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Best Android apps of 2012

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November 27, 2012

We break down the best Android apps of 2012

We break down the best Android apps of 2012

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2012 has been a good year for Android. The Galaxy S III has been a sales behemoth, the Nexus 7 proved that Android tablets can sell too, and there have been plenty of great new apps. As 2012 comes to a close, let's take a look at the year's top Android apps and games.

Google Chrome

Google's heralded desktop browser made its mobile debut this year. It lives up to the hype. Speedy and simple, the free Chrome is miles ahead of the old stock Android browser.

Play Store: Chrome (free)

Google Drive

More than just a Dropbox rival, Google Drive is a cloud locker and basic word processor rolled into one. Store up to 5 GB of files for free, and edit your docs on the go. If you're invested in the Android ecosystem, Drive is essential.

Play Store: Drive (free)

Google Now

We're cheating a bit here, as Google Now isn't available as a standalone app. But any device running Android 4.1 or higher gets the next generation of Google search, known as Google Now.

In many ways, Google Now surpasses iOS' Siri. It skips the spunky personality, and simply delivers relevant information ... even before you ask for it. At the subway station? Now will show you what trains are coming. Merging onto the highway? Now gives you traffic. Voice searches are also returned much quicker than Siri.

If you're comfortable with much of your life being uploaded to Google's servers (chances are, it is anyway), Now can be a personal assistant that actually helps.

Play Store: N/A

1Weather

OneLouder Apps released the most beautiful weather app for Android this year, called 1Weather. It gives you all the weather info you'd need with an attractive design that we'd like to see more of on Android.

If you want to fully appreciate the gorgeous app, you can pay an extra US$1.99 for the Pro version.

Play Store: 1Weather (free)

Instagram

The former iOS-exclusive Instagram made its way to Android this year. The Facebook-owned app lets you snap pics with a variety of filters, and quickly upload them to your favorite social networks.

Play Store: Instagram (free)

OnLive Desktop

OnLive Desktop gives your Android tablet a touch-friendly, cloud version of Microsoft Windows. The only catch is that you'll need a persistent internet connection.

The free OnLive Desktop account offers basic Windows access, including Office and Adobe Reader. The premium Desktop Plus adds Internet Explorer (including Flash) at Gigabit speeds for US$4.99 per month.

Play Store: OnLive Desktop (free)

Solid Explorer Beta

Who knew file navigation had room for improvement? With multi-panel viewing, drag-and-drop, and support for rooted devices, Solid Explorer ups the ante for Android file management.

Play Store: Solid Explorer Beta (free)

Flipboard

A slew of formerly iOS-exclusive reading apps hit the Play Store this year. At the front of that pack is Flipboard.

Flipboard presents news in an attractive and responsive magazine-style layout. You can link to your Google Reader account or browse the plethora of curated Flipboard channels.

Play Store: Flipboard (free)

Instapaper, Pocket, Readability

Instapaper, Pocket, and Readability let you store news articles to read later. They're more than bookmark services, though, as they present articles in clean, text-and-image only views.

All three offer nearly identical feature sets, so you may want to experiment to find your favorite. No tablet is complete without one of them.

Play Store: Instapaper ($2.99), Pocket (free), Readability (free)

TabletSMS

If you're lounging on the couch with your Nexus 7, you probably don't want to grab your phone every time you send a text message. TabletSMS lets you send and receive texts from your tablet – all using your phone number.

Play Store: TabletSMS (free)

Turntable.fm

Turntable.fm lets you collaborate with friends and strangers on a live setlist. Queue up your favorite jams, and vote others' selections up or down.

Play Store: Turntable.fm (free)

Wave Control

Practice your Jedi powers and control your phone with a wave of the hand. Wave Control lets you play or skip songs without touching your screen. It doesn't always work seamlessly, but it's a great tool nonetheless.

Play Store: Wave Control (free), Wave Control Pro ($2.99)

Firefox

Firefox's Android browser stayed in beta for years, and lagged far behind its competition. That changed this year when Mozilla released Firefox for Android. It emphasizes speed, an overhauled user interface, and customizable add-ons. It even adds an Instapaper-like "Reader mode," that de-clutters articles for simple viewing.

Play Store: Firefox for Android (free)

Magisto - Magical Video Editor

Magisto is the lazy person's video editing app. Add video clips, and Magisto will analyze and compile them into a movie, complete with soundtrack. It even lowers the music volume when people are speaking. It isn't perfect, but it's as artistic as a computer can be right now.

Play Store: Magisto (free)

Swiftkey 3

Swiftkey has been one of Android's best keyboards for years, but 2012 saw the release of Swiftkey 3. It marks a big step forward, with better error correction and "Smart Space," which inserts missing spaces in blocks of text.

Also keep an eye out for the upcoming Swiftkey Flow, a Swype-like trace keyboard with Swiftkey's predictive text.

Play Store: Swiftkey 3 ($1.99), Swiftkey 3 Tablet ($1.99)

Temple Run

The iOS classic Temple Run came to Android in 2012. Snag an idol and run, jump, and slide from the crazy apes in hot pursuit. It's addictive, endless running arcade fun at its finest.

Play Store: Temple Run (free)

Dead Trigger

Android wouldn't be a legit gaming platform if it didn't have at least one good first-person zombie shooter. Dead Trigger gives you just that, for the unbeatable price of free.

Play Store: Dead Trigger (free)

Horn

One of the breakthrough mobile games of 2012, Horn is a Zelda-inspired action puzzler. Its striking visuals and console-like gameplay will keep you entertained for hours.

Play Store: Horn ($6.99)

Angry Birds Space, Angry Birds Star Wars

In 2012, Rovio's Angry Birds franchise continued its quest for world domination. The two latest entries, Angry Birds Space and Angry Birds Star Wars, brought some refreshing innovation (and a shameless tie-in) to the formulaic series. Don't knock anti-gravity bird-flinging until you've tried it.

Play Store: Angry Birds Space HD ($.99), Angry Birds Star Wars HD ($2.99)

N.O.V.A. 3

Until Microsoft brings H.A.L.O. to Android (fat chance), Gameloft's copycat N.O.V.A. franchise is as close as you'll get. Despite its cringe-inducing voice acting and lack of originality, N.O.V.A. 3 provides terrific visuals and hours of entertaining gameplay.

Play Store: N.O.V.A. 3 ($6.99)

More to come?

It's been a great year for Android, but the year isn't over yet. We'll keep an eye out for more great apps in the next month (GTA: Vice City, anyone?) and will update accordingly.

To see how the other half lives, check our list of the best iPhone apps of 2012.

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About the Author
Will Shanklin Will Shanklin is Gizmag's Mobile Tech Editor, and has been part of the team since 2012. Before finding a home at Gizmag, he had stints at a number of other sites, including Android Central, Geek and the Huffington Post. Will has a Master's degree from U.C. Irvine and a Bachelor's from West Virginia University. He currently lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jessica. All articles by Will Shanklin
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8 Comments

Another decent free FPS for android is the Counter Strike clone Critical Strike.

Daishi

Another app to try that I really like is Voxer. Voice messaging that beats typing a text message or even sending an email.

Emlyn

I can add here a streetquest - run is a game. Really good application for runners, joggers or just if you like to try any game that is using google maps.

mobaduck

GO Weather EX looks much nicer than 1weather. I'm still working out if they are accurate as some of the weather apps don't give accurate weather for us aussies. Weatherzone is very accurate for us

Frostwa

the one that is missing is Fast for Facebook! http://goo.gl/HP7qo

Stefano Rago

Check out Notes Widget and Notes Widget Ad Free for Yellow note cards for your android device, so you never forget a thing. Scored 4.7 out of 5

For Free Link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.harteg.NotesWidget&hl=da

Ad Free version, with more feature 0.99 cents: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.harteg.NotesWidgetAdFree

Jakob Harteg

Hello. I would definately add ArkMC application to this list. I am using it for two month to listen to music from my PC, to watch video, and to stream video to my new Samsung TV. It is very useful. Free version: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.arkudadigital.arkmc.light.gm Full version: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.arkudadigital.arkmc.gm

Donkin Kimel

Sir your content is awesome and article is very nice

Sumit Sharma
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