I did it. After months of bitching out loud to my friends and colleagues, tweeting about it and blogging it, I dropped AT&T (and thus the iPhone) and got back on Verizon with the Motorola Droid. I thought it would be a rough transition, but it turned out to be not so bad. In fact, the Droid is a pretty slick device. But, like any "smart" tech these days, it's not truly yours until you've customized it, put your mark on it. And on the Droid, like the iPhone, that starts with the apps.
Now, I've had my Droid – I've named her "Zora" (and you Blade Runner geeks can guess why) – for only a few days, so I haven't gotten far in the app exploration. I've generally avoided paying for most apps (which is why paid apps are the topic for a subsequent post), but there's a lot to be had for free.
Here are a few....
(Reader note: Search for these in your phone's "Marketplace" app. You can download them directly from there. [Note on the screenshots: Yes, they're photos. It seems that the only ways to take Droid screenshots from within are either via a Windows machine (which I don't use) or via apps that reviewers say are unstable. A little power-home method, as with the iPhone, would have been nice. Maybe in the next Android OS release?])Voicemail Google Voice
Forget Verizon's Visual VM. The reviews are pretty brutal. And Verizon charges you an extra few bucks a month for it. That's right, charges you each month!
You have a Droid. Embrace it! Use Google Voice for your voicemail! You can set conditional call forwarding for when you don't answer or are already on the line. Have calls sent to your Google Voice account ... and get your messages transcribed for you as well! (You can still play the messages.)
A dedicated Google Voice app gives you a very slick GUI to browse through and play your messages.
The transcripts can be rather odd, though. That's definitely still very alpha.
(Don't have access to Google Voice yet? Check with your friends. Every Google Voice user gets 3 [or more?] invites.)Twitter
As with all of the apps here, I limited by experiments to apps that got 4 out of 5 stars or better from users. That left two main candidates for Twitter.Twidroid
I like this one. Very basic. It makes me miss Twittelator Pro on the iPhone. But it suffices. And I can set my own notification sound if I get a message.
This is a stable Twitter app. I just don't like it that it dumps you at the top of the Twitterstream. You have to scroll down to see what's new. That's weird to me.
And Seesmic requires access to your Contacts. Why, I have no idea, as it does not seem to integrate with Contacts. I can only guess it's the trade-off: hand over your data on your friends and in exchange you get this free app. Am I wrong here?Music Pandora
The Pandora app is very familiar, except it boots up with this dire warning about using up your data quota on your cellular plan. (Be sure to get the unlimited plan with Verizon. It's $30 per month, but worth it.)Shazam
Again, the familiar app to identify tunes. Nice to have!Amazon MP3
This is a nifty app just for finding music downloads. Since iTunes is out of the picture, and you can't play any DRM iTunes music on your Droid, this can be a handy app to have! Especially if, like me, you tend towards Amazon for your main music downloads resource.News AP and USA Today
These will appear identical to what you've been seeing on the iPhone.Reuters
With a different interface – the sections are separate columns which you get to by horizontal scrolling, like switching desktops – it takes some getting used to. But it's good to get news from a source other than AP.BBC News
Yes, they're on the Droid, too.NY Times
Unfortunately the NY Times does not have a Droid app. (But there's always the website, and the iPhone app was always really slow anyway.)Battery Management
There are a few key apps for ensuring that your Droid's battery runs the longest between charges.Advanced Task Killer Free
This app allows you to selectively shut down apps that are running in the background. Those apps might be polling web services or calculating your GPS location – shut 'em down! This is the kind of tool that Apple doesn't allow on the iPhone anymore. Too bad. It's a great power saver, and also helps keep your phone running smoothly.Quick Settings
A quick shortcut to the major power-suck features: screen, GPS, ringer, WiFi, mobile data, Bluetooth. Toggle them on/off as needed. Very handy for going into the movie theater!Battery Refresh Beta
In the early going, it helps to train your Droid's battery – i.e., charge it fully and then drain it fully. Of course, it's not always convenient to let your Droid drain out its charge in its own good time. Maybe you're about to leave the house for several hours. You don't want it going dead on you while out and about.
You can use this app to drain your battery quickly. It basically fires up your GPS, brightens your screen, kills the screen saver, pings your cell service, all to drain your battery in a hurry. Bingo! Now it's ready for a new charge.Games
Not much to offer you here. I looked for decent free apps for Hold'Em, Blackjack, Free Cell and Klondike Solitaire, and found two for Klondike. Both work alright, but one has larger cards that are easier to read.Klondike Solitaire
The strange thing about this app (and the others I've actually tried) is that the deal deck is on the top left of the screen. Since most people are right handed, that means you have to reach across the screen to deal. More than once I've accidentally hit the home or menu button doing that. Why didn't they put the deck on the top right? I don't know.Oddments DroidLight
This nifty app uses the LED flash for a flashlight. No need to light your way via screen light.Movies
Does for the Droid what OneTap does for the iPhone. And there's Fandango for buying tickets.Google Goggles
Enhanced reality through your phone. Point the camera at a location and get Google info on it. Wow!Google Sky Map
Point the camera at the stars and learn about the constellations!PicSay
Add icons, hair, glasses, thought bubbles to your photographs. Silly but fun.Owner
This is a nice app that displays a message on the phone's unlock screen. You can put custom text and select specific fields from your "me" contact card to display. This way if someone finds your phone, they know how to reach you.Related Reads
- At CES (the Consumer Electronics Show), Barbara Krasnoff talked with developers about which platform they prefer, iPhone or Android, concluding:
At this point, it's unlikely that Android will ever catch up with Apple as far as the number of apps for their smartphones is concerned. And as far as I'm concerned, it's becoming a difference that makes no difference -- to the individual user, the gap between 20,000 apps and 100,000 apps becomes meaningless.
However, what interests me is whether the type of apps available will start to reflect -- or already reflects -- the two differing philosophies. One offers a tight, disciplined process that takes a long time for developers to negotiate, but guarantees that each app will work on every device. The other makes it a lot easier for developers to create their apps, and doesn't make them wait long periods of time for approval -- but also demands that they try to account for a number of varying UIs and devices.
Which would you prefer?
I have to disagree on one big point. My feeling is that, in the end, it's unlikely that iPhone will be able to keep up with the Android world. iPhone won't go away, but with Android running on all kinds of phones on all kinds of services, that market is just going to outsize the iPhone realm. Combine that with the open nature of the Droid market and you have a dominating paradigm. There's just more diversity –and just more, period – in the jungle than in the zoo.
The challenge is just filtering. Howe do you find the best apps? Right now, it's through review lists like this one.
- Jessica Dolcourt of CNET links to their "Android Starter Kit", which has editor reviews of many of the apps above and several others, and adds:
Just two notes of caution. First, beware the brightness of your screen--in our experience that's Android's number one battery-slayer. Second, if you're interested in avoiding notification overload, it's worthwhile to configure most apps you download to adhere to your alerting wishes.
- Gina Trapani writes about how to tether your Android phone:
There are three ways to tether your Android handset and get sweet internet love even where there's no Wi-Fi in sight: the risky-but-free rooting method, the still-geeky-but-not-as-bad free route, and the $30 easy way. Here are the pros and cons of each.
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