my top 11 (mostly) free android apps

Presented here in no particular order are my top eleven favorite Android apps. These aren’t necessarily the ones I use most often, but they are definitely the ones that add the most coolness to my overall Droid experience — the ones I’ll fire up whenever conversation turns to “what our phones will do” (is it odd that, in almost every meatspace social situation in which I find myself, the conversation at some point will always turn to that subject?  just wondering). Anyway, here’s the list, complete with scannable bar codes (I wish I could give you a bar code to download the bar code scanner app, but, well, you know…  Just search for “bar code” in the Android market, k? k.) OK then, here we go:


TuneWiki is the thing I most wish I’d invented myself. My obsession with lyrics goes way back, I built my first database-driven website for lyrics. TuneWiki is amazing for sitting listening to music, because it goes out and finds (or tries to find) the lyrics to the song you’re listening to. Most of they time they’re already synced to the song, but, if they’re not, you can sync them yourself by tapping the screen, and if they’re not in the database, you can go and add them (if you’re an editor, you do have to ask to be given that permission). It’s also a social music site with “now playing” info viewable (both in your browser and on your phone) in Google Maps. To make this even cooler, there is now a Windows Media Player plugin, and a browser plugin (note: only WinXP and Vista supported so far, they’re working on Win 7). The people who run TuneWiki are awesome and friendly, and committed to building on this unique service, so give it a shot, and add me as a friend on it if you do (i’m dotlizard there, naturally). The free version comes with ads, which don’t bother you at all — I bought the paid version mostly to support the developers, whom i wish a long and prosperous future in social music apps.[qrcodetag]market://search/?[/qrcodetag]

website | downloads page


Ringdroid is a simple yet powerful sound file editor, which you can use to very precisely select the beginning and endpoint of the part of your sound file (music or otherwise) to make the perfect ringtone. Never spend money on a chopped up bit of a song, just buy the song and make your own! I have made ringtones of my favorite parts of Holy Grail mp3s, and the intro to the Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas version of One Toke over the Line (you know, where he says, “We had two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine…”) Two notes on that: 1) if you type “we had” into google, it knows that’s among the things you want to find and 2) use caution when using that ringtone, it can be awkward at work or family gatherings, depending on the family. [qrcodetag]market://search/?q=pname:com.ringdroid[/qrcodetag]

more info


I’ve had Hoccer since this morning and it’s already been given a position on my home screen. “Hoc” refers to “ad-hoc network”, and it allows you to share audio, bookmarks, contacts, pictures and text by “throwing” them to someone else who has Hoccer installed, who “catches” them. The best part is this works beautifully between the iPhone/iPod Touch and Android phones — when we were testing it, I threw my son a picture of his bicycle, and he responded by typing into his iPod and throwing me a text saying “A rock” (lol). He then proceeded to RickRoll me. If nothing else, get this for the lulz (providing you know a funny kid with an iPod) [qrcodetag]market://search/?q=pname:com.artcom.hoccer[/qrcodetag]



Evernote is an incredibly handy app that allows you to organize and upload pictures, files, and text and audio notes to your Evernote account (free, unless you want to transfer more than 40MB/month). This is incredibly handy, like having a little FTP server to send files to yourself (or share with others), and have them available from any browser.[qrcodetag]market://search/?q=pname:com.evernote[/qrcodetag]



Layar is one of those apps that makes you think, omg it’s the future! This app features the much-vaunted augmented reality, meaning you can look through your camera at the world around you, and it will add layers of additional information — everything from information on that landmark you’re looking at, to available apartments and jobs, to who’s tweeting around you. It’s the closest you’ll come to having sci-fi robo-vision until they figure out how to do the eye implants like that. In fact, even if they do, it might just be better to leave that to your smartphone, yes? [qrcodetag]market://search/?q=pname:com.layar[/qrcodetag]


Google Goggles

Goggles is another one of those omg-it’s-the-future apps. What it does (on Android versions 1.6 and up) is give you the ability to “scan” things with your camera, and if Google can find them in its database of stuff that looks like that, it’ll attempt to give you information on that. It does best with major landmarks, logos, text, and locations, but it can also identify some art, and once, when I scanned a thumbnail of a photograph in Getty Images, it told me “I can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, but here’s a picture that looks like it” — and it was the exact picture. It’s also great fun at parties, especially if you’re the sort of person who whips out your telephone and starts telling everyone what it does (and if you still manage to get invited to many parties in spite of that).  On a completely unrelated note, I often wonder what other sorts of things have been scanned, if you know what I mean. I’d never do that, but if you do, please let me know what Google thinks of it, k? [qrcodetag]market://search/?[/qrcodetag]

more information


One of the problems I’ve had, having a Droid, is iPhone camera app envy. I tried all kinds of camera apps, both free and paid, and none of them quite gave me the sense I had something as good as those iPhone people. Vignette, however, beats the pants off of all the rest. It is faster, has better effects, and after you’ve taken the picture, you can sit and try out different filters and frames on that same picture. This is the only app on the list that needs to be bought to function, but you can download the free version and play with it (it just won’t save the picture). So go ahead, download the free one and play, and see what you think — for me, it’s definitely the best image app so far. If they had a prettier icon I’d give this one of those coveted home screen positions, but dang, that’s … well, I suppose it’s better to put all the energy into making an awesome app, but … [qrcodetag]market://search/?[/qrcodetag]


Dolphin Browser

Two words: multi touch! And skins, and I would have been a little more enthusiastic about this browser if I’d written this a month ago, since then there were a few rough spots with upgrades, and it was reflected in the reviews in the Marketplace. I have stuck with it, though, and not had any problems. There’s a new, paid version now that I haven’t tried yet, but fully intend to. In addition to multi-touch, it has gestures, pretty skins, and nifty tab-handling.  **edit** I’m not going to withdraw my suggestion, but maybe put it on a list of stuff that’s bound to be really cool when they get it right. Just gave it another try and it’s not quite there yet, but it shows so much promise and — multi-touch!  [qrcodetag]market://search/?[/qrcodetag]



ProjectINF (beta) is Android’s first true real-time, online, multiplayer top-down shooter! Satisfy your needs to roam around in loosely-organized groups, shooting stuff and generally causing mayhem! It’s from Chicken Brick Studios, who are hard at work making sure you can waste huge chunks of time without being tethered to your home gaming systems. [qrcodetag]market://search?q=pname:com.chickenbrickstudios.projectinf[/qrcodetag]

more information


PDA NET is free, unless you want to access websites with SSL, and then it’s pretty pricey ($30) — but since many mobile providers charge you something close to that every month to access tethering features, it’s probably worth that for a one-time cost. It turns your Android phone 3G connection into a tethered (bluetooth or USB) modem. Very, very handy — not the fastest internet connection, but it’ll definitely do in a pinch. [qrcodetag]market://search?q=pname:com.pdanet[/qrcodetag]



Gmote turns your Android phone into a media-player remote for whatever operating system you have, as long as it’s Windows, OSX, or Linux. It works over wireless networks, no need for bluetooth on your computer. You just need to download the host app on your computer and you’re good to go. It’ll show you album art, let you navigate your playlists, and roam around your hard drive in search of stuff to play. Very, very cool. [qrcodetag]market://search?[/qrcodetag]


And that’s it!

7 thoughts on “my top 11 (mostly) free android apps

  1. The only one we have in common is evernote. I’ll write up my list on my blog soon. I keep having to get rid of apps between my decreased memory and my dying battery on my G1.

  2. Thanks! Glad the list is somewhat useful 🙂

    I filled in a survey the other day and it asked me how many apps I had, I guessed 40, then decided to count. It was actually over 60.

    And then I found Androtris (tetris, but not really) and … well, I could add it to the list but, do I really want to inflict this sort of addictive, can’t stop thing on anyone else?

  3. Ha ha, I’m still stuck in the past with a pay by the minute Tracfone! It has internet access and texting but I do’t know how to use it, haven’t even set up my voicemail or contacts. I’m regressing back to the pre-internet world.

  4. At this point, I get a new phone approximately every 8 or 9 months or so, by (a) juggling my upgrade pricings on my 5-line tMobile account, and by running off and getting a Droid in addition to my tMo phone. Yes, I have two phones. At first I was all, it’s cheaper to keep it for the last few months of the contract than to cancel, so I’ll cancel when it’s done, but now I’m probably going to go ahead and stay with the whole 2 phones thing.

    Is that crazy? It seems more crazy when I type it out like this.

  5. Layar itself seems somewhat crashy, but it doesn’t crash the whole phone, just the app. I don’t use it too often because I don’t get out much, and it’s kind of silly to use sitting in the house 🙂

    I think it’s one of those things with great potential, so far 🙂

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