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10 Free Android Apps

Nothing stirs up controversy like listing ten Android apps out of the more than the 500,000-plus apps available at the Google Play Store. Even so, when I started out with my first Android phone 20 years ago, I wanted to see a list of worthy apps or even apps recommended by friends. Lamentably, I had to wait a long time before anyone else had an Android phone. Thanks to the suggestions in this article, you don't have to wait to get started with apps on your Android phone.

ASTRO

If your Android phone is missing a file manager, fret not. A hoard of file manager apps can be found at the Play Store. The one that I use — even though it may not be the most popular — is the ASTRO file manager.

True, not everyone is a total nerd and wants a file manager. For many things you do on your phone, however, it's handy to be able to peel back the operating system's veneer and get into its ugly, file folder guts. For that task, ASTRO is the perfect tool.

As a bonus, ASTRO can be used also to access files on a Wi-Fi network. The process takes some configuration, which isn't the easiest thing, but once it's set up, you can use the app to access your computer over your Wi-Fi network.

Google Finance

The Google Finance app is an excellent market-tracking tool for humans who are obsessed with the stock market or want to keep an eye on portfolios and other financial stuff. The app offers you an overview of the market and updates to your stocks as well as links to financial news.

To get the most from this app, configure Google Finance on the web by using a computer. You can create lists of stocks to watch, which is then instantly synchronized with your Android phone.

As with other Google services, Google Finance is provided to you free as part of your Google account.

Google Gesture Search

The Gesture Search app provides a new way to find information on your phone. Rather than use a keyboard or dictate, you simply draw on the touchscreen the first letter of whatever you're searching for.

Start the Gesture Search app to begin a search. Use your finger to draw a big letter on the screen. After you draw a letter, search results appear on the screen. You can continue drawing more letters to refine the search or touch a search result.

Gesture Search can find contacts, music, apps, and bookmarks in the Chrome web browser app.

Movies by Flixster

The Movies by Flixster app is your Android phone's gateway to Hollywood. It lists currently running films and films that are opening, and it has links to your local theaters with show times and other information. The app is also tied into the popular Rotten Tomatoes website for reviews and feedback. If you enjoy going to the movies, you'll find the Movies app a valuable addition to your phone's app library.

Netflix

It's not the big screen. It's not even the little screen (which I'm guessing is TV), but it's still something to watch. The Netflix app gives you access to a streaming library full of television and movies.

Okay: Your phone's screen is small. Still, it's personal. You can hook up headphones, turn on the phone, and then sit back and enjoy your favorite show or a flick from the golden era of Hollywood. Or if the phone has an HDMI port or you have the Google Chromecast gizmo, you can watch Netflix on an HDTV or a monitor.

The Netflix app is free, but to get the most from it you need a subscription to Netflix's streaming video service. It's not that much, plus your phone counts as one of up to three devices you can use to access your Netflix account. So you can still watch on the TV or the computer, while you enjoy taking movies with you anywhere thanks to the Netflix app.

Notepad

Not every Android phone comes with a note-taking app. They should! Quite a few are available, including the Notepad app, also known as GO Notepad. You can use it to take notes, jot down things to remember, create shopping lists, and more. Why keep your brain cluttered with information when you can get Notepad, or any of a host of similar apps, and keep your notes in the phone?

Sky Map

Ever look up into the night sky and say, "What the heck is that?" Unless it's a bird, an airplane, a satellite, or a UFO, the Sky Map can help you discover mysterious objects aloft. It may turn out that a particularly bright star in the sky is, in fact, the planet Jupiter.

The Sky Map app is elegant. It turns the phone into a window you can look through to identify things in the night sky. Just start the app and hold your Android phone up to the sky. Pan the phone to identify planets, stars, and constellations.

TuneIn Radio

Way back in the day, people walked around with tiny, portable gizmos. The devices were completely wireless, yet they produced music. Yep, our ancestors could take their tunes with them anywhere they went. The gadget was called a transistor radio.

Your Android phone is much smaller and far more useful than a transistor radio, yet it can serve the same function when you obtain the TuneIn Radio app. Use it to find a favorite Internet radio station, and then sit back and listen.

While TuneIn Radio is playing, you can do other things with your phone, such as check Facebook or answer an e-mail. You can return to the TuneIn Radio app by choosing its notification icon. Or just keep it going and enjoy the tunes.

Oh, and TuneIn Radio does cease playing music when the phone rings. That's something a transistor radio would never think of doing.

Voice Recorder

Of all the Android phones I've played with, only a couple offered a voice recorder app. Don't let your Android phone go without such a vital feature! In fact, the voice-recording app that I recommend is called Voice Recorder. It has an elegant and simple interface: Touch the big Record button to start recording. Make a note for yourself or record a friend doing his Daffy Duck impression.

Previous recordings are stored in a list on the Voice Recorder's main screen. Each recording is shown with its title, the date and time of the recording, and the recording duration.

Several voice recording apps can be found at the Google Play Store. I recommend the one by Mamoru Tokashiki.

Zedge

The Zedge program is a helpful resource for finding wallpapers and ringtones — millions of them. It's a sharing app, so you can access wallpapers and ringtones created by other Android users as well as share your own. If you're looking for a specific sound or something special for Home screen wallpaper, Zedge is the best place to start your search.

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