You’ve already seen our hands-on review of Google’s new mobile operating system, Android—so now it’s time to take a look at what kinds of apps third-party developers have made available for the platform. The first phone running Android has been out in the wild for two weeks now, and every day new applications have appeared in the Android Market that add fun and functionality to your handset. Best of all, most of them are free. Let’s take a look at our favourite free apps (so far) that make working and living a lot easier in Android. (Yes, we know the Android hasn’t hit the local market yet, but think of it as a useful reference for when it does (assuming some of the apps get internationalised), and a handy guide for anyone who’s gone nuts and bought one on eBay.
Note: There are plenty of games and social networking apps available for Android, from Pac-Man to Solitaire to at least seven dozen Twitter clients, but this review’s gonna stick to the stuff that makes doing stuff (besides eating virtual pellets) faster. For a longer list of apps that include games and kill-the-time type stuff, check out Gizmodo’s marathon Android App review.
Alright, let’s make your Android phone more productive. To install any of these apps, hit up the Android Market on your phone and search for ’em by name.
My one must-have app, Any Cut creates one-click shortcuts on your home screen to common activities, like texting your sweetie. To Android’s credit, sans Any Cut, you can already make a direct shortcut to a Gmail label (like “to respond”), and there are configurable application keyboard shortcuts baked into the OS. But Any Cut goes that extra mile towards making repetitive actions a one-click task. Here’s the Any Cut two-step workflow to create a shortcut:
Here’s what a shortcut to text Terra looks like (tap that to launch a new SMS message with Terra’s phone number all filled into the To: field):
You want your to-do’s in the cloud, and you want them on your phone. There are quite a few list apps available for Android, but TooDo is my pick for the serious GTD crowd. TooDo is a very rich to-do manager that does all the things a featureful desktop task manager does—including reminders, categories, and dependencies—with some sweet location-aware goodness too, like geographical-based reminders (ie, if you’re within range of the dry cleaner, pick up the pants). Since Android has had all kinds of trouble pinpointing my exact location, I can’t tell you whether or not the geo-reminders actually work. To be honest, TooDo had so many options and controls, it was almost too overwhelming. The developer says attaching audio and video notes to tasks is even on the way. But the kicker feature? TooDo syncs with Remember the Milk and Toodledo, so you don’t have to peck out your list on the phone keyboard.
Having only heard of bar scanner apps and never using one myself, Compare Everywhere gave me a serious “holy cow” moment. Point the camera at a bar code—on a book, DVD, or any kind of product—and the phone auto-detects it, vibrates when it’s scanned the code, and brings up the product details, with prices at online stores and brick-and-mortar retail locations near you. Then you can add the item to a list—like your shopping list or wishlist. Magical.
Here’s what the scanner looks like pointing at the back of my book. Note this acts just like a bar scanner—you just swipe, no need to hit the shutter button:
Here’s the product lookup result on this scan:
Sometimes your productivity (or just plain sanity) depends on how quiet the kid is. ToddlerLock turns your phone into an interactive toy, with bright shapes and colours on screen and (optionally) fun sounds. Your kid can draw on screen and press the keys to make new shapes appear; a complicated key combination quits the app. Good for long grocery lines and funerals.
When you don’t speak the language, you don’t want to futz with the web interface to Google Translate. The Translate app offers a cleaner way to look up translations quickly. Type in your phrase and set the “from” and “to” language and go—up to 150 language pairs are available; this one’s a must-have for international travellers.
While music isn’t always under the “personal productivity” umbrella, there are still a few Android apps that let you get music-related tasks done a lot quicker.
Turn any MP3 on your phone to a ringtone without touching your desktop with Ringdroid. Using the app you select the start and end of your tone on a song timeline, and preview it before you save. (That sound you hear is iPhone owners eating their hearts out while they manually sync ringtones from iTunes.)
Just like the popular iPhone app, Shazam identifies songs you hear on the radio or elsewhere. Just hold the phone’s microphone near the radio’s speakers while it plays the song in question, and Shazam will guess what it is.
Shazam only works with recorded music, not humming or live versions. Scroll down the result to search for the song on YouTube and in Amazon MP3 (included on the phone so you can purchase the tune on the spot).
See the lyrics displayed in time with a music video using TuneWiki, the awesome app that will finally settle arguments about what the hell that line was, anyway. YouTube videos work too (pictured), although the lines aren’t always synced—but you can tap the screen to advance to the next one. Your best bet is to check out TuneWiki’s lists of popular songs (of the day, week, month, etc) to see the synchronisation go as the song plays.
G1 owners, what Android apps have become your must-haves? Let us know in the comments.