Even though I've had a smartphone for more than a year now, I still find myself astonished daily at the technology available in my phone. It's such a small device, and compared to anything I had as a kid, it's like the superhero of electronics - there's nothing it can't do.
I'm constantly trying to push what I'm able to do with my phone, whether it's streaming music off my home network into a set of small speakers in the kitchen, or using the phone as a remote control when I'm watching a movie. But some apps are more useful than others, and I'd like to share my favorites.
- EStrongs File Explorer - There aren't many apps on my phone I use as much as EStrongs File Explorer. I use it as least as much as I use Windows Explorer when I'm on a PC. Any time I need to do anything with a file on my phone, whether I'm moving files, listening to music, or viewing a PDF, I get to the file using EStrongs. Best of all, the app is free.
- Llama - After trying out Tasker, my appetite was whetted for automatic system management, but Tasker killed my battery faster than I kill a box of Keebler fudge sticks. Then, @snowchel recommended Llama. What a great app. Instead of using battery-slaying GPS to determine your location, it uses the far less accurate method of looking at the cell towers in the area. Luckily, my home and work locations are far enough apart that it's good enough for my purposes. Now, my phone automatically turns off the ringer and the media volume when I'm at work and turns it back up when I leave. I've also got it set to ring very quietly between 11PM and 7AM, to turn off bluetooth when I turn off my headset, and to automatically turn on the wifi when I visit my mom's house where the cell reception is lousy. I paid for Llama, but it seems like it may have gone free recently.
- OurGroceries - This app works in conjunction with the OurGroceries website, and it's all Linda and I use anymore when putting together a grocery list. Typically, she'll add groceries on her laptop and I'll check the list on my phone once I get to the store. I can reorder the items on the list so that the ones at the beginning of the store are at the top, and then cross items off as I pick them off the shelves. I can also easily move items to a different grocery list if I need to buy them at Whole Foods instead of Stop & Shop. Ourgrocieries is free.
- ADW.Launcher - Unlike so many other apps, ADW.Launcher is a bit of a mini-operating system. It sits on top of Gingerbread and changes the look and feel of everything. It lets me change the number of homescreens, icons per row and column, and use scrolling widgets. I can also change the look and functionality of my dock, and hide those stupid Need for Speed and Madden apps that came with my phone and won't uninstall. ADW.Launcher does a lot of things - far more than I can name here. I bought the non-market version, since it apparently does more than the version you can get from the market. This unfortunately means that I don't get automatic updates.
- TeslaLED - This is just a flashlight. Seems kind of dumb until you find yourself needing one quickly. I use mine all the time. Like this morning when my bedroom was dark, Linda was sleeping, and I wasn't sure which socks were black and which were brown. It's a free app, so give it a try.
- ezPDF Reader - I bought the $2.99 pro version since I have a lot of PDF files on my phone, and after trying a number of free PDF readers, I found that they all were extremely slow. ezPDF is the most responsive PDF reader I've used, and apparently it has a number of features that I haven't even been using. The app is also updated all the time, which may be why I haven't heard of many of these features.
- Google Authenticator - I use two factor authentication on my gmail account, and I recently had my wife set up her account the same way. The basic premise is that in order to sign into GMail on any new PC, you need a code provided by your phone. If you don't have a smartphone, you can set up two factor authentication over text message. This way, nobody can hack into your account unless they have your phone. Given the increasing importance of one's email account and all the personal info it may contain, you can never be too cautious. More info here, on Google's blog.
- Google+ - Sure, it's Google's latest take on social networking. But the Android version has something even better in it: you can set it to automatically upload any pictures you take on your phone. I find that feature very useful.
- Mixology - I drink mixed drinks. I'm just not a beer guy. And I like finding new things to drink. So for me, it's very convenient to plug the liquors I own into mixology and see what recipes emerge. I've made a number that include ice cream.
- vizBattery widget - Android's stock battery indicator can be less than accurate. Am I am 90% or 60%? The teeny battery icon looks almost the same for each. With this widget, you get a battery icon on a homescreen that includes a numeric percentage. And should you want, it quick-links to your battery usage info. Handy dandy.
- WordFeud - I've written quite a long analysis of why I prefer WordFeud to Words with Friends, so I won't rehash details here. But I'm a big fan of asynchronous-play games like this on mobile devices, and I now play WordFeud with lots of family and friends to the point that I wish I hadn't chosen the username "KingBossHell". Heck, I play the game with my mom.
- EasyTether - My most recent purchase. Although I don't use it nearly as often as the other titles on this list, it was a serious lifesaver during the Connectipocalypse, when we lost our internet connection for two weeks. The phone was our only connection to the internet, and I purchased the app for ten bucks so as to access http sites such as gmail. It was totally worth it.