Best Android-only apps
This week on Pocket-lint is Android Week which means that we'll be bringing you all the latest news and info on Google's green robot-fronted OS, as well as a daily round-up of the best apps. We've already presented you with the best gaming apps and the best apps for getting out and about in the sunny weather, and today it's Android-only apps.
Apple's App Store is widely considered to have the edge over Android Market, but there's still a fair selection of apps that are only available to Android handsets, some of which iPhone users would kill for. Read on for our pick of the bunch and our guide on how to make your iPhone-toting pals jealous.
Google Gesture Search
It's no surprise that this simple but effective app is Android-only as it comes from Google itself. The app enables you to search your phone by drawing on the screen using gestures. That means that if you draw an A on the screen with the tip of the your finger, the phone will bring up a list of everything on your phone with an A in it or anything that looks a bit like what you've drawn.
Like the text-based search function on iOS, Gesture Search will search your entire phone, including contacts, songs, apps and bookmarks. It also improves as you go along by learning from your search history.
This is probably one of the most useful Android apps around, let alone one of the best Android-only offerings. If you're fed up of the keyboard that comes as standard on Android devices, then SwiftKey is the perfect antidote. Once installed, the app will first analyse your writing style by looking through all of the SMS messages stored on your phone so that it knows what words you're likely to use next.
The idea is that it will predict what you're about to write, but with more accuracy than the standard predictive text funciton. Add to that the push and hold punctuation and the automatic addition of accents on foreign words and you've got one very useful app that should save a lot of time.
These kind of apps can often be clumsily put-together affairs, but NESoid is without doubt the best NES emulator around. iOS tends to be stricter when it comes to issues like copyright on these sort of apps, so this is one that's likely to stay Android-only.
NESoid doesn't actually come with any games, it just gives you the means to play them. You'll need to download them from elsewhere (just google NES ROMs), where you should be able to find versions of retro classics such as Zelda, Mario and Donkey Kong. There's an on-screen d-pad, or you can play using your handset's physical keyboard (if it has one).
Another app from Google HQ, this one enables you to search for and organise your podcasts. Obviously iOS doesn't need an equivalent app as it has iTunes functionality bundled in with will automatically deal with your podcasts, so it's no surpise that this is an Android-only app.
When you find something that you want to listen to then you can either stream it on the spot or save it for later in a queue. In short, this is an essential service for Android fans looking for a podcast specific app and a good way to browse for new shows as well as store and stack the ones to which you already subscribe.
Although it's a well-known name in the Android field, Swype still isn't available on Android Market. If you're not lucky enough to have one of the handsets that comes bundled with the Swype, then you can sign up for the Beta service. The app has been designed to make it faster for you to input text on your handset, using one continuous motion across the on-screen keyboard (the picture below shows the route used for inputting the word 'quick').
The theory is that there's no need to be accurate, as Swype will do the work for you, reportedly offering an input rate of more than 40 words per minute. It'd be interesting to see a race between it and Swifkey. Gentlemen, start your fingers.
Another from the Google mothership, this app lets you keep abreast of your financial affairs from your Android phone. If you panic at the thought of being away from your computer, and in turn your stocks and shares updates, then this app will help you to keep you finger on the pulse.
Along with real-time stock quotes and market data, the app will also automatically sync your portfolio with your Google Finance website so everything will be up-to-date by the time you get back to your desk. Although you can download and use the app in the UK, it currently only supports US stock data.
If you're into downloading content from the web in relatively large volumes, then this torrent client manager may well be a godsend. This app enables you to search for a torrent while out and about, using your phone and start it downloading on your home computer. So, you could theoretically start a download while at work so that it's ready to watch when you get home.
Inevitably, there's a fair bit of set-up involved once you've downloaded the app, in order to sync it up to your torrent client and it's no suprise that this is limited to Android Market, as Google's app store seems to have a slightly more relaxed approach to copyright than iTunes (and of course, Apple wants you to download and pay for the video files that if offers, rather than getting them for free elsewhere).
RockPlayer is basically a multi-format video and audio player, which will play pretty much any type of file that you care to mention. Android offers support for a fair range of media files, but it doesn't cater for everything, which is why you might be interested in downloading RockPlayer. As well as the usual files such as avi, mp3, mp4, wav and ogg, the app also supports Xvid and crucially, DivX.
As well as important video formats, RockPlayer also has support for FLAC files, which will be something of a boon for all the audio nuts out there. You can also buy an ad-free version directly from RockPlayer (the paid-for version isn't currently on Android Market).
Advanced Task Killer Pro
It might sound a little dull, but this handy app (also known as ATK) is a tool to kill running applications. It's a bit like the control+alt+delete manourvre on a PC that brings up the task manager and let you close down programmes that are stuck or having some sort of technical trouble.
Most smartphone operating systems can get themselves in a bit of a pickle from time to time, usually causing things to slow down, or sometimes even crash completely. Advanced Task Killer Pro is a nifty little app that should help you to avoid such a situation.
Astro File Manager Pro
This is a great tool for tracking down stuff that you've lost somewhere on the many menus and apps of your phone.You can navigate through everything on your handset, using a folder view and a toolbar at the top of the screen. There are options for searching, bookmarking and editing, so that once you've found what you're looking for, you should be able to avoid misplacing it again.
As well as the file-based search funciton, Astro File Manager Pro can also zip up (and unzip) files, knock up backups for your apps and also serve as a task killer. You can also get yourself a free version, but it will be packed with ads.
Flash Player 10.2
Apple's lack of Flash support is well documented, so it's no shocker that Flash Player 10.2 is firmly in the Android-only camp. This is essential for for accessing the same web content that you can see on a PC, including videos and games.
The latest version is also said to exert less stress on your handset's CPU, as well as on the battery life. Flash Player 10.2 is currently for Android 2.2 and 2.3 and a Beta release for 3.0.1+ tablets (where it can be used in full-screen mode).
Double Twist is basically a media player - iTunes for Android. It looks reasonably similar to Apple's software, and also works in a similar way, too. If you like to spread your bets and you're still using Apple products, as well as Android, then this is a very useful app that will enable you to synch and play music from your iTunes library. It will even import your ratings, videos, podcasts and playlists (although you won't be able to create new playlists from your phone).
It's also an easy way of setting tracks as your ringtone, and will also find any music stored on your SD card and include it in your Double Twist library.
Have you got any favourite Android-only apps? Let us know in the comments box.