Wednesday, May 4, 2011 “Cool Websites and Tools [May 3rd]” plus 10 more “Cool Websites and Tools [May 3rd]” plus 10 more

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Cool Websites and Tools [May 3rd]

Posted: 03 May 2011 08:31 PM PDT

Check out some of the latest MakeUseOf discoveries. All listed websites are FREE or come with a decent free account option. You can make use of them without spending a dime. If you want to have similar cool websites round-ups delivered to your email daily email subscribe here.

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Swiffout – Do you whine every time you can't play a flash game because it lags too much? Classic games like Pacman and Desktop Tower Defense offer great entertainment if it wasn't for the sluggish Flash that drives them. If you can't stop playing these flash games, then you should try Swiffout. Read more: Swiffout: Play Flash Games In Full Screen & Without Lag [Chrome]


Paperlinks – QR codes are becoming increasingly popular. All a person has to do is scan the QR code, and they can be taken to the corresponding URL. Here to make use of the popularity of QR codes is a service that lets you market your product or service to the smartphone user: Paperlinks. Read more: Paperlinks: Create A Mini-Website With A QR Code & Reach Out To Smartphone Owners



PicAFight – Instagram, a simple yet amazing iPhone app, has changed the social photo scene forever. Pictures are now way cooler than they ever appeared before. PicAFight uses these amazing Instagram pictures and compares them against each other, asking you to vote for the one you like the best. Read more: PicAFight: Vote On Cool Pics From Instagram



TutorHub – Unlike, hundreds of other tutoring websites that use traditional methods. TutorHub takes a different approach to tutoring. The website gives tutoring a social touch by turning every question or problem into a separate topic and allowing other students and tutors to post answers to the problem. Read more: TutorHub: Get & Give Tutions With a Social Twist



Paper Plane Project – If you are a sucker for folding paper planes, then here's a great app for you. Paper Plane Project HD is an iPad app that teaches you how to create different kinds of paper planes. With the help of their step-by-step folding instructions and video, you can recreate special paper planes that fly. Read more: Paper Plane Project: Learn How To Make Paper Planes (iPad)


These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.

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The 15 Toughest Tech Questions [MakeUseOf Answers]

Posted: 03 May 2011 06:31 PM PDT

tough questionMakeUseOf Answers needs your help again with the toughest questions that haven’t been solved, yet. What’s in it for you? A chance to win!

The Best Answer of the Week is rewarded with $50 and two runners-up win $30 and $20, respectively. Every comment automatically enters the contest. Just make sure we can contact you in case you win.

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The Top 5 Websites To Follow The Latest iPhone Rumors

Posted: 03 May 2011 04:31 PM PDT

iphone rumorsFor the most part, I’m a fan of Apple and what their gadgets are capable of, especially their iPhone. I know a lot of people that have iPhones and as soon as I am free from my contract and ready to upgrade, I will too. But when I do finally take the plunge and join the rest of the iPhone elite, I don’t want it to be one of those outdated iPhone 4′s that everyone has. I’m thinking iPhone 5 and beyond.

There have been a lot of iPhone rumors circulating in recent months, specifically about what the iPhone 5 will be capable of and, regardless of whether or not they’re all true, it should be something to watch out for. There are plenty of websites out there devoted to proving or disproving the rumors, so whether news leaks of the new iPhone getting a bigger screen, mobile payment abilities, or even a quicker release date, you can stay on top of it.

1. MacRumors

MacRumors/iPhone is a great source for anything iPhone related. You can find the latest information on everything from the white iPhone 4 that just came out to the most recent processor rumored to be in the upcoming iPhone 5.

iphone rumors

Most of the information you’ll find on this website is cited from credible blogs and news sources as well, which is good because you’ll know that it’s being reported from somewhere rather than just made up on the spot.

2. iSmashPhone

new iphone rumors

iSmashPhone is another great news resource for all things iPhone. Similar to MacRumors, iSmashPhone reports daily on the latest iPhone rumors and cites sources of information as well as images used in its stories. They will tell you when they think something is a bit over-exaggerated and try to present you with only the facts as they see fit, which is exactly what I’m looking for.

3. TiPb

new iphone rumors

TiPb is a centralized place where you can learn all about the iPhone. They have a page dedicated to the current models listed on the market, but if you scroll down on their iPhone page you will see all of the latest news and rumors like you would on the above mentioned websites.

4. iPhoneFreak

new iphone rumors

iPhoneFreak is more app-heavy than a lot of the other sites on this list, which is why I moved it a bit further down, but you can still find news and announcements here. No matter what you’re looking for, you should be able to find it here.

5. iPhone Hacks

iphone rumors

iPhone Hacks has a lot of information about things you can get for and do to your iPhone, but they also have a nice Rumors page for you to follow the latest gossip. It’s not the prettiest of sites out there, but the information is pretty solid.


If you’re interested in everything iPhone, also be sure to check out our underground iPhone guide.

Are you as excited as I am about the new iPhone coming out? I haven’t decided whether or not I’ll go for the iPhone 5 this year (hopefully September, if not sooner!) or hold off until the iPhone 6 makes an appearance (rumored early 2012), but one thing’s for sure, I’ll be following the news well before then so I can make an educated decision.

What sources do you use to keep track of all the latest iPhone rumors?

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Two Simple Ways To Disable Ping In iTunes [Mac & Windows]

Posted: 03 May 2011 02:31 PM PDT

itunes pingAs we’ve noted on many occasions, iTunes is a program many of us use out of necessity rather than desire. Despite its many uses, iTunes has a plethora of niggling annoyances which most users would be happy to remove. Here at MakeUseOf, we’re happy to share what we know in order to make that possible for you.

We’re always looking for hacks and fixes to everyday iTunes problems and listening to iTunes users to see what they’re still troubled with. Since Ping is one of the newer features in iTunes, Apple is only just realising that many people have legitimate reasons to want to turn it off. So it’s understandable that few people have worked out the best ways to disable the feature yet. Thankfully, it’s quite easy to disable Ping in two very effective ways.

Ping is essentially a social network within iTunes. It allows you to share details of your iTunes purchases, favourite music and any reviews of albums that you care to make. Itunes Ping also allows you to receive social recommendations for music based on what your friends like and what you’ve purchased. For many people, this is just a bit of fun. But, for others this is something they don’t want available for themselves or their children. Not everyone wants to automatically share their purchases with the world, which is what occurs in Ping when you buy through the iTunes store.

itunes ping

Recently we have discussed how to make the iTunes window size control buttons horizontal rather than vertical, talked through the process of moving an iTunes library to an external drive, shown how to use Applescript to instantly play your favourite playlist from a keyboard shortcut, featured how to automatically add downloaded music to iTunes, explained how to use Genius playlists, found great ways to remove duplicates from iTunes, documented the best ways to troubleshoot iTunes issues, written a PDF manual on iTunes and we’ve answered many more questions about iTunes from readers. Today it’s Ping’s turn to be fixed.

Please note that we’re showing screenshots from a Mac iTunes install, but these tricks will work equally well for Windows users.

1. Disable Ping Via Parental Controls

Disabling Ping via parental controls is something that will only be in effect on this specific installation and user account, therefore it is only a temporary fix. This can also only be done using the newer releases of iTunes – even version 10.0.1 was unable to disable Ping this way. Upgrade if you like, or simply use option two instead.

how to opt out of ping on itunes

Go to iTunes > Preferences and click on Parental Controls. In the list of options for services to disable, check the Ping checkbox and save. If you’re disabling Ping in order to protect your children from using it, obviously you should ensure the Parental settings are locked also.

how to opt out of ping on itunes

As you can see, Ping is no longer available in the left hand sidebar.

how to opt out of ping on itunes

2. Disable Ping Via iTunes Account

This is a more permanent solution to disabling Ping. By choosing to disable this way, you effectively remove yourself from the Ping network and delete all user activity you may have previously made. The permanent deletion of activity occurs after you have disabled Ping for seven days, so you have a little leeway to change your mind if you like. Reviews will remain associated with your name unless you deliberately delete them in the Manage Reviews section of your account. Don’t worry about it too much, though. If you decide later to enable Ping, iTunes will immediately populate your account with details of your purchase history if you want it to.

Use the left-hand sidebar to navigate to the iTunes store. On the far right of the store, you’ll see access to your account controls in both the quick links and a drop-down menu below your name. Click on “Account“.

ping on itunes

You’ll then need to verify your account details and click on “Account Info“.

ping on itunes

There’s a section dedicated to Ping, where you can edit your Ping profile and turn Ping off – click “Turn Off“.

ping on itunes

You’ll also need to verify that request.

Further down the page, there’s an option to manage “Recommendations and Ping Posting“. You’ll also want to turn this off to avoid future annoyances from Ping when making purchases from iTunes.

itunes ping

You’re done! No more Ping!

Will you be disabling iTunes Ping? Which method will you use and why? Let us know in the comments!

Image Credit: ShutterStock

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Hot Tech Deals – Hitachi X-Series 3TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive for $129.99 + more

Posted: 03 May 2011 01:30 PM PDT

Today, we’ve got the Hitachi X-Series 3TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive for a low $129.99, Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB Internal SATA 6Gbps Hard Drive $59.99 with free shipping, lots of Dell discounts and other random items.

For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.

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  3. Rosewill RNX-N4PS 802.11n Wireless N Router w/ 3 External Antenna + Power Strip $39.99
  4. Yamaha RX-V867 7.2ch 92W/ch 3D Networked AV Receiver $464.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKEKG62 (Exp 5/9)
  5. Toshiba 32SL400U 32in LED-Backlit LCD HDTV (720p) $349 Free Shipping via code EMCKEKG63 (Exp 5/9)
  6. Hitachi X-Series 3TB USB 2.0 External Hard Drive $129.99 Free Shipping
  7. Microsoft Xbox 360 4GB Kinect Bundle w/ $50 Newegg Gift Card $299.99 Free Shipping
  8. Dell XPS 8300 Intel Core i5-2400 3.1GHz Quad-Core Sandy Bridge Desktop w/ 22 LCD $799 via code LM?BF7P$FR9KCK and HLSKSR06S9ZG0F (Exp Soon)
  9. Western Digital Caviar Blue 1TB Internal SATA 6Gbps Hard Drive $59.99 Free Shipping via code EMCKEKG23 (Exp 5/9)

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10 Animation Blogs On The Web That Inform, Teach, & Inspire

Posted: 03 May 2011 12:31 PM PDT

animation blogThis post has been inspired by a child sitting in front of the television who refuses to budge while her favorite animation show plays on. Some years back that was me and perhaps you. The enduring magic of animation has caught our imagination and made childhood a fantasy world.

Wikipedia tells me that the first animation film was made way back in 1917. We perhaps link the history of animation more with Walt Disney. Even then, from the days of Snow White to today's cutting edge CGI powered flicks like Avatar, the world of animation creates a fantasy bubble which lately adults too have found captivating.

But what's rendered on the screen takes hours of toil and painstaking detailing. Let's see what happens behind the scenes with the help of these top animation blogs that also give pointers to anyone who wants to learn about the art of animation.

Cartoon Brew

animation blog

This animation blog takes a look at the industry as a whole and covers animation news, views and lots of teasers too. Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi are a duo of animation historians with a really good hold on what happens in the world of animation.

ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive

animation blog sites

Currently, it has gone into a bit of a temporary limbo because of lack of funding, but this long-standing animation resource deserves a spot because it's a rich source of historical information on animation. The archive is especially useful for students who can see how animation and animators have developed the craft over the years.

Animation World Network

animation blog sites

The Animation World Network is the largest animation-related publishing group on the Internet. The site and its network of other animation related websites cover the industry in depth bringing you everything from news to lessons. The free blogging service – Animation Blogspot is also a must follow for animation buffs.

TAG Blog

animation blog sites

The daily updated blog is an opinion piece that brings together interviews and news from the animation industry. It is a front row show as the voices belong to the members of The Animation Guild.

Animated Views

best animation blogs

The informative animation site has a community and a cool contest corner. Throw in news, reviews, retrospectives, and interviews and you get a model of a well rounded animation website. The site's focus is more on animation in media.

11 Second Club

best animation blogs

If you like to stick with contests, then the monthly character animation competition on this website could be worth a look. You have to download an audio file and then take a month to animate a character performing the line, using whatever acting you feel fits the audio best. Feedback from your peers can help to make you a better animator and perhaps you can win the cool prizes while you are on the learning curve.


best animation blogs

This simple and neat Tumblr blog is not only about animation as such, but you can get inspired with the showcase of cartoons, illustrations, comic art, and animations on display. You can also contribute your own work or something that has inspired you.

Animation Physics

Physics and animation? If you thought you could leave that subject back in school then let this blog and the companion wiki change your mind. Its physics that will help you define the range of motions as you go about animating objects. The lessons on the site should be a great help to teach you all about realistic motion.

Animation Tips & Tricks

As the name says, this blog teaches you all about the insider tricks that go into creating great animation. Animation professionals like Industrial Light & Magic animator Shawn Kelly among a host of others teach you the philosophy behind animation. The lessons extend back to 2008, so do check the archives too.

All About Animation

animation blog

The animation blog revolves around podcasts that seek to inspire, inform, and entertain. The blog is run by a trio of animators from my own country (India). It is neatly designed and also contains information on the 'master class' they run to teach aspiring animators. The blog seems to be a bit dormant now.

Out of the hundreds of animation blogs out there, these are just ten. You will find a few more core animation links in the blog rolls these ones have. Over the years we also have covered some cool free animation apps which can help you spark your creativity. Which are your favorite animation blogs? Get animated and leave a link in the comments.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

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Speck SeeThru SATIN Case for MacBook Air Giveaway Winners

Posted: 03 May 2011 11:30 AM PDT

Woah, we’re preparing for our 100,000 Facebook fans our MacBook Air giveaway is heating up! And you know you’re going to need one of these lovely cases from Speck to spice up your new MacBook Air!

Here are the five lucky winners.

  1. Sean O’Neill
  2. Adlai Alers
  3. Jeff Kushner
  4. Jon Paulson
  5. Folla Ajasha

Congratulations! You have been sent an email from @makeuseof confirming your prize and requesting for shipping information. Please reply that email within in the next 48 hours.

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Malware Disguised As Antivirus Targets Mac Users [News]

Posted: 03 May 2011 11:20 AM PDT

A bogus version of the MacDefender antivirus application has recently fooled many Apple Mac OSX users into downloading and installing the malware on their computers. The fake antivirus, called MAC Defender, specifically targets Mac users using the Safari browser.

The virus infects people via an SEO poisoning attack, meaning that web searches for popular topics may return a malicious link at the top of the search results. In this case, when users click on this link they see a website with a fake Windows screen and a scan result saying their computer is infected. Then Javascript within the page will download the fake antivirus installer as a compressed .zip file.

The malware installer automatically opens for browser users who choose to automatically open ‘safe’ files they trust – this is Safari’s default setting. The first step in avoiding this malware and future similar attacks is to disable this function in Safari and other browsers you may use. Go to Preferences and uncheck the option to automatically open ‘safe’ files.

The virus deceives the user into installing the program. Users need to enter the administrator password and authorise the installation, but by this stage many users are already fooled into believing the software is legitimate.

Once infected, users are asked for credit card details to pay for the antivirus software to continue providing protection. Only users who enter their details here will have their credit card details compromised.

To remove the MAC Defender malware, follow these simple steps:

  • First visit Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor and stop all instances of the MacDefender program or similarly named items.
  • Delete all instances of MacDefender from Library > StartupItems, Library > LaunchAgents and Library > LaunchDaemons to ensure the application doesn’t re-open.
  • Revisit Applications and delete the application.
  • Check your recent downloads and delete the .zip file and application.
  • Run a Spotlight check to remove any other references to MacDefender.
  • Empty your trash.

Makers of the original MacDefender antivirus program have released a statement about the virus on their website:

“A few days ago a new malicious software for the Macintosh named MAC Defender surfaced. Of course, this site has nothing to do with this software, it is more like a Mac version of the PC Defenders. It is strongly recommended to NOT install this software and to disable the option for automatically opening ‘safe’ files in your browser.”Mac Defender Official Site.

For more detailed, technical information and screenshots of this malware, read this Intego Security Memo and Sophos update regarding the issue.

Apple Macintosh users usually see themselves as safe against viruses online, yet this virus uses social engineering and deception to gain the permissions required to install itself on the computer. Users who install the program believe it is the original MacDefender antivirus software, yet unwittingly unleash the virus themselves.

Source: TheNextWeb

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Organize & Manage Your Firefox Open Tabs With Tab Groups

Posted: 03 May 2011 10:31 AM PDT

manage firefox tab groupsHow many tabs do you open in each browsing session? Five? Ten? Above fifty? Tabs might be one of the best features added to browsers, but some might argue that it’s also one of the worst.

It’s very easy to lose yourself amidst stacks of open tabs. The more tabs you open, the more difficult it is to keep track of them and to move between opened sites. Mozilla has tried to solve the tabs problem by adding a new feature called “Tab Groups” to the latest version of its popular Firefox browser.

Manage Firefox Tab Groups

To access this feature, click the small arrow on the very right of the open tabs (next to the “+” button). You’ll see Tab Groups above the list of sites currently open. You can also access the feature by using the shortcut key combination (Control + Shift + E for Windows or Command + Shift + E for Mac).

manage firefox tab groups

Activating Tab Groups will put Firefox into the “Group Your Tabs” view with all of your tabs stacked inside one container. You can give the tab group a name by clicking on the “pencil” icon at the top left corner of the group window. To add a new tab to the group, click the “+” button.

manage firefox tab

As the name suggests, the “Expand” button will expand the group window and display a preview of all the tabs inside. This feature is useful if you want to quickly see what’s inside a specific page. You can also close a tab by clicking the “X” button.

manage firefox tab

You can also peek inside a page by resizing the group window. If you only have a small number of open tabs inside the group, the result will be similar to the “Expand” feature. But for bigger groups, you’ll get better previews using Expand.

manage firefox tab

If one of the groups has grown too big, you can split the group into smaller groups. Drag a tab out of a group to make a new group, or drag another tab on top of the new group to expand the group.

firefox tab groups

You can group tabs based on as many categories that you want, such as design, download, Linux, Mac, Windows, social, work, fun, gossip, news, etc. Clicking on one of the tabs in a group will open the tabs in that group in the normal browsing mode.

Arranging The Groups

Normal browser users with lots of open tabs will easily end up with several tab groups. But if you think your group area will be messy, you are wrong. The grouping feature comes with the ability to snap the group windows into grids. The grids are aligned to other windows.

firefox tab groups

You can neatly arrange the windows next to one another. Every time you bring two windows closer together, faint alignment lines will appear and you can ”snap” the window to the lines.

firefox tab groups

Another neat ability of this feature is “Search“. Click the magnifying glass icon and enter your search terms. All of the area will be darkened and pages that match your search will be highlighted.

For example, I entered “answer” in the search field and the MakeUseOf Answers page is highlighted.

manage firefox tab groups

One Simple Quick Trick

What’s the advantage of using Tab Groups other than having your open tabs neatly arranged into groups? I found that this feature allows me to move between tabs quickly and easily using shortcut keys. Here’s how to do it:

  • From the normal browsing view, hit the Tab Groups shortcut key combination (Ctrl + Shift + E or Command + Shift + E).
  • Then navigate to the page that you want to open using keyboard arrow keys (Up-Down-Left-Right).
  • With the page selected, hit the Tab Group shortcut keys again to go back to the normal browsing view.

So if you are a tab junkie, the Firefox 4 Tab Groups feature will really help you improve your browsing experience. If you haven’t tried Tab Groups, now would be a good time to start. Then tell us what you think about the feature using the comments below.

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The 5 Coolest ‘Google Search Hacks’ You Probably Never Realized Existed

Posted: 03 May 2011 09:31 AM PDT

google search hacksIn a recent poll Angela asked Do You Think Google Search Results Suck? A shocking 171 votes, i.e. over 30% of voters said “Yes, they’re awful.” Subsequently, there was a hot debate in the comments whether Google’s results are close to perfect or rather full of spam and annoying ads.

Now the thing is search results are only as good as the query you enter! While there are many operands or search operators that the general crowd is aware of, such as quotes or some calculations, there are several cool Google search hacks and tricks that most people have never realized existed, let alone used consciously.

Visually Translate Foreign Words

You can use Google Translate to translate the meaning of a foreign word. Now what if it’s a word foreign only to you? Many technical terms cannot simply be translated to an ‘easy version’. To understand what they mean, however, you can search the term in Google Images and you may actually recognize the item.

For example do you know what a falcon tube is? If not, type images falcon tube into your Google search and have a look.

search hack

This strategy works well for anything that is a noun, such as the foreign language words sol, Apfel, or bouche. It doesn’t work for verbs or adjectives.

Take Search Shortcuts

Google is a smart search engine and provides shortcuts to a lot of information. For example if you would like to know what the local time is in France, rather than searching for a site that reveals the timezone and painfully doing the math yourself, you can just type ‘time in france’ and Google will tell you the answer straight away.

search hack

This trick also works for weather, sports scores, calculations, unit or currency conversions, movie showtimes, flight or parcel tracking, and a lot more. You can find a comprehensive list on Google’s Search Features page. Some shortcuts are also highlighted in this article: 9 Cool Google Search Shortcuts You Should Know About.

Search For The Unknown

Sometimes you may not be quite sure about the best query for your search. Maybe you don’t know the exact wording, don’t want to exclude synonyms, or simply want to find a similar website to the one you’re currently viewing. Google provides specific search operators for these cases: the wildcard (*), synonym (~), and related (related:url) operators.

You can use the wildcard to replace a random word or even several words. Example: “he who * throw stone” to find “he who is without sin throw the stone.”

The synonym operator will obviously find words synonymous to the one marked with the respective search operator. Example: ~travel destination will also find results for tourist destination, tourism destination, holiday destination, flight destination, and more.

Using the related:url search operator, you can find websites that are similar to the respective URL. Example: will find PC Magazine, Lifehacker, Major Geeks, CNET’s Download page, and StumbleUpon, among others.

search engine hacks

There is a thorough article covering this point here: 3 Google Tricks When You Don't Know What to Search For.

Search For Faces Only

There is another Google image search trick that involves face search. Many names are ambiguous and will return a range of results. For example Rose or Violet will generally return pictures of flowers or colors, rather than people. To filter for faces add this bit of code to the end of your search result: &imgtype=face

search engine hacks

Browse Unavailable Pages Using Google Cache

Google collects website data and temporarily stores entire websites in its cache. So the next time you find that your favorite website is down or blocked, try to access it via Google’s cache and bridge the time until you can access it again.

Just type cache:url and the latest available snapshot of the page will be presented.

google search hacks

Do you need your Google search to be even more useful? Find more tips and tricks in these articles:

For even more tips and tricks, check out the Google Guide.

Did you learn a new trick today? Or did I forget to mention your favorite Google search hack? Feel free to add it in the comments!

Image credits: Sean Gladwell

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5 Cool Android Apps That Will Impress Your Friends

Posted: 03 May 2011 08:31 AM PDT

cool android appsSmartphones are cool. That's a given. Not all smartphones are equally cool, however – even when the hardware is the same. The apps that you install on your smartphone can turn it into a non-stop awesome train.

This is particularly true for Android, as Google is very liberal about the apps that can be placed onto the marketplace. You'll find all manner of unusual apps for your Android phone. Exploration is part of the fun, but there are some very cool Android apps that you can rely on while tailoring your custom collection of cool.

Carrr Matey

cool android apps

Most Android phones ship with some nice geolocation apps already installed. At the very least you should have access to the Google Maps app. It's a great way to show off the geolocation capabilities of your phone, but on the other hand, it's a bit mundane. Everyone knows what Google Maps is and has used it before.

A cooler way to show off your phone's capabilities is Carrr Matey. The next time you park in a busy mall lot, a concert, or anywhere else you might “lose” your car, just whip out this app. It marks the location of your car, so you can find it later, and does it all with a pirate theme.

Google Goggles

really cool apps for android

One of the coolest emerging technologies focusing on the smartphone is augmented reality. The idea is that you can use your phone's camera as a window into an augmented world where your surroundings are enhanced by information drawn from the web. Ideally, you could read a restaurant's menu by taking a photo of it as you pass by, or browse the inventory of a store as you walk by it.

We're not quite there yet, but there are some cool steps in that direction, and Google Goggles is one of them. You can use this app to take photos of real objects, and you will then be given a relevant search suggestion. Taking a photo of a Starbucks cup, for example, brings up the Starbucks website.

Frankly, search via text is faster and more specific, but this app is plenty awesome, occasionally useful, and provides a brief glimpse of the future.

Light Grid

really cool apps for android

The idea of adding “wallpaper” to a device using a GUI is decades old now, but it's not without room for improvement. One frequent complaint is the static nature of wallpaper. Considering the capabilities of modern hardware, why shouldn't the wallpaper be more dynamic?

Live wallpapers are exactly that. Most Android phones come with some stock live wallpapers, and they're great. But the ones that will really impress onlookers are on the Android Marketplace. My favorite is Light Grid, a configurable wallpaper based on a grid of multi-colored tiles (or other shapes, if you buy the Pro version) that move and shift randomly and also respond to your touch.

Of course, live wallpapers like Light Grid do tend to consume your phone's processor. You may experience performance issues or a reduction in battery life. You might want to leave those issues out of your demonstration.

Metal Detector

really cool apps for android

Android phones include the ability to detect magnetic fields – that's how the compasses found in some apps work. This ability can also be used for other ends, however, such as detecting metal.

There are a few apps out there that allow you to use your Android phone as a metal detector, but the aptly named Metal Detector app is the best free option. You're not going to find sunken treasures, but you can detect metal within a few inches of the device. It's great for finding coins in couch cushions and performing weapon inspections on friends. You may want to ask for permission first, though.


cool android apps

Time to geek out! Tricorder isn't just an app with a clever name. It does exactly what you'd expect – turn your Android into a Tricorder from Star Trek. It looks particularly impressive on Android phones with large displays.

Although mostly meant for laughs, Tricorder isn't entirely a gimmick. It does provide useful information about signal strength, geolocation, WiFi networks in range, and even ambient noise. It's more efficient to use widgets for this info, but Tricorder is much cooler – to some people, at least.  Check out Ryan’s review of it back in January last year.


I'm not going to act as if this is some definitive list of cool Android apps. There are over 100,000 apps on the marketplace, so I can't possibly list all the cool ones here. But I'm sure you, dear readers, can help name a few more in the comments.  Which Android apps come under your definition of “cool”?

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