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Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Favorite Android Apps

I have a Droid X phone, and it continues to impress me. I look at what this phone will do, and compare it to the PC I built fresh out of college. Seems so advanced that some might call it magic.

Processor: PC = 66MHz, Droid X = 1GHz
Memory: PC = 4MB, Droid X = 8GB Internal + support for up to 32GB add-in

The applications available are impressive, and so far everything I've used is available freely from the Market. I've compiled a list of the applications that I find useful, but this is by no means comprehensive.  These are simply the apps I have found to be useful or in some cases just plain cool.

Applications by

Our friends at Google created the Android Operating System and they didn't stop there.  Recognizing that integration is key, they created a plethora of applications for the phones, most of which integrate with online versions.

They keep making this better and better. With Google Maps, you can see where you are, or use it to navigate where you want to be. Navigation has the usual GPS settings to select the best route based on vehicle (car, bike, foot), and has voice prompts to help keep you informed of what is coming up.  There are sub features including one called Latitude which enables the sharing of your location with others.

Allows you to keep a track log of where you've been. Very useful for hiking, running, or even biking.  Integrated with Google maps.

Google Books

An E-Reader which appears to be trying to compete with the book stores.  They now offer a wide selection, including some free content.

Sky Map
This is just too cool. It appears to be the mobile version of Google Sky. Point the camera on your smartphone in an upwards direction, and a map of the sky with names of objects is shown. For the amateur astronomer or just someone who wants to know what they are looking at.

Don't know how to say something in another language? You can type in what you want to say, or say it with the voice input, and it will translate to the preferred outbound language.

Hey, its Google. Of course they have a search app.

Point the camera at stuff and if will try to identify what it is. Integrates with other apps like translate.

Gesture Search
You search your contacts by drawing letters on the screen.

Want to find something for less? Knowledge is power, and shopper will scan the barcode on a product; then searches the net, returning multiple vendors with prices listed.

Really nothing needs to be said. The GMail client for Android.

A decent podcast player. If the podcast has an RSS feed, it will show the list of available podcasts, and queue them for download and listening.

Talk started as Instant Messaging, but has become so much more. The web version now includes audio and video.

Not thought of as Google usually, but they do own it. I don't use it much, but there are some very amusing videos out there.

There is an app for Google Voice, but really the interface on your phone is just the beginning.  My voice number is now the default given to businesses. I was recently getting notifications that a number was calling me. If someone wants to actually talk with me, they need to state their name, and have the system send the call through. This number failed to do that. After a web search, I found it was a number belonging to Hyatt marketing. Thanks to Voice, they were effectively screened.  In addition to call screening and voice to text transcription, it can forward the voice mail to an email address, forwards calls to other phones dependent on time and day, and also lets you send text messages using a data plan instead of text minutes.

3rd Party Applications

Tech Tools

I needed to be able to check an FTP site while traveling, to see if files were getting dropped off.  This little tool did the trick, and also supports SFTP, SCP, & FTPS.

I can't actually tell you if this works because I've been lucky enough to not get a virus yet (that I know about). This is by AVG, and their desktop products have received good marks over the years.  I will warn you that if you leave all scanning enabled, it will suck your battery dry and not leave you much processor for the other apps. Even if you turn off AutoScan and Realtime, it will check programs as you download them, providing you with some measure of protection.  You can also run a manual scan as needed. There are additional features I haven't tried yet, like remote wipe.  Seems like they are headed in the right direction to supply a good security product.

SystemPanel Lite

Gives you all the information about whats running, how much cpu is being used, and more. If an app is misbehaving, press and hold on the list, and it gives you the option to kill the task.


Its really a branded version of the Kobo reader, and I'm not that impressed, but it is another place to get books.

There is something to be said for Barnes & Noble. They were the first major book seller (that I know of) to release a cross platform EReader application.  Its a shame it took so long to get their hardware to market.

A good solid EReader application, very similar to the Nook application.

This one has a cool factor. Run Bubble, and you have an "old fashioned" bubble level.
Cherry Rplayer
This is a good internet radio player. When traveling, I sometimes like to listen to the stations from home, and as long as I have a good network connection, the stations stream and play.

This app is not for the general public.  There appears to be a requirement to have it set up by a business.  My employer uses a travel agency, and this application lists all of the trip details including flight, hotel, and rental car.  Very helpful when traveling.

I did carry a separate GPS when running, but now I just use this app. It tracks my run, shows the path using Google Maps (even shows what song was playing during each part of the run), and has voice prompts telling me when I pass the next mile, with total time and mile time. The review screen shows the breakdown by mile with fastest and slowest marked. Also has the ability to use a bluetooth heartrate monitor.

I have always wanted to learn to play a guitar. Someday maybe I'll have time. When I do, I will use gStrings to tune the guitar.  Also supports other stringed instruments.

I have a Sony Reader, but found that to be somewhat limiting. For a while I could only purchase books from Sony, and they were expensive. Then I was given an Amazon gift card, and decided to try out the Kindle for Android. The interface is intuitive, and quick. The screen automatically dims to save battery, and on the Droid X in landscape mode, the text is quite readable. As an added bonus, my wife has a Cruz reader, and we can share the account so anything I read is also available for her.

A barcode reader. Seems to work well.

This barcode reader is very versatile.  It does the barcode translation, but it also gives you the ability to create barcodes. 

Ever miss the old Engineering calculators with RPN? This is one of the best software calculators I have used.

Best Android Twitter application I've found. I was using a Blackberry and loved Ubertwitter. Seesmic has made a good replacement, and now they support Facebook, GoogleBuzz, and others.

Solo Lite
If you are musically challenged, or just want to play some tunes while traveling, this little guitar app is a blast. The free version is fun; go to the Pro version for more serious options.

Thinking Space
A mind mapper. I haven't actually used this yet, but the promise is pretty good.  I think an Android tablet might be a better platform for this.

Tip Me (Tip Calculator)
I've tried a couple of these, and so far I like this one the best. The presentation is simple and easy to read. There are no ads, and you can computer tip either with or without tax included. To do a pre-tax calculation, enter the total bill, select the tax button and enter the tax percentage. The app will compute the pre-tax amount and the appropriate tip. Options to split amongst a group or to round tip or total are activate with the flip of a button.

Wine Free
A database of wines to help track which wines I like.  There is also a Beer Free app.

Let me know if you have any favorites.  I'll check them out.