Mobile Blogging with Tumblr on an Android Phone

I have a Samsung Galaxy S Captivate mobile phone. It was a great phone for its generation, but not without its challenges. Actually, I think Android poses regular challenges because all the devices are different, and not all inter-operate as well as one would hope.

For my Mobile blogging experiment, I wanted to be able to blog using my Android phone, as it really isn’t practical to always have to borrow my husbands iPhone (he gets grumpy about it!), and text entry on the iPhone sucks.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve chosen Tumblr as the host for my mobile blog. Fortunately, Tumblr has a free app for the Android.

STEP 1: Create a Tumblr account (free).

STEP 2: Install Tumblr for Android (free).

In my first tests, I found it very easy to post both text and photos. I used to post occasional status updates to facebook with pictures or text, but now I find that when I’m on the go, I prefer to use Tumblr. What I like about it, is that later I have a nice log of all the messages I sent in a nice format – my Tumblr blog – where on Facebook my statuses are all buried. What I don’t like is that my contacts will only see one Tumblr message – my most recent one – and the rest will be collapsed, so if they are viewing it on Facebook, they need to know to click the button to uncollapse them.

I was confused at first when I tried to add a photo, as the top part of the screen where the Add Photo button is totally greyed out – to the point where it is almost unreadable, and definitely unreadable in bright light. I tapped it anyways, and it worked. So a foible with the app UI, but it does work.

Tumblr also has quote and link, which are pretty much just specialized text fields. I find the quote one to be occasionally fun, especially when a song gets stuck in my head. I’m looking forward to capturing a few quotes as I ride around town on my recumbent bike. I love the comments I hear kids tell their parents as I pass by!

I haven’t yet found much use for the link field. I can see that one being more useful for people blogging from their desktops, but don’t see it that useful in a mobile context.

Next is video – and one of the things that initially piqued my interest in mobile blogging. I’ve never owned a camcorder, so I don’t take video that frequently, but occasionally, I’ve found it to be handy – like when the little ducks decided to visit us at our campsite. That was one experience that you couldn’t really capture with a still photo!

So, I tried out the video feature, but failed miserably. The posts would hang – or update with just the text and not the video. I thought perhaps the file was too larger, so I recorded a shorter video but that did not help. I downgraded the video quality on my phone but that didn’t work either, plus I really didn’t like that option. I want to be able to record in the highest quality possible then down-sample for posting, rather than recording in bad quality. I tried the MMS record setting, but the quality for that was truly terrible, such that it didn’t even make sense to use video.

After much searching, I discovered that Tumblr really wants video in MP4 format, and my phone was capturing it in 3GP format. Although they may technically use the same codecs for recording the files, they use different wrappers, so Tumblr was rejecting my video files. I did many searches looking for an app that would convert video, and found many desktop apps that would convert video, but none that would do it on my device. Most people that do video blogging, do post processing on desktop machines. That doesn’t really work for my experiment. After much searching, I did find an app that would transcode my videos to MP4. It wasn’t free, but it reportedly did the job.

STEP 3: Install VidTrim (free). Make sure it works on your device. If not, stop here.

STEP 4: Purchase and install VidTrim Pro (about $3).

I saw many blog posts that said VidTrim Pro would transcode, but after installing I couldn’t figure it out. It did not appear to work on my device, so I emailed the developer. After a couple of email exchanges, it turned out that I was touching the "link" and not the "icon". If you select the link you get access to the trimmer functionality (this is what the free app lets you do). To access the transcode functionality (and the change file name, grab frame, and share functions) you need to click on the "icon" that is the video screen shot next to the name of your video. Once I found the functionality, I was easily able to transcode the videos to MP4.

STEP 5: Use VidTrim Pro to transcode your video. I chose the largest option – VGA (640 x480). Note that this process eats batteries – you only want to do this when you know you can easily recharge.

Your new video appears at the bottom of your list of videos. You’ll note the file type is MP4.

I tried the share with Tumblr functionality in VidTrim Pro but found it didn’t actually attach the video.

STEP 6: Open Tumblr and select video. Touch the Record button and select Choose existing video. Use the Gallery to select your video. This is a bit of a challenge as both versions of the video are shown with the same icon. The version of Gallery that I have doesn’t show file names (most annoying), so I just have to guess which one I want – usually the most recent).

STEP 7: Add a caption and any other commentary you wish for that post.

STEP 8: Touch Post.

With any luck, that should work! It works for me.

I tried audio from my Android and didn’t have any luck. Tumblr wants a file in MP3 format. I found an app that recorded a nice MP3 file, but Tumblr wasn’t able to find it. The music players on my device don’t seem to recognize MP3, so it won’t find the file – that or they can’t find files on my expansion memory but the app can only record to the expansion memory. It does look like TapeMachine might solve the problem, but I’m just not willing to buy another app for audio blogging, especially a $6 app when I didn’t find the audio quality of their free app to be as good as other free MP3 recorders. I can audio blog from Scott’s iPhone if really necessary, but I can’t see myself using that functionality.

So, there you have it. How to setup your Android Phone for Mobile Blogging with Tumblr. Not nearly as easy as the iPhone, but alas, Swype makes it worth it!

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