A Jane of All Trades

So excited to setup and test this bad boy today! #Android #GK802 #Zealz #MiniPC

So excited to setup and test this bad boy today! #Android #GK802 #Zealz #MiniPC

Got all the parts together to use our phones as video players now that they’re pulling down torrents #Android #nerdery (Taken with Instagram)

Got all the parts together to use our phones as video players now that they’re pulling down torrents #Android #nerdery (Taken with Instagram)

The “vibe” of Google keynote speeches always feels so different than Apple’s. The little things like toy robots at the podium and that they are done in more of a collective fashion vs. one key speaker. I tend to feel like Apple keynote’s remind me of a high school principle at an assembly giving a lecture, while Google’s feel more like the AV club presenting a project. 

Android Basics and Thoughts

I am just about two months in to my love affair with my Samsung SII LTE (i727) and have recently had a few friends pick up the same handset, other SII models as well as other Android based devices and all of them have asked my opinions on optimizing the use of my phone as well as what apps I’m a fan of. Instead of answering these questions singularly I thought this would be a bit more productive. 


First things first, if you get an Android phone, get a google account and use it from day one. This will back up your contacts (make sure to make save to google your default choice), sync your calendar, sync photos (more on that later), docs, allow access to the Market and more. Basically this is the Rosetta Stone of an Android device, if you’re not using a google account you’re doing it wrong. 

Secondly, read this post http://thehandheldblog.com/2011/06/14/galaxy-s2-tips-tricks/ especially if you’re coming from iOS like I was this article answered alot of the questions I had on day one, like how do I take a screen shot, and other “hot keys”. 

Third I can not stress how much better both Google+ and Picasa have made my user experience when it comes to photo sharing. Yes google+ is still really in an early adopter phase and has some kinks to work out, and it is rad that with this app most Android handsets are now capable of free videochat (via wifi) and cellular video chat anywhere you’ve got a data signal. At this point the majority of my practical use of the + service is the instant photo upload feature. Set to wifi only to preserve data useage, and to default all photos to private this creates a brainless auto sync of all the photos on my phone. Priceless. The Chewbacca to google+’s Han Solo is the Picasa software for both mac and windows, I don’t like making comparisons with Apple but it’s the best iphoto competitor I’ve ever used, I actually think it blows it out of the water. With great basic and not so basic (I’ve never seen other freeware that does watermarks) features it’s not only good software but it allows for auto-sync (with or without sharing) of albums and photos. Of course being another google product this means that albums from the web and your computer are both auto synced with your phone which I use to free up storage and also carry around instant access to alot of photos I wouldn’t otherwise. The example for this I usually give is that when I transitioned off my iphone I copied all it’s photos to a Picasa album, now those 1300+ photos and all those memories are still accessed easily yet not actually using any space.

Finally, the apps I use most often and think other folks should to:

Google Drive

The big G’s cloud service, I find it irreplaceable for warehousing and sharing documents for my business and personal lives. Add the newish integration with Hello Fax and I almost feel like getting a drive tattoo, my hatred for physical fax it that big. 

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.apps.docs&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5nb29nbGUuYW5kcm9pZC5hcHBzLmRvY3MiXQ..

Astrid Tasks, I work for myself and get distracted easily so this app/widget helps remind me that I have things to do even if I think I don’t

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.timsu.astrid&hl=en

Avast Mobile, I like avast for our Windows 7 machines and their mobile version is great too. Yes it feels weird to install anti-virus on a phone but do it or maybe regret it. Also don’t allow non-market apps, in the early days of the android market not having much content this had value, but that time has passed close that door to a big ooops now. Avast also has a great anti-theft / theft recovery aspect built into it’s interface. WIN.

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.avast.android.mobilesecurity&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5hdmFzdC5hbmRyb2lkLm1vYmlsZXNlY3VyaXR5Il0.

LED Light Widget, icon sized widget that acts as a switch for your LED flash turning it into a flashlight. There are a ton of apps that do this but only one I’ve found that does it directly from the home screen. Priceless

https://market.android.com/details?id=jp.picolyl.led_light&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImpwLnBpY29seWwubGVkX2xpZ2h0Il0.

Double Twist and Air Sync, I am too entrenched in itunes to walk away now, this allows for use of playlists and OTA sync of media to your device (requires installation on your desktop as well).

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.doubleTwist.androidPlayer

Evernote makes me happy and helps with my scattered brain. I use three devices on the regular (desktop, tablet, phone) and used to have issues remembering what device I bookmarked something on/importing links from other devices. Total first world problem. Evernote allows for bookmarks, notes, pictures (annotations as well) and the like to be shared seamlessly through all three devices. Organized in “notebooks” what became my personal online database is easy to navigate. Perfect for receipes! 

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.evernote&hl=en

I love to “stay informed” and prefer actual news to social networking, but both have their place. Flipboard is a reader app that collects chosen news sources as well as your social media updates into one place. Read your feeds seperately or combined in the “Cover Stories” section for the greatest hits of all your sources. The flippin cards interface is gorgeous and I like having what used to be six stand alone apps combined into one sleek package. 

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=flipboard.app&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImZsaXBib2FyZC5hcHAiXQ..

Keyring Cards, I’m over 30 I like free things but I detest bulky wallets. Entering all our rewards cards in this app took alot out of my wallet and means my wife and I can both collect points on cards that don’t offer a family option. 

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.froogloid.kring.google.zxing.client.android&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5mcm9vZ2xvaWQua3JpbmcuZ29vZ2xlLnp4aW5nLmNsaWVudC5hbmRyb2lkIl0.

Google Goggles, QR reader, translator, “search the world with a picture”, really almost limitless to what someone could do with this app/the database it accesses. 

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.google.android.apps.unveil&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5nb29nbGUuYW5kcm9pZC5hcHBzLnVudmVpbCJd

Plan B, in all honesty I haven’t installed this yet but that’s cause that’s how it works. One of the coolest features of Android is you can put apps on your devices from a desktop. This locates a lost phone and sends an email. Do I even need to mention how rad I think the name is, what can I say I’m pro life.

https://market.android.com/details?id=com.lookout.labs.planb&hl=en

That’s about it besides the basics like twitter (which I recommend the official app cause it’s better integrated throughout the phone’s other apps), CBC news, our local paper, Words with Friends, the yellow pages, epicurious, tumblr, instagram and other “mainstream” apps that are on most platforms. As a final thought I’d like to point out that unlike other app stores there is a return option built into google Play on all paid apps in the first 15min after download, so if you buy something try it right away if you don’t like it get a refund. I constantly find myself on the fence about a paid app (it’s amazing how long I’ll debate spending $.99) and remember I can buy, try and return which just takes all the guess work out of it.