10 free Android apps for staying in the know

Owning an Android smartphone means never having to say 'I don't know'

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Quote Pro Android app
Quote Pro's streaming stock data keeps you up to date on your portfolio's performance. Click to view larger image.

Quote Pro

Use Quirk Consulting's Quote Pro to stay on top of the stock market's ups and downs throughout the day. Check out any stock's current status using the symbol search, or assemble multiple portfolios of stocks to keep track of.

Quote Pro offers an at-a-glance summary of your chosen stocks, as well as a more detailed collection of streaming stock quotes, news feeds, trend charts and daily market information one tap deeper.

Mint

Mint.com is a free online personal finance and budgeting service that aggregates all of your banking, credit card, loan, investment and property information, helps you create a budget, and automatically assigns each expenditure to a particular budget line.

Mint Android app
Track your spending and keep to your budget with Mint. Click to view larger image.

The Mint Android app gives you an easy-to-use and surprisingly thorough view into your Mint.com account, with a summary of your current total account balance, where you stand on your budget, and a rough monthly cash-flow analysis on the home screen.

Alerts also appear on the home screen, letting you know things such as when an account balance is low, when you're over budget in a particular area, or when you've received a large deposit or bank fee. Drilling down lets you view every transaction on each bank account or credit card, and assign it to a budget line if Mint.com hasn't already done so automatically (which it's surprisingly good at).

Make sure you set a four-digit passcode in the settings -- although you can't make withdrawals or transfers through Mint.com, you probably don't want your entire financial history to be available to anyone who happens to pick up your phone.

Zillow Android app
Use Zillow to get a bird's-eye view of the local real estate market, including recent sales and rentals. Click to view larger image.

Zillow

Whether you're looking for a new home, selling your existing one or just curious about the state of the real estate market, the Zillow application puts a wealth of information at your fingertips. Using the phone's GPS, Zillow maps all the nearby properties that are on the market or have recently been sold; you can also search by address.

Click on any property for more information, including a surprisingly detailed description of the property, recent comparable sales in the area and a trend line showing the value of the property over the past 10 years. It might feel like spying, but Zillow uses only openly available information drawn from real estate listings and public property records.

Zillow can also be useful for scouting high-end or inexpensive areas for your company's new HQ. Version 2.0 of the app provides driving directions from Google Maps and lets you save favorite searches or homes.

NPR News Android app
Keep up to date with the NPR News application. Click to view larger image.

NPR News

Stay up to date with the latest political, business and cultural news with NPR News, a complete portal to all things National Public Radio. You can stream your local NPR station live or search for any other NPR station based on its call letters or ZIP code, but listening live is actually the least interesting feature.

NPR News offers on-demand access to shows such as "All Things Considered," "Fresh Air" and "Talk of the Nation," from which you listen to individual segments one at a time or create playlists for uninterrupted listening. You can also browse stories by topic, listen to the top stories of the day or search the extensive catalog of NPR offerings by date and keyword.

More great Android apps

Logan Kugler is a frequent Computerworld contributor. His most recent article was "Online collaboration on the cheap: 20 free and low-cost tools."

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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