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Posts from — April 2016

Running: Strava App Review | 26 Android Apps in April for the #AtoZchallenge

Strava Android

Exercise is a good thing, it makes you feel good, all those endorphins released make you feel like on top of the world. There is all the other beneficial stuff too, like it makes you live longer, you look better, and all that stuff but it’s this feeling of being invincible that gets me to put on my shoes and run.

I’ve had ‘run a marathon’ on my bucket list for many years but this year I’ve made a start towards it and I’m enjoying myself. I used to run in school and rediscovering it’s joys is just so awesome. I’m a long way yet from running a marathon but just running makes me feel so good.

That said, my target still is that marathon and only running towards it isn’t enough, there’s a lot more to this, nutrition, strength training, sleeping right, … and tracking progress to plan training better. That’s where Strava fits in.

Strava Android Strava Android

 

What the Strava App’s supposed to do

 

Strava tracks activity using GPS built into the phone. Activities it records are running and cycling (swimming can also be tracked but not via the app). It also syncs with devices like Suunto, Garmin, FitBit, etc. so you don’t always need your phone for tracking.

You start recording and run. At the end of the run the app gives you data about your run, your pace, elevation gain, heart rate, performance, etc. You can also join ongoing challenges on Strava to push yourself and get badges.

You can also follow your friends activities, give kudos to them and push yourself to do better with the community backing you. There is also an option to find running segments in your city, so you can find running buddies or compare your stats with others. The premium version of Stava offers more, like training videos, goals, etc.

Strava Android Strava Android

 

How I’m using the Strava App

 

I use Strava to track my runs via my Suunto and my walks with the dogs. That way I track mine and their exercise. :)

The data I get on my runs is helpful. It pushes me to do better, to break my own time records and get stronger and faster. It’s also nice to see what friends are doing, it creates a nice little space for some congenial competition and encouragement.

Strava Android Strava Android

 

My thoughts on the Strava App

 

I quite like using Strava, it’s way of showing data makes it easier to digest and make sense of, plus numbers just make me feel good. 😀 I haven’t found a need for the premium version yet as the free version satisfies all my needs.

Following friends and taking part in challenges adds to the fun. The app also tracks the gear used so it keeps count of how many kilometres my shoes have run.

Are you on Strava? Lets connect and run together :)

 

App details and link

 
Strava Android

Stars – ★★★★★
Developer – Strava Inc.
Devices – Android, IOS
Size – 30M
Installs – 5,000,000 – 10,000,000
Link – Android Store | iTunes Store

April 21, 2016   No Comments

Quizzes Galore: QuizUp App Review | 26 Android Apps in April for the #AtoZchallenge

QuizUp Android

This is my first and only gaming app in this series. I enjoy games but I’m not much of a mobile phone gamer. There are reasons, one being games take up a lot of battery and another that they are time suckers. But I do play games, and absolutely love some of them.

QuizUp is one of them. I used to love quizzing in college and Trivia was my favourite topic. QuizUp allows me to get back on that bandwagon. It has 1,200 topics to choose from and over 600,000 questions. That’s almost unlimited game play with out questions repeating.

And I’m not playing alone, I can play with friends, or even challenge strangers. QuizUp claims tone the Biggest Trivia Game in the World!

QuizUp Android QuizUp Android

 

What the QuizUp App’s supposed to do

 

The app allows three sign-up modes – Facebook, Google+ and Email. The Facebook and G+ signup options will pull in data of your friends who are also playing QuizUp.

You can choose quizzes from a wide range of categories and topics. Each quiz has 6 questions and a 7th bonus question. At the start of each quiz you make a choice of whether you want to play alone, with a friend or with a random stranger.

If you play alone, you use your energy, which gets replaced over time. But if you challenge and play with friends or strangers, no energy is required and you can play unlimited games.

At the end of each game, you can start a new one, play a rematch or move on to another quiz. Each topic also has a community built around it, so you can connect with people who love the same things you do.

QuizUp Android QuizUp Android

QuizUp Android QuizUp Android

 

How I’m using the QuizUp App

 

This is my go to app when I have some time to kill. I play with friends and strangers, get excited, feel good about myself, and even learn something new. It’s like I’m doing something productive even when I’m killing time. 😀

QuizUp Android QuizUp Android

 

My thoughts on the QuizUp App

 

I’m careful about using QuizUp, two reasons for that – one I get sucked in and can’t stop playing, two it drains my battery (because – refer to point one).

This is such a fun app and the variety of topics makes for hours of entertainment. The other plus in that I don’t have to find common topics between friends, I can just go ahead an play strangers across the world.

And let’s not forget the coolest things about it, I learn something all the time when playing. It’s not a silly game!

 

App details and link

 
QuizUp Android

Stars – ★★★★★
Developer – Plain Vanilla Games Corp
Devices – Android, iOS
Size – 39M
Installs – 10,000,000 – 50,000,000
Link – Android Store | iTunes Store

April 20, 2016   No Comments

Podcasts: Player FM App Review | 26 Android Apps in April for the #AtoZchallenge

Player FM Android

I started this series with Audible: An Audio Book App and a lot of what I said for audio books applies here too. There are just so many things I do in a day that require my hands and only half my mind, these are the times that are perfect for multitasking.

When I’m walking the dogs, doing chores around the house, packing food boxes for the dogs, gardening, or crafting, I have time on hand to listen and that’s where podcasts come in. Podcasts are a wonderful way to follow people, listen to their opinions, learn something new or just pass the time.

This year I want to explore the world of books beyond the printed page and podcasts are turning out to be a great way to do that. I started out with listening to one bookish podcast and now I’m subscribed to nine!

Player FM Android Player FM Android

 

What the Player FM App’s supposed to do

 

It’s a simple app that allows you to find the podcasts you want to listen to and subscribe to them. Downloaded podcasts can be seen as a list or as cards and can be listened to offline.

You can set limits on how many podcasts are downloaded and stored at any point in time so you aren’t hoarding or wasting space. You can also explore based on categories, trending and popular to find new podcasts to listen to.

While listening, player buttons are accessible easily on screen and in the notifications section. You can even pause, stop and play on the locked screen. There is also an option to rewind or forward in 30 second increments, which makes it it so much easier.

Player FM Android Player FM Android

 

How I’m using the Player FM App

 

I use the app to keep up with my podcast subscriptions, find out what each one is about and listen to them. I find the controls easy to use and having them right on my lock screen makes it easy to pause and restart.

Player FM Android Player FM Android

 

My thoughts on the Player FM App

 

In my search for podcasts, I’ve also tried out a couple of podcast players and found that Player FM is the perfect podcast player for me. This simple straight-forward app, doesn’t claim to do too much, but does all its supposed to.

It has a clean layout and is easy to use. Perfect for my podcasting needs. Do you listen to podcasts? which is your favourite player?

 

App details and link

 
Player FM Android

Stars – ★★★★★
Developer – Player FM Podcasts
Devices – Android
Installs – 1,000,000 – 5,000,000
Link – Android Store

April 19, 2016   3 Comments

Organise Your Gardening: Gardroid App Review | 26 Android Apps in April for the #AtoZchallenge

Gardroid Android

Gardening is an activity I love, it a past time or hobby that requires both mental and physical exercise. It’s not enough to physically break your back maintaining your garden, you also need to observe, think and plan before taking action, that’s a fair bit of mental exercise too.

Having healthy productive plants requires tracking and remembering what you did, when and what action is next due, when. The old school method followed by serious gardeners is to have cards for each plant and the cards are updated regularly, so at a glance you know all about the plant.

But what if you can do all that tracking and planning with an app? Wouldn’t that be great? It would be much easier too.

I’ve been looking for a good app since the day I started to dabble in soil a couple of years back. And, I did find some really good apps but, they didn’t work well for non-US countries, that makes them useless for me in India. Then I found Gardroid.

Gardroid Android

 

What the Gardroid App’s supposed to do

 

Gardroid is quite a comprehensive gardening app. It doesn’t offer much in flowers, herbs and shrubs but it rocks for vegetables (Pro version has herbs and fruits). It offers a list of vegetables that you can choose and read about. (How these vegetables are listed in based on the type of category chosen – month, soil type or US hardiness zone.)

You can create a list of plants in your garden. Each plant will have details about it – when was it planted, transplanted, watered, fertilised, etc. You keep adding this data as it grows. (It also reminds you based on the plant.)

For each plant you can also add notes and mark each watering. Based on all this information it tentatively predicts harvest time. You also have the option to mark harvest time as an event on your calendar with one click, so you don’t forget.

Gardroid Android

Gardroid Android

 

How I’m using the Gardroid App

 

I use the app to track my vegetables and read about growing them as it’s the first time I’m growing a lot of them. Knowing when to sow and transplant is useful information when growing something.

Then comes marking them so each has a card from sow to harvest. I find the reminders really helpful and knowing when to harvest is really helpful when growing root vegetables like potatoes and radish.

Gardroid Android

Gardroid Android

 

My thoughts on the Gardroid App

 

I find the Gardroid app really helpful as it offers more options than just US hardiness zones and that makes it usable in India. But I’d love to see the option to choose my country/location and get plant recommendations based the climate and soil here.

Knowing what you can grow and when it will grow, is valuable information for newbie farmers. But for now, of all the apps available out there, I think Gardroid is the best. It offers the most options and is the easiest to use.

 

App details and link

 
Gardroid Android

Stars – ★★★★★
Developer – Google Inc.
Devices – Android
Size – 3.7M
Installs – 10,000 – 50,000
Link – Android Store

April 18, 2016   1 Comment

Once Upon A Time, An Empty #TBR This Week

Once Upon A Time

This week has been a rather quiet week. Elu seems to be recovering well after her foreign body adventure last week, she’s back to being her rascally self. I on the other hand have been lazing a bit, relaxing after all the excitement of last week.

I didn’t get much reading done this week but I’ve been binge watching Once Upon A Time (TV series) and have finished 3 seasons, just one more left to catch up with the current airing of Season 5. 😉

This is a TV series I absolutely love and I’m hooked. Once Upon A Time is all about those fairy tales we grew up to but with a twist or rather many twists. The Evil Queen curses all of the land and sends all the people to our world in Storybrooke, Maine.

Caption Hook in Once Upon A TimeThat’s Colin O’Donoghue/Captain Hook, and isn’t he just gorgeous xxx 😉

The curse is supposed to last 28 years before Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter arrives to break the curse. That’s where the series begins, and as it progresses tales get woven in, Peter Pan, Mad Hatter, Elsa (of Frozen fame), The Wicked Witch of the West, Mulan, Jack and the Beanstalk are some of them. But all of them have a twist.

I love fairy tales, folklore and mythological stories so this one has me completely addicted. I can’t stop watching but as I’m getting closer to the end of Season 4 and I’m also wishing it’d never end.

And that makes for an excellent segue to two blogs I’ve been enjoying reading in the #AtoZChallenge. Csenge’s (The Multicoloured Diary) theme is Representation and Diversity in Traditional Stories. She’s tackling questions like –

“Why are stepmothers always evil? Are there any kind ones out there?
Can you name any folktales that feature female friendships?
Why are there so few traditional tales with LGBT+ representation?
Are there any stories where a male and a female hero fights side by side?
What about legends where heroes of different religions coexist?”

and I am so enjoying reading the stories she shares. They come from all over the world and there are even some from India. :)

Erica’s doing a Greek Mythology series on Modhukori, most of these characters I know about but she is still surprising me with some I don’t know or somethings I don’t know about them.

As with my last two years, my challenge even this year is keeping up with other blogs daily, reading and commenting on them. I’ve been missing a lot of days and have a large backlog to read but with themes like Csenge’s and Erica’s, this year it might be easier. Once I’m done with Once Upon A Time, that is. 😀

My #ForeverTBR

 
For the first time there are no books to be added to my #ForeverTBR this week. And it isn’t completely Once Upon A Time’s fault, surprisingly I haven’t come across anything on podcasts or through friends either.

It feels odd, but considering my teetering TBR pile, maybe it’s a good thing.

What have you been up to? Do you have a favourite TV series you are addicted to?

April 17, 2016   No Comments

News and Views: Inshorts App Review | 26 Android Apps in April for the #AtoZchallenge

Inshorts Android

I am not a news junkie, I am the opposite of it. Keeping up with the news takes a lot of effort for me. I remember even as a child I had to force myself to read the whole newspaper. I did like some sections and special editions that were tuned-in to my interests, but the rest I couldn’t care less about.

To me the newspaper always seemed a harbinger of bad news and I didn’t want to start my day with that, so I just avoided the paper and the news. The downside to this is that when I meet people, not knowing whats happening in the world leaves me feeling very left out.

So, 6 months back I set myself the challenge of following the news. Easier said then done, as I had to find a way to keep up with the news that worked for me, that I enjoyed. And that was how I found Inshorts.

Inshorts Android

 

What the Inshorts App’s supposed to do

 

Inshorts is a news app that aims to present each piece of news in 60 words, keeping it crisp, short and sweet (the news may not be sweet or nice though). The layout of each bit of news has both text and an image.

The news in a variety of categories is curated by news junkies and pushed through the app. Users can select to see all the news, news in a specific category or even the My Feed section that seems to learn what you like and show news selectively.

Each piece of news when scrolled through gets marked as read. Users can share the news via social media channels and save it for later too. The app also has notifications so you don’t miss any piece of news.

It also works offline, so you can read whenever, however to update to latest news you must connect to the internet.

Inshorts Android
Inshorts Android

 

How I’m using the Inshorts App

 

The app is simple and easy to use and the news doesn’t overwhelm me. I can scroll through a lot of news fast and read more only of the ones I want to and yet know a little about everything that’s happening right now.

I land up using the app when I have a few minutes to kill or when I’m doing things like watching the dogs eat. 😉 The bookmark feature works well for me as I bookmark news and videos to go back to watch later when I have better bandwidth and more time. The notifications are also helpful.

Inshorts Android

 

My thoughts on the Inshorts App

 

I really like the Inshorts app, it’s easy to use, the news in brief makes sure I don’t get overwhelmed and the variety and mix makes sure I get a little of everything.

It has worked out really well for me, and has actually encouraged and helped me stay in touch with the news. The app works well and I love it!

 

App details and link

 
Inshorts Android

Stars – ★★★★★
Developer – Inshorts (Formerly News in Shorts)
Devices – Android, IOS
Installs – 1,000,000 – 5,000,000
Link – Android Store | iTunes Store

April 16, 2016   4 Comments

Music Discovery: Soundcloud App Review | 26 Android Apps in April for the #AtoZchallenge

Soundcloud Android

I first heard of SoundCloud a couple of months back when I saw a friend using it. As we sat down catching up over tea, she introduced me to some of her latest favourites in music. She was playing them off an app.

I was intrigued, I love listening to music and also know instinctively whether I love a song or not at first listen but I’m challenged at curation. I don’t do so well at discovering new music and depend on friends to introduce me. Left to myself I’d be stuck in the ones I have and never hear a new song.

Discovery and curation is what caught my attention about this app, using social power and the internet it could lead me to listening to new music and exploring the musical space.

Soundcloud Android

 

What the Soundcloud App’s supposed to do

 

A free user of SoundCloud gets a certain amount of space free to upload their music, which frankly isn’t much but users can also connect to their friends, make new friends, make playlists, join groups and discovery new music.

It’s all that’s offered beyond music upload that makes this app so cool. It’s like a GoodReads for music, and it’s power lies in the community using it.

Soundcloud Android

 

How I’m using the Soundcloud App

 

I’ve been using SoundCloud to follow a couple of friends whose musical tastes I love, I’ve also been discovering a little music on my own, though most of this is artists I already love. The new ones I’ve been finding via friends and curators like ‘A Song A Day’.

Soundcloud Android

 

My thoughts on the Soundcloud App

 

Over the last few months I’ve come to like SoundCloud a lot, it’s become my music listening source at almost all times (except when there’s no internet).

There’s one downside though. I wish there was a way to get the app to take some of that music offline, it could be DRMed and all that, I don’t care, but it’d be nice to have my music available even then the internet is on the blink, plus I’d not have streaming lags.

How do you discover new music? What’s your favourite music app? Are you on SoundCloud? Drop me a friend request. :)

 

App details and link

 
Soundcloud Android

Stars – ★★★★☆
Developer – SoundCloud
Devices – Android, IOS
Size – 21M
Installs – 100,000,000 – 500,000,000
Link – Android Store | iTunes Store

April 15, 2016   No Comments

Loose Notes: Google Keep App Review | 26 Android Apps in April for the #AtoZchallenge

Google Keep Android

I am a note taker, I don’t like cluttering my mind with data and so I try to write down as much as I can. (I find it free’s my mind) Give me directions to a place and I’ll write it down, packing to travel – I’ll create a checklist first, saw something interesting – I’ll save a photo, come across a gardening tip – immediate notes made, the list goes on.

I’ve filled note books over the years with all this stuff and the notebooks would be filled with little pieces of paper too as I’d take notes on them when I didn’t have the note book handy. I sound a bit crazy, don’t I? :)

But then I came across Google Keep. This little nifty app is an excellent note taker, one that can be used as, just a post-it or it can be used to write extensive notes.

Google Keep Android

 

What the Google Keep App’s supposed to do

 

Google Keep is an app that comes inbuilt on most Android phones today. It’s a notes app that allows you to make short notes or long notes based on what you want. You can type or copy and paste text on to a note or between notes.

You can create checklists on the note, make a voice note, add photos to the note, draw in a note, use a marker on a note, and even use a highlighter in the note.

You can also label and colour code notes to make them easier to find and sort. Notes can also be moved around and reordered. All notes sync to your Google account so they are always safe and backed-up.

Google Keep Android

 

How I’m using the Google Keep App

 

I use Keep for just about everything I need to note down. Movies I’ve watched this year, books recommended to me, birds I saw on my last holiday, a poster I saw and want to follow-up, a packing checklist, the dogs weights month on month,… You get the idea.

I even write blog posts on Keep sometimes when I’m away from home and have a little time and the phone handy. And I’ve stopped taking visiting cards from people; when they give me their card, I take a picture and add it to my Rolodex note on Keep, the cards are less likely to get lost this way and are always accessible.

I have a lot of notes, so I use labels and colours for them. Colours are a easy way to find a note, especially one you lookup often. I use colours as tags to add more functionality to my labels.

Google Keep Android

 

My thoughts on the Google Keep App

 

I’ve used quite a few note taking apps but Google Keep is my favourite, it’s simple, clean and easy to use. Plus it has so much functionality packed into one little app. It also syncs to the cloud and is available offline without taking up too much space.

It lets me do everything I’d want to do when making a note. I can add text, a photo, a checklist, highlights, a voice note and even draw. Awesome sauce isn’t it!

 

App details and link

 
Google Keep Android

Stars – ★★★★★
Developer – Google Inc.
Devices – Android, IOS
Installs – 50,000,000 – 100,000,000
Link – Android Store | iTunes Store

April 14, 2016   2 Comments

Review: ShopBack.in, Get Money Back When You Shop Online!

Shopback.in

I love bargains, sales, coupons and cashbacks. Most often these aren’t real, they are just illusions to get us to spend more but well, I’m still a sucker for the blue pill most times. 😛 (Also, I’ve seen a lot of friends using these in other countries and they seem to save a bit.)

Shopback.in is a new entrant into the Indian market and they offer cashbacks. So, I figured I’d go check them out, not that I’m going to spend extra money but if I could get money back on what I’m spending anyway. Why not?

 

First Impressions of Shopback.in

 
Homepage Shopback.in

The premise of Shopback.in is clear right at the start, they offer coupons for a wide variety of stores, including popular ones such as Flipkart and SnapDeal. Some cashbacks are a percentage of your spend while others are straight forward amounts.

 

So how does Shopback.in work?

 
How It Works Shopback.in

According to Shopback, merchants give them a commission for referring you to the store and they give that commission back to you. Simple. They even have a calculator for you to calculate how much you will get back in their How It Works section.

There is a catch though, actually a couple of them. One you have to be careful and go through their site to get your cashback. Then there’s the waiting period that can take up to 30 to 60 days for your transaction to be validated. Lastly amounts can be redeemed only after they exceed the amount of Rs.200.

There may be an additional cause which puts an expiry date on each set of points redeemed, that means there’s a time limit, and you have to reach the 200 points goal within that time frame, else you start losing points. Or you may have to wait for up to 5 months before the money can be cashed out.

Catch Shopback.in

 

Advantages of Shopback.in

 
One that stands out is that the money you get as cashback is not tied up as coupons or gift cards, etc. You can choose to get it back into your bank account straight and clear. This one’s a big plus in my book.

 

My Thoughts About ShopBack.in

 
It wouldn’t be fair to rate a website or service without trying it. So I gave it a twirl. My mobile bill was due for payment and I figured I’d pay that through Shopback.in’s Paytm coupon and see what happens. Here’s what I did.

Paytm Coupon on Shopback.inI chose the Paytm coupon

FinePrint on Shopback.inRead the fine print

Shop now on Shopback.inHit the shop button

Redirect on Shopback.inGot redirected to Paytm site

Paytm via Shopback.inEntered my details

Paytm payment made via Shopback.inMade the Payment

Cashback on Shopback.inAfter about 12 hours the Cashback showed up

 

Back to My Thoughts About ShopBack.in

 
The experience of signing up and using the site was good. The signup process is short and the site is easy to use. Since it was my first time I was extra careful about every click but I found that following instructions wasn’t too complicated.

I was also happy to see that the turnaround for my transaction cashback was just 12 hours.

My only complaint is that I have to wait 85 days before I can redeem my cash, that’s almost three months! That’s a long wait, plus add to that the requirement of 200 points before a release of funds. I’d also received a welcome email saying I’d get 100 bonus points on my first transaction. It’s been almost a week and no sign of the bonus showing up.

Welcome bonus Shopback.in

All that said, I still think Shopback.in has promise. If I am going to spend my money, why not spend it through the site and get some back. I intend to use the site to pay my bills, recharge my mobile, shop on Amazon and Flipkart, and do all the other online spending. Hopefully a substantial amount will come back over time.

Have you seen Shopback.in? What did you think of it? Do these cashback schemes work?

P.S. – If you plan to signup and use Shopback.in use my referral link. You’ll get Rs.100 signup bonus and so will I (when you spend a minimum of Rs.500). You will also get an additional Rs.100 bonus on your first purchase I’m told.

April 13, 2016   No Comments