Android Essential Apps

Android WavingI’ve finally made the jump from my tired iPhone to a nice shiny HTC Desire running Android 2.1. Initial impressions were that it was very promising but that Android had some way to go to get to the iPhones level of polish and function. I was very wrong… with just a few apps I’ve surpassed the experience of my iPhone is almost every way. Here’s are my essential apps for a new Android user:

1: DoubleTwist

DoubleTwist lives up to its tag-line of  “iTunes for Android” in the best possible way. It comes as both a very decent desktop client, which looks quite like iTunes, and the best media player I’ve seen on Android. It handles music well, syncs to any attached storage device and even imports your music library automatically if it detects iTunes or Windows Media Player on your pc. The killer feature though is its podcast support- the PC application is a great pod-catcher on its own, but the fact it syncs the podcasts and my position listened to means it gives the one feature that kept me using iTunes. It even rolls in Amazons MP3 store and a nice view into the Android Market Place just to seal the deal. I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially for users coming from the iPhone. The only possible downsides are that it currently doesn’t have linux client (yet) and soon it may become a paid app, though this second point is moot- DoubleTwist is easily worth paying for.

2: Barcode Scanner

RedLaser made a huge splash on the iPhone by introducing the ability the look up products by scanning their barcodes. This was something of a fad which seems to have mostly passed and Barcode Scanner does the same thing on Android. However, it is useful for far more than that, thanks to the Android community using QR (2D) barcodes to share download links to applications- sites like Androlib and lifehacker frequently add them to posts about apps, as do humble techies like me. Point Barcode Scanner at these blocks and your phone will ask if you want to install it. Easy and simple, couldn’t ask for more!

3: Opera Mini

Fantastic, fast and good looking mobile web browser, Opera Mini has a nice implementation of multiple tabs and a landing screen which acts as a speed dial to your favourite sites make getting where you want to go quick and easy. Almost definitely better than the stock browser your Android phone will ship with, certainly the default on my phone now, just as it was on the iPhone before.

4: RingDroid

Android ships with some pretty average ringtones and thanks to RingDroid its pretty easy to replace them with snippets of any MP3’s you have on your phone. The interface its intuitive and within a couple of minutes you’ll have some more personal ringtones. Please use this ability wisely, we’ve all got a ringtone that makes us cringe whenever we hear it…

5: Last.fm

An excellent portal into Last.fm, the official app is also capable of scrobbling (notifying last.fm) the tracks you play them directly on the phone, so no more errors which plague the iPhone implementation. Also great for getting recommendations and works with the DoubleTwist media player as well as the stock one.

6: ASTRO

Finally but by no means least, ASTRO lets you view your on-board storage and SD cards on the phone. This means you can actually find files you download while out and about but it also means that you can browse network shares. It was a glorious moment when I realised I could stream all of my photos and movies from my NAS box and PC’s straight to my phone! Very worth having for those occasions.

With these 6 apps I can honestly say I feel like I’m now using a device that is superior to the iPhone. Yes, there will be a couple of things the iPhone does better, but given the quality and volume beginning to populate the Android Marketplace, I think the iPhone will have to lean more and more on good marketing rather than better apps. These 6 apps really are the tip of the iceberg- I’m constantly trying and finding new cool things to play with. It’s great to see the Android marketplace is very alive and well, I’m certainly looking to dip my own toes into development very soon!

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