No, Android faithful, we haven’t forgotten about you. Two weeks ago we named the best iPhone and iPad apps of 2012, and now it’s Android’s turn. It’s not easy, of course, to choose the top 10 apps from more than 700,000 selections, and the process is admittedly subjective. As with our iOS picks, we’ve tried to avoid the most obvious candidates — Facebook, Instagram, Pandora, Angry Birds and so on — and focus on new and less obvious apps that InformationWeek readers might find useful at work, home and on the road. Our picks may lean toward the pragmatic side of things, but they’re not all dullsville utilities and the like. Some are actually fun.
Nobody’s Top 10 list is the same, naturally, and your picks may differ from ours. But there should be little argument that Android as a mobile platform is booming. In a December 10 interview with Bloomberg News, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt boasted that Android grabbed a commanding 72% of the global mobile OS market in the third quarter, and compared today’s Android-iOS battle with the Windows-Macintosh desktop donnybrook of years past.
“This is a huge platform change; this is of the scale of 20 years ago — Microsoft versus Apple,” Schmidt told Bloomberg. “We’re winning that war pretty clearly now.”
OK, enough with the bragging, already. Sure, Android’s domination is apparent — 2nd place iOS has a relatively paltry 14% of the global market — and Google’s mobile platform has reached parity with Apple in the apps arms race. (Both are north of 700,000.) But Android is plagued by fragmentation, with a dizzying array of devices running various incarnations of the OS. For instance, just over 50% of Android devices still run Gingerbread (Android 2.3x), which first debuted two years ago — yep, several eternities in the mobile market.
Things are improving, albeit slowly. Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0x) runs on 27.5% of Android devices, and the newer Jelly Bean (Android 4.1 and 4.2) runs on 6.7%.
Why does fragmentation matter so much? Because the newest, coolest Android tools — including one from Google that we spotlight in the slideshow below — require the latest version(s) of the OS.
One important point about our Android picks: Like their iOS counterparts, they didn’t necessarily have to debut in 2012, but rather had to fulfill a particularly need and do it well.
So here they are: The Top 10 Android Apps of 2012. Disagree with our choices? Let us know below.