My Stuff

It's the end of one year and the beginning of the next, and that means lots of lists covering all manner of tech stuff. I like reading lists. Everything laid out in an easy-to-read format fits my analytical side, and helps me process more information faster. I don't much like writing lists though, because that leaves less space for me to ramble and drift away from the topic at hand. Sort of like now, huh?

Anyways, back to my list. I used a crapload of mobile stuff this year, most of it some flavor of Android. I'm not even going to run through them all, just what I use everyday while working for AC or as a general technophile. A lot of you will disagree with my choices, and that's a good thing. The world would be pretty much a suck-fest if everyone were like me. Jump through and have a read.

The stuff that clutters my desk

Bowl of phones

Yeah, I use a lot of stuff. You're probably thinking "Whoa, man! I wish I could play with all those Androlicious devices!" You really don't though, trust me. I have to keep them charged, and current (for the most part) and it takes time away from playing with the phone I like. I'm the resident test-monkey-nerd around here, and many a late-night conversation with my co-workers has ended with me saying that I'll have a look and see what happens. That means I need to have the stuff on hands to see what happens.

My testing devices include the Nexus One running stock Gingerbread, The Nexus S running stock Ice Cream Sandwich, The Galaxy Nexus running stock 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, and rarely the T-Mobile G1 running stock Donut or a hacked AOSP build of 2.1. Need to know what the email application was like on stock 4.0.4? Or how the stock 2.3.6 build messaging client acted when you tried to send an MMS that was too big? Those are the kinds of things I need to know, so I need to keep these around. The cool part is that any one of them still make a great smartphone (maybe not the G1), and from time to time I'll grab one and carry it for a while. 

The stuff I use makes a bit smaller list. 

The T-Mobile Galaxy S II

Galaxy S II

This was cheap and has T-Mobile Wifi calling. That makes it a perfect house phone. We don't have a land line, but thanks to Google Voice I can easily have a number for a house phone that has great service no matter where in the house I'm using it. Basements are hell on cell service if they're built right, but with a good router I have crystal clear service in my dungeon office. It also serves as an emergency Wifi hotspot when mother nature or Comcast decides I don't need Internet service. Thanks to an old legacy T-Mobile Android plan, it's super cheap to use it like this. Since I don't do anything with it, and it's normally not looking for a cell signal, the battery lasts a few days as well. It's running the latest version from Samsung, rooted and some the more invasive T-Mobile and Samsung bloat yanked out of it. If you have an old T-Mobile BlackBerry or Android phone laying around, it's worth thinking about doing this yourself.

The HTC One X

One X

Like most old Android nerds I have a soft spot for HTC. Their early phones sucked (I'll admit it) but they weren't afraid to take that chance and build Android phones for whoever wanted to buy them -- and way back when that was very few people. Now that I've went and gone all nostalgic, none of that is the reason I carry the One X with me. The one thing it offers that no other phone seems to be able to is to get great pictures in low light. 

I'm sort of an amateur photo nerd, and like to fiddle with taking pictures. I tried a bunch of 2012 phones' cameras, but when push comes to shove and the light sucks, the One X just takes better pictures than all the rest. When I am away from my desk I want something in my pocket that can replace a point and shoot camera, and the One X does it. Having the Tegra model to play games on while idle helps a lot, too. It's running the official HTC Jelly Bean build, but I have rooted it because I think every piece of hardware I own should be rooted.

The Nexus 4

Nexus 4

Other than the camera (which isn't bad, but doesn't stack up to the One X), the Nexus 4 does everything I need from an Android device, better than every other Android device I've tried. Thanks to the magical parts inside it, the thing is super-fast and will rip through anything you throw at it. To me, it's a great update from the Galaxy Nexus, with performance miles above any phones from Samsung or HTC in 2012, and allows me to have my bleeding edge beta Android experience on the best mobile hardware available today. It's unlocked and rooted, but everything else is stock and lovely. I honestly think it's the best Android phone to date.

The Kindle Fire HD 8.9

Kindle Fire HD

I mostly use a tablet for three things -- reading, playing games, and watching movies. For the reading and watching movies part, you can't beat the Kindle Fire HD. I went over it as well as I could in my review of them, but I still expect some eyes to roll at my inclusion of it here.

If I ever splurge for a Paperwhite, or Amazon ever put out VoD for all Android tablets, I'd probably stop using the Fire. But until then, Amazon and this hardware is my go-to combo for most of my tablet needs. That makes me sad, because with a little work on the content and content delivery side Google could easily win me back.

The Nexus 7

Nexus 7

It's not as good in any category as its big brother the Nexus 10, but the 7-inch size is 100-percent pure win. I play all my games on the Nexus 7, and it's no slouch when it comes to watching a video or two either. I was tempted by the insane resolution and "HD" sound of the 10-inch Nexus tablet, but the easy way the 7-incher feels in my hands can't be denied. I'm also a huge fan of software optimization, and NVIDIA does as good a job (dare I say better) than Apple does when it comes to making apps that wow you on their hardware. I might even get myself a 3G model when I have a few extra bucks. If it had a matte finish on the screen, I'd use it as an e-reader as well and kick Amazon to the curb.

I think the Nexus 7 defines Android, and is simply the best choice available for anyone who wants a tablet for all around use. 

Honorable mention

The Transformer Prime is one of those devices I'll never get rid of, because it makes a perfect couch computer. Anyone who invested in an Asus tablet with a keyboard dock will tell you it takes Android to a whole 'nother level. I'm under the weather with the flu, and using it now to write this blog post -- something I would never try on another tablet.

I had a Nokia N9 for a while, but a few issues made sure I wouldn't be able to keep it. I like Meego better than Android, but there are no apps to fill some serious holes. It's also basically a dead platform, so nobody is working to make it better. But the biggest issue I had were the sharp corners of the phone, which made it uncomfortable to hold. It was one of those things that I just can't overcome, and I found a new home for it. 

I spent some time with iOS 6 recently. I see why people like it, but it just wasn't for me. It did make me realize that Apple and Google need to stop squabbling and work together more often. 

I bought a BlackBerry 9360 for a friend I owed a favor to, and it made me miss my own BlackBerry. I'm hoping when BB10 comes out, someone will sell me a 9900 on the cheap to replace my Galaxy S II. 

I still love my Nexus Q, and it does everything I wanted Google TV to do -- just better. Haters gonna hate.

My favorite apps

Apps

I install a whole lot of apps, but end up keeping very few. I uninstall games when I've beaten them or get tired of them, I use stock Android options for things like messaging and my calendar, and keep tools and utility style apps to the few I use often. But I do use a few, and here are some of my favorites.

Light Flow is a must have for any phone with an LED indicator light. The app can do all sorts of magic with the when and how your LED lights up in relation to app notifications, but the single most important thing it does is provide a way to shut them all off. Three or four phones with notification LEDs on your nightstand looks like an old Geocities web page at night with all the blinking. Light Flow lets me stop all of it, and does a better job than black electrical tape.

Audio Manager Pro is a great little app that helps manage audio volume on your Android device. There's two parts -- one is a shortcut to all the volume controls on the phone in one place, and the other is dedicated to creating audio profiles. Set them up on a timed schedule and you'll never have to worry about your phone making noise when it shouldn't be.

Shot Control is a great camera front end, and it gives you access to all the functions you need without all the extra crap Samsung or HTC force on you. If your phone's camera always wants to use too high of an ISO (Hello, Nexus 4) you need this app. You'll take better pictures with this one, I promise.

Press is a great new Google Reader app that I fell in love with. It still has some rough spots, but it's a perfect second instance of Google Reader for me. I have two Google accounts on my phone, and I don't want "work" stuff all mixed in with my personal stuff. Two apps means I can keep things like AT&T press releases separated from Vice.com. Press is the best second Reader client I've found.

Pocket is my gateway between the small screen on a phone to the big screen on my computer. A lot of times I'll see something on my phone that I want to take a better look at on a bigger screen. Pocket is a tool that grabs a link of whatever you are looking at, and saves it to an online folder you can get to from your computer web browser. No more reading 12 page Washington Post articles on my phone.

SwiftKey 3 lets me type as fast on my Nexus 4 as I was able to on my BlackBerry. The prediction engine is amazing -- which is why everyone has copied it. It's the first app that gets installed on any Android device I use.

Wifi File Explorer Pro is an easy way to copy stuff to and from an Android device that doesn't involve looking for a USB cable. There are other options available, but this one was first, and I see no reason to change -- it does everything I want it to do, and nothing extra. I like simplicity when it works.

Google Play Music is the app I use the most of any. Three Google accounts means I can have 60,000 songs available to play at any time, and I always have some playing. It's cloud based, but audio transfer doesn't need fast Internet -- it even works on Sprint 3G.

Ski Safari is one game I haven't grown tired of. I'm not even sure that there is an end-game, 'cause I like just playing it. It's small, has simple controls, and is fun without becoming immersed in it. To me, that makes for a great mobile game to play while sitting still for a little bit.

Riptide GP is still my favorite game. If you're a fan of racing games, Riptide GP; a Tegra 3 device; and an HDMI cable is a world of fun. So is kicking back and playing it for hours on the Nexus 7. 

There you have it. You'll probably disagree with half of what I say, but I get to pick these ones. And these are the choices that work for me. 

 

Reader comments

What I used in 2012: Jerry Hildenbrand

29 Comments

looks like "nexus 4 dot live wallpaper" to me...but i am sure Jerry will chime in with the correct answer.

Jerry - I'm quite honored that you use and like Shot Control. I'm a long time fan of the AC podcast. Thank you for the mention.

I could kiss you both and wish I had seen this before the holiday break. Left Handed controls were enough for me drop the $3 - the rest has been just icing on the cake!

Looks like an interesting app; though the only device I can seem to install it to is my Transformer Pad TF300. My Razr Maxx HD doesn't seem to be supported.

Great stuff, Jerry. I especially love the G1 mention. I bought one in January 2009 and used (and loved) it for over a year until I jumped ship to Sprint for the Evo 4G. I then loaned it my dad who has now used it for two years. Still runs like a champ and since all he uses it for is phone calls, texting and facebook the device's limited internal storage has never been an issue for him.

I also agree 100% about Ski Safari and Riptide GP. Those two are a tremendous amount of fun.

Jerry,
this is actually a Q I've been meaning to send into the Podcast. Is there an ingenious method you use to jump between phones?

i.e. If you know you are going to take pix that day than you grave your One X. But otherwise maybe you have you Nexus 4 on you? do you swap out simcards everytime you leave? if I'm calling you to find out where we are meeting for suds do I need to know every cell number?

Just curious...

I'm going to make an educated guess. Jerry mentioned that he uses Google Voice, and in the past I think he mentioned having both T-Mo service and a straight talk AT&T SIM, so that's at least 2 SIM cards. I'm betting he keeps those in his daily drivers (i.e. the Nexus 4 and the One X). In this article he mention using T-Mo wifi calling and emergency data with the GS2, so that one more T-Mo SIM. He also said he uses Google Voice, so he probably has 1 number for all 3 phones. I suspect the rest of the phones don't have SIMs and are normally used as wifi-only devices.

That's they way I'd do it if I was Jerry. :)

Jerry had a Nokia N9, awesome! I had 2 N9's at one point, have even thought about picking up the 64GB version recently but haven't yet. They're nice if you like to tinker, Devel Su/rootme and you're in. Thanks for the run down, I've written down a few apps that look useful!

"Like most old Android nerds I have a soft spot for HTC. Their early phones sucked (I'll admit it)..."

Interesting. I never heard of HTC until my first smart phone: Droid Incredible (loved that phone with a passion that bordered on obsession)... since then, HTC has been my "gold standard" (DInc, Thunderbolt (kickstand!!), Rezound (dat 720 screen!!).

For the first time, I'm at a crossroads for my next phone: HTC DNA looks good but the Note 2 is screaming my name :p

I was really impressed with the Evo 4G LTE when it first came out. My coworker has one, but for some reason he hates it. Now another of my coworkers has a Note 2 and he loves it, and seemingly out of nowhere a bunch of other people in my department ordered Note 2s. I just ordered one for myself; they're taking over the company.

Uh, no, streaming Google Play Music does NOT work well on Sprint's "3G," or at least not where I live (St. Louis, MO). It doesn't even work reliably in a "Network Vision" area (Waco, TX).

Jerry is the man. He has a cool collection of phone he uses. I do not use any android phones right now. But eventually I will buy a tmobile HTC if the price is right.

Loved this 2012 list.

I see you like your devices and it's great you keep them all running.
I did have all my previous devices but have ended up handing them down to the family as replacements for busted phones, the one benefit is this also helps convert former iDevice users.

Just going through your app list now, I have most already but a few I will have to have a look at methinks.