SO it’s nearing the end of 2010 and you’ve either just got an Android phone for a gift OR you’ve decided to spend that sweet holiday cash on that sweet Google smartphone you’ve had your eye on – what do you do next? I mean, you’ve got it, and you’re looking around on it and you see some pre-installed apps and you’ve maybe seen what they can do, you’ve gone to the Android Market and you’ve glanced around and maybe downloaded a top free app or two… but now what? Let us show you the way with this seasons must-do list.

1. PHYSICAL CARE: After you’ve taken a look at your phone, carried it around for a few days, seen how well it fares in your pocket, be sure to take a look over the device to see if it’s got scratches, dings, or any sign of wear. If there ARE signs that the device isn’t going to survive the keys, coins, and other metal objects in your chosen phone carrier (pants, purse, etc,) consider grabbing a case. Especially if this is your first smartphone, you may be unused to protecting your phone beyond the obvious no-dunking-in-water method. If you’ve just invested $100+ in a phone that has our favorite pal Android inside, you’d be smart to toss a few more bucks in just to make sure your lovely will fare well through the new year.

2. ESSENTIAL APPS: Let me right now let you in on the apps I always download very first: Advanced Task Killer, Google Maps, Compass, Google Sky Map, Barcode Scanner, Metal Ball, and QR Droid. All of these apps are TOTALLY FREE. Lets go through them each in a nutshell here:

  • Advanced Task Killer There is no quicker and easier way for you to close all the applications you’ve got running. You’re probably aware from using your home computer that when you’ve got too many things open at once, things start to run slower. The same thing is true here on your new phone. With Advanced Task killer you’re given a list of the things you’ve got open, all you’ve got to do is select the ones you’re not using and press a button to close them.
  • Google Maps The very best map system in the world if you ask me, constantly updated and working best on your Android-based phone. Why? Because Android IS Google, working in close collaboration on how to best bring you live maps and navigation from your phone.
  • Compass As simple as the title implies, opening this app brings up a live working compass that’ll lead you straight outta the forest.
  • Google Sky Map Open this app and point your phone up to the sky. See all those constellations of stars? They’re actually up there, your phone now acting as a map so you can tell what you’re seeing in the night sky. Coolest feature? Time travel – allowing you to see what was up there hundreds of years ago.
  • Barcode Scanner Use this to scan any barcode from any product you’ve got in front of you to find results (like prices) from different sources. Good use: bring this to a rummage sale to see if the $5 pricetag on that book is actually worth it, or if you’ll be able to get it cheaper online.
  • QR Droid Your one-stop QR Code decoder and encoder. If you have no idea what a QR Code is or cant remember a single time you’ve ever seen one, don’t bother downloading this. If you want to be cool and part of the future, feel free!
  • Metal Ball This app is as simple as they come – all it consists of is a metal ball that rolls around on your phone in a box. When it hits the side, it makes your phone shake as if it were real. This app is like a gateway drug, making you want to explore all that’s possible with your phone in the future.

3. ADDITIONAL APPS: After you’ve checked these out, you’ll want to keep downloadin! Where can you get tips on all the sweet new apps as they come out? Why, SlashApps of course! Grab a review, download at your leisure, or join in on the fun and add your own feedback!

4. HELP: As you continue on your Android journey, certainly some questions will pop up in your mind. As they do, you can find a heaping helping of fun right here with us! For all your simple-to-advanced questions, feel free to ask in our Android Community Forums – a friendly place where everyone will greet you with quick answers and handshakes.

5. HACKS: Inevitably, you’ll find yourself wondering if there’s anything you can do thats against the system. What’s possible with this machine that the manufacturer and sales team never intended? For that, there’s a plethora of hacks. Take a look through our hacking archive to see what’s REALLY possible with your handheld device.

6. UPDATES: Finally, of course, there’s always updates as they happen. For all the news and fun tips as they are revealed to the world, on the spot and up to date, stick with us! Android Community is your friendly neighborhood group dedicated to bringing you the latest and most essential Android bits right to your eyeballs.

Most importantly: have fun! Welcome to the community!