If you’re an Android phone user, there are certain apps that you MUST download to make your phone better. Some apps are so good that they should be pre-installed on every Android phone.
Android Market is doing so well, that today Google announced that they have now surpassed 10 billion apps downloaded in their Market. To celebrate this, they are offering 10 premium apps for the cost of USD$ 0.10 for the next 10 days. Go check out today’s deals here now.
There are many other sites with the Top or Best or Must-Have apps list, but here’s my personal take on the Top 5 Must Have Android apps that caters to you. These are great apps for ANYONE – doesn’t matter what you use your phone for. Doesn’t matter whether you’re a geek or a total tech challenged person.
Here are my top 5 apps that I always download on my new Android phones.
1. WhatsApp Messenger
WhatsApp is a cross platform messenger. It sends messages using your data (mobile or WiFi) and saves you having to send SMS.
It’s basically like an Instant Messenger service like Yahoo IM and Windows Live Messenger, but built for smartphones. It allows you to chat, send messages (individual and group, text or pictures and videos) to any of your friends who also have WhatsApp installed on their phone.
You don’t need to signup for any service or create any ID. Once you download the app, you activate it by inputting your mobile phone number. After activation, it will automatically search through your phone book / contacts for any of your friends who have this app installed.
You’d be surprised to find out, that in Malaysia, there are already loads of people using WhatsApp. Although there are other similar services like Kik Messenger, PingChat, etc available – WhatsApp has been known to be one of the default messenger for a lot of people here.
Currently, WhatsApp Messenger supports Android, iPhone, Blackberry and Nokia. Honestly, isn’t that everybody you know already?
I use this a lot when I’m texting my husband, especially when either one of us is traveling. International SMS can be costly – this allows us to chat on the phone, using public WiFi or roaming mobile data plans. I can have long chats locally using my subscribed mobile data plan and not have to worry about SMS charges.
A lot of people I know have already stopped sending me SMS but WhatsApp-ing me instead. A definite must-have!
The WhatsApp Messenger app is FREE.
2. Dolphin Browser HD
Originally the #1 selling browser on iPhone and iPad, Dolphin Browser moved on to Android and I absolutely love it. The stock (pre-installed) browser on Android phones are OK, but Dolphin Browser is amazing!
Dolphin Browser supports multi-tab browsing, smart address bar (meaning it can be used as a search bar), speed dial (basically a smart bookmarks manager), multi touch zoom (of course) and many more.
Since Android phones supports Flash, this browser features one of the best methods of managing Flash contents on a webpage. It will download the content of a webpage (text, images, etc) but not the Flash elements, until you click on it to authorise the Flash download. This saves you a bit of mobile data as most Flash elements on a webpage are ads and sometimes YouTube videos or something.
One of the highlights of the browser, for me at least, is the “Gesture” navigation. By clicking on a semi-transparent “gesture” icon at the bottom right of the browser screen, you can use simple gesture for multiple actions. Such as writing “G” to open up Google.com, drawing an arrow to go to top or bottom of a webpage, etc.
“Webzine” is also another highlighted feature of this browser. It basically renders any news sites or even youor social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc) into an easy to read magazine layout.
The Dolphin Browser HD app is FREE.
3. SwiftKey X
One of the beauty of using Android phones is that you can download and change the default on-screen keyboard. Pre-installed on your phone is the stock Android keyboard. HTC and Samsung has their own keyboard installed, and most other manufacturers include their own versions, too.
Swiftkey X is not just another regular on-screen keyboard. It is an INTELLIGENT keyboard. It has the best predictive recommendations I have ever seen. It supports over 35 languages to date, and growing.
When you installed the app, you need to setup the keyboard to work for you. You allow it to monitor your SMS patterns, your Gmail, your social networks (Facebook and Twitter) and even your blogging style, if you wish. It then helps you type faster and better – predicting your words after 2 letters, predicting the next word you want to type and learning your texting behaviour the more you use it. Absolutely brilliant!
If you’re bilingual, like most Malaysians are, you can choose up to 3 languages for the predictions.
There are other cool features as well, such as swipe right to left across the keyboard to delete the last word you typed. This feature is great for fickle texters like myself – always changing my mind on what I want to say.
There are several themes that you can choose from, whether you like a dark or light background, or colours.
Note : I just bought this app for Android’s 10 cents sale and love it. I can’t believe I have not tried it before. So I am happily recommending this to everyone. For 10 cents (today only), it’s so worth it. In fact, I would happily pay full price for this.
If you’re unsure, go ahead and try the app for free for 30 days and make up your mind then.
The SwiftKey X Free is FREE for 30 days; Full Swiftkey X app is USD$ 1.99 (discounted to USD$ 0.10 TODAY).
4. 3G Watchdog
I have been using this app for as long as I can remember. I have recommended this to many of my new Android phone friends.
Since a few years back, there are no longer unlimited data plans with mobile operators. Chances are, you’re subscribed to different data plans ranging from 500mb to 5Gb. Operators currently doesn’t really have a real-time convenient way for you to monitor your data usage.
That’s where 3G Watchdog comes in. Once installed, you set up your billing date, data plan and other settings. The app will monitor all your mobile data usage and warn you should you go anywhere near your data usage limit. This is a lifesaver for you to ensure you don’t accidentally get bill shock when you exceed your data plan.
The full paid 3G Watchdog PRO version of this allows much more advanced predictions, multiple widgets for your homescreens, application specific data counters and more.
I have to point out that when the new Android OS 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich is out (sometime in Q1 2012), there will be a built-in data usage monitor that does almost everything that 3G Watchdog does today. It will even include the application specific data counter and warnings like this app.
However, until you’ve upgraded to the new Android OS, you should definitely install this app on your phone to monitor your mobile data usage. Also note, that this doesn’t count your WiFi data usage, only mobile data.
The 3G Watchdog app is FREE; Full 3G Watchdog PRO app is USD$ 3.02 includes advanced predictions, backups and more widgets.
5. Astro File Manager
Traditionally, Android phones don’t come with a File Manager / File Explorer. Google promised that a normal user would not need to dive into the respective folders on the system. Slowly, when more users start requesting for this feature, some phone manufacturers (eg. Samsung) has included a File Manager in their phones.
Astro File Manager is much more superior to the built-in / pre-installed ones. You can use it to search for files you have transfered from your PC or pictures / videos you have taken by going through a Explorer style window like you’re used to on your desktop. You can manage, copy, move, delete, rename, etc like on your desktop.
Note : If you’re not too tech-savvy, I want to warn you about renaming, moving or deleting files willy-nilly. Some files are system files that stores operating information on your phone. So, I suggest you use this app with caution. Just don’t touch file that you’re unsure / unheard of.
Astro File Manager is more than a File Manager. It is also a Task Killer and Application Backup app. You can dive deeper into the setting on how you want to kill idle applications (to save some battery juice) and backup some applications to your SD card (to save some memory space on your phone).
The best use of this app, for the non tech savvy is when you need to attach files to your emails or messages, etc. You can browse through your phone or SD card for the file attachments with this app. Or when you want to install your own ringtone that you copied from your desktop to your phone and have no idea how to get to it. These are the common actions and features I get asked a lot.
Since I started using this app years ago, the developer has done a great job improving this app in new versions. Which means, you can expect them to be responsive in your queries or complains, should you need to contact them.
The Astro File Manager app is FREE: Full Astro File Manager PRO is USD$ 3.99 basically removes ads and helps support the developer.
As mentioned earlier, these are the Top 5 Android apps for ANYONE – regardless of what you use your phone for, or whether you’re tech savvy or not. These apps I listed are essential productivity / tools type apps that anyone with an Android phone should download.
If you’re an Android user and have more apps that you feel I should highlight, better alternatives to the ones I mentioned, let me know in the comments.
For those of you newbies or non-tech Android users, I hope this list helps you improve your Android user experience. I know that it has made my experience on Android a whole lot better.