Thursday, 22 July 2010

HelixLauncher Donut - Alternative user interface for your Xperia X10 Mini Pro

Watch this video (not my video!) if you want to try this user interface on your Xperia Mini Pro the steps are below. I have been using this since I bought my Mini Pro and love it, it is much better than the default Home launcher UI and there are a lot of reports on forums and blogs that it improves battery life. I get over 48 hours off a full charge so perhaps HelixLauncher is to thank for that.

This will not delete the current Sony Ericsson Home UI, it basically works "instead" of it if you install it (and when prompted if you set it as your default) -- you can safely uninstall it if you do not like it.
  1. Make sure you can install 3rd party applications on your device
  2. Do you have a file manager already installed? I recommend ES File Explorer, available from the Market
  3. Download HelixLauncher Donut, browse to the download location and run the APK file using a file manager

Friday, 9 July 2010

How To: Install Skype on your Xperia Mini or other Android phone

UPDATE: Skype has been officially released, you can get the APK here.

Bad news, it looks like the versions of Skype available on the repos right now only allow audio calls by dialling a local number. I have uploaded Skype (BETA) v1.0.0.5 here.

In the UK and USA Skype has some special agreement with specific networks, in the UK it's locked to the Three network. This means unless you are with Three you cannot download/run Skype – browsing to does not currently allow you to download Skype if your on a different network.
This is how to install a working version of Skype on any Android phone:
1. You need to firstly enable third-party apps on your phone
2. You need to install and run APKtor on your device, use the mentioned repos
3. Search for Skype – install it
I am on Vodafone in the UK and I have tested this briefly on my Xperia Mini Pro – the app seems slightly buggy at times but the majority of main features are there (IM, audio call, contact lists, profile editing) – looks and feels a bit like the Symbian S60 version. My test call worked brilliant. Worked using wifi, Edge and 3G.

How To: Find and install third-party apps on Android / APKtor alternative to Market

NOTE: This how-to may enable you to download paid/cracked apps, for which I take no responsibility or liability - do at your own risk.

First, you need to download APKtor, which is available on the Market. You can also download it from either using the browser on your phone or from a computer, then transferring the APK file (APKs are Android app installation files) to your device and running it using a file manager (I recommend ES File Explorer grab it here if your Market is not working).

After installation, start up APKtor. You will be notified that no repositories are setup yet. Repositories (aka repo's) are URLs pointing to app collections. Once you add some repos you can directly download and install apps from APKtor. The best way to find repos is to Google around for them.

Here are three repo's that I found in a search:

After adding some repo's APKtor should automatically populate a huge list of apps. You can force an update by pressing the Menu/Options button (left button under screen) then touching Update. Simply touch an app and then touch install. You can uninstall apps the usual way and also by going to the "Installed" page within APKtor, touching an app and touching uninstall.

Have fun!

How To: Enable third-party apps on your Android 1.6 phone

If you enable this feature you can download apps from “unknown sources” such as websites, other Market apps or transfer them between Android phones and be able to install them.

There is a bit of a risk because some of these apps are not Google Market “approved” so if you don’t know what an app does or who it is made by, there is a risk. Use your best judgement rather than impulse downloads and installations – Google check reviews on apps beforehand.

How to enable third-party app installation on your Android phone:
1. Go to Settings
2. Touch Applications
3. Touch Unknown Sources (so the tick is white) – this enables the feature

NOTE: This method is for Android 1.6 but may be the same/similar on newer Android versions.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Is your battery discharging too fast?

Using your Xperia Mini Pro off your first full battery charge might shock and disappoint you – the battery will discharge fast and in about 4-6 hours reach 10% - 0%.  I read about this before my purchase, but now also know this to be true from experience.  It does not make a difference if you charge the battery using USB off a computer / laptop or the AC mains plug.

THE GOOD NEWS: Your battery absolutely will improve after a few more recharge cycles.  My battery now lasts over 48 hours off a single charge.  This is achievable for both Xperia Mini and Mini Pro.  Most smartphones last 24 hours on a single charge with usage (e.g. iPhone 3GS, HTC Desire…) so to be able to get 48hrs is absolutely brilliant.

I will write up a post detailing steps on maximising and optimising battery life to get the full 48+ hour results.

FURTHER GOOD NEWS: When Sony Ericsson finally release Android 2.1 or 2.2 (or when we can ROOT the phone and install it ourselves) it will automatically improve battery performance simply through the improvements made to the Android OS.

Xperia Mini Pro - My likes and dislikes

Check out this page for a list of my likes and dislikes. I will be updating this frequently until I feel it is complete.

How To: Hide folders from Album gallery thumbnail cache in Android 1.6

NOTE: Be careful, if there is a folder you do not want Album to see and generate a thumbnail cache of, you must not open Album before doing these steps.

1. Go to the Market and download AndExplorer, open it and find the folder you want to hide
2. Long-touch on the folder you want to hide - a green tick should appear beside it
3. Press the Menu/Options button at the bottom of the phone (left button below screen)
4. Touch Rename
5. Add a dot to the beginning of the folder name, e.g. if there is a folder called NewFolder rename it to: .NewFolder

Done. Android treats folders starting with a dot as hidden folders, the Album app will not scan the contents of such folders.

By the way, AndExplorer is my personal choice for a file manager app – there are other good ones available too, Astro for example.

Gmail sync advice - should you use your main Gmail account?

I recommend you create a new Gmail account for use with your Android phone. This is because if you, like me, have had a Gmail account for some years you probably have lots of email-only contacts automatically created when replying to emails – mostly people/companies you may never contact again. Also you probably do not have phone numbers stored for your Gmail contacts. Do you really want all this clogging up your device?

Top reasons why to create a new Gmail account:
• Selected emails/senders from your primary Gmail account can easily be setup to forward to your new Gmail account
• You can export contacts from your old phone in to a fresh, clean, empty Contacts list in a new Gmail account – these will then sync to your phone when you add your new account
• Less data traffic going to your handset = battery power saved
• If your phone is lost/stolen your primary email account is not at risk of being compromised

Although, to be fair here are some reasons why to use your EXISTING Gmail account:
• If everything is setup neat and tidy, your Contacts list is clean and has phone numbers
• You have properly setup password recovery (ideally using a phone number other than the phone you are syncing to – because what happens if it gets stolen!)
• You need your existing Gtalk / Gmail chat contacts

How To: Remove the back battery cover

When the cover is off you can access the sim card, memory card and battery. Be careful when removing the cover because, like me, if you are a bit rough with your handling you can cause a creaking sound to develop when pressing against the cover whilst using the qwerty keyboard.

Here is the proper method on how to remove the back cover:

1. In one hand hold the device so that the camera button on the side of the device is facing upwards
2. With your other hand put a nail in to the groove that is 1cm away from the camera button
3. Pull the cover away from the phone and it will "snap" away - use a little gentle force

When putting the cover back on, put the USB port part of the cover back on first, then snap the rest of the cover on.

Proud new owner of xperia mini pro

Hi and welcome to my blog. I purchased an unlocked, unbranded brand new Sony Ericsson Mini Pro from Carphone Warehouse six days ago. Price £199 + £10 credit on a Pay As You Go sim card.

I chose the phone because I wanted an Android phone with a qwerty keyboard. This particular phone is quite high-spec, both in CPU, RAM, screen and camera -- basically it ticked all the right boxes, particularly the small size.

There are already a few good blogs and forums out there covering this device but what I will do on my blog is post very specific experiences, tips, information, how-to's, etc.