Call me an early adopter if you must, but count me in with the millions of people who have fully embraced Google+, Google's latest attempt at a social network. I am really digging the Circles paradigm, where you're invited to group up your friends and colleagues into separate circles, so you can fine-tune who you choose to keep in touch with. I also find the interface clean and intuitive, and I have to give props to Google+ for being much more privacy-aware than a certain other competitor.
One of the best things about Google+ is its Android app. Just download it from the Android Market, and within a couple of taps, you're ready to go. The mobile app is well designed, and you can switch Circle views by just swiping left to right. It's also easy to check notifications, and posting photos couldn't be simpler. Even better is the Huddle feature, which is only accessible on mobile handsets. This brings group messaging to a whole other level--you can send one text to a designated Circle, for example, and all members of that Circle will get that message. This is a great tool for organizing parties. Even though Google has just released the iOS version of Google+, the Android app still wins out with a key feature: the ability to customize the main stream with your own chosen circles.
One of the biggest advantages the iPhone has over Android is its seamless out-of-the-box podcast integration. However, with BeyondPod, Android users can have a podcast app that is even better. Not only can you easily add podcasts to it, it is integrated with Google Reader, so you can easily import your Reader subscriptions to it as well. You can schedule podcast downloads to occur at a specific time, you can download podcasts over Wi-Fi or 3G, and BeyondPod will even do this nifty trick where it knows to automatically turn Wi-Fi on, update your feeds, and then turn the Wi-Fi back off.
The player itself is pretty smart too. It can be set to automatically delete podcasts to save space, and there's even a "commercial skip" feature that lets you zip past content you don't want to listen to. BeyondPod also has a Smart Playlist feature that generates playlists based on your listening preferences. You can also organize your podcasts into different categories, import local files like music or audiobooks, and of course you can add your own feeds if you like. I also like the Sleep feature, which automatically turns the podcast off after a set amount of time, so you can doze off to your favorite show.
The downside is that the app isn't free--it's about $6.99 for the full unlocked version. You can try the trial version out for 7 days, however, to see if you like it. And for all of its features, you'll see that the $6.99 is well worth it.
Price: Free for seven days; $6.99 for the full version
Before I watch any movie, I always check on Rotten Tomatoes to see if it has earned a Fresh or Rotten rating--Fresh is good and Rotten is bad. Rotten Tomatoes aggregates all of the critic reviews out there to come up with an overall percentage of how well the film is rated. Movies for Flixster is essentially the Android app version of Rotten Tomatoes, and it is a godsend when trying to decide what to watch at the theaters.
The app also lets you watch high-quality trailers and video clips, get local showtimes, and connect with Facebook to share your opinion on the movie with your friends.
MLB At Bat 11
I'm a pretty big baseball fan. Specifically, I'm a big San Francisco Giants fan. And if you're a baseball fan, MLB At Bat 11 is absolutely the best baseball app out there. If you don't want to cough up money for the full paid version, the Lite version is enough to catch up on how your team is doing with the in-progress scoreboard.
But if you're like me and you actually have an MLB.TV subscription, then you're going to want to pony up the cash for the full version. I know, it's expensive. But the things you'll do when you're a sports fan. If you have a compatible Android phone, you can actually watch MLB.TV live streaming video, as long as you're not in a blackout zone. Even if you can't watch live however, you can always watch archived games, which is what I often do since I'm constantly under blackout restrictions.
If you don't have a compatible Android phone to watch live video, you can always listen to the audio version of the live game. There's also a great gameday pitch-by-pitch tracker, a video library archive of the hottest plays, the latest baseball news, standings, schedules, rosters, stats, and more. You can even hook into to your social network in the app, and check in to your local ballpark. In short, if you're really into baseball, the MLB At Bat app is great.
Price: Lite version is free, full version is $9.99
The Economist has by far the best mobile magazine app out there. It's a fantastic world-affairs publication for one thing, and the free version offers editors' highlights for, well, free. If you are a subscriber, however, you get the full magazine cover to cover, including access to The Economist's archives for past issues. You can download the magazine for offline viewing, and the download goes by surprisingly quickly. But my favorite feature is that you can enable the audio version, letting the app read the articles to you. This is especially useful when you're in the car or just walking about.
Price: Free; full version requires subscription
Despite the many location check-in apps that are out there these days, Foursquare is still the tops for me. Most of my friends are on it, which is a big reason, and also because the mobile app is the best out there. You can track check-in points to see where you are compared with your friends, and the latest version has a cool Explore feature that invites you to discover new restaurants and venues. It also lets you know which of the nearby spots have been frequented by your friends. Most of my friends have impeccable taste, so I have discovered many a great cafe this way. Plus, collecting badges and proclaiming your mayorship is fun. Some places even offer discounts if you're a mayor. Score!
I've been on an e-book kick for the past few years, and it's because of Amazon's Kindle app. It allows me to carry a whole library's worth of books in my tiny little phone. Amazon also has a large and ever-growing collection of books from which I can purchase, which is very easy to do on the Android app. You can bookmark pages, make notes, and even highlight passages. My favorite feature is that you can sync the books across multiple devices, so you can continue reading where you left off.
I've been a proud Rdio subscriber for almost a year, and I love it. Rdio is exactly what I want out of a subscription music service--a good library of independent labels, and a solid social component that makes it easy to discover new music. Rdio lets you sync up your existing music library with its own, and you can easily add friends to your network to find out what the top-10 listened-to albums are in your social circle. The mobile app is great, too--you can sync up your collection and playlists for offline listening, and you can search and listen to any song on Rdio. The downside is that you need to pay $9.99 a month for the mobile streaming. But think of it as $9.99 a month for all-you-can-eat music, and it's a fantastic deal for those who love to discover new tunes.
Price: Free to download, but service requires $9.99/month subscription
Words with Friends
For the longest time, Words with Friends was an iOS only app, and Android users were left out of all the fun. Recently however, Zynga finally released the Android version of the popular word game, and now Android and iOS users can play Words with Friends with each other. What's more, the Android version is free, albeit with ads. You can also start up chats with your buddies, throwing smackdowns, praising their efforts, and whining that "LOL" and "OMG" should totally be legit words.
I've been trying to eat sustainable food, and that's a difficult proposition when it comes to seafood. Fish harvesting practices are changing constantly, and it's hard to keep track of it all. Luckily, the fine folks over at the Monterey Bay Aquarium have developed this handy Seafood Watch app that lets you know which seafood is environmentally safe to eat. For example, did you know that salmon farmed in ocean net pens should be avoided because of the waste these farms release to oceans, and that parasites from the salmon can spread to wild fish swimming nearby, but U.S.-farmed freshwater salmon is OK? If you care about keeping our oceans thriving with life but still want to eat seafood, this handy guide lets you know how.