July 10, 2011

20 Android Apps & Games You'll Love

When I bought my first smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy, two years ago, I already made a small list of my favorite apps, so I thought I could do an updated one after I spent one week with my fresh and adorable HTC Desire HD.

For the apps, I won't mention the regular ones to have, like the Google ones (Maps, gReader, Voice Search, etc.), shopping apps (Amazon, Kindle, etc.) and standard social and video apps like Facebook, Google+ or YouTube. For the games, I tried to avoid suspicious ones or those which can't be enjoyed without paying extra money for stuff in order to advance.

And here comes my list of 10 useful apps you don't want to miss, followed by a selection of 10 fun games you won't be able to put aside. Enjoy!


Hi-Q MP3 Recorder

Developer: Yuku
Price: free; $3.99 (Full Version)

This awesome audio recorder is a great app for recording MP3 files in a decent quality. It saves your audio with sample rates up to 44 kHz and bit rates up to 128 kbps in real-time, so you won't have to care about lengthy converting. The pretty expensive full version only removes the 10-minute limit for recordings, so you'll probably be fine with the free lite version.

ES File Explorer

Developer: EStrongs Inc.
Price: free

This file explorer belongs to a set of neat system apps by EStrongs and offers everything you need for your Android file management. You can also add FTP servers, LAN network connections and online services like Dropbox for easy file sharing and access. If you're looking for a tool to easily transfer files from desktop to phone or vice versa, this is what you need.


Developer: PinGuo Inc./mAPPn, Inc.
Price: free; $3.99 (Ultimate Version)

If you didn't know: Most cellphone cameras don't operate at the top of their capacities by default, which is either to save storage space or due to a lack of optimization. So instead of using your regular camera app, grab a professional one like this for improved image output. Besides supporting your camera's top quality settings, Camera360 also includes a good share of effect settings (like LOMO or faux-HDR), scenery modes and more.

Meebo IM

Developer: Meebo, Inc.
Price: free

Finding a good messenger app for Android can be quite the task. Most popular messengers like WhatsApp or eBuddy require separate registrations on their own or annual fees, but Meebo IM is a free and uncomplicated little client for all your relevant chat programs. Registering accounts, texting and sharing is easy as pie, the UI looks good enough, and disconnects are rare.

Google Goggles

Developer: Google Inc.
Price: free

Goggles is Google's terrific image recognition app and recognizes objects, logos, images, works of art, places, landmarks and whatever you can think of to provide you with appropriate search results and information. Turn on your cam and take a picture of what you want to find out more about – Goggles will probably have to tell you something about it.


Developer: SoundHound Inc.
Price: free; $4.99 (∞ Version)

This app recognizes songs being played, sung or hummed and offers song titles, lyrics, order links, social sharing, YouTube shortcuts and much more. A total must-have for music freaks, but a pricey pleasure. The major reason I'm listing SoundHound is because there's a licensed version installed on HTC's more recent cellphones, which grants me unlimited results instead of the regular free version's 3 results. (It still has ads, though.) Thanks HTC – awesome app!


Developer: PhotoFunia
Price: free

A great app to enhance your pictures with stylish and fun effects. Place your face on a commercial display, become a piece of art, switch your body, and so on. There are hundreds of cool options to choose from. Contrary to most image effects apps, PhotoFunia doesn't save your results as a pixelized mess – the quality of the modified images is in fact absolutely satisfying.

Barcode Scanner

Developer: ZXing Team
Price: free

Still your average Android user's barcode scanner of choice and probably still the most reliable one. Scan any barcode you see and this app provides you with relevant information and shopping links. But you can also share contacts, bookmarks and apps via QR Code, which is quite handy on some occasions.


Developer: Think Android
Price: free; $3.59 (Pro Version)

The only software manager I've ever used, because it's reliable, fast and offers quick and easy backups to your SD card. The advantages of the full version aren't really necessary for the average user, at least not for such a price, but the free version already includes all the important stuff you need to uninstall or save your apps in case you want to reinstall apps later or revert them back to earlier versions anytime.

Advanced Task Killer

Developer: ReChild
Price: free; $4.99 (Pro Version)

A small and totally sufficient task killer to save your valuable battery life from all the unnecessary stuff that is loaded on a system startup and runs in the background whether you need it or not. Includes an ignore list for things you want to keep running anytime, like a widget or your daily alarm clock. I'm not sure what the Pro version does other than removing the ads, but there's no need for you to spend the money.


Angry Birds

Developer: Rovio Mobile Ltd.
Price: free

Probably the most popular app and casual game in the world (well, after FarmVille...) and what else can I say? I have never played it before I got my Desire HD this month, but I'm already hooked like hell. Rovio grants their fans a lot of regular updates with new levels, and you can also grab the free sequels Seasons and Rio for even more fun. Must-have!

Cut the Rope

Developer: ZeptoLab
Price: $0.99

In one of the cutest game you'll ever play you have to cut ropes to maneuver a piece of candy around various obstacles into the mouth of a little monster. More difficult than that is reaching the various stars you are to collect with your swinging candy before li'l Om Nom chews it. While the puzzles will leave you with one or another headache, you'll just fall in love with the cute comic design and the adorable monster.

Myth Defense: Light Forces

Developer: Smartpix Games
Price: free; $3.95 (Full Version)

I can't count how many tower defense games have spawned in the Android Market, but many of them are really good. Basically, you could just search the Market itself for "tower defense" if you like the classic strategy game, or you could just check out Myth Defense, which looks good and offers a lot of fun and variety. Another interesting candidate is HexDefense, which looks pretty cool.

AirAttack HD

Developer: Art in Games
Price: free (Part 1); $1.89 (Part 2); $2.89 (Both Parts)

AirAttack HD is certainly the most exciting and fun air combat shooter I have found for Android so far. Beautiful visuals, fast gameplay, lots of great effects, levels and boss fights – what else do you need? Based on your phone's download cache you can either grab both parts separately or buy them combined in one package. And yeah, you will want to get both of 'em.

Alchemy Classic

Developer: NIAsoft
Price: free

Alchemy games are no rarity in smartphone app stores, and this one should be your first choice. Combine two elements and get a new one, that's all there is to do. As you advance from the four elements to create bacteria, ships, weapons, radioactivity and whatnot, the many, many choices you have will keep you guessing and combining until it's a few hours later, once again. Addictive, just like its many different variants.

Pumpkins vs. Monsters

Developer: RunnerGames.Studios
Price: free

At first I thought this was a clone of my beloved Plants vs. Zombies, but no, it's not. Rather than that, it's a strategy game on its own with its own twists and lots of addictive gameplay and stuff to discover. It also offers a neat story mode and it's not the easiest game there is, so be warned. A must-have for lovers of the above mentioned PvZ, and it's totally free, yay!

Zenonia 3: The Midgard Story

Developer: Gamevil Inc.
Price: free

I don't really know why the most recent Zenonia release is free, while you have to pay for the full versions of part 1 and its sequel. But what I know is that Zenonia 3 is a gorgeous classic RPG with an engaging story taking place in Midgard, an updated character system and many different playable classes. Fans of old-school adventuring à la Secret of Mana, rejoice! This one is for you.

Samurai II: Vengeance

Developer: Madfinger Games, a.s.
Price: $2.89

To be honest, I haven't bought this awesomely desinged and pretty bloody action adventure yet, but I will grab it damn soon. Until then, the YouTube reviews are more than reason enough to believe that this game rocks pretty hard. The first Samurai game has already been a successful highlight, so there's almost no doubt about the quality of this long-awaited sequel.


Developer: Bithack
Price: $1.99

Apparatus is a mechanical structure puzzle game like the classic Incredible Machine games. It features realistic visuals and physics and offers a wide range of challenging stages as well as a freebuild mode for your creativity or just for fun. Your aim is to move one or more marbles to a specific destination, but the overall concept will keep you busy playing around with the environment and possibilities. If you can live with some fiddly controls, check it out.

Legends Arcana

Developer: Little Killerz
Price: $1.99

Advertised as "an action RPG of near endless replay-ability," Legends Arcana is a charming game in the tradition of evergreens like Diablo. Make your way through dungeons, caves and other interesting places while mastering up to 24 different skills, fighting hordes of monsters and looting treasure. The story cutscenes are well done and the gameplay makes you crave for more.

Bonus Retro Game Recommendation

Gurk II

Developer: Larva Labs Ltd.
Price: $0.99

No matter how beautiful and great all those new HD smartphone games are, there is always a little need for nostalgia, right? And that's exactly why you will love Gurk II. I will just let the description speak for itself: "Fans will be shedding tears of joy as they roll for their character's stats, board ships, summon monsters and cast powerful area of effect spells. This game radiates a pure and unabashed joy of old-school RPGing. Enjoy!"

If you would like to recommend an app you love or bash my selections, feel free to do so in the comments!

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