One of the features that draws me to the Android (s goog) platform is the ability to install apps that add to the enjoyment of the phone. The number and quality of apps in the Android Market is good and getting better all the time. The challenge these days is finding good apps to try from the thousands in the Market. That’s why I turned to the Twitterverse. I asked my Twitter friends to send me the apps they like best, and the responses were overwhelming. Android users are the best source of information about the best apps, and you stepped up to the plate admirably.
I heard from many Android users who mentioned hundreds of good apps to try. I spent a fair amount of time going through every single tweet, and came up with this list of 20 apps that the most people recommend. The list is in no particular order and all of these apps are top-notch. In one instance, you’ll find multiple apps listed (e.g. Twitter clients). So many people recommended Twitter apps that I lumped those together. The apps in this list are by no means the only good Android apps, but all of these are highly recommended by users.
RunKeeper. Many Android owners are cyclists or runners, as this app received a lot of recommendations. This app tracks runs using the phone’s GPS, and presents constant analysis of the session. It provides stats during a run, walk or cycling tour such as speed, distance and calories burned. Free.
Kindle. Amazon finally got the Kindle app for Android out to the e-book reading masses, and based on user response it’s a good thing they did. The Kindle app was handily the reader that respondents like, and I have to agree with the choice. Free.
SystemPanel. Android is a powerful OS and is unusual for a smartphone platform in that it is highly configurable. This app provides a way to monitor the entire system to see what is going on in addition to a task manager that is very good. The ability to graph long-term battery usage is outstanding. There is a free version and a paid version ($2.99) that adds additional features. I use the paid version.
Quick Settings. All of those settings in Android can be daunting to wade through, especially for newbies, and this utility brings the most commonly accessed settings into one place. You’ll find volume, ringer and screen brightness among others right at your fingertip. Free.
Speed Test. A good way to determine current bandwidth is always good to have on a smartphone. This app is from the Speedtest.net folks and makes it a simple tap to see how good network speeds are at any time. It’s especially good at showing off the 4G if your phone supports it. Free.
Google Sky Map. Having Google behind Android is a good thing, as some cool apps come out of that association. Google Sky map has to be tried to fully appreciate what it does. Point your Android phone at the night sky, and Sky Map uses the phone’s compass, clock and GPS to identify stellar objects and display the names on the screen. Free.
Twitter clients. There are no shortage of ways to tweet on Android phones and these four apps were highly recommended. Each of them does a good job handling Twitter activities and presenting tweets with good use of the phone’s screen. Your favorite one will end up being personal preference. I admit I have all four of these apps installed on my phone. I regularly switch around just for fun. Note that all of these apps have the ability to run in the background and check updates regularly. They can give notifications or display updates on widgets that are included. This background checking can hit the phone’s battery hard, so pay attention to the settings at installation time.
- Twitter: the official Twitter app for Android. Free.
- Twidroyd: the long-time app for Android. Free and paid version ($3.99).
- Twicca: a good full-features Twitter app. Free.
- Touiteur: pronounced “Twitter”, with a French accent. Great use of the screen. Free and paid version (1.99 Euros)
Onion News Network (ONN). This app is fairly new but already tickling funny bones. The ONN’s irreverent parody of the news is outstanding, and this app makes tapping it a breeze. Free (ad-supported).
JuiceDefender. This app is aimed at helping control power consumption by controlling background data processes. The slick interface turns what some consider a daunting task into a point and click process. Free (paid version available).
Audible. This open beta brings Audible content to your Android phone for listening to books on the go. You have to join the beta Google group to get the download link. Free.
Touchdown Exchange. Android supports Exchange accounts, but not as richly as needed by many. Touchdown was one of the top recommended apps for its ability to handle multiple Exchange accounts. The app provides full Exchange support for email, contacts, tasks and calendar. $19.99.
Dolphin Browser HD. This app is the first I install on every Android phone. It handles tabbed browsing in an intelligent manner, and adds finger gestures to control the app. A very full-featured browser that rivals desktop apps. Free.
aCircuitBoard. Sometimes you like to have fun with Android, and this live wallpaper is my favorite. It puts a live computer circuit board on the home screens, and in light blinking glory. It is customizable and the GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi indicators on the screen are working indications of those radios. Yes, that is a working binary clock on the wallpaper, too. Live wallpapers can be a CPU hog and thus a battery drain, but this one is gentle on both. Around a buck.
ASTRO File Manager. A lot of us Android users are geeky, and we love to work with files on phones. ASTRO is a file manager with all of the bells and whistles you expect, and the graphical interface is first-rate. It is especially useful for moving stuff onto SD cards in the phone. Free and paid version ($3.99).
Handcent SMS. Android handles text messages very well, but some folks prefer a nice display that makes threaded messages easy to follow. Handcent SMS does this using a configurable display that makes messaging easy to do, and just plain fun. Free.
vizBattery. This widget is one of the first things I install on any Android phone. It displays a nice graphical battery indicating remaining battery life, and can be tapped to pop up a window with detailed information about battery usage. Free. (No screen image available.)
DoggCatcher. Phones are great tools for listening to podcasts on the run. This app comes highly recommended and I intend to try it myself. It is a full podcatcher and podcast player, both audio and video casts. $6.99.
Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): Google’s Mobile Strategy: Understanding the Nexus One