Top 10 Android AppsBy BOB TEDESCHI
Published: December 1, 2010
A few weeks ago, I compiled a list of essential iPhone apps for people who are too busy to sift through the roughly 300,000 titles in the App Store.
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Google’s Sky Map app has a feature that shows what the sky looked like in the past, and what it is expected to look like in the future.
Browse all the mobile app coverage that has appeared in The New York Times by category, and see what Times writers have on their phones and tablets.
News and Amusements
Social and Communication
Travel and Food
Tools and Resources
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The Slacker app for Android, showing the radio service in progress.
Android users have it even worse. Although there are fewer apps to peruse (around 100,000 at last count), the Android Market is a nightmare to navigate compared with the iTunes App Store.
Yes, even though Google is the master of search, its Android Market’s search feature is less effective than Apple’s. The Market also has no answer for the App Store’s “Staff Favorites,” “Essentials” or “New and Noteworthy” selections, which pull good apps to the front of the catalog.
But that’s why I’m here. Android users, I hereby present 10 indispensable apps and then some. (This list and other lists of favorite apps can be found at http://nyti.ms/fKliAm.)
Some apps on my list are unique to Android, even though app developers still seem to develop for iPhone first. Oh, and the best part about the list? Almost all the apps are free.
Let’s start with Google, which created the Android operating system. The company may do a poor job with the Market, but it creates — and, more to the point, it gives away — stellar software for Android devices.
Google Search (free) is a huge time saver, thanks to the voice-search function. (Ask it for Wikipedia entries and it fetches. Speak the name of a retailer and it finds the nearest location.) And Google Maps (also free) is a big money saver, since it provides the same turn-by-turn navigation features you would have to pay $10 a month for on other phone platforms.
But since those apps come standard on every Android device I’ve ever seen, let’s skip those and get to the ones you’d have to seek out in the Android Market.
GOOGLE SHOPPER (FREE) As mentioned in last week’s column, this app can save you hundreds of dollars by helping you find better prices nearby or online. Scan a bar code and the app takes it from there. If the scan doesn’t work, you can speak the product’s name and the app finds the product.
GOOGLE SKY MAP (FREE) Some serious eye candy that you’ll want to activate on the next cloudless night. Point your device toward the heavens and Sky Map puts a label on every celestial body you see — and some you can’t.
REMOTEDROID (FREE) Turns your phone into a wireless trackpad and mouse. You might not want to use the tiny keypad to input text, but if your computer lacks a trackpad — or if you’d like to liberate your trackpad from its spot — this will make your day.
CARDIOTRAINER (FREE) Arguably better than any fitness app on the iPhone, CardioTrainer is an Android-only program that tracks your fitness regimen and calorie consumption. It includes a music management feature to keep your workout tunes fresh.
SOUNDHOUND (FREE AND $5) It’s Android’s best showoff app after Sky Map. Open SoundHound and it identifies nearly any song — even some you hum. It also finds lyrics and YouTube videos of song performances. The $5 version lets you identify an unlimited number of tunes. Users of the free version get five songs a month.
EVERNOTE (FREE) Can’t afford a personal assistant? This will help. Evernote is a mobile notepad that synchronizes with desktop and browser software (also free). Use your smartphone to take a photo, record a voice memo or jot down a note, and the next time you open Evernote on your desktop computer, your mobile notes appear (and vice versa). The free version stores a fair amount of information, but $45 a year buys unlimited storage.
URBANSPOON (FREE) Great for those with empty stomachs, full wallets and no ideas. Spin Urbanspoon’s slot machine and it offers restaurant suggestions. You can also choose certain attributes — like moderate prices and bistro food — and selections appear. The app includes reviews, contact information, maps and directions.
QUICKOFFICE MOBILE SUITE ($10) You can read Word, Excel or Powerpoint documents on an Android phone, but you can’t edit them without dedicated apps. Quickoffice is, so far, the best of these apps. It lets you create documents in a pinch, but the app’s strength is letting you get bits of work done away from the office.
SLACKER (FREE) You’ve most likely heard of Pandora, the great personalized radio service. Slacker is better, with a deeper catalog of songs. And unlike the Web version, you can download hours of music to your phone and listen when you are offline. (That feature is free to try, but a $4 monthly fee applies thereafter.)
FXCAMERA (FREE) Android doesn’t have anything quite like Hipstamatic, the iPhone app that creates beautiful effects for your photos. FxCamera is close, with several cool filters to choose from, and quick sharing to Facebook.
Glympse (free; open the app, hit a couple of buttons and Glympse lets a friend temporarily track your location); Angry Birds (free; not as slick as the iPhone version); Weather Channel (free; offers better forecasts than your phone’s standard weather app); Epicurious (free; find professionally tested recipes, with reviews and shopping lists — the free BigOven app is also very good); FlightTrack ($5; track any flight and get delay forecasts, seat suggestions and gate information); Yelp (free; find local services, restaurants and bars, including reviews); Layar (free; see customized information about your surroundings); Qik (free; broadcast live video from your phone to a Web site) ; DroidLight (free; it’s a flashlight, a strobe light or a message board in a crowded club — indispensable).
A version of this article appeared in print on December 2, 2010, on page B10 of the New York edition.