brianle at nwlink.com
Tue Dec 20 18:39:39 CST 2011
"If anyone really likes an App, or two or ten, and would be willing to take
a minute to share acquired wisdom off-list, I would be very grateful."
I'm not sure why this discussion should happen off-list --- seems to me this
is the sort of discussion the list is about. I.e., we're not gossiping here
about mutual acquaintances or that sort of thing .
OTOH, the below is long and full of smartphone app tweaky details, so anyone
not interested should stop reading now (!).
I carried a Droid X on the CDT this year, so a fairly similar device;
hopefully some of my comments will be useful, at least insofar as it gets
you thinking about what you want to do (not necessarily the same as what I
did or would do another time .).
One way to look at apps is in the context of how you see yourself using the
device. For example, I carried a folding Bluetooth keyboard; relatively
heavy but it made it so much easier for me to blog, and thus I blogged
literally every day (www.postholer.com/brianle). If you don't see yourself
carrying a physical keyboard (and few do), consider apps that replace the
default software "keyboard". This is something you'll want to practice with
and decide which you like best. Swype is one alternative. Things you want
to thing about are shorthand gestures and predictive text (and maybe others,
dunno). If you write a lot, this starts to make a difference over several
If your phone is your only camera, as it was for me, consider downloading
and installing alternate camera software. At first I loved the default
camera software that's installed on the Droid X, but over time I found it
fairly buggy, had to reboot the phone periodically. And I generally took
two-photo panorama shots, but then back home afterwards found that sometimes
what looked "stitched well together" on-screen was not, in fact, stitched
all that well together. So I suggest finding one or even two
well-recommended camera apps and playing with them a lot at home ahead of
time. I have no personal experience with alternatives (or at least, very
Consider getting Skype and putting it on your phone. NOT the version of
Skype that Verizon puts on, but the one from the Android market.
Ultimately this wasn't that big a need; my theory was that it would be
useful when I had wifi but no (or poor) cell reception, but in fact I used
it very little. And I used it more than most would perhaps, as I had a
low-minute by-the-month plan (don't get me started about Verizon .).
Book reading software might be nice. I like Aldiko, but I ultimately later
installed the free version of Kindle software too, as there was one book
that I wanted that was available that way (and not via Aldiko).
A good file manager might be worth while. I used astro. This plus photo
reduction software in the form of an app called 'reduce photo size' to
upload photos to my trail journal and occasionally facebook. And you might
want the facebook app on there too. If you're not on FB now, just FYI this
year I found FB the best way to hear from other on-trail thru-hikers --- not
this (CDT-L) list. I have no idea if that will be the case in future
years, but for 2011 it was (CDT 2011 group).
One or more weather apps might be good; I used 'the weather channel', and
found it pretty easy and reliable. This just gives town weather, but still
gives you a clue. Note that postholer.com will give you weather for some
locations along the CDT, in text-only format.
I personally like to have a couple of newspaper apps on my phone just for
when in-town, but no big deal there.
Google Maps might be worthwhile on occasion if you find yourself doing
significant road walking, particularly if there's cell service along the
way. You could also consider a topo app, such as Gaia GPS. I carried a
standalone GPS, but Gaia GPS was my backup plan.
I really liked having voice recording software. I don't know which is
'best', but I used 'virtualrecorder', and it worked fine. I used this to
remember things I wanted to do or buy when next in town, and also used it
when I was for whatever reason not able or willing to type up a journal
entry for a particular day --- I recorded and then later transcribed.
Some sort of wifi-finding software might be good, such as 'wifi analyzer'.
If you don't like the default text creation/editing software provided, I
used 'Quickoffice Pro' and it worked well. Overkill for what I wanted, but
I could certainly open and edit any document I wanted to, FWIW. On that
note, one "app" you might want is just to consider what documents you have
electronic access to that you want on your phone. This can be things like
pdf manuals for complicated gear you carry, or perhaps a back country first
aid eBook, or a list of trail angel contact info, or . etc.
An app or widget that shows a more accurate estimate of battery status can
be nice; I use 'battery indicator' and it works well.
An alternate widget to quickly turn services on and off can be helpful; I
like 'switchpro'. This lets me turn on and off things like wifi, airplane
mode, Bluetooth, auto screen rotate, etc via a single status line. Note
that I periodically found it very helpful to have the screen brightness
multi-state toggle button on this at the far end so that it was at a known
corner of my phone. I would sometimes reduce screen brightness at night
when reading, and then in the morning wouldn't be able to see the screen at
all. Knowing where to poke on the screen to toggle this was sometimes very
In general, having precise control over any wireless services is important
to keeping your battery from draining too fast.
And do carry a spare battery or two. I carried two spares; mostly just one
spare was fine for my use (remember, standalone GPS and standalone MP3
player for me, but I blogged and took pictures every day and occasionally
got a weather report or email when possible on trail).
Do consider getting an alternate browser. I used Opera Mini, and found it
to work fine for me.
I don't know if you'll have a standalone MP3 player; I did, so didn't worry
about a good player for my phone, but there are of course a lot of
A simple alarm clock app could be nice. I normally have no need for such,
but towards the end of the trip when it was dark so much more often (last
month), I liked having one as my watch alarm isn't very loud.
I also use an alternate calculator as I like RPN rather than algebraic style
Despite all of the above, I don't think you have to be some gonzo power
user. I didn't root my phone, and see no reason to. I did end up enabling
the Amazon app market, as there was an app or two there I liked, but really
I'm sure you can do fine with just what's available on the default (google)
It might be that my approach is completely different from what someone else
(successfully) did. I don't present the above as "best" by any means, just
what worked for me. The problem with apps is that there are so many, almost
no one tries out all of them, and their selection criteria might not apply
to your situation at all.
Best of luck getting your new phone whipped into shape and obedient, I hope
it works great for you.
Brian Lewis / "Gadget"
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