My 5 Essential Android Applications

My 5 Essential Android Applications

Summary: And, one Android program to avoid.

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There are lots of lists of the best Android applications. As the proud owner of a new Motorola Droid 2 and in-house tech. support for my wife's Droid Pro, though, I started thinking about what the essential applications are for a new Android phone user.

Everyone uses devices in different ways. What works for me, may not work for you. Here's where I'm coming from: I use my smartphone first as a phone and then as a way to receive information. I don't try to work on a phone--even the over-sized Droid X.

I'm also not interested in texting. For some reason, even though instant messaging (IM) is second-nature to me, texting just never worked for me. If, like many other people, though texting is your life, I recommend you give chompSMS a try.

My friends who use it tell me they like that it includes contact pictures, signatures, and blacklisting to keep creeps off their phone. What they really love though is that they can text for free with their other friends who are using chompSMS. Free texting is a win in anyone's book.

For my personal list though my first essential application is:

1. Essential Voice

I've liked Google Voice since the day it came out. Actually, since I was a beta tester, I liked it even before Google Voice officially launched. With it, you can control all your various phone numbers--work, home, mobile, you name it--from a single, central phone number. And, it adds most of the features of a private branch exchange (PBX)--call forwarding, voice mail, and even voice to text-to my phone.

The mobile version of Google Voice puts all that goodness into my smartphone. I can also keep my mobile number private by setting the app. to let me make all my calls from my Google Voice number. What I like most about it though is that I can send all my unanswered calls to all my numbers to my Google Voice Voicemail. Once there, I'm automatically get a voice to text summary of the call on e-mail. Since I hate to be interrupted by unexpected phone-calls that feature alone would make Google Voice a must on any of my phones.

2. Essential File Sharing

I hate it when I need to look at a document and I don't have a copy on me. I have files on my Mint 10 Linux-powered ThinkPad; I have files on my openSUSE-powered servers; some on my iPad, and others scattered hither and yon. You get the idea. That's where Dropbox comes in.

Dropbox, which works on Android, Linux, and pretty much every desktop and mobile operating system around gives you a master file directory in the cloud. The program automatically syncs my files so no matter where I go, if I have my phone I can still get to them when I need them.

Page 2: [Essential E-Book Readers, GPS, and An App to Avoid] »

Essential E-Book Readers, GPS, and An App to Avoid

3. Essential E-Book Readers

This is the one area where I don't have a clear favorite. My favorite e-reader program is Stanza. Unfortunately, you can't get it on Android. It's only available on Apple's iPhone family. With Stanza's parent company now owned by Amazon, it seems highly unlikely that Stanza will ever be ported to Android. Darn it.

That said, there are a wide variety of e-book readers for Android. In addition, Google has just released its own e-bookstore and application. Of all these e-book applications, I prefer Amazon Kindle and Aldiko.

4) Essential Music Players

If you're like me and you really like music and Android, you're probably wishing that Google would hurry up and get the Honeycomb music player out. In the meantime, I'm using TuneWiki. It's a good player that includes an interesting assortment of special features such as being able to display lyrics, social networking, and you can use it as the interface for popular online music services like Slacker, Last.fm, and SHOUTcast.

In addition, I also use the Pandora music service a lot. If, like me, you also like good, old-fashioned over-the-air radio, and some of the more esoteric Internet-only radio stations like those on SomaFM and Asheville FM, I also recommend TuneIn. It's a handy and enjoyable way to turn your Android phone into a universal radio. The '60s transistor radio lives on in Android. Who knew?

5. Essential Directions

In my car I have a Magellan Roadmate 1700 7" GPS. As GPS devices go, it's honking huge. It does not come out of my car. When I'm on foot, or I've just flown into a new city, I use my Droid 2 as an impromptu GPS.

If I'm just going to be cruising around a trade show convention center I'll use Google Maps for Mobile. If I wanted to really replace my GPS with an Android app., I'd bite the bullet and pay the money for CoPilot. For $4.99, with live traffic and weather updates, it's as good as many dedicated GPS devices and a heck of a lot cheaper.

Last, but not least,

The program everyone recommends that you shouldn't use

Hands up. Who reading this story, really know what Android is doing with its applications? OK, that's me, Android developers and a few other people. So why would so many of you think that you can do a better job of managing your phone with Advanced Task Killer then Android can do on its own? Unlike Windows, Android is not a system that needs constant junk removal and patching to keep in good, running shape.

For example, if you use Advanced Task Killer you'll see applications "running" that you think shouldn't be running, so you kill them. Think again. Android is designed to allow background applications to quietly sit so that they'll be ready to go with their last used state. Except for taking up a small amount of memory, they're not draining your battery or eating up system resources.

Trust me, you're much better off letting Android manage Android. If you can't resist trying to tweak your applications just use Android's built-in option: Settings>Apps>Manage Apps>Running Apps and pick the app you want to kill and run a Force Stop.

You really don't need, or for that matter, want Advanced Task Killer. I've seen numerous problems up to and including phones that needed to be powered off and on again to get back into working shape after over-enthusiastic task killing. Just Android manage Android and you'll be a lot happier.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Google, Hardware, Telcos

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23 comments
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  • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

    "Unlike Windows, Android is not a system that needs constant junk removal and patching to keep in good, running shape."

    You mean phones have infinite memory? And the devs created absolutely perfect code?

    Wow. Just wow. You guys will say anything to defend your favorite tech gadgets.
    CobraA1
    • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

      @CobraA1 Heh. Hardily my fave gadget. It's just that Android does a better job of memory management on its own than you, or anyone else, can with ATK. If there were a good system management program out there for Android I'd be happy to recommend it. I just haven't seen one.

      Steven
      anonymous
      • Android needs improvement

        @sjvn@...

        The graphics are ugly and the interface is still a bit unresponsive when compared to iPhone...hopefully these will get fixed in the next release. If not, I think Im going to switch to something else.

        Does Windows Phone require a task manager?
        otaddy
      • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

        @otaddy
        Not sure what you are running.
        I use a Nexus One and i4 side by side. Each has good and bad points. I like both and the gui's and functionality are pretty darn close.
        But here is the telling point; I use my i4 mostly for games and my Nexus for work/calls.
        rhonin
      • Why does this site mark even 1 edit as spam

        Pos website.
        slickjim
      • I have a better system management technique!!!

        @sjvn@... It is called a custom ROM! I have a custom 2.3 on my incredible and it never has more than 3 things running on startup... <br><br>My phone only has the apps I want installed so things like a twitter client, that I never use, are not using my valuable resources... Oh and Blockbuster isn't forced onto my phone along with demos of things like Madden.<br><br>In short, I recommend people take back their phones!
        slickjim
    • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

      @CobraA1
      Do a little research before you trod over someone else's opinion.
      I have a Nexus One, use all the programs listed in this article plus a lot more and Android has done a remarkable task of managing all this very well.
      While I have Advanced Task Killer, I;ve never needed to use it and removed it. If you correctly use the tools provided, programs like this are not really needed in Android.
      rhonin
      • Im using original droid with 2.2 load

        @zenwalker

        Perhaps since it is a first gen device, that explains the sluggishness. But still Amazon MP3 is not shown as a running process.

        I do hope they overhaul the GUI, iPhone and WinPhone look much better.
        otaddy
    • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

      @CobraA1
      Actually, if the program isn't active (but still "running") and resources get low, Android by default kills the lowest priority activities (oldest/ least used) to free up more. ATK is generally a waste, unless a program happens to be poorly designed enough to drain your batter power by running a background service- I haven't found one of these yet, so I'm not really sure what the fuss is about.
      dzdrazil
  • Why task killer?

    How about those applications like Amazon MP3 and a few others that came on my phone (original droid) that are always there even though I have never once used them and never will use them...but they are running anyway? It just bothers me.
    cornpie
    • Amazon MP3 not running on my phone

      @cornpie

      I cannot remove it, but it is not a running service so who cares. It's still not like the crap that comes on a windows machine.
      otaddy
  • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

    I use advanced task killer. I like it because it closes the many apps that open on their own(amazon mp3, stocks, news to name a few - I don't use them and have no way of getting rid of them.) along with ones that I opened then stopped using(games, camera, gallery, messages).
    I haven't had any problems with this application. The use of this application is far easier than the steps to use android's built in feature.<br><br>I appreciate this article but advising one not to use this application is just one person's opinion.
    jpac777@...
  • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

    One more thing...this application kills applications that are running(you can select the apps you want to kill and deselect those you still want running). It will do more than 1 and I find it quite tedious if I have to use android's built in feature and force stop each and every application I don't want running. I don't find this application stopping processes that are running, just applications.
    jpac777@...
  • Unlike Windows

    Well then Android was born a perfect child. Why do they keep updating the software? And how about those bugs they just found posted here: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/hardware/android-sms-bug-sends-your-messages-to-random-contacts/10796?tag=content;selector-blogs
    I like Android, but I do not understand why you guys do not waste an opportunity to trash Microsoft.
    gustown
    • yeah and how come no chrome browser on android

      @gustown

      Why do we have Android and Chrome software from Google. You would think Google would want a consistent platform considering they had no legacy baggage to deal with.

      If it's Microsoft, it gets criticized endlessly...and that's fine...but how come the same criticism isnt applied to everybody else.
      otaddy
      • Because

        MS wore out their welcome many years ago & Ballmer comes off like a Bond villain obsessed with world domination. I think people probably feel the same way about Oracle & Mr Ellison, Apple & Jobs could easily go the same way. Although Google are probably closest to "world domination" than the others, the guys who run it have managed not to seem like Mussolini on a bad day. Plus their embrace of FLOSS. Also, have you used Bing? Seems pretty poor to me
        gouchout
  • My Nexus S has 2.3, with enhanced app management...BUT

    I wouldn't tell people to avoid a task killer. I use TaskPanel to see WHAT is running, rather than killing anything.

    You should concentrate on informing users about the negative aspects of task killers, rather than telling people to avoid them altogether. This isn't "my first smartphone" (read: iPhone) land!
    Scrat
  • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

    The most essential app I use everyday is B-Folders. It keeps encrypted all my passwords, notes, contacts etc. and syncs seamlessly with a 2 desktops and a laptop without any clouds. For those that do not know B-Folders:
    http://jointlogic.com/b-folders/2/
    olafohman
  • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

    I'll recommend this article to android forum.
    John Titlow
  • RE: My 5 Essential Android Applications

    Myth: You need ATK or your battery will drain
    True: Android manages memory and you don't need ATK
    Fact: Without ATK, my battery drains faster. I have made serveral tests trying to control variables and I do get at least extra 3 hours with ATK.
    rchacin@...