Apps, Apps, & more Apps
I’ve used an iPod Touch for a year and a half and Windows Mobile for about 5 years, but this is my first Android phone and I think the 1 key difference everyone would agree on is – the apps. Other than the iPhone OS, the other operating systems can be on about any piece of hardware you could imagine, with different variants such as proccessor/memory speed, screen size/orientation, hard/soft keyboards and basically all have wifi and GPS now. So what is different about the apps? Before I get too in depth, I’ll admit I’m a little biased against Apple and actually a little biased towards Windows Mobile – that part will surprise some people. I started using a Dell Axim PDA with a form of Windows Moble probably 6 years ago and then went to the Moto Q in 2006 when it was released and then to HTC devices in 2008 (Verizon VX6800, Touch Pro 1). So I thought the non techies/apple fanboys got a little over excited, when their iPhone was doing some of the things my phones had done for years. Once I got an iPod Touch I realized what the real difference was is the developers. There were some really fun games and apps that people didn’t take the time to develop for Windows Mobile. iPhone users could jailbreak their phones, but couldn’t install custom ROMS and upgrade their OS as fast as Windows Mobile. Windows Mobile had all the apps I needed and even more that were business focused, including Exchange support, which wasn’t available on the iPhone yet. So I guess the point I’m getting across is I could do a lot with my WinMo phones and I was pretty happy with them. If anybody’s interested I could give my WinMo or iPhone app suggestions in another post, but this ones focused on Android, since I decided my new phone would be a HTC Incredible (obviously running Anroid) on Verizon instead of my 2nd choice, the HTC Touch Pro 2 (Windows Mobile 6.5).
The Incredible, of course, comes with the basics that I needed: HTC email (exchange), GMail, Google Maps, and YouTube. The first step for me was to start grabbing apps from my iPod and WinMo phone that were also on Android. That list included Evernote, an absolute must for me. I love to over organize stuff and keep a copy of everything. I use it to make lists, outlines, databases, recipes and then to store pictures of menus, hand written notes, and to record audio notes or music I want to remember to download. Others that directly came over from my iPod were Pandora. A great music app, I’m sure about everyone has heard of. Having the ability to use it over 3G is amazing. I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the stations I’ve created and now I can access them from anywhere. Speaking of using an app on 3G, I recently go the Slingbox app when they brought it to Android, and that app is amazing. I was a College World Series game and when I got a text that I was on TV, I was able to pull it up from the game and see myself on ESPN. I was also the go to person for when ESPN showed instant replays that we didn’t get to see at the stadium. It’s too bad that it cost $30 and I had already paid that for the iPod Touch version. Here’s a quick round up of the rest that come to mind: Shazam (amazing how much more I use this when I have 3G to instantly tag a song, instead of tagging it and waiting till I got home with my iPod Touch), Google Maps/Earth/Latitude (way, way better on Android, turn by turn navigation, Latitude, which isn’t even on the iPhone), Waze (I don’t use much, but still cool), Trapster (again, not very useful where I’m at yet, but cool), Urban Spoon/OpenTable (once in a great while, this comes in handy), Sportacular (many good competitors, but this one’s great), Qik (better on android)/Ustream (I’m still trying to figure out how to use this, but I love the idea), Amazon, Yelp (I didn’t realize how useful it was until I had GPS), Photoshop, USA Today, Dropbox, Bump (neat, but I’ve never used it), & Flixster.
Then there are the apps that are only available on Android, I should’ve listed these first, but I really did start with my iPod apps. These are the cool apps like Shop Savvy, Google Maps Navigation, Google Goggles, My Tracks, Advanced Task Killer (oh wait you can’t multitask on the iPhone) & Astro (you can’t manage the files on an iPhone either?, really? plus it’s a great app for backups), Key Ring Rewards Cards, TripIt, Google Listen, and how could I forget Google Voice. Then the apps that do the same thing as some iPhone apps, but are made by different developers handyCalc, Astrid Tasks, GMote, LED Scroller (I don’t really expect many people to use this, but I love it [marquee replacement on iPhone] and I consider Google Listen different since it’s so flexible with Podcast subscriptions over the air.)
I know what you’re all saying, there are 2 huge apps you haven’t talked about much yet. How do you keep up on your social networking without a Twitter & Facebook app. I saved them, because I have two opinions about them that are probably different than most. Facebook sucks – yeah that’s right. The Facebook app for Android is horrible, maybe that’s because I was spoiled by the iPod one, but I can now see why Joe Hewitt (Facebooks ex-iPhone app developer) was considered to be so good at what he did. The WinMo app was better and I still use the web version over the app. I couldn’t believe it. It even calls out to a worse mobile version (m.facebook.com) through a built in browser instead of the nicer web version (touch.facebook.com). To be honest, I couldn’t figure out how to see profile pictures or accept friend requests – two pretty big things in my opinion. So I haven’t used Facebook on the Incredible near as much as I did before. The tools for contributing to Facebook aren’t bad, but don’t post too much. I do post some to Twitter and I have a few different accounts I like to manage, so Seesmic was the Twitter client I went with. I’m not sure anything on Android could compare to Tweetie 2 for iPhone (now known as Twitter), but I’m liking Seesmic more and more everyday. I’ve heard Twidroid and Touiteur are pretty good, but I haven’t given it a chance yet. To bring up another bad subject for developers, I did try the official Twitter app. It was pretty nice, but when I found out it only supports 1 user – I had to pass it up. It makes me support Loic from Seesmic more when he said it drives competition and pushes him to be better. Which is good, because I like their approach to Twitter apps and I now use them on Android, Windows and the web. Tweetie is still my Mac and iPod app of choice. I also like some of the custom options Seesmic offers allowing me to use my custom bit.ly url shortner, 19r.us for my links I post. That way I can track my stats better and it looks more uniform.
There are a few things that I really, really wish did make it onto Android that I can’t seem to find and a few that are just wishful thinking. I wish there was an app that combined Nike+, MyTracks/runstar, Livestrong/Calorie Counter by FatSecret, the FitBit/BodyBugg and Google Health. I know this is a little bit of a stretch and these apps overlap a little, but can you imagine if there was 1 go to app that tracked your eating calories, burning calories, scanned barcodes, told you your WeightWatchers points, mapped your workouts, shared all of this info to the web in a downloadable form and then synced with Google Health AND synced info from my FitBit or whatever piece of hardware you used whether it was a Garmin watch, Nike+ shoes, a pedometer/heart rate meter or a BodyBugg (these things are all the rage right now). I would love to be able to go to one place to follow my health and share it with other people to motivate myself. I guess I’ll just have to find a good way to combine them on my own.
I’m hoping I will push Android developers to make more apps and more advanced apps, because I’m going to have to say I don’t think Android has quite caught up with the iPhone apps. Obviously the quantity of apps is lower, but I’m talking about the quality as well. There are still a few that I really liked on my iPod that I just can’t find equivalents for like Everlater, Posterous, Tumblr, and RibbitMobile. Then some of the ones they do have just aren’t quite as good like Facebook, Sportacular & Livestrong. Also, gaming hasn’t come near as far on Android. I enjoy the puzzle games the most, but will also do some social gaming. I just hate paying for apps and most of the good Android apps aren’t free other than lite versions.
In my opinion these are the top 2 lists for Android apps: Gina Trapani & Matt Cutts. Most tech sites will try to mention cool new apps when they come out, but as far as people I really trust in the Android area, these 2 are on top of the list. I think I’ve listed about everything I’ve tried on my Incredible, so comment or tweet me and let me know what apps I’m missing that I have to have. I’m always willing to try out new stuff and if you can fill any of those voids I listed, I’d love to hear about it. I’ll also try to mention a few more specifics about apps and how I use them in future posts.
UPDATE (02/10/2012): FitBit has added more functionality with apps, here’s a link to the ones their compatible with. FitBit Apps
I really need to write another one of these, I just keep putting it off.