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The Online Mom provides internet technology advice and information to help parents protect their kids, encourage responsible behavior and safely harness the power of technology in the new digital world. Social networking, photo sharing, video games, IM & texting, internet security, cyberbullying, educational resources, the latest on tech hardware, gadgets and software for kids 3-8, tweens and teens, and more.

10 Essential Android Apps



You’ve just bought a brand new Android phone and you’re looking to load up on some useful and fun apps. But how do you decide what you will need? With over 500,000 apps the in the Google Play store alone, the choice can be overwhelming.

Of course, you will certainly want Gmail, Search and Maps, but those apps will already be installed on your new phone. The same probably applies to YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon Kindle. But there are still a few essential apps that you will need before you can start enjoying your phone in the way that you imagined.

Here are some suggestions. The best news? They are all free.

Google Music

Instantly turn your smartphone into your own personal music player with this streaming music app from Google. Download it on your computer and it will search your music libraries – including iTunes – for your favorite songs and playlists. It then automatically syncs with your phone so your mobile music library is always up-to-date. You can also shop for music in the Google Play store, store all your music online for free, and share your music with friends via Google+.



Instagram

Instagram is everyone’s favorite photo-sharing app! Filters and other special effects transform your photos into works of art and the instant upload button allows immediate sharing with friends and family. Follow other people’s photo streams and have them follow you. A new geo-tagging feature allows you to display your photo locations on Google Maps.



Dropbox

A great way to make sure your photos, videos, documents and other files are always available wherever you may be. Once you install Dropbox on your computer, any file you save to Dropbox will automatically be available on your smartphone. You get up to 2GB of online storage for free and can add additional storage through referrals or Pro plans, which start at $9.99 per month. Even if you don’t have your phone with you, your files are always available through the Dropbox web site.



Flashlight

Do you have trouble reading the menu in dimly-lit restaurants? How about locating something you dropped in a crowded movie theater? The Flashlight app turns your Android smartphone into a handy flashlight by activating the LED camera flash. Flashlight also has a strobe mode for use in emergencies.



iHeartRadio

iHeartRadio gives you access to over 1,500 live radio stations from all over the U.S., including pop, country, rock, talk radio, and more. You can browse stations by music genre or location. You can also create your own custom radio station by picking an artist or song and iHeartRadio will come up with a matching, commercial-free playlist.



Shazam

Ever heard a song playing on the radio or in the background and wanted to know what it was? Shazam with listen to the song and instantly identify it, while giving you the option to see streaming lyrics or buy the song on Amazon. You can also tag songs for future listening, watch music videos on YouTube, discover new music, and share songs with friends via Facebook and Twitter.



Words With Friends

Words With Friends is a strategy game that is a lot like Scrabble: you use the seven available letters to make a word and try and get bonus points for landing on premium squares. A great game to play with friends, the person sitting next to you, or random players online. And a great way to get into the fun and addictive world of smartphones games!



JuiceDefender

If you are going to be taking your new smartphone with you wherever you go, then you will need something to make sure the battery lasts. JuiceDefender extends battery life by managing the apps and functions that drain the most power, like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the screen brightness. You can see which functions use up the most battery life and customize the app to manage your smartphone accordingly.



Wi-Fi Finder

Need to find a W-Fi hotspot in a hurry? Wi-Fi Finder searches online and offline for the free and paid Wi-Fi hotspots that are closest to you. Wi-Fi Finder has a database of over 650,000 locations in 144 countries worldwide, so it’s great app to take with you when you are travelling. You can filter by location (café, hotel, etc.) and automatically phone the location to confirm access.



My Verizon

If you are going to use your smartphone on-the-go, then you should be able to manage your account on-the-go as well. My Verizon has all the tools you need to take charge of your mobile life, including the ability to view your smartphone usage and pay bills, change your plan by adding or deleting features, manage your data allowance, backup contacts, and manage and store media. My Verizon is also your security blanket should your smartphone be lost or stolen!



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