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Top Pick Apps for Android Smartphones and Tablets
      12/26/11 07:18 PM

There are a heck of a lot of Android apps in the Market, and wading through them now that you've got your new phone or tablet in hand can be daunting. I'm sharing my short list of apps that I put on all my Andies, and these work both on Android smartphones and tablets. Of course, there are plenty more worth trying out, but this is a good start!


1. Movies by Flixster

Check out what's new at the box office, what's playing in your area, and get reviews and movie trailers too.


The Android version of this extremely popular website gives you everything you need to know about movies and TV shows with serious historical depth. Cast, crew, directors and more.

3. Netflix

This one is only useful if you have an $8/month Netflix streaming account. If you do, then you can watch anything that's available in Netflix's streaming catalog on your phone or tablet. Quality is good, even over a decent 3G connection, but watch out, you can eat through your data bucket in a marathon day of movie-watching (WiFi is your friend). Hulu Plus gets an honorable mention, but Netflix is available for all Android devices running OS 2.2 or higher, which Hulu Plus supports only a short list of Android devices.

News and Weather

1. Weatherbug and The Weather Channel

There are several solid weather apps, but so far these two are stable and don't cause undue battery drain with background updates and weather warnings. Each has animated weather radar, current weather and long term forecasts.

2. Pulse

A highly graphical and pleasing news feed and RSS reader that's particularly well suited to tablets with their larger displays. It's fast, you can customize your news feeds, use your Google news feed sources and get background updates.

3. Google Currents

Google's very recently released RSS news reader is pure eye candy, something we don't generally associate with Google and their utilitarian and simple esthetic. Currents gives a print like magazine look to your news feeds, and it's stunning to look at and enjoyable. The app might take a little time to process your feeds if Google hasn't already processed and formatted that RSS feed before, but once it's done it's reasonably fast, though not as quick as the less fancied-up Pulse.

4. News360

There are phone and tablet versions of this app, and we particularly like the tablet version because the rich presentation works better on larger screens. News360 covers breaking news in a visually appealing and accessible way. You'll get several sources for popular news items, just in case, you know... you don't trust the press and want to see the story from a few different angles.


There are lots of pay-for games, fremium games (free to play but in-game purchases might cost you more in the end) and some free games too.

1. Bonsai Blast!

A free Zuma style game with pretty settings and relaxing sound effects.

2. Riptide GP

This $2.99 water racing game by Vector Unit is seriously fun and it looks great too. Good controls and compatibility.

3. Grand Theft Auto III

Maybe not the game to gets your young'uns, but for the those who love some serious mayhem in the city and look fondly back at Rockstar's very successful franchise, GTA III brings decent graphics and very good controls to the recently released Android version of the game. It's on sale for $2.99 until Dec. 29, 2011.

4. Fieldrunners HD

This $2.99 tower defense game has won lots of high ratings and awards because it's seriously fun with good graphics and it runs on most every Android device.


1. Adobe Flash Player 11

This plugin might seem obvious to you, after all, it's what's set Android apart and ahead of iOS. But not all manufacturers pre-install Adobe Flash Player, perhaps because it used to get updates every week and they feared whatever they included would be out of date. If your phone doesn't have Flash Player, download it free from the Android Market. While you're in the Market, look at the "my apps" section and make sure you have the latest version.

2. Opera Mobile

The stock Android web browser is actually quite good. It's webkit based, has tabs and supports Adobe Flash. Opera Mobile is frighteningly fast at loading web pages, and zooming and scrolling are faster too. Now part of that might be because Flash is set to only load when you tap on a video, so a bazillion Flash ads aren't loading on every web page you visit. Note to reader: you can set the stock Android web browser to only load Flash on demand too, by default it loads all Flash.

Opera allows you to set the user agent string to desktop if you wish, so you don't get wap sites on your lovely $500 tablet. Opera Mobile works for both phones and tablets and its free.

Social Networking

Your phone or tablet might come with a good integrated social networking client that handles Facebook and Twitter. Both HTC and Samsung include solid social networking apps with companion widgets. But if those aren't your cup of tea or you own a different brand phone, here are a few solid options.

1. Tweetcaster

Tweetcaster is available as a free app (with ads that are tolerable) and a $4.99 paid version without ads. It's been my favorite for many months thanks to flexible notifications, an attractive presentation and a full set of features. It supports multiple accounts, simultaneous posting to Twitter and Facebook, retweeting, long tweets (twitlonger) and trends.

2. Tweetdeck

Popular on desktops, Tweetdeck is available free for mobiles too. The Android version handles Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Buzz (does anyone care about Buzz?). Plenty of features, background updates and stable on both smartphones and tablets.


Edited by LisaG (12/27/11 04:33 PM)

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