Editor's note: Over the last two weeks 10 CNET editors have chosen their 10 favorite Android apps as part of the 2011 CNET 100 series. And with each post, we asked you, our readers, to vote for your favorite. You left sharp opinions with each editor's picks, but in the end it all come down to which apps received the most votes. So now, we're proud to present the titles that you love most.
One of the areas where I find Android head and shoulders above the iPhone is navigation, and Google's Maps app is why. I use it plenty--finding out where I am when I emerge from the subway, looking for a nearby restaurant, even showing strangers where to go when they flag me down asking for directions. All that is great new stuff I couldn't do with a phone a few years ago, but it's the navigation component that spared me a couple hundred bucks I otherwise would have spent on a sat-nav system. The navigation shows a virtual view of the road as I drive, warning me of upcoming intersections and telling me which exit I need to take off the roundabout. I use it for walking, too.
Clicking the locate-yourself button in the upper right helpfully toggles from a bird's-eye view to one showing your own orientation and perspective. The app downloads route information in advance, which is essential for trips where wireless data doesn't reach and helps cover for the major weakness of sat-nav systems with their own maps. And a new labs feature lets you download map data in advance that reaches 10 miles away from a point of interest. That's good for those of us who don't have unlimited data plans or who are traveling in foreign countries where roaming fees are exorbitant.
And props to Google for splitting this (and Maps) out of the Android OS build so that it can be updated frequently without slow-moving carriers getting in the way.
Whether you believe viruses and malware are a legitimate issue for Android devices, I like to watch my back. I've been using Lookout Mobile Security for the better part of my Android life and have always come to trust the app and service.
I love that Lookout runs in the background, constantly checking things for me, yet it never hinders my handset performance. Lightweight and unobtrusive, it's a set-it-and-forget-it application that rarely needs my attention. As new mobile attacks come to light, I sleep well knowing that the cloud-based service is always up-to-date and fresh.
There are tons of features in the free client, including antivirus, anti-malware, antispyware, remote location, and backup. Should I have my phone stolen or simply lose it in the couch cushions, I can make the handset scream with an annoyingly awesome alarm. While all Lookout users get the option to back up their contacts, the Premium version adds in photo and call history backup. What's more, I can remotely lock my device or wipe it altogether, ensuring my data doesn't fall into the wrong hands. The latest release of Lookout Premium also adds in a feature that protects Web browsing, adding an additional layer of mobile protection.
Shazam is all well and good as a music ID tool, but if you've never tried SoundHound, you're missing out. Since I'm practically musically illiterate, I love this app for matching the songs I hear on the radio with a title, artist information, and lyrics. While you won't catch me singing or humming into the app, it's unique in its class for being able to recognize those inputs. (You can also type.) You can flag favorites, of course, and SoundHound makes it easy to buy the songs you hear. On top of the functionality, it looks slick, too.
Caption by Jessica Dolcourt
Price: For a one-time fee of $4.99, you can also purchase SoundHound Infinity, which drops the ads.
Yet another tool for those of us struggling to stay in the know, Read It Later is basically a short-term bookmarking utility. And it perfectly complements your Pulse News reader! If you can't quite (or don't want to) finish an article at a given moment, Read It Later will keep it in a queue for reading at a more convenient time or on a more convenient device. It even lets you catch up on items offline.
Personally, I prefer not to do any in-depth reading on my phone, especially if the article or post contains a lot of visual elements. Sure, skimming quick news reports or announcements is fine, but if I come across, say, a slideshow of amazing optical illusions, I might prefer to save it for when I'm sitting in front of a wide-screen desktop monitor, or at the very least, a tablet. With Read It Later installed on my Android phone, all I have to do is share the page with the app, and voila! Because I have the RIL tool installed on my desktop and tablet browsers, I can easily access my list at a more convenient time, then check off items that I've read. It’s seamless.
Caption by Jaymar Cabebe
Price: $2.99. There's also a free version that offers the core functionality, but without some added tools.
Since I switch phones so often during my testing, I've come to heavily rely on Google Voice as a centralizing force in my chaotic reviewing life. Translation: if I have just one phone number where everyone can reach me at all times, nobody gets confused. The app also lets me dial out from any Android phone using my Google Voice number, so my friends and family always know it's me calling, and not some random salesperson on a round of cold calls. And Google Voice employs visual voice mail, so I can instantly see who called or texted, read rough transcriptions of my voice mail messages, and respond to callers in any order I want.
The major catch, you ask? You have to have a Google Voice number first of all (it's not for everyone.) You also have to accept a certain amount of error in the transcriptions, and the Android app is sorely outdated--the iPhone version crashes more, but has more useful tools.
Call me an early adopter if you must, but count me in with the millions of people who have fully embraced Google+, Google's latest attempt at a social network. I am really digging the Circles paradigm, where you're invited to group up your friends and colleagues into separate circles, so you can fine-tune who you choose to keep in touch with. I also find the interface clean and intuitive, and I have to give props to Google+ for being much more privacy-aware than a certain other competitor.
One of the best things about Google+ is its Android app. Just download it from the Android Market, and within a couple of taps, you're ready to go. The mobile app is well designed, and you can switch Circle views by just swiping left to right. It's also easy to check notifications, and posting photos couldn't be simpler. Even better is the Huddle feature, which is only accessible on mobile handsets. This brings group messaging to a whole other level--you can send one text to a designated Circle, for example, and all members of that Circle will get that message. This is a great tool for organizing parties. Even though Google has just released the iOS version of Google+, the Android app still wins out with a key feature: the ability to customize the main stream with your own chosen circles.
When a friend first told me about Fruit Ninja, I remember laughing incredulously. I mean, come on, how fun could a game about slicing fruit be? Fast-forward to now, and one might say I'm slightly addicted.
In the game, fruit is tossed into the air and you swipe your finger across the screen to slice the fruit with your sword. You gain more points when you slice multiple fruits with a single swipe and get a combo blitz, but to make things a bit trickier, bombs are thrown into the mix and you have to be careful not to hit them.
There are several playing modes; Arcade mode is my favorite, in which you try to get the highest score in 60 seconds. I'm constantly trying to beat my own score, and it's really become a sort of obsession, but hey, at least it makes my commute go by fast.
I might like zombies more than I like cars! Plants vs. Zombies is a game so addictive that every time I fired it up to grab a screenshot in preparation for this listing, I ended up playing for a whole hour. It's just that good.
In this tower-defense-type game, players must defend their house (and their brains) from increasingly numerous and clever hordes of zombies by...growing a garden. However, this is no ordinary garden. These plants explode, bite, and fire projectiles. As the zombies get more clever in their quest to nosh on your brain, the plants get more deadly.