Ten years ago, Google swept up all of its Android properties, including the Android Market, under the banner of Google Play. Back then there were, according to Google, just 400,000 active Android users. Today, the company claims 2.5 billion people have access to Google Play. App tracking site Statista shows that the Android Market jumped from over 600,000 apps 10 years ago well over three million apps today. The Google Play Store is more than 50% larger in the number of apps than the Apple App Store.
To commemorate the anniversary of this valuable Android app storefront, I decided to take a look at the apps installed on my current Android phone, a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and determine which have been a stalwart on my device dating back to the dawn of Google Play. These are the apps I have kept for 10 years:
Wave Live Wallpaper
Wave Live Wallpaper (opens in new tab) (released: April 2012) isn’t the wallpaper I use all the time; it’s the wallpaper I use when I want to show off. Live wallpaper has been an Android trick dating back to the earliest days. Sure, it consumes a ton of battery, but when you want to impress your iPhone friends without saying a word, just let them sneak a peek at the gorgeous, undulating waves of color and patterns that dance as you flip through your home screens.
IMDB – The Internet Movie Database
I’m constantly watching TV and asking “Who’s that?” I know I saw them in something else.” That’s why IMDB (opens in new tab) (released: June 2010) has been on my phone’s home screen for 10 years. It offers an extensive database of cast and crew on movies, TV shows, video games, and more. You can even dial down to specific episodes of a show to find guest stars. There’s always the IMDB website, but having a dedicated app makes it easy to log in and track your favorite shows, remember your searches, and share what you’ve found.
On the heels of IMDB, SoundHound (opens in new tab) (released: June, 2010) continuously answers my question “What song is this?” I keep a SoundHound widget on my phone’s home screen so I can quickly tap it while I’m watching a commercial, or during a movie on the couch, to discern the title of that elusive tune. If you’re brave, you can even try humming to SoundHound and it will make its best guess. Once you find your song, it’s easy to link directly to your favorite music player to hear it in its entirety.
I’m going to admit a guilty pleasure – when I’m driving around and I see a fascinating house, I check it out on Zillow (opens in new tab) (released: March 2010). House on a mountainside? Check the last sale price. That weird modern place that went up for sale? Zillow has the photos. I’ve also used Zillow to actually shop for houses to buy and houses to rent, but mostly I use it to find out how much the only mansion in my neighborhood costs.
Couch to 5K
I could not jog a mile without stopping when I was in High School. I’m not sure what motivated me to try jogging again, but the Couch to 5K (opens in new tab) app (released: March 2012) was a big help, and I actually achieved the result of being able to jog a continuous 5 kilometers without stopping. What helped most was the app taking control of my pacing so I didn’t burn myself out trying to run too hard in the early days. By following the program, I actually worked my way up to the big/little run.
Books – Weight Manager
books (opens in new tab) (released: March, 2010) is a very simple weight tracking app. Using Libra was the first time I viewed my weight loss with an accompanying trend line and not just my weight as a simple graph. I’ve had numerous smart scales, fitness monitors, and health-tracking services, and they all do what Libra can do, but keeping one app for my weight tracking has helped me as I switch around between all of the others, making sure I don’t lose my history.
My favorite social network is Untappd (opens in new tab) (released: September 2011), not because I love beer so much (I am a craft beer fan), but because it’s a social network that does exactly what I want and nothing more. It helps me find beer, find friends who like beer, and share experiences. It doesn’t get political. It does not promote news stories or products unrelated to beer. It helps me track my history to remember what I liked and what I want to avoid. Seriously, if every social network could remain so focused and useful, the world might be a better place.
A decade of innovation
Looking back, the apps that are just as relevant today as they were 10 years ago get at the heart of smartphone innovation. Smartphones offer us access to information that reveals the world around us, they help us get healthier, and they’re really only just getting started.
If you’d like to put some of these apps to use on the best handsets available, check out our list of the Best Android phones you can buy right now.