OK, so the Android Market is more akin to Lidl or Asda than the iPhone’s enormous, indulgent Selfridges-at-Christmas time approach, but the open source nature of Google’s OS means there are plenty of apps for Android to be found.
1. Google Sky Map.
A stunning app that renders Patrick Moore obsolete, by using your phone’s orientation tools to give you an accurate representation of the stars and planets on your screen. Point phone at sky, then learn what constellations are visible and if that’s a UFO or just Venus. Google Sky Map even works indoors, if you’re not keen on getting cold.
2. Facebook for Android.
Facebook for Android is lacking in features compared to Facebook itself, but a recent update added Inbox support to the Android app, finally allowing its users to communicate in almost real-time. The app’s fast and stable, with a simplicity that reminds you of the old days when using Facebook used to be bearable.
3. AppBrain Market Sync
You iPhone users won’t believe this, but there’s no official way to install Android apps from a PC. Seriously. You’d think Google of all companies would’ve sorted that out, but no. Which is where the unofficial AppBrain app comes in. Letting users queue up Market downloads via PC and have them sent to mobile, you’re also able to generate an embeddable code that displays your currently installed apps on a web site.
4. WordPress for Android.
WordPress for Android started out as independent creation wpToGo, before WordPress decided it liked it so much it bought it up – hiring the maker to develop it in-house. It’s very feature-packed, with the latest version offering full integration with other apps, letting you spin content and send it direct to the app for easy updating. Could do with more image insertion tools, though.
5. Google Goggles.
A bit of a novelty, in that Google Goggles lets you take photos and have Google analyse them and come back with a search results page for what it thinks you’re looking at. However, the app’s main use is as a QR code reader, which lets you scan barcodes for quick access to apps and whatever data people choose to embed in the odd little data squares.
There are many Twitter apps on Android – and Twitter itself shook up the scene with the launch of its own-brand app recently – but we’re sticking with Seesmic. Offering support for multiple accounts, a home page widget showing latest tweets and an incredibly slick and professional design, it’s one of the finest examples of app development out there today.
The social media darling Foursquare is represented in fine form on Android, with the Google app offering easy one-click check-ins, integrated Google Maps for a seamless Google-branded experience and home page shortcut options to all your favourite places.
The stunning augmented reality app Layar has recently gone commercial, adding an online shop that allows users to buy AR content, like travel guides, local house price apps and much more. But you’re still able to use the numerous free Layers to pop data up over real-world locations, delivering a satisfying futuristic experience.
9. Job Centre Plus.
Hey, times are hard and you’ve got to pay for your oppressive monthly mobile phone contract somehow. Offering a fully searchable database of current UK job vacancies, it’s a slightly cumbersome but useful tool. Some of the spelling’s a bit off and the presentation could be better, but you can’t argue with the chance to browse low-level admin jobs in Plymouth from the comfort of bed.
10. ASTRO File Manager.
ASTRO is nothing more than a Windows-style file explorer, but if you’re into tinkering and directly installing Android APK files yourself, it’s essential to stick something like this on your phone. Makes your phone feel like a computer, and makes you feel like you’re in charge of it.
UPDATE: ASTRO still exists as a free ad-supported app, but you’ll have to pay for the full version without ads. Our new favourite file explorer app is listed below.
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