My Top 20 Android Apps For Beginners….


Android apps are essential to the end-users experience. There are several categories of apps, but I am going to ignore some as they are limited in their scope (ie, apps that are games, or are only focused on those who root their phones).

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I believe the average smartphone user is going to want to focus on improving the user interface (apps that are better than the stock apps that come on the phone), social apps (ie Twitter, texting, conferencing), and media apps (ie music, photos, news).

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Below are those categories and the apps that I feel can improve the Android experience.

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Disclaimer: There are hundreds of thousands of Android apps. This is in no way all inclusive and can change daily.

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BETTER THAN THE STOCK ANDROID APPLICATIONS:

Text Messanging:

1 – Go SMS Pro / Handcent SMS / Chomp SMS / Google Voice.

They are all better than the stock messenger, in their own regard. The average user can be complacent with the stock messaging app, it does send texts and MMS (ie pictures) just fine after all, but for the user who wants more, these are the apps to try.

To be fair, Google Voice should not be lumped in here as it does so much. This app should be on every Android device, period.

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Browser:

2 – Dolphin Browser HD / Skyfire / Miren

Wait, three more suggestions? Yeap. Why? Because their all awesome in their own regard. The stock browser I find fantastic, it does what you need and does it well. Again though, Android allows the user to do a lot more.

Dolphin is great because of tabbed browsing, gestures (finger swipes to open bookmarks for example) and multi-touch.

Skyfire emphasizes playing video – even those that are not compatible with Android.

Miren is extremely fast, minimalistic UI, and a lot of neat features (scrolling with the volume button, swipes to go forward/backward, etc).

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Gallery:

3 – QuickPic

I hate the stock android gallery. It is a CPU hog, slow to load and limited in features. It is frankly my least favorite part of Android. QuickPic by Alensw (there are several apps with that name) is amazing. It is extremely fast to load, you can exclude certain albums from displaying, very high resolution/image quality, and built in editing tools (ie cropping, rotating, etc).

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The Launcher (your homescreen):

4 – ADW EX / LauncherPro / Go Launcher EX

There I go again, three suggestions. Most of these have similar features, but each have unique features. I prefer ADW EX because it allows me to use swipe gestures to open my notifications or to open a second hidden dock bar (a place to stash commonly opened apps). This allows my homescreen to be less cluttered. You can customize the layout a lot more as well (ie, instead of the standard 4×4 layout, you can make it as much as 10×10), overlap widgets, infinite scrolling, change animations, etc. The list of options go on and on. I strongly suggest trying a new launcher.

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Camera:

5 – CameraZoom FX / Camera360 / Retro Camera / Little Photo

All of these apps have features above and beyond the stock camera. I prefer Retro Camera because it is free and it also has a very unique UI. I can take some pretty spectacular photos with it, with very little effort. I’m a sucker for black and white photos that have a vintage look though.

A reader also suggested Little Photo – which seems wildly popular but was not known by me – NICE!

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Music:

6 – PowerAMP / UberMusic / TuneIn Radio / Google Music / Amazon MP3

Again, each have unique qualities. PowerAMP is great in that it plays most anything and has an equalizer. UberMusic is just sexy. TuneIn Radio allows you to stream music from all over the world. Google Music is great for its cloud capabilities – I love having my music sync and not be stored on precious memory space. Amazon MP3 also has cloud capabilities and offers free music.

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Dialer / Contacts:

7 –Go Contacts EX

Not every Android has a smart dialer (when you start typing a phone number or contact name, it filters out your results). I find that hard to believe. Go Contacts EX not only has a great smart dialer, but the UI is great too. You can swipe left to right to change from the dialer to contacts for instance. The app can also be themed by simply downloading themes from the Market (most of which are also free)

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Photos:

8 – TouchRetouch / PicSay Pro / Little Photo

We talked about the Camera and the Gallery, but what about editing photos? Ever have something in your shot that you wish wasn’t there. TouchRetouch is essentially a magic eraser for your photos. It’s pretty brilliant for an app on your phone and can easily remove objects.

PicSay Pro is more of an effects tool. It allows a tremendous amount of customization to your photos.

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Keyboards:

9 – Swype Beta / Swiftkey X

Swype is hands down the most revolutionary keyboard out. I was afraid of moving to a phone with no physical keyboard, till I tried Swype. The beta is open and free, and it’s the best keyboard out, in my opinion. Do yourself a favor and register now. Most know that Swype allows you to move from letter to letter (not peck each letter), but it also has a tremendous amount of features. I’ve got a huge guide on this, please contact me if interested. Swiftkey X is another revolutionary keyboard in a different sense. It actively seeks the NEXT word you would type, and it learns as you type. So, the more you use it, the more accurately it can predict your next word. I’ve written entire sentences by simply selecting the word it thought I would use. These are both amazing and something I am certain an iPhone would love to have (avoiding some of the famous auto-correct iPhone typo blunders).

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SOCIAL APPS:

Disclaimer: I despise FaceBook, but their app seems very feature rich with a decent UI.

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10 – Plume

I’ve tried every twitter app out there, and none can touch the power of Plume. Feature rich it won’t let you down. Get this if you use Twitter, or start using twitter if you do not already! I’ve found it to be the best way to get brief bits of news information catered to me. So much so that it’s now my favorite feature of a smartphone.

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11 – GroupMe

A completely free way to keep in contact with a group. Send text messages (with your data plan – not a traditional text message), share photos, conference calling, etc. This is a powerful app that could serve teenagers to the executive on business trips.

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12 – Google+

Say what it really is, a FaceBook killer. Google hit a homerun with their social network in my opinion, and the app is feature rich. Want to have private conversations, or share with the world? Want to instantly sync photos taken from your phone? Want to use an alternate messenger or video chat with up to 9 people? Get it.

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TRAVEL APPS:

13 – Google Maps

The features of Maps is pretty robust, but it is the Navigation that is its strong point in my opinion. I had two Garmin GPS units that became junk when I got my first Android phone. Not only did the Navigation work better (accuracy of turn by turn directions) from my phone, but the GPS signal was more accurate. You can also use Places to find and rate places and Lattitude to locate friends near you.

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14 – Worldmate

Short and sweet, a must if you travel a lot. Forward your confirmation emails and it groups all of your itinerary into an incredibly simple package. Organize your plans, change your itinerary, share your itinerary with people, get flight alerts or check on a flight, get reminders, it locates hotels near you and even brings in the weather. Seriously, if you travel, try this!

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MISCELLANEOUS APPS:

15 – Beautiful Widgets / Fancy Widgets

Another benefit of Android is the widgets – an easy to find and attractive thing to have on your homescreen with relevant information. I enjoy knowing the time and weather near me, and these apps give it accurately and in an attractive way that can be easily themed to my liking.

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16 – Alarm Clock Plus

If you use your smartphone as your alarm, for lunch or sleep – this is the one to try. Feature rich and known as one of the best. This will be better than the stock Alarm on the phone and incorporates weather.

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17 – Amazon’s Appstore

There are many nice features about Amazon’s Appstore, including their review process (added security perhaps over the Android Market), but lets be honest… its best feature is that they offer a paid app for free every day. Sometimes these apps are pretty amazing too. On more than one occasion I have went and bought the app in the official Android Market when I wanted to show my support to a developer.

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18 – Chrome to Phone

If you use Android, there is a strong chance Chrome is your browser on your PC. This dandy of an app allows you to press the button on your PC’s browser (using the Chrome to Phone extension), and instantly that page/document/download link will show on your phone. Amazingly simply and powerful.

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19 – Wheres My Droid

Are you one that easily misplaces their phone? Once installed, this app lets you send a text to your phone if it’s misplaced to help locate it. What if you left your phone on silent… what if you are not near it? Well, not only does it turn the volume to max (just in case), but it also lets you get the GPS coordinates if you REALLY misplaced it. A must have on any Android in my opinion.

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20 – Astro File Manager

With Android you have the ability to view and move files around. This is the best way to manage your files, make backups of important files, open zip/tar files, allow downloads from the browser, etc. Frankly, every Android phone should come with a file manager, but they do not. Even if your phone did come with a file manager, there is a strong chance that it is not as good as Astro File Manager.

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This list is no way inclusive. There are MANY apps that I use daily that did not get a mention. Perhaps I will make an extended list with more categories next time. I would appreciate your feedback. If you know someone new to Android, shoot them a link to this… I’d love to hear what someone new to Android thought of this list.

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Thanks!!

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About s15274n

I will do what I can to help support the Android Community!

Posted on September 20, 2011, in Apps, Introduction and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nice list and good to see a new post :). I am familiar with some of those apps but will definitely try out some on the list I haven’t used yet.

    Thanks!

  2. Awesome man, let me know what you think!

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