Useful Android Software
You definitely want LauncherPro (free or $3.49), which adds a lot of customization options and features above and beyond your default home launcher. In particular, I like its ability to totally customize the bottom dock to launch any application you like, and in fact it lets you have three docks full of icons that you can swipe through.
The non-free pro version comes with very nice widgets for calendar and Facebook feeds.
Go ahead and add Custom Launcher Icons ($3.99) so you can download and install hundreds of neat dock icons for Launcher Pro, as well as letting you replace all your app icons with cohesive icon sets.
The very best weather widget is in the Beautiful Widgets (free or $2.75) package. It uses the AccuWeather service, which is very reliable, and supports hundreds of downloadable themes. Beautiful Widgets also includes toggle widgets (turn wifi on/off, silent mode, etc.), a battery indicator, and a digital-style clock, again with downloadable themes.
If you, like me, prefer analog clocks, the Analog Clock Collection (free) has lots of them.
Epistle (free) is the perfect note taking app! It’s a straightforward text editor that has optional support for Markdown notation for formatting, and simply and cleanly syncs its plain text files with Dropbox, so you can access, edit or add notes wherever Dropbox is available.
Barnacle Wifi Tether (free, requires root) turns your phone into a ad-hoc wifi hotspot. There are other tethering solution out there, but none that work as great and as simply as this one.
Dropbox (free) lets you access a free 2GB cloud drive that can be automatically synced with your desktop computers and laptops. Supports Windows, Mac and Linux.
QuickSSHd ($1.49, requires root) lets you SSH into your phone over wifi, giving you both a Linux command line, and also the option to copy files back and forth. All without a USB connection! Great for developers, as well as people who just want to access their SD card without cumbersome USB cables. (QuickSSHd is a repackaging of an older project called Dropbear.)
ConnectBot (free) lets you SSH from your phone to anywhere on the internet. A required tool for any sysadmin!
CifsManager (free, requires root) lets you mount Windows shares into your phone. (CIFS, a.k.a. SMB, is the Windows share protocol.)
PowerAMP ($5.17) is a terrific music player, with an excellent equalizer and nice features, such as auto-pausing when your disconnect the headphones.
Subsonic Music Streamer (free) lets you download and stream stream music from your custom server. You install the server yourself and own the entire loop: no need to rely on third party providers like Last.fm or Pandora. The downloaded files stay stored on your phone, and you can play them with PowerAMP, too.
MoboPlayer (free) is an excellent video player that can play many video formats very smoothly. I use it to view movies stores on my Windows shares using CifsManager without any hiccups! I especially like the ability to “lock” the screen while viewing, so that randomly touching the phone will not interrupt the viewing experience.
TreKing ($3) is the best bus tracking app for Chicago! It lets you save preset stops and at a glance see arrivals for each.
Root Explorer ($3.87, most useful with root) is a file browser on crack. It supports all the usual file manipulation tasks, as well as zipping, tarring and searching.
ROM Manager ($5.86, requires root) is an great tool for people who want to try various customized Android ROMs. It maintains an online repository of ROMs for your phone model, and can notify you when they are updated. It also lets your flash the latest ClockworkMod Recovery program. All this, right from your phone, without having to connect to a PC.
I currently own a Nexus S. A very nice phone! I chose it because:
- I had a terrible experience with a previous Android phone, the Samsung Intercept. It was very slow and buggy. Rather than opting for an iPhone or a Windows phone, I decided to give Android another try with a high-end phone. But, I wanted the cleanest, most bug-free experience, with no vendor-installed crapware! As Google’s officially branded phone, the Nexus always gets software updates first, and they are tested on it more than others. I am hoping that this process leads to less bugs. I’m really sick of bugs.
- I am an Android software developer, and needed a phone that can be easily and safely rooted. (Read my Rooting Android: What Is it? article). I also really like the features that rooting allows for: wifi tethering, CIFS, SSH access, etc. The Nexus S has an lockable/unlockable boot loader, which makes the process very painless and safe.
- It’s a damn nice phone! A simple black slab with no frills, reminiscent of the iPhone’s inviting minimalism. The Super AMOLED screen is gorgeously vibrant and brilliant, and the sound quality in the headphone jack is excellent.