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Friday, February 10, 2012

Top 20 Must-Have Android Apps

Bring Your Home Screen to Life

Jared Newman/Techland

With all due respect to smartphone apps, sometimes you don’t want to open a new program just to get some quick info or perform a minor task. That’s where Android widgets come in handy, bringing the functionality of those apps right to the phone’s home screen. But not all widgets are wonderful. Some are glorified app launchers, while others are downright ugly. Here are the 12 best widgets that no discerning Android user should be without.

Beautiful Widgets

Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: This bundle of widgets is a jack of all trades, providing weather, time, date and battery life in a variety of sizes.
Why it’s a good widget: Chances are, your phone already has weather and clock widgets, but Beautiful Widgets is more flexible with screen real estate, and its battery indicator looks nice, too. [$2.89, Link]

Extended Controls

Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: No more fumbling through the Android Settings menu. Extended Controls gives you access to lots of common settings–and some uncommon ones–directly from the home screen.
Why it’s a good widget: Although lots of Android phones now have similar settings widgets built-in, Extended Controls includes a lot more toggles, such as 4G, orientation lock and USB storage. And it lets you cram lots of toggles into either a 4-by-1 or 2-by-1 widget. [$0.99, Link]

3G Watchdog

Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: Based on the start date of your billing cycle, 3G Watchdog tells you how much data you’ve consumed, and the app can shut down data before you hit any overage charges.
Why it’s a good widget: Limited data plans are all the rage these days, so you might want a constant reminder to keep you from going overboard–or let you know to go wild as the end of the month approaches. [Free, Link]


Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: TweetDeck’s widget comes in a few flavors. The “bar” and “column” widgets show you whether you’ve got any new updates, messages or mentions, and lets you jump directly to that section of the app. The “post” widget, my personal favorite, lets you post an update directly from the phone’s home screen.
Why it’s a good widget: The “post” option works with both Facebook and Twitter, so you can have one widget that posts to either (or both at the same time). It’s useful for posting even if you use other Facebook or Twitter apps. [Free, Link]

Simple Notepad

Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: The name says it all. Simple Notepad is a text editor with some cool features such as a checklist format and the ability to share your documents over e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other sources. The widget lets you place notes on your phone’s home screen.
Why it’s a good widget: The widget size is customizable from 1-by-1 to 4-by-4. You can set any color you want, and make notes translucent so your wallpaper doesn’t get covered up. [Free, Link]

Reddit is Fun Golden Platinum

What it is: This unofficial widget shows top stories from Reddit’s home page–or the subsection of your choosing–in a 4-by-1 bar, and lets you scroll through the headlines from your phone’s home screen.
Why it’s a good widget: Reddit is sometimes called “the front page of the Internet,” but it’s mostly just a source for cute animal pictures, oddball humor and the occasional informative story. Even if you’re not a die-hard Redditor, that stuff is sure to catch your eye and keep you entertained. [$1.99, Link]



What it is: This 4-by-1 widget shows you scores and schedules for your favorite sports teams, and lets you scroll through each sport by pressing a button on the widget’s left side.
Why it’s a good widget: SportsTap isn’t the only sports score app with a home screen widget, but unlike some others, it can show several games from the same team–so you don’t just get last night’s score, but the starting time for tonight’s matchup. [Free, Link]

Pulse News

Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: Pulse’s app lets you choose your favorite news sources, and displays them in a big grid that you can swipe through. The widget shows the latest stories from any one of those sources.
Why it’s a good widget: Even if your favorite news source doesn’t have a widget of its own, Pulse lets you create one, and it has a little arrow key that lets you scroll through headlines without entering the app. [Free, Link]


Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: You’re probably familiar with Groupon’s daily deals. The widget shows the latest ones in a 2-by-1 space on the home screen.
Why it’s a good widget: If you find Groupon’s daily e-mails too intrusive or too easy to forget about, the widget will keep you in the loop with no effort on your part. (But make sure to turn notifications off within the app’s settings unless you want to be pestered once a day.) [Free, Link]


Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: Available with a 4-by-1 or 2-by-1 widget, Audio Manager provides quick access to Android’s many independent volume settings.
Why it’s a good widget: Controlling audio in Android can be frustrating, as lowering one volume setting doesn’t quiet down all the others. Having a widget means you’ll never be caught off guard by a really loud ringer. [Free, Link]


Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: Shazam is an app that can identify most songs just by listening to them for several seconds. The widget is a quick way to tag songs you’ve never heard before directly from the home screen. (SoundHound, a similar app, doesn’t have a widget in its free version, but does offer a Shortcut for free that jumps directly to the app’s tagging function.)
Why it’s a good widget: Back in my iPhone-owning days, I’d always fumble through my app list looking for Shazam as a song I wanted the name of played on in the background. Half the time, I’d find the app too late, and the song would end. Never again as an Android user. [Free, Link]

Navigate Home

Jared Newman/Techland

What it is: Technically, this isn’t a widget, but a handy shortcut that’ll give you driving directions home with just one tap. From the menu where you usually add a widget, tap “add shortcut,” then choose “Directions and Navigation” (or “App Actions,” then “Directions and Navigation” on Motorola phones), and enter your address.
Why it’s a good widget: You can do this trick for any address, but home is probably where you’ll want to go the most. With this button you won’t have to type in your address over and over.

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