What do the average subway rider, person waiting at an airport, and coffee shop patron have in common?
That’s right. They’re all glued to their smart-phones.
As the web has trained us to rely on instant recall for almost any piece of information on command, and more of our personal lives have moved online, people are less willing to be separated from the web. Just a few years when I was in college, I remember this meant that many of my friends would whip out their laptops when they arrived somewhere and check their email. Now it’s a smartphone and the checkin (no not that check in) is a lot less cumbersome.
In the next five years, mobile data usage will surpass desktop data use and it already exceeds the data used for voice communications on mobile devices. I realize that there is world-changing potential in text messaging and regular cellphone use being tapped now in innovative ways, but I’m going to restrict my thoughts here to smart-phones.
I’ve had a smartphone for about a year now and like so many others, I’m hooked. I grab my smartphone and my favorite towel and I’m reading to conquer the universe (or at least my little corner).
Why don’t you have the iPhone?
So far I’m an Android user. I’m not a total fanboy and I’ll consider switching to the iPhone if/when it comes to Verizon. My Android preference boils down to
- Choice of carrier (all my family is on Verizon)
- Great integration with Google Apps – When I edit a contact in Gmail, the information syncs to my phone seamlessly through the network, no wires, no iTunes, all network. Even my search history is constant between my desktop browser and web browser so when I find a location in Google Maps in Chrome and then look up the same location in Maps on my phone later in the day, my earlier search query for the location appears first in the suggested list.
- Trust – The Epic Change team all use Android and while I watched AJ Leon tweet from Africa on the G1, he drilled into my head that I had to give Android a fair shot. I’m scared of him and do whatever he says. (Just kidding guy! No really. That guy is scary.)
- Music isn’t that critical an app for me – I’m fine relying on last.fm and Pandora for most of my music on the go. If you have an extensive music collection and know you’re going to be using it a ton, the iPhone which doubles as an iPod might be more your style.
Managing Contacts in Android
- To really carry your contacts in your pocket with an Android phone you’ll have to spend some time cleaning up your Google Contact. That’s probably a good idea in any case. Lifehacker has a great guide on cleaning up Google Contacts.
- Sync your Google Accounts to your phone
- In Android Contact, click Menu, and choose Display Options
- Choose the Google Contacts System Groups you’d like to appear in your Android contacts.
Extend your battery life
- Uninstall apps you don’t need
- Add the Power Control Widget to your home screen – That way you can easily toggle wireless, bluetooth, and GPS.
- JuiceDefender – Enable this app and set it to enable data use when the screen is unlocked, while data exchange exceeds 50KB/15seconds, and on a schedule for one minute every 15. Aside from the screen, your data connection is the biggest battery suck your phone has. This app will allow apps to use all the data they need while you’re actively using them, but prevent them from using your data connection in the background while your phone is idle except on a scheduled interval. You’ll want to install the Home screen Widget too which shows you a multiplier number for the time you’ve extended your battery’s normal life while the app is active.
- TasKiller or Advanced Task Cleaner 2.0 – I’m not sure it’s critical to use a Task Killer and I suspect it will become even more irrelevant as handsets improve, but you may be able to squeeze some more battery life by using one of these apps and setting up an ignore list so the app kill your favorite apps that you do want to continue running in the background like email and Twitter which you may want to receive notifications from. You’ll want to install the Home screen Widget too so you can easily kill unneeded apps.
All about the apps
I love to talk to strangers and I’m always on the lookout for good app recommendations both online and in person from friends and people I meet. These are the apps that are working for me. I hope some meet your needs and work out for you too and hope you’ll use the comments section to share your own recommendations of app gems you’ve found.
- Swype – An alternate keyboard that let’s you swipe your finger across letters instead of tapping. It’s awesome. (You’ll need to request a beta invite). @ElianahSharon recommends Slide Keyboard as another alternative.
- My Verizon Mobile – Review your minutes and data usage, and pay your bill from your phone.
- Mint.com – Bill tracking and mobile banking
- MeetroDC – Real time DC Train Schedule. New Yorkers should try Next Train NYC Subway or NYC Subway Status.
- Barcode Scanner – Scans bar codes and QR codes.
- Alarm Clock
- Calendar – syncs with Google Calendar
- Navigation – build in GPS navigation
- Guitar Tuner
- Last.fm – my mainstay for streaming music. Check out my station.
- Movies (formerly Flixter) – movie ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, nearby theaters and showtimes.
- TV Guide Mobile
- DoubleTwist – Better than the native music app, DoubleTwist also let’s you easily import your iTunes music library to your Android device.
- Gallery – photo viewing and photo album storage
- InstaFetch – read things you mark for reading later in your regular browsing
Publishing and Capture on the Go
- Cinch – podcasting on the go
- mNote – note taking the cloud
- Springpad or Evernote – universal capture apps.
- VoiceMemo – record and store thoughts on the go
- WordPress – blogging app
- Gmail – Of course you can load in more than one account.
- HootSuite Lite – This is my mobile Twitter app of choice. You may prefer Twidroid Pro or the native Twitter for Android app, especially if you depend strongly on having bit.ly for link shortening. For me, the ease of HootSuite’s user interface made the decision for me.
- Skype Mobile – You can chat with other Skype users and also make paid international calls using your Skype credits.
Just for fun
- Air Control Lite – a fun plane landing app.
- Flood It – very addictive game from Lab Pixies
- Shazam – This app will “listen” to a song when you can’t remember what it is that’s playing and tell you what it is.
Given the speed of development cycles and changing technology, all the apps I’ve shared in this series are moving targets, but that’s even more so with the mobile apps in this post. There’s a huge development community building mobile apps.
What mobile apps have you brought into your own workflow?
(photo credit to Flickr user quinn.anya