There are well over 1 million applications in the Google Play store, so it can be a little intimidating trying to figure out what to install first. Google and phone OEMs do a great job covering the basic functionality of a smart phone, with web browsers, music players and note taking apps installed on every device. Beyond that, I’m going to cover the first five apps users should install when setting up a new Android phone.
Lean Droid is an application that aims to help you save battery by disabling your Wi-Fi, Mobile Data (note: disabling this will not affect phone calls or SMS messages), and Bluetooth. With root access and a purchase of the $3 Premium version, you can disable GPS and Mobile Connection (this WILL affect phone calls and SMS messages). With the free version, you have a very powerful set up, and you can choose which features are disabled, how long to wait before disabling them, and when to re-enable the sensors. For example, I use Bluetooth to connect to my car and Pebble smart watch, so I only have Wi-Fi and Mobile Data set to disable. I have it set to re-enable those features every 30 minutes, or when the screen has been unlocked. Lean Droid is dead simple to use and, unlike most battery saver apps, will actually help you save battery.
Bad things happen to your phone, so it’s important to have your data backed up in some way. For example, some friends and I were tubing this past summer. One friend brought his phone onto the river in a waterproof case to text and stream music. About halfway down the river, his phone fell into the river, and he didn’t have his contacts or any other data backed up. Easy Backup and Restore is, shockingly, an application that will let you easily backup and restore your information to your phone, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or attach it in an email. If you’re using one of the cloud services, you’ll have to log in before making an initial backup. The app will also let you set automatic backups as frequently as every two days. I have the app set to backup my SMS & MMS messages and Call Log every two days, and it comes in handy when I need to wipe my device. Unfortunately, the app itself is filled with ads that can’t be removed, but once you have things set up you never have to see them again.
Recently, it was announced the Samsung and Nokia (the part of the company that didn’t get acquired by Microsoft, at least) agreed that Nokia’s awesome HERE Maps would be available for future Samsung devices, followed by other Android devices. Shortly after, an apk (the installation file for Android applications) leaked of the beta app. I had a chance to download the apk and install it on my phone, and everything worked as expected. Now, the apk can find found on Nokia’s site. I normally wouldn’t have advocated someone run out and install a beta app, but everything seems stable. The biggest draw of HERE Maps when compared to Google Maps is the ability to download complete maps –entire countries even– to avoid using mobile data while navigating. Recently, I took a 6 hour road trip across Texas, and the downloaded map was 100% accurate. If you have an upcoming trip, or even just get lost sometimes, give HERE Maps a try.
The next application I’ll recommend is something most Android veterans should be able to recognize by name alone: Swiftkey. The keyboard replacement is (in my opinion) the best out there, easily beating OEM and other third party keyboards. I’ve tried Google Keyboard, Swype,and Fleksy; Swiftkey beats them all. Swiftkey also includes quick toggles for emoji characters and Google’s Voice to Text. After a few years of having to pay for Swiftkey, it’s now free in the Play Store, and worth trying for a day for those in doubt.
The final app I’ll discuss has done something more important than any other on this list: it made me finally start using a pin to secure my phone. Dislock (formally Pebble Locker) allows users to bypass the pin or pattern set to lock their phone if the phone is connected to a certain Bluetooth device or Wi-Fi network. Google is adding the Bluetooth unlock functionality into Android Lollipop, but not Wi-Fi unlock, so Dislock will still have some use after your device receives an update. I can’t stress how important this app is to me. I’ve never used a security code or pin because of the inconvenience. Now, I can still avoid the inconvenience while making sure my phone is secure when it matters.
So there it is: my list of essential Android applications. What’s on your list of essential apps? Leave a comment below and let us know.