My ten best (free) apps for your new Smartphone

Did you have a new Smartphone for Christmas? Well congratulations. You were among almost seven million new Smartphone users who activated their new phones on Christmas Day and Boxing day in 2011.  I was lucky enough to get a new phone at Christmas to replace the HTC Desire that I drowned earlier in the year. My new smartphone also runs Android (the mobile operating system that was introduced by Google) and I thought I would share the applications I use to make my phone useful and provide links to the Android market and to each of the companys that supply the apps themselves.

App 1 - Lookout (Android Market | Web Site )
There is a high chance that your phone will become central to your life, so there is an equally high chance you will be storing all sorts of very personal information on it - such as your calendar, passwords, bank details, contacts and more.  The first application in my list is therefore an app to protect your phone against mobile threats such as phishing, theft and malware.  Lookout provides the following features to help protect your phone and the information it holds:
  • Security and Privacy - Lookout checks every app you download for threats and malware.  This helps keep your personal data private
  • Backup - Lookout makes a backup of your contacts in the free version and offers more advanced features if you subscribe to their premium service.  If you lose your phone, your contacts are safely backed up.
  • Missing Device - If you lose your phone, just access the Lookout web site to search for it on a map or, on the Premium version, lock the phone and even wipe it remotely.
All this protection and the app is free!  Just make sure that the free service provides you with all the cover you need -if not, just sign up to the Premium version.

App 2 - Dropbox ( Android Market | Web Site )
Dropbox is a free service that lets you bring all your photos, documents, and videos anywhere. After you install Dropbox on your computer or phone, any file you save to your Dropbox will automatically save to all your computers, your Android device, and even the Dropbox website! With the Dropbox app, you can take everything that matters to you on the go.  Share and collaborate with friends and family using Dropbox's powerful sharing capabilities.  We use this extensively in the family and it is so useful.  You get a generous 2GB of free, cloud storage when you sign up and you can either purchase extra storage at a later date or build up your storage by referrals.  For example, if you sign up to Dropbox using my referral link, you'll get an extra 250M of storage right from the start - and I get an extra 250M too for referring you.  Simple, quick and effective.  There are options for businesses too.

App 3 - Catch ( Android Market | Web Site )
There are plenty of notes and simple text editors for Android phones.  I chose Catch as the most useful simply because it has the features I like.  You can record voice notes, photo notes and text notes.  You can use Catch to set reminders for tasks and, with their tagging system, categorising and searching your thoughts is a breeze.  Catch lets you have full access to your notes on your mobile device even when you don't have access to the Internet - this was especially useful to me as I wanted to keep information with me when on holiday and not able to access my home network.  What's also good is that your entire Catch notes collection is available from any web browser, making it especially easy to add more and larger notes from your desktop PC or laptop.  Best of all - it's freely available from the market!

App 4 - Silent Time ( Android Market | Web Site )
How many of you keep your phone by your bed?  How often does an email or notification come in just as you're dropping off to sleep ... ?  How annoying is that 'beep-beep'?  Not any longer!  Silent Time Lite is a simple app that just silences your phone automatically based on a weekly schedule that you set up.  Use it for classes, work, meetings and whatever else you might need.  My main use is for when I sleep.  What makes this app stand out from the crowd is that you can also add exceptions to the quiet periods to let important calls through.  And the app is free!  How good is that?

App 5 - Tweetdeck ( Android Market | Web Site )
OK - I know you can use the default Twitter and Facebook clients, but this app is simply a social browser for your Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and Buzz accounts.  TweetDeck makes it easy to stay in touch and is often quicker to scan than the separate, dedicated apps.  It's also simple to cross-post too.  See something on Twitter that your Facebook contacts would enjoy?  Simply re-post it to them.  Taken a photo you want the world to see?  Simply post it simultaneously with the samr comments and location attached.  Simple, quick and free.  A fully-featured Desktop version is available too (go to the web site link above.).

App 6 - SMS Backup+ ( Android Market | Web Site )
This is a simple app that, as the name suggests, just backs your SMS and MMS messages to the Internet.  I know most people just delete texts, but there are times when a text has useful information in it (like flight arrival times, or a phone number) and you really need to keep a copy!  It works by automatically backing up your SMS, MMS and call log entries using a separate label in your Gmail / Google Calendar. It can also restore SMS and call log entries back to the phone, although MMS is not supported yet.  It was developed from the original Google app by the author and, as he puts it ... "SMS Backup+ is available for free in the market, there will never be a pro / paid version."

App 7 - Taptu ( Android Market | Web Site )
Taptu claims to be "the Best News ReaderApp for 2011.  Taptu is certainly a flexible and easy way to sort and share streams from your favorite web sites, blogs, news feeds and social networks (it includes Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). You can build your own favorite sources and topics, sort them into the order that bests suits you and finally share and comment on the ones you like the most.  it's very flexible, easy to use and really lets you get to the news stories without getting in the way.  Oh yeah.  Did I tell you this was free?  Very easy app to use - especially on a tablet!

App 8 - Sky+ ( Android Market | Web Site )
If you have Sky HD or Sky Plus then this is a must. Caught at work?  Evening takes longer than expected?  Delayed on your journey?  Just use this free app to program your Sky+ or HD box and you'll never need to miss your programmes again.  You can check the schedules as the app presents a full seven day TV Listing Guide and you can select all your favourite channels.  There is also a "Series Link" button for mobile. This lets you record entire series of shows to your Sky+ box with just a few finger taps.  Easy to set up and use, but obviously requires you to have an active Sky account and your Sky+ or HD boxes must be connected to the phone line.

App 9 - Adobe Photoshop Express ( Android Market | Web Site )
One of my hobbies is photography and for me, having the ability to easily edit and share photos directly from my mobile device is fantastic.  This free app lets you literally touch up your photos to crop, rotate, adjust color, and add artistic effects. You can then readily share your photos directly with family and friends on, for example, Facebook, Photoshop or Twitter (via TwitPic).

App 10 - Tiny Flashlight ( Android Market | Web Site )
You never know when you might need this.  It's a simple 'Torch' or Flashlight app that lights up the LED used in many Android smartphones as the camera's electronic flash. It's very simple and yet quite handy.  It claims to support the widest range of devices with camera leds.  You can select and control the brightness of the LED and use it for morse code or as a flashing light in case of emergencies.  You can even use it to turn on the screen light (which is bright enough for daily use) if your device doesn't have a camera light.

There you are.  Ten free apps to make your phone really useful in day-to-day life.  If you have any favourites you think I should look at, or if you disagree with my assessments then please let me know by leaving a comment.

Above all, enjoy your phone!