Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Favourite Android Apps

I was recently asked for a list of the Android apps I use. I figured, why not do it as a blog post? So here, for anyone who's interested, is my list of favourite Android apps, compiled after about four months of Nexus One ownership. These are the apps that assist me, inform me, delight me, and keep bringing me back, day after day.

Note that I'm using the latest version of Android (FroYo, or 2.2). Some of these apps may not run on older versions. You won't even see unsupported apps when you search in the Android Market.


Swype is an amazing replacement for the default Android virtual keyboard that makes typing easy and fast! The idea is that you can quickly swipe your finger around over the keys, and it traces the shape to guess what word you wanted. It works very well, and keeping your finger on the screen for each whole word makes it possible to type while walking or riding in a moving vehicle (as a passenger, of course). Unfortunately, it's not in the Android Market yet, but you can sign up for the beta. It will take some time before you're invited to join, so register now.


With FourSquare, you can share your location with friends, find out who else is wherever you are, and earn mayorships and badges in the process. Who cares about privacy, anyway? I'm going for the Super Mayor badge!

Chrome to Phone

This was a tech demo for FroYo's push messaging this year at Google IO. But, it's also a super handy little app that I use all the time. With Chrome to Phone, you can send Web pages from Chrome or Firefox on your desktop or laptop directly to your phone. Google Maps links open directly in the Maps app, and other pages are opened in the browser. Imagine this: You receive an e-mail on your desktop with the address of an event you'd like to attend. Find it on Google Maps, click a toolbar button, and the address is pushed to your phone, opening right in Maps automatically. With just two presses on your phone, you can get turn-by-turn directions in Navigation.

This should be the stuff of ads, but for some reason I can't even begin to understand, Google never even bothered to put this app in the Market. So, you'll have to download it from its Google Code site. The Chrome extension is available from the same place. You can get the Firefox extension, called Send to Phone, from the Firefox Add-ons site.


The official Twitter app was released just a couple of months ago into an already crowded field of clients for the popular service. It distinguishes itself with its beautiful, playful UI and its widgets, which, in my opinion, are the best available by far. It doesn't have all of the advanced features that some others do, most notably multiple account support. Power users may need to look elsewhere (for them, I'd recommend Seesmic).

One caveat: I had a significant problem with the official Twitter app around the time I upgraded to FroYo, though I'm not certain whether or not the upgrade was the cause. Automatic refresh stopped working, so tweets in the app and the widget wouldn't update unless I manually hit the refresh button. That was a major pain, and the lack of response from Twitter on the issue was disappointing. In the end, just clearing data for the app (in Settings > Applications > Manage applications) resolved the problem.


Shazam identifies the music you hear. Just hold up your phone and it records a snippet, analyzes it, and it tells you what song it is. Seriously, how cool is that?

Places Directory

Places Directory lists nearby places in categories like Restaurants, Bars, Shopping, Movie Theaters, and Hotels. See photos, reviews (from multiple sources), and location/contact information. There are certainly other popular apps of this sort out there (notably Yelp), but I prefer Places Directory for its clean UI and its slick integration (Dial, Map, Share, and Add to Contacts).

3G Watchdog and APNdroid

If you have a limited data plan, 3G Watchdog will help you to avoid going over your quota. It can even use APNdroid to automatically shut data off when you've used too much. I said a whole lot more about these apps previously.

My Tracks

My Tracks uses GPS to record your hiking, cycling, running, and climbing trips. It plots your tracks and reports stats including time, speed, distance, and elevation. You can even share your tracks on Google My Maps and upload them to Google Spreadsheets.

Barcode Scanner

Barcode Scanner photographs and decodes barcodes and QR codes. It can automatically open links in the browser, add contacts and calendar events, and configure wi-fi settings based on the information encoded in a QR code. A great way to exchange information with the outside world.

Squeeze Commander

If you have a Logitech Squeezebox, you'll love Squeeze Commander, the best Squeezebox remote control app out there. It fully controls your Squeezebox server, plays Internet radio, and is packed with delightful surprises, like volume control via your phone's volume buttons and auto-mute, pause or volume down on incoming calls. It can even download songs from your Squeezebox server to your phone.

Note: this is a paid app, costing €2.99 and well worth every penny.

ES File Explorer

Yup, there's really a file system in your phone. You can use EStrongs File Explorer to see and manage the files on your SD card and, if you really feel the urge, in your phone's internal memory. You can also transfer files with remote systems via SMB, FTP, and Bluetooth.

Astro is another popular file manager, but I do find EStrongs' UI to be a little bit cleaner and more friendly.


Dropbox is a service that automatically synchronizes files across multiple computers and even lets you share folders with other users or the Web at large. The Dropbox app lets you download files from your Dropbox to your phone and upload files to be synchronized across your computers.


Movies provides listings, trailers and Rotten Tomatoes ratings, all courtesy of Flixster. Never wonder what to see again.

Google Earth

Google Earth lets you explore the globe in 3D, right on your phone. Just wow.


NewsRob is an RSS/Atom feed reader that syncs with Google Reader. Perfect for keeping up with your daily reading while on the go. It offers really nice synchronization features, including the option to only sync while on wi-fi.


TripIt allows you to easily access travel plans. You just forward your itineraries TripIt, and it creates trip plans, including flight and hotel information, maps, and weather forecasts. You can that access all that information, and other people's trips that they've shared with you, via the app.

OI Shopping List

OI Shopping List is, unsurprisingly, a simple shopping list app. It supports multiple lists, as well as quantities, prices, and tags on items. You can remove crossed out items from the view by shaking the phone, and then later pick them again to add to your next list.

AK Notepad

AK Notepad is a really simple notepad app. You can set reminders on notes, share them, and sync them with


URLy is a simple but handy URL shortening app. It supports 38 URL shortening services, including,, and, and integrates nicely for easy use from any other application.


Wikidroid provides friendly formatting of Wikipedia content for your phone.

Honourable Mentions

The following five apps sound like great ideas, but in all honesty, I haven't had much opportunity to use them yet. Still, I think they're worth mentioning.

Google Sky Map

Google Sky Map is an augmented reality app that displays the planets, stars, and constellations as you point your phone around the night sky.

Carrr Matey

Carrr Matey is a parking app that helps you keep track of where you've parked and, optionally, how much time is left on the meter. It seems like a good idea, especially for really big lots.

Open Spot

Open Spot is another parking-related app, but to help you find parking spots in the first place. As you leave a spot, you use the app to report it (you can also report spots that you just happen to notice are empty). Then, when you need a spot, you can search for open spots that others have reported.

I love the idea of Android users banding together to help each other. Who knows if it will actually work, though!


Bump lets you exchange contact information, photos, and apps with others just by bumping your phones together. This is a cross-platform app, allowing you to share with both Android and iPhone users.

Key Ring Reward Cards

Key Ring creates a digital copy of all your customer loyalty and membership cards on your phone. You can scan the barcodes from your cards, or just enter the numbers manually. When you retrieve a card, the barcode is displayed so that it can be scanned right off the screen. This seems like a nice way to lighten your wallet, but to be honest, I haven't had the guts to ask anyone to scan my phone yet.

Without question, there are huge numbers of fun and useful apps available for Android. I've listed my faves, but I'm sure there are some great ones I haven't discovered yet. Did I miss a great app? If so, please let me know!

Finally, don't forget to support Android developers. If you can afford it, I think it's a great idea to show your appreciation for apps you like by buying or donating. It's the best way to ensure a steady stream of great apps to come!

No comments: