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Droid Life’s Top 25 Android Apps Of 2011

android apps top 25

As we draw closer to the end of year, we wanted to reflect on some of the apps that seemed to have taken 2011 by storm.  It was only a year ago that the Android Market hit the 200,000 apps milestone, and now we are talking 10 billion app downloads and beyond. Whether it was a new messaging client, revamped social networking tool, or even a game that consumed our days to the fullest, this was a great year for applications on Android.  2011 also marked the release of the Amazon Appstore, which changed the way developers could market their apps to potential buyers and also showed that Amazon knew people loved free things.

So below, we have a list of the apps that we feel were the most popular, talked about and influential here at Droid Life throughout the year.  We have tried to keep it to apps that were released this year, but might have one or two that were released in late 2010, or that were just too damn good and received a big enough overhaul to leave out.  There are games, utilities, social media outlets, home replacements, and everything in between.

These aren’t in any particular order of importance, so feel free to sift through and weigh in with your opinions via the comments. Did we miss any? Agree or disagree with our top choices?  

Top Twenty Five Apps Of 2011:

Cut the Rope – An iOS game with possibly the cutest little green character called Om Nom, that finally made its way to Android in 2011. In a mobile gaming world dominated by that damn birds game, this was the breath of fresh air we had been waiting for.

Google Reader – Before Google Reader, we were forced into testing out every 3rd party feed reader app that Frank and Joe hacked together in their basement. The options were pretty limited. After receiving its official release and a number of UI enhancements, this is easily the best reader on the market.

Google+ – Google+ is supposed to battle it out with Facebook for the top social network on the planet. The jury is still out on whether or not they will even come close, but their app is sure lovely. It has had a number of major changes since launch and continues to improve monthly. Group video chat from anywhere with your 9 best friends? Hard to beat that.

 

Swiftkey X – Back in May, SwiftKey added an “X” to its name and became the #1 third-party Android keyboard. We have done many polls as to which keyboard our reader’s favored and it is clearly SwiftKey X.

WidgetLocker – OK, so this wasn’t released in 2011 or at the end of 2010, but we are making an exception this time around. WidgetLocker and its update that included Ice Cream Sandwich and Honeycomb locks was beyond “epic.” Our phone’s lockscreen managed to turn into the coolest feature on our phone, over night.

GO Launcher EX – One of the newer home replacements on the Market that has collected itself a somewhat cult-like following.  With tons of different themes and add-ons, you can’t go wrong with GO Launcher EX.  For that matter, anything by the GO team is usually Grade A material, including their SMS add-on, lock screen replacement and set of widgets.

ADW EX – Believe it or not, the EX version of ADW was released at the tail end of 2010 and this list wouldn’t be complete without it.  Screen transitions, themes galore, and a stock addition to every CyanogenMod ROM downloaded?  Easily the most used home replacement available.

Netflix – When first dropped, Netflix had some real problems.  It would work for only an extremely limited amount of devices and a hacked version had to be released every other week to undo the locks that the Netflix team put on it.  Now that the app is working for almost all devices, our streaming addictions have been fulfilled.

Hulu Plus – Just like Netflix, Hulu Plus was met with a less than friendly initial review by many.  Only a few devices were allowed access to it from the beginning, and hacked versions could be found in almost any forum for your non-supported phone.  Hulu lightened up on OS requirements and has made the app available for everyone, making it one of the most popular apps in the Android Market.

 

Minecraft – Now when you say something has a cult following, that does not come close to comparing to the type of following that Minecraft has.  Some people just don’t seem to understand why over 4.2 million people have purchased and continue to play this game on their computers.  After being released for Android, the rest was history. Endless fun and building adventures.  Notch rocks.

Words with Friends – Zynga’s huge smash hit for iOS finally came to Android.  One of the best Scrabble-like games you will find on the Market.

CircleLauncher – Once CircleLauncher hit the Market, Kellex could not stop talking about how awesome it was. As one of the more useful widgets you will find on Android, we can’t recommend it enough.

Pulse – We run polls on favorite apps from time to time and Pulse Reader is always on someone’s top list. It is a great application for viewing all types of news in an image-friendly way. A number of updates throughout the year continued to add to the polish and overall experience of one of the most popular news readers we have encountered.

SHADOWGUN – Possibly the most anticipated mobile game of the entire year came from Madfinger Games. Touting console quality graphics and intense gameplay, SHADOWGUN was everywhere. It delivered for the most part, and should be a great benchmark for future game developers to match their work up against.

Google Music – Google lifted the beta tag from Google Music and launched its very own Android Music store. Being one of the newest apps available on this year’s list, people are still getting the hang of its power, but there is no doubt that Google Music will be here for a long time to come.

HBO GO – The ability to take your East Bound and Down anywhere you go is important to some.  Including us. Thanks HBO, for allowing us to be addicted to your shows wherever we may be!

Thumb Keyboard – If you own an Android tablet and are not using Thumb Keyboard, then you are most definitely doing it wrong.  Without a doubt our favorite 3rd-party tablet keyboard.

Plants vs. Zombies – The iOS classic came to Android as an exclusive to the Amazon Appstore for free.  After the initial release period, popularity still grew and it has become just as popular on this platform as it was on Apple’s.  Destroy those pesky zombies!

Jet Car Stunts – After release, Kellex had a serious addiction to this game.  The object is for you to drive jet powered cars down tracks and through rings to beat the clock.  It has made our list for the simple reason that it is highly addictive and hours of fun. Hard to imagine that it has been out for a year already.

Amazon MP3 – Thanks to the addition of Cloud Storage, Amazon MP3 quickly became the talk of the town again in 2011. For purchasing a single music album, users were given 20GB of online cloud storage for free. It was one of the original apps that came on Android devices, but thanks to the additional features it received this year, it is basically a completely new application.

Screenshot ER – Simply the best screen capture app available. Many of our old favorites were pulled long ago, but this app would have replaced them anyway. Even with native screenshots through ICS, you may still want to try this one out – if you are rooted that is.

Clock Widgets (D-Clock, clockr, BobClockD3) – Too many great clock widgets to name just one so we had to include three of them.  These were the 3 favorites we had from this year.

  

Spotify – Spotify allows its users to choose an unlimited number of their favorite tracks, make playlists out of them, listen to them offline and even enjoy them on mobile devices.  You can skip around, choose specific tracks, and never have to listen to the random no-name band that sort of sounds like the actual band you like.

Google Currents – Google’s brand new app called Currents is our wild card this year.  It was just released, but we have a feeling this could be a hugely popular app.  The layout of the app is beautiful and it offers a nice minimal and readable feed/subscription reader look, similar to Flipboard or Pulse. Oh, and you can subscribe to our edition here.

ScreenCast – It is hard to believe that ScreenCast is the first app to allow you to create truly clean recordings from on your device, but it is. And boy is it good. Rooted users only on this one.

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Honorable Mentions (oldies but goodies):

LauncherPro – We might not have seen as many updates (or that unicorn rewrite) as we wanted this year, but there is no doubt that our readers still love them some LauncherPro. Cheers Federico!

Skype – This year Skype became what we thought it would be at first release.  Video chatting and messaging were added, making this an actual worthwhile application.

Google Maps – An app that is always getting better and better as time goes by. In 2011, Google Maps went 3D. First, we saw 3D cities popping up, but within the last couple of weeks Google started to unveil their inner navigation skills by giving us 3D layouts of malls and airports.

ROM Manager – Another app that rooted users should never be without.  A portal to world of custom ROMs and themes.  Definitely older than 2011, but we couldn’t leave it off the list.

Evernote – Kellex was always one to question the uses of this app, but I see him recommend it to folks on the regular. A couple of major UI overhauls, including one for tablets, Evernote continues to be one of the best ways to keep your life organized.

________________________________________________________

We would love to hear your thoughts. What were your top apps of the year?

  • StormbladeX69

    TweetCaster and Taptu should really be on there as well as PocketCasts!

  • Anonymous

    Hulu Plus didn’t open up to all devices.  It still doesn’t work on my Droid Charge or Xoom wifi.

  • Doug

    Count the number of apps from this list that originated from apps that we had last year from development of hackers. I <3 MIUI

  • pete

    Is anybody else havin problem with the facebook app also on a nexus?

    • James

      no, havent seen any issues yet..

      • pete

        That means smthing is wrong with my device! I need to get it exchanged!

  • Robert Sagat

    For being rooted… Samba Filesharing. My phone hardly ever touches a computer through a usb cable anymore

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.ie/7fb

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.ie/7fb

  • http://twitter.com/kirilv Kiril

    I don’t really like this list. I don’t play games or watch TV on my phone, so most of this list is not for me. Also, you forgot SwipePad. This app has basically changed the way I use my phone.

    • Anonymous

      Reminds me of the wavelauncher in webos days. I never used it on my Pre either.

  • http://www.twitter.com/nblufire12 Nathan Patel

    LauncherPro… could have been the best launcher going forward hands down… but the dev stopped updating it /sigh

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.ie/7fb

  • Anonymous

    Solid list

  • Superboriqua

    I love SwiftKey X, I used to use color note pad but my laptop came with evernote so I downloaded it on my phone and deleted the note pad

    • Anonymous

      I loved Swiftkey X too until I stopped to see how much memory it was using. Hog!

  • Fred Alfonzo

    shouldn’t this have been made into a question asking us what our top 25 apps of 2011 were?

  • Anonymous

    Hulu+ doesn’t work with the Droid RAZR.  I’m almost considering renewing my Netflix account because of this, and I’m interested in seeing some HD movies on this awesome screen.

  • Anonymous

    phlpn.es/829r8s

  • http://twitter.com/Jnyce87 Johnathan Denney

    rom toolbox pro
    volume+ (Gnex)

    • Anonymous

      Hate the low G-nex volume. Exactly and by which developer volume + app are you recommending?

      • xformulax

        search com.test.android.lvh on the market, you need the paid version because the free version only goes +4, i’m running the paid version at +10 and it’s a huge improvement over stock

        https://market.android.com/search?q=com.test.android.lvh 

        • Anonymous

          You made my day. Thanks!

        • CapnShiner

          Does it go to 11?

  • Anonymous

    Kellex’s scores on Jet Car Stunts were damn hard to beat… Kudos! (BULLY!)

  • Mbruno44

    How do you not include Poweramp in this writeup?  The only thing missing from that player is the ability to access your music in the Google cloud, but that’s not the Dev’s fault – that’s Google not playing nice.  Nice article otherwise. Whoever mentioned airdroid gets a cookie – sick app

  • Anonymous

    Replace Spotify with Rdio (I mean have you seen Spotify’s UI? Awful) and replace Words with Friends with something else and I pretty much agree with this list. 

  • http://twitter.com/starnovsky Stan Tarnovsky

    8 tracks
    DI radio
    Photoshop
    Google Docs
    Google+

  • J RIDD

    Is anyone having issues trying to freeze apps with Titanium Backup on ICS? It tells me it is working, but then never freezes them or removed them from the app drawer. 

    • Anonymous

      Why not just use the default ICS disable function?

  • gadgetryan

    anyone know of a good contact widget for the Galaxy nexus? Similar to Launcher pro’s contact widget?

    • CapnShiner

      I’m not sure if it works without Go Launcher, but you can try Go Widgets.

      • gadgetryan

        Thanks. I tried it but it is saying I need a theme with scrollable widgets. 

        • Rotmann

          Colorize Widgets and Pure Messenger are awesome

  • Anonymous

    Agree with Pulse. Don’t care if that app had been released 10 years ago, it’s still my personal #1. However, with my GNexus I’m unable to find Droid-Life on there – kind of sad. Not sure why that is, but when I search for DL on Pulse a bunch of random Android sites pop up but not Droid-Life.

    Regarding LauncherPro, I 100% disagree. It used to be great, but Fede hasn’t updated the thing in over 6 months. It’s so far behind other launchers nowadays that there’s no reason to use it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bowdent Tyler Bowden

      Same here, could not find DL in the Pulse subscriptions

      • Anonymous

        Same, on my RAZR install.  Hasn’t disappeared from my tablet install though, it seems like it got dropped.

      • StormbladeX69

        Taptu is superior to Pulse with the exception of having a Cloud Account like Pulse does. I’ve been bugging them to add it though.

    • Anonymous

      You can add it manually…go to Settings -> Manage Sources -> + button -> then either search for it or add it from google reader if you have it on there…worked for me at least

    • http://www.twitter.com/nblufire12 Nathan Patel

      If you’re running an older phone that can’t handle a more cpu intense launcher, launcher pro is your app.

      Like on my OG D1 I could only hand LPP+

    • StormbladeX69

      Taptu should be on there. I think it is better than Pulse.

    • Stereopc

      I was using Pulse also but after I tried Currents (which has DL) I dumped Pulse. Google put some work in that app and it shows.

    • Bushatoes

      Forget WidgetLocker get Lucent Lock if you want a sweet looking lock screen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nicholas-Day/100001310977448 Nicholas Day

    Power Amp

  • Anonymous

    Is Words with Friends still the buggy, laggy, memory-hogging hot mess that it was when it launched?

    • JustinM

      not quite as bad… but well, yeah almost. They have a loooong way to go

  • Davros

    It’ll be nice when they get Screencast to work on GNex

  • Prime7

    Now if only half of these didn’t require subscription fees…

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NRY2TCDYEUNJFQH2WKFZJIVB3E Spencer

      @readers:disqus my co-worker’s sister makes $85 every hour on the computer. She has been fired from work for 2 months but last month her income was $7251 just working on the computer for a few hours…. View More

      • Anonymous

        There’s so many jokes here, I don’t know where to begin.

  • Anonymous

    I love Launcher Pro’s Friends widget (Facebook+ Twitter and scrollable). Is there any other app that does that, I am enjoying plain ICS on my new Nexus, and other than that, don’t feel the need to change it

    • Rotmann

      Colorize Widgets and Pure Messenger have scrollable widgets and skins for that

  • Anonymous

    What do you use to read droid life? Looks like pulse wants me to select induvidual people. I want to add the whole site

    • Anonymous

      I’m having that same problem on my GNexus. On my OG it was fine, but when I search for Droid-Life on Pulse I get nothing.

      • Anonymous

        I copy and pasted the website and found it but then I had to subscribe to each individual person. Is that how its supposed to work?

        • Anonymous

          No, that’s now how it’s supposed to work. When I used Pulse on my OG all I did was search for Droid-Life and it came up as a choice (just like if you searched for Engadget or Bleacher Report they would appear as a choice). Not sure why, but Droid-Life doesn’t show up as an option on my Nexus. I ended up just using Google Currents (even though I prefer the UI of Pulse).

          • Anonymous

            Ah thanks. That’s too much. I’d like to add a website. Is that possible somehow? I’ve never used any of these reader apps

          • Irtechneo

            Not sure if this will work as I dont have the Nexus but I control all of my subscriptions through my google reader account.  I then just sign into my google reader account in pulse and it pulls all of my subscriptions. No need to search for droid life in the app itself.

  • Djenks24

    Great article, I’ve been hooked on Defender and Reckless Getaway for a couple of Weeks now, and for work I use Camscanner, Evernote, Invoice to Go, Timeclock, Metrofax(yes,people still fax), and of course gmail

  • Anonymous

    Big fan of the SwiftKey X, but their themes are hideous. Would love to see an ICS theme. Would also be great to have a few grammatical options.

    I like Thumb Keyboard (and use it on my Asus Transformer), but the spell correction is just plain awful compared to SwiftKey X or even the stock Android keyboard.

    A good collection of apps for the year.

  • Jason Purp

    Are those HTC wallpapers, Tim? In the main photo of the Nexus.

    • http://www.droid-life.com Tim-o-tato
      • Jason Purp

        No haha. I mean in the article image. The first image that shows the Nexus on the wooden table thing. I guess it’s Kellen’s image but IDK. It has the folder open?

        • http://www.droid-life.com Tim-o-tato

          Oh, sorry. That’s LightGrid on a G-Nex

          • Jason Purp

            Dang, LWP make things slow :(
            Thanks though! :)

  • potacho

    Spotify was good until my 48 hours were up and had to pay for a premium subcription to use it anymore.

  • Anonymous

    Nice article, though I have to add one app I use on the regular basis: Feedly News Reader: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.devhd.feedly&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5kZXZoZC5mZWVkbHkiXQ..

  • http://twitter.com/john_ecko js

    WWF over Wordfued? For some reason WWF hangs like a mother on my DX…I know most people prefer that scrabble game but I’ll take Wordfued any day.

    • http://twitter.com/billfordjr Bill Ford

      Words With Friends makes my OG Droid so hot.

      • shh

        WWF FC’s on my OG Droid nearly every time.. so much better on Nexus!

      • http://androidforums.com/members/kwest12.html kwest12

        And let’s not forget about what it does to battery life… yikes!  It still needs A LOT of work before I’ll keep it installed/use it.

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisCorp ChristopherCorpening

    The whole time reading this I am imagining Kellex writing this list himself. It makes me laugh. 

  • http://twitter.com/BrownDanielUSN Daniel Brown

    Vplayer until today’s update broke streaming video (only reason why I used it).

  • Gnexlife

    Um, Kellen….
    Grand Theft Auto III !!!
    Now supporting the G Nex

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Emaw-Kennedy/504157652 Michael Emaw Kennedy

    Launcher Pro Rewrite is still happening

    • http://androidforums.com/members/kwest12.html kwest12

      Proof?  Not trying to call you out, I just want to catch myself up on any progress/updates.

    • Anonymous

      Right. And Santa is real and tomorrow I’m being voted president of Venezuela.

      • TC Infantino

        Congratulations Mr President!  And I always knew Santa was real.  Those other kids were just spreading that nasty rumor that he was fake because they were on the naughty list and didn’t get any presents.

  • Keith Sumner

    Quick Settings
    Beautiful Widgets
    Pulse
    Go Launcher EX
    Go SMS

    • http://twitter.com/LucasNJohnson Lucas Johnson

      Quick Settings!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=811683492 Keenan Kmac Ochoa

    quick settings
    wave launcher
    beautiful widgets
    power amp
    catch notes
    pulse
    datpiff
    go sms
    google voice

    • http://twitter.com/teardropcity teardropcity

      datpiff is pretty terrible as an app. every single time I launch I get an error saying no network detected, and songs rarely play.

  • Anonymous

    While I agree with a lot of these choices, some baffle me.
    Words With Friends – I used it on my iPod and loved it, but the Android version is laggy and drains my battery. Now that Wordsmith is available on Android and iOS, I use it as it is much stabler.
    Plants Versus Zombies – Another game I loved on my iPod. On Android, I have yet to make it past the second level without a crash on both my tablet and Galaxy Nexus.
    Minecraft – A fantastic game for PC. The pocket edition, however, sucks. There’s no crafting, mobs, or redstone. Hopefully survival features will come soon.

  • Lee

    Rom Toolbox? Next year?

  • http://twitter.com/thehammerofthor Jeff Helget

    Spotify is an interesting one.  Functionally, it lets you access Spotify’s vast library anywhere you are (given that you have a subscription), which makes it invaluable.  But as an APP?  I think it kind of blows.  Ugly, no real landscape support like Google Music, and sometimes clunky and unresponsive (much less now on the G-Nex than it was on the Droid X… it was infuriating on that phone.)  They need an update with an ICS treatment and proper landscape support.

  • DroidzFX

    Free Droid-Life!!!

  • Anonymous

    Can’t forget Shush! So basic yet so useful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1148820665 Dustin Howard

    airdroid is by far my favorite

    • http://www.droid-life.com Kellex B

      On my list of apps to check out, just can’t find that damn time heh.

      • pete

        You included hbo go but it does not work with ics. But yeah its good app.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1148820665 Dustin Howard

        its sweet, backup all your apps as apks to your computer, import/export music, videos, photos, files, text from your computer, look at contacts, download your friends music/movies when your on their computer easily since its all in-browser, endless possibilities. 

    • Anonymous

      Absolutely amazing app. I’d pay a premium for it. It amazes me that it’s free.

      • elwin gill

        I completely agree, Airdroid is simply one of the best apps for Android.  Crazy that it is free, though it should have come with every phone.  Love it!

    • Anonymous

      I’ve had this app for a few weeks and never really played with it. Its got some amazing polish to it. It definitely is worth the time to learn some more about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Gulyas/709632554 Daniel Gulyas

    Spotify
    N64oid
    FPSE
    Chu Chu RocketGreatest Little War Game
    Onlive
    Sonic CD
    Netflix
    Wind Up Knight

  • http://an.droid-life.com/ Dan

    Needs more Siri :-P

    • Anonymous

      Blasphemy!!!!!

    • TC Infantino

      Somebody get a rope, we gonna have a stringin up party.  ;)

  • http://www.koveleski.com koveleski

    Nice article.