back to article Ten Essential Android Apps

You've taken delivery of your shiny new Android handset, you've logged into the Googleverse and now you're thinking 'what next?'. Well, you can start by downloading the following ten apps that will help you get the most from your handset. Whether you want to read, write, chat, work, travel, watch some TV or just to keep your …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Some of these are okay

    ...but we've put together a far more comprehensive list of Essential Android Apps over at Modaco:


  2. Skrrp
    Thumb Up


    Surprised ES File Explorer didn't make your list. Internal management as well as SMB, FTP and Bluetooth.


    ConnectBot - essential SSH and local terminal

    NetCounter - tracks data usage

    Parallel Kingdoms - great geo-location based game

    1. Craigness

      I'm I'm I'm I'm I'm

      There's an app called "Surprised ES File Explorer"?

      Not being pedantic. Have real trouble reading things when the first word of the sentence is omitted.

  3. Nigel Callaghan Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Really useful review, thanks.

    Just confirmed once again that I have absolutely no need of a smartphone, whether Android or from the Blessed Jobs! I'll stick to a simple mobile phone (that can both make and receive phone calls and texts - brilliant!) and a real computer for any serious work. Saved me a fortune - ta!

  4. gav_taylor
    Thumb Up

    HTC Peep

    I actually prefer Peep to Twidroid, is much simpler and gets the job done. twitdroid seems overly complicated for what it needs to do.

    the only thing I don't like about peep is that the url shortening services list is a bit sparse and doesn't contain

    apart from that and your missing Astro! a nice list..

  5. paul 97

    my fav

    Apple users - if you buy a new phone from the fruit company you will have multi tasking - and if its clever enough to let apps run in the background you can have an app live soccer live scores.

    Basically a football scores app - but tell it which games you want to follow and it will notify you in various ways of a change in score - it runs in the background so you can still use your phone for all the other bits n bobs.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Stop with the facebook \ twitter apps

    Can we stop with the facebook \ twitter apps? there are hundreds and they all supply the same useless facebook \ twitter nonsence.

    there are much better apps out there for us tech-heads, like the wifi analyser and network info.

  7. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Up

    My Top Ten

    Not being a social network victim and travelling more by public transport than car:

    1. Task Manager (Wing Tseng). More sophisticated than ATK and has a handy widget to kill all background tasks.

    2. BeebPlayer (David Johnston). No argument there. Top application, and free, too.

    3. EStrongs File Explorer (EStrongs). Manipulate files on device, SD card and Windows shares.

    4. WiFi Analyser (farproc). Does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it well.

    5. Movies (Flixster). What's on, where its on, what time its on. Reviews (Rotten tomatoes) and previews.

    6. National Rail (croworc). Train timetables and live times. A bit flaky but the only App available.

    7. RealCalc (Brain Overspill). Excellent scientific calculator.

    8. MyTracks (Google) Because I sometimes like to know where I've been.

    9. BBC News (Jim Blackler). Convenient source of news. Headlines widget.

    10. Tricorder (Moonblink). Because I'm a geek.

    1. Saucerhead Tharpe
      Thumb Up

      National Rail

      I've bookmarked a link to the National Rail website, or maybe it came with the phone, it's been there so long. Anyway the mobile version of the website has the train timetable app and warns of probolems that journey may encounter and, if you are at a major station, the DETAIL will tell you the platform also

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: My Top Ten

      thanks for these (and some of the other suggestions below)

      Any chance you could write the article next time ?

    3. jai

      re: my fav

      what do you mean "if you buy a new phone"? the new OS will run background apps on the old 3G phone too

      1. Law
        Jobs Horns

        no multitasking on 2/3G phones.

        I think it's 3GS onwards for multi-tasking... other "less system intensive" OS updates are included on 3G and original though.

        I quotation marked "less system intensive" because I ran background apps on my old jailbroken iphone 3g ages ago, and unless you open tons of apps at the same time, the phone didn't suffer too badly, so they could have at least enabled multi-tasking, but for less than 2 background apps at a time, but they didn't.

        Background apps arn't such a killer feature to me on android, although I do take it for granted again now, but the killer feature is widgets... it's nice to personalise my homescreens, I find my setup completely different to my wifes, and a friends.

    4. breakfast


      MyTracks is great, but each edition seems to pack with some special irritating glitch. The first one I had spend hours looking for GPS satellites. Now it just suddenly drops to -10000 feet or similar for no clear reason....

  8. max allan

    Just shows what a rush job Android is

    Which is a shame...

    I quite like Android, but a lot of these apps (like the google docs reader) should be built in. Or the builtins should do a better job of.

    e.g. Google's Maps app should be able to do reasonable navigation. It knows where you are and has map and route data available, surely not that hard to put it all together.

    And, the HTC twitter client has a bug where it won't work over my 3G connection. Other twitterers work fine, just Peep gives a useless "failed to connect" type error.

    Finally, why is there no backup app in the list (or even in existence I think)? If you reinstall your OS the first thing it says is "make sure you have a backup" but there is no sensible way to back everything up... Most of the backup apps I've looked at have a disclaimer that they don't back everything up.

    Android's got a long way to go to catch up with iPhone, which has almost pushed me back to the Apple camp.

  9. Daniel Owen


    Not a bad list if not a little office orientated.

    Dolphin browser would have definitely been in my list

    Pkt Auctions Ebay, great app

    Locale is essential

    And recommending a navigation app when google has just mapped the entire uk? Surely Google Navigation can't be far away?

  10. Lutin


    I would add Handcent in there as the very first app that someone with an Android phone should download. It has incredible functionality for a free app. Pop-up alerts (even when screen is locked), missed text reminders, better UI layout, extremely customisable.

    You'll be disappointed with Android's texting capabilities unless you download Handcent.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just shows what a rush job Android is

      Quote: "Android's got a long way to go to catch up with iPhone, which has almost pushed me back to the Apple camp."

      Get real! The iPhone didn't even have cut'n'paste, video recording, mms, etc etc until relatively recently. If anything is "rush job" it's the fruitphone's OS.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Map data = online

      The iPhone doesn't have navigation built-in, certainly not for free. But even Google's free offering on Android requires a data connection for the maps. I've got CoPilot so I can navigate at all times, even without a signal, it's an awesome bit of software.

      For Twitter, try 'Touiteur' - it's the best twitter client out there.

      And for news, you have to try NewsRob. IMO, it's the best app on Android (and does something the iPhone can't do - even in OS 4.0 - which is to sync/download your RSS articles and cache them on the device seamlessly and invisibly in the background.

    3. Skrrp

      RE: backup

      Nandroid backup. The importance of this facility cannot be stressed enough. It's got me out of a couple of tight holes.

      Of course, this requires an unlocked bootloader. If you don't have one of these, please buy an iPhone and stop reading El Reg.

    4. Paul Shirley


      Navigation is in the latest maps update, it even manages to start before telling me my location is not yet supported, its coming. The impatient can look for the hacked maps app and use it now.

      Titanium Backup is the essential app backup tool for rooted phones.

      Cant believe no SMS replacements were listed, Handcents this weeks favourite, since ChompSMS went too far with the adverts.

      Screeble: orientation and motion controlled override for sleep, seriously extends battery life by allowing much more aggressive sleep timeouts. I like my G1 running for more than a day.

      I'd love to suggest an alternative to Fring, with its atrocious UI but its the only app where SIP 'just works'.

      Of course the ultimate 'app' is a new rooted firmware, more speed, more apps, more choice.

  11. Alastair 7

    Stuff Twitdroid

    ...You want Seesmic. Relatively new app AFAIK, and it works a lot better than 'droid IMHO.

    YMMV. Got to love acronyms.

  12. Bryan Anderson

    Like to add....

    Floating Image by Mark Gjol - free and does a slideshow from Flikr or from your own folders. Excellent and great communication with the developer.

    Volume Control by RevoSolutionary Developments - exactly what the Android volume control ought to have been. Control all volume settings and pre-set three of your own profiles. Free.

    Record It by Austin Reid - if you're in the UK and have Sky+ then this is invaluable. Let's you browse listings and set things to record from anywhere.

    Amazon MP3 - our version of the iTunes Store I guess. Works and works well. Free.

    Barcode Scanner by ZXing Team - most Android review sites include a barcode to go straight to the application in the Market. This scanner works well. Free.

    AndFTP by Lysesoft. Use this with something like Cerberus FTP Server on your desktop and have access to ALL your files anywhere in the world. Free.

    Calendar Pad by MoalApps - great week and month view and excellent widgets. Just what the Android calendar should have been. Free.

    K-9 Mail by K-9 Dog Walkers. The best email client for Android. Does Gmail, POP, IMAP, etc and does them properly. Free.

  13. MarkOne

    My Essentials.


    Opera Mini 5

    Google Skymap







    Pkt Auctions Ebay

    iMusic (NeoMusic)

  14. Anthony Shortland

    ok but....

    would have been nice if for each product you had listed minimum android version. Us poor Hero users are still stuck in the dark ages of 1.5 waiting on HTC so no doubt some of those apps wont work.

    1. HFoster

      "dark ages of 1.5..."

      Speak for yourself, squire ;-)

      My Hero is happily running KaguDroid 1.2.2 (Android 2.1) and loving it.

      However, I wonder if HTC or service providers are holding back the rollout of 2.1 to older handsets in order to maximise sales of the Desire/Nexus One, Legend and other new handsets that come with 2.1 "pret-a-porter"?

      1. Anthony Shortland

        hero 2.1

        I wasnt really that bothered until around Feb about 2.1 - and then it was rumoured to be out in march anyway so thought I'd wait rather than mess about rooting, backing up, upgrading, reinstalling apps etc only to have to do it all again a few weeks later with the official release. But now with it getting rumoured to be delayed until may I'm getting impatient and might give in and go with an unofficial rom.

      2. Paul Shirley

        2.1 too bloated for older hardware

        They're hamstrung by not having the app2sd option hacked ROMs use. 2.1 got so bloated getting it to fit into flash on older hardware is a problem and dumping apps onto SD to make space causes problems normal users won't be happy with.

  15. HaggleLad

    Some of my fav apps:

    "Setting Profiles" FREE or PAID (best profile app out there IMO, Locale CANES your battery)

    "Aldiko" FREE (the 'goto' book reader, not sure why El Reg have listed FBReader)

    "Remeber the Milk" FREE app, $25 pa subscription (the only TO DO manager you'll ever need)

    "Astrid" FREE (an alternative completely free TO DO manager)

    "Movies" FREE (aka Flixster, cinema, DVD relaase info/reviews etc)

    "Calendar Pad" FREE (calendar replacement, much better than stock)

    "Google Skymap" FREE (just get it)

    "TorrentFU" FREE (manage your torrent client)

    "Wake on LAN" FREE (wake PC's on your LAN from your phone)

    "AndChat" FREE (IRC client)

    "AnyCut" FREE (create shortcuts to an app activity)

    Will have to check out "Pkt Auctions Ebay"

    All of you chomping on Jobs' fat one (even after the recent abismal annoucment of the iAd's upgrade) take note of the fact that all the apps I've mentioned are FREE. Even if they weren't you can try them for a day before getting a refund something oftern overlooked by jesus phone preachers.

  16. Al Taylor

    @ Andy Shortland

    Fair point Andy, all the apps were tested on an HTC Hero running Android 1.5. With any luck the 2.1 update for the Hero (and the T-Mobile/Orange incarnations of the handset) should arrive later this month or early next. Fingers crossed...

    1. gav_taylor

      not going to hold my breath

      the 2.x update has been rumoured for release every month since december, with HTC keeping quiet and enjoying all the free publicity. I think the only way we will will ever see 2.x on a hero is if you install a custom rom.

      I hope I'm wrong and will gladly eat my words but as the title says...

  17. Eponymous Cowherd
    Thumb Up

    Geek goodies

    Not exactly useful, but fun for geeks.....

    i-Jetty (jan Bartel). A port of the Jetty web app server to android. Run a web server on your phone.

    Android Scripting Environment (Google). Write and run scripts directly on your phone. Download directly from (not on Market)

    AsciiCamera (jeck Landin) Take pictures in ASCII and save as text.

    Frozen Bubble (Pawel Aleksander Fedorynski). Faithful port of the Linux classic.

    Scrambled Net (Moonblink). Nice port of knetwalk.

  18. PaulR79
    Thumb Up


    I've had my G1 for what feels like years when it's only coming up to a year now but thanks to many people working on custom ROMs it still feels fresh. Why am I saying this? I'm running Eclair so these may not work on earlier ROMs, that's my disclaimer ;)

    Twitter: there are a few that stand out, some newer than others. For overall features and looks I'd go with Touiteur then Seesmic and Swift. Touiteur Pro has a built-in browser, as does Swift, Seesmic opens a few picture links internally. For all you want in an almost completely black interface I like Twicca. It's new but works very well.

    File Manager: I prefer ASTRO but the popular ones all do pretty much the same thing in slightly different ways.

    IM: nailed that with eBuddy but there's now an AIM client from AOL that works well too if you prefer that sort of thing.

    Other: Aloqa - finds places near you from categories you pick and can push notifications to you if you choose. Useful if you're driving around a strange place because it gives map directions, phone details, reviews and in some cases allows you to book tickets / tables.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My faves

    Essential to who exactly. Not me. I don't have any need for any of these pointless social networking apps. Here's my favs (not necessarily in order:

    1. TV Guide - fast for single day listing

    2. UK TV Guide - good for 3 day listings

    3. 1337pwn - for XBox live friend tracking

    4. Astro File Manager - for file management and process/service management

    5. Astrid

    6. Toggle Data for switching 3G data settings on/off

    7. MixZing

    8. EZCam - for avoiding those roadside piggy banks (speed cameras)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I just ordered a Nexus One to replace my old phone. My needs are relatively simple: Internet access when I can't use my netbook, email, unlocked, contract free and access to Flash. I really don't care for apps all that much. However I find this article and some of the comments from Android users very useful. Thanks.

  21. Adam Williamson 1

    Twitter not essential.

    Nothing involving Twitter can possibly be described as 'essential'. Unless you're a third-rate 'celebrity'.

    My contribution: Andchat is a very decent IRC client. Set yourself up a server running Bitlbee and you can use it for IM as well.

  22. Steven Raith
    Thumb Up

    My faves so far

    Twidroid - I'm not much of a Twitter user, but it works, and works well. Haven't tried the others mentioned above.

    MyTracks - great app, I use it to record my driving lessons, and out of curiousity to find out if route A to Sainburies is faster than route B, etc - nothing lifechanging, but a bit of a laugh.

    SubSonic - this is just plain fucking AWSUME. A bit techy though; install Subsonic Server and codecs (think it's Ok on Windows, Linux wants FFMPEG), install Subsonic client, point it at your IP and it will transcode any of your music, in almost any format [including FLAC, OGG, etc] to MP3 at your chosen bitrate, from 64-320.

    No need for chunky SD cards for music, just clear out the temp tracks - or if you have a chunky SD card, you can download the transcoded music to your phone and play them back through your media player of choice. I cannot state just how great this is.

    I'm lucky enough to have a machine with Xenserver on it, so I have two servers - one at 320kbps on a LAN IP for wifi (saves me manually transcoding/copying stuff to SD card all the time) and one at 160kbps for when on 3G - as it saves my bandwidth allowance.

    If you want choons on an android phone, you really, really need to check it out. It's free to try, then they suggest donating, which I reckon is worth it.

    Other than that, there are a couple of other noteworthy apps - Dolphin Browser is a great alternative to the [not bad] inbuilt browser, with tab support and what not.

    ES File Explorer is essential if you want ot browse your SAMBA/CIFS shares.

    Colour Flashlight by socialnmobile is handy if you sneak about at night in a shared house and don't want to wake your mates by putting the lights on - it makes the screen go all white, and sounds stupid and blindingly obvious - and it is - but it works a treat.

    I'm currently running Android 2.1 on a Galaxy Portal [with what appears to be a near final 2.1 image - it' getting rolled out as the official update as I type to various regions] and if you can get it on your phone, do get it - it makes a competent, usable device [Android 1.5] into a seriously usable tool.

    And to go with that, get HelixLauncher and HomeSwitcher [you'll need the latter to enable the former] which is an alternate home screen for Android, and on upgraded 2.1 handsets, makes the Pantheon launcher [the default one] seem slow and primitive. Essential on 2.1'd Galaxy Portals IMO - it's just as quick as 1.5, but the slow Pantheon launcher makes it seem slower.

    I'm really, really starting to get into Android now - unless you want a safe, proscribed, handholding experience, it's either this or Windows Mobile (for how long?) if you like to customise your handset - it's awsume.

    Steven R

  23. M Gale

    ALK Copilot screenshot

    Worsley Rd, on the junction to Vendale Ave. Near to Wallwork Opticians, United Norwest Cooperative, and Worsley Golf club. Somewhat close to "Ladies Workout Express".

    I'm sure that's a Bastard article in the making...

  24. Rob Davis

    Missing: Fax from mobile via Fring/Skype/Truphone

    I'd like to be able to send faxes of images (and word/pdf etc docs - converted to fax compatible images) from the phone via a Skype/Fring/Truphone account.

    Since all of these services can connect calls to the plain old telephony network, then they ought to be able to do the same for sending or receiving faxes.

    I know that faxing isn't a major (or exciting) method of communication but it is still necessary or useful for some business transactions.

    Having a fax application/service on a mobile via a pay-as-you-go service such as Skype/Fring/truphone would mean no need to pay for a landline, be able to do it on the move and not have to pay a regular (e.g. monthly) subscription to the usual internet-based replacement fax service - much more economical for irregular occasional use.

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