Apps, apps, apps

I don’t write much about mobile so it’s time to fill in this gap by blogging about some of the apps I have on my various phones. The main phone I have is a Nexus 5X, and I have a second phone, a Galaxy J2, which has a tablet share SIM (off the Nexus’ account) and is capable of making calls, but not receiving them (although it can receive texts). I also have a Galaxy Tab A 8″ tablet which also has a tablet share SIM and also can make calls but not receive. 
Apart from those devices which all get a reasonable amount of use and can connect to the cellular network I have two more older phones that are Wifi only and have been used as media players. The Moto E that was my first Android phone and cost $99 new isn’t really flavour of the month as a media player now because it has trouble running apps reliably. Not sure if this is old version of Android, CPU/RAM or lack of storage (it only has 4 GB). So that leaves me with my Lumia 635 running Windows 10 Phone (it had WP8 when I got it) which has become the default media player. I always have a separate (low value) device as the media player so you can leave it playing music wherever and still use your phone, and not running down the phone’s battery as these smartphones tend to go down too quickly for my liking, it seems that cellular services do drain the battery faster.
This is about some of the useful apps I use every day on the Nexus and also on the Lumia because those two get the most use everyday. In the below listings, everything is Android unless it says otherwise.
  • Media Players:  The best media players are the ones that can browse folders on your device. If you are like me and have converted your video clip collection into MP3s for your phone, the tags that most media players need to sort them by artists, albums and etc aren’t automatically put into an MP3 so players like the default ones (Google Play Music and Groove) can’t pick them up. And of course videos don’t have tags like MP3s. Here are some great media players:
    • Pulsar music player – easily browse folders, no ads.
    • PlayerXtreme video player – folder view (not exactly browsing all folders but just lists those that have videos in them).
    • Still trying to find something as good as Pulsar for W10P. Have looked at so far:
      • Loco Delight – corny name, a bit hard to navigate, stable and plays well.
      • Next-Player – a little tricky to navigate. Plays well when it isn’t freezing the phone. I am looking at whether it conflicts with another app to see if I can work out where the problem is.
    • One thing to be aware of is that like videos, you need to put a number at the beginning of the name to ensure playback in a certain order when playing from folders e.g. 01, 02 etc. At the moment most of my music collection isn’t converted from videos so they don’t have these numbers, but as soon as I get around to changing over to converted clips and number-naming everything else, things will be better.
  • Do Not Disturb: The default DND app in the Nexus (built in Google/Android app) is very annoying because of bugs, the biggest of which is if you go in to check what is turned on (e.g. a rule that may have turned on), just looking at the settings overrides any rule currently in place, so you can’t go back to the rule being the higher priority. That’s a little hard to explain, but that simple fact means there are many times I have accidentally turned DND on permanently without realising it and only noticed some time (days later often) that it was still on.
    • Auto Do Not Disturb is a great replacement for the Nexus default DND app. The profiles give you an option to absolutely be able to make sure the DND is turned off at a certain time every day. I use an overnight profile which turns off alert sounds but leaves me able to receive phone calls and alarms. So no more annoying texts and app alerts in the middle of the night, but DND is forced off every morning. Apart from creating your own profiles for custom days and time slots, there is also a preset coundown  profile you can just click straight onto that will turn on DND for a preset amount of time. Premium version is $5.49 and well worth it.
  • Mapping and GPS: A simple GPS logger that works a bit like my old cheap eTrex for logging a journey you are taking is a good app to have on your phone.
    • GPS Logger by BasicAirData is a FOSS app that does a great job of logging and tracking a journey, with real time display of data including altitude, coordinates and speed. The only thing I found difficult was exporting the data because its data folder isn’t accessible on my PC because of the way data is stored on my phone’s built in memory. Uploading to Google Drive fixed that.
  • Realtime Metro Timetabling: 
    • Christchurch Transit is the latest app that can display RTTI information for bus services in Christchurch. I found the display cluttered and a little hard to use, and the older Chch Metro app is still my preference for its simplicity, although it is no longer in the Google Play store.
  • Scanning: These apps can let you scan a photo or document from your phone. A killer feature some have is the ability to automatically correct geometric alignment issues.
    • Office Lens is a neat little app from Microsoft that can attempt to correct the shape of photos taken from your phone that are not perfectly aligned. It works quite well a lot of the time, but in practice, I found it easier to turn off the correction for certain tasks (like copying stuff from bound files in Archives New Zealand, where it was hard to delineate the edges of an original). However, it was good for copying family photos, except that if the lighting is insufficient, the gainup adds a lot of noise or resolution reduction.
  • Data Sync: these apps can be used to synchronise data between a phone and PC for example.
    • KDE Connect is an app that can be used to transfer data between a phone and a PC that is running KDE. I haven’t used it much, and one consideration is that like Bluetooth it can send maybe only one file at a time instead of a whole folder of files. A great substitute for Bluetooth with desktop computers which mostly lack the hardware for BT.
  • Camera apps can do more than the built in app of your phone in many cases
    • Camera FV-5 has a good reputation and I bought the Premium version of it on the Nexus. However it can have a bit of a learning curve, and has this annoying feature of rotating the display to landscape mode after taking a picture in portrait mode. I do use it when I want to do swish stuff, but for everyday simple things the built in app still gets a lot of use.

So there we have it, a pile of different apps that I find useful, and hopefully you will as well.