6 Better Alternatives to Android's Built-in Apps

DENVER (TheStreet) -- Going from zero to arguably the leader in smart phones in three years, Google's (GOOG) Android software has helped spread app fever to the rest of us who could not or would not buy that other phone.

But even with Android's massive resources, the bundled apps are not always the best available. Mobile Gmail is terrific. Android web browsing? Not so much. Where's the mobile version of Google Chrome?

Enter the Android Market, where independent developers created several alternatives. Make that hundreds of thousands of alternatives and other mobile distractions. I'm always searching for better alternative apps (suggestions anyone?) but for now, here are my picks:

Web browser

Android's built-in browser is so last decade. No wonder the Dolphin Browser is fast becoming a top download. Besides offering tabs to quickly view open pages (a must-have feature for me), Dolphin adds a bunch of free features, like a built-in PDF viewer, a toggle between a web page's full and mobile versions, and even gesture browsing so you can scribble a "G" with your finger to get to Google.

Free. Get it here: Dolphin Browser

Also available for iPhone and iPad.


Post-college, there's little need to figure out the sine of pi over three (eh?), so I appreciate the simplicity of the basic calculator that comes with every phone. However, calCOOLator adds one significant improvement. It keeps a running total of calculations so you instantly see the number you need without hitting an equals sign. In fact, there is no equals sign.

Free. Get it here: calCOOLator

Task list

Google really needs to put Google Tasks back on its own To-Do list -- it doesn't even have its own mobile app! Instead, Google directs mobile users to gmail.com/tasks. A much more phone friendly to-do list is Astrid, which offers synching with Google Tasks (and Producteev), sharing shopping lists and even "friend"-ing users with public lists. I wish the interface was simpler and more customizable, but I'm using it until the perfect list app comes along. The good thing? Astrid continues to innovate. The $1.49 "Astrid Locale" upgrade helps you check off nearby To-Do's when traveling.

Free. Get it here: Astrid

Also for )iPhone.

Power setting

Even as a shortcut, turning Wi-Fi on or off takes more than a few steps. I prefer the one-step toggle to control power-hungry features. One of the most feature-packed alternatives is Power Control Plus, an Android widget that offers a toggle button for nearly every power feature available - from GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to quick reboot, Wi-Fi tethering and silent and airplane modes. There's even a toggle to turn the phone's camera flash into a flashlight.

$1.99. Get it here: Power Control Plus


If you haven't figured this out by now, the clicking shutter sound on your digital camera/phone is FAKE, attention-drawing, and down-right annoying. You can turn it off by digging into Android's roots and manually editing some settings (for power-users only), or try an app. Complaints with many free silencers are excess ads and low resolution. Then there's the $4.99 Camera ZOOM FX, which silences the shutter and offers a ton of features like a timer, burst mode and voice activation (yup, you can take a picture by clapping or talking).

$4.99. Get it here: Camera ZOOM FX


Android doesn't come with a notepad so, of course, there are like a gazillion notepad apps out there. I like Evernote, which is more of a pictorial bookmark app for web pages. But its main mission is note-taking, whether that be grabbing a web page, capturing a napkin scribble or recording a sound. Hence, a simple "New Note" shortcut lets one quickly jot down a note that later can be shared with anybody.

Free. Get it here: Evernote

--Written by Tamara Chuang in Denver - Twitter: @gadgetress.

Tamara Chuang is an outside contributor to TheStreet. Her opinions are her own.

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