Google’s open-source phone platform has plenty of quality free apps for your phone.
Google’s Android OS is now a major player in the smartphone world. The Motorola Droid was the hot phone when we first released our “Top 100 Free Apps For Your Phone” list in 2009. Now we’re seeing “super phones” like the HTC Incredible, HTC EVO 4G, Motorola Droid X, and Samsung Galaxy S that are bringing world-class hardware capabilities to the platform.
While Android still doesn’t have quite as many big-name apps from big-name developers as Apple, the quasi-open-source platform has grown so much in popularity that we decided to add 10 additional apps to this year’s list. All of the apps we list below are available from the Android Market.
And we expect the Android Market will continue to grow, as folks develop for Android 2.2 “Froyo”, which includes Adobe Flash 10.1. Phone manufacturers have said it will be available in the Droid X and HTC EVO.
We found it pretty easy to track down 30 great free Android apps, but we’re sure that you’ve found more. This list isn’t exhaustive by any means. If you’re a fan of other free Android apps, please tell us about them in the comments area below.
1. Advanced Task Killer Free 1.7.9
If you’re an Android user, there’s a good chance you already have this one. If you are new to the platform, download this immediately. Here’s the deal: After a few hours of strenuous Android multitasking, you might realize your phone has become sluggish and your battery is draining fast. This task-killing app can free up valuable megabytes of memory and plenty of processor power. The pay version with an “auto-kill” function is available for $5, but the free version is more than acceptable. ATK’s interface is more user-friendly than its competitor, TasKiller, and it focuses on killing lagging apps rather than essential Android services.
2. AP Mobile 2.3
The Associated Press, www.ap.org
The Associated Press’s app provides constant updates on multiple news categories, as well as AP news videos. It caches stories for offline reading and provides local news tailored to your ZIP code. You can also customize your homepage so the first news you see fits your needs.
3. Astrid 2.14.3
We Love Astrid, www.weloveastrid.com
Astrid is still probably the best Android to-do list app. It offers both simple and complex solutions to your organizational needs. You can start with a generic list of tasks and add more complexity by tagging tasks, setting priorities, and assigning dates with several levels of reminders. Astrid also syncs with Remember The Milk, an online to-do list app that can send your tasks to Google Calendar, Gmail, Twitter, or your desktop.
4. Astro File Manager 2.4.2
We love apps. You love apps. Thing is, they can take up valuable space on your phone. To avoid running out of space, download Astro. The app lets you back up apps on your SD card; you can’t run them from there, but you can swap out apps you aren’t using. It lets you browse your phone’s file system, examining and moving files. It also gives you a very detailed peek into which apps and processes are running, with info about how much memory and CPU power each process is using. Along with ATK, Astro will help you keep your Android system tidy and under control.
5. Bonsai Blast 1.5
Glu Mobile, www.glu.com
Great games for Android aren’t as rare as they used to be, but that didn’t keep us from including Bonsai Blast once again. It’s a classic. Bonsai Blast is oddly both exciting and soothing; you shoot colored bubbles at strings of other colored bubbles to clear them out, with walls, super-powered bubbles, and lots of vaguely Asian landscapes complicating the situation. It’s simple, addictive, and graphically pleasing.
6. Dolphin Browser HD 2.0.0
If you aren’t happy with the generic browser that comes with your phone, Dolphin is the way to go. It offers tabbed browsing, multitouch zooming, syncing with Google bookmarks, and the ability to flag sites that you might want to read later. You can even download YouTube videos.
7. doubleTwist Player 1.0.1
doubleTwist Player for Android is a slick media player app that helps make up for the lack of iTunes on your phone. Combine it with the desktop version of doubleTwist, and you’ll turn your Android device into a portable multimedia powerhouse that syncs music, (un-DRMed) iTunes playlists, and videos as well as any Apple hardware does. It’s a must-have for all music lovers.
8. Facebook for Android 1.2
This is the “official” Facebook app on Android, and it serves its purpose well enough. You can post status updates, take/upload photos, and check your news stream. It’s a lot faster than using the Facebook Web app, so it’s the best option on Android to stay connected to all your Facebook friends.
Foursquare is a neat location-based social networking app. The integrated Google Maps feature allows you to get views of places in your area, so you can easily go from one restaurant to another (it doesn’t hurt that it comes with Yelp integration as well). Then you can “check in” to various locations to alert your friends that you’re there. It also works with other social networking sites, as you can share your check-in status on Facebook and Twitter also.
10. Google Maps Navigation
Google Maps Navigation gives you free, voice-guided GPS driving directions on your Android phone. It offers Google’s trademark satellite view, real-time traffic reports, search and voice recognition, and best-in-class POI search.
11. Google Sky Map 1.5.2
Google Sky Map helps you put names to all the stars, planets, and constellations. The app syncs with your GPS in order to provide you with a map of the sky wherever you are. The only tricky thing can be getting your phone and the sky aligned exactly right. However, with a little patience, Sky Map will locate and name some of the brightest celestial objects you point to in the sky.
12. Google Voice 0.3.4
Google Voice for Android remains the best way to use Google Voice on a mobile phone. If you have a virtual Google Voice number, you’ll be able to make outgoing calls and SMS messages easily, including international calls that run about 2 cents per minute. This app also lets you integrate your phone’s built-in address book and call log for voice calls. There are other third-party apps out there that tap into Google Voice, but stick with Google’s native app; it works almost seamlessly.
13. Jewels 1.60
MH Games, www.mhgames.org
Jewels is a highly-polished, free Bejeweled clone. The game is highly addictive and serves as a great way to pass the time on your commute. Different modes let you play this as a strategy game or an action game, and if you’re competitive, you can share your scores with others.
14. Listen 1.1.3
Every smartphone needs a good podcast client, and Google Listen fits the bill on Android. Listen lets you subscribe to individual podcasts or find podcasts using terms you like. Downloading and storing podcasts will let you play them even when you aren’t connected to a network. Fixing the rewind and forward options so they behave less erratically would be a welcome improvement, but overall Listen is a great way to get radio-style content onto your Android phone.
15. Meebo IM 22
Meebo Inc., www.meebo.com/android
Meebo still holds the spot on our list for an Android-based multi-platform IM program. Along with the usual AIM, MSN, Yahoo!, Google, and ICQ instant messaging networks, Meebo also supports Facebook and MySpace IM, which is pretty cool. Social networking contacts come with photos and status messages, and you can keep multiple conversations going at once. It isn’t the slickest interface out there, but it doesn’t require you to sign up for an extra account, unlike the competing eBuddy.
16. Mint 1.4
Intuit Inc., www.mint.com
Mint.com‘s impressive app allows Android users to easily manage their finances on the go. You can see real-time account balances, compare your spending budget against your monthly budget, keep track of recent transactions, and edit transaction details. Exclusive to Android, home screen widgets display overall cash flow and financial updates.
17. Movies by Flixster 2.9.4
Flixster Inc., www.flixster.com/android/faq
There are a lot of good movie apps out there, such as Fandango and Moviefone, but Movies by Flixster gets our nod here because of its complete experience. Movies will inform you of the latest top flicks and movies coming out, as well as theaters near whatever location you enter. It provides trailers, reviews, information, and Rotten Tomatoes results for all the current movies. And yes, you can even buy tickets to select participating theaters as well.
18. PageOnce Personal Assistant 1.4
PageOnce Personal Assistant lets you monitor your financial accounts, but that’s just the start. PageOnce also tracks anything flight related (frequent flyer miles, itineraries, flight times), cell phone minutes, bills due, your Netflix queue, eBay bids, and a wide variety of social network feeds. PageOnce says they use top-notch encryption and are fully insured, so you don’t have to worry about the security of your data. A $6.99 “premium” version lets you ditch ads.
19. Pandora Radio 1.3
Pandora Media, www.pandora.com
Internet radio gives you an endless amount of music for your Android phone, albeit at the cost of battery life. Picking between Slacker and Pandora really just comes down to personal preference; this round, we picked Pandora. Pandora lets you tap into custom radio stations that you create based on songs or artists. Pandora will play best over Wi-Fi, but it also works over 3G.
20. Photoshop.com Mobile 1.2.0
Still the best free photo editing app out there, Adobe’s Photoshop.com Mobile gives you an arsenal of tools to use on your Android phone. You can crop, rotate, color-correct, or change images to black-and-white with a beautifully intuitive interface. The app integrates with free Photoshop.com online accounts, but unfortunately, not other popular services such as Flickr.
21. Replica Island 1.3
Team Replica, replicaisland.net
Replica Island is perhaps the most sophisticated free game app on the Android platform. As a platformer, where you collect coins and avoid enemies, it’s similar to older video games like Mega Man and Super Mario Brothers. But it’s a must-have game that provides 40 levels of fun, and it uses phone features such as the accelerometer quite well.
22. Ringdroid 2.3
Ringdroid is more than a ringtone app; it’s really an audio editor for your Android phone. You can use it to clip audio files to make ringtones, but also for any other purposeâ€”for example, sending audio recordings to friends. Just take almost any unprotected audio file that your Android phone can play, slide two sliders to the beginning and end of your clip, and in an instant your new sound is done.
23. ShopSavvy 3.6.6
Big In Japan, Inc., www.biggu.com
ShopSavvy is arguably the best of several comparison-shopping applications for Android, although it’s still far from perfect. The app lets you take a picture of a bar code on a product box with the phone’s camera, giving you prices for the product from various retailers along with reviews from online shopping sites. When we tested it at several stores, including the FAO Schwarz toy store in New York City, I found that it regularly came up with lower prices than another Android shopping app, CompareEverywhere. ShopSavvy‘s major weakness is its collection of “local” stores; standing in midtown Manhattan, it told us that the nearest store selling a particular video game was a Wal-Mart in New Jersey.
24. SportsTap 2.4.8
Mobile1Sports LLC, www.sportstap.mobi
As a major sports fan, I’ve put some serious thought into whether SportsTap should continue to get the nod over other Android sports apps. It’s still my favorite. SportsTap gives you scores, stats, and news for baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf, tennis, soccer, and NASCAR. It lets you select some of your favorite teams, so you can get updates immediately upon opening the app. And unlike competing apps, it gives you AccuScore game projections for many of the day’s games. I don’t want to encourage bad habits, but that feature is a nice aid for anyone who might want to partake in the occasional bet.
25. Talk To Me Classic 1.7.8
Flaviu Negrean, www.flaviuapps.com
This nifty app has been updated since it first made our list in 2009. Originally, Talk To Me translated only English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian, with its speech-to-speech functionality. Now it has many other languages from which to choose. On top of adding languages like Chinese to its speech-to-speech arsenal, you can now translate many other languages by typing what you want translated into the program. This app is a must-have aid for any traveler.
26. Trap 1.00
Matt Wachowski, No Web site
The last game to make our app list could arguably be the most addictive. If you remember the 1980s game Qix, you’ll be familiar with Trap. The goal of Trap is to draw lines to take over screen areas and trap moving balls inside walls. Be careful, thoughâ€”you can’t let the balls hit any of the lines you are drawing. Various power-ups keep things interesting.
27. TV.com 1.3
CBS Interactive, Inc., www.cbs.com
You can’t hit Hulu on Android yet, but TV.com is a good alternative. This streaming video app lets you select programming from CBS, The CW, CNET, ET, Showtime, CBS News, Gamespot, CBS Sports, and more. We’d recommend streaming over Wi-Fi rather than 3G, as we didn’t get reliable video quality on a 3G link. Not all channels allow you to watch full episodes, but the ones that do offer the ability to browse and skip chapters. The pros definitely outweigh the cons, even if it is a little disappointing that most of the premium channels only offer clips of their shows.
28. Twidroyd 3.4.0
TweetUp Inc., twidroyd.com
The recently renamed Twidroyd (to avoid that pesky Lucasfilm trademark) is a popular, straightforward, and simple Android Twitter client. Twidroyd lets you send direct messages, @reply to your friends, post pictures, set your location via GPS, set background notifications, and paste a URL. It also runs in the background, periodically checking for new tweets and telling you through an icon in your notification bar.
29. The Weather Channel 2.3.22
The Weather Channel, www.weather.com
If you’re in the market for a free comprehensive weather app, The Weather Channel app is as good as any. It gives you everything you’ll need to know before you head out for the dayâ€”hourly, 36-hour, and 10-day forecasts, multiple locations, and live video from the TV channel. The app automatically updates your location using GPS, and its home screen widgets will keep you informed if it’s time to get your umbrella out.
30. Yelp 1.4.2
Yelp’s many business categories help it edge out Urbanspoon for our favorite restaurant-reviewing app. In addition to places to eat, you can search for banks, gas stations, drugstores, the “hot on yelp” section, and much more. Admittedly, Yelp gives you amateur rather than professional reviews, but the Yelp community is well-respected. One of the cool recent updates to Yelp is the ability to bookmark businesses and sync them with your account on the desktop.