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07 December 2012

10 Fun (Useful) Android Apps

Looking for some good Android apps? Here's an overview of some handy ones that are often overlooked, due to the focus on apps such as Angry Birds.

First, stop. Stop right here. If you only skim by one of these apps, it should be this one. Tasker is almost certainly the most powerful and potentially most useful app you will ever find.

1.) Tasker

Remember flow charts, with all their "if these, then this", and "if not, then that"? Tasker brings that concept to life - in a fun and exciting way. Want your phone on silent while you're in your office building on Tuesdays and every third Thursday between 3:00 and 4:00 PM, unless it's a text from a family member or your boss? Tasker can do that for you, and so much more. There's even an extension that lets you export, save, share (even, sell, if you'd like) your brilliant concoctions as applications of their own. Fair warning, you can't just look at it and let it take off. You will want to give yourself a good 20 or 30 minutes looking through all the features and playing with it for a bit. There is a small learning curve, but that should be an expected price to pay for near-ultimate power over your device.
Tip: To help you along the way, there are many Tasker communities where you can get step-by-step instructions for a myriad of possibilities and ask questions for help. Here are a few, but you can easily search for more.

Tasker Wiki  |  Tech Spluger  |  Tasker Google Forum

2.) App Backup & Restore  

The title says it all. This guy was especially handy before Google Play started backing your apps up for you and your devices online, free and paid. This application is by no means rendered useless. You can, for example, back up apps that you found at other locations, such as directly from said app's creators. If you have an app that you really, really love now, and have a sneaking suspicion that future updates may not be to your liking, have no fear. Simply backup your current version. Then, if (okay, when), Facebook gets rid of your favourite feature or causes crashes and new lags, you can revert back to the older version and wait it out. You can also save them to your SD card, and do it for the app itself.

3.) GO Launcher EX

For those who are unfamiliar with what a launcher is, simply think of it as your desktop and drawer and how they function. Go Launcher runs smoother, and has more features than any you'll find out-of-the-box. You can double tap on a blank space on your screen and draw a pattern, that you designed, to perform an action, such as opening an app or instantly calling a specific friend. You can create folders on your desktop that hold apps of your choice, and arrange them as you see fit. You can use a variety of animations for scrolling between pages. Like Tasker, you might want to play with it a bit, though the learning curve should be a bit easier. Number one reason for GO Launcher EX, is the smoothness and lack of crashes, largely due to great service from the app team with updates. They stay on top of it for you. Your pre-packaged launcher will probably make you wait 'till you get a new version of Android or a new phone.
Tip: After installing updates for it, hit "home", rather than back, or your phone might not know which launcher you want to use again.

4.) HeyWire                         

HeyWire provides free texting. People can text to you, and when you text them, that's what they get, a text message. Nobody else needs to have this app for it to work for you and your contacts. What's more, they'll provide the number for you for it to work! Just remember to give people your new texting number (Note: It's for texting, not calling). You can also text from their website, Instant Messenger-style. On top of that, you can Tweet and send Facebook messages. Texting works for dozens of countries (More than 45 as of this writing). Now that saves money.
Tip: HeyWire will automatically place a rather annoying signature at the end of your messages, unless you disable it - which is easy to do in the settings. Just delete it. It's worth the extra 10 seconds of your time.

5.) Lookout Security & Antivirus
You've probably been recommended this before, and with good reason. It's often pre-packaged; make sure you take advantage of it. Lookout has been a good staple for a long time. More recent updates have made it all the more a must-have. Obviously, it works as an antivirus, scanning your phone and applications when they are downloaded and installed. It does so much more. Like App Backup & Restore, there is one feature than Google has since solved for you, and better; it backs up your contacts online. You may never take advantage of it, but it doesn't hurt to have an extra back-up. What makes this little app all the more essential is it's ability to find your phone. If your phone is lost, you can log into the website and tell it to make your phone "scream". Your phone will put out a siren that gets louder and louder until you find it, and man can it get loud. You can also use it to track your phone's location from the site. If you activate the feature on your device, it can turn your GPS on and narrow your search all the more. Also using GPS, it can be set to periodically record your location to your private online account, in case your device is off or the battery dies. Did you leave your phone unlocked and think it might be stolen? No problem, you can also remotely lock it and wipe the data you want.

6.) OneBusAway


OneBusAway is not for everybody. Seriously, it's only good for Seattle and Co., including King County Metro, Sound Transit, and Pierce Transit. If you use public transit in this area, this can be one handy-dandy application. Now, many complain that it doesn't show the right times all the time. Well, that's half true. It records the buses, in real time, when they pass stops. The estimate you see is when the bus will arrive, assuming that it continues at the same rate from that stop, which is why the time may change while you're waiting. This is still about as accurate as you can get. If the bus is running late, it tells you how late. If it's running early, it tells you how early. If it was unable to connect for reasons such as weather conditions, it will show you the scheduled time. One thing that sets the app apart is the ability to create favourites buses/routes/stops, view recent stops, and change the labels, for example, "Home to Downtown".

7.) Evernote

Evernote lets you make notes that can be attached to pictures and voice reminders and, if you wish, attach a location to said notes. These can also be accessed online. Evernote is especially cool when used in conjunction with its extension on Chrome. With it, you can save pages and URLS to be viewed later, either from your computer, or your mobile device. You can save the article, or the page itself. Be thankful for this when you're waiting for your doctor and wish you could read all those cool articles you'd been meaning to get around to.


This is another app that really shines with its online counterpart. On your computer, or mobile device, save those videos you want to watch later, or put them in a favourite list to view again and again. Start watching it on your computer, save it, pick right back up where you left off, on the go.
Here's the really cool part: If your computer is also hooked up to your TV, go to, on your computer, open up the YouTube app on your device, and you can use your phone as a remote control! This also works on your computer's monitor, too, though you're probably already sitting at the computer where a remote is unnecessary.

9.) Chrome to Phone

Once again, you need the counterpart extension on your Chrome browser for this.
While, logged into Google on chrome, click the extension's button to send whatever you're viewing directly to your phone. Send an article to immediately start reading it on your device. Perhaps most useful of all, from Google Maps online, send a locations, or even directions, directly to your phone and have it immediately open it up in Maps on your phone, or have it send it as a notifications (just like getting a text message), and click to open it at your leisure. This way, you don't have to open an e-mail or open maps and search again to get to where you're going.

10.) SoundHound


You know when there's a song playing in the grocery store or restaurant that you just can quite place what it is, or you missed a line in the lyrics and it will drive you mad until you get home and look it up? Well, say goodbye to those annoyances with SoundHound. Open it, or use a one-click shortcut or widget to let it listen and give you the answers you're looking for. It will even scroll the lyrics in real-time while you're listening. If you're so inclined, buy the song straight from the app.

But, wait! There's more! You'll just have to wait for the next article to see them. ;)
'Till then, be excellent to each other.

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