Android Applications

By | 2010-09-20

I keep seeing these “top 50 Android apps” lists; and am often disappointed. While they usually do have a couple of the good ones on them, they seem to think it’s okay to put seven note taking applications, two location-aware apps and some just plain broken apps on the list.

This then is a practical list; I tend not to install multiple apps that do that same job, preferring instead to pick the one I think is best and keep that. I’m also not keeping them as a league table — it’s silly to compare a media player with an ebook reader, which you think is more important will be a function of your own use. This list is categorised and alphabetical.


  • Aldiko — ebook reader; supports ePub and has an interface to search hundreds of out of copyright books online. Excellent.
  • APG — GnuPG for Android. K–9 mail interfaces with this to decrypt, encrypt and sign your mail.
  • arcMedia — ffmpeg-based media player. Supports many more formats than the built in player. myPlayer can use this as its external player.
  • ASTRO — File manager. You need this for putting your music, video, and books in places you want them to be.
  • ASTRO SMB Module — Let’s you access Windows SMB shares from Astro (works with Samba too). Much faster than ASTRO’s (excellent) SSHFTP support.
  • Barcode Scanner — Lookup barcodes online quickly by scanning them with the built-in camera.
  • Battery Graph — Track down when and what is causing your battery to be used up. Let’s you obsess about battery life.
  • Chrome to Phone — Combine this with the browser plugin for Chrome or Firefox to send links from your desktop to your phone with a simple click.
  • Clock Sync — Needs root to actually set the time, but even without root access it’s handy to be able to get accurate time from the Internet.
  • Docs Pics — Google Docs synchronisation. I keep shopping lists and a todo in this. Works much better than the more commonly recommended GDocs app.
  • eBay — This app is okay, but the key feature (notification support) doesn’t work. Hopefully they’ll fix it. It’s excessively large considering how little it actually does.
  • Facebook — This app is rubbish. It doesn’t use Android’s notification system, it’s excessively large, and most of the things you can click simply take you to the browser to the pages; and not even the one you would want at that.
  • Gesture Search — Despite what it’s called, this is essentially an online handwriting recognition engine. Could be handy if you were trying to search while in the car.
  • IMDb — If you like films, then you need this app. This is the first “big website” app that actually does a decent job. Easy search, nicely categorised information. Essentially just a fast, efficient interface to the database.
  • JustPictures! — Improved image browser; supports linking to picasaweb, facebook, flickr, photobucket, et al. Easy to use, and fast. I have no trouble browsing my online albums as if they were stored on the phone. My one complaint is that it’s a little slow showing the thumbnails for local albums.
  • K–9 Mail — Much better email client than the built in one. Fast IMAP access. I find this better than the GMail client too. Heavily customisable and very quick.
  • myPlayer — BBC iPlayer client. Let’s you download programmes for viewing later, which is a truly excellent feature. Means you don’t have to use up your precious 3G allowance on TV; you can grab stuff to watch later when you’re on the move. Would be perfect if they integrated SkyOnDemand, 4ondemand, Five player and ITVPlayer, etc too.
  • NetCounter — keep track of your 3G allowance, and set warning levels and usage period.
  • Quick Settings — Hold down the search button to get quick access to your most commonly used settings.
  • RealCalc — The best scientific calculator app for android. Similar in appearance to a Sharp, but operationally similar to a Casio. Nice big buttons, you don’t need a separate calculator with this app. Also includes a unit conversion facility.
  • SDMove — see at a glance which of your apps supports the new Froyo (Android 2.2) facility to move applications from your phone to your SD card; and perform the move easily.
  • Sky+ — Access the Sky television listings and link up to your remote-record account so you can control your Sky+ when you are out. This is excessively large, and has a few bugs, but works pretty well.
  • TalkBack — add screen reader support to Android.
  • Timeriffic — trigger time based actions. For example, I’ve got it set to automatically dim the brightness and turn the phone to silent during my normal sleeping hours. Saves me being woken up because someone sends an email at 3am.
  • Vignette Demo — Camera effects. Loads of them. You have to pay to get full resolution, but it’s good fun even at low res.
  • Voice Search — Google’s voice search facility.
  • Google Sky Map — Novelty item really, but is good for lording it over your iPhone wielding friends.
  • London City — tube map.
  • Maps (Google) — best online mapping, satellite and terrain in addition to roads. Google places and Latitude are built in. Latitude is handy for finding out where your friends with fine-grained privacy controls.
  • My Maps Editor by Google — let’s you add favourite places to your “my maps” section of Google Maps.
  • My Tracks — record GPS traces and view them later. Good for hikers.
  • NavDroyd — Offline SatNav app using OpenStreetMap maps. Has potential, but not quite there yet. I bought this to show support, but there is a free version without route planning (although I’ve forgotten what it’s called).
  • RAC Traffic — Live traffic incident reports from the RAC overlaid on a Google map.
  • Rainy Days — Recent radar imagery overlaid on a Google map to show you rain cloud patterns.
  • Free the Postcode — help create an open UK postcode database. Stick it to the post office who somehow think that they have been publicly funded to create a database that they can then sell back to you when it’s your address.


  • Air Control (Lite) — land planes.
  • Andrix — Android version of classic Qix game.
  • Chess — simple, easy to use and small.
  • OpenSudoku
  • Robo Defense FREE — An enjoyable tower defence game.
  • SeQ — the old pegboard mastermind game.
  • Solitaire — Klondike patience.
  • Trap — Fun game reminiscent of Qix but more appropriate for a touch screen game.


  • Force Fields — gravity simulator.
  • SchottGunn — Shot gun simulator.
  • The Schwartz Unsheathed — light sabre simulator.


  • 3CXPhone — connect to your Asterisk box or other SIP phone provider to make VoIP calls or integrate with your office phone system.
  • androidVNC — VNC client for Android, not bad.
  • ConnectBot — SSH client for Android. Pretty good, and can be a life saver if you’re a systems admin.


  • Aviation Weather — download aviation weather reports for individual air fields.
  • Depth of Field Calculator — photography tool. Not perfect.
  • Exposure Calculator — photography tool. Not perfect.
  • gStrings — tuner.
  • phoforpho — photography tools. Lots of different calculators. Still not perfect.
  • Photography Assistant — rudimentary light meter. Doesn’t work very well, but I suspect that’s down to hardware limitations rather than this apps fault.
  • Ultimate Holdem Timer — if you play poker, this is a must. Define arbitrary round times, break times, small and big blind structure and variable ante. Lets you concentrate on playing rather than clock watching and remembering what the current bets are.
  • SayNoTo0870 — search for normal landline number equivalents for the expensive 0845 and 0870 special rate numbers. Good for mobile users with inclusive minutes.

Phone Introspection

  • Android Sensor Data — low-level hardware sensor reader.
  • Compass — Get decent access to the built-in compass and GPS data in certain modes.
  • GPS Test — shows lots of information from the GPS and compass.
  • Multitouch Visualizer 2 — test your multitouch hardware (the Desire multitouch is not good; it can’t cope if the touch points cross).

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