Admit it folks. We’ve all been there. Stuck in line at the DMV and you’ve got two kids that are post-morning-snack pre-lunch-meal and a long line with the end of it happening in about 2014. For those of us lucky enough to have a smartphone (hopefully with a fully charged battery) its time to hit up YouTube and find whatever your kids favorite programming can be found on there. There’s really only one word that comes to mind when it comes to my smartphone in situations like this: lifesaver. That is until the battery dies. Then you are screwed.
First, some background for the uneducated (feel free to skip if you are): There are a plethora of smart phones out there, but really it comes down to 2 platforms: iOS and Android. Apple’s iPhone and iPod touch runs the iOS system and all of the third-party apps come from the iTunes App Store. Google’s Android operating system can be found on a multitude of phones, and networks, but they all have the same basic operating system with some user interface tweaks depending on the network and/or manufacturer. Android’s third-party apps comes from the Android Market. Yes, there are other popular platforms such as Research in Motion’s Blackberry OS and HP Palm’s WebOS, but the two biggest are iOS and Android.
My wife is the very proud owner of an iPhone 3GS and I am currently using Sprint’s current rock star the EVO 4G. We both use our fair share of apps, but here’s just a few of my favorites that keep my life happy and rocking: (In no particular order).
First off, almost every smart phone comes with YouTube, so that one is a no-brainer. Moving on to the first app which is also a no-brainer:
- Facebook. (Price: Free. iOS, Android) If you don’t have a Facebook profile you can skip this one. Wait, wait, you DON’T have a Facebook page? Seriously? Okay, just skip on, but wow, you might want to reconsider. For the rest of us, Facebook has streamlined the interfaces for both the iOS and Android and makes it very easy to access all your favorite things such as the news feed, status updates and photos. You can upload photos directly from the phone to your page, and in the iOS case you can also tag people as well. Both will let you online chat, approve/ignore friends and use the new “Places” feature which will let you “check in” at various locales as you travel through your hectic day. Note: if you are big fan of both Facebook and Twitter, you might consider using Tweetdeck (iOS, Android). Its a great application that can combine both your Facebook and Twitter timelines into one smooth, easy to read, easy to customize screen.
- Angry Birds (Price: iOS $.99 , Android: Free) If you think that Madden ’11 or Call of Duty: Black Ops is THE game of 2010, you obviously don’t have a smartphone. The game? Rovio’s Angry Birds. Its up to you to help the upset winged animals to save their eggs who were stolen by some greedy hungry green pigs. As the porcine pack try to protect themselves with various building structures of various materials, your job is to launch the birds with a stationary sling shot into the buildings to destroy the mean piggies. Try it for 5 minutes and an hour will be gone before you know it. Also, if you value your phone, don’t let the kids play this game. They seemed to get hooked faster than you just did.
- Remember the Milk (Price: Free. iOS, Android) As a parent (and really more just a human being) we know that life is full of tasks. We also look for a way to organize said tasks in an easy and convenient way. That’s where Remember the Milk comes waltzing in. Its available for both iOS, Android & Blackberry as well. It will integrate with Google’s calendars, Twitter, Microsoft Outlook, etc. Its cross platform. With that kind of availability you know its popular and worth the time to invest in it.
- Amazon (Price: Free. iOS, Android) Everybody knows about Amazon. They are everywhere. They ship to almost everywhere. One of the best places to do comparison shopping is on Amazon. I also use Amazon for the “wish list” feature. Amazon’s mobile app (available on both) is a terrific way to do some comparison shopping for yourself or a gift for somebody else when you are out. Plus, if you see something you like or perhaps want for a gift for yourself, feel free to fire up the app, find the item and add it to your wish list. No need to try to remember to do it when you get home 2 hours later and would rather crash on the couch.
- Pandora (Price: Free. iOS, Android) For those of us who love music–Pandora is simply wonderful. The app is free and available on more mobile platforms than you can shake a stick at. Simply put, its your personal radio station. There are various ways to listen, but the best way is to pick your favorite song or artist, and Pandora will create a station based off of the music of that artist. But it gets better. Say the station starts playing a song you don’t like, you can kick it to the curb by giving the song a “thumbs down” rating and Pandora will adjust you station’s playlist based off your ratings. Conversely if the station plays a song you enjoy, a “thumbs up” rating will have the station digging up more songs of the like. You are free to create as many stations as you like. Pandora also has many genre-based stations that you will enjoy as well.
- Shazam (Price: Free. iOS, Android) You are listening to the radio. Song comes on. What the heck was that song? I used to know it. Used to love it. Can’t remember for the life of me. Grab your phone and fire up Shazam and hold the phone’s mic up to the speaker. In less than 20 seconds your phone will analyze the song and return to you the valuable information you crave. It will also give you options to post on to Twitter or Facebook what you are enjoying. It will also give you links to find and buy the song on either the iTunes store or AmazonMP3.
Understandably, these are only seven of the hundreds of thousands apps that are available for iOS and Android. Be sure to do your research, search for things you are interested in and see what comes up.