When T-Mobile launched the very first Android-powered handset – the G1 – back in 2008, the app library to go along with it looked like a minimart beside Apple’s Walmart. But the past few years have been kind to Google. The steady release of high-profile, high-power Android handsets have turned that initial drizzle of apps into a torrent. Though it used to be called the Android Market, the Google Play store offers applications for just about everything. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up what we think are the best Android apps in several different categories. We’ll continue to update this list periodically.
Multiple members of the Digital Trends staff contributed to this compilation.
WhatsApp Messenger (Free)
With more than 200 million users, it should come as no surprise that WhatsApp has attracted the attentions of Facebook and Google in recent months, but it has remained independent. It’s a simple, intuitive, cross-platform alternative to sending SMS text messages. You can chat, send photos, audio, or video files, and it’s completely free (it costs $1 per year after the first year). It uses Wi-Fi or your network data connection to send messages, and it’s packed with great features for chat addicts.
imo messenger (Free)
Trying to persuade your friends and family to agree on one instant messaging service can prove impossible. Thankfully, Imo is here to soothe your pain. It supports everything from Facebook Chat to Yahoo Messenger to Skype and you can link up multiple accounts. You can make voice calls, share multimedia files, and join in group messaging sessions. It’s a multiplatform solution with fully searchable chat history. A streamlined user interface makes it very accessible and easy to use.
Tapatalk Forum App ($3)
Trying to browse and post on forums from your smartphone can be a real pain. Tapatalk is designed to make it smooth and easy to access forums. It’s faster than using a standard mobile web browser, easy to access your favorites, and you can keep up to date with threads via a simple interface. All forums are organized by category, you can search, and the majority of forum features are available. It is currently supported by thousands of popular forums, so there’s a good chance your regular haunts are on the list, but it’s always worth checking before you buy.
Apps that can save you money are always welcome and GasBuddy is the best app for finding cheap gas. Wherever you happen to be in the U.S. or Canada, you can fire up this app and it will provide you with a list of the gas stations in your vicinity in list or map view. All you have to do is choose the cheapest one. The app relies on an active community of users who earn points by reporting the latest prices. You can use points to win prizes like free gas.
Dolphin Browser (Free)
When it comes to speed, Dolphin is comparable to Chrome. The popular Dolphin Browser has just been updated and it offers Sonar, Gesture, and Add-on support. Sonar enables you to search, share, bookmark, and navigate with voice commands. You can create gestures to access specific websites and there are 60 add-ons to choose from. It’s a solid browser with a lot to offer.
Best Apps Market (Free)
Need a fast and reliable app discovery tool? Best Apps Market is free and it features hand-picked lists and tools to organize your downloads. You’ll find independent reviews, money saving options, and easy to use filters. The Game Genome Project is set to roll into the app soon and it offers you a way to search for apps using a wide variety of filters so you can find your perfect game.
Widgetsoid allows you to create your own widgets for various phone functions. You can create a widget that will allow you to toggle your 4G antenna on and off, or create your own clock widget that can display whatever phone information you want, from battery charge to phone temperature. It’s pretty useful. There is a free and a paid version, which has some added functionality.
iTriage Mobile Health (Free)
Created by doctors, this app is designed to give users quick and easy access to medical info as well as nearby treatment facilities. With just a few clicks, users can find the nearest medical facility based on need (emergency, urgent care, pharmacy, etc.) and quickly use built-in Google Maps to navigate to the destination. The app also features a symptom-checker, doctor directory, and information about diseases and procedures.
Chrome Beta (Free)
The default Android Web browser is fine, but if you’re on an Android 4.0 phone (or tablet), you can now download a fully operational version of Google Chrome. Simply put, it’s the best mobile browser we’ve used, with robust tab management, private browsing, and the ability to sync your tabs from your browser with your phone.
Pulse News (Free)
This free app is a great reader for those who like to get their daily dose of news or gossip on their Android device. Pulse lets users select up to 30 online sources to pull from, and then creates clean, magazine-like pages that feature thumbnail photos and headlines from each source. Most articles or blogs can be easily read within the app, and the sources update in a flash. It’s the perfect substitute for your morning or evening Internet scan. Add sources like CNN, Gawker, Salon, Wet Paint, MSNBC, and Mashable.
It’s pretty universally accepted that mobile devices, while great tools for plenty of tasks, are not built for extended typing sessions. SwiftKey 3 Keyboard challenges this belief and gives the classic keyboard a run for its money. Rather than just focus on spelling or or the word that you’re currently typing, SwiftKey 3 Keyboard looks at the context of your full message and puts together the most logical predictions and corrections. Miss a space, spell a word wrong, or type the wrong usage and this app will fix it for you on the fly.
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