Aessential Android Apps

android Now that I’ve been using my Android powered T-Moble G1 for several weeks, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the applications that I find essential.  They range from true productivity to mindless time sucks, so take each as it is intended!

TouchDown for Android and Exchange

This is a great application giving access to my company Exchange server.  The UI and feature set is very nice.  I have access to my inbox, calendar and contacts.  It also has the ability to get to my other private folders.

The folks at NitroDesk have done a nice job of keeping the UI familiar for both Android and Outlook users.  It will, if you configure it properly work in the background and integrates with the standard Android notification system.

TouchDown seems to be developing fairly quickly and their team is quite responsive to questions via email.

aTrackDogaTrackDog

This is a great application that helps you keep your installed apps up to date.  It checks multiple sources to ensure your applications are running at the latest release and gives you an easy shortcut to update them if it finds that they are not.

The Weather Channel

This is a nicely done, good looking weather app.  Not only does it give you the standard current conditions and forecasts, you can also download the latest Weather Channel video for your area and it integrates with maps to show you local weather stations and their reported conditions.

Shazam Shazam

This one is just cool.  So you’re out and about town one day, maybe riding with a buddy in his/her car.  The radio is playing some random music station when a song comes on that you want to know more about.  You whip out your G1 and fire up Shazam and let it listen to the song for a few seconds.  It goes and figures out what the song is, the artist and even lets you look it up on Amazon or search YouTube for videos.  I still get giddy when it tells me about some song that I had no idea what it was.  Wicked!

Power Manager

Let’s face it, the battery life on the G1 isn’t the greatest.  This little app gives you power profiles that will let you switch quickly and will even apply them when circumstances dictate.  Out of the box, for example, when your battery drops below 30% it turns off your WiFi and GPS automatically and shortens the time before the screen dims when inactive.  As a side-benefit, it also gives you quick access to toggle your WiFi, GPS, cell tower locations and bluetooth.  It’s a must have!

Solitaire

Ok, so this is a total time waster.  I don’t know what it is about solitaire, but it is a great way to spend that time in a waiting room.  This one includes Klondike, Spider and Freecell.

Honorable Mentions

There are quite a few more that I”ve installed and many that I use fairly often, but those above are the ones that I find I really would miss if they weren’t there.  Here they are in no particular order:

Do you have any favorite applications not listed here?  Let me know what they are and why, I’m always looking for new ones!

Is Science Fiction finally coming through?

For years science fiction authors have written about fantastic technologies that will make our lives easier, more fun, and generally better in many ways and ever since we have been wistfully dreaming of those times.

Now it seems that there are a lot of things new announcements and products that fulfill some of those visions.  Here are some of the cool items you may not have heard about.

Video on Demand Evolution

Cable companies have had limited video on demand for quite a while now, and more recently companies like Joost, Netflix and Hulu have began bringing us a whiter variety of programming available to watch what when want to when we want to watch it.  The networks are getting the hint by making some of their shows available as well; however until now most of these choice required you to sit in front of your computer unless you were among the small percentage of folks that have some sort of media center integrated with your audio-video system.

We have seen set-top appliances that allow us to stream this content to our sets, but that is still yet another piece of equipment to have in your living room, something many wives simply do not like.

image Recently some television makes have announced their sets will support streaming with no other device, and they will do it over Wi-Fi.  LG announced 2 of their lines will support NetFlix, CinemaNow and YouTube, while Vizio unveiled models that not only stream NetFlix, Blockbuster, Amazon and Yahoo!, but it will also support images from Flickr, streaming music from Pandora and Rhapsody and more.  Not to be left behind, Sony announced the ability to stream from Yahoo!, Amazon, YouTube, Slacker(sm) and more..  I would also be remiss to mention that the XBox360 got streaming movies from Netflix last year, and with applications like PlayOn Media Server you can get your Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, ESPN and CBS on the XBox, Playstation 3 and soon the Wii.  All we need now is to replace the actual screen with a hologram ala The Minority Report and we will have arrived!

Mobility and More

Of course everyone knows about the iPhone.  What you may not have heard of are the new generations coming with the Android operating system, with the T-Mobile G1 being the first to market.  BlackBerry and Palm have also provided significant updates to their operating system given us many choice for little computers walking around in our hands with functionality from GPS navigation to price comparisons via scanned bar codes.  Oh, and they still let us talk to people too!

This revolution in mobility is beginning to make its way into other devices.  Android has been spotted as the underlying OS for new desktop phones and with its easy to use interface it makes it perfect for other embedded devices.  Can you imaging having a microwave or oven that you can set up to come on at certain times more easily, or a refrigerator that will let you know you are running low on milk via SMS before you come home?

Automotive

The newest Microsoft Sync is pruported to read your text messages as they come in, and even recognize your voice commands for not only calling, but for interacting with the navigation system and all of your music as well.

Oh, and since you asked (I know you were going to!) the flying car is making progress.  There are still a lot of issues from logistics to infrastructure and more, but it looks like there are some very smart folks working towards making the ultimate sci-fi dream a reality.

There’s far too many other gadgets to go into without turning this post into the size if War and Peace, but be assured that it is an exciting time in technology!

The truth about the T-Mobile G1 Android powered phone.

In a word (or two)…it rocks!

Recently I wrote about the initial unboxing of the twin G1’s my wife and I purchased.  I have not had it for a little over a week and a half so I thought it was time to share some of my thoughts on the experience so far.

The User Interface

image The UI is fairly intuitive.  As I stated in my previous post, my wife never had to open the Getting Started book.  That was fabulous.  The sliding and scrolling actions seem very smooth and natural.  I really like that.

I like having a home screen that is easily customizable.  Moving icons and widgets around is as easy as a tap ‘n hold.  Additional feedback is given via a brief vibration when the item is ready to move.

The notification system is great.  Icons appearing in the top that expand with a quick drag to see the details is a much better system than I was use to with Windows Mobile.

Setup

Getting my Gmail settings going was easy.  Now I can get to my mail or calendar with 1 icon tap, and the interface for Gmail is based on the web version complete with threads and labels.  Very nice!

Contacts also come from Gmail.  This was a bit of a struggle at first.  Most of my Gmail contacts were still in the suggested contacts state which meant I had some work to do in order to get them into my phone properly.  In addition, most did not have phone numbers associated with them and I am afraid I am a ways off from making that happen.  I am a little gun-shy about importing them from my SIM card as I feel this might create a bunch of duplicate entries that I would have to go back to correct, but I will admit I have not tried it yet.

Operation

image For the most part things are very easy to do.  Making calls, sending text, etc.  The one thing I have noticed that is a bit of a drawback comes when you want to change your settings.  Most items are accessed through the settings menu, so changing your ringer profile, toggling WiFi or Bluetooth, etc…  Fortunately, there are some very nice, free apps that put these items into one easy place.  It would have been nice out of the box, but the solution wasn’t difficult.

The battery life is ok considering everything it does and the amount of use I’ve been putting it through.  Watching videos, using the GPS with Google Maps in street view (and compass mode!), browsing the web via WiFi.  These things tend to drain the battery so you can’t expect too much.  I’m charging it about once a day with a 24 hour usage bringing me between 25% and 60% of remaining life.  Not terrible by any means.

YouTube.  Wow, this is very cool!  I have watched many videos, used search and went into the popular categories.  Over WiFi the quality is great, and even using the EDGE network (we get 3G in March) the video performance is more than fair.  I did not have high hopes for the EDGE scenario; however it looks like they scale the quality down to a level that allows the stream to work with the slower network, yet it is still quite viewable.

The Android Market

image There are a lot of cool applications, and many more that are not so cool, available in the market.  I’ve personally sampled close to a hundred already and I’ve narrowed my current install set to around 20-25 that I use.  The installer and uninstaller seems to work well.  I haven’t run into any problems yet, although I’ve heard that some people have had issues.

Some of the applications fill a definite hole in the out-of-the-box UI, but as stated earlier, they are fairly easy to find and install.  Others are nice add-ons that can help in certain situations, and still more are great time wasters 😀

Here is a list of some of my favorites:

  • aTrackDog – This helps you stay apprised of updates to your other installed applications.  – Must have!
  • Power Manager – Has automated, customizable profiles for different power situations.  I like the way it turns off my Wi-Fi if my battery level drops below 30%.
  • aSettings – This app puts most of the toggles you need (WiFi, Bluetooth, Ringer profile, GPS…) on 1 screen.  I set up a home screen shortcut to it.
  • Scoreboard – Sport score update application written by the Google folks.  Does a very nice job.
  • ConnectBot – A little ssh client used to connect to linux boxes.
  • PhoneFlix – Allows management of your Netflix queue from your phone.
  • Ringdroid – A nice application for creating ring tones from your MP3 files.  It lets you choose the portion of the song to save out as a ringtone file.
  • The Schwartz Unleashed – A total time-waster, light-saber application, but very cool!
  • The Weather Channel – Exactly what it sounds like, get current conditions and forecasts.  Even does videos.
  • Twidoid – For all your Twitter needs.
  • QuickPedia – Mobile interface for Wikipedia.  It includes nice formatting of the articles.
  • wpToGo – Nice blogger client if you happen to have a WordPress blog.

Summary

I am very happy with the phone.  My wife seems to really like it as well.  So far things have gone smooth and the decision seems to be a good one.  My overall opinion is that it is a good phone and if you are in the market for something like this, I would recommend it.