Android Startup Kit

My friend Ian just purchased a Nexus S phone from Wind Mobile. So I thought I’d put together a list of useful apps to get him started on the joy of Android.

There are thousands of apps for the Android platform; so, as if it needed to be said, this is just a personal compilation of apps I find useful and/or fun. I hope you’ll find in it, one or two apps you didn’t know about before, which you decide you can’t live without.

Oh yeah, also should note that these are all free.

I had to put this at the top of my list, because I so love Netflix, and I’m just blown away that I can carry it around in my pocket. Of course, you need a Netflix account, and it’ll cost you $8 a month; but that’s got to be the best entertainment value around!
My wife gets up early in the morning, so she goes to bed before I do. Being the attentive, considerate husband she would tell you I am, I used to stumble into bed in the dark, so as not to disturb her; but no more! Now I have a handy flashlight in my phone to light my way. This app can use either the very bright display, or the camera’s flash. I use both, depending on the situation.
A terrific scientific calculator modeled on the classic HP units, which were built to survive nuclear shocks. Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) allows you to enter complex formulae without brackets, and still get the right order of operations. (In high school, my friend Richard told me RPN was named after its inventor, Fred Polish. I believed this for many years. Thanks Richard.)
When I got my first Android (the Nexus One), I was advised to get the Astro File Manager. To be honest, I found that one difficult to use because of the user interface. Recently, inspired by my newly installed Netflix app, I went looking for a way to allow my phone to play media files from my NAS (Network Attached Storage). I found the ES File Manager was able to navigate onto my network shares, and play media files from other devices. w00t!
Inevitably you’ll need to make some notes along the way. Jota is a nice text editor which will allow you to do just that. I used it just last night to make a list of the dishes we were going to order at a Chinese restaurant. Have I told you how much I love having a smartphone?
I’m a huge fan of podcasts, so naturally, one of the first things I looked for when I got my first Android was a podcast player. The landscape has surely changed since then, but I’m still using the one I found back then: Car Cast. Sure, it’s got a few warts, but if they really bothered me I’d write to the author, Bob Herrmann, and he’d respond right quick.
This app makes it easy to share where you’ve been with your friends. Also let’s you find out where your friends have been, and what they thought of these places. Plus, get specials and promos from restaurants and other vendors. A stellar example of gamification: you get awarded points and badges depending on your activity. Worthwhile if just to see an evolving cultural phenomenon.
This has to be one of the coolest uses for a connected smartphone. You hear a song, and you want to know the name, or who is singing. Fire up SoundHound, and let it listen to the song for a few seconds; it’ll find the artist and song, and even show you the lyrics as they’re being sung! Is this an amazing world we live in, or what?
This slick utility figures out how fast your phone is communicating with the Interwebs. It’ll even save this info for you, and compare your speed with others in your area. Geeky, yet essential.
Simple and handy, this app will wake you up with your own song or playlist, or use one of the built-in alarm sounds, including my favourite: bird song.
Terrific little utility scans barcodes and QR codes, then links you to page, depending on the item. Essential.
Shows a number of different representations of WiFi signal strengths. Marginally useful, but pretty cool.

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