Brooks’ DogGone Best Android Apps of 2012

For my Doggone best apps of 2012, it took me some time to figure out what I wanted to share with you all.  I thought about maybe I’d tell you about the first apps I install after flashing a new ROM.  This list wouldn’t change drastically from what I offer you below, but it would definitely include Titanium Backup.  But what I’ve come up with for my top five best doggone apps of 2012 includes an app I can’t live without, one that I think is dang fantastic with endless possibilities, and apps that have become integral to my everyday life.  So, you can obviously disagree with me, agree with me, or hopefully find an interesting app that you think might be rad to try out and maybe become an important part of your mobile experience.

5) Xbox SmartGlass

If you haven’t heard of this one, it’s only been out for a little while, but I’m really liking the direction things are going.  I’ve always always always wanted to control the Xbox from my phone.  Why? The biggest reason is because I’m a nerd and want to be able to control everything with my phone.  Another reason, the couch loves to eat my Xbox remotes, the kids love to hide them, and Kinect is rendered unusable with hyper crazy kinds running around.  I always have my phone on my person, and now with SmartGlass I always have a way to control the Xbox right there.

As for the app, I think SmartGlass has some room for improvement.  It has already improved with the last update.  Unfortunately, whenever your phone goes to sleep, or you try to multitask while using SmartGlass, you lose connection and have to regain it when you enter back into the app.  This is irritating.  However, after the last update, the time it takes for connection has been made much more reasonable.  Its nice to be able to completely navigate through my Xbox with my phone.  I wouldn’t call this an “I can’t live without” app yet, but I’m using it more and more, and it has fulfilled my dream of controlling my Xbox with my phone. If you have an Xbox, check out this app.  It’s free and waiting for you in the Google Play Store here.

4) Ultimate Custom Widget (UCCW)

Now, I don’t include UCCW because it’s the most user friendly app out there.  It’s not…  But neither is Photoshop.  However, the possibilities of widgets that you can create with this app are endless.  If you’ve got a creative mind and some time, check this app out.  If you don’t have either, but want to kill time anyway check out mycolorscreen.com.

With this app you can create clock or weather or whatever widgets you want and if  you’re good, they can look amazing.  I personally just don’t have the knack for coming up with my own designs, but I can steal and tweak other peoples work pretty well.  If you go here you can click through tons of different skins (widget designs) and download them to your device.  Once you get them to your device you can use them as is or tweak them.  That’s what I’ve done…  So, I love this app because it can made some dang cool looking stuff for your home screen.  It’s free.  Get it in the Google Play store here.

3) Dropbox

Dropbox is both a service and an app.  But what Dropbox has done with their mobile app has made it very useful and important to me.  If you’re not already familiar with it, Dropbox is a cloud drive service that integrates with your computers and mobile devices.  You can even access the files from the web if you need to.  What’s awesome about the app, is that it will automatically back up all your photos to this cloud drive service.  If you open up a new Dropbox account, it automatically gives you 2gb of space.  If you install the Android app, it give you up to 3gb of additional space to store those picture/video uploads.  It’s a great service, and it sucks to think about what I used to do without it.

As for stuff you can do with your device and the service, if you’re rooted, you can link Titanium Backup to it and upload your backups to the cloud.  Addtionally, if you have more than one Android device (phones, tablets, etc) you can use a fantastic app called DataSync to backup all your games so you don’t have to start over on a new device if you don’t want to.  You can just pick up where you left off.  I use Dropbox to share pictures, files, apks, whatever with my family, friends, coworkers, and even between devices for myself.  This app is absolutely one of the first apps I install when I flash a new ROM.  It’s just too convenient to take my files with me where ever I go, and to know my pictures of my cute and/or rotten kids are being backed up in the cloud.  Go get it here if you don’t have it already.  Get yourself some gigabytes in the cloud…

2) Spotify

If you’re not familiar with Spotify, it’s a fantastic music service that gives you access to loads of different music for free if you’re using it on a computer.  I’ve heard it described as iTunes, but you already own all the music.  You can listen to whatever, whenever, as long as you’re on your computer.  However, if you’re willing to pay the premium monthly fee, you can literally have pretty much any music whenever, wherever you have a data connection.

Spotify is like most any other music player, it plays music.  Because the music is normally streamed, it is a data hog. So it may not be worth your while if you’re on a  limited data plan, or need to listen to high quality sound.  You can however download playlists to your phone if you can plan ahead well.  Nevertheless, I share an account with my wife, and she makes new playlists for running all the time.  I get to listen to all the new music I can possibly find, and I don’t have to buy any of it.  Anyway, I love the service.  This is another one where may be more preaching about the service, but I mostly use it through an app on my phone.  I listen to it in the car, when I’m working, all the normal places you listen to music.  The app is free.  It’s clean, pretty simple to use, and I can take whatever music I want to with me everywhere, and I don’t have to take up valuable space on my phone (especially with these new Android devices that don’t have expandable memory).  I use this app/service almost every day and it’s valuable to me and my family. Check it out here.

1) SwiftKey 3

SwiftKey is the app that I just can’t live without.  I’ve admitted this before when I reviewed SwiftKey 3, but my smart phone adventures started on Blackberrys.  I was very comfortable and  I think I could type pretty dang quick on those fantastic Blackberry physical keyboards.  Not until I installed SwiftKey 3 Beta on my Android device did I feel like I could type as comfortably or as fast as I once could on a Blackberry.

I’ve used lots of other keyboards; AOSP, other qwertys, MessagEase, and I always fall back to SwiftKey.  The smart space technology is fantastic and is something I have found that I just need.  When I miss the space bar and hit something else, it takes care of it.  It hasn’t made me a sloppier typist, it’s just allowed me to get the words I want to on my device in an efficient and accurate manner that no other keyboard has been able to match.  Now, there’s even Swiftkey Flow Beta out, that gives you the same prediction and correction as SwiftKey 3, but with the option to swipe.  If you haven’t checked this keyboard out, I highly recommend it.  Check out Swiftkey 3 in the Google Play Store here with a free trial.  I’ll warn you though, you may get hooked and have to pay the full price after the trial.  Also, word on the street is that Flow will be a integrated into SwiftKey 3, so you won’t need to purchase another keyboard app when it comes out.

So, if you have time, be sure to gives these apps a look see or a listen to.  I think you’ll probably have some time coming up, or now, during this holiday season.  I highly recommend what they do and their services.  They make my mobile/Android experience more enjoyable and useful.  I really think they would be worth a shot, at least to try out, to see if these apps would do the same for you.  Happy holidays.  Let me/others know what you think of these apps, or if you think I left out something totally awesome.  Please let us know your thoughts by commenting below…

- Brooks

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