Android Apps Mini Review


You can probably find thousands of “My Android Apps List” postings out there, here’s mine (standard built-in apps excluded):


HTC IME Keyboard – Beats Swype which i was using initially. Tapping on each letter still gives a better chance of recognizing the letter intended (any error is limited to the alphabets surrounding the one typed) compared to swiping (the path of the swipe could include a long string of unrelated characters).

Google Pinyin Keyboard – The de-facto keyboard for Chinese characters entry. Includes text prediction for English word entry.

APN OnOff – Widget for quickly toggling data on or off. Just tap on the widget to toggle, can’t get any easier than that.

Handcent SMS – Lots of debate on which is the best SMS app. Didn’t try any other but this one just works for me. Most important feature is probably the SMS pop-up and quick reply. Threaded view of messages work fine too, though it is not so much a concern for me how the messages are presented.

Advanced Task Killer – Again, there are lots of debate on whether task killer apps are needed for Android. My take is, probably. Even if it does not help in conserving battery life, at least it helps to conserve memory. Also, you may notice that some apps gets launched on their own accord, which gives me a discomforting feeling. I would try to uninstall these apps if i can help it, otherwise, at least get them killed off automatically when they start running without my knowledge. I have tried Task Manager before using ATK, and the way it uses notification to inform you on tasks killed is simply annoying (you could turn this notification off, but then you don’t get notified at all). ATK simply pops up a quick message to tell you it’s killed some apps, and this works even when you’re in the middle of playing games, without disrupting what you are doing. Basically, you could say ATK is install-and-forget-it, which is what most background utility software should be like.

Astro/ES File Explorer – Most first-time Android users would wonder, where’s the file browser/manager? It’s probably included as one of the built-in apps that comes with your phone, but you can probably just forget about it. Just download and use Astro/ES, you won’t need anything else. My preference is slanted towards ES in terms of usability. It has a multi-select mode which seems to be lacking in Astro. Both also come with the tool to allow you to back up your Apps to the SD card.

Skyfire – My browser of choice. I have also tried the built-in browser and Opera, neither could display the Google adsense page correctly, which Skyfire alone is able to. It also allows you to toggle between Desktop and Android mode. Quite frankly though, it feels laggy. While scrolling down the engadget website, it pauses for a few seconds between each page-down. It is also slow in responding to switching between tabs. Will have to put up with these until Froyo, on which i’m pitching my hope on a dramatic improvement on browsing experience.

Other Useful Apps

Calendar Pad – A calendar replacement app which displays the detailed event item text in the monthly calendar view. Makes it much easier to see what’s supposed to happen on which date in the month. It also provides a 1X1 widget for you to display today’s date which otherwise isn’t shown at all on my phone home page (useful for non-HTC phone users i suppose).

Stitcher – Podcast player that comes with a widget to pause/play. Bookmark your favourite podcast content sources and your daily commutes (especially if you drive) will never be boring again.

ShowNearby – Shows you places of interest around you. It even includes AXS machine and ERP gantry locations (and no wonder, since this app is developed in Singapore). It’s interesting (delightful even) to see the little red triangles adjusting its orientation to point to the direction where the place of interest is, even as you turn the phone around. Select the place of interest and you get the option to see the map and streetview. In the map view, you are given directions on how to get there. Simple and intuitive, amazing!

Meebo IM – IM client supporting most IM protocols out there. Feels a little slow in general but works.

Astrid TasksGTasks – Synchronizes with Google Tasks, which, presumably, since you are already using a Google phone, you have a Google account (GMail, GTalk etc.), so why not also use Google Tasks rather than having to sign up and synchronize with yet another provider. If you are a task-oriented person who loves to check off a task list (like i do), you definitely need a task list application besides the standard calendar app (which strictly speaking doesn’t quite give you task list features). The web interface (part of Google Calendar actually) of Google Tasks is quite nice by the way, better than this GTasks app. The ability to synchronize with Google Tasks is the primary reason you need this app.

Gmote – Use your phone as a remote control to play media files on your pc. While it works quite reliably, i dislike the fact that the Gmote server which you have to install on your PC handles the playing of media files instead of other programs (say Windows Media Player) that you already have on your PC. You might have a preference to use Winamp for playing music and VLC for video playback on your PC for example, but you can’t use those with Gmote of course. There is actually a VLC remote app that allows you to control the VLC player on the PC. Besides using the VLC player for playback of media files (for which you can be sure it performs well), it has the added ability to add a folder to the playlist and to play in shuffle mode, features which are surprisingly missing in Gmote. Quite unfortunately though, the VLC remote app was done as sort of a Google-sponsored student project which isn’t actively developed and supported, and i have had issues with reliability. Anyhow, the concept of using your phone as media playback remote control is quite cool if you have a HTPC.

Update: see recommendation for Froyo here

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