Supercharged Android: 12 apps to boost your smartphone

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

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PdaNet
1. Extend your connection with PdaNet We've all been there: You're sitting at some public place -- say, an airport or a favorite lunch spot -- and you need to hop on your laptop to catch up on a few items. But alas, the scoundrels who run the joint have the nerve to charge you for Wi-Fi access . Well, put your wallet away, compadres. With your Android smartphone in tow, you'll never need to pony up an extra penny again.

We've all been there: You're sitting at some public place -- say, an airport or a favorite lunch spot -- and you need to hop on your laptop to catch up on a few items. But alas, the scoundrels who run the joint have the nerve to charge you for Wi-Fi access. Well, put your wallet away, compadres. With your Android smartphone in tow, you'll never need to pony up an extra penny 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 carrier's conditions first to make sure you don't violate any data usage regulations.

One quick footnote: If you're on AT&T, you might not see PdaNet in the Android Market. This is due to app restrictions that AT&T alone places on its Android devices. There is a work-around, if you're willing to risk angering the AT&T overlords.

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

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