As part of the CNET 100, smartphones editor Bonnie Cha picks her favorite Android apps.
I love taking photos wherever I go and have a particular fondness for street art, architecture, and things out of the ordinary. I carry a small point-and-shoot camera with me, but more and more, I'm reaching for my smartphone first because it's easier to share its pictures with others and also because of great apps like FxCamera.
With FxCamera, you can take photos using one of five effects: ToyCam, Polandroid, Fisheye, SymmetriCam, and Warhol. Polandroid and Fisheye are my favorite, and though I try not to use effects too much, you can get some really cool-looking photos.
When a friend first told me about Fruit Ninja, I remember laughing incredulously. I mean, come on, how fun could a game about slicing fruit be? Fast-forward to now, and one might say I'm slightly addicted.
In the game, fruit is tossed into the air and you swipe your finger across the screen to slice the fruit with your sword. You gain more points when you slice multiple fruits with a single swipe and get a combo blitz, but to make things a bit trickier, bombs are thrown into the mix and you have to be careful not to hit them.
There are several playing modes; Arcade mode is my favorite, in which you try to get the highest score in 60 seconds. I'm constantly trying to beat my own score, and it's really become a sort of obsession, but hey, at least it makes my commute go by fast.
Music is a big part of my life, and I always love to discover new music. SoundHound helps you identify songs, either by holding an Android device running SoundHound up to the music source (for example, the radio), or by singing or humming the song. You can also find information on artists and songs using voice search.
Once the song is identified, the app provides lyrics, artist information, tour dates, links that let you share it, buy it, or search YouTube for it, and more. It's very similar to Shazam, but in my experience, SoundHound is slightly faster and does a better job of identifying less mainstream tracks.
The stock Android media player does a decent job, but it certainly could be better. I first downloaded PowerAmp after checking out CNET editor Josh Goldman's post on the best Android music-player apps and haven't looked back.
The app provides built-in 10-band graphical equalizers for all supported formats, as well as presets, custom presets, bass and treble controls, and more. The interface is attractive enough and other features include a tag editor, widgets, album art support, and visual themes.
It might be a bit much for the casual listener, but if you're passionate about music and sound quality, PowerAmp gives you plenty of customization options. You can give it a try for free using the 15-day complimentary trial before committing to buying it, but for me, the enhanced music experience was worth it.
As much as I love music, I also love podcasts and radio shows and "This American Life" by Chicago Public Media is one of my favorites. The This American Life Android app gives you on-demand access to the entire archive of episodes, as well as a link to the live stream. I usually listen to the show during my commute, and since I don't get cell service on the subway, I just download an episode before leaving home and then I'm good to go. The app also lets you save favorites and share episodes with others.
To be honest, there have been some bugs with playback, but performance seems better after a recent update.
I'm a huge sports fan, and though I make it a point to watch all the big events, there's no way I can catch all the games, especially baseball and basketball, which is where ESPN ScoreCenter comes in.
The app lets you choose your favorite teams in various sports, so it can create personalized scoreboards for you, along with other data that you can check on the go, such as last play, stats, game summaries, and standings. The front page, called the Lead, also provides a list of the day's biggest headlines.
It's not quite the same as watching the game live on TV, but at least, it keeps you in the know, even if your teams continually let you down (teams in Washington, D.C., I'm talking to you).
I like to think of myself as a fairly organized person, but in some aspects of my life, I can definitely use some help. Travel is one of them. I procrastinate when it comes to getting ready for a trip, so I'm usually scrambling a few hours before, trying to pack and find my flight information, hotel confirmation, and trip itinerary. However, my life's gotten a lot easier since downloading TripIt.
As soon as I book anything, I forward it to TripIt, which organizes all that information in one convenient location. It also provides links to maps and weather, and lets you share itineraries with others. If you travel a lot, you can upgrade to TripIt Pro for $49 per year, which adds alerts for any changes in travel, information for alternate flights, and frequent-flier tracking, among other things.
Surfing is a huge hobby of mine, and I'm happy to get in the water, no matter what the conditions. However, if I'm going to make the effort to pack up all my gear and head down to the beach, I also want to know there's going to be some surf when I get there.
Swell Info Surf Forecast is a pretty good app for getting that information. It provides data on the surf conditions, weather (including water temperature), tides, buoy data, and more. You can also see the seven-day forecast, and the app will save up to five of your favorite surf areas. If anything, I wish the app broke this down more into specific beaches, instead of general regions.
That said, if you're a surfer, there aren't a lot of options in the Android Market, and Swell Info is definitely one of the better and more comprehensive surf report apps out there.
My memory isn't exactly what it used to be, and I've read that you can do exercises to improve it, so I downloaded Memory Trainer on a whim. Hey, it's free, so why not give it a shot, right?
The app leads you through a sequence of activities that exercises your "spatial and working memory, focus, chunking, and concentration skills." It starts off rather easy but gets more challenging, and so far the app has only confirmed that I have a horrible memory. However, I can only hope that by continuing the exercises I'll see some results. At the very least, it's a fun and interactive app.