3,00,000 Android phones are unsealed and started every day. That's a
heck a lot of progress for a mobile operating system just a little over
two years old. One of the selling points of Android has been its open
nature, due to which developers have had a free hand at making apps
without a cranky old nanny governing it. Although the Android store is
roughly a third the size of the Apple App Store, that's still over a
lakh applications we can choose from. Trying out new apps and games
have become a good pass time. But this frenzy of installing apps like
crazy is often followed by that one day where you want to shed the
app-fat off your phone.
But then there are those apps that you just want to keep, forever.
Here's a list of our favorite apps that we use on a regular basis.
It is a generally observed that Android phones are battery hogs; most
phones will last you just a day on moderate usage. But what's worse is
that tiny battery meter makes it hard to figure out exactly how much
battery you've got left. It is green in color on a full battery, then
turns yellow and eventually red. And then at that unwanted moment your
phone will tell you that only 15 percent charge is remaining,
indicating that a recharge would be required soon.
Quick Battery is a good-looking widget that you can place on the
home-screen that shows you battery life in percentage. After observing
it on a daily basis, you'll be able to guesstimate how long the phone
ColorNote Notepad Notes
Some vanilla Android versions (i.e. ones that aren't modified by the
manufacturer heavily) don't have a basic sticky notes widget. Widgets
and multiple home-screens are the prime advantage of the Android UI
over the iPhone's, where you have to open an app for everything. A
notes app that always shows itself when you turn on the phone is nice
for the forgetful among us, who can use it to jot down important tasks
(like "Buy groceries", "Pay Mobile bills" or "Divorce Wife").
The stock virtual keyboard on Android isn't as awesome in design as the
iPhone's. It sometimes doesn't predict words correctly on some phones.
That's why you have phone makers like HTC swapping them with their own
avatar of the QWERTY (Samsung incorporates Swype in theirs). But for
people buying phones with the default Android keyboard, we'd recommend
you to try out Swiftkey. It has a better design, but that's not the
best part. Its word prediction has got to be one of the best I have
ever seen. It constantly learns the way you type, and its accuracy
keeps getting better. It also goes through your messages and stores
words that you'd commonly use.
Now, unfortunately you get the keyboard for free, but the word
prediction system has to be purchased after the free two week trial.
But it costs Rs. 180, which we think is a worthy investment if you're
looking for better text input on your Android.
Both of these are music playback apps with that one extremely desirable
feature. TuneWiki automatically loads the lyrics of the song as you hit
the play button via the internet. The lyrics also feature automatic
scrolling and highlighting (like a karaoke system) of the words in
yellow, as they are sung.
For people used to 'syncing' their music instead of using a File
manager to manually copy-paste them, there's unfortunately no official
desktop app from Google that lets you do the same. DoubleTwist fills
this void by giving you an Android app as well as an iTunes-resembling
player for the PC and Mac that you can download from here. These two
apps in tandem let you sync your music, photos and videos from the
computer to the phone just like iTunes.
Now, there's another paid feature that might be worth investing in (it
costs Rs. 225). It's called AirSync, and it lets you wirelessly sync
your media over Wi-fi. So there's no need to use a data-cable, provided
your computer is Wi-fi enabled. (All Android phones have Wi-fi)
Many expensive phones (including the HTC Desire) that have the
necessary internals to run DivX and XviD files (the format those 700MB
movies are encoded in), but cannot by default. On the iPhone even, till
very recently, you HAD to convert videos to the device-friendly format
before transferring them over iTunes. RockPlayer is a good app to keep
handy as it plays all the popular formats and containers (DivX, XviD,
MKV, AVI). What we also like about the player is the nifty battery
status at the top-right corner, to let you keep a check of how much
juice your phone has got.
The free version has a logo placed to the top-left with advertisements,
but fortunately has no limitations on the features or play-time. The
paid versions removes the ads and the logo, but the USD 10 (Rs. 450)
asking price seems a bit too steep. Nonetheless, RockPlayer is a good
player that played most of the videos we threw at it.
Shazam is a popular music identification app available on multiple
platforms. The working is pretty simple - if you hear a song on the
radio or at a bar, and desperately want to know the name/artist/album
of the track, then this app does the job. It records a couple of
seconds of the song being played (make sure you hold your phone as
close to the speaker as you can), sends it to their server over your
mobile internet connection or Wi-fi - you'll need either of the two -
and gives you the song details. My experience with Shazam has always
Now the free version lets you identify up to five songs per month. If
you're willing to pay Rs. 213, then you can use the service as many
times as you want. I'd advise to stick to the free version, because,
come to think of it, would you really identify more than five songs per
month? Want to act like the ultra-cheapster? Along with Shazam, install
an app by the name 'SoundHound', it exactly has the same features and
performance of the previous app. It allows for five free tags per month
- so now you have 10 songs that you can freely tag using both these
apps in tandem.
A word about Task Manager apps in Android
Many people prefer having task managers that let you kill applications;
thereby freeing memory that improves performance. But this is a
debatable matter since the way Android handles multi-tasking isn't
quite exactly like running multiple software in PCs. There's a detailed
explanation by Lifehacker on why you shouldn't use task killer apps in
Android. I also have been skeptical about breaking too many boundaries
with Android, and thus would refrain from using such apps.