It’s easy to find free Android apps, but it’s not as easy to find open-source Android apps. Because while Android itself is open-source, the Android Market is not … and it doesn’t differentiate between apps that are just free to download and “organic,” open-source apps.
What’s the difference? Because the source, or programming code, for open-source Android apps is posted online, anyone who wants to can download it and make improvements. They can then send them back to the apps’ creators, for review and to include in the next version.
What’re the best free, open-source Android apps? Here are the ones that I’ve found:
If you have a blog on WordPress.com, or just a WordPress-powered website, you need this open-source Android app. The free WordPress for Android app lets you reply to and moderate comments, write and edit pages and posts, and even check your stats (if you’re on WordPress.com or have the stats plugin installed on your site).
Named after the Doctor Who character, K-9 Mail is an alternative to the Android mail app. There’s also a “fork” of K-9, Secure9 Mail, that encrypts your email messages. I haven’t tried them out myself, but I keep hearing people talking about K-9; and with more than 250,000 downloads, K-9 Mail seems like a popular free, open-source Android app.
If you use an open-source chat service, like Jabber or Google Talk, then consider Beem a free upgrade for your Android IMing app. It’s polished and stylish, runs in the background, and can connect to any XMPP chat server (even one you create yourself).
Astrid, of weloveastrid.com, is “Android’s Simple Task Recording Dashboard.” In a nutshell, it’s the best and most polished free to-do list app for Android, and it syncs with web-based services like Remember The Milk. I’ve used it and liked it for awhile now, and I use the home screen widget and the alarms to help me keep on top of things.
Note: Astrid is technically open-source, but the people at Todoroo who develop it are trying to monetize Astrid by putting in ads, and putting some of its features into a “Power Pack” for $5 USD. There was a bit of a fiasco a couple of months ago, where a bunch of people thought the features they were already using had been stolen from them. You can read about it on the Todoroo blog.
You can find a list of more open-source Android apps on Wikipedia. Because organic, open-source Android apps are written by the people who use them, they tend to not have “anti-features” like ads. Astrid is a notable exception, with its Power Pack and development mishaps, and it remains to be seen what will happen to them.
What do you think? Did I leave out your favorite? Scroll down and leave a comment to let everyone know about it; and whatever free Android apps you use, I hope you have fun with them.