Make your Android device run longer, run smarter, and run almost anywhere with this collection of essential apps

If you've got an Android phone, chances are you love it. However, it might not be living up to its full potential.

Much of Android's aptitude comes from its flexibility. Thanks to Google's open approach to applications, there's practically no limit to the ways you can expand your phone's functionality and customise its existing features. It doesn't take much time or effort to crank up the dial on what your device can do, either; you just have to know where to begin.

So get ready to make your smartphone stronger and more versatile than ever with these apps.

1. Extend your connection with PdaNet

We've all been there: You're sitting at some public place - say, an airport or a favourite lunch spot - and you need to hop on your laptop to catch up on a few items. But alas, the owners have the nerve to charge you for Wi-Fi access. Well, put your wallet away. With your Android smartphone in tow, you'll never need to fork out for Wi-Fi again.

Practically every Android smartphone is capable of delivering free 3G tethering that can get your PC online in seconds. Prepare your handset now, and next time you need a reliable connection, you'll be ready to roll.

Simply download PdaNet from the Android Market, snag the companion PC software, follow the installation instructions, and - ta-da! - you'll be able to use your phone's network connection to get online from your laptop. To be safe, just read over your network's conditions first to make sure you don't violate any data usage regulations.

PdaNet costs $25 (£15.70), but there is a free version if you don't need access to secure websites.

2. Control your computer with PhoneMyPC

Ever find yourself needing to check something on your home or work PC while you're out and about? Grab an Android app called PhoneMyPC and you'll always have that power in the palm of your hand.

PhoneMyPC lets you connect up to three systems to your smartphone for remote access. All you do is install the app, install the client software on your computer, and you can fire up a connection anytime you want.

Once connected, PhoneMyPC allows you to control your computer's mouse and keyboard, execute actions, take snapshots of the desktop, passively monitor the system, and even activate and view a connected webcam - all from the screen of your Android smartphone.

PhoneMyPC costs $10 (£6.28).

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