Stuck with Android? There's an app for that

Let's get this out of the way right now: I want an iPhone. I love the iPhone. I need an iPhone.

However, for several irritating reasons having to do with carriers and contracts, I am unable to join the iPhone party at this time. This has left me stuck on the Android platform.

Now, don't get me wrong, while I find iOS to be the superior platform, Android is a worthy competitor. Its biggest problem is fragmentation -- an Android phone from HTC looks different than an Android phone from Motorola or Samsung. This is because the Android platform allows for the manufacturers to put their own skins on top of the operating system, meaning different devices will have a different look and feel.

This becomes a problem when Google updates Android. Each carrier has to re-write their skin to make it compatible. The result is often huge delays in phone updates, and in many cases no updates at all as the carriers simply wait for the next new phone to be released with the updated OS.

All that being said, for folks like me who can't make the jump to the iPhone there are still plenty of applications available for Android that make life worth living. Here's a list of my favorite Android apps that help tide me over until that magical day when I can bring home a shiny new iPhone.

  • PicSay Pro: It's a great little photo editor that does all the usual color correction and red-eye removal, but also lets you add fun special effects to your pictures. You can blow an afternoon using the "Selective Desaturation" feature, which allows you to convert your pics to black-and-white then put the original colors back in wherever you see fit.
  • Fancy Widget: The iPhone doesn't really do widgets, which is a shame because they can be a great way to ascertain valuable information at a glance. In addition to the time, Fancy Widget lets you see your battery level and the current weather and forecast (and -- don't panic -- uses the phone's location services to know where you are).
  • Widget Locker: Speaking of widgets, hands down the most time-saving app I've ever used is Widget Locker, which allows you to customize your lock screen. Instead of having to always swipe to unlock the phone, with this app you can put any widgets you want on your lock screen. You get one-tap access to any apps you want. In my case that would be email, texts, Twitter and a shortcut to call or text my wife. It's very convenient.
  • Firefox: If you're a Firefox user, getting the new mobile version for Android is a no-brainer. The built-in Android web browser is fine, but Firefox mobile lets you sync your Firefox bookmarks and passwords from the desktop version. Add some tabbed browsing into the mix, and it's my browser of choice for Android.
  • Monkey Preschool Lunchbox: Here are six games that teach toddlers colors, letters, counting, shapes and matching. A staple on my son's iPad, the app's handy on the phone for those times when Mommy is making him and Daddy do something boring (came in handy last time we were forced to endure clothes shopping).
  • Advanced Task Killer: A critical difference between Android and the iPhone is how they manage multi-tasking applications. Many Android apps continue to run in the background even after you've closed them -- sometimes that's because they need to refresh themselves like a weather app, but often it's just because the app was written to stay on so it can be accessed quickly later on. It might make the phone feel faster, but it also kills your battery life. Use an app like Advanced Task Killer to take down unruly apps lingering in the background.
  • So there you have it. If you're stuck in Android land like me, or actually prefer Android over the iPhone (in which case email me and we can have a good ol' fashioned nerd fight over it) check out these apps to make the experience of using your smartphone that much better.

    Morgan Bonner is pre-press manager and a systems administrator for the Packet and Gazette.