I was a bit miffed when I couldn’t find the Android Market on my phone last week. I hadn’t gone near it in over a month; in fact I’d barely used my phone beyond basic texting and calling functions. While everyone else was talking about the switchover to Google Play I’d been too busy to even notice.
The thing about smartphones is that they’re built around the apps they run, and when you stop downloading apps your phone can seem like a useless dead weight in your pocket. While searching for the Android Market it was obvious everything had fallen into disarray. Old, useless apps not even worthy of a review cluttered my screen and the gems lay among them, unused and outdated.
A few moments later when I found Google Play, five great apps found me that would make my week and remind me as to why new apps should find themselves on our phones every week.
Okay so it’s only been a week, but seeing as I already had some basic French from my school days I feel qualified enough to pass judgement on this app. It rocks.
French in a Month uses methods that combine audio and visual elements of language learning which we use primarily as infants, to teach adults.
Easy to use audio-visual lessons
Pictures combined with written words and voice overs (male and female voices) allow you to pick up basic elements of the language. The building blocks, which would allow you to further develop by immersion in future, are what’s focused upon. As any language expert will tell you: languages cannot be ‘learned off’ or ‘studied’; they’re acquired through diving in and keeping your head above water.
The application itself is very easy to use. It looks good and all the pictures and sound files are of a high quality. Above all else at no point did I feel like I was studying – rather, I felt like I was playing a puzzle game.
French in a Month (and the rest of their other language series) is head and shoulders above the majority of other language learning apps.
I’m a man who likes his podcasts – especially when I’m on a bus, walking to work or killing time in general. Up until last week however I’ve been doing it like it was 2005: manually transfering podcasts to my phone. I knew there were easier ways, and I had tried them before, but every time I switched devices I seemed to just fall back into my old ways.
Great design and media player
BeyondPod however has changed that for me. There’s tonnes of things I like about it such as the total lack of bugs and crashes, the nice design, the video support, and the speed and usability of the app. But what trumps them all – and what made mobile podcasts a viable option for me – was the fact that it can read RSS feeds and has a search function that actually works. This means that if I hear of a new podcast I can easily subscribe to it on my phone via RSS or simply run a quick search.
While I’m aware that BeyondPod isn’t new or exactly groundbreaking, it made my week because it made loving my podcasts even easier. Also, I decided to mention it in this article as I feel podcasts have fallen by the wayside as of late, yet in my opinion they’re one of the best publishing platforms online.
I wouldn’t count myself as a big cycling fan. In fact if I could afford any form of mechanical propulsion I can guanrantee you my bike would wheeled off the side of a cliff. I am however a bit of nerd when it comes to measuring my productivity, speed, and so on… which is why I’ve enjoyed CycleDroid this past week.
The majority of my biking takes place on the journey to and from work. I found tracking my jounrey on different routes, at different times (rush hour!) to be fun. What’s more, Cycledroid is effectively a better looking version of the bike computers that accompany many top-end road racing bicycles.
GPS tracking and previous journey records
The application itself is as easy as a Sunday morning. When you start up you select a journey or enter a new one. Once you’ve done that you’re taken to the main screen and the GPS tracking starts up. Upon moving off on your bike the tracking commences and your time, distance, speed and altitude are all measured and displayed.
Such is my liking for CycleDroid I’m considering buying a phone holder for my bike so my phone can be a full bicycle computer.
We’re all still waiting for Instagram for Android. If it’s anything like Instagram for the iPhone then I see no reason why it won’t be the top Android photography app. For now we’ll have to make do with similar apps and in my opinion, in a sea of pathetic immitators and wannabes, PicPlz is a serious contender.
Once you’re signed up for an account the PicPlz experience is simple. By selecting the camera icon, your phone camera will activate. Snap a shot and your taken to the editing screen. Here you can choose from dozens of different effects, each giving your photos a retro feel.
Take a picture, add filters, edit and post!
The photo editor is where I feel Picplz really stands out. The basics are all catered for such as crop, blur, sharpen, brightness and all the rest. A few gems are to be found however such as the ‘LOL Meme’ editor which allow you to add the top and bottom stencil text that any meme fan will be familiar with. You can also add cartoon ‘stickers’ such as moustaches, hats, sunglasses and so on.
Once your image is ready, you can add a caption and share it with multiple networks at once, including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.
The other apps I mentioned above were nice breaths of fresh air after a month of stagnation on my part. What I discovered with CloudAround was not simply an app but a nuclear weapon dropped into my world. I can safely say that how I listen to music on my phone has changed for the better.
CloudAround is quite similar to AudioGalazy except for one thing – it’s so much easier. AudioGalaxy requires dedicated software and can be sluggish; CloudAround streams any music you have stored in Dropbox (or Rackspace or Amazon S3). As an existing Dropbox user I thought this was terrific. I downloaded the app and as it turns out all that was required was my account information. A few moments later every song on my laptop was appearing on my phone. I deleted all the songs I had stored locally just to be sure.
Looks great and your music from cloud storage accounts sounds great too!
I had crisp clean audio tracks playing from the cloud through my 3G network. The lag after pressing the play button was around 0.5 to 3 seconds depending on the signal strength. I never once got frustrated with an issue of speed.
You’d think that’d be enough for an app to impress, but CloudAround just keeps on trying. Hands down it looks and works better than the native Android music player and 95% of third-part music apps. Album cover art is displayed fullscreen under the controls, which are minimal yet easy to use.
One point to note is that if you’re on a limited data plan, perhaps keeping an eye on your usage would be a good idea as streaming music can eat up the megabytes.
Everything is catagorised brilliantly and with the speed and versatility on offer you’d think you were using a well designed third-party app with locally stored music. If you’re a current user of Dropbox, Rackspace or Amazon S3 then I reccomend having your entire music collection with you all the time by downloading CloudAround. For €1.50 it’s well worth it. Or you could try out the Lite version for free to get a feel for how it works.
Needless to say, my week was made.
Have you downloaded any apps lately that have made you week? I’d love some more suggestions in the comments below.