The Mark Ledden Blog

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5 Android Apps I Couldn’t Live Without

The phone I have isn’t too fancy but it’s by far the faniciest phone I’ve ever owned and It’s allowed me to do more than I could ever image with a phone. When the upgrade was nearing on my old contract I knew I had to go for an Android phone.

The biggest thing to get over when moving from a fairly standard phone to a full touch screen is the simple lack of buttons. I had huge difficulties at the start finding a comfortable solution to inputing text into my phone. I couldn’t get along with the stock keyboard. My thumbs were just too fat! It even drove me away from texting and any other activity which required the delicate touch I lacked when it came to input on this new breed of phone.

This brings me to probably the most important and underrated app on my phone. Most likely because once it’s there you don’t need to think about it. I probably use it more than anything else and it just makes my phone usable for someone like me. (I even wrote a blog post about it)

#1 – Swype

I started using this in it’s early beta after hearing about it from some blog (no idea which one). In fact it’s still actually in beta but it’s works beautifully and I’ve never had any issues. The concept is quite simple, the keyboard is laid out like any other and all you need to do is drag your finger around over the letters to make the word you want to spell. It doesn’t even have to be that accurate and it does a pretty good job of guessing the word you want.

#2 – Opera Mini

This is a bit of a swiss army knife app. I use it both as a backup browser; when I need something fast (bus/train times, other info etc). I also use it when I’m nearing my data limit as it manages to get you what you need with minimal bandwidth. It acheives this by running all of it’s traffic through Opera’s servers and compressing the web pages, often by as much as 90%. I can’t really get on with it on a full time basis as it’s not overly pretty, lacks some features and because of the compression, pages may not render properly. Though it’s not a huge app but it’s incredibly powerful so it’s always good to have around when you might need it.

#3 – Juice Defender

If you have a samrtphone you’re probably well aware of their terrible battery life. You more than likely plan when your next charge is going to come from and probably stare anxiously at the battery level. Either that or you’re phone is dying in the middle of an important call.

There are a whole host of battery saving/monitoring apps out there. I used to use APN Droid which cuts off all your connectivity apart from calls and SMS. I still do use it for extreme battery levels and times when I know I wont be using my phone but still need it on. I also use it when I need to restrict my data usage.

However there are other occasions where simply cutting off connectivity doesn’t seem to cut it. We’re paying for these 3G data speeds and it kind of defeats the point of having a smartphone if we’re not using them to their full capacity.

The happy medium comes with Juice Defender. It cleverly and comprehensively monitors and restricts battery usage according to a plethora of different settings. It’s aim is to give you the longest life of your battery while still being able to use your phone to it’s full potential. If you go and get this app now you’ll instantly notice a difference.

There really is so much control you can take over what aspects of your phone use up your battery that you’re more likely to get lost in the settings. The free app is enough for most but for those control freaks the paid app is more than worth it.

#4 – EasyTether

This is another one of those ’emergency apps’. For those occassions when you’re out with your laptop and can’t get any free WiFi but have have your phone in your pocket with super fast connectivity and you desperately need to get some work done. After trying the free app I had to pay for the upgrade to get the https option. It’s probably the cheapest option out there and it’s cross-platform, working great on my Ubuntu netbook and Windows 7 desktop.

There isn’t much to say here as it does exactly what it says on the tin and turns your phone into a modem. I’m very happy with it. If you need a tethering app (without root) this is the one.

#5 – DropBox

This app would probably be on most people’s lists and there’s not a whole lot I can say about it except it’s helped me out of a few tricky situations where I desperately needed a document but had no Internet but my phone. In a way it’s starting to help my phone to act as a USB ‘gateway’ drive (or some similar kind of jiberish). It’s something I’ll always have with me and lets me access important files when I might need them.

Bonus App! – The Trainline

This is a recent little gem I’ve found which has already saved me a bit of money. I do a fair bit of travelling by train and know a few ways of saving money and getting the most out of my tickets. This app has allowed me to buy advanced tickets for the next day or the week ahead at a fraction of the price and at crutial times when I don’t have my laptop with me.

It’s quick, easy and from what I hear, very secure. My only gripe is the booking fee (£1 each time). It’s not huge but on the ocassions when I do have my laptop I’ll always book with Virgin Trains as they don’t charge a booking fee. Virgin Trains say there is an Android app on the way and for that I cannot wait. Until then The Trainline app is great!

So that’s my toolbox of apps I don’t think I could get along without. Are any of these on your list of favourites? Or do you have a few others which you rely on?


2 responses to “5 Android Apps I Couldn’t Live Without

  1. Alex April 27, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I haven’t tried Swype yet, but then again, my phone has a very nifty physical keyboard that slides out… although over time I have got more used to the touchscreen keyboard.

    I also haven’t tried Juice Defender, but I do have one called Battery Booster. I think it’s pretty similar, but I like it mostly because it shows accurate battery level and temperature readings in the notifications bar. As far as saving battery goes, I’ve found the best results from rooting my phone and installing SetCPU. It allows you to underclock your phone’s CPU when it’s sleeping/on standby, as well as intelligently bringing the clock speed up or down depending on what you’re demanding of it. I also overclocked my phone a little, which makes it a lot snappier. Aside from installing a custom 2.1 ROM to a phone without an official UK 2.1 release, this was the best benefit to rooting… although I’m on a SIM only plan so I didn’t worry about warranties and such.

    • Mark Ledden May 18, 2011 at 11:20 am

      Battery Booster sounds pretty similar. I think you can benefit from a rooted phone with Juice Defender. There are three versions; free, plus and pro. I have the middle one but there is so much you can do with the pro one, like geo-sensitive activation of wifi/data etc. It’s pretty crazy. Think it also does CPU scaling. I daren’t overclock my phone though, the battery is pitiful as it is.

      Luckily my phone came from the shop with 2.1 installed but that’s where the fun ends, no official upgrades and ‘hacker’ support is pretty slim with it being an older and less popular phone. Just gotta ride out my contract! 😦

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