My love for Locale
aside, what else is good on Android? Inquiring minds want to know.
- K-9: I am, apparently, a total weirdo in that I don't use
G-Mail. I have an account, of course, because it comes with the whole
Android developer thing, but I pretty much only use it when Google
requires it. Unfortunately, the POP/IMAP client that ships with
devices--even up to and including version 2.1--is awful. It forgets
which messages I've read, doesn't easily allow batch operations, and
decides randomly not to connect. K-9 started as a fork of that client,
but it's reached the point where it's the only reasonable choice for
handling non-Gmail on Android. There are still some things I'd like to
see added (text-selection, recover from trash), but it also has touches
of brilliance (check out the swipe-to-multi-select list mechanic).
- Touiteur: There are lots of Twitter clients on Android, and
for the most part it's a matter of personal preference which you use.
Seesmic is great, but it keeps asking me which account I want to use
even though I've only got the one. Lately I've been using Touiteur
instead, for a few reasons: I dig the pull-down windowshade for updates,
the UI for jumping out to links is better, and it's super-speedy. Also,
the name cracks me up. Like all Android clients, of course, Touiteur
gracefully handles checking for messages and mentions in the background
via the notification bar, and it makes itself available to the "share"
menu for URL-shortening right from the browser.
- Ringdroid: One of the main goals for Android is that it's
not tied down to a computer. Everything's either in the cloud, or it's
meant to be self-sufficient. Sometimes this can be frustrating (I'd love
to have Outlook sync included), but for the most part it's liberating.
Take Ringdroid, for example: it's a basic WAV/MP3 editor that you
can use to edit and set system sounds directly on the device. I don't
use it often, but if I decide to nerd out on the bus and set my
notification tone to a Star Trek communicator clip I found online,
Ringdroid makes it possible (and yet no less shameful).
- Text Edit: Every platform needs a Notepad.exe equivalent.
Unfortunately, most of the note-taking programs for Android keep their
data siloed in a private database, which defeats the point of having
that SD card filesystem available. Text Edit actually opens and saves
files, which makes it tremendously helpful for someone like me
who'd actually like to get some work done in a standard format every now
- Smart Keyboard Pro: You can replace almost anything on an
Android phone if you don't like the default, and I don't much care for
the built-in soft keyboard. Specifically, I hate the way it keeps all
the good punctuation hidden away from me. Smart Keyboard offers good
foreign language support, swipe gestures (one of the better bits from
Windows Mobile), multiple skins, and Blackberry-like autotext shortcuts.
But most importantly, it puts all the punctuation on the keyboard as a
long-press of individual letters, so I don't have to hunt for question
marks or semi-colons anymore.
- Replica Island: There aren't a lot of great games on
Android, but Replica Island (which started as a tech demo for the
platform) is a well-done little platformer, and it's free.
The interesting thing about making a list like this is, for me, was that
I realized how little use most of the native software on the device
actually sees. 95% of my time on a smartphone is spent in three places:
e-mail, Twitter, and the browser. That's not to say that I don't use
other applications--that I don't find them phenomenally helpful, or that
I wouldn't miss them if they were gone--only to say that as a matter of
routine, those three are what matter most. Everything else is gravy.
(Well, almost everything. When people ask me about whether they should
get a smartphone, the first thing I tell them is that Maps will change.
Their. Lives. Because it
absolutely does. I spend relatively little time in Maps, but it's
probably the most valuable application on the phone.)