Why this list?
There is no shortage of lists of top Android apps. Most tech blogs / online magazines have one every year. You can find these listicles pretty much anywhere. If you want to see a bunch of generic lists, try this Google search.
I've been an Android user since 2009, and I've had a number of Android phones (HTC, Samsung, Motorola, LG), and I've tried hundreds of apps, both free and paid. I'm an actual user, not a professional tech blogger looking to write clickbait, and these recs definitely are not sponsored. These are real apps I actually use on my phone and that are super helpful to me.
I'd love to see more of these kinds of lists from other users, so this is my contribution.
What didn't make the list?
I'm not going to recommend apps that are just super popular and obvious. If you're a Facebook and Instagram user, you're probably going to install the Facebook and Instagram apps—you don't need anyone to recommend those apps to you. In fact, there's not even a point in me linking to those apps.
Tasker has been over-recommended, and if you're geeky enough to use it, you probably already know about it.
There are also good apps that are essentially abandonware (e.g., Juice Defender). I'm recommending apps that are either reasonably maintained or don't really need frequent updates to work.
Here's the list (in alphabetical order)
I'm not going to rank these in an order apart from alphabetical, because they all have different functions and operate in different categories from each other.
Dropbox isn't an obvious recommendation. I use CrashPlan, but I don't install the CrashPlan app on my phone. The Dropbox app could be a lot better than it is (for example, syncing a subset of folders or all folders both ways instead of only allowing for manual downloads and uploads). It is, however, super handy for automatically uploading photos to Camera Uploads in the background, so if you want to have backup copies of your photos on an actual computer with Dropbox installed (and not just Google's cloud storage for photos), you don't even have to think about it.
There are options to back up only on wireless or to back up only photos or both photos and videos.
Google Opinion Rewards
I'm not a tinfoil hat person. I do take some reasonable steps to guard privacy, but I don't really care that much. If you're like me in that regard and want to earn some Google Play credit, this is a great app to have. You just answer surveys periodically and get credit to spend later. It's a matter of cents (or pence?) here and there, but it adds up fairly quickly—at least enough to purchase some pay-for apps.
iSyncr for iTunes for Android
A lot of Android users have probably abandoned iTunes in favor of some other music management software. If you still keep songs in your iTunes library, this is a handy sync tool, and it's pretty solid. The developer responds to feedback and has put a lot of work into refining the interface over the years.
iSyncr can do both wireless and wired sync, and you can schedule it to sync at a certain time per day. It will also sync play counts.
みっちりねこ だっしゅ！DX ～日本一周の旅～
I don't read Japanese, but I'm still able to guess through the menus and play this super-fun racing game ("dash") that isn't a side-scroller and doesn't run away from you (the cat(s) run toward you, actually). This "DX" version is more up to date and plays more like Mario Brothers in terms of having different worlds or stops you have to go through. The plus of that is that it's interesting. The minus is that if you get stuck on a level... you're pretty much stuck!
(Honorable mention: みっちりねこ だっしゅ！, which is the regular, less-up-to-date version with no storyline—just straight-up neverending dashing. It's a little bit buggy, because you can't continue without the touchscreen controls getting stuck, but it's still better than the iOS version, which just crashes when you're about to start the race.)
I'm sure there are legitimate other uses for the Network app, but I use it at Disneyland to get a working signal. When Disneyland gets really crowded, as it often does, the LTE networks get clogged up, so even when your smartphone appears to have signal, it may not actually download or upload anything. Some versions of Android do not give you fine-tuned control over the 2g/3g/4g/LTE settings, but this app will let you specify exactly what network you want. So in normal use, I'll go for LTE/GSM/CDMA Auto, which usually gets me LTE, and when I'm at Disneyland, I switch to WCDMA Only, which puts me on 4G/HSPA+, which isn't as cluttered.
I've tried a lot of web browsers, including Chrome, Puffin, xScope, Dolphin, Boat, Firefox, Naked, Maxthon... I can't even remember the names of all of them. I keep coming back to Opera, though.
It does have one huge flaw (which a lot of non-Chrome browsers share)—it decides to open app links as actual links instead of opening the app. For example, if you click on an Instagram link, instead of launching the Instagram app, it will just take you to the Instagram website.
A few things I dig about Opera on Android:
- Once you start scrolling on a long page, an arrow appears that allows you to jump to the bottom or the top.
- Opera will wrap text when you zoom on a page.
- The controls to navigate tabs is on the bottom of the screen (handy for one-handed browsing).
- Tabs open by default in the background, and there aren't too many options in the context menu.
I tried a few podcast apps, and this one just stuck with me. It has a simple interface. It works reliably. It will allow you to queue up podcasts, auto-delete downloads when finished listening... it's just simple and elegant.
I honestly don't remember all the pros and cons of the various music players. I did try Player Pro at one point and also Rocket Player. PowerAmp just works for me. I like the look of the app. I like its ability to cut out silence, to resume play on headset plug-in, to allow for equalizer adjustment. I've just found it to be a good, reliable media player.
Ski Safari 2
I'm a big fan of 2D games, as opposed to 3D ones, and I like the side-scrollers of yore (Super Mario Bros.). This is a great side-scroller with cute music, sounds, and animation. In this sequel, unfortunately, you can't pay to get rid of the ads, but the ads appear only once you complete a level (not during actual gameplay). They've also finally added the option to play a female skier instead of just the default Sven.
When Words with Friends started up, it was iOS-only, so my iPhone-using friends wanted to play with me, but I couldn't play with them. I convinced a bunch of my iPhone-using friends to download WordFeud, and I've found WordFeud to be much better a Scrabble game, mainly because you can actually pay to get rid of the ads (you can't do that on Words with Friends). It also just doesn't have all the bright colors and distracting animations. WordFeud just focuses on the game play.