Everyone has their own favorite apps for their droid but for those new to the Android experience, here are 5 of the best applications you simply must install and try. These aren’t boring technical applications like an anti-virus, or backup managers and task killers as you’ll see from the short reviews below. These are fun, tangible applications that make you feel happy you own a droid. All these apps can be download from the Google Play Store. And best of all, they’re free.
1. WhatsApp :-
WhatsApp is the classic texting application, available on almost every kind of smart phone there is. The fact that it isn’t device specific makes it appealing as a cross-platform texting application. There is no limit to the number of messages a user may send.
WhatsApp is also completely ad-free and takes just a minute to set up and start using. It also allows creation of groups, sending broadcast messages, sharing pictures, audio and video files and contact information. Lately a few other cross-platform texting applications have emerged, but none match the simplicity and universal appeal of WhatsApp. It’s also completely free and unlike other apps does not have a limited free version and a paid full version.
2. Dolphin Browser :-
The stock browser on most Android phones leaves much to be desired. It’s slow, buggy and lags all the time. Fortunately there are a host of other browsers out there that make browsing the internet less of an exercise in self-control. Dolphin browser is one of the fastest mobile browsers there is on the Play Store today. It loads pages quickly, re-sizes font while zooming in and out with sufficient clarity and makes browsing on your droid a fun experience. The browser also comes with a lot of other bells and whistles; some of which are actually really useful, like the ability to save web pages for future reading, while others are more of a sales gimmick, such as the in-built voice control.
An interesting feature of the browser is the ability to download and install add-ons that make the browser more versatile, or just better looking – the browser can be customized with themes and wallpapers to make it look funkier. Other add-ons such as password managers or offline web-page viewing tools can be installed as well.
Finally the Dolphin gesture feature allows you to select a web site by drawing a gesture on the screen. So drawing a “G” would open Google and an “F” would open Facebook. Users can also save their own gestures to trigger whatever web site they want. While this feature looks cool and is fun to use the first few times, the gesture recognition system is very basic and you can’t really create complicated designs. It is way simpler to just type the name of the web site, or access it via bookmarks.
3. Swype :-
Sure, the stock keyboard on you droid is effective. It gets the job done. It has basic predictive text and should suffice for your first few messages. But if you’re an avid texter you simply must give Swype a try. Instead of tapping each key to text individual alphabets Swype makes you slide your finger across keys to input text. Not only does this look and feel really cool, it’s actually faster than typing every individual key. The advanced auto-correct and prediction engine used does a good job of trying to understand what you are trying to say. It offers word suggestions based on previous words used. The more you use Swype, the better it gets at understanding what you are trying to say and after a few days you will notice an increase in your texting speed.
Swype has support for over 55 languages and is advertised as a “Living Language”, which means it constantly grows and updates itself. It scans popular news feeds and magazines to identify what the latest buzzwords are and includes them in its dictionary. Swype also has smart gestures that allow you to perform tasks such as “Select All”, “Cut”, “Copy” and “Paste” by making the appropriate Swype gestures. This actually works quite well in practice although it does take some getting used to.
Note that Swype isn’t actually available on the Google Play Store. Instead the APK can be downloaded directly from the manufacturer’s website. Download Swype.
Even if you don’t want to use the Swype gestures and if the “sliding your fingers to type” isn’t really your thing, Swype actually manages to be a really good tap keyboard as well, definitely better than the stock keyboard. So do yourself a favor. Try Swype.
4. SoundHound :-
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at a bar, having a few drinks with some friends and suddenly a song starts to play. You’ve heard it before and it’s familiar but you can’t put your finger on the name. Your retarded friends are equally clueless. Now the song is really catching on to you and you just have to know the name. Enter SoundHound.
SoundHound has the awesome ability to listen to a song and then identify its name, artist and display its lyrics. It is a must-have App for all those music lovers out there. All you have to do is tap the search button and SoundHound does the rest. It can even identify songs that you hum or sing provided you sing decently (Unlike me. I tried getting this to work with my voice and the software kept thinking I was Celine Dion. I’m a 22 year old male. 😦 )
But on the bright side, this means that if you’re at a live concert and want to know the name of a song, SoundHound will be able to identify it. The app also has the ability to save a sound clip for future analysis in case you don’t have internet access at the time of listening to the song.
SoundHound also has billboards with stats about what the most popular song searches are. It’s nice to be able to see what the majority is listening to. The app also has a built in music player allowing you to listen to the latest and greatest music on the go. Oh, and best of all. All of this is free. There is a Pro version that removes ads and includes a few extra features but I felt no reason to upgrade. There used to be an App called “Shazam” that offered similar functionality, but today SoundHound is the way to go.
5. TrueCaller :-
Don’t you hate it when you get those annoying prank calls at 2 in the morning? Or when you’re driving to work and an annoying telemarketer calls and just won’t give up?
TrueCaller allows you look up the name, address and service provider of any phone number (telephone/number reverse lookup). It has a growing database that now includes more than 12 million users as of 2012. It also functions as a rudimentary caller ID. How it works is that when you install TrueCaller, you are given the option to enable “Enhanced Search”. By consenting you are then allowing TrueCaller to access your phonebook and store the contacts there, in their database. You have to opt for “Enhanced Search” to avail of any decent search facility hence it’s almost mandatory that you let TrueCaller store your contacts.
Interestingly this is true of all the devices that TrueCaller is available on such as iOS, Symbian and Windows Phone, except Android. Android users do not have to give access to their phonebook to avail the search facility. This makes TrueCaller a risk-free must-have app for a droid user.
The app also has a call-filter function allowing you to block unwanted callers such as pre-recorded service provider messages or irritating calls from tele-marketers telling you about their “New and Amazing post-paid plan”.
Another really nice feature of this app is its social network integration. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter integration is possible. Facebook integration is particularly nice as it tries to map all your contacts to your Facebook friends, updating information such as birthdays, anniversaries and pictures. So the contacts app looks a lot more colorful with tiny pictures alongside all of the names. A really nice function is the ability to manually map a particular contact to a particular Facebook friend. This is useful when you’ve saved a friend’s name on your phone as something funny or unique. For example I have a contact on my phone I’ve named “Bingo”. It was great to be able to map this contact with his Facebook ID manually.
These were my 5 Must Have Apps as of January 2013. I’ll be updating this post every 6 months or so to reflect the changes and newer apps that come into the market. Also, notice that none of the above mentioned apps require root access. I will be doing a separate section on “5 Must Have Apps for a Rooted Droid”. If you have any questions, just post them in the comments section. Cheers!