Android Army

Ten months and a new phone on from my last round-up of Android apps, it is time for an update on what I am now running on my Nexus 4. On the ROM side, I have now moved back to the CyanogenMod camp, with 10.1 sporting the latest Jelly Bean goodies with a host of additional tweaks. The inclusion of very stable milestone builds in addition to the usual pre-release nightlies is a welcome change.

Swiftkey 4 is once again my default keyboard, although I have spent the past year shifting between Swiftkey, Swype and even the new Jelly Bean stock keyboard. It was the inclusion of swiping with Swiftkey Flow that ultimately won me back.

Action Launcher recently became my default home screen for its subtly improved usability with a new gesture-based approach that fits better with the Android’s “Holo” design language than standard launchers. It is also discounted for the next few days. The super-smooth Nova Launcher remains my second favourite.

Poweramp is a fantastic music player that puts album artwork front and centre both in the main player and its replacement lockscreen (which operates whilst you have music playing). Factor in its impressive graphic equaliser and it is easy to recommend.

Carbon, a new twitter client, seemed like vapourware for much of the past year. Now that it is finally in the wild, it proves to be an exceptionally stylish, gesture-focused twitter client that’s a pleasure to use. It may lack some features a power user may desire, but it has become my default client. As a free app, hopefully development will continue despite twitter’s apparent war on third parties.

Carbon is also, somewhat confusingly, the name of a powerful new sync/backup app from maker of the ClockworkMod recovery tool. The free version will allow you to restore from a PC, the paid version supports cloud restore too.

Press is the first Google Reader client to impress me enough that I have actually started to read my feeds regularly on mobile devices (rather than simply using Currents to browse a small number of optimised sites).

Media: I continue to use DoggCatcher for podcasts, DICE Player for video playback of nearly anything (along with the YouTube and Vimeo apps), SoundCloud and Amazon MP3 for streaming music and SoundHound to identify songs. Meanwhile XBMC Remote controls my XBMC home theatre PC and SmartGlass interacts with my Xbox, nominally for now but presumably more as time goes on.

Utilities: The “automate anything” Tasker remains the most powerful app for Android and thankfully its ageing UI is finally getting a refresh with the beta I have been trialling. Dolphin remains my chosen web browser. Evernote continues to expand its role as my digital brain with the addition of Hello, which mimics human memory by ditching alphabetical lists of contact names for a chronological stream of faces. Dropbox is my go-to cloud storage option (I’d love to switch to the considerably more secure SpiderOak, but cannot until they offer mobile uploads), though rival Box is luring users with increased storage. SMS Backup+ replicates my text messages as conversations in Gmail so that they are backed up and searchable. I only use Full Screen Caller ID for texts, but being able to see hi-res photos of the sender is both more personal and faster to identify at a distance.

Misc: Now that the official Facebook app has finally been rewritten properly from the ground up, I have switched back from the still impressive third party Friendcaster. Pocket lets me save and view webpages from a browser (desktop or mobile) for reading later. DashClock is an extendable replacement for the Android 4.2 lockscreen clock widget, which can display calendar entries, weather, alarms, unread messages and more. It was designed by a Google engineer and is frankly what the default ought to be!