After resisting the check-in services as long as I could, I found myself gravitating to Gowalla. I immediately fell in love with the overall design with its clean, colorful graphics and easy-to-learn interface. The recently refreshed UI makes it a breeze to check-in, manage my account, track friends, and browse collected items.
One of my favorite aspects in Gowalla comes in picking up items whenever I check in. Be it a pair of sneakers, a movie reel, or office stationary, it's fun to get a little reward for going out. I like leaving items behind for others to find almost as much as I enjoy reading the history of items in my pack.
Aside from individual check-ins, Gowalla has created a number of trips for you completionist-types. Rather than hitting up one memorial at the park, see if you grab the entire series! While Gowalla can operate completely independently as a mobile app, the service is also complemented by a terrific Web site.
I'm a huge movie fan and love (almost) nothing more than catching up on trivia for movies and television shows. More often than not, I'll have a phone or tablet with me when watching TV just to make sure I know all of the goofs, notes, and news related to the show. The official IMDb app has been one of my favorite titles since it arrived on the scene and it keeps getting better with time.
A new update this week allows me to log in and rate movies and manage my watch list. While the app already looked terrific on Honeycomb tablets, the recent 2.0 release changed things up completely, taking full advantage of fragments and split screens.
As familiar as I have become with the IMDb Web site over the years, the Android app is my preferred way of keeping tabs. The clean design and color scheme look sharp no matter what screen size I'm using, and it gives me everything I would normally get from the desktop experience.
Lookout Mobile Security
Whether you believe viruses and malware are a legitimate issue for Android devices, I like to watch my back. I've been using Lookout Mobile Security for the better part of my Android life and have always come to trust the app and service.
I love that Lookout runs in the background, constantly checking things for me, yet it never hinders my handset performance. Lightweight and unobtrusive, it's a set-it-and-forget-it application that rarely needs my attention. As new mobile attacks come to light, I sleep well knowing that the cloud-based service is always up-to-date and fresh.
There are tons of features in the free client, including antivirus, anti-malware, antispyware, remote location, and backup. Should I have my phone stolen or simply lose it in the couch cushions, I can make the handset scream with an annoyingly awesome alarm. While all Lookout users get the option to back up their contacts, the Premium version adds in photo and call history backup. What's more, I can remotely lock my device or wipe it altogether, ensuring my data doesn't fall into the wrong hands. The latest release of Lookout Premium also adds in a feature that protects Web browsing, adding an additional layer of mobile protection.
Price: Free; Premium service is $29.99 per year
Endomondo Sports Tracker
Thanks largely to the warm summer weather, this app has become one of my most often used applications. Endomondo Sports Tracker allows me to track nearly every activity I do, be it a bicycle ride, a short jog, or a 3-hour kayaking expedition. Using the GPS in my Android smartphone, the app follows me everywhere I go, keeping tabs on calories burned, distance, elevation, and more.
Endomondo has a terrific site, which allows me to track my history as a whole and on individual levels. My friends can hop online, see what I've accomplished, and even cheer me on. Depending on how private you want to be, you can share your best times, longest runs, and other feats with the Endomondo community. And while on the subject of friends, the Facebook integration lets me share my workouts and bike rides with friends immediately upon conclusion.
One of my favorite features comes in the paid app, which lets me challenge myself in previous activities. I love hearing the friendly Endomondo voice tell me how I am doing in terms of time, quickly putting me back to my music application.
Price: Free; pro version is $4.12
One might assume that one weather app is the same as the next. And for those of you with that mindset, I present WeatherBug Elite.
Available for any handset running 1.5 or higher, this app presents users with current conditions, five-day forecasts, radars, and more in a friendly interface. The background notifications are one of my favorite features as I get instant alerts to storms, tornadoes (I live in Ohio), flooding, or any other threats.
I've added additional cities to monitor so that I can know what to wear and what to expect when I touch down at the airport. Reading descriptions and forecast is nice, but I also like perusing some of the cameras set up around various towns to see how things look in the real world. This way I can see just how sunny the beach is today.
I am a huge fan of keeping things in the cloud for both backup purposes as well as for sharing. Dropbox became my preferred cloud-storage utility a long time back, and the Android app is nothing short of a perfect mobile extension.
As I tend to use more than one Android handset or tablet at a time, it can become quite tedious to keep track of all the photos and videos I capture. To do so, I take advantage of the "share" feature built into Android and toss all my media into a Dropbox folder. Now I have one large, centrally stored folder where I can access or share with others, regardless of where I am.
I'll sometimes put large PDF files into a folder so that I can read them later on my tablet or share them with colleagues. The app lets me create new folders on the fly, immediately accessible from anywhere I happen to log in. What's more, I can also set up sharing options for files or folders so that others can check out my vacation photos. Because everyone loves that.
Much like Dropbox is my preferred cloud storage utility for files and media, Evernote is the tool I use for everything else. Whether it's a quick note to remind myself to download a song or a picture of a building that I find inspiring, I upload anything and everything to my Evernote account.
I can't count the number of times that I've used the voice capture feature to record a short message to play back later. It's not hard to type a list of ingredients for my wife's sub sandwich order but it's even easier to hand the phone to her and say, "just tell me." Given that we're creatures of habit, I leave these notes in Evernote so that I can return to them later and surprise her with her favorite sandwich.
This app makes it all too easy to add pictures, video, and other media to text, and the recent update takes things one step further. I can put together a bullet list or insert rich media text and place emphasis whereas I previously could not.
The location-based feature also lets me go back and see all the notes I created in a certain location. I take pictures of anything and everything I can, assuming I'll lose the original copy. Come tax time, I can see all the taxi slips, hotel bills, and restaurant bills for that (ahem) business trip to Las Vegas.
Nook by B&N
I really enjoy using the Nook e-reader app on my Galaxy Tab 10.1 as it works very well on the large display. The most recent major update breathed completely fresh air into the app as it added in support for magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals. I don't think I've picked up the Nook 3G since this update arrived and aside from outside reading purposes, I see no reason to do so.
The app features plenty of customization options, ranging from font types and sizes, to page colors and margins. Should I decide to read a book or magazine in bed while my wife wants the room to remain dark, I'll switch to night mode and its white text on black screen.
The Nook application not only lets me read items I have purchased, but I can also shop for new titles, download samples, or add to a wish list. One of the most helpful features I've come to appreciate is having it keep my place in books. Since I jump from device to device all the time, it keeps me from wasting time trying to remember where I was on that best seller.
Whether you are an Android purist or a Sense UI apologist, it's tough to argue against the big, beautiful clock widgets. With Beautiful Widgets, LevelUp Studio gives all Android users the ability to put these 4x2 widgets on their home screen with a great deal of customization.
There are a variety of size options and layouts for users to tailor their Android experience with an ever-growing number of skins and designs. Thanks to a large community of developers and designers, I am always able to change the look of my home screen with fresh creations. Tablet owners get some extra love in the form of an extra large widget that look gorgeous on 10-inch screens.
Users have an option to download and install a location-aware live wallpaper that constantly updates with weather animations. While it might put strain on your battery, it's a nice nod to HTC and its Sense UI. For those who like to track moon phases, Beautiful Widgets gives users a quick and sexy look at the next few days as well as sunrise and sunset times.
Again, I have been a movie junkie my entire life and love to sneak off for a few hours to escape the real world. Flixster is my favorite way of checking the local theaters for showtimes and upcoming films and events. Thanks to its location awareness, I know exactly what's playing right now, no matter where I am.
It's hard for me to remember the days of grabbing a newspaper to see what time the summer popcorn flick is showing. Not only can I see what's playing at the local big chain theater, but I have phone numbers and addresses with Google Maps integration, too.
The application also lets me watch movie trailers, read reviews, and monitor new releases on DVD and Blu-ray. For those who like to do the dinner/move combo, you'll enjoy the Yelp tie-in feature that lists restaurants and eating establishments near your theater of choice.