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What's in your phone?
Having just gotten the new phone, and upped my available space manyfold, I am doing a lot of reviewing of apps, and thinking about what else to get. Here are my newest must-haves. What apps do you consider particularly great for an Android phone?

WidgetLocker: I loves me my Android 4.0, don't get me wrong. But they removed exactly one feature from 2.x that aggravates the snot out of me: stock 2.0 had a little slider on the lock screen that let you quickly and easily silence the phone. Since I'm in and out of meetings all day, this really matters to me. But it was removed from 3.0 on the tablet, and turns out to be just plain gone from 4.0. Humph.

Still, this is Android, and *every* problem has a solution. In this case, that's WidgetLocker, a super-configurable replacement lock screen. It lets you put more or less whatever you want on that initial screen, including my much-loved silence slider.

So far, I'm generally liking WidgetLocker, although it isn't quite perfect. I gather it needs to sit on *top* of the system security, and my phone (by company mandate) needs a pass-pattern, so I have to drag to unlock it and then input the code. And it appears that switching to Airplane Mode doesn't work correctly until I unlock WidgetLocker.

Still, being able to make things more or less as I like them is a win. Four out of five stars for this useful toy.

JuiceDefender: Battery life on the Nexus isn't bad -- with LTE turned off, I get about a full day of moderate use. Still, I was often finding myself on the edge, and it was a constant struggle with the old Droid.

See "every problem has a solution". In this case, JuiceDefender seems the right tool for the job. This is a powerful system tool that is built around the theory that your phone's battery is *mostly* getting eaten by the radios. Besides the phone radio itself, you're running 3G, Wifi, Bluetooth, and all that stuff -- most of which isn't really *doing* anything most of the time aside from looking for new data.

So JuiceDefender gives you deep control over those radios. It comes in three flavors: a free version, a fancier version that costs a few bucks, and an "Ultimate" version that is expensive only by Android standards (at five dollars, well worth the money). Ultimate provides three levels of control. You can accept one of the three built-in profiles; you can go for "custom", which lets you manage a few high-level knobs yourself; or you can go for "advanced", which provides you with a ridiculous number of switches to make your phone behave exactly as you like. I've barely scratched the surface of the really cool features, like the one that changes the radio profile based on your current location.

No question about it -- this is a power tool, and it isn't a simple panacea. By the nature of what it's doing (turning off your data connections at various times), it means that you get notifications slower under at least some circumstances. And the Ultimate version is certainly more powerful than most people need, although I think it's worth supporting the program just on general principles.

But it does what it claims. At the cost of getting IMs and things a little less promptly, it claims to be doubling my daily battery life, and that matches my anecdotal observations. Well worth getting, and I plan on fiddling with it to get it "just so".

Enjoy Sudoku: Hands down, this is the best sudoku implementation I've ever come across. The UI is easy and intuitive -- better yet, it optimizes for the device you are using, using the extra real estate of a tablet well. It hooks up to an online database of layouts, and shows you how you do against other people who are playing the same layout. If you like Sudoku, this one is a must-have.

Drop7: At any given time, I find the need to have a current "tetris". You know: the annoyingly simple game that nonetheless eats your brain? You can always tell that you've fallen for one of these games when you find that you are dreaming about playing it?

Drop7 is one of those: another little drop-things-into-a-grid puzzle game. But this one has a fine twist: you are dropping numbered blocks in, and each block disintegrates when it is in a row or column with exactly that many blocks in it. It would probably be entirely beatable, but sometimes you wind up dropping in grey shells with no visible number. If a block next to one of these shells disintegrates, it cracks; after another, it opens and shows the number inside, at which point you can start to eliminate it. After each "level" (a certain number of blocks dropped), a row of grey shells pushes up from the bottom.

Very simple time-waster, with a pretty clear limit to how long you can play a game: each level is shorter and shorter, so eventually the grey shells overwhelm your ability to crack them open. And so, in that classic intermittent-reinforcement way, you wind up playing again and again.

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No, that's there still. But it's a hair slow to access, by design -- I find the turn on and swipe significantly faster, and since I do it many times a day, that matters to me...

I also always use the slider to engage silent mode, but thanks to Goldsquare's tip, I'm going to try to remember to use the long press power button to do that from now on. Somehow I never really absorbed that there was a silent mode setting on the power off menu even though I've used it to switch to airplane mode lots.

My main apps:
Key Ring - replace store loyalty cards
Timeriffic - schedule WiFi & ringer on/off times
MyFitnessPal - Diet Tracker
Evernote - sync notes between machines

My games of choice: Cut The Rope & Peggle

Sadly, Peggle isn't available for the Nexus yet. (Nor is Plants vs. Zombies: EA is doing a craptastic job of supporting Android.)

I do have Evernote, and thought about listing it here. Still ramping up on using it, but it is the new home of the all-important Poker Variants notes.

I'll have to check out the rest -- thanks!

Nor is Plants vs. Zombies

Well, it is, via the Amazon Appstore...but Amazon doesn't bother to check device compatibility. I have it on my GN, but it crashed the first time I ran it. (Worse, it kept playing the music, and the only way to stop it was to reboot.) I tried again, and it was fine, but it did put a damper on things.

Yeah, reports seem consistent that it seriously isn't ready for prime time on the Nexus yet. (I saw that it was available through Amazon, but also a *huge* number of complaints.)

Odd that they don't have Peggle for the Nexus. I've got it on my LG Optimus running Android 2.2.1

The Market shows it compatible with my old HTC Inspire (aka Dream HD), but not with my GN or with the Nook Color I used to have. So it might be a screen size issue. The Inspire is 4.3", 800x480; the Nook is 7", 1024x600; the GN is 4.6", 1280x720.

Apps have to specify what screen sizes they work with, and can't specify screen sizes that didn't exist in the SDK version they were built for, so the upward creep in phone sizes does tend to leave older apps behind. It's not necessarily hard to update them, but it's not always automatic.

Let's see, what have I got:

Kitchen Timer
A widget version, so I can just turn it on and off from the home screen.
NFC Reader
Haven't found any tags yet, though. Tried to scan my passport, and it just bleeped.
Task Manager
Google Reader
I don't use this one as much any more, though; Google Reader and the ebook apps have displaced it.
Google Goggles
Google Docs
Google Voice
For my work phone, I just have a GV number, instead of having an annoying PBX phone on my desk.
K-9 Mail
Sony Reader
Best Buy
I ran into a nasty bug in this one last week: if you place an order, and don't switch to a different page in the app, and switch to a different app and back (or perhaps just lock the screen and come back), it'll run that same order again. This happened twice; once I noticed and cancelled immediately, the other time I'm going to have to do a return.
HDR Camera
Camera ZOOM FX
Paper Camera
Does image processing to make the pictures it's taking look sketches.
Photoshop Express
Three variants of Angry Birds
Plants vs. Zombies
Jelly Defense
a great tower defense game, but too absorbing; I rarely have time for it
Words with Friends
Just started trying it
...a bunch of other games, mostly purchased in the 10¢ sale last month.
ASTRO, the file manager
Google Sky Map
And my own apps: Fanorona, Buzzphrase, and Scrapple.
Edit: and the one I use so often I put it in the bar at the bottom: Diet & Calorie Tracker By SparkPeople

Edited at 2012-01-04 07:47 pm (UTC)

Kitchen Timer: actually just picked that up last week, for cooking some stuff at Christmas. Looks nice, but now that you remind me about it, I need to go change that bloody default rooster tone. (Done.)

Flashlight: which one? There are several, and my handy old FlashDroid doesn't seem to work on the Nexus, so I'm looking for a replacement.

NFC Reader: interesting. I assume that the Nexus has the hardware, even though Verizon stomped Google Wallet. (Grr.) NFC Reader itself looks like a cute toy, but likely won't motivate me enough.

Task Manager: I recently picked up System Monitor instead, which looks likely to fit my needs better. (Very nice CPU monitoring.)

Amazon: thanks for the warning. I don't use the app often, but it's occasionally useful.

HDR Camera: intriguing, and possibly very useful. And they're currently selling the ad-free "Pro" version for all of $.99, so I think I'll just give that a try. (Ditto for Camera Zoom FX and Paper Camera -- Android apps are cheap enough that I'm willing to just buy them if they're well-reviewed.)

Plants vs. Zombies: not for the Nexus yet, I'm afraid. Sadness.

Words with Friends: I have several friends who are very into it (read: Niki really wants to play it with me), so I'm using it a moderate amount. I do have a tendency to forget about upcoming turns if I get distracted, though.

And Fanarona! Need to go get that...

Flashlight: which one?

Let's see...here we are: Tiny Flashlight+. (Sorry, the UI on the device didn't show the full name.)</a>

NFC Reader: interesting. I assume that the Nexus has the hardware, even though Verizon stomped Google Wallet.


Task Manager: I recently picked up System Monitor instead, which looks likely to fit my needs better.

Yeah, I haven't looked very hard on this front; I stuck with Good Enough.

Let's see...here we are: Tiny Flashlight+.

Excellent -- that's the one I was considering picking up. (Actually already have a tab open to it.)

And Fanarona! Need to go get that...

Market link for the free version. (I don't know if you remember, but the free version is identical to the pay version; after making about 10 sales in 6 months, I gave up and took the ads out of the free version.)

Enh; I am a believer in paying for shareware, and a buck is entirely reasonable...

Well, thank you. :-)

from the other end of pocket telephony

I have an LG flip phone. I can talk and text with it.

There are apps I like, but honestly, here are the Apps I use;

Catan: Not a great version of Settlers, but hey, Settlers!

Doubletwist: I have a few ways to play mp3s. Not sure why this is my standby, but it is.

Opera Browser: My choice for full website browsing.

Gmail, facebook, G+ & ElJay: Mostly used for lurking

Zedge: I am leery of ringtone sharing sites, but I decided I needed to bite the bullet and try one. Zedge had reasonable reviews and has been reliable. Great for those, "I wonder if I can find a ringtone for X?" moments.

There are a lot of honorable mentions; Bank of America app, Magic 8-Ball, Cut the Rope, Flashlight, Pandora, Out of Milk, Skype mobile, youtube, Amazon MP3... ...these don't get the daily treatment, though.

I deleted the Facebook app, and read it only in my browser, because the new version wants to read and write my SMS and MMS messages.

I live and die by my Android-based calendar, but it's always been something of a problem and not as useful as I'd like. I've recently discovered Calengoo, which answers almost every complaint I've had, is totally customizable, and even presents a very useful and readable month view. Absolutely worth buying for $5.99.

Intriguing. I hadn't been specifically looking for a new calendar app, but this does look nice. Which features/fixes have you found particularly helpful?

I've gone in and changed all the colors to combinations I find easier to look at and to read. Also, font sizes are customizable in small increments and independently for each different view. What I really like is being able to look at the month view and get all the information I need for a quick overview. When I was using the standard Android calendar, I used the Agenda view almost exclusively. Now I use Agenda, Week, and Month each a lot, and they are each customized with different colors and font sizes. Overall, this is just a dynamite app.

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