Are you tired of picking through thousands of worthless downloads to find a few gems? PC Advisor presents our favourite mobile apps for Google Android, BlackBerry and Apple iPhone, and recommend the best utilities and online applications for your desktop or laptop PC.

Once upon a time, you bought a PC or a mobile phone and you were in effect stuck with what you'd bought for the duration of ownership. You could install clunky programs to your PC or laptop, but even simple customisations such as wallpaper and screensavers, let alone clever graphical overlays – Windows Vista, we're looking at you – would often hobble the productivity tools you were trying to use. Multitasking was a long time coming. As programs such as Microsoft Office became more powerful, so they demanded a greater and greater share of the available resources.
These days, however, it's the customisations and add-on apps that define the device. It barely matters which smartphone you have, or whether you come down on the side of Apple or Microsoft in the Windows versus Mac debate. It's what you add to your phone, your PC or your laptop that makes all the difference. As long as you have available storage space and sufficient processor cycles to make your lightweight add-on applications run smoothly, you can largely do without the behemoth bloatware of yore.
On the PC side, this concept will reach its natural conclusion with the launch of cloud computing-based portable computers: systems that reject both Windows and Mac OS in favour of a Mobile operating system and web-based programs. This will allow for real-time collaborative working, provided you have persistent web connectivity.

Apple famously touted the vast repository of applets available for the iPhone – “there's an app for that” – and scored an almighty hit in the process. That tactile but otherwise unremarkable touchscreen device (with the exception of its web browser) came alive thanks to the ability to become a portable gaming device, among other things. Now it could be used to play everything from Angry Birds to Crash Bandicoot and Stick Cricket, to zoom in on your home in Google Street View, to provide hours of e-books and YouTube clips and to get you from A to B using Google Maps or CoPilot.
The fact that apps are often free or cost just a nominal amount has done the app market no harm, of course, and the much-admired iPhone App Store model has been widely followed. Individual phone manufacturers from Nokia to Samsung have launched app stores of their own, while Google Android, BlackBerry, Nokia's Ovi Store and Palm's Webstore all emulate the straight-to-phone download model Apple used to such success.

HP printers, Pure's web-connected radios and a swathe of internet-enabled TVs now all come with apps. The iPad, the Dell Streak and the clutch of tablet PCs unveiled at the IFA tradeshow (see page 20) are all app-centric too. Here, we take a look at the apps any self-respecting smartphone ought to be wearing, plus how best to make over your PC, laptop or web browser to get app-happy too.


The 150 best software apps for mobile and web

The 37 best productivity apps

The 10 best apps for contacts and calls

22 great informative apps

The 19 best location-based apps

The 16 best creative apps

The 18 best audio apps

The 12 best TV and video apps

The 12 best games for mobile and web

The 9 best mobile web-browsing tools

The 12 best apps for food, drink and shopping