On Christmas day, I became the excited owner of a Motorola Droid, one of the best phones currently on the market running the Android 2.1 Operating System. Like most people who got a Droid that day, I went straight to the app store to find free Android applications that would improve my experience, increase the usability of my phone, and yeah””appeal to that geeky side that got me a Droid in the first place.
I actually found that even though the app store is smaller in comparison to the iPhone app store, I really didn’t notice a difference or even a deficiency of applications. In fact, I found quite a few Android applications that I now consider indispensable. Let me note that this is not a “top list” or my “very favorite Android applications” because if it was, I would overlap severely with Mark’s article detailing 10 Free Android Apps For Your New Android Mobile. That said, I absolutely love the programs mentioned in this article and use each of them on a weekly basis at least.
Shazam is one of the most useful apps a music fanatic can have for their phone. Just hold up your phone to the audio source, and Shazam will figure out what song is playing””for free. Many iPhone users have enjoyed this application for a while, and now a free (ad supported””not intrusive don’t worry) version has made its way to the Android OS.
I actually tried using Shazam to detect a song playing on a stereo at a party over the past weekend, and even with considerable background noise it retrieved the CD and Track name perfectly. Once a song is found, Shazam will give you a quick link to the Artist’s MySpace, a YouTube search for the song (yes!), or a link to buy it on Amazon MP3.
You can also view songs you’ve tagged in the past with Shazam, along with all the information availible for that track. Overall, this must have for music enthusiasts, or anyone who’s ever wondered what song was playing on the radio.
If you have an Android phone, it’s likely that you have a data plan to go with it. This plan supposedly gives your phone unlimited access to the internet for a monthly fee (though phone companies are beginning to slap boundaries on it). The PDANet Android application allows you to tether your Android phone’s internet to a Windows or Mac computer for free via Bluetooth or USB.
The catch is that the free version does not allow access to secure (https) websites. If you’d really like to access sites that use https, there is usually a “˜secure login’ setting you can disable on the service (Facebook or Gmail for instance)
Keep in mind that some service providers will charge you an extra $30 a month to tether your phone line, so using this application as a permanent desktop connection probably wouldn’t fly. From what I’ve read and tested however, don’t worry about using PDANet on a car ride or in a pinch!
I remember that for the longest time, decent ringtones had to be purchased either online, or directly from a cell phone. This is all in the past with wonderful apps like Ringdroid. This program allows you to go through a list of songs already on your device, and cut out a clip to set as your recording.
After you finish this very intuitive process and save your ringtone, Ringdroid even asks you if you want to set that ringtone as your default, or as the ringtone for a specific contact.
This is one of my favorite aspects of the program; everything is very intuitive and well thought out for convenience and ease of use.
In addition to the previously stated functions, Ringdroid also allows you to record your own audio for use. More importantly, a recording can be saved for use. Even more importantly, a recording can be saved as an alarm, music clip, or notification as well. This means that Ringdroid can be useful in basically everything audio on your Android device.
I once worked at Best Buy and the number 1 thing I noticed quite often was the, “Ohh crap, where’s that card” problem. This is the common occurrence that plagues many of us when we reach the register and fumble through a wallet or purse thinking, “It’s gotta be in here somewhere.” Well, never forget a single card again with an excellent free Android application called Key Ring Reward Cards.
This app scans the barcodes from your card using your phone’s camera, and stores them in your phone so that you always have them. In fact, the image that Key Ring stores is far better than the one on the card in most cases because it re-generates the card on the device. If it sounds risky to you, give it a try and see what I mean.
I had actually mangled my Blockbuster membership card so much that while testing this application I couldn’t scan it””but all I had to do was type in the numbers under the barcode and Key Ring generated the barcode for me! Actually, it came up with 3 versions of the barcode and told me to pick the one matching the one on the card (which was easy and accurate). Overall, Key Ring ensures that you at least have a reliable backup if you’re ever in need of a card.
I know what you’re thinking””doesn’t my phone already have a browser? Yeah, but if you’re like me and you own a Droid, your phone has multitouch capability that the browser never utilizes. Dolphin Browser presents an excellent free solution to this problem by providing the user with not only multitouch capability, but also multiple tabs, a very social interface, and quite a bit more. I’m still exploring this app, but from what I’ve seen so far it’s better than the stock browser on my Droid (which is excellent as well).
There are even rumors of flash support to watch sites like YouTube directly in the browser! I could go on telling you about this application, or you could watch a short video about it instead.
Here is the last one. The Waze is a community-powered app that allows drivers and motorists to passively send GPS data and thus help other drivers with information regarding road conditions, traffic levels, speed traps, hazards and pretty much any similar problems faced while driving.
The driver’s driving speed is relayed to Waze servers and depending on the speed, the quality of traffic is judged. If the traffic is clogged, then that information could be given to other users. All automated and anonymous. The user only has to launch the Waze app and leave it open while driving.
The apps like Waze are fully dependent on its community, the more people use it the better it gets. And though it’s a relatively new app I already found it rather useful. Check it out.
Thanks to the Android applications I’ve listed in this article, my Android phone has become far more than just a phone for me–and I hope it helps you as well. I’m going to write an additional article about Android applications I’ve found useful, so if you have an app to throw out there or something you’d like to see included, let me know in the comments box and I’ll see what I can do.