Most people don't expect to see an Android app wrapped up as a present for Christmas, but a great mobile app can be a lifesaver, fill a real need in your life, and be well worth a little cash. Here are our favourite apps worth gifting the Android owner (or Android-owner to be) on your gift list.
Picture by Reilly Butler
Many of these apps also have free versions that you or the Android-fan on your list may or may not be used to working with, but they're all apps where you can get great additional features if you're willing to lay down a few bucks for the full versions.
Tasker is the ultimate Android customisation and tweaking tool. We've talked about Tasker and some of the awesome things you can do with the app in the past, but the most important thing to remember when you give Tasker as a gift is that you're opening a whole new world of possibilities for the person you're giving the app to. With Tasker, they can truly automate common tasks, like setting their phone to silent and turning off Wi-Fi when you head to the office, or turn Wi-Fi back on when you get home. Seven dollars in the Android Market buys you the ability to tweak your Android phone so you never have to repeat a boring or irriating task again.
Beautiful Widgets (normally $2.66, 10c for today only)
Depending on the manufacturer and version of Android on your friend's phone, the default widgets, clock, calendar, news and weather widgets can all look great or dated and terrible. Beautiful Widgets gives the gift of a gorgeous home screen to your friend with a dreary, stock Android device. The widget package includes clocks, battery status indicators, Wi-Fi signal strength, weather widgets, and more. As long as you're giving the gift of customisation for the holidays, Beautiful Widgets is a great option.
Gentle Alarm ($2.63)
If you have a chronically late Android-owner on your holiday gift list, give them the gift of Gentle Alarm. The app supports multiple alarms, the ability to wake to music or generic alarm tones that start off low and quiet but rise in volume to make sure you actually wake up and stop ignoring the alarm. You can also set Gentle Alarm to force you to complete memory puzzles, and even tries to wake you up when you're lightly sleeping so you wake up better. There is a free trial of the app, but the full version of the app is well worth paying for yourself, or buying for a friend (or a spouse who has trouble waking up first in the morning so you don't get a late start.)
Titanium Backup Pro ($6.49)
Titanium Backup is probably the most powerful Android backup tool on the market. We've mentioned it several times, once as part of our guide to setting up a fully-automated backup process for your phone, and again as a tool to make the process of migrating to a new Android phone easier. Our Android phones have a lot of information on them that it would be bad to lose. This Christmas give the gift of a phone that's backed up in case the data is lost, or the phone is lost or stolen. When you give the full version, you also give the ability to back up all of the phone's apps, data, and settings to Dropbox, automatically, so your friend, coworker, or family member doesn't even have to think about it.
Using an Android phone in a Microsoft Exchange environment can be tricky. Android's built-in mail client doesn't support all of Exchange's features, but TouchDown, also known as Exchange by TouchDown, is the most Exchange-compatible email client for Android. TouchDown brings your Exchange calendar, contacts, and tasks. A copy of TouchDown Pro is a great gift for a colleague that really wishes they could use their Android phone (or their new Android phone) for work and stop carrying multiple devices. It's pricey, but once they start using it, they'll never look back.
PowerAmp is our favourite music player for Android, and many of you have said you're more than willing to pay for it as well. If you have a friend who's settled for the stock Android player, give them an option that will bring their music to life with on-the-go playlists, a full 10-band equaliser, home screen widgets for playback control, and a built-in album art finder and tag editor.
Launcher Pro Plus ($3.40)
The stock Android launcher leaves a lot to be desired, and the free version of Launcher Pro does a great deal to make the way you interact with your phone smoother, easier, and more fun. If the Android-user on your list hasn't ditched a manufacturer-installed launcher like Motorola's MotoBlur or HTC's SenseUI, now is the time to give them one. The full version of Launcher Pro Plus also includes a wealth of home screen widgets and custom icons that can be used to further customise the Android experience.
ADW Launcher EX ($3.15)
There's no need to give two launchers to the same person, but where Launcher Pro Plus is designed to be clean and simple, ADW Launcher EX offers a wealth of customisation options, themes, home screen widgets, icons, and everything anyone on your list with an Android phone needs to build a highly customised and tweaked home screen on any ROM.
Rom Manager ($5.99)
ROM Manager is a great application for backing up and managing your Android phone, but if the Android-user on your shopping list has gone beyond rooting their phone and is ready to try some ROMs and builds of Android, ROM Manager is an essential utility. They may already have it installed, but give them the Pro version, which gives them access to premium ROMs, automatically checks for updates to the ROMs you have downloaded, automatic backups, and removes the ads from the app. Even if you already use Titanium Backup to backup your phone, the full version of ROM Manager is a great tool to have.
DoggCatcher is our pick for the best podcast manager for Android and for good reason. It's a powerful, customisable podcast catcher that can download your podcasts only when your phone has Wi-Fi, isn't in use, or at night, and has a massive directory of podcasts you can subscribe to and the option to add your own via RSS, OPML, or Google Reader and Google Listen. Doggcatcher also supports offline playback, authenticated feeds, variable speed playback, and more. If you're shopping for apps for an Android-lover that still carries another media player for podcasts, or heaven forbid insists on watching them on their desktop or laptop, give them DoggCatcher. It will change their life.
SwiftKey X ($3.99)
While the best Android keyboard for you is highly dependant on the type of Android typer you are, SwiftKey X is a great option for anyone who prefers their Android phone finish their sentences for them so they can save time and energy. The app can even scan Facebook, Twitter and other social network posts to learn more about how you type and the words you use so it can do a better job of predicting what you're about to say before you type it. If you're tired of watching the Android-owner on your list hunt and peck with the native keyboard, consider giving them the gift of effortless typing.
Camera Zoom FX ($4.62)
Camera Zoom FX is the most powerful camera app for Android we've seen. In addition to giving you much finer control over your device's camera and settings than even the built-in camera offers, Camera Zoom FX actually helps you take better pictures by giving you the tools to line up your shot, a timer so you can actually get into your photos, automatic geotagging and more. The best camera is the one you have on you, and if you know an Android user who loves to take pictures with their phone, give them an app that they'll love and will help them take better photos.
JuiceDefender Ultimate ($5.99)
As devices packed with more features come onto the market, managing a phone's battery life is a much more difficult task than it used to be. Juice Defender Ultimate is one of those apps that many of you have said you're willing to pay for, mostly because it automates the process of shutting down unnecessary services and features to save battery life as the remaining power dwindles. At the very least, your giftee will be able to rest easily knowing that there's a utility on his or her phone that's working behind the scenes to make sure they
Getting quick access to your camera app when you need to catch a shot or your music player when you need to quickly change songs or skip a song you won't want to listen to is essential. With WidgetLocker, you can add shortcuts to your camera app, music player, or any other apps you want quick access to right onto your lock screen. This way if you need to grab a quick photo, just tap the shortcut to your camera app to open it instead of unlocking your phone first and launching it manually. we've talked about WidgetLocker before, and if your Android-owner is griping that iOS and Windows Phone 7 both allow quick access to the camera, WidgetLocker is a great gift that emulates the same functionality.
TuneIn Radio Pro ($0.99)
Streaming internet radio is easy to come by, but TuneIn Radio Pro gives any Android user thousands of options, including local, international, and internet-only streaming radio stations. If you're travelling, or have a favourite radio station that you'd like to take with you on your Android device, TuneIn Radio can likely help. The app does offer over 50,000 radio stations and 1.2 million internet streams, and the ability to record what you're listening to. If you're buying a gift for an Android user who's far from home or just enjoys streaming radio, TuneIn Radio Pro is a low-cost gift that provides virtually unlimited streaming music of all types and genres and in dozens of different languages.
As an addendum: if you're giving an Android-user the gift of a new ROM this holiday season, consider donating to the ROM developer. Not only will they appreciate your donation and continue work on building great ROMs, they also often grant early access to beta and pre-production builds and updates of their ROMs to the people who have been kind enough to donate to them. Check and see if the Android-lower on your list has a particular passion for a certain ROM, and then donate in their name. Everyone wins.
These are just a few apps you can pre-load on a shiny new Android device if you're giving it to someone thisChristmas, or that you can gift to the Android-lover in your life if they've changed your life as much as they've changed ours. Do you have any other apps you'd consider so good you have to share them? Let us know in the comments below.