November 16, 2011 by David K. Sutton
7 Android Apps I Recommend
I recently bought my first Android phone, the Motorola Triumph. This phone is exclusive to Virgin Mobile. I’ve had a work supplied BlackBerry for many years and it has been difficult to justify the added expense of a personal smartphone. I do find the idea of having mobile internet access ideal but I’ve never been able to justify $50-80 per month to get it.
The work supplied BlackBerry does give me mobile internet but it’s just a basic BlackBerry Curve and I find it frustrating to use due to the tiny screen and lackluster navigation method. I finally convinced myself to get my own personal smartphone once I discovered the prepaid, no contract plans with Virgin Mobile. The cheapest plan is $35 a month and it gives you 300 minutes talk and unlimited data (ok, well actually 2.5GB before data throttling). The Motorola Triumph runs Android 2.2.2 (Froyo), has a 4.1″ screen, 5 MP camera, VGA front facing camera, 1Ghz CPU, 512MB RAM, 2GB storage and comes with a 2GB micro SD card.
I have many apps installed on my BlackBerry but due to the limited screen size and clumsy navigation I admit they don’t get used much. Once I got the new Android phone I immediately installed these apps plus a few additional apps I discovered in the Android Market. Standard equipment apps for me are Gmail, Hotmail, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Netflix as well as various banking apps. Below is a list of 7 additional Android apps that I recommend.
In no particular order:
1. Evernote – free
Evernote is a cloud based note taking service. There is an Evernote app for all the major mobile and desktop operating systems. You can create notes that contain text, pictures, audio, checklists and more. Notes sync to your Evernote account as well as the Evernote app on each of your computers and mobile devices. It’s a great way to jot down quotes, to do lists, song ideas and know they will be accessible anywhere you have the Evernote app installed or anywhere you have internet access for that matter because you can login to their website or use a plugin on your web browser. Evernote is an excellent cross-platform note taking tool that will get you in the practice of recording your thoughts before you forget them! The Evernote app is free and so is the service. If the monthly data allowance is not enough there is also a paid option.
2. Waze – free
Waze is a free, community based GPS navigation and traffic monitoring app. I fully admit to being a novice with this app as I just installed it recently and haven’t played with it much yet. But it seems like a really interesting idea. You can see reports from other Waze users on traffic, accidents and police traps. There is also a widget that can show you the drive time between work and home in chart form which allows you to figure out when the best times are to commute to and from work.
3. Google Reader – free
Just about the quickest and easiest way to have all of your RSS feeds in one place. The Google Reader app syncs with your Google account. If you already use the online version of Google Reader then the Android app is a must! It basically looks just like the online version but streamlined to work well on a smaller screen. You see your folders and starred items and you can swipe left or right to navigate between articles. It’s a simple app that works really well.
4. BeyondPod – free and paid
This appears to be the best podcast app for Android. BeyondPod is available for a free, full-featured trial. After that you can continue to use the Lite version for free or get the Pro version for $6.99. One of the biggest features that makes the Pro version worth it is the podcast download scheduling. The Lite version doesn’t have scheduling and only allows podcasts to be manually downloaded one at a time. The layout of this app works really well and the scheduling feature is great. Let it run overnight when connected to your home’s WiFi and you don’t need to be worried about using any of your monthly data on your mobile plan.
5. Pandora – free
Once you’ve gotten your podcast fix and feel like listening to some tunes you might want to try Pandora. The app is free and so is the service. The Pandora concept works by creating channels based on artists/bands. Pick one of your artist channels and Pandora will then play songs from other artists that it believes are similar to that artist. To me it essentially works like genre based channels on satellite radio. In my experience on my BlackBerry (Verizon) and my Motorola Triumph (Virgin Mobile/Sprint) Pandora works really well over mobile internet. It buffers enough to avoid most brief disruptions in service. Obviously you will need to keep an eye on your monthly data limits but Pandora is fairly lean on data usage so unless you are using it for many hours each day or you have a very small monthly data plan it’s not likely to be a problem.
6. Google Voice Search – free
Think of this as Siri lite. While it isn’t nearly as advanced as Apple’s Siri, Google Voice Search is nonetheless a very useful app. I don’t know about you but typing on a small touchscreen can get annoying sometimes. Don’t feel like typing? You don’t have to with Google Voice Search. Just say anything and it will search for it via Google and display the results. In addition to google searches there is a selection of “voice actions” that allow you to do specific tasks like “send text”, “listen to”, “navigate to”, “call”, “send email” and more. Tap the Google Voice Search icon and say “send email to” and follow that up with a name in your contact list and then you can keep talking and it will put what you said in the body of the email. Another example is “go to” followed by a person, place, company, etc. and it will instantly navigate to that website. While it’s not Siri, it’s still really useful and can be much quicker than tapping away on the touchscreen.
7. Citrix Receiver – free
This one is highly specific but if the company you work for has remote access via Citrix XenApp and/or Citrix XenDesktop then you might want to find out if they support access via the Citrix Receiver app. Of course if you are the kind of person that would like to forget about work when you aren’t at the office then maybe you might want to avoid this application! Since I’m the Citrix administrator at the company I work for this app is a must for me! For those that don’t know what this is and are still reading I’ll try to explain it in a few words. Citrix allows you to run your business applications on your mobile device or remote computer as if you were running them at the office.
There you have it. The 7 Android apps that I recommend as of this writing. I have about 30 apps installed, of which I use a dozen or so regularly, so you can expect a follow-up article to add to the recommended app list or to expand on the functionality of specific apps.