Using your Android phone should be fun. Whether you own an early G1, use a Motorola Droid, or just picked up the new HTC Droid Incredible, you can grab plenty of fun apps that will keep you entertained. But with over 30,000 apps now available in the Android Market, finding the real gems can take a while. Here are our top ten entertainment essentials to get you started. Best of all, most of them are free.
An ideal app for concert lovers, Gigbox notes your current location and tells you when your favorite artist is playing a gig near you. Conveniently, it pulls in all your favorite bands and songs from your Last.fm account, and uses Google Maps to provide directions to venues.
Getting to the gig is only half the fun, as during the concert you can enter the app's live mode to chat and share pictures with other concertgoers around you. You can also rate the gig and get the current "mood" of the crowd. All of your chats and pictures are stored online as well, so you can go back through them and relive the experience at any time.
Flixster Movies (Free)
The definitive app for movie fans is Flixster Movies. Using your current location, Flixster Movies finds the theaters nearest to you and lists the latest openings. You get the showtimes for each movie and theater--and if you can't decide which movie to see, you can check out IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings or watch trailers.
Flixster Movies also links with your Facebook account, so you can share your own ratings and comments about the film you just watched. And in case you're heading home and want to pick up a DVD, Flixster Movies keeps you up-to-date with the latest DVD releases and ratings.
Pandora might have joined the Android party a little late, but the service is still a big favorite for Internet radio. If you're a new user, just start with the name of an artist you like, and Pandora will automatically create a virtual radio station especially tailored to your musical tastes.
For users in the United States, Slacker's Internet radio app (free) is also highly regarded; phone owners in the U.S., UK, and Germany can also stream music with Last.fm's Android app. Premium members of the much-talked-about Spotify music service in the UK, Sweden, Spain, France, and Norway also get a Spotify Android app.
Gmote (Free/$2 Donation)
The large screen of your Android phone is an ideal place for controlling the media library on your computer, and Gmote handles the task gracefully. Through this app, you can use your phone to control movie and music playback via Wi-Fi. Gmote also has a built-in file browser, and can stream music from your PC to your phone.
Setup involves just three easy steps: First, you install the app on your Android phone. Next, you put its server client (which takes only a few minutes to configure) on your PC or Mac. Finally, you fire up Gmote on your handset, and it connects to your PC. Enjoy your new touchscreen remote!
Although video streaming from cell phones isn't new, Qik is handy for live streaming to the world. Setting up and streaming your live video takes only a couple of minutes, and you never know--maybe you'll capture breaking news.
Qik gives you several basic settings for privacy and titling, and you can share your precious moments on social networks too. The app is easy to use, and the big start/stop streaming button helps you get the job done quickly. Just make sure you're in a good reception area, or the video quality gets really jerky.
As an alternative, you might want to try the Ustream app, paired with the Ustream Viewer.
Twidroid (Free/$4.89 Pro)
You can find plenty of Twitter clients for Android phones, but Twidroid stands out with its sleek interface and ease of use. This full-featured client can also shorten URLs and post photos.
If you're a power user, consider Twidroid Pro ($4.89), which supports multiple accounts, various color themes, video posting, and added features such as the ability to shake the phone to refresh. Seesmic for Android is definitely worth a look, as well.
And to keep up with other aspects of your social life, don't forget to download the official Facebook app.
When you have more than one photo-sharing account, uploading the same batch of pictures on each service can become time-consuming. That's where PicPush comes in handy: It can automatically share pics and videos from your phone with several major services at the same time.
PicPush easily uploads images to Facebook, Flickr, Gallery, PhotoBucket, Picasa, Shutterfly, and SmugMug. You need enter your various login credentials just once; afterward, let PicPush do the rest in the background (even during phone calls, if you like).
Shazam snags song information out of thin air. Just point your phone toward a source of music, and Shazam will tell you the title and the artist. You can then buy the song easily from the Amazon MP3 store.
If you want even more details on the catchy tune you just discovered, Shazam lets you see related videos on YouTube or links you to the artist's MySpace page. Shazam's database contains most major recording artists to date, and is quite effective in identifying lesser-known bands also.
PicSay (Free/$1.99 Pro)
Your Android phone has a pretty good camera--but PicSay can improve it further. This nifty picture editor lets you spice up your photos right on your handset and share them with your friends.
You can perform color corrections, distortions, and cutouts, as well as add touches such as word balloons or props. The interface is easy to use, and you can share the results via e-mail or picture messages.
If you're into simply fine-tuning photos rather than adding blurbs and captions, consider the Adobe Photoshop.com app (free).
TuneWiki is a simple and effective app that automatically displays song lyrics as you listen to music on your phone. The app pulls the lyrics from an Internet database, so what you read might not always be the best match, but in my tests it proved to be pretty accurate.
The app also lets you search for the corresponding YouTube video of the song you're currently enjoying. In addition, you can share what you're hearing with others in your area, and use Google Maps to find out what songs people around the world are listening to.