Pimp My Android
May 13, 2010 6:32 PM   Subscribe

Generic question about what cool apps I should put on my new Android phone? Help me parse the techblog noise and get to the meat and find the ultimate performance- and life-enhancing applications for my phone.

I've finally caved, rid myself of my Treo, and bought a 2ndhand G1. I'm happy with it. I'm loving having wifi, GPS, and all that good stuff.

But, I've browsed through Market, and read a million "Top Ten" lists of cool software to throw onboard, and I'm just a little overwhelmed. I know Dolphin is the be all and end all of browsers, I've got meebo for my messaging, and I know about cyanogen, but it's a little intimidating...I figure I'll hold off on that until I get a little more familiar with the system.

What are the killer apps that you use on your Android? What are the resources you watch to learn about new technologies and ideas with it?

For what it's worth, I'm a translator in China, which means I don't have access to paid Market stuff yet, and dictionaries and document editing are very important to me.
posted by saysthis to Computers & Internet (17 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
ZXing barcode scanner
Google Listen
Google Shopper
posted by pants tent at 7:01 PM on May 13, 2010

You might be interested in App Aware. It is a unique app that gives you a glimpse into what's popular at any given moment by showing you what is being installed from the market over the last hour, day, week, etc. You can also see what apps are being installed in your area, so you might be able to find something unique that you can utilize where you are.

For what it's worth, I like browsing through reviews on sites like Android and Me. They seem to have a good grasp on what quality apps are popular in the market.
posted by bristolcat at 7:02 PM on May 13, 2010

You are going to have a little bit of problem in that the G1 has an older version of Android. People have gotten newer versions of the OS onto the G1 but I am not aware of any official channels for that. With that said, some of the apps I really like are Unit Conversion for well, unit conversion. I like AK Notepad for note taking. In the fun and easy to pick up game space I like Frozen Bubbles and Abduction!

Lastly, in the, category of I love these things but who knows if they work in mainland China: Seesmic for Twitter and NPR News.

As for keeping up with things, I run a small Android App Review blog that I'll link to in my profile.
posted by mmascolino at 7:20 PM on May 13, 2010

The barcode scanner is pretty awesome... It does location based price-comparisons, which was useful to us the other week when we were buying a new Netbook.

The Evernote app is great. Android's music player is pretty bad, so I've been using something called "Cubed".

HTC Sense's native browser (or is it the default Android browser) is pretty bad, so I use Dolphin.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:25 PM on May 13, 2010

Opera, OpenHome, Seesmic (although there's an 'official' app now), Places, A World of Photos, Cribbage, Dropbox, Frozen Bubble, Feedr, Jewels, Last.fm, MasterMind, MixZing (music player - top notch), OpenSudoku, Pandora, Reddit is Fun, RobotView, Pure Grid Calendar, Super Yahtzee, WikiDroid, Wikilin, TivoRemote, Zilch Free, Google Sky Map, Google Goggles, ES File Explorer, DopeWars, AK Notepad.

Also, be sure to take some time to get to know 'widgets'. Especially Beautiful Home.
posted by unixrat at 7:40 PM on May 13, 2010

You need Advanced Task Killer (ATK) - a lot of Android apps don't have an "exit" function...so you end up with a lot of apps running and memory/battery wasted.

I have a nice little widget on my Droid that lets me easily turn on/off bluetooth, wifi, GPS, and syncing, and also lets me adjust brightness. I keep anything un-needed off most of the time to save the battery.
posted by radioamy at 8:00 PM on May 13, 2010

I use hootsuite lite and astrid. I've downloaded many other apps to my Droid phone, but those are the ones I use most.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:40 PM on May 13, 2010

People ask this question all the time.
posted by halogen at 9:05 PM on May 13, 2010

Android Forums is pretty useful.

Google Sky Map is incredible (depending on the performance of your phone's accelerometer).

Ringdroid is a free app that allows you to make custom ringtones from MP3s stored in your phone.

Taskiller was the first app I installed - it allows you to see what processes are running on your phone (as well as available memory) and then kill them to help increase performance.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:07 PM on May 13, 2010

Blatant self-promotion, but we just released Mint for Android last monday, and it's already the top downloaded and highest rated personal finance management app on the Android Market.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 10:49 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

That said, the barcode scanner is the greatest thing you will ever install.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 10:49 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like EvenTrend for self-tracking.
Astro for file management.
3banana and Astrid for notes and tasks.
My Tracks for seeing how far I've driven or walked.
Opera Mini for browsing the web.
Thinking Space for mind mapping.
I use Inventory to keep track of the books that I have, and StudyDroid for flashcards when I need to learn something.
I use Google Voice for my messages.
I really like the Pure Calendar widget and would recommend buying it.
Advanced Task Killer is ok, but since I've learned how to use the phone, I don't bother with it anymore.
posted by Lord Force Crater at 5:25 AM on May 14, 2010

Replica Island is a fun platformer game I used to play on my G1, works even better on Nexus One.

What The Doodle is a pictionary-like game that is much easier to play with the G1's keyboard than the on-screen keyboard the Nexus one uses. There is a free demo you should be able to get.

Air Control has an ad supported version you should be able to play.

Aldiko is how I read ebooks.
posted by jrishel at 6:00 AM on May 14, 2010

Check out:

New Scientist (just came out)
3Banana note
Paper Toss (same as on the iPhone)

All very cool and useful. Also try going to this website

It's easier to navigate the different categories of Android apps. There are more Android apps all the time. Have fun checking them out.
posted by AngryLlama at 7:37 AM on May 14, 2010

Shazam is a cool program that can identify what music is currently playing by listening through your phone's microphone. Not sure how useful it'd be in China. I've had mixed success with non-US music.

Last.fm and Pandora are awesome for all your customized streaming radio needs.

Sorry, I don't know much about Chinese dictionaries for Android. I use Aedict for Japanese, FWIW.
posted by Vorteks at 8:36 AM on May 14, 2010

You don't need a task killer app. The whole point of the Android architecture is that apps are supposed to hang around until the OS needs their resources. The OS is aggressive about programs when it needs to. Just because a program is still "running" doesn't mean it is even using clock cycles. It could just be sitting around entirely idle waiting to be used again. If you kill it, you lose out on the ability to get back to it again quickly. Mainly you're wasting your own clock cycles worrying about what's running or not - that's what the OS is supposed to do.

This combined with the most recently run apps list (it's not running apps, just most recently run) when you hold down "home" are the most poorly documented aspects of Android. It's a shame an entire category of apps sprung up around basic confusion.

As for apps, the most life changing for me was Google Maps Navigation. From the market, I recommend xScope (I liked it better than Dolphin), Google Voice, Google Goggles, Amazon, Yelp, Barcode Scanner, Google Shopper, Pandora, Listen, Facebook, Skype, Rhapsody, SportyPal.

The game Drop 7 is lots of fun, too.
posted by ydant at 9:25 AM on May 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was gonna say exactly what ydant said. You don't "need" a task killer, given that Android OS is very smart about killing inactive apps when it needs to free up memory. If you use Advanced Task Killer, pay attention to the colour coding of each "running" app. You'll notice that almost all of them are inactive. A better way to think of these apps is that they're "cached" rather than "running", so that re-opening them is faster.

The only time when it might come in handy is when you have a buggy, runaway background process. At which point you're better off rebooting the damn thing, anyway.
posted by randomstriker at 11:22 AM on May 14, 2010

« Older Mellow songs sung in Spanish?   |   Is "Web design degree" still an oxymoron? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.