11 must-have Android utility apps

You want added utility for your Android device? Well, of course you do, and that being the case, this list of top notch utilities will be a major boon.

All of these apps take advantage of Android's openness to change how you use your device, from threat protection through to utilities that monitor your CPU performance or network traffic.

Some of these apps are free, and others will have you dipping into your wallet, but they're all well worth having. To grab an app, simply click on its title to link through to download it on the Play Store.

Right, let's get on with it...

When it comes to Android threats, we mostly talk about theft and malware. But viaProtect is targeted at so-called "leaky apps" which transmit your personal information without encryption.

Once it's installed, you'll be able to see where your information is going, who it's going to, and whether it was encrypted. The company has big plans for this service, but it's already a provocative look at what your apps do behind your back.

This app is designed to help you quickly remove other apps with just a few taps. You can prune your app garden better with a powerful search function, and check the last time an app was used. For a couple of quid, you can unlock even more features like memory-saving "freezing" and batch uninstalling for rooted devices.

There are many launchers available in Google Play that replace your stock phone home screen interface with something more customisable. Nova Launcher Prime not only gives you settings to play with, but it's super-fast and smooth. It also gives you access to numerous custom-made themes and icon sets available on Google Play. If you're not willing to part with three quid, try the free version called Nova Launcher.

An impressive keyboard replacement, Swiftkey suggests what it thinks is the most likely next word as you type. A pioneer of this technology, you can speed up your typing by inserting whole words with a tap.

The app also supports Swype-like input, and a recent update condensed the tablet and phone versions into a single mega-app. Penny pinchers should consider the free Google Keyboard.

Swype was the first app to introduce dragging your finger between letters to input text, which has since appeared in SwiftKey and even Google Keyboard. The developers are not resting on their laurels, however: Their app has numerous input options, including the powerful Dragon Dictation, gestures, handwriting recognition, and SwiftKey-like predictive text. Swype is a sprawling app that makes mobile typing a breeze.

I'm going to be honest here: I haven't completely mastered Tasker, but I recognise that this is perhaps the most powerful app available in Google Play. With it, you can script basic actions for your Android device to perform when specific conditions are met – like flash the LED when you receive a text message. Now I just need to learn how to get the most out of this app.

Netgear's free app lets you see the lay of the Wi-Fi landscape. With a few taps, you can see the strength of networks in the area and what channels have the most interference. It's the perfect companion to our article on how to set up your wireless network.

Android devices can often feel like islands unto themselves, but SnapPea gives you access to your phone's files from your computer via USB or Wi-Fi connection. Recently refreshed, the service can also back up your device and let you send texts from your computer via your phone, among other things. SnapPea has a minimal presence on your Android device, but it will change how you use your phone.

Unlike iOS, Android actually lets you plumb the depths of its innards – provided you have the right app to do it. Let Astro be your guide as you explore your Android device's files. In addition to the basics (copying files, moving files, etc) Astro connects with cloud services (Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive), backs up your apps, and doubles as an application manager.

This simple, lightweight app gives you a handy graphical representation of your Android device's RAM usage, CPU performance, network traffic, and a host of other options. It's particularly useful for keeping tabs on apps or processes that might be slowing down your device, or just to see some pretty graphs.

Dropbox pioneered the idea of a personal cloud service, where all your stuff would be available no matter what device you were using.

On Android, it holds its own – even against the highly integrated Google Drive. Dropbox can also act as a seamless backup for your images, automatically uploading every photo to the cloud. If you're a heavy Dropbox user, this app is a must-have.