Author Topic: Properly free Android Apps for my phone  (Read 2121 times)

Babar

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Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« on: 09 Oct 2013, 18:58 »
Hey everyone!

From 2009 up until about a month ago, I had a Nokia. It was cool, did most everything I wanted, and I got irritated when people people told me to "get a smartphone" ("IT COUNTS AS A SMARTPHONE! It has inbuilt GPS and maps and voice recognition and internet and emailing and messaging and all that! It has a keypad instead of touchscreen because I PREFER that!").

Anyhow, considering the horrible Nokia app store, and the fact that  wanted to get into dev, I recently got myself an android smartphone. It was an off-brand one, but with nice enough specs (Android 4.2, a 1.2GHz Quad Core, 4GB ROM/1GB RAM, etc.). It came with a ton of bloatware, so first thing I did was to root it and remove most of that.

What I'm looking for now are apps that would be an improvement on the functionality of the ones that came with it (phonebook, lockscreen, etc. stuff like that), but is also free - because I'm a cheapskate- and also ad-free and not requiring network access if possible - because while I have wifi at home, I'm a cheapskate with a horrible data plan (also the reason I'm less interested in the more "social" apps and social aspects of specific apps) - and preferably not a lite version of a better app. Sorry in advance for the long post, hopefully it'd be helpful to others as well.

First off, stuff I already got:

I got GO LAUNCHER EX (and a whole lot of associated GO apps), but I gotta say, I'm somewhat unsatisfied with it. It IS all swishy and cool and all, but it comes with loads of extra things I don't want, a whole separate interface to get backgrounds and themes and fonts and then some bits that I DO want it asks money for or tells me to upgrade to pro versions. If someone has a recommendation for a replacement, I'd be happy to hear!

I also got PitchLab Guitar Tuner and smartCHORD, in one of my "I really should properly learn the guitar" moments- the first has a tuner (more like a any sort of audio-note identifier) and loads of cool visualisations to help you. The second also has a tuner, but it isn't redundant, as it has loads other stuff: a ear trainer, nicely displayed chord list, a digital guitar thing, and stuff I don't even understand yet. Neither of them require any sort of network access, so I am really happy with them.

Still in the musicky side of things, I also have 2 "sequencers" Loops! and Plasma Sound, although the first seems a bit complicated for me (not that I'm an expert at using sequencers anyway), and the second is more of an enjoyable playing thing, messing about and making bloops and bleeps with the associated visualisations. Again. neither have any network access, and are absolutely free, which I love.

Because I'd like to be an astronomy buff, I also got Google Sky Maps, which is incredibly cool, as it allows you to see names of stars and planets and constellations in real time as you point your device at the sky. It is also totally free, but requires network access permissions, although I've switched off my data connection and only have it use my GPS, and so far I've had no issues.

For games, the one I play the most is Simon Tatham's Puzzles, recommended to me by Hajo/dasjoe, which have 34 puzzle games in one (including Sudoku, Minesweeper, Mastermind, Sliding tile puzzle, etc.), totally free, and again, requiring no network permissions. Some of the games don't seem to have been properly ported to the phone (Minesweeper requires pressing down and waiting to mark a mine, and some of them have a large amount of stuff on-screen making it difficult to press them accurately), but still, the ones that do, work great.

Instead of the default Google Maps, I'm using MapFactor: GPS Navigation, which asks for network permissions, but after I downloaded the maps at home on my wi-fi, it had no problems working without internet.

The default calculator had separate screens for normal and scientific mode, so I got RealCalc Scientific Calculator instead, which again is totally free and requires no network permissions.

Another utility I got is the TeslaLED Flashlight, because I wanted a free flashlight program for my phone that also did Morse code, and it suits me perfectly! Again, no network permissions required, and it even has this hilarious "Police Mode" where the screen flashes a bright alternating red and blue, that I want to abuse some time while driving.

So what I want:

Games! I've realised that at least for me, most actiony games aren't worth it on a phone. I have a 5 inch screen, but even at that level, it isn't all that fun, so I mostly go for puzzle games. I had bought the recent Humble Mobile bundle, but out of those, unfortunately, only Carmageddon, Time Surfers and Punch Quest worked, and currently I only have time surfers still on my phone. So if you have any suggestions, even ones to prove me wrong about my opinion of actiony games on a phone, or if you know of some free adventure game that works well on a touchscreen phone, please do tell!

Replacements for the system apps I have already. As I said, I'm not too happy with GO LAUNCHER EX and the rest of the stuff, so maybe a nice free launcher, and a screen lock with a similarly cool wiggly gesture unlock thing, maybe some Phonebook that includes a country field in the address (for some bizarre reason, the default one doesn't), and a birthday field that shows up on my calendar, and speaking of, a calendar app that syncs with the contacts, and be nice if it has multiple calendar systems (Gregorian, Islamic, Chinese, etc.), and shows the moon phase (there's that astronomy thing again), or at least another app that shows the moon's phase (preferably in a nice widget I can have on screen), a nice clock with alarms, stopwatch, timers, and some way of easily showing multiple time zones so I can keep up with everyone, etc.

A good music player. I'd definitely want one that can handle FLAC, which the default does, but it doesn't seem to be able to edit tags (of FLAC or anything else).

And anything else you suggest! As I said, I'd much prefer free stuff, and stuff that doesn't require a data connection (if it asks for network permissions, but doesn't require using it, that's okay too, I guess. I have adblock installed for the phone as well, but so far I'm not sure if it HAS blocked anything or not :D). I've set it so that I can download stuff outside of the Google Play store as well, so that is not an issue.
« Last Edit: 09 Oct 2013, 19:02 by Babar »
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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #1 on: 09 Oct 2013, 20:26 »
cheapskate

Babar

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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #2 on: 09 Oct 2013, 20:49 »
Indeed!
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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #3 on: 09 Oct 2013, 22:16 »
My phone app needs are similar!

I'd recommend:

Games: Gem Miner, Battle of Colors, Landrule: all small, but fun to pass 15 mins
Apps: Aldiko ebook reader, 1Page BBC Newsreader, Wifi Analyzer, Strava (to keep you fit, man!) ColorNote, GPS Status (almost useless, but fascinating)

Essential: Zoner Antivirus (or other equivalent)

And finally, on my tablet, the following game is freemium, but you don't need to buy the options and I think its cool. But it eats up space like nothing else: Real Racing 3

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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #4 on: 09 Oct 2013, 22:28 »
I use Pansi SMS for SMS, obviously. It arranges the sms like a conversation with different colors for you and the other person.
As for games, I have a Gameboy emulator with a couple of ROMS. There is a game called Knights of Pen and Paper I want to try but I can't run it on my phone.
And I use opera Mini as my browser because I have a crappy phone.
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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #5 on: 10 Oct 2013, 22:47 »
Depending what ROMs are available, you should look for one that improves the actual phone itself, as well as offering features. I usually go with stock ROMs to avoid losing functionality. Also, certain kernels allow for different governors, which is really nice for certain apps and can get you some amazing battery life.

With that said, some apps I use or used to use:

Link2SD: If your phone has incredibly small internal storage, this will fix it. Unlike a lot of other apps2sd apps this one links libraries of the apps themselves, so you can keep any app on the SD card and use it, even if it isn't supposed to go on an SD card, and keep internal memory free. You can even put system apps on the SD although it's not recommended.

Titanium Backup: A must if you are going to be flashing ROMs and doing some risky business. Lets you backup any app and reinstall it whenever. Useful for when you update an app and find out it's not working properly. Also useful because it allows you to freeze apps that you can't get rid of (like certain system apps for instance) so they aren't taking up memory.

Kernel Tuner or SetCPU: Depending on your device, one of these will work or both of them won't. I use Kernel Tuner since I have a dual core snapdragon processor and it works great. I'm overclocked at about 1512 MHz per core and running smooth as butter. Also has features to turn cores off to save power. Only con is it lacks profiles, unlike SetCPU, which allows you to set up profiles. For example, you can set your processor speed to lower its max and min to certain levels when your battery gets to a certain level. It's a really nice feature.

WiFi Tether: You can get a lot of these on the Play Store, but I choose one from XDA (google it) because it's easy to use and setup.

GooManager: Since you're rooted, you can use this to find custom ROMs for your device! It installs them via custom recovery (like Clockwork Recovery, 4EXT, TWRP2 for example) and only shows ROMs that are compatible with your device.

AdAway: This came with my custom ROM, but it blocks ads and push ads. Very nice.

Go SMS Pro: I hate Go products, but this one has the ability to add iPhone emojis which is nice if you have friends that have iPhones.

Chainfire3D: This app basically overrides or bypasses certain elements of your GPU. Since you have a pretty nice phone, you could use this to enable AA filters in games to make them look much nicer, or to turn off certain features to get some FPS back in games that are struggling to run. It also has a market hack on the Pro version that will show games that aren't "supported" on the Play Store.

NES.emu, Snes9x EX+, Mupen64 Plus AE, ePSXe, GBA.emu: All the emulators I use. All of them are very stable, offer the best compatibility and features, and are cheap. If you have a gamepad though, I'd recommend RetroArch 100000000%.

Also, I don't recommend ANY Go products. GoLauncher and others come with annoying pop-up adds, pointless updates, or bloatware. I'd use Nova Launcher instead if you want fancy. I used to use Launcher Pro but I'm not sure if it supports newer devices.

Again, if you have a custom ROM, a lot of them come with a bunch of software tweaks as well as some cool and useful apps. Have fun!
« Last Edit: 10 Oct 2013, 22:50 by R4L »

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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #6 on: 10 Oct 2013, 23:40 »
Link2SD: If your phone has incredibly small internal storage, this will fix it. Unlike a lot of other apps2sd apps this one links libraries of the apps themselves, so you can keep any app on the SD card and use it, even if it isn't supposed to go on an SD card, and keep internal memory free. You can even put system apps on the SD although it's not recommended.
And again, without rooting my phone, this app does basically nothing.
Freaking Yahoo finance, pisses me off.
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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #7 on: 11 Oct 2013, 04:03 »
And again, without rooting my phone, this app does basically nothing.
Freaking Yahoo finance, pisses me off.

Time to root that phone then!

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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #8 on: 11 Oct 2013, 07:31 »
And again, without rooting my phone, this app does basically nothing.
Freaking Yahoo finance, pisses me off.

Time to root that phone then!

Are there any specific dangers regarding rooting the phone?
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Babar

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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #9 on: 11 Oct 2013, 10:22 »
It voids the warranty on your phone, and could potentially brick it. I spent a tense hour or so when I did it, but it all worked out for the best!

But thanks for all the suggestions so far!
I'm messing around with Battle Colors now, it IS a fun little game, especially for requiring NO permissions at all!
I'm assuming you meant this Wifi Analyzer, which obviously requires network permissions, but is pretty cool. I'm also eyeing the GPS Status app, despite it being a lite version with ads, because it DOES look cool, and that is exactly the sort of useless information I like to have around.

I haven't installed any SMS program thing yet because I can't yet figure out how to disable the default SMS program so that it doesn't break SMS handling (I tried one, and it would open up both the default and the new one, and then when I disabled the default, nothing would open).

R4L, unfortunately, being an off-brand local phone, I haven't found any good custom ROMS for it yet, although I'm not too bothered by that.
I should probably get a gameboy emulator or something. I just realised that it could have on-screen controls AND a full-sized screen, so it just might work. And thankfully I have no friends with iPhones :P.

I think I've found a good music player conforming to my requirements, though. Xplay music player isn't a lite version of anything, handles FLAC, has a nice widget, can edit tags and stuff. It requires network permisssions (I think to get tags and cover art from the net), but doesn't complain at all if I disable the Data Connection.
« Last Edit: 11 Oct 2013, 10:26 by Babar »
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Re: Properly free Android Apps for my phone
« Reply #10 on: 11 Oct 2013, 11:37 »
Babar I recommend GBC/GBA.emu if you're going strictly touchscreen. However, if you have a gamepad, get RetroArch. Not only is it free, but it supports a crazy amount of systems, including Cave Story (mobile Cave Story ftw!).

And no, I did mean WiFi Tether. Even if you have a plan where tethering costs money or is not offered entirely, this app will let you tether and it does it for free.

If I may ask, what phone did you buy? I'd be going crazy if my HTC Evo V 4G didn't have custom ROMs! Granted the rooting process was incredibly frustrating, including a part where I had to turn it into an entirely different phone, but it was totally worth it to have new features like, panoramic camera, and the ability to go full HD on youtube where as before it never had HD. Really worth it in the end friend!
« Last Edit: 11 Oct 2013, 11:38 by R4L »