Android is quickly becoming the dominant smart phone platform. It’s now (by some reports, at least) the dominant smart phone operating system, spanning across multiple phones on every major carrier. With that in mind, here are a few apps that will help you take full advantage of the cute green robot — and for all the cost of nothing.
The most important app — and the one that will save you the most battery — is a good task killer. I use Advanced Task Killer, but there are many others on the Marketplace that do the same job. Every time you open an app on an Android phone, it stays open until you quit. However, just going back to the home screen does not close an app; for that, you need a task killer. Without one, all the open programs on your phone will eat up your battery fast. Be sure to only close apps you don’t use often, though — because if you keep opening and closing the same app, you actually waste more battery than if you just went back to the ‘sleeping’ app.
The goal of most apps is, ironically, to take what the phone does already and make it easier to use. For easily finding WiFi hotspots, WiFinder will show every network around, and give the strength of the network as well. What makes WiFinder work better than the default wireless settings panel is you can set it to automatically search for (and join) open networks.
One of the most indispensable apps around is Where’s My Droid. With it, you’ll never lose your phone again. Just send your phone a specific text message (you choose what to say) and it will instantly turn on high ring volume for a full minute until you find it. It’s saved me numerous times, and is one of the most useful apps on the Marketplace.
If you’re a commuter, download the Houston Traffic Map immediately. It shows the entire Houston highway map, color-coded to show traffic patterns. People who use real-time traffic maps save an average of four days every year by avoiding congested roads; use your phone to your advantage.
Another great thing about Android phones is the ability to impress your friends. If there’s a song on the radio that no one knows the name of, use Shazam to find out near-instantly what it is. The app takes a sample of the song, and within 10 seconds you know the name of the song, the artist, and the album it appears on. It works with almost every song, too — even obscure indie bands.
Trying to impress a girl? Whip out your Google Sky Map and instantly know every constellation in the sky. Now you can know for sure whether it’s a star or a planet — or even a galaxy.
People trying to learn another language should definitely download Google Translate. It can take just about any language and, of course, translate it into any other. It’s not always a perfect translation, but it’s definitely better than nothing.
An app that is handy in case of emergency is First Aid. It describes what to do in just about any basic medical emergency. Whether it’s a burn or a broken arm, First Aid will help you keep calm and maybe save a life or two.
With over 75,000 apps in the Marketplace, this list barely scratches the surface. There’s an app for just about every conceivable situation — and most of them are free. With a little bit of searching, you can find apps to turn your smart phone into a voracious app machine.