In this series of articles, I will highlight along the way several aspects of using the HTC Hero, and some conclusions I’ve made about the Android platform as a whole. Today, I am going to talk about the applications that I use on a daily basis.
The Android Market is filled with educational, fun, useful and incredibly outrageous apps. I do not know first hand what the iTunes App Store has to offer, but the plethora of free applications out there for Android really make the platform shine.
I have talked at length about a few applications that I use on a daily basis, so I will not continue to rant on about those. If you really want to see my opinion on those apps, check out the previous posts.
Here is a list of a few that I have not really touched on before:
Dolphin Web Browser (Free)
This application replaces the default Browser application, and brings a host of great features, making it an easy replacement. The first thing that hit me was discovering they do bookmark syncing with Google Bookmarks, which makes it so much easier to keep track of bookmarks cross-platform. In fact, after jumping from XMarks to Weave in Firefox on my PCs, I have actually (gasp!) installed the Google Toolbar, and now rely on Google Bookmarks to sync everything.
Also, this browser brings great speed improvements, a stripped-down no-images mode for faster page load times, tabbed browsing and many more features that are invaluable when trying to perform web-based work from your phone.
Twidroid Pro (Free or ~$5 Pro)
I was on the fence about the idea of buying applications from the Android Market, until I came across Twidroid. I began using Twidroid to interface with Twitter, and quickly saw the advantages to having the Pro version of the application.
Simply being able to monitor four different Twitter accounts is worth the $5 entry price alone. When you purchase Twidroid Pro, you get many other interesting features like integrating with your bit.ly account, color themes, and a buzz viewer, which shows you what popular topics are showing up on Twitter. This app gets my absolute seal of approval, and I recommend it to Android users who enjoy using their Twitter account often.
Aldiko is a full-featured eBook reader for your Android device. It comes with a store to purchase thousands of published titles, as well as many public domain or otherwise free titles.
I used Aldiko while reading The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (I started writing a review of this trash literature, but I do not know if I can even get through THAT), and it was simply a treat. The night view mode cuts down on the amount of light pollution, allowing your spouse to soundly sleep next to you without distraction.
The display text is fully customizable, and is a breeze to configure. Aldiko will even give you stats about how much you have read, and the percentage of the text that you have completed. I would recommend Aldiko to anyone who wants to grab a quick read on the bus or subway.
Pandora (Free or $36/year for Pandora|One)
Pandora is one of the best music streaming services out there. I have used their web-based client for a year or so now, and actually upgraded to the Pandora|One service for the many great features.
The Pandora Android app brings that streaming radio to your phone, allowing you to easily listen to the tunes you love, and find new ones based on some seriously intricate algorithms employed by Pandora. One of my favorite uses (as you can see in the screenshot) is loading up Pandora and playing some music for my son while we are doing various things. He loves to have music going in the background while we are cleaning his room or just playing.
Pandora gives you a seamless way to transition from the band and song names that you love into similar music that you may like. Give a song a thumbs up and songs similar to that will play more often. Not fond of a certain song? Hit the thumbs down, and Pandora will do its best to play more of what you like. If you are a music lover, go grab this app, it works great over WiFi.
Remote VNC Lite (Free or $2.98 for Pro)
Similar to ConnectBot below, Remote VNC Lite gives you the ability to log into another PC using the VNC protocol. If you have used VNC before, you probably know how it works, and this app follows all of those other applications that are on the desktop functionality-wise.
I use this often enough that I might end up paying for the Pro version, but I have not seen any limitations of the system (possibly because I only use it at home over WiFi), so I cannot weigh in the Pro version.
If you have multiple machines at home, and would like to be able to connect remotely, go for this application.
ShopSavvy is an application for both Android and the iPhone, and it is well worth downloading. It gives you the ability to scan a barcode using your camera, and immediately hits the web to find the cheapest price for that product. It also can pull your GPS data, and present you with a list of local stores that also carry that product, what their prices are, and even send the address to Google Maps to give you driving directions.
The Wish List feature saved me more than $100 this holiday season, as I was able to go through our local Waldenbooks store with my wife, and easily record and save every book she wanted for Christmas. Finding a book on Amazon for less than 1/3 the price of the retail chain is amazing. The only feature lacking here is the ability to export that wishlist to Amazon or even a csv or xml format.
The Official Amazon Android App app covers that base, but it lacks the ability to compare prices at other online and retail stores.
Torrent FU (Free)
Similar in style to the ShopSavvy app, Torrent FU allows you to scan barcodes of products, but with an altogether different approach to bringing you that product. If you have a torrent client running at home with a web administrator interface enabled, you can scan a DVD, book, video game or any other type of digitized media, and immediately search and send that download to your home PC to begin.
Along with being able to search by barcode, you can manually search for a torrent, and also manage all the torrents that are currently downloading on your home PC. This is invaluable, as when I am downloading a massive ISO image of a Linux distrobution, it tends to choke my home network if I forget to set bandwidth limits. Since I live with my in-laws, I have to be considerate of their internet usage as well. So, if they end up having issues with speed or responsiveness, I can quickly fire up Torrent FU and suspend any downloads I may have going.
Last, but certainly not least is ConnectBot. ConnectBot gives you a simple SSH client, and allows you to connect to your *nix box over the air and run normal tasks from the command line. Aside from HTC’s bungling of the pipe (|) key on the soft keyboard, this app runs wonderfully, and when combined with screen can be extremely useful while doing system administration tasks on the go.
A wonderful piece of rapidly-developing software for the Android platform that looks to be one of the more useful applications on the market.
This rounds out my review of the most commonly used applications on my HTC Hero. Stay tuned for next week’s topic: The Default Software.