Sunday, 17 August 2014

Quick Review: Google+

For the purposes of this review, I'll be focusing on the web and Android versions of Google+, as opposed to iOS, mostly because I don't have an iDevice.

Ask most Facebook users about Google+ and they will either not know anything about it, or will call it a "ghost town." A similar attitude is seen in the media. The vast majority of people don't know anything about Google+, and instantly dismiss it for that very reason. However, those of us who do use Google+ tell a very different story.

In general, posts in my Facebook feed usually consist of pictures from nights out and other such pictures. Whereas in my G+ feed I have loads of links to articles on other websites, as well as posts on the social network itself. Re-sharing posts seems to be a lot more important on G+ as well. A lot of what you see in your feed are re-shared posts, as opposed to originals.

G+ has full integration with Google's other services, and this is very prominent in G+'s Photos section. You can save all your photos to Google's servers, with two quality options. You have a choice between saving them at full resolution and saving them to your Google Drive, eating into your cloud storage, or you can store an unlimited number of photos at 2048 px. The Photos app, installed as part of the Google+ app, allows Android users to manage their G+ Photos. It also supports casting your photos to Chromecast and, probably, Android TV.

Communities are places where people of similar interests can congregate and chat, sharing pictures, advice or similar as appropriate.Regardless of what you're interested in, there is probably a Community or two on G+ that suits you perfectly. Posts from the Communities that you are a member of show up in your Feed. Naturally some of these communities can become clogged up with spam, flaming or other things that you don't want to see, so you'll be glad to hear that you can control how often you see posts from Communities, or indeed whether you see any posts at all.

You don't have a Friend List per se on G+, instead you organise your friends into Circles. For instance, by default I believe you have a Following Circle, which is where you put people you want to Follow, celebrities for example. It's also easy to share posts with specific Circles. You can also view posts from only one particular Circle. This is just one place where G+ gives you a lot more control over your posts than Facebook.

Google+ gives people a chance to meet new and interesting people. It's often said that Facebook is useful for keeping in touch with people you know or met once, while Google+ allows you to meet new people, if only by virtue of the fact that the people you normally chat to on Facebook simply aren't on Google+.

What do you think? What do you use Google+ for? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Quick App Review: Lux Auto Brightness

Most smartphones these days come with some form of Auto-Brightness, allowing the display to get brighter or dimmer depending on the ambient light. In practical terms, it gets brighter outside and dimmer inside.

However, the problem is, the automatic brightness on most phones, particularly those running stock or close to stock Android, isn't all that smart, and can take a while to adapt, and in some cases doesn't adapt enough.

The solution, therefore, is to use a smarter form of Auto-Brightness. Some OEMs such as Samsung and HTC use Adaptive Brightness on their phones, which allows the user to set a brightness, but the screen can still adjust the brightness somewhat. And what about the rest of us, who don't have this Adaptive Brightness? Luckily, there are apps that can be used for just this purpose. One such app is Lux Auto Brightness.

Although it is a little complex to set up, it is well worth the work. You can set what brightness you want the screen to be at for any ambient light level, and you can even set the screen to a lower brightness than the phone can set it to itself. There also tends to be far fewer sudden jumps in brightness.

The app is paid, although there is a free version with a few restrictions. The app is well worth the purchase, if only to support the developer.

Do any of you guys use other brightness managers on your smartphones? Feel free to leave a comment!

Lux Lite
Lux Auto Brightness