Mobile Phones

Dhalgren's Favorite Android Apps

After using and loving Andorid for 11 months, I figured I'd add my two cents on the most useful, trustworthy apps to download and use.

1. Flight Track ($4.99). Track flighs and save a list of all the flights you have taken / will take. Flight Track notifies you when a gate or time changes and when the flight status has changed (taken off, landed, etc.).

2. Flight Board ($3.99). A beautiful companion of Flight Track that lets you see the arrivals or departures board for any airport in the style of the big boards at Paris' CDG airport. Flight Board can be used as the phone's live wallpaper, which is really nice.

3. Google Scoreboard (free). It's just a baby, but Google Scoreboard is off to a wonderful start. Select leagues to follow, including all 4 English football leagues and Japanese baseball. Select favorite teams. When a game starts or ends involving a favorite team, you get a notification at the top of the screen. Really nice. But it has growing pains. Often you have to reload data by tapping the scoreboards. The scoreboards are separated by league, like cards in a deck, and Scoreboard does not actively load them all. The app is not yet set up for full background operation. It often loads the scores for the league that currently has games in progress, and neglects the others. So for a user like me who is following a Japanese baseball team, the most reliable notification is the score of the NPB game in progress, which arrives as soon as I turn on my phone at 06:00 or 07:00 New York Time. But I am confident that Scoreboard will be ironed out.


4. Beautiful Widgets ($2.90). Don't like the home screen clock that you carrier put on your Android phone? Or was there no clock at all? Add a beautiful clock, clock + weather, or weather-only widget with Beautiful Widgets. True to its name, there are hundreds of different skins, fonts, and icons to download and use. Widgets are one of the biggest differences between the iPhone and Andorid. And Android users love to customize their phone to make it ther own. Beautiful Widgets is the best app for the money to let you do that.
5. Gingerbread Launcher (by Modaco, free). Sprint is great, but the SprintID packs Sprint is encouraging us to use are not. Switching from your customized screen to a SprintID pack wipes out your widgets, wallpaper, and sometimes your settings and shortcuts/folders. Replace the annoying SprintID icon at the bottom of your screen with the standard green Google browser globe, and never accidentally use SprintID again. Unfortunately requires you to recreate your widgets and folders. But it's a one time process. Once it's done, you don't ever hve to see the SprintID icon again.
6. Better Alarm Clock Pro ($1.99). It's an alarm clock that layers over the standard Anfroid alarm clock. Why is it better? Becasue it has a cool LED display feature. Choose the color for the digits from millions of colors. Then dim the screen so your phone can be used as a travel alarm clock. Simply stand the phone upright or horizontally and you have a cool travel alarm that won't light up the room. Better Android is a popular, trusted delveloper. But as of this month, they have been banned from the Market after one of their apps was frowned upon by the Google gatemasters. I hope they -and this app- come back.

7. Tip Calculator ($0.99). Very straightforward. Enter the check amount, the tip percentage (15%), and the number of people splitting the bill. Tip Calculator does the rest. 
8. OpenTable (Free). Make restaurant reservations and find new restaurants. Works really well and has a clean interface. App can be moved to the SD card, saving you phone storage space.
9, Opera Mini Web Browser (free). The standard Google browser that comes with the phone is just fine. But if you need extra speed and a cleaner interface, the folks at Opera have built a super fast browser that lets you get into a web page, do your thing, and get out. Very nice when you are in the middle of the Great Urban Race. App can be moved to the SD card, saving you phone storage space.
10. IMDb (free). You see a sign for an upcoming or ongoing film production in the city. Don't make a mental note of the title. Launch IMDb on your Android and find the synopsis and cast in seconds. App can be moved to the SD card, saving you phone storage space.

12. Gauge Battery Widget Pro ($1.98). Android phones eat up batteries, especiually when you have GPS and WiFi turned on, or if you're uploading phone photos to Facebook. Gauge Battery Widget is an attractive dashboard-style widget that shows you how much juice you have left. Very simple and it doesn't eat batteries. The Pro version allows you to customize the color and transparancy of every gauge element.

13. Google Sky Map (free). Point your phone to the sky and identify constellations, planets, and moon phases in a lovely graphic interface. A novelty application, yes. But this is one that people install and then love. Uses the phone's gyroscope and compass to accurately show what is above you (or below you if you point to the floor to see southern constilations. This is one of those apps that differientiates Android from iPhone. App can be moved to the SD card, saving phone storage space. 
14. FX Camera (free). Add a toy camera, polaroid effects, and a nice B&W camera to your Android device. Photos are captured in 960x640 resolution, making it an ideal Facebook photo capture app. App can be moved to the SD card, saving phone storage space.

15.  AK Notepad  (free) Says what it does. Create a text document on the go. Write a list of things to do. Export them to MS Word or an email. Write a blog post, or a restaurant review, or a diary entry on the go. The possibilities are endless. Stores text files to the SD card.

16. Google MyTracks (free) A GPS distrance tool that tracks how far you walk or travel on land (car, bus, train). See your average speed, elevation, total distact, and track on a Google Map. It's a battery hog, but it is the most reiable and accurate GPS tracker I have found yet for the Andorid platform.
App can be moved to the SD card, saving phone storage space.

17. Minimal Reader (free) This stripped down version of Google Reader allws you to put a widget on your screen that displays the titles of blog posts from your favorite blogs and news sites. You set up the RSS feeds and Minimal Reader does the rest. My feeds include DNA Info Inwood News, Curbed New York, Gothmanist, Reuters headlines, and some podcasts. Needs a little work, but because it is minimal, it doesn't clog your storage space with articles. It just shows you the titles of the blog posts, so you choose what you want to downloand and read.

18. Notepad (free) Another plain text editor, but more plain and business like than AK Notepad. Probably better for writing and editing loner notes or lists than AK Notepad. It's free. Why not get it in addition to AK and decide which is best for you?

20. Shoot Me (free) You don't have to have a rooted phone in order to take great screenshots. All the screenshots here were taken with Shoot Me on my stock LG Optimus S running Android 2.2.2. Simply activate, go to the screen you want to capture, and either press a shutter button or give the phone a gentle shake. All photos store on the SD card in a separate Shoot Me folder. Should work on most new unrooted phones. It's definately worth a try.

Not The Lord Vader We Know

NTT Docomo's odd, new Android phone commercial airing in Japan. I understand that owning a Samsung Galaxy S phone is like having a powerful force on your side. It's interesting to say the least how they decided to personify that force. The campaign is called "Walk With You":

As an interesting footnote, the Samsung Galaxy S became the best selling mobile phone in Japan last week, dethroning the mighty Apple iPhone.