Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Favorite Android Apps – Part 1: Utilities

Technology Recommendations

You may have read some of my posts reviewing the Motorola CLIQ (see Related Posts section at the end of this article).  Since my CLIQ purchase in December of 2009, I’ve tried numerous applications on it.  As many have expounded, this is where the power of Smartphone really shines. 

In this and following posts I won’t so much as review as list some of my favorite applications on Android and briefly describe why I like them.  Here is the debut list:

Utilities

  • AppBrain: One of the biggest challenges with finding any applications for Android is that there’s no web interface to the Android Market that allows you to read through all available apps and select items to downloaded to your phone.  That is, until now. 

    AppBrain delivers on this need…somewhat.  You can install the application on your phone, then either use it to search the Android Market or, better yet, go to the app’s website and search the market, read reviews, and select which apps to install.  The “somewhat” portion is that AppBrain on your phone can start downloading the applications, but you still have to press the approval buttons for each application you want to install.  This is a minor annoyance if you’re installing one app, but what if you have 20! Not so nice.  Nevertheless, this is a substantial improvement over the status quo. 
  • Battery Widget: The CLIQ displays the battery status well enough at the top of the screen, but it doesn’t show a percentage of any sort, unless you’re charging it, and then only on the Home screen after the screen has turned off and you press a button to wake it up.  This widget provides you with an icon on your Home screen to immediately see the percentage.  If you tap the icon, you also get the option to turn on/off the Display, Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth.  I love and use this tool multiple times daily to save battery life and gauge when I need to charge the phone again.  Keep in mind, this is not an app, but just a widget to be placed on the Home screen.
  • Brightness Level: You can certainly dig through the phone’s Settings to find the brightness level, but what if you want to change it on the fly through a widget on your Home screen?  This app delivers just that.  You can place a widget on your Home screen to both display the current brightness level and change it with one touch of the icon.
  • Bubble: Mostly amusing, Bubble makes your phone into a leveling tool.  So, if you happen to need a level to hang your picture or straighten it after a mild earthquake or human-generated quakes (from wrestling with your buddy, for example), just pull out your phone, run this app, place it on the site, top or bottom of your picture frame and shift the frame accordingly.
  • FlashLight: I looked for this app early on when I bought the phone.  I missed the built-in flashlight feature on my Blackberry Pearl Flip.  On the Blackberry, I used the video camera light as a flashlight.  That’s not possible on the CLIQ, given that it has no flash or camera light.  So, I purchased this app which displays a white screen and p0laces the phone brightness to its maximum level.  It’s not ideal, but partially effective.  you can also have fun with it and choose different background colors, for those nights you need to set the mood or when you need a night light.  Just remember to keep your phone plugged in so that your battery doesn’t run out!
  • Math Alarm: Do you have a tendency to sleep through your alarm or turn it off by accident (intentionally)?  This alarm solves the problem, or rather forces you to solve one!  You have the option to setup multiple alarms, each requiring you to solve a math problem before you can shut it off.  It’s a simple and very effective idea to help you focus during those groggy early morning (or late night) hours.
  • Metal Detector: I know what you’re thinking.  Who needs a metal detector aside from TSA or airport personnel?  I know I don’t, but I just found this utility amusing and a fun toy to show off a feature of the phone.
  • Opera Mini:  The standard browser on my CLIQ works fine, but I admit that the Opera Mini feels faster.  I haven’t done any actual benchmarking, tough.  I also like the page slide feature for transitioning to the next loaded page.  I only wish there was a way to setup the Mini as the default browser.  No luck there…yet!
  • Trapster: I’m no speed demon when it comes to driving.  Well, compared to some I am, but I often drive at the speed limit.  I just like getting up to the speed limit as fast as I can. 

    To that end, I may still get caught in speed traps.  I’ve been lucky enough to avoid them so far without a radar detector of any sort.  Nevertheless, I found the idea of having a community-reported speed trap map useful, especially for long trips out of Southern California.  This app delivers just that…with voice alerts as you get close to a trap!
  • UltraChron: As the name implies, this is a chronometer for your phone.  It has a digital output with voice announcements for elapsed time.  You’re also able to setup countdowns.  I’ve tried other apps similar to this, but found the extra few dollars you pay for this app is well worth the stability and feature set it provides.

I’ll continue to add posts to this series each week.  Keep coming back for more.

What Do You Think?

Do You have any favorite apps, whether on Android, iPhone, Blackberry or Symbian device?  Why don’t you share them with us below under the Comments section?

Related Articles

Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 1
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 2
How I almost Dumped the CLIQ: Review – Part 3
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 4
Motorola CLIQ Review – Part 5