Best Android utilities apps

These are the apps that should be the bread and butter of your smartphone. They speed up the day-to-day happenings of your mobile and aid you in going about your business. Everything from list-making to money management and 3G monitoring is here.

Most of these apps are free and all should be a day one download if you are new to using a smartphone. A lot of them give you a really good idea of what your handset is capable of. Others are slow-burners but will prove themselves hugely useful at some point. 

Onavo

Onavo is a data-monitoring app that will let you help keep track of how much data you're using, and which apps are using it. It's simple, graphical and useful, and whether you have a data cap or not, Onavo will provide plenty of information and let you deal with data hogs.

  

You can set your data cap, including for roaming, to trigger a run of notifications. You can also view by day, week or month and see when your data is being used up. If you have an app that you never use that's chewing data, you can uninstall, or restrict it to Wi-Fi. Those with Ice Cream Sandwich on their Android device might find that Onavo duplicates some of the inbuilt functions, but for those with older devices it is well worth a play. Read more

Android: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Barclays Pingit

Pingit is a pretty clever way of sending money to another person simply by sending them a text message - well, more or less. If you want to send cash to anyone with a UK number, then you’ll need a Barclays account and the relevant app for your mobile phone. To receive the funds you don’t needeither. The story at the other end is that you’ll receive an SMS saying that someone wants to give you some cash. If you’re not already registered with Pingit, then you will have to do so within 24 hours or the payment will be cancelled.

You don’t need the app but, again, it helps. You can register online at  www.barclays.co.uk/pingit. Once you’re set up, you can send up to £300 per day in amounts from £1 to the full dose. You can receive up to £5,000 in the same time period. We know which we’d rather do. Pitched as an easy way to split bills and sort out the odd friendly bit of I owe you this, that and the other, it does the trick very nicely indeed. Read more

Android: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Auto SMS (NoAds)

A very simple app, Auto SMS is for those who keep missing phone calls, or find themselves regularly being away from their handset. If you don't pick up a call the app will automatically respond with a message of your choice. It can also be set to reply to texts if you miss them.

Time-based scheduling means you can ping SMS to contacts at an exact point of the day, should you be away from the phone then, say. An included widget will let you turn the app on and off without needing to go into its settings, helping save battery. Some languages, including English, can also be read back to you using the app, a bit like Siri.

Not much else we can say about Auto SMS other than that you get a SMS-forwarding function, particularly good for those who have two phones. As texting apps go, it's very useful indeed. 

Market: Link

Price: £1.26

Rating: 3.5/5

 

LogMeIn Ignition

LogMeIn Ignition is an app that works in tandem with either Windows or Mac software (a free version or a pro version with added goodies) that lets you access your files when you're out and about - and even gives you direct access to your machine's desktops. Setting up is easy - simply install the app on device and download the desktop software that you want direct from LogMeIn's website. It's then just a case of pairing up your devices using the log-in procedure. You can also set a username and password for added security.

Once paired, your Android has access to all of your PC's goodies (so all your programs and data) that you want it to, as long as that machine is turned on. If it's not turned on, Ignition even has functionality to boot it up, or awaken it from a nap. Sure £20+ for an app is a lot, but when you consider that it's an app that basically turns your mobile into a functional PC then it's not really all that expensive.

Market: Link

Price: £19.22

Rating: 4/5/5

 

No to 08 numbers 0870 0845

With free minutes allowances constantly growing and more and more people ditching the landline for the mobile, those pesky 0870 and 0845 numbers remain a costly nuisance. Thankfully, there's quite a few anti-0870 apps to choose from but not all of them pick up the normally freephone 0800 numbers too, which are also charged out of plan by the mobile networks.

While not the catchiest of names, No to 08 numbers 0870 0845 does do the trick nicely. Any time you go to dial a number that begins in 08, it will intercept and find an alternative number for you to use. You will need data but it doesn't exactly require much of a connection to get a result.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3.5/5

 

AirDroid

Whereas LogMeIn Ignition is all about getting access to your laptop from your phone, AirDroid is a tool to work things the other way around. Once installed, the app gives you an IP address that you can type into a desktop browser which will then open up an onscreen web application that looks a bit like a normal computer OS.

The main difference is that the icons are things like Photos, Contacts, Files, Apps, Ringtones and everything else you can think of to keep inside your handset, and it's easy enough to click on each one, have a rummage around, send files in both directions and back up what you need to. The only shame is that you have to deal with wireless transfer speeds.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

Addons Detector

Addons Detector is a simple enough tool. Press a button and it will scan your phone by running through your list of downloaded apps and analysing what they are and are not entitled to do since you welcomed them across your handset’s threshold. The scan takes a few seconds and will then present you with a list of just about all of them. All you need to do next is filter them to see which one is doing what.

You can filter according to those which include advertising, those that need licences to run and those that are social games. By far and away the most useful category of all though, is under those that push notifications at you. With Addons Detector, you can find out exactly which of your apps is responsible and delete it. Read more

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Ubuntu One Files

Before you panic, you do not need to have Ubuntu - nor any version of Linux - installed on you PC in order to use Ubuntu One and the Ubuntu One Files app. This is a service that is, and has been, open to anyone who can access the internet since its launch. What this app offers is mobile phone access and syncing to it. Ubuntu One gives anyone who signs up 2GB of free online space to insert whichever kinds of files they wish. All very nice. Naturally, you can upgrade that for more room but doubtless you can figure that one out for yourself should you get hooked.

Installing the Ubuntu One Files app on your phone means that you can sync whatever’s up there in your cloud with your Android mobile. In fact, as soon as you open it up for the first time, it will offer to upload your handset’s photos to Ubuntu One and to do so every time you snap a new one. Naturally, you’re welcome to drill down and select exactly when you’d like that to happen and whether over mobile broadband or Wi-Fi or both. Beyond that, you’re welcome to upload any other file type manually. Definitely worth a crack. Read More

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

SwiftKey X

SwiftKey X is an alternative keyboard for the Android platform. The first thing SwiftKey will do when you install it is analyse your writing style by looking through all the SMS you have stored on your handset. Based on that, and what you type in the future, it will attempt to predict what words you are going to input next with the eventual result being that you need to bother spelling out only two out of every three yourself.

Even if it doesn't quite manage to do that, the push and hold punctuation and automatic addition of accents on foreign words makes an excellent alternative to the having to open up sub-menus that you get with the standard Android keyboard. Read More

Market: Link

Price: £2.55

Rating: 5/5

 

Firefox 4 for Mobile

If you’re a big fan of Firefox, have an Android phone, and want to take Mozilla's browser on the with you on the go, then this is the app for you. Syncing the two browsers (desktop and mobile) is very easy and because the system syncs every five minutes (or manually if that’s not quick enough) it means that you can carry on looking at a web link you’ve found in the office after you’ve headed out the door. Elsewhere within the app you get pinch-to-zoom functionality with the ability to move around the screen at the same time (very similar to the iPhone) and the ability to enhance the mobile browser even further with Firefox add-ons. You can also search within a page, save to PDF, share a page via apps like email and Google reader, as well as the ability to play with HTML 5 friendly websites. 

You'll need an Android handset with some oomph to run it and that means early Android smartphones just aren't up to scratch, so it's best to check with Mozilla whether your phone makes the grade.If it does, it's highly recommended. Read More

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

3G Watchdog

3G Watchdog is a good solid utility app. Simply speaking, what it does is to monitor data traffic sent over the mobile network on your Android phone. The idea is that it'll stop you from going over your agreed limit and incurring all sorts of nasty overblown charges from your network. The icon sits at the top of your phone at all times, with a mini progress bar indicating how much data you've got left using both the size of the bar and its colour as a warning. Green is good, yellow not so good and red means time to stop streaming.



When you open the app itself it gets much more exciting - well, if you can call monitoring your data allowance exciting. You tell the app how big your data allowance is and then set it to warn you by vibration when you're a certain per centage through your lot. You can also get it to stop your phone from using 3G or EDGE or GPRS as well once you get to the end. That way, you ensure you'll never pay a penny over your tariff. Read More

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Google Gesture Search

It's no surprise that this simple but effective app is Android-only as it comes from Google itself. The app enables you to search your phone by drawing on the screen using gestures. That means that if you draw an A on the screen with the tip of the your finger, the phone will bring up a list of everything on your phone with an A in it or anything that looks a bit like what you've drawn.


Like the text-based search function on iOS, Gesture Search will search your entire phone, including contacts, songs, apps and bookmarks. It also improves as you go along by learning from your search history.

MarketLink

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Flash Player 11

Apple's lack of Flash support is well documented, so it's no shocker that Flash Player 11 is firmly in the Android-only camp. This is essential for for accessing the same web content that you can see on a PC, including videos and games.


The latest version is also said to exert less stress on your handset's CPU, as well as on the battery life. Flash Player 11 is currently for Android 2.2 and 2.3 and a Beta release for 3.0.1+ tablets (where it can be used in full-screen mode).

MarketLink

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

Dropbox

Dropbox has taken off the covers of an all-new version of its cloud-based solution for Android devices: the Experimental Android Forum Build 2.0.9. Catchy name huh?

The beta release brings with it several key new features, most notably the addition of a Camera Upload function. This allows you to have your smartphone or tablet's photos or videos beamed directly into the cloud without your having to mess around with an upload manager.

What's more, you'll get 500MB of free Dropbox storage once your first picture hits the cloud. Files are limited to 180MB so you won't be able to fire up your home-made HD movies if they are too long. But, if they're nice and quick and get to the climax sooner rather than later, you should be okay.

During the testing period you'll also get 500MB of free space for every 500MB of photos and videos automatically uploaded, with up to 5GB up from grabs.

MarketLink

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

Any apps we have missed? Let us know in the comments below ... 



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