Google Android apps 101

Sep 4, 2009
Tech

Now that the Motorola Droid is available, millions of consumers will soon be exposed to the wide, wide world of apps for the very first time. While Apple and its more than 100,000 iPhone apps is still the dominant player in the space, there are more than 10,000 apps ready and available for Android customers […]

Now that the Motorola Droid is available, millions of consumers will soon be exposed to the wide, wide world of apps for the very first time.

While Apple and its more than 100,000 iPhone apps is still the dominant player in the space, there are more than 10,000 apps ready and available for Android customers with plans on Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.

When it comes to Android apps, this is where you should begin.

Going mobile

You can get a good feel for Android apps by downloading WikiMobile (free), a popular Wikipedia browsing app that’s also available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Search any topic on both smart phones and you’ll get the exact same text, but the Android version lacks pictures and that iconic Wikipedia summary box at the beginning of articles. Instead, Android features a table of contents in the menu bar and scrolls through pages sideways, not vertical as you would in a browser. The whole presentation feels a little crude, a little bare, but when it comes to functionality, there’s really little missing.

This contrast isn’t always the case. Android’s version of Quickpedia (free), another Wikipedia app, looks identical to the iPhone. It’s sharp and snazzy, and comes complete with a “Nearby” tab option that finds your current location and the Wikipedia entries about everything in the area.

Apps for shopping

It’s hard to talk about Android without mentioning the Barcode Scanner (free). Among its most popular apps, it scans anything with a bar code and launches a Google search for the item in your Internet browser.

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ShopSavvy (free) improved on the idea by looking up products without leaving the app and offering a list of Web sites where you can purchase them online, plus all the brick-and-mortar stores that carry the products in your area. You can also save and Twitter your own wish list for dropping those not-so-subtle hints to your friends.

Apps for news

News junkies like myself should definitely consider downloading apps like CNN News Widget, BBC News Widget, and ESPN News Widget. They’re all free and can be displayed alongside your other icons for easy headline viewing. Tap the app and they’ll open to the full text of top stories in seconds—there’s also Engadeget News Widget (free) for technology geeks.

Best of the rest

Wheres My Droid (free) is a godsend for those that leave their phone on silent and then never fail to forget where they left it. I use this app way more than I like admitting. It allows you set up a keyword for your phone that you can text from any other device to activate a 30- or 60-second full-volume ring to assist your search.

But by far one of the coolest Android apps out there is Locale (free). It lets you set up and save multiple phone settings and then uses GPS to change your wallpaper, ring tone and display based on your current location. Make one for home, the office, school, the movies, or wherever you don’t want your Taylor Swift ring tone going off and embarrassing you, again.

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Visit AndroidApps.com for more Android app reviews.

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