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Chrome Beta leads Android Apps of the Week

by Kristen Nicole

Google made a grand gesture in launching the Chrome browser beta for Android. Gaining popularity on the desktop, it was only a matter of time before Google merged its browser and mobile efforts with an Android version of Chrome. Vonage also made a splash with its Android debut, competing with established players like Skype and Google’s own VoIP service. Rdio has completely reworked its Android app in hopes of making its mark on the Android Market’s music scene, while Zlango reached 1 million users just a few months after its launch.

Chrome Beta (Free)

With 37 percent of mobile browsing taking place on Android devices, it’s high time Google released Chrome for mobile devices. Already gaining on Firefox and IE on desktops, Chrome for Android works on smartphones and tablets, delivering a personalized browser experience on the go. There’s accelerated page loading, scrolling and zooming, as well as search support with the omnibox. You can open and toggle between tabs, and sync your bookmarks to ensure your browser content spans the PC and the handset. Chrome Beta even has the infamous incognito mode for private browsing. The biggest drawback is its limited availability. It's only for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich devices, to take advantage of the updated OS’s hardware acceleration. With a mere 1 percent of all Android users using ICS, it may be a while before Chrome Beta really takes off.

Vonage Mobile (Free)

In a world where Skype and WhatsApp rule, Vonage hopes to delve deeper into mobile with an Android app of its own. Vonage Mobile enables free calling and messaging within their network. International calls are supported, but they’ll cost you. Unlike Skype, Vonage Mobile syncs with your device’s contacts, and boasts HD audio, putting it ahead of its smaller rivals. This isn’t Vonage’s first mobile app. Vonage Extensions is a mobile adjunct for its home service, supporting international calls with limited features. It’s good to see Vonage expanding its mobile efforts, even if they’re even later than Skype to the playing field.

Rdio update (Free)

Completely overhauled, the new Rdio Android app delivers access to over 12 million songs on the go. There’s offline support for when you don’t have a 3G or Wi-Fi connection, and you can curate playlists to create your own collections. Similar to Spotify, you can subscribe to others’ playlists, whether they’re friends or keen music lovers. You can search songs, albums, artists and users with the Rdio app, or tune into a station created by the most popular songs being played in your network. The new Rdio app is all about music discovery, so social sharing is encouraged, and following friends’ activity will often lead you to an undiscovered gem or two.

Zlango update (Free)

Zlango’s goofy app lets you send picture messages, and the icon-based texting app has really caught on. Zlango claims 1 million users since launching in the U.S. about four months ago, with over 5 million users worldwide. It’s another app that replaces one of Android’s core components – texting. Such apps only continue to gain in popularity, especially those, like Zlango, that offer a high level of personalization. Resonating with younger demographics, Zlango offers a massive range of free icons for picture messaging and social media status updates, along with skins and live wallpapers to further personalize your phone.

Foodspotting update (Free)

Foodspotting is more than just foodie porn, with a major update to its Android app. Offering a new focus on recommendations and venue discovery, Foodspotting reveals a Pandora-like interface that lets you mark dishes as “want it,” “loved it,” “tried it,” or “hated it.” The more feedback you offer, the better Foodspotting will be able to recommend dishes you’ll like (great for vegetarians that aren’t turned on by a close-up of lamb steak). The update really digs into Foodspotting’s database of dishes added by its users, building personalized suggestions as it continues to leverage crowdsourced content. The app, as novel as it is, was overdue for such an update to take it to the next level.

Waze update (Free)

The popular navigation app that also relies on crowdsourced input for traffic jams and other obstacles, Waze 3.0 is a great update to an already great app. With a fresh coat of paint, Waze offers new maps for a more driver-friendly UI, and improved social features as well. De-cluttering the app, the new interface has larger icons. And the maps can now be rotated to make a smoother experience overall. Waze also incorporated Yelp and Foursquare to extend local information on various venues, making it an even more beneficial app for the social scene.