10 Awesome Android Apps you’ll want to download (and they’re free!)

May 2nd, 2010

Your new Android smartphone has finally landed on your doorstep. Before you explore the 50,000 apps in the Android market, we highlight 10 applications which you’ll definitely want to try out.

Android FTW
Creative Commons License photo: lwallenstein

At the end of last year, I said that 2010 might possibly be the year of Android. So far, those predictions seem to be coming true. We saw the launch of the HTC Desire just over a month ago (I called it a game changer in the smartphone market) and this week the Google Nexus One. To further compound that, we recently had news that Android has broken the 50,000 app barrier. We’ve seen 12,000 new applications in the last 10 days and the number of Android applications is still exponentially increasing so we don’t think it’ll be long until Android matches the 190,000 applications of the iPhone.

In this post, I want to highlight 10 of the top Android apps – a selection of 10 broad and varied applications which I recommend. I think these applications are a great place to start before exploring some of the other (more esoteric!) applications on the Market. And yes, they’re all free! We’ve also got 3 of the more esoteric applications on the market which will get a few laughs down at the pub (or where ever you dare use them!)

How can I download these apps?

  • If you are browsing this page on your Android phone:
    Click on the QR codes to view the applications in the Android market.
  • If you are browsing this page on your computer but have Barcode Scanner on your Android phone:
    Scan the QR codes we’ve provided. It’ll take you straight to the application in the Android market.
  • If you are browsing this page on your computer but do not have Barcode Scanner:
    Launch Android market and search for the applications manually.

None of the applications are particularly big so you can happily download them over a 3G connection. Once installed, they will appear on your program list.

3G Watchdog

If you’ve got a “unlimited” data package with a fair usage limit on your phone and your network will charges you for exceeding it, 3G Watchdog is for you. 3G Watchdog will keep track of how much data you’re uploading and downloading over your mobile network. It can notify you when you approach your quota and you can even set it up to automatically disable data over the 3G network once you reach a certain limit.

Aldiko Book Reader

A free eBook reader with a decent iBook-like interface. From the bookstore which is built into the application, you can download a range of free public domain books as well as commercial books (such as technology books from O’Reilly). I’ve been reading “Flatland” and Adam’s Smith “Wealth of Nations” in this application over the last few days. The reading interface is decent, keeps track of where you are in the book, has a day/night mode, etc.

beebPlayer

A version of iPlayer for Android. It’s not an official BBC application but it works fantastically well. The video is nowhere near TV quality but it’s watchable (a very respectable quality given a 30 minute programme is just a 40MB download). You can either download videos via Wifi or 3G (word is that only 3 and Vodafone allow iPlayer over 3G). You can also watch live TV and radio (though it may be against the terms of use of your data connection).

Compass

A compass configurable for different designs, day/night mode, etc. It’s not much different from the compass on the iPhone (or any other compass for that matter). Does what it says on the tin.

Google Goggles

An application from Google which allows you to perform visual search. You can take a photograph within the application and Google attempts to recognise the object and provide related information. For example, taking a picture of Big Ben will show you related information such as it’s history. Take a picture of a book and it’ll show you reviews & prices at other shops. Take a picture of someone’s business card and it’ll attempt to extract that information for you.

Google have demonstrated the Googles application translating text between languages. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s been turned on yet.

Google Sky Map

Another official Google application. Google Sky Map uses your location and compass reading to show you a star map for the direction that you’re looking in. It can also help you to find planets and nebulae in the night sky.

Google Translate

Allows you to translate text and SMS messages between 50 languages. It can also read out aloud the results of the translation (combine this with the voice input feature and you have a very primitive version of the babel fish).

Listen

Another official Google application, this time for listening to podcasts. You can subscribe to podcasts and it’ll download them and play them to you. The application will also help you to discover new podcasts with it’s search feature. If you’re looking for some podcasts, I recommend the BBC’s “Best of Today” and the Guardian’s “Tech Weekly” podcasts.

Speedtest.net

If you’ve wanted to see just how fast your 3G/wifi connection is, this is a great application. It will store the results of each of your speed test results and whether they were carried out over 3G or wifi. I’ve been getting 1.9mbps download and 500kbps upload over T-Mobile 3G – your results will depend on your network, where you live and the quality of reception.

TV Guide (UK)

An application which provides you with quick and easy access to a listing of what’s on television. You can configure it for the channels that you watch and have access to, and set reminders for programmes that you want to watch.

Voice Search

Finally, here’s one for all of the HTC Desire and HTC Hero users. Although the Nexus One (the phone which the HTC Desire is based on) has voice search built in, HTC have (bizarrely) not included it as a feature in the HTC Desire. A blog called “Nimbu” has instructions on how to add voice search and add a voice-to-text feature into the keyboard. Once you’ve installed this: hold down the search button to activate voice search. You can use voice commands: for example say “Navigate to London” and it’ll launch the GPS application with directions to London.

Note: This is a third party app which is not available from the Android Market.

Some silly apps…

  • Star Wars Light Saber
  • Mario Simulator – Run about and start jumping… it plays Mario sounds.
  • Tricorder – A Star Trek style tricorder. It works too…

    

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About Ken

Ken Lo

I'm a freelance writer specialising in mobile technology. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005 with the aim of demystifying mobile technology for the rest of us.

Before writing about mobile technology, my background was in space & atmospheric physics. I have also worked in software development. Nowadays, I help companies to explain mobile technology to their customers. Please check out my portfolio or get in touch for more information. I'm also on Google+.

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