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Finding cool Android smart phone apps

| December 26, 2010 8:00 PM

Dear PropellerHeads: I was thinking about getting an Android phone. Can I get those cool iPhone apps for my new phone?

A: As an incorrigible propellerhead, I love that citizens are picking up geek speak with no objection. Apps? Really? Way cool.

Apps, short for applications, is a term used by programmers to describe programs. In other words, they can be app to the computer's operating system to provide useful end-user functions. What is so impressive to this prop-spinner is that folks are making buying decisions based on software for their phones. Gone are the days when a phone just needed to make a call.

Once you get your new phone, you can extend its capabilities by downloading and installing additional applications. The latest smart phones support fast Internet connections, high-resolution touch screens, expansive memory, mega-pixel cameras, GPS and motion detection. All of these built-in capabilities result in new uses for your phone that are being developed every day.

iPhones created all this buzz with the iPhone App Store (www.apple.com/iphone). With a healthy mixture of free and useful apps, and some that you pay for, the market exploded seemingly overnight since its July 2008 launch. There are more than 300,000 iPhone apps available for download.

Then came Google's Android phone operating system. From its October 2008 introduction, the Android Market (www.android.com/market) was open for business and currently claims about 160,000 apps. In practice, most users don't visit the website, but instead use the built-in Marketphone app to find, purchase, and download their apps.

One nice feature of the Market is that once you install an app, it monitors updates to the software and makes it easy to keep up with the latest versions.

More good news: about 60 percent of the Market apps are free. Some provide a partially functional free version, with its bigger fully-functioning brother available at a small cost. Many apps are under $5; thousands cost a buck!

Many of the Android apps were developed from their popular Apple cousins. So, if your Steve Jobs-adoring phone buddies are bragging about their cool iPhone app, there is a good chance you can find it for the Android too.

Unlike the iPhone, you don't have to get your Android apps from a single approved app store. Android apps may be obtained from any source. I would recommend caution about downloading apps from sources you are not sure of.

I got my Android-based HTC EVO about a month ago and have spent way too much time (and fun) downloading dozens and dozens of apps. My favorites so far include:

• TouchDown - This $20 app is quite expensive by app standards. But, it really makes makes working with MS Exchange a breeze.

• FCCTest - This free app rates your Internet connection speed, which is useful when moving between 3G and 4G zones.

• Key Ring - Use this free app and you can throw away all those store key fobs.

• Barcode Scanner - Great for scanning QR codes from magazines.

• My Backup - A nice free backup application.

• Goggles - Use this free app to take a picture of a product, thing, or barcode and it searches for it using Google - great for price shopping.

• Shazam - Your phone listens to a song and this free app identifies it.

• PageOne - This app lets you aggregate your online financial accounts and their alerts into a single source.

• Layar or Wikitude - both "augmented reality" apps that let you hold the phone's camera lens up to the world and pan around as they annotate buildings, landmarks, etc.

• My Tracks - simple GPS app that tracks you as you walk or run so you can keep stats about your exercise routine

• Pandora - online radio

• Trapster - crowd-sourced info about speed trap locations

• Invadroid (space invaders), Basketball Shot, FingerBowl, Sketch Online and Paper Tossare all great ways to have fun while you are waiting for that call

So, take the plunge and buy your Android. Be prepared to spend some time downloading and checking out all the Market has to offer.

While you are at it, impress your friends by working the words vaporware, thyristor, and petaflops into your everyday conversation. You can look these up at techterms.com.

When the PropellerHeads at Data Directions aren't busy with their IT projects, they love to answer questions on business or consumer technology. E-mail them to questions@askthepropellerheads.com or contact us at Data Directions Inc., 8510 Bell Creek Road, Mechanicsville, VA 23116. Visit our website at www.askthepropellerheads.com.

Dear PropellerHeads: I was thinking about getting an Android phone. Can I get those cool iPhone apps for my new phone?

A: As an incorrigible propellerhead, I love that citizens are picking up geek speak with no objection. Apps? Really? Way cool.

Apps, short for applications, is a term used by programmers to describe programs. In other words, they can be app to the computer's operating system to provide useful end-user functions. What is so impressive to this prop-spinner is that folks are making buying decisions based on software for their phones. Gone are the days when a phone just needed to make a call.

Once you get your new phone, you can extend its capabilities by downloading and installing additional applications. The latest smart phones support fast Internet connections, high-resolution touch screens, expansive memory, mega-pixel cameras, GPS and motion detection. All of these built-in capabilities result in new uses for your phone that are being developed every day.

iPhones created all this buzz with the iPhone App Store (www.apple.com/iphone). With a healthy mixture of free and useful apps, and some that you pay for, the market exploded seemingly overnight since its July 2008 launch. There are more than 300,000 iPhone apps available for download.

Then came Google's Android phone operating system. From its October 2008 introduction, the Android Market (www.android.com/market) was open for business and currently claims about 160,000 apps. In practice, most users don't visit the website, but instead use the built-in Marketphone app to find, purchase, and download their apps.

One nice feature of the Market is that once you install an app, it monitors updates to the software and makes it easy to keep up with the latest versions.

More good news: about 60 percent of the Market apps are free. Some provide a partially functional free version, with its bigger fully-functioning brother available at a small cost. Many apps are under $5; thousands cost a buck!

Many of the Android apps were developed from their popular Apple cousins. So, if your Steve Jobs-adoring phone buddies are bragging about their cool iPhone app, there is a good chance you can find it for the Android too.

Unlike the iPhone, you don't have to get your Android apps from a single approved app store. Android apps may be obtained from any source. I would recommend caution about downloading apps from sources you are not sure of.

I got my Android-based HTC EVO about a month ago and have spent way too much time (and fun) downloading dozens and dozens of apps. My favorites so far include:

• TouchDown - This $20 app is quite expensive by app standards. But, it really makes working with MS Exchange a breeze.

• FCCTest - This free app rates your Internet connection speed, which is useful when moving between 3G and 4G zones.

• Key Ring - Use this free app and you can throw away all those store key fobs.

• Barcode Scanner - Great for scanning QR codes from magazines.

• My Backup - A nice free backup application.

• Goggles - Use this free app to take a picture of a product, thing, or barcode and it searches for it using Google - great for price shopping.

• Shazam - Your phone listens to a song and this free app identifies it.

• PageOne - This app lets you aggregate your online financial accounts and their alerts into a single source.

• Layar or Wikitude - both "augmented reality" apps that let you hold the phone's camera lens up to the world and pan around as they annotate buildings, landmarks, etc.

• My Tracks - simple GPS app that tracks you as you walk or run so you can keep stats about your exercise routine

• Pandora - online radio

• Trapster - crowd-sourced info about speed trap locations

• Invadroid (space invaders), Basketball Shot, FingerBowl, Sketch Online and Paper Tossare all great ways to have fun while you are waiting for that call

So, take the plunge and buy your Android. Be prepared to spend some time downloading and checking out all the Market has to offer.

While you are at it, impress your friends by working the words vaporware, thyristor, and petaflops into your everyday conversation. You can look these up at techterms.com.

When the PropellerHeads at Data Directions aren't busy with their IT projects, they love to answer questions on business or consumer technology. E-mail them to questions@askthepropellerheads.com or contact us at Data Directions Inc., 8510 Bell Creek Road, Mechanicsville, VA 23116. Visit our website at www.askthepropellerheads.com.

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