Marvin’s World: 3 Urban Survival Apps

It’s not just a way to let your mother/boyfriend/spouse/kid know where you are, anymore. It’s your shopping list, your address book, your scheduler, not to mention your status symbol. Marvin (my Android phone) certainly is mine.

I’m one of those women who likes to be prepared for every eventuality possible. Survival kits are like chocolate to me – essential! Just like real world shopping, the Android Market is equally attractive for its useful tools as for its fun stuff like games. These are some apps that are on my front screen for immediate access.

Sun Flashlight


My very first mobile phone was a basic Nokia 1100 (“Made for India”) whose only feature was that it had a flashlight. I never had that on a phone after that and I’ve missed it ever since. The number of times I find myself fumbling in poor lighting to read a sign or to open a door or even just find my way to my seat in a theatre, makes me wonder why mobile phone makers didn’t put that feature on more phones.

I remedied that on my Android with this app. Once installed, all you do is touch the icon and within seconds your screen lights up like a flashlight. It’s bright enough to light up a small room and provide adequate visibility that keeps you from bumping or falling.

Sun Flashlight is available for free download in the Android Market.

Mumbai Taxi and Rickshaw Fare


Any urban dweller knows that public transport is the holy grail of your personal happiness. The only good thing for me about the movie ‘Shaitan’ was a snide reference to the autorickshaw woes of an Mumbaiker. Earlier, I used to keep a fare card (bought off the local trains) that would have to be periodically hunted and replaced when the rates changed. Now I just upgrade the app.

There are a number of taxi/rickshaw fare apps available, by city and features. This one suited my purpose and I rather liked the logo of an autorickshaw meter. Here’s how it works: You feed in the rate displayed on the meter and check the Night Rates On/Off option (since rates increase after midnight in Mumbai). On the same screen below these, the corresponding fare for taxi and autorickshaw shows up immediately, eliminating all awkward fumbling and scrabbling for a paper rate card. Also, because taxi and auto fares both show up on the same screen, it lets you choose what you want instantly.

Mumbai Taxi and Rickshaw Card is a creation of Aditya Talpade and available for free download on the Android Market.

Gesture Search

And finally, because I like big bags and packing them in, I do the same with apps, photographs, music and other files on my phone. Finding the one I want is always a pain, no matter how organized I am. I often find myself wishing there was a ‘Find’ function in real life as there is in certain Microsoft applications.

I tried the Voice Search app but somehow my accent gets results that are amusing at best. Instead, I found Gesture Search much more useful. Gesture Search recognizes images that you trace onto the touchscreen and corresponds them to the names of contacts, images and files. The app also learns intuitively which means the results get better with use. You can imagine just how helpful this is when you urgently need to make a phone call without scrolling through hundreds of names.

Gesture Search is a product of Google Labs and is available for free download in the Android Market.

* A version is posted to Yahoo! Real Beauty.

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