My Always Up-to-Date Guide to Android Apps

Last Update: 9/8/17 @ 3:08 PM

How a person uses their phone tells you more about them than their shoes, desk, and closet combined. Their line of work, their technology views, their social preferences and their communication style.

This is why I find it important to extend personal values to include my phone and apps.

My Phone and App Philosophy:

In July 2007, I purchased the original iPhone. It represented innovation in a way no other phone did at the time. It felt sleek, intuitive, technologically superior, and cool. It was a tiny slice of the future you could purchase and carry around with you in your pocket. If you wanted a “smartphone” there was no other choice. And that was okay.

But that was then, and this is now. For me, the iPhone has come to represent the status quo. It’s still sleek and intuitive. But it no longer feels new, technologically superior, or cool. In some ways, it has come to represent anti-innovation. It builds on the same formula, each model as predictable as the last.

Which is why, in 2011, I switched to Android. Android, especially at first, was a letdown. The features were comparable and the specs sometimes outshined the iPhone. But it lacked polish. And the PlayStore was full of poorly designed, poorly executed apps, riddled with advertisements.

But that was then, and this is now. As Android usage has increased, so too has the quality of the Android interface and available apps. Much of this aided by Google’s release of material design standards, and the continued improvement of the hardware powering our phones.

Today, no matter which phone I choose, I stick to three criteria when choosing an app:

1. The App Shall Look Good – The most difficult part of switching to Android was giving up many of the good looking, stable apps available on iOS. But material design is closing the design gap between Android and iOS apps. In the next couple of years, there will be no excuse for a developer to have an ugly app on either platform.

2. The App Shall Be the Best at What It Does – Apps exist for everything. That doesn’t mean you need an app for everything. My minimalist tendencies require me to ask two questions: 1.) Does this app bring me joy? 2.) Is an app the best way to accomplish this task? If the answer to either is no, then I pass.

3. The App Will Be Funded (But Not by Ads) – If you’re not paying for it, you are the product being sold. I’ve made the decision to cut as many advertisements from my life as possible. This means I pay the nominal fee to remove ads from apps I frequently use. A funded developer is likely to improve an app and give me value over the long term, and less likely to stack the app full of advertisements.

Spotify

Best Music App

Download from GooglePlay Store

If you’re only going to have one music app on your phone, this one should be it. Massive music library, time-tested interface, and Sonos integration built right into the app.

Pocket Casts

Podcast App

Download from GooglePlay

The cleanest, best-looking, most highly reviewed, continually updated podcast app available. By far the easiest to setup and use, while still having the best features available including playback speed control, silence removal, adjustable forward/back buttons, syncing between devices, discovery, etc.

Pocket

Read It Later App

Download from GooglePlay

Award winning material design app for storing all the stuff you don’t have time to read right now. Handles all types of media, is available on nearly every device type and makes articles clean and readable without stripping out the images. Purchased by Mozilla, so we’ll see what that means for the app moving forward.

Frame

Wallpaper App

Download from GooglePlay

My favorite wallpaper app using the unsplash api.

Venmo

Send Money

Download from GooglePlay

My favorite way to split a meal or pay someone back for a random purchase. Feels less formal than PayPal with the ability to send a social note (emojis included) so everyone can see you paid your losing bet from the previous night’s game.

Weather Timeline – Forecast

Weather

Download from GooglePlay

Love the material design combined with the ability to use a number of different weather apis (including my beloved Dark Sky). Great customization available with the built in widget showing you exactly what you’re interested in and nothing more.

Signal Private Messenger

Messaging App

Download from GooglePlay

Big supporter of the open source privacy movement. But beyond the excellent encryption benefits of Signal, the app just looks great and functions better than most of the bloated texting apps available on Android. Very active development with new features continuing to be added.

Snapseed

Image Editing

Download from GooglePlay

Easily the best photo editing app. Intuitive, great looking, stable and has every feature you could want.

Piktures – Beautiful Gallery

Gallery

Download from GooglePlay

The best looking gallery app on Android. Also has a few great features like the ability to password lock certain albums.

Email by EasilyDo

Email App

Download from GooglePlay

My new favorite email app with a great feature set. Similar sorting features to Inbox by Google (Travel, Packages, Receipts, Tickets, etc.), but with an iOS feel and the option to setup more than just gmail accounts. You can also unsubscribe from newsletters directly from the app.

Plaid

Design Inspiration

Download from GooglePlay

A simple, great looking app for browsing designs on dribbble.

LastPass Password Manager

Passwords

Download from GooglePlay

How I manage all my passwords. This app allows me to use my fingerprint scanner to login to any of my accounts without having to type a single username or password.

Bring! Shopping List

Grocery List

Download from GooglePlay

Great looking app for creating shared shopping lists. Was skeptical if I would use this, especially when you can make a list just about anywhere, but it just works and looks so good, I find myself wanting to use it.

Opera Free VPN

VPN Service

Download from GooglePlay

Use to change my phone’s location so that I can get updates faster or use location specific apps wherever I want.

Nova Launcher Prime

Launcher

Download from GooglePlay

The best app for making your phone look exactly how you want it. I currently have my OnePlus 3T setup to look and act just like the Google Pixel.

Google Trips – Travel Planner

Travel

Download from GooglePlay

Simple way to keep all your travel stuff together without needing to put in any work. Pulls together your boarding passes, rental information, itineraries, and information about the area you’ll be in for easy access.

Foursquare City Guide

Find Food

Download from GooglePlay

I’ve used Foursquare for 7+ years. I can safely say it knows enough about where I’ve been and what I’ve liked to tell me if I’m going to like a food spot with 100% accuracy. The rating algorithm puts Yelp to shame.

OpenTable: Restaurants Near Me

Reserve a Table

Download from GooglePlay

A must have app if you go to restaurants that typically require a reservation or like to plan ahead.

Boost for reddit

Reading Reddit

Download from GooglePlay

I’ve tried nearly every reddit reader, including the official app. Some were terrible, most were good. Boost just happened to be my favorite. Tons of customization available and the developer continues to actively improve the app.

Join by joaoapps

Reading Texts on My Computer

Download from GooglePlay

Powerful app that enables me to get and reply to texts on my computer, copy my clipboard from my computer to my phone, easily send files between devices, etc. Not as good looking as Pushbullet, but is a one-time fee instead of a monthly fee and the feature set is more robust.

Google Keep

Note Taking

Download from GooglePlay

Simple app for taking and syncing notes between devices. Love it for being simple.

Google Opinion Rewards

Making Play Store Money

Download from GooglePlay

Easiest way to make money to spend in the Play Store. Sign up and take simple 2 or 3 question surveys as they become available. Then get paid between $0.10 and $0.90 per survey that you can spend in the Play Store. If it was any more effort than what I just described, I wouldn’t be telling you about it. But it’s dead simple and makes it easy to purchase paid apps and support app developers for their work.

Forest Live Wallpaper

Live Wallpaper

Download from GooglePlay

My current wallpaper that show an image of a forest and mountains that updates to reflect the time of day and weather. For example, on windy days the trees sway, and on sunny days, the sun shines. Love being able to look at my phone, independent of any specific weather app and have a feel for what it’s like outside.

Friendly

Efficient Replacement for Facebook + Messenger

Download from GooglePlay

I’m not a huge fan of Facebook, but being the behemoth it is, it’s almost impossible to do without completely. The Facebook app and messenger, besides being bloated and slow, eat your battery life like a game of hungry, hungry hippos. Friendly helps you out by combining both Facebook and Facebook Messenger into one lightweight app. On top of that you can remove Facebook ads and customized the color of the app.

Sesame Shortcuts

Quick Launch Shortcuts for Apps

Download from GooglePlay

Ever have a situation where you always go into an app and do the same thing each time? For instance, in Spotify, I’ll often go to the same playlist each time for weeks on end. This requires me to click the Spotify app, go to my music, find the playlist, click on the playlist and then finally hit play. With Sesame Shortcuts, you can long press on the Spotify app (or whichever app you’re working with) and have a set of customizable shortcuts populate. I just set my current favorite playlist as a shortcut and when I select it and the app goes straight to my playlist. Works with 100s of apps and one of my favorite recent downloads.

Written by Nathan
Just your typical life hacking, minimalist, Generation Y, wannabe productivity writer guy. Hail from the Sunshine State, but dreaming of Californication. Currently reside in Chicago.