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The 100 Best Android Apps of 2013
So, you’ve got your Android device and you’re ready to take on the mobile world. However, with over 700,000 apps to choose from, finding which will work best for you can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve selected what we think are the best 100 and presented them here, for your perusal.
Of course, there are many things that we couldn’t take into account, such as updates, the various Android devices available, and your personal taste. We think our list is a good starting point, and we’ll do our best to keep fresh and interesting enough that even the most experienced Android user will be able to find something worthwhile.
Whoa, 10 pages? Uncool.
Trust me, nobody dislikes paginated websites more than I do. But with 100 apps, we had to break it up just to make it readable. We’ve even divided the article into themed sections, so you can skip over the first 50 or so if you’re only interested in, say, music apps.
Hey, You Missed Something
Though we are professionals, we have yet to physically and mentally merge with the Google Play store, becoming an omnipotent being of total app knowledge. Until that day, we’ll rely on our own humble judgment and your feedback. If we missed something, or you have a recommendation, be sure to drop us a line in the comment section.
This App Is Stale
While 100 apps is a far more manageable slice of the enormous Google Play store, it’s still a challenge to keep up to date. That’s the nature of a platform as large and dynamic as Android. In order to keep these reviews fresh and accurate we’ll be doing rolling updates to the list. Hopefully, the next time you read this, there’ll be some new hidden gems for you to discover.
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. —Next: Best Apps 18-24: News/Readers >
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. Next: Best Apps 25-34: Reference >
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.— Next: Best Apps 35-45: Productivity/Organization >
There are lots of apps for making lists of tasks, but Any.DO is easily among the most stylish. In addition to its simple interface, it brings easy organization and built-in syncing between devices. While the thrust of Any.DO is to organize tasks, it can easily be used to keep track of shopping lists or whatever else you might need to itemize. A great choice for anyone looking to Get Organized
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.
Free, additional Spaces for $4.99 per month
A note-taking and organizational app with style, Catch Notes is like a high-design version of Evernote. Users create notes, reminders, photos, checklists, and recordings which can then be organized into notebook-like “spaces.” Catch keeps these creations synced among all your devices, and it’s accessible through a Web interface as well. If you’re tired of drab ol’ Evernote, Catch Notes is a must-have.
Free, additional space available
The original cloud storage service, Dropbox has a clean, sleek Android app that rivals the iPhone version in terms of style. Dropbox’s terms are pretty well known: the free version will allow you to have up to 2GB of files seamless synched between devices and stored online. The app puts all those files at your fingertips, easily allowing you to view, download, and share what you need when you need it.
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.
Long thought to be only a myth, Google Drive is a powerful cloud-based storage locker and basic office suite. With it, you can create and edit documents and have changes synched between multiple devices and users. Google Drive is extremely easy to use and comes with a strong set of sharing options that basically mean you never have to attach a document to an email again.
LastPass Password Mgr Premium*
Free, $1 per month for mobile use
A powerful password manager that keeps your information safely guarded behind a single password. On Android, LastPass provides access to your password vault, auto-fill forms, secure notes, and a password generator. LastPass can even be used to enter login information for website and apps on your Android device. While it’s a bit difficult to use out of the box, a quick read of the online documentation will have you bending passwords to your will.
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.—Next: Best Apps 46-52: Communication >
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).Next: Best Apps 53-60: Social >
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. Next: Best Apps 61-69: Music and Video >
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.
Apple, Amazon, and Google have all launched music storage lockers. However, Google’s decision to base its free storage option not on size but on number of tracks make it unique among its competitors. With the app, users can stream music they’ve uploaded and, when connected to Wi-Fi, download songs for offline listening. Best of all, Google has gone out of its way to make sure the Music service plays nice with whatever system you’re using at home.
Free, subscription fees apply
The go-to app for streaming movies and TV shows, Netflix puts an enormous library of content at your fingertips. Though its catalog isn’t always consistent in terms of quality, its sheer size and low cost ($7.99 for unlimited streaming and an additional $7.99 for a DVD rental plan as well) make it a must-have app. Be sure to connect to a Wi-Fi network for the best viewing experience.
Movies by Flickster
A strong offering for the movie buff on the go, Movies by Flickster keeps you up to date on the latest releases both at the box office and on DVD. Flickster’s app also gives you easy access to Rotten Tomatoes reviews and trailers, and it can even help you book your next movie outing or add movies to your Netflix queue for a night in. Though it has a few quirks, Movies is a valuable asset.
Pandora Internet radio
Free, optional upgrade to PandoraOne for $36 per year
The granddaddy of smart, streaming music apps, Pandora has come a long way from its humble origins. The latest version of the app focuses on social aspects, showing you what your friends are currently rocking out to. Though it has a full spectrum of visual, audio, and video ads, Pandora still does a great job of seamlessly delivering you music.
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.
While there are a number of apps to keep your ears full of music, fewer focus on radio and podcasts. Stitcher is one such app, which lets you organize channels of content based on interests. It’s even clever enough to notice what you like and dislike, and will assemble “Smart Stations” based off your preferences. If you’re a podcast junkie, this app is essential.
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.—Next: Best Apps: Best Apps 70-81: Games >
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.—Next: Best Apps 82-100: Sports, Travel, Shopping >
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.
By Max Eddy, PCMag