Whether you’re a faithful Android user or you’ve just unboxed your first Android phone, there’s a wealth of free and cheap apps in the Android Market that can turn your device into a mobile powerhouse. Our second annual Lifehacker Pack for Android is stuffed full of apps to keep you connected to home, office and friends, or just help you stay entertained on the go.
The Lifehacker Pack is a yearly snapshot of our favourite, must-have applications for each of our favourite platforms. If you’re curious to see how things have changed this year, here’s last year’s Lifehacker Pack for Android.
Want to skip to a specific category? Use these links:
- Food and Entertainment
- Art and Photography
- The Extended Pack
Evernote for Android has been regularly updated and has come a long way since it made it into our pack last year. The app scored a huge update in April that added shared notebooks, geolocation, sharing with Facebook and tighter integration on your phone, and more. Evernote says mobile is their most rapidly growing space, and it shows in their Android app.
Springpad is another utility that allows you to take notes and snippets from the web and the things around you and save them for future reference. Where Evernote focuses on notes and web clippings, Springpad expands the idea to products, places and more. The app combines all of those clippings with a robust organiser and to-do manager that can change the way you work.
What started as a side project of a Google engineer has turned into Android’s leading to-do list organiser and manage, and is still one of our favourites. It’s simply, it’s easy to use, it syncs with Remember The Milk, and it’ll keep you in line so you don’t forget to do the things you need to do.
Dolphin Browser HD
Dolphin HD is still one of our favourite alternative Android browsers, and given the state of Android fragmentation, it’s good to have a browser that’ll work well on any version of Android you may have. The interface is reminiscent of desktop browsers, with tabs on top for easy access, but they slide away to save real estate. Even though we like Dolphin Browser, it’s certainly not the only one out there.
Twitter for Android
There are plenty of great Android Twitter clients available, but we keep coming back to the official Twitter for Android app because it’s clean, easy to use, and it gets the job done. Plus, the app was recently updated with multiple account support and push notifications, making it even better.
Google’s new social network is now the fastest growing social network ever, and just topped 25 million users. As soon as the network launched, the Google+ Android app launched with it. The app gives you access to your stream and all of your circles on your phone, can automatically upload your photos to Google+, and lets you see and join Huddles on your phone quickly. If you’re in Google+, the Android app is a must-have.
Google Maps and Navigation
Every Android phone comes with turn-by-turn navigation and driving directions, complete with traffic overlays, drive times, nearby petrol stations, and even restaurants on the way if you want something to eat when you’re on the way. Google Maps Navigation will even route you around traffic if the path is congested, and if you prefer you can just fire up the map to get a top-down view of where you’re planning to go.
Even though it’s actually a to-do list and task management suite, the ReQall app for Android can tell where you are and remind you if you have something to do in that location. You’ll never again have to drive home from the office, pass the supermarket, and completely forget that you meant to buy milk and eggs on the way. Here’s how to use ReQall to make your to-dos come to you.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive backup utility for your Android phone, Titanium Backup is the app for you. The app can back up your files, your SD card, your apps, your settings and configuration, and even dump all of that data to the SD card or Dropbox so you can root, tweak, and play with your phone, then restore if you need to. Titanium Backup is central to our guide to setting up an automated backup process for your Android phone.
Dropbox is still the go-to file syncing and storage solution for almost every major platform. There are alternatives, but we still love Dropbox for its wide availability and its ecosystem of utilities, tools, and plug-ins that are available for it. Plus, since the app doesn’t take up space on your phone until you download a file, it’s a great way to extend the storage of your phone without adding anything to it.
Swype is so popular that more Android phones come with it pre-installed than don’t these days. If you haven’t used it yet, it’s worth the download. Once you start using it you won’t find yourself tapping individual letters every again. You’ll get so used to gliding your fingers across the screen from letter to letter that you’ll miss it if you move to a new phone without it.
If you’ve ever said to yourself “I wish my phone would do this and then immediately do that” without having to do it yourself, Tasker is for you. You don’t have to be a power user to make the most of Tasker, but it definitely helps. Tasker is perfect for turning on Wi-Fi when you get to the office without you having to interact with your phone, or turning on Bluetooth when you get in the car.
Voice Search has been upgraded several times since it made the pack last year, and if you’re not making use of it, you should be. The app now lets you navigate by voice command just by speaking the address, send emails and SMS messages by speaking the recipient and then the message, and of course, search the web quickly by talking to your phone. Once you get used to dictating your SMS messages while driving, you’ll never feel the urge to text while driving again.
There’s no shortage of file management and browsing tools for Android, but File Expert gives you a tabbed interface that’s easy to browse, easy to search, and lets you share those files with other computers on your network via Wi-Fi without connecting to a computer. The app even rolls in an SMB client for audio and video streaming on remote computers when you’re away from home.
The Kindle app for Android gives you access to Amazon’s massive ebook store and all of the books inside. You can read them on your Android phone, or you can save your place and pick up on your PC or Mac, or on your Kindle Ereader, if you have one ” but with the Android app, you may not need one.
The default Android player leaves much to be desired, especially media format support. MoboPlayer crashed onto the scene with software decoding and broad format support, a smooth and clean player that supports gestures to control playback and volume, and is completely free.
Google Listen may be ubiquitous when it comes to downloading and enjoying podcasts on your Android phone, but Doggcatcher is probably the best app for the job. The app supports audio and video podcasts, variable speed playback, off-hours downloads or Wi-Fi only downloads, and even though it’s pricey, many of you thought it was more than worth the money when we looked at the best mobile podcast catchers.
Food and Entertainment
FourSquare has come a ways from just being a way to tell the world where you are at any given moment and collect points to see outgoing you are compared to your friends. Now that the service is rolling in local deals and check-in bonuses and benefits with businesses in communities around the country, FourSquare can be a great way to have a little fun checking in and sharing your location with friends, but also a great way to save a few bucks on appetizers and drinks at your local bar.
Art and Photography
iOS users have Instagram, but everyone has PicPlz, another social network/photo sharing service that will remix your photos with filters and effects to add interest and then share them with your friends on the service and with your friends on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other networks. PicPlz will even drop your photos on Dropbox so you can get to them on other devices if you want.
Magic Hour, named for those first and last sunlit hours of the day where the light is perfect for shooting video and capturing gorgeous photos, offers filters and photo editing tools to tweak your photos on your Android phone. You can apply simple filters to add interest, or you can change the brightness, contrast, or build your own filters to apply, and then share the final product with friends. Check out the free version to get a feel for the app before buying filters or buying the full version.
Camera 360 also applies filters and effects to your photos to try and spice them up, but the focus of this app isn’t just to make photos of your cat more palatable to your Twitter friends. Camera 360 has HDR effect filters, a tilt-shift and colour-shift mode for your existing photos, and the ability to share those final photos on Facebook or Twitter.
The Extended Pack
Twidroyd, Twicca and TweetDeck
Twitter clients are a point of contention for many people — everyone has their favourite. If you dislike the official Twitter client, TweetDeck gives you access to your Twitter feed and your Facebook stream in one app, and many of you have suggested Twicca to us as a beautiful client that’s worth mention — so we took a look. Also, it’s worth noting that Twidroyd was our App Pack selection for Best Twitter client.
Swiftkey and 8pen
Swype is certainly the ubiquitous alternative Android keyboard, but it’s not the only one out there. We’ve discussed some of the best Android keyboards out there based on the type of typer you are, so don’t stick with Swype just because you have it. 8pen may look wacky, but once you start using it, it’s remarkably intuitive, and Swiftkey’s latest updates make it even more attractive and easy to use, especially for tablet users.
This list is hardly exclusive, and there are tons of other great Android apps we couldn’t feature here. Do you have Android apps not listed that you can’t live without? Share your favourites in the comments below.