Making Android a useful life tool
I’ve been using Android for about three months now after getting my HTC Tattoo and for the first two and a half months it basically involved trying to make it do what I want.
It isn’t the greatest mobile phone in the world but it is small and has all the functionality I need from a phone.
That functionality is pretty much everything but a phone – I need to get online, I need to easily post to twitter and facebook and I’d like to be able to e-mail.
Over the course of owning the phone I’ve installed apps, uninstalled apps, re-installed apps, re-installed the whole phone and broken the shell of the phone.
Over that time I’ve come to settle on a few ‘essential’ apps that have either made my life easier, made it more enjoyable or improved what I do in some way.
So I thought I would compile a list of a few of those apps.
Most of the apps are available in the app store, some are beta versions and easy to find – others you’ll have to look a little harder for if you want them.
All HTC phones have the HTC Sense home screen alternative – which is a bit rubbish to be honest and apparently the reason we haven’t got Android 2.1 for the Tattoo yet.
So the first thing I’ve done is find an alternative to Sense for the home screen – the best thing about Sense was that it gave me an extra two screens but the ADW Launcher app does that for me and is much prettier than Sense UI.
It allows for a couple of docked apps in the bottom bar, can hide the top bar and has five screens – it also has a lot of ‘customisable’ functionality.
Photoshop.com for Android
I love Photoshop, I’ve used it for work on PC and Mac in various forms for years and the mobile version is VERY easy to use and intuitive.
It allows you to crop, straighten, colour correction and apply a number of special effects or borders.
Spotify & Last.fm
Spotify is NOT an app you would use unless you have an unlimited data plan, and although my data plan is unlimited but with a daily limit – it’s still enough to use it – ish.
Spotify is a great app, it’s easy to use and allows me to find music I wouldn’t necessarily buy – but do love playing every so often. It’s easy to use and can play in the background on Android while you do other things.
Last.fm performs a similar function and is better for ‘discovery’ and finding less well known artists.
This one was a LOT harder to find as it wasn’t easily available through the Market – but Skyfire is, without a doubt the best mobile phone browser available.
I first discovered it on my last Windows Mobile based HTC phone and finding it for Android I actually jumped for joy – seriously – I made my wife laugh at me.
It is a fully featured browser – video, audio and full screen display with brilliant zooming function. If you can find it this is will completely turn around your Android web browsing experience.
The only fault I can find is the crappy start page and the delay in the top bar (search bar) disappearing when you get to the page you want.
Seesmic (twitter app)
Seesmic is my favourite Twitter app for Android – I prefer Brizzly for web based Twitter usage but Seesmic is a brilliant mobile app.
It allows you to run several Twitter accounts, easily look through replies and messages, update your profile and search for interesting topics.
The user interface is pretty simple, sticking to Android conventions and with big buttons for my fat fingers.
This is a fairly recent addition to the Android app family and one that pretty much closes the gap between iPhone and Android markets.
It’s a beautiful application, easy to use – although the Kindle store could be more user friendly – the browsing experience is pleasant enough – but there are other book apps with a more ‘beautiful’ page turn – but the vast scale of the Kindle library makes it worth downloading.
Audible for Android
This is still a VERY early beta version of the Audible app – but it is an essential edition for any smartphone platform – I currently use my iPod for audible books but being able to leave them on the server and pull down when I like makes a big difference.
It’s very buggy and takes a long time to start up but when it is finally released as a final ‘gold’ version – it will be a must have for any Android owning audiobook listener.
Beebplayer for Android
There’s not a lot to be said for this app – it basically allows you to watch BBC tv shows and listen to radio shows on your Android phone – and for those of us without the most recent Android phone – it’s the ONLY WAY of making the most of BBC material on the move.
It works wonderfully, is simple and unfortunately – now discontinued – but pressure needs to be put on the Beeb for releasing an app, or at least making their website usable for people with sub 2.2 Android phones.
We can’t all afford to upgrade annually to the latest version of the form.
There are of course many many more apps I use regularly – including the Movies app and a few games – my favourite being Abduction.
I’m also a big fan of Evernote because it is cross platform BUT I haven’t got it working properly on my phone yet so can’t include it.
There is also a mobile friendly version of this blog now – although if you use Skyfire you won’t need it.
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