There's an old French saying (one I first heard in the Rush song "Circumstances") that goes Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Roughly translated: "The more it changes, the more it's the same."
Changes to the Android platform have been tremendous over the past year. But our need for" best apps" lists remains the same. A year ago, I wrote 10 must-have Android apps. Now, many changes later, there is a need for a new version of that same article. More apps are available and some older apps have been vastly improved. It's time they were given a list of their own. And this time around, I've also included tablet-friendly apps as well.
Note: This list is also available as a photo gallery.
1: Google Docs (Free)
The Google Docs app is of exceptional value to anyone who regularly uses Google Docs. Although it is much more tablet- than smartphone-friendly, Google Docs makes it easy to manage and edit your Google documents. This app lets you collaborate with other Google Docs users; quickly make changes to spreadsheets; view your documents, PDFs, presentations, and more; upload and convert files to the Google Docs format; take a photo (with your device) of printed text and convert it to a Google document; and easily share docs with your device's contacts.
2: Thumb Keyboard ($2.29)If you use an Android tablet, you MUST buy and install Thumb Keyboard (Figure A). Your typing will not only improve, but you will be able to type longer and more comfortably. This is one of the first apps I install when testing or upon purchasing a new tablet. Once you've used this keyboard, you will never go back to the standard keyboard.
3: Intuit GoPayment (Free with approved account)
Intuit GoPayment allows you to accept payments from anywhere at any time. Money is deposited into a GoPayment Prepaid Visa Card account and can seamlessly integrate into QuickBooks. Once you download the app, you fill out the in-app application form. Once approved, you are ready to start taking payments. You will also receive a free credit card reader that attaches to your mobile device to make taking payments even easier. For those who are running their own business (and who use QuickBooks), this is a great app.
4: Kindle for Android (Free)If you are a reader, you need Kindle for Android (Figure B). It's one of the finest ereader apps available. Kindle for Android enables your tablet or smartphone to gain access to millions of books — and it allows you to read those books under any light, use a built-in dictionary, sync your ebooks with your Kindle or PC, and much more. This is an essential app for avid readers of nearly any genre.
Kindle for Android
5: Google+ (Free)
Will Google+ overtake Twitter and Facebook as the number one social networking spot? Only time will tell. But for many businesses, Google+ seems to be a much better fit. So why not make use of this flexible social networking tool on your tablet or smartphone? With seamless integration into the Android platform, using Google+ on an Android device is even simpler and more elegant than the other social network apps.
6: LogMeIn Ignition ($29.99)
LogMeIn Ignition is the most expensive app on the list. But it's also one of the most important apps on the list if you use LogMeIn to handle remote administration tasks. I use this tool daily, and on a number of occasions, I have deployed it for clients. Of all the remote administration tools you can have on a tablet or smartphone, LogMeIn Ignition is the best of the best.
7: Beautiful Widgets ($2.89)If you're looking for an awesome collection of widgets to add to your tablet or smartphone home screen, look no further than Beautiful Widgets (Figure C). Its biggest strength is the ability to personalize all the widget s. You can configure this collection of home screen tools to look and behave exactly how you like them. The features are too numerous to list. (Check out the apps page to see what all it includes.)
8: ROM Manager ($5.99)
If you have a rooted device, you owe it to yourself to look into ROM Manager. With the help of a great UI, it lets you easily apply nightly builds. It also makes switching ROMs a snap and you can even back up your ROMs. This application will interest only a select number of users (power root users). But for them, this is without a doubt a must-have.
9: Poweramp (Free)
If your Android device also serves as your music playback device, you owe it to yourself to install Poweramp. For me, this app is worth it just for the 10-band graphic EQ. For others, the support for mp3, mp4/m4a (including alac), ogg, wma (wma pro files may require NEON support), flac, wav, ape, wv, tta, mpc, and aiff formats makes this a must-have music app. You will also find plenty of other features, such as outstanding OpenGL-based cover art animation and gapless playback, to woo you away from the included player.
10: AirDroid (Free)
AirDroid is a handy little app that lets you take control of your Android device from within a Web browser. With this app, you can transfer files back and forth, cut/copy/paste/manage files on the SD card, install/uninstall applications, preview/delete/import/export photos, share contents of the clipboard, manage contacts, and much more. The one hitch with this application is that the PC and the mobile device must be on the same wireless network. But once you have AirDroid working, you will find it an incredibly easy way to work between your PC and your mobile device.
Something for everyone
The list of top Android apps could easily go on and on. Couple this list with the original one, and you have a collection of Android apps that are sure to please nearly any cross-section of users. And since these apps are all "must haves," you should skip the previews and just install and run them. Tout de suite!
Do you agree that the apps on this list are essential? What other would you include in the mix?
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.