12 Android Apps for Road Warriors
The Android Market features some 88,000 apps and rising. But which ones are indispensable to working on the go, and which ones would just clutter up your smartphone? These 12 apps are keepers: They can help you stay connected and keep your work streamlined, no matter where you are.
Drive Safe.ly ($3.99/month or $13.99/year)
If you spend a lot of time behind the wheel and find yourself tempted to read and (heaven forebid) write text messages as you drive, you owe it to yourself and everyone else on the road to use this app instead. When you turn on Drive Safe.ly with a simple button press, it reads all of your incoming text messages and e-mail messages aloud to you. You can even set it to automatically respond with a custom message, if you wish.
PDANet (free; $23.99 for full version)
Ah, my sweet life-saver. Not all wireless carriers permit tethering, and some that do allow it charge a hefty fee for the privilege. PDANet gets around the problem and lets you tether your phone to your laptop--at some pretty sweet speeds. I was able to stream live video on my laptop over 3G, and PDANet's 4G speeds are reportedly fantastic. It even allows tethering via Bluetooth.
SwiftKey ($1.99; free one-month trial)
This is the most typo-resistant keyboard available for Android. Its spelling and auto-correction powers are phenomenal, but even more impressive is its predictive text engine. SwiftKey learns the way you write and can predict not only the rest of the word you’re typing, but the next word you’re going to type. This feature may sound like a gimmick, but its accuracy is remarkable, and it can save you a lot of time and keystrokes. If you’re dying to try a sliding keyboard (and your phone doesn’t come with Swype, check out SlideIT Keyboard.
Quick Profiles (free; $1 pro version)
Simple yet powerful, Quick Profiles functions in much the same way that “profiles” do on other smartphone platforms, allowing you to change many settings at once with the press of a button. Other apps, such as Locale and Tasker, can automatically change your profile based on your GPS coordinates, but they can be error prone--and when you're doing important work, it’s best not to leave things to chance. Plus, if you use Launcher Pro, you can set gestures on your homescreen to switch between profiles with a single swipe, which is very cool.
Gentle Alarm ($2.75; free trial version)
Not missing a meeting is important, but so is not arriving there a frazzled mess. Gentle Alarm is extremely reliable, and it can wake you up with a gradual fade-in of the music or ringtone of your choice, if you don’t like waking up with a sudden jolt. On the other hand, if you think you might sleep through that kind of build-up, you can arrange for a safety alarm to play at full blast after your gentle song has done its best. And if you worry about hitting snooze while you're still groggy, you can set it to require you to solve a memory puzzle before it shuts off, ensuring that you make the choice while actually conscious.
Astrid is the little app that could. Basically, it’s for making checklists and then easily checking off the items on them. It’s extremely handy for packing, shopping, and chore organizing. The interface is very straightforward, but you can add tags to categorize items, and set deadlines with alarms. Astrid can also sync with Google Tasks.
WorldMate is very similar to TripIt, but I think it's a bit more advanced. Once you’ve booked your flight, simply forward it to a WorldMate e-mail address; the service will add the trip to your online profile, which remains in sync with your app. Subsequently WorldMate can send you travel alerts and reminders, help you find a nearby hotel, and even tell you what the weather is like at your destination. It can also supply directions to the airport and tell you which gate to head for.
If you use Google Calendar, CalWidget is a must-have. The widget sits on your desktop and displays your upcoming appointments. If you’re a former BlackBerry user, you'll notice CalWidget's similarities to the Today layout. But you can choose from 12 sizes of CalWidget. You can also choose which calendars you want displayed, how far you want the widget to look ahead, and what color scheme you prefer. One word: indispensable.
Chrome to Phone (free)
A sweet app, Chrome to Phone is designed for Android 2.2 (Froyo) and beyond. Suppose that you’re looking at something on your computer as you’re about to run out the door. Just click the Chrome to Phone button in your Chrome browser (Firefox has a plug-in called 'Fox to Phone' that does the same thing), and that Web page, map, or phone number will automatically open on your phone. I use it with directions from Google Maps all the time.
We've covered Dropbox repeatedly, but there’s no getting away from it: If you use Dropbox on your PC, you should have it on your phone, too. Though Dropbox’s Android app needs further refinements in stability and functionality, having access to a file you desperately need and being able to e-mail it directly from your phone are too nice to ignore. A good alternative with more administrative control is Box.net: As yet, it lacks the mass adoption of Dropbox, but it’s expanding rapidly and may become the better choice in the long-run.
Google Translate (free)
If you’re traveling abroad, Google Translate will come in handy. Google’s language-translating engine has come a long way in the past year. It can perform English-to-Spanish (and Spanish-to-English) translations via voice, repeating the translated term aloud. The service isn't perfect, it usually enables you to get your point across. More languages are coming soon; but in the meantime, Google can handle text-to-text translations in a multitude of languages.
Livo Recorder Pro (free Lite version; $3.99 Pro version)
Having a voice recorder app on your phone enables you to compose memos, brainstorm, or record the crazy guy on the subway. Of the many voice recorders available, but I think that Livo Recorder Pro is the best. If you need high quality recordings, you can set the app to record in .wav format. It takes up more space, but you can hear the difference. You can e-mail recordings to yourself and then upload them to Dropbox or even to Evernote. Evernote has voice-recording capabilities, too, but it’s more error-prone than Livo, and it seems to wrestle with offline storage issues, too.