5 Great Apps for Your Android Phone

I don’t know about you, but I love my new Android 2.1 based smartphone (HTC Incredible if any of you are wondering). I recently made the jump to Android from an old Windows Mobile 6.1 device and have not once looked back…talk about night and day. Today I will be going through a few of the interesting apps I have found so far while perusing the Android Marketplace. Also, note that the programs that I have chosen today are all free or have free trials, but they usually have a pay for version that removes advertisements or adds some extra bells and whistles to the basic package. Just a quick disclaimer, these apps are all “use at your own risk”; I have them on my phone and haven’t had any issues, but again, your mileage may vary.

1. I know that multitasking is the rage these days, but it can eat up your battery like you wouldn’t believe. It also uses up your phone’s RAM and could lead to the interface slowing down. I found numerous apps that help manage your running tasks, but the one that I have settled on is called “Advanced Task Killer” by ReChild. It has both a free version and a pay for version that removes the advertisement bar from the app’s main screen. I love this app because it has a ton of features to automate the management of the running tasks.

The two features I use the most are the Ignore List and the home screen widget. The Ignore List is exactly what it sounds like; it allows you to choose tasks that don’t get terminated when the program is run. The Home Screen Widget automatically kills all tasks not in the Ignore List with a quick press of the icon. This is quite useful because it allows you to kill all the unnecessary running processes right before you put the phone back down, allowing you to conserve battery time while the phone is in your pocket. It also has an Auto Kill feature that will try to keep the running tasks down to a minimum, but I prefer having manual control over what’s running on my phone.

2. Speaking of battery time, I looked through and tried tons of battery indicators and widgets until I found a widget called “Battery Left” by Preinvent. First, some background, after the first few days of using the phone without an aftermarket battery meter, I found that the built in battery indicator just didn’t cut it for me. It didn’t give me any sort of feedback on what percent of battery power was left or even a general approximation of how much time remained on the battery. “Battery Left” runs on your home screen and provides you two different widget sizes. After a few charge/discharge cycles, it figures out your approximate usage profile and gives you a reasonable approximation on how long your battery will last based on your usage. It took the program a few days to get acclimated to my usage, but so far it has been fairly accurate.

3. I recently ran across an Android App review site where I saw a whole bunch of funny looking things like these at the end of the articles:

Now at first I wondered who got hold of their website code and inserted all the funny looking abstract art. Then, after some research, I found that these were called QR Codes. This is a type of barcode that has the capability for holding a myriad of information. It can contain a hyperlink to a website, personal contact information, a bunch of text, or any other sort of information (in case you are wondering, the three I put there are, in order top to bottom; a link to a barcode reader app’s website, a link to, and my basic contact info).

To read these you are going to need a program that can scan and decode them. The one that I found works very well, has a very simple interface, and is simply called “Barcode Scanner” by ZXing Team. If you download the app through the app store and scan the first code above, it will take you to their website which has a page where you can create your own! It also allows you to scan any barcode, search for the item online, and receive competitive prices and store locations. It makes shopping for products that much easier. There are also apps from online resellers that will scan barcodes while you are in a store and give you the internet prices. However, these often will not scan the QR codes, so it is useful to have them as a secondary app.

4. In our company we use instant messaging to communicate all the time. It is simple to leave it open while at our desks and fire off quick questions to each other. When I’m out at a customer’s site or away from my desk, I still like to keep in touch. I found that “Meebo IM” by meebo works very well across all the popular networks (AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Facebook chat, MySpace, Google Talk, Jabber, and ICQ) and can use both your Wi-Fi and cell carrier’s data network. It certainly beats opening up your laptop just to send a quick IM.

I can only speak for the AIM, MSN, and Yahoo services as those are the three I use, but I will say that the program works as advertised, and I do use it extensively. It keeps each conversation in its own container so that you don’t end up with a multitude of things all going on simultaneously. It also uses the notification bar to show you incoming chat messages which is useful if you are using another application when a message comes in; you can see the message without switching apps.

5. Finally, I’m going to highlight a small app I just ran across recently called “Document Scanner” by Pwn with Your Phone. I am using the trial version which is a full featured fifteen day trial, but the full version is $3.98. This little app allows you to take pictures of pretty much anything and quickly create a .pdf of it. It then allows you to quickly email it, save it to a memory card, or upload it directly to Google Docs.

This is quite handy for all sorts of interesting uses. If you need to quickly email something that you have in hard copy and are out of the office, this little app allows you to do that. Another possible application is using it to keep track of expenses while away or to electronically file your receipts when you don’t have access to a flatbed scanner. You can easily take snapshots of the receipts and email them to yourself, then file the .pdf’s in your computer.

These are just a few of the apps I’ve come across in my time with Android. I’m sure there are many more useful and fun apps out there in the store that I haven’t found yet. Just a quick reality check though, there have been some malicious programs making the rounds in the app store. Make sure you investigate the apps you plan on using before installing them. Go to the developer’s website, read the app reviews, and go through the requested permissions before installing. If anything doesn’t look right, reevaluate use of the program or find an alternate that can do the same things that meets your standard. These three steps can help prevent installing a malicious program that could steal your data or take advantage of your phone. So be safe, have fun, and happy app store surfing!

For more information or to discuss how a smart phone can save your business time and money, please contact John Kalli at 732-780-8615.

Posted in: Business, Mobile Computing, Tech Tips for Business Owners

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