Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

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.
Tags: technology
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