These Apps Own Bones on Android Phones
I realized that I have quite a few apps on my phone now that I’ve had it for 6 months, and since a lot of people I know are getting new handsets I thought I’d do a quick rundown of my tried-and-trusted Android apps. I have an HTC G2 on T-Mobile, and while their coverage isn’t the greatest I’m quite pleased with the phone and with their customer service. It’s not the newest phone on the market but it is currently sold out at T-Mobile.com, so I guess it’s pretty popular! I had the G1 before this, a Blackberry Curve before that, a Blackberry Pearl before that, and bricks before that.
Apps What Done Come With the Phone
Adobe Reader– I don’t even notice that this app is installed, but it is nice to be able to review a presentation’s notes, for example, on my phone in the car on the way to the client’s office. Integration is pretty seamless, and it does what you think it does- it lets you read .pdf files on your phone.
Car Home– This is kind of a strange app to include, considering that you’re expressly verboten from using your cell phone while driving. However, it does put all the buttons you’d need on the screen in one bigass 2*3 grid-Navigate, Phone, Voice Search, Contacts and Music- it’s nice and customizable, too. I would buy an app that would use the GPS and the accelerometers on the phone to kick into Car Home mode any time I’m going over say, 50 miles an hour, and then revert back if I slow down for more than 5 minutes. I like that you can customize the buttons and colors, and intended to use the app in the car, but I really only use the Navigation feature while I’m actually driving, so I don’t use this a lot. I included it because I think the concept is sound.
Google Maps/Navigation– The hands down single best app that ships with the phone and a strong contender for the best app on the phone, period. I use this every single day, to gauge how long it’ll take me to get to work, decide whether or not to take the toll road, and get turn-by-turn voice assisted directions in new areas when on client calls. They recently added the ability for mass transit systems to update in real-time, meaning that if you have Google Maps on your phone and your bus is late, you’ll know about it ahead of time. I leave this on in the car constantly- in Traffic view- and it usually is dead on with the estimate of how long it will take me to get somewhere, as long as an accident doesn’t happen on the same route after I’ve left. It even updates in real time as you slow down and speed up! Good stuff. Sorry GPS companies! Google saved me a couple hundred bones with this app, easy.
Apps I Done Downloaded
doubleTwist with AirSync ($5)-fools your iTunes/PC/Mac into thinking that your cell phone is an iPod, and pretty much makes your phone function that way as well. Make sure you don’t try to transfer DRM-locked tunes, though, as it will automatically not sync those files. We all know the workaround for that already, so I won’t mention it here. doubleTwist by itself is free, but the AirSync add-on allows you to sync data between your phone and your Mac/PC/iTunes account wirelessly, provided that you have a Bluetooth card or dongle built in to your laptop or desktop. To be honest, I don’t use this app much; but it was nice when I went in the hospital to be able to just have one device, instead of my iPod AND my cell phone. I’ve used it occasionally in the car when my Nano runs out of juice and it works fine; it doesn’t sound great but that isn’t anyone’s fault. The phone just isn’t designed to be a music player.
Amazon Kindle (Free)– just what you think! It’s a Kindle for your phone. Not as nice to read on the harsh white screen as it is on an e-ink screen, but still, it’s handy in a pinch, especially if you are on an ongoing pocket diet, as I am. I just don’t like carrying a lot of electronics, and between Kindle and doubleTwist you’re effectively eliminating the need for an mp3 player or a reader. Granted, the controls and interface aren’t as slick as they would be on dedicated devices, but it’s great to have in a pinch. There’s a large selection of free classics to get started, so it won’t cost you anything to try it out!
Angry Birds (Free: ad-supported)– come on. It’s freakin’ Angry Birds! It’s not THIS cool:
…but it’s cool. And, your 4 year old is already better at it than you are.
AntiVirus Free (Free)– This terribly named app- AntiVirus Free, like the app is free of antivirus? Isn’t that a double positive or something? Anyway, it’s just what you think it is; free antivirus software for your phone. It comes from AVG, who’s been protecting my personal home PCs for years, and it works great- I havent’ experienced any extra load on the processor or slowdown since installing this app. I can’t figure out what the $14.99 version does differently, but that’s mainly because I can’t be bothered to look. The free one works just fine, just like the home software!
Barcode Scanner (Free)- Reads barcodes and QR codes. I originally got ShopSavvy but it’s too unwieldy with too many options. This program reads the code, and then gives you buttons to push to visit the site if you like the URL the code returns. Basic, functional and simple to use!
Facebook (Free- HAH!)- Do I really need to say anything about this one? I frankly think the app could be a little better, I get weird “unable to fetch data” errors all the time in areas where other programs work just fine, but for a smoke break or waiting for tea to brew, FB is the perfect way to kill 5 minutes. I do like that the notifications seem to update in real time much more reliably than they do with the Google Plus app- there’s always a pretty good synchronization there; whereas with Plus, I get notifications 2 days after I upload photos at times. I also have a very hard time doing check-ins in high traffic, multiple network areas such as Disneyland, where I like to lifestream what I’m doing for my friends. Yes, I am a big lame-o.
Fandango (Free)- Used it once. I have a smart phone and I can just go to the site. Don’t need an app. Why haven’t I deleted this thing already? Oh wait, there it goes. Gone. That actually brings me to an aside- I love that you can manage your phone’s apps solely in a browser with Android. Dunno if you can do that with the other app store(s) but I lahk it uh loht.
Google Authenticator (Free)- This is essentially a security dongle so that when you try to log into your Google accounts from a new computer, you have to enter the verification code displayed on your phone, a six-digit string that changes every minute or so (usually right when you’re trying to enter it). This means that no one can access your Google accounts unless they HAVE the phone. Sometimes this can be a small pain in the ass, such as when logging into a client’s machine to show them an ad-hoc search result, but the extra layer of security is worth the very minor hassle of having to take 10 seconds to authenticate your account.
Google Plus (Free- HAH)- had this for about two weeks now and I think it blows the Facebook mobile app out of the water; especially the Huddle feature which is essentially a mobile IRC room (the text-only version of a Hangout) for multiple Users. I could see people at a conference huddling up, people coordinating movements at Comic-Con, people group heckling their professors right under their noses…Huddles are great. The automatic photo and video synchronization with Picasa is amazing as well. Check this out: read more of my profound and insightful Google Plus thoughts! Waka Waka!
HBO Go (Free with an HBO subscription- maybe $13 a month)- Whoah, whoah whoa. If I subscribe to HBO I can go to the park at lunch, leech off of the unsuspecting neighbors wi-fi and check out Game of Thrones- or The Sopranos, or Big Love, or…anything HBO offers- any time I want? And on-demand kids movies for my 4-year old as an alternative to 10-minute YouTube clips? OKAY! All kidding aside though, I think that this is the future of original content distribution. If HBO can distribute their own content without needing the cable company; um…I think the sooner the cable company starts thinking of itself as just the pipe, the better. They’ve enjoyed far too large a piece of the pie for far too long and they need to take a step back from the content side. They can’t keep up and should give us a la carte pricing already!
I Heart Radio (Free)- at the few times I find myself without a radio, I use I Heart Radio to listen mainly to KFI 640 in Los Angeles. One of those “surgery apps” that I downloaded because of convergence…and then kept because I can’t think of a good reason to delete them.
I P Webcam (Free)- stream audio and video from your phone to a password-protected IP! Awesome! Haven’t used it…but I know I’m gonna! Someday! Don’t let Metallica find out!
MouseWait (Free)- This is for the Disney geeks out there; crowdsourced wait times for rides and park information. I love this app; I can check on whether or not it’s too crowded to go to the park right from my cell phone at home, work, wherever. (I’ve found that an index below 82 is pretty good, if you’re wondering). The only problem I see with this app is that I get distracted with wanting to time how long we’re in line and upload the times to the site- however, it has problems because there are about 75 different wireless networks just on Main Street alone. The app checks to see if you are entering valid times by using GPS to see where you are in the park, meaning you can’t go to the next ride and enter the wait time on the last one while you’re in line. This leads to me spending more time than I normally would staring at my phone, so my wife and I have come to a compromise- I only update wait times every other trip. We go a lot, so I get my geek on plenty.
Phonalyzr (Free)- tracks detailed statistics on inbound and outbound calls and texts, who you talk to the most, who you talk to the longest, when you use your minutes- and displays everything nicely in pie charts and line graphs. Doesn’t track data though (at least the free version doesn’t).
Pinball Ride ($1)- For a dollar, this game is amazing. Cool music, realistic physics…it’s one of only two pinball games on the Android Market that don’t suck. Syncs with Facebook so you can show off high scores, too!
Google Reader (Free)- Come on, it’s an RSS reader. One of those great “kill 5 minutes” apps that also syncs nicely with the cloud. You can read on your phone and then go to your PC…and the stuff you read is marked “read”! WOW!
Tricorder (Free)- a fun app that measures all kinds of stuff using your phone’s sensors. It measures: absolute vector and magnitude (what direction the phone moving and how fast it’s accelerating), decibel level (how loud something is), audio waveform and spectrum (sine wave graphs), detailed GPS and compass data (on all the GPS satellites and your relation to magnetic North), the EM spectrum (to check on cell signal and local wireless network strength), even solar activity like sunspots and flares-though I don’t think that uses the sensors, I think it’s just for fun!
Trillian (Free, ad-supported, $12 to get rid of ’em for a year)- instant messaging. I’ve tried ’em all and this is the best one. Seamless integration between PC and handset and none of the wireless connectivity issues I’ve had with the others. Meebo and Nimbuzz do not stack up, and the native Google chat uses text messages that count against your limit. Trillian wins hands down.
Twitter (Free)- derp
WordPress (Free)- derp
Words With Friends/WordFeud (Free)- I can’t decide which of these to play because both of their interfaces for finding opponents really suck, and they don’t update you when it’s your turn, so you have to constantly check or you lose due to timeouts. I’m just waiting for someone I know to challenge me- SonOfADiddly- so I can smoke them with my massive vocabulary.
Did I miss any? What apps can’t you live without?