Motorola RAZR HD LTE Android SmartphoneOur smartphones are getting pretty darn smart these days. We can use them to check our mail, get driving directions, and even manage our finances. We use travel apps when we’re on the road and plenty of other apps to get things done, but there are even more free Android apps that can help to make your smartphone even smarter.

This list is certainly not exhaustive, but if you want to get the most of your existing Android smartphone, you’ll want to take a serious look at these five apps. They’re free, so even if you decide they’re not for you, you don’t have to worry about spending a single dime. Now that’s smart.

Light Flow Lite

Custom Notification Lights with Light Flow

Custom Notification Lights with Light Flow

Download from Google Play Store

If your Android smartphone already has a notification light, then you’ll know how useful that can be. You can see that you have a text message waiting from you, even when the device is all the way over at the other end of the room. Some smartphones are set up to flash different colors for different notifications, but they don’t give you much control over that. Light Flow Lite does. You can set different colors — assuming your phone supports it — for different notifications, even setting different colored notification LEDs for received emails from different accounts.

The Lite version of this app is a little limited in terms of what notifications it can support, so you may consider upgrading to the $1.99 paid version that opens up notifications for a huge variety of apps. You can have different colors for Foursquare, Facebook, Hootsuite, WhatsApp, and so much more.

Tiny Flashlight + LED

Tiny Flashlight + LED App

Tiny Flashlight + LED App

Download from Google Play Store

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: it’s just another flashlight app. In some ways, this is true, but Tiny Flashlight + LED is one of those free Android apps that you have to have. While some flashlight apps only let you use the LED light on the back of your phone by camera and others illuminate your entire screen, this one lets you choose either option. There are also additional features like using the light for Morse code, using warning lights, and even adjusting the screen light to different colors if you want. The best way to take advantage of this app is to use the provided widget on one of your homescreens. That makes it far easier to illuminate a dark situation.

Google Authenticator

Keeping Secure with Google Authenticator App

Keeping Secure with Google Authenticator App

Download from Google Play Store

Online security is becoming even more important and that’s why setting up 2-step verification is a really smart thing to do. This way, if you want to log into your Gmail account from a new computer or mobile device, you have to not only enter your secure password, but also the numeric code generated by this Google Authenticator app. This way, even if someone tries to hack into your Dropbox or Google account elsewhere, they can’t gain access without the unique, time-sensitive, six-digit code.

PayByPhone Android App

Park and Pay Smarter with PayByPhone

Park and Pay Smarter with PayByPhone

Download from Google Play Store

You might already have the Starbucks app on your phone to pay for your coffee in the morning without having to whip out your wallet, so why are you still fumbling for coins when you park your car on the street? This is such a simple and easy way to pay those parking meters (as well as parkade fees) when you’re out and about. Simply set up an account with your credit card as a funding source, enter the displayed location number, and go enjoy your lunch, meeting, or whatever other event that has you out on the road. You can even get notifications when your time is about to run out, allowing you to “top up” remotely without running back to feed the meter.

TED Conferences App

Offline TED Talks Videos on Android

Offline TED Talks Videos on Android

Download from Google Play Store

While this list is focused on free Android apps that make your smartphone smarter, it’s also important to make yourself smarter too. The “riveting talks by remarkable people” at the various TED conferences can be accessed from other video streaming apps, but the key difference here — aside from having the largest library of TED talks — is that you can bookmark and even download your desired talks for offline enjoyment. Most of them are available in your choice of high quality video, low quality video, or audio only. The subject matter varies greatly, so you’re bound to find something up your alley that will expand your perspective and get you thinking.

Image credit: beyondtherhetoric / Flickr

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