Sean Rozekrans.

Mobile Changes: Retrospective. 2017 in Mobile. 2018 in Mobile.

2017 in Mobile.

In the past few months how I use my smartphone has changed yet again. Time for another update.

Most of the meaningful changes are related to the fact that my smartphone is now an accessory for my quadcopter. Up to now I have always had a single home screen, where possible. I now have an entire second screen dedicated to flying.

Apart from the official app my quadcopter uses while flying, DJI GO 4, I have a number of apps relating to flight safety, including apps that show no flying zones (NFZs), areas where drone flying is prohibited, as well as apps that show flight paths of regular air traffic, for when operating in Class C airspace.

One of the problems that the Mavic Pro Remote Controller introduces is that its holder covers the home button on my smartphone, so I now also have an on-screen, but invisible, home button. It does pretty much exactly what you would expect.

I use the regular weather app Forecaster, which is both accurate and highly detailed, in that it has up to the minute forecasts. I use this app outside of flying too. Its only downside is that it does not yet support off-line caching of the forecast.

When flying a quadcopter you need much more detailed weather information, and this is where UAV Forecast comes in. You can configure the apps parameters so that you get a simple green, good to go, indication when the weather is within the parameters that you feel comfortable flying in. This includes wind speed, wind chill, visibility, Kp Index, and so on. All of the information is hourly, so as to help plan flights. This app is less accurate, but still good enough for day to day use.

In addition to these two apps I also use Yr, for when I need a second opinion, since no weather apps are always accurate. Generally, if two apps say that it will rain, it will. Yr is usually the last word.

When shooting video or taking photos from the sky, the position of the Sun is a huge factor. The lens on the quadcopter has heavy vignetting, and no shading at all, and also is not coated. All of these things together mean that I have to plan my shooting angles, and I use Sun Locator to do this. There are hundreds of similar apps, I happened on this one.

What apps like this one do is show the position of the sun, and give a rough idea of how long shadows are. When shooting from the sky, the length of shadows has a huge impact in defining depth in the final photo. Again, this app helps me plan.

As with regular photography there is the golden hour, but when you are up in the sky, it happens at a slightly different time. This is because being higher means that the Sun is relatively higher above the horizon, than if you were on the ground. So, I am currently testing various golden hour apps.

Finally, as far as flying goes, all that is left is maps. If I get into trouble while flying and need to land quickly, I need to know where to do so safely. Because Mavic Pro has a exceedingly low profile, it is necessary to land on a solid and reasonably level surface. If I were to land in a field, or in grass, the blades can potentially get caught, leading to disaster.

My preferred landing spots are parking areas, or link roads, marked as L-roads. The latter typically have next to no traffic, but are most often still asphalt, making them suitable for a quick landing if something happens. Footpaths are often not available, but even when they are, it is a smaller target area than the road itself. Often footpaths have walls next to them, which will cause the vision sensor to trigger when I do not want it to.


I currently use Maps Me, which recently added traffic information. It is one of the few free ones to have this feature. It also shows building footprints, something that Google Maps does not have.

In fact, Google Maps is entirely useless, if you ask me. Some of the issues I wrote about have still not been fixed in the nearly five years since I wrote about it. I still use Google Maps for traffic information at this time, but not for anything else. Traffic information is a recent addition to Maps Me, and I still need to see how accurate it is, but if it is accurate enough, I will be done with Google Maps for good.

I also use OSMAnd. Just like Maps Me, it uses OpenStreetMap data, so the maps are both as good as I need them to be. OSMAnd, or Osmand as I like to call it, is more advanced than Maps Me, and can do fancy things like overlaying maps. I use OSM’s great maps, and building footprint overlays, in combination with satellite imagery from Bing Maps, which is considerably more recent than Google Maps imagery, and also higher resolution.

It also has other handy information such as the flow direction of a given river, which is useful when filming over water. Generally speaking, you want the water to flow towards the camera, which looks better than the other way around.

I am also currently testing various apps that show tide information, which again has a huge impact when filming near water. When filming from the sky, it can really influence how dramatic the video looks, whether the tide is in or out.


I have after a long time finally switched icon packs. Since last year, Nougat has been released more generally, and so more apps now have round icons, the new standard shape for Nougat. The previous icon packs I used had a sort of not square, but not round either, defining shape. At the time I liked it for consistency, but now that round is the new in-shape, it was time for a change.

I now use a combination of official icons that have been updated for Nougat, and I use Pixel IP and Pixel Icon Pack for those that have not yet. In addition, I also make some icons myself where needed, for example I created a Fastmail icon.

The basic theme of a Nougat icon is a round solid coloured background, with a flat image or logo on top. This is a simple theme, and easy to make custom icons for. Sometimes, I even do it on-device with Materialize. (sic)

The overall advantage is that now absolutely all of my icons now are the same shape. It looks incredibly coherent, and is a thing of beauty. The only shame is that it look so long to get here.

Also with Nougat is the ability for apps to have shortcuts to places in the apps. For example, Google Play Store can have a shortcut directly to My Apps, so that you can bypass the rather useless Play Store home screen. This functionality is available with the Nougat launcher, but also on Marshmallow with various third party launchers.

And that is about it. I will possibly update this entry later on in the year, but that is it for now.

I have not talked about Android TV, as compared to the last entry I am still using everything I did then. I am still satisfied with it.