Friday, February 11, 2011

Best Free Android apps

We've compiled the best free Android applications. In this section you can access a single link is the best android applications.

For better or worse, this openness has led to the Android App Market being swamped with choices. For sad fanboys, there are dozens of apps that simply show photos of pretty girls -- and hundreds that show photos from single search terms like 'burritos mexicanos' or 'chicks hatching'.

The Apple iPhone may have made apps famous, but fantastic Android phones such as the HTC Desire, the HTC Legend and the Sony Ericsson X10 have opened them up for everyone. Flexible and open to developers, Android doesn't have a restrictive approval system like Apple's App Store.

Now it's time to sort the women from the girls and the chicks from the burritos with Crave's ultimate guide to the best Android apps. We've chosen 16 of the best -- there are many more out there worth downloading, but 16 will fill one home screen on your robotic baby with top-quality gear.
Do you disagree with our choices, or did we miss out your favourites? Let us know in the comments. We tested apps on a Google Nexus One running Android version 2.1 -- your mileage may vary on other phones, particularly as some apps require a certain version of Android.

Cost: Free.

Best VoIP app: Vopium

Skype has yet to come to most Android phones -- HTC Hero owners on the 3 network are the lucky exceptions. But there are a couple of great alternatives to the current king of voice-over-IP calling, which can save you a pretty penny on international calls. Both Vopium and Truphone offer the option to redirect your calls automatically, and in our tests both delivered decent call quality over Wi-Fi and 3G.
Vopium comes out on top, however, thanks to fewer crashes in our tests, cheaper rates and a generous bonus of 15 minutes of calls and 15 SMS messages free.
: Free for the app, but check the rates for where you want to call.

Best Utility: Barcode Scanner

Unlike Apple's iTunes store, there's no Web-based version of the Android Market to link to. You could just search for the app in the Market on your phone, but where's the fun in that?
So we're starting you off with Barcode Scanner, which lets you scan the black-and-white QR codes that dot the Web -- including this page -- and they'll prompt your phone with exactly the right place in the Market. It's faster and geekier than a simple Web link: two of our favouritest things.

Best Podcast App: Google Listen

Google Listen has its flaws -- it sometimes seems to turn on and off without reason, like it's possessed by the ghosts of Radio 4 presenters past -- but it reliably downloads and plays podcasts, which is more than most podcast apps seem to do. Once you've got your 'casts on board, you can make a queue to listen to a bunch of them in a row. You can also configure whether Listen only downloads over Wi-Fi or also works on 3G, and how much space to dedicate to podcasts on your memory card.
It's easy to subscribe to new podcasts that you spot on the Web, because it syncs with your Google Bookmarks account. That means you can subscribe in your desktop Web browser and see your podcast show up automatically in Google Listen the next time you pick up your phone.
: Free.

Best Music App: Spotify

This does everything the desktop Spotify does: you can search for and stream vast quantities of music, and save tracks to playlists in a simple iTunes-like interface. The mobile app, also available for the iPhone, also has the ability to save streamed music to your phone for offline listening, and sync your Spotify over the air between your phone and your PC. We're not usually given to hyperbole, but that is gobsmackingly amazing.
There is a major catch, however: you'll need to splurge £9.99 a month on a Spotify Premium account -- without one, the app won't work. 
: Free to download and £9.99 per month for Spotify Premium account.

Best Travel App: TripIt

TripIt is very good when it's just a Web site -- you can keep notes of the whole itinerary of your trip in an easy-to-use, central place that's great for sharing. It also has an almost magical ability to translate confirmation emails from airlines, train companies and hotels and convert them perfectly to nice, clear entries. You just forward the emails to TripIt and it does the rest -- instantly.
But TripIt is fantastic when you can get all that info on your phone, without being connected to the Internet, exactly where and when you need it -- like when you're running for your flight and you can't remember where you're going or when you're leaving.
: Free.

Best TV App: beebPlayer

There's no official iPlayer app for Android, you can't use the Beeb's iPhone version, and phones aren't up for the full version of the iPlayer site. That's where beebPlayer comes in, serving up delicious streams of radio and TV at your merest whim.
It offers streaming over Wi-Fi and 3G, and you can launch it from the iPlayer Web site or navigate through all the shows direct from the app. It may be unofficial -- and occasionally unreliable -- but we declare it officially great.
: Free.

Best Movie App: Movies

The clue's in the name, folks -- it's movies. This little gem of an app finds your nearest cinemas on a map and lists everything that's playing in them, with cast lists, posters and even full trailers. It also guides you to the best films by showing the Rotten Tomatoes aggregated review score. You can save a list of the movies you're keen to see and peruse IMDb for all the deets.
It's all linked to the movie-themed social network, Flixster, and you can share your film fever with your friends on Facebook too.
: Free.

Best Game: Abduction!

We think the best kind of mobile games are simple and addictive -- perfect for blowing that ten minutes while you wait for a bus or for your boss to stop yelling at you. And if you play as a cow struggling to hop on moving platforms in order to reach a UFO who's abducted your farmyard friends, so much the better. Incredibly simple tilting controls belie the quirky challenge of Abduction!
The free version is plenty of fun, but if you're a real addict you may want to splurge on the World Attack version, which includes more game worlds -- and supports the developer.
: Free for the basic version or £1.35 for the World Attack version.

Best Backup Tool: MyBackUp Pro

Android phones can sync over the air with services such as Gmail, so most of your contacts and calendars are already backed up to Google's servers. But for your apps, call log, text messages, settings and other bits and pieces, MyBackup Pro is a tool worth having. It can do a scheduled backup to its own servers or backup to your SD card if you just want to switch phones.
The 30-day free trial is long enough to use for emergencies such as restoring your phone to its factory settings, but we recommend the full version for total data peace of mind.
: $4.99 (£3.30) or free for a 30-day trial version.

Best London App: London Journey

The London Underground is a twisty series of tubes that takes 40 minutes to get you across the street, £4 poorer. But there's more to London travel than the Tube, and only Transport for London's journey planner can keep it all straight enough to help you figure out the buses, boats and trains you could be taking. London Journey is a clear, user-friendly front-end to the wisdom of the TfL and a must-have for locals and visitors alike.
You can save routes offline, and it displays cycle maps better than the TfL does on its own Web site. We can see why one user review of the app gushes, "I want to have its babies."
: £1.49.

Best Review App: Qype

Qype has come out on top of the user-generated review pile, offering punters' opinions on restaurants, bars, shops, hotels and hundreds of other categories of place. It uses a five-star ratings system, and includes extra information such as addresses and phone numbers.
You can click an address to view the place in Google Maps, and edit the entry to add your own pearls of wisdom. Never let a grumpy barman or lazy waitress get away with the slightest inconvenience ever again.
: Free.

Best Android Pride App: AppsInstaller

Unlike those iPhone-owning Apple slaves, Android owners are free to install any app they want, whether it's in the App Market or not. AppsInstaller installs apps from your SD card, as long as you have the APK file. Simple, straightforward and easy enough for a non-techie to use, too.
Note that you will have to change your phone's setting to accept non-Market apps -- just go to Application Settings in the Settings menu and select 'enable unknown sources'.
: Free.

Best Map App: Google Maps

Yes, it's an obvious one, but we just had to point out the awesomeness of Google Maps on Android. There are heaps of features you won't get in Google Maps on any other platform, including free Google-powered sat-nav thanks to Google Maps Navigation (in Android 1.6 and later).
You also get street view, your Google My Maps, reviews of businesses, and heaps of other stuff. A must-have, so it's lucky you've already got it pre-installed on every Android phone.
: Free.

Best Science App: Google Sky Map

Google Sky Map allows you to stare into the heavens and actually be aware of what you're gawking at. It uses the internal compass and GPS or cell-tower location to find out where you are, and where the phone is pointing. Once it's done this, it's able to tell you which stars you're looking at. There are options to overlay celestial points of interest such as constellations, the horizon and the planets of our own solar system.
A truly awesome search feature (it is Google after all) even directs you around the sky until you find your desired object. We had a little hunt around for Mars and oddly enough discovered it hovering around our kitchen ceiling.
: Free.

Best Social Networking App: Twidroid

There are more Twitter apps on Android than you can fit in 140 characters, but our favourite so far is Twidroid. You can easily @reply to people, or send direct messages. A full set of options is available if you press and hold on a specific message. You can also easily send links from the feed to the phone's browser, and the software has no trouble dealing with more than one link at a time.
Be warned that this app is likely to get you into a significant amount of trouble with your significant other, who will want to know why you're "staring at your bloody phone" all the time.
: Free or €3.39 (£2.90) for the Pro version, which includes more features and widgets.

Best Outdoors App: My Tracks

Another fabulous freebie from Google, My Tracks records your path through the world by tracking your phone's GPS. You can view live statistics -- including time, speed, distance and elevation -- while hiking, biking, running or skipping like a happy schoolgirl.
Once you're back indoors, enjoying a well-deserved pint, you can share your tracks by email, upload them to Google Spreadsheets and visualise them on Google My Maps. In our tests, My Tracks was accurate and very easy to use.

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