At AndroidGuys, we go through a lot of devices. That means that we’re used to reinstalling all of our precious content, over and over again. Fortunately, Google has made the process easier to do over the years.
But we found interest in the question: If you needed to quickly get up and running with your brand new phone, which apps do you install first in order to be functional? We’ve heard different views from the other Android enthusiasts on our team in Vol. 1, 2, and 3, and now it’s my turn. Let’s get to it!
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I’m very dependent on RSS feeds for the content I care about. It’s too time-consuming to dig through each site individually. For those unfamiliar with this concept, RSS puts content into a summarized format. This allows an aggregator to grab these “feeds” from different sources (your favorite sources) and compile a list – for a one-stop place to quickly scan through all the clutter and find the news that matters to you.
Google Reader was the original RSS feed app for many people (including myself). However, Google didn’t see the benefit in keeping the service and killed it off. This move disjointed the community, leaving everyone to scrounge for another service. Feedly was one of these alternatives that stepped up to the plate and took off in the wake of Google Reader’s death.
While a part of me still misses Google Reader, I’ve grown quite fond of Feedly. I can access my feeds from either my PC or Android. Adding sources is a breeze and you can organize them into your own categories. For instance, I have a “Deals” category, where I get feeds from my favorite deal reporting sites. I also have a “Technology” category, which collects news from tech sites I follow.
My settings are on Feedly’s cloud. So every time I get logged out or have to reinstall the app when I get a new phone, I merely have to sign in (which you can conveniently do with your Google+ account) and I’m up and running again. The service keeps track of how many people read a particular article, so you can see what’s popular. If you don’t have time to read an article, you can save it like a bookmark so it’s not forgotten. All articles shown as a feed will have an external link that will take you to the source material.
Over time, I’ve found myself more and more reliant on Google Keep. Its functionality is pretty simplistic, but boy is it helpful in everyday life. If you regularly utilize Google’s reminder system, then you know what I mean.
Google Keep at its core is a note taking app. You can either store a note, list, drawing, or image (Google also included a mic button if you prefer speech input). But what makes it valuable to me is the fact that you can set a reminder (by either time or location). I wouldn’t say I use the app as it was intended, to me it is an app to manage all of my reminders – which I hugely rely on to function.
Yes, I know you can access your reminder on the Google app or Google Now, but I just find Google Keep to be the quickest way to set them up. It also displays all of your content as tiles on the front page. You can also organize notes into different folders (Google calls them “labels”).
You may quickly get a clutter of notes, so the search functionality is very useful. It lets you quickly filter on what kind of note to display (message, reminder, image, etc.) and search within that group.
I didn’t like Flipboard when I first used it. My initial reaction was, “You have to flip through each article one-by-one!?” Recall from my Feedly discussion that I’m used to quickly scanning through lists of articles.
I eventually figured out that there’s more value in Flipboard that I wasn’t seeing on the surface. Aside from the pleasing visuals when browsing, Flipboard has a good discovery system in place. With RSS, you have specify what sources to pull content from. In Flipboard, you can select categories, and it will throw relevant articles at you (which you may not have found otherwise).
I’m not a big mobile gamer. But for those instances where I find myself bored and with no internet, there are a couple of select games I turn to. One of these that oddly keeps me entertained is called Flow Free.
It is a puzzle game, where you have to fill up a grid with color trails while connecting ends of the same color. Each pair of ends are scattered in different places on each level, and as you progress in the game the grid becomes bigger and more difficult to complete.
List Master is one of those legacy apps that I found one day and haven’t been able to let go of. I’m sure there are tons of note/list storing apps on the market (Google Keep is one I mentioned above). But there’s something about List Master’s minimalistic style and user-friendliness I like.
On the launch page, your created lists populate. When you create a list, you select between three different types: Generic, To-do, and Shopping. This specification determines the options you get presented when you add an item to the list. For instance, I most use this app for my grocery list. So under “Shopping”, there’s a “quantity” field so that I know how many of a select item to get.
The list is laid out in checklist format. As I check items off, they move to the bottom, ordering the remaining items on the top. The app is just simple, quick, and efficient. If my wife needs to pass me a list, you can import/export lists (they’re stored in CSV format). For instance, if she put together a grocery list and is at work, she can email me her exported list and I can import it in and do the shopping.
I’m not generally a fan of the aesthetics of third-party UI’s. Phone manufacturers typically throw in their own text messaging app – which are usually butt-ugly to me.
Fortunately, Google’s Material Design is anything but. I love the colorful and minimalistic look of Google’s Messenger app. It’s also great that contacts are tied with their Google accounts (so that their pictures automatically populate), and how you can personalize the display color for each contact. Therefore, one of the things I do when I get a new phone is install Messenger and make it the default text messaging app.
I live in the Seattle area, therefore, coffee is pretty essential to living. And with a Starbucks around every corner, it only makes sense that the coffee giant’s app would be one of the first apps I install.
But why do I need an app to buy coffee? Well, you don’t need it, but there are a couple pluses in utilizing it. First is the convenience – you can pay with your phone with a nifty bar code linked to your Starbucks account. Each purchase is recorded and it can add up to free coffee. You can also tip via the app (following the purchase) and order coffee beforehand so that it’s ready when you walk in.
Along the same lines of my Messenger app discussion, manufacturer’s typically create their own gallery app as part of the custom UI they force on you. Fortunately with apps, you can choose not to use them and install another.
There was a time where I would’ve definitely gone with a manufacturer’s gallery app over Google’s solution. But since then, Google has revamped its Photos app and now it is on the same playing field as others (and arguably better).
Organization is the name of the game. When you have tons and tons of pictures, it quickly becomes cumbersome to sort through them all. Google added a timeline (grouping pics/vids by when they were taken – day, month, and year). You can pinch-to-zoom in or out for scrolling through a particular timeline, or change the size of image thumbnails to scroll through. You can also set up own Collections (i.e. groups of pics/vids from a particular trip).
But the feature that really sets Photos apart is the ability to search. Google has an algorithm in place that categorizes your content, so you can save time when trying to locate that one event out of your millions of pictures. The categories it can recognize are people, places, and things (a specific detail in the scenery of the pic that it can recognize). But bear in mind that this feature only works for images you’ve backed up in Google’s cloud.
I’ve been a subscriber of Google Play Music since the first day it was available. It is my music source (I don’t actually own much music). And without music, life isn’t quite the same. Therefore, the Play Music app is part of this crucial list of apps.
The service has grown quite a bit since its infancy. It offers a lot of different ways to initiate tunes. Of course, you can simply search an artist, album, or song and save it to your collection. But if you’re tired of listening to the same music, Play Music offers good ways to discover other content. You can practically initiate the “radio” function from anything – a song, album, artist, or even playlist (my favorite option). Also, on the app’s launch page, you’re presented with categorized stations that are constantly switching depending the time of day (activities or moods) or time of year (i.e. Christmas songs). When you click on one of these themes, you’ll be presented with different sub-categories relevant to the same themes to personalize your pick even further.
Via the left slider menu, you can check out Top Chart music or new releases. Your collection of music is categorized by playlists, genres, and artists (and even radio stations you love). The player control slides up and down from the bottom. You have good control of the queue, with the ability to slide songs around to your preference or slide them out of the list. Everything has a three dot menu by it. So if you want to add more to your playing queue, click on that menu. If you love a song you find on a radio station, just click the menu and quickly go to the artist or album.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I favor Google’s apps for a lot of my functionality. I love Material Design’s minimalistic approach – it looks great and is intuitive. I also appreciate a unified experience. With Google Calendar, the ecosystem is smart enough to know that if you set up an event or reminder on a different Google app, it will show up on the calendar (i.e. a dinner reservation).
The interface is easy to use. If you want to quickly look at the month layout, tap the month on top and the schedule will drop down. There’s also a slider menu on the left (like on a lot of Google apps) which lets you control the time period displayed (day, week, month, etc.).
In spite of my stressed importance of Google’s Play Music service, I have one other music app that I go to for my audio stimulation – Tidal.
If you haven’t stumbled on one of my headphone reviews, I’m an analytical listener and care about audio quality. Tidal has the ability to stream HiFi audio fidelity (FLAC/Lossless at 1411 kbps), whereas any other music streaming service maxes out at a 320 kbps sample rate.
So you may be asking, why do you use two services? Tidal’s selection isn’t as expansive as Play Music. So for music I can’t find on Tidal, I can still listen to it (lower quality is better than no song at all). Welcome to the conundrum of an audiophile who streams.
Tidal’s app interface is easy to use. It plays friendly with Google’s style, having a slider menu from the left side. You can check out what’s new, recommendations per genre, or build your own music library. There’s a little “HiFi” light by the music controls that let’s you know if you’re pumping out the extra fidelity or not.
The Chromecast app is pretty helpful if you own Google’s TV-streaming device. You could actually get by without using it, because the Chromecast button shows up on any compatible app for quick connectivity. But Google threw in some conveniences to make the app worthwhile.
On the launch page, you’ll see TV content relevant to you. Selecting a show will take you directly to the source by which to launch it on the big screen. You can also search on the Chromecast app and it’ll tell you from which sources you can play the show. Pretty nifty.
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What do you think about this list, is it similar to yours? Is there any critical app we’ve blatantly missed to mention? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section!