My Top Ten Droid Applications

1 01 2010

This is a list of the applications I have found most useful on the Motorola Droid. I will update this post as I discover apps that are worthy, and demote an item to make room. Some of the apps come on Droid out-of-the-box, others are available on the Android Marketplace. Here’s a quick flavor of what  will describe in more detail.

  • Turn by Turn Navigation.
  • Multi-touch ‘pinch’ zoom just like the iPhone. Plus tabbed browsing!
  • Print web pages and photos from your cell phone directly to your printer(s) from anywhere.
  • Make cheap international calls on your cell, bypassing Verizon’s higher rates.
  • Play Audible eBooks and magazines/newspapers.
  • Have the phone go into silent mode as you arrive at church and go back to normal after you leave.
  • Lose weight.
  • Turn you phone into a radio by playing internet radio on your home or car audio system, or on ear buds as you work out. No DJ’s, No audible adverts. Just music.
  • Have your MP3 collection with you wherever you go, even if it exceeds the memory capacity of the Droid. Take 100GB of search-able MP3’s (or more) on the road!!
  • Sync you iTunes library with the Droid!

1. Pandora (Free with ads or $34 without ads). Comes with the Droid.

Pandora is a really well written internet radio application. One can select a music stream from a list of genres or type in an artists name and create your own feed of your favorite music. One can’t choose which songs are played, but each Pandora user can give an online thumbs up or thumbs down to a track that is being played which will help Pandora provide music that is well thought of in each genre or for each artist.

The ads are very small at the bottom of the screen, better still there are NO audio ads to interrupt the music, so it is much better than traditional broadcast radio. No DJ to tolerate either. If your phone rings, the audio stream is automatically paused and will resume after the call ends. Attach the audio out jack on the Droid to a stereo or car audio system and the music is CD quality.

I found that it works just as well on Verizon’s 3G network or on WiFi. If the phone switches between WiFi and 3G, say as you drive off from home, it switches seamlessly without skipping!! A click is sometimes heard, but that’s it.

The free version is limited to 40 hours of listening per month. There are also limits on how many tracks one can ‘skip’. These limits are either raised or eliminated if you subscribe to Pandora One.

2. (Google) Maps. (Free, comes with the droid).

This app is phenomenal. If you have used Google maps online, all the location finding and directions work very similarly, but there are several extra features a GPS enabled phone gives one.

One feature is turn by turn Navigation. The navigation function accepts audible input or keyboard input of the destination address. Route recalculation is fast should you deviate from the recommended route. Various car mounts exist for the Droid, window mount, cup holder mount or heating vent mount which make using the Droid as a nav device as good as a dedicated nav device. The ability to add a traffic layer or satellite layer puts this nav device equal and arguably above some of the best dedicated nav devices on the market. For a free feature this is an absolute steal. The traffic data is collected by Google from other mobile Google map users and is typically accurate and up to date.

Another great feature is Latitude. Latitude plots your whereabouts on a map and one can optionally share your location with friends. Sharing of your location is done on a person by person basis and is based on mutual consent. You can then see your friends whereabouts on the map and optionally get either driving or walking directions to that individual. Latitude can also be configured to notify you if one of your friends is nearby.

Recently a Google Buzz layer has been added to maps so one can see where your buzz contacts are, should they grant this permission.

3. Salling Media Sync . (Free, $22 Registration provides differential syncs).

Sync your iTunes library to the Droid!! Actually this application isn’t a Droid application, rather it is a PC application that works with the Droid and many other mobile phones. It runs on your PC or Macintosh computer. When you connect the Droid to the PC using the USB cable supplied with the phone it automatically launches the sync application. The Sync options are very flexible, I use the app to sync up podcasts I download through iTunes. It allows me to sync the last episode, or last 3, 5 or 10 episodes of each podcast, I chose the last 5 new episodes, I typically sync once per week. The application automatically  creates on the Droid a playlist called Podcasts to allow me to play the podcasts I just sync’d.

The free version will download all media files from your computer to the Droid each and  every-time you connect it. If you are syncing a large media library this could be very time consuming. Since I sync up to 20 podcasts per week, It is a small inconvenience. The paid version will sync just the newer files on the computer down to the droid. I did find that if a podcast fails to download on the computer and I sync a second time after getting the missing podcast, the play-list is organized such that the newly retrieved podcast appears in the correct place in the play-list, not at the bottom. Wow, that is great, so much easier than using iTunes to sync!! This is a great companion to iTunes.

4. Google Voice. (App is Free, calls may cost, available on Android  Market).

Simply brilliant. This app has been banned by Apple on the iPhone it is so useful. Google voice has several advanced telephony features or cost savings. Here is a sample of the benefits.

  • Low cost international calls from the mobile anywhere you can get a data signal. It works very much like Skype Out, you buy credits and draw down on the balance as you make calls via Google Voice.
  • Universal Phone Number. One can get Google to assign you  number in any US area code of your choice. Once established this number can be setup to ring one or more telephone numbers, land-line or cell. These numbers will ring simultaneously when the Google number is called. When you answer a Google initiated call, you get the option to accept the call by pressing 1 or push it to voice mail. You can listen to the voice mail message as it is being left.
  • Voice mail transcription. For free an automatically generated transcription is sent to your Gmail address. For a fee you can have the voice mail transcribed by a human, which gets better results.

5.  MooZone (Free application available on the Market with 2GB of free web based Storage).

MooZone caught my eye while I was searching for a DropBox application. One can store and access as little or as much of your personal MP3 or Ogg music file collection and have it wherever you go with your Droid. Music is stored online in a personal account with the MooZone website. MooZone provides one with 2GB of free storage to try their service indefinitely. The music is streamed to the Droid using the MooZone application which access the music in your web account. Music is uploaded to the MooZone website using a web browser.

Click to Enlarge

If more space is needed beyond the free 2GB provided, one  has several options available, some of which are fairly unique. For a traditional monthly or annual rental fee one can extend the storage, for example 5GB total storage will cost $1.13 per month, 50GB can be had for $5.78 per month. Quite reasonable rates.

Another option which I haven’t seen before, is the ability to buy space outright for the life of your account with MooZone. For $10.13 one time payment you get 5GB of storage, or for $75.20 you get to keep 50GB for the life of your account.

Yet another option which is very cool, is the ability to link your MooZone account to DropBox and take advantage of the storage space you have already with that web service. Certainly it could be a death by a thousand cuts paying different webs services small amounts for web storage, the provision to have services share storage is very welcome.

I found the MooZone player on the droid to be functional, it isn’t anything fancy. It does sport a search tool to search your library of online music, one can play one or all of the tunes found in the search results. I found that on a 3g connection, skipping can occur after 10-15 minutes, especially if the 3g signal is weak. On WiFi it is very solid, never skipping.

You are not restricted to listening to your MooZone playlists on your phone. MooZone have a web based player you can stream your music collection via any web browser. This also means one should be able to play MooZone hosted music on any smart phone with a web browser (I haven’t tried that). Wonder if the iPad can play music through their web service? An iPhone app is under development, which should make it available for sure on the iPhone OS platform.

So far so good with this service, I like having my music available wherever I go without clogging up the Droid with a lot of music files. I question how sustainable a business model the outright purchase of storage space is for MooZone. The rental of space is a new feature added during March 2010. Prior to the rental of storage being available I rejected the idea of purchasing storage because I mistakenly thought their outright purchase price was a monthly fee. We are so conditioned to monthly fees it is easy to make such an oversight :-)

Visit their website, sign up and give it a try, there is nothing to loose and much to gain.

6. Locale. ($9.99 from the Android Market).

Locale can change your ringer and notification depending on a wide variety of ‘conditions’. So if you are at work or church you can have the phone automatically go on vibrate, or ring loudly at locations where you may miss a call due to ambient noise. You can also set it to change the ringer/notifications based upon time of day, day of week, battery charge level, who is calling or the orientation of the screen.

There are several ‘extensions’ available separately on the market that can add more conditions or actions to this program. For instance one could set it up to send an SMS message when you are close to home using an SMS extension. Some people have reportedly set it up to open the garage door as they drive up the  drive by automatically sending an SMS message to a home management system!!

7. Remote Desktop Client. ($17.95 from Android Market).

Login to your windows computer from anywhere in the world and use it as if you are sitting in front of it!!

Quite an expensive application, but for a computer professional the flexibility to login to computers and servers from anywhere is priceless. Placing the mouse on the right place to close an application on the remote computer can be tricky.There are some free remote desktop programs available on the market, but this one works extremely well, the free ones, well, not so good.

The host computer must support Remote Desktop connections. Home versions of windows do not have this feature, you need pro or ultimate, which most businesses have.

8. WWDiary. (Free from Android market – donations encouraged).

Weight Watchers Diary

This app is awesome and works really really well. If you are a Weight Watcher and are looking for a convenient way to track your points on your Android phone look no further, this free app does it all and the author is very active in keeping it up-to-date. On November 28th 2010 the weight watchers formula will change, the author has already committed to modify his program to conform to the new system!!

The program has a built in points calculator so if you don’t know the points value for a food item it will figure that out for you. Once a food item is entered the program remembers it forever so you never have to calculate a foods value again. One can adjust the number of serving sizes, this is one of the most misleading and confusing part of food labels, WWDiary eliminates the mental arithmatic associated with serving sizes. It can handle fractional serving sizes, really handy when the label says contains 2 1/2 servings!!

Your daily points allowance can either be entered by you, or calculated based upon the Weight Watchers formula, if you track your weight with this program it will automatically adjust your points allowance as you lose or gain weight. The amount left for today’s allowance is prominently displayed so you can’t miss it. The program is very comprehensive in that it tracks your weekly points allowance, exercise points and can also keep track of Dairy, Water and Fruit.

To save time entering a products name, one can scan the product bar code, a huge database of foods are already in the program. This feature requires you download a free bar code scanner from the market, you may already have it on your phone.

I haven’t had to physically write anything down for over a year now an have retained my lifetime weight. One writes it down virtually on the phone instead; saving money on journals and you never lose your pen/pencil or run out of room in your journal. This program is now very mature and stable, I can’t think of a feature it needs in order for a Weight Watcher to stick to their regimen, it is very very comprehensive.

9. Audible Player (Currently in beta, free and ad-free!)

This player is still in Beta, but is so welcome it has already made my top ten list!! Up until recently it has been difficult to listen to audible content on an Android device. During May 2010 Google and Audible quietly released a Beta version of the official Audible player. It is NOT available on the market at the time of writing (June 7th 2010) but is available for download if you join the relevant Google Group located here.

The player has all the features one would expect from an Audible player device. Since it is in Beta there are a few rough edges. It seems to crash at the end of listening to a book and does not multi-task well with other programs, it tends to skip if other tasks are performed on the phone.

One restriction that is rather odd, is that it will only download and play content that is in Audibles Enhanced Audio format, the highest fidelity they offer. This makes for large/slow downloads and the fidelity is quite frankly wasted on a portable device such as an android phone. Fortunately it will download over WiFi as well as 3g, so be sure to download all content you’ll need for the day prior to leaving for the day!!  Hopefully the engineers will fix these teething troubles prior to the apps final release. I have noticed that the number of people registered for the app is increasing by 15% each day, so hurry up before Google/Audible close the open beta period!!

Read more about how to download this non market app at my other Audible post.

10. Dolphin Browser (Free with ads from the Android Market).

The built-in browser for the Droid isn’t bad, but it lacks one feature that is very cool on the iPhone. Multi-touch or ‘pinch’ zooming. The Dolphin browser brings multi-touch to the Droid!! The zoom capability is far superior to the normal browser. It seems very stable as well.

Tabbed browsing works very well. A nice feature is if you close the only tab open, it takes you to a bookmarks page as shown to the left.

The calendar view of your GMail calendar via iGoogle login is very clean and concise, I prefer looking at this rather than my Google calendar on a PC!! The Google Purchase History is broken and shows nothing but white space, hopefully fixed in a future version.

Another feature I like with the Dolphin browser is the ability to save passwords to websites.

Current page load progress is similar to Safari, a progress bar appears near the top of the browser as a transparent overlay on the page title rather than a separate progress bar, it’s an elegant touch.

This free application does include a small banner ad at the bottom of the browser window, and is not intrusive, It is identical to advertising you’ll find on Pandora and other premium freeware apps for the droid.

Demoted Applications

As I update my Top Ten Apps I will relegate items to make room and they are listed below.

A. Facebook. (Free, comes with the Droid).

The built in Facebook application is functional. I preferred the application available for the Blackberry for the features it contained, however the extra screen real estate on the Droid makes up for the spartan feature set. It is very easy to read and post Facebook entries.

B. Google Talk. (Free from the Android Market).

Sending text messages costs money, either per message or via an monthly ‘unlimited’ text plan. Use Google Talk instead to send text messages to other Google Talk subscribers for free!! The only downside? Not many Google Talk subscribers out there at the moment.

C. Key Ring. (Free from the Android Market).

Put your wallet/pocketbook on a diet !!

Scan the bar code on your loyalty cards into your Droid. They can then be recalled on the screen at the store for the clerk to scan. No need to carry all of those loyalty cards around with you anymore!! If the bar code does not want to scan into Key Ring, then simply enter the number via the keyboard and it will reproduce te barcode on screen, all nice and new looking!!

My wallet is lighter and thinner now.

D.  Shop Savvy. (Free, available on the Android Market).

Scan a product bar-code at the store using the Droid and instantly get a list of comparative prices at stores on the web or physical stores in your vicinity. It uses GPS to figure out where you are, no need to tell it. Optionally one can display a map showing your current location and the location of the alternate stores. Store details such as telephone number, distance from current location and store address is given so you can check for in stock availability and get driving directions. Could save you significant amounts on big ticket items.

E. Google Shopper. (Free from the Android Market).

Google Shopper takes the Shop Savvy concept to the next level. Google shopper allows one to scan the front cover of a book/DVD and it identifies the item by its cover art only.  Then it looks up the item and does comparison shopping and can provide product details. You can optionally scan the bar code if  it doesn’t detect the item for some reason. The program appears to be limited to books, CD’s DVD’s, video games and electronic products, but I am sure that will change as this new service grows. I found the image detection speed is remarkably fast even under ‘so so’ indoor lighting. Some electronis products were not recognized unless I scanned the bar code.

Google Shopper also uses voice recognition, so one can opt to speak the the name of the item  and have it looked up that way.

Very cool app, but does not replace shop savvy because of the limited number of items in the database.

F. PrinterShare. (Free with ads, $19.95 per month no ads).

This app is awesome and works really really well. Print wirelessly from your Droid to a printer attached to a computer (windows or mac). In addition printing to networked printers is also possible, but does not work quite as well.

Install the PrinterShare server software on you windows or Macintosh based computer and share one or more printers. Install the mobile PrinterShare client on your droid, login to your PrinterShare account and print to any of the shared printers no matter where you are in the world!

What can you print? Web pages, contacts, phone call log, photographs, PDF’s. There is a very slick print preview feature prior to printing and you can select just the pages you want printed. The quality is excellent, the only problem I had was with a graphic not printing that was inside a PDF. Everything else printed well. It prints a footer message advertising the PrinterShare product, not very intrusive for a free application. In addition it prints an off white background on all pages, which may use more ink/toner than it needs to.

The paid (ad free) version is ridiculously priced at $20 per month. $20 per year maybe.

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6 responses

3 04 2010
Droid Apps

I like the concept of “demoted” apps, I wish most reviewers with “top 10” android apps lists would do this.

3 04 2010
jpwhitehome

I’m glad you like the concept. Keep an eye on this thread (Setup an alert) I plan to add two new apps in the next few days and demote a couple :-)

I’ll be posting about my experiences with Moozone and FourSquare.

JP

27 12 2010
Jim

How about “skip the URL” (www.skiptheurl.com) for a search utility?

30 01 2011
Rick

Can you print text messages with Printshare? Thanks!

29 03 2011
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