The Third One Is a Must, No Matter What Phone You Have!
It’s been almost 9 months since I made the decision to move to an Android phone. During that time, I tried 3 different Android smartphones, the Samsung S21, Google Pixel 6 Pro and the Samsung Galaxy Z-Flip 4 which is my current daily driver.
During that time, I had the opportunity to play around with all sorts of apps and see which ones I enjoy using and which are useful to me. In this article, I won’t be including any social media apps such as Twitter because whilst I do use them, I want to concentrate on the smaller and less common apps.
Without any further ado…
I’ve tried many email apps on the Google Play Store, which for those of you who aren’t familiar with Android is where you download your apps by default. Whilst there are some really good apps out there, nothing compares to the app I was already using on my iPhone, Spark.
Spark introduced me to a whole new way of managing my emails and frankly, I don’t want to switch! I mean let’s face it, reading and going through all of your emails the traditional way can be a time-consuming task, especially if you have a lot to go through. But let me assure you, Spark has you covered pretty well here!
There are two main reasons that I decided to stay with Spark on my phone the first reason is that it enables me to easily use the Inbox Zero technique. The second reason is the smart Inbox.
The Smart Inbox is what makes this app powerful. It collects emails from all the email accounts you’re logged in on through the app and it automatically groups them into categories for easy processing. If I press the tick at to top of the group, it will mark the emails as seen which at the same time gets rid of the email from the main categories and moves them to the seen category which you can later delete.
This feature allows me to save a great deal of time and enables me to concentrate on important emails. Put it this way, before I discovered Spark, I used to spend ages going through all my emails, but now it only takes a few minutes at most!
2. Bixby Routines
Bixby Routines is an app I recently discovered after putting my main sim into the Samsung Galaxy Z-Flip 4, it’s also an app I recently wrote about, so if you haven’t checked out my dedicated post, I highly recommend checking it out!
To cut a long story short, Bixby Routines is a separate app from Bixby and it enables users to group and automate tasks which is pretty cool. The app itself is a bit like Apple Shortcuts and Tasker, but in my view, it has a much easier interface than Tasker.
Instead of rambling on, trying to explain what the app does, allow me to explain through a few examples that I use. One of these examples is every time my phone connects to the work WiFi, it will turn on Do Not Disturb mode automatically. This avoids embarrassment, particularly when I’m in meetings. Another routine I’ve created is every time I scan an NFC tag located near my door, it will turn off all the lights and smart plugs in my house which will help save electricity.
As a whole, the app is very user-friendly and well-built, especially if we compare it with apps such as Tasker, which can come across as daunting, especially for the first-time user. My only complaint about the app is that it’s only available on certain Samsung Galaxy devices.
Dashlane is another app that I’ve been using for a while, in fact, it’s also an app that I was already using before switching to Android. To cut a long story short, Dashlane is a pretty impressive cybersecurity suite which has a lot to offer for the price. Their core product is a secure password manager, similar to Apple Keychain or even 1Password which happens to be my previous password manager.
But Dashlane is just so much more, it features a VPN for when you need to securely connect to public WiFi hotspots, a password changer, dark web monitoring, 2-Factor Authentication and so much more!
It’s an all-in-one cyber security suite that works incredibly well and I’m not sponsored by Dashlane to say this, but then again, if you work at Dashlane and you are reading this article, I would love to be sponsored by you as this is a product I genuinely use and can’t live without!
Obviously, when it comes to password managers, there are a lot of controversies such as you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, but to that I say, Dashlane is pretty secure if set up correctly. This includes using a secure master password and making sure you have 2-Factor Authentication enabled. It’s also far more secure than using the same or a similar password over and over again if you let Dashlane set and manage your passwords.
4. Google Keep
Back in my days as a student, one of the best pieces of advice I was given was to always have a notebook app installed on my phone so that I can note down ideas when out and about, I mean let’s face it sometimes ideas come during the most inconvenient times and by the time you get home, you would have already forgotten it.
Initially, I used Apple Notes for this but the issue I had with Apple notes was that it wasn’t accessible on non-apple devices, so when I moved to Android, I moved to Google Keep.
Google Keep isn’t a new app to me, I’ve been using it for a while even when I was in the Apple Ecosystem, but I was using it in other ways. Back then, I would use it for saving articles and links to academic literature. I also used it in my early Android days, before I switched to the Apple EcoSystem many years ago.
Today, I use Google Keep as the basis of my second brain, I use it for capturing ideas, which is the first stage in Tiago Forte’s book “Building a Second Brain“. In his book, Tiago talks about the CODE framework which stands for Capture, Organise, Distill, Express. I won’t go into more detail, but it’s a book I highly recommend checking out.
5. Nova Launcher
I think it’s fair to say that Android is all about customisation, and you can customise a lot in many ways. One of the things you can customise is the launcher, in fact, you can choose a launcher that suits you best. For those of you who are new to Android, the launcher is what gives you an interface between you and the apps.
Back in the day, some of the launchers that came with phones weren’t very functional and that’s where third-party launchers came in, they offered many useful features, such as customisable widgets as well as an interface that feels nice to use. Having used Samsung and Pixel devices, I don’t think that that is still the case, as the modern-day launchers that come with phones are pretty functional.
However, you may want to add some functionality and change the way it behaves. That’s where Nova Launcher comes in. It offers a nice easy-to-use interface combined with a lot of customisation options. The launcher feels a lot nicer to use compared to other launchers and makes me feel that the phone performs better.
Overall, it’s a great launcher that performs well and has a lot of customisable options. Installing launchers is very easy, you download them as apps from the Google Play Store and if you either get bored of the launcher or want to try out other launchers, it’s very easy to do. I mean one of the other launchers I recommend checking out, particularly if you use your phone for work and are in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem is Microsoft Launcher which is another well-thought-out launcher.
My favourite ToDo list app has always been Things, it’s a well-built app with a lot of useful features, I used the app on my iPhone, my iPad and even my Mac. The app has a nice interface that makes perfect sense, especially when working on mini-projects. Sadly, the app is not available on Android or any other system that isn’t made by Apple.
That’s why I was forced to search for an alternative. Since moving to Android, I tried 5 apps, Microsoft To Do (Previously Wunderlist), TickTick, AnyDo, Google Tasks and Todoist. I think it’s fair to say that some of these apps really do provide a decent solution, but the solution needs to work for you. I found that none of these apps works for me in the same way Things did, but I guess it’s time to move on. Since getting the Samsung Galaxy Z-Flip 4 I decided to switch to Todoist, mainly because my phone came with a 6-month trial and I think it’s fair to say that I actually quite like Todoist, especially as it comes with a decent WearOS app.
I will be writing a more in-depth review of the app but to summarise, I definitely think that it has the potential of remaining as my default To-do list app, I mean I’m still in the process of getting to grips with the app, but I like it. I’m currently also using it connected to Alexa as my main ToDo list and shopping list app and it seems to be working really well.
7. Google Messages
I must admit, with WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger being so popular in the UK, I don’t tend to send many text messages these days. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t need an app to view incoming messages and the app I decided to stick with is Google Messages.
Google Messages was recently very popular on Twitter after they changed their logo, which I actually quite like, it’s modern and it suits the app really well. But that’s not the reason why I decided to stick with Google Messages. In fact, it’s actually the features as well as the modern-looking interface.
The app offers end-to-end encryption which helps keep your conversations secure. It will actually inform you if it deems your conversation to be spam. Something, that I used to get a lot in the past.
The app also allows you to have group chats which can be very useful, particularly if you are trying to organise something like a trip. Speaking of which, it also enables you to create calendar events without actually leaving the app. So if you get a text message with an appointment confirmation, you can convert it to a calendar event.
8. Google Photos
Google Photos has honestly got to be one of my favourite apps for storing and backing up photos. Not only does it feature an automatic photo and video backup feature which helps you save storage space on your phone, but it also automatically does some really cool things with your photos.
The app will automatically recommend improvements to some of your photos, it will make cool little video clips and it will make photo collages. If you prefer you can also make these manually too!
One of the most useful features to me is the ability to create photo albums which can be both, virtual but also printed. I think it’s a really cool way of bringing memories back to life.
To use Google Photos, you need a Google Account which will provide you with 15GB of free storage space which is also shared with your Gmail and Google Drive. 15GB is a very reasonable amount and I find it to be far more generous compared to Apple’s 5GB. If you require more storage space, you can actually cheaply upgrade your storage space too!
Blinkist is an app I recently discovered and I’m finding it incredibly beneficial to my busy lifestyle. In short (no pun intended), Blinkist summarises books in short 15-minute chunks which I think is absolutely great for someone with a busy lifestyle. You can read or listen to these chunks and they give you the most important parts of each book.
I treat the app as a starting point, for reading books, if it turns out that I like the book, I will either buy the book or the full audio version of it in Audible.
I find the app to be great for learning new things, skills and methods, especially when out and about.
At this moment and time, I’m still new to the app, but there will be an in-depth review coming when I have more time with it.
The final app I wanted to feature in my list is Strava. I tend to do a lot of outdoor activities such as cycling and hiking and I like to participate in challenges against my friends. Strava is possibly one of the best tools for the job, especially as when you participate in activities, you also have the ability to earn points and prizes. In most cases, the prize is a discount code, but I guess it’s still something.
I don’t really have much to say about the app, other than it syncs nicely with my Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 and there is a dedicated WearOS app for it, however, the dedicated app only works on WearOS 3, which I find annoying, particularly as not many WearOS smartwatches have the update available just yet.
To summarise this article, these are the top 10 android apps that I cannot live without, it’s not the full list. I mean I decided to leave out legendary apps such as Medium, YouTube and Twitter but that’s to make room for apps that are less known.
What are the top 3 apps that you can’t live without? Let us know in the comments!