9 favorite Google Android apps

Version 1.5 of Google's mobile operating system is well on its way to bringing flashier features to Android phones. Until the blessed event, here are nine free Android apps that make our day.

Version 1.5 of Google's mobile operating system is well on its way to bringing flashier features to Android phones. Some, like the virtual keyboard, are as sturdy and sensible as a bread roll, while others, like "live" dashboard folders and video recording and playback, pack in much more flavor and fat.

Until that blessed day arrives, here are nine free Android apps that take our G1 somewhere in between. You can download them all via the Market icon on your Google Android phone.

Moov on Android

Moov: It calls itself a mobile interface, but in reality Moov is a launcher. From the dashboard view, slide open the keyboard and begin typing the first few letters of your MP3, application, address book contact, and so on to get a list of search suggestions popping up on a separate screen. Moov even helps you out by offering tabs that let you search your term in the publisher's other apps: Fbook, Quickpedia, Local (Yelp), and Dial Zero. I have to give Moov's developer, Next Mobile Web, a little credit--most of their apps made this top list, too. One setup note--for best results, make Moov the default search organism, or else you'll waste time choosing to search through the contact list or through Moov, and this app subsumes Android's own search.

Fusion Visual Voicemail: If you haven't yet discovered visual voice mail, don't waste another second. It's high time you scissor off the shackles of regular, "blind" voice mail. By simply forwarding your voice mail calls through PhoneFusion's service, you'll be able to see the messages stacked up in your in-box and listen to calls in any order you choose. You can play and pause the message, mark it unread, call or text the caller (extremely useful if you're in a meeting or another locale where it would be imprudent to field a call.) You can also add the contact, or even resurrect a deleted message. While PhoneFusion's visual voicemail service is free, it's likely that PhoneFusion will soon follow the lead of competitors on other platforms and offer premium services to transcribe voice messages into text, making them truly "visual."

Quickpedia: This is by far the best Androidized Wikipedia application I've seen. Navigating and reading through the Wikipedia entries are simple thanks to Quickpedia's clean user interface, search suggestions, and GPS-informed searches for adventurous information-seekers. Get a close-up in this First Look video.

SnapPhoto: There are a few sharp-tipped spears Android owners can hurl at those sanctimonious iPhone rabble-rousers (ahem), and the G1's better 3.2 megapixel camera is one of them. However, it's still a far cry from the brawny megapixel power of the Samsung Omnia or those high-end Nokia N-series shutters. Yet the SnapPhoto app squeezes the best it can from the G1 by attempting to wait for the image to stabilize before allowing the camera to snap off a shot. It also uses the pearl button to take a photo (the default camera uses the capture button up top) and reveals camera settings you can turn on or off with a tap. After the photo's been taken, it reveals three buttons that Android's native camera doesn't have to quickly save, delete, and share photos via e-mail or MMS.

Ringdroid: The love affair began early with this app, one of the first to make it into Android's Market. Ringdroid lets you simply whittle ringtones from songs you already own, and even lets you record your own. Simple is the watchword with this app. It won't be nearly as powerful as a desktop audio editor like Audacity (Windows|Mac), but for the vast majority of people, that's entirely OK. See Ringdroid in action in the video below.

Dial Zero: Remember how difficult it can be to find your bank's customer service number online? Multiply that hassle by a gazillion for mobile phone searches. To heed your howls of frustration is a brilliantly devious app, Dial Zero, which quickly produces direct numbers that magically bypass that bloodless voice recording to bring you live humans. Thus cornered, they will be forced to answer your questions. Within the app, comments from other users supply extra tips and tricks, and confirm if Dial Zero's shortcuts still work.

Fbook: Because everyone and their Uncle Stu has a Facebook account, we all need a clean-looking app that brings the social network's core features to us, so we can keep tabs on new photos and witty status updates. Fbook, by Next Mobile Web, is the closest thing to the real thing you'll find for Android--and it's leagues beyond Facebook's Web app. Technically an Android-size wrapper for the iPhone's Facebook experience, Fbook supports photos, comments, the in-box, and the usual core Facebook features, plus a few on the side--namely, push notification of incoming messages and the ability to upload mobile photos (start by pressing 'Menu.')

TuneWiki: Its greatest flaw may be its greatest feature. TuneWiki, one of the most ambitious and early apps for Android, is a work in progress, but one that is progressing nicely to offer you an original music experience. On top of being able to find, play, download, and bookmark free songs and videos, TuneWiki attempts to display lyrics timed to the music and in your native language, and includes a social networking element that shows you where others are playing the same song. While the app has grown, here's an early look at TuneWiki that gives you an idea of its promise and position.

FreeDictionary.Org: Even if you're no logophile, you need a decent dictionary on-hand. Wikipedia can drown you in information, and going through the browser will take more time and typing than you'll want to give. The FreeDictionary.Org may not be the best dictionary app out there in an absolute sense (hurry up, Dictionary.com), but with search suggestions and a hand-delivered definition, it's good enough to be of use to your brain.

As this is my subjective list, I'm fully aware that there may be dissent in the ranks. But the more recommendations for awesome apps the better, right? Defend your choices in the comments and we'll see which Android apps CNET readers really use.

About Jessica Dolcourt

Jessica Dolcourt reviews smartphones and cell phones, covers handset news, and pens the monthly column Smartphones Unlocked. A senior editor, she started at CNET in 2006 and spent four years reviewing mobile and desktop software before taking on devices.