Review: Evernote

The first app I ever downloaded was Evernote. It was a coincidence, since I had no idea what I wanted to try out. But it was lucky! Evernote is an app for sharing notes with yourself. When making a note on your desktop computer, it gets synced with your phone or tablet end vice versa. It is versatile and has many useful functions. Integration with Twitter and a Chrome extension being some of them.

You can also take pictures with your phone and add them to one of your notebooks – Evernote is even so clever it can scan your pictures for words and use these as tags, så you can search for them. Even though I will not have any touch gadgets for a while, I will keep using it on my desktop.

The app looks more or less the same on tablets and phones. It is easier to use on a tablet, since the icons are bigger – but that is the main difference. It looks quite different on the desktop computer. Here you have some more functionality, for instance enabling you to sort your notes in an easier way than if you used a touch gadget. I like the way Evernote has been considered for all platforms and developed thusly, instead of trying to use the same implementation on all platforms!

Apparently Evernote is also one of Forbes’ 8 recommended apps for busy women:

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Skype for Xoom

When playing with the Xoom I realised the camera was quite ingenious, and I expected it to be really great for video chat. So I downloaded the Skype app to test it. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to test the videochat, since my friends did not time to help, when I did.

But I tested the normal chat function. In the beginning I found it really hard to use, since it was so difficult to touch the right keys on the keyboard. Lately my typing skills have improved, which made chatting a new experience. It is still not as fast, as on a regular keyboard, but it is acceptable.

The Skype app for Xoom look almost exactly like on a desktop computer and has all the same functionality. Using one or the other is indifferent. The biggest differences is the difficulty in typing and the weight – so If you’re in a sofa you might prefer the Xoom, at a table I would probably prefer the desktop.

Posted in Apps, Tablets | 1 Comment

Review: Google Maps

During my 4 week internship I have used Google Maps the most. Before I only used it occasionally on my desktop computer, but since I’ve started using gadgets the use of Maps have increased – in my daily life and just for playing around.

The best thing I can say about Maps is “IT WORKS”. As soon as I open the app, it finds my location (well, except for the occasional problem, when I’m nowhere near wifi). I have not yet tried finding an adress that it couldn’t find – nor a location only described by name. I usually move around by bike, so I use the directions for walking, which is in beta. I was lost at Høje Tåstrup Station, since the app didn’t tell me which exit to take… but asking someone for directions, didn’t help, since they didn’t know my end point anyway. A combination of Maps and asking worked out just fine though. This is the only trouble I have had with Maps so far.

Maps has different implementations according to the platform on which it is used. Most of the functionality is the same though. I will only focus on the implementation on my HTC Magic and on my Motorola Xoom, since I expect people to be familiar with the desktop application.

On the phone there are only three icons in the top right corner; Find places, Layers and a Compass/Location finder. On the Xoom, there are also directions, and a link for more. Finding more on the phone requires you to press menu. Extra features on the Xoom compared to the phone is “Switch account” and “Cache settings”.

On the phone you can zoom in/out by pressing the zoom buttons OR by using two fingers to make the map bigger/smaller. On the Xoom you can only zoom by using your fingers. It is so intuitive to zoom like that, so I do not understand why they have put the zoom buttons on the phone – especially since the screen is so much smaller.

An extra feature on the Xoom is that apart from zooming, you can also turn the card, by using two fingers. It’s hard to describe why this is a nice feature, but for some reason it just really makes sense.

By the way… last year our mayor decided to change the name of our city from Århus to Aarhus. When Google updated the maps, they also changed the spelling – but to Aahrus. I absolutely love this new way of spelling our city, and I hope the city council will change the name accordingly!




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Experiences with Windows Phone 7

In my attempt to find touch gadgets to try out, I was so lucky to find a friend who owns a Windows Phone 7 and who was also willing to let me borrow it for a few days. Phone 7 owners are not very common in DK yet!

Sadly, I borrowed the phone in days where I didn’t have time to explore it as much as I had hoped.

At first the user interface appears to be very different from the one I have come to know in Android. But there are a lot of similiarities, when you start using it. The biggest difference is that the Windows phone has text icons, where the Android uses icons with pictures.

Basic interaction is easy to learn. But some things are very different! For instance I think I gave my friend 500 new contacts by coincidence. When I logged in to facebook, all my contacts were immediately synchronized with the contacts already on the phone. And on this phone ALL contacts are placed in People. Which also disturbed my use of the phone, since I could not find Facebook… It was no problem signing in, but afterwards it took me almost 24 hours before I found my Wall – it was one of the pages under People.

Even though the phone has not been released in DK and there isn’t a Danish market, it was surprisingly easy to use the market. I had been warned that it might be tricky. For this phone I also downloaded a few games. The selection of games was different from what you see at the android market. I tried out a few, to see if there were any innovative interaction. In the apps I downloaded, there was nothing new with regards to the interaction. It was all about tapping and dragging, just like most apps on Android and iPhone.

The most innovative interaction on a Windows Phone 7 is the OS. But as I had been warned, it does have some “childhood diseases”. I believe that in the next versions of the OS it will have improved. Android and iPhone had some “childhood diseases” as well, in their first versions.

Internet and messaging works really well, even better than on Android. Only problem is, you can not get a Danish keyboard and it doesn’t have a danish dictionary. But that will change, when you can buy the phone in Danish shops.

Posted in mobile interfaces, Windows Phone 7 | 1 Comment

Alternative interaction methods

As I metioned earlier, I have been playing a lot of games, to try out the interaction methods. Two af the games I downloaded had some alternative interaction methods, compared to most of the others.


I found a game, where the controls was NOT to tap the screen and drag a figure… Instead, to control which way Gordy runs you pres an area on the left side of the screen marked right or left, To jump, you press the jump area on the right side of the screen and to do anything else, you press the fourth area, which is only active, when you can do something else. Other things could be, dragging/pulling items and opening doors.

The game is more advanced than most of the other games I have played, and it had great graphics. The graphics kind of reminded me of a classic Wii game. Even though the game was quite advanced it was also immensely simple and once again simplicity has ensured great gameplay.

Dungeon Defense

Dungeon Defense is in many ways similar to Gordy, but still very different. When I first tried it out, I was unable to make my player move – the controls were too difficult, and I did not have the time to figure out what to do. I let a friend borrow the Xoom one evening, and he was thrilled to get a change for playing Dungeon Defense. He had the same problems as me, but changed the controls.

He played for about ½ hour, and started to get a feeling with the game, but there were still too many controls making it too complex to play. (Though maybe with a bit of training, it will be more fun?)

It turned out, that before he had changed the controls, they were similar to the controls in Gordy, but it was not as intuitively displayed. Therefore it was very hard to get started. Also the game was much more complex with many different tasks on a lot of controls! Behind most control buttons was an expansion of choices necessary to use the controls, which created a lot of pauses during the game.

Clearly the game was inspired by similar games for a normal desktop computer, where a lot of these controls would be more intuitive from using the mouse and keyboard.

Posted in Games, Tablets | 2 Comments

Update from a Xoom tablet

I promised to write a blog post from my tablet… I almost gave up before starting since I could not make my keyboard appear in the text field. Honestly I don’t know how I magically made it appear?

Anyway, since my first experiences with the Xoom typing has become a lot easier. When I first got it, I could not type a sentence without making at least as many errors as there were words… My abilities have improved!

As with the phones, I have mainly used it for gaming. Great tool for gaming. It works great on long train trips, since the battery lasts longer than on my laptop or phone. It’s the perfect size, when you are in a train as well, and it is useful for both playing and more serious work (I would not write a long report on it).

The OS is so much easier to use, than the one on my phone, since it has a bigger screen. And it is used well! Settings on botr the android phone and tablet look the same, but with small, yet important changes. For instance turning on wifi: When doing it on the phone, you keep getting a new screen. On the Xoom, these screens open on the right side of the screen, making it easy to see what part of the OS you are working with.



Posted in Android, mobile interfaces, Tablets | 2 Comments

Interaction in simple games

Angry Birds is one of the simplest games I have seen so far, only exceeded by NinJump. Both have an excellent gameplay and makes you keep playing.

In ninjump You play a ninja running up the wall of a skyscraper sometimes jumping to the neighbor skyscraper in order to avoid obstacles or to catch a ride. You make the jump by tapping the screen. That’s all the interaction in the game! And for some reason it works.

In angry birds you shoot birds from a slingshot in order to topple over towers of different building blocks in order to kill some pigs. Different birds have different characteristics and abilities and you can use these abilities by tapping the screen once the bird is airborne.

To shoot the bird, you drag the slingshot in the direction you want. Giving the bird the direction and speed which is necessary to topple over the towers. The layout of each level can be rather large and not fit into your screen, but luckily you can zoom by using two fingers – either pushing them together in order to zoom in or taking them apart in order to zoom out. Once again, a very simple game! But the simplicity works.

Both games scale quite well and I have played them on both a low res phone and a tablet.

Posted in Android, Games, Tablets | 1 Comment

Interaction in games

When I started exploring the user interaction in mobile touch devices I had no previous experience. I quickly understood, that the most innovative interaction happens in games (as it also does on computers) so I have been gaming a lot the last few weeks.

In the next series of posts, I will discuss some of my findings.

Interaction in tilting games

This post will be about tilting games – i.e. games using the accelerometer in the phone or tablet. (also used for deciding whether to turn the keybord 90 degrees, when you are typing a message).

I mainly played different labyrinth games. They have a great affordance, since they remind me of my childhood playing with a big wooden box with a labyrinth on top, trying to guide a ball from end end to another, without it falling into a hole.

Some of the games I played were exactly like that! Tipping my phone or tablet would make the ball roll downwards. When I learned to control my movements it became quite easy to steer the ball around all the holes in the layout. Tricky parts in this game – differing from my childhood toy, is mills turning and preventing the ball from going in one direction or hitting the ball sending it spinning in an unexspected direction. Sometimes these mills can introduce a timelimit – if you don’t get the ball past the mill before it is fully turned, you can not win.

Other games, appearing to be just the same did not bring the same joy. For instance I played one, which had a very poor programming of the acceralometer meaning that it took forever until the game registered the tipping of the phone or tablet. thus the ball kept moving in the wrong direction for a long time. But when it finally started moving in the right direction it would do so so fast that it was impossible to stop the ball from going down a hole.

The conclusion must be, that using the phones acceralometer is a good idea, which can be useful in many games (and probably) as well in many other applications. However it is really important how you program the acceralometer! If it is not responsive the gameplay dies out. And the functionality of any app using the acceralometer will stop making sense!

Posted in Acceralometer, Android, Games, mobile interfaces, Tablets | 1 Comment

Apple sues Samsung

As you probably know Apple is suing Samsung.

This article discusses the lawsuit.
It is very thorough  in it’s analysis – much more than any other discussion of the lawsuit I have seen so far.

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More litterature

I’ve seen quite a lot of litterature on the subject since I started. A lot of it I’ve decided not to publish here, for various reasons, but some of the more memorable ones will still be added.

For example, I quite enjoyed this very simple guide to icon design – a very important area in app development (if your product doesn’t stand out, it won’t be downloaded…)
There are several other guides, which are much more informative with regards to the actual design, including tutorials etc. This one just gives simple but good advice!

Also, I appreciate this article:
which is actually about web design. But the advice is probably even more important in app design! Create overview or your users will get lost…
The article tells us that we should be inspired by the physical world. It uses museums as an example, illustrating how even complex buildings can easily be traversed and even let the user enjoy the trip.

Another helpful site is:
Which describes some of the pitfalls when designing for mobile browsing. It also sums up the most common screensizes for mobile devices (phones as well as tablets), and gives advice on how to use this knowledge.

Even better – it does so by giving visual examples of good and bad design

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