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2:27 PMAndroid Applications
Some Awesome Android Applications
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 would last.
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 been good.
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.
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