The easiest way to share my favorite Android apps, for the HTC ThunderBolt as well as the other devices I review, is to show you my homescreens. Like the iPhone, Android phones allow you to place shortcuts to your favorite apps on your various homescreens. Unlike the iPhone, you can also include widgets that give you fast access to information without opening apps.
Top Android Apps and Widgets – Overview
Above you’ll see five of the seven screens I use daily on my ThunderBolt. These are my favorite Android apps and while there will be a few additions and removals over time, these apps have earned a spot on my home screen.
Homescreen #1 Most Used Android Apps
On the main screen of the HTC ThunderBolt you will see my most used apps and widgets. First off you’ll notice the HTC Sense Weather and Clock Widget. This tells me the time, weather and date. I like this widget because I can tap on the clock to go to my alarms and clock functions or on the weather for a five day forecast.
Wunderlist - This free app and service allows me to keep track of multiple to do items with specific projects and an easy to organize setup. The to do items sync to the web and to apps for the iPad as well as dedicated apps for Mac and PC. After trying numerous to do apps for Android, Wunderlist is my favorite.
Yammer - We use Yammer to keep our remote team in touch without relying on email. It is like Twitter for your team and has cut down on wasted time and extraneous email. The app is far from perfect, but the service rocks.
Gmail - I could probably rely on the notifications, but I often process email while on my phone so I keep the app handy on the home screen. This shortcut takes my right into my Priority inbox which helps me get straight to work. Unfortunately the Gmail app still shows the unread messages in the Priority inbox.
Messages - This is the stock Text Message app on the HTC ThunderBolt. There are replacement apps, but the basic app meets my needs for texting.
Kindle App – The 4.3″ display is great for reading books and I often find myself using it over the iPad to read because it is lighter to hold. The Kindle app syncs my place across all of my devices and has competitive prices.
TweetDeck – TweetDeck is my go to Twitter tool on Android. I can use it to tweet on my own account or from other accounts like the Notebooks.com account while on the go. This app delivers a great Twitter experience for free. I only wish it had faster scrolling to the tops of columns. You can tap the top, but instead of jumping to the top it scrolls, which can literally take a minute if you haven’t opened the app and follow a lot of people.
Google Reader – The official Google Reader allows me to quickly look through all of my feeds and find important news and reviews from our favorite mobile friends and companies. It syncs with Google Reader for the web and my favorite feature is the ability to browse a collection of post titles and mark as read up to a specific point.
Launcher – Also worth noting is the launcher area. On the left is the app drawer, in the middle the phone and on the right a browser shortcut. I have Dolphin and FireFox browsers installed, but use the standard browser for most tasks. If you want a new launcher, check out options like Launcher Pro.
Homescreen #2 Frequently Used Android Apps
A swipe to the left and you’ll see a collection of commonly used apps and shortcuts. This page has several direct dial shortcuts which allow me to quickly call contacts. Definitely one of my favorite types of shortcuts.
Direct Dial Shortcuts – The top row is made of direct dial shortcuts that call important people at a specific number.
To add one of your own, hold down on your homescreen, when asked, choose shortcut, near the top you should see Direct Dial. Tap on it and choose your contact. The next option will be to choose which number you want to call. After setting it up, you just need to tap the icon to call. You can also setup direct message shortcuts to open a text message.
Google Voice InBox Widget – This free widget works with the Google Voice service and shows my most recently received text messages. Tap on the message to open it up and gain access to your inbox.
Amazon App Store – With a free paid app every day, we have to keep this one handy. We check every day and have already saved $20 to $30 on free apps we already use.
Business Calendar Widget – Business Calendar is an awesome calendar app that is way better than the stock calendar app. We picked it up for free from the Amazon App Store, but you can get it for $5 or pick up the free version. This calendar app offers an excellent overview of your appointments and a large number of widgets in many different sizes.
Homescreen #3 Frequently Used Android Apps
Swipe to the right and you’ll find a collection of other very frequently used apps. These include social media apps, work apps, media apps and more.
TuneIn Radio Pro – This easy to use app will connect to web radio stations from all over, but can also tune in your local stations. Perfect for keeping up on local news or finding a radio station playing something other than Top 40 here in the midwest.
WordPress - This app has improved greatly and is perfect for getting a quick post idea into WordPress for fleshing out later. You can connect to multiple Worpdress accounts to moderate comments, create posts and more. We only wish they wouldn’t default posts to “Published”, because almost any post created in this app needs extra attention from the browser.
Foursquare - If you use Foursquare you’ll like this app. If you don’t keep going. If you have a Thunderbolt, launch this app before you leave home and hopefully at the end of a 3 hour trip you’ll finally get a GPS lock so you can checkin.
Facebook - Perfect for keeping in touch with friends, unfortunately you can’t manage pages, but still beats the mobile web.
Pandora - Sometimes I just want to hear music without finding a playlist. For those times, Pandora is perfect. I have a Pandora One subscriptions so I don’t need to worry about ads, which is nice.
Rhapsody - I have a lot of music apps, but Rhapsody is my favorite. I can stream music from their huge selection or I can download playlists to my device for offline playback, or just to avoid any streaming delays in spotty areas.
RunKeeper Pro – RunKeeper is a free app that will track your running, walking and other activities including distance, route, pace and more. Even for less active folks like myself it is a nice app to have on hand.
Camera - Because the Thunderbolt, and most new Android devices, lack a physical camera button having the app shortuct nearby is important. This shortcut allows you to quickly switch to video recording as well.
Google Music Beta Widget – In order to test out the Music Beta service I have been using this widget. It works well, but isn’t likely a permanent resident.
Package Buddy – If you like to refresh tracking pages on Fedex and UPS all day, this app allows you to get quick access to your package location.
Evernote - Pop into Evernote to take a note or to lookup a previous note. Most often we use the mobile app to take pictures of documents or notes so that we have them on hand.
Fitbit - We are reviewing the Fitbit, a small device you wear all the time that measures your activity and sleep to deliver a treasure trove of data. This isn’t really an app, just a link to the mobile version of the web site. Still it is a very optimized version that gives access to a good deal of info on the go.
Toggle Google Voice – This shortcut allows you to change how Google Voice acts on your phone. Witt a tap you can cycle between off, international only, all calls or ask before each call. I love this shortcut!
Homescreen #4 Commonly Used Android Apps
If you swipe to the left twice you’ll find a collection of games, cloud storage and miscellaneous apps that get a lot of use.
Coin - As you might expect flips a coin. This HTC “widget” isn’t going to make you more productive, but it will help you decide between two options.
Dice - Yep, you guessed it, shake your phone and roll some dice. Good for annoying those near you with dice sound effects.
Homerun Battle 3D – A fun home run derby game that makes you tilt your phone to aim the swing. Easily one of my favorite Android games.
Astro - Free file explorer for Android that let’s you get at your SD card on the go. This should be built into Android.
XDA Developers – The XDA app allows me to keep up ont eh HTC ThunderBolt developer community which is hard at work fixing this device.
BackBreaker - My second favorite Android game. This game reminds me of Madden drills, which have you juking and spinning to get to an endzone guarded by the opposing team.
drocap2 - Screen capture app for rooted Android devices. This is how I get the images for this post and others. Turn it on, go to the screen you want to capture and shake the device.
Docs – Google Docs for Android. This app allows you to edit Google docs and to turn a picture into an editable OCR’s Google Doc. Far from perfect, but still a nice addition.
Dropbox - Dropbox is a great place to put those screenshots or to download apk files for side loading apps.
Fruit Ninja – Another fun Android game. Fruit Ninja tests your slicing skills with a variety of fruit.
Gallery - The stock HTC Gallery app allows me to see local pictures and videos as well as connect to NAS devices to see videos and photos.
Trillian - Connect to AIM to chat on your Android device. This app is now free, so go grab it.
SugarSync - In addition to connecting you to all of your SugarSync files the SugarSync app syncs your photos to the cloud so you have a backup of pictures without the need to connect to your computer.
Homescreen #5 Commonly Used Android Apps
Swipe to the right twice and you’ll see a collection of often used apps and widgets. While I can access the top row of widgets from my notification bar, I keep these around in case I am already on this screen. Not likely to last more than another month or two.
Toggle Widgets – These four widgets are standard on HTC Sense, but you can get your own set form Beautiful Widgets if you don’t have a HTC Phone.
Shortcut to Home – When you are done on a trip and need to go home, just tap this icon and you’ll launch into Google Navigation with a destination of your choosing. You can set up shortcuts for all types of locations.
Maps - If we need to look up an address or location we go to the default Google Maps app.
Gmail - As you can tell, I stick to the first three screens more, which leads to leftovers like this Gmail shortcut.
Google Talk – Another great tool for team communication, Google Talk rounds out this screen and allows me to connect to Gmail contacts from my phone.
Other Commonly Used Android Apps
If you were counting, and I know some of you were, there aren’t 50 distinct widgets, apps and shortcuts in the list above. Thankfully, i have a few more favorites that run in the background or run occasionally. Most of these apps are ones you’ll only need from time to time, but are still worth having, especially if you are rooted.
ezPDF Reader – This app works on all phones, not just rooted devices and will automatically be used to open your pdf files. It is leaps and bounds better than the stock PDF reader.
Prey – Running in the background, Prey allows you to find your phone if it is lost or stolen. Prey is free and works on a wide array of devices.
GPS Status – If you need to fix slow GPS locks, you can use GPS Status to download new a-GPS data which usually speeds up locks.
LTE OnOFF – If you want to control your 4G connection, this app will let you switch to 3G only to save battery life.
ROM Manager – If you have a rooted Thunderbolt, and want to jump from ROM ro ROM, the Rom manager makes it easy with user friendly menus and ROM downloads.
Titanium Backup – Another one for rooted users only, Titanium backup will backup your apps to your phone in preparation for a jump to a new ROM, or just for safekeeping.
Kernel Manager – If you are using a custom ROM, this free tool makes it easy to find and install new kernels.