It’s been a massively successful year for the Android OS, and 2011 doesn’t seem like that tradition will slow. We’ve seen a stampede of applications rushed to the platform this year, but which ones made the cut to be called the best of 2010? While there are only ten that will make it, we’ll throw out an honorable mention if suited in a certain category. Read on!
1. Google Maps 5
Google Maps for Android has been one of the most frequently updated applications from Big G themselves, and the latest iteration has made it simply the best maps app that beats any other mobile OS out there today.
Maps 5 introduced some features that many have been asking for, and some that we didn’t know we should have been asking for. You can now cache the data of maps, allowing you to use the application without a data connection. This feature was added to the new version of HTC Sense, but we’re glad Google has implemented it into their own application. Google Maps 5 also brings maps to life by letting a user view maps in 3D. Using a simple two-finger swipe down gesture, the map will tilt down, and as you move around, 3D buildings will begin to pop up. You can also use the app’s navigation services without a data connection, and even re-route where you’re going without any problems.
Honorable Mention: Nothing touches this app
2. ADW Launcher (EX)
For those looking for a different Android experience from what their phone ships with, the hands-down best home replacement is ADW Launcher. The app brings a very stock Android look to your home screen, with heavy customization options and features you won’t find supported on phones out of the box. You’ll find scrollable widget support, gesture support, themes that can be downloaded from the Android Market, and More. ADW is the default launcher on the most popular customized Android ROM these days, CyanogenMod, and since ADW is open-source, the two make quite a good match.
For those looking for more, you can check out the paid version of ADW, ADW Launcher EX. EX brings many more features that you won’t find on the free version any time soon, like the slick 3D Window animations we saw a while back, app drawer settings, easy icon editing support, and much more. It’s fairly new, and runs rather slowly, but it’ll be worth the money if you want an unrivaled stock Android experience that will only get better with future updates.
Honorable Mention: Launcher Pro Plus – Similar to ADW, but offers up HTC Sense-like widgets right within the app.Very nice if you’d like a touch of the Sense UI on stock Android.
3. Angry Birds
Love it or hate it, Angry Birds is one of the hottest games on mobile right now, and when Rovio released it on Android for free, it didn’t take long before the app hit the million mark. Initially available only on GetJar, Rovio was forced to release Angry Birds on the Android Market after GetJar crashed from so many people trying to get the very popular game on their handset. Rovio later released Angry Birds seasons, only furthering their rabid following on Android, and the dev team may begin to see around $1 million in ad revenue every month soon. If you’ve yet to play Angry Birds, we suggest you do so very soon.
Honorable Mention: Fruit Ninja – While nothing beats Angry Birds in my book right now, the only other game that can occupy me for more than 5 minutes is Fruit Ninja.
4. Flash Player 10.1
Whatever you may think about Flash, it’s hard to say that it wasn’t a big deal when it was announced at the Google I/O earlier this year. Flash is still finicky in its current state, and it’s hard to say that the experience is worth it with some handsets. We’re wondering if Adobe is looking to optimize the application for so it will work on the current generation of Android phones, or if they are waiting on better hardware. Flash running on the NVIDIA Tegra 2 is quite a different experience than you’d find on any single core CPU, and we hope that Adobe isn’t getting lazy because of this.
Honorable Mention: Skyfire – While this is just a web browser, it allows you to view Flash content that has been converted to HTML5. There are give and takes between the two, but Skyfire is a solid browser that should please many who aren’t impressed with Flash in its current form.
5. Plume (Touiteur)
I’ve been a Twidroyd user for quite some time now, and nothing seemed to have rivaled the massively popular Twitter client. Then Touiteur (now Plume) came along, which initially didn’t impress me as much as it could have, but has recently began offering up some features that made me make the switch.
I’ve a very big fan of widgets, and for some time, the only decent one seemed to come from Twidroyd. Then Toutieur was updated with new widgets that had supported scrolling, and it had regained my attention. Tweeting is always a pull-down bar away, similar to the Android notification bar. There are fewer theming options for the application than Twidroyd, but the over all experience is nicer in my opinion.
Honorable Mentions: Twidroyd, Tweetdeck – Both of these Twitter apps are great, and are similarly feature-packed. We know that not everyone will have the same taste in their clients, but we do love the choice between so many quality applications. I’ve never been a fan of Seesmic, but there’s quite a following behind it as well.
6. Beautiful Widgets
As I said before, I’m a big fan of widgets, and I’ve been using Beautiful Widgets ever since it was introduced. Late last year, the maker of the popular widget that gives you a HTC Sense – like clock and weather widget was given a cease and desist letter from HTC themselves. This resulted in a degradation of the widget’s graphics, which are hardly as nice as they once were, but it’s still nice enough to use. Beautiful Widgets offers an option to skin the widget, of which there are many. More widgets come with the app, such as settings, and multiple sizes of the weather widget.
Just like the official HTC widget, you can customize Beautiful Widgets to open the corresponding application when a certain area is tapped (tapping the time will open the clock app, tapping the date will open the calendar.) While these aren’t revolutionary, Beautiful Widgets is a very simple, and functional option for those who’d like to spruce up their Android homescreen.
Honorable Mention: There are plenty of HTC Sense widget look-alikes, none of which are as functional as Beautiful Widgets.
Some people love it, others hate it, but no matter what you think of Swype, it changed the way people thought of typing on their handset. The keyboard that allows you to slide you finger over letters in one fluid motion without picking up your finger once is now pre-installed on many Android phones these days, and is gaining popularity. The record-breaking keyboard has a bit of a learning curve, but once you get it, you get it. I don’t necessarily even prefer Swype, but it’s still my primary virtual keyboard for one reason: speed. Nothing beats it, and going back to a regular keyboard makes you feel as if it takes twice as long to bang out the same message. That’s because it does.
Honorable Mentions: There are plenty of keyboards available for Android, all varying in functionality and learning curves. We wish that we’d see the BlindType tech thrown into the stock Android keyboard, but we’ve yet to see it. Once that does happens, we may forget about Swype all together, but for now, it’s my number one virtual keyboard pick.
8. Chrome to Phone
One of the features that Google actually delivered the goods on this year was Chrome to Phone. The feature was first shown off at Google I/O earlier this year, and allows a user to push websites, Google Maps directions, and more right to your phone, without touching it at all. No longer will do you have to email yourself links or manually go to a site you were just using on your computer. All you need is the application from the Android Market, and the Chrome to Phone extension. It’s officially only for Google’s Chrome browser, but there is a third-party extension for FireFox as well.
If you’re using a Google site, and have that particular application installed on your phone, when you push that site to your phone, a notification will ask you how you’d like to open the content. So if you were on Google Finance and push that to your device, you can choose to open it in the Finance app, or within the browser itself. If you push directions from Google Maps to your phone, Navigation will immediately open without pressing a button on your phone at all.
Honorable Mention: Nothing beats this one
There are many e-reader applications for Android out there these days, but the most popular by far would have to be Kindle for Android. Not only is the application terribly easy to use, it’s available on a multitude of devices and platforms out there, making the switch to another device that much easier to get your books back. Of course, this is the case for many of the other options out there as well, which is why we’ve included the Nook and Kobo applications as well. All three of these applications have desktop programs as well, so if you want to get some reading done without looking at a small screen, you can get your reading done on your computer. I personally use Kobo for my e-book reading, but have no qualms with any of the other options out there.
Honorable Mention: Aldiko
10. Slacker Radio
Slacker Radio is one of the best streaming music apps available for Android, and it gets our pick for 2010. With a slick UI, and some great features behind it, Slacker brings a lot to the table. When you upgrade to the premium version of Slacker, the benefits just get better. There are two different subscription services for Slacker Radio Plus, the $4.99 monthly option, or the annual subscription, which would equate to $3.99 a month. Slacker Radio Plus scraps the ads, and brings unlimited song skips, complete lyrics, and will cache your music as your listening to it, allowing you to listen to your stations without a data connection. Don’t miss out of this app!
Honorable Mentions: GrooveShark – better on-demand searching, and its own radio function may make all the difference to you.
So there they are, folks. 2010 has been quite a good year for Android and the apps the Market now holds. Not all of these apps came out this year, but they still have what it takes to make this list.
Don’t like the list? Throw in your top ten Android apps of 2010 in the comments!