Thought I’d write a quick blog on some of the Android apps I’ve found most useful. I haven’t included any of the built-in apps here – obviously Gmail, Google Calendar, Maps etc. are great but you don’t really need me to tell you that! Also I’ve not included any games, maybe will do another post for them later.
I’m using a Samsung Galaxy S II with Ice Cream Sandwich, but all these apps should work perfectly well on most phones. Most are free, a few are paid but I consider them all excellent value.
- aTimer – A simple concept (multiple simultaneous countdown timers) fantastically executed. The interface design is both beautiful and easy to use, and it comes in really handy for cooking.
- BeyondPod – I’d experimented with podcasts on my PC a bit in the past but never really got into them, probably due to the annoyances of iTunes. I’d fire it up occasionally, but most of the time just wanted to avoid it, so hardly kept up with those I did try.
It was quite a while after getting my first smartphone that I thought “hmmm… this could be used for podcasts”. (It was possibly the BBC’s excellent “In Our Time” that finally got me into it.) As it turned out, it became basically the killer app for my phone, and BeyondPod is the slickest one I’ve tried by far. Keeping up with podcasts is so easy, variable playback speed and support for audiobooks just seal the deal.
- Catch That Bus – Just an incredibly useful app for finding live UK bus times. Good use of maps, plus the ability to set stops as favourites and even create shortcuts for them on the homescreen is handy.
- GTasks – Task list with the crucial ingredient: seamless integration with Google Tasks. Also supports multiple lists, and has some nice looking widgets.
- Minimalistic Text – A widget that does what it says on the tin. Simple but endlessly customisable text widgets for time/date, battery, weather and other things. Particularly great combined with Tasker (see below) as it can use variables set by that, and with Widget Locker.
- Pomodroido – A bit niche, but this is a simple and brilliant timer for the Pomodoro Technique (http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/)
- Screen Filter – For when the minimum screen brightness is still too bright, this just lets you dim the screen even more. Saves burning your eyes at night.
- Spotify (beta) – There was no way Spotify was going to be on the list originally. The previous version of their app a buggy piece of crap, arguably the worst app I’d tried on Android – especially so as I was paying a monthly fee for Spotify Premium largely for the ability to use it on mobile. Confusing interface, constant crashes, and an even more annoying bug – it would sometimes start playing tracks completely unprompted!
But the new beta version (not in the market yet, you have to get it from their website, linked above) is an immense improvement. Hasn’t crashed once on me yet, plus the interface is beautiful and fits right in with Ice Cream Sandwich. Also the options for higher quality streaming are nice. There are some features missing (main one for me is last.fm scrobbling), but these are minor and promised to be coming soon.
- Tasker – If you haven’t come across Tasker, it’s an amazingly powerful app for automating your phone. For example if I’m at home (connected to home wi-fi) and it’s late at night, Tasker will switch my phone to silent mode and dim the screen (using Screen Filter). When I leave the house it automatically switches off wi-fi, until I turn it on again. The only issue I have, is that I’m not using it to anywhere near its full potential. There’s a subreddit with some more great examples.
- Twitter – Some people swear by alternative Twitter clients, and personally I love Tweetdeck on the PC. However the official Android app works great for me, and looks nice too.
- Unified Remote (free, full) – It’s a remote control for your PC that works over a wifi connection. Or more accurately it’s several remotes, covering a wide variety of programs as well as basic mouse and keyboard control. The VLC remote is my personal favourite. The whole package is nicely done, and surprisingly easy to set up.
- Widget Locker – By far the app I use the most, because it entirely replaces the lockscreen. And it doesn’t even need root. As the name suggests you can add widgets (looks great with Minimalistic Text), but you can also choose different unlocking styles. One fantastic feature is that some styles allow you multiple unlock options, for example mine is set up so that swiping right unlocks normally, but swiping left jumps straight to the camera. I think this is now a standard feature in Android 4, but Widget Locker meant I could get it beforehand and it’s more customizable.
- Winamp – It took a while to find a music player on Android that I was really happy with, and Winamp was it. It hasn’t seen many updates recently, and it seems the competition has greatly improved since, but it still does everything I want, and does it excellently. Plus if you use Winamp on the desktop like I do – wireless syncing!
- Yaaic – IRC client, which often comes in handy for work. Nothing particularly fancy, but does it well.