Smartphones optimize

10 must-have Android apps (revisited)

As Android has evolved, its apps have improved and proliferated. Jack Wallen has created a new list of apps you'll want to install on your tablet or phone.

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.

Figure A

Thumb 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.

Figure B

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.)

Figure C

Beautiful Widgets

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!

Other picks?

Do you agree that the apps on this list are essential? What other would you include in the mix?

About

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.

30 comments
keshar.hayat
keshar.hayat

The list of Business apps for Android can't be completed without Evernote. It's free to user upto 60 MB. It can easily synchronise the notes, pictures or voice records taken from tablet, phone to PC and vice-versa.

RealSundanceKid
RealSundanceKid

EverNote helps you remember everything anywhere you are. Well, anywhere you have Internet access that is. You install it on your phone, install it on your PC or tablet, and any note you make is available on all of your devices. You don't even have to remember to Save the files. You can make separate notebooks for different things, you can do so much with this, and you will not believe you ever got along without it. If you work / play / research on several PCs, tablets or smartphones, this is THE app for you. http://www.evernote.com/evernote/

TPS2012
TPS2012

civet.mobi interesting application

reward
reward

i wish you all that right up all of these kinds of things would learn that Trial does not mean Free! Poweramp "does not" have a Free version.

jcalcio
jcalcio

One app that is definitely worth adding to this list is called Gummibuddies. Gummibuddies is an animated emojicon app that sends hilarious moving emojicons to your friends. My personal favorite is the beer drinking one! They look great on Android! Check out www.gummicube.com

timmo
timmo

I have used LogMeIn and i MUCH prefer Teamviewer, it just feels better and easier to use.

bobc4012
bobc4012

Thanks for including the article in this format. I can at least copy and save it to re-read without having to go to start up my browser and search for the bookmark. While the pictures are nice for giving a better idea, they are not easy to re-read.

shashank.sriva
shashank.sriva

Though PowerAmp is the best music player for Android, its NOT FREE! Its available as a 15 days trial post that you need to pay for it. You can continue to use but an annoying pop-up will continue to irritate :) Price is around 260 INR i.e 5 US$. But its a must app for those who love music. Its got everything for music-lovers. Beautiful UI, headset controls, lock-screen widget, equalizer and many more.......

n2iph
n2iph

I have reservations about AirDriod. Yes both your computer and your Android device must be on the same wireless network but from what I see once you set up the connection between the two everything is ported OUTSIDE your local, normally unroutable network (192.168.xxx.xxx) and out onto the 'net and then sent back to the other end of the two linked devices. So that opens a HUGE security hole for unsuspecting people not realizing that whatever they have on either of those devices is now accessible to people outside their secure local network. You have given permissions from inside your secure network (so any security you have set up like MAC address filtering for wireless devices or any firewall settings have been bypassed) to let your personal information flow out onto the WWW. All your passwords stored on either device (Smartphone or computer) are now at risk, as well as any other sensitive information. I think I will stay far away from AirDroid and any app that operates in the same manner.

micjackz@aol.com
micjackz@aol.com

Stay AWAY from Google Voice if you are using Sprint & Samsung Galaxy S II Epic Touch 4G. MANY problems for which the Sprint "Tech" Support gurus have told me that they are awaiting a software upgrade from Samsung. FYI!

jayohem
jayohem

I would guess that some of these that require peripherals might not work, but otherwise, are there Android apps that a rooted Nook Color might want to add or even spend money for besides Angry Birds and a cute home screen?

davee106
davee106

You are reporting that your Top 10 lists contains an app, in the #9 slot, that stops working in 2 weeks. Surely there must be a better app to fill this slot. Either recommend the full paid app and list its price or stop recommending trial versions of apps. Is that really what you meant?

Scott.Geiger
Scott.Geiger

I would go with the following (in place of some listed) 1. Go SMS 2. TouchPal Keyboard 3. Titanium Backup * Root (donate version - well worth it) 4. K-9 Mail 5. Maverick (nice free map/track utility with lots of options) 6. Songbird

kschlotthauer
kschlotthauer

The one app I use everyday and love is MIGHTYTEXT. It is an extension you install in CHROME (sorry, it is only available as of right now in CHROME ONLY). You download the app to your phone and then LINK your phone. Start up your CHROME browser and then MightText. It links to your G-MAIL contacts. You enter the person's name and it should populate....then type your message (160 characters only) and then hit send. If you look at your phone, it actually puts it on your phone and sends it out. No one will know you are using the program unless you tell them. It will use your text message plan (better have unlimited)....it is basically your text message program but on your computer. On your phone, it doesn't matter which SMS program you use (I use Handcent and GoSMS) and the messages show up there. The only negative is that you can't send or view MMS (pics, video's, audio). Also, when you get a phonecall coming in...it will pop up on your screen that you have a call. There is a little delay so more than likely you will miss the call. But, there is an option that you can send a TEXT message to that number (Providing it is a cellphone). Why use AirDroid when you can use BOX or DROPBOX for free?. I know you only get so much space with those accounts...but that way, the files are available to me anywhere...smartphone, PC, someone else PC (as long as they install the application).

clcoronios
clcoronios

Freebie - upgrade for $4.99 - Allows phone to act as scanner. Take picture of document, notes, whatever - save as pdf (other formats available, too). E-mail directly... Decent quality/readability.

TNT
TNT

There is a free 2-week trial app, but that's not the same as a free app. You have to pony up $5 if you want to keep it.

cenots
cenots

I use ES File Explorer daily for its smb browsing capabilities. When I'm at home, I can access all my home server and home PC files from my phone. Same at work, I can access all our server shares directly over the wifi. It also opens files natively (so I don't have to copy the file to my phone first like with other apps).

IMHAL9000
IMHAL9000

Only the 15 day trial is free.

DLeh
DLeh

AudioManager is a must! It's the best volume control app available. Other honorable mentions: Titanium Backup, Stitcher, Evernote, Dropbox, Netflix, Music (music.google.com, not stock), SMS Backup, CallTrack (logs all incoming and outgoing calls directly into your Google Calendar), and lastly, both Autorun Manager and AutoKiller Memory. The last two help stop annoying stock programs from auto launching on triggers (like plugging in headphones) and from running in the background.

arwen_in_nj
arwen_in_nj

If you do a lot of typing on an Android device, SwiftKey is essential. More than just a keyboard, it is an app that predicts the next word you are likely to want to type based on the actual way you write, not just the next word that matches the sequence of letters you have typed. SwiftKey actually learns from your texts, tweets, and Facebook posts to improve it's ability to predict the next word you want. I am often able to compose a short paragraph text with just a dozen taps, one for each word. This app is probably the most valuable app on my phone and HTC Flyer tablet! This comment was posted with SwiftKey. ;-)

smoore
smoore

I haven't used LogMeIn, but another great remote administration tool is TeamViewer. It's free for personal use and works great.

surevisit
surevisit

Hey - where's the DrinkeIn Bar Finder? If there's ever an app that's a must have...

merelyjim
merelyjim

Converter switches metric to english, area, speed, energy - everything except money. Pretty amazing for a free app...

TheRedMonkey
TheRedMonkey

I would have to vote against the intuit payment and go with square. Its fees are much lower.

bobc4012
bobc4012

Too many of these sites include "trial" S/W as being free rather than time-limited and, to add, even partially functional. To me, apparently yourself and many others, "free" is "free". No time limit, no restrictions or limitations, etc. While some request donations (an ethical person will make the donation), they don't limit the function - unlike some of the shareware that provide a version with restrictions and a reasonable payment will send a password to "unlock" the restrictions. While I don't have a beef withg the S/W authors providing trial, shareware or asking for donations, I do have a problem with sites that allow you to download from their site and no warning. I know this particular site does indicate in the review the type of S/W - BUT, depending on the browser and if you remain "logged in", clicking on the newsletter link will skip through the review and go directly yo the download. I often have had to "adjust" the URL to read the review only to find it was a trial version.

BitHammer
BitHammer

I use AndFTP to transfer between the phone and the desktop. I use FileZilla server on the desktop, but only turn it on when I need it. It's only reachable within my local network. Works nicely. I use gbaHours ( Android app) to track my time, and twice a month export the time data. Then FTP to the desktop, and import it right into Quickbooks to create an invoice.

radleym
radleym

...and some 150 more. No compatability issues with anything so far - if you can get it from the market, it should work OK.

shashank.sriva
shashank.sriva

Cloudskipper is free (ad free as well) music player that can take Poweramp's place. Though it is far from being perfect, it has got a 5 band equalizer, lock-screen widget & hands-free controls :) UI needs a major change, but as long as phone is in pocket or just lying on table, theres no need to FEEL the UI. What we usually feel at that time is sound :)

Scott.Geiger
Scott.Geiger

Of course "you're mileage may vary", and what apps you think are "best" depends on how you use your device.

johncymru
johncymru

I would now be lost without it.