Best Apps

The first applications we install on every phone

As editors and writers for a place like AC, we look at a lot of apps. Some are good, some are bad, and to be honest — most are somewhere right in the middle. That's bound to happen with so many applications in the platform's store, and like all things the average is, well, average. We try to share ones we think are worth looking at every Saturday, but each of us has a core set of apps that get installed on every phone we have. And at certain times of the year, that's a lot of phones.

Apps are important. You don't really need them, as the essentials  — things like messaging, calendar or a calculator —come pre-installed on your phone. But our phones are a lot more capable and fun with them. Hit the break and see the five must-have apps from Phil, Alex, Andrew and myself.

Phil  Phil Nickinson

  1. Google Voice, because I use Google Voice. (Figure this will get baked into something else at some point.)
  2. Tripit. I’m on the road a lot. Tripit keeps me from not knowing when I’m leaving, when I’m getting there and where to go once I do.
  3. 1Password Reader. Its integration with Android isn’t all that great — this is basically just an app to let you copy and paste your passwords into another app — but here’s to hoping the next version (currently in beta) brings improvement.
  4. Dropbox. Because Dropbox. (Also because it’s what keeps my 1Password file synced across devices.)
  5. Snapseed. Because most of the phones I use have mediocre cameras, and this helps make pictures I take a little more presentable when I don’t want to wait for Google+ Auto Awesome to do its thing before sharing on another service.

Jerry  Jerry Hildenbrand

  1. Google Voice. It’s the only way I can use the same phone number on more than one phone, and really is the most important app I use. Too bad Google seems to be letting it wither on the vine.
  2. Unlock with Wifi. Every phone should have some sort of lock screen security. Period. Unlock with Wifi lets me set a PIN or password, but disables it while connected to Wifi at home. Keep your personal information safe, boys and girls.
  3. mSecure. All my passwords are belong to me. And I keep them locked up with mSecure. I’ve tried (and liked) plenty of others, but I keep going back to this one. Pick one you like, and use it with hard, secure passwords.
  4. Keep. All my notes and random crap I want to remember, synchronized to every phone. A must-have for me.
  5. Mr. Number. With Google Voice, I’m free to use different prepaid plans for secondary and tertiary numbers to try and save a few bucks. With prepay, comes recycled numbers, and plenty of calls that weren’t intended for me. Mr. Number can handle them all.

Alex  Alex Dobie

  1. Feedly. All of us at AC need RSS reader apps to keep on top of the news, and Feedly is my reader of choice. That's mainly because it's easy to view a constant stream of stuff rather than a Flipboard-style grid, in turn making it easier to see what's new and what's not. It's probably one of the first apps I use on my phone (or tablet) every day.
  2. SwiftKey. There are a bunch of really great Android keyboards out there now, including Google's own offering, which is faster and more responsive than most. For me, though, nothing beats the tap-typing accuracy of SwiftKey, and SwiftKey Cloud makes managing predictions across multiple devices really easy.
  3. Google Keep: I resisted the move to Google Keep for a while, instead sticking with the legacy Google Tasks feature. But after first trying out Keep on the Nexus 5 I haven't really looked back. It fills the role of a todo list, complete with reminders, while being a decent little note-taker at the same time.
  4. BBC Weather. I've only started using a standalone weather app relatively recently, and BBC Weather is my app of choice. It's fast, built around Google's design guidelines and tends to be more accurate than Google Now for UK weather. DashClock integration and two attractive widgets are bonuses.
  5. Skype. After Hangouts, Skype is my second dedicated messaging app, and usually the only messenger I install on every device. The Android app isn't perfect, but the most recent version is stable, looks good and works pretty well for voice calls and text alike. 

Andrew  Andrew Martonik

  1. Google Voice. Although I take fewer phone calls and text messages than I used to, my primary phone number is from Google Voice, so this app is all but a necessity.
  2. Facebook Messenger. Until I successfully move all of my friends and family to using a single chat service (cough, Hangouts, cough), I need Messenger to keep up with everyone.
  3. Google Authenticator. Google’s two-step authentication is a great way to protect your accounts, and I need it right away when switching to a new primary device.
  4. Dropbox. All of my important files, desktop and mobile, are found in Dropbox. Having Camera Upload turned on immediately is also extremely important to me.
  5. Pocket Casts. I listen to dozens of podcasts every week, and a majority of that comes on my phone. Pocket Casts is my current client of choice, and the cross-device sync makes it invaluable to me.
 

Reader comments

Our top 5 apps: Ask the AC Editors

109 Comments

+1

Dropbox with Dropsync is pure awesomeness. One sync and it syncs folders between my phone and Dropbox. I use it to sync my camera photos (camera uploads doesn't sync deletes/edits), downloads, TiBu backups, Nova backups, and more. If I ever lose my phone pretty much everything is automatically backed up to Dropbox.

I am also warming up to Google Keep. I thought i couldn't do without Tasks, but I haven't been using Tasks too much anymore.
+ for Pocketcasts too.

I couldn't agree more. Keep is quite handy for very quick notes and reminders, but it can't begin to serve in the many ways that Evernote does.

I couldn't survive without Evernote. It has become my main memory, and I use it every day for an array of reasons, especially to document and log all of the issues and findings with the idiosyncrasies of all of the complex electronics in out lives.

the app is way too slow, inconvenient and ugly. With Keep note taking is a swipe away from the lock screen, but with evernote I have to jump through hoops and wait for ages for it to load. The edit and save buttons are time-consuming enough.

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Keep is good for me. I last used Evernote over 3 years ago, never got into it. I have used Keep for a few months, but i used a location based reminder last weekend and that solidified it for me. Its great!

I like Keep too. I like the option of Location reminder as well, comes handy at times. But I cant make it my defacto to-do list for the lack of recurring reminders.

Some love you have towards the Android Central app! Huh! :P

I personally cannot live without Google Voice, Google Authenticator, Beautiful Widgets, Simple Calendar widget, and Flashlight.

What's wrong with Google Drive?
Are you using DropBox just because it came out before Google drive?

That's because Dropbox is where its at. I love Dropbox as well, use it for majority of my storage needs. Sky drive comes second then Google Drive for files.

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LOL, I know what that means.
I was just being an ass and asking what the big deal is with drop box

Yeah Dropbox is very overrated. I used to use it for everything but the storage plans are highway robbery.

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for 2 years.
I have 75 GB on both dropbox and g drive.
Might have to pay for 1 of them when my 2 years are up

For me, Dropbox is a simpler solution that does its job well and never fails. Drive still feels like a tacked-on change to Google Docs, and often tries to do too much. All I want it to do is be a dumb folder that syncs -- dropbox is still the standard for that.

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Yeah, I tried to give Drive a chance. But, quite often, large uploads fail, once they reach a certain percentage.

Dropbox provides a very seamless experience.

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Even if you're looking for some more advanced features, Dropbox has a slight edge IMO... Their API has been around quite a while so lots of apps and services hook seamlessly into it, and last I checked sharing was still smoother thru Dropbox (whether it's single file/link sharing or full directory sharing).

Drive's being improved all the time tho, and as the core for other Google services (like Docs, Keep, photos, etc) I doubt it'll fall by the wayside anytime soon. It's also great for basic document collaboration.

Who says you have to use just one anyway? Dropbox's my main cloud repository right now because I've been using it the longest and I've got over 40GB on it for free thru a combination of referrals/bonuses and an HTC offer...

I also use Drive for certain things tho (specially now that it shares your 15GB of Google storage), as well as Skydrive (where I have 25GB for being a grandfathered user of their older service). I even use Amazon although there's no mobile sync (yet), it's the cheapest one for bulk desktop doc backups (think I pay like $25/year for 50GB & unlimited music storage, since I still buy CD but also MP3 from Amazon).

If you work out a plan it actually makes a lot of sense to use several cloud services and just store certain things in one (say, photos) and other stuff in another (maybe your docs, or videos, or phone backups, etc). If I needed more storage than they provide for free I'd probably opt for Drive tho, since AFAIK it'd the cheapest (or close) and it's Google.

Dropbox will never be the cheapest if you need more than the 20GB or so you can get for free (or if you can't go thru the slight hassle of jumping thru some hoops to bump up the default 2GB).

I'm surprised more people haven't heard of Cubby, but it does what Dropbox, Box, Skydrive and Drive fail at - Sync any folder on your PC.
All my studio work is backed up in realtime and that's very very important to me as during a 8 hour studio day, I could save a project anywhere up to a 100 times. Every other service needs its own designated folder and will sync to and from only that folder - which sucks.

I loved Google drive also. Until the first time I lost sync. Well actually the second time I lost sync.
There wasn't a graceful way for it to continue syncing to my computer without having to download everything from my Google storage again.
So I just left the sync client off my computer.

I still use it to store things. Just not automatically like I used to before.

we have tried using Drive in our business, and, well, it just plain sucks. Getting permissions right across "folders" is tricky, and clients sometimes stop sync'ing, other times people save a document and the next day their changes are lost, or they can't find the new document they created without manually searching.

Why do we put up with it? Because its free. We used to use dropbox but it would have started to cost us money. Most people would have wanted to stay with dropbox.

Nice post. I had never heard of the Unlock with Wifi that Jerry mentioned, but I will definitely give it a try. I've been looking for something along those lines.

Llama is excellent. You can set your own automating rules, including locking while at work and unlocking at home. And it's free.

It's a great program, making it possible to have the convenience of quick access to your mobile while in your home, or another safe environment, without sacrificing the security of a pin password while you are out in the wild. The only thing you need to be careful of is not to get lazy and be tempted to add WiFi's to the app in public areas.

Anyone know why security codes from credit card companies to verify your identity never make it through Google Voice, but have no problem showing up on my default phone messaging app?

Posted via my thumb(s) and the submit button.

Google Voice just recently added short code support, but I still find it hit or miss -- especially receiving.

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Same here. I tried it on my banking site, without success, and had to switch back to my main number. I need reliability for that one, and it's worth the $.25 for that.

I still use it for Evernote, and it has been mostly reliable with that, but it does seem to take longer to receive the codes.

I really wish they went past the usual Google Voice, Keep, Skype, Dropbox, SwiftKey.. Facebook messenger, really?

How good is this to us? Do you really think any of your readers didn't know or had forgot about these apps?
Common boys; you can do better than that. 

You're right! They should write about some not-well-known, but useful, apps! You know what would be perfect for that? Some sort of weekly "Apps of the Week" article! Oh, I sure wish they had that!

Posted from my pure Google Nexus 4 using the AC app.

I sure hope Google continues to grow Google Voice, it's such a critical app for so many people.

I was surprised not to see Evernote listed, it is critical application for me. It keeps my notes, photo's, lists and so much more!

Will have to check out Unlock with Wifi!

My problem with Evernote is that I can't afford Premium and without it none of my notes are available offline. Thats not the case with G-mail Tasks (when using the splendid third-party app, Tasks).

Are you sure about that? I had tried to make my notes available offline, unsuccessfully, and had to get the Premium account to accomplish it. Maybe Evernote changed its policy since I bought the Premium service.

Only through the Desktop applications, mobile Offline requires premium. Not much of an issue since most often we're connected through data plans or wifi, but those occasions when you're traveling outside any data areas is when you wish for Offline.

Andrew! What podcasts do you listen on Pocket cast? Im using the same app and im listening to more or less 10 podcasts (SYSK, Android central, Game of Owns, Star wars in Characters, Ign, Startalk, history of Byz, rome and WWII. etc) but i would like to know your picks :)

My name ain't Andrew, but here's a list of my favorite podcasts:

The Geek Box (General nerd stuff)
Smodcast (Hilarious Kevin Smith)
Smodco Morning Show
NSFW (More hilarious stuff)
The Sci-Fi Diner Podcast (group Sci-Fi talk, reviews of books, tv, movies)
Geek Culture Happy Hour (Exactly what it sounds like)
Tested
Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project

And if you have never tried a podcast audio drama (think BBC LOTR radio drama), you might want to try two really good ones:

Our Fair City (a series of very short, ~6 min, audio drama set in a fictional world)
The Leviathan Chronicles (a series of long, ~30 min, sci-fi audio drama)

Those two are truly awesome, but there are others. They are both free, so try the first episode and see what you think.

I think $45/year is reasonable for 12gb of annual storage (1gb every month), searchable in every respect and organizationally superior to the other options. Add IFTTT and you have an amazing, central location for all your important data, searchable across any device. JMHO.

My apps are:
1. Evernote
2. LastPass (w/Google Authenticator)
3. Google Voice
4. ToDoist
5. Tasker

I pay for premium simply because I have a few important items on Evernote and the premium subscription enables me to access every version of a note I've ever saved. *Totally* saved my hide at one point, so I've paid for it ever since.

I guess that for temporary notes Keep should work. However my notes are important to me. And I have the perception that Evernote (the company) cannot survive without Evernote (the product). In the contrary Keep is relatively negligible for Google business. Comparing the record of both companies... you know what I mean.

I was a Google loyalist, but the coercion into Google Plus and the whole RSS fiasco made me take a more conservative approach with Google. Right now, Google is the new Microsoft (IMHO).

I'd like Tasks and Keep to be integrated at some point in the near future. I like the fact that Tasks is within G-mail, but I wouldn't mind Keep as a separate app (the Google Apps Launcher allows me to even add it to my Mac OS X dock). That said, the lists in the app look hideous compared to Tasks. A better UI is what lists in Keep need.

I like the feature in tasks where you can archive a completed task in a list and the feature in keep where you can archive the whole list! Why can't either do both? I currently use both and like the look of keep, but the functions of tasks more, except I really would like the archive entire list feature.

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For me it's the following:

1. PalTalk (I follow stock trade alerts there)
2. Ameritrade/Trader (I make at least one trade almost every day)
3. Hangouts (moved to this spot after SMS integration)
4. Gmail
5. Google Drive (I keep my trading related spreadsheets there)

Works beautifully between my Nexus 7 and Moto X.

Snapseed is a great photo editor one that i use alot, avairy is another that has a simple but great user interface. Is there any other camera apps that fellow androidians use other than what has been mentioned?

A handy list that yes perhaps many have heard of and not yet tried or have heard of and tried even then its great to discuss.

Posted using the power of thought.

Some alternate apps

adaway - only available on fdroid...

cab4me

clock JB+

no lock

pocket

quick boot

wi fi analyzer..

My favorite apps are:
1. Feedly- Also my reader of choice and just all around awesome. Sometimes there are problems with it, but most of the time it works fine, way better then Press,IMO
2. TWC TV- I am aware this is a terrible app. But I have a twc subscription so, watching TV on my tablet or phone is pretty awesome. Wish TWC didn't suck so much.
3. Chrome Beta- I know chrome is on pretty much every android device. But I prefer chrome beta.
4. Amazon- Cause Amazon.
5. Rdio- I have a rdio subscription.

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Some apps I like that never show up on these lists:

1. Docusign:
It lets you create a digital signature (very easy if you have a Note 2 or 3), and then saves it and allows you to insert that signature into a document. No more printing, signing, then scanning to send off a document.

2. Google Cloud Print:
Lets you send documents to your printer from your phone, or lets you send print jobs to FedEx/Kinkos or other office outlets. I do this often, and then just put in my code to print easily.

3. Overdrive Media Console:
This is a must for anyone who likes to read ebooks. This app lets you borrow digital books from your local library for free. I usually make a list of the books I want to read on Amazon, then go to Overdrive and find the book I want. You can put the book on hold if it isn't available, and it will send you an email when it is available for checkout. You can also check out multiple books at once. You can get various formats as well, such as Kindle ebook or Adobe PDF. This is one of the most hidden gem apps you will ever come across.

4. SCR Free:
This app allows you to record your android phone screen. This is great for showing how to do something to someone else. It works better on newer devices though.

"Lock screen security"?
None at all on any device I can disable it on.

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Why even?

----------------------------------------------------
So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

My 1st 5 are:

Chase bank, always wanna check my money
Facebook messenger, speak to my family daily back in England with it
Appy Geek, quite simply the best app for tech news from across the web
Appy Gamer, same as above but for gaming
ES file explorer

My top 5 apps

1. LastPass - Can't survive without my LastPass!
2. Swiftkey - By far the best keyboard for Android
3. Feedly - Never thought I'd say this but Feedly is better than Google Reader
4. Chrome Beta - I never have fewer than 9 tabs open
5. Titanium Backup - auto backup every night. First app I install after wipe

Ok, so I really want to switch to Google Voice for my main phone number, but the lack of MMS support has killed that as an option for me. How do you guys get around this or do you just not send/receive pictures through text messages?

Depending on your carrier you can kinda send/ receive mms, but I used to use hangouts for mms and g voice for sms

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Good list but like others I think some not so mainstream apps should be highlighted.
My Top 5

1. LastPass/Google Authenticator
2. gReader Pro for all my RSS feeds like AC
3. SpringPad for all my notes, tasks, to do list, recipes and other items
4. GasBuddy to help me find cheap gas
5. SMS Backup+ to backup to Gmail all my text messages and call log for future use.

1)Android Central

2)Android Central

3)Android Central

4)Android Central

5)Android Central

Can i get my free Nexus 5 now lol

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1. Llama - location profiles - task automation
2. Simple Calendar Widget
3. Power Toggles
4. SwiftKey
5. Android Central

Doh. None of the AC Editors said they added the AC app in their top 5...Not even a quick disclaimer that it's actually app #0 that they install...tsk tsk tsk.

Does everyone track their packages thru Google Now (or specific shipping carrier services) or am I the only geek that's always ordering (and selling) too much crap online?

Shiprack's awesome for this, particularly if you don't use Gmail for your bills and receipts (no conspiracy theory, I always used my Yahoo address for that before Gmail even existed and always found it more convenient to use Gmail solely for personal email).

It's sort of like Tripit for your packages and orders, just forward the order emails and Shiprack parses it, finds the tracking number within and keeps you updated on any device you have it installed on. I've been using it for a while without any issues.

For Amazon orders and a few other etailers it'll even pull up an order/product photo etc, and there's always a link to go straight to the FedEx/USPS/etc site if you think the service isn't refreshing or something.

Been using Parcels the past few months, though since getting my Nexus 5 last week, i will try out GNow, i just havent had the opportunity yet...

Swiftkey
mybackuppro

Then everything I had backed up all at once.

Apex is usually one of the first..

----------------------------------------------------
So where is the competition for the Note 3? Oh right there isn't any...

Evernote, SwiftKey, Dolphin, Rhapsody and Documents to Go. First five I would download if the Play Store didn't auto-download all my apps for me when I set up my accounts.

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Dunno. Don't need it on the Moto X because of trusted BT.

Between Computer, Pebble, car Bluetooth and Glass it only locks if I set it down and walk away while out somewhere.

- SuperSU - root all my devices!
- AdAway - with the MVPS hosts file to block known malicious Internet stuff (as well as ads)
- BeWeather Pro - home screen clock/weather widget, uses best weather source IMO; Weather Underground
- ES File Explorer
- My Backup Pro - backup anything/everything to local SD card
- Sunday Ticket
:D

Other than the standard apps 99% of people DL like instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc...

In no order

Hangouts
Dropbox
Pandora
Keep (I love having the widget like virtual post it notes)
Chrome beta

And my 6th man is PokerKing Pro

I use to use DropBox but it started to get too intrusive. Google already knows everything about me and controls my life so I figured I would just stick with Google Drive. I have Keep installed, but until they add the ability to sync it with my shared Google Drive folders it will mainly sit unused.

I really wish I could use PocketCast but they still haven't even integrated Log In/Password for subscription service(s) which is where the majority of my podcasts comes from.

Posted via Android Central App

On every device, and in some form Chromebook:
TuneIn Radio Plus
Pocket
Pocketcast
Scr Pro- for recording my tablet or phone screen (Don't ask why, you really don't want to know, LOL)
Go SMS- Pro (Had issues with Hangout SMS)
Duolingo (Language)

Not a single mention of Tasker... This solidifies my feelings that there are no tinkerers out there anymore... Just media consumers.

I'm thinking I need to start a new type of blog. One that doesn't just report "news". One that actually teaches/shows people how to really take advantage of all these devices.

Thanks to the AC team for sharing their go-tos. Always interesting to get the pro perspective.

Here are my go-tos:

ColorNote: I love the simplicity of this app. I use it to take notes and that's all I want it to do. No complicated social sharing, no notebooks, no complicated on-again, off-again Wi-Fi access. Just notes, in pretty colors, organizable by date, color, time. It just works, all the time, without me having to think about it.

Google Voice: Love/Hate relationship with this one. I'm afraid Google might leave this one to twist in the wind, but I need it. Such a great idea. I have a number that I can give to strangers, businesses, etc. I can control access with this app. It just doesn't work as seamlessly as it should, especially with my Droid Razr Maxx.

1Weather: This is just the most gorgeous weather app. I love the way it handles the widget, the notifications and it's full display. It uses beautiful colors and gives enough information to help me figure out the weather for wherever I'm at.

PocketCasts: I have several podcast apps, including DoggCatcher and BeyondPod. I always come back to this one. It's easy to use and I love their Aussie sense of humor in their update release notes.

Sonos: A bit specialized, but I must have this app as an owner of a Sonos system. Rather than spend over $100 on yet another remote controller device, this app makes it possible to use my phone or any of my tablets as a controller. Makes access to my Sonos system convenient, which makes it fun. Yea!

Of course, my list of go-to apps is more than these five, but these are the ones that get installed on any Android device of mine as a first order of business.

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