Apps, yo.

I'm not a big app guy, I'll admit.  I like to check them out, and maybe even keep them around for a week or so, but there's just a few I keep around forever.  I do happen to like buying them and checking them out, though, so I go through a lot of them.  Here's my list of "keepers." Check them out after the break.

Also: Phil's most-used apps of 2011

1. Wifi File Explorer Pro

I hate hooking my phone up to a computer.  Scrounging up a cable and mounting drives seems to take longer than whatever I need to do, so I found a solution that keeps me from having to do it.  Run Wifi File Explorer from a shortcut on my homescreen, then click a bookmark in my browser window and I have access to what's on my phone.  You can download, upload, delete, rename -- anything you could do if you were connected.  Best couple of bucks I ever spent. 

2. AudioManager Pro

Not only is it a quick way to access all the volume controls (even the ones you can't get to from settings), but AudioManager Pro has profile support and scheduling.  I can set my phone to shut the hell up when I am getting my beauty sleep, or be loud and proud when I'm awake and it does it all automagically.  And when I need to mute the volume for a call or a meeting of some sort, I can set it to automatically restore my profile after a set time.  I love it when things are automated -- it feels like the future.

3. Vlingo

Yes, I talk to my phone.  I usually only do it when nobody is looking, and I don't want it to talk back or try to tell me jokes -- I want it to listen, do as it's told, then leave me alone until the next time.  And I want it to do it over Bluetooth (wow, I never realized how demanding I was).  I've not yet found any application on any platform that will do all this, except for Vlingo.  It works so well I'm not upset about having to buy it on three different platforms, nor do I worry about the $10 I spent right before it went free on Android.  Being able to tell my phone to e-mail or message someone while it's in my pocket, then trusting that it will do it right is more than worth it.

4. Swiftkey X

Sometimes I can't talk to my phone, or I don't want to look like "that guy" talking to his phone at the mall or the train station.  And I'm a man with large, non-transparent thumbs, so swiping letters is out of the question -- I need to see what I'm typing.  Swiftkey is also magical, and can almost finish every sentence I start.  This impresses me, and anytime I can feel that "cool factor" we all felt when we first used an Android phone again is OK in my book.  When the Android browser reaches a point where we can write blog posts from our phones or tablets, I'll be writing mine with Swiftkey X.

5. mSecure

I'll admit it -- I'm a tiny bit paranoid when it comes to computer security and my passwords.  I never use the same one twice, and I like absolutely random strings of symbols, numbers, and letters instead of just "pa55w0rd."  I'm also a bit forgetful, so I need a password manager.  With mSecure, I can use the same password database across my desktop and my mobile via Dropbox, and all I have to do is copy/paste.  I like things that make it easy, and will try everything until I find something that works well for me, and mSecure does just that.

6. Google+

When the Internet changed from IRC and Usenet to WWW and chat rooms, I gave up on being social.  You nerdly types out there know what I'm talking about.  Google+ has brought me back.  I find myself sharing pictures and my boring life much more than I ever thought I would, and the Hangout feature makes me eat my words about "nobody will ever use a front facing camera".  Goodbye, Twitter. Hello, G+! 

7. Riptide GP

Everyone needs some time for games, and Riptide GP is the game for me.  It's simple (complicated controls are an easy way to get me to uninstall a game), beautiful, and runs amazingly smooth on my tablet.  Get out the HDMI cable and connect it to the big screen, and you have console quality gaming right from your Android device. 

Granted, I'm not very good at it, but I have a ton of fun with it and that's what matters most.

8. ReadItLater

Every one of us has found something on the web that we want to save for viewing on our computer.  Mobile browsing has come a long way, but for many it will never replace the desktop -- and I'm one of that many.  ReadItLater lets me web surf on my phone, from anywhere, and send those few articles or websites that I want access to on the PC without bookmarking or emailing a link.  It does a great job at it, and one account syncs across all my devices. 

Bonus points -- I can check my Google Reader list on my phone, and send a few to ReadItLater without having to worry about what's marked as read and hard to find later.  This alone makes it worth keeping.

9. ConnectBot and Android VNC Viewer

Android VNC Viewer

I AM A NERD.  I have more computers that I want to admit to, most of them are running some flavor of Unix, and all of them are running an SSH or a VNC server.  Granted, it's not very often I want to connect from a tiny screen, but I want to be able to do it well when I need to.  ConnectBot offers everything I want in an SSH client -- it's lightweight, can copy paste between apps, works with secure tunnels, and run more than one session.  Android VNC Viewer is just as perfect for me.  Session management, light on system resources, and fast are what I'm looking for.  The fact that both are open-source makes it even better.

10. Google Music

20,000 of my songs, stored for free and available from any Android device or computer?  Yes, please.  I'll admit that uploading them is a bit of a pain now that it's open to the public and the bandwidth is getting hammered, but it's a small price to pay.  Music used to fill a pile of SD cards here, but no longer -- I'm in the cloud now, baby.  If you haven't played around with Google Music yet, you need to go try it.  It might not be for you, and that's OK, but it sure works for me.


Reader comments

Jerry's most-used apps of 2011


Oh no jerry watch out pc police going to get u.nice list i love vlingo also and i oaid 10$ also. Riptide is awesome im.albout simple games old age does rhat to us

I couldn't agree more... especially since I, too, am a Linux/Unix geek :) Phil's list didn't have a SINGLE app I had any interest in using. Jerry's is far more my style ;)

One must-have app not listed is "WiFi Analyzer".

Go Jerry!!!

jerry doesn't use anything good.

Pretty much the worst VNC clients on the android market. Jump kills both of them. The people who write this site have no idea what the gadgets they druel over are even capable off.

lemme know when you VNC over vpn, while streaming Plex movies, watch cable TV, or an iPcam setup (with automatic IR for night vision and pan tilt and zoom) logging on to OCS corporate chat.

but that's just me, i actually use my phone for work and for play.

This site needs someone who knows something about gadgets to write for it.

yeah, this site totally needs writers who use apps only about 5 to 10% of users will actually ever use, and write articles about them, especially when new android users will come onto the site looking for fun cool, non-nerdy things to use their phones for

I used to LOVE swiftkey x but for whatever reason it started having a really hard time with my terrible typing skills and my messages were un-readable. I've had better luck with thumb keyboard as of late and personally I am loving the ICS theme it has.

Then you have Switfkey set up wrong, because you really aren't supposed to be typing with Swiftkey, just picking words, and maybe, occasionally, once in a while, entering a letter or two to get it started.

I'm not saying Swiftkey x is bad, just stating that it wasn't working out for me because I type faster than I can pick and choose words. The way the keys are laid out I can type faster and more accurately with Thumb keyboard after one of their updates. That is all.

I wish someone could record a demo to show this. SwiftKey had some weird problems on the Galaxy S2 Email application, which delayed using it; but I still cant achieve precision text entry. A real shame because I like the ideas behind it.

Will vlingo replace the bluetooth "voice dialer" app (horrible) when trying to place a call via wireless headset? I need it to prompt me through the bluetooth connection and not the phone speaker. Is this possible with this app?

I use KeePass myself. Just have to sync my pw database to the phone if I make any pw changes. Simple drag & drop or ES File Explorer network copy & paste.

I thought this was going to be another list of the stereotypical apps people think they need like Facebook, twitter, google+, etc. But I agree with a lot of these apps and the reasons why you listed them. Good list.

How does mSecure compare to Lastpass. I currently use Lastpass but their Android app is lacking, I would like for it to work with the Android browser.

Also if you like automation you should try tasker. Fantastic app just wish the developer would release regular updates though.

I've used a zillion of these trying to avoid paying for mSecure, and prior to mSecure being available for Android. (I was introduced to mSecure back in my iPhone days).

Finally I just sent them email over the course of a year begging for an android version, and ended up being the first beta tester for it before it was in the market.

What makes mSecure so easy is the ease of entering your passwords, keys, logins, because they have sensible profiles/templates for a zillion different types of things you need to remember. You never have to set up your own template, (but you can if you want).

It copies keys to the clip board so you can paste them into web pages if you want.

And there are lots of ways to sync between devices and your home computer. There is also a paid Windows and Mac version of the software for your desktop computer.

When you sync to dropbox, they are fully aware that dropbox can break thru the encryption any time they want and can hand your secrets to the police with just a hint of a warrant, so they encrypt your sync to dropbox with yet another layer, not trusting dropbox's encryption.

It works smoothly and flawlessly. It operates under the principal of "least astonishment", meaning it does what you expect every time.

I expect it to add Favicons to web log-ins soon, because their first beta tester asked them to, and so far he has gotten every single thing he suggested.

I haven't used mSecure but I can tell you that LastPass is really nice and works well with Dolphin HD browser.

I also hate dragging out the cables and just recently found AirDroid for free. It works like a champ!!!

Good list! One thing... With ReadItLater...

Why hasn't google just introduced a "reverse" option for Chrome to Phone? aka instead of sending a website to my phone with a click of the "chrome to phone" button, why not the other way around?

Its little things like this that just blows my mind how developers miss on.

I've been using Samba Filesharing instead of Wifi Explorer Pro. It lets me setup the phone so when I'm connected to Wifi the phone appears as a mapped drive in Windows Explorer so I can browse it just like it was connected directly to the computer.

Makes it much easier to do things like import photos through Picasa.

I'm using it only on Windows right now, not sure about Linux or Mac support but I'm sure it'll work

EDIT: yes you can password protect it...

I was using WIFI Explorer, early on, but found Samba. Much nicer to use. Much easier to copy, delete, edit as a drive than peck through a web page to see my phone. I also use a backup utility to sync stuff from pc to phone and phone to pc very easily this way.

Don't get me wrong I think WIFI Explorer is a very nice application. I just think Samba is more efficient at least for my use.

why couldnt it simply be cloud based? linked to your google account like everything else in android is...

Linked to your Google+ account which seems more an more everyday the route google is taking to organize all your accounts and info

"phone to chrome" just seems like something that is laughably easy to do, especially for someone like Google to implement.. an yet its not

I'll check out mSecure, but so far OI Safe is my favorite password program. It only takes up around 300k to load/run, has minimal permissions and none of my data gets transferred across the internet. Create a csv file and manage your security that way.

Regarding mSecure - do you need to buy it for BOTH PC and Android; or does purchasing one mean you get both? The Android Market listing implies you only need to buy that. If so, how do you register the PC version?

Ideally I want to compile the data on a PC and transfer the database in one lump, with the password. HELP

I was using the Wifi File Explorer for sometime, it's simple and easy to use, but then I found AirDroid and now I'm in love with it, coz it is more secure than wifi file explorer. Other features include a nice web UI, your songs and pictures organized accordingly, you can listen to the songs on the phone. Check it out...

I use eFile as a free alternative to wifi explorer. Just select ftp share in the menu, go to the assigned ftp:// link in windows explorer, and you can see/edit all of your phone files.