My “Favorite” Apps for Android

I recently wrote a piece “5 Essential Apps for Newbies”. It actually got a bit of criticism for highlighting “boring” apps. This wasn’t the main problem though, because my friend @jmdc88 bought a shiny new Samsung GSII and asked me why she wasn’t liking Swype, and that made me realize that I might have missed a few things that newbies and just people in general who want to get more mileage out of their Android device might like. Remember these are “MY” favorite apps, so your mileage my vary.

1 ) Input Method: Swiftkey X – by far the best predictive input method for Android. Reads your Facebook, Twitter, and other text to find out your style, and makes the predictions super accurate. The keyboard layout is also amazing for both phones and tablets. My girlfriend has a blackberry and loves a physical keyboard but the more she uses Swiftkey the more she wants the nice white Samsung Galaxy SII.

2 ) Launcher: Go Launcer EX – This was in my other post, but the key that people need to understand is that the “launcher” is the window manager for Android. Changing this part of your system is essential to getting the “look and feel” you want from Android. Others to consider are “ADW Launcher” and “Launcher Pro”. Some niche ones are “Helix Launcher”, and there are some really funky alternative ones as well that convert your phone to the look of “windows phone”…. but why would you want to do that?

3 ) Personal Finance: Mint.com – No need to talk about this. If you don’t know about it. Get with the program. :)

4 ) Backups: Titanium Backup – Requires Root

5 ) Web Browser: Dolphin Browser HD – A great replacement for the stock browser, generally faster, a much better experience.

6 ) Multi-Network Real Time Chat: Whatsapp – keep in touch with your old bbm pals, or iPhone users.

7 ) Text Messaging: Handcent SMS (already described in old post)

8 ) Mail Client – K9 Mail – more efficient works with all mail providers

9 ) Work Mail/Calendaring (Exchange) – Moxier Mail

10 ) Automation – Locale – Let’s you set your phone up to do funky stuff depending on where it is and how it’s oriented. For instance I set my phone off to be totally silent with no vibration and to turn the screen off if I put it “face down” during a meeting.

11 ) Lockscreen Customization – Magic Locker – Just really sexy lockscreens, bu also adds things like the number of missed calls, the ability to jump from lockscreen directly to camera etc. Others to try: Widget Locker, GoLocker

12 ) Notes and Files - Evernote – if you ever dreamt of being able to have anything you recorded on your phone, or any document or password available anywhere. Get this. I don’t know how many times I was doing something with my lawyers related to my Condo, being able to instantly pull up different versions of the agreements on my phone. Gold.

13 ) QR Codes/Barcodes – Barcode Scanner – enjoy being a monkey for marketing people, but also be able to lookup information on products based on bar code

14 ) Translation – Google Translate – Want to hit on a girl in a different language in near real time? (I’m not a bachelor anymore what am I writing here?). You get the point.

15 ) Stuff – Google Sky MapGreat to show off your non-existent knowledge of the stars when trying to impress a girl. Hold the phone to the sky and pretend that it’s not goofy what you are doing.

16 ) Music – Spotify – Synching all my music for access any time, any place all done in real time. All for one all you can eat price. I use this to rock music in my car, go to the gym, and just generally have access to any music – anywhere.

17 ) Tracking Flights – FlightTrack - If you are a frequent flyer and hate frequent gate changes, or want to know about delays in real time-  use this. Seriously, just use it, it could change your life. Having information while your plane is overheating, knowing you’ll miss your connection and being able to pro-actively re-route your flight at the desk before the masses also figure it out? That could be valuable. It happened to me, it’s real, “just do it”.

This is a good start, I’ll update this post and add more soon. Happy tinkering for now!

6 Free Twitter Tools for the Social Media Warrior

Here are 6 great free twitter tools that I use. I’ve listed what they are for, and what I actually use them to do. I love tools that are “to the point” and get the job done (Fancy graphs help too).

1. Twitter Karma - Quick and dirty way to manage your followers, followees, and mutual follows. Authenticate, then click “wack”. As simple as that. Only one caveat, twitter karma says they don’t play well with internet explorer, but I’ve never had a problem.

How I use it: I use this to weed out people who were mutual follows out of courtesy but who have now become “spammy” and to add insult to injury on top of their spam have stopped following me.

http://dossy.org/twitter/karma/

2. FollowerWonk - Quick and dirty specialized twitter profile search.

How I use it: This is a great tool for finding people in a specific area on a specific topic. I personally use it to find people who are technology innovators in the Toronto area.

http://followerwonk.com/

3. Twitter Counter - Free follower analytics.

How I use it: Awesome graphing tool for your follower stats. Also good for doing comparisons. The graphs are really great for seeing followers who have dodgy follower behavior. Also, it’s a really great way for people new to Twitter to realize that “more tweets” does not mean “more followers”.

http://twittercounter.com

4. Reppler - Monitor your social media for questionable content, measure whether other people might perceive your content as vulgar or negative. Also alerts you when people post dodgy content or posts full of profanity to your social media profiles.

How I use it: I like to see the sentiment score for my posts, I also like to be alerted if someone posts a well meaning but profanity laden comment on my facebook.

http://www.reppler.com/

5. Buffer - Collect the best content and schedule your tweets, it’s that simple. Also has a whole bunch of browser extensions to help you add content to your schedule easily.

How I use it: I’ve been trying not to overload my twitter account with retweets and tweets of all the really cool stuff my followers and the people I follow post. Of course there is the obvious choice of not retweeting everything I see, but I also like to schedule content updates and space them out. I used to use TweetDeck for this, but Buffer is just way better for this task. Just drop the content into buffer, and buffer takes care of the auto-scheduling.

http://bufferapp.com/

6. Twit Cleaner - Analyze your twitter followers to weed out robots and other dodgy behavior.

How I use it: I followback out of mutual respect. When I do this, I often quickly glance at someone’s profile to make sure they are human. The problem with this approach is there are about a thousand ways that dodgy people are using robots and other services to make fake accounts look real. Twit Cleaner identifies these people for me. Some common things they highlight are – “nothing but links”, “repeating the same URLS”, “Uses Advertising Networks”, “Little Original Content”. These behaviors help me to decide whether you are an unfollow.

http://thetwitcleaner.com/

Do you use any free tools that I haven’t listed that are easy to use, have awesome value, or are just plain cool? Drop them into the comments so we can all benefit from your social media mojo!

5 Essential Android Apps for Newbs

Here are the 5 apps that I install on Android as soon as I get a new handset or install a new ROM (OS). They are essential from the perspective of making my phone more functional, and more importantly ‘extra’ sexy. Click on any of the images to enjoy high res versions of the visuals.

1 Go Launcher/Contacts - replaces your stock launcher, makes the interface cleaner, adds amazing desktop transition animations, fully themeable. Dock icons are fully customizeable, follow the theme and can be swiped left and right. Managing widgets on multiple desktops and adding desktops is a breeze. Highlights new apps when they are installed. Go Contacts is a dialer replacement, that is more functional, cleaner, and has some amazing side swipe animations. [Market Link 1] [Market Link 2] [Free]

App Drawer

Locked Homescreen

 

Downloadable Launcher Themes

 

Dialer Replacement with Incremental Search

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Go Weather - adds a wide variety of amazing looking fully themeable widgets for weather junkies. Once you load the application, you get detailed views, including hourly forecast and a temperature trend. [Market Link] [Free]

Main Screen

hourly forecast

 

Temperature Trends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downloadable Themes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Handcent SMS - replaces the stock Android or vendor modified SMS (text messaging) application. Makes it look sexy, work better, and will keep retrying your message sends when it can’t send a text (either due to airplane mode or lack of radio). [Market Link] [Free]

Hancent Contact Screen

Handcent Chat Window

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Onavo - tracks your wireless data useage, shows you your profile, alerts you when an application is hogging data. Also allows you to restrict apps to wifi, or totally stop them from using data. It also scans your apps when they are installed to make sure they are bandwidth friendly. [Market Link] [Free]

 

Onavo Home Screen

Data Usage Graphs

Restrict to wifi or no data use

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Plume – made by the makers of beautiful widgets, this application makes twitter sexy on Android phones. By far the slickest and easiest to use Twitter client. Also has amazing widgets. Screenshots speak for themselves. [Market Link] [Fremium]

 

Plume Main Window

Plume Create Tweet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Twitter Functions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These 5 apps should make a huge difference in how you feel about your user interface experience in Android. Let me know what your experience is, or if you have apps you think should be added to the list!