CategoryApp

Skimble’s Workout Trainer gets an impressive UX update

I first blogged about Workout Trainer by Skimble more than a year ago after discovering and falling in love with it at first sight. Following the posting, the very nice folks over at Skimble noticed my blog post and decided to gift me a year of subscription for my early loyalty and affinity. Just when I thought it was a really nice gesture by Skimble, they also decided to do a “member spotlight” profile; all of these efforts set the stage for one of the most awesome customer experience for an Android app.

If you haven’t already, you should totally check out Skimble’s Workout Trainer, which would assist you with your home workout plan – available on both Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store.

Workout Trainer by Skimble snippet found on the official website

Click on to download the app!

Today

About a year and a half in and after renewing my subscription for the second year, my love for the app and the brand continues to grow, especially after their most recent update, which features a completely revamped logo and impressive UI update. The new update takes the user experience of the app to the next level. New, awesome UX elements such as vertical sliding menu (similar to the one on Google+) and weekly progress bar are introduced in this update.

Here is the most recent changelog (for Android): 

v5.3
✓ Beautiful redesign & new app icon!
✓ Do the new fitness assessment so we can customize your experience.
✓ New dashboard with more targeted, recommended, and featured workouts.
✓ Set your Weekly Workout Goal to stay on track and be consistent.
v5.1
✓ Auto-sync with Samsung S Health API in upcoming Galaxy S5 device
✓ Stay motivated – get notified when your friends do workouts!
✓ Fix for rare crash problems seen on some Samsung devices
Vertical Sliding Menu - Sleek!

Vertical Sliding Menu – Sleek!

Workout Trainer's homepage on Android showing workout progress, workout of the week and my workouts.

This is the killer feature in this update.

I believe featuring the workout progress at the main page of the app is the most thoughtful UI upgrade in this update, because previously if I were to check how many times I had worked out in a particular week, I would go to my profile and start counting, while having a calender open somewhere to check it against. Now, tracking the weekly progress is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

The progress bar at the top is also a great reminder whenever I open the app to see whether I am on track on a weekly basis. As long as I am making sure to hit the target of 4 workouts a week, I don’t have to go back to my profile at the end of every month to literally count if I have at least 15 (because I use Skimble’s workouts every other day to allow 48 hours of muscle recovery).

Of course, if you’re more ambitious or just starting out, you can set the bar higher or lower, by updating the fitness assessment in Settings.

Workout Trainer's feature - setting to change weekly target to keep track.

Considering ramping it up to 5 a week starting soon.

This is just a quick recap on one of the best workout apps I’ve ever discovered on smartphone. Whether you’re looking to drop fats, tone up or build lean muscles, there is no better time than now to give Skimble’s Workout Trainer a try – I seriously cannot recommend it enough.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Off to hit my workout quota of the week! 😉

Android App Review – Action Launcher Pro

Presentation1

Play Store Link – Action Launcher Pro by Chris Lacy

The ability to tweak/customize the look and feel of everything on Android has always been one of its strongest selling points. Third-party launchers are always among the most popular apps at any point in time, even more so in the pre-ICS era. Before Android 4.0 came along, the stock launcher on both AOSP Android and skinned Android (TouchWiz, Sense, etc.) were not so flattering and functional, to say the least.

Although Android 4.0 is a huge leap for Google’s home-brewed mobile operating system in terms of both aesthetics and performance, third-party launchers have continued to thrive well. However, innovation in that area has significantly slowed down after Android 4.0. Popular launchers such as Apex, Nova focus on improving the stock AOSP launcher by adding more flexibility, themes, functionality but there hadn’t been a new launcher that focuses on productivity, and reinvention.

That is until Action Launcher came into the picture. I didn’t discover it until I came across it recently on my news feed, so I’d only talk about what’s in the latest iteration, rather than how it evolves.

Unique Features

Quick Drawer

app drawer

The app drawer on Android has stayed the same, or at least very similar for the better part of the years since Android’s conception. There’s always a button in the middle or leftmost of the dock at the bottom of the screen, tapping which would bring up pages of all apps or one vertical scrolling page of all apps. In Action Launcher, the app drawer has been reimagined. The app drawer button is at the top left of the screen; you can also get to the drawer by swiping the screen from the left or hitting the home key from the default home screen (for phones with a physical home key of course). Scrolling in the quick drawer is extremely smooth and it kinda reminds me of how Windows Phone organizes all its apps. Productivity wise, this is a plus.

Covers/Folders

home screen

The above is the typical homescreen of my phone at the moment (boring I know; it’s a habit). And apps are organized in folders so that I have access to all on the home page.

make cover

If you open up a folder, there is a three-dot menu button with which you can use to Make the first app in the folder the icon of the particular folder. In my case, LinkedIn. Choosing “Make cover” will result in the following screenshot.

LinkedIn Cover

Instead of the folder icon, now my Social 2 folder has become LinkedIn icon. Tapping the icon would take you to LinkedIn, obviously. But what about the rest of the apps in the folder? Tapping the LinkedIn icon twice quickly or swiping up or down the icon will open up the folder, where you can get to other apps. The whole idea behind it is to eliminate some time going to the folder if there’s a particular app in the folder that you go to the most during a day, for example. Another plus for productivity, but I haven’t seen much use of it in my use cases.

Note: You can revert back to the folder icon by following the same step I did while making cover.

Quick Search Bar + Play Store Integration

quick black bar

Lastly, it’s the little semi-transparent bar at the top of the screen just under the notification bar, which has Quick Drawer button, Quick Search Button and a Play Store icon. It took me about 1 minute to get used to this bar and I actually find it pretty productive and refreshing to get to apps, by either opening the quick drawer, or using the search for apps. The search icon typically searches for EVERYTHING on your phone, apps, contacts, playlists, etc.

search

Special Note – Screen Margins Adjustment

It’s a bit ironic this part came in last because this is actually the first thing you have to do after installing Action Launcher Pro. Due to Android phones’ having different screen sizes and dimensions, the spacing of apps and screen margins need to be adjusted in order to get the previous settings you’re used to. For example, on my Galaxy S2, after setting row x column setting to 4×4, the apps and widgets were actually weirdly sized, in the sense that they were out of place and looked either stretched or squeezed (if you set 5×5).

Go into Action Launcher Pro’s Settings > Display > Screen Margins and play with the following two values until the icons/widgets are sized the way you want.

screen margins

Final Verdict

In a nutshell, I find it very difficult to move away from Nova Launcher Prime, which I’ve grown so used to and which I cannot live without. To be fair, I’ve been using Action Launcher Pro exclusively for 3 days and I have to say its unique features indeed help with productivity in my use cases but I am still inclined to go back to Nova everyday. I will keep Action Launcher installed on my phone but will be using Nova as default for now, i.e. until the next iteration of updates from the dev could bring me back to his app, if ever.

Instagram’s Privacy “Outcry”

Capture

If you don’t trust a service, don’t use it. Ha, life goes on for everyone else.

First of all, about my stand on Facebook and Instagram – they provide you free services, so they have to do “something else” to make money, i.e. advertising. How else do you think they make money? Really, they are social networking companies. NOT social charities. Companies that don’t make money are BAD and no one would give a crap about them.

Second, the mass media blew the shit way out of proportion that it’s impossible to save the dumb public from spreading said false information even further. Don’t get what I am saying? It means you haven’t read articles with sanity and ACTUAL information such as this one from the Verge and this one.

http://www.theverge.com/2012/12/20/3790312/instagram-reverts-to-original-terms-of-service-after-public-outcry

What can we learn from this? That most people don’t do research after hearing a news story from ONE source or worse from a friend or a friend’s friend. It also didn’t help that I remembered seeing at least 4 or 5 major sites (that are supposed to be professional) spreading the false information they believed was correct, in a self-righteous tone too. The keywords? “INSTAGRAM WILL SELL YOUR PHOTOS, AT WILL”. No. I am serious; it screamed exactly like that when the news broke. After all, it kinda makes me wonder if that was really what Instagram wanted? Create a fuzz with some obscure language with regards to privacy, cause the public outcry, and then revert back to the old terms, which really benefit Instagram, NOT the uninformed users.

After a while, I wouldn’t want to bother offering my view on Instagram to others anymore. This is way over and done with. The same people who complaint during this outcry would probably never find out that the old terms of service were really more intrusive than the supposed new ones, which they hated so much. Ironic huh?

Android App Review – Workout Trainer by Skimble

skimble-workout-trainer-screenshot-5.png.scaled1000

Skimble’s Workout Trainer

Workout Trainer for Android – Download

Workout Trainer for iOS – Download

A couple of weeks ago, I started telling some of my friends that I’d be getting into tip top shape before the end of 2012. They laughed and made fun of me, believing that it’s just one of those narcissistic self-motivating promises I made to myself AGAIN. They did so rightfully because since the end of 2009, my fitness and conditioning level have deviated so far away from the ideal that I now have difficulties recalling how being fit feels like.

Make no mistake, for the better part of the last 3 years, I have been exercising regularly, albeit not in proper ways. Of course I didn’t realize it all along until recently when I got a crushing wake-up call after reading a Men’s Health article – “The Pushup Challenge”, which basically says that if you can’t do more than 74 pushups in 3 minutes (no matter how you pace or rest), your fitness level is just “average”. I immediately tried it and got merely 65, which falls into the range of average (55-74). It’s disappointing and discouraging all at the same time, because you would think you could do better than average when working out is one of your obsessions.

Loading Page

I quickly got over the disappointment in my fitness level after I decided to give Skimble’s Workout Trainer a try. The app had been sitting on my phone for at least 5 months before I finally started using it 2 weeks ago. The first impression totally blew me away and I dare say that in the last 10 days or so, I have learnt more varieties of workouts than I did in the whole of last year. Before discovering this app, the sources I used for learning new workouts are mainly men’s magazines and YouTube; Skimble is adding new workouts everyday or at least very regularly to its already huge database of thousands of workouts. The best part? A large number of them are completely free and come with very comprehensive instructions.

Home

Home Page

In this post, I will mainly cover two fundamental parts that make up this app – Programs and Workouts. Community keeps track of all the workouts you’ve done as well as what others have done in the form of status updates, with which members can interact with each other (by liking or commenting). Forum is, well, self-explanatory by the name.

2012-12-01 01.37.03

Programs

There are a total of 12 featured programs as of now BUT they are not free. I have checked out a couple of them and each one costs around $12-19. Not exactly an ideal option if you don’t intend to spend much money using this app; the programs are very detailed and well thought out though.

Pick A Program

Program Schedule

Workouts

This is easily my favorite section of the whole app, firstly because there are a lot of free workouts to choose from and then because it gives me a lot of freedom to mix and match any workouts I like, with detailed descriptions of the outcome of each workout.

Featured Workouts

Preview Exercises

When you begin a workout, there will be a timer, an audio description as well as pictures/videos showing the correct postures and procedures which will guide you through the entire workout seamlessly. If you’re not used to rigorous exercises, it’s advisable to start out with casual or moderate workouts and then move on to the intense ones. My (eccentric) approach is to start doing the intense ones partly because I’ve already been working out for a long time. Obviously, the intense workouts are very challenging and I cannot keep up with them all the time but the point is to keep pushing each time until I nail a workout. The choice is yours; just make sure to not over-exert your muscles.

Subscription Fees for Pro Workouts

Workout payment plan

This one may seem like a much better value for money than the Programs I mentioned earlier on. But the Programs sort of take care of everything for you, in terms of rest days, workout variations and the ideal reps for each workout. If you’re more or less knowledgeable about working out and your body conditioning, purchasing full access to all workouts would be a much better option, if you ask me, because you can create your own workout program from a collection of thousands of workouts. And because of all the descriptions, you would get to learn how to balance out different parts of your muscles. As for rest days, a good rule of thumb is to power up an intense session every other day with a cardio day or a rest day in between.

More Screenshots

SettingsGeneral Settings

Workout Intensity

Adjusting this value will give you different featured workouts on the front page

Google Cal Integration

Google Calendar integration is awesome; one tap and it’s set

Shakerciser

This is definitely a fun feature but I know exactly what I am after, so….. won’t use much

In short, there are only a few apps on my phone that I would love to pay for and recommend ardently to friends and family. Workout Trainer is definitely one of them; it may sound exaggerating to you but I’ve already started seeing myself shaping up much better after following this app properly for about 10 days. The important thing is this – if you decide to be serious about it, be disciplined and don’t stop until you start seeing results. It may be painful at first but it’s gonna be worth it. Happy working out! 🙂

[UPDATE – 26/04/2014] – more than a year later, my love for this app only grows stronger. An update is long overdue!

Instagram for Android keeps crashing (and a temporary fix)

I’ve already spammed the Instagram team with this bug report, also through Twitter and their email

When I woke up this morning, I tried to launch my Instagram app, but to no avail. The first thing I suspected was whether the ROM I am using is acting up (since Cyanogenmod 9 ICS is only in Alpha stage). Out of desperation and frustration, I almost wiped my phone clean and installed CM9 again from scratch. Of course, the rational side of me thought I’d better use the keyword search on Twitter to find out if I was the only one facing the issue; it turned out that I wasn’t (kinda relieved). Either way, I uninstalled the app, wiped cache, wiped dalvik cache and fixed permissions on my phone before I installed the app again and tried. IT WORKED! But that was before I scrolled through my feed.

Why was that? I realized the crash was caused by a particular user’s photo in my feed. For example, this user @abc’s photo was at the top of my feed before I uninstalled the app, so there was no way for me to launch the app successfully. The moment the app was launched, it force closed. After a while, when @abc moved further down the feed, I was able to start the app, so I naively believed that it was just a temporary crash. However, as I scrolled through the feed and reached the point where @abc’s photo was at, it crashed again.

I tried to find out whether something is wrong with that account. So I went into my Following List to find that particular user. At first, I couldn’t scroll past @abc in my following list either; it force closed on me. After several attempts, I was finally able to scroll past that user. And then when I switched the tab back to my feed, everything began to work perfectly again. I don’t know the exact technical details of what’s causing this issue; some peeps on Twitter told me that they tried my method and it worked too, except that some of them had to unfollow the user that is causing the problem to solve it. Before Instagram gets down to fixing it, if you’re like me who totally loves browsing Instagram, try my temporary fix and let me know whether it works.

UPDATE: They have officially released a bug fix update earlier on. It should solve almost all devices’ crashes. Head over to Play to download it or here