Top 10 NZ Android Apps

That is, the top 10 NZ Android apps as judged and used by me!

Since I last posted a bunch of  New Zealand apps, lots of new ones have been released – some of which I’ve grabbed and use frequently. Here’s the 2012 list of my favourite NZ Android Apps…

MetService

Firstly, a disclaimer – I work at MetService! That said, the MetService app is fantastic and I use it every day. The app is focused on city forecasts with up to the minute current conditions overlayed on beautiful background photos to match the forecast. You can also view warnings, live radar imagery, rainfall maps or spot forecast data, MetServiceTV videos and traffic cams. And if you want to customise the app a little, you can set your own background photos then brag to the world by sharing your personalised forecast. 🙂

  

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Stuff.co.nz

Stuff remains my goto site for news and afaik the app hasn’t changed since I last posted about it. The default section remains “top stories” (which can’t be changed) but it is easy to get to the menu to swap to another section. When viewing an article, swipe left or right to navigate through that section. While the app is free, you can expect little banner ads mixed into the article list. My only real gripe is that it doesn’t have the “pull down to refresh” action – instead the refresh button is hidden in the menu (could easily be a button on the top menu bar).

  

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My Account – Vodafone NZ

Vodafone have made a nice job of this app – it presents everything I need to know about my account from current usage, to calling rates in both NZ and abroad along with other plan details. As you might expect it also lets you top up your account and has a handy store finder map in the event you need to visit a Vodafone retail store.

  

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PriceSpy

Great for the tech enthusiasts out there, or anyone about to buy some computer hardware, electronics, games, gadgets or devices! Before purchasing, I always use PriceSpy to get a roundup of prices from many retailers to ensure I’m getting the best deal. The app has a few ways of getting to a product listing – either via searching for a specific item, browsing categories, or scanning a barcode.

  

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Trade Me

The Trade Me app is new since I last composed an apps list around a year ago and following a few updates it now has most of the features people were looking for in early releases. There are plenty of options for both buyers and sellers including searching and browsing, watchlists, bidding, listing items, asking/answering questions, providing feedback etc. And to ensure you don’t miss out on that next bargin, the app also has push notifications for items closing soon, when you’re outbid or have a fixed price offer to review.

  

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Flicks.co.nz

Flicks.co.nz is a New Zealand movie guide with info, reviews and trailers for current and upcoming movies. As you might expect, you can also get session times per movie in your local area, or you can browse all movies screening at a particular theatre in the next few days with theatre listings including contact info and a map. While the app is free, you will see some little banner ads at the bottom of each listing.

  

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GeoNet

This is another new app since my original list and is the official app from GeoNet using data from their Rapid (Beta) service which is automated and very fast following a quake. The app has options to let you filter quakes based on location or intensity and you can also change notification settings. In addition to a listing of recent quakes for your settings, you can also view quakes on a map with links through to the GeoNet website for for details.

(at time of writing the app appears to have a bug on Jelly Bean preventing scrolling and/or pulling up more info on the main quakes list. I’ve emailed GeoNet who will hopefully respond and/or fix it!
UPDATE, 20 Aug: Richard Guest, GeoNet Senior Software Engineer, has advised there is indeed a bug that is now scheduled for a fix with the next release. Yay!
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Wellington Airport Flight Info

This one is a simple app to view arrival/departure info for both domestic/international flights at Wellington. Handy if you need to drop off or collect someone to see if flights are running to schedule, but also to answer questions from kids when plane spotting! The app is free but plugs parking services with little banner ads interspersed with the flight info.

  

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Countdown Shopping

Another newcomer to my list, and personally handy as I chose to shop at the local Countdown Supermarket. This app takes a fair amount of time to set up in that you’ll need to populate your shopping list(s) by either searching, browsing or scanning to find items – scanning barcodes is by far the fastest for getting items into a list. Once you have a master list, you can then change the number of items you want for the pending shop, with the list automatically sorting to match the local store layout. The app also has a few other features including specials listings, Onecard integration for your points balance and of course there is a store finder.

  

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Snapper Mobile

This one is pretty specialised in that you need to be a Snapper user, with a NFC enabled phone, and preferably with a Touch2Pay SIM from 2degrees! If you can tick all those boxes, then you can use the app and your phone just as a regular Snapper card. I’m not a 2degrees customer, but I still find the app useful for both checking my Snapper card balance and topping it up.

  

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But wait! There’s more! Here’s my bonus app…

Air NZ mPass

The sole reason this isn’t in my top 10 NZ apps is that I fly infrequently so rarely use the app. That said though, when you are flying Air NZ this is a great app for access to all your flight info including digital boarding pass, seat/gate numbers, Airpoints balance along with airport info and maps.

  

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There are of course lots of other NZ apps on Google Play, but the above have earned a place on my phone for regular use. If you’ve read down to here and have your own favourite NZ app that’s not mentioned above, give it a plug in the comments…

Note, screenshots above were taken today on a Nexus S running Jelly Bean 4.1.1 – except for the Air NZ mPass screenshots that were snapped on the same phone running ICS earlier in the year.

Safari vs Chrome on iOS

A little comparison on my 4th gen iPod Touch – Safari on the left, Chrome on the right:

Safari vs Chrome on iOS

Safari 0, Chrome 1. More page real estate ftw! ‘Nuf said.

NZ Android Apps

A quick post to share the New Zealand focused Android Apps I’m currently using.

Stuff.co.nz

My goto site for NZ news – Stuff.co.nz. The app is nicely done and has earned a place on my homescreen. It defaults to “top stories” when you open it, but has easy access to sub-sections and once in a story you can swipe left and right to cycle through the articles in that section.

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My Account – Vodafone NZ

As you might expect, this app gives you fast access to your account summary, top up and plan details. It also sports a store finder map in the event you need to visit the bricks and mortar to see a human or fondle a phone.

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Quick Quake Viewer

This app provides info on both worldwide and NZ earthquakes, using GeoNet information for local quakes. Area options include Worldwide M5+ or M2.5+ and NZ M2.5+ and the app can optionally auto-update in the background. The quick view list includes magnitude, location, time and distance from you or a set location, and if you long-press a quake in the list you can get at the full GeoNet info, or tap to get a Google map with location marker.

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Wellington Airport Flight Info

A nice, simple interface to get at flight information for domestic/international arrivals/departures. Great if live near the airport and need to collect people or have kids who like plane spotting (as I do on both counts!) Feel free to smile at the kiwi-isms for the flight status e.g. Sweet As! for on time and Bugger! for delayed. 🙂

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Flicks.co.nz

A local movie guide with two basic sections for browsing – Movies and Sessions. Movies are presented with poster thumbnails grouped into Top 10, Now Playing and Coming Soon, linking to movie info, trailers, reviews and theatre session times.

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PriceSpy

If you buy tech hardware including computer components, electronics and games in NZ (or Norway and Sweden) then you should always visit PriceSpy first to check out online price comparisons. Admittedly I don’t use the PriceSpy app much (I frequently visit their website instead) but it does give the same info as the website and could well come in handy if you’re out and about and contemplating an impulse buy!

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So there you have it. My top 6 NZ specific Android apps. If you’ve got any other favourite apps for kiwis, let me know in the comments!

Google search for “tilt” on my Android

After seeing this little easter egg mentioned on Google Operating System (-via Search Engine Land) I thought I’d check it out for myself. Here’s the result on my Android:

😀 Nice one Google.

Get Twitter @replies to your cell phone

This old workaround is no longer required! Twitter now has an option to get these sent directly to your phone in a much more timly manner than any hack or third party service. Check out your Twitter mobile settings for the following:

Thanks Twitter! 🙂

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I little “hack” I thought I’d share for Twitter users…

Recently Vodafone NZ and Twitter teamed up for a local TXT/SMS service, including free-to-receive tweets/messages. Awesome stuff, although one disappointment is that Twitter doesn’t provide a way of getting @replies (or ‘mentions’) to your phone (see item 2 under “People often wonder…” on this support page). I think this is a bit of a shortcoming as in my opinion @replies can be equally important as direct messages (DM’s) to tweeters, as these ultimately drive the social interaction and sometimes need a response (esp if you get lots of questions!).

The workaround:
Since the only option is to receive tweets to your cell phone from people you follow for whom you have turned “device updates” on, a possible workaround is to follow an automated user (aka “bot”) that retweets all your @replies/mentions.

The implementation:
My solution was to pipe the RSS feed for a search on @myusername into Yahoo Pipes, filter and modify the output there, then send the Pipes output feed to TwitterFeed for feeding into a private (and protected) Twitter account that I follow with “device updates on”. Clear as mud?! You might ask why the pass-through at Yahoo Pipes, and indeed you could skip that step, but I wanted to modify each feed item to include the author of the @reply in each title element – the bit that gets retweeted.

If you’re interested in the nuts and bolts of my method, read on!

Read more of this post

Mobile Data Costs

Vodafone sent me (and 1000’s of others no doubt) a txt msg today announcing their new mobile internet plans. The big change is for casual users (probably anyone like me on prepay) who now have the following pricing,

$1/day for 10MB, no monthly fee, $1/MB overage

In other words, that’s ~$30/month for 300MB. While this is not a bad price in NZ’s (crippled) mobile data market, it is still complete pants compared to the rest of the world. It’s also worth noting that this a better deal than their “Broadband Starter” plan which is $30/month for 200MB on a 2 year contract. Go figure.

While on the topic of ridiculous pricing for mobile data, lets look at what those sms/txt messages cost you. At 20 cents per message that’s cheap right? Wrong! Time for some math…

1 sms = 160 7-bit characters (max) = 1,120 bits = 140 bytes
1 MB = 1,000,000 bytes (SI units) = 7142 sms messages
1 sms message costs 20 cents
Therefore, sending 1 MB via sms costs $1,428!

Of course if you don’t max out your 160 characters (or if you base it on 1024^2 bytes) it’s much more expensive. Wow.

Now if that doesn’t make you realise just how much money the telco’s are creaming off us, I don’t know what will.