As a follow up to the post about my impressions of Android from an iOS switcher’s perspective, I’d like to list the Android apps I’ve bought and downloaded so far. It includes only those apps that I find myself using regularly, and is by no means a comprehensive list, but if you’re new to Android, it should help you get up and running much faster.
Tip: As you’re going through this list, don’t let the screenshots fool you. Some of these apps look and work better than their screenshots suggest. Where iOS apps try to look their best in the App Store screenshots, Android apps often try to show themselves in the worst possible light. It’s a strange affliction.
AirDroid [free]: This app lets you wirelessly manage your Android phone from your desktop, and is incredibly powerful. The user interface is also intuitive and well designed. However, I desperately wish that it had native apps for the desktop instead of a web based interface.
Amazon Mobile [free]: It’s not nearly as much fun to browse through as Amazon Windowshop on the iPad, but if I only have my phone and want to check out the Amazon reviews for a product (I very rarely buy anything from there, because I live on a different continent), it’s better to use this app than the website itself.
Bubble level [free]: It does what it promises, and that’s good enough for me.
bytNotes [₹56; free]: I find that I am not using bytNotes nearly as much as I’d thought I would, but it’s a great app nonetheless. It allows you to set up reminders associated with specific contacts. The next time you call them, or get a call from them, it’ll show you that reminder before you answer the call. It works great, but I do wish that it had a faster workflow. It’s often easier to just call the person and talk to them straight away that to set up a reminder in bytNotes.
Clipper [₹110; free]: I love having a clipboard history. I use LaunchBar for it on OS X, tried to use Pastebot on iOS (but it never really worked because of iOS’s restrictions on third party apps) and found a great one on Android as well. Cipper puts a permanent notification in Notification Center and it keeps a tab on everything you copy to your clipboard. Tap on the notification, select any item you’ve copied and it immediately returns you to the text field you were in. Hit Paste. I never found a text expander on Android (like the built-in one on iOS and OS X), but Clipper’s saved clippings feature gets me halfway there.
Contact Sync for Facebook [free]: I hated the tiny, pixelated images that the official Facebook app synced with my contact list, so I downloaded this app. The only thing I use it for is to get large, medium quality (because Facebook doesn’t know what high quality images look like) images into my contacts list, and it does that job well.
Dropbox [freemium]: If you haven’t heard of Dropbox before, I’m about to change your life. Go sign up for Dropbox and download it on your desktop, your tablet and your phone, and any other computing device you own. There, life changed.
Evernote [freemium]: I don’t think there is a perfect note-taking app. I haven’t really loved anything I’ve ever used. When I switched to Android, I thought I’d give Evernote another shot (as I have several times before), and I haven’t switched away from it so far, so that’s progress. Still, I’m not particularly fond of it. And I’m certainly not paying a ₹2,380 (!!!) yearly subscription for it.
exDialer [donationware]: It is, by far, my most favourite app on Android. exDialer is well designed, integrates seamlessly with the system (once you enable the “Open Stock Dialer” preference for clearing missed call notifications) and is ridiculously speedy. With a combination of the recent call log, speed dial and a T9 dialpad, exDialer makes calling on Android blisteringly fast. I did not hesitate when the app politely requested me to buy its donation pack for ₹212. Take my money, dear developer, for you’ve made my life easier. May you live a healthy life.
Feedly [free]: I’m told that Press is a better app for reading RSS feeds on Android, but for how rarely I need to use it, Feedly does the job just fine. The interface is beautiful, though confusing at first, and it’s free to boot. I do most of my RSS reading through Reeder on my iPad though.
Fuelio [₹90; free]: This is a mileage calculator for your car. The interface is sparse and well laid out and it can work with multiple cars, multiple currencies and multiple measuring units. It’s a well-rounded and very usable app.
GO Locker [free]: I have a love/hate relationship with GO Locker. I love the fact that I get a shortcut to the dialer on my lock screen, so I can either unlock the phone and go to the home screen or, using the same gesture, go to the dialer. It speeds up calling considerably. But I also hate that I’m stuck with a shortcut for messaging, which I would love to replace with the camera, and that it forces me to install GO Launcher EX, even though it could function perfectly without it. The themes are all crappy and—most egregiously—it doesn’t entirely replace the default lock screen. About five to ten times a day, I have to unlock the phone twice, because the default dialer shows up before GO Locker’s. Still, the dialer shortcut makes it worth it for me.
Google Authenticator [free]: For all the flack Google takes about its stance on user privacy, I’m glad that no one ever blames it for not being innovative. Google is an intensely innovative company, and I offer things like two-step verification as proof of that statement. Enable it for your own Google account, download Google Authenticator on your phone and make your online identity significantly more secure.
GTasks [₹283; free]: There are plenty of task manager apps on Android that sync with Google Tasks, but I found GTasks to be the best. It feels like a system app and is fast and effortless to use. That’s all I wanted, really.
Holo Compass [free]: If you want a compass on your phone, this is the best one.
Light Flow [₹130; free]: One of the best hardware features of most Android phones is a notification LED that pulses in various colours to alert you of different notifications. The paid version of Light Flow works with hundreds of apps, and allows you to set custom colours, pulse rates, vibrations, sounds and a whole host of other attributes for all your notifications. It’s another must-have Android app.
MX Player [₹320; free]: I have not used it much, because I prefer to watch movies and television shows on my iPad, but it’s a great app to keep around because it plays any format you throw at it, has a minimal, user friendly interface, and just plain works.
Minimalistic Text [donationware]: It’s one of the most complicated apps I’ve used on Android—and on this platform, that’s saying something—but it allowed me to put the time and date in words on all my home screens. Just a nice aesthetic touch that I enjoy.
Nova Launcher [₹210; free]: It’s the other really awesome usability enhancing app on my phone, besides exDialer. Nova Launcher has an exhaustive list of features, and I won’t get into it here, but here’s the best one: Swipe Actions. If you pay for the Prime version of the app, you can set it so that swiping up on icons on your Home screen will do things you want. For instance, I can tap on Evernote to launch it, or swipe up on it to take me straight to the note creation screen. The possibilities are endless. I love Nova Launcher!
Pocket [free]: Save stuff to your Pocket account through the extensive integration it has with a huge array of apps, have it download in the background on your Android phone, and then read it later in a reading-friendly format when your phone doesn’t have an Internet connection. Inspired by Instapaper on iOS, Pocket is a well-executed app and should be on every device you own.
Power Toggles [free]: Ah, another gem of Android! I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone using an Android phone that did not have toggles for Wi-Fi, 3G, etc. in the Notification Center, but if yours is one of them, get Power Toggles. I’m not the kind of person who aggressively manages their phone’s battery life by constantly switching on and off location services and other features (manually or automatically), but it is handy to be able to do them from the Notification Center for those times when you do need to. Plus, you can turn on the flash and lock screen orientation, which are useful features.
Screen Filter [free]: The lowest screen brightness setting on iPads and iPhones is far lower than that on the Nexus 4, and that’s something I sorely missed on this phone. Screen Filter solves that problem for me. I have set up a Power Toggle in the Notification Center to launch Screen Filter, which puts a brightness overlay on the current screen and allows you to dim is to nearly zero brightness. My only quibble is that the Back, Home and Recent Apps buttons stay at the default brightness, but that’s not something any third party app can do anything about.
Simple Calendar Widget [free]: I wanted a simple, well designed list of my calendar events and tasks on my home screen, and iOS wouldn’t allow that, so I switched to Android. Among all the options I tried, Simple Calendar Widget is the only one that did exactly what I wanted. It took some setting up, and some trial and error, but I found something that worked for me eventually. It will sometimes stop showing my tasks, though, and I have to launch and quit GTasks once to fix the issue, which is an annoyance.
Smart App Protector [₹76; free]: I love my friends, but some of them are unabashedly foul-mouthed. Normally, this isn’t a problem, but I’d rather not have someone reading their filthy jokes on our WhatsApp group. Smart App Protector, though unintuitive, allowed me to set it up so that WhatsApp fakes a crash when it’s launched and, once you get through with a non-obvious workaround, has you enter a pattern to access it. It’s a very nicely executed app.
SwiftKey 3 Keyboard [₹99; free]: In many ways, SwiftKey is worse than the default keyboard on iOS. It doesn’t insert its suggested word when you hit the return key or type an apostrophe, for instance, and it sometimes gives preference to an obviously incorrect suggestion instead of what you correctly typed. However, its predictive capabilities are amazing, it supports Hinglish (which is awesome!) and, though there is a lot of room for improvement, it’s a fantastic keyboard replacement for Android.
TeslaUnread [free]: This plugin for Nova Launcher puts an iOS-style unread count on your apps when they have pending notifications. Very useful.
Truecaller [free]: This is straight up from the future. When I get a call from an unknown number on my phone, even if I don’t always know their exact name, I can almost always tell who it’s from, thanks to Truecaller. I know that the app is able to do this by committing a serious breach of privacy of essentially every phone owner in the world, and it’s weird that it doesn’t have any AI to figure out the correct names of the people in its database, but even to the extent that it works right now, it’s very helpful.
Twitter [free] / Falcon Pro [₹56]: Falcon Pro has more power user features, but I have to keep the default client around because it doesn’t have push notifications. Or drafts. And neither client has streaming. So if you want the best Twitter experience, buy an iOS device and install Tweetbot, is what I am saying.
WhatsApp Messenger [free, I think]: WhatsApp is a multi-platform and far more powerful text messaging replacement that works via the interwebs and is (probably) free. If you don’t have it, get it. I only wish that the mute settings worked on Android. I had to leave a group because the damned thing would keep sending me notifications, even though I had it muted.
1Password Reader [free]: It is the worst of the 1Password family of apps, but it remains the best password manager in town, so if you want it to work with your Android phone, this is the only option. It’s also free, which is a relief (given that I’ve already spent upwards of ₹3,000 on this app on iOS and OS X).