A few days ago I got a Nexus 4, an excellent piece of mobile machinery. It’s got a big display, it’s light, thin and lightning fast. I think it’s the best mobile phone I’ve ever used. That said, there’s always a few things that I’d like to do that is not supported out of the box in Android 4.2.2, the mobile operating system the Nexus 4 is running. I’d mostly like to automate a few things, like turning on flight mode during the night, turning off Exchange synchronization outside of normal office hours and opening Spotify when I plug in a pair of headphones.
Here’s a list of applications that will help you to do all this and much, much more. Your imagination and the sensors in your phone are basically what limits you. Be aware that some of the applications listed below will not truly shine unless you root your phone. Rooting is a process that gives applications access to the inner workings of Android and thus enables you to control more or less every aspect of the operating system. It’s a fairly technical process to root your device and I would not recommend that you do it unless you really know your way around a computer. But if you’re interested in giving rooting a go, simply do a Google search and you should be able to find all the information you need to root your Android phone. If you have a Nexus 4, there’s a very good guide posted at XDA Developers that I used to root my own Nexus 4.
The applications listed will set you back a few bucks, but it’s totally worth it and by paying for the software you are supporting some very clever people and motivate them to create even better applications in the future. Without any further delay, here are the applications you need to supercharge your Android phone.
Tasker is the backbone of the automation tasks, and will orchestrate everything. All the other applications in this list are standalone applications but they can also be used as Tasker plugins. The list of what Tasker can do goes on and on and on even without any plugins installed, and it’s too long to list here. The UI is not exactly intuitive, but you’ll get the hang of it, and the creator is currently working on a beta version with a revamped user interface that conforms to the Android design guidelines. There are also a lot of good guides available that you can have a look at.
It’s possible both to buy the application directly from the creator and from Google Play. Personally, I would suggest the latter approach if you plan to use Tasker on more than one phone. It’s also a lot less hassle involved when you buy a new phone and want to use your license on that phone.
FolderSync is a great way to synchronize the files on your phone with online storage services. It currently supports multiple SkyDrive, Dropbox, SugarSync, Ubuntu One, Box.net, LiveDrive, HiDrive, Google Docs, NetDocuments, Amazon S3, FTP, FTPS, SFTP, WebDAV and windows share (Samba/CIFS) accounts. In other words; if you want the files on your Android phone to be synchronized with a cloud service or your personal FTP server, FolderSync can do it for you. I’m currently using it to automatically synchronize all the pictures I take with my phone to Google Drive.
FolderSync is not the only application that can do just that, but the beauty of FolderSync is that it turns up as a plugin in Tasker. This means that I can, for instance, configure Tasker to listen for a specially crafted SMS that triggers the camera to silently take a picture with the front facing camera and then use FolderSync to send it to a private FTP server. Great for taking pictures of anyone who might get their hands on my phone without my permission.
For some reason, Google decided to make a couple of changes to which features applications can turn on and off in Android 4.2. It’s no longer possible to turn on and off flight mode, for instance. I don’t know why they decided to do it and it’s a pretty lame idea, but so they did. Lucky for us, applications like Secure Settings can help us get back features Google decided to remove. Secure Settings is both a stand alone applications and a Tasker plugin, but I recommend that you use it with Tasker as a lot more options are available that way. Among the many things Secure settings can do are airplane mode, airplane mode radios, toggle BT and enable/disable the keyguard.
Get Secure Settings from Google Play (the Pro version is purchased from the application)
Synker is an account synchronization widget and Tasker plugin, that allows you to synchronize all registered sync providers on-demand or “Force Sync/Sync All/Manual Sync/Sync Now”. I use this to stop my phone from synchronizing work related Exchange accounts outside of normal office hours. Not only will it prevent you from getting all stressed out about an e-mail from work that probably can wait until tomorrow, it will also save you a little battery to turn off the e-mail synchronization.
Get Synker from Google Play (the unlock key that enables it as a Tasker plugin is purchased from the application)
So there you have it, a couple of great applications to turn your great Android phone into an amazing phone.