An Android Geek’s Top Picks for Best Apps & Games of 2012
As a tech writer who focuses on Android, I tried a lot of apps throughout the course of 2012. Hundreds, even. At the end of the day, some stayed on my devices, while others were uninstalled almost immediately. Out of the ones that made the cut, however, there are a few that either changed the way I use my phone/tablet or are just so good that they became some of my favorites of all time.
So, to start off the new year, I thought a shortlist of my personal picks for the best Android apps and games from 2012 would be helpful – especially to those who just happened to score a new Android device over the holidays (congratulations!). With that, let’s go.
Contrary to popular belief, Pinterest is not just for women. In fact, it’s one of the best services that I’ve used in a long time. And the Android app is absolutely fantastic. For starters, it utilizes the Android design guidelines and Holo light theme perfectly, all while still keeping the familiar red and white Pinterest look. The entire experience of using the app is outstanding; in fact, it’s even better than using the site. It’s fast, fluid, intuitive, and incredibly stable – everything that you could want in an app. If I had to claim one single application as my absolute favorite from 2012, I’d be hard pressed to find one better than Pinterest.
If you’re not already using Pinterest, I implore you to give it a chance – it really is a fantastic service with an even better app. Oh, and the best part? It’s totally free.
As an Android user, I waited a long time for Chrome to hit the mobile scene. And when it did, I wasn’t disappointed. Sure, it’s had its fair share of bumps along the way, but it looks like Google has worked out most of the kinks in the latest iterations of my favorite browser’s mobile form. As of late, it is the fastest, most stable browser I’ve ever used on an Android device. Not only that, but the cross-platform sync is an amazing feature – one that I can no longer live without. Essentially, if you’re already using Chrome on your desktop computers, you simply can’t afford not to use it on mobile.
Just like its desktop counterpart, Chrome is a free download in the Play Store. Be aware, though, it only works with Android 4.0 or higher.
Let’s face it: we all have to wake up at a certain time. And if we have to get woken up way too early, an attractive alarm lock app helps ease the pain a bit. When it comes to pretty alarm clocks, there is none better than DoubleTwist Alarm Clock. Its featureset is minimal yet functional, and its interface is brilliant and intuitive – all things that I hold in high regard for most applications, especially alarm clocks. You won’t find any superfluous features hidden in DT Alarm Clock, though – only useful options. If you’re already using DoubleTwist media player to sync music locally on your device, DT Alarm can fire it up so you can wake to your favorite music, a particular playlist, or random song; otherwise, it can also use Android’s stock alarm tones. It also features nifty things like “quiet mode,” which silences your phone eight hours before the alarm is set to go off, and “suggested bed times,” which gives you a few options of when to hit the sack to make waking the easiest.
DT Alarm is two bucks in the Play Store, but there’s also a trial version if you want to give it a shot before you buy.
I have to admit, this is probably a fairly niche app, but it’s absolutely irreplaceable for those who have a use for it. Basically, it’s an incredibly powerful tool for keeping files synced between local folders, devices, or even with the cloud. Personally, I use it to automatically upload screenshots and camera images to Dropbox as soon as they’re taken. This has saved me countless hours of time, as I take a lot of screenshots – especially for things like app reviews and the like (or this post, for example). That just scratches the surface of everything FS can do – if you’re looking for more automation out of your mobile device, it’s definitely worth checking out.
FolderSync is $2.29 in the Play Store, but there’s also a free lite version that offers fewer features.
OK, so those are the apps that made my cut for “best of 2012″ – but what about games? Everyone loves to have a little down time now and then, so let’s take a look at the games from last year that I just can’t stop playing.
I love platformers, so any time a new one shows up for Android I try to give it a shot. Unfortunately, most have cumbersome touch controls to a point that makes them more frustrating than fun. When one comes along that breaks that mold, however, I’m overjoyed; when it’s also a fun, attractive title, well, that just ticks all the boxes for me. Enter Paper Monsters, a game that does just that.
PM is a simple, yet incredibly fun, platformer with touch controls that are anything but complicated. The environments are beautiful and immersive , and the graphics are top-notch for a mobile game. It has all the things that we’ve come to expect from a good platformer: breakable boxes, enemies that can be killed by a quick stomp on the head, and even tubes that transport you to a far away land. Make no mistake, though – this is no Super Mario Brothers clone; in fact, it’s more like a cross between Little Big Planet and Donkey Kong Country. Gameplay is a bit short, but for less than a buck ($0.99) it’s hard to complain about a game this polished.
Did I mention that I love platformers? Well, here’s another one. Taking a page from the book of Mario, Pizza Boy should feel very familiar to most, and that’s not a bad thing. The premise is actually pretty silly: a bird steals Pizza Boy’s pizza, and he has to chase down the feathered fiend in order to retrieve the pie and deliver it to his would-be gal.
The 16-bit throwback graphics and chiptune music are both pleasing, and the simple NES-style controls keep it fun. At $2.25 this one is a bit more expensive than Paper Monsters, but the gameplay is a bit more difficult, which leads to more play time. Definitely worth the cost.
Aside from good platformers, I absolutely adore a good hidden-object game. Pair that with a unique storyline, gorgeous visuals, and mind-boggling puzzles, and you have Machinarium. In all honestly, this is probably my favorite game of 2012, if not my favorite Android game in general. The puzzles are difficult enough to keep you guessing, but not so overwhelmingly hard that you want to give up. And if you do get stumped, there’s a handy hint guide. Don’t expect any free answers, though – you have to make your way through a mini game each and every time you want to access the book-o-hints. That should keep you from easing your way through it, too.
At $5, Machinarium is the most expensive game on the list , but its incredibly detailed environments and entertaining gameplay make it well worth the cost.
What would a “best of 2012″ game list be without a zombie-filled first person shooter? An empty one, that’s what. And when it comes to just such a title on Android, you simply can’t beat Dead Trigger. This title comes from Madfinger games – the creators of Shadowgun and Shadowgun: DeadZone – so you can expect top-notch graphics and game play here. It’s worth noting that, since this is a free-to-play title, Dead Trigger does have in-app purchases. However, the game is definitely very playable without having to spend a dime – otherwise, it wouldn’t have made it anywhere near my “best of” list. I’m looking out for you, too!
All in all, I’d say 2012 was a pretty good year for Android apps. More and more big names are continuing to port their apps over to “the other side,” and the platform is doing nothing but flourishing as a result. Given some of the great options we saw in 2012, it’s pretty safe to say that 2013 is going to nothing but bring more fantastic apps and games our way.
Cameron Summerson is Senior Editor at Android Police. Look for his Planet OtterBox Blog the second week of each month.
Follow Cameron on Twitter: https://twitter.com/summerson