Phil Nickinson

As we close out the year, it's time to take a look back at things. I've never been all that keen on "year's best" lists for applications, though that doesn't mean they don't necessarily serve a purpose. There are so many good apps, so many updates. Instead, I think it's a little more fun to take a look at how each one of us uses our phones and tablets. 

Are they travel companions? I, for one, remember all too well navigating the backwoods (or what seemed like the backwoods) or Louisiana and Mississippi and Georgia and Florida during my school-age years, playing soccer. We did it with maps. On paper. That didn't move. Or update. That any of us made it back alive is a miracle.

What about bedside readers? Does your tablet even make it out of the boudoir? Does it spend as much time (or more) in the bathroom as you do?

I'm always fascinated to read about how folks use their technology, and inevitably I learn a trick or two that I'll want to try as well. So let's walk through what I used in 2012, and how I used it. In the coming days, you'll hear from the other names and faces behind Android Central and see just what it is we use on a daily basis. Want to get in on the fun yourself? Hit up this forum thread and share your stash with the world.

The hardware

Phil's devices

In this job, you can't help but be buried in plastic from time to time. It's also pretty easy to forget about one phone or tablet just as soon as a new one shows up. But for the first quarter of the year or so, I was sporting a Samsung Galaxy Nexus full-time. It's a Nexus. Needs not other explanation, right? I can hack when I want to, but mostly I used it stock. Bootloader unlocked (because then you have the option to tinker), and not rooted. I just don't use any apps that need root access.

Then came along the HTC One X, and that complicated matters. Because the No. 1 gripe about the Galaxy Nexus was that the camera wasn't anywhere near as good as we were led to believe, particularly with the focus time. So I started do really weird things. Sometimes I'd carry the GNex. If I knew I was going to be someplace I'd want to take pictures, I'd take the One X -- especially if my kids were going to be around. Sometimes I'd take both, just to complicate matters even more.

Then about halfway through the year, we got the Galaxy S3. I picked it up on Verizon, since I was using the GNex and One X on AT&T. It's no great secret that i'm not a fan of Samsung's TouchWiz user interface, so it disappeared pretty quick, replaced by whatever CyanogenMod release was available at the time. (Usually rocking nightlies for that, by the way. Cause I like to live dangerously like that.) So for a while it was back and forth between the GS3 and the HOX, depending on which was charged, and how badly I needed LTE. (AT&T had yet to turn it on here in Pensacola. That's since changed.)

That brings us to the middle of the year and the Google I/O -- and the Nexus 7 tablet. You'll notice I haven't mentioned tablets yet. You know how if you get a dog or a kid or something important, it's kind of hard to remember life before it? Same thing here. Sort of. I've reviewed all sorts of Android tablets, including ASUS' excellent Infinity line, but a 10-inch Android tablet just never did it for me. Same goes for the iPad we have laying around here. The Nexus 7 changed that. I use that damn thing every day. Well, that is I did until the Android 4.2 update hit. It's laggy as hell now. But I just have a little patience and power through it.

And, finally, that brings us to the Nexus 4. It's not perfect, and I think the official 4.2 update borked it some, too (I'd been running prerelease software on it before that), but it's my daily driver right now. And I'm doing so not without some irony, since not long after it was released I finally got AT&T LTE where I live (T-Mobile is still pretty atrocious here, unfortunately). But Photosphere's a lot of fun, the hardware is great, and -- let's face it -- the phone's a looker.

(And, yes, I've been dabbling with Windows Phone and the HTC 8X. More on that ... eventually. Great hardware, but I'm not giving up Android anytime soon.)

The software

Phil's home screen

OK. I'm not going to list Gmail. And Chrome. And Google Plus. And Google Play. Those are givens, right? (Whoops. I just mentioned them.) Instead, here's the easy list of what I've got running on my main home screen -- which is the only home screen I really use:

  • Pure Calendar Agenda: I can't show off a phone in a picture or video without someone asking what it is. That's what it is. It's indispensable at shows for seeing which meeting or event I'm late for. It's scrollable, highly customizable and sucks in any of the dozen calendars I need to see at a glance. I'm running it as a 4x3 widget.
  • Camera app: Gets a spot on the home screen on its own. I just stick with the stock app.
  • Social folder: Here's where I keep Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and Google Talk. For Twitter, I use Plume. Falcon Pro is really good, but I need a Twitter app that handles more than one account at a time.
  • Apps folder: Where I stash the Google Play store, Google Music, Gallery, YouTube, contacts and calendar apps. Also: 1Password, which is a must for anyone. I also have the OnkyoRemote app, for adjusting the TV volume on the sly, as well as Ingress.
  • Travel folder: Google Maps, Fly Delta, FlightTrack (and FlightTrack Pro) and Tripit. So there are three apps in there that overlap a great deal. But each of them has features the other lacks. FlightTrack is great for a quick glance at that day's flights. Tripit is the key to the whole itinerary, but it's more work to look through. And the FlyDelta app has electronic boarding passes. If I'm really nerding out on airplanes, I use FlightAware for a more detailed look at where I've been. 
  • In the dock: Gmail, Chrome, phone and Google Voice.

So that's it for everything in the one main home screen, which really is the only one I've customized. I recently put Play-My Library widget on a neighboring screen, as I'm watching more content over the Nexus Q these days. 

Other apps that I can't live without but that are tucked away in the app drawer:

That's all boring stuff though. What about the games! It's a pretty small list, but I good one, I think. I only really play games on the Nexus 7. My eyes are too tired to play on a phone. In no particular order:

So there is the hardware and software that got me through 2012 and into 2013. What helped you along? I've started a forum thread for you to share. And be sure to check back this week for everyone else's favorites of 2012. Plus, we've got our Editor's Choice and Reader's Choice awards to be announced, more giveaways, and a look ahead to CES -- which starts next week.

See y'all in 2013!

Other recent columns ...



Reader comments

From the Editor's Desk: What we're using, 2012 edition


Great last column for 2012, Phil! Really like reading the stuff that talks about what you all use on your phone. Thanks for a great year on the site. I visit daily and love the podcasts. Keep up the great work!


Great way to end the year! I will be downloading some of those apps and games later today, some sound very useful or interesting for me!
Noticed a small typo...
(And, yes, I've been dabbling with Windows Phone and the HTC 8X. More on that ... evetually. Great hardware, but I'm not giving up Android anytime soon.)

It should be:
[...] EVENTUALLY. Great hardware, but I'm not giving up Android anytime soon.)

I got a Nexus 4 & 7 and suggest putting both of them on CM10.1 nightlies. Combined with franco's kernel, the Nexus 7 feels as smooth as it was on 4.1.

Thanks for the tip on Air Attack HD. I hadn't seen that before but I will be playing this a lot now.

Sadly for me, this was the year of the downgrade.

My Atrix (CM10) fell apart in my hands, sending me to a Backflip (CM7) someone gave me. I don't want to replace it because I'm switching carriers soon, and while I'm all but certain it'll be GSM I dont want to lock myself into that by getting a new phone now and then potentially regret it.

On the tablet side, I ended up getting rid of my HP Touchpad (CM9) over issues it had, which brought me to the Transformer Infinity (Stock ICS) which I went through a good number of bad ones before I gave up, and now I'm waiting for the Nexus 10 to be back in stock while I use a modded Nook Color (CM10).

Both are painfully slow, even without comparison to their predecessors.

I had really hoped to be able to use the Galaxy Nexus as a daily driver but the signal issues made that impossible. No signal at work at all when every other Verizon phone was fine (no the GNex was not defective). Droid 4. Resound. One X. RAZR MaxHD and now the DNA have all spent large amounts of time as one of the 3 devices I carry daily.

Yeah, I've read about people having issues after the 4.2 update and the majority of said issues are fixable by just doing a factory reset. I've personally yet to experience any lag on either of my devices (Nexus 4 and Nexus 7) after updating, but maybe that's just me and my awesome luck.

Good article Phil! Glad to see I am not the only one who does not play games on my phone but do on my Nexus 7, which I updated to 4.2 after waiting a few weeks but have had no issues...thankfully! 2012 was a great year for Android! Just got my multiview for my GN2 so for the first time in a long time, I am not actively looking for the next best phone! The GN2 does it for me...for a while at least! :)

I'm using my Galaxy SIII. I replaced my Nexus 7 with a Galaxy Note 10.1 last week. I also have my first generation Kindle Fire.

I started the year with my terrible evo 3d on sprint. After hassling with them, they gave me a free upgrade so I could get the evo lte. Then, for my birthday I got a nexus 7. I used it all the time. To this day I use it more then my laptop for everything besides writing papers and browsing some websites. Then in November, I bought the nexus 4 and switched to tmobile and never looked back.

Phil, which theme are you using for Pure Calendar, or is it a custom setting? I've been using it since the day I got my Nexus One back in 2010. Your theme looks refreshing, I tried a bunch of them but couldn't set it up like yours.

Pure Calendar is, simply put, _too_ configurable. :) I even exported my settings to sd, so if the widget somehow disappears (or I try a new rom) and I need to recreate the widget, my personal preferences are just a few clicks away.

Always like seeing what you all use at Android Central.

I find it quite interesting how certain apps or games make it on a device for someone.