Best Android apps for learning and reference

Smartphones apps aren't just about games. There's some educating to do out there if you'd care to tear yourself away from Fruit Ninja for just two minutes and we at Pocket-lint have amassed the very best Android apps for learning and reference so that you know where to start.

So, whether it's spodding up for a pub quiz, indulging in your affair with outer space or simply learning how to speak the Queen's English properly, you'll find something to tickle your tête here. Seek out, download, digest and achieve enlightenment.

NASA App

It's a real pleasure to see an organisation like NASA have such a thoroughly good app available on Android. It's simply packed with information and freebie media and without so much as an advert to pay for it. What's another few quid when you're in the business of sending men to the Moon?

NASA App brings you all the information on all of the current NASA missions including schedules as well as just what they're trying to achieve. On top of that, there's access to a vast library of space photos, the NASA YouTube channel, TV & Radio sections, the Twitter feed, but, probably best of all, are the ringtones which include speeches by JFK, bleeps and cheeps over the radio and, of course, immortal words like "the eagle has landed".

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

Google Sky Map

Continuing on the cosmos, Google Sky Map is an absolute shoe-in for best apps on Android phones in general and there's no way it wasn't going to make this list. One of the original AR bits of software for Android phones, it allows you to wave your mobile around your head as you use it as a window to the stars and other celestial bodies.

Your mobile screen then shows you a map of outer space with everything in its correct positioned and all named too. Want to know what that bright star is that you're looking at? Google Sky Map will tell you. If there's too much to take in at once, then you can filter the sorts of things you're looking for. Best of all, no data connection is required.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

How to Tie a Tie

If you thought there was only one way to tie up a tie, then prepare to have your tiny mind blown. Then prepare to spend a lot of time in front of the mirror trying to perfect them with this How to Tie a Tie app. It's a surprisingly well put together piece of software that takes you through the stages of each knot, step by step, with a picture of what you're supposed to be doing at every turn.

There are 13 to master in total with familiars like the Half Windsor and the Simple Double to the rakish Kelvin and the fiendishly tricky Persian. There's also the bonus of how to tie a bow tie as well. All in all, it's an excellent download. The only trouble is that, to our eyes, all the knots rather look the same.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

Origami Instructions HD

If you're looking for a way to relax, impress small children or drunken potential mates down the boozer, then you might want to think about the free Android app that is Origami Instructions HD. Yes, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding can be yours with a simple click on the Android Market, a little head-scratching and lot of sheets of practice paper.

Much like How to Tie a Tie, the app gives you step by step pictorial guides on 35 different origami schemes featuring, yes, the ever-popular crane and water bomb. Start simple with something like the whale and work your way up to the likes of the tulip.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

British Museum: Treasures

British Library: Treasures is the first smartphone app from the world's largest library (in terms of books and articles, not area) and it's a guide-based app that provides the opportunity for interaction with the Library’s collections at home, on the move or within the Gallery itself. The app is a multimedia hot-bed of information and entertainment with over 100 of the Library’s greatest collection items featured in its 250 high-definition images and 40 videos.

There's loads of goodies in there for you to look at including the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Charles Dickens’s handwritten draft of Nicholas Nickleby, Jane Austen’s teenage writings, the world’s oldest bible Codex Sinaiticus, Nelson’s Battle Plan - written before his victory at Trafalgar, Galileo’s letters and Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks. Read More

Market: Link

Price: £2.49

Rating: 4/5

 

TED Air

If you're unfamiliar with TED Talks, then a) where have you been for the last 5 years, and b) prepare to be amazed. TED (which stands for Technology Entertainment and Design) is a worldwide, on-going conference, organised by the Sapling Foundation, with the objective of presenting "ideas worth spreading". Since 2006, the Talks have been posted online at TED.com and there are now over 1000 of the lectures which have been viewed more than 290 million times.

The TED Air app brings a bunch of those talks to your Android mobile over Wi-Fi and 3G connection but, rather handily, you can also download each one locally for you enjoyment when you don't have any kind of data signal.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

 

Treasures of the Bodlean

For those unfamiliar with the Bodlean Library, it's the Oxford University central research library and it's entitled to request a copy of any book that goes into print in the land. It's been doing that for quite a while now and it has a fair few with some proper oldies like a Gutenberg Bible. But we digress.

The point is that the Bod has put together a free app featuring some of its old faves for Android users to explore. You can't read them but you can get an understanding of what some of these ancient tomes are all about and why they're so important. With lots of videos and podcasts on the subject, there's plenty of seriously rich and seriously good classical knowledge to digest here.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 4/5

 

World Atlas

There's a few atlas apps for Android but the interesting thing about World Atlas is that it's not really much of an atlas at all. That is to say that the map part of the equation is really not a big deal. In fact, it's just Google Maps, really. The good part is all the other good population, geography, social and climate info that's stuffed in along with it.

Largely, the app operates as a hub to all sorts of other services that provide the data but it's presented in a good enough way to make it work. What we really enjoy though is the flag quiz that comes as part of it too.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3.5/5

 

Dictionary.com/Collins English Dictionary

While you're doing all this learning and reading you might come across the odd word you don't understand. No need to be ashamed. Instead, open up a good dictionary app like Dictionary.com and broaden your horizons a touch.

To be fair, there's quite a few dictionary apps out there with the likes of the Farlex Dictionary and the Free Dictionary just as good. The problem, however, is that none of the freebies out there are a even a shade on a proper paid for version like the Collins English Dictionary app or the Oxford English Dictionary one either. Why? Because all the free ones are effectively American English dictionaries and not actual English ones, and, unfortunately, both the Collins and the Oxford are ludicrously expensive.

Market: Dictionary.com/Collins

Price: Free/£18.59

Rating: 4/5 & 5/5

 

BT Phone Book

BT Phone Book is not a complicated app and, what it does, others already have done for quite a while. What's really refreshing to see though, is that the business pages guide is integrated really, really nicely on Android - to the point where it might be worth ditching the rest.

The only things that are holding it back at the moment is that not every business has bothered to put itself in the Phone Book over the last few years, with Google indexing offering more relevance. Once that comes together, or BT agrees a deal with another data rich review service, then it's going to be a real winner. Read More

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 3/5

 

Wikipedia

There are a lot of third party Wikipedia apps on Google's mobile platform but the real Wikipedia has very recently stood up and unleashed an official version of its very own. To be fair to all the others, it's basically the same. In fact, all the Wikipedia apps are basically the same. So, we won't blame you for sticking with Wikidroid if you'd rather.

The Wikipedia Android app presents the text in any one of 280 languages, it supports voice search, offers random articles and, best of all, you can save pages for offline use as well. The whole thing is neatly presented and optimised for the small screen with a good column width, text size and lots of collapsible sections. There's also a map view so that you can see if there are any articles about anything near where you are.

Market: Link

Price: Free

Rating: 5/5

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