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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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HTC Desire BoxFeatured image by avlxyz under a CC-BY-SA license.

A friend of mine has just negotiated a great deal on a new Android phone and she suggested I put together a list of apps/things to do once she gets it. I thought, rather than hoarde this all to myself, I'd put it out there for all to see.

1.) Root

This is not strictly for everyone, but I want my phone to be free, as in speech, not beer. For this reason, the first thing I do on any new Android device is to get root privileges, preferably with S-OFF in the case of HTC devices (allows writing to the internal flash memory). The other real advantage here is custom kernels (which allows underclocking and, therefore, better battery life) and wireless hotspot/tethering. Only you can decide whether you want to undertake this procedure (getting it wrong can brick your device), but for me it's a must.

2.) Prey

I would be pretty hacked off, to say the least, if my phone was stolen. Therefore, the first application I put on my device is always Prey. Prey will allow you to send a specially crafted text message to your device, if lost or stolen, which will turn the GPS on, connect to the internet and tell you where it is. It will also lock out all your personal info, emails and contacts so you are protected.

3.) SwiftKey

The default HTC keyboard is awesome; I think it's much better than stock Android. That said, it's not a patch on SwiftKey, which seems to somehow know what I want to type before I've hit a key. To put that in more realistic terms: SwiftKey learns your style of language and attempts to anticipate phrases based on your past usage. This one isn't free, but there's a free trial, so worth giving it a go.

4.) TweetDeck

My favourite Twitter client is great on Android. Nuff said.

5.) Get a Google Account

Ok, this should be obvious, but you'll reap the best benefits from your device if you copy all your contacts to your Google Account. This can be a Google Apps for Domains account (which is how I work) and it's great. Calendar sync is also awesome and I now live in pure marital bliss now my wife uses (somewhat against her will!) Google Calendar as well.

6.) Astrid Tasks

Such a great todo list, and it integrates with pure awesomeness into Producteev which lets you email it tasks.

7.) Google Goggles/Shopper

Google Goggles is amazing. Take a picture of a sudoku puzzle and it will solve it for you. Similarly, with Shopper, you can photograph a CD or book (the front cover, that is!) and it will find matching products.

8.) Shazam/SoundHound

The former is amazing for identifying playing music, the latter will try the same but can sometimes get it even if you just hum the track! To give an idea of the range: it worked for my renditions of Don McLean's "Vincent" and "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" from the Wizard of Oz as sung by my friend Jane.

9.) Wordpress

Manage your blog while on the move; really nice app that makes dealing with my comment queue a far more pleasant task.

10.) Subsonic

It requires a bit of initial setup, especially on your home PC, but this lets me access my entire home music collection wherever I am.

Any other recommendations?

Update: 15th March 2011

11.) Tasker

I can't believe I forgot this. Anyway, many thanks to the poster CWinkler below who drew my attention to the fact that the totally awesome Tasker is missing. I use Tasker constantly. It sets my phone on silent when I get to the British Library every day. It turns my phone onto silent at night, except when my wife calls. It turns Wifi on when I'm at home and off when out and about. Again, not free of charge, but so worth paying for.