SLIDESHOW

10 Best Google Mobile Apps

Google’s native applications work so well that many of them are available on other platforms. Here are a few of our favorites.

The 10 Essential Google Mobile Apps

When it comes to the number of apps in their respective app stores, Apple is the clear leader with 300,000 versus Google's 100,000. But aside from a handful of iOS-native apps, iBooks, a couple of remotes, and Texas Hold'em Poker, Apple has been fairly weak in its selection of applications for its own platform, let alone what it offers for other platforms. Google, on the other hand, has been blowing up app stores with everything from Google Maps to Google Voice to Google Books--not only for Android, but also for iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Palm OS.

Here are the top ten best Google apps for Android and iOS devices.

Google Maps

Platform: Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, Palm OS, and Palm WebOS
Apple version: Not applicable

Google Maps, which features satellite view and step-by-step directions, is the default navigation app on both the iOS and Android platforms. Users can view travel directions via foot (walking directions are still in beta testing), bike, car, and public transportation, and can even search for points of interest close to their destination. In addition, the Google Maps app can now provide offline mapping and navigation, in case you get lost in a dead zone. Google's map application is so well executed that Apple didn't even try to make its own.

Google Earth and Google Sky Map

Platform: Android (Earth and Sky) and iOS (Earth only)
Apple version: Not applicable

Two of Google’s star applications--Google Earth and Google Sky Map--give users access to impressive satellite imagery.

With Google Earth, users can “fly” to any place around the world, viewing detailed 3D imagery, buildings, and terrain. Once zoomed in to a specific location, you can activate Street View and pan, tilt, and rotate 360 degrees to see everything else in the area.

Like a planetarium at your fingertips, Google Sky Map features a map of the constellations that moves as you lift your phone to the heavens. Can't remember if that's Orion above you? Just point your phone toward it, and find out.

Gmail

Platform: Android, iOS (part of Google Mobile), and BlackBerry
Apple version: iOS Mail App

Although Apple has its own native app for e-mail, Google's Gmail application is easier to use and available for other operating systems. The iOS Mail App doesn’t allow you to delete messages from your inbox, but you can archive them (before iOS 4.0, you couldn’t archive them from the inbox--just delete them). Google's Gmail app allows you to choose archiving or deleting straight from the inbox.

Google Voice Search

Platform: Android, iOS (part of Google Mobile)
Apple version: Not applicable

Though it looks like Apple may be in the process of developing one, the iPhone still lacks a native voice search application currently. Google Voice Search, on the other hand, allows you to search the Web and find contacts using your voice. The app works in over 18 different languages, and you can also train it to recognize your voice (on Android phones) for more accurate results.

Google Voice

Platform: Android, iOS, and BlackBerry
Apple version: Not applicable

Google Voice is an amazing application, and not just because it allows you to call U.S. numbers for free and international numbers for practically free. One of the best features of Google Voice is how it handles voicemail--not only is it visual (as on the iPhone), but it also transcribes messages for you. That way, you can scan long messages and gather the important parts.

Google Docs

Platform: Android, iOS (part of Google Mobile), BlackBerry, Windows Mobile
Apple version: iWork (iPad only)

Google Docs is a must-have for the workaholic crowd: It lets you create, view, and edit documents, spreadsheets, drawings, and presentations before sharing them with others. Multiple users can edit a Google Doc at the same time to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest version. Because this app is Web-powered, Google Docs is accessible from virtually any mobile operating system--unlike Apple’s iWork, which functions only on the iPad.

Google Books

Platform: Android, iOS
Apple version: iBooks

The recently launched Google Books app has a lot of hype to live up to, especially if Google wants it to compete with Apple’s iBooks. So far, we like what we see. Google Editions is an innovative new e-reading app and library that syncs across multiple platforms--it works with iOS devices, Android devices, Kindles, other smartphones, and even computers. Apple's iBooks is doing very well, however, especially with the iPad as its primary platform. So…score one for Apple.

Google Shopper

Platform: Android
Apple version: Not applicable

Google Shopper ties together Google Voice Search and the image-based Google Goggles (snap a picture, and Goggles will tell you what it is) to bring you a bar-code scanner on steroids. Google Shopper allows you to search for products by bar code, cover image, or voice/text, and then spits back a bevy of shopping results from Google's database. Not only do you get results from Google's Shopping directory, but you also get results from local stores.

Google Listen

Platform: Android
Apple version: iTunes

Google Labs created a music and audio-file streaming app that works seamlessly on Android phones: Google Listen. You can search, subscribe to, download, and stream your favorite podcasts straight from the app itself, searching either by the podcast name or by subject if you’re looking to try something new. Your subscriptions will load to your personalized queue as they become available, keeping playlists fresh every time you use the app. Since it's a Google Labs app, it’s in testing mode--but so far, we like what we hear.

Google Maps Navigation (Beta)

Platform: Android
Apple version: Not applicable

Although still in beta testing mode, Google Maps Navigation takes the prize for the most promising Google app in the works. Functioning exactly like a stand-alone GPS navigator, Google Maps Navigation is an Internet-connected GPS app with voice guidance. It provides traffic views as well as both satellite and street views, and lets you search for destinations and points of interest without an address handy. You can text-search just as you would in Google, or do a voice search for a hands-free option. Combined with Google’s new offline reliability function, this app could be a real TomTom killer once it’s perfected, and a must-have for both Android and Apple users.