10+ invaluable Android apps for the freshmen and back-to-schoolers
Having said that, most of the apps in this list are free with the option to pay some money if you want bonus features or you want to get rid of the ads. One or two only have paid versions, but there is almost always a free alternative.
I've broken them down into categories -- Study, Recreation and WTF?! -- just for your viewing pleasure.
StudyYes, study comes first. You might disagree with me -- especially if you're starting your first year at university -- but I have to maintain some scruples. Remember, kids, school is all about learning! All the fun stuff begins after you graduate! In your office cubicle! For the next 40 years of your life!
Note: to download an app you need to open Android Market on your phone and type in the app's name!
EverPaper is like a glorious mix of both Evernote and Instapaper. Evernote has its own official app, but EverPaper works just fine, and it's nice to have access to both services from the same app. Both Instapaper and Evernote are 'read it later' tools, incidentally. If you're poring through Wikipedia on campus and want to save some interesting links for later, or if a lecturer gives you a link to read after class, EverPaper can help.
RepliGo Reader ($3.99) and GDocs (free)
Do you need to access your Google Docs on the move? Or perhaps your lecturer or classmate sent you a PDF attachment that you need to view? In either case, these two apps are great. Android PDF Viewer is a free alternative to RepliGo, but it's nowhere near as useful or responsive.
NewsRob (free, or $4.99)
Google Reader does have a mobile version of its website, but NewsRob is a far better solution. It's so good that you probably want to spend $4.99 on the pro version! Just type in your Google account details and watch as all of your unread RSS feeds synchronize. By default it downloads the body of stories too (including images), for offline use.
As an aside, does anyone know why this thing's called NewsRob? I bet it was developed by someone called Rob...
Barcode Scanner (free) and Document Scanner ($3.98)
Two different apps, but both equally awesome. Barcode Scanner lets you scan almost any barcode -- books, CDs, QR codes -- and then look up prices, reviews and so on. Really, download it and give it a go on a book you own; it's so, so cool. Imagine scanning a book at the university bookshop and finding out it's cheaper on Amazon...
Document Scanner converts photos of your paper documents into PDFs, which you can then email to wherever you like. It doesn't do text recognition though -- it's just a PDF with an image in, I think.
Swype (free, but closed beta) and SwiftKey (free)
If you're going to do any kind of data entry on your phone, you need Swype or SwiftKey. Swype is about 1000 times better than SwiftKey, but it's still in beta testing. SwiftKey is still a lot better than Android's default on-screen keyboard, though.
Swype is so fast that you could probably take notes in classes with your Android phone quite effectively. Who needs paper nowadays, anyway?
Fun & RecreationOf course, after all that hard studying stuff, you need to unwind! Relax! Most students opt for the Xbox-and-beer method of unwinding, but what if you spent all your money on beer and forgot to buy the Xbox? Or maybe you like to go out and drink beer, or go to the cinema? Well, there are plenty of apps that can help you!
Fandango and IMDb (both free) (Flixster is pretty good, too)
Use Fandango to find out what films are on in your area, and IMDb to check if they're good or not! You can also book tickets with the Fandango app, which is rather handy. The IMDb app has exactly the same data as the free website, so if you ever find yourself in the pub or playground and need to break a tie, or wow your friends with an encyclopadic knowledge of film, this app's for you.
Incidentally, even if you're not into films, IMDb also does TV listings!
Yelp and Google's Places Directory (both free)
Both of these great apps can help you find somewhere to eat, drink or relax in your local vicinity -- and if Yelp doesn't return enough results, try the Places Directory! Generally you'll get the best results if you live in the USA, but most of western Europe also has good coverage.
This app is as awesome as you think. No longer will you be tempted to drink and drive -- and no longer will one poor sod play the designated driver!
Cab4me works out either your network-based or GPS location, displays a pretty Google Map of your location, and then prompts you with the local taxi companies. For some companies it just shows a number (which you can dial directly), while for some it even shows which cars they have available and the tariffs. I've only tested it in south England, but I'm sure it's good for the entirety of America and western Europe.
Google Sky Map (free)
I wasn't sure if this one counted as educational, recreational or WTF -- to be honest, it depends if you find the sky interesting or not! Google Sky Map is new (it's still in beta), but it's one of those wondrous apps that makes the smartphone crusade a little more tolerable. If only there was a Sky Map for every app that takes photos of your friends and makes them look fat. It would all balance out...
Anyway, install Google Sky Map, go outside at night, and hold your phone up to the sky. Trust me, you'll make all sorts of odd, awed noises (or simply 'totally awweeesssome!!!', if you live on the West Coast).
WTF?!Finally, when all's said and done, when you're laying semi-comatose on a friend's bed waiting for the sun to rise, or stuck at a bus stop in cold, driving rain, you instinctively reach for your phone and look for something to do. These apps don't really have a use, other than to put a smile on your face, or to waste a few minutes.
Twitter and Facebook (both free)
If by some divine tragedy you don't check Twitter and Facebook enough from your desktop computer, there are two very nice Android apps that you can use. They let you post updates (and pictures), or browse your friends' profiles (and pictures, in Facebook's case).
How better to while away half an hour at the bus stop than by posting 'I'm standing at a bus stop' on Facebook?
The concept behind this app is great, and I can see how it might be really cool in a social setting like school or university. Basically, you just bump two phones together (both running the Bump app), and they then share some information -- a photo, your contact details, calendar events, etc. It works like a door knock -- the devices only send data out when both are knocked at the same time.
Unfortunately I haven't been able to try it out, but I can imagine it becoming the Next Big Thing at night clubs and bars. Don't shout your phone number like an enraged orangutan into his or her ear! Just bump your phones! (And later... your hips...)
Tricorder (free, of course!)
I leave you with one of the most-downloaded (250,000+!) and highest-rated (4.5 out of 5!) apps on the Market. The great thing is, it's not even a novelty app! It's a REAL APP! Tricorder actually uses real data from your phone's sensors to provide information about your acoustic environment, your location (and orientation), local cellular and Wi-Fi signals -- even solar radiation!
If that wasn't enough, it makes lots of original-series Star Trek noises. I'm not even a proper Star Trek nerd, yet Tricorder brought a huge, stupid grin to my face.