Android apps amaze and awe

One of the best parts of having an Android-based smartphone is the ability to download one of the thousands of cool, free applications that have been designed for it.

One of the best parts of having an Android-based smartphone is the ability to download one of the thousands of cool, free applications that have been designed for it.

That is the main benefit of owning a phone like the Motorola Droid — the huge open-source community of developers.

So I thought I would take a moment to outline some of my favourite Android applications thus far in case other folks who get an Android phone for the holidays may want to try out one of these awesome applications.

Google Goggles: Want information on anything? Take a picture of it. Google’s database will decipher what it is and attempt to return information about the object to you.

Want information about a store? Photograph the sign. Want prices or reviews of a book? Photograph the cover or the bar code. Want to know if a wine is any good? Snap a pic of the label.

I thought this thing was too good to be true until I tried it. A movie poster for Slumdog Millionaire in my office was recognized in a snap (literally).

Google Sky: This is an amazing tool that lets you aim your phone at the stars and find out what you are looking at in the night sky.

This amazed my kids one recent dark evening and continues to amaze me every night when I walk out of work. This is truly a stunning app for stargazers.

Google Maps: Where are you and where are you going? Google will, of course, tell you. Totally awesome.

Shazam: When you’re listening to a cool song on the radio and don’t know the name of the song or artist, whip out Shazam. In about five seconds you will get the full details as your phone “listens” to the music. Amazing.

Pandora: This is a streaming radio service that can be tailored to your musical taste. You can’t select the exact song you want to hear, but rather a flavour of music to enjoy.

Android LightSaber: A series of Star Wars light sabers that you can launch from your phone. Alas, all you get is the sound, but they are fun in public situations.

Labyrinth Lite: A free version of the fabulous game where you take the shiny steel ball and try to keep it out of the tiny holes.

Quote Pro: One of my favourite stock-market applications. Simple, easy to use and offers one-click access to quotes, news and charts on your favourite stocks.

Where: A great location database that tells you everything from the cheapest gas prices to the best restaurants within 100 yards of you.

ShopSavvy: One of the many bar-coding applications that will scan bar codes and tell you current online pricing for the same item.

These are only my current favourites. My phone is bulging with more cool stuff I have not tried and I look forward to hearing your favourites, too. I will keep you posted on new stuff I find. You do the same.

James Derk is owner of CyberDads, a computer-repair firm and a tech columnist for Scripps Howard News Service. His e-mail address is jim@cyberdads.com