(Photo credit: Android)
2010 has been quite an adventure for many Android fans out there. Inundated by the plethora of Android phones released during the year, there is never a question of variety. The green robot has certainly made his mark in a big way and endeared himself to the masses in this series of charming ads.
I am not spared the Android wave either. I got my very first Android phone – a HTC Desire – in the middle of this year. Just weeks into using it, I was relishing the experience so much that I wondered how I had made it through the past two years of using a Windows Mobile dud.
After months of trying out various apps, I have come up with a shortlist of apps that have made me such a happy Android fan. I have listed only the free apps as I have not come across any apps that I find the need to pay for given the ample free alternatives. I also exclude apps that come default with the phone, like Camera, Calendar and Android Market.
- TweetDeck: If you are into Twitter, TweetDeck serves up the most polished user interface and cross-posting experience. However, it lacks notifications for mentions.
- Gmail: With improved navigation and support like mass editing and priority inbox, the app closely mirrors the web version. Email on-the-go has never been easier!
- Google Reader: The dominant RSS news reader is still popular for a reason. The simple web interface is wonderfully replicated in this native app released just over a month ago.
- WhatsApp: Helps you save a bundle by letting you send free messages to your friends.
- Facebook: The look and loading speed can be better, but one cannot ignore the vast improvements and attention it has been given this year.
- Foursquare: With Gowalla effectively conceding to it and Facebook Places yet to reach a critical mass, Foursquare is the undisputed location-based social network leader of 2010.
- FxCamera: I have come to use this more often than the default Camera app. With effects like ToyCam, Polaroid, Fisheye and Warholizer, it makes photo taking more fun and appealing. Detractors may point out that it is not as “social” as picplz or Instagram (coming to Android soon!), but sometimes people just want to play around with the special filters and effects without having to post every single picture that they take.
- Swype: We all know the stock Android keyboard is a no-hoper. Despair not – Swype comes to your rescue! The experience of sliding your finger gently across the touchscreen and seeing words magically appear is just THE sight to behold. The Swype folks have opened up the beta to all just last week, so head over to the Swype site to download it now.
- Springpad: I prefer this over Evernote as my personal information manager although it is not as slick and there is currently no offline support. It syncs with the web version. Springpad has also launched a fuss-free Delicious importer for those looking to jump ship.
- Aldiko: A close fight with Laputa Reader as my favourite eBook reader. Kindle users also have an alternative in the Kindle for Android app.
- Pulse: It’s no Flipboard but close enough to get people reading news again with its sassy interface.
- Dropbox or SugarSync: Online storage havens for the obsessed file sharers in us.
- ASTRO File Manager: Best file manager in the Market with a Windows Explorer like interface.
- Lookout: Most popular anti-virus security app with backup and restore functions. Paid upgrades include remote lock and remote wipe features.
- 3G Watchdog: Monitors 3G data usage – important for those who are on limited data plans
- Watchdog Task Manager Lite: Alerts you when it detects unusually high CPU or memory usage by certain apps.
- Quick Settings: one-touch access to customise settings like brightness, volume, GPS and APN.
- Quick Battery widget: 1×1 widget to show current battery level.
- Advanced Task Killer: There is some controversy to whether using ATK can improve performance and battery life, so each to his own.
- Barcode Scanner: Handy app to scan QR codes for app downloads.
- AppBrain: A popular alternative to Android Market with a distinct advantage – it has a web version. GetJar is another recommended Android app directory, but it is web-only.
- InstaFetch Lite or Hard Copy: Instapaper clients that let you save those articles for offline reading.
- Expensify: Lets you quickly add expenses and/or scan receipts so you can sort them out later in the web version.
- ColorNote: Very useful note app with organisation by colours and reminders. Mobile only.
- Ringdroid: Best ringtone editor for Android with no deterioration in audio quality of edited clips.
- Mortplayer: Simple player with classic skin makes it superior to the lacking and ugly stock player. No support for OTA sync.
- App 2 SD: Allows batch-transfer of apps from phone memory to SD card (for apps with SD card support).
- OsmAnd: Until Google Maps support offline map and layer caching, OsmAnd is the best GPS app that I had used for overseas travel. With online and offline support, it allows you to save map tiles with pinned favourites.
- 微博: The Chinese alternative to Twitter boasts of lively communities and massive star power in the many renowned celebrities and personalities from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China as among its most active users. Best part? Justin Bieber is NOT on it.
- SG Traffic Cam: Taps on LTA traffic cameras to view traffic conditions. Use it with Traffic@SG to find out the congestions and hotspots on the roads.
- Parking @ SG: The best feature would be the real-time parking lots availability for town areas like Orchard, Marina and HarbourFront. An alternative would be SG Carpark, a simple, fuss-free albeit incomprehensive listing of car park rates around Singapore.
- Google Tasks: Currently I’m making do with gTasks, but after seeing the great work done for Google Reader and Gmail native apps, it just makes me salivate for more official apps from Google, with Google Tasks being top of my list.
- Instapaper: How can Marco Arment be so “heartless” as to ignore our pleas to add Android support?
- Screen captures: Such a basic function, so sorely missed in (un-rooted) Android phones.