Android Market Download Issues

Are downloads and updates from the Android Market hanging on your Android phone?

I had this problem a few weeks ago when on holiday.  Notifications that updates were available for for my HTC Magic and I could access the Android Market but after being taken through the usual installation screens the download would hang immediately with the progress bar static.

I initially put this down to poor reception but when I returned home the problem continued even over my WiFi connection.  I then discovered that people in the UK that had switched their google mail account from to were experiencing the same problem.  I had done this! I went immediately to my account and switched back.

As you can see from above in ‘Settings->Accounts and Import’ there is a link at the end of the ‘Send mail as:’ section which allows you to toggle between the two. I did this and the downloads began working correctly virtually instantly.

In fact switching seems to serve no purpose at all you can still receive and send emails as either gmail or googlemail no matter what your settings. Google are working on the issue but for now they recommend switching back.

Top 5 Android Applications

My 5 most used and favourite Android applications.

Having owned a  HTC Magic for all of a few months, I thought I would give you my unbiased and expert ;op opinion regarding my favourite Android applications. There are absolutely thousands of applications to choose from, mostly free, but after playing, downloading , discarding, these are five that I still use, rely on and enjoy.

1. Twidroid

TwiroidTwidroid is , unsurprisingly, a Twitter client.  There is a free and ‘Pro’ version, the Pro version offering additional features including multiple accounts, integration, desktop widgets, video posting, followers and friends.

Once you are logged into the application it displays the latest 50 tweets.  The list length can be increased via the settings menu.  Tweets can be refreshed by using the appropriate button at the bottom of the screen or by shaking the phone. Tapping a tweet creates a popup containing any available links. Selecting the little button to the right of a tweet displays a menu allowing you to reply, show profile of tweeter, favourite, retweet, send DM, delete or copy the contents of the tweet to the clipboard.  Additional functionality includes viewing and managing lists,  setting up notifications for when there are new tweets, if you receive a direct message or are mentioned.  You can also show/hide various buttons, display real names instead of user names and set up your favourite photo, video and URL shortening services.  The application also integrates with your phones GPS to allow you to annotate tweets and photos with your location.  Other miscellaneous settings include the ability to merge your accounts, refresh tweets on launch, auto-complete for DMs and disable profile images for improved speed.

I have tried a number of Twitter clients, free and paid, and found this to be the most stable and feature rich of all.  In the majority of cases I think the free version will cover most peoples needs however for a small price you may be tempted to upgrade to pro for the additional functionality and to support the future development of this app.

2. DoggCatcher

DoggcatcherDoggcatcher is primarily a podcast subscriber although it is capable of subscribing to standard RSS and video feeds also.  Podcasts were not something I had explored in any great detail until I bought this application (yes, sorry, this is not a freebee). Mainly because I have very little time at home and 3G connectivity out here in the sticks is limited at best. With this application you can set to download your favourite podcasts  only when attached to WiFi and/or when connected to a power source.  It allows you to specify the maximum number of casts to download and can be set to delete them from your phone once you have listened to them, or marked them as ‘done’ thus automating the clean up process and keeping your phones storage free.  I tend to switch the WiFi on when I get home at night and the latest feeds are downloaded to my phone for my listening pleasure the next day.

Podcasts can be subscribed to by entering the URL, browsing Doggcatchers top 100 casts or by a very nifty utility which allows you to see what others listening to similar feeds subscribe to. Download queues are easily managed and you can dip in and out of podcasts as the application remembers the play position of each podcast.  For me it means that I never miss an episode of The Archers and have an alternative to music when at a loose end away from home.

Why is it called Doggcatcher? I’ve no idea.

3. MixZing Music Player

MixZing Music PLayerThe standard Android player is pretty basic so I had a hunt around on the market for something with a bit more oomph and came up with this.  Having bought a 16gb card for my phone I tend to just dump albums onto it but there is always the odd track that once heard you don’t really want to hear again e.g. Moby Dick by Led Zeppelin.  MixZing allows you to delete as you listen an option that is missing from the standard player an my most wanted utility.

This player does all the usual stuff like play lists, random mixes, album art and if you download Scrobble Droid it will update your account listened to list and library.

Selecting the ‘i’ button in the top left of the screen brings up the artists biography including photos and the button opposite shows your current play list.

The real strength of this player (apart from being free) is that it will recommend other songs based on your current play list and you can agree or disagree with its suggestion via the + and x buttons, bottom right.  This will then adjust  further recommendations accordingly.

In the blurb for this player it indicates that you also get recommendations from the internet although I have not witnessed this feature.

All in all for a free player you can’t go far wrong, the interface is clean and easy to use and the automatically downloaded album art looks great.

4. My Tracks

The last two applications on my list are not ones that I use heavily but I think they are just fantastic freebees which make use of the HTC Magic’s compass and GPS.  My Tracks allows you to plot your favourite walks, runs etc. in real time and upload them to Google Maps to share with your friends.  It records distance, elevation, and the time it takes to complete the route.  You can create way points, link photos to them and it also integrates with all your messaging applications like Twidroid, Facebook Mobile, Google Mail and standard SMS.  Ever been for a lovely walk and wondered how far it was or wanted to share it with someone else? Then this is the application for you.

5. Google Sky Map

For my daughters 16th birthday her Grandfather bought her a star.  This year she was eighteen and her boyfriend bought her a telescope so she could properly find it.  Google Sky Map is a fantastic application for the budding astronomer or for those clear star filled evenings when you are not quite sure what you are looking at.  Simply fire up the application and hold your phone in the direction and elevation that you are looking.  Displayed on the screen is a replica of the stars and planets you are viewing along with their names.  A horizontal line defines the horizon and there is a night mode for easier viewing.  You can even use the sky map in the day or when light pollution is too intense.  I have found it amazingly accurate even with the GPS switched of.  A fantastic fun application and a must for camping holidays.

HTC Magic – Review

The Android Smart Phone with Google

HTC MagicI became the owner of a HTC Magic at the beginning of the summer.  Although an ‘I.T. Professional’ I have never owned a smart phone before. Bearing this in mind I can’t make any comparisons with other smart phones. However this device has become one of my favorite pieces of techno-kit, surpassing my beloved Zen Xtra, which has served me well for many years and equaling my Squeezebox Boom, which I may write about some other time.

The HTC Magic appealed to me for a couple of reasons.  It wasn’t an iGadget which tied me into irritating iSoftware and I was already a user of GMail, associated calendar and other apps.  I should say at this point that this is the ‘with google’ version of the phone I am using.

The HTC Magic comes with the obligatory charger and mediocre in-ear phones, plus an uninspiring white pouch to keep it safe from scratches.  I bought InvisibleSHIELD to further protect the finish although I would not recommend it as it is in 9 extremely fiddly to fit pieces and could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called invisible.  In retrospect I would go for a good quality screen protector instead.

Switching on the HTC Magic for the first time you are asked for your Google account credentials and within minutes, Internet connection permitting, your mail, calendar and contacts are all synchronised with your on-line account. I also installed Google Calendar Sync at work which means that my Outlook calendar syncs with my on-line Google calendar and thus with my phone, perfect :).

The touchscreen is clear and responsive, even with a protector glued to it, and I have never felt the need for a stylus as the keyboard can be used precisely even with your thumbs.

The HTC Magic interface is clean looking and easy to use.  It has three ‘desktops’ which can be accessed by swiping the screen left or right.  Shortcuts and widgets can be placed here, wallpaper and themes changed etc. and by turning the phone you can either work in portrait or landscape.  An application tab resides at the bottom of the screen and opening this reveals all your installed software.  One criticism here is that although you can have folders containing icons on your desktop there is no way to further organise your apps within this tab.

Making a call is easy and the dial pad is always within reach should you be put through to an automated system. Another easily accessible tab allows you to hold, switch from or to a bluetooth device or turn on the speaker phone.  Sending texts and emails  is also a doddle with suggested words appearing at the bottom of the input screen for you to select should you wish.  The keyboard is qwerty, simple to use and quick to access numbers and special characters.

All in all I think this is a great phone, it comes with a number of good quality applications and by using Google’s Market Place you can search for, by name or via category, for thousands more.  Most of the applications are free but even those are not are of minimal cost  and if you uninstall within 24 hours you get a complete refund. There is also an option to allow the installation of non verified software should you be happy to do so.

The device also comes equipped with a compass, GPS, WiFi and decent camera all of which are made good use of by the huge variety of available software.

Finally, should you wish, you can develop your own apps using the free SDK and Eclipse Software suite.