The power of an Android phone or tablet already makes a desktop PC,or even a laptop, seem a little old-fashioned--but you can enhanceyour smartphone or tablet even more. Here are six applications thatallow you to use your desktop computer to get more functionality,and more fun, from your Android device. DoubleTwist You can complain all you want about the closed nature of Apple'ssoftware, but you can't deny that the marriage of iTunes and iOS isas cohesive as it gets. This desktop-mobile connection is missingfrom the Android experience--until you install DoubleTwist. |
Once you install this free desktop application, it automaticallyfinds the music, photos, and videos you have stored on yourcomputer (yes, even those in your existing iTunes library) andorganizes them for you, letting you browse your collection byartist, album, playlist, and more in its tidy interface. You cansync these multimedia files to and from your Android device viaUSB. A companion mobile app lets you play back multimedia files on yourAndroid device; upgrading to the AirSync app ($5) adds wireless syncing. MobileGo DoubleTwist offers a complete package if you're looking to syncmultimedia files between your phone and your desktop.
But if you'dlike to sync contacts and more, MobileGo is the desktop app for you. It runs on Windows PCs only and costs$40 for the full version, which is a bit much when you considerthat both iTunes and DoubleTwist are free. (The free demo versionof MobileGo allows basic syncing between your Android device andyour Windows PC.) Shelling out those (relatively) big bucks for the full version addssome useful features, such as the ability to sync Outlook contactsto your phone, plus the ability to convert audio and video filesinto Android-supported formats before transferring them to yourmobile device. If you have a collection of multimedia files amassedfrom various sources, this conversion feature will soon proveindispensable when you wish to make those files mobile-friendly.
B-Folders 3 B-Folders 3 is something of an all-in-one tool for businesspeople looking tokeep data secure, both on and off their Android devices. It's apassword manager, a contact manager, a task manager, and a bookmarkmanager. But that's not all: B-Folders also serves as a journal anda notepad, and it uses a treelike folder structure designed to makeorganizing any kind of data easy. The assortment of features is just one half of B-Folders' appeal;the other is its security.
B-Folders uses a "government-grade256-bit AES cipher." The $30 desktop version runs on Windows, Mac,and Linux PCs, while the free Android version works on devicesrunning version 1.6 or higher of the mobile OS. B-Folders lets you share information securely between multiplecomputers and mobile devices, but the company does not rely oncloud services to do so; instead, it uses a peer-to-peer formatthat automatically detects and syncs any changes. AirDroid AirDroid is actually a mobile app, not a desktop program. But once youinstall AirDroid on your Android phone, your desktop is all youneed. This app allows you to take complete control of your Androiddevice via your computer's Web browser.
When you launch the app onyour phone, it gives you a link and passcode that you enter on yourcomputer in order to complete the connection. This was the hardest part of using the app for me: When I tested itwith Internet Explorer, my connection kept terminating abruptly.When I switched my browser to Google Chrome, though, I had noproblems. Once the connection is established, you can useAirDroid's slick Web interface to transfer files between yourcomputer and phone; install, uninstall, or back up your collectionof Android apps; share clipboard text between your computer andphone; organize contacts; check and delete call logs; upload anddownload ringtones; upload, download, and play music; and receive,send, forward, or delete SMS messages. And, with a QuickTime plug-in installed, you can even play backvideos that you recorded on your Android device. Let's face it: Ifonly you could you use AirDroid to make voice calls, you mightnever to go back to using that 4-inch phone screen again.
Android Notifier If you're trying to get work done on your computer, your phone canbe a big distraction. The more you glance at it to see whether youhave any new messages or any missed calls, the less you get done. Android Notifier to the rescue: This mobile-desktop app combination lets you stayfocused on your computer without missing important notificationsfrom your Android phone. To use it, you install the mobile component on your phone (you'llfind it in Google Play as "Remote Notifier for Android") and putthe desktop version on your Mac, Linux, or Windows PC.
On yourphone, you control the settings, deciding which events you'd liketo see notifications for. Options include phone ringing, SMS, MMS,battery status, voicemail, and notifications from third-party apps.You also indicate whether you'd like your notifications to beencrypted, and whether to send them via IP/Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.Then, you put that phone away and get to work. When an event occurs on your phone, Android Notifier displays asubtle pop-up from your computer's system tray. It shows you thecontact name and the number of incoming calls and the text ofincoming messages, allowing you to decide whether the item isimportant enough to warrant interrupting your work.
Lookout Mobile Security Okay, Lookout Mobile Security is more of a mobile app than a desktop program. But once youinstall this free security tool on your Android device (and youshould, as it's one of the best-rated Android security apps ), be sure to fire up your desktop browser and log in with yourfree Lookout account. Then, you can use your Web browser to back upyour contacts and, perhaps more important, track and locate yourphone or tablet if it's ever lost or stolen. In my casual tests, its location tracking was impressivelyaccurate: It located my phone to within a yard of the device'sactual hiding spot.
Upgrading to a premium account ($30 per year)adds other remote security features, including the ability to backup pictures and call history, as well as a remote locking andwiping function that can keep your phone's sensitive data safe fromprying eyes.
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