Google’s social network really took off in 2011. As an alternative to Facebook, Google+ caught on with a number of users and communities who appreciate its privacy and ability to be selective with what you share. Google continues to improve the app’s functionality and look, including a recent UI face lift which serves as a nice preview to the upcoming Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update.
There are news apps from all the major players in the Android Market, but News360 does something a bit different. Available for both phones and tablets, News360 aggregates content from a variety of sources to make reading the top stories both more fun and more intuitive. It’s easy to find local news or delve deeper for more information on specific topics mentioned in stories.
After a somewhat rocky start on Android due to its limited availability, Netflix has finally caught up with its iOS counterpart and become an essential app for subscribers of the service. It’s great for tablet owners who can take advantage of streaming full-screen video on their big screens. HULU Plus makes for a handy alternative if you’re not a Netflix fan.
Adobe Photoshop Touch ($9.99)
It’s a little pricey, but Adobe made a significant step in the development of creative apps in 2011 with this release. Photoshop Touch might not offer the same level of control as its desktop counterpart, but it does offer a lot more functionality than most photo-editing apps. Adobe demonstrated that even tablets and smartphones possess enough power to be used by professionals.
Marvel Comics (Free)
Whether you’re a fan of the medium or not, with so many old and new titles available via the Marvel Comics app, it is clear that the way we’re consuming comics is certainly changing. There’s a back catalog here of thousands of colorful superhero stories, as well as plenty of modern ones, which means that even the rarest editions can now be enjoyed by everyone digitally.
Google Maps (Free)
OK, it’s not new this year, and it may be already installed on your device, but if you haven’t updated your Maps app in a while, do it today! Google continues to innovate and improve its Maps app almost monthly, and 2011 saw some really great enhancements like indoor and 3-D maps, offline caching, Places integration and continued navigation improvements.
Hipmunk Flight Search (Free)
Flight-finder apps may be a dime a dozen, but Hipmunk adds something a little interesting to the mix. As well as being a reliable way to search for and discover flights, it uses a complex algorithm to work out how ‘agonizing’ your chosen route may be, depending on the airports you’re traveling through and the airline you choose.
Fab.com Daily Design Sales (Free)
The designer ‘flash sale’ trend really took off this year, and especially benefits from convenient mobile apps that can track them (literally) at your fingertips. Fab.com offers access to lots of great designer sales with items up to 70 percent off retail prices. When you’re out and about, you can always keep track of bargains with Fab.com and similar apps like Gilt and Rue La La.
A more technically-focused app, AirDroid is notable because it lets you access the content and apps on your Android device directly over Wi-Fi from a web browser with no hoops to jump through or extra software to install. AirDroid is fast, convenient and powerful, especially when you have complex files to navigate through or need to do a lot of typing, and it’s 100 percent free.
SwiftKey X Keyboard ($3.99)
Your stock Android keyboard is decent enough, but it’s good to have alternatives. Previously available as just Swiftkey, the app got a major upgrade this year to become Swiftkey X. It’s available for both smartphones and tablets and offers excellent text prediction which learns as you type (and from your social network activity) as well as plenty of personalization and regular updates.