Android App Review – Layar

App Name Layar Layar
Price Free
App Availability Android Market or the Developer version at

This is one of the apps with really cool possibilities.  You can overlay any geographic information on the augmented reality display.  There are layers for Wikipedia, Qype, Google’s “Local Search”, Flickr, Hotels, Mazda dealerships, Brightkite, Twitter, and even International Architecture.

As an application, it’s really easy to use and well designed.  My only problem was not knowing how to find new Layers.  Which was eventually resolved when I realised that from the “Layers” view, you can search for them in the Search tab.

As a concept, I think we’re only starting to scratch the surface.  Imagine a bus service, where you can search see what busses are arriving from where, and at at what time.  Or a movie service where you can search and see where around you a certain movie is showing.  Then click on the location and book your ticket.

Festivals, sporting, music, and cultural events could be greatly augmented by technologies like this.  You have a load of people who aren’t usually in an area, and applications that help you find a place to eat, or see where spontaneous events are happening “real time” will be great tools to organise people and, for businesses, being visible on those applications would stand a chance to get a load of customers.

I’m quite excited to see where “Augmented Reality” applications are going to end up and if they’re as open (developers can use the Layar API to provide their own layers for the application) and well built as Layar, I think there’s going to be some awesome innovation.


Android Market App Review #1

Big news this week was that the Android Market arrived in South Africa.  Only a quick flash of the devices ROM using the officially supplied file, or a quick trip into any Leaf store, and it was done. (See: MyBroadband article)  I’ve downloaded a few apps and wanted to review a few of them quickly.

Android Market

AndroidMarket Apple has the App Store, we have the Android Market.  I’ve not seen much of the App store (my wife has one, but I haven’t used it much).  You won’t go far wrong using the apps that are highlighted across the top bar.  Searching for applications are easy, and the categories seem to be really well maintained.

Applications download easily and are quickly kept up to date (I’ve had a number of updates in the few days that I’ve had the Market.  You can see applications that are installed, and applications that need updating by going to the “My Downloads” section.


Barcode Scanner

BarcodeScannerThe second application everyone MUST have is the barcode scanner.  You can use it for scanning many kinds of codes.  Many sites display these barcodes instead of links to applications (I will be using them too at the end of this article).  You can then use the scanner to read them and you’ll get directed to the Android Market. It can be used for Contact details, notes, and as plain old numbers.



Twitroid When it comes to Twitter Apps (free ones), Twidroid is the best.   The UI is pretty simple, and they keep it up to date.  It does DM’s, RT’s, can attach pics, and browse through your followers and people you follow.



SkyMap I’d heard about this application before Android was available in South Africa.  As an amateur astronomer I always struggle to know what exactly “that bright star over there” is. With Sky Map, you simply point your phone at the sky as if you were taking a photo of the star, and Sky Map will show you what stars are there.  If you’re looking for a star or planet, you can search for it, and Sky Map will show you where it is. Google’s site for Sky Map has a nice demo.


Task Killer

TaskKiller Android usually does a great job of managing your processes.  As soon as it figures out that an application needs more memory, it closes applications that aren’t currently in focus.   As a developer, it’s a really annoying habit of the OS because you have to build your applications to take this into account.  Unfortunately when you have a bunch of apps that run in the background, your battery life can start to run out quickly.  Task killer shows you what applications are running and you can close them easily.


Useful Switchers

UsefulSwitchers Turning on/off various features ends up being a long process unless you have Useful Switchers.  Another battery saving tool, this lets you quickly turn on or off services that usually would drain battery life.  So with one click you can turn on/off bluetooth, gps, wi-fi, and even swap into “Flight mode”.  It has a “flashlight” and the ability to change the brightness of the display (really handy at night).



PlacesDirectory What Skymap does for stars, Places does for things closer to the earth – just without the super cool graphics.  Do you want to find the nearest restaurant?  Go see a movie?  With Places you can search for establishments around you and it will direct you there. There’s a few other apps that can do this too, some cooler than this, but this is another one of those apps that I’ve heard about for ages and had been waiting to play with.  One thing that it’s lacking is the ability to add new content, but I’m sure it will grow in future.  It’s South African content is ok, but not great.   If you’re travelling abroad or in a different city, this could be really useful.