Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Killer Android Apps

This is my second blog post with this title with the first one having appeared in December 2010.  I thought it would be good to look over which apps I was using back then and of those which I'm still using now but also what new apps I'm using.  It feels like Android and the apps available for it advance at quite a slow pace so it'll be interesting to see the differences between the two blog posts and see what's changed in the last 16 months or so.  I've also updated from Android 2.2 to android 4.2.2 in that time.

Back then I was using the following list of apps regularly:
  • Angry Birds (Game)
  • Barcode Scanner (Bar Code Scanner)
  • eBuddy (Instant Messenger)
  • ES File Explorer (File Manager)
  • Google Reader (Feed Reader)
  • Maps (Navigation)
  • RAC Traffic (Traffic/Navigation)
  • Scrobble Droid (Social Music)
  • Skype (Instant Messenger and VOIP)
  • Todo List Widget (Productivity)
  • TweetDeck (Social Client)
  • Youtube (Video)

AccuWeather (Weather)
Back in the old days of Android 2.2 I was running an HTC Desire with Sense and there was a really good weather widget in sense which meant I didn't bother using a weather app.  Now I'm using Android 4.2.2 on a Nexus 4 and running the stock Google image that widget is no longer available.  I find the AccuWeather app to be a good alternative.  I also keep a mobile bookmark handy for the BBC weather page for my local area.

Amazon (Shopping)
I'm quite surprised that I've started using more dedicated apps.  I suppose they've got better over the years and there is a wider selection available.  If I used Amazon on my HTC Desire I would have done so via the mobile web browser interface but these days I tend to use the app instead.  That's probably got a lot to do with the fact I've got loads more storage space for apps on the new phone though.

Angry Birds (and Bad Piggies)
So I still play Angry Birds which is either a testament to the game or a worrying sign I'm slightly addicted.  A bit of both perhaps.  Now though, there's a whole series of these games to wade through as well as the spin-off Bad Piggies game which I also quite like.

BBC iPlayer and Media Player (TV)
It's not very often I use it but it's still handy to have installed.  It might get even more useful if I ever get round to buying one of the over-priced slimport adapters so I'd be able to pump out HD content from my phone over HDMI.

Bubble UPnP (DLNA Client)
This can come in really handy from time to time either to stream content from my NAS onto the phone but more often to use it as a DLNA controller for other devices in the house.

Business Calendar Free (Calendaring)
The standard Google calendaring app and widget leaves quite a lot of room for improvement in my opinion, hence I find this little free app to be a better alternative.

Chrome (Web Browser)
A default app on the Google Android install but I thought I'd mention it here anyway since it's a huge improvement over any other browser I've used on a mobile device (I've got Firefox installed as well but it's not as good in my opinion) and much better than the previous Android browser I was using.

Chrome to Phone (Link Sharing)
This is a great little app that allows you to ping links from your Chrome web browser (with an installed extension) straight over to your mobile phone.  Sadly, it only works in one direction though so you can't go from phone to desktop although there are third-party scripts that allow you to do that as well.

Dropbox (Cloud Storage)
Another app I don't use a huge amount but it's useful to be able to access my dropbox files on my phone if I need to.

ES File Explorer (File Management)
An app I've been using more or less since day 1 when I got my first Android device.  I think it's still the best file manager on the app store, look no further.

Facebook (Social Networking)
I've started to use the dedicated Facebook app a little more recently than I ever did before.  That's partly because it offers more functionality than I had available before (via either the web interface or Tweetdeck) and partly because Tweetdeck is going away soon and will no longer be available on Android.

Feedly (RSS Reader)
An app that Google forced me to discover recently because they appear to have got fed up with not making any money from Google Reader.  This appears right now to be the best alternative solution available on both Android and the web.  The Feedly producers currently use the Google API and back end for RSS reading but they are in the process of writing their own and are promising a seamless move when Google finally pull Reader in a few months time.  I'm sure more of these apps will pop up in the future now the market has opened up so it'll be interesting to see what I'm using next time I get around to writing one of these blog posts.

Flickr (Photography)
I use this app to upload the occasional photo I take on my mobile.  However, it's also one of those go to apps that I tend to read through more or less every day to see what's new on there.  Much like the Flickr web site itself, it's not exactly radical these days and passes for just about usable but if you're a Flickr user it's the best option I've found on Android if you want an app.

Hotmail (Email)
Previously I always used to use the in-built email app from HTC sense which was compatible with hotmail.  However, that's no longer available to me these days so I had to look around for an alternative when I got my new phone.  The official Hotmail app seems to do the job quite nicely.

LoveFilm (Movie Rental)
Again, another app that I don't use often and would previously have used the mobile web version instead.  However, this is handy to have sitting around for those times when someone recommends you a film and you want to shove it straight onto your rental list.

National Rail (Railways)
This can be incredibly handy for me in two situations, there's the obvious one where I'm using the rail network and want to plan routes, work out costs, see when trains are running and get live departure updates.  However, as the hubby of someone who uses the train network every day it can be really quite useful to spot when late arrivals home might occur or be armed with the latest information if the phone rings.

RAC (Traffic)
I'm still using this and finding it useful to check for traffic jams when I go on a long trip.  It's still not that great an app though so if there are better alternatives out there I'd love to hear about them.

Reader (RSS Reading from Google)
An app that I use every day, quite probably multiple times a day along with the Reader interface in my web browser.  Really very unfortunately indeed, Google have decided to think better of the Reader app and it's going away this year.

Rocket Player (Music)
I don't use Spotify, Google Play Music or other streaming services as I have a preference to copy my own music onto my device and listen to it locally.  I'd be doing this anyway if I were on a plane or something so I don't really see the point in streaming.  Rocket Player seems to be quite a nice app to play your music through.  It comes in a few different forms from a free version (which I use) to unlocking more features with paid versions.  It's simple yet functional and with their equaliser turned on it makes your music sound pretty decent (as far as phone + headphones go) too.

 Scrobble Droid (Social Music)
Another app I'm still using from the old days and more or less since day 1 on my first Android phone.  This simple little app works with music players (Rocket Player is compatible with it) and allows you to scrobble the tracks you're playing on your phone.  If you're not connected to a network then it'll save them up and scrobble when you make a connection instead.

Squeezer (Logitech Squeezebox Controller)
Unfortunately Logitech have neglected the Squeezebox brand since buying them a few years ago and that seems to be pervasive throughout everything Squeezebox including the Android app.  I'm unable to install the official app on the recent version of Android I have but fortunately someone has written an alternative in Squeezer.  I'm glad they did, I think they've made a better job of it than the official app.  Sure, it doesn't have half of the whizzy fancy features you get on the official app but given I don't use the vast majority of those I really don't care and would recommend anyone with a Squeezebox to give Squeezer a try instead.

Skype (Instance Messaging and VOIP)
Another app I've been using for ages on my phone.  It's great to finally be able to do video messaging now I have a front-facing camera too.  Also, the introduction of logging into Skype via your MSN account and compatibility with Messenger means I've stopped using the eBuddy app.

Stickman Games (Gaming)
Most of these are quite fun and generally absolutely hilarious.  I'd recommend anyone with a bit of time to kill to check out Play for the various stickman games, they range from golf to cliff diving with things like skiing, wingsuits and base jumping included in there too.

As a result of ceasing use of eBuddy I've started using the official Google Talk app instead which seems to be much better all-round than eBuddy for things like battery usage when staying logged into the app permanently.

Todo List Widget (Productivity)
This widget (or set of widgets) is still perfect for a really simple to do list on your phone.  It allows you to add different sized widgets to the desktop (which is a bit superfluous these days since you can resize widgets) and then simply add an item, remove an item and give the list a title.  All very easy.  All very simple.  Job done, don't need any more than that. 

Tweetdeck (Social Client)
Much like Google Reader this is an app I use every day or multiple times a day for reading and managing Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook.  Another similarity is the announcement of the impending death of Tweetdeck on Android.  A couple of months ago I was looking around for Twitter clients as I know there's a huge range out there and was wondering if there was anything better than Tweetdeck.  I ended up installing 10 different apps to check them all out individually.  However, there wasn't anything I liked nearly as much as Tweetdeck (although one or two came close) because they all seem to rely so much on a huge amount of navigation and taps on the screen to see any content vs Tweetdeck's simple swipe-column interface.  I'm really apprehensive about what's next for Twitter on my phone.

YouTube (Video)
Another standard app, but it's still there on my phone.

So it seems in general I'm using a mixture of the same old apps I've always used, mostly because nothing better has come along rather than not trying to find new apps but I guess I'm probably a little stuck in my ways with the ones I'm using too.  There's definitely a theme of using more apps rather than mobile versions of web sites on my phone now which I put down to having loads more storage space available for installing them.  The list of apps is clearly quite a lot longer though so I'm using a lot more apps than I ever did as I've become a little more comfortable with using a touch screen mobile device and dipping in and out for content more regularly than I used to before my first smart phone.


David M said...

Tried plume for Twitter?

I used to have an HTC desire, but I ran a modded room which could store apps on the SD card. Now I have a Samsung Galaxy S3 running a CyanogenMod nightly which probably isn't much different to a nexus 4 :)

Graham White said...

Yeah, I've tried Plume and a very wide range of others. It was a few months ago though so I need to revisit them at some point soon. Will probably wait for Tweetdeck to disappear and then look around - the subject of another blog post perhaps.