Now that I have had a smartphone for about seven months (before you look, this post was written in April 2013, believe it or not), I figure it’s time to point out some favorite Android apps (many also available for iPhone). If you’re looking for games, go elsewhere, as I don’t really play games much.
I have enough apps on my Droid Razr that I have grouped some of them into categories to keep down the clutter and reduce swiping away from the home screen. I present my favorites below, in the same categories I use.
All are free unless otherwise stated, and I note whether they are available for iOS (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad), if I know for certain.
Dolphin Web Browser – Primary function: viewing websites. For me, it performs better than Google Chrome browser and the built-in Android Browser, and blows away Firefox.
4G Toggle – Primary function – turning on or off your data plan. Because Motorola doesn’t offer a quick, easy way to turn the data access on and off, this app’s widget has become invaluable to me.
QuickOffice – Primary function: viewing and creating documents similar to MS Office. This app can open and work with Microsoft Office files and many others. I don’t use it often because I don’t have much use for those kinds of documents in my personal life, but it has come in handy a couple of times.
ES File Explorer – Primary function: finding files on your phone or your SD card. With this app I can look at all the files on my Droid, just as I can on a PC. It also features a built-in FTP client, but typically I use the one in the next featured app.
AndFTP – Primary function: transferring files. Because I have my own FTP server through my website host, this has become a very useful way for me to backup and/or transfer files to and from my Droid. I can change the local or remote directory I am viewing after I have already connected to the FTP server, and transfer files quickly and easily. It also allows SSL and SSH.
WordPress – Primary function: editing blog posts. Although I have slowed down considerably on my blog in the past couple of years, this is a good way to knock out a quick draft that I can open later from my PC when it’s time to add photos not taken with my phone. I can view and edit existing posts and drafts on my self-hosted WordPress blog (meaning, I don’t use WordPress.com). From what I understand, it supports WordPress.com blogs as well. (iOS version also available)
Printer Control by HP – Primary function: printing to an HP printer. Although it offers the ability to print to printers across the web, I only use it to print from my phone to my home printer. I can print documents and photos. Works great. (iOS version also available)
Merriam-Webster – Primary function: looking up a word’s meaning. Completely free, this dictionary does not require an internet connection in order to look up words. (iOS version also available)
Flixster – Primary function: seeing how a movie rates with critics/fans, and where it’s playing locally. When it’s time to read reviews from RottenTomatoes.com or find what’s playing locally, this is a great app for Android. (iOS version also available)
Fandango – Primary function: finding movies showing locally. Sometimes I actually go to movies in a theater, and this app is great for finding places and times. Admittedly, I prefer WiggleHop, but right now that’s available only on iOS (Apple devices). (iOS version also available)
IMDB – Primary function: looking up facts about movies. The Internet Movie Database has been a favorite site of mine since back in the 1990’s. It has come a long way and is a very polished, intuitive app. IMDB is currently owned by Amazon, just FYI. (iOS version also available)
Wikipedia – Primary function: online encyclopedia. This one should need no explanation. It provides fairly straightforward access to the wealth of information on the world’s most popular online encyclopedia. It requires an Internet connection, but if you are looking to carry Wikipedia’s contents in your pocket, there’s the WikiReader device. (iOS version also available)
Maps – Primary function: finding where you are and where you are going. Google’s Maps app is unbeatable for exploring your world.
NPR News – Primary function: streaming live broadcast of an NPR affiliate station. Because I like to start my day with reporting, not with pure speculators, political pundits or other talk-show blowhards, I use this app to stream my local NPR station every morning. Call it left-leaning if you want, but I always have found it to be the most even news reporting on any form of media. I simply plug my phone into the speakers we have mounted in the bathroom, but when I don’t have that convenience I can listen through the phone’s speaker. (iOS version also available)
AccuWeather – Primary function: local weather conditions and forecast. This is available for free (well, ad-supported), but I wanted to get it ad-free, so I paid for it. It is a very good app, with a great widget. It actually provides enough detail that three adjacent towns in the same county have slightly different forecasts. (iOS version also available)
ESPN ScoreCenter – Primary function: sports scores. As a person displaced from his home state, I find this a great way to keep up with my favorite teams. It ties into my ESPN online account (free) to always show me just what I want. (iOS version also available)
Razorbacks – Primary function: Razorbacks sports news. When I want only Razorbacks news, this is the go-to app.
USA Today – Primary function: overview of what’s going on in the news. This app was designed with mobile devices in mind, not as an afterthought. I can quickly get to just the news I want to see. (iOS version also available)
ESPN BracketBound – Primary function: NCAA Basketball tournament news. Every year I allow myself to be suckered into filling out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge (free). This app is invaluable for those wanting to track the tournament’s progress and/or their own ranking in the challenge and any group they have joined. (iOS version also available)
Y! Mail – Primary function: accessing your Yahoo! Mail account. This has become an excellent e-mail app. (iOS version also available)
Gmail – Primary function: accessing your Google Mail account. I’m not sure there is any Android-based phone out there that does not have this app loaded on it. It’s pretty good, but no better than Y! Mail. (iOS version also available)
CameraZoomFX – Primary function: taking pictures. Although this paid app features many effects, I use it as a camera app rather than a photo processing app. It offers fairly easy access to settings while providing a large preview area. It also has a very powerful, configurable self-timer feature, you can customize hardware buttons (make volume up your shutter button!), and much more. I go to it more often than any other when I want to snap a photo with my phone. ($2.99)
Shot Control – Primary function: taking pictures with immense manual control. I bought this app because it provides so much control when I am taking photos with my phone. It allows setting the focus on one spot but the light metering on another, expanding or shrinking the area metered, and much more. A constantly updated, maturing app, this one looks better on a larger screen because of how many controls it places alongside the preview, but it works great. (free demo, $2.99 for full version)
Photo Editor – Primary function: editing photos. This is much more feature-rich than Adobe’s PhotoShop Express and other name-brand editors. It provides features like Unsharp Mask, Curves, cropping, and many that I don’t use. If you don’t know what those are, then you probably have no use for it. Incredible for a free app.
Pro HDR Camera – Primary function: taking HDR photos. I don’t use it much, but that’s just because I don’t get into HDR photos much. They are the ones that combine (usually) three or more shots into one, to make all areas of the photo well-lit, sometimes giving it a surreal look. If you like taking them, then this is about as good as it gets on a phone. Also a paid app. ($1.99)
Movie Studio – Primary function: editing video. I can edit and combine clips, add music or a recorded track, and generate a final video. More fun on a tablet, but useable on a phone.
ClearRecord – Primary function: recording sound clips on the go. A great free app, this is my favorite for recording sound clips. It records in high-quality wav file (uncompressed) if desired, and the results are very good — impressive for a phone. I do get the occasional skip if it’s a long clip, so I wouldn’t trust it to be my only recording of an important event. I still have my dedicated digital recorder for my son’s choir concerts or other live performances I don’t want to risk missing. (iOS version also available)
Pandora – Primary function: enjoying a customized entertainment listening experience. These days I use it mostly to listen to stand-up comedy while I’m making my lunch for the next day, letting the dog out one last time for the night, and brushing my teeth. I often have to stifle laughter to keep from disturbing my wife. (iOS version also available)
Shazam – Primary function: finding and/or sharing the title of a song that’s playing. Easy and quick, this app finds most relatively popular music that’s playing either in your car or at a bar, or at a friend’s house. I often stump it, but it correctly identified a Muse song recently and I love that tune. (iOS version also available)
SoundHound – Primary function: finding and/or sharing the title of a song you can hum. For those times when Shazam can’t find it, or you want to identify a song by humming it, this app is great.
ACast – Primary function: finding and managing the podcasts you like. I use it mostly for downloading my favorite podcasts, but it’s also a good podcast streaming app.
SoundCloud – Primary function: sharing sound clips. Great for when you want to share a sound clip instead of a video clip, this app very easily integrates with Facebook. I can use SoundCloud to record the clip, or choose a clip I recorded in another app. (iOS version also available)
YouTube – Primary function: viewing video clips. Fun if you want to search for a particular video on Google’s ubiquitous service. (iOS version also available)
Netflix – Primary function: watching Netflix videos. This app works great. With my Motorola Razr dock, I can stream HD movies to my bedroom TV using my phone. Or, of course, I can watch movies on the phone’s screen if I want. My only complaint is that it does not allow me to search the Netflix DVD availability. If a title is not available to stream, it just says nothing was found. (iOS version also available)
Amazon Kindle – Primary function: reading books from your Kindle collection. I love the ability to read a book no matter where I am, because my phone’s always on my hip. The great thing is that Kindle remembers where I left off across all devices — even my iPod Touch. (iOS version also available)
Nook – Primary function: reading books from your Nook collection. Same goes here as does for the Kindle app. (iOS version also available)
Domino’s Pizza – Primary function: ordering pizza. With the recent improvements to their cheese and crust, this has become our favorite low-price pizza place. Ordering pizza via their app is one of the best app experiences across any category, both on a phone and on a tablet. (iOS version also available)
B&H Photo Video – Primary function: ordering photo and/or video products. My favorite place to buy camera and/or audio-related equipment, B&H has also produced a pretty good app. (iOS version also available)
CVS – Primary function: ordering photo prints. When I absolutely, positively have to have a decent-quality print and the hassle of doing it on my home printer just isn’t worth it to me, this site makes it simple to manage my CVS albums, or upload photos from my phone. Once I even ordered the photos to be printed at a location six hours away, because I was going to be there for a funeral and needed a few good memory lane photos for the family. Bonus? I changed clothes in CVS’s clean, roomy restroom stall. (iOS version also available)
Facebook – Primary function: keeping in touch with people. This app has improved greatly just since October 2012, when I got my phone. It’s still a little buggy, though, as sometimes it just won’t accept my “Like” no matter how hard or at what spot I tap it. Rarely, it has to close after I’m warned it has stopped working. Also, it shows only some of my many FB photo albums, so it’s pretty much useless for adding photos to a particular album. Example: I have an ongoing Observations album that would be perfect for phone photos snapped on the go when I see something silly or outlandish, but I can’t get to it from the FB app. (iOS version also available)
Twitter – Primary function: saying something you feel like you just have to say, or reading the same posted by someone you follow, but without expectation of a convenient way to form a reply thread. It works as expected. I only installed this because I was watching a live celebrity interview, and he mentioned using Twitter. I got on it to see a few tweets he posted, posted a few tweets of my own and read some by friends still active out there, and then haven’t been back since. I just don’t like Twitter’s system of replying to a Tweet. (iOS version also available)
Google+ – Primary function: keeping in touch with people. The app is very good, but I don’t use Google+ very much at all, so I’m not sure whether it’s all it should be. (iOS version also available)
Toys and Tools
Flashlight – Primary function: providing light where there is only darkness. Provides a fairly good light when I find myself in the dark. Uses either the screen or the phone’s built-in LED, depending on the function chosen. Has a neat, adjustable strobe light effect. Screen functions include warning lights similar to a train crossing, and a light bulb with adjustable brightness and color.
Unit Convertor – Primary function: converting units. I would not feel complete without the ability to convert units wherever I am, and this app works great for when I need to convert length, weight, distance, volume, velocity, or one of many other measurements. Until the United States climbs on board with the whole metric system idea, I will never want to be without this app.