Essential Android Apps for 2012
This popular Hub has been updated for 2012!
Google's Android platform is growing by leaps and bounds, even more quickly than Apple's iPhone. And its app store, called the Android Market, is chock full of apps that help you get the most out of your Android mobile device (mostly phones nowadays, but tablets are growing in popularity).
For 2012, here are the best, most essential apps for your Android phone or tablet. For all but the first app, I've provided the QR code, which will give you the quickest way of downloading the app to your phone. Alternatively, if you have a Google account associated with your device, you can visit the Android Market link I've provided, and click the Install button on the page (you can do so on a computer). This will automatically start downloading the app on your phone!
How to use Barcode Scanner
See the square digital codes running along the right side of this article? They're called QR codes, and they can be used to transmit information (you'll see them more and more in print ads and on business cards) or take you to a link directly in your mobile browser. They're easier to use than trying to type in a long URL into your browser. All you need is an app that allows you to read them.
The best free app (and the most popular, with 13.9% of Android users using it, according to Nielsen) I've used is called Barcode Scanner, and it's available in your Android Market. Once installed, it's very easy to use. You just open the app, and align the square QR code within the app's window and it automatically brings up the information or link.
The Weather Channel - Android app QR code
The Weather Channel - (relatively) reliable weather forecasts
The standard weather app doesn't really work for me. Although I like the graphical representation of minute-by-minute weather changes, it's still a bit harder to read and grasp quickly.
The Weather Channel app offers a few different helpful views: now, hourly (over the next 12 hours), 36 hours (3 snapshots for the next day/night windows) and 10 day. I use the hourly view most often, and you can see very, very quickly when the rain is supposed to hit, or how cold it will be once the sun goes down. The 36 hour and 10 day views are really helpful for planning, too. Apparently a lot of people agree with me; according to Nielsen, 18% of Android users also use TWC's app.
Retro Camera (Android) QR code
Retro Camera - vintage camera options
Jealous of your iPhone-toting friends' Hipstamatic? Don't be. They paid $2 for that, and you'll have something nearly as good for free on the Android with Retro Camera.
You have 5 different camera options to create quaint old-school pics with your Android phone: the East German Bärbl, the Soviet Little Orange Box, the Polaroid-inspired Xolaroid 2000, the Pinhole Camera, and the FudgeCan. I've enjoyed all of them. Some also have toggles to switch between black-and-white and color. The faded colors, shadows and uneven focus make your pictures look like they were taken at some point between 1962 and 1984.
TripIt QR code
TripIt - travel detail management
TripIt has an Android app that works with its travel planning Web service. Simply sign up, and forward all of your ticket, hotel and rental car confirmation emails to email@example.com from the same email address, and they're added to your TripIt itinerary. It works remarkably well, and it helps having all of your necessary travel information at hand, without having to search your email.
You can even share itineraries with friends, and keep all your frequent-flyer program numbers at hand, too.
The service and app are free, or you can pay $49 per year for some additional features, including automatic monitoring and notification of flight changes.
FeedR QR code (Android app)
FeedR - offline RSS reader
Although not free (it costs $2), FeedR is the only decent offline RSS reader I've found. The app syncs with your RSS feeds and pulls in new posts, allowing you to read them when you don't have access to the Internet.
Nothing super fancy, but it works and if there are RSS feeds you really want to be able to keep up with no matter where you are, then this is the app that will help you do it.
WikiDroyd QR code
WikiDroyd - Wikipedia on your phone
WikiDroyd can pull in the entire text contents of Wikipedia in the language of your choice (a fairly current snapshot, since it is always changing) so that you have an offline reference at your fingers all the time. Wikipedia has an excellent mobile version of their website, but you're still reliant on a decent cell signal if you want to use it. (I live in San Francisco, and as the last 3 app recommendations have made clear, you really can never rely on a solid signal)
Note that the full English library comes in 3 volumes and uses about 6 GB of your phone's space, although you can download a volume of the 10% most commonly-read articles instead and only use up 1.6 GB
WikiDroyd is free as are the content volumes. The last time the English version was refreshed was in March 2010.
Remember the Milk (RTM) Android QR code
Remember the Milk - task management
The service costs $25 per year and it's worth every penny. Remember the Milk (RTM) is an app and a web service (one that integrates beautifully with Gmail if you're using Chrome or Firefox) that helps you manage all of your tasks. I would be a total mess without it!
The app allows you to view and add/change your tasks fairly easily, and it syncs any changes OTA with the service so you can see your updated list of tasks in the handy Gmail widget as well.
NYTimes Android app QR code
NYTimes - finally, the app...
It took a while, but now you can get the New York Times on your Android phone (it was released in May 2010). Navigating through sections is a tiny bit clunky, although, in my opinion, a bit easier than on the iPhone. Like their Web version and iPhone and iPad apps, the UI is nice and encourages you to read. It does take quite a bit of time to update upon loading, but it downloads all the content at once so once it's been updated, you can read without the need for constant syncs.
Out of Milk - QR code
Out of Milk - list management
Not to be confused with Remember the Milk, Out of Milk focuses on managing lists. It's great for shopping and to-do lists, and also has a way to enter your list of items in your pantry (like spices) so if you're assembling ingredients for a recipe while out of the house, you won't need to double up on condiments you can't remember if you have.
Simple and cheap (free!).
Angry Birds Rio - QR code
Angry Birds Rio - an update to the popular mobile game franchise
If you haven't heard of Angry Birds, you might have ignored the single largest mobile gaming phenomenon over the past couple of years (it was launched in 2009). This delightfully animated game, in which you using a slingshot to shoot birds with furrowed-brows to topple buildings housing pigs, the angry birds' mortal enemies. It's an incredibly easy game to play, and the Rio version incorporates some of the characters and design of the 2011 animated film, Rio. A shockingly-high number of Android users play one of these 2 games: 14% play Rio, and an astounding 26% play the original.
Social networking apps
These apps are extremely popular since they allow you to keep up to date with what's going on with your friends and those you follow while you're on the run (or waiting in line somewhere). The most popular is the Facebook app, used by almost 74% of all Android users, but Twitter (15% of Android users) and Google+ (12%) have their aficionados, too.
Android Market links:
More by this Author
Losing my data got me to look at backing up with Time Machine, and reliability concerns prompted me to look at Time Capsule alternatives. Research brought me to Western Digital's My Book Live Duo, which has a number of...
Easy-to-follow instructions on how to dial from a landline or cell/mobile phone to reach someone in London, England.
Updated for 2017: Price per square foot for 20 prefab (modular) home companies' products, including Blu Homes, Proto Homes, ideabox (Ikea), weeHouses, and many others.