Android Essentials?

I just got an Android phone, AT&T Samsung Captivate SGH-i897.

What are the essentials for this phone? Here’s what I’ve got so far to change the phone from PITA to awesome

Google Voice – ($free) to avoid the ancient “You have 2 new messages. To listen to your messages, press 1” and replace it with visual voicemail on my phone and computer. Installing it was ridiculously easy after spending an hour hunting on the forums. I went to my (pre-existing) google voice account online and clicked Settings | Voice Settings | Activate Voicemail next to the description of my phone. I typed a few characters into my phone to enable forwarding and Tada!

Touch Calendar Free – ($free) so I can look at my entire calendar at a glance. I can’t navigate around it smoothly but it’s better than the default calendar

RealCalc – ($free) stupid Samsung put the buttons on their calculator in the wrong places! It’s stupid! RealCalc has the buttons in the right places and a lot of bells and whistles that don’t get too in the way

Hi-Q MP3 Recorder – ($3.00) the built in voice recorder sounds like crap and has a mediocre interface. This one is a lot better.

Screen Filter – ($free) The phone is blindingly bright at night. Even at the lowest brightness, it is an excellent flashlight. It is dangerously bright when trying to use the GPS in the car. Screen filter works well to put some kind of “software filter” in front of the screen. Sometimes it turns itself off but it mostly works great.

No fix yet – The AT&T Samsung Captivate (SGH-i897) has 4 buttons at the bottom of the screen. Actually they are “soft” buttons with no tactile feedback. Well, after 3 seconds of inactivity, they turn off, making it impossible to find the buttons in the dark! I don’t have a fix for this yet. I heard of an app called something like “Keep the Lights On” or some such but I lost the reference to it and I have to root my phone to install it. PITA.

I’m still not ready to switch to Gmail as my primary email but it’s working well enough. I’m not switching because: 1- last week the gmail at the office was running slow a while due to Google’s fault. 2- Also last week Google switched our office’s Google Docs interface to something newer and betterer. I wish they had asked/told us before doing that!! I don’t care how new and exciting the new whatchamacallit is, not mentioning that things will be changing freaks me out. It reminds me of the absolute power they have over my email.

NoLed – ($free) when you miss a call, there is no blinking light on the phone telling you that you missed it. Uncool. NoLed fixes that. It might draw too much battery, the jury is still out.

3G Watchdog – ($free) It is difficult… impossible to tell what apps are doing on the phone. They could be downloading porn, burning up your monthly data quota. This should tell me if that happens. The ethos of the platform is pretty much that programs can run in the background whenever they want. That kinda freaks me out.

Battery Graph – ($free) I’m a program to keep track of my battery usage because I haven’t really figured out what drains the battery the most. Some users see 5 hours of battery life, some 30. I really really want to have 30 and not have to think about it.

Installing programs is nerve-wracking because so many apps want access to my data. Does Facebook need access to my Contacts list? If I give that cute new game the power to read and write to the SD card, will it be able to steal data and send it to Russian spammers? The “community” is no help because as of yet, I haven’t come across any group that has recognized malware; there is no procedure for dealing with malware!

The places to look for help appear to be (in decreasing order of usefulness) ??

So, dear reader, what am I missing? Comments welcome.


  1. Here are a few of my favorite
    – Handcent SMS, much better then the built in SMS tool,
    – Swiftkey, predictive keys that actually work. highly suggested.

    – Advanced task killer
    – Spring pad
    – My tracks
    – Google listen
    – Yelp
    – Google sky map
    – VRecorder, Recoreds all my calls for “reference”
    – Barcode scanner

  2. lee says:

    Thanks Steven!

    I grabbed My Tracks
    Already have Google Listen (I’ll make sure to use it now!), Yelp, Google Sky Map (which looks sooo cool), and Barcode Scanner.

    I tried Swiftkey and my brain just isn’t wired for it :-(. My favorite keyboard is the default Android keyboard. I’m not a big texter so having Handcent won’t help me much. Springpad looks too much like the great consumerist menace! I’ll try it but I’ll probably stick to a similar set of apps, Simplenote on the PC and mNote on the Android. Simplenote/mNote are actually just text notepads that sync to one another via the interwebs. And of course I’ll try VRecorder. I’m hoping it’s not worthwhile to use Advanced Task Killer because it breaks my ethos of “it should just work”.

  3. What do you listen to for podcasts?

    I stick mainly to the literary, and tech podcasts (One of my magazines, stories of 1000 words or less, or about 5 mins in podcasts forum) – Science fiction, More Science fiction, math show, i like math, current events quiz show, stories from our strange world, great production values

  4. Thanks, I will check some of them out.

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