Keeping you connected on-the-go
Everyone who uses the internet engages in some form of social networking, even if they don't realize it. Facebook is by far the most popular example. Yet even older forms of online communication, such as instant messaging, fall squarely under the label. And as some of the 15 apps we feature here show, social networking isn't just limited to sharing brief updates, pictures, and current locations.
As the iOS grew in popularity, it was inevitable that Facebook would come out with a mobile version of itself. The latest version of the Facebook app for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad users features significant interface and functionality improvements over its predecessors. Yet Zuckerberg and co. still haven't addressed the app's tendency to crash on a regular basis.
Many Android software feature limited functionality compared to their iOS counterparts. The official Facebook app is thankfully an exception. Even better, based from our experience testing the app on higher-end devices, this version actually crashes less—if at all.
Endomondo Sports Tracker (iOS)
This app is built mainly to track how far users walk, run, or bike through a phone's GPS hardware, letting them set distance and fitness goals. The software can also compare performance with other Endomondo users (added through the phonebook or a Facebook account), and can automatically post progress updates on the popular social network. Endomondo is competitive social fitness, driven by a community users throughout the world.
Endomondo Sports Tracker (Android)
It's provides pretty much the same functionality as the original iOS app, only this time on Android smartphones and portable media players. Like Facebook, Endomondo is the rare Android counterpart that compares well to its iOS version.
Steam Mobile (iOS)
For those with a Steam account, this app lets them chat with their Steam contacts, and keep track of what their fellow gamers are doing. It also provides updates on the latest Steam sales, which sometimes make top-notch video games available at much lower prices. If only it let users actually buy the games right on their smartphone or tablet.
Steam Mobile (Android)
Again, it's practically the same app you'd find on the iOS. This also means Steam Mobile for Android lacks the same shopping functionality that would've made this app a surefire hit.
Do we really need to explain this app's inclusion on this list? The mobile version of the popular online service lets users communicate with other Skype users—through instant messaging or video calls—for free. Like many apps featured in this rundown, it needs a reliable internet connection before it can be maximized.
It's yet another decent Android version of an app that first debuted on the iOS. Even better, relatively recent updates finally added video call functionality. So that it can receive incoming chats and calls however, Skype for Android stays active in the background at all times, using up precious memory and processing power.
The popular mobile instant messaging (IM) app is known for its support for a variety of communication protocols. Whether users chat through Facebook, Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo Messenger, and a host of other IM standards, IM+ has got them covered. Like any other decent IM app, this one can log messages, do group chats, and consolidate contacts from different IM formats into one list.
You guessed it: IM+ for Android is a faithful recreation of what's found in the iOS version.
IM+ (Windows Phone 7)
Finally, we have a Windows Phone 7 app that provides the same experience that's found on iOS and Android. IM+ is a rare bright spot on the limited catalog of software for Microsoft's latest mobile platform. And unfortunately, like anything else on Windows Phone 7 worth using, this app costs $10.
ChannelCaster: Social News (Android)
With everyone sharing breaking developments and gossip through their blogs, online video accounts, and Facebook status updates, news is now a very social affair. ChannelCaster is a customized portal that draws new stories based on a set of user-specific topics from a social network connections, and reformats the content for easy readability. It's only available for Android.
While ChannelCaster is only for Android devices, Flipboard provides a similar experience for iOS gadgets. Users can create their own news channels by selecting topics or specifying search terms. The app takes care of the rest by collating all relevant articles, status updates, and other forms of online publication, compiling everything into a virtual magazine with clean text and large visuals.
Who would've thought posting updates in 140 characters or less would catch on? The official Twitter app for the iOS features everything users would find on Twitter.com, plus close integration with an iPhone's location and camera hardware. Broadcast updates to followers, tag other Twitter users with "@", upload photos captured with the device's built-in camera, and attach location information to updates. This app tends to crash from time to time however, more frequently than Facebook.
Must it be said? Here's a similar app to Twitter for the iOS, but developed for the Android platform. The same photo upload and location-tagging features are also available in this variant.