Essential Android Apps

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Amazon: Impulse shopping, made all too easy on your phone—it remember products you scan (either a photo or barcode) so you can buy them later, too.

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Astrid: If you suck at remembering things, Astrid is a simple task manager and to-do list. Killer feature? It syncs with the Remember the Milk.

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Astro: An Android task manager to kill useless background processes is mandatory, at least if you want your phone running at top speed. Oh, and Astro happens to be a pretty damn good file manager, too.

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Documents To Go: If you need to edit Office documents on your phone, you pretty much gotta go through DataViz's Documents To Go. Save us, oh native Google Docs app.

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Evernote: Android doesn't ship with a note-taking app, and if you're gonna grab one, it might as well be one that syncs notes, photos and files across multiple platforms, even if Evernote's Android app is still in beta.

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Facebook: Yes, it's vastly inferior to its iPhone counterpart—an unfortunately common theme for Android apps—missing entire functions like Chat and Events, but with Android 2.0, its tight integration with contacts almost makes us forget about that. Also, it's unpossible to not have this on your phone.

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Flixster: Movies. You like knowing what's playing, right? Flixster's got local listings and showtimes, along with trailers and reviews from Rotten Tomatoes.

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Fring: Our favorite free multi-protocol IM app from the iPhone, but on Android: If it's a message protocol with more than one sad, lonely user, you're covered.

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FxCamera: A free, and solid camera app with standard—but essential—photo effects, like Polaroid, Fisheye and ToyCam.

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Gmote: Using your phone as a remote control for your computer is practically a God-given right, and Gmote's the best Android remote for playing and controlling movies and music on your computer.

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Goggles: Google's splash into visual search is impressively eagle-eyed, able to scan not just barcodes, books, movies and music like other apps, but landmarks artwork and business cards, too.

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Google Voice: Google Voice simply changes the way you use your phone, and the app's seamless integration is a killer feature for Android as a whole. Get in line for an invite, if you haven't already.

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Layar Reality: Quite simply, the king of augmented reality apps, able to layer pretty much whatever kind of data you want on top of your boring, HUD-less reality.

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Listen: For being a Google Labs project, Listen is full-featured and excellent podcast app, with search, subscriptions and support for streams and downloads.

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Locale: An argument all by itself for multitasking and background processes, it's a location aware app that lets you set how your phone responds to certain situations or places—like muting your ringer at school, or killing 3G when your battery's low, or pretty much any other scriptable action. Indispensable.

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NESoid: It's BYO ROMs, but this $3 NES emulator single-handedly solves Android's gaming problem by letting you play any NES game you can get your hands on. Bonus: The smug sense of satisfaction that this would never fly in the App Store.

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NewsRob: This is what we imagine a mythical Google Reader RSS app would be like, with two-way background sync and full feed downloads. (If you're not a Google Reader user, we'd recommend the 99-cent FeedR, for its simplicity.)

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OpenTable: Never be forced to talk to a real human being to make a reservation again. (As long as the restaurant's a part of OpenTable, anyway, which it probably is, if it's worth eating at.)

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Pandora: Pandora CTO Tom Conrad may have said, "I need Android like I need a hole in the head," but Android definitely needed the best internet radio app around, which auto-suggests music based on other artists you like using sorcery. (Or algorithms.)

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PdaNet: The ridiculously easy way to tether your laptop to your phone, over USB or Bluetooth, without rooting it. If you don't wanna cough up $30 for the full version it'll still connect to non-https:// addresses just fine.

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Places: Google's Places is our preferred directory app for finding what's nearby—restaurants, coffee, banks, shopping, whatever—mostly because it's easier to use than the arguably more jam-packed Where—but also because its information seems to be getting more detailed useful at an exponential rate.

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Qik: Live video streaming over 3G or Wi-Fi, which one-ups the others with support for full res 720x480 DVD quality video from the Droid.

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Retro Defense: The gorgeous, and possibly definitive, Android tower defense game.

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Ringdroid: If you wanna make your own ringtone, Ringdroid is how, either using an MP3 you already have, or by making a whole new one.

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Runstar: A very pretty running application, it offers full stat tracking and everything else you'd expect from a fitness app, with more features, like multiple exercise modes on the way. If only it made the Droid light enough to actually run with.

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Shazam: What's that song playing in the background? Hold your phone up, and Shazam will tell you. It's magic that never gets old.

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Twidroid: Still the Twitter app for Android, even if the free version holds back features like bit.ly support, it gets better all the time. And with newly launched plug-ins, its potential seems limitless.

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Voice Recorder: You need a voice recorder app. This is it.

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Wapedia: True, Wikipedia apps are glorified shrinkwraps, but Wapedia makes settlings trivia showdowns at dinner really fast, with a clean presentation to boot.

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Weather Channel: Not every Android phone has HTC's ginormous weather widgets to say whether it's blistering hot or a Category 5 hurricane outside, so for everything else, there's the Weather Channel, which gives you a choice of widgets to slap on the home screen and offers (optional) weather alerts in your notification bar to boot.

DISCUSSION

lolpantsofarabia-old
LolpantsofArabia

Looking at all these screenshots, I see a couple of interesting things you can't do with an iPhone, and a few apps that look almost identical. But in general, I get the impression that Android apps are in general slightly less polished than their iPhone counterparts, in much the same way that Windows apps are often rougher round the edges than those for OS X. Is this fair?