The last step for many of my app reviews is to completely wipe the phone. Several times a week, I'm doing what many Android users only do a handful of times: Logging into a clean phone and downloading the critical apps I need to get things done. I don't have time to re-install those once-in-a-blue moon apps, so I only bother with the most important (and useful) apps, which I'll now share with you. This is my list of the essential apps that every Android user should install.
I've tried to include a little bit of everything with this list. It covers a little bit of security, a little bit of entertainment, and a little bit of productivity. Ideally, if you download these ten apps onto your phone, you should be able to tackle just about anything.
But these ten are just the beginning. Evernote is an enormously versatile tool, but maybe you find that it's not meeting your needs for to-do lists and you want to move to a dedicated app like Any.do. Or now that you're used to gesture typing with Google Keyboard, you want to see what else the marketplace has to offer.
Think of this as the nest for hatchling Android users. Once you're ready to spread your wings, fly out there and find the perfect app that fits your needs.
Normally I'd solicit readers to tell me what they think is missing from the list but I know they will do that anyway. Instead, I'm going to explain what's not on the list.
Firstly, there are no games. If you want games, you should read our just-as-brief guide to the 10 best Android games. That'll take care of all your thumb-twiddling needs.
Secondly, there are only a few Google apps on here. It's really easy to just default to them since they're bundled on many devices and because Google owns Android. Regarding the Google apps that did make the list, I've carefully balanced their utility against competitors in the space to make sure they really are the best. For example, Google Drive doubles as a mobile office suite and has super-tight integration with your Google account.
Okay, enough intro – let's get on with looking at those apps themselves. Incidentally, just click on the title of an app to link through to the Google Play store, where you can download it.
The chances that you'll actually encounter malware with your Android device are pretty slim – but it's still a chance not worth taking. Avast Mobile Security & Antivirus comes packed not only with antimalware tools, but anti-theft tools, privacy tools, and more besides. It's also got an unbeatable price tag: Free.
If you're willing to spend a bit of cash, Bitdefender is our top choice for paid Android security apps. You should also familiarise yourself with Android Device Manager, which is a good backup to your security app's anti-theft tools.
Everyone knows they should be using a complex, unique password for each and every website and application, but very few people do. That's because people are bad at passwords. Thankfully, computers are way better at them, so let LastPass do the heavy lifting for you. LastPass can generate new passwords and remember your existing ones. A recent update means that the app can even autofill your passwords into apps, though its Copy Notifications feature is a great way to get your info from the app to the login screen.
Though the app and service are free, using it on a mobile device costs $12 (£7) per year. Trust me, it's well worth the price of admission.
Google Reader was the best thing to happen to the Internet since sliced blogs, but it has passed on to the big Google graveyard in the sky. If reading news and blog posts on your Android device is your bag, you need Feedly, an easy, pretty reader. It's a versatile platform, but what I like about it is that you can do all your reading in a single app. If you're looking for something a bit more stylish, try the magazine-style Flipboard.
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 hit your data cap. This is the best way to get big files on and off your phone.
Google Drive is a great cloud storage service, but it does double duty as an excellent mobile office suite. With Drive, you can access your important files from anywhere, and you can create new spreadsheets, text, and presentation documents. Collaboration features are also a big plus when it comes to Drive, and throw Quickoffice into the mix, and you'll be able to create and edit MS Office documents on the go.
Chrome is a great browser and is being bundled with more and more Android devices, but I encourage everyone to take a look at Firefox. The venerable browser's mobile offering is as fast and robust as ever, and it gives you special tools to safeguard your privacy while browsing online.
Evernote is your digital multi-tool. It's a great list keeper, note taker, voice recorder, to-do manager, and web clipper. It's so open and powerful that it's overwhelming at first, but you'll quickly find smart ways to use it. My favourite feature? Optical Character Recognition, which makes text in photos searchable.
You all know Netflix: It's the premiere movie and TV streaming service that has helped redefine what entertainment means in the 21st Century. You've probably got it hooked into your TV already, but you might have overlooked it when downloading your first round of apps. Though it struggles on most cellular connections (and will probably suck your data dry), Netflix is great over Wi-Fi. It's the perfect companion for long trips and lonely hotel rooms. While the app is free, you do of course need to subscribe to the service to watch Netflix.
If video isn't your thing, check out the Kindle app for books.
There are many, many ways to get music onto your phone, but we like Slacker Radio best. This service has a huge library of songs, but it also stands out for its excellent curated playlists and wide variety of streaming content. There's a little bit of something for everyone in here, but check out Spotify if you must have on-demand Led Zeppelin.
But seriously, who would ever want that?
Your Android device probably has a camera attached to it – and you can take those pictures from good to great when you're on the move with Snapseed. This handy photo editor has tons of features and fine-grain controls so your pictures come out perfect. If you're in a hurry, the app also has powerful autocorrect features to boot.
Looking for something to do with your nicely edited images? Share them on Instagram.