Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Top 10 standalone Apps for your new Samsung Galaxy S3

Got this baby and need some apps?

So you've just bought yourself a brand spanking new Samsung Galaxy S3 after reading part one of our brilliant review? well I don't blame you. Since you are now the owner of the best handset around you may want to start filling it with the best apps available. That's where we come in.

This is the first piece in a series recommending the best apps available for your Galaxy S3. This first part is about the top ten standalone apps that you should download to get the most out of your S3. Part two focuses on customisation apps and part three will introduce you to the world of root apps, meaning apps that require root access. [UPDATE: We've now done a second piece about the best apps for the Galaxy S3, this time around looking at apps for customising your Galaxy S3 and tweaking it to work just the way you want it to - check it out here].

If you're new to Android, or even if you aren't then keep reading to find out what we recommend!

Before I start I feel the need to mention that you may need to install Flash Player on your new device. Once you have this, your Galaxy S3's browser will then be capable of playing flash content, including YouTube videos at 1080p.


MX Player  (Free ad-supported, or Pro $6.82NZD)

While the stock Galaxy S3 video player is very competent, there is one area where it falls short. That's where MX Player steps in. MX Player has the ability to set how many cores can be utilised for software-decoding. While this might sound detrimental, if you are an Anime fan then you better listen up.

As of fairly recently Anime distribution groups have started using 10-bit video, also know as Hi-10p. This new codec is a very demanding beast when it comes to video decoding and the S3 doesn't have hardware support.

With the 4-core decoding MX Player, NZtechfreak was able to play 720p 10-bit files with aplomb, but it still fell short of producing watchable results for 1080p stuff. It also played everything else in his test batch well, but that isn't too surprising since he was using a Galaxy S III which has very broad hardware-decoding support in any case. Furthermore subtitle support is rock solid, and the UI is functional and attractive in a minimalist kind of way.

So, while looks like it'll be a while before 10-bit playback is perfected on our mobiles, anime fans should nevertheless check out how MX Player does for their 10-bit collection (because, you know, transcoding is a drag).

You can grab the free ad-supported version here, if you're satisfied with MX Player then support the developer and grab the paid version here.

If you're reading this on your PC here's a QR-code that'll take you to the free version.

MX Player Free

PowerAmp (free 15 day trial, $6.65 NZD full version unlocker)

A song about loving your Android
We reviewed the PowerAmp 2.0 Beta and even have a walkthrough video of the UI. Now that PowerAmp 2.0 is no longer in beta it's available on the Play Store and well worth the money. It has a great minimalist UI, along with a plethora of features and customisations.

Some of the features we like the most are:
  • support for nearly every codec including FLAC
  • gapless playback
  • lyrics support, including lyrics search via musixmatch plugin
  • ability to include/exclude music folders 
  • automatic downloading of album art
  • can automatically start playing when you insert headphones into the jack
  • tons of great widgets to choose from
  • 10 band equalizer
Those are just a few of the features that make PowerAmp the music player of choice for AndroidNZ, and why we recommend it for using on your Galaxy S3 [There is a major update to version 3.0 upcoming very soon for PowerAMP too, so there will be even more to love very soon -Ed].

You can get the trial version here  and when you're ready to get the full version go here. Alternatively just scan the QR code below to get the trial:

PowerAmp Trial

Spotify (free app, paid service)

Spotify was recently released in New Zealand and it has a multitudinous quantity of music. If you haven't heard of it, Spotify is a streaming music app where you can listen to literally millions of tracks from a vast array of musicians. It also lets your friends know what you're listening to and provides recommendations based on you and your friends listening habits. 

While the app is free, the service is not (well not entirely) you can choose from ad-based free, unlimited at $7.49 NZD or the premium service at $12.99 per month. The premium service is the only one with high quality audio, that is you can stream all of the music at 320kbps - the minimum for any half decent music lover. You can check out the other details of the plan comparisons here.

While you can download the Spotify app from the Play Store here, you won't be getting the best experience. Instead I'd recommend that you download the ICS beta app from here since your Galaxy S3 is running ICS and will benefit from the vastly improved interface. Alternatively, scan the QR code below for the beta version.

Spotify Beta

Aldiko Book Reader (Free/Paid version $3.99NZ)

Aldiko Book Reader has been my eBook reader of choice since I first had the original Galaxy S device around two years ago. Since then I’ve been reading eBooks nearly every day, and Aldiko has never let me down. Things have not changed with the release of the Galaxy S3, in fact eBook reading is superb on the super 4.8" Super AMOLED HD display. 

Aldiko supports the popular ePub format as well as PDF and Adobe eBook DRM technology. I mainly use it with ePub files that I have converted using the PC application Calibre. You can either import your own files or buy new books using the included store. Although I have never bought books this way, others might find it useful. 

What attracts me to Aldiko is the fairly vast array of settings; from font size to changing the background and text colour. You can even choose to turn the page with volume keys, which saves you from leaving finger smudges on the screen while reading. 

While I use the free version, there is a paid version for $3.99 NZD although I couldn’t tell you what the difference is. If you like reading on your phone then I can comfortably recommend Aldiko. If you don’t, then you’re missing out on a very convenient way to read books! 

What's more there is now an Aldiko Sync companion app that lets you sync between multiple devices wirelessly using Dropbox. This app comes in the free and $1.32 NZD paid unlocker, and once again I don''t know the difference between the two. Helping a developer out is always a good idea though.

Aldiko Free


ICS Browser Plus (free)

If you've seen the stock version of the Ice Cream Sandwich Browser on the Galaxy Nexus, you've seen most of ICS Browser Plus. That's not to say that it isn't impressive, in fact it's very fast and has all of the stock ICS browser features and some really great additional features over the stock browser of the Galaxy S3. 

You can see in the screenshot that numerous quick controls are available by placing your finger on the edge of the screen. This is fully customisable and makes browsing far more pleasant. This browser also has the swipe to dismiss functionality when switching between tabs, which is another +1 VS the Samsung stock browser. There are even gestures available for swiping left or right that you can assign to a particular action. 

ICS Browser Plus is available for free from the Play Store here or scan the QR code below.

ICS Browser Plus

Google Chrome Beta (free)

While still in Beta, Google's Chrome browser for Android is a formidable app indeed. It is blazing fast, has unlimited tab support and best of all it syncs completely with Chrome for other platforms.

Via Chrome Sync you can view tabs open on your PC and send tabs from your PC back to your Galaxy S3. Tab switching is made easy using a scrollable card stack as you can see from the screenshot. From there you can easily flick tabs away horizontally or add new tabs.

There is not a lot more we can say about this minimalistic browser apart from letting you know you can get it from here for free or scan the QR code below.

Chrome Beta


Great Little War Game (on sale for $1.32 NZD)

Colours look far more lively on the S3's screen

Great Little War Game (GLWG) is a turn based strategy game that is comparable to Advance Wars  or Fire Emblem on GBA. The key difference being that it has far prettier graphics and is fully touch optimised. GLWG is a game with highly stylised graphics and even a bit of silly humour coming through. This game has character.

GLWG can run slowly on older handsets, even if the graphics are set to 'Fast'. Fortunately with your new S3 you can turn things up to 'Ultra' in the settings, making the game look amazing on the 720p display and it still runs like a dream. Yes your S3 is a gaming beast so this is not surprising. 

We reviewed it back in October last year and even had an exclusive interview with the developer Paul Johnson from Rubicon. One of the key takeaways here is that Rubicon are a committed developer and a lot of effort has gone into creating a fun game.

If you can't tell this game is an AndroidNZ favourite, and for that reason if you don't have it on your S3 already - you should go get it from the Play Store now or scan the QR code below.

Great Little War Game

Modern Combat 3 ($7 NZD from Gameloft WAP store only)

Modern Combat 3 (MC3) is the latest in Gameloft's Modern Combat series that draws comparisons to the PC series Modern Warfare. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in that MC3 has pretty stunning graphics and is actually quite fun to play.  If you've never played a first person shooter on a touchscreen there can be a bit of a learning curve, but overall the onscreen controls are fairly intuitive and you'll be sharpshooting in no time.

MC3 runs super smoothly at 720p resolution on the Galaxy S3 and I didn't even detect a hint of lag. Having 4.8" of screen real estate definitely makes a difference when using onscreen controls as well.

Currently you can only buy Modern Combat 3 through Gameloft's WAP store here but hopefully the Play Store version will be made compatible with the Galaxy S3 in the near future. Feel free to scan the QR code below.

Modern Combat 3

ShadowGun ($6.39 NZD)

Looks pretty good right?

While ShadowGun was released as a Tegra 2 exclusive, it is now available on all Android devices and that is definitely a good thing. If you've ever played Gears of War on Xbox 360 then you'll be familiar with the play style present in ShadowGun. This game is great for showing off the graphical prowess of your S3, and its a fun game to boot.

We reviewed ShadowGun a while back on the Asus Transformer and even have a video of playing with a PS3 controller wirelessly.  While you won't be able to do this without root access (Yes, we have a guide for rooting your S3) and the Sixaxis controller app, don't be afraid of the touchscreen controls either, they are quite good.

Since we reviewed ShadowGun it has received several updates including a new expansion with additional missions, a new weapon and the ability to perform forward rolls.

If you're keen to get in on the action then go here to purchase ShadowGun from the Play Store or scan the QR code below.


Grand Theft Auto 3 ($6.57 NZD)

If you've never heard of Grand Theft Auto 3 (GTA3) then you're either too young to play it or you've been living under a rock for a long time. Originally released for the PS2 back in 2001, this classic is now available on Android. 

GTA3 is the open world sandbox game that started it all. You can run, shoot, steal and run hookers over with the car you stole. This game is violent and it doesn't apologise for it. It's hard to believe that we now have handheld devices capable of playing games like this, but we do and it's great.

Thanks to the powerful Mali-400 graphics processor in your Galaxy S3 you'll be able to turn the graphics up to max and GTA3 will still run as smoothly as butter. While the graphics might not be quite as pretty as some other games out there, GTA3 is crazy fun and the Android version even includes all the hilarious radio stations from the original. 

You can purchase GTA3 from the Play Store here or scan the QR code below.


Stay tuned for the next article in this series, Top 10 Apps to customise your new Samsung Galaxy S3!