Google’s Android operating system has quickly become the dominant system used to operate smartphones other than BlackBerrys, iPhones and Windows phones, and its share of the tablet market is also increasing.
In recent months, we have seen the release of the Google Nexus tablet, the Galaxy SIII smartphone and the Kindle HD, all of which run on Android.
According to International Data Corp., the Android operating system was included on three out of every four smartphones shipped during the third quarter of 2012. Out of the 181.1 million smartphones made in that quarter, 136 million ran on Android. Not surprisingly, the number of apps—that is, software programs—that run on the Android operating system has also grown, to more than 700,000 as of October 2012.
Android use among lawyers and their staffs continues to grow and will expand as the number of apps increases, particularly those that help attorneys to be more productive. This article highlights some essential Android apps that every lawyer should consider having on his or her smartphone or tablet. Fortunately, most apps are reasonably priced; in fact, many are free, and most are priced less than $14.95.
CLOUD STORAGE PRODUCTS
Dropbox, the most popular cloud storage app, integrates with numerous other apps and programs, including cloud-based case management and document management programs. Dropbox lets desktop and laptop users store information and automatically syncs files among computers.
For more general use, Amazon Cloud is an easy and inexpensive way to store data, including documents and photos, on Amazon’s servers, so that you can access them anywhere.
EMAIL AND TEXT MESSAGES
If you don’t like Android’s default email program, Kaiten Email is a terrific alternative. It’s flexible, and its strength lies in the ease with which it displays email and allows users to customize the interface.
When it comes to text messages, attorneys need to view, answer and save them. Go SMS Pro may be the best and most versatile text messaging app. The premium version has local backup and restore, Dropbox sync and other features that allow attorneys to preserve text messages. SMS Backup & Restore lets you back up and store your text messages. Then you can just move the files to your phone’s external storage card or view them when your phone is attached to a computer.
Finally, when you want to talk but not use your fingers, Speech to Text is a very user-friendly app. Just tap the start button, then speak. Next, enter a phone number or choose the contact to whom you want to send a message, and pick whether to send your message as a text or an email. That’s it.
NOTES, TO-DOS, CALENDARS, ETC.
Evernote does just about everything. Not only can you create written notes, you can also make lists, record voice notes, save photos and then sync them on all of your devices. With the premium version, you can access notebooks offline, let other users edit your work and add a PIN to protect your app.
Astrid allows you to create to-do lists, assign tasks, and automatically remind colleagues what is due and when. Plus, when someone completes a task, Astrid marks it “done” and notifies you that the work is finished.
ScanBizCards Premium is easy to use and includes one of the more accurate OCR readers of any of the apps that manage business cards. In addition, the app can save its results to Web Sync, its online storage program. While Web Sync is a nice benefit, it isn’t free, but its Internet-based storage may be worth the small annual fee to have the convenience and comfort of knowing that your contact information is safely stored in the cloud.
DW Contacts & Phone & Dialer displays contacts, with each person’s firm in one color and the job title in another. But what’s particularly useful, and a terrific enhancement over Android’s default contact manager, is that it organizes contacts by organization and title—and makes dialing a breeze.
With numerous customizable features and helpful widgets, aCalendar is one of the most popular calendar apps. Although aCalendar synchronizes only with Google Calendar, not Outlook, it easily handles recurring events and special dates (such as birthdays and anniversaries). It also creates QR codes—square bar codes designed to be scanned by smartphones and other devices so that you can instantly learn additional information about the coded item—to help share events with others.
MICROSOFT OFFICE AND ADOBE PDF FILES
When you work on Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, you need versatile programs. Kingsoft Office has the most elegant and user-friendly interface of any of the Office-compatible products. Just tap an icon in the app and choose from the most common commands. Even nicer, the app marks every file so that it’s easy to know what type of file it is (such as a document or spreadsheet) and shows styles. It also has an excellent comment and review panel.
Quickoffice Pro’s integration with numerous cloud products makes it a standout for users who store information on numerous cloud services. Its navigation and toolbars are easy to use but a bit small. Like its competitors, it nicely performs its core function of creating and editing Office documents and PDFs.
When it comes to showing PowerPoint presentations, you have two good options. Both SD PowerPoint Remote Control and PowerPoint OpenOffice Remote transform your phone or tablet into a PowerPoint presentation device, essentially a glorified remote control. Both apps display the notes linked to presentations and can connect automatically to a PC. Most of the differences between the apps are in design, so you may want to test both to be sure which one you prefer. Either way, you don’t have sit at your computer to run your presentation.
With Adobe CreatePDF all you have to do is open the app, select a file, and it is instantly turned into a PDF. The app also lets you annotate PDFs, with many of the features only available to PC users in Adobe Acrobat Standard or Professional. Adobe Reader lets you view and share PDFs, and perform a host of functions not available in its PC counterpart, including creating annotations and comments, filling out forms, electronically signing documents and sending PDFs to other readers for signing.
CamScanner HD transforms most Android devices into a scanner. Just take a picture of any document and the app turns it into a high-quality image. From there, CamScanner either autocrops the picture or lets you do it, and then saves your result as a PDF. After that, just share your image, or send it as an email or text attachment.
Bill4Time Mobile lets you synchronize your time from your device to a desktop or other location and then download your data into QuickBooks. Plus, the system includes all of the ABA uniform billing codes, making it easy to use one set of codes everywhere.
WestlawNext has a streamlined design that allows you to quickly research, browse content, KeyCite a document or view recent research. Once you have your results, you can sort them by a variety of criteria, email or save them, and perform related searches.
Fastcase is fast, and generates impressive and accurate results. Using Fastcase’s comprehensive database, this app allows anyone to locate virtually any state or federal case or statute with just a few key- or finger strokes. Its interface is clean, and once you get used to the app’s navigation, you’ll use it often.
PushLegal is an impressive app with databases of rules and statutes for a handful of states, in addition to the Federal Rules of Evidence, the Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Rules of Civil Procedure. PushLegal also has a desktop application that is sold by subscription and includes access to all of the app’s databases.
PocketCloud Remote Desktop Pro allows you to connect to your office using Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol. After connecting, you have full keyboard and mouse control over your computer. This app works with most versions of Windows.
Easy to use, with excellent on-screen graphics, including mouse and keyboard simulators, Splashtop 2–Remote Desktop is perhaps the fastest remote access program for Android, and the quality of the transmission is excellent. An alternative, TeamViewer for Remote Control allows users to remotely access computers, and to see and transfer files from one device or computer to another. Although marketed as a support product, TeamViewer can be used for either support, or logging in and working.
ABA Journal Mobile app is really a link to the publication’s mobile website, which is regularly updated with ABA news and other information relevant to lawyers. Among the mobile site’s strengths are its links to podcasts, blawgs (law-related blogs) and Numbers, a site that focuses on a seemingly endless array of legal numbers and data. Because the mobile site is light on graphics, it loads quickly.
ABA TECHSHOW 2013, sponsored by the ABA Law Practice Management Section (LPM), is the continuing education conference and trade show for anyone with an interest in the law and the technology that helps power it. This app provides information about every aspect of the event and is a must-have if you’re attending.
The American Lawyer app includes “feeds” that allow readers to see the Am Law Daily, the magazine’s method of disseminating breaking news and other legal information.
Maxthon Cloud Browser is one of the most popular browsers, with numerous custom settings and versions for virtually every type of device. It displays videos extremely well, lets you sync settings and bookmarks between devices, and is extremely fast, an enormous benefit on mobile devices.
Opera Mini, one of the oldest and most reliable Web browsers, works well on Android devices, and its quick rendering of pages make it a preferred browser for many.
MyBackup Pro is essential when you need to back up your system, because the last thing you want to do is to manually restore everything to your device. It works well, and if you have lots of apps, you can buy more online space to save data.
Battery Solo Widget does one thing—it tells you how much battery life you have. If you frequently charge your device, this is the app for you. But if you travel and don’t have access to a charger all the time, an app that helps analyze your device usage and extend battery life might be preferable.
FlexT9 Text Input Keyboard lets you “swipe” letter patterns and figures out the words you’re typing, a feature that people who aren’t adept at typing on these tiny device keyboards sorely need. In addition, the app—which also works with voice typing—guesses your next word based on word and letter patterns it already knows. When you need to type unusual letter and number patterns, you can turn off the intuitive features and turn FlexT9 into a traditional keyboard.
There are times when your phone simply cannot ring. Enter Silence Scheduler, which allows you to schedule quiet time on a daily or weekly basis, and creates multiple schedules for the times when you can’t be interrupted.
Printing from a mobile device can be a challenge. PrinterShare Mobile Print finds printers that are accessible via USB, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, as well as cloud-based or other remote printers, and lets you print to them.
Just forward the email confirmations from your travel providers to TripIt, and the app organizes them. You can also add trips manually and share them with friends, family or coworkers. TripIt’s professional version includes alerts about flight delays, cancellations and gate changes; keeps track of your frequent traveler accounts; and helps find alternative flights when your flight is canceled.
It’s hard to beat FlightTrack Free when you need information, including flight status, gate information, delays and cancellations. The professional upgrade (which is different from the premium version) stores trip information from TripIt, making it easy to see all of your travel data in one place.
With the power of Google behind it, the influence of the Android operating system will certainly increase. That the number of available apps increased by 80 percent since the beginning of 2012 is just one measure of the growing popularity of the operating system and the devices that run on it. As use of Android-based smartphones and tablets continues to expand, so will the number of apps. This means that attorneys can look forward to an even wider array of options that will allow them to be as productive away from the office as they are at their desks.