New Android smartphone for Christmas? Download these apps first

by Marty Gabel

Just got a shiny new Android smartphone? Lucky you. There is a wealth of great apps out there in addition to the ones that may already be pre-installed on your device. Instead of scouring your way through the millions of apps in the Android Market, here are ten handy ones to get you started from a variety of different categories.

Facebook for Android

The dedicated Facebook app keeps getting updated and is finally offering a decent (if not perfect) mobile experience. The Facebook app may be a better option than some of the pre-loaded social widgets and apps your new device may have built-in, so check it out if you want a more familiar experience. If it doesn’t work out for you, there is always touch.facebook.com from your new Android’s browser which offers a similar experience.

Twitter

Twitter just got a big update, and like Facebook, it matches the look and functionality of its HTML5 sister site now. It’s a reliable way to access your Twitter feed (with a useful notification system), though if you need more functionality, there’s plenty of alternative Twitter apps available to try like Tweetcaster, twicca, Seesmic, and Plume.

Dropbox

This is a handy app for sharing files you have on your computer which you might want to access on your new smartphone too, whether they be documents, MP3s, videos and more. Your new smartphone probably has a good amount of in-built storage, but Dropbox lets you share and access files from anywhere. You get 2GB of space for free and more is available if you pay.

Amazon

This app can get dangerous quickly, so if you’re a frugal shopper, you might want to turn off the one-click shopping option straight away! The Amazon app is simple and straightforward to use, and handy to have around if you want to buy something on the fly direct from your device, or if you need to compare a price in a store to something online. Personally, I find keeping my Wish List full of books I want to read super-handy when I visit used bookstores.

News360

You probably want a dedicated news app or two, even if your device offers some news widgets. While there are plenty of big name offerings from people like FOX, BBC or CNN, an app like News360 uses the advanced features of your new Android smartphone to aggregate the headlines from a number of sources and help personalize your news-reading experience. Try Pulse or Google Currents for a different take on news aggregation.

SoundHound

Ever wondered what that tune was that just played on TV and wished you could track it down? SoundHound can do just that, and that’s what makes it a fun download for your new Android smartphone. Identify music easily, even if you are out in public, or just want hum a tune that’s stuck in your head. As an alternative, an app called Shazam offers similar functionality.

Backgrounds HD Wallpapers

Your new phone probably has a bunch of pre-installed wallpapers already, and there are many nice animated live wallpapers in the Market (though some argue they drain battery life). With Backgrounds, however, you can change your wallpaper whenever you want because it taps into  thousands of user-submitted images from a Flickr pool. Whatever your mood, or whatever you are into, there’s bound to be a background image perfect for your Android, and this app does a better job than many at showcasing the best.

FxCamera

There are a huge number of good camera/photography apps available, but we’ve chosen FxCamera because it’s simple, useful and extremely popular. It lets you apply neat effects to your images as you shoot, such as fish-eye lenses, a toy camera look, or Polaroid vibe. There are many more photo apps available with numerous filters and editing capabilities that you can graduate to, but FxCamera is a good place to start.

Yahoo! Sportacular

If you’re a sports fan with shiny new Android smartphone in hand, you probably need a convenient way to keep track of the latest sports scores. Sportacular has continued to improve after a somewhat rocky start and now offers a reliable way to track down up-to-the-minute scores, news and standings for your favorite football, basketball, baseball and soccer teams. Try ScoreMobile or ESPN Scorecenter, if the look and feel of Sportacular doesn’t appeal.

ASTRO File Manager

This one’s a little more complicated, but if your phone didn’t come with a way to access its file system, it could come in handy. ASTRO makes it easy to view and move the files that sit on your new device, especially on your built-in storage. Some apps leave data behind even when uninstalled, so zap that with the help of ASTRO. As an added bonus, ASTRO can backup your apps and also acts as a task manager so you can see which apps are running and possibly draining battery life.