Keeping up with all the latest and greatest Android apps is a full-time job (take my word for it). We consider vast numbers of them before we update this list periodically with additions, deletions, and replacements. This time around, we added 20 apps to the list and retired just as many.
How We Chose
There are now more than 450,000 apps in Google Play, and the 0.02 percent of Google Play represented in this list showed outstanding performance and mainstream usability without killing our device’s CPU. If an app had free and premium versions, I generally veered towards the free unless otherwise noted. I’m also a big fan of alternatives, so for every app on this list I also looked for a second choice that might appeal to readers who don’t, for one reason or another, like the first choice.
Loyal readers who’ve watched this app list evolve since 2010 will be excited to learn that Angry Birds (the original) has finally been removed from this list! It’s still an addictive and well-executed casual game, but one can only catapult birds for so many years…
Another item to note: I tested most of the apps below on a Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.0.2 or a Samsung Galaxy S II with Android 2.3., although most apps are compatible with Android 2.2 and above. Unfortunately, until every Android user is on the same device and OS version, Android apps will forever be dogged by fragmentation issues and you may experience different levels of performance on your device.
And as always, tell us what your favorite Android apps are in the comments section below.
Free The interface looks dated, but AppGarden Lite is a lightweight, backwards-compatible container with dozens of useful utilities, from conversion charts to a barcode scanner to a password generator. You can bookmark your favorite utilities for quick access. My favorites folder includes the QR scanner, stopwatch, tip calculator, currency calculator, Urban Dictionary lookup, and a calorie calculator.
avast! Mobile Security
This completely free app packs in a ton of security features, like remote wipe, remote-lock, app management, safe Web browsing, a battery manager, and as an added bonus, a top-rated anti-virus engine that passed AV-Test’s test with flying colors. It’s also incredibly light. However it lacks a backup feature so make sure you sync it to your computer.
There are lots of BitTorrent clients out there, but I like the old favorite aDownloader because it’s easy to use and relatively crash-free. It also has a killer feature: the ability to pause and resume downloads. I haven’t encountered any file-size limits, either.
Auto Memory Manager
When a computer needs a performance boost, one of the most obvious ways is to upgrade or at least, manage memory; the same goes for mobile devices. Auto Memory Manager is an ad-supported app that provides detailed memory information, and lets you set memory priority on apps. It’s worth downloading when your Android phone begins to feel sluggish.
The Beautiful Widgets app lets you customize your phone’s homescreen, with weather reports, clocks, battery status, and different elements. It’s a simple app that makes your Android’s homescreen more useful to you, based on what information you want to see. And, as the name implies, it does it with grace.
Maxthon Internet Browser
If I could personify Maxthon, he’d be a crazy genius. This HTML5-ready Chinese invention is packed with endless configurations like advanced gesturing (that goes beyond that offered by Dolphin HD), www/WAP toggling, fetching, and day/night mode. You can even personalize it to rename the app, select a different icon for the app, and change its skin.
History Eraser Pro
History Eraser Pro makes it simple to delete junk off your phone. The app walks you through all sorts of data, from text messages to browser history to cached files, and then it wipes them in one shot.
Do you love everything about your Android except its crappy battery life? JuiceDefender Ultimate is a popular app that conserves battery life by disabling the most draining components, specifically 3G/4G connectivity, when your phone is idle. You can get the free lite version, but I’d invest in the Ultimate version which lets you customize when to disable a signal; for example, if you’re listening to Pandora you wouldn’t want it to go offline simply because your phone went idle.
Launcher Pro is a third-party application that does something your phone already does on its own (launch apps), except that it adds the ability for you to customize your phone in more ways than you normally can so that you can launch apps quicker and more easily. For example, you can create up to seven different homescreens, giving you quick access to more apps than before.
Lookout Premium for Android
Lookout doesn’t just promise security, it promises peace of mind on your Android device, which includes recovery solutions in case of loss, theft, or wipeout. The free version offers Find My Phone feature, automatic backup and restore functions. However, I’d shell out for the Premium ($2.99/month or $29.99/year, direct) edition which adds safe browsing; remote lock/wipe; app permissions management; and backup for contacts, call history, and pictures.
Is your file suddenly taking forever to download? If it’s your network’s fault, Speed Test will prove it. Tap to test your network connectivity in less than 30 seconds, showing upload and download times, real-time graphs showing connection consistency, and other detailed reporting to shove in your carrier’s face when they try to blame it on something else.
OnLive for Android lets you play current-generation console and PC games on your Android device, by streaming them from OnLive’s servers. It works best with 4G connectivity and most games require a wireless game controller.
Opera Mini 7
If you’re on a data diet, Opera Mini 7 is the fastest, most backward-compatible mobile browser on the market. You won’t get Flash support or all the features in Dolphin Browser HD, but Opera’s servers compress webpages so much that Mini only requires one-tenth of the bandwidth of a traditional mobile browser.
SwiftKey 3 (beta)
SwiftKey 3, just released in beta, might be the best virtual keyboard for Android yet. It “removes” the spacebar by letting users type entire sentences without having to tap the spacebar. Artificial intelligence within the app learns your typing style to offer up the most relevant word suggestions. It’s not available in Google Play yet, but you can get it by signing up to be a SwiftKey VIP member.
Veteran users will be familiar with Swype’s killer keyboard feature—being able to swipe your finger across a few letters to form entire words. A summer update made its machine learning engine smarter, adding a four-in-one keyboard and voice recognition. This is a glorious, Android-only keyboard experience for the those with two left thumbs.
Tasker is…ingenious. It lets you quickly program commands for your phone, like automatically turning on your music when you plug in earphones, or automatically turning off Wi-Fi when you put your device face down. Yes, I totally buy its tagline: “turn your smartphone into a geniusphone.”
X-Plore is a great way to look at an Android’s file system, and its many added features are solid bonuses. Use it to perform file operations like copy, rename, or create new folders. With X-plore, users can access Picasa albums, browse SQlite database files, zip and unzip files, and explore shared folders on Windows servers and PCs.
BaconReader for Reddit
BaconReader delivers an appealing, Android-only interface for checking and participating in Reddit, the popular social news site. It includes features like subreddit grouping, keyword filtering, and direct photo uploads.
Any Radio 1 fans out there? The Beeb is perhaps my all-time favorite general news source. Its mobile app doesn’t disappoint, letting you watch video reports, listen to live radio, clip articles for offline reading, and read the latest updates on the fly.
Regardless of your take on CNN’s editorial content, they do know how to deliver it on a mobile device. Their Android UI is intuitive and buttery-smooth, serving the latest stories by category, embedded videos, and plenty of sharing options. You can also listen to CNN Radio within the app.
Flipboard, the popular, excellent social reading app made famous on the iOS platform, has finally arrived on Android smartphones, losing very little in translation. Flipboard aggregates Web content, from news clips to videos, in a clean, gorgeous magazine-style layout.
NewsRob is an RSS/Atom newsreader that syncs both ways with your Google Reader account. Its UI obviously borrows a lot from Google Reader, but NewsRob adds offline caching and many other configurable features, like how many unread items to display at once. Plus, NewsRob seems to sync faster than other Google Reader wrappers.
Pulse is everyone’s favorite news reader. You can aggregate your favorite publications on one clean, snappy, gorgeous interface. Pulse also makes it easy to share articles, sync for offline reading, or simply scan quickly for headlines, Twitter-style.
Read It Later
Read It Later simply saves webpages and videos you come across to read offline (or just, you know, later). It beats Instapaper for its ability to sync with iOS devices. Sorry, Internet Explorer devotees, Read It Later only syncs with Chrome and Firefox.
Ever open your browser with nowhere to go? StumbleUpon feeds you new Web content with a single tap. It’s the mobile version of the tremendously popular Web application of the same name. You can follow people and brands, plus select from over 500 interests, to make your “random” content more relevant
What makes the Dictionary.com app useful is that the information is local. Rather than wait for the website Dictionary.com to load, you can look up dictionary definitions immediately from the app. The free version of the app has advertisements, but the $1.99 paid version does not.
Google Maps has long helped people navigate streets, landmarks, parks, and other outdoor locations all over the world. In November, Google added an indoor navigation feature that helps you confidently trespass airports, shopping malls, and other large buildings.
Google Translate translates words into over 64 languages, and dictates them aloud. It’s fast and stable, and works well for quick translations of a few words or a single sentence. However it requires a constant Internet connection.
IMDb Movies & TV
The next time you can’t remember the name of an actor, television show, or film, IMDb Movies & TV saves the day. One of the handiest reference websites on the planet, IMDb never fails when it comes to looking up anything that has to do with TV, film, or Hollywood. The app also lets you find which movies are playing at your local cinema, and even purchase tickets. With an IMDb account (free or paid for Pro), the app provides even more features, like the ability to create a watchlist of movies you want to see.
OverDrive Media Console
OverDrive lets you borrow EPUB eBooks and audiobooks in MP3 format, from a global network of more than 13,000 libraries. The biggest drawback is that you have to store files locally, which hogs both memory and battery.
Soundhound identifies virtually any song you hear or sing. Yes, it’s similar to Shazaam, but with a lot more features, like geo-tagging, music sales, and music videos.
WebMD for Android
WebMD is much more than a diagnosis app, although you certainly can use it to input symptoms you are experiencing and find some clues as to what’s ailing you. It also contains listings for healthcare professionals and pharmacies in your area, as well as first-aid guides—simple instructions for dealing with an emergency that everyone should have accessible at any time. This free reference app is one you hope you don’t need, but, the moment you do, you’ll be glad you downloaded it.
Want to improve your street cred? UrbanDictionary.com is a popular user generated source of modern slang. This unofficial app includes everything you’ll find on its Website, plus a word of the day, so you can impress your bourgeois friends with unfamiliar phrases like “pulling a Kim Kardashian” or “Rick Perry Strong” or “Blackberry roulette.”
Wikipedia for Android
Our favorite cheat sheet launched an official Android app in January, allowing you to fluidly search, clip, and share entries through your device. There are loads of third-party clients, but this is the cleanest, most authentic Wikipedia experience available in the Android Market.
Bump lets two users tap their phones together to immediately share photos, contacts, and apps. Amazingly, it works cross-platform between iOS and Android users as well.
Box is a more secure version of Dropbox. Like the latter, Box lets you sync and store your files “in the cloud” and access them from another Internet-connected device or PC. Box also encrypts your stored files and requires a passcode for when the app times out. New users qualify for a 50MB promotion.
Catch is a free cloud-based service that lets you save notes of all kinds–audio memos, typed notes, and photos. It’s similar to Evernote, and its well customized for Android phones, so if Evernote isn’t quite your speed but you’re looking for something similar, Catch is worth a try.
Documents ToGo Full Version Key
Business users and tech-savvy professors (as well as serious students) need a document editing and creation application suite for their mobile devices, and Documents ToGo is the one worth buying if you have an Android phone. You can try the free “lite” version Documents To Go 3.0 Main App first, which lets you view many of the file formats you’ll need (.doc,. docx,. xls,. xlsx,. ppt,. pptx.) but not edit them.
If your files live all over the place—your office computer, home desktop, laptop—having a dependable syncing program is a must. Dropbox, the service that lets you store your files in the cloud and access them from anywhere you have a signal, fills that role nicely with an Android app. Dropbox updated its Android app to 2.0 in December, streamlining the interface and adding numerous features for an even slicker experience. College kids can receive 500MB for free.
free; $45 per year for optional Premium subscription
If you weren’t an Evernote early adopter, the freemium note-taking and organization app that synchs all your files to a cloud service, there’s no shame in being late to the party. On an Android phone, Evernote works smoothly, looks great, and most importantly, integrates with dozens of other apps and services.
LastPass Password Mgr Premium*
$1 per month
LastPass manages and fills in your usernames and passwords for you automatically. You’ll only have to remember one password ever again: the one to get into LastPass, so make it strong. Another advantage of using a password manager is it ensures you use a different password for all the sites you visit, as recycling passwords leaves you prone to identity theft and other online crimes.
Pageonce Free or $4.99 for gold
If you’re looking for a more robust, fresh alternative to Mint.com, check out this true mobile wallet from a startup in Palo Alto. Pageonce securely stores all your cards, reminds you of when to pay bills, and even supports bill payments for $0.30 per transaction. If money management stresses you out, Pageonce makes it all so much easier.
Task List Pro – Todo List – Pro
Task List Pro is a customizable to-do list that comes with some interesting and deep customization options. For example, you can program the app’s input gestures, like left-right swipe, to be tied to whatever function you want. The two-buck app comes with the ability to email all your tasks as a CSV file.
Google Voice offers low-cost international voice calls and unlimited free text messages for a unique Google Voice phone number. An update in November adds group text messaging, offline voicemail, and “improved” text message notifications.
GO SMS Pro
Go SMS Pro is the SMS/MMS app for power Android users. You can send “short” messages containing text, voice, doodles, and photos. There’s a lot of room for tinkerers to customize themes, messages, and folders for storage.
ICQ Mobile for Android
Gen X-ers and a few Y’s will recall ICQ, perhaps the first instant messaging program to seriously blow up when it launched back in 1996. It disappeared just as quickly, but now it’s back with a new mobile focus. ICQ for Android lets you send unlimited messages for free, chat with ICQ, Facebook, and Google Talk friends, and read messages offline.
IMO Instant Messenger
Multi-purpose instant message apps can falter on mobile phones, crashing frequently or draining the phone’s battery. While it’s not perfect, IMO Instant Messenger is by far one of the lesser offenders. Another reason it’s better than some others is it supports instant messaging across an impressive 11 networks (both popular and relatively obscure) including MSN, Yahoo!, AIM/ICQ, Google Talk, Myspace, Skype, Facebook,Jabber, imo, VKontakte, and Hyves.
ooVoo Video Calls
Stable and reliable video chat apps for Android aren’t easy to come by, but ooVoo is terrific. The Android video chat app supports group video, voice calls, and instant messaging—across iOS, OSX, Android, and Windows! Not only do you get solid Android video calling, but you can practically video chat with anyone.
It’s hard to beat a free, extensive communications network. Skype uses your phone’s front- and rear-facing cameras to place free video and voice calls over 3G or Wi-Fi. I don’t think Skype is “the best” communication app for Android, but it’s one of those tools that I will continue to use because other people use it, too, and so it’s often the quickest way to get in touch with certain people.
Send unlimited text, photo, audio messages to anyone in the world, as long as both of you are connected to the Internet. Its UI may not be as slick as KakaoTalk, but it’s hugely popular and multi-platform (talks to your iOS and BlackBerry friends)
Badoo isn’t known as the “flirting app” for nothing. Badoo uses your phone’s GPS to locate other members in your area, displaying their Badoo profiles which contain likes, dislikes, and photos. You can use the app to chat with other members and arrange offline meetings. Badoo boasts more than 140 million members around the world.
Facebook for Android
Social networks thrive with a reliable app, and Facebook’s for Android is solid. The Android app has the quintessential Facebook-branded interface but some unique functionality that’s absent in Facebook’s iPhone app, such as a side-scrolling preview pane of recently shared photos in the dashboard area.
Armed with the right software, it’s pretty easy for someone to tap into your cell-phone network and read all the text messages and chatting you’re doing over your device. Gibberbot obscures all this data so that it looks like “gibberish” to a hacker. This free, open-source chat client offers fully encrypted chatting over Gchat, Facebook, and Jabber. Must be used in conjunction with Orbot, the official Tor client for Android.
Social networks need mobile apps to thrive, and Google+’s is a fine start for the platform that arrived in July 2011. The app taps into conventions established by other online social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, while finding some of its own strengths at the same time. Google+ Mobile works fairly well, due to a smart design and comprehensible interface.
The most robust photo sharing social network, recently acquired by Facebook for $1 billion, finally came to Android after a two years of iPhone-only love. Instagram for Android lets you put folksy filters on dull photos with a single tap, and quickly share them on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.
Before Instagram finally came to Google Play in April, there was the Android-only Lightbox. This excellent app has better filters, a better UI, and better sharing elements than Instagram, but the latter has a more robust online community.
Social corkboard site Pinterest landed on Android and iOS devices this month, so you can access your account on the go. For the uninitiated, Pinterest is another popular network of ways to discover, collect, and share “beautiful things you find on the Web.”
Plume is, hands-down, the best Twitter client for Android. Recently updated for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Plume uses the horizontal, column-based stream seen in many Twitter clients. However it adds a home tab with widgets to access Trends, Lists, Favorites, and Search bar. There’s also plenty of room for customizing your interface, from font size to the color of your timeline.
WordPress is one of the most popular blogging platforms, boasting over 25 million software downloads and 15,000 plug-ins. If you wish to blog while away from your computer, this WordPress app will let you do just that, but on your Android phone. Bloggers can quickly create drafts, edit posts, and approve comments without the need for a Mac or PC.
Tumblr is another popular microblogging platform that lets users quickly share and caption photos, quotes, chats, links, and more. Its app recently received an interface makeover that makes updates even easier
Music and Video
This music app, still in beta, streams all the music stored on your local home computer, for as long as the latter is turned on. Other functions include the usual shuffle, skip, delete, and create playlists. Get it while it’s still in beta—and free!
This audiofile-approved music player supports numerous file formats, last.fm scrobbling, gapless playback, Internet radio, and an equalizer with 10 bands. Download the free plugin to get ALAC and WP4 playback.
free but requires subscription from $7.99 per month
With the free Netflix app for Android phones, Netflix subscribers can watch any movie or television show from the instant streaming catalogue anywhere over a WiFi signal, as well as a 3G and 4G connections. This ability to watch movies and TV shows anywhere makes the $7.99 per month cost of a streaming-only Netflix subscription a little more worthwhile. The app requires Android 2.2 or later.
Movies, by Flixster (some people know the app better by the developer’s name), puts theater times, release dates for movies and DVDs, film reviews, and trailers in the palm of your hand. If, for example, you need to know the exact date that A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas will be hitting theaters, Movies can confirm the November 4, 2011 release. By default, the app pulls movie ratings from Rotten Tomatoes, although you can override this feature if perhaps you don’t think The 400 Blows deserves a 100% critics’ approval rating. You’d be wrong, but you can do it.
Pandora internet radio
Of the music streaming apps available to Android phone owners, Pandora steals hearts for having very good quality streaming even over a 3G signal. Newcomers to the Android arena, including Slacker Radio and Spotify are earning more and more marketshare every day, but Pandora tends to be the most reliable, likely because it has a longer history running on Android.
When we in the PCMag lab talk about music streaming services, Editors’ Choice Slacker Radio always gets an extra nod. It serves up excellent audio quality, a well-designed interface, tight lyrics implementation, and load of customization options. Slacker doesn’t have niche stations or deep social networking features, but it’s still the music streaming service to beat.
Free with $9.99/month Spotify Premium
I don’t even download music anymore. I pay $9.99/month for Spotify Premium, which instantly streams music from a 15+ million catalogue, create playlists, integrate local libraries, and check out other members’ playlists. With Premium you can sync playlists to your Android device and play music offline, on the go. The app’s interface is a minimalist adaptation of its desktop client.
Stitcher Radio – News & Talk
For those of us who prefer podcasts and talk radio to music, Stitcher is an excellent app. You can listen to the news from a wide variety of channels and stations, as well as get all your favorite podcasts.
This unofficial TED app lets you search a video database containing over 1,200 TED presentations even if your device is not connected to the Internet. Alternatively, you can listen to the TedTalks radio-style audio stream, and bookmark and share videos on Facebook.
Uberhype for Hype Machine
Uberhype is the mobile version of Hype Machine, beautifully designed by Dirty Water Labs. For the uninitiated, Hype Machine is a fantastic Web-based music streaming service that aggregates trending music from music blogs. Most of the songs are genre mash-ups. It combines a Twitter-like social sharing element as well
Angry Birds creator Rovio acquired this game from an indie developer, but it’s been given the full-blown Rovio treatment: lots of short, fast, physics-based challenges that make it difficult to put down. Worth coughing up $0.99 for additional games and gameplay, especially since the first 10 levels are more like mini-tutorials.
Angry Birds Space Premium
Angry Birds Space adds a new spin to your favorite guilty pleasure: gravitational pull. Set against a backdrop of meteors, planets, and stars, this is the best spin-off from the original Angry Birds app. Angry Birds Space adds new levels, bonus rounds, and a gorgeous, buttery-smooth interface. Yeah, I was getting bored of Angry Birds too. Unfortunately the game also adds intrusive display ads, and the game is easier, so don’t delete the original just yet.
Skip the Tetris download. Bejeweled 2 is a high-quality recreation of the classic computer game, Bejeweled. The premise is very simple: match gems on a grid to get rid of them before they overwhelm your screen and you lose. It’s highly addictive. The Android app incorporates crisp audio and visual.
Cut the Rope
An addictive casual, physics game, Cut the Rope has players solving dynamic puzzles that sometimes feel more like obstacle courses. It’s a family-friendly game, the kind you definitely want to have preloaded on your phone if you have yackety kids who miraculously become quiet when engrossed in a good game.
Draw Something Free
Draw Something, the latest app craze, pits iOS and Android users in simple gesture-based drawing competitions. Pick a word from a list of three, draw it on your screen with your finger using a variety of colors and brushes, and then send it to your friend to guess what you’ve drawn. You win coins if your friend guesses correctly. It’s very simple and, like Words With Friends, the addiction lies in the robust social aspect.
Guns ‘n’ Glory: WW2
The follow-up to the award-wining action-strategy game Guns ‘n’ Glory Wild West puts you in the role of a military commander (either the Allies or Axis) during The War. You mission? Guide your troops, tanks, and warbirds to World War II victory. A RPG-like skill and leveling up system lets you power up your squad to achieve an advantage over the enemy.
Gurk, the 8-bit RPG
In the mood for a light diversion that contains a hefty dose of retro goodness? Gurk, the 8-bit RPG features a three-character party system, two dozen dungeons, 23 monsters, and lots of action. The story is virtually non-existent, but if you’re fans of old school bleeps and bloops, you’ll find a lot to like here.
Minecraft – Pocket Edition
Minecraft is an addictive game that’s appealing to both the creative and systematic sides of the brain. Quite simply, in the game, you build things using different kinds of blocks. It also has some built-in social features.
Pinball Arcade is an addictive game that exquisitely recreates the look and to a certain extent, feel, of classic, trademarkedpinball tables. The thoughtful detail in each leaderboard is really impressive. Connect online to play in tournaments or go head-to-head with your friends.
Symphony of Eternity
If you liked 1980s and early 1990s RPGs or early Final Fantasy games, you’ll love Symphony of Eternity ($2.99). There’s a clear plot: Two adventurers meet the princess of a fallen kingdom, and all three go hunting for a mythical wish-granting weapon to set everything right.
Temple Run couples great graphics with a very simple, arcade-like premise. In Temple Run, you play an Indiana Jones doppelganger clutching a golden icon, and your goal is to run away from evil eagle-gorilla monsters by tilting and swiping your way through obstacles in your path. The first Android release from March 28 was too buggy for prime time.
What the Doodle?! (LITE)
WTD?! is an online multiplayer drawing game. Think Pictionary on your phone, with friends or strangers around the world. The premium version ($3.28) adds voice recognition, personal face doodles, and global competitions.
Words with Friends Free
The Scrabble-like game from Zynga, Words with Friends, is among the most popular mobile social games around. If you own an Android phone but your friends are on other devices, such as iPhones or iPads, you can still challenge them to head-to-head wordplay, as it doesn’t matter on which platform your opponents are playing. While some Android users have reported stability problems with the game, Words with Friends is in such high demand that most people will grin and bear it… especially since it’s free.
For me, the best games are ones that appeal to people of all ages and take a little bit of problem-solving brain power. X Construction is one such game. Players build bridges for trains to cross using the available tools and materials. It’s fun (and safe) for kids, but challenging for adults, too.
Lifestyle, Travel, Shopping
Unofficial Amazon Buzz
Buzz shows you Amazon’s hottest bargains of the day and bookmark them to buy later. As an Amazon devotee, I find this app very addictive despite its singular functionality. I wish Amazon would acquire it already so we’d be able to buy items from within the app.
ESPN Score Center
ESPN’s free app lets you check the game quickly, and discreetly when necessary (i.e., with your phone under the dinner table), for your favorite teams in more sports than most other apps. It can pull game data from baseball, basketball, American football, the sport the rest of the world calls football (soccer), ice hockey, cricket, rugby, and more. For stat lovers, ScoreMobile is a fine option, but only if it has the sport you follow, as it misses a few, like rugby and boxing, that ESPN covers.
Not every smartphone running Android has a great camera, so get better photos with the help of a little software. The free app FxCamera adds filters and effects, like “toy” and fisheye lens, to enhance even modest pictures. It also helps to arm yourself with some additional tips for getting better photos from your phone.
GateGuru (for Android) is an app to pack. It helps you navigate airport terminals, anticipate wait times, find the freshest airport food, and travel with greater confidence. It also has airport maps and checkpoint wait times. And GateGuru integrates with Tripit and Kayak for flight details, as well as Gowalla, Foursquare, Twitter, and Facebook for sharing.
Similar in some ways to the Layar app (see below), Google Goggles is an augmented reality experience that layers additional information from the digital world onto the physical world. Use the phone’s camera to take a snapshot of anything from a painting in a museum to a placard that’s written in a language you don’t understand, and Google Goggles will give you more clues to help you figure out what’s in front of you, or why it’s important.
Some of the deals that crop up on Groupon are just too good to pass up, like 50 percent off that take-out place where you eat once a week anyway, or a one-month gym membership for 20 bucks. The Groupon Android app lets you not only snag deals, but cash them in, too, so you don’t have to print any paper vouchers or coupons.
Google Offers for Android is the mobile companion to Google’s daily deals site, which is still in beta. For a relative latecomer to the Groupon-forged category, its offerings are surprisingly solid (I bought a 50 percent discount to Katz’s Deli’s online store). The app itself is very slick and making transactions is seamless for Googlebots who use other Google services.
iOnRoad Augmented Driving
This driving app uses your smartphone’s camera and GPS sensors to warn you of upcoming collisions. It’s innovative and actually works, but not foolproof. You still have to keep your eye on the road.
Read books, magazines, and newspapers right on your Android phone without ever buying an e-reader. The Kindle app is by far the most popular reading app in the Android Marketplace because it gives you access to buy or download for free hundreds of thousands of books, and more than 100 different newspapers and magazines. And while some users have complained that they can’t uninstall Kindle once they’ve downloaded the app, it is possible (but it takes a little effort).
MLB.com at Bat 12
A premium account lets you stream every MLB game live. You also get a repository of baseball goodness: game highlights, radio broadcasts, pitch trackers, detailed reporting, widget. For Android 2.2 and 2.3 users (probably most of you) the live video feed requires Adobe Flash, a plug-in that Adobe removed from Google Play in August. So if you didn’t already have it downloaded, you won’t be able to watch live games.
Layar is an augmented reality app, meaning it gives you extra information from the digital world “layered” on top of something real in this world. Point it at a landmark, and the app will share interesting facts about the destination. Layar works best when you think of it as a travel app. It works very well in big cities and top destinations, but can be middling or even useless in lesser-traveled spots.
Noom Weight Loss Coach
Noom is a comprehensive weight loss app that bills itself as a weight loss coach in your pocket. Every day, the app feeds you customized suggestions on how many calories you need to eat and burn to meet your goals. This involves a calorie counter, a daily Noom score, and an online community for additional support.
Consider it the next best thing to being an astronaut or astronomer. The official NASA app features thousands of NASA photos (gorgeous as wallpaper), streaming videos, shuttle launch information, and countdown clocks.
iPhone-wielding Instagram users think we’re “polluting” their photo streams? Screw them. Android has Pixlr-o-matic, a far superior photo editing app with hundreds of effects and a much smoother social sharing experience. The randomnizer, which chooses a random effect for you, provides hours of fun.
As the most comprehensive review app, Yelp is an invaluable tool for finding businesses nearby, especially when you’re in a town you don’t know well. The quality of the reviews can be touch and go, but for finding businesses and services, and vetting out ones that are very poorly received, Yelp’s the app you need.
If you’re looking for a quick and dirty way to check scores, Yahoo Sportscaster is one to download. You can choose which leagues and teams to cover and opt to receive live score alerts and news, plus stats and play-by-plays. It has offers less customization than ESPN ScoreCenter, but is excellent for sports enthusiasts who don’t care for the latter’s bells and whistles.
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