The 2016 Formula One season kicks off this weekend in Melbourne, Australia in what promises to be an interesting season. Mercedes has dominated F1 the last couple of years but all eyes are on Ferrari as they look potent in pre-season testing while Williams, Force India and Red Bull scrap to stay in the hunt each weekend. And don’t forget that in 2016 there is a new F1 team from America: HaaS F1. Whether you are an old fan like me or new to the sport, the Official F1 app for Android is a must-have app. Regardless if you use the free version of the app or get the extra benefits of the premium monthly service, there is a wealth of information about the teams, drivers, and news from around the paddock with the premium service bringing some great live action and radio at each race. Overall it is a solid app but there are a few things that could stand a bit of improvement. Here is my review.
Category: Android App Review
I am a big racing fan. Each Fall, usually in October and November my sports watching goes to nearly zero. Baseball and racing are done until March the next year. One series I love to watch is IndyCar. The US-based open wheel series has struggled for many years but competition is better now than it has been for decades. New aero packages after the death of Dan Wheldon in 2012 (which, ironically, he was testing for the league during the 2011 season) have tightened up the racing and with F1 winner Juan Montoya returning last year (and winning the Indy 500), the 2016 is shaping up to be one of the best.
Along the way, IndyCar has done a great job of continually improving their app for Android. The app, designed for both Android phones and tablets, brings all of the season information as well as news and highlights from your favorite driver and team. While the 2015 version of the app was solid, the recently released 2016 version has built upon that platform. There is a huge amount of information on the series, teams and drivers to be found in the app which will keep you completely up-to-date with all the happenings of the series. If you like the IndyCar series, this app is really a must have for you. It is on par with having MLB at Bat for baseball fans. It’s essential and dare I say a required download.
Like many of you who are reading this, I spend a good portion of my day listening to podcasts. Whether it is news, information or simply a bit of relaxing fun, podcasts are a part of my routine that I would sorely miss if it were not there. The challenge is finding a podcast app that works across my devices yet gives me a lot of power to control when content is downloaded, when it is streamed and equally as important, when it is cleaned off my device after I’m done watching or listening. For me, Pocket Casts from Shifty Jelly is the go-to app.
Featuring a wealth of content, Pocket Casts works on my Android phones and tablets and allows me to synchronize my content so I can keep all of them up-to-date with my latest podcasts. I can listen or watch podcasts directly from within the app and when I am done, the app has an automatic clean up that deletes it from all of my devices so I’m not taking up storage space on content I’ve consumed. I have been using the app for about a month now and having tried many of the podcasts apps in the Google Play Store, this is the one that quickly became and continues to be the benchmark for such apps. At $3.99 for the Android version, it isn’t the cheapest podcast app available but I think it is one of the best and well worth the price.
I have been an AT&T customer since 1997. The only time I wasn’t actively using a mobile device on AT&T was when I lived in England and even then I kept my account so when I did move back I would be able to get a SIM and up and going within minutes. When the opportunity came up to review Project Fi, I was unsure because after such a long time with one carrier, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bother with the messiness of switching. So I met the review halfway. I kept my old number on AT&T and when I set up Project Fi on my Nexus 6, I requested a new number. The thought was, if things went pear shaped, I could simply shut off the Fi service and nobody would be the wiser (as I had just forwarded my old AT&T number to my new Fi number).
I will be cancelling my AT&T service at the end of this month.
After using Project Fi for the past month, in multiple locations throughout the United States, I have been so overwhelmingly pleased with the service and quality of data throughput that I will not be looking back. Indeed in some locations, I have had virtually no signal on AT&T while I have had 3G coverage with Fi. Add to that a powerful and informative dedicated app along with a pricing model that just makes sense, you have what I think is the model that should be scaring the poop out of the major carriers.
What Is Project Fi?
I’ll start by giving everyone a little bit of background on Project Fi, a side project that Google started last year. It is what is known as a Mobile Network Virtual Operator, or MNVO. Google doesn’t actually own the cell towers or physical equipment. Instead, they purchase service from an established carrier and rebrand it. In the case of Google, the bought service from both T-Mobile and Sprint, assuring that they would have coverage for their customers. This is not a new concept here in the United States or in Europe but what makes Project Fi unique is how Google has gone about doing this with the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P.
In those three devices, Google has built in the ability to switch between the T-Mobile GSM network and the Sprint Spark (CDMA) network on-the-fly. Which ever has the stronger signal in the area you are in at the time wins. Doing this is nothing short of engineering gymnastics. To get a device to switch antennas and carrier modes actively is extremely difficult. Then Google went one step further. In the Nexus devices it will switch between these two carriers and Wi-Fi. So now if you have strong, good quality Wi-Fi it will leverage that for your calls and if that signal starts to drop, it will seamlessly hand the call of to one of the carriers so you don’t lose the call. You, as a user, don’t have to do anything to make this happen.
This monumental engineering effort is why you don’t see a generic Project Fi SIM for every device. To really take advantage of the service, you have to have the multiple array of antennas in the device and the software engineered for the handoffs between the carriers and Wi-Fi. That is no small feat. You can also see where there is a lot that could go wrong with this process and user experience and call quality would suffer. That has not been the case at all since I have moved to Fi and in fact I would contend that data throughput and voice call quality has been superior to my other carrier everywhere I have been with the service.
With the 2015-2016 National Hockey League season starting this week here in the US and Canada, you can get ready to keep up with your favorite teams and players with the official NHL for Android app. The app is full of news, video highlights, social network feeds, stats and standings from across the league and you can configure the app to focus just on your favorite team – because really? As a Colorado Avalanche fan do I care about what’s going on with the Dallas Stars? No, not really. 🙂
The NHL for Android app runs on Android phones and tablets and if you are a NHL Gamecenter subscriber, you can watch live action from across the league right on your devices. I’ve often said that the best sports league app in my opinion is the MLB At Bat app for Major League Baseball but the NHL for Android app is undoubtedly just as good. If you love stick & puck, you need to have this app on your phone or tablet.
Electronic Arts last week released the all new Need for Speed No Limits game for Android. The latest game in the franchise is the first that has been designed for mobile first and leverages the talent of the FireMonkey team at EA who created the ever popular Real Racing 3. This latest game has a lot going for it with outstanding graphics and game play. There are a few gotchas though, least of which is the freemium model where you have to pay real cash at some point to get further along in the game. The good news – after playing it pretty extensively all weekend, you can get pretty far into the game without having to make that investment.
Android Marshmallow represents the 6th major update to the Android platform and while some have argued that it is not worthy of a full “dot-zero” version number, when you see the list of things that Google has added or addressed in v6.0, it starts to make sense. Android Marshmallow is certainly not revolutionary. It is an evolution of Android Lollipop, bringing with it a laundry list of improvements, enhancements and features that will make it a worthy competitor to iOS 9 from Apple and a worthy upgrade for users.
For the sake of saving you having to read 10,000 plus words, I’m not going to go over every single new features that is in Marshmallow. Rather, I’m going to focus on the key features that are likely to impact the most users or are going to have the greatest impact long term on the life of this version of Android. Likewise, I’m not going to try to answer the question of if your particular device will receive Android Marshmallow. I’ll give some guidance but it is nothing more than that. I, in other words, don’t know the answer on if your phone or tablet will see it.
Note that this review has been based on testing and usage of the Developer Preview 3 on a Nexus 6.
When compared to some of the more advanced activity tracking apps available in the Google Play Store, Google Fit seems pretty basic. And it is. While designed to be a hub of all your physical activity, Google Fit has some growing up to do. Yet there is a simplicity about the app that makes it a joy to use. It’s not cluttered with endless bar charts or huge amounts of data shoved in your face. The data’s there, but tucked away so you only focus on the here and now.
I’ve been using Google Fit for the past several weeks as I explore its benefits and its limitations. There are plenty of both and if Google continues to build on it as they have done over the past few months, it will be a powerful application for you to keep track of your steps, miles walked, runs, swims and other activities along with your weight. Plus, there are already other apps like Withings and RunKeeper that plug into Google Fit to be that central hub of activity. And it’s free and with Android Wear support, the future is bright for this app. But you will need a bit of patience for now.