Afew weeks ago, the New York Times compiled a list of essential iPhone apps for people who are too busy to sift through the roughly 300,000 titles in the App Store.
Android users have it even worse. Although there are fewer apps to peruse (around 100,000 at last count), the Android Market is a nightmare to navigate compared to the iTunes App Store.
Yes, even though Google is the master of search, its Android Store’s search feature is less effective than Apple’s.
The Market also has no answer for the App Store’s “Staff Favorites,” “ ‘d’Essentials” or “New and Noteworthy” selections, which pull good apps to the front of the catalog.
But that is what lists are for.
Here we present our picks for the 10 most indispensable apps for Android users, as well as several honorable mentions.
Some apps on this list are unique to Android, even though app developers tend to develop for iPhone first.
Oh, and the best part about this list? Almost all the apps are free.
Let us start with Google, which created the Android operating system.
The company may do a poor job with the Market, but it creates — and, more to the point, it gives away — stellar software for Android devices.
Google Mobile (free) is a huge time saver, thanks to the voice-search function. (Ask it for Wikipedia entries and it fetches. Speak the name of a retailer and it finds the nearest location.)
And Google Maps (also free) is a big money saver, because it provides the same turn-by-turn navigation features you would have to pay $10 a month for on other phone platforms.
But since those apps come standard on every Android device I have ever seen, let us skip those and get to the ones you would have to seek out in the Android Market.
Google Shopper (Free)
This app can save you hundreds of dollars by helping you find better prices nearby or online.
Scan a bar code and the app takes it from there.
If the scan does not work, you can speak the product’s name and the app finds the product.
Google Sky Map (Free)
Some serious eye candy that you will want to activate on the next cloudless night.
Point your device toward the heavens and Sky Map puts a label on every celestial body you see — and some you cannot.
Turns your phone into a wireless trackpad and mouse.
You might not want to use the tiny keypad to input text, but if your computer lacks a trackpad — or if you’d like to liberate your trackpad from its spot — this will make your day.
Arguably better than any fitness app on the iPhone, CardioTrainer is an Android-only program that tracks your fitness regimen and calorie consumption.
It includes a music management feature to keep your workout tunes fresh.
Soundhound (Free and $5)
It is Android’s best show-off app after Sky Map.
Open SoundHound and it identifies nearly any song — even some you hum. It also finds lyrics and YouTube videos of song performances.
The $5 version lets you identify an unlimited number of tunes.
Users of the free version get five songs a month.
Cannot afford a personal assistant? This will help.
Evernote is a mobile notepad that synchronizes with desktop and browser software (also free).
Use your smart phone to take a photo, record a voice memo or jot down a note, and the next time you open Evernote on your desktop computer, your mobile notes appear (and vice versa).
The free version stores a fair amount of information, but $45 a year buys unlimited storage.
Great for those with empty stomachs, full wallets and no ideas.
Spin Urbanspoon’s slot machine and it offers restaurant suggestions.
You can also choose certain attributes — like moderate prices and bistro food, for instance — and selections appear.
The app includes user reviews, contact information, maps and directions.
Quickoffice Mobile Suite ($10)
You can read Word, Excel or Powerpoint documents on an Android phone, but you cannot edit them without dedicated apps.
Quickoffice is, so far, the best of these apps.
It lets you create word processing and spreadsheet documents in a pinch, but the app’s great strength is its ability to let you get smaller bits of work done when you’re far away from the office.
You have most likely heard of Pandora, the great personalized radio service.
Slacker is better, with a deeper catalog of songs.
And unlike the Web version, you can download hours of music to your phone and listen when you are offline. (That feature is free to try, but a $4 monthly fee applies thereafter.)
Android does not have anything quite like Hipstamatic, the iPhone app that creates beautiful effects for your photos.
FxCamera is close, with several cool filters to choose from, and quick sharing to Facebook.
Glympse (free; open the app, hit a couple of buttons and Glympse lets a friend temporarily track your location); Angry Birds (free; not as slick as the iPhone version); Weather Channel (free; offers better forecasts than you’ll find on your phone’s standard weather app); Epicurious (free; find professionally tested recipes, with reviews and shopping lists — the free BigOven app is also very good); FlightTrack ($5; track any flight and get delay forecasts, seat suggestions and gate information, among other information); Qik (free; broadcast live video from your phone to a Web site for friends, family or the general public to see).
The New York Times