The share of my friends who've chosen the light side of the force (aka Android) is growing every day. So I decided to make this guide. New users, power users, and budget users should all stand to benefit from these apps.
You'll find followed by each app name, the cost of various versions as well as any requirements for installing or using the app.
Side Load - Your phone has to have the ability to side load apps.
Root - You have to have a rooted version of Android on your phone.
Unlocked Bootloader - Your phone must have the ability to boot third party ROMs.
Google Goggles - Free
First thing's first, in order to make your life easier when trying to install apps from this guide, you should install Google Goggles. Some people will recommend a bar-code scanner app, but Google Goggles has the same functionality, and I find it to be much quicker to identify codes, and much more forgiving when it comes to lighting, positioning, and focus. It also has optical character recognition and the ability to search Google using pictures of real life objects. Once installed, all you'll need to do to install an app from this guide is open Google Goggles, and position your phone in front the QR code that corresponds with the app you'd like to install.
Why do you need another app market you ask? Because unlike the market Google includes this one give you a paid app for free every day. The only downside is apps purchased in the Amazon App Store seem to lag behind the standard market with updates. (The QR code provided takes you to the app in Amazon's web store, you'll have to log in with an Amazon account to download it.)
Yes, you really should have another app store. GetJar offers $50+ in paid apps for free at anyone time. It's one downside is that it requires you to log in with Facebook, otherwise it does not track the apps you've already installed and you'll lose the option to re-install them for free in the future. (The QR code provided takes you to GetJar's web store, when you click to install an app it will prompt you to download and install GetJar's app store.)
AppBrain isn't so much a separate market as it is a tool for shopping the market. It tracks what you install, and uninstall, and then compares that to other users to provide recommendations. It also provides more categories for browsing, such as popularity by country and demographic, and hot apps today and this week. It also has the added benefit of showing you apps that may be blocked in the normal market by your carrier.
A lightweight no nonsense launcher for Android. It runs great on the worst hardware and absolutely screams on the best. If you want a launcher that's simple yet still tweak-able, this is it.
A very attractive replacement for the folder system built into Android's interface. It completely changed the way I organize my home pages.
This app enables you to use your home WiFi network to keep your phone unlocked. Once it disconnects from the set network, it re-enables your lock screen.
I don't believe there is a single app I use on my phone more than Shush! It's dead simple interface automatically pops up and makes it quick and easy to set a time for your phone to turn it's ringer back on whenever you put into Silent or Vibrate mode.
The simplest, easiest, most straight forward video calling app around. There's no need for you to maintain a separate friends list. Once you've signed up (which only takes a few seconds), anyone in your contacts who has Tango, will simply show up in the app. As an added bonus, Tango is cross platform and is making it's way onto the desktop.
Though not nearly as ubiquitous as Facebook, Google+'s messaging app is far superior to anything else out there. If you have enough friends already signed up, or just don't mind bugging people to sign up, Google Plus could go a long way to helping you reduce or eliminate your costly SMS plan.
My favorite of all the Android browser replacements. Besides doing everything the other guys do just as good or even better, it really shines when it comes to customization. I promise you, you'll find at least two plugins that are invaluable. I'd recommend starting with the Desktop Toggle plugin, it's perfect for when the mobile browsing experience for a website is sub par.
If you regularly use a WiFi network that requires a web log in, this app is absolutely invaluable. It records your log in and repeats it whenever you connect to that network and do not have internet access.
Hands down the best newsreader for Android. It's Google Reader integration is exponentially better then Google's own app. And the Pro version is by far worth buying for the night mode alone.
The doubleTwist platform is the closest thing you will find to iTunes on an Android device. The lock screen interface makes it easy to use your phone like any other media player. The desktop app has integration with Amazon's MP3 store. And although it's AirSync addon isn't free, if you can't live without WiFi syncing it's a reasonable price.
For those of you who's phone spends much of the day in your pocket but still ends up dead before you can get it home to the charger. It uses a set of triggers to shut off your web connection when you're not using it. It turns the connection back on, at a pre-determined schedule to enable syncing, or when you turn your screen on. For those who use their phone constantly, don't buy this and expect to get more life out of it. The free version I found lacking, and the Ultimate version I would recommend for power users. And if you have a phone with Cyanogen mod there are root enabled features to stretch your battery even further.
I have not found a more powerful file browser for Android. It's got every feature you could possibly use, including Dropbox, Local Network, FTP, and Bluetooth integration. It has some power features for those of you with rooted phones, and it actually beats the standard Dropbox app for functionality.
I'm not so much endorsing the app as much as I am endorsing having a Dropbox account. You get 2GB of storage with a free account, and 250MB of additional space with every referral. Using a .edu email also bumps that up to 500MB a piece, as well as previous referrals. Whether you just want to backup files to the cloud or have access to them wherever you can find an internet connection, Dropbox is a great free service. (The QR code provided will take you to the website to sign up for an account.)
The absolute best backup app Android has to offer. It will back up every last setting and app you have, and can even upload it directly to your Dropbox. It's features are too many to even list in this brief description. If you have a rooted phone, you'd be a fool not to get this app, and the Pro version is well worth the cost.
For those of you interested in trying out custom roms on your phone, this app is THE standard. You'll find it named in every tutorial that even mentions a custom rom, and with good reason. Rom Manager just cannot be bested.
This app increases the cache size your phone uses to access your SD card. Recommended for everyone with an SD card, and a must have for those of you who've invested in high speed cards.
If you've ever been caught somewhere with a laptop and no, or a costly, WiFi connection, this app is the answer to your prayers. It turns your phone into the perfect mobile hot spot in a pinch. I wouldn't recommend it as a replacement to paying for a tethering plan, as most carriers get wise to that pretty quickly. (This app is blocked from the Market by most American carriers, so the QR code provided downloads the latest version directly from the creators website.)
This tool is used to change your carrier code to grant you access to apps usually blocked by your carrier. It gives you a list of carriers from around the world to choose from. The change is temporary and only takes a simple reboot to set your phone back to the original.