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Android app roundup: Five free apps worth your attention

When I pitched this article to my benevolent Techly overlords, the plan was to cover some new, useful apps for iOS and Android. That isn’t going to happen now, unfortunately: My wife, who is basically the black plague and Pol Pot combined when it comes to electronic devices, shattered my iPad’s screen a week or so ago, and I’m not about to pay Apple sixteen bajillion dollars USD to replace the glass when they could very well release four more tablets before March is over.

The good news? Despite my whining, there are plenty of good Android apps making the rounds this month, and I still have my trusty Nexus. Some of the apps in these mini-reviews are new, while some are only newly updated, but I’m confident you’ll find them all quite useful.

Trust me, I’ve had plenty of time to test them with my primary device is in temporary tablet heaven. Thanks, honey! Love you!

1. Pocketbook: The Australian Mint

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I was saddened to hear Mint, my favourite personal finance tracker, wasn’t available in desktop or mobile form down there in Australia. Fortunately, you guys do have Pocketbook, a Web-based software service/Android app that does a lot of the same stuff.

Like Mint, the app can interface with a variety of financial institutions and your spending across accounts, giving you detailed, categorised reports on where the money went. You could use it to see you how much you spent on fast food during a given week or how much petrol really costs you each month, for instance.

There’s a lot more to like about Pocketbook besides simple expense tracking, however. One of its coolest features is a smart budget advisor, something Mint isn’t particularly good at. It tracks your spending habits, then uses the data to give you a rough idea of what the upcoming week/month might cost, and can even send you push alerts when you’re going overboard on spending.

You don’t have to be horrible with money like your humble author to make big use out of software like Pocketbook… be sure to check it out if you’d like to consolidate your financial info in one convenient spot.

More: Techly interviewed the Pocketbook founders about their app and their experienced in the Australian start-up space.

2. URL Shortener: Your URLs… Shortened

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Yes, it’s got a bit of a bland name – and no, it’s not an official Google product – but URL Shortener is helping us all by providing a service beyond Google’s usual slate of products. True to its name, the software takes URLS and shortens them, but it also connects to Google’s official shortening service, goo.gl. That puts it head and shoulders above the competition: You can use the software to track how many hits your shortened links receive, the geographical location of those hits, and other basic-but-useful metrics. It’s also free, making it all the more awesome.

3. PlayTube: A Semi-Sketchy YouTube Enhancer

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If you’re a music fan, the beauty of PlayTube is in the categorisation. The app breaks music videos on YouTube down to a series of charts, giving you quick access to popular tunes in a variety of genres spanning everything from pop to rock to jazz.

Even better, the app lets you download YouTube videos of all sorts directly to your device, a perfect solution for anyone stuck with inconsistent data connectivity or people who don’t spend the whole day wired but still want access to content. With all the funny video clips, full movies and documentaries, and other billions of submissions to the site (the most popular of which are offered on the app’s front page), there’s enough free content to fill every SD card in your collection. Make sure to give it a look; if you catch it before Google pulls it from the Play Store, it’s yours forever.

4. Waze: Crowdsourced, Cutesy Traffic

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Waze definitely screams Web 2.0 (or whatever iteration we’re on now): Crowd-based data aggregation, simple three-colour branding scheme, cutesy logo, a “ranking” system that doesn’t do much… the list goes on. Whatever your opinion of its fringe design qualities, however, it’s certainly worth a look if you spend much time driving.

Leave it running while you’re at the wheel and the app will upload your data alongside other users’, giving real-time reports on traffic, speed traps, accidents, and all those other things that make auto ownership a pain in the rear.

What constitutes “other things”? We’re glad you asked. Users can make note of potholes, debris from accidents or storms, and pretty much anything else that might damage your vehicle or make you late. If it does notice trouble on your usual route, it’ll reroute you on the fly. And the ranking system – while still largely useless – does at least give you an empty sense of accomplishment.

You’re helping other drivers, after all! And making imaginary numbers go up! If you’ve ever had a strong urge to post a reddit thread while on the road, that last point should definitely make the app worth your attention.

5. Fiverr: The Gig Economy, Mobilised

I’m a big fan of Fiverr. Its Android app brings the “gig economy” concept to smartphones and tablets everywhere, a feature that will undoubtedly make the service even more useful (and at times hilarious).

The service brings enterprising microbusinesspeople and those who want to exploit the cheap labour together… combined with the sheer number of insane people kicking around the Internet, that makes for some very interesting results. Just look at Big Man Tyrone, who will read basically anything you ask him to for five measly bucks. He even wears a suit if you pay him extra!

It’s hard to understand the beauty of such a unique platform without experiencing it yourself – get familiar now so you can say you knew about it before Android made it cool.

About the author

Evan Wade is a professional writer and journalist with a passion for all things electronic. When he’s not slaving away at a keyboard or avoiding his responsibilities with the help of his Xbox, he’s either writing fiction, strumming bass, or creating mildly humorous YouTube videos.

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