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7 of the best free Android apps you need to download

Google’s app store has grown massively since it was revamped from the Android Market to Google Play. Developers are increasingly launching new apps on Android first and then porting them to the iPhone, and the number of quality apps is increasing rapidly.

So we thought we’d take a look at some of the best Android apps around today – a handful of them which we deem to be essential downloads. There are seven apps highlighted in this article, and naturally enough, in choosing a small selection I had to leave some really great apps off the list.

I talked to lot of the guys in the office about these selections, but I should be clear that this is my personal list, so it shows some of my idiosyncrasies.

For example, when I think of "essential apps," I don't think games. Angry Birds and Temple Run 2 are fantastic time killers, but you already know that. They will get a million downloads whether I list them here or not.

I've also chosen not to include what I consider no-brainer Google apps, such as Google Maps. As far as I'm concerned, Google Maps is a gimme. If you are an Android user, you should already have it installed. And that goes for the native Gmail client as well. Google+ and Google Music are neat apps, but they have a way to go before I would call them essential. And while I love the new Google Chrome Beta for Android, it isn't available on enough devices for me to recommend.

This list of essentials is also light on social media apps – there’s no Facebook or Twitter clients that made the list. I'm a big Twitter user, but the truth is, most people probably don't need to tweet from their phone. Again, this isn’t essential.

All of these apps are free, but some have more powerful paid versions. If you like them, kick them some cash to keep them around.

Think I missed something really important out? Then let me know in the comments section below.

Any.DO (free)Porthole Ad

There are a lot of task managers and to-do lists in the Android market, but Any.DO rises to the top. The app makes it easy to add anything that enters your mind, but then it lets you drag and drop that task into different folders or onto different days. This makes it as easy to add something to next week's to-do list as it is for today's to-do list. Throw in the built-in sharing features and Any.DO can help you manage not just your tasks, but those of friends and co-workers. There are also versions for Chrome, the web, and even the iPhone.

Dolphin Browser HD (free)

There is nothing bad about the native web browser that ships with Android, but the Dolphin Browser HD does everything better. You can set up custom gestures, it syncs with Google bookmarks, and it supports a bunch of plug-ins. The ability to create tabs is worth the download all by itself.

EverPaper (free)

You maybe be familiar with Instapaper, the awesome app that lets you scrape web pages and download them for later reading, either on the web or cached on a mobile device. My favourite Instapaper client for Android is called EverPaper and it’s very slick. Anything you save while you are browsing will automatically get downloaded and caches on the app. It even includes a night mode because, seriously, that is when most of us are catching up reading those long articles anyway. Right?

SnapPea (free)

Think of SnapPea as the iTunes for your Android device. Install the software on your PC, tweak some phone settings, and from that point on you can use SnapPea to manage your music, photos, videos, and contacts from your desktop. From this interface, I was able to see six different contact entries for a single person and merge them into one with a few clicks. You can also side-load apps from your desktop, so that 15MB app download doesn't push you over your data cap. This is the best way to get big files on and off your phone.

Kindle for Android (free)

Amazon has sold a lot of Kindles, but its real strategy is to make Kindle books available on every device: iPad, iPhone, and, of course, Android phones. Kindle for Android shows you colour covers of all your books, and will remember where you’ve got up to across all devices. It also lets you adjust your screen brightness for maximum readability. Recently, it added support for newspapers and magazines. If you have a Kindle account and an Android phone, you have to have this app.

NewsRob (free)

I have used Google Reader, but I have to say I prefer NewsRob for quickly scanning my RSS feeds. The interface is cleaner, and with a few quick clicks, I can send stories to my email, Twitter account, EverNote, or even to Instapaper. NewsRob lets me scan 150 to 175 headlines on my 20 minute train ride to work. Maybe your information needs aren't quite as intense, but it is still the RSS reader to beat.

Dropbox (free)

Everybody says "the cloud" is the future, but Dropbox shows what the cloud can do for you today. I use Dropbox as an online storage folder that I can access from multiple computers. Instead of emailing myself huge files to work on at home, I upload them to Dropbox. With Dropbox for Android, I can access these files directly from my phone. Just log into your account and all your files will be there, it’s as simple as that.