Android Explosion: Lifestyle Apps That Make Life Easier

Android Explosion: Lifestyle Apps That Make Life Easier

In the beginning, the Android-powered smart phone looked like an also-ran after Apple's iPhone. My, how times have changed.

Just a year ago, T-Mobile's G1 "Google phone" was the only phone on the market to run on the Android operating system. But in the past year, a handful of other smart phones have come on the scene -- and analysts expect more than 50 new phones with Google's Android operating system to ship next year.

The jump in available Android phones, such as Verizon's Motorola Droid and Sprint's HTC Hero, has fueled the growth of the Android Marketplace, which Andro-trackers say just recently reached 20,000 applications and is counting.

"Android absolutely has the momentum with it right now with developers," said Phil Nickinson, news editor of an all-things-Android blog called AndroidCentral.com. "It's going to explode in 2010."

From applications that entertain and educate to those that help save money and stream live video, he said developers are releasing innovative, new applications in droves.

But though the selection may be growing, others say finding apps for Android phones isn't as easy as finding apps for the iPhone, which are promoted in commercials, in Apple stores and through iTunes.

"The only difference between the iPhone user and the Android user is the amount of work put into finding apps," said Andrew Kameka, managing editor of Androinica.com, another blog for Android users.

The Android Marketplace provides lists of the top free and top paid apps, but he said it can be somewhat tedious to find the applications that appeal to you.

To help novice Android users find the best apps for their phones, his blog provides a guide for beginners.

AndroidCentral also regularly reviews new applications and phones and lets users talk to each other in an online forum.

If you're a newcomer to the Android universe or are thinking about taking the leap, here's a sampling of the Android Marketplace's finest offerings.

ShopSavvy

An oldie-but-goodie, ShopSavvy is a necessary application for every budget-conscious shopper.

Among the most successful early Android applications, ShopSavvy turns your phone into a pocket barcode scanner using the phone's built-in camera.

Once you've scanned the product's barcode into your phone, it gives you information about that product, as well as where you buy it online or at other stores, and at what prices.

Originally launched last October as GoKart, ShopSavvy is available for free in the Android Marketplace.

Phone Doubles as Concierge, Remote Control and More

Sherpa

If you've ever wanted your own personal concierge, take a look at Sherpa.

This Android app, which uses a phone's GPS to track your location, monitors and learns your favorite places and activities. As it aggregates information about your preferences, it starts to make recommendations and provide reminders about places to visit and things to do.

Sherpa constantly keeps track of where you are and is ready with a carousel of points of interest in your area. It is a free download in the Android Marketplace.

Google Goggles

One of the newest apps to hit the Android Marketplace, Google Goggles lets users search by image.

Instead of typing in a word or place, users can simply take a picture of a book, landmark, DVD, logo or anything else and Google's search engine will do its thing.

For example, if you use the phone's camera to pan around your surroundings, the application will tag businesses in your area and give you the option to learn more about them.

If you take a picture of a book, the app will generate links to compare prices and preview the text.

Gmote

Have you ever wanted to control the music on your computer from across the room? If so, check out Gmote.

The relatively new app turns your Android-powered cell phone into a remote control so that you can run movies and music from a distance.

Not only does it let you select play, pause and rewind and adjust the volume, it also lets you choose what to play.

Cardio Trainer

For the Droid user looking to stay fit and get some fresh air, Cardio Trainer is as essential as running shoes. The free app records your outdoor workouts, including running, walking, skiing, horseback riding, kayaking and skating. It uses a built-in pedometer and GPS technology.

It can also keep track of indoor activities on a treadmill, stationary bike, ski machine or track. Cardio Trainer automatically pauses and resumes as you stop and start moving.

Want to run four miles, burn 400 calories, or race against your record time? Cardio Trainer will help you do all three.

(Note: you must pay a one-time $2.99 fee for Weight Loss Trainer and Race Against Yourself after free trials for those services expire.)

Location, Location, Location: Apps Rely on GPS Technology

Locale

Do you get embarrassed when your phone's ringer goes off during class or while you're in a meeting?

Meet Locale. The award-winning application lets you assign specific phone settings to different situations.

If you don't want your phone to ring while you're at work, you can manually enter your office's address, or use a touchscreen map, to set up a no-ring zone around your workplace.

The app even allows you to set it so that calls from family members and other VIPs come through no matter where you are.

You can also use the application to provide location-based reminders, such as charging your phone when you walk through your front door.

It might take some time to configure the settings to your liking, but once it's done you won't have to think about it again.

Yelp

Finding restaurants, bars and coffee shops is a cinch with the free Yelp app.

Yelp figures out your location using the Droid's built in GPS, then tailors recommendations based on what you're searching for, whether you have in mind a particular eatery or just a type of cuisine.

It also has categories to help you fine drug stores, banks, gas stations, and even sales and special offers from businesses listed on Yelp.

ABCNews.com's Sheila Marikar contributed to this report.

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