I wanted to write a top-ten of Android apps for 2008, but I've already done a 'my faves' list. Instead, I'm making lists of the five most significant for Android, and the five most indispensable to the user. Of course, there's still some overlap with my favorites. I doubt that anyone else would construct the exact same list as me, but that's what makes this stuff fun. Here we go...
The top five indispensable Android apps of '08.
5.) SpoofApp is marketed primarily as a tool for prank calls. It lets you mask your voice and spoof the caller ID info sent. You can also record your calls. This last bit is what interested me most about the program, as the Market has yet to see any other software that records calls at decent quality from both ends. I stumbled onto SpoofApp the same week I was conducting a phone interview that I needed to record. Before that, I had been placing my phone on the desk and setting a cheap old mic by the speaker. The mic was hooked up to a tape recorder, which I ran headphones from. It was an awkward way to converse. There was tons of background noise, and my recordings were mediocre at best.
I know there are simpler ways and more complicated ways to do this. What it came down to for me was cash. SpoofApp is cheap, and indispensable to me. The recorded audio quality is better on both ends than I could ever get with my setup, and it only costs me $10 per hour of talk to have my calls stored on the SpoofCard server for later download. Not to mention that I can front my home phone number while talking on my cell with bluetooth. Super nice. Tell people you are recording them or check your local laws for consent requirements.
4.) WeatherChannel: This one is so ubiquitous among G1s that I usually forget to mention it. It's like it's supplied with the OS. Everyone needs a weather program, and this is the one, hands down. It's light, fast, and pretty. I only wish it were a widget. This is the most popular app in the Android Market, and for good reason.
3.) ForceRing is such a great idea. Why is it that the 5% of the time that I have my ringer off also happens to be the 5% when my phone is lost? ForceRing has you set up a passcode. Send this code via SMS to your G1, and the ringer is turned on. Brilliant. It's also good for emergencies. Say you've got a week full of meetings and need to leave your ringer off, but your wife was due last week. Give her or someone close the passcode, and you can be reached.
2.) Snap Photo: The G1's camera was a big disappointment to me. I couldn't get more than one clear shot out of five for the life of me. Then along came this app, which uses the accelerometer to detect a moment of total stillness to snap the shutter. The code should be merged with the stock app.
1.) Power Manager isn't as exciting as some of the other programs I've listed, but it's the most essential one I've found. This software makes prolonging the G1's battery life a matter of one simple setup. I'm not depriving myself of any of the phone's features - I've just eliminated the frustration of a constantly dying handset.
The five most significant apps for Android
5.) Shead Spreet. I couldn't care less if my phone is able to read the Microsoft-determined standard formats for business documents. But many people do. Whether or not they actually end up exploiting that capability is another issue. This app is significant not because it brings MS docs to Android (it doesn't), but because it shows some growth in the business end of Market. I suspect Google will release official apps that integrate with Google docs, and don't forget that the java-based Mobile OpenOffice.org isn't quite dead yet. Still, as basic as this program is, it offers Android a bit more cred in the business world. Not a lot, but a bit.
4.) aTrackDog brings Android a capability it should have had from the get-go, IMO. This one looks to a central database to make sure all of your apps are up-to-date, and gives you an interface (kind of) for upgrading them. You still have to do one at a time, so it's not as good as what most Linux users are used to. Maybe when Android goes totally open, this feature will be integrated into the OS. *Hope hope!*
3.) Ringdroid is important because it shows the average user what makes open source software cool. Once you're set free, why go back?
2.) ShopSavvy brings practical, useful knowledge to your fingertips in a way that causes a tangible difference in your daily life. The cell phone is handy shopping sidekick and money saver.
1.) Anycut. A lot of you will consider this an odd choice. I say a free app that updates context menus with just what I wanted and makes fundamental changes to the functionality of an OS deserves an award.
And, as a year-end bonus (lucky you): Here are another five that deserve mentioning for being fun, useful, whatever... in no particular order.
Trap! is one of those games that gets you hooked, has your attention at every spare moment for 10 days, drains you of your will to live, and leaves you crying in the gutter. I never want to see it again. What? Updated graphics? O.K., but just one game.
Calling Card: I hate dialing 11 digits, entering a 12-digit pin, and then punching in a 14-digit phone number. That's what it takes for me to place an international call, which I've been doing pretty regularly lately. Take into account the percentage of these calls that get dropped, and you've got a formula for madness. Calling card isn't perfect, but it has caused me more relief than grief.
Klaxon is better than the default Android alarm clock.
Period Tracker and Ovulation Calculator: Whether you're trying to get pregnant or trying not to, this app is great for women and their men. It was written by the chief resident at St. John's Family Medicine Residency in Minnesota, and is much safer than some of the crazy dangerous methods of birth control out there. It's funny because it's true. BTW, unless you're married or with a life-partner, use a jacket. Come on.
PowerVocab makes me feel like I'm being productive when I'm actually just killing time.