The ease with which developers can add their wares to Google Play has inevitably led to Android's store becoming swamped with useless Android apps. In between the rubbish lies some real gems; the difficulty is in finding them. Best Apps Market (BAM) helps you sort the wheat from the chaff.
Google Play, previously known as Android Market, does a pretty good job of highlighting its most popular content with various categories, charts and top picks. There's also a search function to help you drill down to specific content. And you can check out PC Advisor's Best Android Apps page, of course.
But apps can trend on Google Play for all the wrong reasons, and inspecting the user reviews and permissions can at times paint a poor picture of an app's reliability. To confuse things further, it's possible to find several apps with the same name - how do you know which to download? BAM refers to itself as 'the curated Android Market'. Its team of editors trawl Google Play's catalogue for the best free apps, then list them online at bestappsmarket.com or through BAM's free Android app. More than two million Android phone and Android tablet users have downloaded BAM, which lists some 200,000 apps.
Although you can't actually download your chosen app through BAM, and are instead directed to Google Play, you stand a far better chance of choosing an app that won't find itself uninstalled five minutes later. BAM also offers several useful functions that Google Play lacks.
For example, BAM can look at the apps already installed on your device and suggest downloads you might enjoy. Although you probably don't need two apps that do the same thing, it brings to your attention any newer versions (rather than updates) or alternative apps that have garnered higher user ratings. For instance, any Angry Birds fans who weren't aware of the recently released Angry Birds Space could download, install and be playing the new game within minutes.
Also useful is BAM's ability to list all the apps installed on your device and show you how much of your internal and removable storage they consume; BAM flags up any apps that can be moved from the handset to your SD card to save space, too. From here you can add apps to your public Favorites list or uninstall storage-hungry apps you don't use. Likewise, you can browse the free apps and games other users are installing right now, and check what apps they've flagged as Favorites.
BAM lists 21 app categories, usefully with slightly different genres to Google Play. For instance, Critical Apps includes must-have utilities such as Lookout Security & Anti Virus and the Dolphin Browser; there are also categories for 'Optimise My Phone', 'Take Charge of your Life!', 'Feel the Beat', 'Pimp your ride', 'Dumb and Dumber', 'Don't Break the Piggybank' and more. And there are 24 free game categories, with everything from 'Mental Floss' and 'Frag Your Friends' to 'Girls Are Gamers Too!' and 'Casual Destruction'.
BAM also offers a search function, and apps of the day are recommended on the dashboard. 'Last Installed Apps' and 'Apps of the Day' widgets can be added to your home screen, too.
BAM editors provide comments on every single app and game, which are visible without you needing to open the app page itself. For example, we know that The Sims FreePlay is a big download, but worth exploring; we can choose to take a further look or keep scrolling down BAM's list of recommendations.
Click on a specific app and BAM offers the developer's description, screenshots, user reviews separated into Pros and Cons, plus related apps and app lists. A Lookout security icon at the bottom of the screen reminds you that each downloaded app will be scanned for security.
We have only a couple of quibbles with BAM. First, a progress bar at the bottom of the screen sets you goals for downloading a given number of apps. We have no desire to download apps for the sake of it, potentially slowing down our device, draining battery life and clogging up storage space. This progress bar can be disabled in the settings, however.
And although BAM editors have physically installed and checked each app, we'd prefer to be able to see the permissions required for ourselves before being directed to Google Play.
Oddly, despite being connected to the office wireless network and being able to access the web, BAM flashed up an error suggesting we had no connectivity on a couple of occasions. Closing and re-entering the app seemed to fix the problem.