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Essential Android Apps for 2012

Updated on September 22, 2013

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

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.

Android Market - Barcode Scanner

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 plans@tripit.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:

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    • s.carver profile image

      s.carver 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Great hub! I've been toying with the idea of ditching my iPhone and going Android, and this is a push in the google direction. The bar code scanner and insta fetch sound particularly cool.

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      As much as I love my Android, you can get both of those types of apps on your iPhone, too...not to dissuade you from switching platforms or anything. :)

    • ocbill profile image

      ocbill 6 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

      great news for us android users. I'll be getting an HTC soon. Thanks

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 6 years ago from Northern, California

      What amazing tech toys we have available these days. The Droid has been one of my favorites since they landed on the market. I can't wait to see what's next!

      K9

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      livelonger,

      Will the RSS Feed support Hub Pages? I, like you, have downtown without Internet access - bookmarking and getting back to my bookmarks is a priority for em.

      Another fantastic Hub where I learned allot. Thank you!

    • profile image

      thomasgerard 6 years ago

      Very Cool! Thanks for pointing out instafetch and instapaper. I hadn't heard about them. That will be very convenient when I am underground on the train.

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 6 years ago from Japan

      I have one of the very first Android models HTC, its slow and can't run most of the newer apps. I think I need a newer one. We have the LYNX 3D phone - looks good.

    • rich_hayles profile image

      rich_hayles 6 years ago

      Long live Google and the android system.

      Also convinced a number of iPhone users to ditch the i4 and pick up an android phone. Flash will keep them apart.

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Rich, thanks for the comment. You know, I had to shut off Flash on my Nexus One. It was making it very sluggish and buggy. Fortunately, I don't go to many Flash-heavy sites, and HTML5 seems to be replacing Flash steadily.

    • wsupaul88 profile image

      wsupaul88 6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      This is great, I use Wiki all the time on my Droid!

    • MrGreywolf38 profile image

      MrGreywolf38 6 years ago

      Great hub. I just got my first android not long ago. I am always looking for new and useful apps for it.

    • Hezekiah profile image

      Hezekiah 6 years ago from Japan

      Good to see great apps increasing on the Droid.

    • profile image

      Yossi Fadhli 6 years ago

      Android will rule gadget OS in 2011 replace Symbian and RIM BB. Good post! :)

    • profile image

      Tech Updates 6 years ago

      Android phones are becoming a threat to the popularity of iPhones. The increasing number of applications of android is making the android phone so popular and its sale in the market is about to reached the sale of iPhones. The best part of android applications is they are open source.

    • profile image

      Halliwood 6 years ago

      just got an android phone, will have to give these apps a try, thanks

    • LingAbson profile image

      LingAbson 6 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario

      I have a galaxy tab and I LOVE it! Angry Birds is currently quite addictive and is always running on my tab. Thanks for posting all these apps - InstaFetch sounds so useful!

    • profile image

      Jason 6 years ago

      The Who's Free app - seriously amazing. I simply tell my friends if I'm free or busy any time:) also the app made it to the top 5 at Vator! Check it out http://bit.ly/htLQDW

    • Alexander Mark profile image

      Alexander Silvius 6 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

      When I got the EVO, I had no idea it was an Android phone, but I am so glad it is, these apps are all so useful and phun. I just downloaded the Barcode Scanner and Weather Channel apps. Love the Barcode scanner already, used it for the weather app! The previous scanner I downloaded only worked half the time. The best thing is that there are LOTS of free apps and they usually work great. Thanks for an informative hub.

    • jerrycorinadam profile image

      jerrycorinadam 6 years ago from United State

      nice article. the details of Android are very accurate.

    • profile image

      TajSingh 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Excellent list of apps. I've looked at each of them after reading your hub. Thanks for sharing!

    • kev8 profile image

      kev8 6 years ago

      Great article. I have a htc and generally find that a lot of the apps I download are of poor quality compared to iphone apps.Maybe I have been downloading the wrong apps?Remember the milk would be an especially useful app for? Ill try out some of the above and see how they go.

    • donreed profile image

      donreed 6 years ago from Iowa

      Excellent information for anyone who is considering an Andriod phone. It seems all phone will eventually be android style. Thanks for a great hub.

    • Freethinker79 profile image

      Freethinker79 6 years ago from Atlanta

      This is a good hub but in my opinion there are a whole bunch of other apps that are better. Depending on what you intend to use the phone for. Like the video chat apps, live wallpaper and many more. These maybe old but i just got my 'droid and i love it.

    • 2Honest profile image

      2Honest 6 years ago from Texas

      This is an absolutely stellar article! This Android fan thanks you =)

    • sincerely25 profile image

      sincerely25 6 years ago from United States

      I'm seriously addicted to Apps. By the way, this is a great idea!

    • aamir83pk profile image

      aamir83pk 6 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanx for this informative article

    • light.ahead profile image

      light.ahead 6 years ago

      Informative article. You should cover some more apps soon.

    • commonc profile image

      commonc 6 years ago from London

      Great hub, I like the idea of using the QR codes. I just created a hub on Android apps for car enthusiasts - https://hubpages.com/autos/6-Awesome-Android-Apps-...

    • gabegame profile image

      gabegame 6 years ago

      Seriously good idea using QR codes. They're a fun way to interact with things I never would have before.

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Great Hub!

      Now I finally can use bar code scanner. I tried it and it works! Amazing technology!

      Thanks!

      JSMatthew~

    • myi4u profile image

      myi4u 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Nice hub here ... I personally like the barcode scanner. In fact, there are quite a few out there and I kind of find it hard to choose between them.

      Sorry to say this too. I don't really like Weather Channel because of it's limited widget options. Many users may like it plain and simple but I prefer more customisations.

    • profile image

      Anne 6 years ago

      good to hear that Android has reached people fast. But, I've idea only about some of these apps.

    • heshamtecom profile image

      heshamtecom 6 years ago from London

      Great hub, here is my 5 coolest Android apps

      http://hubpages.com/hub/5-Coolest-Android-Apps

    • Mindy Meisel profile image

      Mindy Meisel 5 years ago from Austin, Texas

      Very good information and the format of presented facts was very useful. I've recently started writing on HubPages and I'm learning so much tech stuff, that my brain didn't used to think it needed to understand. Your effort is apparent.

    • vinner profile image

      vinner 5 years ago from India

      Very good listing friend. Keep on doing

    • fastfreta profile image

      Alfreta Sailor 5 years ago from Southern California

      So, now I have an Android operation system, but just reading this, I realize I'm not using it to it's fullest capacity. Thanks Jayson, for this hub, now I must go and study my Tablet. Voted up, useful, interesting.

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, fastfreta! This is just a starting point, as far as I'm concerned: there are tons of apps out there in the Android Market that come out all the time. I've even downloaded an app that uses your camera & flash to determine your heart rate!

    • profile image

      tim 5 years ago

      Now if only we could screenshot with a double-button push, like iPhone. To me, that's android's single biggest fail.

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 5 years ago from San Francisco

      tim: Tell me about it! Let's hope it made the spec for Ice Cream Sandwich.

    • vinner profile image

      vinner 5 years ago from India

      Surely face detection and NFC will be the new trend in app development are for Android, as Icecream Sandwich supports both

    • livelonger profile image
      Author

      Jason Menayan 5 years ago from San Francisco

      vinner: Google certainly hopes so! I do think it's a little scary to have my carrier have access to my payment patterns, though. And do you think face detection is really all that exciting? I hope Google and Apple have something major up their sleeve...

    • profile image

      Meceprolo 4 years ago

      My spouse and i utilized to get on top of existence although these days I've truly piled up the amount of resistance.

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