Going Android? Start with these eight apps

Everyone at my office got iPhones last year, but I didn’t really think the screen would last in my pocket next to my keys so I resisted getting one. But my old Nokia was starting to embarrass me, especially when I was trying to give the impression I was working in the tech industry. So when the new HTC Android phones came out recently, I was first in line for a new lease on life.

When it comes to an Android phones, it helps to be Google-centric to start with. I am a big fan of Google apps and I make full use of the shared calendars, docs and hosted email offerings. The bottom-line is: After getting an Android phone, you’ll need a Google account.

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Be aware that the best apps are generally the ones written by the Google teams. Here are the eight apps that in my opinion, you should try out right away.

You can get all the apps below by snapping a pic of the QR code alongside. Of course you will need a QR code reader too… which is also available on the Android Marketplace.


Google Sky Map: It’s the showcase app that makes everyone go WOW. After getting a fix from your GPS (or your preferences), you point the screen skywards and the built-in compass lets you know what celestial bodies you are looking at. The app even helps you locate interesting sky stuff with a pointer that helps you look in the right direction.
My Tracks: I was dying to get a GPS watch. I even ran the Two Oceans Ultra-marathon 6 years ago with an anal-probe for a research project at the Sports Science Institute, after they promised to let me run with a GPS watch. The Android My Tracks app uses the phone’s GPS to tell you how fast and how far you are running without any discomfort. After your run, you can upload all the data to Google Maps.
Google Maps: Thank goodness for the Soccer World Cup and the fact that it put South Africa on the Google Map. You think Street-view is amazing on a computer? It’s even more amazing on an Android touch-screen phone.
Google Listen: I never really got into podcasts before getting an Android phone. All that has changed. Now we plug the phone into the stereo at home and listen to “This American Life” every time there is a new episode out.


I am going to assume your android phone came with the indispensable Google Calendar & Gmail. These phone apps sync beautifully to the online versions and both products are hard to beat. I do realise that I’m starting to sound like a Google employee! That reminds me…

Facebook: Most of us with smartphones have Facebook accounts, right? One of your first moves should be to download the Facebook app, but keep a watchful eye open for updates as this app is currently quite clumsy, and could be much better.
FxCamera. After watching the Youtube viral hit “Being a Dickhead’s Cool“, I’ll happily admit to looking for a polaroid camera app to download. The best one I found is called FxCamera. Like the song says, now I’m busy “having new age fun with a vintage feel”.
NY Times: This heavyweight app from the New York Times newspaper allows you to put a widget (selected UI elements of the app) on the home-screen, giving you direct access to the technology section. You can make the text really large and readable, scroll down and flick over to read more articles.
Stats: Very useful if you want to monitor what all this messing around is going to cost you. This simple little app helps you track SMS, Phone and Data usage, with alerts when you are flying over budget.

Got any other suggestions? Please add them in the comments section below for our readers to investigate.

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