Announcing HandsetCloud.com

The phenomenal growth of Android has been a boon for most Android developers -- Android devices are everywhere, from phones to tablets to TVs, from many different manufacturers and carriers, and with many options for customization. But it’s also had the side-effect of making it more difficult to find out if your apps work on most, if not all these devices. There are more than 400 Android devices out there, each unique in their own way, and trying to get your hands on the actual device to test on is sometimes inconvenient. Many times, a user will report that the app doesn’t work on his/her phone, but the developer is helpless to fix it if he/she doesn’t have that phone readily available. I’ll be the first to admit walking into a Verizon store, telling the sales rep I just want to have a look around, when I’m really trying to debug my app on a display phone.

Today, I’m happy to announce something that will help make testing and debugging better for Android developers: HandsetCloud.com.

HandsetCloud.com lets you rent from an array of Android devices and access them right from your browser. The device’s screen is transmitted to your browser and any touch or keyboard events are transmitted to the device from your keyboard and mouse. You’ll get instant access to any available device without the hassle of buying and maintaining it. No software or plugins to download. No expensive monthly fees. Just use your browser and only pay for what you use. 

Now go fix all those device-specific bugs!

A screenshot app for Android that doesn't require root

"No Root Screenshot It" is a new application just released on the Android market that allows you to take screenshots on your unrooted phone. You heard correctly, a no-root screenshot app for Android.

Before getting into the details, let's cover a little background on screenshots for Android. Taking screenshots on your Android phone has always been allowed on unrooted phones -- it's just been a bit of a pain to do. Once you install all the necessary software, including device driversadb, and eclipse, you used a tool called ddms to actually take the screenshots. Furthermore, your phone needs to be physically connected to your computer to take the screenshot.

"No Root Screenshot It" is an application that essentially does the same thing, but in a much simpler way. You simply install device drivers (for Mac users, this automatically happens when you plug your phone into your computer), and then install and run a desktop application called "Screenshot It Enabler". Once you do this, you can take screenshots on your phone whenever/wherever you want. There is one catch though -- each time you restart your phone, you need to re-run the desktop application, because your phone "forgets" its ability to take screenshots. 

The Pros: 

  • Take screenshots on your phone without root!
  • Take screenshots anywhere, even without being connected to a PC
  • No system files are altered on your phone, so you won't run the risk of voiding your warranty by rooting

The Cons:

  • Desktop application is required to enable screenshots on your phone. The good news is that this is only a one-time process, until you restart your phone
  • Each time you restart your phone, it "forgets" its ability to take screenshots, so you have to run the desktop application again.

If your phone happens to be rooted, the normal "Screenshot It" application is still a much simpler way to go, as it doesn't require the desktop application. If however, your phone is not rooted and you absolutely need to take screenshots, this app is for you! Obviously, if you're one of those people who restart their phones frequently, this app might prove to be too inconvenient for you.

 

App can be found here

Here are the complete steps on how to take screenshots on your un-rooted phone using this app: 

  1. Make sure you have the necessary device drivers installed on your computer. You can find device drivers for your phone here. If you have a Mac, you can skip this step.
  2. Turn on "USB debugging on your phone" by going to "Settings > Applications > Development > USB debugging" 
  3. Plug your phone into your computer using a USB cable. If a message pops up on your phone asking to turn on "USB storage", do NOT do so.
  4. Download and install "Screenshot It Enabler" onto your computer. You can find the installer files here.
  5. Once installed, run the "Screenshot It Enabler" application and press the "Enable Screenshot" button
  6. Disconnect your phone from your computer and start the "No Root Screenshot It" app on your phone. You can now take screenshots!

 

Don't like to read? Here's a video summary. 

      My "Last Call for Google I/O" Contest App - Barfing countdown clock game

      This year, Google I/O tickets sold out in less than an hour. For us developers who were unable to get a ticket in time, Google is currently holding a series of contests to give away 100 of the much-coveted tickets.

      Yesterday was the first day of the competion, where 10 Google I/O tickets were being given out to developers able complete the following challenge: 

      "Make an Android app to get developers jazzed for I/O by filling the screen with the bouncing-balls countdown clock on the front of the Google I/O 2011 site. It has to be an APK, and no fair using WebView. We'll give preference to smaller APKs over larger ones; show us how to do a lot with a little. Extra credit for bouncing bugdroids or other creative flourishes!"

      I thought this was a fun challenge, as it reminded me of the good ol' days of CS classes in college where we had to be sure to complete the basic requirements, but were given the liberty to add little fourishes and embellishments for extra credit. 

      I decided to have a little fun with it: In addition to a countdown clock that barfs balls each second, I incorporated the orientation sensor so that the user can tilt the phone to control where the balls bounce. Finally, I turned the app into a game where you get points for manuevering the bouncing balls into the mouth of BugDroid. 

      If you'd like to check out my submission, download the APK here.

      There are still 9 days of contests left, which means 90 tickets are still up for grabs! Learn more about the contest here: https://sites.google.com/site/lastcallforio2011/Home

      New App: Scare And Share

      We've all fallen victim to our share of "scare" apps: A friend hands you their phone asking you to take some "test" that promises to measure your IQ. Then, halfway through the test -- just as you're staring deeply into the phone -- the app pops up some gory image, scaring the crap out of you. 

      Well, I thought it was time for me to do something about it: Make my own. 

      Scare and Share is your typical "prank" app with a little twist: Right before you're about the get the living bejesus scared out of you, the app secretly turns on the front-facing camera and begins recording your reaction. After you've been pranked, the app shows you your "reaction video". You and your friends can have a good laugh out of it, and you can post the video on Facebook to publicly embarass yourself or others. The app is available now on the Android market for $1.99

      Here's the QR code for the app on the Android Market

      Car Locator wins 1st place in Verizon's Power Your App Contest!

      It's official!

      Thanks to your help, Car Locator has won 1st place in Verizon's Power Your App contest! In addition to winning a $50,000 cash prize, it gets: 

      • 200% of application revenue for 12 months on the VCAST app store
      • Featured status on the VCAST app store
      • Featured status on the Verizon section of the Android Market
      • A trip to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain

      Unfortuantley, I was on vacation in Vietnam with friends during the Mobile World Congress so I sent 2 of my good friends.

      Smarter Alarm also was a finalist in the contest, winning a $10,000 cash prize.

      Thank you again for your support!

      Full winner list

      Smarter Alarm Video

      Here's a short video I whipped up for my Alarm clock app, Smarter Alarm. There have been a lot of features added since this video was made (such as reading your latest Gmail messages), but hopefully you'll get an idea of what Smarter Alarm is capable of. In case you are curious, the sexy TTS voice that I'm using is from SVOX, and her name is Victoria.

      One last thing: If you haven't voted already, please vote for Smarter Alarm in Verizon's Power your App contest. If you have a Droid Incredible, Galaxy Tab, or LG Vortex, you can vote by opening up the VCAST App store and downloading/rating the app. Incidentally, while the contest is still on, you can get the full version of the app for FREE through the VCAST store (until tomorrow only).

       

      Smarter Alarm and Car Locator are finalists!

      Thanks to your votes, 2 of my apps won their respective categories in Verizon's Power Your App contest! Car Locator won the Lifestyle category and Smarter Alarm won the information category. There are cash prizes associated with each category winner so I'm quite happy now!

      However, there is one more round of voting in the contest: Each category winner is pitted against each other and Verizon customers vote to pick the best overall application (based on rating). If you have the V CAST app store available on your Android device (i.e. if you have a Droid Incredible, LG Vortex, or Galaxy Tab), please download and vote for "Car Locator" and "Smarter Alarm". Thanks so much!

      Smarter Alarm

      Smarter Alarm is a better way to wake up every morning. Instead of hearing an annoying alarm, you.ll wake up to the soothing voice of a robotic British woman who will read personalized information to you. Would you like to know if you'll need to dress warmly today? How about the score to last night's NHL game? Smarter Alarm will read information that's important to you, such as weather, sports scores, stock prices, your Google calendar events, Facebook birthdays, and the morning's headline news.

      Car Locator

      Save your location when you park, and Car Locator will navigate you back. Annotate your location with notes and photos. You'll be navigated back to your car using radar, map, or split views. A parking timer even alerts you when you've been parked for too long and are in danger of getting a ticket. Save and retrieve multiple locations, and even send your location to another phone.

      Please vote in Verizon's Power Your App contest!

      Great news!

      All 3 of my submissions to Verizon's app contest made it to the semi-final round! I've worked pretty hard on these apps, and I'd really appreciate if you can vote for me at www.poweryourappcontest.com. You have to sign-in, but I could *REALLY* use your votes. Thanks for your votes!

      Here are my apps and a short description of what they do

      Smarter Alarm is a better way to wake up every morning. Instead of hearing an annoying alarm, you.ll wake up to the soothing voice of a robotic British woman who will read personalized information to you. Would you like to know if you'll need to dress warmly today? How about the score to last night's football game? Smarter Alarm will read information that's important to you, such as weather, sports scores, stock prices, and the morning's headline news.
      Audio Photo works just like your normal camera, but it records audio a few seconds before and after the photo is taken. It adds another dimension to your photos by adding ambient sound to your photos. You can view/hear your audio photos on your phone or send them to others via email, facebook, and more. When you share your audio photos, they get sent as a single-framed video file with sound.
      Save your location when you park, and Car Locator will navigate you back. Annotate your location with notes and photos. You'll be navigated back to your car using radar, map, or split views. A parking timer even alerts you when you've been parked for too long and are in danger of getting a ticket. Save and retrieve multiple locations, and even send your location to another phone.