Android Apps I Use and Love

With the growing discontent with AT&T and the holidays there have been a flood of new Android users in the world. Being that I’ve had my Motorola Droid for about a year, I’ve gotten asked for recommendations about apps from a couple of friends. Instead of continuing to resend the same email, I thought I’d share my list here.

All of these applications are usable on a stock, unrooted Android install. I had long ago rooted my Droid to get faster access to OS updates and greater functionality (the original Droid can support wireless tethering!) but chose not to include those apps here. Additionally, I did my mobile gaming on the iPod and Nintendo DSi so I never installed and games so there are none listed here. It does not mean there are no good Android games. Fun Fact: I have never played Angry Birds, on any platform. I did not include any stock apps that ship with the phone. I don’t need to tell you how amazing the Google Maps voice navigation is, it replaced my need for a standalone GPS.

There are plenty of rooting tutorials online you can find, of course, it violates the warranty, do at your own risk, etc etc. If you’re interested in taking that route, I’d recommend the excellent Cyanogenmod community or Peter Alfonso’s Bugless Beast.

AppBrain Free.
The app and AppBrain.com combined are a far better Android Market! Get this first. Do not proceed until you have done this! The syncing of apps and updates will improve your life immensely. The searching and being able to see what others use is worth the price of admission alone.

All links to applications in this article are to Appbrain. I wasn’t kidding about it being great.

Fast Web Installer for AppBrain Free.
Imagine going to appbrain.com and searching for an app you want. Click the install button and reach for your phone. Only to realize your phone has already installed the app. That’s how fast (and downright cool) it is.

Twitter / Seesmic Both Free.
Each app has it’s strengths and weaknesses. The Twitter app has a custom and unique interface that you’ll either love or hate but it only supports one account. The Twitter app will also sync with your phone’s contacts.

Seesmic supports multiple accounts and both the native retweet style and the older quote and retweet style. I used both and enjoyed both.

Tumblr Free.
If you’re a Tumblr user, snag this app. I helped beta test it and it’s great!

Tumblroid $1.56, free Lite version. I got the paid version and used it to send posts to my photo blog. It handles multiple accounts better than the official Tumblr app.

Facebook Free.
If you’re on Facebook, this is the app for you. Has the additional benefit of syncing friends contact information to their contact on the phone. If a friend updates a phone number or address, it will automatically update in your phone’s address book automagically.

Google Reader Free.
I do not care to read feeds on such a small screen and this app was released about a week before I left the Android platform so I didn’t spend much time with it but if you use Google Reader the app will not disappoint.

mNote Free.
If you are not using SimpleNote stop right now and get it. In a nutshell, SimpleNote is a notepad app that syncs to the cloud and across anything with a network connection. It’s Dropbox for your text. There’s a slew of apps for every platform you can think of. It’s the notepad that Notepad or Text Edit should have been.

Dropbox Free.
Imperative to a healthy file syncing/accessing lifestyle! If you are not using Dropbox I am not sure we can remain (or become?) friends. Dropbox is magic. Imagine a folder on your computer where you save files… And those files are accessible to you everywhere. On your phone, on another computer you use, even on the web. Dropbox is that folder.
You save a file to the Dropbox folder on your computer and it is not only securely stored online and accessible through their website, but it also syncs to the Dropbox folder on your other computers. Similarly, there are a bevy of applications for Android, blackberry and iPhones.
On top of all this, Dropbox will keep multiple versions of your file. Have you ever deleted a file you needed or made a change then regretted it? Dropbox will let you go back in time and reclaim that file or undo that change. All for free.

Epistle Free.
I did a fair bit of writing on my Droid and Epistle was a perfect app for it. It presents you with a blank screen to fill with words. The benefit being it syncs to Dropbox so anything you write on your phone syncs to the cloud and every other device connected to your Dropbox. The app is great for writing or editing or even capturing thoughts when you’re away from something with a proper keyboard.

Jorte Free.
Calendar/task/todo app. Combines all the calendars on the phone and displays them overlaid into one big calendar. Jorte is like Google Calendar for the phone.

Barcode Scanner Free.
Does what it says. Scan books or items in a store. Scan a special QR Code to install apps, useful for AppBrain installs. Very simple app that does what it says. If you have a Barcode, this app will scan it.

Shazam Free.
Perfect for those times you walk into a store and think, what is that song on the stereo?

Evernote Free.
Evernote is the perfect place to keep your ideas and syncs to everything. This is your Everything Bucket. Toss something in there, tag it, sort it, and keep it with you.

Battery Left Widget Free.
Great Battery life widget. This is not an app, so you need to add it as a widget for it to work. The app will take a couple days to “learn” your phone’s battery and it will tell you how accurate its reporting is. But once it syncs and becomes accurate, it’s dead accurate down to the minute. It’s perfect for those times when you have X time and Y battery life and try to determine if you can complete that call or finish that song.

CallTrack Free.
Nerd Alert! This app logs your phone activity to a Google Calendar. You can choose incoming, outgoing, missed or any combination of them. I love it because I’m bad about remembering to call people back. It’s the perfect app for remembering to call your mother. Call your mother!

Lookout Free.
Antivirus (I keep mine off), but also does a “Find My Phone” and backup service. I use it primarily for the Find My Phone service. It’s free and offers peace of mind and backs up my photos and if I ever lose my phone, it would help me locate it. And every now and again I turn the AntiVirus on when there’s a news article about apps acting suspicious.

MotoTorch LED Free. (Requires phone with a flash)
Turns your camera’s flash into a flashlight. You have a nice bright light on the back of your phone, why not use it? It will also send Morse Code flashes and act as a strobe light.

PhoneUsage Free.
Keep track of your minutes/texts/data if you have a need to. Perfect if you’re not on an unlimited data plan and for keeping those minutes, text and KBs in check.

TLDR Free.
If you use Instapaper, this will let you send anything from the browser to Instapaper. This is not a reader. You can read nothing with this app. It will add Instapaper to your “sharing” menu so you can send things to Instapaper to read later.

UpStream $.99.
Flickr upload app. Allows full control for uploads. Anything you can tweak on the web, you can tweak here.

Beautiful Widgets $2.04.
If you have an HTC phone, ignore this one.
If not, then this app will give you the beautiful HTC-inspired widgets for everything from the clock, weather, and shortcuts to toggling Bluetooth, wifi, brightness, etc. My favorite feature was it would put the real-time weather up in the notification bar so it was available at a glance.

Moxier Mail $19.99, free two week trial.
Before I was able to root my Droid and get Android 2.2 the native email app was abysmal with Exchange accounts. Moxier Mail was much better and worked with our outdated Exchange 2003 server. Moxier Mails is a suite of apps giving you access to anything on the Exchange server Outlook can access right down to your stored notes and the GAL. It is a bit pricey at $19.99 but the updates are free and there’s a free two week trial. Try it out and you won’t be disappointed if you need to deal with Exchange servers.

I am a big photography nerd so this section is all about the camera apps I found and used. Minor camera UI rant When will app developers realize they don’t need to waste 80% of the screen with a picture of a camera? I get the idea. Just let me choose which camera I want to imitate and then shoot with it. I don’t need to see the back of what the original camera looked like.

Vignette $3.93.
This astounding app has about a billion different effects and frames to choose from and mix and match. I love the tilt shift effect most out of it and will confess to not using this nearly to its potential. It has the ability to set favorites so you can always get to the effects you love most in far fewer clicks.

Retro Camera Free.
If Vintage is your thing, this is the app for you. Polaroid, Lomo , toy camera and Holga effects all present and all free. Annoyingly small view window but still a good app.

FxCamera Free.
Possibly my favorite of the camera apps. It will support Polandroid (as it calls it) along with Fisheye, Warhol, Toycam and SymemetriCam views. I love the Polandroid effect and used it to start my Arctic Shooter photo blog. I swear by this app and used it daily. As an added benefit it will allow you to create a shortcut to a certain effect on one of your home screens. This was perfect for 1-click access to my Polandroid settings.

Camera 360 Free.
Camera360 is another one of those apps with a ton of effects. I love this app for the HDR effects and the advanced tilt shift effects. The app that has a ton of effects and they’re all high quality.

PicSay Pro $4.10.
Editing photos on a mobile device is still a pain but PicSay and the Pro version will give you flexibility to remove red eye, rotate, crop and even apply effects like faux HDR and tilt-shift to your photos on the move.

Adobe Photoshop Express Free.
As much as I expected to love this app, I actually found Picsay a lot more useful. However, for simple rotate, crop and save Photoshop performs as you’d expect. The app also provides access to Adobe’s online sharing which I never used.

Last.fm Free.
I didn’t do a lot of music listening on my Droid since I still owned an iPod Touch and dabbled in both worlds but the Last.fm app is wonderful. Providing you full access to your libraries and radio stations. It was great in a pinch or if I wanted to find new music.

Audible Free.
If you listen to audio books, you need Audible. The native app allows you to download new books and provides stats as you listening and the same badge system the iPhone app has. It’s a great app and I love it.

SpeedTest Free.
How fast is your connection? This is the Android version of speedtest.net.

Amazon Free.
The world’s biggest mall in convenient app form. A handy front end for the site including a barcode scanner for scanning the item you want to purchase and add it to your cart or wish list. A wonderful covert shopping tool when you’re out with the object of your desire and you want to surprise them later on.

Amazon MP3 Free.
Quick and easy access to the Amazon MP3 store. Great for grabbing new tunes on the go.

Google Listen Free.
If you like Podcasts like I do, Google Listen will find and download them for you to listen to. The selection is nowhere near what Apple’s Store offers but most of the major players are there. I’d recommend using it in tandem with HuffDuffer to create a unique RSS feed of podcasts to download and enjoy. It is not a great app and the selection is limited but it is better than nothing.

DoubleTwist & DoubleTwist AirSync DoubleTwist is Free. AirSync is $4.99.
DoubleTwist is the missing media app for your Android device. It is heads and tales above what ships even with Android 2.2 and will provide a working sync from iTunes most importantly. It also allows you to control your media from the lock screen. DoubleTwist AirSync is the companion app which does exactly what it says. It will allow you to wirelessly sync media from your Mac or PC. Wireless. iTunes. Syncing. This is not even something Apple will let you do. In my limited experience with it, it was somewhat buggy but it had also just been released. I am sure, as with DoubleTwist, it will continue to improve. Even then it was well worth the download and the price.

Good Morning Free.
No one likes to get up in the morning but let Good Morning make the transition from peaceful sleep to waking a little easier. This fantastic alarm will not only play music to lull you from slumber, it will also read the time, date, current weather conditions, and a customizable message if you choose. Then start in with music to make sure you’re up.

StopWatch & Timer Free.
A surprising omission from Android is the ability to set a simple timer. This app fills the need.

DC Metro Transit – Free Free.
If you live in the Washington DC area, this app will answer your “where is my train?” question by syncing to WMATA’s signal boards in the stations. It also provides maps and route information and will even include bus information.
One of my favorite features of AppBrain is the ability to set your list of applications to public and sharing them with other Android owners. Note: since I am now using an iPhone this list will not change but I am keeping it up for posterity.

Here’s my AppBrain application list. Due to a number of reasons, I have switched providers and now own an iPhone 4 so this list will not change and it merely included for posterity. I still really enjoy Android and both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses. Maybe I’ll write a similar post of my choices for iOS apps that haven’t been listed a million times over.