Top 5 Android Apps – Part 2 – Stock Replacements

Continuing on with my “Top 5” series, I’m going to discuss my top 5 favorite “stock replacement” apps.  These are applications that provide similar functionality to standard Android apps included on every phone, but in my opinion, are better than the standard app.  These apps may have additional customization features, or just plain work better than what Android came with.

  1. ADW.Launcher (Free) – I’ve written about this app before, but I can’t recommend it (or its competing app LauncherPro) enough.  Both apps provide so much more than the stock launchers for Android do.  HTC users with Sense UI may not need the change, but if you’re not running Sense, you should be running one of these.  I personally prefer ADW.Launcher right now thanks to the addition of themes.  There are many themes in the Android Market that range from free to a couple dollars, and can change the look of your setup drastically.  ADW also has many customization options that allow you to setup your home screens anyway you please.  If you’re a widget fan, LauncherPro Plus may be a great choice for you.  The developer has added a great widget set to his launcher.  Regardless of which you choose, I highly encourage you to try out one or both of these.  You’ll be glad you did.
  2. WidgetLocker Lockscreen ($1.99) – If you’ve ever wished you could put something on your lock screen besides the clock, you really should try WidgetLocker.  WidgetLocker allows you to add widgets and application shortcuts right on your lock screen.  He’s also added custom slider options, so you can move the sliders around, add multiple ones to perform different functions, or remove them altogether!  My screenshot shows how I like mine, but you can go wild with it!
  3. Beautiful Widgets (~$2.05) – If you’ve got an Android phone, this is a must-have application.  The developer started with the idea of re-creating the HTC clock widget for non-HTC devices, but he’s gone way beyond that now.  The main widget shows you the current date/time and weather for your location.  There are over 100 themes to change how it looks, and many customization options beyond that as well.  My favorite feature is the ability to launch any application by clicking on the clock, calendar, and weather sections.  If you like live wallpapers, he’s even created a live wallpaper that shows you the current weather.  Included with the main widget are several other widgets for your phone that allow you to toggle wifi, bluetooth, ring volume, etc.  I keep mine on my WidgetLocker Lockscreen so it’s there every time I wake up my phone.
  4. Handcent SMS (free) – I use Handcent primarily for the pop-up notification of incoming texts.  Beyond that, though, Handcent can do a lot more.  From that pop-up, you can type (or talk) a quick response without having to open up the full conversation.  When you do open up the full app, you can customize just about everything, from the theme of the app to individual ringtones for each person.  I’m amazed that this app is free – he could probably sell it for $5-10 and rack up a ton of sales.
  5. SwitchPro Widget ($0.99) – The Power Control widget is nice – allowing you to control Wifi, bluetooth, etc., but it’s not very customizable.  This is where SwitchPro Widget comes in.  It provides all of the capability of the Power Control widget, but is much more flexible.  Only want a couple buttons? You can create a 1×1 widget with 1-2 buttons.  Want a lot? You can add up to 7 buttons to a 1×4 widget.  SwitchPro also provides more options for what you can control.  It adds things like a flashlight, auto rotation lock, screen timeout, and more.  You can also customize the color of the icons and the background, so if you’ve got a theme, it’s much easier to make this fit. 

While the stock Android system is pretty good, its real power lies in the ability for apps to customize and even outright replace the stock applications.  Android is very flexible in allowing users to change default applications – even without root access that everyone can “create” a phone experience that fits their needs.  I’d love to see some comments about your favorite stock replacement apps. 

Next week I’ll touch on my top 5 favorite “unknown” applications – applications that aren’t famous apps like Beautiful Widgets or Handcent SMS.

Top 5 Android Apps – Part 1

Thanks to a post on a forum I frequent, I’ve decided to put together a five-part series discussing my favorite applications.  For part 1, I’m going to list my top 5 “everyday” applications, i.e. applications that I use every day and are the reason my wife says I’m “married to my phone.”

  1. Touiteur Premium (Free/~$2.70 Premium) –  Touiteur is my favorite Twitter application.  Since it came out, it’s had the best user interface, and the developers have gone on to make it a full-feature application.  The free version provides many options, but purchasing the Premium version unlocks all the options, and in my opinion it’s well worth the upgrade.
  2. Locale ($9.99 + $0 – $0.99 for plugins) – Locale is my favorite automation application.  It ensures that my phone doesn’t ring at work, but always does at home.  It launches Touiteur when I dock it at work.  It also launches Slacker Radio when I plug in headphones.  I have about a dozen scenarios plugged into Locale, and I can always count on them to work.  Yes this app is expensive, and yes many of the plugins aren’t free, but it’s been well worth it to me.  I did try out Tasker, but I didn’t find it nearly as easy to use as Locale.  I also find the priorty setup of Locale more to my liking. 
  3. Folder Organizer (~$1.35) – Folder Organizer is really much more than the app name suggests.  It does allow you to group your applications into folders for your home screens, but it also allows you to add Bookmarks, Contacts, or other app shortcuts into folders.  Folder Organizer also lets you change the icon and the name of the application, making it easy to theme your icons to match your phone theme. There is a free version that only works with Applications called Apps Organizer as well.
  4. NewsRob Pro (Free/~$6.75 Pro) – NewsRob is a mobile source for Google Reader feeds.  It syncs with Google Reader, maintaining your read/unread status both ways.  While the mobile Google Reader is very good, NewsRob has ways of handling sites that don’t provide the full article in the feed.  NewsRob can auto display the full website, a stripped down version of the website, or an Instapaper version of the webpage if you desire.  This makes it much easier (and faster) to read through my feed as I don’t have to wait for the web page to load.  Background sync means I always have new items to read, and I can even read in areas with no service.  The free version is now ad supported, but the full version is worth it if you’re an RSS junkie.
  5. Slacker Radio – After going back and forth between Pandora and Slacker, I’ve settled on Slacker.  This has more to do with the music service than the application itself, but the app does work well on my Droid.  I found that with Pandora, my stations began to all play the same songs after awhile.  Slacker’s song logic doesn’t run all my songs together, and I can actually keep separate playlists.

These are just five of the apps that I use every day on my phone.  In the coming weeks I’ll list my favorite “stock replacement” apps, “relatively unknown” apps, apps for rooted users, and games.  If you have some apps that you love and use every day, leave the details in the comments.  I’m always on the lookout for great apps.

Android 2.2 Users: Go Get the New Gmail App!

Google announced today that a new version of their Gmail Android app has been made available in the Android Market.  This update is for users running Android 2.2 (Froyo) – (EVO and Droid Incredible users: see the update at the end of the post).   This new update includes several great features, as well as limited support for the new Priorty Inbox feature.  

Read On to find out more. Continue reading Android 2.2 Users: Go Get the New Gmail App!

Android Tablet Fever: Should You Catch It?

Most of the Android buzz over the last month or so has been related to tablet devices. Whether it’s the Dell Streak, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or the myriad of other announced devices, tablets are all the talk right now. The problem is that right now, it’s just talk. Only a very small number of devices have been made available in the US at this point, and other than the Dell Streak, they’re made by unknown companies that are putting out poor quality devices.

Over the next couple months, the tablet market will take off with new devices. Samsung is going to be launching the Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch tablet that looks like a small iPad. Archos has announced four new devices ranging from 4-inches up to 10-inches. HP, Toshiba, and ViewSonic are building Android tablets as well.

Should you jump on the emerging bandwagon and run out to get an Android tablet?  Read on to find out. Continue reading Android Tablet Fever: Should You Catch It?

Root Your Android Device

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and root your Android phone.  Maybe one of these reasons pushed you over the edge.  So how do you do it?  Depending on your phone, there are different steps required.  Some are very easy, while others require some tech knowledge and command-line code.   This article will discuss the rooting methods for the more popular Android phones available right now.

Disclaimer: Rooting your device is risky.  It may void the manufacturer’s warranty, and may ruin your device – even if done properly.  Hijinks, Inc. and myself take no responsibility for any damages that may occur by doing so.

Continue reading Root Your Android Device