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15 Free Android Apps I Can’t Live Without

Ever since I got my G1 Android phone, it has been a love and hate relationship. I still hate the fact that the phone is lacking the standard audio jack but A2PD support pretty much replaces it since I can use a blutooth headset instead. The battery life is as bad as it was, but a couple of spares help me get through the day.

One thing that is gradually getting better over time is Android Marketplace. It’s been constantly adding apps and over the past year I have installed quite a few of them, all free so far. The introduction of GPS Navigate functionality to Google Maps has been the killer event (and was highly publicized). Below is the list of 15 lesser known apps that I love and use daily.

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Love Google’s new Moble Product Search!

Google just announced an update to its Product Search. It is now optimized for smartphones and other mobile devices. I gave it a spin today and I love its clean and simple interface. Here are a few screenshots to give you an idea. By the way, this is the first time I am taking screenshots from my G1, here is a very good blog post describing how to do it.

Search results

I took Jabra SP700 Speakerphone for an example. This is how the search results screen looks. The Options menu allows sortiing by price, product rating, and also offers a few basic filters.

Product overview

Clicking on the first entry in the list will open this overview screen. The overview is not available for all products and I can’t figure out what the criteria is. For example Nintendo Wii has it but iPod Touch doesn’t.

Product details

This screen opens when you click on the product image/description on the overview screen (if there is one). It shows a bigger product image and the complete product description.

Product reviews

This is a list of all the product reviews aggregated from different sources. I find the reviews summary with the bars very easy to read.

Technical Specifications

Not much to say here. This is just a list of basic technical details about the product. I usually don’t trust these and make sure to re-check the specs at the store before I but the product.

Optimizing Product Search for mobile devices is a very timely step for Google. Mobile web use is growing strong and missing out on that growth would be very unfortunate for the company.

TipJar – Online Repository of Money Saving Tips

I just discovered an interesting project powered by Google Moderator. Its called TipJar and is an online repository of money saving tips submitted and voted for by community. If you have a Google account then you are automatically in, just sign in and share the wealth. Here are some of my favorite tips from the Shopping category:

  • Go to the grocery store with your belly full. You won’t buy too many things because you just ain’t hungry
  • Write a list before you go shopping - and stick to it. One should never go into a store without a strong idea of what one will be buying while in there
  • Before you purchase anything online, go to Google and search for the name of the store + coupon and see if anything comes up. You will be presently surprised how many coupon codes are available online
  • Use money-back credit cards instead of any credit card and pay in full every month - you will be surprised how much money you can claim back!

The TipJar home page claims that 4,769 people have submitted 3,920 tips and cast 53,102 votes. I will be curious to see if it catches on and where it will be in a few months. I love the idea of crowd-sourcing such a wide and yet personal topic, but the user interface seems to be a little bare bones and there are plenty of duplicate tips. Tags to improve navigation and comments for feedback would certainly help.

The top 10 things I hate about my T-Mobile G1

It has been a few months now since I replaced my HTC Wing with the famous G1 running Google Android. Fully functional internet browser on 3G network is invaluable when 90% of things you do on your phone is web related. I also love the Gmail and Google Maps integration.

Despite all the great features G1 offers there are quite a few things I wish could be fixed. Some of these are just annoyances while others are really important factors that make me wonder if I should have made that jump. If you are thinking of joining the ranks of G1 owners, read these notes and decide for yourself if G1 is good enough for you.

Things I hate about my G1

  1. The keyboard has no ‘arrow’ keys - I use the keyboard a lot and lack of arrow keys is a big setback. I am supposed to use the little trackball instead but it is too sensitive to my liking and I always have problem with it if I just need to move the cursor by one space.
  2. There is no ‘today’ widget for the dashboard - I loved my old phone’s dashboard that listed today’s events and tasks. For some reason G1 doesn’t have anything like it and unless you go to the calendar (or configure a reminder) there is not way of knowing you have an important meeting coming today.
  3. Battery life is terrible - If you use the device for internet or other things, the battery is only good for an hour or so. Even with occasional use (5 minutes here and there) I have to put it in charger every evening or it will just die overnight.
  4. Market place has very few apps - From what I hear iPhone has many more applications at the marketplace compared to Android. This was somewhat expected. I hope things will change once Google opens it up to developers who want to sell their apps (so far all the applications are free).
  5. No file manager - I couldn’t find any file manager application that would let me move files around and edit text files. An app like that is crucial for my needs. A workaround so far is to connect the phone to a computer via USB and mount the file system as a Windows drive. You can then use your desktop computer for file management.
  6. Cannot record video - Android doesn’t come with any video recording software out of the box and I am still to find a Marketplace application that would do so.
  7. Proprietary audio jack - You can’t simply connect your stereo headset to the phone. Instead you have to use a special proprietary HTC converter. I understand this is done due to size limitations (the same jack is used for USB and power) sill I consider it a huge inconvenience.
  8. No support for A2DP on bluetooth - The absence of normal audio jack would not be a big problem if it wasn’t for the lack of support for A2DB. This is a bluetooth protocol that would allow you to stream stereo audio from your G1 to a wireless headset.
  9. No easy way to sync contacts - While I did find an application to synchronize my calendar, I am still out of luck searching for one to sync my Outlook address book. So far I just exported and imported my contacts via a CSV file.
  10. Ever hiding phone keyboard - Whenever you make or receive a phone call the screen is filled with details about the caller (or calling) party. If you want to use a keyboard (e.g. for touch tone operation) you have to expand a collapsible virtual keyboard. This is something I have to do a lot and I really wish I could configure it to stay always open.

The biggest problem I have with my G1 is not any of the things I mentioned above. It is a lack of good password & account management software. I used eWallet for Windows Mobile (by Ilium Software) on my Wing and there is simply no replacement for it on Android. This is a huge setback for me since after web and email this is the next primary function of my phone.

Do you have G1? Are you happy with it? What are some of the things you don’t like? Please share in the comments

ShopSavvy – price comparison on Google Android

G1 running Google Android went on sale today in T-Mobile stores. I just watched the marketing clip and I am now eager to get one of those phones in my hands. It is not the phone itself that I am so excited about though. G1 is a fine piece of hardware but by itself it doesn’t achieve much (my year old HTC Wing does a lot of what G1 has). It is the combination of advanced hardware, open source platform, and online services that creates that incredible value.

I think when I get my hands on G1 it will be the applications that I will get most use of, not the phone itself. As phones become smarter you can do more and more things with them and the phone aspect of it gets less significant.

One of the Google Android applications I am eager to try is ShopSavvy - one of the winners in the Google Android Developer Challenge. The developers team has gone one step further than Frucall (the online service I reviewed last year) and made price comparison even easier.

With ShopSavvy you don’t need to read the UPC code off of the product and type it into your phone. The application makes use of the built in camera and ZXing, the open source bar code reader, to enter that UPC for you. Besides the bigger screen and faster connection allows ShopSavvy to navigate you directly to the product offering online, or pinpoint the location on the map should you choose to shop in-store.

Watch this embedded video for a short demo of how to shop using ShopSavvy. It is fairly easy and yet very powerful. I am sure the big guys at PriceGrabber and Shopzilla are already figuring out how to compete in this potentially huge marketplace. I can almost smell an acquisition. ;-)




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