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What a year it has been for the Android. Google’s mobile operating system is winning over the iPhone population, making strides as a permanent player (if not leader) in a rapidly evolving space. Developers certainly took notice in 2010, creating and updating countless apps for Android and the dozens of smartphones and tablets which it powers. Here is the cream of the crop.
Social and entertainment
Facebook dominates as a social network, and it’s taking over the mobile scene too. With Android’s growth, Facebook made dedicated efforts to improve its look and feel with the Facebook for Android app. Not to be done by its iPhone app, Facebook launched groundbreaking features like Deals and Places for Android. Taking advantage of the geo-local capabilities mobile media provides, this free app keeps you social no matter what you’re doing or where you’re doing it.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Angry Birds, which has taken the Android Market by storm after first setting flight on the iPhone. A killer game app, Angry Birds flew past 5 million downloads in its first two weeks of Android availability. This free strategic defense game (still 99 cents for the iPhone) is showing developers and consumers alike that blockbuster games can fly on the Android.
Amazon’s Kindle for Android reader is a mobile library and bookstore, making it a one-stop shop for browsing and downloading your favorite titles. With most of the features of the actual Kindle device, this free Android app delivers a custom reading experience and on-demand access to books associated with your account. You can also import files from other programs and seamlessly read the same books and magazines in sequential order on multiple devices.
Pandora Radio’s free Android app keeps you entertained on the go. Streaming songs based on your preferences, Pandora acts as a personal DJ that gets better the more interactive you become. Mark which songs you love (and hate), get info on artists, songs and purchasing options, and discover new music from shared stations.
Foursquare is socializing people around their location, connecting them with brands and contextualizing their surroundings. Registering venues based on your GPS location, you can check-in to a place, earn points and badges, and receive real discounts from participating brands. Leave tips and photos about a place, so others can learn from your experiences. You don’t have to be the mayor of anything to download this free Android app.
Related: Best Android games of 2010
Utilities and more on the Android
Google Maps is a flagship Android app, helping you navigate through the world. Constantly undergoing updates, this free app features voice navigation, 3D street views, local venue search and information, and an option to share your location with friends. Packing in a ton of features into a free app, Google Maps has become indispensable to mobile life.
Logitech Harmony is another app that is revolutionizing the way we use our mobile phones, acting as a companion to the Logitech Revue System for Google TV. It’s a remote control that interacts with the set-top box or compatible TV, to search and control video content, and more. As more devices become connected, Android apps will be a key point of interaction. This Android app is free.
Lookout Mobile Security has been an early entrant to the security space, addressing the unique needs of mobile devices. Protecting apps and other content, Lookout preserves your Android experience. Run a virus scan, receive email summaries of your phone performance and more. Lookout, which has a free service, also launched a premium plan this year.
Evernote remains the best note-taking app for the Android with many new updates in 2010. Leveraging things like Android’s widget support, Evernote designed an app for extensive usability, making a number of other improvements around its mobile tools. Advanced search is another major update for this free app.
Skyfire Web Browser 3.0 made a big splash on Android devices this year, with a browser alternative designed for entertainment and visual enhancements of your content. As wireless infrastructures enable more mobile web browsing, support for Flash and other features once lacking for the mobile experience are brought to the forefront with this free app.