Personal selection of Android apps

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A personal selection of favorite Android apps.

Everyone has a recommended selection of apps for their smartphone and is no different. We’ve been using Android devices for some time and these apps are always loaded.

Most of them work both online and offline. It annoys us when developers assume that the app will always have Internet access. Sometimes the net connection is expensive or slow (eg when roaming) and often simply not available (eg on an airplane). Many of these choices are based partly on their ability to work offline.

Selecting and Downloading Apps

You can use the Market app on your device to choose what you need but there’s a more elegant method that lets you choose from your desktop.

Login to using the same Google account as you have on your device. Then you can select apps in a full size browser, reading all the details and reviews more comfortably.

Click on Install and the app will be pushed to you device almost immediately – within minutes (sometimes seconds) the app is loaded on your device without you even touching it!

In this article we’ve provided links to the Android Market.

Tip: to save your mobile download ration, connect to your home/office Wifi and download most apps using the cheaper connection.


Android doesn’t have in-built ActiveSync support for connecting to Exchange Server, Small Business Server or Office 365 from the device.

Touchdown will provide all that in one bundle. Sync and display email, calendar, contacts, tasks and notes (when supported by Exchange Server). Push email is supported by default as well as cool stuff like searching the server storage and saving data to the devices SD card.

Touchdown is just $20 with a 30 day trial. There is also a HD version for Android tablets.

These two apps integrate nicely with desktop computer. One lets you select web pages to read later on your device while the other is our indispensable note maker that has largely replaced OneNote.


InstaFetch is the Android version of the popular Instapaper service for iPhones. Instapaper provides links on your mobile or desktop browser to tag web pages that you’d like to read later (for example longer articles). Instafetch then downloads those articles onto your device for reading anytime, even offline. The formatting is stripped of extraneous stuff (ads, sidebar links etc) to give a nice reading experience on the smaller screen.

You can also mark information web pages, for example on Wikipedia, for reference before visiting a particular place.

Some web sites don’t play nice with InstaFetch, hence complaints about “Needs internet connection to finish” errors but most newspaper and magazine sites work fine. Wikipedia pages are reformatted very well. Tip: make sure you choose any ‘Single Page’ web page version of an article (for example on New York Review of Books) before tagging for later reading.

Instafetch Lite is free with a Pro version available for $6.65.


The problem with note taking applications is that they are never available when you need them. A desktop note program isn’t available when you’re away from it. A mobile note-taker isn’t always convenient when you’re at a desk or for typing longer notes.

Ideally you can type a note – long or short – and it’ll appear on any computer you have with synchronization so you can read or edit when offline.

Evernote does all that and more. It has apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry and Palm as well as a web interface.

Any notes you enter are seamless synced to the online storage and any other connected apps linked to your account. Once you think of something and type it in Evernote will show it wherever you are.

It doesn’t have all the fancy features of OneNote in Microsoft Office but it handles text, lists, images and tables – which is all most people need.

Not being constrained by allegiance to one operating system or device is a great strength. You can start using Evernote with confidence that it will move with you to other computers or devices.

A basic Evernote subscription is free and may be enough though a Premium subscription is a measly $45 a year. Most people who start using Evernote think that’s a great bargain.

Video Player

The Android video player is sufficient for most people however it’s a bit limited when it comes to a wider range of video types as well as subtitles.

There are various players available but we’ve settled on Mobo Player.

It handles any video format we’ve thrown at it. In some cases you need to invoke ‘software decoding’ to get a good playback. Keep in mind that some videos are too large or complex for the relatively slow smartphone processor to handle, no matter what app tries to play it. In some cases you’re better converting the video into a smaller video file with a format native to the device. A program like Any Video Converter can do that.

One annoyance with Mobo Player is that you have to manually refresh the folder to see any new videos you’ve copied in.

Oanda Currency Converter

There are also many currency converters available. We’ve used the web site for many years and are happy with their Android app.

The app works offline by downloading the forex rates once a day. Despite appearances you can convert either way between the two selected currencies simply by typing a number in the respective currency box.

OandA lets you choose between conversion at the commercial rate (usually for multi-million dollar transactions) or ATM, credit card or Travellers Check rates (adjusted by 1% , 2% or 3%) which is more useful for travelers.

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