Quite a few hours are spent writing guides and reviews on apps to highlight which ones are worth a look. But have you ever wondered what we writers specifically pick out from the vast ecosystem of Android apps to run as our daily go-to’s?
The launcher of an Android device really defines the entire experience. Throwing widgets and folders around is useful while lacking personality. To really set your phone apart from everyone else, you need to spice things up! I mean, would you buy a house and never think about landscaping or painting the walls?
Except with launchers, it can go way beyond just painting the walls. You can remodel the entire interior! And all the while never having to do anything like rooting, which you may understandably feel uncomfortable with.
This summer, I’ve been running Xinyi Network’s WP Launcher. I admit that I really like the “Live Tile” user interface on Windows Phone, but I don’t like the lack of apps with Microsoft and I’m heavily invested in the Google ecosystem. Here’s a great example of what makes Android awesome: I can pick a component of something I think is cool and incorporate it onto my phone and create a setup to my liking.
I’m running the free version and it has everything I want. I can modify the tiles to my preferences, like their colors and transparencies, and that’s all I’m really after. On top of that, this launcher animates the live tiles.
Some things missing is the ability to use icon packs, which is a total bummer, and the weather tile only works for residents in China.
One of my biggest beefs with Apple products is that directly reaching a file is virtually impossible. I was raised on Windows, so file exploration is a must for me. Plus, it basically makes your smartphone a portable flash drive! And I’m all about not carrying around a pocket full of thumb drives…
I use Solid Explorer by NeatBytes. I like that there’s a dual screen aspect that allows you to swipe between two different files for easy copy and pasting. Actually, on a tablet, you can view both screens simultaneously.
Additionally, if you do choose to root your device, Solid Explorer can be granted superuser privileges and can modify system files.
NeatBytes has two versions of this file explorer: the classic and the new material design themed explorer. Both are fantastic! Either version comes as a 14 day trial and if you like it, you can buy the unlocker app for $2.99, a one-time purchase for both the classic and Material Design-themed version.
Adding to the Edge
When Samsung announced the Galaxy S6 Edge, we all assumed that the South Korean company had a lot of plans in store for consumers that would make use of the curved edges. Boy, were we wrong (so far). As usual, Samsung just throws stuff out to the market and then that’s pretty much it in terms of support.
If you recall, I didn’t have many nice things to say about the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge. My opinion hasn’t changed. Samsung makes great displays and uses AMOLED, which I’m a total sucker for, and that’s it. If Motorola hadn’t dropped AMOLED on its new Moto X Style, I would’ve bought it immediately.
It occurred to me a few weeks ago that I had previously downloaded an app on my Nexus 5 that would create a side app-drawer that you could pull out by swiping. I didn’t care much for it then because I was rooted and using Slim ROM’s pie controls; however, with the Galaxy S6 edge, that might make for a fine addition.
And it was! SideControl by XDA’s Jawomo works beautifully despite not really being supported anymore by the developer. No complaints so far.
If you opt to purchase the premium version of the app, you may also use your icon packs.
The weather in the United States this spring and summer has come in one of two flavors: drenching or incinerating. Being from Oklahoma, I pay special attention to the weather during the springtime because we just really enjoy those special moments when we’re huddled underground like gophers with the spiders and snakes while the clouds literally reach down from the heavens to tear us a new one. There’s no better family bonding time than when you’re huddled onto a cot next to your siblings inside a storm shelter with a cat strapped to your chest. Except the cat isn’t wearing a harness, it’s just got its claws dug deep into your flesh. True story.
There are actually two weather apps that I use for my storm paranoia: 1Weather by OneLouder Apps and Global Can of Worm’s Pro Weather Alert.
1Weather is an all-inclusive weather app that delivers current conditions, forecasts, alerts, and, my favorite, a radar map. Additionally, because, you know, I like to customize stuff, the app is feature-rich in settings to change the aesthetics.
Pro Weather Alert is not anything glamorous to look at it. It’s a very basic app but it does its singular purpose very well: it tells you when stuff is getting real. I suggest setting this app to follow your smartphone’s GPS location and placing a very loud and annoying ringtone as your alert notification for extreme weather events. I have a ringtone that could raise the dead, so it’s perfect when a stealthy twister decides to come visit in the middle of the night.
My only complaint with this app is that there’s no warnings for Quakenados and Tigernados…
Play Store Download Link (1Weather)
Play Store Download Link (Pro Weather Alerts)
Google Opinion Rewards
I wasn’t quite sure what to name this category. ‘Free Play Store money’?
For just a few moments of your time, you can periodically answer extremely brief surveys from Google for Play Store credit. Most of the time, it’s about $0.10 but when most apps cost one dollar, ten cents adds up to something meaningful fast.
The app runs in the background and when you’re eligible for a survey, you’ll get a notification. Select the notification, answer 1-3 questions, get money. Simple enough.
It’s always nice being able to randomly rent a movie for free on Google Play Movies, right?
I’ve talked about the Minimal & Elegant watch face before, but the developer deserves to be mentioned again because of all the additions done since. Not content with what they’ve started out with, Studio eXtreme has added two major customization changes to their Minimal & Elegant watch face.
If you’re an owner of a Moto 360 and want to make an interesting use of that flat tire at the bottom of your watch face, M&E has a customization called “Little Worlds”. This allows you to add like a city skyline or an African plain to the top of the flat tire giving the it an almost purposeful aesthetic design appearance.
Most recently, M&E now lets you add a picture of your choosing to the watch face. Placed smartly behind the numbers, and allowing you to control the transparency to your wishes, this addition is why I run M&E daily.
What would any list of apps be without a brief mention of something… less productive? We all experience those frequent moments of downtime, so why not fill it with something more fun than Facebook?
I’ve been playing a lot of Deep Silver’s Galaxy on Fire – Alliances lately. It’s a fun space-based multiplayer game that allows you to join alliances of other players in order to take over the galaxy. Collect resources, build ships, train troops, and take over planets. It’s basically that simple yet very time consuming, but come on, no one said interstellar travel was fast.
Play Store Download Link (Galaxy on Fire – Alliances)
Finally, this app is a newcomer to my lineup and I don’t know how I ever used the restroom without it before. A very cute and hilarious close friend of mine knows just how much I like the bad joke eel meme, so she figured I’d enjoy other similar types of humor and turned me on to the 9GAG app. She was right, of course. So if you enjoy memes and all of the other questionable brilliance that only the internet is capable of producing, then you should check out 9GAG’s app for Android. Be warned, there’s a good bit on there that is NSFW but they’re pretty good about giving you a heads up before letting you view that.
Play Store Download Link (9GAG)
This list is just a sample of my assortment of apps that I run on a daily basis that makes my life a little more complete. I hope to do a list like this periodically as new things are always hitting the store and sometimes, like with SideControl, old things become more relevant again.
What about you? Sound off in the comments some of your favorite apps that you use daily!