10 must-have free Android apps

Trick out your Android phone with these top picks from Google's Android Market

Palringo

Android includes an app to access the Google Talk instant messaging network, but these days, one IM network is hardly enough -- especially if it's Google's. You can access Yahoo Messenger, AIM, Windows Live Messenger, Facebook and other IM networks with Palringo.

The interface is fairly straightforward, with a tab for all your contacts across your various IM networks and another for "groups" -- chats with several participants. You can create groups at will, but only other Palringo members can take part. And if you don't have any friends, you can always chat with "Samantha," the built-in chatbot.

PicSay

This fun little app from Shinycore Software lets you edit and modify photos on your phone. Though technically a "lite" version of the company's PicSay Pro, the feature set is pretty thorough -- the only real drawback is that larger photos will be resized to fit the G1's screen.

You can add speech balloons, any of a range of text styles, and images like hearts and stars to your photos. Or if you're feeling less whimsical, you can modify the picture's contrast, tint, hue and saturation levels; flip and rotate your image; and do other basic editing tasks.

When your masterpiece is complete, you can send the picture via e-mail or MMS, upload it to Picasa, set it as an icon or as wallpaper, or hand it to another app to upload to a blog, send to Twitter and more, depending on what compatible applications you have installed.

Ringdroid

This app lets you create free ringtones from your favorite songs. (According to copyright attorney Nilay Patel, it's legal as long as you own the music and you're creating the ringtone for your own personal use.)

Just load a song onto your SD card, select start and end points, and save it as a ringtone, alert or notification. You can even record your own ringtones with Ringdroid.

ShopSavvy

With Big in Japan's ShopSavvy app on your phone, you'll never get a bum deal again. Enter a product name or barcode (using the keypad or the camera), and ShopSavvy identifies the product, searches the Web and local chain stores for the best prices, and collects reviews of the item.

You can click through to Web sites for more information or to order the item, add items to a wish list, or even set price alerts to be notified whenever the price of an item drops below a certain amount.

Hit the Menu key and a list of related products comes up, which is handy if the reviews of the item you're looking at convince you that another choice would be smarter.

TuneWiki

TuneWiki is a replacement for Android's built-in media player, offering a number of nice features. Most notable is the lyric scroll, which pulls lyrics off the Internet and scrolls them along with the song.

Other features include integrated Last.fm and Shoutcast radio streaming, YouTube video search, and community features like popular song lists and "music maps" that let you see where people are listening to the same song you are.

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Logan Kugler

Computerworld (US)

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