Changing the Launcher on Oppo R17

I recently bought a new Android phone, an Oppo R17 Pro. I chose the Oppo as the brand has rated well, actually top, in Canstar satisfaction reviews. It is a good looking phone, well finished and a quality feel. The last point is particularly noticeable when compared to my recently deceased Nexus 5X.

As good as the phone hardware is Oppo have for some unknown reason included their own and poorly developed version of Android called ColourOS. The launcher in particular has no improvements over the standard Android experience and feels slow and clunky. Previously I used the Nova launcher and decided to go back to it. It ran well and I was able to configure it how I like. It made a vast improvement to the whole experience.

However there was one problem. When unlocking the phone I would see the default launcher but then Nova would replace it. I had set Nova as the default so this was confusing. The answer was in ColourOS’s aggressive battery saving settings. By default ColourOS stops all apps running in the background. So when the phone is unlocked Nova isn’t running. The fix then was simple, if well hidden.

In settings – App Management select Nova launcher and in its App info select Power Saver and set it to run in the background. This solved it for me. ColourOS will giving a warning that one app is consuming power but that can be ignored.

This change is needed for any app that needs to run all the time. Data usage monitors are a good example. Despite the warning I find that the Oppo R17 has excellent battery life, certainly better than any other Android phone I’ve owned.

Favourite Android Apps

I’ve mentioned before that I use an Android phone, currently a HTC One X, and thought I’d share my favourite apps. Note that I said favourite. I can’t guarantee that they are the best out there but are the ones I use and like.

Paying For Apps

I’m a bit slow to buy an app without trying it first so rarely buy an app when there isn’t a trial or free version available. I know this is strange given that most apps cost less than that universal item of economic comparison, a cup of coffee. Having said that I should add that when I use and like an app I invariably buy the paid version.

The Apps

(Clicking on the name will take you to Google Play)

Chrome – there simply isn’t a better browser particularly if you use it on your computer as well.

Security is something everyone thinks about and locking your phone is a simple security measure but it can be fustrating when you use it a lot. Delayed Lock turns off the lock when you are in an environment that you feel secure such as when connected to your home wifi. It has other features too such as the ability to wipe your phone after several failed attempts to unlock.

Your phone is useful for some rather mundane things too, like doing the grocery shopping. I’ve used Hungry Shoplist for while. It is a bit basic, there are others with more features but it works for me. Some custom roms have an option to turn off the 3 dot menus, I found Hungry will crash with this option selected. I don’t think this is a bug as it isn’t a feature of standard Android.

I bought my phone in Australia but it was an International European model and so came with few locales installed but not Australia. More Locales2 does what its name says, allows you to add any locale you want.

If you have a data limit on your phone you’ll find Netcounter useful to keep an eye on how much you use.

Sometimes you need to quickly turn features like Wifi, mobile data and GPS on or off. Having Power Toggles on your home screen can do that and much more.

One app I use but never touch on my phone is Mighty Text. It uses your phone to send SMSs from your computer. It also shows incoming SMSs and other alerts on the computer screen. Follow the instructions to set it up, the installation order is important but easy to do and use.

One problem with phones is the difficulty typing on them, a good keyboard is essential and there isn’t any better than SwiftKey. It has a wide range of languages packs including Australian English which makes it even better.

For drivers who want or need to keep a record of vehicle expenses aCar is very powerful. It tracks all types of expenses and can handle multiple vehicles.

Android probably has more weather apps than any other type but to track current weather and forecasts in Australia only Au Weather is worth considering. It uses data from the BOM and nothing is as accurate or reliable as the official data.

Lastly HTC Sense is a bit controversial, many hate it and some love it. Personally I don’t dislike it and stuck with it for a while but once you try other launchers you find there is better options out there. I tried several but currently use Apex. It isn’t the fastest but has some nice features and good support.

So there are many apps I like and use regularly. I have others installed on my phone, e.g. I mentioned Open GPS Tracker in an previous post, but these are the ones I use most. E.g I don’t use a custom camera app as the standard HTC one on the One X is as good as any I’ve tried.

If you can suggest any others please do so.

More on Geotagging

I posted recently about geotagging photos in Linux. There is a post on the digiKam blog about the same subject with a good idea I hadn’t thought off, using your Android (or any other one that can tag photos) phone to take a reference shot. Read the whole post here, it’s worth a look.

Navigation With Android

I have been using an Android phone for a while now but haven’t blogged about it before. Not for any negative reason but simply because I had little to say. I bought a HTC Hero outright, no contract. I love it, it works well and does everything I wanted and much more. It came with Android 1.6 but soon after I got it an "Over the Air" update from HTC upgraded it to 2.1. That went well and added several features and a few bug fixes.

I had read that the latest update to Google Maps added a Navigation feature so I decided to test it today. I wasn’t going very far and it was a route I often take which I think is a good way to test. I wanted to see if it would replace my Tom Tom GPS. One less gadget in the car is a good thing. The phone is mounted in a cradle that mounts to the windscreen with a suctionn cap just like a GPS so it should receive the GPS signal well.

There is a navigation icon on the applications screen and that immediately asked me to activate GPS. Which I did. I tried to type in a destination but the hint list only showed US and UK locations so I changed to Spoken commands which worked surprisingly well when I gave the suburb and state it immediately found it as an Australian place.

When I asked for spoken directions I had to install the Text to Speech app. It worked well but defaulted to US English. It worked well but had trouble with several place names and couldn’t even pronounce "Way" as a road name. I have since changed it to UK to see if that is better.

The GPS worked quite quickly finding the location. Much better than the Tom Tom does when it hasn’t been used for a while. But I’m guessing it uses the phone location to get a start. It found almost the right place but where I was was difficult. It was the side street that runs beside a main road with only a few metres between them. It thought I was on the main road. Once I was moving it quickly zeroed in on the correct place. The directions were clear, allowing for the pronounciation problems, and accurate. It quickly recalcualted when I took a side street too.

So does it replace the dedicated device? I have some reservations and they are not really due to the app. The most biggest concern is the amount of download data needed. If you have a generous plan with plenty of data that won’t worry you but my plan only includes a couple hundred megabytes a month. If I were using it as a navigation device regularly that would be used up and I would be into the very expensive excess data. I could increase the data allowance by paying a small extra amount but the cost would exceed the cost of updates for my Tom Tom. So the conclusion is at the moment I think I would stick to using the Tom Tom when I am doing longer trips but for occasional help and as a backup the phone is great. If I didn’t already own a GPS unit I wouldn’t buy one I would use the phone without hesitation.

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