Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

Summary: Android now has over 70,000 apps to choose from. TechRepublic's Jason Hiner shows you 25 of the best ones to download.

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The Android Market may not have as many apps as the iPhone App Store yet, but there are still enough to be overwhelmed, and it's growing at a breakneck pace. To help you sort through them all, here's my list of the best apps I've found on Android. Again, remember that this is a snapshot in time. The Android platform is developing so quickly right now that I guarantee my home screen look different a month from now.

The best way to view my list of the top Android apps is in the screenshot gallery. However, you can also view my top 25 in the list below.

The screenshots

The list

1. Google Voice

Google Voice is a service that is so useful I consider it one of the top benefits of Android itself, especially since Apple rejected the Google Voice app for the iPhone. It gives you a phone number that can ring to multiple places or devices and it allows you to access all of your voicemail and text messages over the Web. The Android app integrates even deeper. It can make outgoing calls look like they're coming from your Google Voice number so that you can keep your real mobile number private.

2. Advanced Task Killer

One of the realities of having a multitasking mobile OS in Android is that you have to manage your apps so that they don't hurt performance or battery life. Advanced Task Killer (or ATK) is my favorite. It even comes with a widget that you can tap once to kill all open apps.

3. Dropbox

Dropbox is a great cloud service that automatically syncs a folder of files between multiple computers (Windows, Mac, or Linux). This app extends Dropbox to Android and interacts with other apps (such as Documents To Go) to open the files.

4. Evernote

Once you get used to typing on a virtual keyboard (and it honestly took me over a year to do it), then these devices are great for note-taking, and Evernote is a great note-taking app. It is similar to Dropbox in that it saves data locally but syncs it across all your machines and devices.

5. DroidAnalytics

For some reason Google doesn't have an official app (for either Android or iPhone) for Google Analytics. The best one I've found on Android is DroidAnalytics. Another good one is mAnalytics.

6. Documents To Go

The free version of Documents To Go offers a great little reader for Word and Excel files. You can upgrade to the full version (for $15) if you want to edit files and add PowerPoint files to the mix. If you do want editing capability, I'd also recommend taking a look at QuickOffice.

7. Amazon Kindle

I never warmed up to the Amazon Kindle e-reader, but I'm a big fan of the Kindle mobile app. Since it was released I've read a lot more books simply because my smartphone is always with me and I can pull it and read a few pages anytime I've got a couple minutes free.

8. Places Directory

This is an awesome app for finding shops and services near your current location. From restaurants to movie theaters to medical facilities to taxis, this app is very accurate and takes advantage of the business information from Google Local. This app is better than the info you get from a GPS unit (or app) and better than any of the similar apps available on the iPhone.

9. Tripit

I dig Tripit. It is by far the best app I've found for keeping track of all my travel itineraries. It runs on some great backend systems. You simply forward your confirmation emails for your flights, hotels, rental cars, and more to Tripit and it automatically organizes them into trips with all your details and confirmation numbers.

10. Seesmic

Twitter is an amazing instant-intelligence engine and it was made for mobile browsing. Although there's an official Twitter app for Android now, Seesmic is still the best Android Twitter client.

11. FCC Speedtest

I'm obsessed with running speed tests to check my bandwidth in various places, both to see 3G fluctuations and to check the quality of Wi-Fi. There are a number of really good speedtest apps, but my new favorite is the FCC Test app.

12. Astro File Manager

Another one of the great things about Android (if you're a geek or a tinkerer) is that you have lower-level access to the system itself. Astro is an app that lets you navigate the Android file system.

13. Got To Do

There are plenty of to-do apps to choose from on Android but I prefer Got To Do because of the solid interface and the fact that it can sync with the online service Toodledo.

14. Gist

Many of us have contact lists scattered across various computers, devices, and online services. Gist is a Web service that can bring them together and even pull in stuff from the Web to help you stay up to date with your most important contacts. There's an Android app as well as an iPhone app.

15. TED Mobile

TED is a fascinating event that features a meeting of the minds of some of society's most influential thinkers. You'll definitely disagree with some of them, because there's a large diversity of opinions, but many talks are worth listening to. What I love is that they've taken the videos from their conference and made them freely available on the Web. This app provides a great way to access the videos. I hope more conferences follow TED's lead on this.

16. Pandora

Pandora is a streaming "radio station" for the Internet age. You simply search by an artist or song and it will create a running playlist based on that one piece of information. It intersperses an occasional ad between songs but the ads tend to be fairly localized and occasionally even useful.

17. Shazam

If you want to impress your friends with a mobile app, show them Shazam. Ever hear a song being played at a store or on the radio and ask yourself, "Oh, what song is that?" That's where Shazam comes in. Just hit the button and let it listen for 15 seconds, query its database, and then return the name of artist and the song. It has about an 80% success rate.

18. Dial Zero

Are you one of those people who dials a customer service line and just keeps pressing zero until you get to talk to a real person? Then Dial Zero is your new friend. This app provides a directory of a ton of U.S. businesses and gives you numbers to help you get closer to a real person and instructions for which prompts to hit to speak to a human being as quickly as possible.

19. Google Goggles

This is a fun app that is a little but ahead of its time. It does visual searches. You can take pictures of things and then the app tries to tell you what they are. It's limited in its scope but it is pretty cool, and it's definitely a peek into the future. One of the coolest features is the ability to take pictures of text in a foreign language and let that app translate for you. In a foreign country, this can help you read street signs and avoid going into the wrong bathroom. :-)

20. Google Sky Map

Ever look up at the night sky and try to tell your kids the name of that constellation you're pointing at, or try to remember which planet that is in the southern sky? Google SkyMap lets you point your smartphone at it and get the information. This is part of a new breed of apps called "Augmented Reality" apps that layer digital information on top of real world experiences.

21. Tricorder

A lot of geeks I know like to say that our smartphones are becoming more and more like the Tricorders on Star Trek. Well, here's a fun app that turns your Android device into a virtual Tricorder. It even offers some useful environmental information, including GPS data, wireless data, and ambient sound measurements.

22. FxCamera

Honestly, the camera software on Android is an area where major improvements are needed, but this app is a great example of what's possible. It has solid camera controls, full customization options, and offers some great effects for photos.

23. Photoshop Mobile

Photoshop is, of course, the best known photo editor in the world and its mobile app doesn't do anything to hurt that reputation. But while the desktop version is know for having a zillion features, the mobile app is distinguished by its simplicity. It's the best Android (and iPhone) photo editing app for simple crops, brightness adjustments, and sharpens, for example.

24. Bump

Bump is a fun (and useful) idea for sharing info between two phones using the accelerometer, and it works across Android and iPhone. You can use it to share contact info (yours and others), photos, and apps. You both simply open the Bump app, choose what you to share, and then hold the phones in your hands and bump your hands together.

25. Barcode Scanner

This app turns the Android camera into a barcode scanner. You simply scan a product's UPC code and let the app go to work to find it in Google Product Search or a search on the open Web. You'll be amazed at how fast it works. This is great for when you're shopping retail and you want to check the price of a product online before buying to make sure you're paying a fair price.

Also see

This article was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Apps, Android, Google, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Smartphones

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  • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

    ATK? In my experience it is a big waste of time. Android handles multitasking fine without user intervention.
    jj6992
    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      @jj6992

      ATK is a must have for all the new android phones if you want any kind of battery life out of them. We have noted here at work an almost 30% higher battery life when users have ATK vs not.
      overbear
      • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

        @overbear have fun with a crapped up system. Task killers really screw up Android. If you were to actually optimize the system by turning off auto sync for services like Twitter and Facebook and reducing your email pull. Also toggling your various radios when not in use gives a lot of battery life. Basically there are a lot better ways to save power than poisoning your system. Also, if you let Android run without task killing for a few days, it eventually learns how to manage your apps, giving better performance and battery life. But you have to completely reset Android and never install a task killer to see the difference.
        superlinkx
      • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

        @overbear <br><br>ATK is the WORST thing you can install on your phone for system stability and proper mutli-tasking management. You get better battery life if you don't install the widgets & apps that are sucking down battery life to begin with, like the official TV Guide app for some reason sucks as much power as my screen and I hardly ever open it. Instead of using ATK to keep a crappy app on my phone through autokilling, simply uninstall it & install an app that's programmed well, like TV Listings. Don't compromise the integrity of your phone just to reward crap programming by keeping crap apps installed.<br><br>Pretty much, use ATK only if you want your phone to run like crap and run crappy apps. If you know how to use your phone, install quality apps, then ATK is more harm than good. ATK allows crap developers to stay crap developers.

        edit:
        (addendum) unless you're running a phone with Android 1.5/1.6, before Google improved the memory management. Post 2.0, task killers are phone killers.
        alangerow
      • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

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    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      I accept windows is doing good and all the times they build expectations but i don't understand why people still doesn't get moved away from windows to android, see windows and android mobiles http://tweetmobiles.blogspot.com/search/label/sony%20ericsson%20mobiles
      inspirearun
    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      I downloaded Santa Booth on Android and it was awesome!! You can find it on Santabooth.net, it was similar to Chunky booth which takes a picture and make the person look like they are huge!!! I also like Harbor Boat Master which is on the Android market and is by far the best game out.
      aliraza_acca
    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      @jj6992 I agree. Not is ATK a waste of time, but it's a heavy user of processing time/power even when in idle mode. When I uninstalled it, my performance greatly improved.
      deja_voodoo@...
    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      "Im Here Plus" is a combination of "I'm here", "Where are you?" and SMS popup.
      "Im Here Plus" allows you to use SMS text messaging to check the status and GPS location of any person on your contact list, as long as they have "Im Here Plus" installed as well. You may also choose to send others your current location via SMS, whether with just your GPS address or with an edited personalized location.
      Anyone can also text you "where r u?" from any device and receive an automatic response with your availability (which you may manually select: busy or free), as well as your current GPS location.

      Unique feature "Smart GPS":
      We all know GPS doesn't work well when you're inside of buildings, upon this point, Phone will use tower signal to only get approximate address which may be too far off from your current address. "Smart GPS" will solve this issue.
      How Smart GPS works? It learns the position's data from your activities in the past, combines with time and signals data, try to provide the best address.
      boxiongboost
      • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

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    • Not entirely true!

      Agreed, Android handles it for you very well, though when you have a recent phone with a lot of memory, Android might leave everything running, and there are apps you don't want to have them running all the time, such as games! So I use an ATK (System Tuner) to actually kill all my installed app when I don't use them!

      But I don't kill any other apps, which are mostly needed and will often restart by themselves, eg GMail, etc...

      It can make a difference and keep your available memory very high, as Android has an auto-killer based on low memory conditions, but set too low! This can also be set to increase available memory and reduce the chances of running out of memory!

      On the long run, phone runs smoother!
      3c71
  • So out of those 70K, how many will run on any given Roid?

    25K?, 30K?, Maybe even 35K?

    And how do you feel about only being able to patch or upgrade a Roid once per year? (Provided your phone model is even capable or included)
    i8thecat
    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      @i8thecat

      69900 and you get more updates a year than iPhone users, who only get one major update a year and the rest is for bugfixing, cause the OS is buggy as hell... too bad they can't fix a flawed antenna design with an update, luckily Android users have phones that don't drop calls when you touch them.
      drphysx
      • ROTFLMAO!!! Try again...

        @drphysx <br><br>Google has gone to one (possible) update per year for any and all Roid phones... And no, there isn't a Roid phone built that can run even close to all 70K Apps in the Roid store. <br><br>I've got friends with Roids who are forced to reboot several times a day... I've never had to reboot my iPhone... And the antenna isn't flawed, It's an awesome design that was nitpicked by tards with no clue about technology. Anyone with half a brain can appreciate the design and understand what happens when you bridge 2 seperate antennas. I have never dropped a call on my iPhone 4... <br><br>Nice try Roid Boi, but next time, try lying to your mom... Maybe she will believe 69900... LOL
        i8thecat
      • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

        Roids eat up battery life, crash plenty, slow down as much as Windows Vista, and the OS is as clumsy as a Dell technician without a coffee break.

        iOS just works. iOS is fun. iOS is not for cheapo nerds, dorks and wannabe's.
        jeff.fostermedia@...
      • Rebooting every 15 minutes

        @i8thecat

        Funny, I have a cruddy old G1 that I still use (not for long), and aside from system updates, I've never had to reboot. It's slow now, true, but neither I nor any of the 7 other folks using android (various phones) have had to reboot for anything other than system updates.

        OK, anecdotal junk aside, try googling "iphone reboot", and surprise, surprise! People having to reboot is not an "Android" problem. Gasp.

        If you hate android, stop reading about it. You'll make those who do, those who don't know or care and even yourself happier.
        Mr. Copro Encephalic to You
    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      @i8thecat

      "So out of those 70K, how many will run on any given Roid?"

      Nearly all of them.
      alangerow
    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      @i8thecat
      Sigh...another fanboy in denial about his inferior iPhone.
      The iPhone is a nice phone...no doubt.
      I had the original G1 Android phone and now I own a Droid2.

      However...the bottom line is Android phones can do a whole lot more than an iPhone. Them's the facts. It's just that simple.

      And the iPhone antenna issue is a problem. You shouldn't have to concern yourself about losing the signal if you hold your phone a certain way. Everyone I know who has an iPhone who has tried to duplicate the antenna issue, has been able to do so...so they got cases or put a sticker over the poorly designed area...which is what is is...a poor design. Good luck getting an over-the-air a patch to fix a hardware issue. Hilarious! The only reason it's not more of an issue, is because fanboys refuse to criticize Apple. I was told by a friend of mine, "it's not a problem at all...I bought a case to fix the issue". BUT THAT IS THE PROBLEM!! YOU SHOULDN'T HAVE TO BUY A CASE TO FIX THAT ISSUE!!!

      Oh...and btw...how is that free tethering going? Oh...oops...Ha! I'm enjoying free tethering with my Droid2 on Verizon...and it's legal. I use my phone as a modem for my laptop all of the time when not in a wifi area. Works great...and it's free. Good 'ol PDANET in the Android Market. (I say this as I watch a flash movie on my Android... life is good on the Android side.)

      The iPhone is a device that should be given away with a Happy Meal at McDonald's...it's that rudimentary and simplistic.
      Xander_Crews
  • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

    I wish app reviewers would STOP recommending task killers. If you're using a task killer on an Android 2.x phone, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!!! You don't need, and will actually make your phone WORSE by using, a task killer. The OS handles task to memory management ... you're not a computer managing internal memory, so STOP IT!!!
    alangerow
    • RE: Top 25 Android apps: The best of the best

      @alangerow... Well, when you have providers like Verizon that embed useless running programs that you can not turn off... make sense to me to find a away to at least kill them. The directions on how to root a smart phone is too complex for the average user. programs such as vonage are constantly running and sucking bandwidth and battery... but you can not turn it off unless you root your phone. Alternative? task killer!
      SpankyFrost