written by: Alan Jones•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 6/1/2011
There was a time when you just made calls and sent texts from your phone, maybe even took some pictures. Then you got a smartphone and you could go on the Internet and check your e-mail, but that's not all you can do now, so let's take a look at some of the more unusual Android apps.
slide 1 of 11
Designed to save you carrying around a load of reward/store cards, Key Ring allows you to scan those cards and keep them all on your phone. Simply use the built in barcode reader to scan your card, then bring up that barcode when you need to present it. It also works for non-barcode cards (with magnetic strips), but for those it just allows you to enter the number, which will then need to be manually entered by a presumably slightly disgruntled cashier. If you are interested then read a full review of Key Ring. You might also be interested in CardStar.
Phone screens have gotten larger, but the standard launcher installed on your phone has probably still got a 4x4 icon layout. There are many third party launchers you can install to increase the number of icons you can fit on the screen, but they still take up the same amount of space. If you bought a bigger monitor for your computer, you'd use a higher resolution, and this is where LCD Density Changer comes in. You can use it to reduce the pixel density of your screen to give the appearance of a higher resolution. Make sure you test any changes you make before setting them permanently though.
PhoneMyPC allows you to access your PC when you're away from home. You'll need to download the free software from their website and set up a username and password. Then you can run the app on your phone and control your computer from wherever you are (as long as you've got some sort of network connection). If you don't have a very fast connection, there are some options to reduce the graphical quality and it can be a bit fiddly to scroll around a huge monitor on a tiny screen, but in the right circumstances, this unusual Android app can be a lifesaver.
Radio Time allows you to stream live radio from anywhere in the world to your Android phone. It has a wide range of search and browsing functions, so if you know exactly what station you want to listen to or if you just want a station that offers a particular genre of music or topic of conversation, you should be able to find something that suits your needs quite easily. Read more about the best Android radio apps.
Tasker is an unusual Android app that has a wide range of uses. Basically, you can use it to make your phone do certain things at certain times, or when you're in a certain place, or even when your phone does something else. For example, you can get it to turn your Wi-Fi off when you leave the house, or turn the volume down when you're at work, or at night. The possibilities seem limited by your imagination, and it might be worth visiting the developer's website, where you can download a free trial (and buy the full version for less than on the market). Read our guide on how to use Android Tasker.
Like the website of the same name, this unusual Android app describes itself as a "computational knowledge engine". Basically, you type in anything you can think of (on the apps' own keyboard) and Wolfram Alpha will give you as much information as it can about what you've searched for. So if you entered a calculation, the app would present you with the answer in as many ways as it could. Enter a place name, and it will give you information like the population and current temperature. If you are interested, then read about getting the most out of Wolfram Alpha Search Engine.
Formerly known as xArchive, this not-so-catchily titled app links to your GMail account and uses it to back up your SMS, MMS and Photos (or whichever you tell it to). You can't restore the messages back to your phone, but it's a great way to keep track of them on your computer, as well as automatically backing up your photos so you don't run the risk of losing them.
Good Morning is an alarm clock app with a difference. You can be woken up by a greeting, by the date and time, your calendar entries for the day, or even the weather. There's also an option to write some custom text, so you can leave yourself a note for the morning. There is a snooze option, and you can set an optional maths task before it will let you snooze (although I'm not sure of the point in making you wake up before letting you go back to sleep). The link below takes you to the free version, but you'll need to buy the pro-key to unlock the calendar and multiple alarm options.
If you do a lot of traveling, then this unusual Android app can help you if you often find yourself in places with no signal. It automatically turns off your cell radio after a set period with no signal to save your battery. Obviously, you should remember to set it up so that it will come back on again when you're in an area with a good signal, otherwise you might miss an important call.
The last of our unusual Android apps is SwiFTP, that presents one solution of how to get files to and from your phone without a USB cable. This app starts an FTP server on your phone, so you can use any FTP client on your computer to connect and browse your files. If you're not on the same network as your computer, then you can still route the traffic through a proxy server. Read more about the best filesharing apps for Android.