A Guide To Installing APK Apps On Your Google Android Phone

Because the Android operating system is a relative newcomer to the mobile phone market, a strong and cohesive Android Internet support community appears to be lacking. Without an adequate Android support system in place, many Android users are left in the dark when it comes to many tricky tasks, like installing third party applications to their Android mobile phones. In order to install third party applications to your Android phone, you need to install APK, or Android Package, files. In this article, we will cover the two ways you can install APK files to your Android phone and show you how to take advantage of the wide variety of third party Android applications currently available.

Installing Applications Through the Android Market

The Android Market is essentially Android’s answer to Apple’s iPhone App Store. As of September 2009, the Android Market already offered well over 10,000 applications, and this number has only continued to grow. In addition to the applications the Android Market offers, you can also use it to install other downloaded third party applications.

  1. Copy the APK file to your Android’s memory card and insert the card into your phone.
  2. Download and install the Apps Installer application from the Android Market
  3. Once installed, the Apps Installer will display the APK files on the memory card.
  4. Click and install your APK files.

Installing Applications With Android SDK

It is possible to install APK files without utilizing the Android Market, although the process is more difficult and complex. To avoid the Android Market, you need to use Android SDK.

  1. Download and install the Google Android SDK program and the Android USB drivers. The download links are as follows: http://code.google.com/android/intro/installing.html
  2. http://dl.google.com/android/android_usb_windows.zip
  3. You need to modify your Android’s settings to allow the installation of applications from other sources. Under “Settings,” select “Application Settings” and then enable “Unknown Sources.” Also under “Settings,” select “SD Card” and “Phone Storage,” and finally enable “Disable Use for USB Storage”
  4. This last step is easy. Open Command Prompt and type the following: adb install <1>/<2>.apk
  5. However, when you type the command, replace <1> with the path to your APK file and replace <2> with the name of the APK file.
  6. You’re done! Your application is now ready for your use and enjoyment.
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Android 4.0: Ice Cream Sandwich review

We’ve finally got our hands on the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus, so we’ve taken an in-depth look at Google’s latest OS: Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich to its friends.Google has told us that this is one of the biggest overhauls of the operating systems since it unleashed the Android project three years ago – and there’s certainly a lot to plough through.

From enhanced contact menus to improved keyboards and NFC capabilities, even the most ardent Android users will have to spend some time getting used to the new OS – so let’s dive in.

Interface

The most noticeable change with Ice Cream Sandwich is the interface – it might follow the same principles as the Android of old, but the way it’s used is radically different in a number of ways.

Firstly, Android 4.0 is designed to work without buttons. That’s not to say yourGalaxy S2‘s keys won’t work when the update happens, but going forward, it’s going to be pristine bezels all the way.

Ice cream sandwich review
Now to navigate around, you’re offered three softkeys: Back, Home and Multi-tasking (or Recent Apps). The latter is particularly new for phones, and comes from the Honeycomb UI – basically a set of thumbnails that show recently opened apps.
Here’s the new part: swipe sideways to shut down an application, which will greatly help reduce the battery consumption of your phone if there’s something silently updating in the background.

The Home and Back buttons are the same as they’ve always been, but no longer have a ‘long press’ function attached… so you can’t automatically call up the keyboard, for instance.

If you move into something media-ish, such as watching a movie or browsing the web like a pro, these three buttons shrink down to tiny dots, so you’ve got more of the screen to look at. However, remember what each dot does, as pressing it will take you home/open the recent apps etc and you might not want to.

Ice cream sandwich review

For Android fans, this presents something of an issue: with the menu button gone, you’ll have to hunt around the screen for three vertical dots which have taken its place. However, these can be anywhere, so sometimes you’ll get distracted trying to work out how on earth to alter settings.

The multi-tasking pane also seems an odd choice for one of three buttons – it used to be you could access this functionality by long-pressing the home key, and it makes more sense to keep this and then have the multi-tasking slot taken up by a menu key.

Ice cream sandwich review

However, despite the odd placement, the multi-tasking pane is cool – simply swipe horizontally on any open app to shut it down, in a similar way to the Cards system on webOS – it certainly helps keep open applications under control.

The home screens are once again limited to five, but this time there’s no option to get rid of those you don’t want. It’s not a huge issue to some people, but with the expandable widgets and loads of apps you’ll be looking to download, we’d have expected more.

However, we wouldn’t worry too much about that – the Nexus S only had a limited number of homescreens, but as soon as the rest of the industry got its hands on the OS there were millions of the things flying around.

There’s a plethora of tiny tweaks and changes to the Android OS that we were impressed with, ranging from the Tron-like blue theme that pervades throughout the OS to the ability to unlock the phone simply by using your face.

Ice cream sandwich review

The latter security option is more novelty than anything else, with Google outlining at the start that it’s not meant to be 100% secure.

We also found a few issues with getting it to recognise our face in varying light levels, or even working out which bit of the picture was a face – not the most effective for unlocking your handset, but when it works it’s a great party trick.

The notifications bar has been given a functionality overhaul to now include larger information slots – if it’s a contact that’s sending you a message or a missed call, their contact photo will now appear too, which is a nice touch.

Ice cream sandwich review

And sometimes you want to get rid of some notifications, but not others – this has been taken care of by allowing you to swipe away the updates about apps and messages you don’t care about, making it easy to maintain your info bar.

Settings has also been given a spot in the notifications pane, meaning no matter where you are in the OS you can always duck out and tinker with the phone – this is excellent news for some applications that need GPS or Wi-Fi enabled swiftly.

However, we would have though Google would have copied the likes of Samsung or HTC here and offered one-tap switching to these elements – it works really well on most phones, so we’re surprised by its omission.

The other new addition is the dock at the bottom of the screen – this stays on every home screen, and like iOS can be altered to contain the applications you like to tap away at the most.

Ice cream sandwich review

Folders are more iOS-like too, with users given the ability to drag and drop icons on top of one another from the home screen to create bundles of apps which you can simply rename. Given Apple’s ire about Google ‘stealing’ certain elements of its UI, we can’t help but think this will create a little more angst down on Infinite Loop.

Ice cream sandwich review

Google is clearly also thinking about giving users more ability to enjoy apps than ever before by putting a link to the Market in the top right hand corner of the menu screen, which we really liked as it meant we always knew we could quickly update our app catalogue when needed.

The other big change is widgets have been brought to the fore: you can now look at each one on the menu screen without having to actually select it – this really helps when a new application you’ve downloaded has an associated widget and you’re wondering whether to waste time popping it on the home screen.

Ice cream sandwich review

Overall, we love what Google has done with the Ice Cream Sandwich UI. It’s nothing mind-blowing, but the little touches here and there will add to user delight, and that’s what’s needed to chip away at those that are dyed-in-the-wool iPhone users.

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Google offering new tools for aspiring Android developers

android

Google has long offered Android developers a number of resources for creating quality applications and games.Indeed, whether it’s the oft-updated platform version chart or a member of the team dropping by the developer blog to share some code or best practices, there’s plenty of official information available.
If that wasn’t enough, today brings another valuable set of tools for new and seasoned Android developers with a beta program called Android Training. Presented in a wiki-like format, this collection of classes is designed to help developers create compelling apps.Initially, there are only a dozen courses offered with topics ranging from optimizing battery life to finding the right monetization strategy. Each of the classes address many commonly asked questions, include code snippets, and even have “prerequisites.” Over time more classes should come.I’m always pleased when I see Google making such “official” efforts since they demonstrate a genuine interest in the entire ecosystem. As flexible and feature-rich as Android is, there’s nothing like a bad app or two to ruin the mobile experience. And as the number of applications continues shooting into the hundreds of thousands, there’s no time like the present to put the focus back on quality.
Google offering new tools for aspiring Android developers

The 5 Best Strategy Games For Android

Of all the genres that can be played on a mobile device, strategy is my favorite. Touchscreens often aren’t the best choice for titles that rely on quick reflexes, but in strategy titles where planning is more important than reacting, that’s not a problem.It’s also a bit hard to look mature while tapping away in a game like N.O.V.A. 2. Let’s have a look at some strategy games for Android that can help whittle the away the hours, no matter where you are.

Townsmen 6 [Android 1.6+]

strategy games android

I have no idea why developer HandyGames decided to allege that Townsmen 6 occurs during the French Revolution. Far from a bloody title in which heads constantly roll and classes go to war, Townsmen 6 is a relaxing but complex strategy title that focuses on expanding your town and keeping peasants happy. Sure, there’s some French Revolution flavor added, but it’s cartoonish and mostly an excuse for game mechanics.

Perhaps the closest relative to this game is the Anno series of strategy titles for the PC, which also focuses on population happiness and expansion for expansion sake. SimCity fansmight enjoy this title, as well, though it focuses more on micro-management than that franchise.

You’ll need Android version 1.6 or better to install it.

Battleheart [Android 2.0.1+]

strategy games android free

My personal favorite, Battleheart is a popular game that blends an engaging graphical style similar to Castle Crashers with real-time strategy gameplay. You’ll find yourself in control of four characters, each with their own class, weapons, and powers. Mages, warriors, rogues, barbarians and more can be added to your party.

Battleheart is easy at first, but the difficulty begins to ramp up about an hour into the game. The game blends in RPG elements by offering a leveling system for your party members and equipment upgrade. You’ll have the opportunity to change character skills and weapons between levels.

Battleheart is priced at $2.99 and worth every penny. There is no free version. You’ll need Android 2.0.1 or better.

Majesty: Fantasy Kingdom [Android 1.6+]

strategy games android free

In 2000, a game called Majesty debuted for the PC. Though it looked like many other fantasy strategy titles, it offered unique gameplay. Instead of directly controlling a kingdom, players manipulated the world by constructing buildings, hiring heroes and setting objectives for them.

In other words, this is a macro-management game that focuses on the big picture. By taking many direct control options away, players have to think creatively and plan well. Although the Android version is unique to the platform in many ways, the basic gameplay concepts are the same as the PC title that debuted years ago. Even the graphics, for better or worse, recall a bygone era of PC strategy.

You’ll need Android 1.6 or newer to play.

Sentinel 3: Homeworld [Android 2.1+]

strategy games android free

One of the newer tower defense games to hit the Android scene and take off, Sentinel 3: Homeworld is the latest game in a series that was originally developed for iOS (that’s why the Android Market has no Sentinel or Sentinel 2).

The gameplay is similar to many other tower defense games, but it adds a small twist – a command mech and a “sentinel” spaceship. Both can be upgraded with abilities and equipment, adding some excitement and providing you with more options for dealing with the creeps.

Also worth mentioning are the graphics, which are among the best in the strategy genre. The game looks particularly good on tablets with the HD pack installed.

You’ll need Android version 2.1 or better to play.

Templar Assault [Android 1.6+]

strategy games android

By far the least well known game on this list, Templar Assault is the latest effort by the “the Trese bros”, who are also responsible for the immensely popular Star Traders RPG. Warhammer 40k fans are sure to love this title, as it is more or less an unofficial version of Space Hulk for your phone.

Graphically, this game doesn’t offer much, but it makes up for that with deep tactical gameplay. You command a squad of soldiers tasked to remove an alien presence, and as the game progresses, the means you have for doing so mount. There are times where this game can be difficult, but if you’ve ever been a fan of turn-based strategy, you won’t find this title too troublesome.

Templar Assault is free. There is also an Elite version available for $1.99.

Conclusion

Do you agree or disagree with my selections here? Did I miss a favorite Android strategy tile that you’ve been playing for hours? Let us know about your feelings and your favorite strategy games for Android in the comments.

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Hands-on preview: Sony PlayStation Vita Part 2

The Software
Turning the machine on, you’ll find that the familiar cross media bar — or XMB — is gone. In its place is the LiveArea, which features a number of bubbles, each presenting one of the Vita’s functions. From here you can access your movies, music, photos and games, along with the PlayStation Store on the location-based Near service. It’s a very visual menu, with everything almost immediately apparent and accessed with a tap — gone are the days of scrolling up and down menu chains. We say “almost”, as the home page of bubbles spreads over two pages, accessed by scrolling up or down and making it a bit fiddlier than it could be. Hopefully, these will be customisable in the final retail units, ideally allowing you to place your most often used apps at the top, or clearing unused ones entirely.PlayStation Trophy support is integral to the Vita, with achievements awarded even for completing the built-in tutorial mini-games. Those in themselves are a nice touch, offering a half-dozen different introductory lessons in the Vita’s various technical tricks and, for the most part, are genuinely quite fun to play. Using the same PSN account on the Vita as your PlayStation 3 will also link your trophy info.

The Games
One of the biggest failings of the original PSP was a weak launch line-up, creating a “no good games” mentality that haunted the console for years. Thankfully, with a “killer app” available on day one in the form of Uncharted: Golden Abyss, alongside a wide variety of content for seemingly all demographics, that’s a stigma that the Vita looks set to avoid. The aforementioned Gravity Rush will appeal to gamers with an affection for the weird, Japanese anime, or weird Japanese anime, as it places you in the role of a young girl given control over gravity by a cosmic cat and sent to fight monsters by kicking them to death.

Frobisher Says could well be a party game breakout hit, with hundreds of microgames taking advantage of the hardware’s quirks, while more conventional tastes will be catered to with the likes of EA’s F1 or FIFA. With a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, 512MB of system RAM and 128MB of dedicated graphics memory, the Vita is a mighty beast — even accounting for stylistic decisions, such as the animated Rayman Origins, the games are already on par with high-def home consoles. A few years of developers getting used to the machinery and we should see some very impressive content.

The Questions 
Is the Vita worth your time? In our minds, yes — it’s positioned to be the most powerful and most promising dedicated handheld games console on the shelves. Sony’s plans for augmented reality and social gaming features make it more than a simple gaming device though, and everything from the aesthetics to the overall build quality make the Vita an easy recommendation.

Pricing will likely be a big issue though. Nintendo’s 3DS cut its price drastically only months after release, and the launch price of £229 for the WiFi-only model Vita (or £279 for the 3G model, with no firm pricing yet on data contracts) is undoubtedly going to be steep for some. On the games side, with a generation of consumers now in the mindset of paying only a few pounds at most for portable games on their smartphones, full retail prices of circa £40 for each Vita game may sting — and in turn, sting Sony right back.

We also have no idea of how long the battery will last in real usage terms. Sony stated at this year’s Tokyo Games Show that we could expect 3-5 hours of gameplay, which is less than many gamers would like. Unlike the PSP, the Vita’s battery isn’t removable, so the opportunity to replace with a higher capacity pack is simply not there, though plans for an external booster are in the works.

Should Sony overcome those concerns, it’s got a winner in its hands — a true next-gen handheld.

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Hands-on preview: Sony PlayStation Vita Part 1

The 22 February release of Sony’s second generation handheld is fast approaching, and Wired.co.uk has been giving it some play time ahead of that date. But we’re asking: Does the PlayStation Vita have what it takes to earn a place in your pocket next year?The Unit
The first impression the Vita makes is how light it is. Having dropped the oft-maligned UMD disk format for games and movies, the unit also loses the optical drive that ran them, contributing considerably to the weight loss. While we weren’t able to actually weigh the unit, and Sony hasn’t stated an exact weight in the Vita’s specifications yet, it feels even lighter than the slimline PSP‘s 189 grams.It’s also a rather smart-looking bit of kit — all smooth edges, rounded corners and comfortably placed grip points on the rear. The screen is embedded beneath the black and silver surface of the machine, giving the unit a slick,iPhone-like appearance. Access ports for cards — both the new solid-state PS Vita cards that publishers will release games on and the removable memory sticks — are neatly hidden beneath flush rubber caps, as is the SIM card slot for the 3G model, while the volume control buttons are easily accessed by your right forefinger. Symmetrical and frankly quite sexy, on looks alone, the Vita is a very desirable addition to your tech arsenal.The only real disappointments on the hardware side are the cameras. The front-facing 320×240-pixel camera took noticeably blurred pictures of faces, while the rear cam fares only slightly better by hitting 640×480 resolution, both far short of even a low-end phone camera nowadays.The Screen
To use the technical jargon, the PS Vita’s screen is a 5-inch OLED multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, offering 24-bit colour, 960×544-pixel screen resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio. At only 0.7 inches larger than the standard PSP, you’d think the difference would be almost negligible, and looking at it while switched off it doesn’t strike as being that much larger. With a game or video running, the difference is vast — bold, bright colours, a noticeably sharper picture and a viewing area that makes its predecessor feel tiny in comparison.

In practical terms though, for those with smaller hands the screen may be almost too large. With hands positioned at the extremes, tapping into the middle of it to utilise touch-based controls requires quite the handspan. Individual experience will factor in here, but for some this might prove a bit awkward, no matter how good it looks.

The Controls
The Vita finally addresses arguably the biggest criticism of the original PSP — the lack of twin thumbsticks. However, while the dual sticks now allow for a full range of controls mirroring that of its stay-at-home big brother, they do feel a bit, well, twiddly. Unlike the PSP, with its easy-grip thumbpad that sat flat against the unit, the Vita’s pair are raised, sitting on a full-angle ball joint with smooth indentations for your thumbs to rest in. They’re as smooth and responsive as you’d expect, with the only potential problem being one of storage — protruding as they do, the sticks are likely to catch on the insides of bags or coat pockets and not sit properly. It’s not enough of a negative to put anyone off buying the Vita, but it’s likely to be an annoyance for some.

Another small change is that the D-Pad is now a solid “cross”, rather than four individual directional buttons, though this felt more a cosmetic change, with no real impact on gameplay. Otherwise, the Vita has the traditional four PlayStation face buttons and left and right shoulder buttons.

The capacitive touchscreen is swift and responsive, as smartphone users have come to expect. This is certainly no coincidence — with Angry Birds alone racking up a half-billion downloads, the market for touch generation titles is huge. If Sony can tap into even a fraction of that audience with simple controls and an easy to use digital store, it will.

The touchpad on the back is a little less intuitive, simply because of the element of guesswork in not being able to see where you’re intending to interact with. It’s just as responsive as its front-facing compatriot though, and after something of a learning curve you’re soon tapping in the appropriate places.

The really interesting control functionality comes with the incorporation of Six-Axis motion controls, often in conjunction with the cameras. First wave games such as Reality Fighters and Gravity Rush are already using this to dramatic effect, allowing you to pan around your self-styled arena or direct characters in-game simply by shifting the Vita around in meatspace.

At its heart, the Vita is a terrifically tactile device. While all the games we played utilised a combination of traditional, touch and movement controls, how we chose to interact with them was largely at our discretion. Whether future games continue this trend will vary from developer to developer but the emphasis seems to be on giving the player choice, rather than forcing gimmicky mechanisms into games where they’d be ill-suited. Overall, the Vita’s multiple control inputs make you feel a lot more immersed in the games you play — something the addition of 3D has failed to do for the 3DS.

Next, software the Part 2 of the Hands-on preview of Sony PlayStation Vita…

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Android Gingerbread and Honeycomb to merge in next OS

ice cream

At Mobile World Congress 2011, Google CEO Eric Schmidt has explained how the phone- and tablet-focused Android operating systems will soon collide, to form one universal OS.Lately, Android development has diverged, forking off into the phone-centric Gingerbread and the tablet-focused Honeycomb. By the next major update, however, they’ll be combined into a single platform that operates on both types of device.Schmidt added that the new OS title would follow its predecessors by starting with the letter I and be named after some kind of dessert. Ice cream or Ice-cream Sandwich are the obvious choices, while Impossible Coconut Custard Piecould be the wildcard entry.

The Google boss didn’t give any specific date for the new operating system, but said the company tries to follow a rough six-month cycle with Android OS releases. Seeing as the first Honeycomb tablets will start shipping as early as this month, we could see the “I” successor in early summer.

In a media event following the keynote, Schmidt and Android head Andy Rubinsaid each new operating system is accompanied at launch by a new device, and “I” will be no different. Samsung’s Nexus S debuted Gingerbread, andMotorola’s Xoom tablet will be the first device with Honeycomb.

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