It’s odd how easy this is to forget, but modern smart phones can actually call people. It’s so easy to get caught up in rooting, custom ROMs, games, apps, tethering, and all that other fun stuff that sometimes you lose sight of the fact that your special device is still at its core a telephone. You know, something that you use to talk with people.
Once again, the stock Android dialer system is acceptable. No real complaints, nothing is really broken. However, the Android Market performs at its usual high level with regards to dialer replacements. There is a bevy of assorted third party dialer apps that offer new features or easier integration with your favorite social networks. If you want an easier way to call people, here are a few alternatives to the stock Android dialer and contacts.
This article is a part of the Beat The Stock series that explores the best replacements for your stock apps. Other articles in this series include –
- Messaging (SMS) Apps
- Dialers and Contacts (Currently viewing)
- Web Browsers
- Music Players
- Video Players
- Instant Messengers
We will update the links as we publish other articles in this series!
The Stock Dialer for Android – Phone
The simply named Phone app comes standard with every Android phone. The interface is just a bit unwieldy, enough to make me notice it every time I start up the dialer. It covers up your contacts with a large number pad for dialing phone numbers directly.
That same number pad is used for T9 word search. In other words, pressing 323 would search for all contacts containing some form of DEF then ABC then DEF again. If I wanted to quickly search for “Dad,” I would press 323 and his name comes up.
However, the search function keeps your contacts one layer too far away. Also, the dialer tends behave oddly, never doing quite what you expect. Still, it links to your stock contacts interface which displays everyone you know in a competent manner.
Still, that’s the problem – everything is competent at best. The stock dialer is just a bit awkward with its rough edges and slightly odd interface. It works, but it doesn’t work smoothly. Hence we went searching for its alternatives and found quite a few gems.
Best Alternatives to Stock Dialer and Contacts
Contacts & Dialer
The aptly named Contacts & Dialer is a good, if somewhat a comic alternative. Right from the startup, this app beats the stock one by going straight to a list of contacts displayed in nice squares. That’s the sort of interface tweak that would make “Phone” (the stock dialer app) a little less rough.
The app offers plenty of sorting options for favorites, groups, frequently called numbers, or people with whom you’ve spoken recently. If you can’t find them that way, there’s always a search button (via a real keyboard, not just T9).
The one other noteworthy feature of Contacts & Dialer is its integration with your favorite social networks (providing that network isn’t Google+). Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin and Foursquare friends are all easily imported into the app for easy calling. Importing is easy and offers a very nice way to organize all your friends and acquaintances into one list.
Go Contacts Ex
Go Dialer Ex is an oddly named but quite functional application from the Go Dev team. The team has already earned my undying gratitude for the majesty that is Go SMS Pro, and I conclude that they must be trying to further ingrain themselves into my phone with another great app.
As usual for a Go app, the interface is perfect. Everything is drawn is smooth, appealing graphics. Whoever the Go Dev team graphic designer is deserves a Nobel Prize. An inviting aesthetic is made even better by a smooth user interface that makes finding and calling contacts super easy.
Go Contacts Ex does the right thing and opens up right at your contacts screen. It automatically imports all of your Facebook friends into your contacts, which makes for easy organization. However, considering the number of people who don’t put their cell phone number on their Facebook, this isn’t as helpful as it could be. Still, that’s not the app’s fault.
All in all, Go Contacts Ex is a super smooth and easy way to manage your friends, acquaintances, and arch-enemies. It’s got all the functionality and aesthetics you could ever need.
TouchPal Dialer, on the other hand, is much more conventional. At the first screen you’re greeted with a dialer pad and a list of your recent calls. It’s like the stock dialer, but with a better interface. The graphics look nicer and call log, contacts, and the like are much easier to access.
Everything is drawn out in nice bold letters and is easy to find. Truthfully, I’d prefer to use TouchPal Dialer over any of the alternatives as it does easy dialing better than everyone else. If you’re looking for an alternative to the stock, this is probably your best bet.
Fast Dialer surprised me the most as it offers a totally different approach to calling. The interface is completely redesigned over a large grid of buttons, each of which has a single letter. Tap that letter and you arrive at a list of people whose name begins with it.
In addition to the alphabetized searching, Fast Dialer comes with links to Favorites, Call Log, and texting (the stock app, unfortunately). The links all work fairly well, and they do a decent job of getting you where you need to go.
The problem with Fast Dialer, though, is that it’s more like a re-skinning of your contacts and dialer. There are no real improvements made nor social network integration is great. Just a moderately laggy search function. Still, it’s worth a look.
Old School Dialer
Alright, I’ll admit this is more of a curiosity than anything else and it is included here mainly because of its unique interface. Old School Dialer takes the ancient spin dial of analog telephones of decades ago and turns it into a digital interface for your Android device.
To be perfectly clear, the interface is not too friendly. It took me a while to figure out how to even use it. The old analog telephones were not known for being able to quickly dial people, that’s for sure. Having to manually drag out each number is no fun.
Still, Old School Dialer has a quick link to the stock People app so you can still look through your contacts to find people. Don’t have the time or patience to dial the old way? Switch to quick dial mode and your problem is solved!
There is no dearth of dialer apps in the Android market. We tried to list down the best of the apps to make your choice easier. HTC users may argue that they do not need to replace the stock app as the dialer on HTC Sense is pretty awesome. I agree, but for those poor souls who are non-Sense users (pun intended), this list will be helpful in selecting a dialer that suits them best.
Do you use the stock dialer or have you already moved on to any dialer app? If so, which is your favorite dialer? Share your thoughts in the comments.