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The Bizarre Reality of My Top 30 ‘Essential’ Android Apps


There are 365 Android apps installed on the Samsung Android smartphone sitting here in front of me…how on earth did that happen? And more to the point, what are they worth to my life? The fact is that most of us carry around an unfeasibly large number of sophisticated computer programs on our modern phones, but can we really say they’re useful or valuable?

I recently sat down to evaluate which of my installed apps were important, and came to a surprising conclusion. It’s not the apps themselves which are important, but the ‘potential‘ of the apps in most cases. I apparently carry around the smartphone equivalent of a Swiss pocket knife just in case I ever need to pry stones out of a digital horseshoe. So in the interest of science, here’s a list of my ‘essential’ apps ranked in order of real value and everyday use.

The majority of them are FREE, but I’ve also included four apps that cost money, just to show I’m not biased.

* Tier One – essential for every day use


Gesture Search: Search the phone for apps, contacts, files etc by drawing letters on the screen. This is an essential tool for when you have 365 apps to hunt through.
Swype Beta: Not available directly from the Play store, but a superb data entry tool nevertheless. Learns as you go, has a dictionary backup function, and is a blindingly fast way to type on a small handset.
What’s App: Ridiculously popular for a reason, it’s the single fastest and most effective way to transmit photos and text messages between phones. An awesome way to communicate.
Screen Timeout: Super simple widget. Press to toggle between no screen timeout and pre-set time. Perfect for those times when you want to play, read without the screen dimming every 20 seconds.
Green Power: Scarily aggressive power management utility, which WILL keep your phone’s battery use down to a minimum. No fuss install, instantly useful. Beware losing calls to over management of the radio.
ISeeYou Lite: A great idea marred by a patchy implementation. Supposed to keep the screen alive while you’re watching (using the front camera). When it works it’s brilliant. I live in hope and keep it running.
Swipe Pad: Another navigational utility which offers instant app launching with a stroke of the finger. Cool.
App Lock: Security looms large on smartphones. This one installs pattern or PIN security on every app you select, and therefore removes the need for a home screen lock password.
Solitaire: Do I play this every day? You bet. Perfect for idle hours and much better for your brain than Facebook.

* Tier Two – definitely essential but not every day


QLoud: If you want the very best WiFi streaming media app to send media from your computer to an Android phone or device hooked up to your TV, this is it. No question. Even the free version. Get it!
ES File Explorer: Sometimes you need a hard core file explorer for moving stuff around your phone, and this is the best there is. Easy to use, powerful and free. What more do you need?
Easy Uninstaller: I hear what you’re saying. With 365 apps, no wonder you need a fast, easy, batch uninstaller. And you’re right. Every so often I have a clean up of apps, and this baby really does the job.
Glympse: Totally essential whenever I need to share my current location with family (where ARE you?). So much better than texting and works perfectly.
TuneIn Radio: The single best Internet radio app I’ve come across. 70,000 stations, flawless execution and an awesome interface.
S Memo: This is a cheat, because S Memo is only available on Samsung devices. But the link here is to a great alternative called FreeNote, which offers similar functionality.
App Dragon: Dude, how else could I find out quickly that I’ve got 365 installed apps? Great for sharing your app list and just keeping track of your apps for backup, upgrades and transitions.

* Tier Three – essentially valuable, but mostly as cool ‘show off’ apps


Atooma: This would be an absolutely everyday app if only it didn’t cause the phone to suck up battery life like a sponge for most uses. Not the program’s fault, but it stops me from using it constantly. Darn it!
IP Webcam: Turn your phone into a wireless webcam. Oh I so want to use this, really I do. I keep it around on the off-chance that a reason will turn up. Because it’s so COOL, know what I mean?
First Aid:I so don’t want to ever use this. I keep it around hoping that no-one will ever keel over in front of me and need my assistance. But just in case….
WiFi Mouse: I would definitely use this trackpad replacement app if I was still traveling as much as I used to. The chance to ditch an extra mouse and use this instead is worth it on its own. Great idea.
Caustic: A real demo app, since it’s an amazing music making, sequencer, drum kit, recording studio app all rolled into one. The free version is v restricted, but it’s still a gas to mess around with during idle times.

* Tier Four – essential brain assistants (to be used in emergency)


Currency Calculator: Do I keep installing this because I fancy I’m a bit of a traveler? Or because I hope to travel more? Whatever the reason, I never use it, but it’s got to be there…just in case.
Discount Calculator: I’m never going to be caught out wasting money as long as this app is installed. But wait, I’ve NEVER actually used it, or have I…?’s still essential and that’s all there is to it.
Convert Pad: Because I never know when I’m going to need to convert bushels to sq meters or kilograms or parsecs or whatever. The fact that no-one ever asks me is no consolation.
Smart Measure: This is such a cool tool it would be criminal not to keep it installed. How far away and how tall IS that object? I’m not an architect, but I absolutely need to be able to answer that question.
Percent Calculator: Otherwise known as the mathematics dummy app. If, like me, you are an abject failure at numbers, this is definitely essential to your life. Designed to especially defeat insurance salesmen.

* Tier Five – essential because I paid for them (with real money)


Torque Pro: I just had to buy this car computer app when I discovered the cool interface and how easy it was to install in my car. I use it now and then, but it’s not yet managed to embed itself into my life like I hoped it would.
PlayerPro: I love this app and use it every single day. It’s a brilliant music player and knocks socks off just about every other app out there. The only reason it’s down here is because it cost money.
NeverLate: I love the idea, paid for the app instantly, and then realized that it’s not something that will rock my life in the real world. When I want to navigate I use Google Maps, this app stays shut. Shame.
BeMeBlackBox: One of my paid apps, and one I keep around waiting for more powerful handsets. The idea of using the phone as a car camera is brilliant, it’s just that the phone is usually doing so much already in the car, like Google Navigation and playing music, that there’s no more processing available.

So there you have it. 30 apps, under 10% of the total, out of which I only use 10 regularly. Are they essential? Who knows? Now excuse me, I’ve just got to go grab another round of Solitaire before dinner.


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