My Android phone has been running slowly, but I haven’t thought much of it because it happened so gradually, I didn’t realize exactly how slow it was. Until my wife used my phone. She was ready to chuck it through a window. Instead, she suggested that I go through it and delete the apps I don’t use. Now that I’ve done a need/don’t need analysis for each of my apps, I thought I’d share my current set of essential Android apps. Many of these are cross-platform (they also work on iOS and Windows mobile devices), but I don’t know which are and which aren’t. If not you’re not on Android, you’re on your own.  (Update 5 hours after initial post: My wife was right. My phone is speedier after I culled the app herd.)

If you don’t see your favorite Android apps here, please add them in the comments!

Automagic lets me automate functions on my phone. When the clock strikes 9pm, my phone is set to silent. At 8am, the ringer comes back on. If my calendar says I’m busy, my phone goes back to silent. When the event is over, the ringer is enabled. When I’m at home, my phone’s wifi is enabled. When I leave home, wifi is turned off. When I get to campus, wifi is turned back on. Whatever information your phone can use and whatever functionality your phone has, Automagic can link them up. Very powerful app. While there are several apps in this genre available, I have found this interface to be the most intuitive while retaining it’s power.
CamScanner uses your phone’s (or tablet’s) camera as a scanner. I use it a lot for scanning receipts – and for scanning my Wipebook notes I want to keep.
Dropbox, but this is a no-brainer. Mark your favorite files in the app both to get to them easily and to tell Dropbox to let you have offline access to them.
FoxFi turns my Android phone into a wifi hotspot. When I want to have internet access on my laptop and the hotel wifi is too expensive, I can access the internet through my cell phone’s data connection.
Glympse tells my wife when I’m going to be home. I send a Glympse when I leave campus, set for 45 minutes. For the next 45 minutes she can see a map of where I am with a time estimate of when I will arrive. That means no more phone calls or text messages asking me where I am or when I’ll be home. About a week ago, she was at an all-day workshop in a hotel near the airport. I sent her a Glympse when I left to pick her up. She knew the exact moment I pulled into the hotel parking lot and came out to meet me. (Does anyone remember when you had to decide in advance where and when you were going to meet someone?)
Google Authenticator gives you two-step authentication. To get into sites/services where I have this enabled, I need to know something and I need to have something. What I need to know is my username and password. What I need to have is my phone. When I go into a site, like Dropbox, from a computer that is not my own, Dropbox asks for my username and password. After I get those correct, Dropbox asks for my authentication code. I go into the Google Authenticator app on my phone, and I see a 6-digit number and a timer. When the timer expires in 30-seconds, a new number will be generated. I enter the current number into the box on the Dropbox website, and Dropbox grants me access. That means that anyone who knows my username and password cannot get into my Dropbox account unless they also have my phone. If someone does steal my phone, Lookout (below) will protect my information.
Hootsuite is for managing all of my social networks – both reading and posting. Set up your Hootsuite account through a desktop/laptop browser first; it’s easier that way.
InoReader is my current RSS feed reader. It does everything I want an RSS feed reader to do. Like Hootsuite, set up your account through a desktop/laptop browser first. I really need to write it up in its own blog post.
Instant Heart Rate isn’t an essential app, but it is pretty nifty. Use your phone’s camera to measure your pulse. Measure your heart rate both before and after class. Or before and after your favorite caffeinated beverage. Or while on the exercise bike.
LastPass securely manages all of your passwords. With a 2014 update, LastPass became much more mobile friendly.
Lookout keeps my phone safe. If it disappears, I can ask Lookout to use my phone’s GPS to show me where it is. I can even lock it remotely and add information to the screen so the person who finds it can contact me. If it looks like recovery is impossible, Lookout will wipe my phone’s data.
Opera is my go-to mobile web browser, because it allows me to easily add my own search engines. Why is that so important? To use Shortmarks, I need to be able to add it as a search engine.
OurGroceries has been described as a marriage-saver. Create a grocery list for everywhere you visit, such as Safeway, Costco, and your local hardware store. Add stuff to the lists, and the lists are synched across all of your devices – and your spouse’s devices. Any item you enter is saved so you don’t have to re-enter it every time. In a hurry? You start at one end of the store and your spouse starts at the other, marking off items as you go.
TimePin creates a new phone unlock code every time the time changes. If it is 9:06am, 0906 is the unlock code. Before you get cocky thinking you can get into my phone any time you’d like, I may have chosen an offset number such as +7, so that if it’s 9:06am, the unlock code is 0913. If I have chosen an offset of -7, then the unlock code at 9:06am would be 0859. Or maybe I’m using a reverse pin. At 9:06am, my unlock code would be 6090. After 5 failed attempts, TimePin will lock you out for 30 seconds.
Trello is a task management/project management system. The web interface is wonderful, and the mobile interface is just as good. Install the mobile widget for quickly adding cards to your boards.
TripIt is an essential tool if you travel any amount. Set it up in your web browser first, and then use it to track your airline tickets, hotel, ground transportation, and any other plans you happen to have. When your air travel itinerary arrives in your email, TripIt will automatically cull the information from it, put it into their format, and drop it into the app.
ZipWhip gives me my phone’s text messages on my computer screen, and I can respond via my computer.

 

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