Top Applications for your Android: Have your Cupcake and Eat it Too!

By Tech_Ubiquitous on 3:43 PM

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Now that we've reviewed the iPhone, Android, and Palm Pre here, we felt it fitting to talk about our favorite applications for these great devices. Our first installment is for the Android platforms. Keep in mind that this refers to the Android 1.5 firmware--so if you don't have it yet--grab it here.

We've broken this post down into sections for easy digesting:

  • Social & Communications: Tweet that or Skype it, we're looking at the ones we like
  • Utilities: Make your G1 work better, and make it work for you
  • Navigation: I want my turn-by-turns on my terms
  • Multimedia: Rock-out, View-on, and YouTube it from your G1
  • Get my Geek On!: The cool stuff that we can get our geek-0n to!

Social and Communications:

Twidroid: Twitter interface that allows the usual tweeting capability but also has a few extra features including built-in photo upload to twitter, geo-tagging GPS coordinate stamping, and auto URL shortening. It comes with notifications that you can manage from your phone.

Facebook: If you own a G1, you know it came with MySpace mobile. But who still uses MySpace? Okay, so a lot of people. But Facebook didn't develop an application for Android. Good thing Android is open source and has thousands of devs out there: This is a quick and dirty on the three different Facebook applications available from the Android Market: fBook, FBabble, and FooBook.
  • fBook is basically a wrapper for the mobile version of facebook. Update your status, upload photos, and leave comments on facebook. However, the fBook application?s chat feature no longer seems to work. This is where the next offering comes in handy.
  • fBabble allows the user to chat on facebook, but it currently lacks the ability to upload photos, update your status, etc. You should only login to fBabble while actively chatting, as it will drain your battery with a constant data connection. .
  • Foobook is the fastest way to update you status and quickly see all of your friends' status messages. FooBook also allows for periodic update and notification of your friend?s status?you can set it to for as often as you like. no profiles, no chat. fBook is our favorite, because it gives you the most functionality?and we never really use the facebook chat ability.
Handcent SMS: Want to jazz up your messaging application? Try Handcent sms for Android. There are many SMS/MMS apps out there, but we like this one. Not only does the conversation look better than the native SMS application your Android came with, it allows full searching of your SMS and MMS content. Also:
  • Multiple language support
  • T9 soft keyboard (in addition to the G1's native soft keyboard)
  • Easy selection of contacts (who remembers phone numbers anymore?)
  • Batch sms sending, notification management, signature support
  • Customizable "bubbles" for your conversations, and multiple date/time displays
Skype Lite: Here is one that many were waiting for: The folks over at Skype have released this beta app out to the Android Market which gives users a pocket-sized and functional version of Skype. Can you make wi-fi or 3G data calls? Hate to say it, but No. However, calls can be made and are routed to a specific local number that Skype gives you. This also works for Skype Out calls as well. Now, we thought the whole point of Skype was to save money using VOiP!? True that! Calls made to the local number are routed over VOiP systems--but you do not get to see that side of it. So what about saving $$$?? Well, contrary to T-Mobile?s ToS, you can make that "local number" that Skype gives you one of your MyFaves and--BAM!--unlimited calls to landlines (and some mobiles) in 36 countries if you have the $10/month Skype Out plan. We can say for sure that it does works pretty darn well and that calls to landlines in Japan and France sounded perfect!

Barcode Scanner, CompareEverywhere, and ShopSavvy:

All of the above applications allow the user to scan any barcode and then look for prices. Barcode Scanner links up nicely with a Google Product Search and both CompareEverywhere and ShopSavvy use location-based info on your phone to generate both local and internet pricing for the best comparison. We've used ShopSavvy at Staples to do a real-time price match of Office Depot's price--right there at the register--saved us $100 bucks! Meanwhile, Barcode Scanner does something else that we think is pretty cool: QR codes, or two-dimensional codes. Used extensively in Japan and growing now in the United States, QR codes are those square pixilated barcodes one might see on magazines, packages, and many Japanese business cards. They can even be embedded with art images or logos: Go ahead and scan our QR code from your monitor and tell us what you see!

This next one is a cross between Shopping & Utility--we're not sure where to put it actually:

: Every wanted to have your own virtual card-catalog of all the books, movies, CDs, and other media that you own? Ever thought about how long it would take you to catalog all that stuff!? Well, the Anobiit app is every-bit the app for that. Available on the Android Market, it enables the user to simply scan the barcode of your book, DVD, CD, etc and it grabs all the info: cover artwork, ISBN, publisher/author, etc. It then uploads the info to your aNobii site which hosts your virtual library and even enables lending should you decide to share and borrow. What's more, you can add books to your online "wishlist", so if you're not ready to compare prices, buy, or "shelve" your own copy, then you can put it there so you don't forget. It takes all the work out of cataloging your catalog!

Craigslist: Yeah, there is an App for that! Simple, easy-to-use, no-frills application for checking your local (or any other) craigslist site for recent ads, including photos and links. We like this one!


iMeem: This is a great application for streaming music--not quite as good as Pandora, but the latter is not available yet for Android as we mentioned in a previous post. So, iMeem can stream free music from a catalog of millions, and it can stream songs you've uploaded as well. We've discovered new music based on recommendations, created custom stations and playlists as well as purchased songs directly from the Amazon MP3 Store through this app. iMeem streams using AAC (vs. MP3) which allows for high-quality sounds at ony 64kbps. This is important for those who don't want lots of buffering, especially if you're on a 2G EDGE network. Even better, the Android is capable of multi-tasking, so you can listen to streaming music while punching out an email or cruising the web. Like, iMeem has a social side as well for sharing and seeing what your friends are listening to. This app provides many of the same features as iMeem, but you'll have to use 3G if you don't want a whole lot of buffering as it streams MP3s at 129kbps. It links nicely with your existing account and really isn't that unlike iMeem--people have their favorites though!
TuneWiki: This app is a great solution if you want an all-in-on player... it plays music and video--both locally from the G1 and via and SHOUTCast. In addition, it will download lyrics and display them on the screen in 40+ languages. Very nice interface, easy to use, and a great one-stop-shop.
Dizzler: Dizzler is something else entirely: while, iMeem, and others will play similar artists in a radio-style playlist--all hosted on their servers, Dizzler doesn't host anything. Instead, it scours the internet and provides the music-on-demand that you want. This is good if you're wanting to hear a particular song instead of a genre. Just don't expect it to socialize with you.

Shazam: Do you remember Gracenote? How about those expensive apps from the phones of yore that could listen to a song and tell you who it was? Ever been at the pub or coffeehouse and wondered who was playing, what album it was on, or how you could get it? Shazam is that app--and it is free. Just open the app, it'll listen for 10 seconds, and then pull up the cover art, artist, album, and a link to buy it if you so chose. Very cool. So cool in fact that we may mention this again in out Get Your Geek On section :-)

Nav4All: Folks have wanted a free turn-by-turn, voice-prompted navigation system on the Android for a while. Nav4All is ubiquitous--available on hundreds of phones and is free. Well, it is free until 2010 anyway. We've test driven this and it work likes a charm--all over the world in fact! It also links to thousands of restaurants and other places of interest. When we were driving on the old-world streets of Santa Fe (old-world since the town is pre-Plymouth Rock), it navigated us through all the narrow passages and even re-routed us to the nearest gas station when we were low on petrol. Again, it is free, but the UI isn't spectacular and it is not as user-friendly as a TomTom or other subscription apps.

TeleNav: This app beats Nav4All in our opinion--just because the UI is way better. However, it should be better at $10/month--the current subscription rate.

Alternate Home Screens and Themes:
Both aHome and OpenHome have comparable alternatives to the native G1 homescreen. In addition to providing good looks, they add utility: you can have several screens to scroll through (more than the 3 standard screens on the native home) and they provide cool built-in widgets such as weather and others so you don't have to download additional apps. They are completely customizable and if you've ever taken a gander at the Android Market--you already know that there are hundreds of custom themes for these apps already!

ASTRO File Manager
: This is the best file manager we've seen yet on the Android. It not only lets you view and manage the SD card, but you can also dig deep into the phone itself.

Ringdroid: This is a great app for taking your favorite tunes and turning them into ringtones. The great user interface shows you the actual wave of the song as an image and you can select any part of the song to be your ringtone. It looks a little like working with ProTools, but it rocks--quite literally!

Locale: Perhaps you wouldn't think this is really that important, but do you really want that Lonely Island Boys I'm on a Boat ringtone going off at the office? Or maybe that, eh, wallpaper you downloaded while at the bar with your football buddies may be too risque for that board meeting. Maybe you've forgotten to turn your ringer off while at the movies. Sometimes these things matter--depending on how much you care. But get this: In March 2005, Judge Robert Restaino jailed 46 people when a mobile phone rang in his New York courtroom and no one would admit responsibility. In fact, this is why TwoFortyFourAM created Locale. This program uses the phones location and time to determine the behavior of the phone. We think it is an awesome app and one that will continue to be a top download on the Android Market.

Weather Channel: If you're using one of the alternate home applications, you may not need any of the weather apps like the Weather Channel's or the Weather Bug app, because this function can already be added as a widget on the homescreen. But for those who are interested, we found the Weather Channel's app do be accurate, easy, and full of good stuff: forecasts and real-time weather for virtually any location.

Get Your Geek On!

WikiTude Travel AR: Augmented Reality is now reality. We talked a bit about this app in a previous blog and it deserves another mention. This app allows the user to view the surrounding area via the camera with great travel information and points of interest on the actual locations seen on screen. It uses the device's camera, accelerometers, magnetometer (compass), and GPS all at the same time. Geek On!

BioWallet: This application gives you peace of mind while taking a piece of biometric data: your iris as scanned by the device's camera! It protects sensitive information like account numbers, user names and passwords, and other stuff you might want to keep uber-private. Very spy-like if you ask us!

Sky Map: Have you ever wanted to look at the night sky and know know exactly what you were looking at? Ever regretted sleeping through Astronomy 101 because now you see a sky of random dots?
Metal Detector: This is a somewhat cheezy app--perhaps a step above those ubiquitous fart-generating apps for both the G1 and iPhone. It uses the magnetometer as, well, a magnet. It scans and then tells you it has detected metal. Silly, but geeky.

Heads-Up-Displays: There are a growing number of HUDs in the market--and hopefully more will come. At night, you can put your Android device on the dashboard and it will mirror-reflect the screen onto your windshield--providing GPS, speedometer, weather, and other info right in plain view!

You're Turn: There are thousands of apps now and we've only covered a few! Let us know what your favorite apps are and share them! Cheers!

Copyright 2009 | Tech Ubiquitous | Portions of the blog may be reproduced online, provided credit and links to the original content are placed with any reproduction.

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