11 Top Android Apps

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NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Earlier this week, Google's (Stock Quote: GOOG) Android Market reached its 100,000-app milestone. While that's about two-thirds less than the number available in Apple's (Stock Quote: AAPL) App Store, all signs are pointing toward growth for the ecosystem surrounding Google's mobile OS.

More than 200,000 Android phones are activated daily -- double the number of activated devices just several months ago, according to Google, and just a bit behind the iPhone, of which Apple says it activates more than 275,000 per day. And according to a recent report by IDC, Android's OS market share will jump from 16% today to 25% in 2014.

So what does all the hype mean? Scads of developers and programmers around the world are scrambling to create games, content and every type of app imaginable for the Android platform.

Culled from a variety of rankings -- from tech blogs to CNET to the Android Market itself -- here are 11 of the most-downloaded, free Android apps, tested by TheStreet's tech team on a Motorola (Stock Quote: MOT) Droid X.

Amazon Kindle Reader

The Android version of Amazon's (Stock Quote: AMZN) Kindle Reader is the best thing to happen to Android users who often find themselves alone with just their phone.

While the quality of an Android Kindle reading experience depends on the size of one's screen and one's ability to find a shaded area -- it's too hard to make out the words in bright sunlight -- reading one of the 725,000 books on Android is not much different from reading on the Kindle itself. Users can bookmark, add notes and highlight passages and look words up via Dictionary.com.

The app also allows books bought on Amazon to be shared between phone and Kindle at no extra cost.

Yelp

Longtime online search outfit Yelp has transferred to Android nicely. Besides scouring local business reviews for places in one's neighborhood, Yelp integrates mapping technology that directs users to locations as they walk -- in a pop-up, interactive Google map.

Even better is the Monacle feature, which allows lost users to see a red dot on their screen as they hold their phone up on the street, helping guide them to the exact location of where they want to go.

Our only gripe: While users can draft restaruant/shop reviews from within the app, they can only publish the write-ups by going to Yelp's website.

Angry Birds

While Internet games developed by privately-held companies don't fall into what we normally cover, Angry Birds is worth mentioning.

Ranked as the most popular iPhone app, the incredibly addictive -- and imaginative -- game sees players hurling birds from slingshots to knock down targets protecting evil pigs. Android users love Angry Birds, too: According to its developer, Rovio, the game has been downloaded more than 2 million times on the platform.

Stay tuned. Besides offering continuous, free updates to the game, the folks behind Angry Birds, which has already spawned t-shirts and a plush toy line, are reportedly exploring a movie deal.

Slacker Radio

We've always loved Internet radio stalwart Pandora, but Slacker Radio offers a greater number of songs and playlists searched and compiled by genre artists. The resulting playlists seems to be a little more relevant to our tastes than what we heard via Pandora.

Despite the annoying audio ads that come with the free version of the app, the Slacker experience -- especially the paid versions, which are either $4 a month or $47.88 a year -- exemplifies what we've come to expect from Internet radio: the ability to customize our own "radio station," more allowance of song skips and the option to cache our stations, so we're able to listen to songs even when in an area without wireless accessibility.

Bump

Bump's technology, available for iPhone and Android users, allows folks to exchange contacts, pictures and calendar events between two phones by -- as you would expect -- tapping them together. Users can also connect on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn using the app.

Additionally, Bump, downloaded so far by more than 10 million users, can be used for mobile payments, enabling PayPal app users to transfer money by bumping phones.

Advanced Task Killer

Owners of juice-sucking Androids like the Droid X and the HTC Incredible might not realize that Android apps often run in the background, draining the battery and slowing down functionality. Enter Advanced Task Killer. It shuts down these programs (with a user's permission, via a checklist), but keeps the essential services running to free up memory.

Astrid

Like an electronic personal assistant, Astrid provides users with a customized to-do list. Users start by adding simple tasks -- a wake-up alarm or "buy milk," for example -- then follow up with tags that help with prioritization. Astrid tracks the time spent on a task; we like the encouraging, youthful language that pops up with the reminders, like: "You said you would do it: Edit Android App Story."

Astrid also syncs with Google Tasks.

Barcode Scanner

Aimed at avid comparison shoppers, Barcode Scanner lets Android users scan a product's barcode with the camera phone; the app then pulls up prices, reviews and shipping labels associated with the item.

For example, users can discover if a book found at a Barnes & Noble (Stock Quote: BKS) store is cheaper online or at a competitor's store or website. The app, powered by Google, can also scan QR codes -- those big, square-shaped barcodes often placed on companies' websites that contain URLs, addresses and contact information.

Dial Zero

Dial Zero provides a directory of toll-free customer service numbers for more than 600 companies, allowing users to bypass the automated recordings to more quickly reach a person. While it didn't work for Cablevision -- we weren't able to reach a live person who we could complain to about its ongoing dispute with Fox -- we found the forum for sharing comments interesting and useful for companies that have changed their number.

Just make sure search terms are entered in lower case letters, or the service won't work.

Seesmic

While the native Android Twitter app works fine most of the time, social media aggregator Seesmic allows users to manage Facebook and multiple Twitter accounts and updates in one easy-to-use interface.

The social media managing space is crowded with similar apps, but Seesmic seems to work a little more seamlessly and also lets users record and upload videos to YouTube, share photos on yFrog or TwitPic and shorten URLs.

Tripit

Tripit compiles all upcoming travel itineraries into an easy-to-read list separated by date. Just forward airline and hotel confirmations to plans@tripit.com, give it a few minutes, and the app shows departure times (in huge numbers), distance of flight covered, arriving city information (with pop-up Google maps), confirmation codes and airline/hotel contact information. There's even a "seating advice" link that helps travelers avoid the worst seats on the airplane.

We're just bummed that you have to buy the premium version of Tripit if you want the app to manage various mileage accounts.

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