Smartphones offer you access to knowledge on any subject at the touch of the button. However, a handset's built-in tools may not always be the best means of discovering what you need to know. Instead, we've rounded up 10 free applications for Google Android phones that slice and dice the world of information in more personal or sophisticated ways, so that you're never at a loss when you absolutely have to know something right now.
Sunlight Labs' open-source Congress app can help you keep on top of all the things US legislators do, big and small, that affect residents and business in America. Congress defaults to your location in the US, giving you a directory of the state's senators and representatives; you can also search for legislators by state, post code or last name.
Click on a legislator's name to see a profile with a photo, positions held, bills sponsored, committees served on and links to call her office or visit her Web site. You'll also find Twitter updates, YouTube videos and recent news about the congressperson from papers around the country. Click on a committee name to see all the other members of that committee.
The app also shows the latest bills introduced in Congress (some important and some just weird), laws passed and, when the information is available, how various members of Congress voted. Click on any bill to find out its sponsors, history and any votes.
While just about every big newspaper has a smartphone application these days, Dale Jefferson's Newspapers app gives you access to a broad swath of them in a single app. With news from dozens of papers from across the UK, as well as the US, Canada and France, there's no reason to ever feel uninformed about current events.
Major papers such as The New York Times, the Guardian and Le Monde are represented (as well as online news sources like CNN and the BBC), but even regional papers are listed. Some papers have additional features; The Wall Street Journal, for example, includes a stock symbol search.
The Newspapers app taps into the publications' mobile sites - each one carries its paper's unique branding, layout, types of news and so on. There is no search - the stories simply go back as far as each paper's mobile page goes. For $1.70 (£1.11), you can upgrade Newspapers to allow you to save favourites, if that seems important.
Where can you get the best Italian, Chinese or Indian food nearby? How can you find a top-notch tailor, plumber or dentist? What hotel is worth staying at when you're travelling for a meeting? Fire up Geodelic and have a look.
Geodelic is a location-sensitive search tool that finds the closest restaurants, hotels, movies, banks, gas stations and more based on your phone's GPS co-ordinates. You can view your results on a map or in a list, or in a fun 'carousel' of points of interest (shown here), then call or get directions to each recommended spot right from its listing.
What sets Geodelic apart from other local search apps is its ability to 'learn' based on your previous searches and give you customized updates. For instance, if you search for music-related terms a lot, Geodelic will prioritise record stores in your carousel. It will also give you updates on upcoming concerts and events based on your history. Geodelic's ability to guess what kinds of places will most interest you makes it especially useful when you set foot in a new city or an unfamiliar section of your hometown.
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