As Android’s popularity continues to mushroom, the number of Android apps available has surpassed 100,000. That’s good news because there are so many possibilities to choose from, but bad news because the sheer volume of options is becoming overwhelming and it’s hard to know which ones are worth downloading. And if you’re using a different phone OS, you may suffer from serious Android envy.
For help with any of these problems, check out our grab-bag of great Android apps–many of which are available as apps for other smartphones as well.
Android and Beyond at Work: Connectivity and Productivity Tools
This nifty little app lets you take remote control of your PC or Mac via your Android phone or iPhone. You’ll need to have some form of LogMeIn software running on the PC or Mac; LogMeIn Free runs gratis on a single computer (with some limitations), and LogMeIn Pro costs $70 per year.)
Because your phone’s screen is small, you’ll have to do a little configuring to get LogMeIn Ignition to display the screen of your PC or Mac properly. You’ll have to fiddle with resolution and zoom levels–and turning your phone sideways may help, depending on the resolution. Once you get things set up, and get comfortable with using the remote mouse, you’ll find the app surprisingly useful. Even though your phone’s screen is small, you can get a surprising amount of work done remotely, such as checking e-mail on your e-mail client.
PdaNet lets you use your Android phone as a mobile modem for your PC or Mac by tethering the phone to your PC via a USB cable or via Bluetooth. Tethering is also built into Android 2.2 without the use of PDANet, but not all phones are upgraded to 2.2. And some phones that are, such as the original Droid, don’t have that capability. PdaNet works on other phone OSs as well. Be sure to check the terms of service with your mobile service provider, however, in case they don’t allow you to tether your phone. Also, if you want to use PdaNet on your iPhone, you’ll have to jailbreak the phone.
Android has a very limited set of features for Wi-Fi–essentially, just enough to let you connect to Wi-Fi networks. If you don’t connect to many different Wi-Fi networks, and you don’t need to do any kind of troubleshooting, that’s enough. But if you want more, you’ll like the free Wifi Analyzer. Not only does it show you every Wi-Fi network in range, but it also charts their strength, so that you can connect to the one with the most powerful signal (if you like). At home, if your Wi-Fi network acts flaky, you can use Wifi Analyzer to see whether any nearby Wi-Fi network is interfering with it by using the same channel. There’s a lot more here as well, especially for Wi-Fi tech-heads.
Android and Beyond at Play: Games, Entertainment, and Reference
If you love games, you should download this free game to your Android phone right now. It’s likely to provide the most fun for free you’ll ever have on your phone. The game has a simple premise: With your finger, you hurl very cute but justifiably angry birds at their enemies, pigs that have stolen bird eggs and are holed up in various forts. The uncomplicated but eye-catching graphics, realistic physics, and overall cleverness will have you flinging “just one more bird” for hours. (Note: The iPhone version of the app costs $1, the Symbian version is $3, and the Android version is free but ad-supported.)
The Internet Movie Database Website is a movie and TV fan’s dream, with detailed information about a huge number of movies and TV shows reaching deep into the past–1.5 million in all, according to the site. You’ll find cast information, reviews, trailers, biographies, current film times, and much more. With this free Android app, you get access to all of those features on your Android phone as well–or (with similar programs) on your iPhone or Windows Mobile phone.
Here’s some good news for Android owners who enjoy Amazon e-books: You don’t need to invest in a Kindle to read them. Instead, you can read them right on your Android phone. First create an Amazon account (if you don’t already have one). Then download e-books and start reading. You can read titles that you’ve bought for the Kindle as along with any free ones that Amazon has made available. With the Kindle for Android you can create bookmarks, jump to specific pages, and do some other nifty Kindle magic. It’s great for people who want to their Android to phone do double-duty as an e-book reader, especially if they already have a Kindle and have purchased books for it. There’s an iPhone version, too.
If you love Wikipedia, you’ll appreciate this app. It lets you can search through and read the online encyclopedia, with articles reformatted for reading on your Android phone. You get the full content, including pictures. You can also create bookmarks, ask to be sent to a random page, and share pages with others via e-mail, text messaging, and Bluetooth. Though similar programs exist for iPhone, Wikidroid is not available for any other phone OS.