Note: The following is a guest blog post by Miguel Guhlin, Around the Corner.
“iPhone has tons of great apps,” argued a colleague at a conference. I stared at her hand, which held her iPhone up, waving it around to find nearby restaurants. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of an app for my Android phone that would do the same thing. But then, I brightened up.
“You can’t tether your iPhone to a computer,” I asked quietly, masking the smirk that threatened to explode through my defenses, a cheshire cat grin dying to make itself known, “can you? With an inexpensive program (PDAnet), I’m able to tether my Android phone.” With that salvo (who needs restaurant guides), I stepped back from the edge of the abyss, wondering why we must compare our devices in such ways. Since I held an iPod Touch in my hand, seen others cooing over their iPhones, I have hated the device. I’m not sure why, though I recognize it as a powerful, mini-computer that can do so much more than ever imagined in a cell phone just a few short years ago.
Part of that intense dislike may come from the original carrier for the iPhone, AT&T and their outright rejection of my offer to purchases two iPhones one month after I had renewed my contract. “You’ll have to get a new contract, terminating the other one with fees.” Huh?
Or perhaps, it stems from Apple’s tyrannical declarations of what apps are allowed on iPhones/iPods, which are not, and their drive for uniformity. I’d argue that it resembles the single-minded totalitarian approach of a communist China, but even China has been seen to crack a bit on some of its tenets…not much though. Seriously, Apple has made money and in the final analysis of a money-making business, that’s the metric of success.
But it’s not MY measure of success.
Image Source: Wikipedia
Ah well, sour grapes indeed. From that moment, I stepped away from AT&T, Apple iPhone (I love Macs since they can run any operating system, including GNU/Linux) and pursued a different solution that didn’t involve closed content development, exorbitant rate plans, hidden fees, and found myself knocking on T-Mobile’s door, hoping to snag an Android phone.
As an avid Android phone user, I’ve found myself meditating on the right combination of apps. While I don’t hope to obtain an app that will help me find a restaurant by waving my phone around in the air, it wouldn’t hurt to have an app that can show me the nearest restaurants.
Here are some of my favorite Android Apps…please don’t hesitate to share your’s!
Top 10 Picks
Due to the number of Android Apps on this page, here are my top 10 apps from all categories…they are the ones I couldn’t live without and use every day:
- Pluroid for Plurk access and/or Twidroid for Twitter access with AnyPost for Ping.fm
- MixZing Music/Video Player
- Dolphin Browser
- Battery Widget
- EStrongs File Manager with Task Manager
- Mount USB
INFORMATION MGMT, NEWS, and WEATHER
- Laputa – This poorly named app (it breaks down to two words in Spanish which mean “the bitch”) allows you to download audio versions of books and features some relatively up to date titles. I was shocked at the list of fresh ebook titles, including the works of Rick Riordan (author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series that was made into a movie recently), Robert Jordan (Crown of Swords author), Larry Niven’s Ringworld series, and many more titles that I just considered to “new” to find their way into online books for free. (Added June 20, 2010)
- Movies – Allows me to easily locate movie times…a must have for my family members and I. It has an iPhone counterpart which made it easy for me to use, since I’ve been playing around with an iPod for work purposes for a year.
- NubiNews – This is the awesomest news reader. You can access just about everything and replaces all your other news sources, except for podcasts. (added 01/30/2010)
- TV.com – Although I’m not much of a TV watcher, it’s fun to watch something while waiting in line at the local Bill Miller’s BBQ during lunch time. This actually shows full episodes.
- Wapedia – Nice to search and access. Others prefer WikiMobile.
- WeatherBug – Great weather app, letting you see temperature, images of the weather outside, etc. (added 01/30/2010)
- DataViz RoadSync – Although you’d think Android would have a native MS Exchange friendly app ready to go, it’s not really a surprise…the iPod Touch didn’t one either, as I recall. That said, I’ve been tremendously impressed with the 14 day trial version of RoadSync, which allows you to sync email and calendar. It works fantastically well. One alternative to this is TouchDown.
- Fring – Connect to quite a few chat services (e.g. Twitter, GoogleTalk), but most importantly, Skype! That means you can make phone calls using your Android phone via Skype or Skype calls…quite nice! Now allows for video calls on some Android phones.
- HandCent – This is a great replacement to the built-in SMS client on Android OS, and worth getting immediately and making as your default. It features a nice design, bubbles, tracks number of messages, and more.
- K-9 Mail. It can work as a replacement for RoadSync if you don’t want to spend the money…calendar integration isn’t there that I could see, but in RoadSync it is. Good if you just want email. As of 06/15/2010, I am now using this for replacement on the Gmail client that comes with the phone. It allows me to easily edit quoted messages, which as far as I’ve seen, can’t be done on the built-in gmail app.
- SMS Backup – Allows you to make backups of SMS messages and ships them to your Gmail account.
- AnyPost (Ping.fm client) – Want to post to ALL your social networking apps at once? (read this) Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, etc? Then use Ping.fm to get the job done! Post once to Ping.fm and it goes everywhere you determine. Use Anypost app on your Android phone to get it done.
- Twitter Possibles:
- Twidroid – A twitter app. I was hoping for TweetDeck quality and I’ve not been disappointed with this one. I actually paid for the full version on this one and it works great, a bit “faster” in feel than Seesmic, which is a free alternative not from Twidroid.
- Seesmic – A nice looking Twitter client. This is no longer on my phone since I bought Twidroid but I do recommend it if you don’t want to pay for Twidroid.
- Pluroid – For Plurkers (Plurk.com), you have few choices…PlurQ is OK app but I recently abandoned it because it resembles web-based Plurk.com’s timeline a bit too much. Instead, I’m now using Pluroid which gives you the feel of mobile Plurk (plurks running vertically with links to more comments). It’s also pretty easy to share photos via Pluroid.
- Bloo – After searching for a nice Facebook interface, I think I have found one in Bloo. You’ll need your Facebook code so you can generate it here. Of course, Bloo now (07/03/2010) makes it possible to get your code via the app, which is a nice upgrade!
- UStream Broadcaster – Allows you to broadcast yourself via uStream.
Internet File Utilities
- Dolphin Browser – I didn’t realize how anemic the browser was (gave me flashbacks to Palm’s built-in browser on their old handhelds) so I was grateful to find the Dolphin Browser. Works great, just like Firefox, in making adjustments. Definitely a must-have replacement to the browser…when you install it, you can set it to be the default browser on your Android phone. I tried Opera for awhile but switched back to Dolphin after a month.
- DiskUsage – This app shows you where you are spending your SD card space…you can use this in conjunction with EStrong’s File Explorer (below) to make clean out your file system. (added 01/30/2010)
- EStrongs File Manager and Task Manager – This amazing duo is surprisingly an awesome app, allowing you to manage the files on your SD Card, as well as terminate apps on your phone that are taking up memory. You have to download them separately. The file manager can also FTP files (which I tried successfully), which is downright unbelievable.
- FTPServer – What a great program! It allows me to setup my Android phone as an FTP Server that I can connect via an FTP client from any computer and download files…or put them on the phone. While I could use MountUSB, this makes it possible for me to more easily share content without having to connect.
- Mount USB – Allows you to mount your Android phone as a USB flash drive. If you have a large SD card, voila, portable storage using your phone instead of another flash drive.
- PDAnet – Tether your laptop to your phone so you can use its internet connection. Works very well on Mac and is available for Windows.
- MixZing Music/Video Player – This is an awesome app that makes listening to music incredibly easy. You can turn off its network use and it still works great.
- MP3 Downloader – An easy to use MP3 Downloader
- Pandora – Listen to streaming music that syncs with your online prefs. Incredible app.(added 01/30/2010)
- Quark’s Ringtones – Awesome ringtone, allowing you to select popular music for your ringtone (e.g. Taylor Swift, etc). For example, my wife has Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September,” while others have Taylor Swift. Other ringtone alternatives–not included in QuarkRingtones–include StarTrek Sounds and StarWarsSounds, as well as Transformers.
- Tone Picker – allows you to easily select ringtones from any audio program on your phone.(added 01/30/2010)
- GDocs – Allows you to view and edit your GoogleDocs from your Android. Works great!
- GoogleMaps – Find yourself on a map and then get directions to where you want to go.
- GoogleTalk – Let’s you use Talk via your phone.
- GoogleVoice – Although this app DID work (thanks to these instructions), I’ve become enamored of GoogleVoice, and liked this review of what it can do, so I’m just going to quote it…I’ll check it periodically to see if they can fix it. The only nagging question I have is, does it cost me money when calling other people on my family plan to use GoogleVoice number? Read the answer to this question!“I can call ANY number with a secure, controllable line from Google.On an Android phone, unlike the closed off iPhone, you can have the Google Voice App take over all calls — even international ones! By taking over the device, any call that I make through the phone emulates my Google Voice number.”
Source: Market Matador
One question I have that I suppose I’ll find out around bill time…does using GoogleVoice result in a charge that will appear on my bill or is using them as the source of my phone call “free”? What about receiving calls? My carrier is T-Mobile.
- Listen – Allows you to pull audio content from all over the web. It is self-described as a podcast manager for Android and works quite well on my Cliq.
- Locale – Allows you to control your phone options based on your physical location (e.g. theater or work). That way you don’t have to fumble with settings.
- iPadio – Lets you record audio via your phone microphone, name it, then email it to your Gmail account or post it online. Nice alternative to carrying a digital audio recorder.
- AnyCut – Allows you to create shortcuts to anything, including phone numbers, whatever. You press one button, and you’re dialing or emailing from a home screen.
- Automatic Task Killer – Turns off apps when you go into sleep mode to conserve memory. Runs automatically in the background. I also use TaskKiller of some sort to knock out ALL apps from time to time.
- APNDroid – This is a wonderful battery-saving widget. You can tap it to turn on/off your 3G/GPRS/EDGE connection. Turning off these services while in a WiFi zone enables you to continue using the internet, saving battery life. It works great, and I highly recommend it!
- Battery Widget – Provides nice access to battery life percentage, as well as enabling turning off of certain items (display, wifi, etc).
- Flashlight – Great, although other family members prefer a multi-colored flashlight.
- Lynkee – This is a nice QR code reader for your phone. Barcode Reader is another alternative. Have an AndroidPhone or iPhone? Use Lynkee (free app) to read the QR Code into your phone. Here is how to make your own “barcode” – Make your own bar code!
- ToggleWiFi – Allows you turn your WiFi on and off with a single tap.
EDUCATION FRIENDLY APPS
With Android based tablets coming out–notably, the Dell Streak (f.k.a. Mini)–soon, as well as a few that are already “out,” I’ve been curious about what apps might be educationally appropriate. Android-based tablets are headed for schools and offer a significant advantage over iPads–they’re not Apple-based.
Here’s a list based on feedback and web sites I’ve been reading. All apps listed are available at no cost, albeit some are “lite” versions like Solo Lite Guitar Player and Celeste Lite. I’ve not included apps that cost money but you can check the additional resources section to find those.
- Calculus Review
- Capital Quiz – Geographic quiz Application on countries of the world, their capitals, their flags and their currencies for smartphone.
- Celeste Lite
- CoursePro – track your homework assignments
- Electricity Calculator – calculate electricity usage
- Formulas Lite
- Google SkyMap Astronomy
- HandyCalc – watch video…replace your TI-83 calculators and get Android phone for that $100 investment!
- MathDroid – algebraic calculator.
- MathWizard – Read the review here
- Memory Master –
- My PocketProf – organize your notes
- PhotoMix – make pictures into puzzles
- StatDist – from their web site: “StatDist calculates densities, probabilities, and quantiles of common useful continuous and discrete distributions”
- Solo Lite – play a guitar on your android. awesome. I may finally learn to play (watch video).
- StudyDroid Flash Cards
- Track Iridium Flares – read this review. Pretty awesome for science.
- Trippo Mondo – text and audio language converter
- Unit Converter
- Wattpad – from their web site, “Wattpad gives you FREE instant access to 100,000+ novels, fan fiction, short stories, poetry and more.”
Other neat stuff that could be used in education setting:
- Barcode Scanner or Lynkee for QR Code Scanning
- Gmote – Gmote turns Android into a remote control for a computer, allowing users to run movies and music at a distance. It supports all of the standard remote control features such as play, pause, rewind, volume controls etc. It also has a built-in file browser that lets you select what to play.
- News Sources
- NYTimes – more up to date
- USA Today – more graphical
- 1Cast News – video news stories
Note: This blog entry was written by guest blogger and mobile device in schools advocate, Miguel Guhlin. Miguel blogs regularly Around the Corner and laughingly refers to it as “Moving at the Speed of Mediocrity,” in appreciative admiration of Wes Fryer’s work. He is honored to have the opportunity to jar regular readers with a smile and warning about their iPhone blindspot, and encourage all to employ free, open source-based software on phones, desktops, laptops, netbooks, microwave ovens and media centers. More at http://mguhlin.org
If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on wesfryer.com/after.
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