Google’s flagging Android Market has – at a stroke – joined the year 2011. With the simple addition of a neatly arranged web store from which you can instantly download apps to your phone or tablet (no software client, no plugging into your PC), it has vaulted Apple’s App Store in usability, if not in stock and range. But it’s the first step in taking the battle to Apple’s dominance. If you’re just joining the growing Android army, here are five apps to get you started…
Pulse News Reader (free)
Call us shallow, but when someone dresses up a boring old RSS aggregator in this much finery, we shall go to the ball. It’s not perfect, but we’ve yet to see an aggregator done with more glam and it’ll pull in social stuff as well, so you can dip into the tiled homescreen, grab a few headlines and check a few updates in the time it takes to send a text. It’s early days for the news gatherer, too, so we expect creases to decrease over the coming weeks and months.
X Construction (85p)
Like all the best smartphone games, X Construction is stupefyingly simple. It goes like this. Look at ravine, canyon, etc. Build bridge from allocated number of girders. Set train in motion. Fail. Try again. Succeed. Look at more challenging ravine, canyon, etc. Rinse. Repeat. Like Trainyard, it’s a process of logic and (to some extent) trial-and-error. But there’s not an Angry Birds-esque fluke in sight when your civil engineering comes up short. Infuriating, and massively addictive.
Seek Droid (61p)
This isn’t the first find-my-phone Android app out there. But it is the best. So far. It’ll crank out some noise if you’ve lost it in silent mode, display your phone’s whereabouts on a map (it can activate the GPS remotely if you had it switched off) and remotely wipe your phone, including the microSD card. It works even without a SIM card and has minimal battery drain. We like it.
Google Translate (free)
This is what the future looks like. Okay, it’s not quite as smooth as Douglas Adams imagined, but you don’t have to put a slimy yellow fish in your ear canal either. Google Translate will, however, translate speech on the fly and has a startling level of accuracy. It’s capable of some fairly impressive bloopers as well, but think what fun the future will be when we regularly ask foreigners how to get sand out of Tony’s biscuit.
Astral Commander (£1.86)
Imagine Flight Control had an extra variable: a moving runway. Now imagine several moving runways. Now replace the planes with minesweeping robots and the runways with mines for a brain-scattering finger dragger that’s opiate-grade in its moreishness. It’s also quite difficult. In the best way possible, of course.