Essential apps for Android

When it comes to selecting apps, Android users have it worse than their iPhone counterparts. Although there are fewer apps to peruse (about 100,000 for Android compared to 300,000 for iPhone), the Android Market is a nightmare to navigate compared with the iTunes App Store.

Yes, even though Google is the master of search, its Android Store's search feature is less effective than Apple's. The Market also has no answer for the App Store's "Staff Favorites," ''Essentials" or "New and Noteworthy" selections, which pull good apps to the front of the catalog.

To simplify the search, here are some indispensable apps to check out. 

Google Shopper (free)

This app can save you hundreds of dollars by helping you find better prices nearby or online. Scan a bar code and the app takes it from there. If the scan does not work, you can speak the product's name and the app finds the product.


Google Sky Map (free)

Some serious eye candy that you will want to activate on the next cloudless night. Point your device toward the heavens and Sky Map puts a label on every celestial body you see — and some you cannot.

CardioTrainer (free)

Arguably better than any fitness app on the iPhone, CardioTrainer is an Android-only program that tracks your fitness regimen and calorie consumption. It includes a music management feature to keep your workout tunes fresh.

SoundHound (free and $5)

It is Android's best showoff app after Sky Map. Open SoundHound and it identifies nearly any song — even some you hum. It also finds lyrics and YouTube videos of song performances. The $5 version lets you identify an unlimited number of tunes. Users of the free version get five songs a month.

Evernote (free)

Evernote is a mobile notepad that synchronizes with desktop and browser software (also free). Use your smart phone to take a photo, record a voice memo or jot down a note, and the next time you open Evernote on your desktop computer, your mobile notes appear (and vice versa). The free version stores a fair amount of information, but $45 a year buys unlimited storage.


Urbanspoon (free)

Great for those with empty stomachs, full wallets and no ideas. Spin Urbanspoon's slot machine and it offers restaurant suggestions. The app includes user reviews, contact information, maps and directions.

Slacker (free)

You have most likely heard of Pandora, the great personalized radio service. Slacker is better, with a deeper catalog of songs. And unlike the Web version, you can download hours of music to your phone and listen when you are offline. (That feature is free to try, but a $4 monthly fee applies thereafter.)

FxCamera (free)

Android does not have anything quite like Hipstamatic, the iPhone app that creates beautiful effects for your photos. FxCamera is close, with several cool filters to choose from, and quick sharing to Facebook.

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