In combination with my interest in technology, I love having the option of customisation with my devices and Android seems to offer this pretty well. The Galaxy Pro offers this ability to change the home screen by adding suitable widgets, changing the background wallpaper, organising apps into folders that are relevant to me, and more. Creating a more personalised experience is something that I would strongly encourage in such a device, but Blackberry doesn’t seem to do as well in this area. Sure, a wallpaper can be changed in a RIM device too, but widgets aren’t available to extend the functionality of the home screen to display weather information or other useful additions. On a personal level and in some cases my homescreen can act as a swiss-army knife of knowledge, but Blackberry devices are exempt from these useful, ambient avenues of information.

Communication

All of this leads me to another point that distinguishes the two operating systems. Blackberry devices are popular for their communication capabilities, and seem to be the weapon of choice in business and corporate environments. Push emails in BB devices can allow users to receive email instantly when configured to their device, instead of having an Android device actively search for new messages every couple of minutes (Pull emails), which can drain battery life and other resources in Android devices. Perhaps this isn’t an incredibly big deal for casual users, but for those communicators who rely heavily on email and also want a phone to withstand the hours, a blackberry phone wouldn’t be far from a suitable option.

Then again having an Android device that is also able to sync multiple mailboxes and receive email in a more than adequate manner can be just as fantastic. It seems to me that the additional benefits of Android far outweigh the disadvantage of the off-chance that you receive an email 10 minutes later than it is expected. Samsung’s Social Hub, included in the Galaxy Pro, is also a great way of keeping your communications fairly straight forward and manageable, segregating multiple mailboxes but keeping tabs on the important stuff, including text messages straight to the device.

Apps

As of posting this comparison review, the Android Market is the fastest growing app store in the world. With the number of applications being developed for Google’s mobile operating system it’s hard to understand what now makes Blackberry a preferred choice of smartphone, as a lot of its features can be found in an application on an Android handset. As stated before a Blackberry device is a reasonable tool for communications and social connectivity, but being socially enabled now extends beyond the ability to receive email. Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Google+ and more applications are bringing people together, instant messaging applications, Skype calling and more is now possible away from RIM devices, and more clients for these new services are being introduced as the months go by. Even after considering the communication genre of apps, we know that games, utilities, music & video apps, and more is becoming available through the extensively updated Android Market. The mobile phone is starting to become less linear in purpose and more multifaceted as time progresses, and it seems that this is being realised by Blackberry as it goes on. A big emphasis on Blackberry’s new Playbook and its branding points the company in the direction of a more light-hearted, less business-oriented approach to mobility, but that seems like too little too late at this stage. We’ll see.

Conclusion

My belief is that Blackberry is slowly losing its unique selling point, its own perspective is being capitalised on in better ways and at a faster rate thanks to the rate of growth of other competitors. If Blackberry can create a more distinguished experience that delivers on something as well as it has been in the past, then it should thrive in a market full of apps, widgets, addons and more. Android is taking the large steps by accommodating to a greater variety of people, but maybe RIM need to offer an experience that makes sense to stay with the company that has been in the business for an incredibly long time. Find the needs of its current users and improve their lives, but make an attempt to expand horizons and become more inviting to attract others.

The verdict? It’s a clear win for Android. Many features, great customisation, equally fantastic communication capabilities and strong growth puts Google in front of their competition at the moment. A more comprehensive review of interface and comparison of features should follow this article soon, but in the mean time, do post a comment and let me know what you think. Android or Blackberry?


So the second task I was asked to do was to create an advert for the Samsung Galaxy S II. The idea was that I would do my best to try and communicate what this device meant to me, and seeing as this was more of a creative task I decided to take my time with it and enjoy it. Here’s what I came up with.

The main inspiration behind this image was that I felt I could do a lot of things with the phone, and with it being so feature packed it made more aspects of my life accessible. In a way a lot of my daily life and tasks would revolve around the device and the information was brought to life. The image also focused a lot on clarity and bringing things to life with the glass beach ball coming out and the weather widget shining in daylight too.

I went with “Vivid, Fast, Slim.” as the tagline, which was more or less the message from current advertising that had resonated with me the most. The screen is incredibly sharp, the performance is very fast and it could all fit in my pocket comfortably. Hope you like it! If you have any thoughts let me know.


Being involved in the Samsung Mob!lers programme was one of my highlights of 2010, and it’s with pleasure that I can partake again this year by coming to post my first review of 2011 for the highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone. I was initially very excited when I found out I would be receiving one of these devices, and (to put it lightly) the excitement hasn’t exactly worn off yet. I’ve decided to split my review into two posts, with the first covering the hardware of the Galaxy S II such as the camera and display, and the second (which will be posted at a later date) will be covering the software, the Android OS, apps, user interface and more. Lets start with the physical.

A little background first; The Galaxy S II sports a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED+ display at 480×800 screen resolution, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor capable of handling the new build of Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’. Also featuring is an 8-megapixel camera in the back that is capable of shooting full 1080p high-definition video, and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video conferencing. All managing to be stacked into a phone that’s 8.49mm thick and weighs 116g.

Display

The initial reaction to the display was incredibly positive from the moment I turned this device on. Being greeted by a vibrantly coloured Android mascot as I set up my credentials was the moment that I realised this display was going to be super crisp and rich in detail. Fortunately I wasn’t wrong as I couldn’t even distinguish individual pixels from each other at first glimpse. The vibrance of the screen cannot be done justice through photographs and videos although I sure tried my best with the example above, it’s simply stunning.

The quickness of the touch-screen cannot be faulted either, with the dual-core processor cutting the response time of the phone to its absolute minimum. I tried my best to get the phone to lag with a couple of apps open, but the Galaxy S II seems to just take whatever I throw at it and still have room for more. As I scroll through menus the reaction of the motions and animations are snappy, definitely what you would hope to expect from a smartphone of this calibre and more. If you want to find out more about the performance of the Galaxy S II, I highly recommend checking out Dom Armstrong‘s blog, a fellow mob!ler who has managed to carry out extensive performance tests. To save you a little bit of time though this set the new performance benchmark and, quite frankly, smashed the old one.

Camera

The camera that comes with the Galaxy S II is an 8-megapixel camera that takes pictures at a maximum of 3264×2448 pixels (for those who like the numbers), and that’s a pretty large photograph for a phone. Images are recorded at an incredibly high quality would easily make any casual photographer proud.

Luckily enough, the Galaxy S II is equipped with an LED flash with its rear-facing camera, something that disappointed many of the previous Galaxy S users who needed to take photographs in darker conditions. One thing that I did find slightly disappointing was the lack of a camera/take photo button on the side of the phone, which makes taking photos a little bit easier and more intuitive than pressing a finger on a touchscreen, but I quickly got over it having understood the mechanics for taking a photo right away. Needless to say it is incredibly bright, and perhaps I can provide more sample photographs (or even write an in-depth camera feature later) in the near future. For now, here’s a macro capture of my Macbook Pro keyboard for the mean time, hopefully this should suffice!

Physicality & Design

The feeling of the Galaxy S II in the palm of my hand was slightly unusual to get used to initially, having previously owned a Samsung Wave that was slightly smaller than this. It wasn’t a bad transition however as the phone felt light and sturdy, with a solid build quality that doesn’t feel cheap or plasticky at all. Using the phone in one hand, I was able to reach most of the interface with ease, although I found I had to hold it slightly differently to reach areas such as the upper corner furthest away from my thumb. Do make sure you go in-store and test the display model and feel how suitable the phone might be with your own hand, but I will say that it was very easy for me to become accustomed to.

The design of the Galaxy S II is undoubtedly sleek and simple, taking on a minimalistic and premium look that puts the focus on its vibrant display and takes away the rest of the needless qualities. Again, the feeling of the phone in the hand doesn’t feel tacky and lackluster which is something that is to be expected from a premium handset such as this. The simplicity and attention to detail is obviously something that Samsung has looked into, where even the volume rocker is a basic one-piece button, either side triggering higher or lower volume.

The main home button in the center returns the user to their home screen that contains the useful widgets and shortcuts, while there are two capacitive buttons at either side, the left one summoning a settings menu, and the right being a back button for reversing out of those deeper menus. The power button is positioned at the right side of the device near the top, and the Micro-USB port positioned at the bottom for charging/data transfer.

Sound

Sound playback in the Galaxy S II is of a high quality considering playback coming from a mobile device, with the maximum volume of a song being able to reach incredibly high levels. The playback is great with the speakers themselves and is very loud, but for those who wish to listen privately, the device is equipped with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. With a pair of in-ear headphones supplied with the handset, the sound quality is very rich with the fine details picked up for your music and video needs.

Conclusion

Having previously been using a Wave phone prior to the Galaxy S II (and being very happy with it), I find myself even more satisfied with this new device. My experience with the phone has been nothing short of positive, and while it could have done with an additional photo button to compliment its powerful camera, I have no other comments to make about the phone on a physical level. An OS review of the new Android 2.3 ‘Gingerbread’ will follow this article soon, including the usability of the phone, supplied software, and more.

What are your initial perceptions of the Galaxy S II? Would you buy one? Do you own any Samsung mobile products such as the Galaxy S or others? Do let me know what you think or leave any feedback in the comments section!


My time as a Samsung Mob!ler has been really great and rewarding, and just recently I was asked to think of an idea for an app that I think would either revolutionise the way we see apps today, or just something different that hasn’t made it to the market yet.

Well, the app that I thought of is actually a current collaborative effort between myself and a friend of mine Jack Merrell (http://www.jackmerrell.co.uk), and we’re working on developing this concept at Northumbria University for one of our final year modules.

The idea is to create a unique music sharing experience that allows users to stream and listen to the same music simultaneously. This will effectively filter music by people (which consists of the users inner circle of friends) and introduce a new way of sharing recommendations, requesting music at live events/parties, and visualising common interests with others, as well as many other possibilities.

The concept is to create a service (which the app is a byproduct of) that lets users listen to tracks together in remote locations. Add your friends to the service and create “inner circles” of friends that you would like to share different types of music with. You can share playlists and collections of music and ultimately broaden your horizon of music, and hear more things that you aren’t normally exposed to.

The app would also allow users to vote music upwards in a collective playlist, which could be fantastic for nightlife environments where people can request music without interrupting the DJ in the middle of his mixes. See the current music playing in a club with the app and add it to your collection as you are in a party, and you’ll never need music recognition software like Shazam installed on your phone again!

With the inclusion of GPS tracking to see where people are listening to what music, the app would visualise relative interests in music through multiple visualisations such as Venn Diagrams and other ways which are meaningful to the user, see how much common you really have with your friends and bridge gaps with your interests. Imagine also being able to follow your favourite artists/bands and see what they are listening to on the plane to their next gig! Outputting these locations of music would essentially create a “music-scape”, and even see where one track has been listened to all over the world!

The overall idea is to inspire others to find more possibilities and become more open. Myself and Jack are really happy with the concept we’re working on, and are actually creating a blog to catalogue our progress over at http://smartfilters.tumblr.com. Remember, this is all intellectual property under the university since it’s our work, no stealing! ;)

Also, Jack Merrell is a great friend and designer, again his portfolio can be found here: http://www.jackmerrell.co.uk.


Last week I received a new Galaxy Tab courtesy of Samsung after completing my Mission #4 review on this new device whilst in-store, and I have to say that my expectations of this tablet were far exceeded in all departments. In my last review I showcased my favourite part of the Galaxy Tab, and that was the power of the device as demonstrated by the gaming capabilities.

That said, I was asked as part of Mission #5 to write a review on a game of my choice. A brief look into a selection of games made me want to instead review two games in some detail, with one game being 2D and the other 3D in order to visualise the entire experience for fans of either of the two types. The 2D game I have selected is “Angry Birds” created by Rovio Games, and the 3D game will be “Asphalt 5” developed by Gameloft.

2D Gaming – Angry Birds

By far one of the most popular games across both iPhone and Android devices, Angry Birds delivers on long lasting playability with a staggering total of 195 levels. The aim of the game is to take revenge on the pigs that stole the birds’ eggs by launching the birds (in a kamikaze manner) from a catapult at the pigs. This is done by pulling back the catapult with your finger and letting go, with the hope of using precision and strength to break past obstacles and clear the level of the enemy pigs.

Aside from the sheer addiction that comes attached with this game, the graphics are very well done, with character designs that have been thoroughly considered and general art direction that aims to please all audiences. Vibrant colours remain an attractive asset that keeps the gaming canvas fresh and interesting throughout play, and this is one of the reasons the game seems to resonate with so many people around the world.

When it comes to the true dynamics of gameplay, Angry Birds handles physics very well, objects feel and behave as they would be expected to and allows for different strategies to be used. Different birds have different capabilities and different surfaces they are best at handling, and this takes some of the possible tactics to a different level as you progress through the game. The levels themselves are very well designed and different challenges are continuously presented to keep the action from going stale at any point!

The greatest part of all of this is that when you play Angry Birds on the Galaxy Tab, you are given so much more screen real estate than you would otherwise be given on most smartphones in the market today. Regardless of the current Android build not being as well optimised for tablet devices as it could be, Angry Birds is not at all influenced with its use of graphics being suited for a variety of device resolutions. Multitouch gestures that allow you to pinch and zoom are also supported if you wish to see the playing space in different sizes too.

Overall, if you are a great fan of games that have a lot of substance and continuity, challenge you in new and creative ways, and are not difficult to grasp, Angry Birds is a title that you will most definitely enjoy wherever you are. I have been obsessed with getting full stars across as many levels as I could (incase you missed the screenshot above), so you can only take my word for it.

3D Gaming – Asphalt 5

With the emergence of 3D gaming on mobile platforms, I wanted to see how the Galaxy Tab’s processing power could handle this type of gaming and whether it had enough to sway me to play more games of a similar nature. This is where Asphalt 5 came into the equation, and though I previously posted a gaming demonstration video on YouTube I didn’t have as much chance to explore the possibilities of the game and really assess the quality.

On the surface, Asphalt 5 is a well-crafted 3D title by popular mobile gaming developers Gameloft that utilises the Galaxy Tab’s accelerometer to control your car. Tilt the Galaxy Tab left and right and your car will steer in the respective direction, a truly engaging way of enjoying racing to say the absolute least. If that however is not your bag, a different control mode is available that requires a lot less physical effort.

From a Mini Cooper S to a Ducati 1198 superbike, Asphalt offers an incredible array of motor vehicles to enjoy and unlock through a series of challenging yet really fun races in the career mode. There is also room for modification of your car with paint jobs and performance upgrades, as well as adequate statistics for your tracking pleasure. The game even includes decals for a customised racing car, and if that doesn’t impress you for a mobile game then I’m not sure what will!

In terms of both performance and aesthetics, the game graphics are absolutely on another level with some of the best mobile 3D you can find for a while, equally supported by a smooth gameplay experience. The environmental elements such as buildings, boats and signs are also rendered in 3D which I find to be a subtle but definitely effective touch, and everything seems to be handled very well by the Galaxy Tab.

On the whole, Asphalt 5 manages to deliver on both performance and quality gaming; with a great range of features and lasting playability, anybody would be wrong to miss out on a game like this. Again with this title the Galaxy Tab offers so much more screen real estate, and comparing the same title on the Samsung Wave smartphone definitely meant I wanted to play it more on the tablet. This is surely a recommended download, whatever the cost.

Do you have any thoughts about gaming on the Samsung Galaxy Tab? Have you played any games on tablets or mobile phones recently on either Android or iOS devices? Or maybe you have a general reaction towards mobile gaming in general, either way let me know what your thoughts are!