Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Setting True Silent Mode on Android 2.2

As many are switching over from Android 2.1 to 2.2 they are finding the new OS doesn't always work the same.  One of the biggest differences I have seen so far is "True Silent Mode".  We have all been there, at a meeting, the movies, or a fancy restaurant when someones phone goes off.  So we all do our best to make sure to set our phones on silent.  As many of us know, the vibrate function can still make a fair amount of noise, especially when the phone is sitting on a table or desk.  So why is this an issue in 2.2 you ask?  Well it seems unlike Android 2.1, where you just keep pushing the volume down button past vibrate mode to get the True Silent Mode, this function was removed from Android 2.2. Why it was removed we may never know.  But there is a work around to get that peace and quiet we've all been looking for.

Setting True Silent Mode On Android 2.2
To set the phone to true silent mode you must essentially replace the vibrate mode.

Step 1
Go to the Settings Menu

Step 2
Select the Sound settings.

Step 3
Select Vibrate Settings

Step 4
Select Vibrate Never, or only when not in Silent Mode.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Virgin Mobile Samsung Intercept Android 2.2 Has Arrived!

The long awaited update for the Virgin Mobile Samsung Intercept has finally arrived. The prompt is on your screen, and you're excited to get started. But take it from me, don't click that button just yet. After receiving the update prompt from Virgin Mobile I too was excited to get started. I didn't have a charger handy, but my battery was full, so I figured it would be fine. What I didn't count on was my poor signal. In the process of updating I received the following error:

assert failed:("/tmp/modem_delta.bin","modem_delta.bin")
E: Error in /cache/
(Status 7)
Installation Aborted
A sheer sign that the download failed at some point losing valuable information.  So what now you ask?  Can you simply try it again?  The short answer is no, the prompt will not appear again when you power up the phone.  You have three options:

1. Contact Virgin Mobile regarding the issue.  As many can tell you this will take time and may be days, weeks before you finally get it updated.

2. Do a factory reset on the phone.  In doing so you will lose all of your apps, contacts, and any other data on the phone. Some have reported that the update prompt will appear again after this is done, but what's the point if you lose everything?

3. Become one of the many hackers like me and download the file from the following forum:  After waiting patiently for months now I'd had enough.  I had been granted my wish for the "Official Update" and it failed.  So, being computer savvy, I took it upon myself to fix the issue.  I am happy to say the update was faster and completely flawless using the instructions and files supplied in the forum.  Props to tifferrr89 for the post.

So why didn't Virgin Mobile just release the download file for the Samsung Intercept?
Testing the update at first was a good plan on their part.  Pushing it out to 5000 as a initial test will verify that it is in fact working correctly without bricking 1/2 of their customers phones.  But after that initial test, an official release of the file would have been nice.  The way the Android update system works, there is no more chance that it will brick with the file downloaded than over the air, and as I have found, it may be more likely to fail receiving the "official OTA update".

What can I do to make sure the official update works?
1. Take your charger with you at all times.  This is one of the downfalls of the OTA updates.  It will come at some point and you want to be ready.  Mine showed up at 12:05am.

2. Check your signal strength before you update.  If you have poor 3G access make sure you find a wifi network that works before updating.

3. Be patient.  The progress bar can be deceiving.  In my case it went really fast for about the first 1/4 then stopped.  I thought something was wrong and went outside to find better signal.  Bad move on my part as it lost the wifi access it was using.

Closing thoughts about the Virgin Mobile Samsung Intercept Android 2.2 Update

Overall I'm happy with the update.  Speed has improved to acceptable levels, the calling function doesn't seem to lock up the phone anymore, and the transition was extremely smooth.  Stay tuned for more to come about what's new.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Opera Mini - App Review

App: Opera Mini
Price: Free

Needless to say the browser included with Android leaves something to be desired.  Thankfully there are plenty of others to choose from.  Which brings me to Opera Mini.  Opera interestingly enough was originally developed for windows back in 1996.  It has now been ported to just about anything with a CPU (including the Nintendo DS).  Opera Mini for Android has a very unique design in the fact that all data is exchanged through Opera Software Servers.  Rather then your phone requesting the data directly from the URL you are looking at, instead it is requested by the Opera Server.  This server then compresses the data before passing it along to your phone, reducing bandwidth usage by up to 90%.  This alone makes it a great choice for those with limited bandwidth.  Additional options allow you to reduce image sizes, and even turn off images entirely.

Recent updates to Opera Mini
A new, refreshed interface giving it a sleek, modern appearance. The ever popular pinch zoom and smooth panning let you surf in a natural and intuitive way. You can also share web content with others on popular social networks.

The Pro's of Opera Mini
1. Fast load times
2. Smooth scrolling
3. Tabbed browsing
4. Full screen mode
5. Customizable to improve performance
6. Sleek UI
7. Share Content On Social Networks

The Con's of Opera Mini 
1. Some JavaScript forms are not compatible

Opera Mini - Closing Thoughts
Overall it's a great browser if your looking for something new to try.  It's sleek, fast, and fairly customizable. Plus if you've ever gone over on data usage it should save you a few bucks.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Android 2.2 Rolling Out to the Virgin Mobile Samsung Intercept.

It's official. Android 2.2 is rolling out to the Virgin Mobile Samsung InterceptAndroid 2.2 Update Text message for the Virgin Mobile Samsung Intercept starting April 11th 2011.  Customers started receiving word by text message earlier today.  Included in the message is a link with more details on the update, only viewable on the phone.  I included a screen capture of the page below.  Of the two other release dates mentioned before, this is the first time text messages have gone out to customers.  So it's a good sign the third times the charm.  As with many of the updates, word has it there will be 5000 lucky customers that will receive it first as a test.  If all goes well, then it will be released slowly to the remaining customers over the next few weeks.

With the update almost certainly on it's way, I highly recommend backing up your phone just in case there are some bumps in the road.  Check out: Preparing for an Android Update for more details.
Virgin Mobile Android 2.2 update for the Samsung Intercept

How to get peak performance out of the Samsung Intercept

If you've owned the Samsung Intercept for more than a couple of weeks you have probably seen it. Slow load times, apps freezing, missed calls because the screen didn't come up, and more. Well, I'm here to help make those problems a thing of the past.  Originally released back in July of 2010 for Sprint, the Samsung Intercept is definitely not the newest phone on the market.  Even at the time of release, it was considered a low end Android phone, but it's not done fighting yet.

Step 1 - Accept it for what it is

The Samsung Intercept is not a high end smart phone, it's not going to knock your socks off, have all the fancy 3D widgets, or play HD movies at 720p like the new HTC Thunderbolt.  But when it comes down to it at the end of the day, it will get the job done.  The Samsung Intercept is a low end Android Phone.  By accepting it for what it is, you will not demand more from it than it can handle.  

Step 2 - Assess your needs

Keeping step one in consideration, we move on to what you need it to do.  The following screen shot is my home screen.  That's right "home" screen, as in just one.  Other than one widget, it is simply icons, some would say boring, dare I say almost iOS like (may I reiterate the fact that this is a low end phone).  The apps located on my home screen are my daily use apps.  Anything beyond that I just open my tray.  Android must load in to memory any apps or widgets on the home screen.  This can take time and cause it to be slow returning to the screen.  By reducing the gadgets on the home screen, you will speed up the response time.

Step 3 - Strip it down

Now, as I said reducing your home screens down to just what you need will speed up overall responsiveness.   To do this I recommend a new launcher app called Launcher Pro.  This launcher is fully customizable and will really smooth things out.  For starters, it allows you to reduce the number of home screens.  In my case, I went to just one, but going down to just two will help as well.  It also has features like making the background image stick so it doesn't move when switching the home screens(iOS?).  The Samsung Intercept does not have a dedicated graphics chip so any fancy graphical move it does will slow it down.  So stick to the basics and your Intercept will treat you well.

Step 4 - Widgets

Widgets are what make Android great.  But widgets take memory, processor time, and most importantly battery life.  Widgets are there to save you time, so finding the ones that will show you what you need on a daily basis without having to open the app will be a big time saver.  This is a delicate balance between what widgets you need, and what you can live without.  Again, less is more in this case, so pick your widgets wisely.

Step 5 - Clean House

Now, moving on to your apps.  To get peak performance out of the Samsung Intercept, keeping an eye on what you have installed is very important.  Going to Settings>SD card & Phone Storage will show you how much space your phone has left.  As of this post the Virgin Mobile Samsung Intercept is running Android 2.1, so it doesn't have the ability to install apps to the SD card.  So sadly you must ignore that nice big GB number at the top.  Instead take a look at the "Internal Phone Storage".  This is the space allocated by your phone for app storage.  Any app installed on your phone will use this space as well as the cache for the app itself.  I have found if this fills up, bad things happen.  So I highly recommend keeping an eye on it and making sure it doesn't go below 20MB.  Uninstalling apps and clearing cache will keep this at bay.

Step 6 - Clearing your cache

As I stated in step 5, clearing your cache helps alleviate internal phone storage problems.  There are two ways you can go about doing this.  First is to clear one application at a time.  This of course will take a fair amount of time if you have many applications.  The other option is to download an app to do it for you.  One such application is called 1TapCacheCleaner.  It's simple, easy to use, and lives up to it's name, allowing one click to clear all application cache.

Step 7 - Memory boost

My final recommendation is an application called MemoryBooster, which is designed to tackle the difficult yet crucial problem of memory management.  MemoryBooster reclaims lost memory by defragmenting and recovering memory caused by leaks from poorly behaved applications. As shown in step two, I have the MemoryBooster widget on my home screen.  Anytime I find the phone acting sluggish, I just hit the button.      

Closing Thoughts

To get peak performance out of the Samsung Intercept requires a little care and maintenance, but by doing so the Intercept will serve you well.  Many of these steps can also be applied to other Android phones, so if you find yourself in the same boat as the Intercept, feel free to try it yourself.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Lookout Mobile Security - App Review

App: Lookout Mobile Security
Cost: Free/Premium Version $2.99 month

Where ever there is electronics there will be someone to hack it, steal it, or infect it.  Cell phones are no different.  Lookout Mobile Security has your back.  Combining three features in one, its a powerhouse of security.

1. Anti Virus/Malware Protection
Updated regularly Lookout Mobile Security scans all incoming installs for the latest Malware and Spyware.  This feature is automatic so there is no need to relaunch the app when you find something new.  It takes only a few extra seconds and could save you countless hours restoring your phone.

2. Phone Locator
If you've ever lost, misplaced, or had your phone stolen this is the app for you.  With it's built in locator, Lookout Mobile Security can use your on board GPS to identify the exact location of your phone.  Simply log on to from any computer and select the "Locate Button".  I found this feature to be accurate within 10-15feet.  You can also set off an alarm , lock the phone to protect it from prying eyes, or if you decide your data is just too important for anyone to see it can also remotely wipe the entire phone.

3. Data Backup
In my previous post  "Preparing for an Android update" I covered backing up your data in preparation for an Android update.  This is another great tool to give you that peace of mind.  The free version allows for Contacts and Call history backup.  Upgrading to the Premium version also allows for Photo backups as well.  This is all automatic and typically is updated once a day.  Should your phone go missing and is never recovered, you can add a new phone to your account, and transfer all of you contacts and pictures to your new phone.

Lookout Mobile Security - Closing thoughts
Overall this is a great app to have and takes very little thought to keep your data backed up and secure.  With the ability to restore the data to a new phone it makes replacing/upgrading a breeze. I highly recommend it for any Android user.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Virgin Mobile's LG Optimus V Review

LG Optimus V Prepaid Android Phone for Virgin MobileLG Optimus V
The newest in the Virgin Mobile lineup is the LG Optimus V.  Running Android 2.2 out of the box this little guy has some speed to it.  It features a dedicated 200mhz graphics chip, a 600mhz processor, and a 3.2" capacitive touch screen.   Overall experience using the Optimus is pleasant with smooth scrolling and fairly fast load times.  Lacking a physical keyboard it's thinner than it's Samsung counter part at Virgin Mobile, but makes up for the lack of keyboard with it's Swype on screen keyboard.  It features a 3.2MP camera that I found lags slightly behind the Samsung Intercepts.  In low light conditions most photos came out black when only dark on the Intercept.  Images also seemed overly sharp on the Optimus but had more color.  Gaming was pleasent with high frame rates and quick response times.  Testing the speaker I found it to get a tinny sound if set to maximum and wasn't as loud as the Intercept.  The LG Optimus also lacks the optical track pad of it's counterpart, thus making it more difficult to correct mistakes when typing.  Overall I highly recommend the LG Optimus for the average user or hard core Android gamer.   If you are a die hard texter, music aficionado, or amateur photographer, I recommend checking out the Intercept.


  • Dedicated graphics chip makes gaming a whole lot smoother
  • Slim design
  • Swype on screen keyboard
  • Android 2.2
  • High resloution screen
  • 2GB microSD card with adapter to make it a standard size SD card
  • Access to the Android Market

  • No physical keyboard
  • Poor low light photos
  • Weak speaker (I found cranking it all the way up gave you a tinny sound and really wasn't that loud)
  • No optical pad(When editing text you must switch keyboards to the arrow keys which is a pain)

Virgin Mobile's Samsung Intercept Update Delayed Again

On a rather unfortunate choice of days Virgin Mobile has announce the further delay of the Android 2.2 update for the Samsung Intercept.  Stated by Virgin Mobiles Customer Care on Twitter "Due to some issues encountered during testing the update has been rescheduled to be released further in the month."  And confirmed by Virgin Mobile USA on Facebook.  Could this be one of the biggest April fools jokes known to man?  My guess is no.  We can all hope that the final release of the update will be trouble free thanks to the additional time taken to fix the errors.