CNET editors pick their top five choices for new Android users looking for useful, free apps.
No. 1: Barcode Scanner
A good starting point for anyone with a new Android device is an app that can make downloading other apps super simple. A bar code scanner fits this bill, and it offers some additional features. Of the many available for Android, we like the simply named Barcode Scanner as a starting place for newbies. With it, you're at the liberty to scan QR codes to download Android apps, add a contact to your phone, or jump to a Web link--indeed, QR codes can contain a wealth of useful info
The scanner also reads retail bar codes, triggering a Google search for whichever product comes up. Though Barcode Scanner isn't as precise as other shopping apps that follow up their scan with a database search on where to find the item, it does its duty as a simple, multipurpose scanning app.
The ever-functional and increasingly popular note-taking application Evernote is just the sort of a jack-of-all-trades app that deserves a spot on any Android handset. This app lets you take notes, snap photos, record audio, and access all of your existing Evernote data. The clean interface and useful capabilities are sure to appeal to just about every organized Android user. Even better, you have the option to store Evernote on your SD card, a welcome feature for anyone worried about using up valuable phone memory.
The type of finance app you choose to install on your own Android phone can be very personal, in that individual banks all make their own apps. We like Mint.com Personal Finance because it can offer data from multiple institutions, including just about every bank and credit union out there. Not only that, but it goes a step beyond by acting as a budgeting tool as well.
In order to get everything set up, you will have to create an account on Mint's Web site. Here, you can add all of your banks, loans, credit cards, and other assets and debts. Then, you can use the app to view balances and upcoming bills, as well as track your budget (should you choose to use that feature). All extremely handy info to have in the palm of your hand.
If you're into food, you're probably already aware of Yelp, a site most widely known for its restaurant reviewing feature. Users can rate and comment on eating establishments as well as browse others' input. Of course, any business at all is fair game for review, from cobblers to gas stations to property management companies.
Yelp's Android app does an admirable job of cramming in nearly all the features of the Web site, as well as some extras that take advantage of the mobile platform. You can view business hours and photos, read and draft reviews, and see who's checked in where. You can also take photos from within the app and add them to a business's page, as well as "check in" to any establishment.
But perhaps the most useful feature of the app is the GPS and mapping functionality. Yelp makes full use of Android's location technology to help you locate eateries and other useful businesses near you. This app is a must have for anyone who travels frequently, likes good food, or wants to find quality businesses.
No mobile roundup would be complete without a great music app, and after much internal debate, we decided Slacker is our favorite. The service offers both curated stations that are organized by theme and genre as well as algorithmically generated playlists based on artists or songs you pick.
As with Slacker Radio on other mobile platforms, the Android app lets you stream music from preprogrammed genres and stations, or create your own stations and mixes using the search feature. You can also view album art and bios, "ban" and "heart" tracks, and skip ahead. The free version of the service has ads and skip limits; you can upgrade to Slacker Radio Plus to eliminate these and add caching capability for offline playback.
There is some debate as to whether app process killers are helpful or harmful on the Android platform, but the consensus among Android users at CNET is that the ability to manage tasks is crucial to saving battery life. Hence, our honorable mention: Advanced Task Killer.
This simple app lets you view the tasks currently running on your phone--some in the background, and others more obvious--and select which ones you want to stop. You can also add a shortcut on your home screen that lets you kill all tasks with one click, a handy feature given that most apps don't fully close out until a while after you've exited them.