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Download these free Android apps right away

by Kristen Nicole

With approximately one-third of smartphones now powered by Google's Android mobile operating system, there are dozens of devices capable of downloading Android apps. With nearly 75,000 apps available in the Android Market, the iPhone is no longer the only game in town.

Here is our list of the best Android apps to download right away. Oh yeah, they are all free!

Entertainment and games

Pandora Radio (free) brings you personalized music streaming for free.  The Android app gets a feel for your music tastes the more you listen.  Pretty soon, you’ll have on-demand radio stations, made just for you. Pandora also gives you artist details and links for purchasing your favorite tunes.

Barnes & Noble’s Nook (free) is a great eReader for the Android platform.  The free app also links to the bookstore; download titles straight to your phone. Nook links to your existing account, in case you already have ebooks here. Viewer settings let you change text size and background color, while bookmarks hold your place.

Bonsai Blast (free) is a great Android game for adults and kids; best of all, it’s free.  This colorful game is very addictive, as you try to clear the board of snaking balls before your time runs out.  Grab bonuses and power packs as you level up, and see how far you make it in the leader boards.

Social and Local

With a recent update to the Facebook app for Android, I can finally include it in a “top app” list.  Flush with new features like video playback, friend request responding and events management, you won’t have to leave the app to participate on Facebook.  The social networking app is free.

Search for products by photo, keyword (text and voice) or bar code, with Shopper.  Results are given for online and local retailers, and can also be saved. Product details include reviews and store info, and you can share items via email, Facebook, Twitter or IM. Did I mention this free app has the fastest bar code scanner around?

Productivity

Remember the Milk is very handy for go-getters.  The task manager tracks to-do lists, notes, shopping lists, appointments and more.  Best of all, it integrates with services you already use (i.e. Google Calendar).  You’ll need a “pro” account to reap the benefits of this mobile app, but it’s worth it.

Uber Keyboard’s voice recognition app makes it easier to use your smart phone, whether you’re using it for email, SMS or search.  Its replacement QWERTY keyboard also has a few features that don’t come with your Android, with custom mappings, arrow keys and even custom skins.

Endomondo Sports Tracker is very useful for runners, walkers and cyclists. The free app has real-time tracking for speed, altitude and time, route displays and workout history.  You can even play music from your phone during your runs.  Get pep talks from friends and let them know your time on that last 5k run.

Security and utility

WaveSecure offers a slew of safety tools for your Android, including backup and restore options, location and SIM tracking, and the ability to remotely wipe your phone clean, should it get lost or stolen.  Isn’t peace of mind worth the $19.90 yearly subscription? Expect a security boost for the app soon, as WaveSecure has been acquired by McAfee.

Dropbox is great for users that need basic file sync and remote access, but don’t want to pay for a full-fledged business tool.  Set up folders for easy file-sharing with friends and colleagues, and back-up all your files.  For complete control of your Dropbox account, grab the full version for $1.99.