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Software Reviews

We look at new ways to share your location and your media, and then clean the cached crud off your mobile device afterwards.

Nero AG

Nero TuneItUp Android


What PC user hasn’t seen their machine get slower and slower over time, as they install and remove applications and as it downloads and caches more data? It’s especially true of Windows PCs, and lots of tools have been developed to help deal with it, although sometimes it really does seem that the best solution is a fresh installation of Windows!

The modern smartphone is in essence a tiny PC with several radios and a touchscreen, so it is no surprise that we see the same things happening here. Android devices are particularly prone to become perceptibly slower over time, and while a factory-reset will clear out the crud, it clears out all your carefully-crafted apps and settings too.

Hence the opportunity for clean-up apps such as Nero TuneItUp Android, a little sibling for the company’s Windows-based tools - and indeed, the only advert the app carries is for the Windows version. It is a clean and simple app with three main functions: a scan of the active processes, a storage scan, and a tool that rounds up and offers to delete the potentially private traces we leave on phones, such as call logs and browser history.

The first two probably have the most everyday uses, and are also available via home-screen widgets. They do not reveal anything that isn’t available in the phone’s settings and status menus, but they collate it all in a new and useful way. For example, you can sort the active apps by their consumption of memory, battery or processor time, and close those you don’t need - bear in mind though that the system will automatically restart any that are essential to it.

The storage scan similarly tells you which apps are taking up the most space in the phone or on your memory card. Again, you can sort by cache size, name and so on; with a few exceptions the app then takes you to the phone’s native app management tools, for example to clear an app’s cache or uninstall it, but it is still a useful way to visualise app data in a way that Android’s standard app management tools cannot do.

Ordnance Survey Ltd

OS Maps

Free, then £20/year

For hikers, cyclists, caravanners and others who enjoy the outdoors, good maps can be extremely important. Google Maps may be a lot better than nothing, but once you get beyond the urban area you start to see just how limited its level of detail actually is. Similarly, mapping apps based on the OpenStreetMap data, such as HERE and Navmii, are better at streets than at hills and dales.

What you really want, in the UK at least, is an OS map. One of the jewels in the UK’s family treasure chest, the Ordnance Survey has been mapping the country on our behalf since the late 1700s. And when it maps, it maps thoroughly, with contours, local features, boundaries and lots more detail - even whether a woodland has conifers or broadleaf trees.

The organisation has stepped into the 21st century with the launch of a digital mapping app. OS Maps is free for basic maps (though even these have more detail in some areas than Google and OSM), or £20 a year if you want access to the more-detailed 1:50k Landranger and 1:25k Explorer maps. You can also use your subscription to view maps on the OS website.

In addition, if you have recently bought a paper map, it should carry a barcode for a free digital download of that sheet - one caveat is that you must otherwise manually download any maps that you want to have offline access to, which is something of a pain.

Sadly, while the web and iPhone versions are good, and the free basic maps are worth having on any of the supported platforms, Android users will probably want to wait before paying for a subscription. For example, both the website and the iPhone app link to a database of half a million preloaded walks, all over the country, and the website can calculate a route for you to get to the start of your chosen walk.

The iPhone app can also do off-road routing, albeit only within national parks, where it follows what the Ordnance Survey calls safe paths. The Android app cannot do any of this - at least, not yet, although some of it is promised for future updates. For now it can record a route that you walk, run or cycle, which is useful if you need to backtrack or check where you have been, but that’s about all.

Sunshine App Inc



There have been peer-to-peer sharing tools around for some time, enabling you to back your phone up to your PC, synchronise files across multiple devices without needing a cloud-based intermediary such as Dropbox or iCloud, or share files with friends. However, they have often been relatively complex to set up and get working, especially in comparison with those cloud storage services.

A new app called Sunshine attempts to turn that around, by making private peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing simpler to set up and use. It’s currently available for Android, iPhone, Windows PCs and Mac OSX, with a Linux version promised. It enables you to use connected devices and their local storage as media servers, and DLNA devices on the same network as media clients. You can even stream media from a PC via a phone to a smart TV.

As well as moving or sharing files among your own devices, you can set up a friends list and share files with them too - you can even share the same file to several friends. They do all need to install the Sunshine app, but it is free for file-sharing, with the only cost being a monthly fee of $5 to backup files from your mobile device to the desktop.

Of course, you could as easily send photos or videos via one of the many messenger apps available. Sunshine does not limit the file size or picture resolution though, nor does it require intermediary services with their associated privacy issues. In addition, it lets you send pretty much anything and you can stream files too, for example to watch on your phone a film stored on your PC, or stream a video from a tablet to a smart TV. And perhaps more importantly, you can stream files to friends, so they can watch a video without you needing to upload it and them needing to download it.

The app defaults to sharing only over Wi-Fi in order to save mobile bandwidth and cost, but you can easily change this. There is also an option for the app to close down if unused for 30 minutes to save battery - uncompleted file transfers are saved for completion later.

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