Must-Have Android Apps of 2011
Oh, 2011, you sure were a big year for Google’s Android platform. The market share of Android smartphones grew to 46.9%, double its share just a year ago. Meanwhile, industry torch carrier, Apple, also saw an increase over the same period, but a more modest one. It held steady at No. 2 with a 28.7% market share.
Though shipment and sales numbers are increasing for both platforms as we move into a mobile age, the stats show that Android is finding a way to reach new customers at a significantly higher rate than Apple. However, what’s really important about Android’s growth isn’t what it means for the industry; it’s what it means for you, the user.
Android’s market is bigger and better than ever, and the operating system gets smarter and cleaner with every update. Below, The Recapp recounts the 10 must-have Android apps of 2011, several by Google itself. Load up all 10 and you might start making your iPhone-loving friends itch with jealousy.
Let’s face it: Physical media are dying. So much so that Netflix tried to jump the gun on severing the DVD deliveries from its service at the expense of the customer earlier this year. Lucky for us, we pitched such a fit that the convenient deliveries were quickly brought back. But PR gaffes aside, Netflix is still an excellent service; now more than ever thanks to its streaming library of movies and TV shows.
Having that same streaming library available on your phone, thanks to the Netflix movie app, is downright incredible. Though film buffs may take issue with watching a film on a cell phone, the rest of us may never again pick up a magazine in a waiting room. Thank you, Netflix, for listening to your customers. (Free for Android and iPhone)
Google’s latest brainchild is one that, for now, is a cooler concept than it is a practical tool. But that shouldn’t stop you from sticking your toe into the warm waters of the future. Google Wallet provides a pin-protected replacement for your credit cards, debit cards and even cash. After the initial set up, simply punch in your pin and swipe it past the sensor at the pay station and your transaction is done.
For now, it only works with Citi MasterCard, but you can load a virtual Prepaid Google Card with money from any other account you might have. The number of places you can use Google Wallet is still limited, but is steadily growing. As an added bonus, the mobile payment app is integrated with Google Offers, Google’s answer to Groupon. So much Google! (Free for Android)
It made it on our list of Best iPhone Apps of 2011, and it made it on our list here as well for Android. That’s saying something.
2011 was a huge year for music. It seems that capitalism has finally caught up to the “access first” sensibilities preached and practiced by the industry scapegoat, Napster, over a decade ago. If you missed our cloud-centric music-app rundown, check it out.
Though it’s a close call, Spotify reigns supreme. (Amazon MP3 and Google Music are cool Android apps as well.) Spotify not only does away with CD purchases, it vanquishes the need for MP3s as well. Everything in the music app’s massive library is free to stream. To get it ad-free and on your smartphone, you’ll have to pay a subscription fee. But hey, $9.99 is still way cheaper than all of the music you would have to (legally) buy without it. (Free to $9.99 for Android and iPhone)
If you’re anything like us, you are as brimming with brilliant ideas as you are forgetful. Catch Notes is an ever-evolving note-taking app that saves your notes in your phone and syncs them to the web. The sleek, simple interface allows you to take notes in the form of text, audio or photo, and even set reminders if you so desire.
There are a lot of “reminder” and “list” apps out there, but for your money (it’s free), Catch Notes is the way to go. (Free for Android and iPhone)
Dropbox is a cloud storage service that virtually eliminates concerns of storage space on your phone. One better: it eliminates concerns that you’ll ever forget the files and photos you need.
Saving files of any kind to your Dropbox makes them (almost) instantly accessible from anywhere you go—all you need is your Dropbox login. Drop something in from your desktop and access it through your smartphone from the road. Take as many photos as you’d like with your phone’s camera and store them as hi-res files in your Dropbox to make way for more. Simple as that. What’s not to love? (Free for Android and iPhone)
Simply titled “Movies,” this Rotten Tomatoes-powered movie app is so good we use it even when we’re sitting in front of our computers. Really! The review-aggregator website integrates its content, but takes a back seat to the useful stuff: theaters, show times and reviews. Only certain theaters support in-app ticket purchases (similar to Fandango), but no single app exists that sells for them all. Wouldn’t that be nice?
As a bonus, Movies links to your personal Rotten Tomatoes reviews, which also links to Facebook. You can see what movies your friends liked, what they didn’t and what they still want to see. If you’re ever pondering a trip to the movies, this is the app to turn to. (Free for Android and iPhone)
The popular desktop video-communication service made its way to mobile phones this year. Chances are, if you use it, it’s already saving you money. The Skype app can call other Skype users free of charge for voice and video chat. This is great if you’re short on minutes or interested in making international calls. Just be sure your far-flung chat buddy has the app, too—and a Wi-Fi connection. Then you’re good to go! (Free for Android and iPhone)
There is no end to camera apps and photo-filter apps, but every now and then we find one that we not only like but actually use. As the name implies, Paper Camera turns your photos into drawings on paper. Your digital images can be made to look like sketches, comics, paintings and even neon lights. The edges stay crisp and the colors translate naturally. Paper Camera’s effects are not only unique, but they actually look really good, too.
More charming still is the photo app’s interface, which appears to be crudely drawn on a crumpled sheet of paper. But don’t let the look fool you: this app is anything but a throwaway. ($0.99 to $1.99 for Android and iPhone)
For all the connectivity and content our smartphones provide, reading on a smartphone still proves to be a bit of a drag. Most websites aren’t formatted for mobile use yet. Short of downloading the proprietary app of each of your favorite media outlets, there hasn’t really been a way around this content hurdle until Google Currents.
Google Currents provides free, phone-designed access to a host of top magazines and online news sources. It also syncs to your Google Reader account and integrates the content into a visually appealing, tiny-screen-formatted magazine. No matter what you read on your phone, you can do so in style and with ease. (Free for Android and iPhone)
There’s something slightly disconcerting about the advent of check-ins. Do you really need all of your Twitter followers or Facebook acquaintances (you know the ones), to know exactly where you are? Glympse gives you that option, of course, but takes a seemingly obvious, yet brilliant, step further. With the social app, you can decide which people see where you are and for how long they can see it. As soon as the notification duration time you set is up, your check-in status disappears to your followers’ and friends’ eyes.
This, of course, covers for the overshare of check-ins, but it’s really perfect for all of those vague, frustrating “Where you at?” back-and-forths. Glympse is definitely a cool Android app. (Free for Android and iPhone)