Note: This list has been massively updated. Find the 01/01/2012 list online here.
Since February, 2010–when the Motorola Cliqs, which run Android OS on them, came in, the entire family has been discovering and sharing new apps with each other. It’s impossible to find all the perfect apps, so I see this as a recursive process of discovering, exploration of possibilities, deletion or selection. Simply, lots of fun!
You may also want to read Education Apps for Android.
Here are some of the FREE Android Apps (don’t expect to find a for pay one on this list, ok, maybe one) that have risen to the top. I am amazed at the computing power on the Android available through the apps and how easy it is to manipulate data, etc. on them.
Note: Links for the title of the android apps will take you to the Android Library, well worth exploring on your computer to save you scanning a small screen! You might also want to explore the Android Market.
Updated Top 10 List (10/26/2010)
After trying to root my phone–successfully but unproductively–I found myself rethinking all the apps on my phone.
Here is my revised list of must-have apps:
- PDAnet – Hook your phone to your laptop/netbook and you can get access to the Internet irrespective of any other network connections/filters. Works great on Windows and Macintosh platforms.
- Opera Mini-Browser – A wonderful, fast replacement to the built-in browser.
- Battery Management Tools
HandCent – This is a great replacement to the built-in SMS client on Android OS, and worth getting immediately and making as your default.
AppsUninstaller – This allows you to bulk uninstall apps installed on your phone. A time saver for sure!
AppBackupReinstall – Need to backup your Android Phone apps just in case to your SD card? Use this free program.
TonePicker – Allows you to select any audio on your phone as your ringtone, not just the built-in Android sounds.
Audio Player – Easily listen to audio (podcasts) files using one or both of these:
- Battery Widget – Easily track your phone’s battery life so you don’t have to keep charging it every two seconds.
- APNDroid – This is a wonderful battery-saving widget. You can tap it to turn on/off your 3G/GPRS/EDGE connection. Turning off these services while in a WiFi zone enables you to continue using the internet, saving battery life.
- ToggleWiFi – Allows you turn your WiFi on and off with a single tap.
- TasKiller Free – Allows you to terminate all–or be selective–apps that are running on your phone. This can save battery life.
Email Programs – Finding the right email programs can be a pain. Here are the two I highly recommend and that work great!
- MortPlayer – Allows you to listen to music/audio files. I like to use this audio player to listen to music and the next item below to play podcasts.
- TinyPlayer – A very simple audio player, great for podcast playing.
OI File Manager – Use this file manager to move, delete files on your SD card. Very handy, convenient. For industrial strength work, consider EStrong’s File Manager.
- MS Exchange with ActivSync Needed? Get NitroDesk’s TouchDown ($20)
- Need a POP/IMAP Email Program? Get K-9 Email Android App (free)
And, to add a few more to my top 10 list as a bonus:
- APG – Are you into Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) albeit free open source encryption? Use APG to get it done. Works great and integrates with K-9 Email to encrypt email and files (as well as decrypt them).
- KeepassDroid – This program allows you to store your confidential username and passwords in an easy to access database that is encrypted.
- QR Code Reader – Quickly Scan QR codes off web pages and printed documents to install software on your phone or capture data. You can also make your own bar codes, which is fun. Two apps to search for in the Market include Lynkee or BarCode Reader.
- Flixster’s Movies – Find out what the movie times are at the local theatre…this app looks them up based on your location.
- Social Networks – Keep up with your social networks using these tools:
- Plurk? Use Pluroid or PlurQ
- Twitter? Use Seesmic or Tweetdeck for Android
- Facebook? Use the Facebook Android app
- Ping.fm? Use Anypost to send out information to your entire network.
- Virtual Recorder – Need an audio recorder? Use this to turn your phone into one. Let’s you email the recorded audio to wherever you need.
Top 10 Picks
Due to the number of Android Apps on this page, here are my top 10 apps from all categories…they are the ones I couldn’t live without and use every day:
- Pluroid for Plurk access and/or Twidroyd for Twitter access with AnyPost for Ping.fm
- MixZing Music/Video Player
- Dolphin Browser
- Battery Widget
- EStrongs File Manager
- Mount USB
Here’s my list, organized into broad categories.
INFORMATION MGMT, NEWS, and WEATHER
- Laputa – This poorly named app (it breaks down to two words in Spanish which mean “the bitch”) allows you to download audio versions of books and features some relatively up to date titles. I was shocked at the list of fresh ebook titles, including the works of Rick Riordan (author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series that was made into a movie recently), Robert Jordan (Crown of Swords author), Larry Niven’s Ringworld series, and many more titles that I just considered to “new” to find their way into online books for free. (Added June 20, 2010)
- Movies – Allows me to easily locate movie times…a must have for my family members and I. It has an iPhone counterpart which made it easy for me to use, since I’ve been playing around with an iPod for work purposes for a year.
- NubiNews – This is the awesomest news reader. You can access just about everything and replaces all your other news sources, except for podcasts. (added 01/30/2010)
- TV.com – Although I’m not much of a TV watcher, it’s fun to watch something while waiting in line at the local Bill Miller’s BBQ during lunch time. This actually shows full episodes.
- Wapedia – Nice to search and access. Others prefer WikiMobile.
- WeatherBug – Great weather app, letting you see temperature, images of the weather outside, etc. (added 01/30/2010)
- DataViz RoadSync – Although you’d think Android would have a native MS Exchange friendly app ready to go, it’s not really a surprise…the iPod Touch didn’t one either, as I recall. That said, I’ve been tremendously impressed with the 14 day trial version of RoadSync, which allows you to sync email and calendar. It works fantastically well. One alternative to this is TouchDown.
- HandCent – This is a great replacement to the built-in SMS client on Android OS, and worth getting immediately and making as your default. It features a nice design, bubbles, tracks number of messages, and more. ChompSMS is a nice alternative, although ad-ware.
- K-9 Mail. It can work as a replacement for RoadSync if you don’t want to spend the money…calendar integration isn’t there that I could see, but in RoadSync it is. Good if you just want email. As of 06/15/2010, I am now using this for replacement on the Gmail client that comes with the phone. It allows me to easily edit quoted messages, which as far as I’ve seen, can’t be done on the built-in gmail app.
- SMS Backup – Allows you to make backups of SMS messages and ships them to your Gmail account.
TWITTER/PLURK/PING.fm/FACEBOOK Broadcast CLIENTS
- AnyPost (Ping.fm client) – Want to post to ALL your social networking apps at once? (read this) Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, etc? Then use Ping.fm to get the job done! Post once to Ping.fm and it goes everywhere you determine. Use Anypost app on your Android phone to get it done.
- Twitter Possibles:
- Twidroid – A twitter app. I was hoping for TweetDeck quality and I’ve not been disappointed with this one. I actually paid for the full version on this one and it works great, a bit “faster” in feel than Seesmic, which is a free alternative not from Twidroid.
- Seesmic – A nice looking Twitter client. This is no longer on my phone since I bought Twidroid but I do recommend it if you don’t want to pay for Twidroid.
- Pluroid – For Plurkers (Plurk.com), you have few choices…PlurQ is OK app but I recently abandoned it because it resembles web-based Plurk.com’s timeline a bit too much. Instead, I’m now using Pluroid which gives you the feel of mobile Plurk (plurks running vertically with links to more comments). It’s also pretty easy to share photos via Pluroid.
- Bloo – After searching for a nice Facebook interface, I think I have found one in Bloo. You’ll need your Facebook code so you can generate it here. Of course, Bloo now (07/03/2010) makes it possible to get your code via the app, which is a nice upgrade!
- UStream Broadcaster – Allows you to broadcast yourself via uStream.
INTERNET/FILE TRANSFER and DISK UTILITIES
- Dolphin Browser – I didn’t realize how anemic the browser was (gave me flashbacks to Palm’s built-in browser on their old handhelds) so I was grateful to find the Dolphin Browser. Works great, just like Firefox, in making adjustments. Definitely a must-have replacement to the browser…when you install it, you can set it to be the default browser on your Android phone. I tried Opera for awhile but switched back to Dolphin after a month.
- DiskUsage – This app shows you where you are spending your SD card space…you can use this in conjunction with EStrong’s File Explorer (below) to make clean out your file system. (added 01/30/2010)
- EStrongs File Manager and Task Manager – This amazing duo is surprisingly an awesome app, allowing you to manage the files on your SD Card, as well as terminate apps on your phone that are taking up memory. You have to download them separately. The file manager can also FTP files (which I tried successfully), which is downright unbelievable. There is an open source alternative, OI File Manager which is much simpler…useful for finding files/folders on your phone, copying-n-deleting them.
- FTPServer – What a great program! It allows me to setup my Android phone as an FTP Server that I can connect via an FTP client from any computer and download files…or put them on the phone. While I could use MountUSB, this makes it possible for me to more easily share content without having to connect.
- Mount USB – Allows you to mount your Android phone as a USB flash drive. If you have a large SD card, voila, portable storage using your phone instead of another flash drive.
- PDAnet – Tether your laptop to your phone so you can use its internet connection. Works very well on Mac and is available for Windows. Awesome app! Well worth the $20.
- AppsUninstaller – This allows you to bulk uninstall apps installed on your phone. A time saver for sure!
- MixZing Music/Video Player – This is an awesome app that makes listening to music incredibly easy. You can turn off its network use and it still works great.
- MP3 Downloader – An easy to use MP3 Downloader
- Pandora – Listen to streaming music that syncs with your online prefs. Incredible app. (added 01/30/2010)
- Quark’s Ringtones – Awesome ringtone, allowing you to select popular music for your ringtone (e.g. Taylor Swift, etc). For example, my wife has Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September,” while others have Taylor Swift. Other ringtone alternatives–not included in QuarkRingtones–include StarTrek Sounds and StarWarsSounds, as well as Transformers.
- Tone Picker – allows you to easily select ringtones from any audio program on your phone.(added 01/30/2010)
- GDocs – Allows you to view and edit your GoogleDocs from your Android. Works great!
- GoogleMaps – Find yourself on a map and then get directions to where you want to go.
- GoogleTalk – Let’s you use Talk via your phone.
- GoogleVoice – Although this app DID work (thanks to these instructions), I’ve become enamored of GoogleVoice, and liked this review of what it can do, so I’m just going to quote it…I’ll check it periodically to see if they can fix it. The only nagging question I have is, does it cost me money when calling other people on my family plan to use GoogleVoice number? Read the answer to this question!
“I can call ANY number with a secure, controllable line from Google.On an Android phone, unlike the closed off iPhone, you can have the Google Voice App take over all calls — even international ones! By taking over the device, any call that I make through the phone emulates my Google Voice number.”
Source: Market Matador
One question I have that I suppose I’ll find out around bill time…does using GoogleVoice result in a charge that will appear on my bill or is using them as the source of my phone call “free”? What about receiving calls? My carrier is T-Mobile.
- Listen – Allows you to pull audio content from all over the web. It is self-described as a podcast manager for Android and works quite well on my Cliq.
- Locale – Allows you to control your phone options based on your physical location (e.g. theater or work). That way you don’t have to fumble with settings.
- iPadio – Lets you record audio via your phone microphone, name it, then email it to your Gmail account or post it online. Nice alternative to carrying a digital audio recorder.
MISCELLANEOUS APPS THAT SIMPLIFY LIFE
- APNDroid – This is a wonderful battery-saving widget. You can tap it to turn on/off your 3G/GPRS/EDGE connection. Turning off these services while in a WiFi zone enables you to continue using the internet, saving battery life. It works great, and I highly recommend it!
- Battery Widget – Provides nice access to battery life percentage, as well as enabling turning off of certain items (display, wifi, etc).
- Flashlight – Great, although other family members prefer a multi-colored flashlight.
- Lynkee – This is a nice QR code reader for your phone. Barcode Reader is another alternative. Have an AndroidPhone or iPhone? Use Lynkee (free app) to read the QR Code into your phone. Here is how to make your own “barcode” – Make your own bar code!
- ToggleWiFi – Allows you turn your WiFi on and off with a single tap.
You can find other recommendations here–some of which I wished I’d read prior to a 2-day search in the market, but hey, that’s the fun, isn’t it? I like to travel light on apps, whether on Android phone or iPod:
Oh, here are my favorite games (i’m not a gamer on Android, except for #1 below):
- Pirate Wars!
What apps would you suggest?
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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure