Chances are you got a new Android phone this holiday, but you’re pining for some apps to get your phone to be the most productive it can be. The nine apps above ended up being the most important in my collection and while some come stock on the phone, I still found myself reaching for them regularly with some new additions for 2012 over last year’s edition. Also, if you’re not using SwiftKey, you should be.
Chrome: Miles better than the stock Android browser, Chrome’s move to the phone was a long-in-waiting arrival. iOS owners are also familiar with it, but the addition of nearly infinite tabs to the stock Android browser as well as synchronized sessions between Chrome clients makes this an easy recommend. Heck, you should be running this on your PC, too.
Gmail: I wish Google took their Gmail design for Android and implemented it in their desktop model. The easy ability to switch between multiple Gmail accounts, a double-pane version for tablets, and the option to get e-mails to auto-fit your display (finally!) make this an even easier recommend than before. Not that you’d use anything else, of course.
Play Store: With Google’s reinvention of their Android Marketplace, it’s easier than ever to find a variety of different content. You still have to come here for any of these apps, but the new easy interface has made it my favorite spot for movie rentals as well. If I weren’t already hot for Kindle, I’d probably be using Google Books, too.
PdaNet: Whether at E3 or anywhere where wi-fi isn’t available for your laptop or other non-cellular device, this worked often and readily to bring me internet access through my phone. There’s no way I could have been nearly as productive this year without it. No root required, just a one time payment and you’re set.
Dropbox: Between my two computers, Dropbox is already a necessity to move files around without having to swap USB drives, but with the mobile app? Even easier. Heck, I used it to move the screenshot above to my desktop through PdaNet. Amazing. I’d thought Google Drive would replace it, but Dropbox is still my cloud-based love.
Facebook: Like Dropbox, it’s something you kinda already have to be into, but the world’s largest social network (by far) just introduced a new version of their Android app built for native code, rather than HTML5 and it is slick as hell. They’ve also added a lot of features, particularly around photo uploading, that boost its value, too.
Kik Messenger: Text messaging can be a pain. Group text messaging is impossible. The staff of FleshEatingZipper uses Kik Messenger to keep in touch. It’s a live line to the whole group and it’s how we coordinate pretty much everything. Importance during an industry event? Huge.
Instagram: When I’m tired of flipping through a ton of text-based updates, Instagram has been a handy form of escape. It’s just pictures and odds are, original ones. And not of babies. In several ways, it’s the antithesis of Facebook’s User Feed and while it’s a smaller, slower news feed in my experience, sometimes that content is more valuable. Oh, and those filter things are pretty cool, too.
Spotify: I was pretty pissed at Spotify and their crummy Android app earlier this year. I was fully ready to switch to something else entirely, but then they dropped their Ice Cream Sandwich-and-later app and the world has become much better. It still seems to be the culprit behind many of my phone’s random reboots, but I can still love it. Any song at any time plus synchronization across my multiple Spotify locations? Still my favorite music app.