D on Droid: Make use of the "smart" and "phone" of smartphones

  • TECH
  • Tuesday, 03 Dec 2013

MULTI-FUNCTIONAL: Your smartphone can do more than make and receive calls, and there are many apps on Play Store that can help you expand the functions of your phone. - AFPRelaxnews

Here are a few apps that will enhance your phone experience.

Telephones have come a long way from the time Alexander Graham Bell was awarded the first patent for it back in 1876. We now have smartphones that can do way more than just making and receiving calls.

While there are still many who use their smartphones as a means to make and receive phone calls, there are also many who use their devices primarily for other functions aside from the telephone features, including yours truly.

The following are a few apps that I feel are good points of convergence between technology and the traditional telephone device.

Automatic Call Recorder

I once had an unpleasant experience with a telemarketer who called me up to promote some financial product. Long story short, I was charged for something that I did not agree to. While everything has since been settled amicably, I was unhappy with the way things transpired and I wished I had a recording of that telephone conversation so that the whole ordeal could have been dealt with a lot faster.

Ever since then, I was determined to record down such conversations to safeguard myself from any more of such unethical practices. I did a search on the Play Store and opted to give the Automatic Call Recorder (bit.ly/KJTvww) by App.liqato (Appstar Solutions) a try as it seemed to be rated highly among the top results for call recording apps.

To my delight, the app works like a charm. It does exactly as advertised, which is to record both incoming and outgoing calls. The app can be set to automatically record all calls, which can then be played back easily.

Don't expect the recordings to be very loud, as it is actually recording from the phone's mic. Despite lacking in volume at times, the conversations that I've recorded have been audible.

The app can be manually synchronised with Dropbox. By doing so, the recorded phone calls will be backed up into your Dropbox cloud account. Auto saving to the cloud is also possible, but is only available in the pro version (bit.ly/11XzYe1), which costs US$7.41 (RM22.23).

Easy Voice Recorder

I needed an app that can record audio as my Android tablet did not have a voice recording app pre-installed. When interviewing people, it is always handy to have a recording of the whole conversation recorded down (with the interviewee's consent, of course!) to be on the safe side in case anything gets missed out.

For this very purpose, I did a search on the Google Play Store for voice recorders and discovered the Easy Voice Recorder app (bit.ly/NO3PFZ) by Digipom. It was just what I had been looking for: a simple and easy to use voice recorder, which I've been using to record my interviews, meetings and lectures. 

For starters, the app does not impose a time restriction on the recordings, limited only by the amount of storage space available.

Paired with one of my favourite apps, SwipePad, Easy Voice Recorder becomes even more effective. SwipePad (http://bit.ly/GO7H37), by Calcium Ion is a launcher panel overlay which is able to quickly direct the user from one app or task to another.

In this case, the Easy Voice Recorder app has a task shortcut that allows for recording to commence immediately if it is swiped to the shortcut.

This has been extremely useful to me as it cuts down on the setup time for those instances when I had to record something down as quickly as possible.

The app also has a home screen widget available to be used to control the recorder while recording in the background. 

Easy Voice Recorder allows users to choose the type of file format that the users prefer the recordings to be recorded as. For higher quality audio playback, there's the PPM and AAC formats. For devices with limited storage, the AMR format is a better choice.

The app is not meant for recording phone calls though. The developers have given a disclaimer that call recording only works on very limited devices. As such, I use this side by side with the Automatic Call Recorder mentioned earlier. Both apps are below 2MB in size, so they wouldn't take up too much of space. 

The pro version (bit.ly/SlsxJE) of the app, at US$3.95 (RM11.85), brings a list of added functionality. Among the added features are the options to record in stereo, recording with a Bluetooth microphone, and boosting input volume with microphone software. It also includes very useful features such as skipping silent parts, controlling the recorder from the status bar, and saving recordings straight to the SD card.

Call PopOut

Don't you hate it when you are in the midst of getting something done on your phone and then an incoming call comes and disrupts whatever it is that you were doing?

This has happened to me countless of times before and it always leaves me a little annoyed, which is exactly the reason why I was excited when I first found out about the existence of the Call PopOut (bit.ly/1ba4Nqv) app by Root Uninstaller.

By now, I'm sure that most smartphone users are familiar with the chat head pop up concept that has been used for apps such as Facebook Messenger.

What this app does is similar to that, in the sense that incoming calls can be set to appear as a tiny pop up, instead of occupying the whole screen as it usually does. 

The app will show incoming calls as a pop out small photo with the caller's name/number. Touching on the photo will bring up several options, which include accept, reject call, mute and hide, back to phone app, and toggle speaker mode. Dragging the photo to the chosen option will execute the action.

The app can be set to run only when there are open apps or at all times. There is also an app list mode so that the pop out only appears when users are in selected apps.

One thing I didn't like about the pop out is that you don't have the freedom to move it around. It appears at the lower end of the screen, so if what you have been doing is at that part of the screen, the app does not give you much benefit. 

There are also many other implementation flaws. For example, incoming calls will still appear in full screen mode for a split second, before it is converted into the small pop out. As such, incoming calls will still disrupt video recordings, which is something that I really hoped that the app would be able to address.

Given time, if the app manages to address the issues that it is currently plagued by, this can be an extremely useful app.

(Donovan is a full-time auditor and big-time gadget lover who discovered the wonders of the Android world back in October 2010. He believes that the apps recommended in this article can be very helpful, but can also be a violation to privacy if used for wrong intentions. He calls on the users to exercise proper ethics when using them.)

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