CNET to the Rescue: Androidpalooza

On the new CNET to the Rescue podcast, co-host Josh Lowensohn schools us all on the ins and outs of Android.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
5 min read

This week on CNET to the Rescue: it's all Android, all the time. Pretty much, anyway. Tons of questions from listeners on how to make Android work better, and if you should bother at all. Plus, the Mystery of the Silent Pre--solved!

Watch this: CNET to the Rescue #2: Androidpalooza


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Episode 2: Androidpalooza

First, a road test:
Josh's Android road test--devices, apps, newbie tips.

Best apps?
Josh says check out Soundhound, Evernote of course, the Twitter app, Meebo, and PhoneTell. Apps like PDAnet, which give you Wi-Fi tethering, will be outdated by Android 2.2.

There are a bunch of top app lists from places like Lifehacker, TechRepublic, and Techland.

Android Questions
I am a Sprint customer and am going to make the move from the Pre to the Evo, having never used Android OS before. Can you suggest some helpful tips and/or blogs where I can find useful info for someone who is a beginner with this operating system?

Josh: For sure. If you're buying an EVO, HTC has actually programmed in a walkthrough the first time you boot up the phone. They do this on all their phones that have Sense, which is big skin HTC installs on top of the OS. This will show you how to type on the keyboard and select text, as well as a few other things.

If you want to go a bit beyond that Google has, a number of good walkthroughs on YouTube go through Android basics like managing contacts, buying and searching for apps, using the browser, adding widgets to the homescreen. The list goes on.


I currently have a Motorola Droid and will be ponying up the cash to upgrade to the HTC Incredible. I'd love to see y'all show how to migrate from one Android device to another. BlackBerries and iPhones have dirt simple migration tools, but how is that handled with Android since there isn't a desktop app that assists in migration?
--Sloan, The Chief Geek

Josh: Good news is that Android has some very rudimentary back-up built right in. When you do a complete wipe or hop to another phone, all you have to do is head over to the Android Marketplace app on your phone, and all the apps you've purchased will be there for re-downloading. It also syncs up things like contacts, e-mail accounts, and Wi-Fi passwords. But, if you want it exactly like it was on your current phone, there are three major apps on the Android Marketplace that can get the job done.

My top pick is MyBackup Pro. You can use it free for 30 days before having to pony up the $5 it costs. It backs up everything, and works on every version of Android. It can back up all your data to an SD card, or MyBackup's servers (featured here).

Other options include Sprite Backup 2.0, which does the same thing but costs $5 up front, as well as Titanium Backup, which is totally free and has gotten rave reviews but requires that your Android phone is rooted, which I'm assuming isn't.

Another good bit of news on this is that at I/O, Google announced a new API for developers that will let them send user data and settings to Google for safe keeping, so when a user re-installs that app, there will be the option to sync all of it back, like some apps already do. Expect a lot of developers to be building this functionality into their apps.


Could you find a way to browse the Android store without an Android device?

Josh: Google has its own online directory of apps (http://www.android.com/market/#app=com.epocrates), which is fairly meager at the moment but due to get better in the next few months. Last week at I/O, Google showed off the next version of that site, which will include things like search and a "send to device" button that pushes app downloads straight to your phone.

Otherwise, there are a bunch of Android app directory sites out there. AndroidLib is one. There's also MPlayIt, which is actually an app within Facebook; AndroidApps360; AndroidTapp; and, of course, CNET's Download.com. One thing you're going to want to install, if you haven't already is a barcode-reading app to scan whatever QR codes are on the screen on these places. My personal recommendation for that is Barcode Scanner.


Is Flash ready for prime time on Android mobile platforms? i.e. how much patience must we have to run with Flash?

Josh: No, that's why they call it beta. But it does work. You just need a new phone.


I have this nagging misunderstanding when it comes to changing carriers on the same phone. Could you explain all the pitfalls and nooks when it comes to changing carriers--especially when you are traveling?
--CJ, Super Consumer


Could you please let me know how to best make cheap international calls on Android (I'm in the U.K. if that makes any difference)?

I tried Nimbuzz (uses Skype credit), but it didn't work very well.

Currently I'm using an app called Fring, which uses my Skype credit to make calls. It's usually good on Wi-Fi and sort of OK on 3G if you're desperate. But overall not very user friendly and sometimes buggy.

I heard Vopium is cheaper and better than the above, but user reviews are bad.

Makes you wonder why Skype doesn't put together a good app!


A: Try Google Voice?


What are some android features that will only work inside the U.S. (i.e. not in Canada)? I believe turn-by-turn directions will not work, as well as Google Voice. Is this true and can you think of any others?


I'm going to be getting the Evo 4G from Sprint on the 4th of June and I was wondering if there is a program to sync all my music and videos from my computer to my Evo? Will Windows Media Player work just fine? Or do I need some thing different?
--Jon From Wisconsin

A: Answers: 1. Just mount the drive. 2. DoubleTwist


Today's money-saving tip:
Risers for your laptops. mStand from Rain Design if money is no object. But do something to get your laptops off the tabletop, even if just a few inches. Trust me on this. -Rafe

I just finished listening to Episode No. 1 of CNET to the Rescue and I have an answer for your listener's Palm Pre problem. He had plugged speakers into the headphone jack and then lost the ability to use the built-in speaker when making calls. This happened to me a few weeks ago and the Sprint store I took it to told me that my mistake was using headphones with it, even though they are included in the box! A hard reset actually didn't help since it is a simple hardware issue and I solved it by peeling back some of the cotton from a Q-Tip so it could fit into the headphone jack and then just using it to clean the jack. Strange solution, but it totally worked.