Seven Android applications you can't do without
All the programs available at launch on Android were free, so if you've got a G1, make the most of this – here's our guide to some choice cuts.
1 Google Maps
Of course we know Google Maps from other mobiles, but this is the program at its purest. Sure, the new iPhone app has the StreetView feature as well, but since this doesn't work in the UK yet, it's no big deal. Getting directions is easy enough and the map that results has not only the route but also changes of direction marked clearly with written instructions at every corner. Still no substitute for a TomTom, of course, but not bad.
And Google Maps ties into Wikitude neatly, too. This travel companion uses the G1's GPS to find nearby landmarks with stories, map routes and more. It combines with Google Street View so you can hold up your phone to see which direction the places of interest are – though remember this doesn't allow for other buildings which may be in the way, in the real world. Handy if you're not in the UK, for finding your way around tourist haunts.
Want to know what's in an Alabama Fizz? Need to make the best Frozen Fuzzy, Gin and Sin or Purple Hooter? This comprehensive guide has over 100 to choose from, and the search function means you can look for drinks that can be made from what you've got in the drinks cabinet. Although if that's just an old bottle of Bailey's and ginger ale, you're a bit stuck. You can add your own recipes and save ones you like to the favourites list. Since it's on your phone you'll have recipes for obscure drinks to hand if the barman doesn't know. Mind you, he may not take kindly to you insisting, "It says here you should put the cassis in first…".
More or less pointless, I admit, but it will appeal to gamers of a certain age. It's not a game, just a motion-activated sound effect. Jump in the air and the phone makes the sound of Mario bouncing. Touch the screen so the sound changes to Mario collecting a coin. Press the screen for the sound of Super Mario shooting a fireball. Of course, you get the sounds if you just jiggle the phone, you don't have to jump, but that's just cheating. Satisfyingly, when you end the program it makes a "game over" kind of noise, too.
Oh, come on, you've never forgotten where you've parked? This is another program that uses the GPS functions to great effect. Hold the phone next to your car and pinpoint the position. Then, when you return, it'll show you on the map where your car is. Of course, the act of holding the phone up and selecting a program may be enough to set the car's position in your mind anyway, but this is a bonus for parking at a long-term airport car park when you get home jet-lagged and bewildered, for instance. It takes a moment to find the position, so I'd suggest launching the program and activating GPS a moment or two in advance.
Barcode scanners are not limited to Android-powered phones, but this version is good. Scan the barcode on a CD, and you'll find the first problem is that the plastic film catches the light making them hard to scan. However, get past this and the system works well, directing you to the nearest shop having the product at a good price, or an online seller. Not every shop is listed, mind. Of course, it begs the question, if you're scanning the product then you are probably holding the exact thing you want to buy, standing in a shop. If so, can you really be bothered to traipse down the road to save 50p?
Now this is mostly of use to folks in America, but there are some UK-specific items. Basically, it's a series of phone numbers to take you to the main switchboard for Abbey, HSBC, Amazon and so on. Plus, it then tells you what buttons to press to get through to a human being instead of endless menu loops. Users can add comments but these vary from the dull ("I love Air Canada" or "Screw AOL") to the obscene. Some users seem to think they might get graphically described sex from others via this service. Optimists, I guess.