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Computerworld's favorite smartphone apps

By Computerworld staff
April 1, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Leisure time

Aldiko

There are a lot of e-reader apps out there, Some, like Kindle, are associated with major booksellers -- others are less attached to a single brand. Aldiko is one of the best independent apps: It's got a clean, professional interface, offers day/night settings, lets you adjust type size, brightness and other factors. It offers a listing of several sources where you can easily download free and public-domain books, and lets you purchase them through Feedbooks.com and a few other independent sellers. And if you already have e-books in either the popular ePub or PDF formats, Aldiko will import them easily. I am an addicted reader and tend to panic if I'm caught in a train or waiting room without something to read -- Aldiko is the way I get my fix no matter where I am. -- Barbara Krasnoff

OS reviewed: Android
Other OSes it works with: None
Price: Free with ads, $2.99 for ad-free version

Kindle

Subway commuting, the post office and the airport experience: It takes only about three minutes of these to make me crave a good book or magazine to read. Yet somehow, I never remember to bring anything along. Fidgeting with just any phone app won't fix these particular purgatories: Only the Kindle app will do. It's like carrying a Kindle on your phone and it's a brilliant idea. Even for people well over 40, the Android Kindle app delivers surprisingly clear and easy-to-read text on a mobile phone. The app lets you buy books and magazines (or find free ones), which can turn the first half an hour at the DMV into a virtual bookstore browse and the remainder of the visit into sustained reading time. Instead of living through Waiting for Godot, you can read it and really enjoy yourself. -- Matt Lake

OS reviewed: Android
Other OSes it works with: iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7
Price: Free

Trainyard

In this totally addictive puzzle game, you lay railroad tracks so that trains interact with other trains to reach their destinations. Blue trains must enter blue stations, purple trains must enter purple stations and so on. It starts out ridiculously easy but quickly becomes challenging as you learn to cross trains of different colors to create new colors, paint them different colors, merge multiple trains into one so that stations don't get overloaded and employ delaying tactics to ensure that trains meet each other at exactly the right time. The sounds and animations are engaging, and the experience is completely immersive -- don't play it on the subway or you'll miss your stop. (Yes, I learned that lesson the hard way.) There's a free (and ad-free) prequel version called Trainyard Express that's a great way to get addicted before you ramp up to Trainyard, which has a different (and larger) set of puzzles to solve. -- Valerie Potter

OS reviewed: iOS
Other OSes it works with: None
Price: $0.99

Words With Friends

Words With Friends
Click to view larger image

Are you a Scrabble fan? Then you'll love Words With Friends -- the game board and rules are almost identical. Games are usually played over a period of time rather than in real time (though that's an option too). All games are one-on-one, but you can have multiple games with different players going simultaneously. By default, the app sends you an alert when an opponent makes a play, but I find this too distracting; I've turned off notifications (in the iPhone's Settings menu) and instead just check in a few times a day. I like to play during my commute to and from work; it's always fun to fire up the app to see who's played what while I wait for my train. -- Valerie Potter

OS reviewed: iOS
Other OSes it works with: Android
Price: Free with ads, $2.99 for full version (iOS only)



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