Mobile Tech Picks and Pans: Android Apps

What’s on my tablet?

In my last article, I referred to a PC World writer who said that the most important thing about a tablet wasn’t the manufacturer but the operating system.  And I mentioned that I bought an Android device despite the iPad, which runs Apple’s iOS operating system, being the market leader.

Apple was making tablet apps (applications) before Android, so it’s no surprise that the iPad has the advantage here.  That said, I’ve been pretty pleased with the apps I’ve found in the month I’ve been carrying the Galaxy Tab.  Here’s what I use most of the time:

  • Browsers: the tablet comes with its own browser, and versions of Firefox and Opera are available.  I typically load four browsers onto my PCs, but so far I haven’t reached a conclusion on how many I’d want on the tablet
  • OverDrive is a program that allows me to read free ebooks from the libraries where I have user accounts.  So far, I’ve read the second and third novels from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, and I’m reading Scout, Atticus, and Boo (a celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird on its 60th anniversary).  And they’re, oh yes–free.
  • The Plain Dealer has a pretty nice news feeder.  Yes, the PD makes me crazy sometimes, but I also see the Columbus Dispatch on my home computer, and believe me, it’s even more infuriating.  I’ve been traveling a lot in the past month, and it’s wonderful to be able to bring up the hometown newspaper first thing in the morning.
  • The phone came with apps for Kindle and Nook.  The only purchase I’ve actually made was a bible for Kindle, which had the one I wanted while Nook did not.
  • I use a service called Dropbox, which allows me to synchronize files among several different computers and the tablet.  Also dandy for photo sharing.
  • NPR has its own app, and Winamp provides a service called Shoutcast.  Either one can get me WKSU; the NPR app can get me WCPN.
  • Pandora is a free “internet radio” service that allows you to custom-design your own radio “stations” that feed music chosen to your specifications.
  • I’m still finding the best use of the calendar, contact, and email apps.  The email app is good for checking email, but these devices aren’t really designed for writing emails.  And although I can check my calendar and contacts, I don’t feel confident yet using the device as the main storage for those critical items.
  • I am a church organist, and I’ve downloaded a free metronome app–but I haven’t yet depended on it during a practice or a service.  And I loaded a piano app, but so far its main use has been to entertain my grandchildren.
  • And since I have grandchildren, of course I have games: including the ubiquitous Angry Birds and a Tetris derivative called Pentris.
  • I also sometimes serve as a parliamentarian, so the stopwatch app should be helpful when I need to time speeches.  While there is a RONR (Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised) version for PC, there doesn’t seem to be one for tablet, at least not on Android.  (I assume I could buy a Kindle or Nook edition of the book, but I haven’t tried that yet.)
  • IMDB (the Internet Movie Database) is great for quickly settling those questions about the cast, director, etc., that arise while you’re watching a movie.
  • With all its limitations, Wikipedia is still pretty handy for quick, general research.

There are, evidently, several Android app stores; so far I’ve only used the one that came on the device.  And so far I haven’t actually purchased any apps: the free versions have been sufficient for my needs, and they serve as nice ways to evaluate an app before buying it.

My biggest disappointment is the absence of a Skype video chat function.  I hear that Skype claims they will be offering one soon, but who knows how long that will be?

I found a nice online article that offers a comparison of the apps offered by iOS and Android.  (Be aware that not all Android is the same: there are several editions, and my Galaxy didn’t come with the more capable version 3; so far that hasn’t been a limitation.)  It appears that iOS has the edge in entertainment capabilities right now.

I’m an enthusiastic reader of PC World, and their article on Android apps from August 2010 is online; but it’s pretty outdated by now.

To get the most recent information if you get an Android tablet, just try typing “Android apps” into a search engine, and you’ll find plenty of apps, and also plenty of articles reviewing apps.  Supposedly both iOS and Android have about 350,000 apps, so the few that I’ve installed are just the beginning.


About neoeaxd

Bill Lavezzi serves as Executive Director of the North Eastern Ohio Education Association. NEOEA is a professional association of educators consisting of the nearly 31,000 members of the 192 local OEA and NEA affiliates in northeastern Ohio. Founded in 1869 as the North Eastern Ohio Teachers Association, NEOEA took its present name in 1989 in recognition of the diversity of its members.
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