Essential Android apps - part 3

Essential Android apps - part 3Admittedly I might’ve stretched the definition of the term ‘essential’ somewhat in Essential Android apps – part 2, by including a couple of games. Can games ever be considered ‘essential’? Perhaps ‘must-have’ would be a more fitting term.

Indeed, can anything truly be considered essential? Water and food, perhaps. And warmth. What about love? Sorry, I didn’t expect this instalment to be so deep.

Anyway, I’ll assume you’ve got water, food and shelter sorted out, and are now looking to get the most from your Android phone with a series of must-have – or essential, if you will – apps. Let’s crank it.

Essential Android apps - part 3Barcode Scanner

Barcode Scanner uses your Android handset’s camera to – you guessed it – scan barcodes. With the barcode scanned (keep those hands steady) you can perform a websearch on the product, or look it up in Google Shopping.

If Barcode Scanner recognises the product as a book, for example, it links in with Google Books for reader reviews. In fact, if you have Google Shopper installed, you can check out an overview, online prices and reviews of the product within the one handy app.

Requires: Android 1.5 or above (camera should preferably have autofocus)

Essential Android apps - part 3AroundMe

AroundMe uses the GPS in your Android phone to find everything from banks and bars to taxis and theatres. There are fourteen categories in all.

Amusingly, petrol stations are referred to as “gas stations” (you have to love the Yanks), but fear not; the search still brings up the nearest Shell or BP or whatever.

The results are initially displayed in a list, but you can tap Show Map to activate Google Maps. Neat. You can also tap into each individual result for contact details, particularly handy for taxis.

AroundMe is free, so there are ads here are there, but whatever. You’ll hardly notice them.

Requires: Android 1.6 or above.

Essential Android apps - part 3BBC News

I fell out with HTC’s native news stuff a few weeks ago (check out Things Going Wrong), but personally I much prefer BBC’s News app anyway.

The stories are displayed in scrollable horizontal lists, and divided into category. For example, by default, you’ve got Top Stories at the top (makes sense), with World below, then UK… and so on. You can choose which of the 17 categories you want to see on the main screen. For example, perhaps you’re more into Politics and Business than Entertainment and Technology. Each to their own.

If you have Froyo (Android 2.2.) or above, you can tap the Live button at the top to watch BBC News, well, live.

Requires: Android 1.6 or above.

Essential Android apps - part 3Lookout Mobile Security

There are three components to Lookout Mobile Security, namely Security (blocks malware, spyware and phishing apps, scans new apps), Backup & Restore (self explanatory, no?), and Missing Device.

With Missing Device, you can locate your missing phone (er, assuming you’ve left GPS on), and activate an alarm – even if your phone’s on silent.

The free version includes most of the features, though you won’t be able to perform a remote lock or wipe on your missing phone, and photos and call history won’t be backed up. The Premium version is $2.99 a month or $29.99 for a year.

Requires: Android 1.5 or above.

Read more in Essential Android apps – part 1 and part 2.

Read more about: Android

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2 comments

CTPAHHIK  Jun. 10, 2011 at 15:47

Don't agree with Barcode Scanner as being essential. It was fun to use it at first, but realization eventually sets in that product database is empty, pictures are crap, shopper is not as good as regular google search.
Upload your own picture for product scanned is broken. Pictures get cropped incorrectly and resolution is awful.
Overall, it's only good if you are too lazy to key bar code yourself. Which is pretty much useless task anyway. Since you need a camera to scan bar code might as well take a picture of product itself. It's much easier to identify what it is that you scanned.

Not sure what BBC is doing on the list? As a news agency they pretty well censored and their app is not very good.
For UK based news agency Guardian app is better.
For news in general Pulse is pretty good as it allows you to pull a lot of smaller news publisher that do not get scrutinized by government.

Constantine  Jun. 13, 2011 at 11:24

I'm finding SwiftKey much better than the stock keyboard, but are any other apps worth trying?

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