Sunday, August 01, 2010

More Apps For That

(part 3 in an ever continuing saga of Apps for Android based mobile devices)

Back in November 2009 I upgraded my phone to a MotoDroid. Of course, I immediately started downloading and installing all the free apps that seemed fun or useful at the time. A month after that I wrote another blog about the device and updated my list of recommended apps. Here we are in August 2010 and once again I find the need to give an update on the apps I use. The list has changed a lot of the past eight months, and will undoubtedly continue to do so as new apps are developed and as I drop ones that I no longer use to make room in my mobile's memory for the newer more useful apps coming down the pike. With new and more powerful Android based phones coming out and my anticipation of Android 2.2 (aka “Froyo”) pushing out to my current Droid (which supposedly is happening this week), my continued use of this type of smartphone is pretty much guaranteed. I've even read that a German company is soon going to be releasing a tablet which will run an enhanced version of the Android OS to directly compete with Apple's iPad. So, here's my latest update and review of apps, all of which are available from the Android Market.

We'll begin with apps which are mentioned on m previous two lists that I've deleted and why:

  • Barcode Scanner – this app utilizes the device's camera as a bar-code scanner and links with Google Product Search to allow you to comparison shop while still in the store. I deleted it because, honestly, I just didn't use it. It's not that it didn't work, I simply just forgot I had it and since I wasn't using it, I deleted to make room in the phone's memory

  • Key Ring – this one was good in theory but not so much in practice. For those of you tired of having a bundle of little value and discount cards on your key ring you may like this. Simply scan the bar-codes from all those cards into this app and save them on your phone. The problem with it is, in the case of the MotoDroid anyway, is that the screen's reflective surface causes the bar-codes to be unreadable by pretty much every store's scanner I went to, so I gave up on it.

  • MySpace Mobile – as the name implies; who still uses MySpace though? I mean, I haven't logged into MySpace in close to a year anyway, so why have an app for it?

  • Twidroid – one of dozens of Twitter clients available in the Market. I dropped it because Twitter came out with its own official client that I personally like a little better.

  • SportsTab – a sports score app. I simply just didn't use it. The phone has full internet capability, so I just use that. Plus, I really only care about hockey, and there is a dedicated NHL app I use for that.
There are probably others that I've downloaded and deleted between then and now that I don't even remember. From the list above, I probably had more questions from people wondering how welly Key Ring worked than any of the others though. Anyway, here is a list of the apps I currently have installed.
  • Lookout – I can't believe I didn't get this sooner. A really nice rep at my local Verizon store suggested this one. It's a virus scan and data back up app. I mean, DUH!, phones can get viruses too; they are, after all, mini-computers right? Keep in mind that Android is in fact a mobile flavor of the Linux family of operating systems. If you have an Android device, having a virus scan app should be a no-brainer, and Lookout is free. It also will backup your contacts, call log and pictures to a remote server. You'll notice that, while all the others are in alphabetical order, I listed this one first because it's really that important!

  • AK Notepad – thanks to my Grandfather's influence, I've always found it useful to carry a pen and notepad in my pocket at all times. This app give me a notepad on my phone without having to worry about annoyance like pages getting torn, or my pen getting lost or running out of ink right when I need to write something down.

  • Assistant Free – if you use Pageonce and you have an Android device, you'll want this app.

  • Astrid – a very simple, but good, to-do list app. The best part is that it syncs with Remember the Milk without having to pay for RTM's premium service (which is required if you want to use the official RTM app).

  • Astro – I've mentioned this one before, but I'll list it again because it's one that I've continued to use extensively. Android does not have a built in file manager. In order to view and manipulate folders and files as you would on your desktop computer, you have to attach the device to your computer via a USB cable. Astro allows you to do see all your folders and files without having to connect to your PC. It also has tools for viewing how much memory on you micro-SD card is being used and by what, and has a built in app for backing up all your other apps so, should you ever have to replace your phone you don't have to go re-download them all from the Market, which can be quite time consuming if you have a ton of apps.

  • Bible – again, I've mentioned this one before. There are tons of Bible apps in the Android Market. The one I chose appears to have all of the various English translations as well as several foreign language translations and several Reading Plan options to help guide you through your Scripture readings.

  • ChompSMS – a client to replace the stock Text Messaging app that the phone comes with.

  • Compass – an electronic compass

  • Congress – this app will use the phone's built in GPS to find your location and then list all your congressional reps. You can see what bills they've sponsored, how they've voted on different bills and look up their official contact information. The app also lists recently passed bills and bills that are currently up for debate/vote in both houses.

  • ConvertPad – I got this one for fun, but if you find that you need to do a lot of conversions, such as Standard to Metric, this is a useful app

  • Dice Bag – if you're a gaming geek, you'll love this. It's a dice roller that covers everything from d4 to d20, including percentile dice. It even keeps a log of all your rolls for you.

  • Dictionary.com – a handy app for when you need a dictionary

  • Documents to Go – available in a free (reader only) version and a full version (that allows you to create and edit). Includes the ability to read, create and edit Word, Excell and PowerPoint documents and has a PDF reader (which is much supperior to Adobe's official Reader app in my opinion).

  • Dolphin Browser HD – a much better internet browser than the one built into the phone, in my opinion. This app utilized pinch zooming before the Android 2.1 update fixed that limitation in the stock browser. It also has tabbed browsing, which the stock browser still doesn't have.

  • Droid Light – utilizes the cameras LED flash bulb as a flashlight. I've actually had to use this a couple of times and it's quite handy to have.

  • Ebook Readers – I currently have four different ebook readers installed on my Droid – Aldiko (free, and has a pretty good library of public domain books as well as access to the O'Reilly library of tech manuals, which, alas, are not free), Kindle (the app is free, but the books aren't – gives me access to Amazon.com's selection of ebooks), Kobo (free app and a combination of both free and paid ebooks; I think this is Border's ebook reader, but I'm not sure), and Nook (Barnes and Noble's ebook library). So, why buy a ridiculously overpriced ebook reader when I can download a free app to my phone that gives me access to pretty much all of the major book sellers' libraries of ebooks? Personally, I'd rather read a real book, but I like the concept of ebooks enough to keep these apps around, especially if the above mentioned Android based tablet ever becomes something my budget allows me to buy. My old college friend, Sam, wrote an interesting little blog about this topic not to long ago.

  • Ebay- ok, I'll admit it; I've become a bit of an eBay junky lately and having this app allows me to keep an eye on all the stuff I'm watching or bidding on.

  • Fandango – an app for the popular movie site. I've not tried to actually buy my tickets through this yet (not sure if I can actually), but it's helpful for when I'm out and about and thinking of heading to a movie to check on show times.

  • Gdocs – view and edit anything I've uploaded to Google Documents

  • GolfLogix – ok, Golf GPS devices (such as SkyCaddy) are expensive as hell! This, and other apps like it, turn your Android device into a Golf GPS so you can get accurate yardages. Admitadly, I've not used it yet because it's been just to damn hot here in North Carolina for me to want to get out there and play. Plus, while I've downloaded the app, I've not paid to actually use the service yet (one of the very few non-free apps I've downloaded).

  • iheartradio – an app for listening to you favorite radio stations via streaming audio (assuming that they have made their broadcast available to this service).

  • Meridian – a UI for listening to your tunes. I like this one a little better than the stock music player as it also allows me to watch videos without having to switch apps. It's just a cleaner UI in my opinion. There are several such apps available, so go with what you like.

  • Newspapers – this app allows you to browse dozens of newspapers from around the world, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, etc.

  • NHL – an app for keeping up with National Hockey League news and scores.

  • OI Shopping List – allows me to create multiple lists which use check boxes next to each item as I complete them. Like AK Notepad, this is helping me become more green and waste less paper.

  • Pandora – if you've ever used the Pandora website to stream music on your computer, then you'll probably want their app as well. I use it for finding bands I've never heard of that are similar to bands that I already like.

  • Power Strip – this is my most recent acquisition. It's not a free app; I got it for 99cents and I think it was on sale at the time. I've always hated having icons all over my desktop, and even in Windows 7 I use the Quick Launch toolbar for my most used programs. Power Strip basically gives me similar functionality on my Droid by allowing me to have just one icon on my home screen which, whien tapped, pulls up a list of the apps I would normally have put on my home screen(s) and also gives me access to several widgets without having to leave those widgets running constantly and using up my battery if I don't need them at the time.

  • QuickTip Calculator – as the title implies, and quick calculator for figuring how much to tip. I don't use this very often, because I don't want to be “that guy” that has to do math to decide how much his server deserves for a tip, but it does come in handy at times if you're splitting the check amongst several people.

  • Stopwatch – what it sound like. A Stopwatch, with a Lap button.

  • Weather Channel – I actually use this app's widget quite often

  • Twitter – the official Android client app from Twitter. It is what it is. I've still yet to find a Twitter app that I really love. If only the developers at TweetDeck would get off their asses and come out with an Android app like they've been promising for months!

  • United States Constitution – in these very heated political times, I believe everyone should have a copy of the the most important document in United States history at their disposal. There are several to choose from in the Market; the one I chose also includes The Declaration of Independence, The Star-Spangled Banner, The Miranda Warning, The Pledge of Allegiance, and several other historical documents.

  • Voice Recorder – why buy an expensive digital voice recorder when you can download a free app that turns your phone into one? The one I have also has built in features to set your recording as a ringtone or send to others via either Bluetooth or Gmail.

  • Warhammer 40k/Combat Assistant – a dice roller app specifically for the game Warhammer 40,000. Includes a scatter dice roller. Available as a free version and a paid version with additional features.

  • Wikidroid – an app for looking up things on Wikipedia.org

  • Zedge – if you're into customizing your phone with different wallpaper and ringtones, then this is a must have app. All the wallpapers and ringtones via this app are free!
And that does it for now. As I mentioned, new apps come out all the time. Some of the above will undoubtedly be replaced when/if a better app is found, some will be deleted as their usefulness declines. I love having an Android device! Not just because I'm a gadget geek, but also because it's really made life easier having access to so many apps in the palm of hand and just a finger tap away.

~ JC
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