Apps of the week

We just had to break out the original format for our Apps of the Week post. We missed it. Don't worry — we're still going to focus on best of categories and sort out the great new content as it hits Google Play, but not sharing our personal picks each week didn't feel right.

So you'll find our list of apps we love and think you should try each week on Sundays. Starting right now.

Phil Nickinson - Waze

Waze

Now that I once again have an office to drive to, I'm, well, driving more. And I'm also playing around with Waze. If you haven't used it before, think cartoon-like Google Maps, pointing out things you might need to see while you're driving. Traffic jams, accidents, construction, cops, Whataburger. Wait, what? Yeah. Whataburger. Normally I'd be annoyed by that sort of in-app advertising (and it's not like I don't know where the nearest one is — it's safe to say I know my way around the joint), but I happen to like it. So I'll tolerate it.

What I'm dying for is some Android Wear (and eventually Android Auto) integration. See a speed trap? Just lift your wrist, speak a few words and let everyone know. It'll come, I'm sure.

Download: Waze (Free)

Alex Dobie - Timely Alarm Clock

Timely

Alarm clocks aren't the sexiest of smartphone apps, but Timely manages to bring useful synchronization features, a unique visual style and a great looking widget into a single package. In addition to timer/stopwatch functionality, timely syncs your alarms across multiple devices and includes features to help you wake gradually. Smart Rise incorporates a slowly fading melody 30 minutes before you alarm time to let you wake up naturally. There's also the option to add a puzzle requirement when your alarm goes off, to make sure you're up and your brain is working. And on top of that, the home and lock screen widget looks pretty slick on any Android device.

Download: Timely Alarm Clock (Free)

Jerry Hildenbrand - Udacity - Learn Programming

Udacity

Learning some basic programming skills is something I think everyone should do. The issue is that it's never easy to find time and a place to sit and learn. That's changing, and apps like Udacity - Learn Programming are a really great way to get started. You can learn from a huge library of subjects at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home. You don't have to stop at the basics, either. Udacity offers courses at the beginner level and for advanced topics. The app is great, and chances are you'll learn something. That's the perfect mix in my book.

Download: Udacity - Learn Programming (Free)

Ara Wagoner - Google Keep

Google Keep

Google Keep is one of my constants, especially now as I try to juggle my new gig here at Android Central with my current commitments. I can put quick notes in for current or upcoming posts, and I use the colors to keep AC material from Google+ musings from my creative writing releases. Keep is my cross-platform copypasta engine. I can use it for quick info I need to transfer from phone to computer and back. And then there's my many lists. Grocery lists, packing lists, writing lists.

Keep keeps me focused and pushing ahead. I'm especially looking forward to seeing it on the Moto 360 I intend to buy the second it is eventually released.

Download: Keep (Free)

Richard Devine - Microsoft OneNote

OneNote

I don't use much that Microsoft makes, but I use the heck out of OneNote. I haven't yet found a cross-platform note taking app that I think is better. Be it quick notes, more detailed texts with attachments or even handwriting, OneNote caters for everything I could possibly want. And it works great across Android, iOS, Mac and Windows. Create your own notebooks in the mobile app or use existing ones. You need to have a Microsoft account, but it's worth it for this.

Microsoft recently opened up a beta program for the Android app and if you're a heavy user I recommend it. The community is starting to provide good feedback and hopefully it'll help Microsoft to make a great app even better.

Download: Microsoft OneNote (Free)

Andrew Martonik - Amtrak

Amtrak

I hadn't ever taken a trip on Amtrak before I started planning a trip a few weeks ago and decided on taking the "scenic" route on the train. It turns out that the Amtrak app is actually a really great tool for researching and booking travel on Amtrak, with every feature you'd need and nothing that makes you run to the full website for a better experience. You can search routes, save your favorite stations, get information of all sorts and most importantly book and hold your tickets within the app.

Not everyone will use Amtrak on a regular basis, but if you do, this app will be one to keep installed on your phone.

Download: Amtrak (Free)


Happen to miss previous editions of our weekly app picks? You can check them out right here. Our continuing weekly app coverage can also be seen right here as well.

 

Reader comments

Apps of the Week: Waze, Timely Alarm Clock, Udacity - Learn Programming and more!

57 Comments

Welcome back Apps of the Week!!! Oh how I missed you.
Now I gotta go download Udacity and see if I can do some learnin

Going to do the exact same thing. Udemy is another app great for learning programming. Though you have to pay for most classes (found some great free ones), I think it's all worth it.

Posted via Android Central App

Yea I just got back into programming after a few years away from it and I'm kinda starting back from scratch. While not having a ton of free time, a good mobile app is exactly what I need. Here I come udacity.

Posted via Android Central App

I agree about Amtrak, Andrew. I don't take Amtrak all that frequently, but work takes me from Philly to NYC and DC occasionally, and Acela is much more convenient than driving. I was really surprised by how well the Amtrak app is designed and how smoothly it functions. I was expecting some serious garbage, but it's easily as well-done as the airline apps that I use.

Been using Timely for quite a while. Really like all aspects of it. As a wake up alarm it is great. I use it as a timer for cooking all the time. Works flawlessly with touchless control on my Moto X too.

Posted via a beautiful Ebony backed Moto X on Verizon or the amazing Nexus 10 using the Android Central App

Hi, could you please tell me how touch less controls work with Timely on the Moto X? I just got the phone and have the app, but have no idea to do what you're saying. Thanks a ton in advance!

I actually think that Waze does a better job with navigation than Google Maps does. I used both heavily on a recent weekend trip, and Google Maps regularly assumed that I had missed my turns, or had taken a wrong turn, so I had to wait for it to figure it out and go back to navigating me on my original route. This caused me to miss the next turn at least twice.

Additionally, Google maps often showed greyed-out alternate routes with tiny little notes that said "same eta", "x minutes slower", or "x minutes faster". If there's a faster route available, why isn't it defaulting to that?? I'm too busy driving to watch for every little side route that could have saved me 5 minutes.

Not sure why it does that for you. I use Google maps extensively and haven't experienced any of the issues you have.

Posted via Android Central App

Honestly I'm not sure why either. For what it's worth, I'm using a G2, which some people say has GPS problems. Maybe Waze is better able to "work around" those problems, but it's a programming issue nonetheless. Google Maps should default to assuming I'm following the route, and maybe wait a few seconds before re-routing. It happened at almost every exit ramp... Maps thought I was still on the interstate, and didn't correct itself until I was several hundred feet away from it. This resulted in a lot of guesswork and u-turns.

It's a hardware issue with the G2, no different app will help solve the GPS issues, unfortunately. I just upgraded to the G3 from the G2 and haven't bothered with the GPS since I was forced to get a Garmin while I had the G2 because it was terrible. I don't always have my Garmin on me though so I hope they fixed the issue on the G3.

Posted via Android Central App

The x minutes faster one could be because there was congestion which has now cleared and so that route may now be quicker. However it might not autoroute you as you may have already decided which route you wanted to go and don't want an unexpected detour? Just a theory.

Posted via Android Central App

Generally though I find the root chosen by maps to be better than Waze and more accurate congestion reporting and ETA. However speed cameras and the ability to report hazards in real time generally mean I use Waze more often even though "OK google, navigate to xyz" is so easy...

Posted via Android Central App

Whenever I try a new GPS/navigation app, I ALWAYS test it close to home on trips I can drive blindfolded to see if it's insane in its routing before finding myself being led to Motel Hell while in unfamiliar territories. Based on this testing, Waze is almost useless garbage; stunningly bad to the point that all the traffic/hazard reports are meaningless.

EXAMPLE #1: I live a block off a main thoroughfare. It's really easy to give directions because it's, "Take [main road] to [major cross street] and then right at the first street on right." Super easy. So I'm having Waze navigate me home from work - a route that is almost exclusively freeways and main streets - and a mile from my cross street, it tells me to turn off the main street into the neighborhoods. There were no traffic problems up ahead, it simply commanded me to turn. I ignored it and after three trips ignoring it, it "trained" itself for my preferred route.

Instead of having me drive a mile, which if I don't hit any lights would take 90 seconds (I could literally be home in two minutes), it wanted me to snake my way through residential streets, with lower speed limits, at least a half-dozen stop signs AND a major street to cross. WTFFFFF?!?!?!?

Oh, it took me a couple of trips to get it up to screwing up that last mile because it inexplicably wanted me to exit SIX MILES from home and take surface streets across town rather than take the freeway to the main road. At 9:30 pm, the difference is 0.2 miles shorter, but 5 minutes longer. (8 mins in 6.2 miles vs. 13 mins. in 6 miles.) In rush hour traffic, I know I'd almost be home before I'd cleared the first intersection which is always a parking lot. It has zero comprehension of the cost-benefits of distance vs. time. Zero.

EXAMPLE #2: Driving from home to my g/f's place yesterday my route skirted the border of a freeway closure where the ramp to one way on the freeway was closed, but the other - the way I wanted to go - was open. Google Maps mapped me through that interchange by the overview map was somewhat confusing as to whether the indicated closures affected me. I decide to see how Waze handled the drive and as I approached the exchange, it was directing me to go past it to the first exit, then cross over the freeway to get back on the opposite direction to the interchange. I thought that mean that the ramp was closed. Nope! The ramp was wide open as Maps said it'd be; Waze, which gets its directions from a crack-addled chipmunk done effed up again!

But wait, there's less! When I exit at my girlfriend's end, it proceeds to randomly give zig-zagging prompts through the neighborhood. It's about 1-1/2 miles and the route should be straight down the street, then a left for two blocks and a left onto her one-way street. Simple. Not for Waze. It wanted to jog me over to the one-way street PAST hers and when I refused, it started to give alternate routes leading AWAY from her street. It's a simple grid street layout and it was utterly confused.

EXAMPLE #3: I want to go to a Costco. First Waze directs me to exit onto the service drive 3-1/2 MILES early. Perhaps it knows of a traffic jam up ahead, so I go with it to see what it's thinking. From the service drive I can see the usual rush hour slowdowns, but nothing unusual. I'm being sent on a much slower route that's perhaps 0.2 mile shorter. As I approach the Costco, which is on my side of the road, Waze tells me to do this: https://fbcdn-sphotos-e-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xfa1/v/t1.0-9/10309476...

In case the picture doesn't show, it has me turning around in the median, then turning around in the median, then turning around in the median, rinse, repeat forever.

While the idea of Waze - real-time crowd-sourced telemetry and reports - is a good one , it is absolute unusable for navigation purposes, failing the most basic routing without fail unless you know where you're going already and teach it how to get from point A to point B. I've been testing it off and on for a couple of weeks and found it totally unreliable and unhelpful. It should be listed as a CRAP of the Week.

I use google maps religiously to navigate my way out of SF at rush hour.. It chimes in 3-5 times per trip with a 'notification' offering a faster route... however all the 'greyed-out' alternates I have seen were all slower or same ETA.
I believe i'll try Waze tomorrow, as tonight google routed me through some seriously sketchy allies. Im pretty sure I was on a sidewalk for a block....

I use Waze a lot for commuting just for the traffic reports, but find it way too unreliable to get me to a place I've never been before. It's also somewhat buggy, but it's free so that's a plus.

Been using waze and timely for awhile myself. Had to start using waze because Google maps hasn't work right on my note 2 in over a year now. Waze works every time for directions and can lock GPS always. Google maps, not so much on my phone

Posted via Android Central App

GPS lock should be a function of the OS and not any specific app. Might want to clear cache and/or reinstall the app.

Posted via Android Central App on my HP TouchPad (Schizoid PAC-ROM 4.2.2)

I use Google Keep and Amtrak app and I agree that they are great apps, never used the others, will have to check them out(except for the M$, I use as little M$ as I can).

Keep is total garbage. It should be called LOSE, because it kept losing notes. I was keeping track of cash expenditures and realized a week's worth had gone missing. Check on the web version and it gave error after error on two different computers that it needed to log back in or some such rot. I couldn't get what I could salvage off of LOSE and into Evernote fast enough. Uninstalled it and laugh at those who think it's anything but fail.

Waze is pretty decent. I like that you can report/receive alerts for traffic tie ups, speed traps and construction from other people who use the app.

Google Maps is reporting accident info picked up from Waze, so I don't see the need to have both, really.

Posted via Android Central App

Wow I didn't notice until now. Hopefully they'll update it soon, especially for Android L.

Posted from my HTC One M8 via Android Central App

I had not noticed before you said something. That said, it is not a terrible amount of time on L, just an extra half a second or so, just slow enough to be after the animations of launch.

Yeah, the beta version is now though so if you want to get in before Microsoft pushes out a public update go sign up for it in the G+ community :)

https://plus.google.com/communities/113633281646135322395

Downloaded Udacity and finished the first lesson for Python in a couple of hours. It's outstanding! Thank you, Jerry, it's exactly what I've been looking for!

Posted via Android Central App on my HTC One M8

YES!!!! Love it! Please don't break up with us again. Also, +1 for Guardians of the Galaxy movie!!!

I love Timely Alarm Clock; I've been using it since the first recommendation I read about it on this site. It was great enough to replace Uniqlo Wake Up.

Thanks, guys, for bringing back Apps of the Week. This column helps make your site 'personal' and we viewers obviously value your opinions. Much appreciated!

Didn't see it mentioned, but one of the reasons I really like Timely is that it has a really nice daydream screen. It's my default for when plugged in (my bedside clock at night).

Downloading Udacity. I've messed around with coding in the past, but I've really let it go and need to get back into it. Thanks!

Udacity is exactly what I've been looking for! Thank you! I'm off to try it out.

Posted via the Android Central App on my Nexus 5

Yup. I've been using Timely as my alarm app for ages now. Its design and included sounds are quality.

Posted via Android Central App

Some good choices this week. I use keep for random things I want to make a quick note of or keep for long term reference. I used to use Catch/Ak Notepad till it shutdown. I think when OneNote leaves beta I'll check it out especially with the all the space you can get on OneDrive now.

I was wondering if there is an app that has a thinking of you bubble? Or cloud puff or whatever they are called. So you can take your picture and put your friends picture in the bubble to say, " I am thinking of you"