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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

My Android Must Have Apps

Updated 6/30/2012: I wrote this article back when the SGS2 was my daily phone. I now own the HTC One S. I am thoroughly enjoying HTC Sense, much more so than TouchWiz. HTC Sense reminds me of MIUI, which I used on the LG G2x and briefly on my Vibrant. Because of this, I have generally been using more of the stock features. I am leaving some of the apps that replace stock features because I may end up going back to them at some point.

Of course, everyone has their favorite apps. I thought I would share mine. I have owned the G1, Samsung Vibrant, LG G2x, SGS2 and currently own a HTC One S and a Kindle Fire. All of these devices were/are rooted. These are the apps I load without hesitation if everything is wiped (new ROM) or I get a new phone.

Apps that replace or add to stock features

Amazon AppstoreAmazon Appstore: This is an alternate app market on my phone, but the default on the Kindle Fire. I prefer having both the Google Play Store and Amazon App Store. I have gotten a ton of free apps through the Amazon app market. Unfortunately, it seems like they have run out of good apps to offer for their free app of the day. I hope they start over so I can get the ones that I missed and new Android users can too.
ADWLauncher EX: My favorite alternate launcher. I got the pro version for free from the Amazon App store as the free app of the day. I've tried Go and Launcher Pro. I don't like the touchwiz launcher (the Samsung stock launcher). I don't know what it is, but I don't like it. Maybe it is becaus there is just more room for customization on other launchers. There is a launcher out that mimics touchwiz, but I still prefer the using a non-stock launcher. I started out preferring launcher pro, but it has gotten stagnant with few updates and unresolved bugs. ADW is fresh with many features lacking in launcher pro. I missed some of the widgets from launcher pro, so this leads into the next app.Update: I run this launcher still on my Kindle Fire still. I don't use it on my HTC Sense

Android Pro Widget: This gives you calendar widgets, facebook/twitter widgets, contacts widget, bookmark widget and more! I generally use the calendar and contact widget exclusively.  These are similar widgets that I had with launcher pro, but since I stopped using that launcher, I had to find this app to replace those features.Update: I use the HTC Sense widgets and don't need this app on my HTC One S.

SMS PopupGo SMS: I have gone back and forth between Handcent, ChompSMS and Go SMS.  I am currently running Go SMS and have been pretty happy with it.  My second favorite would be Handcent.  This allows you to format how messages are displayed on your phone.  You can make it look like the iPhone messaging app style or something different.  I believe all three also gives you the option for pop up notifications, which I greatly appreciate.  This gives you the ability to quickly read and respond to messages without navigating away from your current app.Update: I am using the HTC Sense stock messenger. Because the stock doesn't have a pop up notifier, I have installed SMS Popup

Dolphin Browser: It's funny. Dolphin browser was my first non-native browser. I switched over to xscope when I got my vibrant back in late 2010. I switched back to dolphin a year later. Dolphin browser has certainly grown since I last had it. This is the hallmark of a great app. One that gets updates and continues to grow. Once an app becomes stagnant, it's over. Things I like about dolphin: Swiping left and right for bookmarks and plugins (but only on my Kindle; swiping gets too confused with scrolling on the smaller phone screen), plugins (read it later, desktop toggle, Evernote, Tab Switcher, text sizer, print to pdf), and tabs, which most browsers these days have. Dolphin also supports gestures, but I typically don't use them.

Update: Now that I have an ICS Phone, I am using Chrome.What is great about chrome is that the data between your phone and all your computers is shared. I can open my bookmarks from my computer on my phone and vice versa. I can also see the history from all of my devices. The Chrome experience on your phone is pretty similar to the experience on a computer. It is about time that google updated their mobile browser to reflect their computer browser.

Productivity apps

 Evernote: Check out my in depth review here!Update: Evernote Hello and Evernote Food are now available on the Android Market. I haven't really used them much, yet. If you have used these apps, let us know what you think in the comments below.
 Google docs (now Google Drive): Google Docs is now a part of Google Drive, which is a competing product to DropBox and other cloud storage systems. Google Docs has been receiving some updates for both the web and mobile app. I just discovered this app recently and noticed that tables within a document are not supported. I am hoping that this gets fixed and the app becomes a more accessible product. Originally the Google Doc app was just a shortcut to the mobile browser app. It is now becoming a full feature app.
 Mint: This is a great free finance tracker. What makes this app superior over others is that it brings in your charges automatically. The website has some great tools that I wish the mobile app had more of like charts and forecasting. I've heard the tablet version has more of these features, but my Kindle Fire hasn't received the update.
Gtasks: I use task lists pretty religiously. This one syncs to my Google tasks. It is a simple but affective app with a streamlined interface. I would love to see a Google calendar app that integrates tasks better, the way the web app does. I also wish that Google tasks would get an upgrade.  I would love to see the ability to set up reoccurring tasks, similar to reoccurring calendar events.  Gtasks has this built in, but I have found it to be glitchy while syncing (I had one task duplicate itself ~100 times. yikes!). I'm sure there is a better task program out there, but I am fond of gtasks and Google products.Update: It's getting updates! My favorite thing about apps is when they continue to improve.
 SketchBook Mobile: This is a great sketching app. I am not an artist, but every now and then I like to doodle something. It has so many options for brushes/pencils!
 Business Calendar: I am typically unimpressed with calendar apps and find them generally to be eyesores. This is probably the best of what is out there. It is better than stock and almost looks like the web app of Google calendars. I like being able to zoom in for any number of days. I acquired the pro version from either the Amazon app of the day or when Google was selling top apps for $0.10.Update: I've been using the HTC Sense stock calendar app. I like it much better than the TouchWiz stock calendar app.

Consumption apps

NOOK for Android by B&N

Google Play Books
Kindle ReaderNook for AndroidGoogle Play Books

I generally only use the kindle reader, however you are not obligated to choose just one. Your phone can have any, and if you root your kindle fire or nook color, you can side load the others. I love having my books on my phone. It means that I don't have to plan to bring my Kindle or a book with me.  If end up with some time waiting on something, I can pull out my phone and read my book right where I left off on my Kindle.

OverDrive Media ConsoleOverDrive: Get free e-books through the library. Draw back is they only last 27 days, and if it is a popular book, you have to get back on the waiting list to renew your loan. I am a slow reader (well not actually slow, I just don't have a lot of time invested in reading), so I have found this doesn't work well for novel reading. They also have comicbooks and audiobooks that you can borrow!
NetflixHulu PlusNetflix and/or Hulu: If you have one and/or the other, you minus well have it on your phone!
Google Play MusicGoogle Play Music: Upload all your music and access it from computer, phone or tablet. You can also select music to be offline to ensure you have music while traveling without reception. It also sees any music on your sd card.


Angry BirdsAngry Birds: Duh, winning! I had gotten burnt on angry birds with all the sequels. Seasons is just additional levels that are holiday themed. Rio is just slightly different. Instead of trying to defeat the pigs, your goal is to free the birds. It has improved graphics, but I didn't get very far. Space on the other hand is brilliant and unique. It introduces zero-gravity and gravity fields, new birds and great new levels. I definitely recommend getting the first game and space. The others can be played, but are just new levels styled after the first game.
Plants vs. ZombiesPlants versus Zombies: This is probably my most favorite game on android. I played it more than angry birds. It's a strategy game with player development as the game progresses. There is a store with new plants to buy and when you beat levels you earn new plants or money. There is also achievements, which can be addictive to obtain. I wish it had more of the features from the PC/Nintendo DS version, like the mini games and zen garden. I tried playing the versus mode on DS with my 11 year old step son, and it is impossible to loose if you are the zombies! They are just OP.
Fruit Ninja FreeFruit Ninja: One of the best time wasters! I love the sequel Puss in Boots too. The sequel adds a whole different game play with a quest mode that has a series of random mini games for levels.
Abduction!Abduction!: There are a lot of jumping games out there; this is my favorite. There are also sequels.  I think I played Abduction! 2, which is just so slightly different that makes it almost equally enjoyable and not repetitive.  The first is definitely the best though.  I loved the bonus games.

Reference and shopping

These are apps that generally replace websites.

Movies by FlixsterMovies by Flixter: look up trailers, show times and movie ratings/reviews. Powered by rotten tomatoes and is connected to your Facebook so that you can post your movie reviews to your timeline/wall.
Groupon - Daily Deals, CouponsGroupon, LivingSocial, Google Offers: I buy these deals on occasion, so I sometimes have them on my phone and sometimes I just go to the mobile websites.

Background apps and tools

These are the apps that I install, set up, and never think about again. They run in the background, automatically performing tasks for me.

Any CutAny Cut: This app let's you make shortcuts to different options on your home screen. For instance, I like having a short cut to wifi tethering on the home screen of my phone so that I can tether my kindle or chromebook with the click of a button. It is also handy for getting into hidden settings on your kindle fire or nook tablet.
Shush!Shush!: Ever silence your phone while at a restaurant or at the movies and forget to turn it back on? With this app, when you silence your phone it asks how long you want your phone to be silenced for; anywhere from fifteen minutes to twelve hours or indefinitely.  When the timer runs out, it turns your ringer back on. Brilliant!
Silence SchedulerSilence Scheduler: Set up a schedule of when you want your phone to be silenced and it does it. I set it up for when I'm at work and asleep. I thought it was strange that this wasn't built into my first Android phone. My old sidekick had this. Seems pretty basic, but I guess the point is that you find an app that does the function and competition creates a better product.  It took me a long time to find an app that performed this function.
SMS Backup +SMS Backup+: Send all your text messages and phone logs to gmail for archiving. It allows you to also restore messages and phone logs. It's a great app for those who flash ROMs, but is also great for saving pictures people send you and being able to search through all of your conversations though gmail. I've also read that some people use this as a parenting tool. You can set it up on your teenager's phone so that all their text messages come to your gmail for your review.
Mighty Text: I'm not sure that this is the best app out there for this task but it works. After installing it on your phone and a web extension for chrome, you can send and receive text messages through your browser.  I find it convenient, so why not? I wish this app would also support sending and receiving text messages on your tablet.  I might look into an alternative app that performs this function also.  It has to have a chrome extension, since I predominately play on a Chromebook at home. --> If you are using a similar app that you like, let me know in the comments below!
Google+Google+: I'm sure you are asking me, isn't this a social app? Well yes, of course, but even if you don't use it as a social app you should still install it and set it up. Why, you ask? The instant upload feature is invaluable.  It instantly uploads pictures you take on your phone to your Picasa account, saving your pictures to the cloud.  Imagine taking photos, perhaps of your kids or vacation.  Now imagine losing your phone.  Losing your phone is one thing, but when it also has all your pictures, it is a much bigger deal.  Not so with instant upload from Google+.  You can access all of the pictures that were taken on your phone from Google+ through your browser.  Check out this video for an example.

What apps do you run on your Android phone or tablet? Share in the comments below!

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