In recent months I have really streamlined my phone, but there are some apps that I use regularly that make the humid summer days of no-aircon Sapporo pass a little more smoothly.
First, the phone: the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. I know it’s not the latest model, but until NTT docomo or a competitor offers a free upgrade I will be rolling with this. The ‘edge’ model was a gimmick I fell for, as it adds little to no functionality and can even be a hindrance. But it runs smoothly enough so I can’t complain too much.
This app is pretty much my lifesaver. Castbox is a free podcast player, and a fairly decent one. Podcasts are kinda my obsession; they allow me to keep up with my hobbies (Destination Linux, Late Night Linux, The Orvis Fly Fishing Guide), listen to some interesting music (Deep Energy 2.0, Irish and Celtic Music Podcast, Pixelated Audio), and indulge in Star Trek geekdom (Mission Log, Earl Grey, Transporter Room 3). It’s got all the bells and whistles of some of the best paid podcast apps. I zone out pretty regularly on my hour+ commutes via Castbox.
This one is a pure guilty pleasure. An app that gives you beautiful coloring book style patterns and a series of palettes to do with as you please. Just paint by finger! It’s simple, mindless, and the perfect activity for killing a few minutes or a even several hours. I’ve often got some creative inspiration just by filling in a few designs waiting for the tram.
Libby is a client for the OverDrive electronic library loan system. The OverDrive app works great too, but Libby has a Windows desktop app that syncs with your Android app pretty seamlessly, so you can quickly pull up your book on your desktop and pick up right where you left off. If you can maintain a library card at a foreign library that participates in the OverDrive system, you have instant access to tons of eBooks. Japan has great public libraries, and my main branch has a huge English language section that is severely underused. Unfortunately, Japan is behind the curve when it comes to eBook lending, and the website for the Sapporo Library looks like a Geocities page from 1997. (Side note – Geocities is actually still alive and kicking as Yahoo! Geocities, and is defunct everywhere in the world except…you guessed it… Japan!)
I read a lot on my phone, but web advertising often ruins the experience. Plus 4G use drains my battery and even can cause unwanted data charges if I am not careful. That is where Pocket comes to the rescue. When I have WiFi in my apartment I can go scan the web for interesting articles, share them to my Pocket app, then read them on my phone offline with all the ads removed. There are extensions for Chrome and Firefox that puts a Pocket button right on your toolbar, so you can store your articles in one easy click.
Making clean connections on public train networks is pretty much the name of the game here in Old Nippon, where being at work is much more important that what you are actually doing at work. So getting to work on time and with minimal fuss is my number one priority. Ekitan is one of those apps that I have used consistently since I began work here (It actually came pre-installed on my old Galaxy S2). It works for all train networks nationwide and even is in sync with Sapporo`s streetcar loop, so every part of my rail journey is covered. I can get train times, best connections, walking distances between stations, and fares. It remains up to date, so filling out my monthly transportation reimbursement is a breeze. One drawback for newcomers and visitors to Japan is that you have to input your station names in Hiragana, but if you can manage that then Ekitan should be on your phone.
Of course I sometimes get swallowed into the abyss of Twitter and Instagram but those feeds (who to follow) I’ll save for another post. Happy commuting to wherever you are in the world. Hope it goes smoothly.