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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Favorite Utility Apps for Mobile Android

I just bought myself a used Samsung Galaxy S2 around a month ago. On retrospect it was a a great purchase. Compared to my old and trusty Nokia N79 it's literally like from another world. I upgraded the phone by buying an extended battery (2000 mAh) and SGP Ultra Capsule case (black with glitter, how metro). If I ever run out of space, I think I'll buy one of those memory cards.

I originally intended to buy one of those iPhones but the cost was just prohibitive for me especially when I started to compare the specifications. You simply cannot get a nice iPhone for less than 300 euros (like 380 dollars).

I got some really nice hardware for the price I paid. The AMOLED display is just stunning. iPhone might be the Porsche 911 of phones. I am happy with a Volkswagen Polo, though. They come from the same factory after all. Besides Apple just proved in a trial that they are same hardware so there's no denying that.

I was somewhat skeptical about Android as an OS at first after having used iOS for the past few years on my iPad (first gen). iOS is easy to use, that's for sure. Using Android for a while showed me what I had been missing: widgets.

Android - It's All About Widgets

I think widgets are what really separates Android from iOS. I really like them. Rather than having to open up an app each time I want to check out the weather, I can see that on a single glance. It is a great shame Apple hasn't implemented Dashboard, the widget platform familiar from OS X, on iOS. I believe it fits iOS better than OS X where it was originally introduced.

I've stuck with the default weather widget of S2. It's enough for me. Besides that I use Smooth Calendar, PowerToggles and JuiceDefender QuickBox. Smooth Calendar and PowerToggles fit my usage better than the defaults provided. JuiceDefender is just a nice extra I use to get most out of my battery. It simply keeps connectivity off when I don't need it. Helps somewhat.

And Apps Too

During last week I got severely annoyed at having to mute the phone for the night. It didn't take long for me to find SilentSleep. It's a perfect example of a simple app that does one thing really well. This is also a good example of the fact that if you can think about it, there is likely an app for it.

In addition I use Dropbox, Google Authenticator, RunKeeper and Spotify actively. The Dropbox app is almost perfect for my usage except it won't let you upload media if your battery is below certain limit. I wish there was some way to force around this.

Google Authenticator works really well with Google's 2 way auth. In addition to a regular password this system allows you to use a "one off" key for added security. Authenticator generates just these for you. It takes some effort to learn the system and set it up but I believe it's worth the hassle.

RunKeeper is a fairly nice app too. I have experienced some crashes and lost tracking data likely due to poor GPS connectivity at times. I'm actually interested to hear if you have found some supreme sports tracking app for Android. Perhaps there is something nicer out there.

Spotify is a must have of course if you listen to music. Sure it costs ten euros per month (around 13 dollars I think) but it's totally worth it for me anyhow. RunKeeper provides some premium features that cost some money as well. I haven't really bothered to look into that yet, though.


The apps mentioned here are available free of charge. There may be premium versions available (for JuiceDefender at least) but other than that they should be easy enough to test. This is actually one of the features I like about the Android platform. You can simply click "Install" at Play Store and the next time you start up your phone, the app is there waiting for you. Automatic updates work really well too.

I am really happy I got myself a S2. I know the hardware is a bit dated already, at least compared to the top phones. It totally rocks my world, though. Excellent integration with Google's services makes it so much better.