Thursday 26 November 2009

My 18 essential Android apps

Yeah, six months, almost to the day, since my last post. I know, it’s disgraceful. I’ve had numerous reasons, not least that I’m not in a hands-on technical job these days, and it’s taking me a while to find my voice on a new topic. But let’s see how that works out.

Meanwhile, back in my comfort zone, some geek goodness. I’ve only had my Android phone (HTC Magic) a few months, but I can’t remember what I ever did without it. (I prefer to forget the Samsung i600 which turned out to be an almighty mistake.) So these are Android Apps I can’t live without, in alphabetical order because that’s the way they’re arranged on my phone:

  1. ACast – webcast client, which I have pointed at my PodNova account (so I can subscribe to podcasts from any web browser and have them appear on all my clients), which in turn has a feed pointed at a download tag on my Delicious feed (so I can bookmark individual tracks and have them appear as part of a feed). Has the must-have setting to only download when connected to wifi, so won’t cause me to fall out with my network operator. It just works. I haven’t been tempted to try Google Listener, so I can’t tell you which is better. Maybe one day when I’m bored…
  2. AnyClip Pro – gives me a gadget on my iGoogle homepage which syncs text with an app on my phone. Great when I’m at work and I want to check out a link that Websense won’t let me see… paste in my iGoogle, quick sync, and open the link in my Android browser. Vice versa if someone SMSs or gMails me a link and I want to see the site in my desktop browser. Quicker and less hassle than copy/paste and email.
  3. Bluetooth Switcher – gives me an icon on my homescreen to toggle Bluetooth on/off. Simple, quick, and just works.
  4. Handcent SMS – I nearly didn’t include this because I don’t like the new Quick Reply screen as much as the previous one, but it was the first alternative SMS client I tried, and I still haven’t found another one I like better. Has an annoying habit of popping up texts you already closed or replied to in Quick Reply, but otherwise pretty decent. Has lots of UI
  5. Technorati Tags: ,,
  6. options including custom colours if you like that sort of thing.
  7. Locale – a ‘set it and forget it’ app which lets you change phone settings or trigger actions depending on your location. So mine switches the ringer on when it’s at home, and off when it goes somewhere else. I usually have GPS switched off to save battery, so it uses wireless network location which is a bit flaky, but that’s not the app’s fault. The vast majority of the time it works, and that’s good enough for me. Also has plug-ins e.g. an SMS sender, so you can automatically send a “be home in 20 minutes, put the oven/heating/batman outfit on” text to your significant other from a strategic point on your commute.
  8. London Tube Status – when my train is pulling in to London Bridge, I can check if the Jubilee Line is working or not in a couple of seconds, so I don’t have that wasted trudge to the tube station, just to find out it’s not running. If it says “Minor Delays” I can check the live departure board to see how minor. Next trains at 5, 9 and 14 minutes? No thanks, I’ll try some other way.
  9. My Days – it’s a girl thing. Unless you know a boy who wants an app to track the menstrual cycle of the woman in his life. Which would be a bit creepy if you ask me.
  10. NetCounter – useful for checking if that app you installed earlier is suddenly making your network data usage go through the roof. (Twidroid, I’m thinking of you…)
  11. NewsRob – An offline reader for Google Reader. Possibly my single most used app, and I love it. Has the critical “only do full sync over wifi” feature. Not perfect, but they’re constantly improving and updating it.
  12. PaperDroid – I’m listing this although I don’t actually use it much, but I would if I could. It’s a great idea – an offline reader for your ReadItLater account. Unfortunately I can’t tag items with ReadItLater from work, so I’m mostly using Instapaper instead. And waiting for an Instapaper app…
  13. Power Manager – great for commands like “Switch on WiFi when charging, switch off WiFi when battery goes below 80%”, and the brilliant, emergency-call-juice-saving “switch to 2G and switch off Sync when battery goes below 10%”. Just works.
  14. Pure Calendar Info – a more compact calendar widget for the homescreen. Doesn’t seem to impact performance too much.
  15. Record It – remote recording tool for Sky+. Great UI, much easier (at least I think so) than trying to remember the syntax for requesting by SMS, and even though this is a paid app, it pays for itself after a handful of uses.
  16. Steel – my ‘spare’ web browser. The main reason I have this is because it picks up iPhone versions of web pages (sends a user agent string identifying itself as the iPhone browser). So a good backup option for pages that look like crap in the regular browser.
  17. Swift – simple twitter client. Has the annoying habit of telling me again and AGAIN that I have direct messages I received weeks ago, but other than that it’s OK. I prefer TwitterRide, but I’ve found the easiest way to manage two twitter accounts is to use two clients, and this is the second best free one I’ve found so far.
  18. TooDoo – I’m a huge fan of the ToodleDo online task management site, and this syncs with it and even adds features not in ToodleDo. It’s nice to be able to type my shopping list from my PC, add items on the train if I suddenly remember them, and be able to walk around the supermarket ticking them off with a strikethrough gesture - very satisfying. Also syncs with Remember The Milk. A bit buggy though, does tend to force-close a lot.
  19. TwitterRide – quick, simple Twitter client.
  20. Useful Switchers – easy access from the homescreen to some common on/off settings, e.g. Silent mode, WiFi, GPS and a screen white-out that is supposed to work as an emergency torch. (Personally I’d rather save my battery for other functions I’d find more useful in an emergency, but that’s just me.)

So what am I missing?

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