Blog Post

Must-have Android Apps For Newbies

I’ve recently started using Android (s goog), since my trusty Treo 755p (s palm) finally died, after several years of excellent service. So I’ve bought an HTC EVO 4G, and I have to agree with James that it’s an excellent phone. The screen is fantastic, and now that I’ve gotten used to on-screen keyboards from using an iPod touch (s aapl), I found that I found the EVO more usable than the Samsung Epic, even though the EVO doesn’t have a physical keyboard.

Since I’m already a Gmail and Google Apps user, synchronizing mail, calendars and contacts to the EVO was a snap. And the phone comes with well-designed apps for Facebook, Twitter, Google Maps, Google Talk, and Google Voice. There’s also a multi-service social network client for Facebook, Flickr and Twitter called FriendStream.

But there a bunch of other Android apps available, both paid and free. So if you or a loved one are in line to get an Android phone for the holidays, here are some apps to get you started.

Communication and Social Networking

  • Multi-protocol IM apps eBuddy and Nimbuzz are worth trying. Nimbuzz also offers international calling at low rates, comparable to Skype and Google Voice, but I find eBuddy’s IM interface richer and easier to use.
  • Scott and I have both found Gist useful, and the Gist Android app does a pretty good job of presenting a lot of information in a small space.
  • The DroidIn app keeps LinkedIn users connected from their Android phones. The app isn’t as complete as the official LinkedIn app for iOS, but it does the basics well.
  • HTC’s built-in Twitter apps (Peep and FriendStream) are fine for basic needs, but if you want to manage multiple Twitter apps, use a specific service to shorten URLs, or to post images and videos, you might want to check out Seesmic. There are lots of others, too, including such well-known cross-platform apps as HootSuite, which I don’t care for, but others like. And if you like using to post to a bunch of services simultaneously, try the AnyPost app.


  • One of the nice things about Android is the large choice of web browsers. In addition to Android’s native Webkit-based browser, there are half a dozen alternatives, including Opera, Dolphin and the beta version of Firefox Mobile.
  • Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a simple way of syncing bookmarks from desktop browsers. Since I’m an Xmarks user, and it seems that the sync service will now remain in business, I’ve decided to make Xmarks’ “My Bookmarks” page my home page in the Android browser.

News and Weather

  • The EVO comes with an RSS news reader app (just called News). It’s nice, but for some reason, it doesn’t have any way of importing feeds via an OPML file. Since I don’t want to have to re-create the several hundred feeds I already have in Google Reader, I looked for an RSS app that syncs with Google Reader. So far, I’m finding the unofficial gReader app quite adequate for news reading.
  • The phone’s native Weather app is pretty, but doesn’t include many details. If you live in a place with interesting weather like I do and want more info, check out WeatherBug. It uses data from Weather Underground’s extensive network of local weather stations, and is available in ad-supported or paid versions.

File and Idea Management

  • We’ve written about Dropbox many times; it’s one of our favorite file sync services. The Android app seems to work as well as its counterparts for other platforms.
  • The Android app from another favorite, Evernote, syncs smoothly with other locations, too.
  • I rather like Toodledo, the cloud-based to-do app. Toodle Droid, the Android version, is actually nicer-looking than the service’s web interface.

Password Management


  • As a web worker, I tend to need to get “under the hood” of my Android devices more than some users. If you’re in the same category, you might need the App Installer, which allows you to install apps other than those found in the Android Market.
  • I’ve also added AndExplorer, a file browser app, which lets me get into the phone’s file system.
  • For sending files, there’s AndFTP, a surprisingly nice FTP client.

I’m sure that I’ll be adding apps in the days and weeks to come. For instance, I haven’t yet found a solitaire app to match Awesome Solitaire for iOS, so recommendations are welcome!

What Android apps do you recommend for newbies?

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19 Responses to “Must-have Android Apps For Newbies”

  1. good compilation of Android apps, will definitely try some later. Though, it’s missing the new Who’s Free app, among the social apps. I simply let my friends know when I am free to hang out::) really cool and useful when you are at a big event like super bowl!;) check it out

  2. As an Android newbie (since September), I’ve been searching for a better music player. Although the native player was ok, it didn’t sync with Last.FM. So I tried a variety including PowerAMP, museek (or 3), and Meridian. Finally WinAmp came around, and that is the best one. Simple.FM syncs Last.FM and is compatible with several music players.

    If you are looking for music stream services (all require subscription), the try MOG, Rdio, Pandora or Last.FM (separate app).

    I’ve been using Springpad to save links, make notes, etc. I like it is all in one and has a built-in scanner to add stuff.

    I use GTasks to my to do list, which syncs with your Google tasks.

    Finally, I’ve been messing with AOPReader to access Google Reader. Syncs pretty well, but still testing.

    Cheers! @contrapuntist

  3. Curious why you don’t care for HootDroid? I find HootSuite to be the most versatile, feature-filled Twitter client, more so than Seesmic or TweetDeck. I dare say you may have not discovered all of its features.

    • Charles Hamilton

      I haven’t found battery life to be an issue, although I did tweak the Evo’s settings to improve it. The folks at the Sprint store actually gave me a sheet of suggestions that they had compiled to stretch the battery.

    • I, too, have been enjoying the Beta release of PIA. Its going to be interesting to see how to reconcile its full release with Got to Do for managing my Toodledo tasks. Both are great programs.


  4. slbailey1

    FeedR is a real good news reader that syncs with Google Reader. Astro is a real good file management app. For phone backup I recommand My Backup Pro; it backs up apps, data, and your phone system to the SD card or to the clound.

  5. Some other suggestions:

    Pure Calendar Widget

    Pure Messenger Widget

    Instead of ToodleDroid use Got To Do. It works great and also works with the pure calendar widge

    Movies by Flixster. Great Movies app also doubles as a netflix queue manager.

    • Charles Hamilton

      Great list. I’ve been trying Got To Do, and I do like it. It’s amazing how many task apps there are, and I haven’t decided whether I like syncing with Google Tasks or Toodledo better. Now if either one could reliably sync with the Mac iCal app, that would be perfect.