Essential Android Apps

May 25, 2011

I’ve had my LG Optimus V for over a month now and been loving it. I especially love that it only costs $25 a month on Virgin Mobile for unlimited web and texts. The only issue is that occasionally, the data connection hangs and drains the battery quickly. I usually experience the problem when I’m traveling (the phone is powered off for the plane ride). Usually, pulling the battery does the trick. Apparently the folks at LG are working on a fix.

Over time, I’ve found there are some Android apps that you just can’t live without. Here’s my list of essential Android apps. Some of them I’ve downloaded, some of them were preloaded on the phone.

Amazon App Store: One of the first apps you should load up. Amazon has their own alternative to the Android Marketplace that comes with several advantages. For one, this app store is more tightly controlled so there’s less potential to get infected or malware apps. More importantly, Amazon has been offering a free app every day. Click here to get started.

Amazon MP3 (Cloud Player): The Amazon Cloud Player brings iTunes-like functionality to Android using Amazon’s MP3 store. The beauty is that you can chose to either play songs from local storage or streamed from the cloud. Detailed write-up here.

Angry Birds Rio: This app was free in the Amazon app store its first few days. In reality, it’s not free since it’s addictive and you pay with all of your free time. It’s only 99 cents now.

Pulse: A quick way to read all of the websites that are important to you. Pulse displays content from selected sites in a grid-like pattern allowing you to scroll up and down as well as left to right. It’s designed for a touchscreen device (its really awesome on the iPad). Pulse uses a sites’ RSS (really simple syndication) feed to pull in all of the latest posts from your favorite blogs and news sites. Best of all, it’s free. I can’t wait till this becomes available for the Mac.

Evernote: It’s your mobile filing cabinet or organizer. Evernote is a note taking app that organizes all of the information that really shouldn’t live in your calendar or email. You create a notebook for a subject. I have three: One for the blog, one for my suburban farming adventures and another for my consulting business. The cool thing about Evernote is that there are clients for every platform imaginable so its ubiquotous. Bye bye sticky notes!

Maps: Google Maps. You’ve seen it before, I used it a bit but then I discovered….

Places: A front-end to Google maps that finds the closest coffee shops, bars, restaurants, gas stations, attractions and ATMs. It’s great when you’re driving through unfamiliar territory.

Navigation: One of the advantages of Android over the iPhone is the inclusion of the no-charge Google Navigation. Google Navigation is a GPS for your phone. It’s a real GPS with a 3-D like display and spoken turn by turn driving instructions. The voices could be a little smoother. When the app is on, it relies on the phone’s GPS which sucks battery very quickly on the LG Optimus.

Quick Settings: I highlighted this in another post recently. The most important feature is that it allows you to turn your LG Optimus V into a mobile hotspot (see the bottom of the post).

ShootMe: This app lets you capture screenshots of whatever you are doing in Android and saves it to the SD card. This is especially important if you write blog posts about Android.

ShopSavvy: If you are out shopping, you need ShopSavvy. Utilizing the phone’s camera, you can scan in any UPC barcode. It will tell you what the item costs on-line as well as local brick and mortar locations. I was in Target recently and it stopped me from buying an All-In-One inkjet for my Mom’s new iPad. I realized the “sale” price was still higher from what I could get on-line (and it didn’t have Airprint).

What are your favorite Android apps?

Tags: Amazon, Android, LG

2 Responses to Essential Android Apps

  1. The Hub on June 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm


    Thanks for the amazing and comprehensive list.

  2. Peter Murray on June 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    I too am really enjoying my Android phone, a Motorola Atrix. It is a big step up from my 3.5 year old Blackberry Curve 8310, but there are items that worked better on my Curve than do on my Atrix!

    I have several free additions to your recommended apps-to-download list:

    Android System Info:
    I initally used Advanced Task Killer to keep too many apps from sticking around, but once I found this, I stopped using ATK. It is much better to be able to know what is doing what (and to address the issue) than to just keep blindly killing apps (which can be data destructive).

    K-9 Mail:
    I found that the built-in email client on my Atrix (a part of the MotoBlur interface) has a few bugs (can't send emails without using a SMTP server that supports authentication, for example) – plus it would simply stop checking email every now and then, requiring a reboot. Dropped in K-9 mail and have had a much better email experience (IMAPS to one personal account, Exchange (WebDAV) for work…)

    QR Droid Private:
    I see more and more of these QR codes all over the place – and while I want to decode what they mean, I don't want some tool to automatically out send data on what I may scan. This does just that – plus it will *create* QR codes for you as well!

    Amazon Kindle:
    I don't read nearly as much as I want to – mostly because when I have the time (like when I'm riding the Metro train), I don't have a book with me. The Atrix' screen is not huge, but is big enough to provide a very comfortable reading experience. I'm about to finish my second book in a month, and that is a record for me!

    Astrid Task/Todo List:
    Reminders are invaluable to me. I have enough going on that having a little nudge to remind me to take care of the little irregular things is incredibly helpful. Astrid does just that, and can even be Locale-enabled (to remind you to get milk when you're near the grocery store).

    If you use Dropbox, having this is as handy as Evernote (which I absolutely love).

    Ted Air:
    I find myself inspired regularly by the great minds that give the TED talks – but I often don't have a lot of time when in front of a computer to watch them. This allows me to watch TED talks anywhere!

    Google Listen:
    If you enjoy podcasts, this is a very handy tool. More and more of those to which I subscribe via iTunes are becoming available via Google Listen.

    Google Sky Map:
    How many items in a clear night sky can you identify? Fire up the app and you'll be able to pick out planets, stars and other extra-terrestrial objects – both visible and not. You can even "point" the phone below the horizon and "see" what objects are out of your view!

    Google Reader:
    Good RSS reader. Keeps in sync with your regular web-based use of

    SMS Backup +:
    Automatically synchronizes your SMS and MMS messages with your GMail account, so you don't inadvertently lose that message or picture.

    TuneIn Radio:
    My Atrix has the physical capability to receive FM radio, but AT&T didn't have Motorola enable that in the firmware. Fortunately, many many stations stream – and this app (because it knows where you are) will pop up a list of all the *local* radio stations that are available via stream. It also has a very comprehensive search of other net broadcasts (like SomaFM, etc).

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