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50 of the Best Free Android Apps

OK, so the Android Market is more akin to Lidl or Asda than the iPhone’s enormous, indulgent Selfridges-at-Christmas time approach, but the open source nature of Google’s OS means there are plenty of apps for Android to be found.

Most of the good stuff on Android is free, thanks to the work of developers who do it for love alone. So here’s our pick of the top free Android apps you should install.

1. Seesmic

There are many Twitter apps on Android – and Twitter itself shook up the scene with the launch of its own-brand app recently – but we’re sticking with Seesmic. Offering support for multiple accounts, a home page widget showing latest tweets and an incredibly slick and professional design, it’s one of the finest examples of app development out there today.


2. Facebook for Android

Facebook for Android is lacking in features compared to Facebook itself, but a recent update added Inbox support to the Android app, finally allowing its users to communicate in almost real time. The app’s fast and stable, with a simplicity that reminds you of the old days when using Facebook used to be bearable.

Facebook for android

3. ASTRO File Manager

ASTRO is nothing more than a Windows-style file explorer, but if you’re into tinkering and directly installing Android APK files yourself, it’s essential to stick something like this on your phone. It makes your phone feel like a computer, and makes you feel like you’re in charge of it.

UPDATE: ASTRO still exists as a free ad-supported app, but you’ll have to pay for the full version without ads. Our new favourite file explorer app is listed below.

Astro file manager

4. UK Jobs

Hey, times are hard and you’ve got to pay for your oppressive monthly mobile phone contract somehow. Offering a fully searchable database of current UK job vacancies, UK Jobs, which pulls in its data from independent employment site is, a slightly cumbersome but useful and non-governmental tool.


5. Hotmail

Microsoft has teamed up with developer SEVEN to offer an official Hotmail app for Android, which gives users a simple, clean interface, push notification support and even lets you manage multiple Hotmail accounts from within the app. If your email needs haven’t yet been assimilated by Google, it’s a useful option.


6. Google Sky Map

A stunning app that renders Patrick Moore obsolete, by using your phone’s orientation tools to give you an accurate representation of the stars and planets on your screen. Point your phone at the sky, then learn what constellations are visible and if that’s a UFO or just Venus. Google Sky Map even works indoors, if you’re not keen on getting cold.

Google sky map

7. Layar

The stunning augmented reality app Layar has recently gone commercial, adding an online shop that allows users to buy AR content such as travel guides, local house price apps and much more. But you’re still able to use the numerous free Layers to pop data up over real-world locations, delivering a satisfying futuristic experience.


8. Foursquare

The social media darling Foursquare is represented in fine form on Android, with the Google app offering easy one-click check-ins, integrated Google Maps for a seamless Google-branded experience and home page shortcut options to all your favourite places.


9. WordPress for Android

WordPress for Android started out as independent creation wpToGo, before WordPress decided it liked it so much it bought it up – hiring the maker to develop it in-house. It’s very feature-packed, with the latest version offering full integration with other apps, letting you spin content and send it directly to the app for easy updating. It could do with more image insertion tools, though.

WordPress for android

10. Google Goggles

A bit of a novelty, in that Google Goggles lets you take photos and have Google analyse them and come back with a search results page for what it thinks you’re looking at. However, the app’s main use is as a QR code reader, which lets you scan barcodes for quick access to apps and whatever data people choose to embed in the odd little data squares.

Google goggles

11. Winamp

Yes, the same Winamp from a decade ago. It’s had an Android app for some time, with recent updates adding support for iTunes, Mac syncing, plenty of music streaming options, new release lists and Shoutcast integration for radio support. It’s a fine, free media player.


12. Samsung ChatOn

There are plenty of messaging tools on Android, but Samsung’s beats many of them by offering multi-platform support – with clients even available for older Samsung non-smart feature phones. It could be the ideal way to keep in touch with an out of touch relative. More “with it” users will be able to use its drawing, image sharing and social networking features.


13. Skyfire 3.0

The USP of the Skyfire browser is that it supports Flash content, popping up a little window when it detects an embedded YouTube video or something similar. The actual Flash business is handled by Skyfire’s server, which does all the computery stuff, then sends the file to your handset. A bit clunky on slower Android phones, but it works like a dream on models with faster processors.Despite the arrival of Flash with Android 2.2, this is still relevant for those on phones and Android versions not able to support Adobe’s Flash Player.


14. BBC News

While the BBC’s Android iPlayer app is a bit on the disappointing side, the corporation’s BBC News app is much more refined. There’s a stylish grid-based front page, plus you’re able to swipe from left to right to switch between stories in your chosen specialist category. A recent update also added a couple of Home screen widgets, too, plus the ability to submit your own news tips, as if the BBC was a small blog clamouring for content.

BBC news

15. RAC Traffic

An official production of the motoring organisation, RAC Traffic is dead simple – it guesstimates your location via the mobile signal, then pops up the current traffic alerts for your area. It’s much better than having to listen to the radio for the odd update about arterial blockages.

RAC traffic

16. Swype

The odd line-drawing alternate keyboard Swype is a love-it or hate-it kind of thing, with the significant amount of re-learning required to make the most of it quite offputting to some users. Once you’re familiar with the idea, though, it’s genius – with advanced prediction options further speeding your line-typing. Swype is not available through the Android Market – the only way to install is is via a direct download from the maker.


17. Evernote

After the Android version of Dropbox, the next best solution for keeping all your ‘business’ in one place is Evernote – which lets you stash and sync all your text notes, voice memos and files on your phone and access them through a desktop computer.


18. Flickr

As well as supporting Flickr uploading, this app also lets you capture photos from within the app and comes complete with a set of filters, so you can hipsterise your life with ease. It supports sharing with Twitter and Facebook as well, so your other, non-photo-nerd friends can enjoy the results of today’s snapping session.



The subscription-based thrills of open up a world of music streaming on your mobile. You have to ‘buy in’ to the odd way of organising things and suggesting new music, but if you’re easily led and not restricted by bandwidth it’s a superb tool.

tune in radio

20. Google Maps Navigation

An absolute must-get. As long as you have Android 1.6 or above, the latest update to Google Maps introduces turn-by-turn voice navigation, simultaneously devastating the satnav industry while boosting the in-car dashboard dock/charger accessory scene. Route calculations are done at the outset of your trip, minimising data transfer en route and keeping you on target even when the GPS signal drops. It’s amazing, it works, and it’s free.

Google maps navigation

21. 3banana Notes/ Catch Notes

A simple note-taking tool that lets you sync those disjointed, late night thoughts you have together into one huge, incoherent database. If you have a Snaptic account you’re able to sync the Android app with that too – or you can simply log in with your Google details for instant mobile jotting. Once written, notes may also be pinned to the home screen, creating a little post-it note-style reminder icon.

UPDATE: 3banana has undergone a name change and is now known as Catch Notes.


22. gvSIG Mini Maps

gvSIG Mini Maps is an incredibly comprehensive mapping tool which combines major online maps including Google, Bing, Open Street Map and more, which will win UK fans for one huge reason alone – it supports the official and recently open-sourced Ordnance Survey data. This means you’re never more than a post code search away from seeing where you are in OS-level detail, which offers much more in the way of accurate local data than other map tools provide.


23. Astrid Task / Todo list

Astrid describes itself as an “open source” task list, which includes syncing support with for the ultimate in minutiae management. You set a list of tasks and are then able to order them according to their importance – also setting off a timer to see precisely how long you’ve wasted on Twitter instead of doing the job in hand. It’s basically the world’s most complex and in-depth personal to do list, which, if used correctly, will consume more time than the tasks themselves. Ideal for expert-level procrastinators.


24. Shareprice

Shareprice uses your login from financial site to offer live share price updates on your Android phone. Watch your nest-egg lose 50 per cent in value every three weeks during the latest trans-global financial crisis, live! It’s ideal for users with share values so low they have to be checked in private, to ensure their partner doesn’t see exactly how much money has disappeared into some notional financial black hole.


25. Skifta

Skifta is the first software tool to be granted DLNA certification, meaning it turns your Android phone into an official DLNA device. This in turn means streaming all of your household media to your phone, and beaming your phone videos to your TV. Seems a little buggy at the moment, but there are plenty of updates arriving all the time. Requires Android 2.2 or higher.


26. Dropbox

The Android version of the insanely popular stuff-syncing app has arrived, and while Dropbox is a little lacking in the sort of fancy auto-syncing options many were hoping for, it still works as expected. Files have to be specifically downloaded to your phone to be edited or shared, which is not quite the automated dream offered by the desktop tools, but it’s still Dropbox on Android. Six months ago that was a distant, crazy fantasy.


27. London Tube Status

Reduce the misery of being told you’ve just missed a train and it’s a 14-minute wait until the next one with London Tube Status, which combines travel status updates and live departure times. It also includes a home screen widget that shows your favourite (or at least your most used) platform departures, making it easy to check how much you’ve just missed the next one by while tearing down the escalators.

London tube status

28. Amazon UK

Amazon recently launched an official Android app, replacing its reliance on a mobile web store. The app’s very simple and fast to use, and even includes full shopping cart features with Amazon’s one-click system once you’ve signed in with your usual account details.


29. Meebo IM

If you like to pass the time exchanging smiley faces and abbreviations with your friends through instant messaging apps, you ought to get a copy of Meebo IM. It’s an instant messaging aggregator, incorporating AIM, MSN, Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook, good old ICQ and more, serving everything up in one convenient interface. Typing in all your logins and passwords for everything is the only, very temporary, inconvenience.

Meebo im

30. Beelicious

If you’re into the slightly last-generation social networking site Delicious, you ought to get yourself organised with one of the many third-party Android apps out there that support the bookmarking tool. Such as Beelicious, which, once you’ve got through the slightly cumbersome initial set-up process, lets you simply send website links to your Delicious account via the Android browser’s ‘Share Page’ sub menu.


31. TweetDeck

The new star on the Twitter app scene, TweetDeck for Android is one amazing little tool. As well as presenting your timeline, DMs and replies in separate side-by-side panels that you swipe the screen to flip between, it can also pull in Facebook status updates. And mix it all in together. And it does Foursquare. And Buzz.


32. iPlayer

The BBC’s iPlayer app has finally arrived, and a right weird old mixed bag it is, too. On the one hand, support for streaming radio and live TV channels (Wi-Fi only) elevates this over the Android 2.2 compatible mobile website, but the requirement for Android 2.2 and Flash Player 10.1 remains. And there’s no 3G streaming, not even of radio feeds. And you can’t download shows, unlike in the sadly departed Beebplayer. And the radio requires the screen to be on at all times. Strange app, this.


33. Google Reader

Google has brought its RSS feed tool into the app era, launching its Google Reader for Android. It’s got some great functionality built in, with support for multiple Google accounts and plenty of thread customisation options. You’re also able to use the volume rocker to page up and down between messages, which is handy for extra-lazy news assimilation.

Google reader

34. BT FON

BT’s incredibly clever FON network is often a lifesaver, letting you legally borrow Wi-Fi for free in many public places. And while standing outside strangers’ houses. The BT FON Android app lets you automate the sign-in process, so you can walk around towns and housing estates safe in the knowledge that your phone’s always seeking out available Wi-Fi. You need a BT FON username, though, so sort that out before you venture out into the scary internet-free world.

BT fon

35. Amazon Kindle

Amazon’s Kindle app is a great e-reader, which is seamlessly linked with your Amazon account. Support for magazines and newspapers is limited at the moment, with only a handful of niche publications in Android-friendly format. But for books it’s great, with plenty of screen and text display options to get it looking a way that hurts your eyes the least. Another exciting new way to collect classic novels you’ll probably never get around to reading because there’s the internet now.

Amazon kindle

36. ES File Explorer

We’re officially out-of-love with previous favourite file explorer ASTRO, thanks to it now coming plastered with ads. ES File Explorer is prettier, ad-free, and comes with a much more user-friendly and functional interface. And yes, Android users have favourite file explorers.

ES file explorer

37. Androidify

Let your hair down by creating a realistic interpretation of what you hair looks like with Androidify. It’s an avatar creator that uses the Android mascot as its base, letting you swap trousers and hats with the swipe of a finger. Results are then sharable via Twitter and the usual social tools. There aren’t enough types of beard, though. Please release a Beard Expansion Pack.


38. Kongregate Arcade

Thanks to Android’s Flash Player powers, casual gaming portal Kongregate is able to bring a huge number of its internet games to Android. They run in the browser so resolutions can be a bit all over the place, but with over 300 games to choose from there’s bound to be something there for you.


39. Blogger

The Google-owned Blogger platform now has a presence in the current decade, thanks to the official Blogger app. It’s remarkably simple, supports image uploads and geo-tagging and imports the settings of all blogs associated with your Gmail account. There’s no fancy editing the positions of your photos, which just get chucked in at the bottom, but it works.


40. RD Mute

RD Mute serves one purpose – to turn off all phone sounds when the Android accelerometer tells it you’ve picked it up and turned it over. It’s a ‘silent mode’ shortcut for when you can’t even be bothered to press a button. Put your phone on its front to shut it up – and add any very important numbers to the app’s exceptions list, so people you don’t mind talking to can get through.

RD mute

41. OnLive

The technically astounding streaming video gaming service has now arrived on Android, with an official OnLive app letting Android users play console titles on their phones and tablets via wi-fi. It’s best played on devices with big screens, but it’ll still run on something as relatively modest as an HTC Desire. On-screen controls are the big trade-off, here – but it will work with OnLive’s Bluetooth wireless controller, if you’ve seriously bought in to the OnLive dream.


42. MailOnline

Quite a few official news apps have launched on Android since we last updated this list. The Guardian has one, The Times has one, Channel 4 News has one and so does the country’s guiltiest pleasure, the MailOnline. It features offline caching and lets users specify a time for it to sync pages with the main site, so you’re in complete control of how and when you get your faux scandal.


43. Sky+

The Sky+ app has been on Android for quite some time, but it’s recently been given a superb visual refresh and a new custom interface for those doing their telly research on an Android tablet. The feature set has been expanding, too, now including a nice Showcase front section, more programme details, plus, of course, the Remote Record features to set your Sky+ box recording through 3G or wi-fi.


44. eBay

Another app that’s been out there for a while on Android, the eBay tool has also been updated so much that it’s now a credible alternative to the desktop site. A recent update bought the ability to list items direct from the app, while there’s a simple PIN system that makes paying for your winnings via PayPal much simpler and less convoluted than it is on the full blown web site.


45. LOVEFiLM By Post

There’s now an official Android LOVEFiLM app, which lets you manage your account through your phone. You also get all the peripheral nonsense like reviews and trailers, but the key feature is the ability to manage your rental list, shuffling the order of your requests and filtering out categories you never trouble.


46. Tesco Groceries

This isn’t an advert or a casual game featuring Jamie Oliver. Tesco Groceries is a fully mobile home delivery shopping experience, covering everything from booking your delivery slot to amending orders already placed. It uses voice input for easily searching for items, plus there’s barcode scanner support for identifying and ordering stuff direct from your cupboard. Makes buying toilet rolls fun.


47. Path

Path is an alternate social network, designed to make sharing things with friends easier and more… personal. It does simple stuff like share your music listening history, then it does weird stuff like track how many hours you’ve slept for. It’s also location aware, so if you’d like it to broadcast your every movement, that’s possible. And if you can’t pull yourself away from Facebook, stuff from here can be posted up there, too, although posts can also be locked so they never leave Path if you’d prefer.


48. Sky Sports Live Football Score Centre

The latest Sky Sports Live Football Score Centre app from BSkyB is an entirely sports-related option, giving access to live scores, league tables, match stats and results, also incorporating the new Sky Sports News Radio service for listening in, live, to the blokes in the studio guffawing away about free kick decisions.

Sky sports

49. Yelp

Yelp gives you a similar option to Google’s wide range of social place reviews, only here you also get an augmented reality screen display, so you can point it at the skyline and see what five-star eating establishments are in the area. Places are backed up by user reviews, too, making it easy to get an up to date opinion on how generous a particular cafe is with the chips.


50. Odeon Cinemas

The Odeon Android app is impressive on a couple of levels. Being able to buy tickets through your phone is still quite an exciting thing to do, but this one goes further by including a graphical tool that lets you book your specific seats. Plus you get all the scheduled film showing times and the trailers you’d expect from something that’s trying to encourage you to endure another by-the-numbers Hollywood product.


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