The Android Market isn't always an easy place to get around. Our first edition of the Lifehacker Pack for Android rounds up essential Android apps—our personal favorites for productivity, multimedia, internet life, and just plain usefulness.
Lots of people are picking up new Android phones these days—nearly 200,000 per day, at last count. Google's default apps are pretty handy, but the Market has many great apps, most of them free. Here's a look at our favorite free and cheap Android apps.
We're using the great app search and sync service AppBrain to create a Lifehacker Pack for Android. If you install the AppBrain App Market on your Android phone and sign in through the AppBrain site (using a Google OAuth, no-password-revealed log-in), you can check off and click install multiple apps from the list, or visit the individual [AppBrain] link at the end of each app write-up to find out more and install. If you install AppBrain's Fast Web Install, it's actually ridiculously easy—click "Install" on AppBrain, and your apps instantly start downloading to your phone (as we previously detailed).
Like our iPhone Pack, this list is no short grocery checklist. You can skip to any of the sections from these links:
Astrid: Astrid is a simple to-do manager into which you simply start typing, add context if you want to, then save. You can create advanced filters in Astrid, sync it to yourRemember the Milk account for access on the web, and, most helpfully, Astrid is an extremely tenacious beast that won't stop reminding, beeping, and buzzing you until certain very important tasks are done. [AppBrain]
Evernote: Evernote's universal note app on Android is not as elegant, fast, or intuitive as Evernote on iPhone. But with the latest update, the app has gotten a lot more usable. There's a home screen widget for quickly searching out notes or recording new text, image, or audio notes. You can send any text, image, or audio on your phone to Evernote through the "Share" menu. And with offline caching and speed improvements, Evernote offers an impressive, seamless thoughts-into-notes experience. [AppBrain]
Mint.com Personal Finance: Even the most stalwart privacy/password protectors among Lifehacker's staff eventually handed it all over to Mint to benefit from the great power of having all your balances, spending, budgets, and planning tools in one place. You can PIN-protect the app, of course, or go the opposite route and keep a quick-glance widget on your home screen, along with recent transactions in a folder or your searchable items. [AppBrain]
mNote: At least some of the Lifehacker editors consider synchronized cloud-based note service Simplenote to be the Holy Grail of ubiquitous plain text capture. The mNote app is, at least, a notes app for Androids that usually don't have one built in, with the added benefit of those notes constantly saving themselves and being easily accessible everywhere else. [AppBrain]
TripIt: TripIt saves you from the print-outs, email searching, and airport panic sessions common to modern-day travel. Sign up for TripIt, forward your travel itineraries along (or have TripIt automatically import them from Gmail), and then you've got a whole master travel plan on your phone—check-in links, flight information, weather and traffic stats for your destination, and so on. It's an essential for frequent fliers, hotel guests, and train travelers. [AppBrain]
Dolphin Browser HD: For getting around the web, Android's built-in Browser is compatible, capable, and fast—especially under Android 2.2. But Dolphin Browser's got a few handy tricks up its sleeve. Gesture-based browsing, tabs on top that disappear for full-screen browsing, add-ons that can block ads and send articles to Read It Later, and quite a few other doodads worth checking out. [AppBrain]
Facebook for Android: Until this past month, it was a shame how diminished the Facebook client looked in the shadow of its successful iPhone counterpart. But now Facebook's Android presence is capable, good-looking, and even offers a few of its own unique perks, like a pull-up notifications shade and a front-page scroll of recent photos from friends. [AppBrain]
PDANet: Data tethering is built into the latest builds of Android. But unless you own a Nexus One, or happened to luck into a cell carrier that's generous with their bandwidth, you probably have to pay an extra sum every month to use your Android's net connection with a computer. PDANet is a reliable third-party option, for Windows and Mac systems, to connect to your Android phone's data plan via USB cable or Bluetooth. It is nothing like free ($19 for the full version), but you can use the free version as long as you'd like—it just doesn't allow access to secure (https) sites. Pay the one-time fee, or use it in a pinch, and you'll get why PDANet is an essential. [AppBrain, requires a desktop download]
Google Voice: Android's tight integration with Google Voice, the service that puts your voicemail, SMS, and phone management in the cloud, is one of its key selling points. After many revisions, Google's Voice app now makes calling or SMS messaging with a Voice number nearly indistinguishable from a standard call, and the voicemail transcriptions and playback are just another nice bonus of the Google halo. [AppBrain]
Trillian: Mobile IM client Trillian manages multiple chat accounts through one app, and we like the interface, too. Because it's in beta, you might want to check out the more testedeBuddy Messenger, which offers similar multi-IM capabilities, but Trillian looks pretty darned nice to us, even in its infancy. That it sends pictures over IM, across networks, with no problems speaks quite a bit to its usefulness alone.
Twitter for Andorid: Honestly, we could have gone one of a few ways with this recommendation, but Twitter seems like the best app for the average Twitter user. Other apps, like Seesmicand Twidroyd, offer all kinds of nitpick options, like choosing between old-school "RT" and the official retweet methods and supporting multiple accounts. But if you like clean looks, smooth transitions, and just an easy way to update your status, the official app is the way to go. [AppBrain]
Google Maps & Navigation: Get in your car. Press the microphone icon on your screen. Say "Navigate to Nathaniel Square, Rochester," and after a quick ping, you're getting turn-by-turn directions, read out loud to you. Press the Layers button, and you'll also get banks and gas stations for necessary detours. Press the time estimate, and you'll get alternate routes with live, color-coded traffic. The Maps app itself is really handy, too, with built-in, tilt-to-turn Street View among its neatest the-future-is-now applications. But it's the directions, and Navigation in particular, that set Android's location powers apart. [AppBrain]
My Tracks: Whether you're into bike rides, runs or walks, hiking, driving, or other feats of movement, you'll dig how much data My Tracks can deliver. Routes get plotted out on Maps, while a Google Docs spreadsheet can be filled with mileage, elevation, timing, and all manner of notes on what you did and where. [AppBrain]
AppBrain App Market: Android's Market app could be a lot better. AppBrain makes it better, faster, and more search-able, and loads it with savvier recommendations. The basic AppBrain app provides a good search and categorization for Android apps, but more importantly, the ability to sync your list of installed apps two ways to your Google-linked web account. Pick out a bunch of apps on AppBrain, and you can have them installed (or removed) all at once on your next sync. Because many veteran and enthusiastic Android users are hooked into AppBrain, the recommendations and popular app listings tend to be much better than the Market. [AppBrain App Market]
Fast Web InstallerThe Fast Web Installer app hooks into AppBrain to make the installation process instantaneous—click "Install" on an app on AppBrain's site, and your app starts installing on your phone as soon as your eyes shift from monitor to phone. These apps made this list possible in some ways, and we highly recommend installing both to make installing everything else very easy. [AppBrain]
Astro File Manager: You usually won't need it, but a good file manager is handy to have when you need to install an unofficial app, send a file into a particular app, or just open a PDF. Astro lets you comb the contents of your microSD card and act on the files there, whether to move, delete, open, or otherwise tinker. [AppBrain]
Barcode Scanner: Until the Market updates with Google's plans to provide over-the-air, instant browser-to-phone app installation, Android enthusiasts have taken to scanning quirky barcodes, or QR codes, to quickly install an application from a blog or print magazine recommendation. To grab those QRs, you need Barcode Scanner. It also offers some basic Google search functionality, but there are better shopping apps, one covered in this list in particular. [AppBrain]
Google Chrome to Phone and Android2Cloud: They're two sides to the same very futuristic-feeling coin. Both require the use of Google's Chrome browser. Chrome to Phone sends links, Maps locations, or text from Chrome right to your Android phone, while Android2Cloud does the opposite (via the Browser's "Share" function). They save everyone a lot of typing, self-emailing, and other awkward moments by naturally linking Google products together. [AppBrain: Chrome to Phone, Android2Cloud]
Dropbox: File-syncing app Dropbox is so good at doing so many things, but at its most basic level, it seamlessly syncs file across all your devices. On an Android phone, that means making fewer cable transfers necessary, easyinstallation of non-Market apps, and a way to take pictures, video, or sound recordings and have them instantly available on your desktop or other devices. [AppBrain]