Ask Maggie: 5 smartphone apps to try before the rapture

In this week's installment, Maggie Reardon suggests which smartphones apps to try before Judgment Day on Saturday. And she gives some serious advice to a Verizon Wireless subscriber looking for a new smartphone.

If you believe the person standing in the rain in Times Square in New York City wearing a doomsday T-shirt, clutching a Bible, and handing out fliers about the end of the world, then Judgment Day is Saturday. That's tomorrow.

Naturally, you're wondering: What smartphone apps should I try before the rapture?

Alright, I admit that may not be the first thing that comes to mind. But this week, I did get that question. So I thought I'd have a little fun in answering it. (Full disclosure: I personally don't believe that the end of the world begins tomorrow. In fact, I'm crossing my fingers to finally get some rays of sunshine in gloomy NYC.)

Also in this week's Ask Maggie column, I answer a couple of more serious questions. First, I offer some recommendations for a replacement smartphone to a Verizon Wireless subscriber. And I explain to another reader what is happening with the so-called "4G" wireless technology WiMax.

Ask Maggie is a weekly advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you've got a question, please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header.

Apps for the rapture

Dear Maggie,
If the end of the world is really coming on May 21, what are the five smartphone apps you would recommend I use before the rapture?

Thanks,
Jay

Dear Jay,

Here's what I'd suggest:

5. Games, games, games: The end of the world may be near, but everyone needs to have some fun. So I'd recommend downloading some games onto your smartphone, like Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, or even Zombie Fight. At the very least these games will help you blow off some steam while you wait for the earthquakes to start and the plagues to get under way. There's nothing like catapulting those cute little Angry Birds at some pesky pigs or slashing up some fruit to make you feel better when you know the world will begin self-destructing in less than 24 hours. And if you really want to get into the spirit of fighting off the walking dead, try Zombie Fight. This game is free and lets you take your iPhone and "beat the brains out of the walking dead" by swinging your phone around.

4. Pandora: I love the Internet radio app Pandora. And I particularly love using it when I have a party. So if you're thinking of hosting a rapture-themed party, this could be the app that sets the right mood. It's free to download. You simply type in an artist, a song, or genre of music, and voila! You're good to go for party music all night. You might want to consider: typing in "Rapture" by Blondie or REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" and see what other fun songs you come up with to go along with your rapture-themed party. Trust me, your guests will love it.

3. Foodspotting: My CNET News colleague Erica Ogg recommends Foodspotting. It's an app very similar to Yelp. But instead of rating an entire restaurant, people rate specific dishes at restaurants. Erica and I both agree that this app is a must-have to help you select your final meal before the world ends. After all, you can't ascend into heaven on an empty stomach. And it should be a meal to remember for all eternity.

2. MotionX's GPS Drive: You may also want to consider downloading MotionX's GPS Drive app for the iPhone. It's 99 cents, but worth it. If you think there is a chance you won't be one of the chosen few selected by God to go to heaven Saturday, you'll have to sweat it out with the rest of us sinners for the next five months while the Earth self-destructs amid war, plagues, and earthquakes. So you may need directions to the nearest bomb shelter or other secure spot with plenty of food, water, and shelter. This app should be able to get you there easily.

1. Rosary apps: Finally, last but not least, I'd download The Rosary Guide. It's a free iPhone app that offers a simple guide to praying the rosary. I don't know if the world will really end Saturday or not, but it can't hurt to get in good with the man above, right? I mean, it's better to be safe than sorry. If you're not Catholic or can't remember how to pray the rosary, you might want to consider the Holy Rosary Deluxe. It costs 99 cents. But it gives you an interactive set of beads, lets you read the text of each prayer, and gives you inspiring images for each "mystery" along with some other goodies.

I hope this helps answer your question. As I've disclosed in the intro, I'm not one of the believers who thinks the world will end tomorrow. Honestly, I'm more worried that it will rain all weekend, and I won't get a chance to ride my bike or play tennis. But just in case, I'm crossing my fingers that rapture believers got the date wrong again.

I'd love to hear other readers' suggestions for the last apps to check out before the rapture. So feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Recommendations for a Verizon smartphone?

Dear Maggie,
I just lost my Verizon Motorola Droid (first edition) phone. If you were me, what would you buy to replace it? I would appreciate your suggestion.

Thanks,
PB

Dear PB,
Lucky for you, you came to right place for advice. My first instinct was to recommend the HTC Thunderbolt. It's Verizon's first 4G LTE smartphone. It's an Android phone just like the Motorola Droid that you've already been using. And the 4G network makes the data speeds super fast. So that's why I was going to suggest it.

But then Bonnie Cha, senior CNET Reviews editor of smartphones, reminded me that the Thunderbolt has had some battery issues. She recommends the Samsung Droid Charge instead. It's another Android smartphone made for Verizon's speedy 4G LTE network. In her review of the phone, Bonnie called it a "gorgeous Super AMOLED Plus touch screen" device. The upsides of this smartphone are that it offers longer battery life than the HTC ThunderBolt and the call quality and camera are good.

But she noted some downsides, too. For example, the Droid Charge is large. It's also pricey, especially considering it doesn't have some of the latest features, like a dual-core processor.

Even though it's not the prettiest or most advanced smartphone out there, Bonnie said that the Samsung Droid Charges is a great pick because it takes advantage of Verizon's great 4G data speeds, while offering decent battery life. That said, if the HTC Thunderbolt is more to your liking, she recommends getting an extra battery with it.

CNET Reviews editor Nicole Lee also suggested some Verizon Android smartphones that have a keyboard. So if you're looking to replace your previous first-generation Droid with another smartphone that has a keyboard, you might want to consider the Droid Pro or the Droid 2 .

If you're done with the Android operating system and you're looking for something new, you can always get an iPhone 4. Verizon began selling its version of the iPhone 4 in February. A new version of the iPhone is expected to come to Verizon and AT&T later this year.

What happened to WiMax?

Dear Maggie,
Whatever became of the 4G technology WiMax? It got a lot of buzz a few years ago, but lately all I hear about is LTE. What gives?

Thanks,
Ike

Dear Ike,
WiMax is still around, albeit not as hyped as it once was. Clearwire, which is building a nationwide "4G" wireless network, is using the technology. This network is what Sprint Nextel has been using to offer "4G" wireless service to its subscribers. Clearwire is adding tons of new customers via its relationship with Sprint. But the company is struggling to find cash to continue building out its network .

Meanwhile, most other major wireless operators around the world are using LTE to build their next-generation wireless networks. Verizon Wireless launched its 4G LTE network in December and it's now offering Mi-Fi devices, laptop cards, and smartphones that operate over this network. AT&T is planning to launch its 4G LTE network this summer.

Since it looks like the momentum in the wireless industry is clearly moving toward LTE, Sprint and Clearwire executives have each said that they are considering building LTE networks. Sprint is going through a major network upgrade and many speculate the operator could announce plans to build an LTE network this summer. Clearwire has also indicated that it is not wedded to any single technology, and it may also consider moving to LTE down the road.

In a recent interview with CNET, Clearwire Chief Operating Officer Erik Prusch acknowledged that the wireless ecosystem has shifted toward LTE.

"WiMax has been very good for us," he said. "We were able to take advantage of speed to market before LTE was even a glimmer in anyone's eye. But as the ecosystem changes to LTE, it's clear it will be larger than the ecosystem for WiMax. So we are conscious of that. And we will have to take that into consideration."

Prusch indicated that it was only a matter of time before Clearwire would move toward LTE.

So what does that mean for WiMax as a technology? I don't think WiMax will go away completely. But I do expect it to be more of a niche technology. There are still many smaller networks throughout the world being built with the technology. And Intel is still pushing it hard in places, such as India, where WiMax is used to bring wireless broadband to places that have never had any wired communications infrastructure.

For the average consumer, whether it's WiMax or LTE won't likely matter that much. They both offer much faster wireless Internet access than 3G services. The only thing that might make a difference is if device makers manufacture products that can be used across 4G wireless networks. At this point, wireless operators haven't changed their business models and they still lock devices to their networks, even if they use the same wireless technologies as competitors. But if all the major carriers are using similar spectrum bands and the same wireless network technology, it's possible there could be more device interoperability for LTE devices. At the very least the cost of LTE devices should be less if most of the world is using the same technology.

 

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