Own an Android-powered smartphone or tablet? While there are many thousands of third-party apps to download from the Android Market, Google of course gives special treatment to its own mobile operating system, evident by some very cool (and some exclusive) apps, discussed here.
There’s one very important but often overlooked advantage to Google’s Android-based smartphones and tablets (such as the new Galaxy Tab from Samsung): you can tap into the many Google Labs apps, a collection of free “experimental” programs that add additional functionality to the device.
Oh sure, you’re likely aware of Google Search, which lets you type or speak into the smartphone to search for something online, but there are many other powerful downloads to consider.
Not widely available on competing platforms, such as BlackBerry or iPhone, these Android offerings are ideal for those who rely on their smartphones for work or play — or in all likelihood, a bit of both.
The following are a couple of worthy picks. If you want to install any of these, simply visit the Android Market on your Android smartphone or tablet (look for a green shopping bag icon) to download the app to your device.
Seeing is believing
Rather than search for something online using text or your voice, Google Goggles is a visual search engine that uses the Android smartphone’s camera. Simply snap a pic of something — such as a book you want to buy — and immediately get information on it, such as reviews, where to buy it online, related information, and more.
Google Goggles also works with geographical landmarks and it’ll attempt to cross-reference the image with similar ones online and provide relevant data. For example, if you stand in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy and snap a photo of it in Google Goggles, you’ll immediately get information on it, such as its history, why it’s leaning, how tall it is, links to related photos and videos, and so on.
And get this, you could even take a photo of, say, a French menu in a Paris restaurant and select for it to translate the text into your language (see below).
Many GPS-powered apps are available for multiple smartphones, including the free Google Maps, but only Android phones get access to the supersized Google Maps Navigation (beta). This free Internet-connected GPS navigation system not only provides visual turn-by-turn directions to a destination, but for drivers it includes audio-based guidance, as well, so you can keep your eyes on the road. Users need Android 1.6 or newer to install and use this navigation aid.
Additional features include a “search by voice” option, live traffic, satellite views, and the availability to find nearby businesses. Find yourself in London and your colleague is craving Indian food? Tap, type or say “Indian restaurant” and you’ll see a number of nearby, relevant results populate the map. Click “Go” to follow the suggested route.
Spreken zie deutsch?
With Google Translate, available on multiple smartphones, use your pocket device to instantly translate one language into another. More than 50 languages are supported, allowing you to type or speak a phrase into the Google Translate app and have it translated on the spot – even verbally.
So imagine you’re in a taxicab in Tokyo and need to visit a specific location, simply ask Google Translate the question in English and then hold it up to the driver to hear the question in Japanese.
Along with text-to-speech and speech-to-text, other features a clean user interface, dictionary definitions and support for history/favourites to be saved to the app for future reference.
And you thought your smartphone was already smart enough, eh?