I’ve been using my Android phone for two months, and I thought I would evangelize a bit about the best Android apps.
One of the main questions people ask me is “does the Android phone have apps?”. Hopefully I will be able to convince some of you that the Android platform does have many great apps (although honestly it still doesn’t compare to the number of iPhone apps).
The main way to get Android apps is to use the Android Market. I like the Market because:
- You can find thousands of apps
- No apps censorship (as long as it’s legal)
- You can quickly download apps directly from phone
- Easily install apps with a few clicks
- It’s easy to update your apps to the latest version or patch
When you start the Market application, you get to choose between viewing Apps or Games.
In each of those choices, you get to choose between different app categories such as Finance apps, Comic apps, Arcade & Action Games or Puzzle Games.
Clicking in a category will display a list of the top apps or the newest apps.
Once you choose an app, you get to see a description, screen shots, user ratings and comments. I find the comments really useful because I can tell immediately if the app is buggy or does not work as promised.
Having said that, there are a some things I wished Google would improve:
- Malaysians do not have access to paid apps (the workaround is to root your phone and install the Market Enabler app)
- It can be difficult to find great apps if you do not know what you are looking for. A better search and recommendation method is needed.
- Some free apps are not available to non-US users.
My Favourite Apps
Okay, moving on to my favourite apps. These are the apps I use all the time. I will describe each app, then let you know how I rate them in four categories:
- Usability: a measure of user-friendliness and ease of use
- Performance: measures the speed and efficiency of the app
- Design: measures the beauty of the visual elements and interface design
- Functionality: measures how well the app does what it is supposed to do
The ratings are 1 (FAIL), 2 (bad), 3 (okay), 4 (good) and 5 (exceptional).
The Twitter app allows you to read tweets and post your Twitter updates in a simple and clean interface.
On the app home screen, you can access all the functions you get at the Twitter website.
You can tweet a plain text message, or you could attach a photo via TwitPic.
I like the simple and minimalist interface. I think this app is the best one to use for accessing and updating your Twitter account.
Overall Rating: 19/20
You can use this QR code to download Twitter on your Android phone.
If you are the type of person who gets bored on the Internet, then StumbleUpon is the perfect app for you. If you’ve never used it before, then it will change how you browse the web for fresh and cool stuff.
The home menu displays all your favourite topics. Clicking on your topics will bring up a random website about the topic.
The four shortcut icons at the top will bring up content most suitable for mobile devices. This helps to save you time because you will skip sites containing large amounts of text or Flash sites.
Here are some examples. The first screen shot shows a cool photo I found when stumbling Photos, and the second screen shot is a site I found while stumbling the topic ‘Fitness’.
After each Stumble, you can thumbs up or thumbs down to train the system on your preference and taste.
I like this app for helping me to find new things to blog about, or to find awesome and fresh content whenever I get bored.
Overall Rating: 16/20
You can use this QR code to download StumbleUpon on your Android phone.
Google Goggles is an amazing app that can identify objects, logos, barcodes and text from a photograph. How it works is, you snap a photo and the app will do a Google search and show you the results.
For example, I see a nice cartoon character but I don’t have any idea who it is. I just take a photo and let the app do its magic.
Like magic, the app identifies the cartoon character for me! Isn’t this the kind of technology they use on CSI?
In another example, I may come across a book at the book store and want to read reviews or check out prices online. I just take a photo of the barcode.
The result is displayed and I have immediate access to book reviews, author information and price comparisons!
It also allows me to scan QR codes with my phone to instantly download an app or access a website!
I think this app is awesome because it combines the power of mobile cameras, mobile Internet and search engines. I do think that i it can be improved because search results are not always accurate.
Overall Rating: 14/20
Let’s move on to some games, shall we? As the name of this app implies, it is a SNES (Super Nintendo) emulator for the Android. What this means is you can run SNES games on your phone.
The home screen of the app allows you to choose the game to load. You can get games (or ROMS) from sites such as Roms4Droid.
Here are some screenshots from my favourite game on my SNES.
If your Android phone has a keyboard, you use the keyboard to control the game. Otherwise you can use an on-screen keypad.
If you get the paid version, you can even save games. If you don’t like SNES games, you can find emulators for NES, Game Boy, Sega, PlayStation and even Atari games.
Unlike some emulators on the PC, graphics and sounds are reproduced accurately on my Android phone.
I just love this app so much, because it turns my phone into a portable gaming device. My only complain is, the on-screen keypad is not responsive enough to multi touch… it can be hard to execute some combos.
Overall Rating: 14/20
You can use this QR code to download SNESoid on your Android phone.
This is the super-popular pig-killing game where you have to shoot some birds on a slingshot.
It’s a simple game, but it’s really addicting. It’s not hard to finish the game, but it’s harder to get three stars (the maximum) for each stage.
I’ve spent countless hours on this game.
Best of all, iPhone users have to pay for this game but Android users get it for FREE!
Overall Rating: 18/20
You can use this QR code to download Angry Birds on your Android phone.
Flight Director (Lite)
In this game, you play the role of an air traffic controller, and have to guide the planes to land safely. Planes are colour coded, so you have to make them land on the correct runway.
What I like about the app is it uses actual airport layouts from Google Maps.
It’s pretty easy at first, but gets more challenging as time goes on because more planes arrive simultaneously.
It’s nice whenever games like this incorporate touch screen functions in a clever way.
Unfortunately, the lite version only comes with two maps and the hard difficulty mode disabled. The full version (paid app) is not available on the Market, but I am planning to buy it via Market Enabler.
Functionality: 3/5 (because it’s a limited lite version)
Overall Rating: 16/20
You can use this QR code to download Flight Director (Lite) on your Android phone.
This application runs in the background to monitor your data usage. Obviously if you’re using DiGi’s DG Smart Plan, you don’t have to worry about bandwidth because you get an unlimited data plan.
But I’m the curious and techie type of person who just loves to keep stats on everything.
You just have to configure your quota, and the app will warn you if you reach your quota. You could even disable data access when you reach the limit.
As you can see, I’m a light data user because I’m on WiFi most of the time.
Overall Rating: 14/20
You can use this QR code to download 3G Watchdog on your Android phone.
If you are an Evernote user, this app will give you a convenient way to add notes.
If you’ve never heard of Evernote, the service allows you to track notes containing images, links and sound clips. These notes can be tagged, and are stored online to be accessible on any computer or mobile device.
This is the home screen of Evernote. You can take a new snapshot, upload a file, write a new note or record an audio clip. You access your notes via the menu.
As you can see, I use Evernote to keep coupons, recipes, name cards and all sorts of random information.
My favourite feature about the app is the searching. In the following example, I search for the phrase ‘Large pizza’ and it returns one of my Domino’s coupons.
That’s really amazing because any text in any image you upload to Evernote is indexed via OCR (optical character recognition)!
This app helps me to keep my house clear of those small bits of paper, and it could be even more useful if you use it to keep your study notes or journals.
My only complaint is, it can be quite slow to upload an image. Probably could be due to the OCR indexing.
Overall Rating: 15/20
You can use this QR code to download Evernote on your Android phone.
One of the first things people do when they get a new phone is to change ringtones right? In fact, the ringtone download industry is very lucrative.
The only problem is, it’s difficult to get ringtones of your favourite songs, and even if you can find the song, you can’t gurantee you can get your favourite part of the song.
This app is your solution.
There are three options in this app’s home screen. Download Panel shows the status of current downloads, My Music shows you all MP3s on your phone and My Ringtones shows you all ringtones on your ohone.
Entering text in the search will browse the Internet for MP3s matching your search term. In the following example, I searched for ‘Coldplay’.
It returns a list of Coldplay ringtones, but most of the time MP3s of entire songs are also displayed.
You can select which portion of the song to convert into a ringtone, set the play duration and it will be saved as a new MP3 file. You can then use your custom MP3 as a ringtone.
Obviously, one undocumented feature of this app is allowing you to download pirated MP3s, but I’m not encouraging you to do that.
Overall Rating: 15/20
As I write this review, this app seems to be removed from the Android Market, but a version 2 of the app is there. You can use this QR code to download Ringtone MP3 v2 to your Android phone.
Waze (pronounced Ways) is a real time traffic reporting tool / maps / GPS navigator application.
If you like listening to traffic reports on radio then this is the app for you.
I like this app because it allows me to see if there are traffic jams along my route If yes, I can plan to take an alternate route.
When you open up the app, it uses GPS to find your location and plot your path on the map. Any traffic jams will cause the road to turn red, and any accidents are marked with an icon.
You can scan real time alerts… in the following example I saw a report of an accident on LDP.
You can also send chit chat messages, in case you want to chat with other Wazers in the area.
The app adds a gaming element to your travel by granting points whenever you make a report, or whenever you discover a new route.
The service is still in beta, so you might encounter some bugs (like suddenly going off the map). Also, there aren’t many Malaysian Wazers yet so your experience with the app will vary depending on your location.
Overall Rating: 11/20
You can use this QR code to download Waze on your Android phone.
I hope I have done justice to the Android apps, and I hope you enjoyed my list.
I’ve covered 10 apps in this post and I haven’t even mentioned live wallpapers, multimedia apps and phone security apps.
I could easily include 10 more apps, but I think that’s enough for today.
Feel free to suggest in the comments if you have any other Android apps to recommend.