The holiday season is upon us, and while we hope you are all enjoying some downtime with family and friends, we suspect there may be some tech related questions heading your way. While not everyone will be getting an Android smartphone or tablet, it seems to reason that at least a few of our regular readers will be hit up with app related questions from new users. The Play Store is full of apps and we are sure you have your favorites, but we also thought some suggestions may be helpful.

There are plenty of top 5 and top 10 style lists when it comes to apps. You can do that overall, or broken down by app category. But in truth, the top lists are somewhat subjective and that aside, Google does a pretty good job at summarizing with categories such as the Best Apps of 2013, Apps To Watch, Recommended For You and others. So with that in mind, we decided to approach this from our must have apps.

In this case, I took at look at the few apps I first install an any review unit smartphone. Well, truth be told, the first apps are Speedtest, AnTuTu, Geekbench 3 and Quadrant, but we suspect your non-geeky friends and family are not looking to test network speeds an run benchmarks.

Moving past those, here is the list of apps I first load up (in no particular order) from the Play Store — Agenda calendar (for the widget), Google Voice, Yahoo Weather, BW Widgets, Amazon, Boomerang, Plume, Facebook, Instagram, TuneIn Radio Pro, Slacker, Feedly, Instapaper, SugarSync, Evernote, Chrome and Bejeweled Blitz. Though not installed at the moment, Netflix, Hulu Plus and Plex are often found installed.


Another favorite of mine, which can be seen in the above screenshots — Action Launcher. While the basic Android launcher is pretty solid these days, Action Launcher does provide some perks such as the ability to fit more on the screen. If you notice my setup, I have it 5×5, as opposed to the default 4×4. Action Launcher also offers a side-drawer for your apps, instead of the traditional app drawer. An example of the side app drawer can be seen below.


This is far from the compete list of apps that I keep installed on my personal device, but this list (mixed with the pre-installed Google apps) does give me a good setup for day to day use. Most of these are self-explanatory, but to give a bit more on some, the Agenda calendar widget is simple and clean looking. Aside from the widget, I also use the regular Google Calendar app.

Google Voice helps me keep my phone number regardless of device and Boomerang works with my Gmail account — letting me decide which emails to handle now, and which to have come back later. I much prefer a clean inbox.

Looking outside of these apps, some of the others are Audible, Runkeeper, Mint, and of course — games. Having games on a review unit is good for performance testing, but these tend to get the most play on a personal device — that way progress is kept.

A few games I’m currently playing include Dead Trigger 2, Plants vs. Zombies 2, Angry Birds Star Wars II and Angry Birds Go. Anyway, without turning this into a ‘how we setup and use review phones’ style post, we will cut it here, wish you a happy holidays and hope these apps come with a few goodies in terms of suggestions to pass on to friends and family.