On Christmas Eve I purchased a HTC Incredible Android Smart Phone. Over Christmas vacation I worked at learning how to use my device from the viewpoint of a business professional. This post has information, reviews, and screenshots on the Android Apps which will get make your smart phone more valuable. (read post via my mobile device site)
Here is the list of Apps in alphabetical order which I've used. Any of these applications may be easily found and installed via the Android Marketplace. The Apps in bold came with my smartphone, but often I have changed their settings / configuration.
- Advanced Task Killer | closes apps and save active memory
- Angry Birds | everyone needs at least one game!
- APKatcher | allows emailing apps to be installed
- Flashlight | a practical use of the camera's flash
- Google Books
- Google Calendar
- Google Maps
- Google Search
- Google Secrets | securely save passwords
- Google Shopper | compare prices while shopping in a store
- Google Skymap | point at the sky and learn constellation names
- Google Streetview | walking directions, detailed photo imagery
- Hello World | my cat!
- LinkedIn | professional networking
- Lookout | Android security
- Quick Office | MS Office viewer: separate review
- Yammer | private corporate networking
- Web Browser
The next item I will address is extending your battery life. These minor configurations will help your smartphone stay online. Here are my favorites:
- Apps Running in the Background: Set Advanced App Killer to automatic
- GPS: Turn off GPS when not using location or mapping services
- Screen: Dim after 30 seconds on inactivity
- Social Network Notifications: synchronize once or twice per day
- News & Stock: Turn off synchronization
- Use wifi over 3G whenever possible (configure known trusted networks)
Be aggressive and limit your number of synchronizations. Whenever you start any of these apps, they will get the latest update. Thus, synchronize manually when you need updates (and have time to absorb the content). Accessing your 3G network and transferring data is a battery hog.
From this point on in the post, I will embed screenshots with annotations of various apps ... often with an expanded explanation of why I find this application useful. Before you can download any app, you have to enable apps from "unknown sources". This is the operating systems way of saying "let the buyer beware".
Your first step is to tap upon <menu> from your home screen, and then tap settings:
Select applications ...
After enabling all applications to be downloaded from the marketplace, you should install security on your smartphone. My favorite is Lookout. It supports many different mobile formats including Android, and is free. You can enable Lookout to scan all new apps as you download them, and also to perform a daily scan of your device. In this world of hackers, this is just smart computing.
Select the <Security> menu selection once you are in Lookout.
Install and configure Advanced Apps Killer
And the configuration screen ... mine is set to "kill" automatically!
LinkedIn default screen ...
LinkedIn network updates ...
And if your company has a private social network like Yammer ...
And of course, for everyone else, Facebook.
Your Facebook startup screen ...
And your personal Facebook feed ...
Let's now spend some time on search. Here is an area where your Android device shines due to it's exceptional voice recognition and camera (mine is 8 megapixels). I won't include screenshots of Google search, but please understand I never type my search queries into Google. I speak and Google understands! (proper diction pays off).
However, imagine if you combine Google Shopper, voice recognition, and your camera?! In other words, if you're out shopping, you can easily compare prices of the product on display at any store with other online / local merchants. Just open up Google Shopper via your 3G connection, and compare. I suspect you will easily save $25 per month or more! (an approximate price of your wireless data connection).
Your Google Shopper options ...
Input your search by spoken word ...
Your Google Shopper results ... in my case, Rex Ski Wax!
While using the spoken word is neat, the camera really gives you WOW options by taking a photo of a product's bar code, and using that image as the basis for your query.
Take a picture of the bar code using your camera (image search)
And now we know the price of Raisin Bran Crunch at other stores. While comparing cereal may not be your "cup of tea", imagine a pricey item like a camera or computer?!
I realize all work and no play is not what makes life fun ... thus here is the current star game of the online mobile world, Angry Birds. Quite frankly I surprised myself upon installing this app. I downloaded Angry Birds mainly to review for this post and "whamo", I was hooked! After all, how else can one describe using a sling shot to shoot birds at pigs who grunt at you!
Thus, I bring you Angry Birds ...
And the pigs ...
Having taken time out for mindless fun, we'll move to something more worthwhile which will make my high school English teacher happy. I installed Google Books, but one could also install the Android Kindle App. Both give you access to thousands of free classics, and the option to purchase Best Sellers, etc.
Alice in Wonderland! (the startup screen)
We start our trip down the rabbit hole ...
It's now time to enjoy the built it GPS. If you're like me, GPS will now need to be turned on. If you remember, I keep GPS services turned off to conserve battery power till I need to use maps (location or navigation services). Your Android can be used to work like a Garmin navigator. It will both give you visual and spoken directions. In addition, Google Street view works like a charm for "walking directions" (the photos give you an exact image representation of what you're looking at). Finally for us nerds who never took time to learn astronomy, point your Android at the night time sky and learn what constellations you're looking at!
Thus ... GPS Services ... the configuration process
Tap upon <location>
Starting up Maps will show your location ...
Tapping upon the <person icon> enables Google Street View ...
You now are walking on the street in front of my house!
If you're a night owl, leave daytime GPS behind and start up Google SkyMap and learn about the night time skies.
Just point your smart phone at the heavens ...
And some menu options ...
This ends my basic review of "practical Android". If you've stayed with me this far, you might also appreciate reading LifeHacker's Android 2.2 Screenshot Tour. You will find a separate review of Quick Office. This app came free with my smartphone, but actually costs about $10. Quick Office allows one to view Excel, Powerpoint and Word files.
I promise a future post which will review Android development from the pragmatic viewpoint of a person who hates to learn new programming languages (post now available). Thankfully Google has been kind enough to create two development environments. The first environment uses normal programming tools, however I created my "Hello World" app shown below using Google visual programming / building blocks environment. More to come, but for now I leave you with a screenshot of the very first app I built, Maple the Cat. He meows on my Android!