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The wonderful world of apps

By Paul O’Reilly

I love apps – those tiny downloadable programs that can turn your smartphone or tablet into a bottomless well of information and entertainment. And it appears that I’m not alone. Earlier this year, Apple announced that the number of apps downloaded from its 3-year-old App Store had reached the 15 billion mark. And while Google’s Android Market and the rest of the competition is still far behind, they are doing everything they can to catch up.

While gaming apps lead the way (we just can’t get enough of those Angry Birds), there are educational apps, health and fitness apps, apps to help you manage your finances, news and weather apps, and a dozen more categories to choose from. There are now over 500,000 apps in the App Store alone, with 140,000 custom built for the iPad.

If you are not used to downloading apps, then these numbers can be a little overwhelming. After all, how can you possibly sample even a tiny fraction of this vast selection, let alone settle on the apps you really want?

Luckily help is at hand. iPhone and iPad users can go to iTunes and check out App Store Essentials, which includes an “Apps Starter Kit,” a “Games Starter Kit,” and the App Store “Hall of Fame.” There are also recommendations for fun summer learning apps for kids, apps for “foodies,” apps to get in shape, and even apps for busy parents.

And Android users don’t have to feel left out. The Android Market has “Featured Apps” for both phones and tablets, and there is a constantly-updated “Editor’s Choice” section put together by the Android Market staff.

If you’re a Verizon customer, you have your own selection of top-quality Verizon apps. Many Verizon apps are pre-loaded onto Android devices or they can be found in their own section of the Android Market. Popular Verizon apps include V CAST Media Manager, V CAST Song ID, VZ Navigator, NFL Mobile, My Verizon and many more. While Verizon apps are not pre-loaded onto the iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S, many of them are available through the App Store.

Other great sources for recommended apps include AppStoreHQ, which tracks dozens of carefully-selected blogs and mobile web sites to discover the latest and best apps for the iPhone, Android phones and Windows phones; Android Tapp, which has all the latest news and reviews of Android apps; and AppAdvice, which is a colorful and easy-to-use web site featuring news and reviews for all the latest iOS apps for the iPhone and iPad.

Whatever your device and whatever your interest, the Apple marketing slogan has never been more true: there really is an app for that!

This article first appeared in Family Buzz, a VerizonInsider blog on the exciting and ever-expanding world of mobile technology.

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