More Handy Android Apps

As you’ve probably already read in a few of my posts, my LG Optimus V has a tendency to have its memory eaten up in to time flat. As a result, I was often left to go into the Applications menu and clear out caches, uninstall updates, etc.

I did all of that until App2SD Pro was offered for free on Amazon’s Appstore, and the app’s widget did do the trick for a little while. The widget would refresh and display the amount of memory the cache was taking up and if you wanted to clear it, you would press the widget – but not before it asked you if you wanted to do that.

Well, of course I want to. It’s killing my space! So annoying message aside, all widgets only work when the app is installed on the phone’s internal memory which sort of defeats the purpose of having it.

So in an effort to avoid having an app kill my phone’s internal memory just for the sake of having a widget, I scoured the Android Market and came across two handy ones that have since become my replacements for App2SD’s cache widget.

cacheSLW Cache Cleaner Widget (free): While it’s pretty obvious what this app does, what isn’t is how small it is. Like all SLW widgets – SLW is an acronym for Simple and LightWeight – it is extremely compact to save you space and still gets the job done. This one in particular is a whopping 17k. What I like about Cache Cleaner is that it efficiently monitors your cache and whenever you feel the need to dump it, one press of the widget will do it and you’re back in business. No frills, no bells or whistles. That’s exactly how it should be.

storageSLW Storage Widget (free): I use this one in conjunction with Cache Cleaner so that I have a constant tab on how much memory remains on both my internal memory and SD card. This takes the guesswork out it as well as waiting for that dreaded “low memory” message, a definite sign of how this phone can drive you nuts at the most inopportune times. And again, we see the benefit of good things coming in small packages: this one weighs in at 20k. Think your phone can handle that?

Best of all, these as well as all of this developer’s apps are free.

Give them a shot and see what you think.

My Most Essential Android Apps, Part II

As promised, this post will be dedicated strictly to the apps related to photography.

Let’s get one thing out in the open: when it comes to photography apps, iOS definitely has Android beat. I check AppShopper daily on my iPod for literally thousands of free iOS apps and there’s always an abundance of photography apps. There may be a few I’d love to have but being my iPod is 3rd-gen and sans camera, they don’t do me much good.

So I’ll go and check both Android Marketplace and Amazon App Store for the app I saw and I’m not too surprised when I can’t find it. It’s a shame because some of them look like they’d be winners.

But I can’t cry over that, can I? I’ve found a few Android photography apps that I really like and use them more than the standard camera app because they are so versatile. So without any further ado, here they are and in no particular order.

quickpicQuickPic (free): If there’s one thing that I can’t stand about the Android OS, it’s the Gallery photo viewer. It tries too hard to be pretty and visually stunning and as a result, lags badly. I don’t need that. What I need is an app that will show my images when I click on it without any goofy transitions or bells or whistles. This is where QuickPic excels because it does just that: it works, and quickly. Because of this, QuickPic is my default photo viewer and it should be yours, too.

retrocamRetro Camera (standard and full version available, downloaded full version for free as part of Amazon’s Free App of the Day, regular $2.99): This is by far my most favorite camera app. While both free and full versions offer several different camera types, the full version comes exclusively with the Hipsteroku camera which is cool but not stunning. The only setback with this app is that it sometimes takes time to load so if you’re looking to shoot something really quickly, this might not be the app for you but if you see some kind of inanimate objects that would make a nice artsy shot, then this will do you just fine. Here’s a shot I took over the weekend in my hometown of Wilmington, CA:


I’ve printed some shots taken with Retro Camera + and they all turned out pretty clear considering the camera’s miniscule 3.2MP resolution. The full version offers many, many more options such as ASA, shutter button assignment, memory consumption, etc. and is worth the price.

picsayPicSay (standard and full version available, downloaded full version for free as part of Amazon’s Free App of the Day, regular $3.99): So you’ve taken a few pictures with your phone and realize that a lot of them could use a little help. PicSay can easily help you transform your dark, off-color, of just plain dull images into something worth sharing by letting you adjust contrast, RGB, or even add text balloons to them. As always, the standard version will give you a good idea of what the app is capable of doing but is lacking in a handful of features and options, which is why I jumped on this one right away when it was Amazon’s Free App of the Day. If you’re not up to spending the money now, give the free version a shot. It’s pretty cool.

picplzPicplz (free): Part of the fun of owning a smartphone is having the ability to share your images with friends or more than likely, your social network. Picplz does just that and does it rather well, allowing you to post your image to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, Tumblr, Dropbox, or Posterous – all at once, if you please. All of those options make it my favorite photo-sharing app, despite its poor results if you choose to one of its built-in filters which can be applied before uploading. They look good on the phone but once uploaded, then appear really murky. But hey, that’s why we have PicSay, right?

pocketPocketbooth (downloaded for free as part of Amazon’s Free App of the Day, regular $1.99): Do you remember the old photo booths? The cramped space, that funny, spinning stool that couldn’t support more than 150 pounds, the smell of the photo chemicals on your strip of pictures when they were spit out of the side of the machine? You don’t? Well, I do because I’m old, okay? The Pocketbooth app is just plain fun because it takes people like me back to the days of the photo booth but without all of the mess or claustrophobia. This app takes 3 or 4 images in a row, just like the classic photo booths, in black-and-white, color, sepia or antique. You can also choose (virtual) matte or glossy texture as well as the color of the border. Not quite as fun as the real thing but a bit of nostalgia nonetheless. Here’s a sample taken with the app.

Honorable Mention: Fatbooth (free): Have you ever wondered what you’d look like if you were of a larger girth? Download Fatbooth and see for yourself! I tried it on our cat Monte and the results were pretty funny.

While I’m constantly on the lookout for any new and exciting photo apps for my phone, most of them seem to be rather lackluster. These, in my opinion, are the best ones I’ve come across as of this post. Give them a shot and see what you think.

My Most Essential Android Apps, Part I

Ever since I got my Virgin Mobile Optimus V smartphone, I’ve been downloading apps like a madman. The bummer, of course, is the phone’s extremely limited memory that gets maxed out in no time at all.

Once I made this discovery I decided that if an app was going to be on my phone, it had to be worth the memory it was occupying (read: little to no games; mostly productivity). I’d now like to entertain you with a list of some of my most essential apps which will be divided up into a few posts. Note that they are not in any order of preference.

amazon-app-store-app_thumbAmazon Appstore (free): Although their selection isn’t as wide as the Android Marketplace, the Amazon Appstore is great in that it offers a free paid app every day. Sometimes the apps are worthy of jumping on right away and other times you don’t want to give them a second thought because of their ratings. Either way, offering an app that will be regular price the next day is a great way to try it and if you decide you don’t like it, you haven’t lost a dime – and you can always go back and download it again if you’re one of those indecisive types like me. I’ve saved a ton of money with this app and it’s pretty much where I get most of my apps now.

hi-124-1SMS Popup (free; full version available): As I had mentioned in my review of the LG Optimus V, one thing the phone lacks is any kind of visual alert (in silent mode) for text messages. And being I work in a rather quite place, I need to keep my phone volume off and can’t always hear it vibrate since I listen to my iPod all day while I work. SMS Popup solves this issue by popping up a dialog box on my screen with the sender’s info and their SMS. It takes a little configuring to get it just right (disabling SMS alerts in the main Android settings) but once I figured it out, it was well worth the effort. The app also allows you to assign different notification sounds to your contacts so you know where the incoming message is coming from without looking at the screen. Highly recommended.

hi-124-21Office Calculator Free (free; full version available): I suck at math, which pretty much explains why I live from paycheck to paycheck. And while I know my fractions/percentages fairly well and can figure out what the discount may be when something’s on sale, most of the time I need a little help. That’s why Office Calculator Free is by far the best calculator app I’ve tried. Why? One key: %=. That’s right, one little key has separated this one from the pack. Say something is $247.99 and there’s a 33% discount. Hey, no problem! The price is $166.15. But tax is 8.75%! Okay, the total will be $189.69. I just used it to figure those out. Cool, eh? It also has a faux tape of your running calculations so you can go back and see what you’ve done. I like this one a lot because, well, I suck at math.

71oqDV7iSrLApp 2 SD Pro (downloaded for free as part of Amazon’s Free App of the Day, regular $1.49; free version also available): App 2 SD is a simple app that does a few things. First, it offers an easy way to view, move, and uninstall apps from your phone and separates them by Moveable, On SD Card, and Phone Only categories. The good thing is that it doesn’t list all those useless bloatware apps like Twidroyd and airG Chat that can’t be deleted; it only lists those that can. Once you install an app that is capable of being moved to your SD card, it will prompt you and ask if you would like to move it. Easy stuff but note that if the app offers a widget and you love it to the SD card, chances are that the widget will not be functional and not show up when you want to add it to your Home screen. App 2 SD also lets you easily (and that’s the keyword here) clear up space from your cache so your phone has more memory to work with. I have not been disappointed by this one, especially since I got it for free.

817fEX QIbLTweetCaster Premium (downloaded for free as part of Amazon’s Free App of the Day, regular $4.99; free version also available): Up until I started using TweetCaster, I tried my share of Twitter apps and each had their faults. Seesmic was a bit clunky, and HootSuite and TweetDeck gave me serious heck when it came to configuring. I solved most of those issues once I started using TweetCaster which also encouraged me to do a bit more tweeting. TweetCaster allows you to post to multiple Twitter accounts as well as your Facebook status, both of which can be the same (but under 140 characters, naturally). True, I still have to use a separate app for Facebook browsing but I that’s okay; I use Twitter as more of a news-gathering site anyhow. Facebook is more of a social thing that gets cluttered with too much other stuff when I just want some quick news from those I’m following. TweetCaster does the trick beautifully and functionally.

Well, there’s the first five of what will be, well, I don’t know how many I plan to write about. Just keep checking back for more as I continue to use my phone and make note of my most often used apps. All I know is that there are a bunch of photography apps that I use regularly. Okay, tomorrow I’ll write about those.

Oh and special thanks to reader Branni Mikal who left a nice comment on my review of the Optimus V that inspired this and the following posts. Hopefully this will help them and any others who might be wondering what to download to their phone next.

Thanks Branni, and congrats on your purchase. You will love this phone!

App Review: Bike Repair

518WzXhc1BLI know two things about my bike: it has wheels and I like to ride it. In fact, it’s become a weekend tradition of mine to saddle up and hit the local trails down to the beach or ride circuitously around the park just so I can log at least 20 miles.

No, it’s not exactly Tour de France but it’s something  look forward to doing since I no longer weigh 300 pounds, with the 20-mile mark being my weekly milestone as sort of an in-your-face to my former flabby self.

All of that said, and despite putting hundreds of miles on it, I don’t know jack about fixing my bike. Sure, I’ve replaced a tube now and then but the most difficult part of that is finding the right tube for your tire. The rest is pretty easy.

But as far as major repairs go I’m a novice and frankly, a bit worried about attempting to make any kind of repair – especially if it involves the brakes.

That’s why I decided to buy the Bike Repair app for my Android phone and while I haven’t made any repairs just yet, I’ve been nosing through the app and I can tell you that it was definitely money well spent.

Take a look at the main screen:


You just scroll down and see which part of your bike you suspect there is a problem with and it will give you a list of options. So let’s say it’s your rear derailleur giving you heck. Press that and you get this screen:

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Hopefully, your problem is listed here and if it is, choose it and you get the problem’s explanation and solution. The app goes into great detail in plain, well-written English to explain what it takes to solve the issue. It also includes a list of tools and even step-by-step images for those of us who aren’t exactly comfortable with bike repairs.


I don’t think it can get much easier than this. I will give it a through look-through this weekend since I do need to give my bike an inspection, which the app also covers in great detail. It even has pictures showing how to use a chain tool, something I didn’t even know existed until the app pointed it out to me.

Hey, I said I was a novice right? But as is obvious, this app has already given me some knowledge on how to keep my bike functioning in top condition and how to avoid potential future problems.

Price: The Bike Repair app averages $3 between the three major outlets (Amazon, Android Marketplace, iTunes) but I got it on sale for .99 cents at the Amazon Appstore for Android. Note that with so much offline detail, the app is a huge file at over 30MB so Android users had better make sure there is room on their card to hold it since, well, this will kill your internal memory. The download did stall a few times but closing and re-opening  the Amazon Appstore app did the trick and it went straight to my microSD card so no shuffling was required. Also, because of the file size, I’d recommend using wi-fi.

All in all, with its 42 guides and 58 problems explained, Bike Repair is a definite must-have for the novice and serious cyclist alike. Just make sure to remove any muck from your hands before scrolling through the app’s pages. Things could get ugly.

Related links:

Wordless Wednesday: Expressions


Anthony poses.

Taken with the Pocketbooth app for Android. Click on image for larger (but not full-size) version.