Dick is a humanist who also digs tech, so I had a suspicion he’d have a nice batch of off-the-beaten path (at least to me) apps to talk about. Here’s what he had to say:
1. TuneIn Radio
I enjoy listening to radio stations from around the world, and this app allows me to hook my phone up to my stereo and listen to interesting stations like the BBC’s Radio 3, RAI’s Quinto Canale (commercial-free classical music broadcast by Radiotelevisione italiana), and the all-classical stream of Temple University’s station, WRTI-FM.
2. Septa Droid
I ride the SEPTA regional rail, and this app gives me up-to-the-minute information on the next train headed to my destination and whether it’s on time. It’s the best SEPTA app I’ve found for Android.
Get Septa Droid: Android (free)
Rdio is a commercial music subscription service. I pay about $10 a month for unlimited listening on my computer and smartphone. It’s a moneysaver for me because I’m able to give a new releases a few hearings without having to commit to purchase them. And it has a strong backcatalog–for example, a nearly complete discography for Bob Dylan. The Android app for Rdio allows you to search and play albums over the network, but it also has a “Sync to Mobile” feature that downloads the album to your phone for listening off the network.
4. K-9 Mail
When I got my Android phone, I had trouble configuring the native email app to work with Penn’s email servers. One day while reading Lifehacker, I learned about K-9 Mail, a community-developed email app that can be configured to pull in mail from IMAP, POP, and Microsoft Exchange servers without a hitch. Within a few minutes of downloading the app, I had it configured for Zimbra, and I can now read and send Penn email on the go.
Try K-9 Mail: Android (free)
This might seem an odd choice, since Firefox is a well-known app. Until recently, though, the Android version had serious problems (a long load time and a nonintuitive user interface). The app was overhauled this spring, and it’s faster loading and easier to use. The Firefox Sync feature allows you to share bookmarks and browsing history with your desktop or laptop. If, like me, you had tried Firefox on Android a few years ago and abandoned it, it’s time to give it another try.
But wait – there’s more! Two more!
I’m a supporter of the back-to-plain-text movement. Instead of using word processors with lots of features and formatting, I like to write and edit simple text files that can be read and edited by any text editor. (An aside: over the past few months, I’ve become an enthusiastic user of the Markdown text markup language used with Pandoc to create HTML and .docx files.)
I know many people use Evernote for taking and organizing notes, but I like Epistle, a simple text-based app that works in conjunction with Dropbox. The app sets up an epistle directory under Dropbox, and by dropping text files (shopping lists, train schedules, to-do lists) into the folder, you can easily view and edit them on your phone. You can also create new files through the app and then edit them later in a text editor. No frills: simple and elegant.
Get Epistle: Android (free)
This versatile program instructs my phone to change settings based on where I am, what time it is, and even what position the phone is in. I have it turn off the wi-fi when I leave my home and turn it back on when I reach my office. My phone is silenced when I place the phone facedown on a tabletop. The ringer is turned off after 10:00 pm and turns back on at 7:00. It can be a bit complicated to set up, but once you learn the basic concepts, the possibilities are endless.
Get Tasker: Android (GBP 3.49 (around $5) bought direct via Paypal/Google Checkout or $5.99 via Android marketplace)
Stay tuned for more My Five recommendations throughout the year.