I just had a self-imposed Droid 1 system failure this past weekend after trying to overclock the 800mhz processor to something closer to 2Ghz. Eventually it overheated and refused to answer calls or hold a charge for more than 4 hours. All this was totally my fault and somewhat expected, but I had friends in the city trying to get a hold of me all day Friday to no avail. Sunday afternoon I wiped the whole thing and started from scratch. This article is a rundown of the apps I chose to re-install that help me use my smartphone as more of a tool than a toy. Don’t get me wrong, I have a couple games too, I’ll list those at the end.
Here’s my top list of functional Apps with as small a learning curve as possible and a low (or free) price tag.
- Evernote – If you’ve not added this to your everyday cross-platform usage then browse on over to their webpage to read the overview. I’ve been using it for several months now and am wondering what I did before. I use their web-clipper and software interface on all my associated devices and, of course, the mobile version. “Capture all of your thoughts, ideas, and inspirations, into a single place. Access everything whenever you need it from your PC, even when offline.” – evernote.com
- Dropbox - Like Evernote, except not notes. This is the cloud storage you’ve been hearing about everywhere since the dawn of the internet. I only use the free version currently, so I view it more as the thumb-drive in the sky, but either way it’s a great place to store files you need to access on multiple devices. It also works as a file transfer service that allows invited people to use a link to download your shared file (great for mobile client approval situations). It auto syncs to all your devices at once, so uploading a file from your laptop or smart phone will give you full offline access on all devices. prior version backups are configurable too.
- Read it Later – This handy tool syncs your Read-it-later selections in all your browsers (that you’ve installed the plugin) and allows you to save the article text to your device for offline reading. I definitely recommend this one if you’ve got a long train commute like me. This is not an RSS feed reader and can be more readily categorized as a content clipper, though it’s clipping full web articles not selected text like Evernote.
- Thinking Space Pro – This is a great little mind mapping program that I recommend to anyone looking to develop a creative Idea. Honestly, I wish there was an exact copy of this for the PC. There are similar programs, but this was super easy for me to learn and just start implementing right away.
- Circle Launcher – I’m a widget whore and this one is brilliant. Basically it’s a configurable shortcut menu that flies out the tap of an icon. If you’re looking for a way to speed up your app usage, this may help.
- Tripit – I fly around a lot for work and this little tool is awesome for keeping track of and updating travel plans. I’ve only just started using it, but my wife swears by it. I need to check and see if they have a Google calendar sync option ’cause that would be brilliant.
- Documents to Go – This is the first app I ever bought and it’s totally worth it. I use and update excel files on the road and this is totally worth it just for that function. It also can edit Word documents, PowerPoint, etc.
- K-9 Mail – This email app is the best email UI for the android. It has loads of features that aren’t found in the standard email app, like cache to SD card instead of filling up your on-board memory. I have mine set to not check the mail unless I ask (saves battery), but there are hundreds of options for personal configure-ability.
- Feedly – This is a well designed smooth RSS feed reader with a Firefox one-click plugin and syncing with Google reader. Its magazine style interface is intuitive and easy to use. It also integrates with social networks for sharing, and Read-it-Later for offline full article reading.
- Yelp – Besides being a great way to check out local shops by patron rating, it also features a layered reality function that allows you to see the shops and their ratings overlaying the live view camera, for easy directional choice. This is great when I’m home in Brooklyn as well as when I’m on the road. I’m trying to be a good contributing member and add my own reviews for the masses too. They also advertise local shop’s coupons which can be nifty too.
- HootSuite – This handy app is a scheduled social network updater that syncs between multiple platforms. It doesn’t have a widget for Android yet, but that keeps the battery usage a lot lower than the standard twitter widget. A must-have for people trying to keeping up with all the new social networks demanding interactions to seem “with-it” on the interwebs.
- Google Maps – I know this is a loaded topic with some do to the large file size of this app, but buried in one of the recent updates was the option to download 10mile area maps directly to your device for offline use. This is awesome for when I still need to access the map, but am underground in the subway. Hopefully, the area map feature sticks.
- Google Voice – I don’t use this for calling but for voice-mail. It keeps voice-mail like Gmail and tries to automatically transcribe the message into a textual email too. Sometimes, it’s enough to get the gist of the topic before calling back or even listening to the message, which can also be done from any HTML browser or your phone. This is great if you can’t answer your cellphone while at work, but do have access to your email.
- Picasa Tool – This handy little tool puts your Picasa albums into your android gallery and allows uploading to them too. I’m fond of this feature as it keeps the pictures off my device until I want them and also backs up the devices photos as needed. I know a lot of people don’t use Picasa, but this is something I’ve had for a couple years and not regretted.
- Audible – Books on tape service, like Netflix only you can download and listen to books and newspapers offline; plus it has multiple platform syncing. It is a monthly service, but worth it if you like listening to books while doing other creative things, like sculpting, etc.
- MyPod – despite the goofy name and unapologetic UI, this is the most powerful podcast/vidcast downloader for the Android operating system. I have used it for years now. It has had a few quirks along the way, but is something I use nearly every day for listening to favorites like The Moth, TWIP, and Photofocus. There is no computer interfacing necessary to find and download the podcasts, so it frees me up to download and listen to stuff when and wherever I want; great road-trip app.
- Netflix – Fresh-out-the-box with video streaming support on Android, this is an app that can only get better. It syncs your player position to the Watch-Instantly section on Netflix and has full browsing and playing capabilities like other Netflix platforms.
- Picsay Pro – The Photoshop of Android. Yes, Adobe released a photo editor for Android not long after Picsay came out, but PicSay has more functions and is just a lot more fun. Layering sticker features and color manipulation aside, this app will tweak any picture you want to basically any way you desire and save it to a separate copy leaving your original photo unaltered. That’s a great non-destructive feature in my mind as some of the photos I have on my phone will be edited later via real Photoshop or Lightroom.
- ES File Explorer - Now with root capabilities and network interfacing, this is Windows Explorer for your phone. Their task manager is a battery hog, but the explorer is top notch.
- Titanium Backup – This one is only really helpful if your device is rooted, but among other things it backups up your apps and their associated data files and syncs them to Dropbox. It’s a great little tool for me and my tweaking habit should I crash my phone. This allows me to restore apps and their settings to exactly the same way they were at the time of the backup.
Speaking of Games… Here are the two games currently on my phone.
- Majesty – Like Warcraft 1 with a few interface differences that auto syncs to an online server and never loses my progress. Yay!
- Pocket Legends – Basically it’s World of Warcraft on your phone. If you’re not into full 3D MMORPG games then skip this one as it can be extremely addictive. Following the theme, this one also syncs with the server to save game progress.
I was going to skip the gaming thing all together, but decided to go ahead with the restore as I sometimes play them while watching movies at home with my wife. I’m a media multitasker.
That’s most of the current list of my installed Android Apps not including the music apps, like Caustic, or the photography calculator and GPS logging apps. Hopefully, the list will help someone else out in their search for useful Android apps that can stimulate creativity and aid in developing cohesive workflows.
Oh, and I wrote most of this in Evernote on my Droid. Cheers.