Switching to Android
October 4, 2011 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Switching to a Galaxy S2 from an iPhone 3GS. What do I need to know about Android and what are some great Android apps? Thanks!
posted by Aanidaani to Technology (17 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
My favorite Android apps:

Amazon Kindle
Lookout (security)
Skyfire (browser)
YouMail (voicemail)
posted by Telpethoron at 6:40 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

My iPhone-y friends are consistently impressed by Voice Actions. Just say to your phone "Send SMS to Jenny" or "Navigate to IKEA" and it does! "Note to self" will let you talk a long time and transcribe the text. It is really miraculous.

To call it up, just long-press the search key (magnifying glass).

I use my Droid constantly but mostly use the stock apps + Voice Actions.

CallTrack is another good one, it adds each call (and missed call) to your Google Calendar as an event.
posted by fake at 6:54 PM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Business Calendar
Chrome to Phone
Gesture Search
Seems like I've got all the Google apps on my phone
If not rooted, PDANET. If rooted, Barnacle WiFi Tether
Amazon app's installer
SlideIT keyboard (if your phone doesn't support Swype)
posted by Runes at 7:04 PM on October 4, 2011

ReadItLater (Great for saving long, complicated articles for later when I am at a big screen)
Economist (six free articles per week)
GMail (i.e. the stock GMail app. It is a fantastic experience to use and has full fidelity with the web client)
Movies by Flixster - does a surprisingly good job of showing you all the theaters near you and their offerings. Also does a good job of showing you when new films will be released
Google Maps and Navigation - Once again, the built in stock apps but they work fantastically.
posted by mmascolino at 7:29 PM on October 4, 2011

Go SMS Pro
SMS Launcher (awesome)
2x Battery
Alarm Clock +
Barcode Scanner
BBC News
Business Calendar
Chrome to Phone
Cool Reader
Dialer One
Elixer 2
Flick Note
K-9 Mail
MortPlayer Audiobook
My Data Manager
NextTTC (if you're in Toronto)
Theft Aware
Remote for iTunes
SMS Backup+
Spirit Level
Super Stickman Golf
Swype (beta.swype.com)
Voice Search
Wordsmith Free
World Weather Clock Widget
posted by dobbs at 7:51 PM on October 4, 2011

Oh, and congrats on upgrading. I moved from iPhone 3GS to HTC Sensation. I'm very happy I did. Note that if you wish to go with non-stock headphones, you want to make sure that they'll work with the Galaxy S II. Some iterations of the Galaxy S had proprietary headphones. Royal pain in the ass and the reason I went with HTC.
posted by dobbs at 7:55 PM on October 4, 2011

TuneIn Radio
Groove IP (google voice VoIP)
Android Assistant (info, multitool)
Elixr (system info and utilities)
Google Listen (podcasts)
Google Music Beta (cloud music - 20000 tracks!)
Google Plus (if only for the online photo sync)

I still haven't found a stopwatch/timer that I like, much less one that can put my phone to sleep after some number of minutes...
posted by unmake at 8:37 PM on October 4, 2011

Here are some of the apps that I installed on my Galaxy SII:


Google Maps
Google Sky Map
Google Translate
Dolphin Browser HD
Color Flashlight HD
Wifi Analyzer
Smooth Calendar
Camera ZOOM FX
Kitchen Timer
Tuner - gStrings Free


SwiftKey X Keyboard
iBird Pro
DoggCatcher Podcast Player
This American Life
PlayerPro Music Player
posted by nobodyyouknow at 9:00 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, I forgot Headset Droid.
posted by dobbs at 9:03 PM on October 4, 2011

I actually was searching for these a few weeks back myself, and found tons (well, lots) of lists when I Googled best android apps.
posted by davcoo at 5:45 AM on October 5, 2011

High-level advice about things that are different.

Play around with the different input and output methods. Your iPhone has a complete lock on how you enter data - on-screen keyboard or nothing. Android supports a variety of keyboards, different methods (see Swype) as well as speech-to-text. It also supports text-to-speech. This is an area that Android does better than pricey computers.

Android comes with a free voice recognition option - try it out for a week, it revolutionized the way I use my phone and now I'm frustrated that I can't do the same thing on my computer.

Similarly, look into apps that will read things aloud. Talkadroid has a free version that will let you paste text into it to be read aloud. The reading aloud is excellent, and I eventually paid a buck for Read2Me which will download entire Metafilter threads and speak them to me. Awesome!

App recommendations:

Adobe Connect - on the off chance that you use Connect on the web, this is an awesome mobile version.
Google Docs - amazing web / mobile integration
Gmail - Hard to express exactly how great the integration is. Silky smooth.
Kayak - great flight / hotel / car rental search. Almost as good as their website.
Pageonce.com (very similar to Mint)
PocketCloud - if you use RDP, this is great.
Tango - free video calling to Android and iPhones.
Swype - you'll never type again.
Google Calendar - how did I ever manage my life without it?
Tracks (by Google) - Use your GPS to track runs, hikes, drives, canoeing, anything. Doesn't do well with multi-hour trips, but is an awesome way to
RunKeeper - Track runs, get updates spoken to you so you don't have to read the phone while running, share runs and times on Facebook. Very cool.

BeyondPod - excellent podcast / RSS / video podcast manager
SVOX TTS - You have to buy the voices for $3, but it's worth it. They sound so much better than stock and you can control pitch, speed, etc.
Talkadroid & Read2Me - 2 apps, do very similar things - read text and web pages aloud. Very nice for car rides.
Touchdown - This one is really pricey ($20), but if you use an Exchange email account this is the best Exchange integration I've ever seen. It'll read emails aloud, and if the Exchange administrator orders a remote wipe Touchdown will only wipe its data, not the whole device.
posted by Tehhund at 6:30 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I write a lot, so the Evernote app is totally useful. The Evernote Android app can control the phone's camera, so every photo you take with the app is automatically synced to Evernote, including GPS position info.

Also, the speech-to-text is downright magical. We just got HTC Evos this weekend, and Wifey wanted me to find an app that will let her to talk into her phone and have it save it as text. Turns out, thanks to Android itself, every app has speech-to-text; the microphone button on the onscreen keyboard turns it on whenever you want to use it. It's also surprisingly accurate; it doesn't do punctuation well, but detecting words is eerily correct. Combined with Evernote, you can literally dictate to yourself stuff that you can then access from your computer at home, without sending/copying/pasting/etc anything -- it's just there and ready to go. I've used speech-to-text for sms messaging, because I'm clumsy with the touchscreen keyboard.

Also: Dolphin Browser has a more desktoppy-feel for web browsing. The other thing I went in search of was a no-nonsense alarm clock; I'm on the road a lot and don't always trust hotel clocks.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:31 AM on October 5, 2011

Response by poster: Great suggestions guys. Thanks for all the advice. Can't wait to get my new phone!
posted by Aanidaani at 8:59 AM on October 5, 2011

Lots of good suggestions. I usually rely on a a site like Lifehacker to give good recommendations as well. I'd like to offer a list of absolute essential utilities, which I would recommend you get without regard to whatever you'll be using your phone for:

JuiceDefender: can shut down some power-hungry services when your battery's low.
Lookout: Antivirus, backup, and find the lost device. There are variations on all of these, but it's one (free) app that does all of those things.
ASTRO: You'll only need it rarely, but it's a file explorer.
Task Manager: There are numerous apps that fit this bill (pick a free one by comments and rating) , but you'll want a way to kill off tasks. Use this conservatively; you might think you're saving power by killing off stuff you don't use, but many things will restart of their own accord, using power to start, and not when idle. Kill things when they're failing or things slow down.
Alternate Browser: Opera Mini, Firefox, Skyfire, Dolphin, all good. The basic browser is basic. I like Opera Mini.
Wi-Fi Manager: Wi-Fi is a great thing when available, for the least reason that it'll save power vs. a poor 3G connection you might have indoors. It's also handy for scanning for local hotspots in general.

Google's galaxy of Apps will also serve you well.

Charge it every day; your battery will last you all day, but not much more, especially if you're streaming music or playing/streaming video.

You also have many keyboards, and with them, typing styles to choose from. I love Swype, but YMMV. Try this article which features a few keyboards for each of several typing styles.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:38 AM on October 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Gentle Alarm is my favorite way to wake up; a great buy.
posted by anadem at 3:01 PM on October 5, 2011

Sunburnt: "Charge it every day; your battery will last you all day"

Presumably, your S2 has better battery life than my Droid Incredible, but the absolute BEST thing I've done in ages was to buy an extra battery and a standalone charger for my phone.

Now, I don't need to smack my forehead in the morning and shout "Shit! I forgot to plug the phone in last night!" I just swap the battery in the phone with the one in the charger, and I'm good to go. Also, if you're going someplace where you plan to use the phone a lot and won't have access to a plug, it's great to have a spare battery in your pocket.

I went with cheap chinese knockoffs from Amazon for both the battery and charger. The battery's not *great* and I don't anticipate it lasting me much longer than a year, but hey...for $5, I'm not complaining.

Also, be warned that JuiceDefender and Task Killers are all controversial. Recent versions of the Android OS are generally very good about killing off idle/rogue tasks. My Launcher (Go Launcher) has a function buried in it that lets you kill off rouge tasks once in the blue moon when you really need to kill an app. Really, this is not something you need to worry about.

Also, JuiceDefender had a number of behaviors that I decidedly didn't like, and restricted the usefulness of my phone. There's also been some argument that many of the settings don't actually help battery life. (Some of these *are* good for stretching that last 10% of your battery when it's low, but I decided to pass). On the flipside, if you want to go down the uber-nerd route, you can play around with your phone's CPU frequency/voltage regulation settings, and I have heard of many users squeezing some extra battery life out that way. If you're not having problems, though, I wouldn't bother with any of this.

(Oh, and I suspect that LookOut Mobile Security is a bunch of Woo Woo. I uninstalled it MONTHS ago, and still get weekly email messages from LookOut stating that everything is A-OK.)

Otherwise, a lot of great apps in here. I regularly use (in no real order):
GoSMS (Great, fast SMS app)
Runkeeper (Awesome run/bike/walk-tracking app.)
Impetus (For doing timed workouts and crossfit routines)
Flick Note (SimpleNote client)
Google Maps/Navigation (makes android worth it right there alone)
Google Music (and sometimes Amazon MP3)
Amazon.Com's shopping app
Congress (nerdy, but great)
Go Contacts/Dialer (if you don't like your phone's stock contacts/dialer app)
Scoutmob/Livingsocial/Groupon Instant Deals (depending on your city)
Spotcycle/DC Metro Transit (again, region-specific, but great if you're a transit user)
posted by schmod at 8:55 AM on October 6, 2011

I made this exact transition about a month ago, and am loving the experience so far.
Rooting your phone is very quick & easy, and I would recommend it because you can then install AdFree on your phone, which will do exactly what it says on the tin.

You can then install aDownloader, which is a bitorrent app that works perfectly. Use ES File Explorer to move the files about on your device - move ebooks into your kindle folder, for example...
You could also install Fontomizer, which lets you change the system fonts - i like the Ubuntu one a lot.

If you dont root, there are still loads of other options. The "GO" suite of products are very good, a few have been mentioned already, but i am a big fan of the dialer and the Messaging apps.

It took me a bit to get a hang of how the Launcher works with android phones. Basically the phone comes with a default launcher, which is fine, but there are several others which look prettier & can be customised more. I have tried pretty much all of them and the GO Launcher is the one i keep going back to. Messing about with them all is fun though.

Lastly, while the stock browser is ok, i really like Dolphin Browser.

Oh, and the default gallery for your photo images kind of sucks in my opinion, QuickPic is an excellent alternative.
posted by kev23f at 3:51 AM on October 7, 2011

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