So, yesterday we gave you our list of top end paid for Android apps and today provides you with a check list of those you should already have installed. Why? Because they cost absolutely nothing. Phones at the ready - and go.
We'll start with an unusually UK-specific app, so all in the US and elsewhere please either skip to FoxyRing just below, download the equivalent for your country, or go and develop it if it doesn't exist.
0870 uses a database like the SayNoTo0870 website and applies it automatically to your calls. So, next time you dial one of these national rate number rip offs because of some greedy corporation, it will find an alternative local rate number and put you through. It's not perfect because such a number doesn't always exist but it will do its best to convert 0870, 0845 and 0800 numbers into calls, which instead of costing 35p per min, simply come out of your price plan.
Locale is the paid for app that automatically changes your phone settings according to where you are via GPS. The trouble is that it doesn't work for everyone and it costs a tenner, so instead use FoxyRing. FoxyRing can set your profiles, not only according to your location, but also by the time of day and your environment as well.
Instead of just pre-programming in when you think you might want you phone to be quiet, the app also sets the ringer according to the ambient noise level. So, if you're in a loud bar, it'll turn itself right up to make sure your phone can be heard.
Some other excellent features are that you can set it to automatically switch off power hungry services like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS ans also to override all commands in times of emergency.
SpotMessage was one of the winners at the recent Android Developer Competition and provides a great way of both sending messages to people and setting reminders for yourself based on location. It sends notification to a point on Google Maps and, when the phone it's sent to gets to that spot, the GPS recognises it and the message pops up on the handset. A good little bit of fun that you could use for wishing people luck before they go into exams or interviews or even reminding yourself of a step you fall down every day.
This is really AR at its consumer beginnings and about as good as it gets right now. Take a picture of a scene, send it off to Google and a whole lot of search results come back about what and where has been recognised in the photo. It's not perfect right now if looking for a specific result but very good as a tool of discovery when you've got time to explore an area.
Talk to Me
This kind of app makes you realise how close we are to living in the future. Talk to Me is one step away from being a seamless universal translator. It's a real time speech-to-speech translator that works, at the moment, between a handful of languages including English, Spanish, Italian, German and a few others as well. The app records voice from one language and talks it out as voice in another. Once honed, it'll be a very powerful tool.
ASTRO File Manager
ASTRO is one of those unsexy must have apps but a must have it still is. It allows you to search through and organise content on your SD card and internal memory in true folder tree style as well as backing up applications, sending files as attachments and even having its own built-in task manager as well. Essentially, it's better than its equivalent in the standard Android build. Download it now if you don't already have it.
Opera Mini 5
Curiously, the Android browser isn't as good as it could be. So, until Chrome comes out for Android, there's the world famous Opera Mini which has just launched its version 5 in beta for all to experience. It routes all pages through the Opera servers where they're compressed by 90% before being sent to you device and that should allow for a far speedier experience. You also get the Quick Dial feature, full bookmarks and a password manager as well.
Another excellent choice from the Google Labs is Gesture Search. It allows you to draw letters on your screen to search through your handset. It can scan your contacts, your installed apps, your bookmarks and your music and intelligently works out if a glyph is close to another one, offering both of them up on the screen. Sadly, it'll only work on Android 1.6 and above which means no support for the Hero at the moment.
Key Ring Reward Cards
Genius idea, this, to stop you carrying round a tonne of extra plastic. Simply take all your reward and membership cards and scan the barcodes into your phone. You can then use the app to call them up on the screen each time you need a cashier to register your loyalty. Very neat indeed and surely just the beginning of the end for the wallet.
Finally is the third app on the list from the Google stables. (Should we be surprised? It is their OS after all.) Shopper is the king of price comparison apps at the moment, allowing users to search for cheap alternatives by either voice entry, text entry or taking a picture of either the cover art of a book or cd, or by getting a shot of the bar code of any product you like. It works alarmingly well and apparently uploads images to the server to keep its knowledge base ever growing.
So, that's 10 from us. Which are your top tips for free Android apps?
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