5 Must-Have Androids phone apps for June 2012

With the combination of having to had to recently do factory reset and new friends moving to the Android platform, I decided to write a quick blog entry about what I consider to be the 5 must-have apps on the Android platform for me.

Lookout

I’ve used Lookout since they were called Flexilis on the Windows Mobile (no, not Windows Phone) platform.  They’ve grown to be an authority on mobile security with applications on the iPhone, the Android and the Blackberry platform. They offer the ability to scan applications that scan apps as you install them. This is particularly useful for Android apps especially if you plan to install apps that aren’t in the Marketplace for whatever reason. This is often used for installing apps that are in beta stages. Other features include backing up information (i.e. photos, contacts, calls, etc) and a slew of functions that allow you to deal with a missing device such as locating your device, making your phone scream, remote locking and remote wiping your device. My favorite feature is the find your device followed by making it scream. It’s a really quick way to find my misplaced devices 🙂

Swype

It’s hard to imagine typing on a smartphone without Swype. It was the first keyboard that introduced swiping gestures as a means to enter information on a phone. Because you’re moving over more letters and numbers, it actually tends to be more accurate. Because you’re swiping, it’s actually a bit faster because you’re not lifting your finger up to type. When it first came out, it didn’t handle touch typing as well because it didn’t perform autocomplete. It now does that just as well as the swiping. The one thing though is that it’s a beta product and not in the Google Play Store. While there are other products that do something similar like Flex T9, Swype is still the best in market especially since being bought by Nuance. You’ll have to sign up for it and install it here.

Evernote

Evernote is probably the first app that I used that has a desktop client, web client and mobile client. It was one of the first truly productive web services available in the market when it started. Evernote has also grown to be a leader in its space. Although I do have Springpad and Catch installed, I find myself using it the most because of the desktop and web client availability. There are so many awesome features on Evernote such as OCR and speech to text translation which are extremely useful. The Windows client also supports drawing as well. However, the feature that I absolutely can’t live without is the offline sync and its rich multi-client application.

Pocket (Formerly known as Read It Later)

I use Pocket largely because it was the first official Instapaper-like app on the Android. I needed it to mark articles on my Google Reader feed to follow-up again later. Also, I use it to archive any bookmarks of links that friends send me. When Read It Later became Pocket, it also became a beautiful application to read links. This is a particularly powerful app when leveraged with Android’s Sharing capabilities

Dropbox

Dropbox is a well-known file sharing service so I won’t bore you with what it does. But there are two things about Dropbox for Android that are awesome. The first one is it’s ability to sync your photos automatically to your Dropbox account. This is especially great when I use multiple devices and it’s nice to be able to consolidate all my photos in one place. To encourage this, Dropbox will increase your free account with 2 additional GBs of space which is the second awesome thing I love about Dropbox for Android. If you don’t already have a Dropbox account, you can use my referral link where both of us can have an additional 500 MB of space. Here’s my link: http://db.tt/sIzRrr71

What are your 5 Must-Have Android phone apps today?

Follow Friday – May 15, 2009 (aka the I LOVE LEWIN post)

One of the best suggestions someone (I think it was @flyingspatula) made about Follow Fridays is to actually suggest fewer but give reasons why. While there are very, very many people I really enjoy following, I wanted to keep this list small so that I could spend a little bit more time on highlighting why I follow each of these folks listed.

@Zoocasa – this is where I work! Primarily managed by Jason Lewin, this is the quickest way to find out what’s new and exciting about Zoocasa. I personally believe we have an awesome site if you’re looking for a home. Personally, we have a phenomenal team that makes this happen from day-to-day.

@JasonLewin – marketing guru extraordinaire. More importantly, an all around nice guy. Jason is the hardest working person on the team. He’s in early and out late. Well connected and always willing to share and introduce to others. Always willing to do anything that helps out the team or a team member out. A really classy guy. He had the ingenius idea of having me tweet something at the Realtor Quest show that ripped big benefits for our team but didn’t bother to take credit for it.

@saulcolt – the smartest man on earth. Saul is smart, witty and charming. There’s no wonder that he’s such a ladies’ man. What Saul doesn’t want you to know is that he’s really genuinely a nice guy. Despite the claim of having an enormous ego, he is humble, open and honest. Saul is all-kinds of awesome.

@flyingspatula – I share much of his views on management and leadership. It’s hard for many people to do either well. Management is getting the job done but it takes leadership to get the job done right. Getting the job done these days involve making sure the right things are done for the right reason and it’s a fine balance of people, objectives and technology for the most part.

@flexilis – Flexilis is a security product that I use for my Windows Mobile but they also tend to tweet about cool Windows Mobile news whenever relevant. I’ve used it many a time to save my bacon. Ironically enough the one feature that I use the most is Scream because I’m always leaving my phone somewhere.

@PockeTwitDev – I <3 PockeTwit. I don’t heart many things but I truly heart this app. If you use PockeTwit, be sure to follow @PockeTwitDev. It’s the fastest way to get support and feature requests for this app.

Flexilis – Nuke and Restore

I decided that I was going to try a new ROM this weekend so it was an appropriate time to test out the Nuke and Restore feature using Flexilis. I logged on to the site and nuked my device. I liked the fact that it asked you to confirm whether or not you wanted to nuke your device on the web but not on the phone as this is branded as as security feature for the phone. The Restore was equally easy. I only tested the restore of the SMS messages as it was the one feature I was most interested in. While it worked, it seem to have lost the SMS thread on the Windows Mobile on restore. That part was disappointing.

Overall though, I’ve been really impressed with Flexilis. I like it much better than GuardMobile. Now the big question mark is how much is it going to cost when it leaves beta.

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Flexilis – Initial Beta Review

 

 

I received an invite to try out Flexilis late last week and I was quite curious to try it out. The premise of the product is to provide protection for your mobile device in a single application suite. It makes sense; the mobile device has become powerful and because of it's small size, I carry it every where with me. I'm more likely to carry more personal information on it then on my computer at times. In its current stage, Flexilis provides 3 services – backup, network intrusion protection and anti-virus protection. Upon installation, Flexilis recommends that you have unlimited data to fully utilize it which makes you very aware how it's best used. While I know it currently supports Windows Mobile, I believe the plan is to support Symbian 60, Android, iPhone, Java ME and Blackberry as well based on the sign-up form.

On the surface, the backup solution provided is not different then the service that Dashwire provides. It allows you to backup your application data like your contacts, sms messages, audio and video as well as your call logs. I like that I have the option to schedule the backup and choose to back it up over wi-fi instead of arbitrarily backing up the information over my data plan. Since my critical information such as my contacts is backed up to my Exchange server at home, I don't have a real need to constantly backup my information real time to Flexilis.

The network protection is a firewall that is set to protect you on both the wi-fi and 3G networks. There are limited options and the events don't provide a lot of detail. It's pretty alarming to see that I have tens of events per second. I can't help but wonder if Flexilis is blocking ports that other core apps require. That being said, everything seems to be working fine. Since I can't really control the firewall, it'd be useful for Flexilis to describe why a port is blocked and what potential threat it represents. The AntiVirus works like a regular antivirus. Can't say much about it outside of that it can be scheduled. I didn't install any virus to see if anything was picked up. Overall, the application works noiselessly in the background. I don't see any performance dips when it runs which I had expected it to. 

Where Flexilis really excels is the services it provides on the web. The dashboard provides a summary of the activity during the day. The first thing that stands out is the number of security events. It's pretty overwhelming but looking at the details it doesn't mean a whole lot.

The My Data tab provides you access to your pictures, contacts, documents, videos, sounds, sms and calls. Dashwire is much stronger here as it actually allows you to not only access the data but also interact with it. Also the SMS messages shows you the contact phone number and message but does not associate a phone number with a contact name. This makes it pretty hard to figure out who the message is from as I don't memorize the phone numbers of my friends. However, Flexilis doesn't claim to be a competitor to Dashwire – it's a backup service and it does that well. Flexilis gives you a 2GB limit which is pretty decent size for a mobile device.

Missing Device is another really innovative idea for your device – you can locate it, cause it to scream or nuke it. I tried the Locate and Scream. The Locate service put me to around 200m from my home. Given that I was in the house, I don't think the GPS would have worked and it located me using the cell towers and that was pretty accurate. The Scream function turns on a siren even if the sound on your device is turned off that will turn off only by a physical press of a button. While I don't see it being able to scare or embarass anyone, it will definitely help you locate your device. Don't know about most of you but I'm quite apt to lose my device especially with the device off. Or you have the misfortune of knowing my friends who have hidden my phone in the ceiling of the office just for kicks. One thing about the Scream is that in both tests, it crashed my phone.

When I was playing with Flexilis on my device, I was quite disappointed that I couldn't restore data from the device. I couldn't help but wonder if Flexilis intended to implement this feature later on. I was pleasantly surprised when I found the restore functionality on the web. This makes this a killer product. A few other features that I would love to see implemented here is the ability to restore from the device. Here's why – when I'm on the road, I may not always have access to a desktop browser but I will always have access to my phone. Being able to restore data on my phone makes it much more useful. Another important part of restoration for me is the ability to restore the registry and perhaps the Windows directory. The reason is that I typically install most of my critical software on my SD card and being able to restore the registry as well as the appropriate dlls means I have my device ready to go even when I'm not buy a computer. Perhaps a premium feature.

Overall, I'm really impressed with Flexilis. The features implemented are either useful now or potentially useful. I'm looking forward to see if there are any intentions to perhaps implement more features. I plan to use the nuke and restore features later on next week when I reflash the ROM again.

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Back on track

It's been an up-and-down tech week for me. If you've followed me on Twitter, you'd have seen my frustrations with my phone since my Colorado trip. I had decided to try the Energy ROM which is very fast and very pretty but I ran into a tonne of problems with stability. After trying out a few more I seem to have settled for the Proven ROM for now. This ROM doesn't crash as often but it has a lot of quirks that I'm debating whether or not I can live with. For one, there isn't an easy way to assign Voice Command to the PTT button and the other is that while I'm in transit, it keeps telling me I'm disconnected from the network. No guff. It is damn annoying and it drains the batteries rapidly.

Other than that, I've been toying around a little bit with some new tech that I hope to be blogging about the next few days. Micro Plaza has a very interesting concept. It filters your network for links that people have posted. PeopleBrowsr looks like it can be a web-based TweetDeck replacement. Flexilis provides online backup, anti-virus and intrusion protection for your Windows Mobile device. All interesting implementations. Hopefully I'll have time to write about it this weekend.