If you got a new Android phone or tablet for Christmas, then get your downloading finger ready: Google has announced its picks for the best Android apps of 2012.
On a brief post on the Google Play blog, Google merchandising manager Tavares Ford introduced the company's top 12 picks of 2012. We've got the list below, along with download links. Enjoy!
- Zappo's (FREE) - The mobile app for the popular online storefront. Download the Zappos app here.
- Evernote (FREE) - The widely-used personal organizer also syncs across all of your devices. Download Evernote here.
- Pinterest (FREE) - This year's hot new social network is a personal pinboard for anything that interests you. Download the Pinterest app here.
- Grimm's Snow White (1.99) - An "interactive pop-up fairy tale book for children" combines a narrative with gameplay. Download Grimm's Snow White here.
- Pocket (FREE) - The Instapaper competitor allows you to save online articles for offline reading later. Download Pocket here.
- Expedia (FREE) - The Android app version of the online travel booking website. Download the Expedia app here.
- Ancestry (FREE) - The app version of the service that lets you chart your family tree and find ancestors. Subscription required for some features. Download Ancestry here.
- Fancy (FREE) - Shopping app which highlights odd, boutique, and luxury items that you can "fancy" and then buy. Download the Fancy app here.
- Mint (FREE) - Popular personal finance manager now available on Android. Download the Mint app here.
- Seriesguide Show Manager (FREE) - A television guide and social TV manager for small screen addicts. Download Seriesguide here.
- Pixlr Express (FREE) - A fully-featured image editor and enhancer from Autodesk. Download Pixlr Express here.
- TED - TED Talk videos at your fingertips. Download the TED app here.
You can view the entire list here, and for more of Google's favorite movies, music, books and apps of the year, click here. And for HuffPost's guide to making your Android phone run longer, check out the gallery below.
Turn Down Your Brightness
You like to shine, I know. But if you want to save battery, you have to turn it down a notch. Your super-bright Super AMOLED display might look pretty, but if the brightness is turned way up, you're probably eating a lot of battery. Either turn on Automatic brightness, so that the screen dims in bright rooms when you don't need a highly-illuminated display, or else slide your scale to the left to dim it manually. You'll have to shine a different way -- a good hair conditioner helps -- if you want to save battery. <em>On the GS3</em>: Go into Settings, then Display, then Brightness.
Download A Battery-Monitoring App Like JuiceDefender
Head into the Google Play Store and pick up one of many battery-saving apps. JuiceDefender (at left) is a particularly popular, if ugly, one. You can try out a free version and, if you like it, upgrade to the paid app later. That gives you more control over the ways in which JuiceDefender can conserve power. Another popular option is the aptly-named Easy Battery Saver, <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.easy.battery.saver&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5lYXN5LmJhdHRlcnkuc2F2ZXIiXQ..">which you can download here</a>. JuiceDefender, meanwhile, <a href="http://www.juicedefender.com/">has an official website here</a>, and you can <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.latedroid.juicedefender&referrer=utm_source%3Dws%26utm_medium%3Dfwd%26utm_campaign%3Djd">download the freebie version here</a>. WARNING: It will not prevent thieves from stealing your actual cups of juice (grape, orange, pineapple, etc.)
Turn Off Bluetooth + Wi-Fi
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are like the Stockton and Malone of connectivity options that deplete your battery life when you're not even using them. Switch both off if you're somewhere you know you won't need either; you can probably go ahead and turn off Bluetooth for good, unless you're using it daily. <em>On the GS3</em>: Hit the Settings app, switch Wi-Fi and Bluetooth into the "Off" position. You can also toggle these options from the Notifications menu, which you swipe down from the top of the screen.
Turn Off Location Settings
Several of your Android apps, including your almighty Google Maps, use Location Services to pinpoint your position with precision. Turning these off might make your mapping experience a tad less accurate, but at least you're not using Apple Maps. Am I right?? Trade-offs. <em>On the GS3</em>: Go to Settings, then Location Services, and uncheck at least the first and third box if you want to save battery life.
Adjust Your Screen Timeout
If your phone's screen is on, but you aren't around to use the phone, does it still drain your battery? Uh, yes, it does. Minimize your screen timeout as far down as you can take it to stop needlessly wasting power on illuminating a display you aren't using. You should also make sure to manually lock your screen when you place your phone into your bag or pocket to ensure that you aren't accidentally pushing buttons and butt-dialing your friends/ex-lovers when you don't mean to. <em>On the GS3</em>: Go to Settings, then Display, then Screen Timeout. Mine is set for 30 seconds.
Ditch The Live Wallpaper
The Android Live Wallpapers might be hypnotizing -- and fun to show off to your iPhone-toting friends -- but if you need to squeeze all you can out of your phone's battery, it's best to disable the Live Wallpaper. Choose a photo of your wife/kid/dog/favorite hamburger from your photo Gallery instead. On the GS3: Go to Settings, Wallpaper, and choose something from Gallery or static Wallpapers.
Examine Your Battery Usage And Kick Out Power-Sucking Apps
<a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2367542,00.asp">Via PCMag comes this analytical method</a>: Android allows you to view the breakdown of which apps and processes are draining your battery, by percentages. You might be housing a power-sucking app without even realizing it, something running in the background without your knowledge. If you find that naughty little app, boot it off your phone and reap the rewards. <em>On the GS3</em>: Go to Settings, then Battery.
Enable Power Saving Mode
This isn't available on all Android smartphones, but if yours has it, Power Saving mode represents a super-quick way to toggle a bunch of settings that can conserve battery life. On the GS3: Go to Settings, and the Power Saving mode toggle is in between "Motion" and "Storage." You can also individually change the settings, at left.
Remove Bloated Widgets You Aren't Using
<a href="http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2367542,00.asp">Also via PCMag</a>: Your phone probably comes pre-loaded with a bunch of widgets that you never use; some of them contain animations and some automatically update throughout the day. If you're not using your Yellow Pages search bar or app suggestion grid (at left), cut it free. There are better things to put on your homescreen, anyway. <em>On the GS3</em>: Long-touch the widget you want to remove and then drag it to the trashcan at the bottom right.
Change App Updating Settings
By default, some of your downloaded apps will update automatically when a newer version is available. This can sap power and eat up your data plan without your knowledge, which I think we can agree is a bummer. Turn off auto-updating apps -- you can do it manually in the Google Play Store -- and choose to update over Wi-Fi only so that you can use data where it counts. <em>On the GS3</em>: Enter the Google Play Store, then press the "Menu" soft key next to the home button.
Go Into Airplane Mode If Your Signal Is Weak
If your phone is only getting a bar or two of signal, and you don't expect to be making or receiving any pressing calls or texts, turn on Airplane Mode. When a phone's signal is straining to connect to a network, <a href="http://gigaom.com/mobile/when-will-lte-stop-sucking-your-battery/">especially 4G LTE</a>, it uses up a lot of power. So if you find that your signal is weak in a given location and you need to conserve power, switching to Airplane Mode -- which ends all connectivity -- can save battery. <em>On the GS3</em>: Go to Settings, then under "Wireless and Network" touch "More Settings." Airplane Mode is the first option. You can also pull down the Notifications bar and find Airplane Mode on that topmost strip of icons, all the way to the right.
Clarification: The original article indicated that a subscription was necessary to access the Ancestry app; a subscription is required only for certain features, not all of them.