Cool and useful Android apps that aren’t on the iPhone

I’ve only been an Android phone convert for a few days, but I’m coming to appreciate the Google portable OS more and more on my new Nexus S. The notification system, the widgets and the far greater opportunity for customization are all welcome changes from my iPhone. Integration with Google Voice and my Google contacts is awesome, as expected. Freedom from AT&T’s overpriced and unreliable mobile network is a bonus.

It’s not all better. One of the biggest negatives I expected from leaving the comfy iPhone ecosystem was the loss of favorite apps including Instapaper, Evernote, Angry Birds, Kindle and so on. I quickly discovered that many, but not all, of my favorites had Android equivalents. Some, like Angry Birds and Evernote, are direct from the original developers. Others, like Goodreads and Instapaper, are native clients written by outsiders.

But I wasn’t expecting to find many Android-only apps of merit. John Gruber has blogged and tweeted extensively about his failure to discover for worthy Android-only apps excluding those made by Google.

I’m happy to report that I’ve done a bit better (and p.s. the Google apps are awesome!). Here is a first round of Android-only apps I’ve already come to use frequently. Please don’t get too excited about the why’s and wherefore’s, as this is simply a listing exercise.

1. Verizon FiOS apps, including visual home voicemail and on-demand mobile video. A game-changer for we the FiOS minions. Perhaps coming to Apple when the Verizon iPhone hits?

2. Podcast catcher Listen. I may be an iPhone idiot but it seems like I can’t easily download new podcasts I subscribe to through iTunes directly to my phone (Update: there is a 3rd-party iOS app called Podcaster). With Listen, I can subscribe to any podcast and get all the new episodes while on the go.

3. PinBoard. I’ve replaced Yahoo’s on-again/off-again bookmarking site with the Gruber-endorsed site Pinboard. There’s a great app for Android called PinDroid but I couldn’t find one for the iPhone.

4. Amazon’s MP3 store. Here’s one you are guaranteed never to see in the iTunes app store. Buy cheap MP3s on your Android phone with no fuss and no muss.

5. Baseball Prospectus. Not sure why my favorite Sabermetrically-inclined baseball site has an Android app and not one for iPhones, but there it is. Read all the articles, listen to podcasts, etc.

6. Silent VIP. This is a cool and crazily useful little app that does one thing well. Set your phone to silent mode but still have it ring when a particular caller (or set of callers) is on the line.

What’s still missing? I’d love a native Android app for my preferred photosharing site, Zenfolio. It’s just okay in the browser and the phone’s native gallery app only seems to connect with PicassaWeb. And where is LinkedIn (UPDATE: Coming soon, it seems)? As many have previously complained, there’s no easy way to take a screenshot, for some odd reason (the two apps in the market require a rooted phone!).

And my most annoying switch was caused by the lack of an Android version of Acrylic Software’s Wallet program. I had to move all my passwords over to 1Password for its multi-platform goodness and a simple export/import didn’t work. And, of course, I’ve lost the ability to buy an app once and use it across all our phones, tablets and iPods.

  • Anonymous

    Really? That’s it?

    I like the idea of Silence VIP but it isn’t something that I would consider switching for. Those kinds of hacks tend to be problematic anyway (not saying that this one is.) Amazon MP3s are available for the iPhone but I guess not through a dedicated app–another so what. The others, completely uninteresting to me.

    As for Baseball Prospectus, it is probably unlicensed and illegal unless it comes from BP itself. I didn’t find anything like that with a quick google search so I’m guessing illegal. You won’t find anything like that on the app store because it is curated to prevent such abuses.

  • Thanks for the comment but I don’t think anyone said anything about switching solely because of a few apps. And your tone is a bit much given the false claims you’ve just made . The VIP app is decidedly not a hack on Android and works fine. I am pretty certain you cannot buy and download Amazon MP3s on your iPhone — Apple doesn’t allow that sort of competition and takes a 30% share of all in-app purchases. Baseball Prospectus is an authorized app from the web site. Sheesh.

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  • Shock Me

    Actually Verizon does actually have two FiOS apps on the iPhone.

    While additional music stores might be novel, why wouldn’t I just side load my “cheaper” Amazon MP3s from my computer like I always do? If they are DRM-free it is simpler than even ripping a music CD. Just how much cheaper is it?

  • Thanks for the comment. The two Verizon FiOS apps for the iPhone are just remote controls for their DVR and set-top box. They have not posted either of the two incredibly useful apps I mentioned in my post.

    You can sideload, of course. The point is about buying music on-the-go. It’s not novel — it’s a lower priced alternative to the iPhone’s mobile iTunes store.

  • Anonymous

    >Baseball Prospectus is an authorized app from the web site. Sheesh.

    I didn’t see it before but I do now. I stand corrected. Of your list of cool Android apps, it is the only one that is available exclusively for Android that I actually want. Now I have to wonder why they haven’t made one for the iPhone especially given the success of the MLB app. The MLB app on iOS is one of the all-time bestsellers multiple years in a row.

  • Nice, that’s helpful for me!