What Are The First Apps Any Android User Should Install?

Mark over at Kotaku took the plunge and bought a Nexus 7 tablet on the weekend. Jolly good purchase, that. It's a product we like a great deal, but already there's a problem. This is Mark's first Android device. He's been iOS for as long as he's had a smartphone and doesn't know which apps he should be downloading. I told him that the Giz AU community would be more than happy to help out. What are the first apps any Android user should be installing?

We've covered essential Android tablet apps before, but we're talking the absolute must-haves. What are yours?



    Takes a while to learn, but in the right hands - it can make your Android do anything.

      I prefer Llama, it's easier to use and free!

        Llama is good, but it trades off functionality to gain usability. I think it comes down to more what you’re trying to achieve with your device. Fair call though – Llama is probably the better app for someone starting out with Android.

        +1 LLama

      OK, things are quiet at work, so I'll build on this with my own essential app pack:

      3G Watchdog (Free) - Essentially duplicates the "Data usage" function of ICS/JB; but the latter isn't able to be backed up/restored by Titanium Backup.

      AdAway (Free/Root) - As the name suggests, it blocks ads by modifying the host file in the root directory, so works on both web pages and most in-app ads.

      Authenticator (Free) - I use Google two-step authentication. Nuff said.

      Camera Zoom FX (Paid) - I picked this up in Google’s 10c sale months back. Puts the free camera app to shame.

      Dolphin Browser Beta (Free on XDA) - Faster than both stock and Chrome browsers IMHO.

      ES File Explorer (Free) - It's free. It supports root browsing.

      Facebook (Free) - Friendcaster is better, but I still don't like using it. Facebook's official app is the next best for the time being.

      Flipboard (Free) - Brings all my feeds into one, looks nice, and easy to navigate. Probably even better in tablet form.

      Goggles (Free) - I hate QR codes, but this is the best solution for visual searching.

      IVONA Text-to-speech (Free) - Android's native TTS sucks balls, and makes me want to throw my phone out the window when using Navigation. Ivona sounds great, and has an AUSTRALIAN voice!

      Maps/Navigation (Free) - Be honest, this was always at least part of the reason why one of us got an Android in the first place.

      Messages (AOSP SMS app) - Yeah there's better apps out there (Handcent for example), but the AOSP messages app is lightweight and does everything I want it to.

      PowerAmp (Paid) - As you can probably tell, I'll usually pursue free apps where possible, but Poweramp is well worth the money and puts every other music app to shame.

      QuickPic (Free) - Lightweight, easy to use. No frills, but they're not needed.

      Remote Notifier (Free) - Send all my notifications to Growl for Windows.

      Rugby League Live (Free) - NRL scores.

      Tasker (Paid) - Practically makes my phone self aware. Seriously, it's the single best app I've ever downloaded by a long shot. It's even made other apps redundant.

      TitaniumBackup (Free/Paid) - Backs up all of the above/below apps for when I flash new ROMs.

      Voodoo Sound (Free) - OK, this is a Nexus S/Galaxy S specific app - but it makes my music sound awesome(r).

      Weather Australia (Free) - For when I'm too lazy to look out the window to see what the weather is doing.

        Do you need to install an AOSP rom to use the AOSP sms app? If so, it's a little confusing to include it in the 'must have' list of apps for a first time android user.

        That said, your list is good - not trying to be harsh! :D

          No you don't. I've installed it before on a Sense rom :) However you'll need root, as it's not a market installable app.

            @SamSam - No you don't need an AOSP ROM.

            I wasn't strictly compiling a list of apps for a first time user, it was a list of "essential" apps I always ensure are on my phone - I was really just addressing the question below that the article asked.

            ...we’re talking the absolute must-haves. What are yours?...

            @Matt H - You don't need root access if you're not installing it as a system app, you just need installing from unknown sources enabled, and the APK which can be grabbed from XDA, or extracted from an AOSP ROM zip.

        I trust you as I've made most of the same choices.

        Also recommended: Apex Launcher (paid) or ADW Launcher (paid), Öffi Directions (public transport nav, free), Equalizer (paid, counteract tinny speakers with good global EQ), PocketCloud (paid, easy setup RDP), Gallery ICS and Camera ICS (an elegant alternative to the TouchWiz ICS versions, free), SunVox (modular music studio, paid), Voodoo Display Filter (free, great for night usage).

        "Poweramp is well worth the money and puts every other music app to shame"
        - Yep it's great but GoneMAD trumps it 'cause it supports Album Artist properly. It's pretty much the only music player on Android that does!

    Fake iPhone. It will help with the adjusting.

    Osmos HD is great on the Nexus 7.
    Also Sixaxis Controller is an amazing buy for $1.

    3 apps that I use more than anything else BY FAR are:

    - Chrome
    - Google Reader
    - Whatsapp (does this work on a tablet?)

    One app that I quite like, but not quite essential is Tasks by Team Tasks. Simple, integrate nicely with Google Task, and adheres to the holo theme

      chrome doesn't work on a galaxy tab 8.9 for some odd reason.. won't let me install it..

        are you on ICS?

          telstra haven't released ICS for it, no.

            well thats why chrome will not work. ICS and above only

    Angry Birds

    Umm... what functionality does he need/want?

    Having an app for the sake of it, however good it is, is pointless.


    Sketchbook is fun for doodling

    Bubble UPnP is great for streaming videos from your PC

    An antivirus scanner of some description. I use McAffee.

      what for? have you ever downloaded a virus on android?

      Avast is just as good, and its free.

        but im still not sure why...

          The words 'Its better to be safe than sorry' come to mind. Mac users said they didn't need them for ages... look what happened? Suddenly viruses sprang up and they were unprepared...

      " I use McAffee." HAHAHHAHHA

    PocketCasts and Pocket Weather from Shift jelly.

    I don't know what comes standard on the N7, but these are must haves for me:

    ES File Explorer
    MX Player
    Kingsoft Office
    Data Counter

    Forget Chrome, I find the stock browser (on my S3) works better.

      +1 to MX Player
      Personally I prefer FX File Explorer

        I'd say +1 to ES File Explorer.

        I'd also add Dolphin Browser and possibly Real Player though I dunno what comes preinstalled on the N7. Weather Australia and TripView are both great tools to have, as is the ebay app if you ever use ebay. Get TuneIn radio if you ever want to listen to radio.

        I'd also recommend App2SD but the N7 doesn't have expandable memory. Still can't believe that.

        Yeah, I'll give Chrome another try once Google discovers how to display web pages in full screen. ;-)

      Try dolphin browser HD, it feels more streamlined and faster

    ebay, facebook, pocket weather, power toggles, maps, street view, zedge (cstom tones and wallpapers), tbox remote, tune in radio, tetris. and of course angry birds, evernote is awsome, pulse / flip board is good for reading web content like gizmodo.

    Then consider rooting the device, get some voltage control for undervolting the cpu.
    franko kernals seem pretty stable. etc etc :)

      Custom tones and wallpapers?

      Because you can't do that natively or anything with Android at all.

    Thanks guys -- just for context, I plan to use it as an e-reader, to read manga, for gaming and for watching video content!

    Some good suggestions so far. Thanks guys and girls!

      Perfect Viewer for manga


        This has just made me decided on what I'd need to actually start reading manga.

        I need a job...

        I much prefer acv (a comic viewer) over perfect viewer for comics/manga.

        Only when there is an out of memory error do I switch to perfect viewer which with a recent update has been slightly more frequent but do try both to see which one you prefer. Acv just felt that little bit more effortless.

          Also for books (most formats readable) you must try moonreader+ for one reason: auto-scroll. I just recline back in the airplane and never have to move my hands. I have yet to find another reader that can do this. Makes reading in the plane and bed again effortless

      Not for manga, but for Novels Cool Reader is the best Ereading app I've found.It will read Epub and Mobo files. Unfortunately, iBooks is still better, but slower.

      Mango is the manga reader i use, its off market of course
      pretty much everything you could want in a manga reader app and its updated regularly

    I absolutely love the Messages replacement "Handcent SMS". It just has so many extra features over the stock SMS app. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.handcent.nextsms

    In the same vein, "SMS Backup and Restore" does exactly what it says. It will even email or upload to Dropbox for extra off-device peace of mind. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.riteshsahu.SMSBackupRestore & https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.riteshsahu.SMSBackupRestoreNetworkAddon

    That said, the Dropbox app is also one of the first I install since I use it for an increasing amount of my work and non-work files. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dropbox.android

    The above are all free, the below may cost a little...

    If you are anywhere near Sydney, or travel to and in Sydney often, "TripView Sydney" is brilliant. It will let you know train bus and ferry schedules and you can set up specific routes. Then when you are on your way to work, just tap that route and it'll give you up to date information on schedules. It will also give you information on delays and track info. There is a free version, but supporting the dev is also a good option. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.grofsoft.tripview.lite & https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.grofsoft.tripview

    Depending on how much work you do with Exchange mail servers you might like "Touchdown". It's a little expensive but has better integration, including task syncing. The only complaint I have is that compared to other apps it can be viewed as "ugly". https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nitrodesk.droid20.nitroid & https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nitrodesk.touchdownpro

    I'm sure there's more, but that's my "must install" list!

      I agree, Handcent SMS is in my opinion easily the best app to replace the stock SMS app. Before I jumped ship to iPhone I didn't have an Android without this app.

      In the case of this article though, it's probably useless as the Nexus 7 is WiFi only - no 3G means no mobile network usage, therefore no SMS. There are apps that can sync your SMS's from Android phones to tablets, but the article suggests Mark uses an iPhone so even those apps are no good.

        I uninstalled handscent because it kept on activating my touch screen before the notification. It was kind of annoying and I missed more then a few texts because of it. Also the default messaging kept on trying to take over again.

          Yeah, I had the odd annoyance with it, and now that you mention it, it did turn on the screen before my messages popped up. I don't know what type your phone is, but I always had HTCs and trying to get the stock messages app to shut up was a pain; you can't actually get rid of it, you just have to turn off all notifications from it. I put up with it though, as the advantages of Handcent were worth a couple minutes playing around with settings.

    for eReading, Alkido & Alkido will keep your ebooks snyc'd across multiple android devices, if you only have one (android device), forget Alkido Sync.

      Do you mean Aldiko?

    MX Player, Qloud, Google Reader, Flipboard

    If you're concentrating on tablet apps, then Pocket is one of the few tablet-optimised apps I really like on Android. If you're used to Instapaper or Readability on iOS (or perhaps you already used Pocket on iOS?) then you'll be right at home with the best "Read it later" style app out there..

    Chrome is a no brainer if you use it on the desktop, given the great syncing and omnibar.

    The Google+ app is another great tablet app, with a very slick UI. Even if you don't regularly use Google+ as your social network of choice, its worth it for the hangout feature alone.

    Flipboard - Another beautifully presented app for Android tablets. Looks just as good on Android as it does on iOS (well maybe not quite as slick as it looks on the latest iPad, but close ;) )

    Moboplayer(mkv files)
    Hipserv(if you have a server with visions)

      Mobo Player - FREE - Software decoding, will play ANY video regardless. Brilliant!!!

    Lookout, lookout, lookout.

    Weather Australia - I find that it's much more accurate than the other options, as it uses the BOM as its source.
    Tram Hunter - if you're a public transport user in Melbourne, this is fantastic.
    MortPlayer Music - if you prefer folder-navigation for accessing your music files, this is far better than the default (or go with tinyPlayer Free if you prefer something more minimal)
    Google Reader - if it didn't come standard on your phone, and you're an avid RSS fan, the google default app is great.
    A couple of games - This will depend on the kind of thing that you're into, and a lot may be the same as you played on iOS. My personal favourites at the moment: Cut The Rope, Temple Run, Forever Drive, Konas Crate, Can Knockdown.

      Oh, can't believe I left off Dropbox. That'd be on there before any of the above.

    First and only app is: iOS

    Ultimate Rotation (utility lets you auto rotate homescreen; not there as standard)
    Plume (twitter)
    Swiftkey 3 keyboard replacement
    FPse (Playstation Emulator)

    Dead Trigger, Shadowgun and Real Racing 3 will show off those Nexus 7 nvidia graphics
    Shadowgun even lets you bluetooth sync a PS3 controller

    Lantern: A Campfire Client
    Google Drive (Documents)
    Adobe Flash: http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2012/08/how-to-get-flash-back-on-your-android-device/
    Baconreader (Reddit)
    Tablified Market (shows you only HD tablet-ready apps -- good to use as second pass app hunter)

    Also, this from GamesCom:

    Facebook Messenger
    Banking app
    Tripview lite

    Plex for steaming all your media to your tablet on your home network (you can also get it to stream over the Net)

    Widget Locker

    BakaReader is good for Japanese light novels

    For Manga - look on the net for Mango reader (it is not in Google Play) .

    Also check out the current Humble Bundle - the current pack are Android games

    solid explorer - easily the best looking and by far the best UX in the file explorer department must have for file management

    airdroid - connect and control the tablet via any wifi enabled device simply genius

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