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The INQUIRER Android Experiment: Episode four

Doctor Android answers your questions on gaming, video support and business apps
Mon Jan 13 2014, 10:44
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HAVING FINALLY settled into a pattern that will allow me to work, I've spent the rest of this week turning my attention to some of the challenges that you, the esteemed readers of The INQUIRER, have been setting.

I'm grateful for your enthusiasm for the experiment, so it is helping to keep me going. There isn't time to do every single one in depth, but I'm going to handle as many of them as I can during January, starting with a list that regular contributor Chrys left for me.

Can you use a keyboard and mouse?

Yes! I'm currently typing on an external keyboard, and have a mouse here too. That's Bluetooth, but I have run one from USB to confirm that it's possible. The big problem is the lack of USB ports. The Asus Transformer Pad TF701T that I am using today has one full-sized USB port in the keyboard and a microUSB port in the tablet. You can, of course get an adapter to convert from MicroUSB to full USB for a couple of quid. Google "OTG cable", with OTG standing for "on the go".

Office applications: Can you view/edit natively? Is there a program that gives the same functionality?

As I mentioned yesterday, there are a lot of office suites available for Android that give varying results, but the one that I seem to have settled on is Kingsoft Office. It shares much in common with its desktop counterpart, but more importantly it is the only one I have found that seems stable, has all of the features I need, and generally is a joy to use. It even has the ability to link to cloud services to keep your SD card light. It supports Microsoft Excel, Word and PPT formats - though I haven't tried the latter yet - as well as PDFs. As for Microsoft Visio, there are several products that bill themselves as alternatives in the Google Play store, but it isn't clear if they are compatible with Visio files.

Can it play video files? Specifically avi, mpeg, mp4, mkv?

There's an easy answer to this, VLC Player. The stalwart desktop player came to Android in 2012 and is capable of playing just about anything you can throw at it.

Audio Files?

I'm yet to find an audio file that Android can't play natively, in that mp3, m4a without DRM, ogg and flac lossless are all supported natively. It's not without its irritations, though. The media server quite often picks up folders that it isn't supposed to, so you'll suddenly find you are listening to all of your ringtones instead of the album you wanted. Also, there is a common fault whereby occasionally if you delete music from a third party app, the media server gets very confused and this can lead to battery drain and overheating. For anyone who has experienced those symptoms, go into Application Manager, find the music server, clear data and cache, and reboot.

Pictures?

The jpg and bmp formats are supported. There has also been a leak of a new version of the camera framework that includes support for RAW files.

What about gaming?

There are so many questions on this that it's hard to know where to start, so I'm going to pick a few of them and report on them.

Strategy is quite a broad area and one that I don't commit a lot of time to. But yes. There are hundreds. MMORPGs, many of which are World of Warcraft-esque. Military games in the style of Call of Duty, and even, to quote the words of the WOPR at the end of War Games "a nice game of chess". Coincidentally, there is a licensed game of War Games called F-Sim Shuttle Simulator. Yeah, flying the Space Shuttle. Feel like a man now?

I've found Android to be a great gaming system so far. Honourable mentions for the inevitable Candy Crush Saga, which despite its in-app purchases, still lives up to the hype, and the brilliantly silly Ridiculous Fishing, a game involving a fishing rod, a hairdryer and a large Uzi. I kid you not.

So what's next for the experiment? Well, next week, I'm going to turn my attention to some hardware devices. With the kind participation of several hardware brands, I am taking delivery of a variety of devices to test - an all-in-one, a giant sized tablet, a smartwatch, a TV stick and more. I'll be exploring the practicalities of using Android on different devices.

Remember, you can challenge me to perform tasks on Android in the Disqus comments below, or if you prefer, you can tweet @INQ using the hashtag #INQAndroid. Thanks again for all your support. The adventure continues. µ

 

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