10 must-have Android apps

The Android Market is teeming with apps that can make your life easier in countless ways. These 10 are among the best.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

This is a guest post from TechRepublic's Jack Wallen. For more topics like this visit the 10 Things blog.

If, like me, you have come to love and depend upon your Android-based phone, you’ve no doubt discovered the wealth of applications on the Android Market. But as with the iPhone App store, not every app is a gem. So you’ve probably found yourself installing and quickly removing plenty of apps from your phone, hoping to find ones that are truly useful.

To help in this quest, I’ve narrowed the field to 10 indispensable applications. These apps serve a number of purposes with little overlap. Some are free and some have a price tag, but all of them are at (or near) the top of their category.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Dolphin (free)

Dolphin is one of the best mobile Web browsers. Period. It is fast, reliable, has real tabs, gestures, and multi-touch. Although the default Android browser is an okay solution, it simply doesn’t compare, feature for feature, to Dolphin. Dolphin is also much faster than most of the other Android solutions. My big question: Why is there no Chrome for Android?

2: ChompSMS (free)

ChompSMS is the best text client for the Android phone. In fact, this text app is so much better than the default, I’m surprised that the various Android-based phones haven’t switched. One aspect that makes this app so much better than the default is the battery usage. Especially in pre-2.0 releases, the Android text app has a problem with going to sleep, so it is constantly draining battery. By switching to Chomp, you will save your battery.

3: iMusic (free)

iMusic is a tricky one because of what it does: It allows unlimited downloads of MP3s. There is a EULA that insists you agree to remove the song as soon as you have listened to it. Or you can just listen to the song off the Web. Either way, this app will have you happily searching music to your heart’s content.

4: FeedR (free)

FeedR is an RSS reader that works as both an app and a widget. So far, in my quest for the perfect RSS widget, it has proven to be the best yet. FeedR can add preconfigured feeds or you can add your own personal favorites. This app beats the competition with its ability to truly auto-update. Many other feed readers (especially those in the widget category) require a user update to function properly. FeedR handles all updates in the background, with no intervention.

5: Advanced Task Killer ($4.99)

Advanced Task Killer is one of those apps you hope you don’t need, but you sometimes must have. I have noticed on occasion a rare app hanging out in the background unnecessarily. This can lead to a much lower battery life and slower app loading or usage. Advanced Task Killer allows you to kill an application with a single click. This particular app killer includes an ignore list, a widget version, and a long-press to menu feature.

6: Exchange by Touchdown (free demo)

Exchange by Touchdown is one of the best means to Exchange connectivity on the Android phone. Its Exchange connectivity is outstanding, and the support from the developers is just as great. Now this app is a demo and is free. There is a paid version, which does not revert to demo mode (after five days). However, you must install the free version first, as the paid version is only a key to unlock the demo. If you need Exchange connectivity on your Android phone, this is THE tool.

7: ConnectBot (free)

ConnectBot is an open source secure shell client for your Android phone. This client can manage simultaneous ssh connections and copy/paste between apps, and it has shortcuts for <Ctrl> sequences. You may notice on its Market entry that a bug exists for the Hero. The upcoming Hero update will solve this bug, and it will be worth the wait. Now if HTC will push the 2.0 update!

8: Barcode Scanner (free)

Barcode Scanner has quickly become one of my favorites. If you need to find product reviews (or price comparisons) while shopping, all you have to do is scan the bar code with your camera and open up the results. No more having to Google a product and sift through pages for reviews and/or prices.

9: Places Directory (free)

Places Directory is one of those apps you will constantly be thankful you have. With this tool, you can locate (thanks to your GPS) any nearby place, such as a hotel, restaurant, retail location, or movie theatre. Everything is broken into categories, and you can bookmark your favorites. From a places listing, you can instantly dial a location’s phone number or visit its Web site.

10: Evernote (free)

Evernote is not just for the iPhone. This handy app lets you keep track of nearly anything — and in many ways. You can keep track of things with notes, photos, recordings, and more. And with an Evernote account, you can keep everything in sync online and on your PC. If you’re looking for a one-stop productivity shop app, this is it.

Your picks

Do you agree that the apps on this list are must-haves? What other Android apps would you recommend?

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