Holiday Guide 2012: Android Apps / Utilities of the Year
It’s that time of year again—that time when society dictates that you must go out months before what they call “The Holidays” to purchase gifts for people you may only see once every year. And for those you really do care about, you never seem to find anything for anyway. Now if that isn’t enough of a conundrum, we don’t know what else to tell you, other than how you will probably receive clothes that don’t fit, an extra toaster you don’t need, and gift cards to that store you’ve never heard of.
But cheer up! Who said you have to only buy gifts for others? Here at XDA, we’ve continued our tradition of helping you prepare for the Holidays by giving you a list of the best gifts for 2012/2013 that you can give to yourself or others.
- Android Apps / Utilities of the Year (This page)
- OEM of the Year
- Best “Other” Device
- Best Windows Phone
- Most Hackable Phone
- Most Hackable Tablet
- Best Android Phone
- Best Android Tablet
Android Apps/Utilities of the Year
Apex Launcher is an AOSP-styled launcher on steroids built by XDA Senior Member dennisxl. Removing many of the limitations of the default launcher in stock Android, Apex adds a plethora of extra features, such as the ability to add more homescreens and scrollable dock icons, icons and folders can be customized, and it’s even possible to hide certain app icons from appearing in the app drawer (handy to hide any security/tracking apps you may have installed).
For the avid ROM-Flasher, Apex even supports backing up your home screen and desktop settings to a file on your SD card, allowing you to restore them after wiping your phone. This negates the need for many painstaking hours recreating your preferred layout of icons and widgets. For those irritated by the inclusion of the ever-present search bar in recent versions of Android, rejoice for Apex allows this to be disabled (as well as the dock, or even the status bar)! Customization is the name of the game with Apex.
If there’s one thing a mobile device should be good at, it’s music. This dates back to some of the first mobile entertainment devices, the Sony Walkman. Today though, we tend to see music apps that are just different variations on the same theme. XenoAmp is one application that defies that trend and goes in an entirely different direction. Built by XDA Senior Member ssuukk, XenoAmp turns the notion of how a mobile music player should function on its head, and kicks its collective arse.
The entire UI is touch- and gesture-based, allowing you to easily create, delete and rename playlists, switch between them, append to them, shuffle, and so on. You can even adjust volume, track position, move to next track all from swiping on the player. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. With the entire feature list looking like a cornucopia of audiophile delights and a very minimalistic UI design, XenoAmp is the top music player app for Android.
The developer of this application, XDA Senior Member glodos, hits a homerun in what he calls his “first app for the Android system.” With rare exception, file manager applications for Android have very basic functionality, aren’t geared towards different screen sizes and orientations, and aren’t themed very well. Solid Explorer, while still a beta, doesn’t fall into those traps, and instead rises over them by leaps and bounds.
The application does a great job taking the desktop file manager experience and bringing it to the mobile environment. When in landscape view, you have dual panes that allow you to either drag and drop a file from one pane or the other, or simply long-press on a file and tell the system to copy or move the file to the other pane. When in portrait mode, you have whichever pane was previously selected as the only pane visible. Rotate to landscape mode, choose another pane and go back to portrait, and you’ll be in a different pane.
Solid Explorer is one of the best implementations of a responsive tablet and phone design out there, and it’s in one application, rather than separate phone and tablet apps. In addition, Solid Explorer brings various networking and file sharing options, extensive compression support, cloud data access, bookmarks, indexed search, and so on. Solid Explorer is the best file-management solution on Android today, and it’s only just in Beta. We look forward to seeing what this app will become.
2. Mobile ODIN
If you’re familiar with rooted Samsung phones, you know of the ODIN factory firmware flash tool. The main drawback with using ODIN is that it requires you to setup and install the drivers on your computer, and then have access to that computer to carry out your ROM flashing. In the real-world, how often are you at your computer and able to do this manual task, while dealing with driver conflict headaches?
With the prevalence of pre-release leaks of ROMs in ODIN or OTA format, enter Mobile ODIN by XDA Elite Recognized Developer Chainfire. Mobile ODIN makes it possible to flash files intended for use on the regular PC version of ODIN directly from your mobile device, clearly showing what partitions will be lost or overwritten in the process. Mobile ODIN will not flash bootloaders or EFS partitions, even if included in a firmware, in order to try to prevent any unintentional bricking or problems. Using Mobile ODIN to flash a firmware won’t trigger the “warning triangle” or “custom binary count” on the device either, yielding yet another benefit over the regular desktop method. The Pro version of Mobile ODIN also adds the ability to preserve root access when flashing a new build via injection of SuperSU into the flash, and the ability to directly flash an OTA zip after verifying your currently installed ROM is suitable for installation.
In Google Play, it seems that news readers are a dime a dozen with all sorts of options, in all sorts of configurations, and awful UIs. Even the official Google Reader application leaves a lot to be desired. Then came along Minimal Reader from XDA Senior Member joenrv. Functioning as a widget instead of a full application, Minimal Reader provides a minimalistic approach to viewing news articles and/or feeds on your mobile device. Google Reader, in and of itself, is nice as an online reader. But when it comes to the mobile environment, it is less than optimal.
Minimal Reader, on the other hand, takes the functionality of Google Reader online, and brings it to your mobile device’s home screen, thus enabling you to add your Google Reader feeds or any Atom/RSS feed. You can click on a news title and it will open in a customizable pop-up. Swipe to on that pop-up to read other articles and filter in just about every way possible. The final kicker is that you can create multiple widgets for each specific feed you want. Thinking outside the box and taking an otherwise crowded market and rising above, is what makes Minimal Reader our top pick for 2012.
So there you have it. Minimal Reader is our top pick for 2012! However, what we really want to know is YOUR top pick! Let us know by voting below!
Access our entire Holiday Guide 2012 by clicking the links below!