Tag Archives: Android

How To Make Your Android A BlackBerry

blackberry (Photo credit: arrayexception)

So you accepted the peer pressure and finally decided to move to Android from BlackBerry.

The Blackberry experience is an all inclusive flow, in which the experience is about you, the user. For this, I love Blackberry.  Most people who never had the opportunity or patience to try Blackberry believe the only thing it has is BBM. There is more to Blackberry than BBM. Fine, the app catalog is atrocious. But the intrinsic basic phone features are deeply thought out.

For a legacy Blackberry user, Android is too much work. The first thing you shall notice on android is it operates like an operating system. Android is built in a way in which every aspect operates stand alone.Basically Android provides a base upon which, like Windows, you add on the wallpaper, software and utilities you require to suit your needs.This is a good think for a tinkering techie seeking “freedom”, but for someone who wants to buy a functional phone that has been thought out for you in advance, Android is not the best option. The fact that the apps are not built to work with each other sometimes creates issues, one app interrupting or crashing another.

That first week is hard, very hard. You will be excited about the new apps that you now have access to. But from the GUI,games,tools,utilities to deep system functions, Android is suited towards the user tweeking and tinkering every aspect of the phone. The absence of several things will shock you. Having to configure others will shock you too. Fortunately, on Android there is always an app for your needs.

So here is a list of apps for things you take for granted on Blackberry that you require to make your Android life better.

EMAIL: BIS and BB Email System is what any hardcore BlackBerry user swears by. For Android, you have Exchange By TouchDown Key, Under Notrodesk Inc. It is the best Exchange client system on Android.

DOCUMENTS: Blackberry has the ability to view and work on documents, its a business machine. To replicate this on Andorid, use QuickOffice, an excellent documents for mobile service acquired by Google. With PDF support, QuickOffice is the document app of choice on Android. A similar third party app is Go Office Pro.Both also allow you to plug in to documents stored in the cloud on your Google Drive.

SMS SENT TIME: This seems rather foolish, but some Android platforms do not show the time a sender sent you an SMS. Crazy right? Samsung and a few others correct this defect, but some stock android ROMs do not show SMS sent time. Fortunately there is an app for that. SMS Sent Time on the Google Play store.

AUTOREDIAL: If you ever needed to autoredial someone, a feature that comes in built in all basic phones, and on BB, on Android, you require an APP for it. The App is Auto Redial on the Google Play Store.

BB KEYBOARD: Blackberry with their long experience in QWERTY have really done an excellent job with the keyboard. Fortunately for Android folks, there is Swiftkey and Swype. This doesn’t replicate the BB experience but it gets close.

NO BLACKBERRY HUB!! If you have used Blackberry Hub, then you will be distraught at Androids communication experience. The BB hub provides a unified communications hub for tweets, facebook, SMS, Call notifications and alerts,DMs,Emails and other third party apps like Viber and Whatsapp.  To attempt to replicate this experience, download Droid Hub from the App store. Messages+ also on the appstore handles multiple messaging apps in one interface, but still cannot match BB hub.

SMART AUTOMATED ACTIONS:  Blackberry Z10 users talk about Bedtime mode. Like how placing the phones face down, a call is cancelled or goes on vibrate? Or past Ten O’ Clock certain notifications are muted? Or certain times trigger certain actions? Or low battery levels triggers energy saving settings on apps and on the phone? If you want this on your Android phone, download AutoMateIt on the App store. This app enables you to customize automation rules, you set the trigger or set of triggers which will push an action, which is saved as a rule. This can replicate your bedtime mode experience and more.

SEARCH: Its weird that the mighty Google cannot muscle phone search the way Blackberry do. This I am afraid is something you would just have to get used to. BB search is universal and smart, working with and into the whole phone. It searches apps, contacts and actions to them as well! For example to send a text to Jane, if you search “text Jane” it will  open your SMS box with the recipient being Jane. Android unfortunately cannot give the same effect.

BBM:  BBM is finally available for Android, so get this on the app store.

 SIMPLICITY:  Androids interface is like constantly working on DOS, and at the same time layering upwards to Windows type GUI. Honestly, one really does not need to constantly be in the engine of their device. On BlackBerry, what you saw was what you got, with few GUI and theme changes, giving you routine, which leads to ease and productivity in how you interact with the phone, in as few clicks as possible.

Many Android users find themselves constantly deleting and adding applications and features, constantly swiping and clicking even when they are doing nothing with the phone.

As a former blackberry user who is used to the phone as a tool, both for work or play, using it when it needs to be used,this can get very annoying, and can make one very exasperated.

the cure for this is downloading a minimalistic Android Launcher like Smart Launcher or Aviate.


Utilise these minimalist launchers after having implemented all the app changes above and you will have a very smooth and productive Blackberrylike Android smartphone experience.

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Is Android The New Windows?

My guess is, it is.

A bit of background on my perspective. 

Before the advent of pervasive Windows,Computing was weird – software was coupled with hardware in a hard to use expensive and complex UX.

Post Windows, the hardware playing field was levelled. Basically, all OEM’s were forced to think about design, battery life, processing power, GUI and UI to differentiate their offering.

Brands like Dell, HP and now Lenovo have used different product and marketing methodology to carve their niches.  But any wise buyer knows that these machines are all the same, given the specs are the same.

This wisdom is pervasive now, apart from the total PC noob who still buys stuff by the brand and not the specs.

Enter Android.

Android equalises a highly differentiated mobile phone marketplace by taking away the software layer, forcing phone vendors to focus on hardware core.

However, current market leaders like Samsung have used fancy marketing to make the brand larger than life. So much so if you have a Tecno phone or Forme phone with higher specs than Samsung you are bound to look uncool.

In time people will learn to think less about the brand and software dynamics and focus on phone specifications.

I’m not writing about Acer,Asus,Sony,Toshiba,HP, Dell Notebooks.

I’m talking the real Notebook. Pen and Paper.

From a mild observation, even in the geekiest tech expos and conferences, pens and notebooks are still handed out! Why?

Paper is still a primary collection point, in spite of all advances.

If you are over 25, chances are you take notes and place reminders with pen and paper as oppossed to or in conjunction with Workflowy,Evernote,Paper,RTM and other productivity notetaking apps.

This question becomes even more critical when you think about the millions of dollars being spent on tablets for education and OLPC by governments the world over.

The answer,I suppose, is in our upbringing. We are a lost cause;unlearning 20 plus years of rote education and studying on pen and pad is a daunting task.

However if a child is brought up with the tablet or laptop as the primary input mechanism for study,then we will soon see a very different world.

Tablets are largely built for the consumption of content, usage of applications with creative input has slacked greatly.

I believe only the next generation will use gadgets, working with the internet of things, as a primary collection point.

SIRI and Speech Recognition


At the height of the Siri craze, and the Siri memes like Stuff Siri Says, it was pretty easy to believe that Apple single handedly reinvented the way we interface with devices.

Just like tablets, the niche market advertising strength was so good it could fool even the most sober of minds.

Take the tablet concept for example, its work design and concepts have been in full product release by other companies yet to the albeit sober minds who had no knowledge of the history of technology, Apple “invented” the tablet.

So it has been with Siri and Speech Recognition.

So much so, when Android developers pushed out IRIS, a sirilike mod application of SIRI ( note too, that IRIS is SIRI backwards) for the android app store over a weekend hackathon, comments on the blogs announcing that milestone were brutal.

Some suggested they be sued, others were like “ Apple ALWAYS does it first, everyone follows…”

In this field too however, there have always been subtle forerunners.

So the other day I was typing a speech on my laptop (it runs Windows 7). I was helping out a friend’s parent by writing her speech for her retirement dinner.

I always use Avafind to trace my references and resources. I think the wizards who created Avafind deserve better, it’s the quickest way to anything on ones computer.

This time however, I clicked the windows start button, and in the search box under my programs,typed the word “Speech”.

You would never guess what happened. If you haven’t tried it, you should.

Up pops this little elliptical chrome interface with a microphone,a mic meter, a darkened text instruction screen with the silvery words “listening”.



So this little tyke is Microsoft’s speech recognition software for Windows, and she’s been here on my laptop all this time!

Its a pretty nifty bit of software. The commands on windows are not so puny as those one handles on Siri, so it requires a bit of machine learning for it to understand how you speak and say certain words, through some tutorials, where it gives you sentences to dictate to your computer.

You also need some learning too, the commands on how to switch from application to application, open different programs, exit, open a tab…

The best aspect is the dictation feature, which works pretty well.

The concept takes some getting used to, and unlearning typing to familiarize oneself to speaking to the computer is no mean feat, especially the aspects of thought process and flow of ideas. I may soon be posting blogs fully from dictation, but not just yet…

when you try it you quickly realize how complicated some of the tasks on a computer are.

The ability of the machine to first learn to listen to you, and then compute your commands into functions is pretty impressive.

I really admire the guys at call centers doing remote PC helpdesk. Ever tried to remotely help someone to carry out a Word or Excel task that they have never done before?

“ click on…go down the menu, click on this, right click …” Its pretty hard work.Especially when the person on the other end is not a power user.

Right now as is, Microsoft’s speech recog software is not plug and play, however, I am certain with the current interest in speech recognition software, Windows 8 will have some pretty impressive speech features. They actually hint at this on the Windows 8 Beta Portal.

Nokia in Africa: Distribution of Mobile Users.

Mobile phone manufacturers market share in Q3-...
Image via Wikipedia

It is a fact that Nokia has Africa locked down, with the largest market footprint for both smartphones and dumb phones.

However their products are directed at different people so do not ask how come certain “good” phones are not in media advertisements.
From research I have conducted, this is the distributiion of Mobile Phone users in the region:

1. Dumb Phone Users
These users have no knowledge of, and care less for multimedia and collaboration. The most uses needed for phones for them are calls and a bit of sms.

Phones used are basic and monochrome. Providers target these with sms and voice products, like subscription sms services and 0900 number kind of voice services.

Some organisations and MVAR Mobile Value Added Resellers are getting creative in this sector, and reaping the most as this is where most of Africa is.

2. Progressive Urban User
This person is fad wowed. Each new phone with gadgets, clear AMOLED visuals, blue teeth, white teeth, red teeth, infra red, infra pink, infra green, facebook, Apps, games, MP3 and other wow features.

For this crowd, the wow and popular status of the phone matters more than functions.
That the phone looks good and has a name mentioned often in the media matters more than what it does, it is a statement.

This is where most Iphone sales, the new LG,Samsung, high end Nokia, S-Ericssons and current fad, Android based phones fall. Forget that Android is a platform like Windows or Simbian.

3. Discerning User
This is a small but significant number of people who know to precise detail what is needed in a phone.

In two groups the discerning user is either a corporate user or a geek. The geek wants a phone that he can ftp with, or do remote server connections, or tweek himself…the variables are numerous. This group is hard to please as questions are asked and comparisons made.

Infact were it not for the corporates therein, this lot would never be advertised to.

Problem is this lot has the cash to spend on a great product. Go into a geek forum and look at the recommendation given on the best smartphone. Trust me it is not the phone that is in the advertisement on rotation in media.

The second lot in this group is the corporate or enterprise user, who just wants Push email. To be honest, and on a direct search I conducted at Safaricom Shops, Orange and Zain, all recommend BlackBerries. RIM‘s BIS is superior to current offerings, and what I was told was configuring Push email on Android, Samsungs and Nokia would be Kujaribu and not a guarrantee that it would work.

Another told me straight up; these phones don’t push, its just a gimmick.

So there, that’s the real state of the mobile world.

William Warero, Esquire, is an IT Evangelist, Solutions Integrator and passionate about bringing change using knowledge via ICT.

E:wwarero@gmail.com, S:william.warero

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