Android App Roundup: Show the iPhone 4 Who's Boss

By Ryan Whitwam

Keeping up with the iPhone folks one app at a time.

The newest version of Apple's iOS has just come out, and the new iPhone 4 is finding its way into some consumers' hot little hands as we speak. There are some new features there to be sure, but Android has many of these features already. With a few apps, you can really show off what Google's platform can do. A few smart choices and your Android phone can be on equal footing with the iOS platform on most features. In some other areas, it will shine even more brightly. Just scan the included QR codes below with Google Goggles or Barcode Scanner to go right to the app. 



This wallpaper makes an admirable attempt to replicate the gently swaying curves of the PS3's default background. There are more options that you can believe. You can alter the speed at which the lines move, the type of blur effects, the number of lines, color theme, how far they can move, and a lot more. In our testing, the battery consumption during regular use was a little high, usually about 4-6% on a Nexus One.  

We like the effect created by the outer blur setting best. We also found that this effect looks just fine with antialiasing off. Some live wallpaers can cause lag, but that was not our experience with this one. This is one elegant looking live wallpaper. Check it out in the Market. It's going to cost you nothing at all. This will only work for folks running Android 2.1 or higher with live wallpapers enabled.

Folder Organizer

In the app itself you can go through all your items including contacts, apps, and bookmarks to label them in any way you want. For instance, you can label all the apps you need for work as such. On the home screen, just add the folder widget and select the work label you created. Now when you tap on this folder, it will open just like a standard folder. Apps can be starred like in Gmail to denote favorites. A folder of favorites can then be added to the desktop. More interestingly, all folders created by this app offer a star button in the title bar that will bring any starred apps in that folder to the top. 

The advantage here is that whenever you change your labels around, all your folders will be automatically updated. Each app or contact can be tagged with as many labels as you want, so a shortcut will live in each matching folder. The app offers the ability to choose custom icons for each folder. Items can also be kept in the notification area. This is nice if you are constantly needing to find an app or contact, but we don't use it. We like to keep our notification bar pristine. The full version of Folder Organizer will cost you €0.99 in the Market. 


Aldiko offers a few options for downloading books. There are a number of sources for free well-formatted public domain books. There are also a few paid stores run by the likes of O'Reilly. You can, however, import any EPUB file from the SD card. 

The reading interface itself is a solid one. There are choices for font size, margin, and background color. There is a handy toggle that switches between black text on white and white text on black (called day and night mode). Page turns are accomplished with a swipe gesture, and brightness is controlled with an invisible slider on the left edge of the screen. Aldiko can be had for free in the Market, but there's a paid version you can buy if you want to support the developer. 

Pure Calendar Widget (Agenda)

You can add a number of different sizes of Pure Calendar by long-pressing on the home screen, and adding the widget. The size of the widget affects how many items will be displayed. When you add the widget the app will allow you to tweak just about any setting imaginable. The widget can be configured to display the event duration, ignore days with no events, alter the update frequency, control how many lines an event can take up, and way more. Pure Calendar also has integration with to-do services like Astrid and Gtasks. These items are shown on the day they are due with a special icon to draw your attention. 

The other thing that makes Pure Calendar (Agenda) really great is the skin support. There are about 30 different widget skins to choose from. This means you can keep the widgets look consistent with your home screen vibe. Just scroll down and find a nice skin, then long-press to reveal the option to install it. The apply the skin, save, and enjoy. Pure Calendar Widget (Agenda) will cost €1.49 in the Market. There is a Grid version as well, but we prefer the agenda look. 

Chrome to Phone

The Chrome to Phone app is available as a beta on Google Code right now. The system consists of a Chrome desktop extension and an Android app. Install the extension (hit the link above) and register it with the Gmail account you used on the phone. You will use a Google Apps login to do this registration. Then you'll have to manually install the Android app, and tap the 'register' button to activate the service. 

Now you can send any page in your web browser as a push notification to your Android device. It will show up in the notification bar as a clickable link. You can configure Chrome to Phone to automatically launch the link when it arrives. Google Maps directions can also be sent, and will kick right into the Android Google Maps app. You may remember Google talking up this same app at Google I/O. Well, they were right, it is pretty cool. This beta is, of course, free. 

So these are a few apps you can use to add some functionality to your Android phone, and keep one step ahead of the iPhone. We're pretty excited by the ever increasing variety of Android apps out there. If there are any apps you think add important functionality, let us know about them.     

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