My Most Used Android Apps

My other half's new phone arrives today, replacing a very old and knackered Sony Erricson. Once the Galaxy S2 Mini gets here it'll be down to me to set it up, which has set me thinking about which Apps I use regularly (aside from games) and which of those will actually be of use to her (somehow, I can't see her using ConnectBot!)

I don't think any of the apps I use are too obscure, but then people's exposure differs so hopefully some of these will be of interest to other users!

 

Firstly, I always root Android phones, having that extra level of control is very important in my eyes as, amongst other things, it means you can install and use Apps that won't work unless the phone is rooted. The first of these being

 

Permissions Denied

Personally, I think this should be on every phone! You do need a rooted device to use it though, but if you fulfil that criteria the app allows you to revoke permissions from other Apps. Sometimes it'll cause issues (the app you're adjusting might start force closing) so it's largely a case of playing around to see what you can remove. If an App won't play nice when you revoke a permission you really don't want it to have, it's time to think about whether or not you want that app installed at all.

So far I've found that you can't revoke the following

  • Facebook App - Fine Location - App will force close 
  • Google+ App - Coarse Location - App will force close (you can remove fine location no problem though)

The one thing I would say, is don't get a false sense of security. Yes, it means you can download an App that's demaning permissions you don't want it to have and remove those permissions, but think about why the App might have those permissions in the first place. If you're downloading a game and it wants to be able to send text messages and make calls, is it possibly you're actually downloading malware?

 

Do Not Disturb Me

This app implements a 'feature' that I used to have on much older phones, but that appears to be missing from both Android and iOS. Basically it allows you to set schedules where the phone is in silent mode, incredibly useful if (like me) you sometimes forget to switch silent off the next morning.

Better (or worse) for those of us who are on-call, the app can be configured to allow the phone to ring after a threshold has been reached. So the first call you make to me won't make a sound, but if you then call back the phone will ring. The threshold is customisable, and the app can also send you a SMS after the first call to say "I'm busy, but if it's important call again".

It supports whitelisting and blacklisting (the latter being great for those who feel their call is always important!).

End result, I can sleep through the night without being woken by the sounds of my inboxes filling but not run the risk of missing an important call (or forgetting to turn notifications back on the next morning!).

 

Amazon Kindle

Even if you never buy books from Amazon, this app is worth installing. Why? because it handles PDF's far more gracefully than the built in PDF reader. Especially with long PDF's (think car service manuals), it just makes things ten times easier.

Obviously, if you do buy from Amazon, there are additional benefits. I have a Kindle, but it's still useful to be able to bring books up on my phone (mostly reference material, reading fiction on a phone just doesn't feel quite right!).

 

TweetCaster

I find Twitter a convenient way to quickly add news links to my site, and occasionally have conversations with people on there. I'm not the most prolific of Twitter users (by a very, very long shot) but I have found that TweetCaster makes life a lot easier. It hooks into the system so that you can use it to 'Share' content, so if you're browsing a site and want to tweet about it (assuming the site doesn't have a webintent button, of course) just bring up the menu, choose Share and then select TweetCaster. It's not unusual for apps to allow this, but it is handy!

TweetCaster will also notify you of new tweets, mentions, direct messages etc. Personally, I've turned those off, but I assume there must be some who want to be notified of every new tweet!

 

OpenVPN

Traditionally, you needed a rooted device to use OpenVPN, but the new Galaxy Note seems to let you get by without rooting. Whether that's a decision that Samsung have made, or something we can look forward to in future devices I don't know (not my tablet, can't poke around too much!). I suspect it's more likely to be a change in Android though, so hopefully it won't be necessary to root as the TUN device will already exist.

OpenVPN is great, it lets me connect securely to the work network. I originally set it up so that I could test the work VPN (why would I need access from a phone?) but actually it's amazing how useful it's been. If there's something up with the router, I can VPN in (assuming the router isn't dropping WAN traffic!) and access the router's web interface. Hell, with connectbot, I could access the shell but that's really a laptop job.

It also means that I can connect to the VPN and then turn my phone into a hotspot. Every client connecting to my hotspot will be routed through the VPN, useful if there's more than one of you out in the field!

 

AndSMB

I don't use this nearly as much as I first assumed I would, but it remains a useful tool. AndSMB allows you to connect to Samba (Windows file) shares. For me the added benefit is that it can be very verbose in it's output so if a fileshare isn't working I can test in more depth before I need to get my laptop out. 

On my old phone, this was my preferred way of moving media between my phone and PC, just connect to the PC's fileshare and then push/pull the data as required.

 

SSHDroid

SSHDroid lets me start a SSH server on my phone so that I can log in remotely and do things that I can't be bothered to type into Terminal Emulator. It's another of those apps I installed to play around with, but now use far more than I ever expected I would. I guess if you're not into digging through filesystems to see how stuff works it's probably of little interest though!

 
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