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MULTIMEDIA

101 Recommended Apps (Part 1)

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Overwhelmed by the sheer number of apps available on Google Play? Don’t worry - take your pick from this little lot...

The open source nature of Google’s mobile operating system means that there are plenty of fantastic apps for Android available to download right now, enabling you to do a whole range of essential, informative or just downright entertaining things with your Android device. So whether you want to listen to music on the move, plan your evening meal or find your next job, there’s an app waiting for you on Google Play that can help you do just that.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re rocking a quad-core monster tablet or just a single-core budget smartphone, there is plenty of Android app action to be had. Although it can be difficult to distinguish the must-haves from the must-avoids among the mass of choice.

Luckily for you, we have spent countless hours trawling through the vast Google Play portfolio (500,000-plus apps and counting), sorting the wheat from the chaff, the super-apps from the crap-apps, so you don’t have to. We’ve managed to whittle them down to our favorite 101, so here’s our pick of the top Android apps you should install right now.

1.    Twonky Beam Browser

Price: Free

Twonky Beam Browser

Twonky Beam Browser

If the arrival of Apple Airplay and Samsung’s AllShare has told us anything, it’s that smartphone and tablet users want their content everywhere and anywhere. The Twonky Beam Browser is one solution, which enables users to stream internet content instantly from their smartphone and tablets straight to their TVs over a Wi-Fi connection.

Of course, you need a DLN A- supported TV or Apple TV to use it, but it should work with your PS3 or Xbox 360. We tested the Beam Browser with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and the HTC Desire Z phone, with a set-up and syncing process that is straightforward and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes if your Apple TV or similar device is already in place.

2.    Slidelt

Price: $3.99

Slidelt

Slidelt

The keyboard has never been the strong point of an Android device - virtual keys are clunky at the best of times. Samsung knows this, and that’s why it bundles the insanely popular Swype with its phones and tablets.

For those who want a bit of choice, though, Slidelt is a good replacement for Swype. It works in a similar way, enabling you to swipe, sorry, slide your finger across the letters to make words.

An app likes this lives or dies by its accuracy, and Slidelt is decent enough; there weren’t too many times we had to change words to prevent being embarrassed by the predictive text.

3.    Easy Battery Saver

Price: Free

Easy Battery Saver

Easy Battery Saver

The problem with smartphones is that their size means there isn’t enough space to put in a decent battery - one that doesn’t have to be recharged every freaking day.

Easy Battery Save reportedly helps ease battery woes, and we admit we were sceptical before we used it. But it really does work. Once you load the app on your smartphone - we put it on a Samsung Galaxy S2 - the app asks what mode you want to put it in. We chose intelligence, which means that when your phone is dormant, the app turns off everything such as 3G, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth - all the well-known battery hoggers.

Wake your phone up and they are all turned on within seconds. It’s a simple but effective way of saving battery power, and one that hasn’t interfered with anything we do with the phone.

4.    Sky Cloud

Price: Free

Sky Cloud

Sky Cloud

Sky may be the giant in the broadcast world but it is also doing great things in the broadband sphere. When it comes to mobile broadband, it’s offering its subscribers a great deal on free Wi-Fi at the moment.

This is because Sky bought The Cloud in 2011 and has started letting subscribers tap into this for free - all you need is the app to tell you when there is a network in your vicinity.

Just add the app and click on a Cloud hotspot when you see one. Add your Sky username and password, and you’re given free Wi-Fi.

Given that Wi-Fi is now almost as essential as water, you’d hope that Wi-Fi out and about would be free but this isn’t the case. That’s why Sky’s unlocking of The Cloud is a revelation, and one that works brilliantly.

5.    we7 Free Music

Price: Free

we7 Free Music

we7 Free Music

After launching its premium service on Android last year, we7 is widening the music streaming doors with its latest app, which delivers an on-the-go radio service that can be accessed offline.

Taking a leaf out of Pandora and Last. FM’s book, up to 10 radio stations can be created at one time, based on your selection of artist, genre or mood.

Using your phone in Wi-Fi mode, every time you make a selection, you’re asked whether you want to keep it as an offline station. The app then ‘charges’ your phone with music - up to five hours for each station.

The interface stays true to the one found on its premium app, with the main player section displaying tracks accompanied by album cover art.

Other notable features include searching for themed stations and stations dedicated to tracks where you have chosen to ‘love’ the track.

A search of the music library shows there is plenty to keep the most picky audiophiles happy, covering both mainstream and more obscure tracks. Genres such as house, which is lacking on Spotify, seem to be well catered for on the we7 app, for instance. There is, however, the odd awful cover track, which seems to crop up on Spotify, too.

Disappointingly, sound quality doesn’t appear to be of the 320Kbps quality of Spotify, while the inability to repeat tracks or go back to a previous track in the main player is a little annoying. It’s still in beta, so things may change, but it is a promising start.

6.    Minecraft Pocket Edition

Price: $1.95

Minecraft Pocket Edition

Minecraft Pocket Edition

Minecraft is one of the biggest gaming curios of the last five years. Born from what made (and still makes) retro games such as Theme Park and SimCity great, the game offers players an open world to build upon, shoot things and, hopefully, thrive within.

Looking like a Lego-based wonderland, Minecraft Pocket Edition sees the game make a fairly successful transition to handhelds, keeping the same playability albeit with some irksome controls.

For a start, you have to remember that this is based on a game that itself is still in beta. This is great for Android users wanting a one-up on their iOS rivals but it means the game is a little rough around the edges. Thankfully, Minecraft’s ingenious gameplay does mean that clumsy controlling doesn’t mar a decent game.

Minecraft Pocket Edition is based around building. You have an open world to inhabit, and need to build the best contraptions you can. To do this, you must use a virtual d-pad, which does annoy. The controls should be easy but when it comes to precision, it is difficult. This is a game for those with patience, but if you give it time, you’ll be infinitely rewarded.

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