August 31, 2009 | by Andrew Kameka
UPDATE: This is an old list. Please read our more current and updated top apps list, available here
Writing a Best Android Apps list is never an easy job. Android inspires passionate fans who believe their favorite app should be named, so no list will please everyone. Though voters selected their favorites in the Android Network Awards, these are my picks for some of the best Android apps. The apps are listed according to category, not merit.
Barcode Scanner [#1] – The first app to get is Barcode Scanner, which allows users to scan QR codes – the squares with dots and black lines – and get information. QR codes load contacts, messages, or sends users to a link. For instance, each QR code scanned in this post leads to the app listing in the Android Market.
The Best Lifestyle and Productivity Apps [#2-15]
To-Do Lists, Communication, Research, and General Experience
I wish there was an Android app that recorded your voice and then converted those words into text. Oh wait, there is! Voice Text is a paid app that adds voice transcription functioning to most apps. Say “I am leaving work. Be home soon” and watch as the words appear on the screen, ready to be sent to a contact without distractions. Voice Text even works as an input method, so almost any Android app — notepad or Twitter app a;ole — can utilize the speech-to-text solution.
Fact: Astrid is the best to-do list manager available on Android. Ok, that’s an opinion, but it’s an opinion supported by thousands of users of this great app. Astrid creates tasks with notes, deadlines, reminders, tags, and priority. If that weren’t enough, it can even sync with online task manager RememberTheMilk.com. If you’ve got things to do and need an app to help you do them, Astrid is the first app you should grab in the market.
Documents to Go (Free to read, $29.99 to edit)
Microsoft Office is available on Android thanks to Documents to Go. This app can read and edit documents with support for major formatting styles found in MS Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. Anyone who wants to do some light writing, proofing, or last-minute tweaking to their documents needs to bite the bullet and purchase this app.
Possible alternatives: You can also wait around for the ThinkFree office app.
There are certain apps good enough to replace the default Android functions. Handcent is one of those apps. This is the best texting tool for sending or reading SMS messages. Settings allow popup notifications, reminders for unread messages, pre-typed quick messages, batch deleting, and a much better interface for communicating than the default texting app. Possible alternative: chomp SMS won the ANA Best Communication App, but I still think Handcent is the way to go.
Twidroid is the can-do Android Twitter app. Tweet, upload photo search, see popular topics, retweet, shorten links, follow, unfollow – almost any feature you want to do is all there. Twidroid also supports Laconia/Identi.ca users and is unquestionably the most-used Twitter app for Android. No wonder it was voted as Best Twitter App in the ANA’s.
There’s plenty of Twitter apps that meet eat each individual’s needs, but TwitterRide manages to stand out. It offers the standard major functions of Twitter but separates itself from others by being just a bit quicker than the rest. The only knock on it is that color scheme isn’t the greatest. However, if speed and stability are at a premium, TwitterRide is the Android Twitter app to have.
Snap Photo Pro ($0.99)
The default camera in most Android phones is decent, but it could always use improvement. Snap Photo Pro enhances the device’s ability to snap pictures by adding timer mode, multi shot mode, and stability. It also increases shutter speed and can adjust the brightness or contrast of images.
Qik’s isn’t free from bugs, but it has improved enough to be useable and fun to have. Qik records live events and streams the footage on the Internet. Captured video is automatically archived and available for viewing at a later date. There’s also an offline mode that allows on-device video editing and shortcuts for sharing with contacts or friends on Twitter and Facebook. Qik performs best on 3G or WiFi.
Home screen replacement apps add additional screens and appearance tweaks to your Android home screen. There are plenty of options, but dxTop’s quadrant design – four screens easily accessible from any other screen – is the fastest and best way to navigate. Its not as robust as the other apps 5 or 7 screens, but its the one that has been best supported and most improved.
ActionComplete is geared towards people who need more than just a to-do list; its for managing projects, separate jobs, and time. It is great for GTD/workflow management thanks to detailed actions, reminders and built-in timers, filter or project labels, and location-aware options that allow you to automatically load work projects in the office and freelance projects at home.
Better Keyboard ($2.99)
Not a fan of the Android on-screen keyboard that comes with the G1 or myTouch? Don’t worry; you’ve got options. Better Keyboard provides some options like skins, three different keyboard layouts/views, and slightly larger keys to help deal pick up the slack.
Remembering events or tidbits throughout the day is easier with 3banana, an app that keeps track of photos and notes that you enter. Snap a photo of something inspirational you see in a magazine and add contextual reminders explaining why you want to remember it. Or simply jot down an ideas in the app instead of on a napkin. 3banana then syncs with your 3banana.com account so your idea stream is even browseable online.
Jot down all of your notes in Note Everything. Users can type, paint, or voice record their notes and organize them in folders. They can search notes and import or export notes on the SD card. Photo notes, reminders, notifications, and encryption are also available in a pro version.
Possible alternative – AK Notepad, Text Edit
SportyPal is a handy tool to help get users in shape. Users improve their running and cycling experience by analyzing past workout stats. See the distance traveled, total time, and an estimate for the amount of calories burned. There’s even an option to share with others, making SportyPal a great workout tool.
Possible alternative – Cardio Trainer