I always feared Android phones would be all hype and overrated, mainly because it was said that the Android platform itself was seemingly fragmented as there were several versions of it running on various phones, therefore applications did not always run as well as they should on all phones. Android itself was a tad immature compared to the long proven reliability and standardized interfaces of the Symbian-powered, mostly Nokia phones. But over the years, outdated platforms have disappeared as manufacturers catch up.
I’d been a Nokia stalwart all the while but finally relented and migrated to an Android phone about 3 weeks ago, like many of the legions of fast-growing Android fans. Thought I would hang on to my trusty Nokia 5530 a little while longer but I guess the temptation of embracing that green little robot was too great. Customisation is the name of the game in technology these days after all. My Nokia did a lot of things for me, and I particularly rely a lot on it when I am travelling. After unlocking it with a simple hack to grant me full capability access, I’d loaded it with tonnes of applications or ‘apps’ as they are commonly called. When I bought my ‘el cheapo’ Chinese made, great bang-for-the-buck, Android 2.2 powered ZTE Blade, I was hoping it will outdo my Nokia in terms of usability given the hundreds of thousands of Android apps in the ‘Android Market’. Well, iPhone has more apps, but hey I never really pulled for the iPhone camp for some reason, perhaps because I suppose I like supporting underdogs more! After having the phone for 3 weeks now, I must admit that Android has not disappointed, and I am pretty pleased to learn it has lived up to its hype.
I like to keep my apps count to the minimum. I mainly instal apps that are useful in organising my life or for when I travel. If you are an Android newbie and feel overwhelmed by the massive Android market, here is a short list of some great Android apps (I have installed them all) if you happen to be well, an absolute minimalist like me who appreciates powerful, easy to use, quality apps. The bad news is that some apps are not free and the better apps or those with advanced features often requires one to ‘root’ the phone, meaning performing a simple ‘hack’ to grant full, ‘super- user’ capability to the phone such that you may install any app or other modified phone firmware with unrestricted access. Rooting could also void your phone’s warranty, so it may not be a good idea to root your phone right out of the box before ensuring it is free of hardware or software faults. Better to give your phone a run for a few weeks first before rooting it, just to be on the safe side. Giving details here is unnecessary as there are a zillion pages on Android apps, installing customized Android firmware and rooting on Google.
Utilities:(important as Android devices are memory and battery hungry)
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Set CPU – vary CPU clock rate and manage battery optimization using customizable profiles
Advanced Task Killer Pro – autokill running background apps
Easy SpeedUp – kill running background apps in one click
Autorun Manager – prevents some apps from auto-starting
AutoKIller Memory Optimizer – kill apps when memory reaches preset levels
Blade Buddy Pro – optimization tweaks to speed phone
Spare Parts Plus – more phone optimization options
App Installer – for listing app and installing them
Power Control Plus – extra functions and toggle buttons to enable/disable airplane mode, lock screen, Bluetooth and much more in one click
Battery Widget – battery level indicator in percentage and shortcut to display control, Bluetooth, etc.
Astro File Manager – file explorer
Root Explorer – like Astro, with access to phone system, files also
Launcher Pro- enhances the stock Android home screen and adds more functionality
SlideIt – One of the first apps I installed.Great keyboard, similar to the more well-known Swype. I prefer SlideIT for its superior speed and predictive accuracy.
PowerAmp – absolute must-have for audiophiles, widely regarded as the best Android music player currently. Sound is impressive with its 10-band equalizer with separate bass/treble controls
Player Pro (with optional DSP equalizer plugin) – alternative to PowerAmp
Rock Player – supports most popular video formats, including MKV and avi
Document Readers or Editors:
Quickoffice Pro – for viewing and editing MS Office documents
RepliGo Reader – brilliant for viewing and editing PDF files. Free!
Cool Reader – eBook reader supporting most formats like Fb2, ePub, PDB, etc
Easy Money – expense manager
Checkmark ToDoList – shopping, todo and general list manager
CheckIt Off – daily task and to-do manager
Jorte – calendar app
Launcher Pro’s built-in calendar – comes with a brilliant scrollable widget too, integrate with Google Calendar
GPS and Location:
GPS Essentials – for handy info on nearby satellites and other useful GPS tools, comes with a nifty compass too
Google Maps – the most well-known one. It is usually pre-loaded with Android
NDrive – simple navigation that may not rival Google Maps but can be used offline. Country maps are not free though.
Opera Mini – my all-time favorite for its speed and user-friendly interface
UC Browser – good, well-made, functional browser
Handcent SMS – a much better SMS app than the stock Android’s with features like assigning individual SMS tones to contacts, SMS scheduling and many more
Go SMS – alternative to Handcent
Concise English Oxford Dictionary – quick reference for English Language enthusiasts and a handy companion for eBook reading
XE Currency – free mobile version of a great currency converter for travelling
ConvertPad – conversion utility covering many categories, from length and weight to temperature, power and torque
Many people download apps directly from the in-built Android Market app on the phone. I prefer to download the relevant ‘.apk’ file to my PC, transfer it over to the phone, just run the file and instal. That way I can research and review apps better before installing. No way is the list above the best. Functions can be the same across similar applications but user-interface and personal preference differ. I love simplicity and speed, but go with what you want and need.
Android is easy enough to get a hang off. I didn’t have to morph into a geek since I got my phone. The platform is also constantly evolving and it can only get better with time.