My Favorite Android Apps For Newbies With A Droid Phone

by Lynnette

Android, apps, Firefox, Google, phones,

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motorola-droid-x-phone.jpg Before I got my new Motorola Droid X phone, I had an iPhone 3.

Back then, I wrote about all of my favorite iPhone apps — to help newbies figure out which ones might be worth exploring. (I also touched on the best iPhone game apps for non-gamers.)

Now, I’ll share my favorite Android apps.

I’ve also been asking friends what their favorite Droid apps are. It’s interesting to see what’s important to some, what’s not important to others, and where people put their priorities in terms of smartphone apps.

These are my favorites… today, as a brand new Android phone owner. I’m sure they’ll change over time, which is why I plan to update this post as I find new apps and learn new things.

If you read my earlier post about my switch from the iPhone to a Droid X, then you know I’m still fairly new to Android apps at this point.

Below I share which Droid apps are my favorites so far. I plan to add to this list as I fine-tune my favorites over time.


Practical Tools

Droidlight LED Flashlight – FREE
by Motorola Inc
Why I Like It: It’s the most powerful flashlight in the Android Marketplace because it uses the camera’s LED flash instead of the phone’s screen. Try it, you won’t settle for those flashlight apps that just light up your phone’s screen any longer! – FREE
by LLC
Why I Like It: It helps me find good Scrabble words in a hurry when I’m playing word games with other Droid X owners. (UPDATE: I ended up removing this app and using Scrabble Helper for my word games instead)

Urbanspoon – FREE
by Urbanspoon Team
Why I Like It: It’s a fast way to find restaurants nearby — by cuisine, price, or city. I also use Places and Maps to find restaurants. They all pick up different restaurants and they display results in slightly different ways too.



Handcent SMS – FREE
by handcent_admin
Why I Like It: It’s a kick-butt text messaging program! I’ve never seen a program with more customizable options than this one. Every single little thing can be personalized just about any way you like it. You also have the option to make your txt notifications similar to iPhone notifications. I especially like the option that turns on the pop-up box which shows your incoming text messages (and lets you reply) without having to unlock your phone each time.

GDocs – FREE
by WildArt
Why I Like It: I use Google Docs on my desktop and laptop computers for all of my word processing (and spreadsheet and powerpoint) needs. This syncs perfectly, so I have all of my documents at my fingertips and can even edit them on the go.

Gmail – FREE
by Google Inc
Why I Like It: How do I love Gmail?… Oh, let me count the ways! There are too many to count, that’s for sure. You can’t beat the effortless syncing of your email across all computers.

Google Voice – FREE
by Google Inc
Why I Like It: It’s how you get Visual Voicemail (for FREE) on your Android phone. Until you’ve tried it, you won’t really understand just how great this app is. Plus, if you don’t have an unlimited Data plan on your phone, you just use your Google Voice number (instead of your regular cell phone number) for texting and you don’t pay a thing!

PdaNet – FREE
by June Fabrics Technology
Why I Like It: It’s the only way that I know of to officially tether your phone to your laptop computer, giving you Internet access without having a WiFi spot nearby. Plus, it’s more secure than WiFi hotspots as well.

GoMarks for Google Bookmarks – FREE
by AndroAppsDev
Why I Like It: At first, I was frustrated to learn that Instapaper isn’t available as an app on Android phones. Sure, I could have used Read It Later on the Droid to save things I find online to read later, but I found this GoMarks app even easier. Plus, it integrates with the GMarks app in Firefox (and the YAGBE app in Chrome) that I’m already using to sync my Google Bookmarks across all my computers. For the “read it later” function, I simply save things that I want to read later in a folder called “Later” on GoMarks. Now, that “Later” folder appears on all of my computers and I can read through those things at my leisure. (UPDATE: I later decided to only use Google Bookmarks for the personal bookmarks that I tend to use on a daily basis. I use Diigo Bookmarks for bookmarking other types of things — see below.)

GTasks – FREE
by Dato
Why I Like It: It’s the best to-do list ar
ound! Mostly because it automatically syncs with the Google Tasks program on your computer. You can create, edit, and view all of your lists from wherever you are. I use this program several times throughout the day – both on my computer and on my phone.

ReaderScope – $2.49 after a 5-day FREE trial
by altcanvas
Why I Like It: I tried most of the popular RSS readers for Android phones that immediately sync with Google Reader feeds. On my desktop computer, I use Feedly to do that. On my Android phone, I found ReaderScope to be the best one. Runners up included Greed Lite and NewsRob (in that order).

Diigodroid – FREE
by Tarmo Toikkanen
Why I Like It: For years, I’ve been saving bookmarks that pertain to articles I plan to write, things I plan to Tweet, and stuff I plan to share with my Facebook friends in Diigo. It’s great for storing bookmarks online that you can access across all computers (and share with friends and co-workers). I use a unique Tag naming structure for my Diigo bookmarks which is different from the Tags I use for my daily-use bookmarks that I store in Google Bookmarks (or GMarks/GoMarks/YAGBE), The Diigodroid app makes it relatively easy to save things directly to my Diigo account, rather than having to save them first to Instapaper or Read It Later (or even to my “later” folder in GoMarks for that matter).

Dropbox – FREE
by Dropbox Inc
Why I Like It: You can easily send files and photos from your phone to your computer (or from one computer to another, or from one friend to another). Think of it as a virtual network between your own computers (without having to “network” your computers and buy a wireless router). It’s similar to Go To My PC. Instead of having access to your entire computer wherever you go, you have access to this one folder anywhere you go. Kind of like a permanent flash drive! You can have up to 2GB of info in that folder at any one time (or more for a fee). Here are some other clever ways to use Dropbox.

If you decide to try Dropbox, if you use this link then you and I both get an extra 250MB of storage space! (On top of the standard 2GB that’s already FREE. It’s their incentive for helping to spread the word about Dropbox.)



social-networking-screen-droid-x.jpg Facebook for Android – FREE
(by Facebook)
Why I Like It: I don’t really use this “official” Facebook app. It downloaded automatically when I connected the Social Networking widget with my Facebook account. I primarily view, comment, and like friends’ Facebook posts through the Social Networking widget alone. If you haven’t tried this Motorola Widget yet, it’s definitely worth a look. I have 3 of them set up on one of my screens. One for my really close friends, one for people I’m trying to get to know better, and one that I just watch what others are saying. You can pick and choose exactly which Facebook friends you want to include in each one.

Hootsuite – FREE
(by Hootsuite)
Why I Like It: I tried the #1 Twitter app for Android (Twidroyd). It’s good, but Hootsuite is better in terms of managing multiple Twitter accounts, receiving notifications, scheduling tweets, and viewing lists. Plus, you can do all of those same things with your Facebook account (including Facebook Pages) through the Hootsuite app.



PhoneFlicks-Netflix Android – FREE
by Next Mobile Web
Why I Like It: It syncs flawlessly with your Netflix account. You can do everything… including move items around in your queue (both disc and instant streaming queues). Your entire account is available at your fingertips. I also like it for seeing at a glance if a movie got decent ratings or not, along with details about each movie.

TV Guide Mobile – FREE
Why I Like It: It’s FAST! You can see in a millisecond what’s on TV, save your favorite shows, and set reminders.

Movies – FREE
Flixster Inc
Why I Like It: It has everything you could possibly want to know about movies including what’s in theaters right now, which movies are coming soon, what’s on DVD this week, and a log of movies you want to see, plus much more. I mostly use the Theater tab which shows what’s playing at all the movie theaters near you.



Google Shopper – FREE
by Google Inc
Why I Like It: The built-in barcode scanner works great. You can also “search” fo
r info about something by taking a picture of it (similar to Google Goggles) or by using a voice search instead of the barcode scanner if you want to.

Barcode Scanner – FREE
ZXing Team
Why I Like It: It’s very similar to Google Shopper (above). The built-in barcode scanner works well. You can do a product search to see who’s selling that item and for how much near you. You can also do a web search, or switch to use Google Shopper’s features.

NOTE: I will end up only keeping one of the above barcode scanners. I’m just not sure which one yet.

GeoQpons – FREE
by XYMOB Inc
Why I Like It: It uses your current location to find all of the special offers available in your area then provides the coupons for you on your phone. Either print them out (I email them to my desktop computer), or take them directly to the establishment to be scanned on-site. There are currently 100 in my area — mostly “fashion” and “general”; only a few “auto”, “dining”, and “sports”.

The Coupons App – FREE
by Most Popular Download
Why I Like It: Lots of freebies and retail offers that change daily. You can either print them out (I email them to my desktop computer), or take them directly to the establishment to be scanned on-site. Some of the recent offers have been free magazine subscriptions, bonus Kohl’s coupons, free dog food samples, etc.

The Dealmap – FREE
by The Dealmap
Why I Like It: It uses your current location to show you a list (or a map) of all the specials & coupons at nearby restaurants & bars, as well as “daily deals” that change every morning. They’re pretty good deals that you don’t normally see in programs like this.



Listen – FREE
by Google Inc
Why I Like It: It’s a cinch to download podcasts. My favorite is This Week In Google (TWIG) by Leo Laporte. You can also subscribe to them, so they download automatically to your phone and you don’t miss one of your favorites.

Pandora Radio – FREE
by Pandora
Why I Like It: It’s the best free music player that gets to know the type of music you like as you thumb up and thumb down songs. It starts with a song by an artist you like, then plays similar songs by similar artists from there on.


Photos & Camera

Picasa Tool Pro – FREE
by ColifeR Lab
Why I Like It: It’s a fast-loading viewer for all of the photos that I’ve saved in Web Albums via my desktop Picasa program. You can also edit albums and add to albums from your phone. I’ll be using this even more as I start using Picasa Web Albums more than I have up to now.

Pixelpipe Post & Upload HD – FREE
by Pixelpipe
Why I Like It: It’s a simple way to upload mobile photos and videos to my Picasa web albums. You don’t even have to use the app, just the Menu button option. You can also add photo captions, titles, and tags before uploading.



TetrIs – FREE
by GameBox
Why I Like It: Who doesn’t like Tetris? On the iPhone, the Tetris app was a paid-for app. Not on the Droid! This one is simple and fun. UPDATE: I found a better one that’s not so “cutesy” and a bit more like the original Tetris. it’s called Freedom Blocks. It’s also FREE.

Andoku Sudoku – FREE
Markus Wiederkehr
Why I Like It: It’s one of the more sophisticated Sudoku games I’ve found. There are lots of great options.

Wordfeud – $3.25 (there’s also a free version with ads)
by hbwares
Why I Like It: It’s similar to Words With Friends on the iPhone. You can have several Scrabble games going on at the same time… with friends or strangers. There’s no time limitation, you just play your next turn whenever you get a chance.

WordSmith – FREE
by Second Breakfast Studios
Why I Like It: It’s very much like Wordfued, in terms of being a multi-player Scrabble-type game, but has a couple of other features (like tallying the score for a word before you submit that word) that are nice. I usually have ongoing games in both Wordfeud and WordSmith round the clock.

Tile Takedown – FREE
Why I Like It: Similar to Boggle, you see how many letters you can connect to find words before the timer runs out. I like this game because you can simply try to better your own score each time (the stats are amazing), or you can play against other people. As a multi-player game, you can see each player’s stats before/after each game. TIP: Use the Menu button to “rotate” the screen occassionally, so you can find even more words!

Angry Birds – FREE
by Rovio Mobile
Why I Like it: I never thought I’d like a game like this, but peer pressure eventually got me to downloand and try it. (Everyone and their brother is talking about Angry Birds these days!) It’s actually a very fun — and addicting — game. The best part: there are tons and tons of levels… and they keep adding more. I also like to try to better my score in levels that I’ve already completed.


Standard Android Apps & Buttons I Use

I actually removed every single app/button that was on the Droid X screens as soon as I got my phone.

NOTE: They don’t really go away; they’re still accessible from the background app screen on the phone, in case you decide that you want to put one back on your screen at some point.

The only ones that I put back — and actually use — are:

  • Maps – The voice navigation GPS is to die for!
  • Places – I like how you can add shortcuts for your own favorite Places.
  • Camera – I rarely use this icon though, because I set my phone to access the Camera by double-tapping the Home button. (I didn’t add the Camcorder icon because you can access it from the open Camera screen.)UPDATE: I’ve since abandoned the standard Camera app altogether. First, I downloaded the SilentSnap Camera FREE app (which simply removes the loud shutter sound every time you take a picture). I used that for awhile, until I became frustrated with the standard Android camera itself. The photos never appeared crisp, clear and colorful — even at 8MP. So I paid $4.72 for an awesome app called Camera ZOOM FX which significantly improves the quality of the photos and it has the option to make the shutter silent. I’ve never spent that much for an app befire, but I’m glad I did for this one.


Shortcuts, Android Wdigets & Motorola Widgets I Use

droid-x-phone-screen.jpg Sticky Note – it’s a post-it note that stays on your screen and can be edited on the fly. I use it for quick things I need to do right away. I use GTasks for To Do Lists that are ongoing. (Motorola widget)

Toggle Buttons – WiFi on/off, Bluetooth on/off, GPS on/off, Airplane Mode on/off (Motorola widget)

Calendar Widget – I have it showing the next 3 days’ calendar events. It syncs my Google Calendar with Jim’s, so everything’s in one place. (Motorola widget)

AccuWeather – Most people prefer the Weather Channel app instead, because it provides up-to-the-minute weather info, but this one suits me fine… for now. I like the widget capabilities that are customizable. You can flip through your favorite cities easily, view radar & maps, and see the weather forecast up to 15 days in advance. (Motorola widget)

Google Search – Duh, this one’s a given. It’s fast and easy to use the Google Search widget to find things in a hurry. I like that the voice search is right there too, even though I don’t use it much. (Android widget)

Pandora Widget – It’s a fast way to get ot your Pandora playlists, with thumbs up, thumbs down, pause/play, and next buttons. (Android widget)

Music Widget – Just like the Pandora one, this one is for all of the mp3’s that you’ve downloaded to your phone. I downloaded 20-some CDs to my phone. (Android widget)

Contact Quick Tasks – a one-click dialer for the people you call the most. (Motorola widget)

Social Networking – It’s a fun way to view your Facebook friends. You can view, comment, and like friends’ Facebook posts I have 3 of these widgets set up on one of my screens. One for my really close friends, one for people I’m trying to get to know better, and one that I just watch what others are saying. You can pick and choose exactly which Facebook friends you want to include in each one, and you don’t have to include all friends in one of those groups if you don’t want to. (Motorola widget)


Apps That Sound Interesting, But I Haven’t Tried Yet

Fake-a-Call– Great for getting out of a meeting gone too long.  Set up a call to go off at a given time, and your phone fakes the call for you to conveniently step out and answer. Source

Extended Controls – Android comes with a “Power Control” widget (bottom) that I’ve always liked because it lets you quickly toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Brightness, and more. However, I recently discovered the “Extended Controls” widget, which allows you to create a customized version of Power Control with a lot more toggle options. Source

Tasker – If you had to name one app that delivers on the promise of Android’s open, customizable nature, Tasker would be it. The automation utility can pull off any tasks you can put your mind to. Want to have your phone turn on GPS and Bluetooth, raise the ringer volume, and automatically launch the Navigation app when you’re in the car, but turn everything off and silent when you put your phone face-down at work? You can do almost anything with TaskerSource

Missed Call – You can customize your phone’s LED light, ringtones, vibrations, and alerts for missed calls, incoming calls, SMS, Blue­tooth, and calendar events.  Source

DoubleTwist – Not only is it a great search engin
e for the Android Marketplace
(much like App Brain), but it’s also a phone/computer sync program for all your photos, videos, podcasts, and MP3’s. The AirSync upgrade to doubleTwist and its Android app is really cool — press a button, and music, pictures, and videos sync across Wi-Fi. You can move past the button, though, and have your Android sync everything wirelessly on a regular schedule. When this is set up — and, really, it only takes about 15 minutes, much less if you’ve already connected AirSync — you’ll have a computer and phone that “check in” with each other regularly over Wi-Fi. No cables needed, and you don’t have to click the Sync button.  Source

Vignette –  It takes the best pics of any app out there, hands down. It’s worth the download price of approximately $5, especially if you’re using one of the higher megapixel models. You’ll love Vignette’s wide range of effects and options, and so will your friends on Facebook and Flickr when you share your snaps with them.  Source


A Couple Of Tips For Newbies

I didn’t figure these things out until a couple weeks after using my Droid X…

  • In standby mode, it’s a cinch to turn the sound setting for the ringer to “silent” with a quick slide from the unlock screen. But when the phone is in use, I didn’t want have to go through the Settings menu to do so each time. So I created a one-click button through Shortcuts. Only later did I realize that by simply hitting the Power button at the top of the phone, you can switch the ringer to “silent” there as well. So I promptly removed that shortcut button.
  • Don’t forget that you can customize the behavior when you double-click on the Home button. You get a handful of choices. Pick the one you use most frequently.
  • To turn on the Camera, you don’t have to click on the official Camera button (or one of the 3rd party apps you’ve downloaded for a better Camera). Just hold down the hardware button itself for the Camera — the shutter button — until the Camera powers on.
  • To quickly switch between the programs you use most often on your Droid, simply hold down the Home button and the 8 most recent programs you’ve used will appear. This is a real time-saver for multi-tasking!


More Great Apps For Android Phones