After a year of using my HTC Hero, this post reflects on my use of Android and recommends apps that have become central to my life.

Up until last year I was not a huge user of mobile phones. I actually dislike speaking on the phone and send very few text messages. My main communications go through either social media or email. I used these sporadically on my ‘buggy’ Nokia N82 with varying success for 18 months. When it came to time to upgrade in July 2009 I explored other options instead of going for the next Nokia (Symbian OS) handset. The iPhone seemed very expensive and quite limited in terms of customisation (and I certainly like to make a phone fit with ‘me’) so looked at other options. After reading a few forums the term Android started to pop up. Still in it’s infancy (Android 1.5), it looked like it had promise, and included a limited selection of apps at the time such as third-party apps for Twitter and Facebook. I also liked the fact that the apps and social networks were not discrete and merged with each other as well as the OS being open source. I decided to take the plunge, ordered a HTC Hero, and never looked back.

What strikes me after using the phone for a year is how it acts as a gateway for the flow of information which I use in my life. All of my social networks, messaging and email activities converge through the handset in a synchronised and instant manner. It has become central to how I live and organise my life. The ‘YOU Campaign’ by HTC really sums up how these devices can become central to how you live and work in the world.

Over the course of the past year I have gone from knowing no one with an Android device to knowing more people with android devices than iPhones. It really shows how the platform has developed over the course of the year. What I want to do now in this post is share some of the apps that I have found to be very useful when using Android on my HTC Hero. I hope this helps any new Android users to get the best from their phone and possibly help more experienced users find a couple of new apps. Similarly I would be thrilled to hear of any recommendations of apps that you have (just leave a comment below).

Recommended Apps

Barcode Scanner – FREE

The first app you will need as it allows you to scan the QR codes of the apps in this blog post. It’s also very useful for scanning other QR codes and locating the information on the web.

Twidroyd Pro (Formally Twidroid Pro) – $3.99 (FREE version also available)

I have tried most of the android Twitter clients over the course of the past year and have always gone back to Twidroyd Pro. It is extremely feature rich, customisable and effective. I prefer it over the limited official Twitter app and the stock HTC Peep app.

Notifications can be set up with multi-tasking to ensure that you will always be up to date with any replies or direct messages that you may receive. There is also multiple account support.

mVideoPlayer – FREE (Ad-Free version available)

I was very disappointed with the video functionality and user interface on Android and felt it really fell short of the iPhone. However, I have recently discovered mVideoPlayer which offers outstanding playback features and extra goodies such as ‘Movie Poster’ mode for videos and IMDb search from within the app. I am no longer disappointed!

NewsRoom – RSS News ($4.99)

It may seem pricey for a RSS News reader but the UI more than makes up for the price. The only downside is that it doesn’t sync with Google Reader. Another good choice is FeedR.

Movies by Flixster – FREE

I’m a huge movies fan so I really enjoy using this app to read reviews about the latest releases and check cinema show-times. It also links with my Flixster account and allows me to rate movies on the go.

Locale – $9.99

Bear with me and try to look past the high price of this app. Locale dynamically manages phone settings based on conditions, such as location and time. Plug-ins can also be installed to extend functionality. For example my HTC Hero automatically detects when I am at work and switches off the ringer between 9am and 3pm. When I’m at home Locale detects that and switches off the lock pattern on my phone – as soon as I go out it switches the security back on. All sounds are also switched off between 12.30am and 5.30am so my phone doesn’t wake me up. It’s one of the apps that makes life much easier and works quietly in the background.

Astrid – FREE

Astrid is an very simple yet very effective task list manager. It syncs with Remember the Milk so you don’t have to pay $24 for their premium service.

Pure Calendar Widget (Agenda) – 1.49 EURO

This is probably the most useful widget that I use on a day-to-day basis. This widget pulls all of the events from your Google Calendars and task list manager (such as Astrid or GTasks) and displays them in a handy widget. The settings are highly customisable and there are also a range of downloadable skins to choose from.

Thompson Reuters News Pro – FREE

Forget Sky News (which uses A LOT of data by the way) and install this brilliant news application. The UI is also excellent and provides a clean interface for reading the news.

eBooks by Kobo – FREE

I enjoy using eBook readers on my HTC Hero. I simply use Kobo because it was the first eBook store on Android and has a good selection of titles in the UK eBook store. Other apps such as Amazon Kindle are also good alternatives.

National Rail – £4.99

Expensive but worth it if you do a lot of travelling. The live travel information has been a live-saver for me when I’ve been travelling by train.

Google Goggles – FREE

The visual search app that amazed everybody at Google Teacher Academy UK is available on the Android Market!

BetterCut – $1.99

As I mentioned at the start of this post I really like to customise my phones so this app has been really useful to me. BetterCut allows you to create custom icons for apps and processes on your android device. It also allows you to use icon packs (downloadble from the Market) to further customise your handset.

Apps Organizer – FREE

Like the folders option in iOs4? Android has had that functionality for AGES!

WaveSecure – ($19.90 per year)

I managed to get a free license for this while it was in BETA but would still recommend purchasing it. WaveSecure locates your phone from a web interface and allows you to lock and wipe your phone should it be lost or stolen.

I will aim to continue to add more apps to this list as the months go on and possibly create a new page on this site if there is demand. Do suggest any other apps that you think should make the list!

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