“These aren’t the Androids you’re looking for”

ObiWanNot long ago I downgraded my phone. I still think it was the best decision ever, when taking the specific function of that phone into account. The Acer smartphone I owned before had a terrible battery life. which made it unreliable. The Windows OS made it even more unreliable and painfully slow. When my mother fell ill, I really needed a phone capable of being standby for days or weeks in a row without constant recharging. The Nokia 100 does exactly that. Brilliant.

Yet I missed checking mail while on the road, amongst other things. How about two phones and an extra SIM card? Being a fan of Android, I started to look around. I don’t like small screens, so everything under 4.7 inch was skipped. Small screens are hard to read and hard to type on. Surfing the WWW isn’t comfortable either.

Almost automatically you end up looking at Samsung Galaxy models. When I saw the prices though, a slightly modified Star Wars line popped up in my head: “These aren’t the Androids you’re looking for. Move along.”

Made In China – a risky decision
In the end I ordered a Chinese Samsung look-a-like for under $99 found on eBay. Maybe it will prove to be the biggest mistake ever, I don’t know. I did look for reviews before ordering though. There are quite a lot of them and to my surprise most were favorable. Sure, specifications lag behind on almost all counts when compared to a Samsung, but other than that no major problems were reported.

Even Google’s Play Store is officially supported, something many earlier Chinese Android phones lacked. The phone will take a while to arrive, especially with the Chinese New Year celebrations in sight. I’ll keep you informed (if anyone cares, after all this is a ham radio blog.)

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You can stop saying “Testing 1-2-3” now.

I’ve been playing around with glSDR, an Android app which enables you to connect to Web SDR servers around the world. The app is free and can be downloaded from Google’s PlayStore. Any doubts about range, QSB or TX audio? Now you can listen to your own station and to yourself (which, BTW, can be very revealing at times.)

Some videos float around the Internet, none of them very professional. I just picked one.

Short review: Using Echolink on an Android tablet

I wanted a tablet too, as I quickly realized how convenient such a device is when surfing and e-mailing. After comparing all the current offerings, I decided to go for a tablet running Android. The one I bought is the Packard Bell Liberty Tab, which is 100% identical to the Acer Iconia Tab A500. Packard Bell doesn’t really exist anymore since 2007, the year Acer acquired that company. The only difference between the two tablets was price, and the beautiful ‘wine red’-colored back of the Packard Bell.

The iPad would have been a good choice too, thinner, less weight, but I didn’t like the lack of connectivity and hated the 4:3 aspect ratio of the screen. Nice to watch an old episode of Lucille Ball probably, but not for enjoying a recent movie.

Echolink software
The Echolink software for Android is free and can be found in the Android Market. Installation is a breeze, and the software proved to be quite stable, too. I didn’t experience any crashes at all, in spite of the fact that the version of the OS changed gradually from 3.01 to 3.2. After logging into the software with your callsign and password, you’re ready to go. Callsign and password will be remembered, so there’s no need to enter them over and over again.

Optimized for phones
It is clear that the software was designed with Android phones in mind, a world where resolution is limited and screens are relatively small. On tablets, the software looks a bit odd and stretched. When transmitting, for example, the complete screen disappears and makes place for one big microphone. That’s ok for a one to one QSO, but it is annoying when you are in a conference with a lot of unfamiliar callsigns. This is something worth changing as quickly as possible. A version for tablets, resembling the layout of the PC version, would be great.

Audio quality
The audio quality of the tablet itself is quite good, but when running Echolink the Packard Bell sounds a bit distorted. It is as if the software tries to compress the audio as much as possible. Although I can’t prove that this is the case, it would make sense: bandwidth is expensive when using a cell phone. If I’m right, this should be user selectable. After all, when using your own WiFi connection, the price of bandwidth is no issue.

Conclusion
Great for phones, less great for tablets. In spite of the current flaws, a ‘must have’ app nonetheless.