For All Your Technological Queries: The Tech Corner

I’ll be writing reviews, covering current events and bringing insight to the world of technology. Before I dive into my first segment, I’d like to give you a taste of who I am.

In the past 11 years, I’ve owned 13 smart phones, six iPods, three Tablets and one PDA. Here’s a chronological list: Nokia 6590, Palm m500, iPod, LG VX3100, iPod Mini, Kyocera Koi, iPod Video, Motorola RAZR, Motorola KRZR, iPod Shuffle, Samsung Juke, iPod Touch, LG Dare, 2 iPhones, Motorola Droid, Motorola Droid X, iPod Nano, iPod Classic, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Motorola XOOM, Droid Charge, Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 10.

My passion for technology can be traced back to my Palm m500. With its black and white screen, stylus and sleek design, I was the miniature combination of Q and James Bond. All of my prior electronics were either games (Gameboy, N64, Tamagotchi) or toys (Furby, RC cars, light-up Sketchers). None of these allowed me to express my creative side. With the Palm m500, I could finally personalize my device, even if it was limited. I always loved customizing my phones, be it with different wallpapers, fonts, ringtones, etc. The release of the iPhone in early 2007 on AT&T came as a blow to my 15-year-old heart, for I was on Verizon. My teenage tech-angst was cured later that year with the release of the iPod Touch, but my yearning to customize and tinker with my new toy was squashed. I couldn’t even set a simple wallpaper! I soon discovered jailbreaking (the process of hacking and unlocking your iOS device in order to use unsanctioned apps and aesthetically customize the software and layout) and its online community. This became my hobby. I created icons, compiled themes, tested apps and even made a case for my iPod that turned it into a VOIP powered phone. Friends would give me their iPhones with cracked screens so I could tinker on updated hardware. My m500 on steroids: color touch screen, even more minimalistic design and the possibilities for customization were endless. Then, in October of 2009, Google and Motorola released the Motorola Droid on Verizon. The Android app market was full of different ways to customize your phone without having to hack it and void the warranty. Instead of having my iPod touch and Verizon feature phone on me, I could carry one cool smartphone that synced my email, calendar and contacts without having to plug it in to a computer, while also providing me free voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation with Google Navigation, which helped with my terrible sense of direction. From then on, I become an Android user.

It’s now time for a segment cleverly titled “Austin’s Apps.” Today, I’m covering a trio of Google apps.

1. Google Currents – free on Android and iOS

Currents is a news reader that handles your favorite websites, RSS feeds and blogs and delivers them all in one a beautiful magazine-inspired layout. It is similar to apps like Flipboard and Pulse, but provides a better user interface. Unlike Pulse, there is no web app available.

2. Google Maps – free on Android, iOS and Web app

If you have an Android phone, then you know the deal. It is the best at what it does. Maps does walking, driving, transit and biking directions in a 3D voice-guided navigation or directions list. Reviews of restaurants, hotels and other businesses now include Zagat ratings due to Google’s acquisition of the company in late 2011. Maps will only get better, as Google also acquired Frommer’s. Apple ditched Google Maps for Apple Maps with iOS 6. Since Apple Maps is still very much a work in progress, do yourself a favor and download the totally revamped app for iOS.

3. Google Chrome – free on Android, iOS, Mac, Windows 8, Windows Desktop and Linux,

Google Chrome for computers is the best and most advanced browser out there. With the Chrome Web Store, you can download thousands of web apps, games and extensions. You can create and edit movies and pictures from within Chrome. It syncs your open tabs and bookmarks between your devices, too.

Next Installment of Tech Column: review of Photojojo’s Phone Lens Series, Austin’s Apps, and more.