Google, HTC and T-Mobile officially unwrapped the first Android handset. While it’s a smart handset on its own, the real highlight is of course the Android operating system and the many and varied applications that it’s going to provide through the integrated Android Marketplace.
To ensure that the store is well stocked with clever software to play with once the first Android phones actually reach the shelves, Google has held a competition for Android developers, offering oodles of cash and early access to more advanced versions of the SDK to help developers on their way. We’ve had a sift through to find ten of the best, most imaginative apps that’ll draining your handset battery faster than a free bar at an office party:
1. TuneWiki – Part handset karaoke game, part social networking tool and part GPS toy; TuneWiki syncs music and music videos with on-screen lyrics and even translates them to other languages. At the same time you can share information (but not tunes themselves) with your friends.
You can also navigate a map to see what other users are listening to. Find out whether that angry looking metal head up the train is secretly bopping to Abba and then incur his wrath by whistling ‘Dancing Queen’ at him.
The software will also create charts of top songs by individual locations, countries, states or cities.
2. Maverick – There are so many different IM, chat, micro-blogging and small-scale social networking tools around that it’s royal pain to keep using individual programs for each, especially so on a mobile device. Maverick is designed to cut though all that, by offering a single platform to chat, email and publish blog content.
You can also share multimedia content including audio clips, photos and drawings directly though IM. It will also notify you when you receive an email in Gmail.
3. PocketJourney – Taking a trip to a new city? Don’t want to tap up the local tourist office and lug a map around? No problem. PocketJourney will give you location specific ‘geoclips’ from tour guides and enthusiastic users to help you on your way. These might involve text, audio or video.
Sounds great for tourists, but we’re intrigued to know whether other storytellers could get more creative with the technology, using the same location-specific system to set out elaborate treasure hunts and guided narratives turning the urban sprawl you thought you knew like the back of your hand into mysterious adventures.
4. LifeAware – No one likes the idea of Big Brother being able to track your every move. However, it would be bloody handy to know when your mate has walked into the pub next door. LifeAware will allow fellow Android users to get updates when their contacts come within a certain range. You can also set zones that alert you when a friend enters or leaves.
Okay, it’s a little creepy and not something that you EVER let your boss, your co-workers or your wife anywhere near. Still neat though.
5. GolfPlay – One for the golfing fans out there, GolfPlay is a personal tool for managing personal golfing statistics, comparing your skills with others and finding out more information about a course you’re playing. GPS mapping will give you an overview of the course too with hole data and statistics.
It sounds a little like a game of Tiger Woods and a lot like cheating. But hey, it’ll help fellow golf cheats socially network and by the time everyone has their handsets turned into personal golf caddies, it won’t be cheating any more.
The next step logical step would be to get golf balls with their own GPS chips, thus making it possible to find them when they’re buried in the rough. Hop to it, golf ball makers.
6. Compare Everywhere – Here’s one that doesn’t involve the GPS. Oh wait it does, but the camera comes into play too. You can use the camera to scan the barcode on any product you like. The software then works out what you’re looking for and hooks up to the net to find you the best deal. Then the GPS finds you a shop that’s not a mail order service based in the Outer Hebrides so you can go and buy it.
7. Softrace – Softrace is a little program designed for runners. Using, you guessed it, the GPS, Softrace lets you map out races around a virtual track – for example: round the park, up to the shops, onto the number 29 and back up the stairs – then when that data’s uploaded you can challenge yourself or others to beating your time. Maps will show where the course goes so you don’t get lost.
Users will presumably be able to download new routes to try out and we look forward to becoming runners finding new training nemeses who keep beating their times by fractions of a second. Little will they realise that it’ll be us! Using bikes. Or possibly taxis.
8. SplashPlay – The only tool on the list that actually needs an accessory. SplashPlay will teach how to play guitar chords form your favourite tunes. The (optional – but it’s a lot less useful without it) BlueTooth Pod attaches to the kneck of your guitar and instructs you on which strings to hold using a lights and an onscreen display.
An important part of the service is the online store – it won’t work with just any MP3 track unfortunately. You will be able to create your own riffs and share them with other users.
9. City Slikkers – assuming all the other GPS tools don’t run your battery dry with thirty seconds, then definitely keep an eye on City Slikkers, one of growing tide of pervasive, location-based games. We don’t know what the gameplay will be like yet, other than that it will involve doing stuff in real life in specific places, i.e. not sitting around hammering buttons on your sofa. Whole cities are scaled back to individual blocks and territories that teams can take over and compete with other teams for control over.
This concept has the potential for lots of fun and with added twist of maybe turning people who have never physically met before into mortal enemies, frantically scrabbling for their handsets as they suddenly recognize each other as a member of a rival faction.
10. Cooking Capsules – Wondering around the super market and can’t decent what you want to cook? Or faced with a fridge full of half-finished ingredients and want to make something palatable out of it? This is where Cooking Capsules comes in, instantly providing you with bite sized (hohoho) recipe guides.
The system talks you through each step and users will also be able to upload their own ideas to the database.