12 must-have Android apps

Must-Have Android Apps

After our day of Apple dullery, I thought it'd be fun to talk Android apps -- specifically, the ones we can't live without. Hey, we've talked enough about that iEvent (I think I pretty much summed it up here); time now to get back to the stuff we really care about.

So the question is: If you could have only 12 apps on your phone or tablet -- not counting the preinstalled Google services -- what would they be?

Narrowing it down to just 12 is a surprisingly difficult challenge, but it's an interesting and enlightening one. So without further ado, here are my must-have Android apps of the moment:

1. Tasker

One of the best demonstrations of Android power; rest assured, you won't find anything like this on that other popular mobile platform. I use Tasker to automate all sorts of stuff with my devices -- changing my phone's settings based on my location, for example, and extending my screen timeout when I have certain apps actively open. The possibilities are practically endless.

Must-Have Android Apps: SwiftKey

2. SwiftKey (and/or SwiftKey Tablet)

I love all the awesome options Android has for text input. I'm a big fan of Swype, but lately I've been relying on SwiftKey for all my Android keyboard needs. I use it on both my Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 7 and wouldn't give it up for the world.

3. Chrome for Android

With its cross-platform syncing and superb browsing performance, I probably use Chrome for Android more than any other app on my mobile devices.

4. Google Voice

Carrier-based texting, voicemail, and phone numbers aren't for me. I rely on Google's fantastic Google Voice service to manage all my calls and communications. The Android app delivers seamless system-level integration and the perfect interface for everything I need.

Must-Have Android Apps: Astro

5. Astro File Manager

A locked down file system on my mobile devices? iDon't think so. Astro's been my go-to file manager for Android for years, and its recent refresh makes it better than ever with a clean Android 4.x-style design and integrated access to Google Drive and Dropbox storage. (I have the pro version, which provides an ad-free experience.)

6. Dropsync

I use this to keep lots of different kinds of files synced across my Dropbox account,  PC, tablet, and phone -- photos, screenshots, APKs, you name it. It's really powerful, insanely customizable, and completely automated. (I have the fully featured pro version of this one as well.)

7. Google Reader

Google Reader's my go-to tool for keeping up with important tech and Android feeds. The official Android Reader app gives me a clean, simple, and easy way to stay connected with that content wherever I am.

8. Flipboard

When it's time for casual, off-the-clock news browsing, Flipboard's almost always the place I turn. The visual interface is a pleasure to use on phones and tablets alike, and the mix of stories is perfect for fun, stress-free perusing.

9. Plume

I've used a lot of Twitter clients over the years. These days, Plume's sleek Android 4.x-level interface keeps me coming back for more, especially with the recent refresh that made the Nexus 7 experience better than ever. (This is another one where I've sprung for the "premium" ad-free version.)

Must-Have Android Apps: HD Widgets

10. HD Widgets

Damn, these guys make some nice-looking widgets. I use 'em on the main home screen panel of all my devices.

11. Google Authenticator

It isn't the most exciting app around, but it's hands-down one of the most important. I use Authenticator to handle two-factor security for my Google, LastPass, and Dropbox accounts. If you aren't doing that yet yourself, now's the time to start.

12. Pandora Internet Radio

Hey, we all need variety. I use the hell out of Pandora when I'm driving, working out, or just pretending to work. Sure, I'd love a few more UI improvements (come on, Pandora, you can do it!), but the service is good enough that I'm willing to deal with some interface imperfections.

And you?

A word of warning: That wasn't easy. I wanted to include so many other apps -- like Pocket, Evernote, TripIt, FlightTrack, Dropbox, and Simple Calendar Widget -- but I made myself whittle down the list to a mere 12 that I couldn't give up.

Android Power Twitter

Remember, too, that the lineup doesn't include stuff like Gmail, Google+, and Google Play, which are all part of the base Android operating system. (Excluding system apps makes the selection process a little bit easier, at least!)

So those are my top 12 -- how 'bout yours? Join in the discussion at Google+ or leave a comment below to get in on the game.

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