Pat’s 16 Best Android Apps

Not too long ago, I was admittedly indifferent to this mobile thing, even as a professional digital dude. This was because:

  1. I had BlackBerrys for work and found them useful but nothing revolutionary;
  2. I mistakenly chalked the iPhone hype up to characteristic Apple-fan hyperventilation;
  3. I stuck to my old clamshell phone because I’m really cheap.

Now that I’ve jumped to an Android smartphone, this HTC Incredible is practically grafted onto my hand. Why? It’s the dope applications. My friend Ben recently got one and asked me which ones to load up on his phone, so to spread the love around, I went with 16 of my favorites here to fill up your home screen. So load up your Android phone with these mugs — all of them free — and you’ll be set:

Gmail: Awesome job replicating the web experience. I also like using this app separate from the main mail app to keep my work / personal email divide simple.

Twitter: They hooked up their Android app. The HTC Peep app is kind of weak, and the native Android Twitter client does a cool job of syncing with your contacts, but this thing is well done. Each new release updates the functionality nicely, including a pretty well-done widget.

Yelp: No need for Google Maps when you hook this app up – finds local stuff based on your location, and the ratings make it easy to narrow down which one you want to try. It’s weird now to think of city life without Yelp – nice work, Eric.

Dolphin HD: It took three Android browsers before I settled on this one. The native Android browser is displays Flash and has good graphical capabilities, but it’s slow; Opera Mini is fast but can’t do Flash and isn’t great for images or fonts; but Dolphin HD is just right. I also like the gesture interface.

NPR News: You get the major news without headline overload in an easy-to-read text format, plus hourly audio news summaries and easy audio download for other pieces. Haters can hate, but I give props to NPR as a rare non-hyperbolic news outlet.

BBC News: With this and NPR, apparently I’m a sucker for taxpayer-funded news, but I reach for this app when I want to remember that there’s a world of news outside the United States. Thanks, hyperbolic news cycle.

Chicago Tribune: Finally, a news outlet that can stay afloat without government money. (Wait … nevermind.) This app is apparently still in beta, but I love it. I’ve been looking for a solid Chicago-centric app for my phone, and this one nails it – breaking headlines, further in-depth local news from the paper, the Opinion section that I now read a lot more often (even as John Kass’ political nicknames irk me) and handy weather on the app homepage.

The Weather Channel: Loads better than the crappy HTC weather app that comes loaded with the phone, and stays in your status bar for a constant look at the temperature. Could use some cooler animation, but has all the info I need heading out the door.

BeyondPod: Tried several podcasting clients; this one’s easily the best.

ESPN Scorecenter: I should probably look beyond ESPN for potential sports-score apps, but when this one has everything I need and a super-intuitive interface, there’s no point in bothering.

Out of Milk: Solid shopping-list app, and I’ve tried several. You can scan barcodes, easily sort your items and cross them off with a single long press.

WordPress: For maintaining an entire site on a 3×5 screen, you can’t beat this one.

Facebook: Gets all your FB needs in a FB-branded package that looks exactly like you’d want the mobile-fied version of Facebook to look. I also like that the widget is just status updates — FB’s made it hard to find those anymore.

Chase: I mentioned these guys as a positive example for work recently, because in digital-consultant speak, they’ve got the multi-channel touchpoint optimization thing down. You can get the same banking done whether you’re at the teller, ATM, website or phone site/app, each one in a channel-friendly format. The deposit-by-photo thing doesn’t work that well, but it’s still a cool idea.

People: It’s a native app, but I love the automatic Facebook and Twitter syncing, the ease of importing contacts from Google, and the contact formatting. (Though why can’t I enter a letter and jump ahead when browsing the list?)

NY Times: I might read NPR, the Trib and the BBC more often than the NYT these days, but I can’t hate on these guys’ ability to be out in front of the news industry on almost every interactive count. This is an even better newsreading experience than nytimes.com on the PC.

Bonus 17th item: Angry Birds: The rest are all apps, so I’ll justify squeezing one more in because it’s an awesomely addictive game. You just can’t front on the blue splittable bird flying out of the slingshot.

Also-rans: Pandora, Google Translate, American Express, Tumblr, Astro, IMDB, Epicurious, Kayak.

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