Blog Post

Top 20 Android Apps Recommended by You

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

31 Responses to “Top 20 Android Apps Recommended by You”

  1. Hey,

    Me just hang out at all the best places in canada. Keep travelling with my nexus. Google maps now remind me of everything I need during my travel, with this awesome app ‘GeoTask Alert System’ [search on android market]

    Here is the link
    http://tinyurl.com/4wzdus7

    Have a good travel

    Just for like minded.

    Ciao

  2. I use Flash Card Maker Pro to teach my 6 year old daughter how to read and do math problems. This is the only flash card application that is optimized for Android pads, tablets, and mobile phones. Flash Card Maker Pro uses advanced gesturing and text-to-speech capability providing a fully interactive experience for users of all ages. This multi-sensory teaching tool uses all pathways of learning (visual, auditory, kinesthetic or seeing, hearing, touching) simultaneously, in order to enhance memory and learning. Use Flash Card Maker Pro on your Android phone or tablet to teach children how to read and do math, to help students study for exams, or to prepare for an upcoming presentation.

    Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand. (Chinese Proverb)

    Recycle your old paper flash cards and download the latest digital version today! Flash Card Maker Pro has the following highlighted features:

    1. Create Your Own Flash Cards
    2. Share Flash Cards with Other Users
    3. Download Decks of Cards from Developer Website
    4. Text-to-speech Audio Playback
    5. Built-in Study Timer
    6. Randomize or Change Order of Playback
    7. Swap Question and Answer
    8. Change Card Colors and Text Size
    9. Navigate Between Cards using Touch Gestures
    10. Backup Database to SD Card

  3. Jason Harris

    Bought aCircuitboard and was wondering why my phone kept bogging down and saying “too many windows open”. Turns out after about a day or so on my phone aCircuitBoard is taking up 200M of memory.

    No problems when I switched back to a default wallpaper.

  4. Any chance we can get a similar roundup of entertainment (aka, games) on the Android? I’d love to be able to show my iPhone toting friends some of the nicer games on Android.

  5. Borgel

    +1 for Astrid. Best Remember the Milk client I’ve ever used. Kept track of many sorrowful hours of coursework…

    -Slidescreen: Its awesome, makes the home screen useful for so much more then the default.

    -Newsrob for RSS feeds. I tried many, and this is the one which stuck.

    Ive been ok with Listen so far.

  6. I think juiceplotter is better for tracking battery usage, not only does it graph battery usage, but also has a 1×1 widget showing remaining time and how accurate that estimate is. Also useful is the data on the graph, it has keys to show when screen was on, temperature of the device at the time, wifi/apn, and if it was charging.

  7. CTSLICK

    Dang, I was really hoping someone would point the way to a good password/personal info vault app. There are so many in the Market that its hard to filter out the background noise from the signal. I miss eWallet.

    • ahow628

      LastPass is the way to go. I love it. It has its own secure browser or you can use bookmarklets on Dolphin HD or the stock Android browser. You have to upgrade to LastPass Premium for $12 year to use it on your phone. Totally worth it for the security.

      • 1smartcanerican

        I’m using b-folders and love it as I can sync it with all my computers – desktop, pc, and phone so I have the same info everywhere I may be. Easy to use.

    • I use PasswordSafe because it comes in desktop and PortableApps flavors as well. I just copy the database to my phone and it works. I’m sure there’s a way for all clients to hit the same database… or a synching method I’m missing. But at the end of the day, being able to bounce in and out of the Android browser to copy and paste username and password is GOLD!

      • ahow628

        LastPass auto syncs the passwords and secure notes to all devices automatically. KeePass, my former password manager was hit or miss as far a sync was concerned.

        I also wanted to point out (sort of off subject) that LastPass also just introduced IE Anywhere which allows you to use LastPass without installing it anywhere. Works awesome on my locked down work computer. Once again, it is a Premium feature ($12/yr).

    • There is an eWallet Android app…just read only though. Since I’m at a desktop or tablet pc most of the day, I enter info there and then sync to the phone version so I can at least read my passwords on the road.

  8. how come you dont cut your articles in RSS? by leaving in the full post when expanding the view it makes them impossible long because of all the pics.

  9. Dave P

    I’d add:

    Astrid (free) – a simple to do list app and widget.

    Note Everything (free and paid) – in addition to text notes, it allows paint (i.e. ink), voice, photo, and checklist notes (some only in the paid version). With the paid version you can set up durable checklists (which let me replace OI Shopping List) and encrypt notes (which may replace KeePassDroid). If it only synced with Evernote, I would be perfect.

    Simon Tatham’s Portable Puzzle Collection (free) – 34 time wasters including a SuDoKu implementation called Solo that’s better than any of the paid versions I’ve tried.

    Shortyz (free)- download crosswords from around the web and fill them out at your leisure.

  10. doctor-don

    WeatherBug is another free app (a PAID app is available without ads) that is handy because it keeps the current temperature right up at the top of the screen. However, although I am in Atlanta, it has put me in Mississippi, Arkansas and this last time Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

    Apps need to function properly if people are going to pay money for them.

  11. Kevin, what are you currently using for podcasts (if not DoggCatcher)? I had been using BeyondPod until Google Listen arrived. The Reader integration of Listen was too good to pass up, but I got fed up with Listen. It just stinks. I’m now back on BeyondPod, but I’m always wondering what I’m missing.

    I agree with Ahow628 – MyTracks is VERY cool!

    • I’ll have to try Seesmic as the official Twitter client is too slow and a little clumsy.

      Also, instead of Juice Defender (which seems to need rooting for full effect), I’ve been using the Advanced Task Killer (free) which seems good enough but doesn’t tightly link into anything else (which makes me feel more comfortable).

      I’ll also throw some weight behind the SlingPlayer.. but wish it was 1/3rd cheaper and higher resolution. The unofficial Sonos app (Andronos) is good for basic volume adjustments.

  12. ahow628

    A couple of alternatives I prefer:

    1) Instead of Run Keeper, I’ve been checking out My Tracks. It is developed by some Google guys and tosses all your stats directly into Google Docs and Google Maps.

    2) I’ve been using Locale instead of Juice Defender. I like it as it turns my WiFi on when at home/parent’s, turns the ringer to vibrate at work, and turns on Bluetooth at 4:45 as I’m walking to the car to drive home (off at 5:30 when I get there).

    3) Google Labs has an app called Listen which is a nice simple Podcast manager that integrates with Google Reader so I know when a new podcast is up as I’m reading my news in the morning.

  13. mdoublea

    Slingplayer is by far my favorite app…but this is only useful if you have a Slingbox. Thanks for the list, I haven’t heard of some of these.