Apps for exploring Mars.

The recent news of the massive dust storm on Mars had me so interested in the Red Planet that I decided to explore Google Play to see what related apps I could find. It turns out there are more of them than I thought. Here’s a partial listing.

  • Space Weather – This cool app gives you the current weather conditions on Mars, the phase of the moon and conditions on the Sun. It also has helpful information that explains exactly what’s being reported. On the downside I noticed there’s been no new data from Mars since July 12.
  • Mars Time – I find it interesting that the time on Mars depends on who you ask. Each of the rovers and probes on Mars has their own time of day and this app lists them all.
  • Mars Sky – This app shows a simple view of the Martian sky from a list of various reference points. It also lists the times for the rise and set times for the planets in both standard and Darian calendar formats, so it’s an interesting way to learn the Martian calendar. The Skywheel app from the same developer is worth checking out if you desire an equally simple view of the sky here on Earth.

Clean your Android with Clean Master.

Among the collection of apps I have on my Android phone are apps for cleaning my phone and optimizing its battery usage. Handling the rightful duties are DU Speed Booster and DU Battery Saver, both of which are excellent apps I recommend.

Then I saw ads on Facebook about Clean Master, supposedly the world’s most trusted app for phone optimization. Just out of curiosity I decided to try it out.

Compared to Speed Booster, Clean Master has more features. It reports how much storage space is left on your phone and intelligently scans for junk files for removal. One of the problems I kept having with Speed Booster was my Kindle e-book library disappearing after the trash files were purged. Eventually I figured how to add Kindle to the ignore list to keep this from happening. Clean Master on the other hand recognizes my e-book files and leaves them alone during its cleaning operations.

Clean Master has an interesting feature called Phone Cooler that alerts you when your phone’s running too hot and terminates some background apps to reduce the load on your phone. It also alerts you when apps are restarting too many times or causing your phone to lag so you can easily resolve those issues as well. Overall I found this to be an impressive app that seems to have earned its popular reputation.

I also tried out Battery Doctor to see how it compares to Battery Saver. Both apps are virtually identical in terminating those apps that drain the battery and displays the percentage of power remaining in the status bar.

I still prefer DU Speed Booster and Battery Saver and will continue using them. Both of those apps have worked well for me since day one and there’s no need for me to part with them now.

Back up your Android data.

I was browsing through the Google Play store in search of a utility that’s able to back up the data on my phone as I prepared to purchase a new phone as part of my move to a different mobile carrier. I was hoping to find something that would back up all my apps so I wouldn’t have to re-install them all on the new phone.

SyncDroid is one backup program I found, and although it doesn’t back up my apps, it does back up all my other data, including contacts, saved text messages and photos to my PC for easy transfer to the new phone.

The neat thing about SyncDroid is that it comes as both an Android app and a Windows program you can install on your PC. The two programs work together to transfer your phone data over your wireless network to a local folder on your PC.

But the neatness doesn’t stop there. The Android version of SyncDroid is also capable of backing up your data directly to your Dropbox, which is another reason why I find Dropbox so handy. Either way, you’ll never lose your phone data again.

A cool compass app.

Ever since concluding that having a compass on my phone would be a handy thing to have, I’ve been going down the list of compass apps at the Google Play Store in search of one I felt suited me best. Granted, all compass apps basically work the same, but there are some that give me a little more information than I need, such as GPS coordinates and magnitude levels of the magnetic field.

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Out of all the compass apps I’ve tried, I like the one from MacroPinch the best. It is by far the smoothest and best-looking compass of the bunch. It does operate a little differently from the other compasses as the digital degree readout corresponds to the direction the red needle is pointing. This tends to create a little confusion. When I point my phone west, the readout indicates the compass is facing east instead. I thought this was a bug, but it turns out this is by design. Maybe this will be fixed in a future release but I’m happy with this handy app just pointing me in the right direction.

A touch of Twilight.

Sometimes the coolest apps you download are the ones you weren’t even looking for.

Case in point: I was recently browsing the Google Play Store for some addictive games when I came across an app called Twilight. It caught my attention for a second and I nearly skipped it as I prepared to resume my quest for addictive gaming glory. Then my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give Twilight a try, and I’m certainly glad I did. It happens to be one of the coolest apps I have ever downloaded.

If you ever find yourself having trouble falling asleep, the bluish spectrum emanating from your phone’s screen may be to blame. According to the Twilight documentation, this bluish spectrum may interfere with your body’s natural rhythm and suppress the production of the Melatonin hormone that promotes healthy sleep.

Enter the Twilight app. It filters out this blue light and applies a soft and very pleasant red filter that promotes the production of Melatonin. Even better, the app can be set up to turn on this red filter after sunset so you won’t be bothered by it during the day.

I don’t use my phone before bedtime very often so I haven’t yet experienced its sleep-enhancing benefits, but I can already appreciate the way it reduces my phone’s brightness as not to hurt my eyes should I need to consult my phone while outside at night.

Here are some screenshots of Twilight in action. This is my phone’s main screen without Twilight running:

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And here’s the same screen enhanced by Twilight.

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Under normal lighting the second screen may look strange but when you’re in the dark, the reddish color effectively reduces the brightness and makes reading the screen much easier on the eyes.

Looks like I found another keeper.

Use your phone as a speedometer.

Cell phones can certainly do a lot nowadays. You can use them to browse the web, take pictures, play games and even make phone calls. It never even occurred to me that you can also use them as speedometers that measure your speed and distance.

I recently came across DigiHUD Speedometer which does just that. It uses your phone’s GPS to perform its magic and works so well that I’ve invested in a cell phone mount for my bike just so I can continue using it without my hanging on to my phone.

The only downside is that it uses your phone’s GPS and won’t work without it. Prior to embarking on my two-wheel venture I need to make sure that the GPS is on and that my phone can pick up the signal, which takes some time but the wait is worth it. This app is a real marvel.

Essential apps from DU Apps.

Recently I made the move to the 21st century and upgraded to an Android-based cell phone. Since then I’ve been having fun browsing the Google Play Store and trying out some of the apps I find of interest there. Some apps don’t stay installed for long as I tire of them quickly while others have proven themselves so useful I continue using them every day.

The apps from DU Apps Studio definitely fit in the Useful category. I have two of them installed, starting with the DU Speed Booster, which keeps your phone running in peak condition by cleaning up junk files, optimizing the RAM and terminating unnecessary processes that run in the background. It also has a built-in virus scanner that scans any apps you download and confirms they’re safe for use.

The virus scanner actually saved my phone once. I was downloading a silly app from the Google Play Store that claims to detect the presence of ghosts when Speed Booster intervened to inform me the app was malicious. I uninstalled it right away before it could do any harm. This was the one and only time I got such an alert from all the apps I’ve downloaded. I wonder how such an app even made it to Google Play in the first place.

Other cool features include easy access to the App Uninstaller and the Permission Manager that gives you control of what the apps can access on your phone. It’s scary to see how nosy a lot of them are.

The companion DU Battery Optimizer app maximizes your usage between charges. It terminates any power-hungry processes that drain your battery and helps you implement simple changes to your phone settings to prolong your battery’s life, such as turning off your Wi-Fi, adjusting the brightness and decreasing the idle time before the phone sleeps. It even calculates the additional usage time you gain as a result of these changes.

This app really opened my eyes as to what really goes on in my phone. Some of the apps quietly set themselves up to start when I turn on my phone while others start up by themselves to try connecting to the Internet, such as Dropbox and Evernote. None of them have any place to hide during the optimization process.

These are some serious quality apps that work wonders. They should come pre-installed on every phone.