5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

Summary: No matter if you are a fan of custom OEM interfaces or stock Android phones, there are five apps that should be installed on every Android phone to make them better.

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I may be hard on Google for the mess that it has created with Android Honeycomb tablets, but on the smartphone front Android is still going strong. That is with good reason, Android phones are as good as anything on the market, and made even better with the right apps installed. No matter if you are a fan of HTC Sense phones with its attractive UI, Samsung TouchWiz phones, or stock Android phones, there are five apps that should be installed on every Android phone to make them better.

LauncherPro. The Android launcher is attractive but very basic in design and function, and LauncherPro takes any Android phone to the next level. This alternative launcher adds a customizable dock bar for launching apps, but that is only a fraction of the functionality it brings to the home screen. Speaking of home screens, LauncherPro brings a totally revamped home screen environment, with a new app drawer for launching apps included. The app also makes a suite of home screen widgets available that can be added as desired to install a raft of new functionality on the home screens as desired. These widgets can be customized to the heart's desire, and are skinnable to make them look just right. The Gmail widget alone is worth the price of LauncherPro. There are other alternative launchers but none match LauncherPro for features. You must have the Pro version to unlock all the features including the widgets. $3.49.

Beautiful Widgets. The strength of Android is the ability to make the interface very personal, and Beautiful Widgets is the daddy of them all. The app installs a bunch of home screen widgets of varying sizes that make it a breeze to tailor the look and feel of the screens to the user's personal taste. The widgets include HTC Sense look-alikes for those who like the clock and weather screens on those devices, but that's just for starters. There are hundreds of clock, weather and battery meter skins for download within Beautiful Widgets that can make the phone screen look any way you want. The various widgets can be combined in any number of ways to fit your style. There is even a live wallpaper that changes the screen background to match the time of day and local weather conditions. €1.99.

Amazon MP3. This free app has morphed from a simple way to get free music on Android phones into a full-fledged cloud music playing system. The free MP3 of the day is still there, along with easy access to cheap album deals in the Amazon music store, but with the launch of the Cloud Drive the Amazon MP3 app has evolved into a must-have for Android phone owners. Once you upload your music library to the Amazon Cloud, streaming it to any Android device (and computer) is a simple tap on the screen. Purchased (and free) music is automatically put into your Cloud Drive for instant access on the phone. The app also plays music store locally on the phone for those not into the whole cloud thing. Free.

Dolphin Browser HD. The web browsers installed on Android phones are pretty good, but they don't hold a candle to the Dolphin Browser HD. This browser is as fast as can be for rendering web pages in perfect form, and has a unique touch system for improved web browsing. The bookmark system is as sophisticated as that on any desktop browser, yet is as easy to operate as tapping on the screen. Dolphin also has a plug-in system that adds tons of functionality to the browser as desired. There is a configurable gesture system in Dolphin that lets you trigger actions by drawing on the screen with a fingertip, a tremendously useful feature. There is a free version that is ad-supported in the settings menus, or a $4.99 version without ads.

Multicon Widget. Phone screens can only hold so much information due to the small size, and sometimes you need to put more icons for apps than will fit. The free Multicon widget lets you put up to 4 app icons in the space normally occupied by one, which greatly extends the screen real estate. The four icon slots are not restricted to apps, you can put shortcuts for actions and special functions like Wi-Fi toggle in the slots. This is the most useful widget for a free app.

These five Android apps add incredible value to the smartphone, but they are not the only good apps in the Android Market. What are your must-have apps for Android?

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Topics: Laptops, Android, Apps, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, Tablets

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61 comments
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  • CoolNote!

    http://www.coolnote.co - Nice little app to let you stick realistic looking notes to your home page: the only one which does this.
    bill.damage
    • No

      @bill.damage ColorNote also does this.
      kwabinalars
      • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

        @kwabinalars
        Yup. Colornote does this...and does it quite well. I just checked out coolnote. I'm not a fane. Colornote is a much better, much more polished app. I'll stick with it...get it?
        Xander_Crews
    • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

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      upinson
    • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

      @bill.damage I love this app, use it pretty much daily. That and screen torch app.
      sam -<a href="http://saintoftheday.com">softd</a>
      soskert
  • Opera Mobile

    This is in many ways faster than Dolphin and is much smoother at scrolling graphics-rich pages because it initially loads photos in a lower resolution.
    mmarquis
    • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

      @mmarquis... Opera may be faster but it can't handle handoffs between .ASP and secured HTML websites.
      MasterE1
      • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

        @MasterE That's probably due to the way Microsoft implemented forwards/redirects in ASP.
        nicholas22
    • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

      I find the first three apps to be pure Garbage, replace LauncherPro with ADW and you'd be better off.

      You dont need the Dolphin HD browser, stock android browser JUST FINE. Beautiful and multicon widgets are ok...if you NEED that kind of junk. I prefer using custom ROMS which oftentimes have nice themes cooked into them anyway so I don't worry overmuch about it.

      Amazon MP3, way to not-so-subtly show that you're looking out for the almighty sponsor or two. That app is horrific and is simply something I consigned to the junk heap about 3 Android versions ago when I was running 1.6.
      ZazieLavender
      • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

        @ZazieLavender: I take it you've not actually used Dolphin HD? The strock browser is perfectly good but Dolphin HD is a lot better.

        Dolphin HD is excellent and the new version 5 is much faster too.

        Launcher Pro is great but most of it's functionality is provided with HTC Sense. It's a must on non-HTC phones though.
        bradavon
      • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

        @ZazieLavender Ever tried to browse a website that does not give you the option to avoid mobile? For example www.cnbc.com. You want to know what a mobile website looks like on a HoneyComb tablet? It SUCKS!

        Dolphin is a blessing!!!
        serpentmage
      • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

        @ZazieLavender
        the best browser for android is firefox mobile. It is very handy, quick, and easy to use.
        brad1000
  • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

    prefer GoLauncherEX to Launcher Pro.
    prefer stock browser to dolphin because of the reflow advantage.
    beautiful widget has not been that useful.
    eswarjj
  • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

    I use Launcher Pro. I mostly put it on because Motoblur is really annoying and this undoes most of it without rooting. I bought the full version so that I can resize my calendar. That bit is not worth the $3.49, but the rest is so good, I probably would have paid even if I didn't use any of the pro features, just to give the developer a little something.
    grant22
    • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

      @grant@...
      thought launcherpro was a good thing for a little while, but in meantime was getting random phone freezes and reboots. Turns out that it was launcherpro, so went to ADW. All good now and has been.
      brad1000
  • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

    OurGroceries
    tn77
  • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

    Really wish Google would rid us of the native Android Browser and just put in a full-fledged version Chrome Browser for the tablets. It really is a pain when trying to use the tablet as a netbook replacement that every page wants to load as mobile instead of desktop. Really defeats the reason of even making a tablet.
    YeomanDroid
    • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

      @YeomanDroid With the Dolphin browser, you can set the user agent to spoof as a desktop browser so you won't get the mobile versions of a website.
      K B
      • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

        @K B Dolphin is unstable compared to Opera Mobile when it comes to Honeycomb and as soon as it gets Flash Support, it might just be Game Over.
        slickjim
    • RE: 5 Android apps that should be on every smartphone

      @YeomanDroid

      This can be fixed. In the browser, go to Menu>More>Settings>Advanced Settings>Select User Agent and choose Linux Desktop.
      colinnwn