What’s Available: Shopping for Android Apps

By Bill Hughes

Before you head to the Play Store on your Galaxy S6, it helps to have a sense of what you’re looking for so you don’t spend more than you intended. The apps for your Galaxy S6 phone fall into the following subcategories:

  • Games: Your Galaxy S6 phone takes interactive gaming to a new level. Games in this section of the Play Store fall into the following categories:

    • Arcade and Action: Think of games that are based on what you find in arcades: shooting games, racing games, and other games of skill and/or strategy.

    • Brain and Puzzle: Think crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other word or number games.

    • Cards and Casino: Find an electronic version of virtually every card or casino game.

    • Casual: This crossover category includes simpler games, some of which are also arcade, action, or cards, but are distinguished by the ease with which you can pick them up, play them, and then put them down. Solitaire may be the most widespread example of a casual game.

  • Apps: The “non-games” fall into many subcategories:

    • Comics: These are apps that are meant to be funny. Hopefully, you find something that tickles your funnybone.

    • Communication: Yes, the Galaxy S6 phone comes with many communications apps, but these Play Store apps enhance what comes with the phone: for example, tools that automatically send a message if you’re running late to a meeting, or text you if your kids leave a defined area.

    • Demo: These small, sometimes frivolous apps don’t quite fit anywhere else.

    • Entertainment: Not games per se, but these apps are still fun: trivia, horoscopes, and frivolous noisemaking apps. (These also include Chuck Norris “facts.” Did you know that Chuck Norris can divide by 0?)

    • Finance: This is the place to find mobile banking apps and tools to make managing your personal finances easier.

    • Health: This is a category for all apps related to mobile medical apps, including calorie counters, fitness tracking, and tools to help manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes.

    • Lifestyle: This category is a catch-all for apps that involve recreation or special interests, like philately or bird-watching.

    • Maps & Search: Many apps tell you where you are and how to get to where you want to go. Some are updated with current conditions, and others are based on static maps that use typical travel times.

    • Multimedia: The Galaxy S6 phone comes with the music and video services, but nothing says you have to like them. You might prefer offerings that are set up differently or have a selection of music that isn’t available elsewhere.

    • News & Weather: You find a variety of apps that allow you to drill down till you get just the news or weather that’s more relevant to you than what’s available on your extended Home screen.

    • Productivity: These apps are for money management (such as a tip calculator), voice recording (such as a standalone voice recorder), and time management (for example, an electronic to-do list).

    • Reference: These apps include a range of reference books, such as dictionaries and translation guides. Think of this section as similar to the reference section of your local library and bookstore.

    • Shopping: These apps help you with rapid access to mobile shopping sites or do automated comparison shopping.

    • Social: These are the social networking sites. If you think you know them all, check here just to be sure. Of course, you’ll find Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest, but you’ll also find dozens of other sites that are more narrowly focused and offer apps for the convenience of their users.

    • Software Libraries: Computers of all sizes come with software libraries to take care of special functions, such as tools to manage ringtones, track app performance, and protect against malware.

    • Sports: Sports sites to tell you the latest scores and analysis can be found in this part of the Play Store.

    • Themes: Your phone comes with color schemes or “themes.” This part of the Play Store offers a broader selection.

    • Tools: Some of these are widgets that help you with some fun capabilities. Others are more complicated and help you get more functionality from your phone.

    • Travel: These apps are useful for traveling, including handy items such as currency translations and travel guides.

Many of your favorite websites are now offering apps that are purpose-built for your phone. You can use the full site with your high-resolution screen or use the mobile version. A third alternative can be an app that makes the information you want from your phone even easier to access.

Each app category comes with the apps divided into the following categories:

  • Top Free: All apps in the “top free” category are available at no charge.

  • Top New Free: This option gets you out in front of the curve to find the best new free apps before the unwashed masses find them.

  • Top Paid: All apps in this category charge a fee.

  • Top Grossing: These are the apps that are both popular and cost money. This is often a good indication that the app is really good, or at least that it has a crack marketing team. (If the app is not good, the customer comments will show that right away.)

  • Top New Paid: All apps in this category charge a fee and are also new.

  • Trending: Your friends at Google show the apps that are catching on. It’s worth considering the apps that reside in this category.

  • Featured: These apps are relatively new and might or might not charge you to download and use them.

In general, you’ll probably want to see what you get with a free app before you spend money on the commercial equivalent. Many software companies know this, and offer a lower-feature version for free and an enhanced version for a charge. Enjoy the free-market mechanisms on this site and never feel regret for enjoying a free app.

Free apps are great. But don’t be afraid of buying any apps that you’re going to use frequently. Apps usually cost very little and the extra features may be worth it. Some people have an irrational resistance to paying $1.99 monthly for something they use all the time. Frankly, this is a little silly. Be rational and be willing to pay a little bit for the services you use.