After owning the G1 since it was released and now moving on to the Moto Droid, I’ve tried to test all the free apps available on the market. With the introduction and subsequent flood of paid apps, it’s become pretty crazy in the Android Market to search for applications. Ironically the search results on the Market are pretty bad (C’mon Google, at least let me sort my search results!). I hope this list helps new users to the Android platform find useful apps that are worth downloading. I will periodically update this post with more applications I find useful, so check back once in a while!
The following list consists of the best apps that I actually use. There are a ton of apps that are cool and show off the features of the phone, but I find myself installing those only when I need them and uninstalling them to free up space when I don’t.
How To Install
The funky square image underneath each App’s name is called a QR Code. The QR Code can be scanned using Barcode Scanner on your Android phone, and it should open up the application in the Android Market for you to download. If you’re browsing this site on your Android phone, tap on the QR Code to pull up the application in the Android Market.
1. SMS Popup
SMS Popup shows a popup box on the screen when you get a text message. Instead of having to rely on the notifications bar and going into the actual message, you can see the contents on the text message right on the screen, ala iphone style.
Update: If you’re looking for something more robust that also replaces the stock SMS messaging app, try Handcent SMS. It has this popup box feature as well as more tools to better handle SMS messaging.
The best Twitter application on Android. There are frequent updates to the application that add new features and fix bugs. Not much to say about it, just that there are a lot of features and if you need a Twitter app for Android, this is the one to download.
Update (5/10/2009): There’s a new competitor called TwitterRide, which is a decent Twitter app. Pretty much almost exactly the same as Twidroid, so it’s up to your preference.
Update (6/01/2010): There’s an official Twitter app, download it now! It has the best features and a nice widget that matches the official Facebook widget.
SnapPhoto improves upon the default camera application on the G1. You can even assign it to the Camera button on the side of the phone, so it opens up instead of the default app. SnapPhoto adds image stabilization and a number of other features that make pictures come out clearer. The actual photo snap takes just as long as the default application though. If you want to take faster pictures, theres the Continuous Shoot application that lets you take rapid fire pictures.
Update: There’s also another camera app called FxCamera, which allows you to do some fun stuff with your camera, like take polaroid pics. Try it out!
4. Toggle Settings
Toggle Settings puts all the setting controls on one application so you don’t have to hunt through the default settings application to change multiple settings. I use this all the time to quickly change screen brightness, 2g/3g controls, bluetooth, and wifi.
Update (5/10/2009): With the addition of Profiles and Rules, the Toggle Settings app is quickly taking over what I used to do with Power Manager. It let’s you set up different profiles and assign different rules that trigger those profiles. So for example, I have one profile that’s called “Low Battery” and a rule that says if the battery is below 10%, trigger the Low battery profile which disables WiFi, GPS, and lowers the screen to 25%.
5. T-Mobile My Account
Update (4/1/2009):T-Mobile released their official application “My Account” which does the same thing as SelfHelp plus more. I personally think My Account is better and it’s also direct from T-Mobile, too.
There are a bunch of wallpaper applications, but I like this one the most. All the wallpapers are high resolution and new ones are added every day. The coolest feature is the slideshow, which automatically changes your wallpaper on a custom interval from the wallpapers that you mark as favorites.
7. Missed Call
The Missed Call app lets you change the LED flashing colors and flashing rate, as well as the vibrating intervals as well. I always felt this feature was something that should have been built-in, but the Missed Call app really fills in this need. You can change the alerts for almost all notifications on the phone, such as SMS, email, missed calls, etc.
8. OI Safe
OI Safe is a password keeper application. Something Blackberry converts might have missed from their old phones, this app serves just the same function as the built-in Password Keeper on BlackBerries. It encrypts your passwords so you can just use one password to store all your other passwords and account information.
Phonebook upgrades the user interface for browsing contacts. The interface is really easy to use, and adds some cool functionality – when you have the phone in landscape mode you can scroll through the pictures of your contacts in an Apple Cover Flow style.
Update: This app is now called Phonebook 2.0.
10. Rings Extended
Rings Extended lets you choose songs/mp3s saved on your SD card and use them for the various ringtones for the phone. By default, for some reason Android only lets you see certain files under “Ringtones” and “Notifications.” Rings Extended removes this limitation and lets you choose any song/mp3 file and assign those to a notification or ringtone.
AppManager is a useful tool to help you back up your applications to your SD card. Similar to the application manager in ASTRO (but AppManager is free), you can choose individual applications or select all applications and back them up or install from the SD card at any time. I use this all the time for saving applications to the SD card that I don’t use frequently, so it clears up space on the phone and everything seems to run faster.
Update: I think this app is now called AppMonster. I use ASTRO now, which ended up staying free and has more features than AppManager.
At first, I didn’t really get this app, but then on a trip to Vegas it helped me out a lot. Where is a location-based application that finds things close-by to you. There are quick access buttons to Yelp, nearest Starbucks, Movies, Traffic, and other stuff. Comes in handy when you need to find something really quick.
13. Google Places Directory
Similar to Where, but made by the Google developers. I like the interface and speed of the Google Places Directory, but I miss the Yelp reviews from the Where app. I have both installed for now, you decide which one is better. The Facebook Sync app lets you sync up information from your Facebook friends and your phone’s contact list. I think it just pulls in the profile picture from your Facebook friends and uses it as their icon on your phone, but it might also sync up phone numbers and emails if they’re available on your friends’ profiles (i’m not 100% sure though). I mainly use it to let it update the contact photo.
14. Facebook Sync
The Facebook Sync app lets you sync up information from your Facebook friends and your phone’s contact list. I think it just pulls in the profile picture from your Facebook friends and uses it as their icon on your phone, but it might also sync up phone numbers and emails if they’re available on your friends’ profiles (i’m not 100% sure though). I mainly use it to let it update the contact photo.
Update (9/2009): Looks like this has been pulled from the Market. You’ll have to find the APK file online to install this.
15. PdaNet for Android
PdaNet for Android is an off-market tethering app that lets you use your G1′s internet connection on your PC through a USB connection. I’ve been using this for a while during the beta trial on my laptop while on travel, and during that time it had its good and bad moments. Sometimes the connection would drop after a few minutes, other times it worked flawlessly. It looks like they recently changed it to a trial and full versions, but the trial version has “limitations to http connections only” which i’m assuming means only internet browsing. Definitely worth a try if you need a tethering app that is easy to install and use without root access. Download the program to your PC, install it, connect your G1 to the PC via USB, follow the instructions, and you’re all set.
dgQuickCut is an app that let’s you create shortcuts (to applications, actions, bookmarks, etc.) in the notifications window. It basically adds an “Ongoing” notification that is always available when you pull down the notifications window. I find it especially handy when I’m multi-tasking. If I’m browsing a website and want to IM somebody, I just pull down the notifications window and click my Google Talk shortcut to send an IM, and when I’m done, I pull down the notifications window again and click my Browse shortcut. It saves time so I don’t have to go to the home screen to access my frequently used apps. It works kinda like the Quick Launch shortcuts in the Windows Taskbar.
17. HTC IME Keyboard
The HTC IME Keyboard was released by Haykuro, and replaces the default Android Virtual Keyboard. I like it a little better than the default keyboard because you can choose numbers and symbols by long pressing on a key, the buttons are spaced out a little better, and the word predictions are displayed clearer. Overall, I make less typo errors with this keyboard than the default one. Only downside is that it takes up 4 MB. To install, download the file from here and unzip the zip file. Once unzipped, copy the files to your Android phone’s SD card. After copying it over, use an app like AppManger to install the “Touch Input 0.apk”. When it’s installed, from your home screen go to Settings > Locale & text, disable the Android keyboard and enable “Touch Input”. You can also go into Touch Input > Text input to customize some of the settings.
Update (10/2009): This looks to be incompatible with Android 1.6 (Donut)
18. Spare Parts
The Spare Parts application lets you tweak some additional settings that aren’t available in the default Android settings. I’ve set the transitions to fast and enabled some of the settings, and it makes the phone seems faster (even if it may just be an illusion). The “Fancy rotation animation” is pretty interesting, but looks like the G1 graphics chip can’t render it nicely. With the Spare Parts app, you can play around with the hidden settings on the G1 to see what you prefer.
Update (10/2009): This looks to be incompatible with Android 1.6 (Donut)
I switched away from TasKiller, and moved on to TaskPanel. TaskPanel does the same job but runs faster and looks a little bit prettier than TasKiller. Doesn’t come included with a widget, but does allow you to set it to auto-load, auto-kill applications, run in the background, and a few other useful settings.
20. SIM Checker
SIM Checker is a security application that automatically notifies you via SMS (to another phone number) or email in case your Android phone is stolen and someone tries to replace the SIM card. SIM Checker will include the phone number of the SIM card that has been inserted into your phone, and if you also happen to have GPS enabled, it will also include the location of the phone.
21. Google Voice
I’ve had a Grand Central / Google Voice phone number for over 2 years, but never really used it at all. I always thought it was inconvenient to dial the Google Voice number and then dial a call through it. Now that Google has released the official Google Voice application for Android phones, I’ve decided to switch over to it. The Google Voice Android application seamlessly integrates into the phone and automatically dials out using your Google Voice number. It also displays transcribed Voicemails, SMS texts to your Google Voice number, and recorded conversations. It eliminates the need to go to the Google.com/voice page, and there’s no extra effort involved in using the Google Voice phone number. Since there’s so much to do with the Google Voice service and this new App, I’m going to write up a start-up guide and tips in a separate post.
MyMarket is a replacement Market application that adds a few more features to help you make sense of the disordered Market. It looks like the regular Android Market, but adds in a couple little features like bookmarking your favorite apps, hiding/removing apps so you don’t see them anymore, and even setting up custom filters. This is handy to auto-hide all those “Sexy Girls” spammy type applications in the Market. Primarily this app is helpful for you to keep track of apps that you like, but don’t need installed on your phone all the time.
23. Work Email (Exchange)
For all you lucky MyTouch 3G owners, you get the Work Email application pre-installed for you. Unfortunately for the rest of us G1 owners, we don’t get the Work Email app and can’t download it from the Market. Despite this, G1 owners can still install Work Email for Exchange on your G1 for free by downloading the .APK file from the internet, and using a file browser like AppManager to install from your SD card. I found the .APK by searching over at xda-developers.com. Once installed, it’s a straight-forward set up of entering in your company’s Microsoft Exchange email settings and you’re all set.
24. Facebook for Android
Facebook finally released an official Facebook application for Android. You can actually “Like” things! It’s stable and runs fast, but it lacks a few features that the other Facebook applications have, like searching for friends. It does everything I need, but if you find features lacking, you might want to try Babble or fBook.
25. USA Today
The official USA Today news application is the best news application for Android. It is a native application, meaning it’s not just a link to the browser, and it runs fast with a lot of cool features. Everything is so elegantly designed and intuitive. Allows customization so you can choose what news you want to see, what sports scores, and your local weather. I like the “Pictures” and “Snapshots” tabs a lot. The “Pictures” tab lets you browse the photos of the day in sports, celebrities, science, etc. It’s basically a way to browse the news via pictures. The “Snapshots” tab shows a bunch of different polls which you can participate in, and even though the topics are kind of boring, the poll application itself is really neat.
26. Mobile Defense
I remember seeing Mobile Defense on the Android Market a while ago, but never got around to setting it up because it required setting up an account. After I took the few minutes to set it up, I realized all this time I’ve been leaving my phone at risk for getting lost or stolen. Mobile Defense is THE security app for your Android phone. It installs a background application that is hidden (so people don’t know it’s installed), and you can access administrative controls on your phone via a web browser at http://www.mobiledefense.com. If you lose your phone, load up the website using a computer and access the administrative controls you have over your lost phone. Not only does it enable GPS and show you where your phone is at, it’ll also tell you the battery life remaining, and give you information about the SIM card owner if the SIM card is changed. On top of that, you can enable “Alert”, which turns on the volume on your phone and sets off a siren sound so you can locate it. There is also “Lock”, which turns on the pattern lock on your phone to secure it. I’m amazed at all the features this application offers, and also the additional features if you upgrade to the paid version (remote backup, remote wipe). No Android phone should go without this security application installed.
Great little tool to help you keep track of your car’s mileage and gas expenses. Along with just a basic mileage log, this app spits out data about your average gas consumption and generates fancy charts.
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March 6, 2009 at 3:31 pm | Android | 62 comments