Best Android social apps

The best apps on any mobile phones are most usually the social apps. While gaming is fun, it's on smartphones that the social networks can really come alive. Freed from the desktop, you can add photos, videos, locations and begin to share your live experience of life to those that are happy to follow. At the same time, they also make a great time filler way of catching up on your mates' lives on the move.

Naturally, one of the first things you'll want to do with your brand new Android smartphone is fill it up with just these kinds of apps, so, to make sure that you've covered the important bases, here are the best Android social apps out there and all of them are free - well, more or less.

StumbleUpon

For those who haven’t used StumbleUpon’s original browser version before, then exactly where have you been? It’s a social bookmarking tool where you can effectively like and dislike web pages. On its own, that sounds rather dull but the fun part is that all of that information is collated and crunched by the StumbleUpon engine which will then profile all of the bookmarked pages by category as well as just how popular they are. You can then enjoy whole experience the other way around by asking Stumble to recommend to you web pages that it thinks you’ll like. Very nice and a sensational way to waste time on your computer.

The app, of course, means that the whole experience has been tailored for mobile and it offers pretty much everything you could need. There’s boiled down screens where you can choose subject material that you’re interested in; a decent UI with a menu bar at the bottom where you can like, dislike and share; and also the baked-in add-on that allows you to Stumble web pages that you come across when you’re in your standard mobile browser. Great on boring bus journeys, or even on the loo. Read more

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Bump

We'll be the first to admit that there's a touch of the novelty about Bump but taking a popular, ghetto-style greeting and turning into something useful has actually been quite clever. At its heart, the app is a way of sharing information wirelessly from one handset to another and that's whether you're talking contacts, photos, music, events or even other apps.

All you have to do is select whatever the item is that you'd like to share and then physically bump your phone into another handset which also has Bump on it. The info is then sent up into Bump's servers in the cloud and back down to the receiving phone. Hey presto, you've shared and looked a bit pseudo cool at the same time. Of course, if you were really ghetto, you'd probably steal the other person's mobile and their trainers too.

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Foursquare

Every good social network needs its app for mobile and the official version is definitely the way to go as far as Foursquare is concerned. If you're asking yourself the question "What is Foursquare?", then, in a nutshell, it's a location-based info sharing service that's largely been copied and rather overshadowed by Facebook Places. 

Frequent the local pub often? Then use Foursquare to make yourself the mayor. Not the real mayor but more a social one; an electronic leader of friends, family and strangers. At first this might seem relatively pointless, but the commenting and information left by others allows the app to build up a clever picture of what is good to eat, drink and see and what isn't.

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3/5

 

ChatON

ChatON allows anyone to send messages and attached photos, videos, animation and voice recordings to any one or group of people anywhere in the world for the cost of whatever it is in data - which, of course, is nothing if you choose to do it over Wi-Fi. In other words, there's no SMS cost at all. The app lets you add buddies by plugging in their phone numbers and then you can converse with them in typical smartphone speech bubble style. It's slightly annoying that you can't just search for friends in a directory but there you go.

Once in flow, the interface is simple enough and there's a good list of ways to find and create attachments from your handset. One of the more interesting sections are the animations which you can make if you have the patience. But we didn't, and we ended using the defaults instead. Read More

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3/5

 

Skype for Android

Android wins out slightly over the iPhone version of Skype because it has a better notification system. As normal, a Skype icon appears in your drag-down status bar and when a chat is taking place there is a speech bubble shown too, so you are less likely to be signed in but oblivious of the fact someone is trying to reach you.

Calls are voice or video option over Wi-Fi and 3G, depending upon how flush you're feeling data-wise and, of course, the neat thing is that you don’t just get to call Skype desktop users, you can also call other Skype mobile users and even non-Skypers. Chat is also nicely handled, appearing as bubbles from alternate sides of the display and your chats don’t get lost in your handset - they also appear in your desktop client, so you can be signed in to both. The great thing, though, is that it’s another heavy-weight application for Android. Read More

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

Google+

Unless you've been living on the moon, you'll know that Google+ is the internet giant's latest stab at a social network. The Android app will recognise your Google account from your phone, so you’ll be up and running in a second. Underpinning the whole experience is Circles. Circles are essentially a way of categorising people. The default names are indicative of their use: Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Following (and you can add, delete change these at the desktop end). To build your network, you basically add people to Circles.

And that’s the real key to Google+: choosing who you share with. You can dump things out there for public consumption or in ever decreasing Circles, until you hit your smallest and most intimate group. It challenges Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Foursquare combining social features of all apps into one place. In these early days is doesn’t feel as accomplished as those individual networks, but given the size of Google, and given time, Google+ could be the only social network you need to use. Read More

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Facebook Messenger

The Facebook Messenger app replicates the Chat section of the website which appears in the corner of Facebook in a browser, with messages appearing in both places simultaneously. Facebook Chat has been part of the Facebook for Android app for a while, but Facebook Messenger is a much cleaner way to use the service as you don’t have to negotiate the rest of the Facebook app.

  

Facebook Messenger is convenient, as you can take a conversation with you from desktop to mobile or vice versa. Conversations can be refreshed if you think something is missing, and pulling down the main list will update it, just as it does in apps like Twitter. You can include your location in messages, add pictures and things like links are live, so you can share URLs and the like. Read more

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3/5

 

Facebook

The most social of all the social networks is always going to be the biggest and with access to the full experience in its entirety and all its chat, messaging and photo functions, the Facebook app is, of course, one of the best apps out there of any kind. From boot you can easily do things like post pictures or send friends message and the news feed also sits right at the apps start, keeping you up to date on all your network's goings on.

One of the best things about the Facebook app is how it is laid out. It's incredibly simple to use and it grants quick access to all the most important parts of the network. A constant stream of updates also means that the app is very rarely broken or buggy in any way. Better still, Facebook is constantly listening to and improving on its design, so it just gets better and better.

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

Touchnote

Touchnote is a nifty way of sending postcards to your loved ones from your smartphone. You can snap off a photo on your phone and transform it into a printed postcard that gets delivered by the postman at the other end. It’s a fusion of old world and new which is what we like about it. Touchnote gives you your first postcard free, but after that you’ll pay £1.49 for a single card, or you can buy in bulk (one free for a five-credit purchase; two free for a 10-credit purchase). You pay via PayPal or credit card, which is simple enough.

Bear in mind that there will be a data cost in sending the card, so if you are roaming then the real cost will be higher, unless you can find some local free Wi-Fi. Touchnote is a nice app to have sitting in your phone ready to use for those perfect picture-postcard moments. Yes, you will pay slightly more than getting a real card and stamp, but you can’t knock the convenience, or the simplicity, of the app. Read More

Google Play: Link

Price: Free (plus £1.49 for each postcard)

Rating: 4/5

 

Plume for Twitter

Plume for Twitter is not only an interesting Twitter client, but also a good example of how we think apps should work across Android: on the 2.3.3 HTC Sensation it behaves one way, on the 3.1 Motorola Xoom it behaves another way, optimising what it displays, and how, to suit the size of the device you are using.

It’s a comprehensive take on Twitter, with plenty of customisation options and settings. We’re big fans of the Honeycomb version because it makes really effective use of the screen space you have available. It might be a little too much for some people, but its Honeycomb optimisation is a step ahead of many rival apps, making it one of our Honeycomb must-haves. Read More

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Postcards

Sending postcards is part of your holiday. A tedious part, no doubt. You have to struggle with the cashier as you ask for stamps and then you need a postbox and you'll undoubtedly post it in the recycling bin. And that's just in Morecombe. Fortunately you no longer have to deal with these issues as your iPhone will swing into action with PostCards. It's an incredibly simple premise which involves you snapping off your own picture using the phone's camera. You can take a picture, or use one you already have on your device (so you could use it with an iPod touch too).

Once you have your pic, the app simply adds it to a virtual postcard. You can flip the postcard over and write a message as well as adding the address. The address will access your contacts so you don't have to plug in all the details, as well as a UK postcode address finder to make it simple to add new people. You then press send and away your postcard goes to eCards, who print it up into a regular postcard and stick it in the post – same day posting if they get your card before 4pm. You do have to pay, and this is via PayPal, with UK cards costing 99p and international cards costing £1.49, but at least the virtual postcards should make it home before you do - never a guarantee when using the postal system. Read More

Google Play: Link

Price: Free (but you have to pay for the service)

Rating: 3/5

 

Twitter

The official Twitter app is a very simple and easy way to interact with the speediest of the social networks. It will let you send out a 140 character tweet, upload pictures, search, read, reply and retweet, as well as send private messages. The real thing that makes the app work so well is its speed, as you can read through your feed incredibly fast and interact with followers very speedily.

There are other Twitter clients for Android out there, such as Plume above, but if you're after a wholly reliable and familiar experience, then the official app is probably the best way to go.

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

LinkedIn

Despite traditional associations with business and networking, the LinkedIn app is actually one of the most enjoyable in its appearance and the way it's used. Contacts sit at the top of the screen with profile pictures that can be scrolled and clicked. You can tap your own name and open up a selection of four different app categories like profile and updates and these can then be tapped on and read. It's all very intuitive and makes for a nice seamless app experience.

The hi-res graphics are particularly juicy looking, as is the way that invitations and messages are managed. The actual updates feed is more like Twitter than the usual LinkedIn website. It's much easier just to click through and read what people are posting than on the conventional website. Even if you don't have much of a business life, the LinkedIn experience rather makes you feel like you have.

Google Play: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3/5

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