Smartphones

Jason Hiner's 20 most useful Android smartphone apps

Most useful Android smartphone apps

The Android Market may not have as many apps as the iPhone App Store yet, but there are still more than enough to be overwhelmed, and it continues to grow at a breakneck pace. To help you sort through them all, here is my latest list of the 20 most useful Android apps. I've also recently updated my list of the most useful iPhone apps and you'll notice several of the same apps on both lists.

Remember that I primarily had business professionals in mind when making this list and also keep in mind that this is a snapshot in time. The Android platform is developing so quickly that I guarantee my home screen will look different a month from now. Still, here's my list of tried-and-true Android apps that I can highly recommend.

If you'd prefer to view this as a list instead of a photo gallery, then see the companion blog post.

About

Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

50 comments
jamezsmith
jamezsmith

I agree with the posters who complained about how we navigate these articles. I understand the need to advertise, but I often hate the cumbersome navigation and skip through these...

Ps119:105
Ps119:105

I give up; this article is too hard to navigate. My time is worth more than the time to try and navigate the 20 apps. I'm out of here...

deptag100
deptag100

I strongly agree with the above. I got to page 2 and will never see the last 8 android apps. You COULD put all the apps on a page or two, but advertising is obviously more important to you than your seasoned followers ...

realvarezm
realvarezm

alotough 20 apps its nothing in an androidmarket that is above the 10,000,000 apps some of the suggestion are very nice and best of all free! Cheers!

library assistant
library assistant

I'd like to see what YOUR favorite Android app is. Sometimes, with all the apps around, new ones don't get out, and forums like this one are a good place to talk up your fav. How about it? What would YOU put on YOUR 10 best list?

awilson77584
awilson77584

Aren't task killers generally discredited now?

thoiness
thoiness

Normally I'm with you on most of your blogs Jason, but you lost me when I saw "Astro File Manager." ES File Explorer turns it around, pulls it's pants down, and spanks it out of town. The flexibility of ESFE is unbelievable in comparison - local shares, root explorer, ftp... Game over for any of the competition.

ben
ben

I too much prefer the format used on the 'blog' link, and appreciate Jason providing that alternative on the very first page of the article so I could jump there and skip themore BW entensive form. Thanks.

xpmt626
xpmt626

You people gotta stop complaining about the format. You are getting FREE research and opinion. It's worth every cent you pay! If you don't like it, you can spend your own hours and do your own research. Or, I guess TR could charge a subscription fee for no ads. Would you like that better? Stop whining.

dcorcoran
dcorcoran

There are so many articles saying Evernote, Dropbox, etc. Give us something new! The Android Market has so many apps, surely you can contribute something more creative than this?

jonlevinson
jonlevinson

Does anyone know for sure what the max number of contacts Android (on a Droid X with 2.3.5) can comfortably handle? I have 6,000 using DejaOffice and Companionlink for sync'ing and I am having problems when I sync the DejaOffice contacts (which work great) with the Native Android contact database. Also, as I believe the number is causing issues of VERY slow phone response and quirky stuff, does anyone know if iPhones 4s have the same limitations ? Thanks !

tclguru
tclguru

Why can't you group items together better? I haven't got all day to read the article.

djones
djones

Prefer Sound Hound to Shazam And not one barcode or qr reader???

B.Kaatz
B.Kaatz

Ummm... Who have you been talking to? Maybe one of the Cellphone Service Reps might say that you don't need a Task Manager application because they don't want you to find the Service Provider-installed app(s) and kill 'em. That generally tends to be the first reason a user will start looking for a Task Manager app, too! Whether it's Foursquare, Footprints/Peep or what have you, if you aren't using these apps, then why do they need to be running? Why are they always starting on the phones when we don't want them to? Hence, a need for a Task Manager. And, that's not even talking about the apps that don't have proper Exit options built into the app so you *can* properly exit it and have it stop running. And, yes, you *could* go to Settings - Applications - Manage applications, then wait for it to do all of it's calculations on sizes and space, then start to run filters to find the apps and kill them over and over again... Not really feasible. And, at least on my Hero, the Settings - Applications - Running Services certainly won't show everything that is running on the phone, so that rules it out of being a Task Manager substitute. No, I should think that when you are getting this close to the capabilities of a full computer system, a Task Manager of *some* type is a necessity.

Bob B.
Bob B.

My personal experience and shared by my 3 family membrs with smart phones is that Advanced Task Killer is a battery killer. I've seen many techies suggest this is a great app and an equal amount who say it's not a good idea. All I know is after I removed it, my battery use was easily doubled. It may be I didn't have it set up right; maybe I had it performing automated kills too frequently or something along those lines.

tshindler
tshindler

I agree with all of those who complained about the "slide show" format, BUT did you notice the link in the intro paragraph that offers the alternative of a list? It says "If you'd prefer to view this as a list instead of a photo gallery, then see the companion blog post." Click the link, and there's the list we all want: one screen to scroll down easily and scan in a few minutes. Thanks Tech Republic, for adding this feature to your slide shows.

Ashley_Drew
Ashley_Drew

I hate the slide-show format. It takes much longer to read the information that should be available at a glance.

100maple
100maple

Is anyone else tired of the constant clicking? This article should be over 1 page, 2 max!! I am getting tired of this web page format. The articles used to be good but ever since this new format was introduced it's a pain in the arse to read these. And for what, to be force fed ads on the chance you might buy something... I'm done. Until this format changes I'm not reading any more of these.

Integrateful
Integrateful

Has to be one page ... or two max ... lots of folk will not keep clicking

laman
laman

I don't understand that why people are recommending Dropbox when lots of people don't even have a account with it. Yes one can create a free account, but the reason why they don't have one because they don't need it. My smartphone does not even have data enabled.

damian56x
damian56x

some of the rest are critical for tweaking/modding a rooted smartphone, ala Titanium Backup Pro, Busybox Installer, ROM Manager Pro, Better Terminal Emulator Pro, Root Explorer, Superuser, Logging Removal, Set CPU and of course Gingerbreak. Some other rooting app may have been required if it didn't work (depending on the model). Others that I have installed that I really like are Google Services, Fast Reboot, Barcode Scanner, Android Booster, Android Assistant, Font Changer, Go Launcher, Juice Defender, Move 2SD Enabler, Multi-Mount SD Card or PdaNet (tethering to PC) Browsers: Steel, Orbot, and Dolphin...the last being the best b/c of tabbed browsing) Strangely enough though Mozilla's Firefox, which was one of the first OS browsers for PCs to include tabbed browsing, has not done so as yet on the Android OS, as well as not supporting Flash either..hmm. The Huawei M835 that I purchased a few months ago is the second "smartphone" I have owned, and it is really an "entry level" Android with the Froyo 2.2 version with a slower 528 Mhz CPU and its internal storage is relatively small @ 256 MB...which forced me to remove some of the pre-installed bloatware apps that took up a lot of space and were eating up CPU cycles. It also came with a 2 GB SD Card, which I soon replaced and upgraded to a level 4 faster 4 GB SD card, which I then partitioned with 2.5 GB being FAT32, 1.3 GB Linux ext3, and the remainder being swapfile, b/c I plan on adding a Debian-based Linux OS distro to the SD card soon...

LisaRuzylo
LisaRuzylo

the link works fine for me. Thanks! Much better all on one page :)

gavin.burgess
gavin.burgess

Links that actually work are better. There is no way to get to page 2 in the companion blog. There are no links. I had to go through the slide show which is a highly annoying way to access information.

sagetumbleweed
sagetumbleweed

well a few goodies, imho google sky is about 10 times more useful than google finance. The article could have had a little more detail in the description of apps - I still don't know if or why I should want some of them. as above posts seem to concur, slideshow sucks.

markb
markb

I get bored after looking at number one when they have these items not on one page. So 2 through 10 never get seen. I wonder if they were any good. Come on TR, many people have mentioned this. All in one page please or at least 2 pages of 5. Mark

anajjar
anajjar

Nice apps but since most of them are quite well known, it would have been better to list them all on one page and then link to each, if needed. Thanks Akram

thoiness
thoiness

Hit the right arrow to go right, and the left arrow to go left. Crazy chiz, I know, but I think that's how it works.

david
david

me too like the soundhound

Bob B.
Bob B.

Actually I have been reading lots of articles and blog posts from Tech Republic techies for years now and there seems to be about a 50/50 split on the need for Task managers. I don't have time now to check and give you specific names but the bottom line is my battery lasts twice as long without a task killer running. What is the benefit otherwise than to extend battery life; unless you're a power user and maybe memory usage is an issue? I defintely agree with you about the vendor installed apps that you can't delete unless you root your phone. My next Android phone will be a true Android phone that doesn't have crap like VZ Navigator installed and you can't get rid of it. It's extremely annoying to fire up your GPS app and then have to specify which GPS app you prefer to run. Ummmm....let me see, I can use any of the multiple free services that work better than VZ Navigator or I can pay an extra $10 a month to use their garbage. Oh that's a tough call...not!

Jordon
Jordon

Task killers drain your battery only if they're set to automatically kill apps. Some apps restart themselves seconds after they're killed so the app killer is constantly working. I used ATK for 2 years and after uninstalling it I didn't notice a difference. But I always used it manually and had ATK killing itself along with everything that wasn't on the ignore list.

library assistant
library assistant

At the bottom of the post is a statement that if you want the list, go to the blog. Consider it. I don't care about all the clicking. I liked seeing a screen shot of the app - it made me decide against a couple of them.

Scott.Geiger
Scott.Geiger

@100maple - I'd +1million on your post if I could... It looks like someone at TR found a new "toy" and now they think they have to do all their top lists this way. I said it on another list and I'll say it here. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. TR, really you need to stop formatting your lists this way, it's annoying and waste of time.

Jordon
Jordon

Keepass. Keep all your passwords in one place, accessible from any trusted device. Snap photos with the phone, upload to DropBox and there's no need to plug the phone into a computer when you get home. Photos are on the home computer, the two laptops and every phone in the family without copying a single file.

ben
ben

Have to disagree - I find dropbox brilliant. I spend half my time on the road, I use CamScanner to scan receipts and documents with my Droid, send them to drop box, and at the end of the day I have them on my laptop desktop to log, email, and so on. Not very sophisticated, but hugely helpful and completely painless. Yes it seems silly to use the web to get files from my phone to my PC. But it works.

spawnywhippet
spawnywhippet

A smartphone without data is rather like a Porsche without wheels.... You should have saved your money and got a dumb Nokia candybar or similar.

laurenmaddison
laurenmaddison

Certainly some people won't need it. I have used it constantly, though certainly not always in conjunction with my smartphone. I have been able to instantly share large files with colleagues without the annoyance of emailing attachments. Thus calling it "rubbish" is, I think, rather unwarranted. Simply because a person does not have a use for an application or service is no reason to pan it. Its usefulness to the rest of us should be evaluated on how well it does its job. In this case, Dropbox has been oustanding.

dforness
dforness

Hi damian56x. If you're still following this topic, perhaps you could clarify for me. I have a Sanyo Zio by Kiocera which had 2.1 when I first got it. I finally pleaded, begged and whined, enough that the provider finally upgraded it to 2.2. I also use Fast Reboot, Barcode Scanner, App 2SD which moves apps to SD card, SanDisk Memory Zone (beta) which does back up, Opera mini and a bunch of other stuff. I had to remove Juice Defender, and and with only 1/3 of my 2G. SD card full, I only have 10% left of phone memory. I'm going to guess that the Huawei M835 had preloaded there own choice of apps (bloatware) which drove down the capacity of the phone memory. Fortunately my provider doesn't do that so I had a clean phone. My phone isn't rooted and I'm not sure I have the level of expertise to do so. Im thinking about removing the google maps to give me more memory. I have a GPS for my car and deCarta I Maps seems to work ok for what I do. The phone is slow recovering after I play some games and icons take forever to refresh. I'm constantly having to power down and power up to restore it to normal. There are a lot of apps I'd like to load back but it slows thiongs down to a crawl. At this point, I have to remove something for every new app I want to install. Any suggestions?

library assistant
library assistant

Some of us don't need all of the apps he lists - I have Kindle on my Android phone, but I also have a Kindle Fire so I don't need it on my phone, (I didn't use it much because it was hard to read anyway.) And we all have our own priorities of what we need. I don't have space on the phone for all that finance stuff, but I prefer iBird Pro on mine.

gitmo
gitmo

The last sentence of the article has a hyperlink to a single-page version.

kdouga
kdouga

If I may draw your attention to the last line of the above paragraph: "If you'd prefer to view this as a list instead of a photo gallery, then see the companion blog post." Click it and get "2 pages of 5".

philstilliard
philstilliard

I am new to Android, and I need to start at the beginning, so give us plenty of stuff for newbies..

gcapp99
gcapp99

Am I the only tech that never has enough hours in the day to get it all done? Part of the job is staying current on what's out there which requires that I at least be aware of what's on top 10 & top 20 lists, etc. Would it really cause a major decline in advertising revenue to have the list on a single page with 1 or 2 sentence clickable overview links for each item on the list? This way I get to be selective about what I spend my time reading more about. How about showing a little love to your core audience?

B.Kaatz
B.Kaatz

I apologize. I wasn't meaning to say that you should always keep a Task Manager running on Android. Just have a good one installed on the device. One of the things that I think makes a good Task Manager app is the ability to kill itself. If it can't even do that, then I don't think it's much of a Task Manager. To me, the entire purpose of a Task Manager app is to give a *MUCH* easier interface to kill unwanted apps from running instead of doing the entire procedure of Menu => Settings => Applications => Manage Applications => Wait for app sizes to get calculated and/or the interface becomes responsive again => Filter for Running Apps => Find and 'Force stop' unwanted apps. For both truly unwanted apps, as well as those apps that don't have a real 'Exit' for the program (what we used to refer to as "TSR programs") like many of the web browsers in Android seem to be, a good Task Manager app seems to be an excellent idea to have on Android, or *any* GUI-based system for that matter. Not to have it running all the time, but to have it available when you need it. And, in the spirit of the original post, I like Task Manager from Rhythm Software. You can set Auto-kill lists (into which you can put Task Manager itself), and you can set it to not start on Power On. I prefer to have it start on Power On and have it kill the slew of unwanted apps, leave me the notification that it did, and then kill itself/exit.

Bob B.
Bob B.

I complained about these slideshows for over a year but I have noticed in the last few months just as they did in this case that they offer a list via a blog as well. All I can say is hallelujah...I hated those slideshows!

joe
joe

I'm a distributor of Android tablets. I test them first before i sell them. I used Stability test, Smartbench 2012, Multi-touch and Antutu benchmark. For internet speed, the Speed test works fine. They are all free from the Market.

library assistant
library assistant

It might be that he doesn't have the data there because he's carrying a tablet or laptop with more data. Have you EVER tried to buy a non-smart phone? You are limited. I know with my work, we are not allowed to put work data on a non-work anything - laptop, desktop, flash drive, smartphone, even cloud drive.

vincent.mcavoy
vincent.mcavoy

C'mon folks...businesses want us to get on board with maximizing that revenue stream ---Whohoo!! (t.i.c.) TR (and fellow 'merican businesses) please note.... if we place money as the primary basis for what we do and how we do it, we will truly get the reward of placing greed & $$$ at the pinacle of our value systems. As our (expensively-acquired) IT degrees now return less and less on our investment, perhaps we can make it a new resolution to restrain and decry this swamp of consumerism/commercialism. Is this really why we got into the field?! To place ads and banners on every single thing we do?