- 1 What am I carrying around?
- 2 Apps
- 3 Other Stuff
Last week, we gave you a glimpse into what David uses: his favorite gadgets, accessories, apps, and all the other tech junk that he doesn't go a day without. Now it's my turn. With this series, you'll see how different each member of the AP team is when it comes to how we use our gear, which is one of the best things about Android: it's versatile.
Since David's already done the legwork of explaining what "What we use" is all about, I'm just going to jump right in.
What am I carrying around?
Phone: Samsung Galaxy Nexus
What it's running: CyanogenMod 10 Nightlies with ClockworkMod Touch Recovery
I love my Galaxy Nexus. It's easily the best phone I've ever owned. It's root-friendly, runs stock Android without the need for a custom ROM, and the overall design is sleek and sophisticated.
I've had my GNex since it was released on Verizon at the end of last year, and I still have little desire to upgrade (that's a record for me - I normally want a new phone every few months). The form factor and button arrangement are basically perfect in my opinion, and the on-screen navigation buttons are a huge improvement over physical capacitive keys. I wish more manufacturers would embrace that feature.
Of course, there are things about it I would change: I wish the camera were a little bit better, especially in low light, and I kind of hate the cheap plastic crap it's made of. I dropped it onto concrete a few weeks ago and put a massive ding in the top, so now I have to use a case because A) I can't stand to look at the blemished corner, and B) I'm afraid I'll do it again. Not a huge deal, I guess; I just prefer my phones naked.
Either way, I'll probably continue to love my GNex until the new Nexus (Nexii?) comes along later this year. Then I may jump ship and snatch that (one of those?). As an aside, I'm actually pining pretty hard for the Note II on Verizon, so I'll have to fight the urge to pick that up unless I make the irrational decision to add another line of enslavement to my Big Red account.
Tablet(s): Nexus 7
What it's running: Stock firmware, rooted, with ClockworkMod Touch Recovery
Did you really expect anything less? I've used nearly every popular Android tablet on the market and the Nexus 7 is hands down the absolute best of the bunch. I have a few other tablets, too, which have been rendered nearly useless by this little powerhouse (though they definitely come in handy for device-specific research, when necessary).
Why yes, I am using the same wallpaper on my phone and tablet. Nice of you to notice.
Here's where you'll find that I differ from most of the other AP staff: my tablet is my primary mobile device. In fact, unless someone calls me, I sometimes go entire days without even touching my phone. My tablet is the first thing I grab in the morning to check email, social sites, and RSS. It's the last thing I put down at night after a bit of reading. And I use it all throughout the day, too. It's my music-streaming machine, casual web browsing device, and portable gaming setup (I wouldn't call myself a "gamer" by any standards). I also use it take review notes, as my alarm clock, and... well, whatever else I can think of.
Update: Had a couple of requests for the wallpaper, so here it is:
ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700)
What it's running: stock, unrooted firmware
I'm not going to lie - I love the N7 so much, I rarely use the TF700. For a 10" tablet, though, it's the best on the market. Thanks to the Tegra 3 T33 processor, this thing's super fast, and the 1920x1200 display is absolutely gorgeous. I just wish ASUS would hurry and push Jelly Bean to it. I'm curious to see how well it's going to perform with Project Butter. Something tells me that it's going to make it even more incomparable in the 10" space.
- ZAGGkeys Flex Bluetooth Keyboard - I use a Bluetooth keyboard with my N7 quite a bit. I love this one because it's easy to type on, the case becomes a tablet stand, the rechargeable battery lasts for months, and its insanely light. Like, it'll blow your mind it's so light. On the downside, it's a bit loud. Can't win 'em all.
- SPIGEN kuel f60Q portable charger - Because I like using my gadgets, the batteries drain fast. Some faster than others (LTE on the GNex is a battery killer). Thus, I have to take a portable charger along pretty much everywhere I go. The kuel f60Q packs 6,000mAh, is built like a tank, and has pretty blue lights. I like all of those things, so this is the charger that stays in my bag pretty much all the time.
Initially, my plan was to lay this section out in a neat, organized bullet list with categories and my favorite apps within each. Once I realized how many apps I love, I threw that idea out the window and decided to go with a more straightforward approach. Instead, I'm going to focus on my top five favorites (and why), then list the rest out with a brief reason as to why I love each one so much.
If I had to pick one setup that I can't live without on any of my devices, it would be Foldersync with Dropbox. While Foldersync itself is very powerful, I use it for only one purpose: automatically uploading screenshots and camera pictures. This automation is invaluable for me - I take tons of screenshots, and Foldersync automatically uploads them to Dropbox as soon as I take them. When doing a review or hands-on, I can take several screenshots, and by the time I go back to the computer to finish the article, they're already waiting for me in Dropbox. Foldersync saves me incredible amounts of time, and in a business where getting things done in a timely manner is clutch, this is one resource I simply can't do without.
If you have a smartphone or tablet, you undoubtedly use a web browser. Since I use Chrome on my PCs, Chrome for Android is the only way to go in the mobile space. Tab/Bookmark sync is infinitely useful, especially considering how often I switch computers and mobile devices throughout the day.
Is it perfect? No way. But it's better than (or at least comparable to) all other mobile browsers that I've tried, and Google updates it fairly often, so the experience is constantly improved. I just wish they would add support for Chrome plugins - no other mobile browser would even come close after that.
I use both my phone and tablet as music players all the time. I started off just storing my music locally, but switched to Amazon Cloud Player once it became available. Many months (and several cloud streamers) later, Google Music was my player of choice. While I haven't completely abandoned GM, Spotify Premium is now my absolute favorite way to play music. It has nearly every feature I've longed for from a music service: good internet radio, the ability to search and listen to individual tracks or full albums, and playlist support that lets me take my music offline if I choose. Of course, the app is still a bit quirky and is missing some key features - like landscape support - but it's well on its way to being the best music player/service available on Android.
As if you didn't already know this - I write a lot. Often several thousands of words a day. I write across a few different devices throughout the day: my desktop, laptop, tablet, etc. For longer pieces that are written over the course of a few days (like this one, for example), I use Evernote. I can start it on my desktop, work on it from my laptop for a while, switch over to my tablet when I get tired of working on a traditional PC, and add any thoughts/ideas I may have from my phone. It really is a fantastic cross-platform solution for anyone who writes, takes notes, or just needs to keep track of things from multiple devices. I've yet to find anything that even compares, much less does a better job.
It's not that texting from my phone is impractical in any way, I just prefer typing on my Nexus 7 (and I usually have a Bluetooth keyboard connected). Ergo, I prefer to text from my tablet, as well. And for that, I use Tablet Talk. It's easy to set up and feature-rich, providing me with everything that I need from a messaging client. I've been meaning to try out Koush's new solution since it also support SMS from the desktop, but honestly, I just like Tablet Talk so much that I can't abandon it long enough to give something else a shot.
- gReader - This is actually one of my all-time favorite apps, but instead of giving it a paragraph here, I just figured I'd direct you to my full review.
- Currents - For casual RSS, I love the magazine-style layout.
- GMail - Because who doesn't use (and love) GMail?
- Dropbox/Drive - Cloud storage at its finest
- Pinterest - Say what you will about Pinterst. I love it, and this is easily one of the best-designed apps I've ever seen on Android.
- Thumb Keyboard - Because thumb typing on a tablet is a real pain without it.
- Netflix - Because movies.
- Play Magazines - Paper mags are old hat.
- BeyondPod - If you listen to podcasts (and you should), BeyondPod is the best way to do it.
- YouVersion Bible - I read it every day. And the new design is fantastic.
- Endomondo - For tracking my bike rides.
- My Tracks - Used alongside Endomondo to keep my maps synced with Google.
- Root Explorer/Astro- Root Explorer for when I need to get into the system, but Astro for everything else. Plus, the latter's incredible on Jelly Bean.
- NFC Task Launcher - Because NFC is fun.
- SwitchPro - Because it's customizable and looks way better than the stock power widget.
- HD Widgets - Previously, I used Beautiful Widgets, but lately I've fallen in love with HD Widgets, even if just for the 2x1 weather widget.
- Battery Widget Reborn Pro - Insanely full-featured battery widget that I fear I can no longer live without.
- NBA Jam - Heat, baby!
- Horn - Console graphics and intuitive gameplay on a mobile device. Need I say more?
- Dead Trigger - Because I love to hate loving zombies. Or something like that.
- Asphalt 7 - I don't normally like racing games all that much, but have been quite impressed with this one. I find myself firing it up almost every day. But when I don't, I hate that it nags me to play. I have other things to do, Gameloft!
Laptop: Samsung Series 7
15.6" 1600x900 display, Intel Core i7 quad-core 2675QM (Sandy Bridge) @ 2.2GHz, 8GB RAM, 750GB HDD, AMD Radeon 6490M, Windows 7 Home Premium
Unlike David, I love my laptop. I recently switched to a standing desk, which is where I use my laptop a lot of the time. I also have a traditional sitting desk with a desktop PC that I built earlier this year, but I always find myself gravitating towards my laptop. Unlike some of my colleagues who insist multi-monitor setups are conducive to productivity (looking at you Ryan and Jeremiah), I find myself to be far more productive on the smaller, 1600x900 display. Fewer distractions, I guess.
Since it's my job to type words, a great keyboard is a must. Fortunately, the Series 7's keyboard is fantastic. Easily the best I've ever used on a laptop. On the downside, however, I have a late 2011 model that doesn't have the backlit keyboard, which is something I now desperately crave. I'll likely upgrade to a newer Series 7 next year and give this one to my wife.
When I'm at my standing desk, I also use an external keyboard and mouse, both from Logitech (love the unifying receiver!). The keyboard - the K750 Solar Keyboard - is among one of the finest I've ever typed on. If you're looking for a new wireless keyboard, I highly recommend this one. As for a mouse, I'm not all that picky. I use the Logitech M325, which is small and does everything I need.
My main quarrel with the Series 7 is the hard drive. The stock 5,400 RPM 750GB drive is definitely the bottleneck of the system, and it drives me nuts. Eventually I'll upgrade to an SSD, but I'm still waiting for a deal that I just can't refuse to come along before making the plunge.
Bag: SPIGEN Klasden Levanaus Backpack
When it comes to toting my gadgets, I'm always on the hunt for "the perfect bag." For the last several months, though, I've been carrying the Spigen Klasden Levanaus backpack, and I really like it. It has plenty of storage to carry around basically everything I've talked about this post with room to spare, and the laptop area is coated in a super soft faux fur. It's fancy.
Camera: Canon ELPH 500 HS
I'm in the same boat as David here: before writing at AP, I had absolutely no interest in photography. At all. I couldn't have told you the difference between aperture and exposure, nor did I care to learn. As time has gone on, though, I've gotten more and more into the art of taking a "great" picture (or at least one that is acceptable to look at without scoffing). I want just the right angle in my review shots. The depth of field has to be spot-on. I want the product to show up on my monitor exactly like it does in person. Taking a good picture is hard to do, and that's something I took for granted before actually picking up a camera.
Also like David, I don't have a DSLR, but instead a point & shoot that I've been using for the past seven months or so. When trying to pick the right P&S that would both help me learn camera things and take good pictures along the way, I did insane amounts of research. I read every review I could find. I talked about it with Liam so much that I'm pretty sure he wished I would die (or at least buy one and shut up) so he didn't have to hear about it any more (but he was a tremendous help and stayed very patient with my ignorant self while I asked the most noobish questions you can imagine). Ultimately, I went with the Canon ELPH 500 HS, and I don't regret my decision at all. I really like this camera.
At first, I was skeptical of a digital camera with a full-touch interface. Turns out that it's super intuitive - when you want to focus on a certain area of the image, simply tap that area, just like with most smartphone cameras. Boom, it's focused right where you want it to be. It's great. The touchscreen isn't as sensitive as I'd like, but for what it is, it works well. After playing with settings, taking pictures, playing with the settings some more, and taking more pictures, I'm pretty happy with the results that I can get from the 500 HS. For less than $200, it has been a great little camera that has helped me understand a lot more about photography. I'm looking forward to taking the leap into a DSLR at some point in the future.
Personal Pick: HeadBlade head-shaving razor
OK, so this one has absolutely nothing to do with Android. So why is it here? Because it's so freakin' cool. In fact, this is probably my favorite non-tech item of all time. I've been shaving my head for the better part of six years now, and the HeadBlade is easily the best way to to keep a smooth melon. Its unique ergonomic design is not only extremely practical, but the newest model - the HeadBlade ATX (pictured above) - is the most intuitive yet. It doesn't matter if you're a long-time HeadBlader (like me) or a newcomer to the headshaving scene, the ATX is easily the best way to shave your head.
- Tumbuk2 Case for the Nexus 7 - It was actually designed for the Kindle Fire, but don't tell my N7 that.
- Pilot V Ball Extra Fine Tip Pen - One of the greatest writing instruments under $6 ever crafted.
- Laptop lock - I've never actually used this thing, but it's in my bag anyway. Maybe one day I'll feel comfortable leaving my laptop locked to a table at the coffee shop while I go pee. But I doubt it.
- Glasses case and cleaning wipes - I don't always wear glasses, but when I do, I prefer clean lenses.
- Various chargers and microUSB cables - Because batteries and file transfers and such.
- A random knife - For slicing open packages. And throats.
- Whatever earbuds I'm reviewing at the time - Currently, the Plantronics Backbeat Go. I like them.
That pretty much covers the gamut of the stuff I use and love. Feel free to drop any questions or comments down below.